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Thoroughbred Logic, Presented by Kentucky Performance Products: Transitioning to Wet Feed 28 Feb 2024, 9:09 am

“I’m not going to lie, the sound of slurping humans makes me want to gag, but a barn full of slurpy horses is delightful.”

Welcome to the next installment of Thoroughbred Logic. In this weekly series, Anthropologist and trainer Aubrey Graham, of Kivu Sport Horses, offers insight and training experience when it comes to working with Thoroughbreds (although much will apply to all breeds). This week ride along as Aubrey shares her logic on getting horses to eat wet feed (even when some start out really, really preferring not to). 

The other day, a colleague/friend of mine explained my farm to others by calling it a barn full of fat Thoroughbreds. The enormous compliment was not missed. Certainly, some are still on that road from track-to-fat or other places to fat. But chonky is a good goal, and it is nice to remember that even when life seems to be on a solid struggle bus, that the horses generally are not.

In the past, I wrote a piece about feeding the “hard keeper.” Check that out if you can’t get weight on a horse. However, this article is geared more to convincing horses how to eat wet-down food. These are related, as in my barn, that wet food is integral to the getting fat side of things.

If you’re asking why you need to transition a horse to wet feed, doing so can provide a number of benefits:

  • Wetting grain is also good for making it easier to chew and more digestible.
  • Wetting the feed slows down their ability to inhale it (literally and figuratively) — slowing them down and making feed time more akin to a grazing style of eating rather than a hoovering (this is more of what their systems are geared for on one hand, but on the other, it also cuts down on choke and colic).
  • The water intake itself also helps keep colic at bay.
  • When paired with a forage mash, wet feed allows the grain quantity needed to fuel and fatten a high-metabolism Thoroughbred to be a bit less than would otherwise be expected.
  • It’s a great way to make sure that any powdered supplements or medications actually get eaten

Rikki (Tiz So Fine) had quite the glow up from a body score of a 2.5 to a 5 during her time here (she left even chunkier than this photo). Photo by Alanah Giltmier.

We don’t feed an enormous amount of grain here at Kivu Sporthorses. In fact, most of my competing event horses eat just two three-quart scoops of grain a day (that’s around five pounds). They do, however, eat a nearly equivalent amount of soaked (for at least 45 minutes) beet-pulp shreds and alfalfa cubes. The cubes and pulp soak in individual buckets first, then we add supplements and topper grain (shoutout to Hallway feeds here for stellar products). On top of this they have perpetual forage access to orchard alfalfa in stalls and in the fields as well as twice-daily feedings of high quality New Mexico Alfalfa.

Equine gold and a hell of a team to help stack it. Thanks, Jeff West, Alfalfa. Photo by Jeff West.

Quick caveats:

  1. Our horses who still need to gain weight also get rice bran (1/3 of a scoop 2x a day) and potentially a feeding of wet grain (2.5 lbs) at lunch. They all also get ground flax and salt as well as Madbarn Omneity (which I look at as a whole-horse multi-vitamin).
  2. If you don’t feed a beet-pulp and alfalfa cube base, don’t dismay. You can do similarly to what is described here with an all grain diet, you just have to create specific wet feed and dry feed. Soak designated portion of grain for 10-minutes to create a bit of a slurry and substitute that in for the cube-shred mash in the descriptions below. This will transition them to wet feed, even if you only feed straight grain. Then the pickiest of eaters will be able to figure it out and pack on the pounds while keeping up on their water intake.

How to transition from dry to wet feed:

The order of events matters only because when we feed our concoction of soaked cubes, pulp and grain + supplements, we upend a bucket into a pan and that leaves the soaked alfalfa (no longer in cube form) and the beet pulp on the top. The good stuff — the grain — is underneath. If I try to feed this (or a bucket of water with grain in it) to a horse straight off the track, who is likely accustomed to a few scoops a few times a day of only the dry recognizable grain portion, they’re likely to turn their nose up at the disappointing meal and either sulk or bang the wall in order to request better service, dammit.

Please ma’am, may I have some more? No Uno. Photo by author.

Instead, we have to transition them from dry to wet (and in our case, from full grain to grain + the soaked forage mash). Each process of transition is a little different depending on the horse. When a horse arrives with their own grain (or none, as is standard from the tracks) and is accustomed to dry, small portions of dry is exactly what we start with. Feeding simple dry grain gets them used to our feeding time(s) (which are always and somewhat intentionally variable) and encourages the expectation that they, too, get to eat when others are fed. This seems like a no-brainer, but it helps when you start bringing the water into the equation.

Then, over the next week, we move to the base (the beet pulp and alfalfa cubes) soaked in a separate bucket. We’ll dump the forage mash in their pan first, then add the grain on top. Most horses will inhale the dry grain off the top and pick at the mush underneath.  If you’re trying this at home, expect that in this phase they will leave most of the forage untouched. Dump it out before the next meal, rinse the pan and repeat.

Clark (JC Louis) is still a bit under weight for where I want him, but give him another month or two and he’ll be good and chunky. Photo by Alanah Giltmier.

If they are really picky and barely getting through the grain before it gets wet, you can always try encouragement by eliminating distractions. Pull any delicious side dishes for a bit before feeding and wait for a while after before returning them. We feed ample free choice alfalfa and it is so good that most horses who are a little less than plussed with my feed room concoctions will leave their wet feed mix for the green stuff. So, we just make sure alfalfa feeding comes a little later and that they have had a chance to try to get breakfast or dinner down first.

Additionally, we feed in stalls. That solo space gives the horses plenty of time to give their new food an initial go, and then come back to it later once they’re still hungry. If you’re feeding in a group or in a field, I would recommend separating the new ones to transition them over before returning to group feeding. Easier said than done, of course…

Curry (Curlin Lane) took a while to get weight on and to transition to wet feed. But today he is fat, happy, and clicking around the 2’6″ with scope to spare. Photo by Dawn Lynch.

As the “grain on top and picking at the base” phase gets more normalized, I’ll move to the “side-by-side” tactic: The base (soaked cubes and pulp) goes on the left of the pan and the grain goes on the right. They’ll run into eachother and the grain will be partially (but not fully) covered with the wet base. Your horse might stare at you with a solid, “how dare you,” but they know the drill and they’ll go looking for the grain and eat some of the base along the way. Usually a few days of this and then voila — you can start upending the buckets into the pan with the grain on the bottom under the base.

So to break it down:

  • Day 1-2: Dry grain only
  • Day 3-7:  Wet alfalfa cube & beet pulp base on the bottom of the pan, dry grain on top
  • Week 2: Side-by-side wet cube/pulp mash and grain
  • Week 3: Upended buckets with grain underneath the wet mash

My favorite meatball (Uno, Hold Em Paul) making easy work of BN at a recent show. Photo by Cora Williamson Photography.

On top of that, we usually add another third of a gallon of water to make their feed super soupy and help prevent colic, especially in the shoulder seasons where temperature swings are extreme. My more sensitive horses, whose vet bills have proven they can’t quite drink enough water on their own, will get nearly a full gallon of water on top and are fed this soup in a 5-gallon bucket so that they can’t just dump it over and go find the good stuff. I’m not going to lie, the sound of slurping humans makes me want to gag, but a barn full of slurpy horses is delightful.

Tetris (Not A Game) is one of my “needs to be fed in a hanging bucket” kiddos. It has worked wonders for his weight and his health. Photo by Cora Williamson Photography.

Shockingly, not all of these smart critters are food-motivated (Uno — Hold Em Paul — begs to differ). So if they look like they could use a few more pounds and are tending to be cheeky and dump their pans on their stall floors, I’ll move to feeding them in hanging buckets where it is far harder for them to sift the mash from the grain. The barn will be quiet (minus the slurping) when everyone is fed, but the somewhat frustrated bang of a bucket against a wall as they try to sift to the better bits is audible knowledge of the pounds being put on and grain (and money) not being wasted.

Enjoy the process to fat, healthy ponies folks — and on the human side, hell, we all probably need to go drink more water, too.


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The Idea of Order: Books I Could Write as an Equestrian 28 Feb 2024, 6:09 am

Or maybe *should* write. They’d be bestsellers.

Presented by:

Seriously, I think I could help out a lot of people by supplying them with this sort of handy information?🤔🤣
 
We won’t discuss the hardships involved in obtaining this sort of Holy Grail level of knowledge…

Morgane Schmidt is, among many things, an equestrian who still hasn’t quite decided what she wants to be when she grows up. Author of Life with Horses Is Never Orderly, she knows all about the madness that comes with the equine territory, having owned and competed horses in eventing and dressage for years. A lifelong fan of the classic equestrian cartoons penned by internationally renowned artist Norman Thelwell, she began her own comic series in 2011, sharing deftly funny reflections on life with horses on Horse Nation as well as her personal website. A native Floridian, she spent a decade in Reno, NV, where she was able to confirm her suspicion that snow is utterly worthless (she has since regained her sense and moved back to the Florida swamp). Though she has run the gamut of equestrian disciplines, her favorite is dressage. She has completed her USDF bronze and silver medals and is currently working on her gold. Generally speaking, her life is largely ruled by Woody, a 14.2 hand beastly quarter horse, Willie, a now beastly 14-year-old Dutch gelding, and Milona DG, a 7 year old KWPN chestnut mare (you can make your own inferences there…). Visit her website at www.theideaoforder.com.

Milona DG and I. Photo (c) Q2 Photography.

 

2024 United States Polo Association Women’s Open Championship 27 Feb 2024, 10:25 am

Find a recap of the 3rd Women’s Open Polo Championship at the National Polo Center in Wellington, Florida with Dr. Gregory Beroza, aka HorseDoc ‘Talking Horses,’ produced by WuzUpDoc Media.

Two final teams at awards ceremony. Photo by G. Beroza.

February 23, 2024 (Wellington, FL) – WuzUpDoc Media covered this historic event as the women’s World Championship polo teams competed to win the prestigious 22-Goal United States Polo Association Open Championship. The final game was played on the Main Stadium Polo Field #1 at the National Polo Center in Wellington, Florida for the second consecutive year. There originally were eight teams equally divided into two brackets. To narrow the competition down to the final team of each bracket for Championship play at the National Polo Club in Wellington, preliminary competition within the semi-finals occurred at south Florida’s Port Mayaca Polo Club (PMPC) in Okeechobee. The PMPC is located on 600 acres, has eight regulation fields, 220 stalls, an exercise track, a stick-and-ball field, a clubhouse, and more — all made available to the polo community.

Some of the competitors were being supported by their Hall of Fame relatives. On Team 90210, Meghan Gracida (4-goals) was playing at #2. Her husband, HOF 10-goaler Memo Gacida, was present as a coach. Equally impressive was the support shown to Mia Cambiaso (8-goals), who was playing at #4 for Team 90210. Her father, HOF 10-goaler Adolpho Cambiaso, was in attendance to assist the team. Semi-finals at Port Mayaca Polo Club with coaching advice given to Team 90210. Meghan Gracida is #2 with red helmet and Mia Cambiaso is #4 in the blue and white helmet. Memo is shown in white collared shirt (L) and Adolpho in white tee-shirt (R). Photo by G. Beroza.

In the semi-final Bracket #1, the former 2023 USPA Women’s Open Winning Team La Fe (2-2) lost to the 2024 Team 90210 Polo (3-2), which advanced to the finals. In Bracket #2, Team Buena Vibra (5-0) beat Team Work To Ride/Grand Champions (2-2) to advance to the finals. The Finals were played at the National Polo Club on Friday, February 23rd at 11am after a five-day delay due to heavy south Florida rains.

The United States Women’s Polo Association was the first and only exclusively women’s polo association in American polo. It was established in 1937 and dissolved two years later. Women subsequently were welcomed into the current United States Polo Association (USPA) in 1972. While women were eligible to compete with men in polo championships, the Women’s Polo Open was only officially recognized as an independent tournament in 2011 and has been played exclusively in south Florida since 2018. Women polo players earn their own goal rating based upon performance. Last year’s and again this year’s Team La Fe member, Hope Arellano, was the first American woman earning the ultimate 10-Goal rating. This year’s Team Buena Vibra had two 8-Goal players, Milly Hine and Clara Cassino Seppe, and Team 90210 had one 8-Goaler in Mia Cambiaso (last year’s Team La Fe Open winner) and one 7-Goaler Catalina Lavinia. Each team had an equal assortment of other lesser goal ranking members totaling equal team ratings of 22-goals.

Team Buena Vibra members en route to the Awards Ceremony. Photo by G. Beroza.

Throughout the entire six seven-minute and 30-second chukkers of competition, the lead was gained and lost by each team several times, never creating more than a two-point difference. At half time, Team Buena Vibra was one-goal up. The team fell behind in the second half of the game. In the last minute of play, Team Buena Vibra was only one goal up until the final seconds when the team stole the ball from Team 90210 and was awarded a penalty shot, scored by Milly Hine to give Team Buena Vibra a two-goal advantage win.

Milly Hine being awarded MVP by Steve Orthwein Jr. (owner Port Mayaca Polo Club) and emphasizing her highest number of Team Buena Vibra goals which were greater than any other competing teams individual members. Photo by G. Beroza.

Team Buena Vibra with Winning Cup. Photo by G. Beroza.

Team Buena Vibra connections celebrate on stage. Photo by G. Beroza.

This was historic polo announcer Tony Cappola’s third USPA’s Women’s Open to call, with 25 previous USPA’s Open assignments, after 50 years of announcing all venues of polo. Cappola began his career in polo at the WHPC on Long Island, NY, which this author subsequently owned and operated. Angel Vasquez, Jr., a retired Thoroughbred racing jockey, a former West Hills Polo Club (WHPC) member, and a long-time multi-talented polo worker, repeated his role from 2023 as an Assistant Broadcast Producer.

Angel Vasquez, Jr. (Assistant Producer), Tony Cappola (Announcer), and HorseDoc Dr. Gregory Beroza. Photo courtesy of G. Beroza.

If you would like further coverage, WuzUpDoc Media broadcast a great video interviewing significant contributors and participants. Highlights of the competitive game are also included.


Dr. Gregory A. Beroza, DVM, DACVS, DABVP has been a practicing veterinarian and consultant for 42 years; and HorseDoc® ‘Talking Horses’® media host, author, and consultant since 2007. Dr. Beroza is a multimedia host and broadcasts his productions, including a new Podcast, via his WuzUpDoc Media website: www.WuzUpDoc.com. He can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and other social media sources.

Thanks to ‘HorseDoc’ Sponsors:  Alex Nichols Agency; BMB IT Solutions, Chestnut Vale Feed, Cosequin Joint Health Supplement, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Great American Insurance-Equine Division; Hopscotch Air Taxi; Jaguar; JSR Farriers-Equine Transport; Land Rover; Nutrena; Oheka Castle Hotel & Estate; Ramard Nutraceuticals; Range Rover; Supporting Strategies; Ultravet Medical Devices

Poetry (In Words and Image): Wild Horses 27 Feb 2024, 7:49 am

Here’s a chance to revisit the Mustangs of Onaqui through the moving photographs of Kisa Kavass.

We were introduced to the wild Mustangs of Onaqui HMA, Utah by photographer Kisa Kavass in the following articles:

The horses have moved Kisa to preserve them in poetry and photography  — “The Horse Wins the Kingdom.”

Kisa shares her insights with titles like:

  • “Old Man” – We think he endures life alone, but he is not forsaken. He claims so many believers, followers whose hearts he has taken. (“Old Man” is one of the most recognized and beloved stallions of the Onaqui herds. He has disappeared. At 30 years old, he probably died in freedom.)
  • “Wolf” – I lay awake last night, listening to the falling rain. When I fell into a deep sleep, I had a dream that a wolf came to my window. . .  the raw emotions he laid before me, to guide me, to place trust in my heart. . . .

  • “Never” – To never know what was lost, to never run free into the setting sun, to never feel the spirit of the herd, . . .” (Delta Wild Horse and Burro holding facility, Utah.)

The Horse Wins the Kingdom and Kisa’s photography are available on her website wildhorsephotography.com and at Edition ONE Gallery on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Kisa’s insightful photography has motivated me to become better educated on the plight and fate of the wild horses of North America. The images speak to me and guide me to act to support our heritage horses and to make educated choices in how I share their land.

Tuesday Video: American Hat Company Hat for the Win 27 Feb 2024, 6:28 am

This cowgirl’s hat is probably going to need to be reshaped after that move!

After a colorful dismount from her horse, a scorpion maneuver, and a roll, this cowgirl’s hat didn’t budge. The horse said, “Heck no;” the goat said, “Heck no;” and the hat said, “We’re in this together.” After that, this cowgirl’s American Hat Company hat is going to need some TLC.

 

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A post shared by Rodeo Wrecks (@rodeowrecks)

Wear your good hat and go riding, Horse Nation!

‘Oh Crap’ Monday: WEEEEEEE 26 Feb 2024, 8:19 am

This dismount looks like a pose from a yoga class — until it’s not!

Monday already is the crappiest day of the week, so it only makes sense that we make things official. Here’s our latest “oh crap” moment.

Riding horses takes courage, strength, the ability to adapt, and A LOT of flexibility. There are times, no matter how much you practice and prepare, none of those attributes pull through for you and you unexpectedly have a meeting with the dirt. This is one of those times! The dismount was so grand it spooked the horse and owner standing in the arena with them!

 

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A post shared by Horsefails/memes (@horsefails_falls)

Stay mounted and go riding, Horse Nation!

Go forth and tackle your Monday, Horse Nation.

Have an “Oh Crap” moment to share? Email your photo/video and a brief explanation of what is going down to deann@horsenation.com. Instagram users, tag your moments with #OhCrapMonday (your photos need to be set to public or we won’t see them!).

SmartPak Monday Morning Feed: Salt vs. Electrolytes 26 Feb 2024, 7:23 am

Which does your horse need? When it comes to choosing salt or electrolytes, it is important to sweat the details. (Pun very much intended!) Read on for more:

The Role of Salt in Your Horse’s Health

Salt (also known as sodium chloride or NaCl) plays an important role in normal nerve and muscle function and can help encourage your horse to drink, making it critical for his well-being. Adult horses in no work need at least 1 ounce of salt per day, and that need goes up with exercise and warm weather. If your horse’s daily requirements for salt are not met, he may not be in optimal health nor able to perform at his best.

Pasture, hay, and fortified grain provide very little sodium chloride, which means many horses’ diets come up short. Providing a salt lick can help, but some horses use their licks frequently, while others don’t use them at all. Luckily, there are two types of supplements that can help meet your horse’s salt requirements consistently, day in and day out:

  1. salt supplements
  2. electrolyte supplements

Read on to learn more about each, and how to choose the right type of supplement for your horse.

Photo courtesy of SmartPak

Giving Your Horse a Salt Supplement

Salt plays a key role in the health and well-being of your horse, so it’s important to ensure that his daily requirement is being met. Unfortunately, according to our survey, 60% of horses aren’t getting enough sodium!

A salt lick can help, but some horses don’t lick them at all, and others lick them excessively or bite off chunks, so you never know if they’re getting the correct daily amount. Salt supplements provide the two macro-minerals that make up salt (sodium and chloride), ensuring that your horse is always getting a consistent amount to help meet his daily requirements.

How Much Loose Salt a Horse Should Get Everyday

Salt for Horses in the Winter

In addition to supplying the salt your horse needs, a salt supplement may help encourage normal drinking. Many horses drink less in the winter because they don’t like cold water. Proper hydration is essential to your horse’s digestive function and overall well-being, no matter what season it is. Supplementing with salt during the winter is a smart way to help ensure your horse stays happy, healthy, and hydrated.

Electrolyte Supplements to Replenish Multiple Minerals

Electrolytes are carefully formulated to mimic the minerals lost in sweat. When your horse sweats, he loses salt and other key minerals including potassium, calcium, and magnesium. These macro-minerals are essential to normal nerve and muscle function. If the minerals are not replenished, your horse could be left with a nutritional imbalance.

Electrolyte supplements help to bring your horse back into balance by replacing the minerals. Also, the salt contained in electrolyte supplements can help encourage your horse to drink, which is critical to healthy digestion and normal fluid balance throughout his body.

While electrolytes do contain some salt, it’s typically not enough to fulfill your horse’s daily sodium requirements. Therefore, you may need to give your horse both salt and electrolytes to meet his needs. It’s important to read product labels and not stop giving your horse the baseline salt they need in addition to mineral replacements. You can feed both the 1 ounce of salt plus an electrolyte supplement.

Photo courtesy of SmartPak

Electrolytes in Times of Sweat and Stress

Electrolyte supplements can be a smart choice to add to your horse’s diet when they’ve been sweating or may be going through stressful times (such as on a long trailer ride). In times when your horse doesn’t sweat, his baseline sodium requirements can be met by the 1 ounce of plain salt (this also fulfills his chloride requirements). When your horse is sweating – whether in winter, summer, or any time in-between – those sweat losses need to be replaced. That’s why many horses can benefit from a comprehensive electrolyte supplement year-round.

We strongly encourage you to consult your veterinarian regarding specific questions about your horse’s health. This information is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease, and is purely educational.

Training in the Right Way: The Components of an Effective Warmup 25 Feb 2024, 2:39 pm

 This week’s article discusses the purpose and parts of an effective warmup routine as well as some of the variations necessary for each horse.

Dressage training is supposed to be the process of training ANY horse to be a better riding horse. The more the horse learns, in theory, the easier they are to communicate with and therefore complete more complex tasks with. Although competition dressage training often is more focused on training for the dressage test, that is not what the original intention (and original judging requirements) were for competitive dressage. Initially, it was designed to give riders and trainers a way to determine how their training measured up to the theoretical ideal of the training process. That said, it is critically important to understand the meanings and reasons for some of the terms we use to describe dressage training and what to look for when observing training and competition (and videos and photos), regardless of whether you intend to compete or just train your horse to be a better whatever you do with him. That, ultimately, is the main purpose of my articles. To provide education and knowledge for riders to understand and improve their eye and understanding of what dressage training is supposed to be. While there will always be some differences in practice and theory, good horse training is always recognizable to the educated eye. That said, it absolutely is necessary that we remember and understand that limited knowledge is limited judgment.

Whether I am teaching a rider new to riding, or working with an established Grand Prix rider, I find that most riders are uncertain with how to best warm up their horse. Most of the time riders understand that they are supposed to warm their horse up in the beginning part of their ride, but they often have contradictory information about how to go about it. Thus the aim of this week’s article is to hopefully bring some clarity to the process. To begin, there are two main things to remember:

1. the basics of the warmup remain the same from Training Level to Grand Prix
2. the specifics of your horse’s warm up will be individual and will evolve over time

The general purpose of the warmup is to prepare the horse for the rest of the ride. This applies to both the horse’s physical preparation and to present your expectations of his behavior and actions throughout the ride. It is a misunderstanding that the warmup is unstructured time where the horse does what he pleases or does not have to be on the aids. On the other hand, while it is meant to prepare the horse for exertion, it should not consist of the hardest exercises in the training session. Nor can it consist of training horses to do something they have never done before. Additionally, the warmup is not always ridden, sometimes it is started on the longe line.

Sometimes warm up begins on the longe line. Photo courtesy of Gwyneth McPherson.

There is no one proper way to warm up a horse. For example, you may have read that all horses need to walk on a loose rein for 10-15 minutes before you can pick up contact and trot. This is a very good way to start. Ideally, horses should be able to walk on a loose rein, but anyone who has ridden a hot, young, or untrained horse will tell you that while they agree that is an appropriate expectation, it is not always realistic. Some of you may have a horse that will absolutely not be able to walk on a loose rein until the end of his ride.  In other words, the horse’s fitness and previous education have everything to do with how he is to be warmed up for his training session.

There is also no one specific time limit for how long you must warm up your horse for. Again, this relates greatly to the individual animal, his level of training and fitness, and what will be required of him on the rest of the ride. A very green horse’s whole ride is basically just warm up and will last somewhere between 15 and 25 minutes. A Grand Prix horse will most likely need his warmup to be about 10-20 minutes (close to one quarter of his total working time).

Whether you have to longe your horse first, or you can get on right away, the general basics of a good warm up program include the following gaits and exercises:

Walking – Most warmups start with walking the horse on a long or loose rein (whichever is safer at that horse’s level of training and psychological state). This is the ideal, as it allows the horse, especially one that has been in his stall, to start to loosen up his muscles and joints in a gentle way before increasing his activity. Although it is the ideal, there are times when a horse simply won’t walk quietly on the longe or under saddle (yet) and may need to go directly to trotting. Preferably, this is a horse that should be turned out before being worked so that he has an opportunity to loosen himself up before being trained. Of course this is not always possible either as some horses must be worked before being turned out so they won’t run around and injure themselves. The point is that no matter what, you will have to tailor your training to the animal you have.

A four year old being allowed to walk on a long rein in the beginning of the warm up for a Training Level test. Photo courtesy of Gwyneth McPherson.

Posting trot – Once your horse has walked, it is time to develop the posting trot. Posting is preferable to sitting as the horse needs to have the opportunity to loosen up his back without the rider’s weight being consistently in the saddle. Almost all horses will feel slightly different from one diagonal to the other in the first trot set. You may need to canter before you feel the posting diagonals start to feel the same. Be sure to ride in both directions during your trot warm up. Making certain that the horse uses his body with both bends and turning in both directions is a critical part of making the horse supple in both directions.

Canter — Some horses actually do better, both mentally and physically, cantering before the trot. Or at least only trotting a circle or two and then cantering. Canter is an asymmetrical gait, so riding both leads it also very important in the warmup. Giving the horse time to canter on each lead allows the horse to work both side of his body equally, much like trotting in both directions does.

A five year old warming up in the canter. Photo courtesy of Gwyneth McPherson.

Stretching – Ideally the horse should be encouraged to stretch down and forward during the warmup. This is not always possible immediately and should be done in intervals, not constantly (remember we are preparing the horse for the rest of his work session so some of the warmup must also be spent on contact). Stretching in the walk is usually the easiest to achieve. Stretching the trot on a 20m circle is a necessary skill to develop for your warmup (and your dressage test). Stretching in the canter should generally be avoided. The reason for this is that due to the rhythm of the canter (the front legs getting loaded at the end of the stride cycle) a small trip can become a catastrophic rotational fall. Even the most balanced horses can fall while stretching in the canter. It is definitely ok to ride the horse in a longer frame in the canter warm up, and encourage a longer neck, just avoid stretching down and forward as much as is usually seen in the trot and walk.

A 4-year-old PRE warming up in a stretchy trot. Photo by Morgane Schmidt

Circles, curves, changes of direction and straight lines – All your previously mentioned work should be getting performed on circles, straight lines, curves, and with changes of direction. While your warmup does not need to be exactly, equally symmetrical, it should have the element of symmetry to it. Some horses will need more time in one direction or the other. Maybe more canter circles one way than the other, for instance. But in all cases, both directions need curves and circles that are larger than or equal to the size curves and circles found at the horse’s highest level of training. Grand Prix horses can warm up with 10m circles, but Training Level horses must only do 20m circles, for instance. Straight lines are necessary, but most horses need more gentle curves and circles than straight lines in their warmup.

Transitions – Riding horses in a longer frame (or in the case of upper level horses, in less collection) during basic transitions helps the horse be prepared and supple enough for the more complex transitions it will have to perform later in the ride. When horses are ridden through and balanced during their transitions, transitions are in fact suppling exercises. For a training level horse walk-trot, trot-walk transitions are the less complex transitions than trot-halt and halt-trot, for instance. Canter-trot-canter-trot transitions are fabulous for helping the horse become more on the aids and more through. One very important thing to remember is that there should be enough strides of any gait to establish the rhythm of that gait, before performing a transition. Often a trained horse will need approximately 10 strides of walk between transitions to really develop a true clear four-beat rhythm. A young horse should do about one circle of trot or canter before doing a transition to the other gait.

“Easy” lateral work – For horses that have enough previous training, leg yielding, turn on the forehand and maybe some shoulder-in is appropriate to add to the warmup. Haunches-in, half-pass and pirouettes need to be added after the horse already warmed up and ready for the rest of his work.

A young New Forest pony in a leg yield. Photo by Morgane Schmidt.

Development of lengthening – Adding small, easy lengthening helps develop impulsion in the warmup. For horses that do not have a lengthening yet, this is not an appropriate warm up exercise. For FEI level horses, small mediums are appropriate.

To recap, the basic requirements of a warmup is that the horse is allowed time to stretch and move his body in a structured environment that allows him to be prepared for the rest of his training session. The warmup should not be the hardest work he does and should not be so easy and unstructured that he is not ready for the rest of his ride. Additionally, it will evolve throughout the horse’s training life and will have new components added to it as he learns more skills and higher levels of collection.

While the process of training each day should be the progressive development of the horse’s education and physical strength and balance, similarly, the warmup phase of the ride should also be progressive, starting with the easier components of the horse’s work and adding more complexity and collection as the warmup progresses. The end of the warmup phase is when the horse is supple enough and on the aids enough to start the exercises that would be considered his highest level of training.

And, as a rule, having a general warm up plan before you get in the saddle, and having some ideas of what variations may help you if you run into trouble while warming up, will set you and your horse up for a more productive training session and potentially save you a lot of frustration later in the ride.

Remember: Limited knowledge is limited judgment.


Gwyneth and Flair in competition at Grand Prix. (c) flatlandsfoto.

Gwyneth McPherson has over 35 years experience competing, training, and teaching dressage.  She began her education in in the late 1970s, riding in her backyard on an 11 hh pony. Her first instructor introduced her to Lendon Gray (1980 and 1988 Olympian). who mentored Gwyneth for a decade during which she achieved her first National Championship in 1984, and her Team and Individual Young Rider Gold Medals in1987.

In 1990 Gwyneth began training with Carol Lavell (1992 Olympian) who further developed Gwyneth as an FEI rider and competitor. Gwyneth achieved a Team Bronze in 1991 and a Team Silver in 1992 in the North American Young Riders Championships, and trained her stallion G’Dur to do all the Grand Prix movements while riding with Carol.

In 2008, while Head Trainer at Pineland Farms, Gwyneth began training with Michael Poulin (Olympian 1992). Michael was trained by Franz Rochowansky (Chief Rider for the Spanish Riding School 1937-1955). Michael has shared much of Rochowansky’s knowledge and wisdom with Gwyneth, completing her education as a Grand Prix rider, trainer, and competitor.

Gwyneth’s teaching and training business, Forward Thinking Dressage,is based in Williston, FL. In addition to teaching riders and training, Gwyneth also loves sharing her knowledge of the sport and art of dressage as well as discussing relevant topics pertaining to the training itself and the current competitive landscape.

Prepping for Show Season, Presented by Kentucky Performance Products 25 Feb 2024, 8:51 am

Show season is nearly here (if it hasn’t arrived already). Make sure you’re offering your horse all the nutritional support you can. Fortunately, Kentucky Performance Products is here to help. Learn more:

Spring weather means horse show season is right around the corner. Are you providing all the nutrients your horse needs to perform his best? What requirements change when your horse starts competing again after a break?

This quick checklist will ensure you are providing the nutrients your horse needs to achieve peak performance.

Natural Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that maintains healthy muscle, nerve and immune functions. Requirements increase as a horse’s workload and stress levels increase.

Choose Elevate® Maintenance Powder to provide a highly bioavailable source of natural vitamin E. Start Elevate 4 to 6 weeks prior to the beginning of show season.

  • Horses in light work with an easy competition schedule: 1,000 IU to 1,500 IU per da
  • Horses in moderate training with a moderate competition schedule: 2,000 IU to 3,000 IU per da
  • Horses in heavy training with a busy competition schedule: 3,000 IU to 5,000 IU per day.

Electrolytes

When a horse is being ridden lightly or just hanging around in the pasture, hay and plain salt can meet their electrolyte needs. As soon as exercise increases and horses begin to sweat, additional electrolytes must be supplemented to replace losses and support hydration.

Choose Summer Games® Electrolyte, developed for Olympic equine athletes and available to the horse that matters to you. Its concentrated low-sugar formula allows you to easily adjust the amount of electrolyte provided based on your horse’s specific needs.

Start supplementation as soon as horses go back to work.

Level of work Normal Environment (oz/day) Hot, Humid Environment (oz/day)
Rest 0 1
Light Work 1 1-2
Moderate Work 2 2-3
Heavy Work 3 3-4

Digestive Support

Travel and the physical demands of competing and training are very stressful on a horse. Furthermore, inconsistent feeding and turnout schedules can upset the balance of the microbiome. Providing a complete digestive supplement will maintain a healthy digestive tract when horses are stressed. This reduces the incidence of gastric and colonic ulcers, colic, diarrhea and hindgut imbalances.

Choose Neigh-Lox® Advanced for its three-pronged approach to a healthy digestive tract. It buffers and coats the stomach, provides S. boulardii (a true probiotic) that imparts important nutrients to the tissues in the digestive tract and contains prebiotics that support a healthy, well-balanced microbiome.

Start Neigh-Lox Advanced 2 to 3 weeks prior to putting a horse back into work.

Provide 2 scoops, twice per day.

Hoof and Coat Support

When your horse walks into the ring, you want that coat to shine and the mane and tail to be full and healthy. It goes without saying that a horse can’t compete on poor-quality hooves. Constant bathing and the stress of daily work can cause a breakdown in hoof and coat health. A complete hoof supplement provides nutrients needed to sustain strong hooves and healthy skin and hair.

Choose Ker-A-Form™ hoof and coat supplement. Ker-A-Form is scientifically formulated to provide the nutrients your horse needs to grow and maintain healthy feet, skin, hair coat, and mane and tail. It contains the biotin, trace minerals, amino acids and fatty acids your horse needs to support a high-quality hoof and gleaming coat.

Start Ker-A-Form 2 to 4 weeks prior to the start of show season. Horses with a history of poor hoof quality should be maintained on Ker-A-Form year-round.

Provide one scoop per day. Ker-A-Form is extremely cost-effective, compared to other leading brands.

Joint Support

Every day we ask modern show horses to do things their wild counterparts would never do, and all while carrying our weight on their backs. The wear and tear on joints can quickly erode soundness. Supplementing with a complete joint supplement provides the building blocks the joint needs to maintain healthy cartilage and levels of lubrication, reducing everyday wear and tear.

For a lifetime of soundness, choose Joint Armor™. Joint Armor provides recommended levels of hyaluronic acid (HA), glucosamine and chondroitin, along with manganese sulfate.

Feed one small scoop per day. Joint Armor is super affordable; a 1 pound jar lasts 75 days!

Fueling condition and performance

Calories, calories, calories. Performance horses need energy to fuel optimal performance, but it needs to be the right kind of calories. When hay and commercial concentrates aren’t enough, a high-fat supplement provides safe, cool energy that maintains top show condition and gives your horse the stamina needed to perform.

Choose all-natural Equi-Jewel® rice bran for maintaining a healthy weight and fueling performance. The fat found in Equi-Jewel is an extraordinary source of dietary energy. In fact, fat contains more than two times the energy that carbohydrates and proteins do, thereby fueling horses more efficiently. Fat is considered a “cool” feedstuff because it does not cause the hormone spikes that lead to excitability. Adding Equi-Jewel to your horse’s diet allows you to decrease the amount of starchy concentrates (grains) you feed, reducing the risk of colic and laminitis resulting from grain overload. It is an excellent source of energy for horses struggling with RER (tying up) and PSSM.

Amount fed depends on individual needs:

  • Hard keepers: 1 to 2 pounds per day during the season, split into 2 feeding
  • Average keeper to sustain condition: ½ to 1 pound per day, when needed.
  • To improve coat condition: ½ pound per day.

As always, performance horses are individual and each one has its own needs. If you have questions about what supplement(s) are best for your horse, contact Kentucky Performance Products.

Email: info@kppusa.com
Message us on Facebook or Instagram.
Call the office at 859-873-2974 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday).


About Kentucky Performance Products, LLC:

Elevate®

Performance horses are susceptible to exercise-induced muscle damage. Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, limits the damage caused by everyday oxidative stress. It maintains healthy muscle and nerve functions, and supports a strong immune system in horses of all ages. Elevate was developed to provide a highly bioavailable source of natural vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopheryl acetate) to horses.

Check out this KPP article: Vitamin E and the Performance Horse – A Winning Combination.

The horse that matters to you matters to us®. KPPusa.com

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Spice Dog Treats 23 Feb 2024, 9:14 am

This DIY recipe is brought to you by SmartPak.

Today is National Dog Biscuit Day. That’s right. That’s a thing. Apparently, on February 23 your dog doesn’t want a pat, to be scratched behind his ear, or to run after a stick. What he really wants is his biscuit because it’s National Dog Biscuit Day, also known as Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day. Therefore, we’re offering up this recipe for peanut butter pumpkin spice dog treats from SmartPaker Erika Druker. Your pup will love them!

Supplies You Will Need:

  • Stand Mixer (or mixing bowl and hand mixer)
  • Baking Sheet
  • Parchment Paper
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Measuring Cups
  • Rolling Pin
  • Cookie Cutters
  • Cooling Rack (optional)

Ingredients You Will Need:

  • 1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • ¼ cup Pumpkin Puree
  • ½ cup Peanut Butter (make sure it does not contain Xylitol)
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ¼ cup Water

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your over to 350 degrees.
  2. While your oven is preheating measure out all of the ingredients in to your stand mixer (or mixing bowl) and combine together. Once combined the dough will be soft, pliable and slightly orange (hello pumpkin!).
  3. Take your dough out of the mixer and place it on a parchment paper sheet. Take another parchment paper sheet and sandwich the dough between the two– you’re now ready to roll out your dough without the mess! If you would rather roll your dough on your counter, you can take a small sprinkle of whole what flour and sprinkle it on your counter to avoid the dough sticking.
  4. Roll out your dough to about ¼” and locate your favorite cookie cutters. For mine I chose a bone shape and a small star. There are so many fun cookie cutters to choose from these days so get creative!
  5. Next line your baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and place your treats on top. Pop the tray in to the oven for 20 – 25 minutes. If your dog appreciates a crunchy treat like mine, you may want to leave the treats in the oven more towards the 25 minute mark.
    **Note all ovens are different and sometimes bake differently, times may vary. Set a time and go play with your furry companions!
  6. Once the treats are done baking allow them to cool off. If you have a cooling rack you can transfer the treats to that at this point to allow them to cool. Once cool, place your treats in an airtight jar (or container) and try to keep your pups away!

Your pups are sure to enjoy these treats, just like Theodore and Baxter!

You can find this and more DIY recipes on the SmartPak Blog. Go SmartPak and go riding!

I Spy Horses: The Baker Museum 23 Feb 2024, 7:58 am

During my adventures and travels I always take photos of the horse-related items I see along the way. Enjoy these photos of horse-related pieces spotted at The Baker Museum.

The Baker Museum is the largest fine art museum in southwest Florida. This museum hosts traveling exhibits and permanent collections of modern and contemporary art. Here are the items I found that related to horses:

All photos by Marcella Gruchalak

This exhibit is made by Deborah Butterfield. The horse is made of wood, wire, and straw. Butterfield began creating sculptures of horses in the 1970s. Her earlier pieces, such as this one titled Charlemagne, were known to be made of natural materials such as wood sticks, straw, and mud. However, all her newer pieces are produced with metal.

This is an oil painting on canvas by Ukrainian artist David Burliuk titled, Red Horse.

This is an oil painting on canvas by Ukrainian artist David Burliuk titled, Countryside.

This is a piece made with gold, silver, and stones by Israeli-American artist Ruven Perelman titled, The Coronation Coach.

This oil painting on canvas was created by Austrian artist, Oskar Kokoschka. It is titled, Pyramids at Gizeh. The painting depicts the famous Egyptian pyramids and Sphinx of Giza while horses and people move through the desert sands. Of an interesting note, this artist’s work was deemed “degenerate” by the Nazi regime and the artist ultimately made an escape to London.

This oil painting on canvas was created by Belgian artist, Rene Magritte. It is titled, The Ivory Tower. In this painting, you can see a horsewoman through the opening of a cave. This artist likes to portray the subjects in his paintings as the objects themselves and not symbols of anything else. The horse is quoted directly from an illustration in the Larousse Encyclopedia.

This oil painting on masonite panel was created by American artist, Walter Quirt. The painting is titled, Terrorization of the Poor thru Religion. Quirt’s artwork is said to be, “a visual feast.” Quirt saw art as a tool to advocate for causes including class equality and worker’s rights.

Find the horses around you and go riding, Horse Nation!


Have you spied horses in your adventures and travels (specifically horses that aren’t, you know, in a barn or pasture)? If so, send your photo/s with a brief explanation to deann@horsenation.com with the subject line “I Spy Horses.” You might see your photo featured in a future edition of I Spy. Remember, you need to own the rights to all photos you send, otherwise we can’t share them. 

Fantasy Farm Friday: Luxury Michigan Estate 23 Feb 2024, 7:38 am

For $3,000,000.00, this Michigan estate could be yours!

You won’t find many properties like this one in the state of Michigan! This horse property sits on just under 50 acres and approximately 2,000 ft of water frontage on Weeds Lake. Built in 1994, this property is a total of five bedrooms, five bathrooms, a patio, a deck, and three season rooms.

The house has been beautifully updated and is said to have amazing views of the lake!

One wing of the barn includes 14 stalls, an equine solarium, four wash bays, a tack room, a break room and a bathroom.

The other wing includes eight stalls, a grain room, wash racks, an office, an arena viewing room with a full bathroom and kitchenette, and access to a two bedroom apartment that overlooks the arena.

The pastures are well groomed and have plumbing run to each for easy access to drinking water for horses.

There’s plenty of room for storage and you can even bring along your chickens!

If you’re interested in purchasing this estate, you can find the MLS listing here.

Reader Submission: Lessons From Lefty 22 Feb 2024, 6:40 am

Even though we may drool over the famous and fancy horses we see professionals riding, for many of us, our favorite horses are the more modest ones gracing our own backyards. Those humble and reliable steeds are often the ones that have the most to teach us. Here are 10 lessons from one such horse.

By Kristen Griffith 

Photo courtesy of Kristen Griffith

With my horses’ birthdays quickly approaching, I found myself reflecting upon the topic of my favorite horse of all time. At first, my thoughts went to the famous horses I watched on TV as a child; show jumpers like Gem Twist and Rhythmical. While these horses were spectacular, I soon realized I had a more honest and humble selection grazing in my backyard. Lefty, my 24-year-old Quarter Horse gelding, has been in my life since he was three. Now enjoying retirement, he was a fantastic trail horse in his younger days. He is not the fancy warmblood of my childhood dreams, but I eventually realized that he was the perfect first horse for me.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Griffith

He has taught me many valuable lessons over the years:

10 Lessons Learned from Lefty:

  1. Reach for 1% improvement. Lefty isn’t an innately talented horse and his conformation puts him at a disadvantage, but he has the biggest heart and is always game to try anything I ask of him. The key has been to set small goals and work consistently toward them. Even tiny improvements must be rewarded.
  2. Rub some dirt on it, then shake it off. Lefty believes baths to be one of the greatest injustices of life. In his mind, the best way to right the wrong of a clean, gleaming coat is to roll in the dirt and then shake it off. Problem solved.
  3. Be patient. I have made many mistakes along the way, and I have plenty more still to make. Luckily, I have a horse who patiently waits while I sort things out. His patience has helped me learn to be kinder to myself and others – after all, we are all perpetually learning.
  4. Chores are about so much more. Sometimes it feels like chores are never-ending, especially on cold, rainy mornings. However, going through these routines has helped me learn the value of accountability and looking after those who depend on me. A fair few of my major life decisions have been made in the quiet moments mucking out, cleaning tack, or grooming my horse.
  5. Look for moments of joy. Lefty is perhaps a bit spoiled, and he knows I usually have a treat in my pocket. Having a great day or a tough one? Doesn’t matter. Lefty always hopes I will take time to give him a LifeSaver or hand graze him in the tall grass. His perpetual optimism is a good reminder that bright spots can be found in even the most challenging days.
  6. Be prepared and roll with the punches. Horses frequently throw curveballs; be it a thrown shoe, a spook at an errant bag, or a Houdini-like escape from the crossties. Despite having a stocked first aid kit and backups for most items (especially halters!), I am still sometimes caught off guard by the shenanigans. When in doubt, take a breath and focus on problem solving.
  7. Lighten up. Lefty is a good boy, but he is easily offended and thrives on positive feedback. Like a tuning fork, he picks up on my energy and reminds me to get back on the sunny side if I lose my cool.
  8. There isn’t much a good ride can’t fix. To me, there isn’t a much more magical than the feeling of galloping a trusted horse. While our galloping days are behind us, I still love to hear the meditative cadence of his hoofbeats as we go on slow walks around the farm.
  9. Enjoy the present; it is all we have. Every day we spend with our horses is a gift, and I am increasingly aware of this as the years fly by.
  10. Don’t discount the ordinary. Lefty may be just an ordinary Quarter Horse, and we may have spent most of our time together only trail riding, but I am pretty sure Lefty thinks he is a unicorn. What you think, you become.

Photo courtesy of Kristen Griffith


Kristen lives on a small farm in the Carolinas with her horses, dairy goats, and cats. She has been a horse girl since childhood, trading her Breyer horses for real ones at her earliest opportunity. After spending years trail riding, she entered her first dressage show in 2022 and has enjoyed going up the levels with her horse, Sawyer, ever since.

Reader Photo Challenge: Best Dressed 22 Feb 2024, 5:52 am

Enjoy these 14 photos of riders in their favorite outfits!

This week we asked that you share a photo in your favorite riding ensemble. Enjoy these 14 photos of well dressed equestrians!

Photo by Canter Clix

Photo by Jessica Alvarado Photography

Photo by Laurel Anderson

Photo by Downwind Photography

Photo by Ella Chedester Photography

Photo by Tara Sego Jelenic

Photo by Nenah Demunster

Photo courtesy of Sheridan Johnson

Photo by Karen Bulzacchelli

Photo by David L. Thomas

Photo by Agustin Canre

Photo courtesy of Sonja Knecht-Hoshi

Photo by Celsi Ridden

Photo by Kaitlin Livingston

Keep an eye out for next week’s photo challenge! We announce challenge subjects on Monday around the end of the day on both Instagram and Facebook.

Thoroughbred Logic, Presented by Kentucky Performance Products: How To Get (& Keep) Them Straight 21 Feb 2024, 8:50 am

“Steering and straightness have to be created and managed, not just assumed.”

Welcome to the next installment of Thoroughbred Logic. In this weekly series, Anthropologist and trainer Aubrey Graham, of Kivu Sport Horses, offers insight and training experience when it comes to working with Thoroughbreds (although much will apply to all breeds). This week ride along as Aubrey shares her logic on how to encourage green horses to ride straight and hold themselves up.

I recently sold a very talented, but very goofy off-track Thoroughbred to a fellow trainer/friend. At his race farm, the running joke about this horse (Unstoppable Force) was that he was lovely but a bit of a “noodle brain.” By the time the wiggly, handsome goofball went home to be Adela Narovich’s Makeover mount, the name Noodle had already stuck.

Adela Narovich on her Retired Racehorse Project Makeover hopeful, “Noodle” (Unstoppable Force) at the recent Thoroughbred Logic Clinic. Photo by Cora Williamson Photography.

I like starting with Noodle here because a “wet noodle” is also a convenient metaphor for not only some of their brains, but also what is is like to ride them early in their off-track careers. They’re wiggly. Their shoulders drop in and out off the line, and if you choose one path but don’t manage to maintain it, they’ll slip off to it and maybe wonder why you wanted them to run into the jump standard or your trainer. Steering exists on the track absolutely, but it is not always the type that is trained in the sport horse world, where we sometimes expect to put a horse on a path and that’s that.

Steering and straightness have to be created and managed, not just assumed.

Pisces (Fedora Freya owned by Jennifer Kelly) attempting to drop her shoulder to the gate and wiggle out of the idea of straight. See later pic for how nice she can go! Photo by Cora Williamson Photography

I find there are two key points that really help get one of these wiggly noodles to travel straight and, therefore, build the right muscles to eventually hold themselves on those lines:

  1. Make a tube with your legs.
  2. Contain their shoulders.

Trying to steer a wet noodle to straight is like trying to correct a car’s path on ice. You might be able to do this at slow speeds (at a walk or slow trot), but as you build up to a bigger more forward gait, straightness that comes from steering mostly through the bit will only cause them to bend, squiggle, over correct, and basically fall apart or crash off the line. Instead, riders need to get more comfortable riding what is immediately under them, the barrel of the horse and their shoulders.

Make a tube:

I don’t have a better metaphor than this … and this one isn’t great. But, if a rider thinks about their legs, from their calf through their knee and thigh up to their seat as creating a seamless wrap of gentle, supporting contact, the idea of the tube starts to make some sense. In this way, the leg is not just about left or right, go or half halt, but it becomes a soft, continuous presence that is more of a ‘guide’ for the horse’s middle. I say ‘tube’ and not a ‘ring’ because the idea has extension — it holds the whole ribcage and extends forward to the shoulders.

Ramen (Plamen) showing off the tube idea. Photo by Cora Williamson Photography

The more upright the rider, the more the tube can guide the direction of the horse by keeping more of the wiggling noodle in front of you. If one tips ahead of the horse’s motion, it is pretty hard to hold them steady with leg pressure and they’ll drop out from the line. Sit up, wrap ones’ legs into a tube and guide the horse forward from their ribs with calf and thigh pressure that is even.* From there you’ll start to have a solid steering baby horse.

*Caveat: This is not about squeezing them to death or pinching the knees into the saddle; it is more about a form of leg contact that would be similar to hand contact — soft, steady and consistent. Not suffocating or claustrophobia-inducing.

Pisces figuring straight out after riding and steering from her middle. Photo by Cora Williamson Photography

Contain the shoulders:

The tube then extends from the horse’s ribs to their shoulders. With young or green horses, particularly the wiggly off-track type, I like to simply ignore their heads. That includes where they point their nose. If they headband like a metal band groupie, or tilt it sideways and look at me, they get a lot of “I don’t care” and “C’mon, go forward.” Leave the head alone.

Instead, focus on the shoulders. Make the shoulders and your hands and elbows part of the tube that began at the leg. Make them wide enough to fit the entirety of your horse’s shoulders inside them. Yes, that wide. No, seriously. Your hands probably need to be wider — like sometimes two-feet apart. And from there, add gentle contact to create consistency with the bit.

Tetris (Not A Game) steering through a tube and wide hands while XC schooling at Ashland Farm. Photo by Cora Williamson Photography

This is a little bit of a Goldie Locks situation: Long reins risk inconsistent contact and “too big” of corrections when they are made; too tight reins encourage pulling and with the Thoroughbred, encourage flight response and speed. Perfection is somewhere in the middle where riders have a light, consistent feel of their horse’s mouth with wide hands and bungee elbows. As such, we’re basically adding length to the tube that was created with the leg and beginning to also contain the shoulders.

With forward movement, this tube that extends from their ribs to their shoulders directs the horse, maintaining their balance and holding far more than just their nose on the rider’s chosen line. It is like moving a dancer from their hips rather than dragging them off balance by their hand. But as for the horse, their head will sort itself out (so leave it alone), especially if one starts steering from their legs first and then up through the reins.

Neumann (Bubba Bob)’s steering was pretty stellar for his first post-track ride back in the late fall, and his slight head tilt seen here has nearly entirely corrected itself by now without having to fuss with his mouth or head. Just make a tube and ride the shoulders. Photo by Alanah Giltmier.

This tube technique does a number of things:

  • It makes steering clearer
  • It promotes straightness through the body
  • It allows the horse (not the rider) to sort out their head (thereby keeping everyone less annoyed)
  • It promotes consistent, clear and not confusing cues.

I find it quite useful on the flat, especially when going forward in a gait. That said, I find it even more useful when introducing fences.

Ramen was a bit unsure of the 4×4 poles, so I stayed back and made a more obvious tube from leg to hand. Good brave redhead. Photo by Cora Williamson Photography.

Going back to the noodle concept, it is often quite noticeable when a horse is learning to jump that they may wiggle on the approach, dodging left or right at the last minute with their legs and trying to sneak out of the fence through their shoulders. If a rider goes to their reins for steering, the rapid corrections often distract from the need to just go forward and over the obstacle. Worse, the reins encourage a slow down and stop. A better move is to channel the horse through a tube and let the legs and hands guide. Even the wiggliest of noodles can be taught to jump that way.

Aspenfiveoneseven being a fantastic toddler in the grid. Student, Charlotte Pinckney got him through it by guiding with her legs and holding him straight with wide soft contact. Photo by Cora Williamson Photography

As a horse gets more schooled, the containing of the shoulders can of course become more subtle and hands can return to their more visually correct positions. But this tube skill is still going to come in handy, I promise. Particularly, it will help when approaching looky fences or a ditch or something new, where wiggling and dodging-around laterally become an equine go-to. The antidote is a forward going tube, created by wide hands and even, supportive, wrapped-around legs.

Happy riding folks, enjoy the baby moments even if your equine kids are full grown.


About Kentucky Performance Products, LLC:

Elevate®

Performance horses are susceptible to exercise-induced muscle damage. Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, limits the damage caused by everyday oxidative stress. It maintains healthy muscle and nerve functions, and supports a strong immune system in horses of all ages. Elevate was developed to provide a highly bioavailable source of natural vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopheryl acetate) to horses.

Check out this KPP article: Vitamin E and the Performance Horse – A Winning Combination.

The horse that matters to you matters to us®. KPPusa.com

The Idea of Order: Non-Equestrian Friends 21 Feb 2024, 6:53 am

Remind me again why we even have those?

Presented by:

So, serious question: Why do we interact with non-equestrians again?🤔🤣
 
I guess, to be fair, they do occasionally offer us some sort of perspective on our crazy, but… still.🧐 No one needs that kind of negativity in their life.

Morgane Schmidt is, among many things, an equestrian who still hasn’t quite decided what she wants to be when she grows up. Author of Life with Horses Is Never Orderly, she knows all about the madness that comes with the equine territory, having owned and competed horses in eventing and dressage for years. A lifelong fan of the classic equestrian cartoons penned by internationally renowned artist Norman Thelwell, she began her own comic series in 2011, sharing deftly funny reflections on life with horses on Horse Nation as well as her personal website. A native Floridian, she spent a decade in Reno, NV, where she was able to confirm her suspicion that snow is utterly worthless (she has since regained her sense and moved back to the Florida swamp). Though she has run the gamut of equestrian disciplines, her favorite is dressage. She has completed her USDF bronze and silver medals and is currently working on her gold. Generally speaking, her life is largely ruled by Woody, a 14.2 hand beastly quarter horse, Willie, a now beastly 14-year-old Dutch gelding, and Milona DG, a 7 year old KWPN chestnut mare (you can make your own inferences there…). Visit her website at www.theideaoforder.com.

Milona DG and I. Photo (c) Q2 Photography.

 

#goriding Grams of the Week 20 Feb 2024, 8:11 am

Another week of horse life, rounded up in your images.

 

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Standing Ovation: Stable Space Connects Indianapolis Youth to Horses 20 Feb 2024, 7:47 am

Kathleen Ford of Stable Space, LLC believes that “horses have the potential to change us from the inside out.” Therefore, she works to unlock that potential by offering equine-assisted learning in her Indianapolis, Indiana neighborhood. 

Like many of us, Kathleen Ford loves horses – she was introduced to the equine world by her mother, who didn’t have consistent access to horses until adulthood. She wanted to share that love with others, believing that “horses have the potential to change us from the inside out.” Enter Stable Space, LLC – an organization Ford established in 2021 with a pilot program, Horse Powered Summer. Horse Powered Summer was a collaboration between Ford and the community center in her Indianapolis, Indiana neighborhood. “It was a success,” Ford shared, “and affirmed for me that the community is eager for opportunities to interact with animals.”

Following the success of Horse Powered Summer, Ford laid groundwork for Stable Space, but took a nearly two-year hiatus while pregnant with her daughter. Stable Space started by offering day camp style programs during school breaks – these camps give children the opportunity to visit a farm environment, spend time in nature and spend time with horses. “We’re an equine-assisted learning business,” Ford explained, “so almost all activities take place on the ground with horses,” with no riding, currently. Every activity has a purpose relating to personal well-being and social-emotional health. These “help participants access feelings of empowerment, pride and purpose,” Ford noted, as well as increasing participants’ self-esteem and boosting their connection to nature and animals. So far, Ford has said children and their parents have loved their experience with Stable Space and requested more programs: “They’re open-hearted and excited to learn about and bond with the horses,” she shared. “Some participants have never been near a horse. They walk away with new knowledge about the animals and themselves.”

Stable Space Indianapolis Stable Sisters camp participants, October 2023. Photo courtesy of Stable Space Indianapolis.

Stable Space focuses on equine assisted learning, which, Ford emphasized, “is not a riding lesson, trail ride or pony ride. It’s an intentional, evidence-based practice that heals and empowers people. In that same vein, horses are not a tool or a pet, they are sentient beings and co-facilitators of equine-assisted learning. Horses communicate to us perfectly, and if we treat them right and are open to hearing them, we can learn truths that transform us.” Ford feels that it’s an “exciting time” to be in the field of equine assisted learning, which she says is “young but rapidly growing and gaining credibility.

For Ford, the most rewarding element of launching Stable Space is seeing the joy and curiosity from people interacting with horses for the first time. “When cared for properly, horses bring forth authentic energy, offer honest feedback, and hold an exceptional ability to self-regulate,” she noted. “To have a front row view of horses effortlessly changing peoples’ lives is quite the honor!”

Photo courtesy of Stable Space Indianapolis.

Stable Space, LLC’s programs currently are done in partnership with Indianapolis-area equestrian facilities. Ford shared that with the facilities they work with, she’s seen those in the equestrian community who are invested in diversity, equity and inclusion “coming out of the woodwork and joining together” to make horses more accessible by collaborating with Stable Space. Short term, Ford said her goal is, “to partner with local nonprofits to expand access to equine-assisted learning programs with no out-of-pocket cost to families.” Long term, she wants to “activate a community of equestrians and community partners to establish a permanent, urban equine facility.” Currently, Stable Space is looking ahead to their Spring Break camp and a community event they’re planning at a park in urban Indianapolis this summer. Stable Space can be found online at www.stablespace.org and on social media @stablespaceindy on Instagram and Facebook.

Here at Horse Nation we love to recognize individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to deann@horsenation.com. Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.

Tuesday Video: Oh Heck No 20 Feb 2024, 6:45 am

If you’re looking for a good chuckle this Tuesday, this horse’s face says it all!

This horse’s facial expressions say it all. If we could read horses’ minds, we would think this one is would be saying, “What the…! I think it’s time to go!” Regardless of what he’s thinking, he looks like he’s one moment away from losing his mind!

Keep it together and go riding, Horse Nation!

‘Oh Crap’ Monday: How Much Is That Horsey in the Window 19 Feb 2024, 8:32 am

Monday already is the crappiest day of the week…

… so it only makes sense that we make things official. Here’s our latest “oh crap” moment.

We’ve all seen those videos of a bird that sees itself in the mirror and falls in love. It’s adorable (if somewhat misguided and reminiscent of Narcissus… but I digress). This “oh crap” moment is… nothing like that. It’s more along the lines of when you show a Betta fish in a mirror and it puffs up and gets ready to start a Betta fish fight club.

The best we can figure is that this horse saw its reflection and decided that the horse it saw in the sliding glass door needed to go down. 

This certainly is an oh crap moment for that shop owner.

The caption on the video is true… if it weren’t recorded, we wouldn’t believe it.

Go forth and tackle your Monday, Horse Nation.

Have an “Oh Crap” moment to share? Email your photo/video and a brief explanation of what is going down to deann@horsenation.com. Instagram users, tag your moments with #OhCrapMonday (your photos need to be set to public or we won’t see them!).