Friday, May 26, 2017

Registration Data

I am on plenty of horse groups regarding my chosen breed and a frequent topic of conversation is how do we increase registrations?  Breed participation?  Reduce costs?

Inevitably, the conversation steers to how the shows are too expensive, registration is too expensive, the horses are too expensive, and so forth.

This evening, while taking a break from (poorly) painting my bathroom, I decided to look more closely at what various registries charge to registry foals.

Before anyone gets up in arms, the chart below assumes a few things:
  • Foal in question is six months old
  • DNA must be done on the foal
  • Registration is done via snailmail
  • Breeder is a member of the parent organization
  • Foal is conceived via shipped semen

The Gypsy Vanner registry I used is GVHS.  The Curly registry is ABC. 

Do any of these breeds surprise you?  What do you feel is a reasonable registration fee for a young foal?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Liberty Work

Clearly not at liberty, although Chili wishes she was

Here is a short clip taken off my cell phone of some of the sort of things we have been working on at liberty.  I've been having hip and SI issues so riding has been difficult.

Here are some of the things we've been working (but obviously not perfected yet):

-Standing up and reaching for halter, which she already knew
-Turns on the haunches aka perhaps we will be able to do showmanship some day
-Turns on the forehand
-Lining up at liberty at the mounting block
-Bowing on the right leg, which is her off leg and a lot more difficult
-Touching the terrifying flag or anything else that flaps and makes her anxious

Any suggestions for other things to do?  I want to teach her to lay down, but my attempts so far have been unsuccessful.  She doesn't lay down often, so asking her to do it on cue isn't very simple.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Black and White and Shades of Grey

I was clicking through some video that I took while riding the other night.

As in took--I mean I set the camcorder on top of a jump standard, so it wasn't particularly focused and the lighting in the arena leaves a lot to be desired as far as image quality.

So here are the images in black and white instead.

I have a handy dandy stick with the flag on it as seen in the first photo.  Chili is what I would call a noise-reactive horse.  She doesn't really like weird looking things, but weird looking noises particularly bother her.

This is unfortunate as I don't usually hear whatever weird thing is going on.  On the plus side, if we need to run away from a ticking bomb, she has us covered.

But back to the flag--the purpose of the flag was to be able to control and introduce a stimulus with a noise factor.  I originally began pairing the flag with a treat so that flag=treat.  Eventually, I established a verbal command of "Touch it", so she has to touch the flag for the treat.

She does some pretty impressive "carrot stretches" to touch the flag.

The other night was the first time I picked up the flag and rode with it.  Apparently carrot stretches still apply while in the saddle.  The goal is to engage "curiosity".  High fear animals often have high curiosity and I am hoping by engaging her curiosity in touching this flag that we can continue to establish a verbal cue to remove fear and instead seek it out instead and be reinforced for that behavior.  We shall see if it works out. 

Training and working with horses is all shades of grey and not just black and white, right? 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Just a Little Irish

Last year, I spent St Patrick's Day in Ireland.  This year it is a cold, dreary day outside and I'm not traveling.  It is just above freezing with a gray unpleasant drizzle.

In a day where many people will be wearing green and drinking green beer, I'm just reflecting on a fantastic trip to an incredible country.  Friendly people, an incredible history, and more than just a few castles just about everywhere.  I'd recommend traveling to Ireland sometime and just immerse yourself in a country that's a joy to travel, beautiful, and just think of the history that shaped Europe and in ways, parts of the world.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Viva Carlos Blog Hop: Naivete
What horse related or equestrian related piece of knowledge did you believe was true for an extended period of time that turned out to not be true?

I was always told that Baucher bits generated poll pressure.

It was a bit of a surprise when presented evidence to the contrary.  I still see in many places online discussing if they exhibit poll pressure or not, however, I was given a study in which they did measure to see if there was pressure generated on the poll and it wasn't.  I'll have to see if I can find and link to the study.

Until then, here is a diagram from Bit Bank Australia that illustrates the principle of how you need a lever arm to generate poll pressure. 

So reluctantly I have to say that I was just another obnoxious kid on the internet that was wrong and defending my professor's teachings.  Go figure, that my professor taught me something incorrect.  ;)

So what did you believe that was incorrect?

Hop on over to Viva Carlos to add your blog link or comment below.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

In Pursuit of the Perfect Horse

Recently I have seen two important things circulating on Facebook.

One is a commentary in regards to doping in the hunter/jumper industry and how that it is commonplace which no one really thinks twice about.

The other is a photo of an Arabian hunter pleasure horse in a what appears to be a too tight flash noseband, draw reins, and a thin training snaffle.

Both point out that the we are in pursuit of the perfect horse.

How have we created a situation where horses cannot have any bobble?  Too much expression?  Not enough expression for the English Pleasure horses that have had cocaine drug violations! 

Can we go back to the idea where the best horse may really enjoy his or her job jumping the fences?  Maybe the Arabian hunter horse for half a millisecond comes from slightly behind the vertical to almost on or in front of the vertical? 

If a tent blows over, is it so terrible if it's OK if a horse flicks an ear, thinks for a second and then responds to his or her rider?  Isn't that truly the more responsive horse than the horse that requires so much equipment to be subdued that they truly never want to move his head off his chest for fear of punishment? 

There's certainly teaching tools that have proper use in proper hands, but why even permit them on the show grounds?

In this era of camera phones and instant media, more information is being exchanged than ever before. My Facebook is littered with hundreds of friends sharing happy horse selfies, pony hugs, and other such images on a daily basis.  When it comes to show season, I see the show photos, and most bring a smile to my face.

But why even put yourself in the situation where the situation could be misinterpreted in the case of that Arabian hunter horse?  Why use equipment that isn't show ring legal.  There are many that are rushing to the defense of the unnamed rider stating that it is USEF legal to use in the warmup (true), the person loves the horse (no doubt), the photo doesn't show the real situation (perhaps).

But why use such equipment at the show grounds in the first place, except for the pursuit and appearance of a perfect horse.  But to me, that demonstrates that perhaps the horse needs a different job, more training, or a different judging standard where leniency is allowed for momentary bobbles.

I attended a clinic once with an upper level dressage rider who told me he had a horse absolutely blew a movement and received twos, which is basically stating nice try, your horse didn't even really do anything, but great job staying in the ring.  He still won his test and received a respectable score regardless of this major bobble.  I think that's the way these judged events should be.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

One of Those Days

Horses are such fragile creatures.  A thousand pounds on top of a tiny springing foot. 

They allow us to do incredible things to them and with them.  Strap things to them, climb on them, drag things behind them, pet them, cry into their manes, jump fences, and pull plows.

To some, they are just livestock.  They serve a purpose and are a piece of equipment.

To others, like my friend, they are a member of the family.  The first foal she welcomed into this world and sadly not the first she helped guide out of this world, but certainly one of the most important in her life.

The horse that introduced hundreds to horses.  The horse that was the patient teacher in the show ring, the lesson arena, and later as a therapeutic riding horse.  Veterans, children it didn't matter.  She took care of them all.  She was the grandmother to young weanlings in her patient ways.  They would try to nurse and she would gently nudge them and say, no there's hay over here.  Let's go.  

My heart always breaks when one of these special, fragile creatures leaves us.  Ten years, twenty years, thirty years doesn't seem sufficient. 

What words come close to even saying what needs to be said?  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Previously I had discussed part of my trip to Ireland.

Well, I decided to go back and sort through additional photos I took.  Here are a couple from last year.

The world's fattest and most grumpy pony

European robin

New Church...ironically named as it's in ruins and is quite old

Rock of Cashel

Blarney Castle

Monday, February 6, 2017

What does Amino Acids have to do with a Topline?

It's probably on a near daily basis that I see someone posting on Facebook asking how to build a topline on a horse. 

If only it were as simply as going down to the store and picking up "topline" off the shelf and voila...magically there.

Usually, the same suggestion of exercise crops up, which is certainly true.  A horse needs to engage the muscles the pick up and carry the back in order to build a topline.  Some horses with genetic predispositions may be prone to having a soft or dropped back, but exercise is certainly a factor.

However, the first 49 times I saw this conversation, I usually chimed in with feeding a balanced diet and usually I ended up a response. 

I feed high quality feeds

My horse is in XYZ training

My horse is too fat for grain

Or some other variation thereof, which is fine.  However, I wish people would be open to this basic thought process.

Amino acids make protein.  Protein is a building block of muscle.  Muscle is part of the topline.

Pretty simplistic, right? 

Amino acids are found in varying amounts in foodstuffs.  Mammals need nine that they cannot synthesize themselves.  Each one has a role to play in order to build protein needed in the body and they must be present in specific ratios.  If one is lacking, the building stops. 

Prior research indicates that the most limiting one in horses is usually lysine, so lysine supplements are readily available.  This is great in theory, since supplement lysine and the horses should be good to go...except if the diet is lacking in the rest of the amino acids, you are back to square one. 

I just read an artice from that began scratching at the surface of this topic wonderfully in response to "Will Whey Protein Improve Topline?" 

I just wanted to present a brief except to think about and digest. 
Grass hay is made up of medium- or low- quality protein and does not provide a great deal of lysine. This is particularly an issue if you limit your horse’s hay intake. Alfalfa, on the other hand, provides more lysine, so its protein is considered to be of better quality. Many performance horse owners I work with believe that they see a benefit in their horse’s topline when they feed some of the forage ration as alfalfa, and this might be part of the reason.

Another complicating factor associated with hay protein is that the more mature a hay is, the more protein is associated with the structural carbohydrate fractions. This is potentially important because protein digestion and amino acid absorption needs to occur in the small intestine. However, structural carbohydrates require microbial fermentation to be broken down to release the protein contained within. Microbial fermentation occurs in the hindgut, which comes after the small intestine. Therefore, any protein and amino acids released at that point have missed the opportunity to be absorbed and instead are converted by the bacteria to ammonia. So, while a hay analysis can suggest a particular forage has adequate amounts of protein it’s possible that not all that protein is actually available for the horse. This is likely a bigger concern for grass and grain hays because alfalfa has so much more protein and tends to have higher digestibility.

So for those thinking about toplines and what else could help, consider what you are feeding.  Is it balanced?  Is there a good source of protein?  Usually I suggest at least seeing if the ration is balanced with a ration calculator like FeedXL or at least feeding the recommended amount on the feed label. 

What about you?  Is balancing your feed of interest?  Do you feed a ration balancer or other mix aimed at getting that "perfect level" of nutrition? 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

All in the Family


I like pedigrees on horses.  I see a pretty performance horse and I immediately want to know the lineage, the breed, and just about everything else.

I know that many folks only care about the performance of the horse in front of them and that "you can't ride papers".  That is certainly true, however, a pedigree usually offers a certain insight.  There are family traits that run strong.  Athletic ability can certainly be passed along, just as easily as the "X Factor" explains Secretariat's 22 pound heart.

There are lots of horses in my mares' pedigrees that I know what they looked like and their general performance abilities.

I like to collect photos.  Forget having family photos on the wall: I have hundreds of historical photos on my hard drive. 


Zodiac Matador

One missing piece has been more information about Donni's sire. 

I did find that there was an ad in a magazine and a friend scanned the page for me.  This is the only photo I've ever seen of him.
Through my internet sleuthing skills, I knew the name of his former owner.  I set out trying to find a farm page with no luck.  I knew the name of the actual farm so I tried searching that.  I then tried matching the names up on Facebook and a name popped up that was in the correct vicinity. 

Now how does someone send an email cold calling about a stallion from the early 90s?

I wrote a message, hit send quickly, and then attempted to forget in case there was some poor confused non-horse person on the other end.

Well yesterday, I got a response.  My message had sat in the "other" folder for a long period of time until she actually saw it.  She was thrilled to read the message and happily told me about "Dance" and his loving personality.  He was a member of the family and lived at her farm until he died in his mid 20s.

Athletic, sweet, gentle.  She described him as a "tent" horse where he certainly would crawl into a tent to live with his person. 

So very reminiscence of the sweet personality his daughter has. 
Gdansk.  Dance's sire.
She asked for more information on Donni and her offspring.  Enthusiastic for photos, I can just imagine the person on the other line reliving the joy and happiness her grey Arabian stallion brought her.  "Dance" was family and in a way, it's all a great family reunion now seeing her stallion living on in his descendants. 

Sometimes it pays to be relentless in learning more about pedigrees.  It isn't always memorization of sires and dams, colors, or physical characteristics.  Sometimes it's about meeting others along the way and expanding the circle of equestrian family.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Going in Circles

As part of my 2017 goals (see previous post), I've been trying to get in at least one lesson a month.

This is seriously easier said than done.

However, a local dressage trainer ended up running a special on lessons in January which sparked my curiosity.  Her regular lesson prices are way outside my typical realm of being able to afford, but the special made it on the higher end, but more realistic.

So I ended up corresponding and found myself riding a very nice, large Warmblood mare named..."Mare."  She has a name beyond that but apparently is often is just called Mare.

Insert random obnoxious photo of one of my cats

I wanted to work on accuracy, my balance, and softening my hands.  I definitely ended up touching on more than that during the lesson.  It was nice riding a schoolmaster.

But one thing that was particularly interesting input was how crooked I am.  I know I'm crooked, however, I didn't realize to what extent.

Apparently while traveling to the left (counter clockwise), I always thought, OK, look in the direction of travel.  I drop my inside shoulder enough that if I look, it ends up actually putting more weight on the right seatbone.  Really counter-intuitive.  Then the horse bulges out, I end up in a pulling match on the reins, and everyone looses.

Well, that's a little dramatic.

However, the coach had me keep my head straight and aligned with my sternum while traveling to the left.  I could look a bit with my peripheral vision, but not actually turning my body.  She made sure I put enough weight on the left seat bone and stirrup to turn that direction and sure enough, Mare became soft and obedient.  At one point, she had me riding with one hand behind my back, the other hand holding both reins quietly down on her neck, doing a posting trot at both 20 and 10 meter circles, working on increasing the weight in the stirrup to adjust the size of the circle in and out.

My circles to the right require me to actually twist a lot more through my body than I would think. I still have to struggle to keep thinking "back" and "up".

In the beginning of the lesson while just observing me, she asked if I knew what needed to be in alignment.  I said shoulder-hip-heel.  Simple mantra.  We all hear it.

Random photo of my horse

Simple enough, but especially since having back issues, I've struggled a lot with this.  She asked me if I planned on actually having shoulder-hip-heel in alignment and I said "Someday."

"Tonight" she said.

"OK, someday in my life, maybe within the hour" I said, "Sorry, I'm a little cheeky."

But she had me try to adjust a bit of the way I was sitting with my pelvis, sitting up a bit further and surprising enough, dang, I actually looked like I could ride a well broke horse that's probably worth a lot more than my car .  ;)  The perks of a schoolmaster.

Other things she briefly touched on was trying to adjust the amount of tension I carry my wrists and how one hand always creeps upwards.  Really hand?  Why can't you stay where I want you too?

But in the end, I think it was well worth the time and money to get some useful input.  I find so many people are able to point out flaws, but there aren't so many people that can figure out useful suggestions on how to begin correcting these habits.

I did go back home with a few more useful tools in my toolbox and went to work trying to apply them.  Granted I ride alone, with no mirrors, but it felt better.  I put out the camcorder one evening and we really were much softer in the circles, especially to the left. 
From the camcorder.  Can I just do tricks instead?
I need to work on the canter next, trying to maintain a certain level of softness, and to resist that strong urge to just curl forward which does absolutely no good to anyone.  ;) 

But until then, I'll just keep going in circles, ruminating on a good lesson on a big bay horse named Mare.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

New Year New Goals

I've had dozens of posts ruminating around in my head lately.  Unfortunately, I don't like typing on my phone and often don't sit down at the laptop to get them into digital format.

However, I did finally want to write down my 2017 goals so they can be official.

2017 Goals

*Take at least one lesson a month.  As a DIY, I rarely ride with instruction.  Part of it is time and part of it is financial.
* Improve my high school in training level dressage.  I am sure this will tie into goal #1.
*Trailer out to the trails at least twice this spring/summer season
*Be able to back said trailer like a pro.  Or at least less like a whiny person.
*Cross train twice a week, whether that is crunches, yoga, etc
*Blog twice a week.  I'll really have to settle into this one to get it done.  I have lots of ideas, but I think I"ll have to write and then queue them in order to have them released. 

That's it.  Perhaps I'll break down further goals as things go along, but they will require some work!

What are some of your goals?  How are you doing so far this year?