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The Backward Step 28 Feb 2024, 12:46 pm

The human prefrontal cortex loves progress.

Forward, forward, forward. Set the goal and move inexorably toward it.

Sometimes you can’t go as far forward as you’d like in one leap, but even a little forward movement is better than none. Or is it?

In training a young horse, it’s important to know when to stop and take a step back. I did that with my young Warmblood True a few months ago, and it has created all sorts of positive results. Now we are moving forward again, but with greater trust, a more solid understanding, and much calmer mindsets.

True and I generally work in one of two arenas.

Arena A is much larger and busier, close to the hubbub of the barn and parking area, with trees and bushes on two sides. Because the ranch sits on a hillside, Arena A is also raised on two sides about 15 feet above the surface of a relatively busy driveway.

The footing is great in Arena A, and size allows me to work True on long straight lines, big circles, over small jumps, and past a lot of new sights and sounds.

The only trouble is that he is constantly distracted by all the activity there—lessons, cars, dogs, loud talk, barn repairs, trees waving in the wind, tractors, ATVs, hay loading, people coming and going. He is also concerned by his position above fast-moving cars on the driveway. This distraction was compounded by fear when I made the big mistake of continuing to ride True in Arena A while a new barn employee weed-whacked all the way around it.

Arena B is much smaller but on a more shallow hill, so that people, horses, and cars are at about the same level as True is while we are working. It gets very little activity and is located far from the barn.

The wind is stronger there, and it offers little more than an oval large enough to canter. The other horses I ride are often distracted in this arena by the increased wind, its distance from other horses at the barn, and the fact that it is bordered by horses occasionally dashing around a 50-acre pasture.

But True is different—he’s always been calmer in Arena B.

For the first two years of True’s training, I used Arena A most often. I felt it was important for True to get accustomed to the greater activity there. (That belief led to my mistake with the weed whacker. Duh.) So we fought through all the distractions, day after day.

Previous articles in this column describe True’s terror of livestock. In addition to the everyday commotion described above, from Arena A True and I negotiated a herd of cattle next door on a daily basis, and a flock of gigantic Navajo sheep on one very memorable occasion that sent me to the Emergency Room.

I’m embarrassed to say that it took me a long time to get over the “forward progress” mentality despite my occupation as a human and equine brain scientist who writes about indirect training. Three or four months ago, I reconsidered.

Over time, True was becoming more sensitized—not less—to Arena A’s hazards. In fact, so was I, and we all know that tension transmits just as well from rider to horse as from horse to rider.

The two of us spent most of our training time learning about wind. And cattle. Dogs and cars. Those damnable sheep. Children squealing and adults shouting. Most trainers would say these are necessary lessons that will eventually de-sensitize the horse, and that to change arenas would be the wrong thing to do.

But I listened to my horse and to my own feelings of tension in Arena A.

I took a giant training step backward and moved our sessions to Arena B. True immediately settled down. Now able to focus on me every day, he has learned more in three months of Arena B than he did in a year of Arena A.

As he progresses, I occasionally cool him out at the end of our sessions by walking in Arena A on a loose rein when no one is using it. Just to show him it can be a nice relaxing place. He is no longer frightened there.

Little by little, I’ll re-introduce him to Arena A and ratchet up his level of exposure to activity there. He’s ready for it now. One backward step made all the difference.

On the outside, we might look the same. But inside True’s mind, a lot has changed.

Related reading:

Janet Jones will present “Brain to Brain: Cross-Species Communication between Horses and Riders” at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida, on March 14, 2024. Come to the talk and enjoy the international Winter Spectacular Hunter/Jumper Horse Show too. Learn more and reserve your tickets at https://janet-jones.com/product/janet-jones-ticket-sales.

A version of this story originally appeared on janet-jones.com. It is reprinted here with permission.

The post The Backward Step appeared first on Horse Network.

Layne Giliforte “Never Saw This Coming” 27 Feb 2024, 4:09 pm

There was a point in time when the trainer of the beautifully bred bay gelding felt breaking his maiden was a longshot hope.

A son of Candy Ride (ARG) and Niigon’s Touch, pedigree suggested Touch’n Ride had the foundation for a successful racing career.

His personality suggested winner’s circle trips might be wishful thinking.

The horse, bred and owned by Chiefswood Stable, offered more question marks than solid answers early on.

“He showed nothing early on,” recalled multiple stakes-winning trainer Layne Giliforte. “As a 2-year-old, he was immature. We needed some extra time with him to work out a few issues. We needed to bring him slowly along as a 2-year-old. He was put away in training and wasn’t brought back until January or February last year.”

Touch’n Ride wasn’t exactly a charmer either.

“He was a bit obnoxious, he had no personality, and he was a bit cocky,” noted Giliforte.

Despite those shortcomings, Giliforte, who has amassed over 900 wins in his decorated career, wasn’t about to throw the towel in with his project horse.

That unwavering faith would eventually pay off.

When he arrived at Woodbine ahead of his 3-year-old campaign, Touch’n Ride quickly went from head-scratcher to head-turner.

“With each breeze, he showed tremendous improvement from week to week,” says Giliforte.

“Then things started happening with him. I believe it was around April when he had a half-mile breeze where we thought, ‘Wow… where did this come from?’ As he got closer to his first race, we started to like what we were seeing. If you had asked me last January about him, I would have said he would be lucky to break his maiden. And then something just clicked.”

Touch’n Ride debuted with a third-place effort in a one-mile turf race last July at Woodbine.

“We expected a lot from him first time out,” shares Giliforte. “He breezed fantastically on the grass going into that race. I was going to be disappointed with anything less than a win. But the way he ran, he ran a winning race.”

The second time would be the charm.

Thirty days later, again at Woodbine, Touch’n Ride took to the Toronto oval’s all-weather track for his next start, at 1 1/16 miles.

Sent off at 4-1, he blew past the frontrunner at the eighth pole and went on to an authoritative, polished 5 ¼-length score.

“The second start, he was professional, rated nicely, and when it was time, he made his move and did it very convincingly,” says Giliforte.

His next engagement would be a massive step up.

After two races, Touch’n Ride would go postward in the 164th running of the iconic King’s Plate.

Taking on 16 foes, he brushed a rival at the start and was then steadied early in the 1 ¼-mile test for Canadian-foaled 3-year-olds.

He crossed the wire fifth.

One month and 12 days after he ran in the “Gallop for the Guineas,” Touch’n Ride took to the world-renowned E.P. Taylor turf for the 133rd running of the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes, the third jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown.

The 1 ½-mile marathon would be decided by inches.

Touch’n Ride and filly Elysian Field, second in the Plate, broke away from their pursuers in early stretch and threw down the rest of the way.

At the line, Touch’n Ride emerged a nose victor.

“I’m getting choked up over it,” says Giliforte, in the aftermath of the dramatic victory. “I had a great feeling going into the race and for him to come through the way he did and Kazushi [jockey, Kimura] to give him the ride that he did, it’s fantastic.”

Touch’n Ride, the third choice on the tote board, paid $10.20 for the win.

His final appearance of 2023 would come in graded company, namely, the Grade 3 Ontario Derby, for 3-year-olds.

He crossed the wire second, but the winner was disqualified, elevating Touch’n Ride to top spot in the 1 1/8-mile race contested over the all-weather track.

“I’m really proud of him,” says Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame jockey Robert Landry, now the General Manager of Chiefswood Stables.

“Earlier in the year, we didn’t even nominate him to the Triple Crown. He was a slow developer. In April, Layne and I watched him work together and I said, ‘We may have made a mistake not nominating him.’ You know, you’ve got to let the horses tell you and he did, and he ran a tremendous race.”

The once work-in-progress horse was now a two-time stakes winner.

Giliforte, who became the first trainer to surpass $1 million in purse earnings at Fort Erie in a single season, in 2002, has never entertained the thought, not for a moment, of uttering the words, ‘I told you so.’

“At one point, I never saw this coming. But it’s a testament to our barn, everyone associated with him, and to the horse as well. Things don’t always come together like they did for him, but we’re certainly glad it did.”

One more reason why Giliforte is looking forward to his rising star’s 4-year-old campaign.

“Touch n’ Ride is a cool story that defines how patience pays off. These athletes cannot be forced to be great but can be the best they can be if given the chance. 

“This horse grew in so many ways including personality, confidence, and attitude. He boosted barn morale all year and gave many of us memorable moments. He went from the kid in the schoolyard that didn’t have many friends to valedictorian, all in one short summer.” 

The post Layne Giliforte “Never Saw This Coming” appeared first on Horse Network.

The Unintentional Dismount 27 Feb 2024, 1:18 pm

Sometimes forced dismounts are met with laughter and other times tears and ambulances.

I think it’s fair to say that 99.9% of the time we’re jettisoned from the saddle it’s either straight over the head or down one of the two shoulders.

Once in a blue moon, we’ll hear of someone who managed to roll off the back end, but I’ve no idea what we call that, or how it even happens. Happy to hear your thoughts on the matter.

In the meantime, I have amassed a small list of all the different ways to express the ever-humbling experience of unintentionally coming off our horse.

Took a spill/Came off

When you tell someone you “took a spill” what you’re saying is that you have no idea what happened. One minute you’re in the saddle and the next you’re standing on the ground, no fuss no muss.

There was no spook, buck or bolt, you just somehow parted company. And sometimes we do just come off due to loss of balance or whatever.

It’s a polite and understated way to let someone know what happened and the incident is easy to brush off as no big deal.

Bucked off

This is a pretty common turn of phrase because it’s a pretty common way to get ejected.

One of the several definitions of the word buck is “a violent effort of a horse to throw off a rider.” And while sometimes I agree a horse’s intentions are malicious, I’d argue that sometimes they’re just really happy and we were unprepared for that level of happiness.

Header

This is a generic term I often used when I fell off a horse.

It’s nondescript as there are no identifying terms used as to how I ended up on the ground. I could have been bucked off or power launched due to a bounding leap. I may have slipped off due to an awkward jump or stumble or perhaps flung off when my horse did an impromptu 180° spin.

What we do know is that I came off and I’m sure, once prompted, I will explained what happened in detail.  

The word header has been around since the 1800s and means a “head-first dive or plunge,” which is fairly accurate and fairly common way one can be dislodged from the saddle.

Turfed

This is another one of my favorite ways to tell someone I came off my horse. Apart from meaning the obvious grassy ground, it also means “forced to leave,” which is precisely what our horses were doing—forcing us to leave the saddle and placing us, if we’re lucky, onto the grassy ground.

It’s a double turf whammy.

Come a cropper

I used this phrase a short time ago when I wrote “Napoleon & Marengo, A Questionable History.”

I was writing about Napoleon’s atrocious riding style and how well his horses had to be trained. “The steadier the horse the safer the rider and no one wanted Napoleon to come a cropper during the first cannon shot or cries of ‘Let the battle commence!’”

To come a cropper means to “fall heavily or to suffer a defeat or disaster.” That entire meaning is just three different ways to admit we fell off.

“Yes, I was defeated, it was a bit of a disaster and it hurt like hell.”

Unhorsed

I have written about this word in “A Horse by Any Other Name.” It’s a strange term and largely goes unused today though you will find it in your dictionary.

The word unhorse dates back to the 14th century and is the opposite of horse, which seems odd but we do use horse as a verb (eg, “Quit that horsing around…”)

The meaning is “drag or cause to fall from a horse.”

Piledriven

There is nothing quite as glamorous or as painful as this type of fall. Honestly, one minute things are going well and the next minute you’re gasping for air because you just had the wind knocked out of you and you have a mouth full of arena footing.

There are three definitions for the word piledrive: 1) A forceful hit or kick, 2) A wrestling move in which one is dropped on one’s head by their opponent, and 3) A post-pounding juggernaut, which drives piles and other “pole” like things into the ground.

Obviously, whoever created that list was unfamiliar with horses as there should be a fourth definition that might read: “An athletic and unexpected high-speed fall from a (spooky, cranky, happy…) horse in which the rider is driven (in)to the ground headfirst.”

Lawn dart

Some of you won’t know what a lawn dart is and for that, you should be thankful. How any of us survived a fun-filled summer playing with lawn darts will forever remain a mystery.

Imagine, if you will, a dart that you throw at a dartboard. Now enlarge said dart to 20X its original size and then take it out to your lawn and throw it at your friends. That’s a lawn dart. A large “metal-pointed missile weapon thrown by hand.”

If you come off your horse like a lawn dart, I can promise you that your horse came to an abrupt halt, and you my friend did not. It’s similar to being piledriven only with more flight time.

Ditched

There are many meanings to the word ditch and they all stem from the word the Old English word dic, which I feel might be the very word you exclaim when you’re sat on the ground while your horse gallops away.

Of all the meanings I suspect the one we are looking for is the informal use of the word: “to get rid of or give up.” Our horses have given up on us and therefore have gotten rid of us.

Dumped

This word has been around since the 14th century, but unlike unhorse, it’s still used today with the same meaning of “throw down or fall with force, drop suddenly.”

In fact, any of the meanings of this word in verb form works in our realm: 1) To unload en masse. When one of us comes off in the ring it’s fairly common for others in the ring to suffer the same fate. It’s the domino effect. 2) To discard, abandoned. Our horses love to leave us once they have discarded us.

Rolled off

If you have a stutty horse there is a good chance you might just roll off.

The phrase stutty horse is what inspired this two-post series about dismounting. I love coming across such things. In the days of Middle English, a stutty horse was a horse that tended to stumble. Stutty is related to stutter, no surprise there.

When a horse trips and that one shoulder disappears from under you there is a good chance you will just roll off softly (hopefully) onto the ground. This is also a great way to break your collarbone.  

There are more

I have left out several terms/words such as tipped off, popped off, thrown and tossed as I was running out of space. And though this is a long and varied list I have a sneaking suspicion there are plenty of terms/words I have forgotten or yet to hear.

Sources:

The post The Unintentional Dismount appeared first on Horse Network.

Come the Apocalypse, Consider the Horse Farm 26 Feb 2024, 1:53 pm

On one of those deliriously early, horse activity-related mornings, my friends and I decided to talk about the apocalypse.

In true, dark, millennial fashion, we somehow conjured up an image of what would happen if a disaster left us stranded at a horse farm.

“Which horse should we barter off for supplies first?” I asked.

“Probably the geldings,” they responded.

Then, we spewed out a plan, selecting which horses were the best for farm work, and which would be suitable for breeding. We considered who would likely survive without modern veterinary medicine, and who was, by the same standards, doomed. We listed the horses we all wanted to keep for sentimental reasons, and who we needed to get rid in a hurry since they would probably try to kill us once the grain ran out.

The level of detail we eventually reached was astonishing. While we may have debated which steeds would make it, I know that if there was an “end of days” of the human variety, my equestrian friends would be some of the last ones standing. The reasons for that are simple.

Often by necessity, horse owners tend to be really, really handy. Most of us can fix anything with a hoof pick and some bailing wire. Everything that can be mended, repaired, or repurposed will be. While I, personally, am the most mechanically impaired person ever to grace the inside of a tack room, I have still helped hold, fetch, and lift things for many other horse people who are more gifted fixers.

A month ago, in fact, a friend came to my rescue after I cracked the top of the plastic tub I use as a tack box. She brought me a beautifully stained piece of wood, complete with bolts and sealant. After a few moments with a power drill—tada!—my sad little trunk looked lovelier than ever.

Many of the equestrians I know are also prolific gardeners and hobby farmers. Boxes of homegrown apples and pears grace the shelves of the boarding barn in the fall, fully stocked for the horses. I have even taken home some beef and pork that was lovingly and locally raised. “Here, Gretch,” my barn friend will say. “Take some—we have more than we can eat.”

But it isn’t just the nuts and bolts of survival that make the horse-obsessed clan well poised to make it through the apocalypse. It is also our temperaments. We can sleep anywhere; go to a horse show or on a backcountry riding trip and you will probably find someone napping on a saddle pad. Most of us had to give up any fear of needles, blood, and germs decades ago, and have the hardy immune systems to prove it. What’s more, our unhinged obsession with our steeds often makes us aware of every potentially hazardous plant or animal within a 50-mile radius.

We also have a high pain tolerance. We know the shock of an electric fence that has been turned way up, the fiery sting of a rope burn, or the sickening thud of hitting the ground too hard. And yet, somehow, we usually stand back up and return to what we were doing. There is also the special segment of our population who, right after surviving a rather spectacular buck-fest, might shout, “Did you get that on camera?!”

In addition, there’s a strange sense of collectivism among equestrians. Despite our dysfunction, we know we can’t survive without one another. Standing at the stall door, or at home on Facebook or texting with fellow horse friends, asking, receiving, and offering help is part of everyday life.

Above all, people who spend their days around horses tend to know a lot about hard things. For the lay person, fear, bravery, love, and having to make heartbreaking choices are things that, at one time or another, most of us will eventually have to face. But these emotions and challenges are distilled and intensified for horse people. We know the terror of trying to ride again after a confidence-shattering accident, or wrestling with that agonizing decision of what to do for an animal in pain.  

In essence, dear reader, I hope you will take this slightly dark-humored and clearly hypothetical mental exercise for what I intended to be; merely a love letter to the crazy cohort that we call equestrians. By envisioning the most desperate of times, maybe we can start to recognize what we, as a community, truly are: tough, pragmatic, forces to be reckoned with—even when staring down the reckoning itself.

The post Come the Apocalypse, Consider the Horse Farm appeared first on Horse Network.

Q&A: I’m looking for my next horse—how do I know if I’ve found a lifelong match? 26 Feb 2024, 1:22 pm

When I have a client that it is ready to start looking for a new horse, there are lots of conversations I like to have with them long before the shopping portion actually occurs.

As a trainer, in most cases, I believe it is near-impossible to find a ‘forever’ horse. I tell people that, for the majority of us, horses are teachers: most people don’t have the same teacher from kindergarten through college.

If you are an adult that has been riding forever, and are truly in a groove, and aren’t looking to keep moving up the levels, then you could potentially find a forever horse. If you have a perfect budget and the perfect trainer, with perfect care (relatively speaking, of course), then you have a better chance as well.

But even in both of these cases, finding that forever horse is challenging! There are lots of boxes you need to check if you are even thinking of going down this path. Of primary importance is making sure you and your trainer agree 100% on what that forever horse’s age, brain, and ‘type’ is. If the answer is yes, and both of you are on the same page, that’s great! It will make the shopping process that much easier.

If that’s not the case, however, and you and your trainer disagree—maybe about how green a horse you can handle, or if the ride you like is really the best ride for you—then it might be better to reconsider that lifelong horse and think more in the short-term. Instead, look for the ideal horse for you at that present moment in your riding career. And, in both cases, whatever happens, I like to encourage people not to get caught up in expectations.

Learn to enjoy the journey of horse ownership, and don’t worry so much about the ending.

As we’ve often talked about here, horses are live animals, with hearts and souls and brains of their own. Finding a forever horse for a client is kind of like finding a forever partner for yourself (just with a lot of other people involved). Not an easy task.

When I judge, I find myself reflecting constantly on the factors that make a good match between horse and rider, and why it’s so important. There is such a thing as bad chemistry, and I often wonder why people insist on going back in the ring repeatedly with a horse that they don’t get along with. Especially when you can clearly tell that something is just wrong with the partnership. When I judge, I wish I could call this out, and let the rider know—it’s time to make a change!

In these cases, I sometimes wonder if people get so hung up on wanting to keep a horse forever that they forget to think about what is best, not just for their own performance, but for the animal. Part of the sport is recognizing when something isn’t right, and moving on so that both partners can be successful in different situations.

Sometimes, horses just can’t give us what we want from them—or we, as the rider, can’t give them the confidence or feeling that they need. Another way to look at it is that it’s hard to have a forever horse when most horses just aren’t equipped to be able to compete all the levels required with a single rider.

Remember, if you want to show, the picture for the judge needs to be soft and in-sync. Some partnerships can achieve this at the lower levels, when the physical and mental requirements are less intense on both horse and rider. But that can change as the height of the jumps increases, or the pressure or other demands grow. Some horses may not want to do that new job, and need a change, just like some people do in life! In that case, a new situation is often the best answer.

As a parent, owning a horse is a privilege, and everyone needs to remember that. Horses don’t need to allow your kid to bobble around on them, and have bad days at school, and then come to the barn and consciously or unconsciously take it out on them. They don’t need to be the emotional support for a kid through the roller coaster of their adolescence. Yet horses are capable of handling all these roles, and I often feel that we forget how brilliant they really are.

As a parent, I look at horses as teachers, and I want the perfect horse for every stage of my kid’s life. I don’t really think it’s possible (or fair) to ask one horse to answer every question my kid has of them, forever. I want my horses to be feel happy and valued and loved—not as if they aren’t good enough for the job at hand. As a mom, I remind my kid that sometimes, it’s time for that horse to move on and teach another kid. Unicorns are rare, and if you are lucky enough to come across one, you’ll realize you need to do 100% what’s best for them, even when it’s hard.

Maybe that will mean owning that horse forever, but it might not mean having him or her under your kid’s tack forever. Remember that horses, too, have a niche, just like we all do. Sometimes, as a parent, you have to know when that niche is no longer suiting your kid’s needs, even when your kid doesn’t.

And yes, I know this can be oh-so hard: we get attached to our horses and we love them. But in many cases, when the time comes, moving on is usually the right thing to do. I can’t wait for the day that my kid is ready and able to have her ‘lifetime’ horse,  but I know how special and rare that will be if and when it happens. A much more likely scenario is that she finds a wonderful horse that can teach her what she needs to learn now, and that she can love and dote on each day that horse is in the barn.

As a trainer, judge, and mom, I know how remarkable owning a true unicorn is. Just being in the presence of one and having the opportunity to care for him or her is enough for me, for however long that may be.

The post Q&A: I’m looking for my next horse—how do I know if I’ve found a lifelong match? appeared first on Horse Network.

Lars Kersten’s “Big, Big Day!” 25 Feb 2024, 8:39 pm

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”

—American basketball player and coach Jim Valvano

When Dutch breeder Pieter Kersten conceived of pairing VDL Zirocco Blue with Larome-sired-dam Golden Lea II, you’d have to assume he was cautiously optimistic about the match.

Jur Vrieling’s Olympic stallion has produced several elite show jumpers among his 485 offspring. The dark bay mare, however, was a maiden dam. And at 17, not a young one either.

Golden Lea II would produce only one heir, a grey mare named Hallilea.

When the mare turned five, Kersten gave her to his then-17-year-old son Lars. In the seven years since, he’s watched them climb the FEI World Rankings (Lars is no. 192) and onto 16 podiums, including eight international victories.

The pair made their 5* debut in Rotterdam in 2022. In December that year, they jumped their first 1.60m in Mechelen and in March 2023, they posted their first double clear at the height in the Rolex Grand Prix ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

All under the careful coaching of Pieter.

On Saturday, the father, son and mare achieved their biggest accomplishment yet.

Making their first ever appearance at the Gothenburg Horse Show in Sweden, Pieter coached his son and the horse he bred to their first five-star Grand Prix victory against a field of 35 in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup of Gothenburg, the 14th and final leg of the 2023/2024 Western European League.

Seven pairs mastered Swedish course designer Peter Lundström’s 13-fence first round track to advance to the short course, including world no. 1 Henrik von Eckermann on the formidable King Edward and four-time Olympian Peder Fredricson on his veteran partner Catch Me Not S.

Third to return, Kersten set the standard in 35.44 seconds on their homebred mare.

Four more gave chase. Fredricson risked a super-tight inside turn to the third fence on his 18-year-old partner but it didn’t pay off.

“In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t the best decision because I didn’t get the turn right. We had an extra stride and up-and-down jump and that takes a lot of time so I lost the victory there. But the horse jumped amazing!” he said, after stopping the clock in 35.99.

Von Eckermann was two tenths of a second faster in 35.72 on his multi-hyphenate title holder King Edward—and this after getting jumped off in the warm up ring—but it wasn’t enough to catch the young Dutchman.

“My horse jumped really, really well, maybe too well in the jump off and he lost a bit of time,” said von Eckermann. “But this is a good way to lose. Of course I wanted to win but with how King Edward jumped you can only be happy. Especially with what is coming this season, the World Cup Final and then Paris [Olympic Games] this summer.”

For 24-year-old Kersten, and no doubt his father, it was a pinch-me moment in Gothenburg’s famed Scandinavium Arena.

“I’ve seen Henrik and Peder in so many jump-offs so I know they are capable of being faster than me. But I think I was pretty fast and in the end it showed that it was not that easy to beat me so I’m very, very pleased with my mare. She absolutely gave 100% today!” said the 24-year old.

“The moment she turned five I took her over and it’s special for me that we have done this journey together,” Lars continued. “We already had some very nice placings but almost nothing beats winning the World Cup here in Gothenburg! It feels a bit unreal! To sit in front of these guys [von Eckermann and Fredricson] is not easy and most of the time I will be behind them, so today is a big, big day!”

Gothenburg saw the final leg of the 2023/24 Western European League. Eighteen athletes from the Western European League will advance to the Longines Final 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 16 to 20.

The post Lars Kersten’s “Big, Big Day!” appeared first on Horse Network.

United Touch Has Won Five 1.60m Titles in 15 Months 25 Feb 2024, 12:14 pm

Seven podium finishes.

That’s the sum total of United Touch S’s international record. At first glance, it’s an underwhelming stat for a 12-year-old horse that’s jumped 102 international rounds.

Until you consider the podiums. And the time frame he achieved them.

Under Richard Vogel’s saddle since 2022, the stallion made his 1.60m debut in November that year with the FEI Jumping World Cup at Stuttgart—and won.

Five months later, he and the 27-year-old German contested their first championship at the World Cup Final in Omaha and won the second round of that too.

Before the year was out, they went on to collect two more 1.60m Grand Prix titles, including the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva, one of four Majors in the Rolex Grand Slam and widely considered one of the most difficult Grands Prix in the world.

And that was their first full year at the height.

Their momentum shows no signs of slowing down heading into 2024 either.

On Saturday night at Wellington International in Florida, Vogel and his spectacular stallion added the Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix to their record. It’s their fifth 1.60m victory in just 15 months.

Last to return for the four-horse jump off, the pair faced off against world no. 9 McLain Ward (USA) on Callas, world no. 12 Shane Sweetnam (IRL) on the phenom James Kann Cruz, and Irish Olympian Darragh Kenny on VDL Chaccolino.

His strategy was simple.

“I was very lucky that I went behind those three guys. I knew I had to risk it all. If I had a rail, I was fourth and if I wasn’t slow, Darragh was fourth. So there was not so much to lose. I knew if I want to win, I had to give everything and really do the highest risk and the least amount of stride I can do. So, yeah, the tactics were very simple,” said Vogel.

That’s precisely what he did. The pair crossed the timers in 42.04 seconds, three tenths of a second ahead of Ward and Callas (42.39). Sweetnam took third in 43.53.

In 24 rounds at 1.60m, United Touch jumps clear at a 33% tick and into the top 10 59% of the time with Vogel, according to Jumpr App.

Related reading: The Story Behind United Touch S

If you’re wondering how the Untouched-sired bay fares at lower heights he’s only jumped two rounds at 1.55m under Vogel. They were clear in both and victorious in one.

It comes as no surprise that the German rider is chuffed to matched with the German-bred stallion.

“It’s just a very, very special feeling. I was lucky enough to ride a lot of good horses in my life, but even out of the good horses [United Touch] is still outstanding. As you can only imagine, when he leaves the ground that much power and that much scope is something very unique, and I’m very happy to be in a saddle.”

Vogel and United Touch have landed on seven podiums, to date. Six at the top. Five at the 1.60m height. All at the five star level.

The post United Touch Has Won Five 1.60m Titles in 15 Months appeared first on Horse Network.

Undefeated Germany Stacks the Odds in Their Favor 23 Feb 2024, 3:19 pm

“When we saw that we have to bring four Grand Prix horses, that meant for us we really have to bring four good ones,” said Frederic Wandres of the FEI Nations Cup of Wellington.

The problem is they were down one horse, because Wandres winning World Cup partner Bluetooth OLD had a different agenda this week. With Bluetooth sidelined for the Nations Cup, the Germans got creative, mate. Wandres phoned Australian friend Jemma Heran, and asked if he could borrow her 12-year-old gelding Total Recall solely for the Nations Cup.

“I have Bluetooth here with me, but I have another plan with him, so I asked Jemma, our Australian friend, if I can maybe have the ride on Total Recall and she directly said yes. I really liked this test ride and there is a lot more in that horse,” said Wandres.

With Anna-Christina Abbelen aboard 17-year-old gelding Sam Donnerhall, Michael Klimke on 12-year-old mare Domino 957, and Felicitas Hendricks and 13-year-old gelding Drombusch, Germany had a stacked deck. And, one heck of a good friend.

It was exactly what they needed to forge down the centerline and secure their fourth consecutive Nations Cup win on a combined score of 213.369 points. The United States fell shortly behind with 210.978 points, while Sweden rounded out the podium with 198.956.

Perhaps what set them apart is that even amidst a euphoric win, the Germans continue to seek perfection. Just ask Hendricks.

“This season can’t really be going any better for me. It’s a great honor to be showing this horse in this fantastic ring. He’s so happy to be showing, and that’s the best feeling in the world when they’re willing to give their all in the ring. So whenever a mistake happens, you know that’s on me…There are still things to work on and we’re far from being perfect, but we keep working on it,” said Hendricks.

Felicitas Hendricks & Drombusch OLD. Photo ©SusanJStickle.com

Hendricks, who produced the highest individual score of her team with 72.087%, is also the youngest. At 23-years-old she made her senior German Team debut in Wellington just one year ago.

“It’s been a great journey, and it’s great to be back on the senior German team. I had a fantastic team with great teammates and great team spirit. I think the scores are reflecting our improvement, but it’s not just about the scores. I think I was able to do a more detailed test today than last year, for example,” said Hendricks.

For Abbelen, the secret to their team spirit is really no secret at all, just geography and a career long familiarity.

Anna-Christina Abbelen & Sam Donnerhall. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

“I’m super honored to be on this team and it’s always fun because we know each other from home. We all come from the same region in Germany, from the Münster area,” said 28-year-old Abbelen, who also began representing Germany at the senior level last year.

Yet, in the rectangle, it comes down to the relationship with each of their horses, whether it be a one day fling like Wandres and Total Recall, or Abbelen and Sam Donnerhall who have been partnered since 2019.

“Sam is really strong in all the extensions like the extended trot, extended canter. He has a great passage, and I really could celebrate my half-passes,” Abbelen gushed.

Michael Klimke & Domino 957. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

Seasoned champion Michael Klimke is certainly not forgetting to celebrate, either.

“Yes, we won—not one time. We’ve won four times in a row. For me, it’s an honor to be here and all of these years,” said Klimke.

The post Undefeated Germany Stacks the Odds in Their Favor appeared first on Horse Network.

Mankini Fails to Make List of Silliest Riding Costumes, New Study Finds 23 Feb 2024, 1:18 pm

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—A new equestrian research poll conducted by the Chillax Institute just released some surprising results.

The Stockholm-based organization reports that the much-buzzed about orange mankini sported by Australian rider Shane Rose at a recent event near Sydney failed to make even the most basic list of impractical equestrian getups.

In fact, after tallying the results from the thousands of international equestrian community members that either wrote-in or voted in an online poll, the barely-there mankini barely made a blip at all.

“When we take into account real-life factors such as temperature, comfort, technical design for sport, and other factors, the mankini is far and away a more practical choice than the top-five silly riding costumes and accessories on our list, especially in warm-weather climates,” said Professor Harry Scheele, who led the study.

“A mankini actually has a lot of redeeming qualities. It’s streamlined and very aerodynamic, especially while jumping. In judged classes, such as equitation, there’s certainly no way to camouflage the rider’s leg position, or lack thereof, when you’re wearing an adult-man-sized G-string,” Scheele continued.

“And especially when you’re talking about temperature—it’s the height of summer right now in New South Wales, where Shane Rose was competing. With temperatures well into the 80s on most days, you’re going to tell me that a stiff, wool-blend coat makes more practical sense than beach apparel?”

So what did make Scheele’s top-five list for silly equestrian get-ups? Here’s a look at the prime offenders:

Shadbelly Coats

© Carterse/Flickr.com

What’s one way to make stodgy hunt coats even more impractical? Attach a pair of long tails to the back of them.

“They’re up, they’re down, they’re all around—they’re spooking horses, they’re caught in the wind (or the door), they’re under your crotch when you land in the saddle,” wrote-in one study participant. “When you think about it, not one thing about long, flappy coat tails signals ‘formal attire for an important occasion’—or even, ‘I was born in the 21st century.’” Tally-ho!

Hard Dressage Boots

Photo 179510704 | Dressage Boot © Valeriya Vatel | Dreamstime.com

Is it possible to make tall, stiff, and unforgiving cow-hide boots less comfortable? Of course!

Enter hard dressage boots, with a special reinforced panel that may improve your leg position, but are, according to one actual sales ad, “not for the faint-hearted” when it comes to breaking them in. Or, as one voter said, “Hard dressage boots cost an arm and a leg (maybe your actual leg), and that’s nothing compared to the years of therapy you’ll need to pay for to overcome wearing them.”

Hairnets

©Andrey Kurguzov | Dreamstime.com

Are you entering a riding competition or dolling out box-mix mashed potatoes in the lunchroom cafeteria? For long-maned horse show mavens in many disciplines, hairnets are a mainstay from the top-levels down to the local Youth Fair. But according to the voters, that doesn’t make it right.  

Sparkles, Sparkles Everywhere

Photo 220041542 © Pltphotography | Dreamstime.com

From Western Pleasure and showmanship to show jumping night classes—and every possible piece of riding equipment you can shellack a Swarovski crystal to in dressage—a little bling has become the riding equivalent of living dangerously.

“But maybe, just, don’t,” said one voter, “this is horses, not a Wayne Newton show on the Vegas Strip.”

Shirt & Tie

© Selena N/ Flickr.com

Blame it on the work-from-home phenomenon, but there are fewer and fewer acceptable occasions for sporting a tie these days—and according to the voters, horse shows aren’t one of them.

From the ladies and men of saddle seat to every dude on the hunter/jumper circuit (and beyond), a collared shirt and tie doesn’t scream “take me seriously, I’m an athlete” so much as, “boardroom meeting today at 4 p.m.—bring those TPS reports!”

More satire from Nina Fedrizzi:

• Calling All Aspiring Pinups: The 2024 ‘Barn Babes’ Calendar Wants You! 
• Future Horse Show Stage Parents Vow to Start Newborn in the Saddle “ASAP”
• Hunter Under Saddle Rider Removed from Flat Class for Trash Talking Fellow Competitors 
• Aging Parents Can’t Understand Why Daughter Spends So Much Money on a Passion That Brings Her Joy

Sign up and get more satire by Nina Fedrizzi delivered straight to your inbox.

The post Mankini Fails to Make List of Silliest Riding Costumes, New Study Finds appeared first on Horse Network.

Health Care for the Young Horse 22 Feb 2024, 11:15 am

Young horses demand certain types of nutrition and veterinary care that are a little different from adult equine needs.

My young Warmblood True has been very healthy. I attribute that partly to a sturdy constitution, but also to regular attention from his excellent veterinarian and farrier, supplements that build a youngster’s body, and techniques for problem prevention.

Constitution—When buying a young horse (or any horse, for that matter), have a licensed veterinarian do a pre-purchase exam. You’ll earn the cost back a hundred times over by starting with a healthy animal.

Choose a veterinarian who has never examined or treated this horse in the past. You want an independent opinion of the horse’s health. If the horse is not local, be sure the examining veterinarian speaks with your local vet to address any concerns.

True’s pre-purchase exam came back with an A+. He was sturdy, strong, well developed for his age, and all his body systems (cardio, respiratory, neurological, skeletal, etc.) were in excellent condition. The examining veterinarian sent radiographs of all four legs to my local veterinarian, and both agreed there were no problems, no suspicions, no reasons for concern.

Other horses I almost bought at that time were not so lucky.

Veterinary attention—Within a week of arrival, True was vaccinated against the diseases that are local to my  area. Necessary vaccines for a horse in New York are not the same as necessary vaccines for Arizona, for example.

At the same time, your veterinarian should check your new horse’s teeth, float them if necessary, inspect a fecal sample for worm eggs, and deworm as needed. Develop a deworming plan for the new horse with your veterinarian’s help. After the initial appointment, your horse should be vaccinated, examined for dental problems, and inspected for worms every spring and fall.

Farrier attention—True is barefoot, not because of any great philosophy of naturalism on my part, but because he has big round dinnerplate feet; super-strong in wall, frog, and sole; and is usually ridden in sand arenas. He does not need shoes.

But many horses do, so work with a certified farrier to be sure your horse gets whatever her individual feet require. This, too, should be addressed within the the first week or two of your young horse’s arrival.

And remember, bare feet still need attention: True’s are trimmed every six weeks.

Supplements—I usually rely on excellent quality grass or alfalfa hay for feeding and prefer to avoid additional supplements. However, a young horse is still growing, and her skeleton and muscles need more protein than they will when she is mature. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a good high-protein supplement or ration balancer.

What’s the difference? The straight supplement will also add weight to the horse—wonderful if your baby is thin. The ration balancer adds protein but is relatively low in calories, so it works well for the chubby baby.

If you board your horse, be aware that supplement mistakes are among the most common at boarding stables. Reduce the risk by reducing or simplifying the task.

For example, if your horse requires multiple supplements, mix them yourself and place each day’s ration in an individual container. It’s safer for your horse, and barn staff will appreciate your efforts to make their job easier.

Prevention—Stick to your feeding, veterinary, and farrier routine. Horses need regular care, not “only-when-injured” care. Be sure your horse is in proper condition, not too fat, not too thin, shiny coat, bright eyes, energetic. Examine his body while grooming daily to see if anything unusual has popped up.

Inspect your horse’s stall, paddock, or pasture once a month or so, looking for loose fencing, straggling wires, or sharp metal edges. When you find something, get it fixed immediately.

Colic is the number one cause of death in horses, so lock your feed room, make all feed changes slow and gradual, watch for signs of colic, and address them immediately. Laminitis is a common cause of lameness when horses are fed rich supplements or natural grass. In some areas of the world, grass is very rich and needs to be offered in small amounts.

When working your horse, prevent exercise problems by warming up and cooling down at a walk for at least 10 minutes each. Think about how hard the horse is working—is it hot outside? Cold? Is the horse sweating a lot? What’s the elevation—is she getting enough oxygen? Do you have to push this horse to work harder or faster? And so on.

Give your horse short rest breaks during her training session, three or four minutes here and there. It helps her body, but if you time breaks properly, they also reinforce positive lessons in her mind. After a workout, cold-hose or ice-wrap your horse’s legs for 10 minutes to prevent soreness or swelling. When spring comes and you’re all hyped up for the new show season, build the horse’s workload slowly and gradually.

True hasn’t had any health problems, though he has had a facial cut that needed six sutures. It was caused by a pointed screw end that had not been cut off, located behind a support board near his feeder in an area that most people would swear a horse could never reach. I’m very grateful it wasn’t worse.

All of the tips here help, but a dose of good luck is sometimes necessary, too. Horses are a lot more fragile than their size would suggest. Take good care of yours!

Related reading:

Janet Jones will present “Brain to Brain: Cross-Species Communication between Horses and Riders” at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida, on March 14, 2024. Come to the talk and enjoy the international Winter Spectacular Hunter/Jumper Horse Show too. Learn more and reserve your tickets at https://janet-jones.com/product/janet-jones-ticket-sales.

A version of this story originally appeared on janet-jones.com. It is reprinted here with permission.

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AI’s “Majestic” Take on Horse Words 21 Feb 2024, 2:08 pm

This week I was plum out of ideas, so I thought I’d go out on a limb and try a chatbot AI program to see if it could offer any help.  

The first thing I requested was broad, but I was curious to see what it would come up with using the prompt:

Write an article about horses.

Within 15 seconds, my request was complete. I grabbed a pen and gave it a read in the dim hope of finding a clever idea to write about.   

What it spewed out was a 573-word, middle school-level essay about horses, covering the topics of history, anatomy, behavior, and communication—and the tried-and-true subject of the bond between horses and humans. That’s a lot of ground to cover in so few words. 

Four words into the first sentence, I set my pen down and typed this sentence, because I’d just figured out what I was going to write about. The first sentence read:

“Horses, with their majestic presence and undeniable grace, have captivated humanity for centuries.”

Oh, my. 

It’s true, horses have been of interest to us humans for centuries, but the words “majestic” and “grace” are a bit cringy, don’t you think? 

Horses, I suppose, are majestic, but that’s an adjective I’d never use to describe anything. I do sometimes wonder if I’m just a mean, cynical person who needs to stop being so cranky about things. However, today is not that day. 

I waded through other words of note such as: captivated, magnificent, powerful, transcends, allure, and splendor.  It’s the sort of cliché vocabulary only non-horse people use to describe our equine friends. Which, I suppose, is fair, given that this is artificial intelligence, trying its darndest to please the masses. 

I’ll admit, however, for 15 seconds of effort from this computer program (and given such a broad subject), it did a pretty-okay job. Especially, if you’re in grade six, needing to turn in an essay about your favorite animal tomorrow at 9 a.m. 

Now, let’s narrow the focus and see what happens. My request:

Write an article about equine bone structure in the front leg.

I wrote about this myself a few weeks ago, and thought it would be a good comparison. 

What I learned after typing in my second suggestion was that 15 seconds was actually a long time to process the first “article.” This time, after I hit ‘Enter,’ nothing appeared to happen. Annoyed, as per, I re-entered my demand, only to realize the machine, as it were, had already spit out its second offering on the subject. With a narrower focus, it appears the program can actually gather the information at lightning speed. It made me feel old, but such is life.   

The AI generator was quick to roll out “majestic” and “grace” again, which I suspect is par for the course with these things. 

For example, “In the realm of equine anatomy, the front legs of horses stand as pillars of strength and grace, supporting the majestic creatures in their every stride.”

Firstly, gag. 

Secondly, what in hell’s name is going on here? Is that an example of a word salad or just a series of puns/clichés/double entendres or whatever? No matter the answer, that sentence is a lot to take in. 

Thirdly, I don’t think, with the best will in the world, a human would have ever come up with such a description for the reasoning of a horse’s two front legs. I doff my cap.

Next, I think I’ll try something different:

Humorous article about a horse’s leg bone structure.

I will say, most of what was written was unsurprisingly humorless. However, the bit about splint bones was amusing—though likely not in the intended way.  

“Ah, the splint bones, those quirky little sidekicks to the cannon bone. They’re like the horse leg’s equivalent of training wheels—always there to lend a helping bone when things get a little wobbly. Some say they’re just the horse’s way of accessorizing its leg with a touch of whimsy.”

I mean…what? 

A whimsical accessory? Like a feather boa? 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I find it unlikely someone has looked at their horse with a freshly popped splint and said, with hands on hips, “Well, isn’t that fun!” without a hint of sarcasm. 

I could go on for some time about that paragraph; however, for the sake of brevity, I’ll leave it there.  

“Whimsy” is a great word, though.

My final attempt is to gain some proper help from this thing:

Unusual words in the horse world.

I suspect if I weren’t a horse person, the list presented to me would be interesting. However, we already know the words withers, croup, fetlock, and martingale. But the last word on the list is new to me, which is, “quidding.”

And what is quidding or quid, for those of you, like me, who have no idea? Well, it’s the word we use, or will start using, when a horse drops grain from their mouth while chewing or leaving behind partially chewed balls of hay in their feeders. This is, obviously, due to dental problems. Quidding. I had no idea. 

I asked the same question again to see if more words sprang up.

Nope. Nothing. This program loves the words fetlock, piaffe, bosal, and the like. All things we know, and I have written about. But it was worth a shot. 

In conclusion, this was my first kick at the can, and perhaps if I come up with some better questions, I’ll receive better answers. 

I don’t believe we writers need to fear the world of AI-generated text just yet. That being said, it’s certainly a great way to start your research and gather ideas. I’ll give this AI writing business a 2/10 if you know the subject matter well, and an 8/10 if you don’t know anything about your topic.

May the living brain continue to reign supreme. 

The post AI’s “Majestic” Take on Horse Words appeared first on Horse Network.

An Orange Mankini Almost Crushed Olympic Eventer Shane Rose’s Paris Hopes 21 Feb 2024, 10:49 am

It was an itsy bitsy, teenie weenie, fluorescent-orange string mankini, and it’s caused quite a stir in the land Down Under.

It was supposed to be all in good fun for three-time Aussie Olympic eventer Shane Rose.

The two-time silver and one-time bronze Team medalist donned the costume for the Bowral Kubota Equestrian Extravaganza Eventers vs. Show Jumper competition at the 2024 Wallaby Hill Extravaganza in New South Wales, near Sydney, Australia, on February 11. The Borat-inspired mankini, in fact, was just one of three costumes the decorated eventer wore during the class, ultimately finishing second behind Jessica Stalling.

But for Rose, a little chaffing was just the start of his troubles.

Shortly after the event, Rose received a call from the country’s governing body, Equestrian Australia, notifying him that he was under investigation for breaching their code of conduct, and would be barred from further competition while the inquiry took place. (For reference, the class was considered a community event, not a professional competition.)

The penalty for Rose—who has his eyes on a fourth Olympic appearance at the Paris Games this summer—could have ranged from a warning to a suspension, potentially crushing his 2024 hopes. Rose quickly posted an apology on his Facebook page (he later deleted and amended it), and the Wallaby Hill Extravaganza removed all images of his mankini from their social media feeds. But Australia at large, the land of beach bods and budgie smugglers, quickly rallied to Rose’s defense.

“Common sense is not so common these days. But I am glad it made an appearance in the case of Shane Rose last night. He is a 3 time Olympic medalist and while this is not a photo to hang on your wall at home, it was just some good hearted fun in a fancy dress competition,” wrote Australian politician and fellow Olympian, sharpshooter Dan Repacholi.

Wallaby Hill Extravaganza sponsor Bowral Kubota, a farm machinery company, even vowed to provide a mankini to all spectators and donate $100 to every competitor that tries to outdo Rose in next year’s costume class. Meanwhile, the slogan, ‘I stand with Shane Rose,’ resounded in a flurry of comments and memes across the Internet, embraced by riders including Australian show jumper Matt Williams, who posted his own skimpy costume class photo and wrote, “Australia should be embarrassed by the way they are treating one of our greatest ambassadors.”

Fortunately, Equestrian Australia has reviewed the matter and agreed to put the investigation to rest. According to Chief Executive Darren Gocher, both Rose’s apology and the nature of the competition contributed to their decision to allow Rose to return training, with an eye toward Paris qualification.

Yet if his multiple national news appearances are any indication, Rose has become something of a G-string-clad folk hero in Oz. The eventer seems to be taking it all in stride, thanking his supporters and writing on his own Facebook that he is pleased with Equestrian Australia’s decision.

“The support and interest in this story has been like nothing I have experienced before,” he said. “Now it is time to focus on the job ahead and try to get Australian Equestrian in the media for a more positive reason, an Olympic Gold Medal.”

Yet perhaps the best person to sum up the week that was ‘mankini gate’ is the unseen cameraman who captures Rose’s getup as the eventer mounts up and rides over to compete, saying simply, “That’s Australian.”

The post An Orange Mankini Almost Crushed Olympic Eventer Shane Rose’s Paris Hopes appeared first on Horse Network.

How do you dishorse? 20 Feb 2024, 9:10 am

If you turn to page 1 of the 1976 Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship you will find instructions on how to dismount.

Page one. That’s how important this is.

I’m not going to walk you through how to get off our horses, but I am going to talk about the words/terms we use to say when we are doing just that.

There are two ways to separate ourselves from our mounts and that is with intention and without intention.  

This week I’ll cover the intentional dismount and next week I’ll cover the less favorable unintentional dismount.  

Hop off or jump off

There’s not much to say about these words other than they tend to suggest a level of ease and springiness, which is rarely the case. Perhaps slide is a more accurate word. Nevertheless, we remain steadfast in the usage of the words hop and jump.  

Sadly, it’s our instructors who commonly use one of these words and it’s generally said directly before they hop on to show you how it’s really done.

“Here, just hop off and I’ll get on.” This is said, almost exclusively, in a breezy tone to prevent an emotional reaction. If irritation is present in your trainer’s voice, well then, you’ve done something quite wrong and had better hop off.

Dismount

This is a standard word we use, and we’ve been using it for 444 years, according to my calculations. However, before we started using it regarding horses, some 40 years earlier it meant “to remove or throw down cannons from their mounts.”

By the time the 1600s rolled around dismount also meant “to throw or bring down from a horse.” It’s unclear what you might have thrown or brought down from a horse all those years ago, I’m thinking straw but that’s conjecture.   

Dishorse

The definition for this word is “to dismount oneself from a horse.” It sounds like an archaic word. Unless you say, “I’m gettin’ off dis horse” but that’s just poor use of the English language.

The word-forming element, dis, shows up in many commonly used words like dishonest, disallow or discard. It means “lack of” as in a lack of honesty, or “the opposite of allowing” or “apart, away” as with discard.

Dis comes from the Latin dis, which, as you can see, has gone unchanged over the centuries, and it means “apart, asunder, in a different direction, between.” It’s easy to see how we ended up with words like dishorse and dismount.

Asunder. This is a word we should use more often.

Alight

I like this word very much. The first time I heard it I was in the UK and the announcement on the train suggested we be careful as we alight from the train. I enjoyed that I was alighting as I was unaware I knew how to do that.  

We can also alight from a horse, though we rarely, if ever, use it in this context.

The word comes from the Old English word alihtan, meaning to “get off, make light” as in lightening the load. And what rider doesn’t want to consider themselves a ponderous load?

So…

Whether you alight, dishorse, or just plain old dismount, at least you know you have a few options in the matter.

Next week I’ll tackle the enormous list I’ve gathered about the ever-humbling experience of coming off without intention.

Sources:

Feature image: Frankie Dettori’s famed flying dismount.

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Santiago Lambre Has “Greatest Day” of His Career in Doha 20 Feb 2024, 5:48 am

Some jump offs are a test of stride length and speed. Others favor cat-like agility. Sometimes, you just need to keep the poles in their cups.

That was exactly the case for Brazil’s Santiago Lambre & Chacco Blue II, who took the win on Saturday in the CSI 5* Grand Prix at the H.H. the Amir’s Sword International Equestrian Festival, held at Al Shaqab in Doha, Qatar. The pair were the only double-clear combination in the field of 25 on course designer Ramin Shafiee’s challenging, 1.60m track.

Only four riders, in fact, qualified for the shortened course, where Lambre and the 17-year-old OS stallion posted another fault-free performance, stopping the clock at 33.05 seconds. Abdullah Alsharbatly of Saudi Arabia was significantly faster on 29.97 seconds, but dropped a single pole with the 16-year-old KWPN gelding, Alamo. Denmark’s Rikke Belinda Barker—also on four faults—took third with Tabalou PS (35.66 seconds), while Emanuele Gaudiano of Italy finished on eight faults and 30.43 seconds with Nikolaj de Music.

“THE greatest day in our showjumping career,” Lambre, 48, wrote on his Instagram, where he also thanked his team and his one-eyed, senior stallion’s vet, Puli Convit. (Chacco Blue II lost his left eye when he was a yearling.) According to Jumpr App, this is the third win and 13th podium finish for Lambre and Chacco Blue II, who have been paired together since 2021. The stallion was previously campaigned by Brazil’s Luciana Diniz.

In January, Lambre & Chacco Blue II were banging on the door, taking second in the 1.60m Grand Prix at Al Shaqab. Yet February’s H.H. the Amir’s Sword International Equestrian Festival marked an even more successful campaign for the red-hot Brazilian rider, who won not just Saturday’s 1.60m class with Chacco Blue II, but also the 1.45m class on Friday with Cetano Van Aspergem Z, and the 1.50m qualifier on Thursday with Zeusz.

It hasn’t exactly been bad for his pocketbook, either. According to Jumpr App, Lambre—who currently sits at #50 in the world—has already earned more than €124,500 in prize money in just the first two months of 2024. That’s more than the much higher-ranked Kent Farrington (USA), Julien Epaillard (FRA), and World #2 Ben Maher.

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Like Father, Like Son for Emmelie Scholtens & Indian Rock 19 Feb 2024, 1:34 pm

There aren’t a lot of ways to improve a six-hour drive home from a horse show.

But winning the ninth leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2023/2024 Western European League? That’s a great place to start. And it’s just what Emmelie Scholtens of the Netherlands did on Sunday in Neumünster, Germany, topping the podium for the second day in a row after also taking the closely-contested Grand Prix on Saturday.

On a score of 81.565%, the Dutch rider squeaked just ahead of series leader Patrik Kittel of Sweden with Forever Young HRH on a score of 81.145%, and Matthias Alexander Rath of Germany with Destacado FRH (80.425%). The best part: she did so with a partner that’s very close to her heart.

“[I’ve] know Indian Rock since he was three years old. I started everything with him, his whole education, all the way to Grand Prix,” Scholtens, 38, said after her win. “[Indian Rock is] special to me because I rode his father, [Apache], and he reminds me of him.”

In fact, in 2019, Scholtens and Apache finished eighth at the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final in Gothenburg, Sweden. And now, after a win in Sunday’s qualifier in Neumünster, Scholtens is within striking distance of the 2024 Final—and may need to reconsider her season.  

“I didn’t think before about going to the Final, but I’m considering it now,” Scholtens said. “[Indian Rock] feels like my horse, but he’s not my horse, so I have to discuss with the owners. [To] be honest, it’s also an exciting year this year because of the Olympics, so I also have to watch out that everything isn’t too much for him.”

Scholtens (NED) and Indian Rock. © www.sportfotos-lafrentz.de / Stefan Lafrentz

Fortunately, Scholtens is well-qualified to judge the 11-year-old KWPN stallion’s capabilities. Paired together on the international scene since 2018, they previously competed at the World Championships in Herning, Denmark in 2022 and at the European Championship in Riesenbeck, Germany last summer.  

“He was a little bit scared because of the prize-giving from [the Grand Prix] yesterday, but he is such a brave horse. I said, ‘It’s fine, you can go in,” explained Scholtens, referring to Neumünster’s notoriously intimate arena and enthusiastic crowds. “[Indian Rock] is a fun horse to go to shows with because he’s easy and he feels [like] he wants to give his all.”

Currently sitting in 9th place on 39 points in the Western European League standings, the pair will have plenty riding on their next FEI Dressage World Cup™ qualifier performance in three weeks. Fortunately, Scholtens will also be competing on home-turf at ’s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, where she’ll face off once again against Kittel, this time on Bonamour. The Swedish rider currently boasts 72 points and is qualified for the Final on no less than three different mounts.

The good news? For her part, Scholtens couldn’t have more faith in her own longtime partner. “[Indian Rock] has the best character,” she said. “He’s a stallion but he is so sweet. He’s special to me because of his father, also, but it’s about every day how he is when you are with him.”

The post Like Father, Like Son for Emmelie Scholtens & Indian Rock appeared first on Horse Network.

I Learned to Ride at 50, on the Wild Coast of South Africa 19 Feb 2024, 8:59 am

Just how many people in their 50s decide to take up horseback riding seems to be an unspecified number, even for Google.

There are plenty of tips and warnings for older riders, some rather insulting—we’re old, not dead. But there is little information regarding exactly how many midlife beginners there might be. Though given the number of websites encouraging it, there must be more of us than one might imagine.

Anyway, wisely or not, I am one of these people.

Riveting, painful, humiliating, hilarious—any of these words might apply to the experience. For me, it has been exhilarating and sometimes sidesplittingly funny.

The setting of my equestrian adventure: a 150 ha pristine nature reserve of hills and dales on the east coast of South Africa. Notoriously, and for good reason, known as the Wild Coast, it’s a place where one can ride horses among zebra, giraffe and antelope, pass through a tiny village and head out onto a magnificent stretch of beach for a canter.

©Brenton Geach Photography
©Brenton Geach Photography

I imagine that two likely scenarios seem plausible in this setting: either this is a wild, no-holds-barred set-up where one takes one’s life into their own hands, or, it’s an elite, prohibitively expensive, all-wishes-catered-for African safari, which are so frequently advertised.

But Haga-Haga Horses is neither.

Firstly, even most South Africans haven’t a clue where Haga-Haga is and, secondly, it is nothing like an elite horse safari experience that caters to tourists and their every whim and very attractive currency.

No. Here you catch your own designated horse, groom it, tack it up yourself (with help if all the buckles are beyond your capabilities, as they were mine), and set out to ride with the deceptively slight owner of these 15 horses, Heather Arnold.

She also has a three-year-old toddler, so when I say she has phenomenal endurance, you can take my word for it.

And a word of warning: Heather never gives up, no matter the task or issue at hand, no matter the howling gale, torrential rainstorm, or the infamous African sun. So, in the words of the incorrigible Boy Scouts and their founder, Robert Baden Powell, “Be prepared.”

The Haga-Haga Nature Reserve where these horses live out is also home to some five zebra, a family of three giraffes, and scores of antelope of different varieties, all of which you are almost guaranteed to spot on your ride. In fact, it is astonishing just how close the zebra and giraffe allow a person on horseback to approach, all the while keeping a watchful eye on you as they stare quizzically at the passing spectacle.

©Brenton Geach Photography
©Brenton Geach Photography

Now, I first came to Haga-Haga Horses to experience an indulgent but rare outride. What I hadn’t counted on was Heather’s persuasiveness and rational argument, which was simply that I would enjoy the experience immeasurably more if I actually knew how to ride properly.

Some might say it’s not a wise move to start horse-riding at the age of 50, the truth is I’ve fallen in love with the dark and mysterious Charlie. Charlie is the horse, to be clear. A Thoroughbred-cross weighing in at some 400-plus kg. Besides, one does not simply say “no” to Heather.

Unsurprisingly, Charlie thought I was an imbecile from the outset—I mean little children ride better than I do. Or did, because over the last six months I have gone all out and started taking proper lessons and controlled outrides.

It’s not that I’ve never ridden before—I have, often. Since I started earning my own money in my 20s, I have treated myself where and when I can. (My mother is terrified of anything equine and forbade me to even ride a pony at children’s parties.)

However, I have never been taught any of the vital aspects properly: not a correct seat, or how to tack up a horse and, importantly, not to expect to fall off every time I canter or gallop, which has happened more times than I care to remember in the past.

It didn’t stop me from wanting to ride. I just thought that the best I would ever be was clinging to a horse’s mane, having lost complete control as we thundered down the beach.

The reasons for this have become patently clear to me now. I have always ridden at establishments that cosset the rider by doing all the pre and post-ride work for one, while not offering any criticisms or instructions to the clients for fear of offending them and losing their precious lucre.

But then I met Heather and Charlie and everything changed.

Heather and Charlie. ©Brenton Geach Photography

Charlie, experienced at being a horse, and me, not experienced at being a rider, had a lot to teach me. As does Heather.

For example, amongst many other afflictions, I appear to be rather spatially challenged and am taking a disturbingly long time learning my way around a bridle without tying it all into an unravel-able knot.

I put Charlie’s halter on in such a manner that he was blindfolded. I managed inexplicably to attach his noseband underneath his chin. Then to the throat latch.

I didn’t know how to tack Charlie up. I was never taught that on my previous excursions.

I brought him disagreeable snacks (I swear not even Gordon Ramsey has managed to curl his lip in such distaste).

I didn’t know how to pick out his feet, which he took full advantage of by kneeing me in the face. Twice.

I tried to close one of the game-reserve gates while seated on him, and accidentally, but predictably, whacked him on the behind, an indignity he rewarded me with by unceremoniously dumping me in the mud and heading for home at speed, where people knew what they were doing.

©Brenton Geach Photography

Nonetheless, after my first outride in years, I was on a potentially dangerous and addictive adrenalin high, and immediately booked another session with Heather and Charlie. Only this time with the desperately needed lesson.

The first was straight-up slap-stick comedy. I didn’t know any of the terminology, and know precious little now, I’m sure.

I had, of course, boasted to Heather that I am still rather flexible for a quinquagenarian. So when she instructed me to point my toes at Charlie’s ears, I actually physically lifted my legs—hands akimbo as instructed—and ludicrously put my feet on his ears.

As you can imagine, Charlie was less than impressed to have a stranger’s filthy boots on his head. What Heather thought of my behavior, I’d prefer not to know.

This type of tomfoolery happened at every session without fail.

But now, after six months, while I still have issues with the tack, I am rather more confident in my ability to canter and be able to keep a modicum of control. I have even progressed to small jumps.

My horse-riding days are those I look forward to the most, and I regret that the thought of taking it up in a more constructive manner didn’t occur to me until a mutual horse friend introduced me to Heather.

What now has me in a quandary is that Heather says I may soon be able to ride Jet, a beautiful grey Anglo Arab that could make a living from hair conditioner adverts, so beautiful are his mane and tail. But beauty does not equate to tolerating fools. Jet, a former eventer, is apparently a little less forgiving than Charlie and has little patience for low levels of expertise.

I am also devastated to hear from Heather that not only is this not considered cheating on Charlie, but that Charlie has had other clients all along and couldn’t give a damn what I do with myself or who else I ride. He’ll probably be more than happy to hand me over to Jet for the indignities I put him through.

I’m simultaneously heartbroken and excited. What a bizarre feeling.

The post I Learned to Ride at 50, on the Wild Coast of South Africa appeared first on Horse Network.

Q&A: How has the path changed for ambitious young riders without the budget to pursue the top sport? 19 Feb 2024, 6:18 am

The path to a high-level, professional riding career in the hunter/jumper industry has changed SO much in the last 20 years.

Today, the cost of horses, shows, and full-training/care has soared higher than anyone could have imagined.

As a trainer, supporting the needs of talented and ambitious young riders requires a lot of creativity when it comes to the finances required—let alone the time and energy you would naturally be giving any student. When it comes to finding a suitable mount, the days of purchasing an off-the-track thoroughbred project are long gone. The days of “grabbing one from Europe” on a shoestring budget are also a thing of the past.

It depends on your discipline, but as a trainer, your expectations for the level you believe a kid is capable of reaching plays a big role. In essence, it dictates whether or not you are willing to invest the time and resources to makeup—and therefore carry—a young and/or green animal that will take time but could ultimately help that kid to succeed in their dreams.

In this day and age, I feel the American system, on the whole, needs to be savvier about how we provide opportunities to talented kids with average means. We need to start thinking outside the box! Let’s talk about the highest level and who have been our U.S. Olympic team mainstays: Kent Farrington, Beezie Madden, McLain Ward, Laura Kraut, Anne Kursinski, Margie Goldstein-Engle, Leslie Howard—just to name a few.

Do we think they would be where they are now if they didn’t have the help of their own trainers? Do we think they are doing the same for the next generation, and if so, to what extent? Is it even possible for them to do the same for the next generation if they wanted to? It goes without saying that it will leave a huge hole for Team USA after these riders are no longer able to compete (some have stepped back from the top level already).

Given the rising costs of the sport, the riders who can afford to compete at the top—and purchase/carry the multiple top horses required to keep them there—are the ones we have to choose from when it comes to moving forward for Team USA. But how many other kids, potentially with even greater talent and drive, are being overlooked because of their lack of means?

As a trainer, I don’t feel the financial requirements of the sport are going to go backwards; it’s not going become less expensive. But I do feel we need to provide top trainers with an actual pathway for bringing along young, ambitious riders with ability when they find them. Maybe it involves reaching more owners who are willing to back the next generation. Maybe Team USA needs to change or expand its grant and scholarship programs to help young riders sooner, so a greater number of hopefuls can afford to ride and train under those at the top.

As a trainer, I feel very stuck at times. The sport has become so financially prohibitive that just bringing along a young horse to possibly give a student an opportunity at the top levels feels impossible. That’s a hard position to be in when you find a kid that is driven and hardworking, and I know in my heart it’s 100% the right thing to do for them. It’s also a very sad conclusion to have to reach about our sport.

As a judge, I see how the financial demands of this industry promote a spirit of selfishness. There are so many owners that pay for multiple top horses to go in the ring under one rider/trainer, when perhaps those horses could be split among multiple talented individuals, providing many more with opportunities.

For the lucky few who do get the rides, how many are actively giving back to the next generation? And I’m not  just talking about the kids of the wealthy clients who fund them. I’m not just talking about letting them help out at the farm in exchange for the occasional lesson. I’m talking about real, extended coaching, including in the show ring.

Personally, when I’m judging, I would love to see a greater variety of talented riders in my ring. Not only the juniors, but aspiring young professionals who are getting new opportunities on good horses. Honestly, as a judge, it sometimes gets boring watching the same established riders competing time and time again. I’d like to see more opportunities for new talent to take center stage.

In fact, there are so many top-riding junior kids that I’ve judged—and who I think are great riders—that seem to disappear after a certain point. Certainly, many of them go on to other careers, but why don’t we see more of them sticking around to ride in the professional ring? Is it an actual choice they are making, or is it because there are no opportunities there for our sport to develop and support young professional riders? It certainly would make it more fun to watch!

And finally, putting on my ‘mother’s hat’—and this one is dear to my heart, as I have a very hard-working kid in the industry who is now an adult—I have tried so many times to figure out a viable next step for my daughter to continue in this industry. No matter where I turn, every time, she eventually hits that financial glass ceiling which stops the forward movement of her career.

I think if a kid has the capability, and is trusted to ride horses for people that have been to the Olympics many, many, times, but still can’t get her foot in the door, then our sport is doing something wrong. If you are told a million times as a mother that your kid is “great,” and, “one of the best,” and she’s still struggling for a foothold, then those people are either B.S.-ing you, or there really is no pathway if you aren’t funding it yourself.

As a mom, I tell my kid to just keep working hard, and hopefully it’ll all work out. But I’m not so sure anymore. Despite how many people I ask, or how creative I try to be, I’ve never received a truthful answer about how to fix this specific problem. Unless I am willing (and able) to open the wallet quite wide, there’s no “next rung” for my kid to climb toward.

Frankly, it’s disheartening. In so many other sports, you are allowed to become great because you are great. But I’m not sure in this day and age if that’s still the case in equestrian. Twenty years ago, you may have had a chance if you were a very good rider who was willing to do the work. Now, I think it doesn’t matter how much talent or try you have: You also have to have wealth to be great.

That’s a sad conclusion to reach, and if I’m off base, then I’m happy to be wrong. I’d love to hear from a top rider or two from this generation that couldn’t have financially done it on their own, but against the odds, made it, and would be willing to share their story truthfully. If it comes down to a lack of ability, that’s one thing. But the common refrain in this sport is that there’s always a pathway to the top if your kid is willing to work for it.

As a mother who has made it my life’s work to find out what that pathway is—and is still struggling for an answer—those words ring hollow to me.

Dana Hart Callanan is a successful hunter, jumper and equitation coach, an ‘R’ judge, and a sales broker. In this column, she answers common questions about A level sport. Send your questions to news@horsenetwork.com for consideration in a future column.

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Rescue Horse Elysian Finds a Blissful Future 17 Feb 2024, 9:47 pm

Elysian is a 16-year-old Quarter Horse gelding that arrived at Days End Farm Horse Rescue (DEFHR) in Woodbine, Maryland, in March 2017.

Elysian and 11 other horses were seized by animal control officers from a property in Carroll County, Maryland, due to neglect.

Elysian was very thin, had unbalanced hooves, and his beautiful cremello coat was covered in layers of mud and feces. Once in DEFHR’s care, it took several baths to remove the dirt. Underneath, his skin was raw due to urine scald. According to DEFHR’s Operations Director Brittney Vallot, although bathing and cleaning Elysian took a lot of time, the process was even more tedious because of his anxiety.

After fully rehabilitating under DEFHR’s care, Elysian moved into DEFHR’s training program to help him overcome his anxious tendencies and prepare him for his forever home. He was ultimately adopted in March 2019 and his new, loving home allowed him to blossom and thrive. However, in June 2023, his adopter asked DEFHR to step in again as she had to unexpectedly sell her farm and move out of state.

As a safety net for horses in need, DEFHR always welcomes back their previously adopted horses and Elysian was no exception. Elysian re-entered training and by early 2024, a new family expressed interest in adopting the kind gelding.

When Elysian arrived at DEFHR, his beautiful cremello coat was covered in mud and manure. Now, his coat gleams along with his personality. ©Days End Farm Horse Rescue

We spoke with DEFHR Head Trainer Sara Strauss to learn more about Elysian’s journey from a timid rescue horse to the consummate partner for equines and humans. 

How did you help Elysian overcome his fears and anxieties?

Strauss: When Elysian first entered DEFHR’s training program in 2017, he had a difficult time adapting to living in a herd and with environmental and routine changes. As a result, we moved him to our satellite facility, which houses fewer horses. The quiet environment enabled him to relax and become more comfortable with his surroundings.

Elysian was a stallion when he first arrived at DEFHR and had been locked in a stall for an undetermined amount of time, so his social skills were lacking. After he was gelded, DEFHR staff slowly introduced Elysian to a larger herd and that gradual process helped him learn how to socialize and ultimately find comfort in numbers. 

What were your areas of focus during Elysian’s training? 

Strauss: We focused on groundwork and helping Elysian understand that he could find relaxation on his own. We originally started him under saddle but due to an undiagnosed lameness, we decided it would be in his best interest to find a home that would allow him to be a very handsome pasture pet.

Where did Elysian excel in training and what were the challenges? 

Strauss: Elysian is very aware of his surroundings, which is a good trait, but it can also cause him to become distracted. On the flip side, he’s a sensitive fellow, so his heightened awareness means he responds very easily and quickly to cues. 

Tell me about his personality. Any notable quirks? 

Strauss: He likes to think that he is a tough guy in the field, but around people he’s pretty much a marshmallow. He loves to be petted and loved by his handlers!

Elysian has an adoption pending. What made this new family a great fit for Elysian?

Strauss: The family that is adopting Elysian had horses previously but took a break from ownership for several years. They’re now ready to have horses again and they wanted to offer a loving retirement home to a horse in need.

They initially fell in love with Elysian thanks to his striking cremello color and gorgeous blue eyes. Their daughter enjoys pleasure riding, so they are also adopting another DEFHR rescue named Dudley. This will allow the daughter to ride Dudley and the mom can enjoy quiet, pampering time with Elysian. The family has a new shed row barn for the horses—they are two lucky guys! 

To learn more about DEFHR’s adoptable horses, visit: https://defhr.org/available-horses/

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The Perfect Flying Change 14 Feb 2024, 11:55 am

Flying lead changes are on my short list for True at this point in his training.

We’ve been doing a lot of simple changes, shortening the number of trot steps gradually, and he will now switch leads with only one trot step between. Perfect timing to ask for the fly! This morning, we cantered around on the right lead, circled toward the rail, I asked for the left lead with my right leg and, sure enough, he switched in the air perfectly. I am so proud!

Well, okay. I would be proud if this actually happened. Actually, I should have been teaching True flying changes last year but life got in the way. During that extra year, True came to the conclusion that changing leads is never, ever allowed while cantering. A good young horse is supposed to canter along at a steady pace “for-e-ver,” maintain the lead, and stop hopping around!

On this note, let me recommend a hilarious blog post from Sara Bradley, “The Five Stages of Learning Flying Changes”. I don’t know Ms. Bradley, but she’s made an accurate connection between a horse’s development of flying changes and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief. You know: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. True is firmly in denial at this time. He really does only take one trot step in the simple change now. But the notion of cantering through the change is beyond his imagination.

Frequent readers will know that my usual technique of teaching a new maneuver begins by ensuring the horse is ready. For flying changes, a horse needs to:
 

·       show that he can change leads freely at a canter while unmounted.

·       perform instant canter departs from trot and walk.

·       get the correct lead every time, showing he knows the cues for it.

·       be strong enough in the hindquarters to transfer his body weight and lift his front end briefly.


I began working on these preps as soon as the snow melted off the arena. True changes leads on his own when playing in his pasture or loose in the arena. Under saddle, he is now able to depart into the canter from a walk or halt pretty consistently, and his leads are always correct—they have been for two years.

But I have to say, True’s a little weak in the hindquarters and a bit resistant to transferring his weight back there. Enter Janet’s Brain-Based Butt Routine, which is not brain-based at all. It’s just an exercise program. All winter, we walked fast up long hills, an excellent way to strengthen hamstrings and gaskins. Trotting up long hills is even better, but our footing isn’t good enough. Arena trotting in deep sand builds stifles—we’ve been doing a lot of that, with engagement of the hindquarters and rounding of the topline at the same time.

Canter departs themselves strengthen the hind end, especially from the halt. We’ve done some unmounted rollbacks in the round pen, and some mounted turns on the haunches in the arena. Simply backing up at the walk helps, too. We’ll continue all these exercises, but already I can see some definition and feel more muscle in True’s back end…if only it would transfer to mine, too!

He is now ready to do flying changes, and I have asked for them five or six times in the past few days. Nope. He is so convinced that leads cannot be changed on the fly that he sometimes refuses the turn to the new direction.

As if to say, “Look. The right lead means we are turning right. We have to continue turning right. Why are you suddenly turning me to the left? Here, Janet, let me show you how to circle to the right.”

Denial! I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

Related reading:

Janet Jones will present “Brain to Brain: Cross-Species Communication between Horses and Riders” at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida, on March 14, 2024. Come to the talk and enjoy the international Winter Spectacular Hunter/Jumper Horse Show too. Learn more and reserve your tickets at https://janet-jones.com/product/janet-jones-ticket-sales.

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The 2024 Paris Olympic Medals Are the Most Precious Yet 12 Feb 2024, 2:30 pm

Leave it to France.

Long renowned for creating some of the most iconic, luxurious, and fashionable objects in the world—think: Chanel, Hermès, Cartier, and bien sûr!, champagne—the 2024 Olympic host nation might have finally outdone itself.

This summer, the native land of Napoleon Bonaparte, Claude Monet, and Louis Braille (more on him in a minute) is upping the ante on Olympic medals. And what prize could be more emblematic of the City of Light than a genuine piece of the capital’s iconic skyline?

Created by the c. 1780 French jewelry house, Chaumet, this year’s gold, silver, and bronze medals contain an iron fragment from the Eiffel Tower inside, set like a precious stone. The highly coveted awards will be bestowed upon thousands of podium-climbing Olympic and Paralympic athletes this summer, and they’re designed in a way that couldn’t be more intentional.

“It’s influence brings to life the symbol of victory, and spotlights, 100 years later, the return of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris,” explains a video released by the Olympic Committee this month. Paris last hosted the games back in 1924, and before that, in 1900. After this year, it will join London as the only other city in the world to host the Summer Games three times. And it’s pulling out all the stops for the occasion.

Each 2024 Olympic medal will feature a hexagon-shaped piece of the Tour Eiffel, mimicking the borders of France, itself (the country is often referred to as l’hexagon). The choice of Chaumet as designer is also emblematic.

The historic jewelry house was once a favorite not only of Napoleon Bonaparte’s consort, Empress Joséphine, but also of tower designer Gustave Eiffel, who was a regular customer. Shortly after the Eiffel Tower opened as part of the 1889 World’s Fair exhibition, in fact, Eiffel’s daughter was married, and he presented her with a pearl necklace from—you guessed it—the jeweler de jour, Chaumet.

Another fun fact: for Paralympic athletes, the Games’ edition name is embossed in Braille in the design. It’s a wink to Braille creator, Louis Braille, a French educator who created the first writing and reading system for the blind in the 1820s. Finally, each of the Games’ 5,084 medals were produced by none other than the Paris Mint, and comes complete with its own certificate of authenticity.  

In other words, if athletes around the globe weren’t amped enough about the chance to vie for their country and Olympic glory, the opportunity to win a priceless French artifact will only sweeten the pot.

Yet one more reason why Paris 2024 can’t come soon enough!

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