In sports, success on the field depends on successful preparation off the field. At the USET exams after Rolex where 7 of our top horses were evaluated by vets, the riders attended talks by nutritionists and personal trainers provided by the US Olympic Committee. Eventers are just starting to understand that working hard between their rides to become better competitors will make a big difference at the competitions. Today we address the issue of staying hydrated.
When I wake up, I start drinking water like crazy. I drink until I am having to go to the bathroom every 15 minutes; its hard to overdo the drinking (possible, but hard). Right before I ride, I drink a full bottle of Gatorade, and I am good to go. I made a friend of mine do this at Rolex a couple of years ago, and while she got really tired of me bugging her to drink, she had a great ride and felt great. This is a dramatic technique and is not for everyone, but it works for me.
Note: everyone is different, so be sure to talk to your doctor and listen to your body to find what is right for you. Don't go from drinking nothing but coffee at events to drinking more water than your horse at the next one; figure it out gradually.
On that note, I invite you to share about your weekend of eventing and celebrating memorial day--
I'm back home from my friend's wedding this weekend which was a beautiful southern celebration with incredible southern hospitality. All I'll say is that South Carolina has a lot of beauty. I should also mention that the celebration got slightly too rambunctious and now I'm no longer allowed in the state of South Carolina, so I guess it's Ocala for me next winter. Meanwhile, here are some notes from events this weekend:
Do you ever stare in awe at the sleek shiny horses, the glistening brass, perfect braids, and dazzling white marks at a CCI trot up? Do you ever wonder how they get that way? (LOTS of hard work is the correct answer!) Each Sunday morning we will bring you a little insider info on how the big-time grooms manage an upper level event horse. Feel free to email or comment with specific grooming questions if you have a topic in mind!
Previous entries: Reader Reviews 1st Edition
As with most things, being a good groom requires extreme attention to detail. One, you want the horse looking his best. And two, you want to ensure horse and rider are SAFE. Properly-fitted tack is important to achieve both those requirements. Today we will discuss how to fit a bridle, with various bits and nosebands commonly seen in our sport.
Let's start off with something simple: a plain snaffle bridle and cavesson noseband. This is the most "traditional" headwear for jogs, and also what you'll see on hunters. The plain cavesson should be fitted about one or two fingers'-width below the cheekbone, high enough not to interfere with the bit ring. An ordinary snaffle should create one or two wrinkles in the lips; but poke your finger in the mouth to be sure it sits in a good position. Too high is uncomfortable, but so is too low (it can bang against the canines).
A plain cavesson (usually a padded crank) is standard for double-bridles.
The most common bridle seen in eventing and dressage is the flash bridle. The flash attachment helps keep the horse's mouth closed, limiting his evasion to the rider's aids. Of course in an ideal world, the horse would always accept the bit with a smile...but there are times when the mouth yaws open in response to a "DO IT NOW!!!" rein aid (as in, steering for that skinny over --there--) and a flash can speed along the communication process. Some people believe in starting ALL young horses in a flash, so that they never learn the habit of opening the mouth; others believe the flash is a "quick fix" to hide bad hands (there is some truth to that). I personally prefer a flash because it also helps stabilize the bit in the mouth, limiting the risk of pulling a bit ring through. And, in my opinion, because it flatters a lot of horses' heads.
When fitting a flash, keep it HIGH, just under the cheekbones. The flash should rest over the bone of the nose, not on the soft cartilage where it may interfere with breathing. Fasten the cavesson tightly so that the flash attachment does not pull it downward over the bridge of the nose (a "broken" down noseband). The buckle of the flash should rest above the horse's nostril; cut off any excess strap that extends down to the chin. Some people people fasten it "upside down" with the excess tucked under the cavesson loop; this is a quick-fix if you lose your keeper, but I much prefer it pointing downward. Use a braiding rubberband for a keeper if necessary. Always ensure there is no excess pressure under the chin-- never buckle it below the bit.
Nicely-fitted flash, high on bridge of nose.
Often on event horses and jumpers, you will see a figure-8 noseband. The figure-8 has the same principle as the flash: an added lower strap to keep the mouth shut. The fig-8 sits higher on the bridge of the nose, giving full room to the nostrils to expand (thus you see a lot of them on xc). On some horses, it is more effective than a flash; perhaps because of the high fit. It also helps some horses who lock and cross the jaw. There are two styles: fixed-ring, and sliding cheek. The fixed-ring is much easier to use, though fitting odd-sized heads can be an issue. The sliding fig-8 can fit a wide variety of faces, but the loose straps are easy to lose...and difficult to adjust on a horse who flings his head impatiently. As with the flash, you ideally want the buckles to end up between cheek and jaw (upper) and between nostril and mouth (lower). If your fixed-ring does not fit, a saddler can probably shorten it for you.
Personally, I don't think a figure-8 flatters most horses' heads. Only those with long, narrow faces seem to look better in a fig-8 than a flash. Unless the horse really goes better in it, I much prefer a flash or plain noseband. The fixed-ring fig-8 is designed to sit HIGH on the horse's face-- the ring is just a few inches below the eye, so the upper straps cross over the cheekbone. Sometimes this rubs the cheekbones, so pay attention to any skin irritation and adjust the bridle accordingly. The sliding fig-8 lacks the stability to cross the cheek, so it is usually adjusted just like a flash-- directly under the cheekbones.
Other nosebands: a drop noseband is also suitable for dressage. It is fitted low on the bridge of the nose, and fastens only below the bit. It can be more helpful than a flash at keeping the mouth closed, but has greater risk of interfering with breathing. (On a personal level, I think they make horses' faces look extremely long and ugly! But if it works for you, who cares!)
For jumping and xc, you may also see horses wearing a lever (or crescent) noseband; also good for keeping the horse's mouth closed, perhaps useful on those that lockjaw and pull. Kinetons are rarely seen anymore, but they can help give some "oomph" to your half-halt if the horse responds well to nose pressure. And then there's a whole variety of "combo-bits" with hackamores and the like. Consult a professional for hands-on advice fitting specialty bits and nosebands.
Whatever bridle you use, remember the Pony Club rules of fitting: Always have two holes above, and two holes below whatever buckle you use. Accidents happen and bridles DO break, and you will need that extra buckle hole. It also accounts for a variety of fittings-- different-sized bit rings will necessitate lengthening or shortening the cheekpiece, even on the same horse's head. You never want to be on the LAST hole anywhere-- punch more, or have the bridle shortened if needed. For gags, 3-rings, and elevators, you may need pony-sized cheekpieces to accomodate the upper shank of the bit-- it's often too long for the average bridle on an average horse.
Bridles are getting increasingly fancy-- with more padding and accessories than ever before. Padded crowns can help some horses, but the most important aspect of any bridle is that it FITS and is kept clean. Too-tight browbands pinch the ears; crusty foam and dried grass stuck to the flash can make lips raw. I haven't had much personal experience with bitless bridles or the new Micklem bridle, but there are many options for all sorts of horses. Use whatever makes you and your horse most comfortable.
Central Kentucky is home to some stunning horse farms, and WinStar is one of them-- you may recognize that name, as they own and bred 2010 Derby winner Super Saver. Down scenic Pisgah Pike in Versailles, you have to be careful not to drive off the side of the road as you gawk at the magnificent splendor. Elegant black four-board fence surrounds green lawns dotted with mares and foals. The office entrance takes your breath away...a huge mansion beyond shimmering ponds accented with fountains. If they were going for "WOW" factor, the designers certainly succeeded!
The stallion barn, home to outstanding sires like Distorted Humor and Tiznow, is no less fancy. Visitors are welcomed into a grand waiting area filled with photos of the champion stallions. Just inside the barn, is a center "stage" where the stallions are paraded for visitors' inspection. It's difficult not to be impressed!
The actual breeding shed is a bit more workmanlike...no frills, but still no expense spared. The main aisle and walkways are rubber. Clean green padded mats protect the horses from walls, posts, and corners. The breeding area itself has Polytrack for footing. It's definitely top of the line!
The breeding handlers and assistants were very courteous and professional. At some farms, you (farm representative) have to hold the mare for teasing and washing. At WinStar, it's full-service...they take the mare from you at the door, and give her back when she's done.
At WinStar, they outfit the mare in a twitch, padded hind boots, and a neck hood. This protects the stallion if he gets kicked, and spares the mare's neck from his teeth. Some farms skip the boots, and instead briefly hold up a foreleg to prevent her from kicking. Most mares stand very well, but with million-dollar stallions you have to take every precaution! There are about five assistants to help with the breeding, each with a specific (and not usually glorious!) job. All are outfitted with vests and helmets for safety (and likely insurance purposes).
During all this, the farm representative (me) stands idly by watching or chatting with bystanders (managers, other farm drivers). Being female, in a very male-dominated field, this can be a bit of an awkward situation. Most farms are welcoming enough, but there are times when guys avoid eye contact, or mumble something about the weather. To spare them embarrassment and uncomfortable silence, I'll check email (or EN) on my phone and appear very busy. At WinStar, though, the managers were quite pleasant. I mentioned I was an eventer, and we had an interesting conversation about Rolex and event horse breeding.
About five minutes later, the process is over and I get the mare back to take home. Two weeks later, the vet will ultrasound her and we'll know if she's in foal for next year. Fingers crossed!
For anyone coming to Lexington for the WEG, WinStar should be on your list of farms to visit. Trust EN to be your complete travel guide, we will give you more famous farms to check out later this summer!
Leslie is hopefully enjoying sunny weather and warm beaches on vacation right now, so I get the pleasure of providing your Saturday morning dose of videos. Let's take a trip down memory lane and check out some of the first videos ever posted on the site. If you were here to see these videos when I first posted them, then you are truly awesome and should give yourself a pat on the back for being one of our original readers.
It's finally Friday! And time for another Lower-Level Event Rider Profile. We've met Nation members from all over the US and the world, and today we're back to Kentucky to meet Lori. If you wish to be featured in an upcoming profile, fill out the Questionnaire and email it to VisionaireEN@gmail.com. Have a happy weekend!!
Name: Lori Long
Location: Leitchfield, KY (basically the middle of nowhere)
Primary horse's name: River of Dreams (aka Rio) (His racing name was Clover Patch Kid...really who could do that to a 17.1h horse), Owned by Carolyn Ladd
Age, breed, pertinent info:
11, Off the Track TB. Raced for 3 years and won $300...again who were these owners, should have realized earlier he only likes to run when there are jumps involved! Needless to say he loves XC . Still trying to figure out why stadium is in such a small area and why those poles fall down. He is truly the trouble maker in his field and in his stall. Loves to stick his head out of the stall and pull off every item of cloths he has so they are tossed all over the aisle. He also wouldn't feel accomplished at a show if he didn't rub out at least 1 braid if not a whole section.
Level currently competing: Training
Short term goals this spring/summer: We hope to have a couple clean stadium rounds at training and move up to Prelim
Year-end goals: Running Prelim Successfully, it's been a long time since I have had a horse up to this level.
I can see this horse going at least Interm if not Advanced once he figures out his hind end (at 17.1h he is just a big lanky guy who doesn't know how to use his butt, so sad) If I am the lucky one that gets to go with him I will be thrilled, if someone else does I will be his biggest fan in on the sidelines cheering him on every step of the way!
What's the best thing you've learned recently?
Once you stop treating dressage like it is a necessary evil to get to XC it is fun, rewarding and the basis for everything. I try to instill this in my students as I had a very hard time learning this lesson, and still sometimes have to remind myself ;-).
Favorite eventing moment/story?
At Rio's 2nd training, had a dumb blonde moment and decided that the line I had walked to this skinny steeplechase wasn't right, so I took probably the worst line you could, in the process I thought, then said out loud: Rio I am so sorry but I think you are going to have to save us on this one. We barely were pointing at the jump, I basically made sure I was in balance with him and I gave him the reins just to stay out of his way. He acted like what I was asking was normal and did it with ease. At that point I realized this horse was truly special. The only other horse I have thought this way about is now retired living the good life, so it was a great moment for me.
Link to blog or website, if applicable: www.bellavistaequestriancenter.com
Rio at Mid South Team Challenge Training Three Day 2009
Notes: An EN shout-out to FEIPony who asked if we would be covering May-Daze. We will be keeping our eye on it, but I won't be there because, as I have said, I'm at a wedding. Actually, believe it or not, I'm writing this post after getting back to the hotel from the bachelor party. My friends are being very tolerant of my quick computer breaks to check the site or send another email to our webhost.
The TPF crowd is out in full force at Waredaca--Phillip has 12 entered and Jennie has 9 rides.
Eventing rolls on in California this weekend with beautiful weather expected at Woodside. Several top pairs are entered in the advanced, including Andrea Baxter and Estrella as well as Luhmuhlen entrants Jennifer and The Good Witch.