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WEG Happy Hour, Sept. 20th: Show Jumping, Para Dressage & Vaulting

Three disciplines, one pint-sized recap to get you all caught up on the day’s events. Biz Stamm of Horse Nation is your bartender this evening for WEG Happy Hour!

Janika Sprunger of Switzerland on Bacardi VDL. Photo FEI/Martin Dokoupil.

Rails were dropping like it was hot (and it was) in day 2 of show jumping.

Alan Wade’s challenging track produced just a handful of clear rounds, really shaking up the leaderboard. Speed round winner Steve Guerdat picked up four faults dropping him down to eighth position while Italian rider, Lorenzo de Luca, rode a fast double clear to move from ninth to first. Veteran U.S. team rider McLain Ward left all the rails up and only picked up a single time penalty to move into second place. His teammate, WEG rookie Adrienne Sternlicht, also had a successful round, picking up just one time fault, putting her in 12th position and taking the U.S. team from fourth to second!

The Swiss team remains in first place, though less than one fault separates them and the U.S. promising to make tomorrow a real nail-biter! With a full day of jumping ahead us tomorrow, it’s still anyone’s game in the team competition.  Get caught up on WEG show jumping results here for the individual competition and here for the team competition. Also be sure to check in with our sister site, Jumper Nation, for even more coverage of show jumping at WEG 2018!

The grade II, IV, and V para dressage riders started off the team competition. Stinna Tange Kaastrup from the Netherlands and her gelding, Horsebo Smarties, stole the world’s heart after winning the grade II individual competition and she stole the show again today landing on top of the grade II team riders. In addition to Stinna, several of the other powerhouses from the individual tests were also forces to be reckoned with in the team competition, including Sophie Wells of Great Britain and Sanne Voets of the Netherlands. With grade I and grade IIIs still to go tomorrow it will be interesting to see how shake out, but there is no doubt that the Dutch team is looking strong! Check out the results for the para dressage team competition here.

Para is all about the love! I got seriously emotional listening to the Wednesday 2018 WEG Show on Horse Radio Network.  The riders have so much love for their horses, and the gratitude they have for their mounts is something all equestrians should take to heart. It was also lovely to hear how supportive they are, not just their fellow teammates, but the other competitors as well. You can check out these awesome interviews with U.S. para riders and stay up to date with everything WEG by checking in with our friends over at Horse Radio Network. (Also be sure to tune in for the Horse Nation segment every Monday on HRN’s Horses in the Morning.)

Italian vaulters sambaed their way to gold in the pas de deux. The Austrian team was looking to defend their world title, but they were beat out by the Italians and their energetic, samba-based routine. The Germans were dominant in the other three vaulting events, taking the top spots in all but the male individual competition where French vaulter, Lambert Leclezio is in the lead. He has three Germans hot on his trail and hungry for gold, however.

Remember to never WEG and drive and be sure to always choose a WEGsignated driver.

Go Riding!

WEG Happy Hour: Your Pint-Sized Sept. 18 Recap

Para dressage competitor Rodolpho Riskalla of Brazil on Don Henrico. Photo FEI/Martin Dokoupil.

Today kicked off the individual competition for para dressage and vaulting, making poise and elegance the theme of the day.

The competition was hot for the grade IV para dressage individual test, with the top three riders all within less than a single percent of one another. Sanne Voets of the Netherlands clinched the gold with a stunning performance on her 10 year old KWPN gelding, Demantur N.O.P. Voets finished just out of the medals for the individual test in Rio, making this gold extra sweet! Right on her heels, taking the silver was Rodolpho Riskallo of Brazil on Don Henrico, a 15 year old Hanoverian stallion. It was a repeat of WEG Normandy for Danish rider Susanne Jensby Sunseen, who again walked away with the bronze aboard Csk’s Que Faire, a 20-year-old Danish warmblood mare. See the full results for the grade IV para dressage individual test here!

In a disappointing turn of events, grade II para dressage favorite, Lee Pearson of Great Britain made the last minute decision to pull his horse from the individual competition. Though she had no visible signs of injury, Lee felt something was off with his 9 year old mare, Styletta. He posted the following statement on his Facebook page regarding his decision to withdraw.

Thank you for all the lovely messages of support about today’s competition. 😊 Sometimes you have to make a decision that you don’t want to and think of the long term bigger picture. I wasn’t prepared to push a horse I love when she blatantly wasn’t happy with something, even if it is the World Games. We’ve found nothing wrong with her but I do feel the 40* heat and humidity is not helping her. We train tomorrow where we’ll be assessing her closely and possibly compete in the team test on Thursday.  Unfortunately due to retiring today we can’t campaign the freestyle to music on Saturday which if she’s ok is a shame. I live to fight another day 💙”

Props to Lee for putting his horse first and we at Horse Nation are sending some positive vibes to his girl, Styletta.

One could quite literally say they saved the best for last in the grade II para dressage individual test. It’s a lot of pressure being the last rider in your class, but Denmark’s Stinna Tange Kaastrup didn’t buckle, putting in a stellar ride on the 17-year-old Danish warmblood gelding, Horsebo Smarties, to take gold! The difference between gold and silver came down to less than three tenths of point! Hot on her heels to take the silver was Pepo Puch of Austria on the 10 year old Hanoverian gelding, Salior’s Blue. Taking the bronze was Dutch rider, Nicole Den Dulk, and her 15 year old KWPN gelding, Wallace N.O.P. See the full results for the grade II para dressage individual here.

Great Britain’s Sophie Wells definitively took the gold in the grade V individual test. Repeating her individual gold medal performance from Rio and further solidifying her number one world ranking, Sophie and her 11-year-old KWPN gelding, C Fatal Attraction, took the win with a 75.429. Taking Silver was Frank Hosmar of the Netherlands on his 13-year-old KWPN gelding, Alphaville N.O.P. In the bronze medal position was Regine Mispelka and her 13 year old Rheinlander gelding, Look At Me Now. See the full results for the grade V para dressage individual test here.

It was compulsory day for the male, female, and squad vaulters! Can I just say that as someone who struggles to walk from one room to the next without tripping, the vaulting is completely mind-blowing! It appears the Austrian women are playing to win with with Katharina Luschin, Daniela Fritz, and Lisa Wild in the first, third, and fourth position respectively of the women’s individual competition. Rounding out the top five is Kristina Boe of Germany in second, and Sheen Bendixen of Denmark in fifth. See the full results here.

Thomas Brüsewitz of Germany put in a beautiful performance to take the overnight top spot in the men’s individual vaulting. His German compatriots also had a successful day,with Jannik Heiland landing in the number two spot, and Jannis Drewell in fourth. French vaulters, Lambert Leclezio and Vincent Haennel took the third and fifth place positions and you can bet that they’ll be fighting for a spot on the podium in days to come! See the full results here.

The Swiss squad is sitting in the top spot after the compulsory round with the Germans close behind in second! The Swiss and German squads dominated the compulsory round, leaving a large margin between the top 2 spots and the rest of the top 5. The Austrian, U.S., and Italian squads comprise the rest of the top five. While the Swiss and Germans appeared  dominant on day one, I wouldn’t count any of the top squads out for a chance on the podium! Check out the complete squad compulsory results here.

If you would like to get a deeper appreciation of just how skilled our WEG vaulters are, check out this video of two non-vaulters giving it a try!

That’s it for today! As always, enjoy your WEG responsibly!

Go riding!

Best of HN: Going the Distance, or How to Train For 100 Miles

If you missed our first article, we here at Horse Nation are following Angela Gross Kemerer and her Arabian mare Shae as they prepare to compete in the Vermont 100 endurance ride. A hundred miles is a long way to ride, and going the distance (Hey! That’s the name of the series!) successfully requires boat loads of training and preparation. So just how does one go about preparing themselves and their horse for such an epic feat of endurance?

It takes a lot of work to look this good! Photo by Becky Pearman. Used with permission.

Scheduling Rest

When I asked Angela, she started off by emphasizing that properly scheduled rest is just as important as properly scheduled training. As a general rule, endurance horses are given one week off after a 25 mile, two weeks off after a 50 mile ride, three weeks off after a 75 mile ride, and four weeks off after a 100 mile ride. As a result, endurance horses spend most of their time during competition seasons resting between rides.

Because of the high demand for rest during competition season, it is important to get your horse fit prior to the first race of the year. Angela assured me that Shae is feeling incredibly fit this year and the results from their recent rides reflect the diligent conditioning completed prior to competition season. Since April, they have completed two 50 mile rides as well as a 30 mile ride at which they won the coveted best conditioned award, given to the horse with the best vet score combined with the best time/weight carried, as well as the high vet score award given to the horse with the best vet score overall.

Shae resting between rides at home with her buddy. Photo courtesy of Angela Gross Kemerer.

So what exactly was it that Angela did leading up to competition season that got Shae so incredibly fit?

Pre-season conditioning rides

The months leading up to competition season is when the majority of the conditioning work takes place. Similar to the training schedule of a long distance runner, Angela takes Shae on three or four shorter training rides per week (10-15 miles), and one long ride on the weekend (20+ miles). She tries to include variety in the shorter rides, with some being short and fast, others focusing on hill work, and some including speed interval training.

While long, slow rides are vital to preparing the horse’s body to endure concussion and physical exertion over long periods of time, high intensity short rides are equally integral to building endurance over distance. Speaking from personal experience as a long distance runner, it is much more common to struggle due to muscle fatigue over the course of a race than it is to find yourself out of breath. These shorter high intensity rides allow for horses to condition their muscles in such a way that they fatigue less quickly when traveling longer distances at a lower intensity.

Cross-training

While Angela mostly keeps Shae fit out on the trails, she keeps her eventing mounts fit utilizing endurance-style conditioning plans. In the future, however, she hopes to introduce Shae to jumping. Shae loves hopping over logs on the trail and Angela thinks she may really shine in the jumper ring. The added hind end strength certainly wouldn’t hurt when charging up those hills!

Rider Fitness

Despite the fact that so many are quick to say that riding isn’t a sport, we all know better. Spending hours at a time in the saddle requires a great deal of athleticism. The fitter a rider is, the better they are able to support their horse over the course of a ride. While Angela stays very fit with the sheer amount of time she spends in the saddle, she supplements her own fitness by running. She finds that training for races in the 5k to half-marathon range really helps her keep her in peak form.

Angela after completing a half-marathon. Photo courtesy of Angela Gross Kemerer.

I hope following this amazing pair is inspiring some of you out there to take the plunge into the world of endurance riding. Before embarking on your own horse’s endurance training program, be sure to consult with an expert who can provide you with the guidance needed to keep both you and your horse healthy and sound. To find a mentor near you, check out the American Endurance Rider Conference (AERC) regional directory. Look for us next time when we’ll go over the essential gear that endurance riders can’t go without!

Go riding!

Best of HN: Going the Distance: Angela & Shae vs. the Vermont 100

The sport of endurance riding is the ultimate equestrian test of stamina. Horses and riders spend hours racing across rugged terrain covering 20, 50, or sometimes even 100 miles, checking in with veterinarians along the way to ensure that the equine team members are fit to continue. A “hundred mile horse” garners a great deal of respect in the endurance world, and for good reason: a horse capable of completing a 100 mile ride must be innately athletic with sound body and mind. Additionally, the sheer number of training miles put into such a horse can seem enormously daunting to average rider.

One of the best-known 100 mile races in the country is the Vermont 100, which began in the 1960s not as a race, but as a “fun trail ride.” By the late ’70s the ride had become a well-established 100 mile race, starting and ending in Woodstock, Vermont. The race was discontinued for several years in the 80s but made its triumphant return in 1988, and in 1989 a new feature that makes the Vermont 100 unique from all other hundred mile rides in the country was included: race organizers asked Laura Farrell, the first woman to complete a 100 mile ride and a 100 run, if she would like to participate in the race on foot. She immediately agreed and was joined by over 100 runners at the 1989 Vermont 100. Since then riders and runners tackle the course side by side in a dual endurance ride/ultra-marathon.

As an endurance runner, I have become curious about the parallels between training a horse for distance events and training to tackle distances on foot. Angela Gross Kemerer of Myersville, MD and her horse Shae successfully completed the Vermont 100 in 2017. As the 2018 Vermont 100 approaches, they are preparing to do it again. To indulge my curiosity and learn a bit more about the sport of endurance riding, I’ll be following them along on this journey. I got the chance to chat with Angela and learn a bit more about her and her fabulous “hundred mile horse.”

Angela and Shae. Photo by Becky Pearman. Used with permission.

While Angela spends her days working in human resources, her non-working hours are filled horses. A long time eventer, Angela took up endurance riding in 2015. She frequently rides with her husband, an experienced endurance rider with thousands of miles under his belt. It was through his endurance world connections that Angela was introduced to Shae, a now 10-year-old Arabian mare. It didn’t take long for the two to become partners in crime out on the trail and since bringing her home in 2015, they have covered 1,115 miles together including five 100 mile rides.

All four off the ground! Photo by Becky Pearman. Used with permission.

When asked what initially initially drew her to the sport of endurance riding Angela replied “It seemed liked a great excuse to spend all day on a horse!” She is also inspired by the sheer athleticism possessed by these incredible horses. While she notes that her husband’s involvement in the sport was catalyst for her own journey into endurance riding, the enthusiasm and passion in her voice when talking about the sport is undeniable. Endurance riding is clearly in her blood just as the love of horses is in so many of ours.

Over the next several months, we will be following Angela and Shae as they prepare for this epic race, learning all about the world of endurance riding along the way. We couldn’t be more excited to be stowing away in the saddle bags of this dynamic duo during this ambitious undertaking, and look forward to seeing what waits for us down the trail. In addition to our Horse Nation updates, you can see more pictures of the our amazing endurance pair as well as some fun helmet cam videos from past rides on Shae’s Facebook page.

Go endurance and go riding!

Best of HN: A Horse Nation ‘Article’ by Husband & Best Friend

I’m a horse girl, and my horsey lifestyle combined with a busy work schedule often leaves little time for other non-horse/work related activities. My lack of free time can sometimes leave my friends and family feeling a bit neglected and last week during a late night at the lab, after copious amounts of nagging for a little Biz time, I jokingly told my husband and good friend that I could spend some time with them later on if they wrote my Horse Nation article for me.

Because neither one of them really knows all that much about horses, and because (I thought) it was clearly a joke, I expected nothing to come of my request, but within an hour I received the following two submissions. They remind me a bit of the movie Troll 2, in the sense they’re so bad they’re actually amazing, and I feel that they are fascinating insights into the brains of the non-horse-oriented.

From husband:

Horsies go stamp stamp stamp, but sometimes they don’t.
Sometimes they go walk walk walk. The only way to know
what the horsie do is to have a horsie-do-person make horsie
do good.

He also provided several illustrations to accompany his “article.”

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Morgane. Your job is safe.">

The artistic stylings of Dave Maliszewski. Don’t worry, Morgane. Your job is safe.

From best friend (who will remain anonymous to protect his reputation as a competent, functional human being):

Let me do a weekly segment. ‘Why Horses are Pretty Scary, Dude.’ by Best Friend

1. Metal feet

2. Big, long faces

3. They say they like apples, but they don’t savor them. What are they doing with all those apples?!

4. Chemtrails

(Not quite sure how the last item fits the criteria, buddy, unless you are referring to chemtails, the phenomenon by which mane and tail care products are laced with chemicals that make horse owners more susceptible to mind control, and more prone to spending money on their horses.)

I feel the need to point out that these “articles” were NOT produced by children, but were produced a couple of 30-something-year-old men. Make what you will of that.

So what have I learned from this little exploration into the brains of a couple non-horsey folk?

Well first off, my husband and friend are certifiable. Secondly, those who aren’t in regular contact with horses have an entertainingly simplistic view of what us horsey types think about. While to us, their understanding of the horse world might seem downright hilarious, it makes perfect sense: if you’re unfamiliar with the nuanced message that can be sent with the flick of an ear, or have never struggled through the process of figuring out what it actually means to ride inside leg to outside rein, it’s easy to see how one could think horses are all stamping metal feet and apples that aren’t savored nearly enough to convincingly be loved.

Lastly, I learned that there are people in my life willing to go out of their way to make me smile when I need it most, and while these two might not have futures as Horse Nation writers, I certainly see them being incredibly important parts of my life for years to come.

Go riding!

Best of HN: A Letter to Santa From the Very ‘Best’ Dressage Horse

Photo by Biz Stamm.

Dear Santa,

I’m writing to let you know I’ve been a very good boy this year. You see, I’m a dressage horse, and I’ve been doing some reading so that I can be the very best dressage horse in the entire world. I keep coming across this thing called the training pyramid so I figure it must be important for optimum dressage-ing. Upon careful examination, I have determined that I’m fulfilling all of the requirements listed in the training pyramid, and Santa, because you might not be familiar this with whole dressage thing, let me explain.

The dressage training pyramid all starts with rhythm. I was born with natural rhythm, and I demonstrate my ability to tap out sick beats every single day while mom is grooming me on the cross-ties. I can tell she likes it, because she generally tries to freestyle rap along with me. It generally goes something like “Quiet feet.” “Knock it off!” “I said quit!” She’s not very good at it, but I figure if I continue to provide the rhythm, she can practice on the daily.

After rhythm comes relaxation, and let me tell you, I’m soooooo chill. Mom can be squeezing and bumping me with her legs like crazy and it doesn’t bother me in the least. I’ll  just stand there because I’m relaxed as heck.

The next level is connection. I connect very strongly with other horses, sometimes after as little as a ten-minute ride on the trailer with them. I’m sure to call out to them frequently if they’re out of sight regardless of what I might happen to be doing. I’ve actually found that I’m able to keep in contact with my friend AND perform an entire dressage test at the same time. Now that’s multi-tasking!

Next comes impulsion. To demonstrate my impulsive nature I strive to ALWAYS act before thinking. Whether this means spinning and bolting at anything that may strike me as “unsafe,” or diving headfirst into the orchard grass bales every time I walk past, I’m 100% committed to the concept of impulsion.

After impulsion comes straightness. Being a very efficient horse, I know that a straight line is the quickest route to any destination, and sometimes there are obstacles — you know, miscellaneous objects and sometimes people — impeding those straight approaches. So whether my destination be grain, fresh green grass, or one of my many friends, I will run over anything in path to remain straight.

At the very top of the pyramid is collection. I assume this refers all of the cookies I collect for being such a good boy. At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “how can this horse possess so many incredible talents?!” But let me assure you, I am also excellent at this.

Because I have been SO good this year, I would like to ask for several wearable chew toys (I think mom calls them blankets), several hundred pounds of organic, fair trade horse treats, and some freestyle rap lessons for my mom, because seriously, she’s terrible.

With love,

The Very Best Dressage Horse

Oregon Horse Center Opens New Eventing Venue

When I showed up to volunteer at the Oregon Horse Center’s DX Eventing competition last month and saw the course that was no more than a twinkle in organizers’ eyes prior to June, I was delighted to find so many beautiful jumps for riders from the Grasshopper to Novice/Training level.

Just a few of the jumps on the OHC cross country course. Photos by Biz Stamm.

Oregon Horse Center in Eugene, about 100 miles south of Portland, is a popular venue for breed shows, western performance shows and most famously known for the extreme mountain trail course, which has produced many a viral video, but it’s not really known for hosting any kind of sport horse competitions.

Major Defoe, the owner and founder of the OHC, explained what it was like navigating this new territory and how he managed to make so much progress so quickly. “Getting into something you don’t know a whole lot about will always be challenging, but I have great people working for me with the skills and knowledge to make it happen.”

Major hired Annie Fike, who has many years of experience in both eventing and show jumping, as the OHC Director of Eventing. OHC eventing has access to the same talented builders and grounds crew that make the outrageously unreal extreme mountain trail course a reality. With a newly purchased excavator, who knows what kind of fun terrain modifications you might find on the cross country course in months to come.

While volunteering, I manned my post as a dressage steward while Annie simultaneously monitored the warm-up and ran and scored tests. I’m going to take it upon myself to bestow the title of Multitasker-in-Chief upon her. Her top goal, she explained, is to create a safe and inviting venue where people new to the sport of eventing can try it out in a low pressure situation.

Currently OHC eventing is offering a new eventing format that’s become popular in Oregon due to the scarcity of full cross country courses: DX Eventing, which the USEA introduced last year as part of the organization’s ongoing mission to make the sport as inclusive as possible.

The two-phase competition begins with a dressage phase, followed by a jumping phase that combines both show jumping and cross country fences.

In the months to come, OHC eventing is looking forward to hosting its winter indoor eventing series, with a course running through the multiple connected indoor arenas at the  venue, and jumper nights. OHC is also considering hosting an eventing equitation class to highlight the importance of a strong, effective jumping position, which made my inner Denny Emerson jump for joy.

Major said OHC hopes to host USEA recognized horse trials in the future, and EN wishes the venue the very best of luck as they continue to grow and serve the Pacific Northwest eventing community. Click here to access OHC’s calendar of events.

All horses and riders appeared to have a blast at the OHC DX event, and I suspect many will be back for the next. I had so much fun just watching that I’m seriously considering taking my little dressage horse for a spin around the course.

Go OHC Eventing!

Jenni Autry contributed to this report.

Best of HN: At Long Last: What Color Is Helix?

Last year I began to question if my seemingly dun horse was actually turning gray (click here to learn what initially triggered my suspicions).

A clearly dun 5-month-old Helix. Photo by Biz Stamm.

At the time I wasn’t even sure it was possible, but after doing a little research, and enlisting the help of the good folks at the UC Davis genetic testing lab, I was finally able to come up with with answer. I stepped into the Horse Nation Laboratory to devise a plan to share the answer to this mystery. As always, when in the lab, or on a horse…

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY

Before we get to the answer, time for a quick lesson in genetics! C’mon, what did you expect?! Science nerdery is kind of my scene.

Horses, much like humans are diploid organisms, meaning they get one set of chromosomes from each parent for a total of two sets of chromosomes. Within those chromosomes are a set of molecular instructions to build your horse in the form of genes. There are variations of each gene known as alleles. Typically alleles are either dominant or recessive, with the dominant allele expressing a trait, and a recessive allele not expressing a trait, or only expressing a different trait in the absence of a dominant allele. Because your horse has two sets of chromosomes, there will be two alleles present for each gene, with one dominant allele generally being adequate to express the trait. The combination of alleles present is known as the genotype, whereas the physical expression of the genes is known as the phenotype.

So what I’d like to do now is go through Helix’s genotype to figure out how we get to his particular phenotype. Let’s start by looking at the Extension (E) and Agouti (A) genes. A dominant E allele indicates the ability to produce black pigment. A recessive e allele indicates the ability to produce red pigment. A dominant A allele limits expression of the black pigment to the mane, tail, and points. A horse with a dominant E allele and two recessive a alleles will be all black. Since Helix has a black mane and tail, we can infer he has one dominant E allele producing the black pigment, and at least one dominant A allele limiting the production of black pigment to his mane, tail, and points.

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY

Next we’re going to talk about the dun dilution gene. A dominant D allele dilutes the pigment on the body of the horse, while leaving the mane, tail, and expressing pigment causing primitive markings such as a dorsal stripe and leg/shoulder barring. There are two recessive variations of the dun gene, nd1: not dun diluted, but primitive markings may be present, and nd2: not dun diluted with primitive markings absent. I had Helix tested for the Dun gene and found out he is D/nd1 with the D allele being expressed over nd1.

Lastly we’re going to talk about the gray gene (G). The presence of a gray gene will cause a horse’s pigment producing cells to initially over produce pigment leading them to eventually burn out, so over time the amount of pigment produced in the coat decreases until pigment production virtually stops. I learned from Helix’s test results that his genotype is G/N, meaning he has one copy of the gray gene and will in fact turn gray in years to come.

Like any good gray, Helix is fond of long rolls in the mud and has developed the ability to artfully place his manure in his stall to create delightful pattern on his coat when he lays down.

Steve Storm Photography used with permission.">

A quickly graying Helix. Photo by Steve Storm Photography used with permission.

I’d like to point out that I only touched on the few genes that were most relevant to Helix’s color, and there are many more genes that influence coat color and pattern. There is a lot to equine color genetics and more being discovered all the time. I would refer people to the UC Davis website and also Equine Tapestry, a really interesting blog focusing on color genetics, if they are interested in learning more about equine color genetics.

Do you have questions regarding equine science? Leave it in the comments! HN Labs would love to help you out. We may not have all the answers, but what we lack in knowledge we make up for in our willingness to ask experts stupid questions!

Go Science!

And Go Riding!

Photo by Ana Barros

Biz Stamm is a horse trainer/mad scientist (plant pathologist) who enjoys spending her free time running like a gentle breeze in the foothills of the Oregon coast range. Specializing in starting young horses under saddle at Stamm Sport Horse LLC, she brings the analytical approach she has acquired while working in laboratory to her training. She currently owns two horses: the Kalvin Cycle (Kalvin), an 11-year-old half-Arabian gelding, and DB’s Alpha Helix (Helix), a 6-year-old Kiger mustang gelding. While she is currently pursuing competitive goals, her main goal is to enjoy her horses, and for her horses to enjoy her.

Best of HN: HN’s Drinking Game Guide to New Netflix Movie ‘The Horse Dancer’

The Horse Dancer, now streaming on Netflix, has been my latest foray into horsey cheese, and boy is it a doozy! Based on the title, I was expecting this movie to be based on the general population’s misunderstanding of dressage, but was relieved to learn that wasn’t the case. Instead it follows the life of Samantha Wick (Sophie Bolen), a talented gymnast who has recently been cut from the U.S. team because she lacks “heart and passion.”

Samantha confides in her grandmother that she is actually isn’t upset she was cut from team. She is relieved because she doesn’t love gymnastics, but you know what she might love?! Horses! So off to horse camp she goes to explore this possibility.

At camp Samantha is greeted by the overly plucky head counselor, Miss Jessica (Kristin Mellian). Miss Jessica is engaged to be married and planning on having her wedding at the camp farm, Black River Ranch. It is soon revealed that farm is facing financial difficulties meaning the end of the camp and goodbye to Miss Jessica’s wedding venue.

Samantha and the girls at camp scramble to find a way to raise money to save the farm, learning important life lessons and frequently getting words of wisdom from the groundskeeper Jerry (OMG! Al from Home Improvement!) along the way. It is eventually brought to Samantha’s attention that she can combine her gymnastic skills and love for horses in the form of vaulting, and that as a famous gymnast, that could generate the attention and money needed to save the farm.

The Horse Dancer, now streaming on Netflix.

I’m going to be clear. This is not a good movie, but it is an entertaining one, and as a connoisseur of the best/worst movies out there, I know there is a surefire way to make these exercises in absurdity even more fun: a drinking game tailored specifically to the movie of interest. So now for your enjoyment I offer the drinking game companion to The Horse Dancer.

Every time Miss Jessica smiles with just a little too much enthusiasm, drink.

Screen grab from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1FYTcbWUYA&t=13s

Jessica smiles, a lot. So much so that by the end of the movie I was convinced her smile had to be an attempt to cover up some dark secret.

Every time Al… eherm… I mean Jerry provides much needed words of wisdom, drink.

“Cheers to my awesome advice.”

Every time Samantha says or insinuates she doesn’t need/want friends…other than grandma, that is, drink.

Friends?

Every time there is a fake whinny, drink.

Still sober? We can fix that.

Every time an original song plays, as featured in the trailer, finish your drink!

As with all movies that fall under the umbrella of extreme camp, they are best enjoyed with friends, so plan a viewing party, grab your favorite adult beverage, and be prepared to have a great time. I’m convinced that by following my instructions you’ll be saying this by the end of movie.

From what has come to be known as the Citizen Kane of bad movies (and a personal favorite) The Room.

Go riding!

Mounted Medieval Weaponry: Using Dressage For Its Original Purpose

A rider takes on a row of heads at a mounted weaponry clinic. Photo by Biz Stamm.

After seeing all of the incredible mounted combat in Wonder Woman, I was reminded of an excellent clinic I attended this past fall. Hands on Horse Training in Aumsville, Oregon, run by mounted weaponry extraordinaire Troy Griffith, frequently offers clinics combining classical riding theory with weapon-wielding!

Keep in mind that classical horsemanship was developed for use on the battlefield, something we so quickly forget while partaking in dressage.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE competitive sandbox prancing, but when I noticed there was a mounted medieval clinic being offered so close to home, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get back to the roots of my sport while exposing the baby horse to some new and interesting things.

The day of the clinic was a rainy blustery one in Oregon, and it turns out that the other clinic attendees decided that riding outdoors in that kind of weather was not something they wanted to do, meaning private weaponry lesson for me! This actually turned out to be quite fortuitous because I wound up needing all the help I could get.

First things first: in order to wield a weapon, one must be able to ride one-handed. At the time of the clinic, my little horse, Helix, was still quite green. I had spent a little time in the week prior to the clinic making sure that Helix would turn off my seat and leg, which he did pretty well. He did pretty well the day of the clinic as well … until the practice lance was added to the equation.

It turns out that carrying a giant lance in one hand (and the one I was using was quite small compared to the one Troy was using to demonstrate!) will change your balance a little. Throw in my lackluster motor skills and we had a full blown mess on our hands. I really struggled to properly weight my seat bones, and the fact that Helix didn’t deposit me on the ground with how much I was bumping him with the lance speaks to his incredibly generous soul.

“What the heck are you doing up there?!” Helix wonders. Photo by Ana Barros.

About an hour into the clinic, we were starting to get the hang of the whole steering with lance in-hand thing (kind of) so Troy had us approach a target at a breakneck walk. (What were you expecting? Gallop? I could barely steer!)

When approaching a target, you must go from resting position with the lance perpendicular to the ground to ready position with the lance parallel to the ground, pointing at your target. As you move past the target, the lance goes back into resting position. This involves twisting your wrist in a fashion that appears quite simple, but that I found shockingly difficult.

After we finished with our lance training, we moved on to swordsmanship. I have an extensive LARPing (live action role playing) history from my super cool existence as a high schooler, so I was pretty sure I was going to be awesome at this part of the clinic.

For swordsmanship, we were to weave in and out of a set posts, similar to pole bending, while knocking a head off each post as we moved past it. Again, steering proved to be a bit of an issue at first, but we actually did OK after a couple attempts.

The exercise was made even more fun when Troy told me to imagine the heads on the posts as the heads of my enemies. At first I had trouble coming up with people I would consider enemies, but after a little bit of thought, I decided Handsome Jack, Lord Voldemort and that guy who tailgated my horse trailer would do just fine.

Jupiter bravely carries me towards the target. Photo by Ana Barros.

For the afternoon session Troy generously offered me the use of his horse, Jupiter. Baby Helix was clearly tired, and Troy thought it would be fun to try out some of the weaponry exercises on a horse that was trained for the job. Boy was he right!Jupiter expertly guided me through the same exercises which had seemed so difficult on Helix. It wasn’t just that he was trained for this particular job that made the ride so enjoyable — it was that he was generally a well-trained, seasoned horse.

While I definitely struggled a bit during the clinic, it was a good, productive, and FUN struggle. Helix and I still have several weapons to try out, so we will be planning a trip back to Troy’s sometime in the near future. Until then, I will just have to pretend I’m wielding a sword as I ride my voltes and leg yields.

Specializing in starting young horses under saddle at Stamm Sport Horse LLC, Biz Stamm brings the analytical approach she has acquired while working in laboratory to her training. While she is currently pursuing competitive goals, her main goal is to enjoy her horses, and for her horses to enjoy her.

Best of HN: 4 Ways Jumping Has Made My Horse (& Me!) Better at Dressage

My little Kiger mustang, DB’s Alpha Helix, is my up and coming dressage star. While he is just about to compete in his first recognized show at training level I often find myself daydreaming of passaging across the arena at Devon with Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros’ “Cool N Out” playing in the background.

Helix showing his dressage chops at an Oregon League show. Photo by Sarah Kress

I was convinced from the moment I laid eyes on him that he was going to be my FEI horse and I know if I can give him the training he needs and deserves, he can get me there. So if my goals with him are 100% dressage related why the heck would I spend one or two days per week working on courses and gymnastic lines?

It all began after our last show. While Helix was great during our tests, he was difficult to manage in the warmup. I board at a small, quiet barn, and frequently have the arena to myself when I ride, so it came as a bit of a surprise when Helix felt the need to pass any horse that might happen to be in front of him. This typically involved breaking into the million-mile-a-hour sewing machine trot which is absolutely no fun to ride, and pretty counter-productive while trying encourage relaxation and stretch over the back.

When a friend asked me if I’d like to go along with her to group jump lesson at Willamette Sport Horses , I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for Helix to practice riding in an arena with other horses without chasing them down. I also knew that head trainer, Brook Phillips, would create a fun, inviting atmosphere where I wouldn’t feel judged and could just go have a good time with my horse.

Helix had done some trot/canter poles, and some x-rails here and there, but I had never really jumped him before. Immediately I was shocked by how game he was, and how well he was actually able to jump. The boy has some ability!

A couple weeks after incorporating jumping into our training program, I was equally shocked by how much our dressage improved as a direct result of the jump cross training. We dressage riders always like to preach to riders of other disciplines that incorporating dressage into their training will improve their performance, and it’s totally true! It turns out it is also true that cross training your dressage horse with a little jumping will have a pretty amazing impact on the performance of both horse and rider.

Here are the four main areas I saw improvement as a direct result of our work over fences on top of the fact he can now remain civilized in a busy arena.

Improved quality of canter: The lower levels of dressage require very little canter, and as a result I think we often school the canter less than we actually should while riding at those levels. It is amazing what merely cantering more will do for the quality of the canter, and when you are cantering courses, you definitely canter more than you would in a training/first level test.

On top of that, jumping demands the development of an adjustable canter with a bit more urgency than words on a page telling you to “lengthen the stride” and “return to working canter.” There’s a freaking obstacle in front of you, and you need to get to the proper point for optimal lift off or else you’ll find yourself grabbing mane and hanging on for dear life! Jumping also requires the horse to sit on its haunches to push off before a fence. What a great way to start building hind end strength required for collected gaits.

Helix jumping ~2’9′ quite well even though mom set him up for a long spot.

Core strength: We all know that the sitting trot requires TONS of core strength to achieve that quiet, effortless look, and we all know that every time we watch Laura Graves ride, we will be reminded just how inadequate our own core strength is. I feel like sitting trot gets all the hype for the “strong core” requirements, and riding in two-point is never given the core-busting street cred it deserves. While standing in the stirrups, your core MUST be engaged in order to stabilize your precariously perched body. Go trot around in your two-point for five minutes. I dare you. Your horse’s back will thank you when it comes time to sit.

Confidence/bravery: I think there is something very powerful about a task that can be tangibly accomplished in terms of developing a confident horse. Your horse has no idea what a good transition, a correctly positioned shoulder-in, and a perfectly elastic stretch circle are supposed to look like, but there is something that seems so comprehensible to a horse about having an obstacle in front of him/her and successfully making it to the other side. It seems to translate to “I did the thing!” which quickly evolves into “I can do things!” and a horse with that confident, can-do mentality can take on the world!

In order to ensure the creation of a confident partner, it is immensely important that you provide obstacles with which your horse can easily achieve success, and only increase the difficulty when you are completely sure he/she is ready.

A confident Helix is a happy Helix! Photo by Biz Stamm.

Fun!: Jumping is really fun, and a I think when a horse/rider are joyful in their work, the outcome will always be better.

So go ahead, DQ’s! Give it a shot. Set up some x-rails and let the fun begin!

Go riding!

Biz Stamm is a horse trainer/mad scientist who enjoys spending her free time running like a gentle breeze in the Oregon foothills. Specializing in starting young horses under saddle at Stamm Sport Horse LLC, she brings the analytical approach she has acquired while working in laboratory to her training. She currently owns two horses: the Kalvin Cycle (Kalvin), an 11-year-old half-Arabian gelding, and DB’s Alpha Helix (Helix), a 6-year-old Kiger mustang gelding. While she is currently pursuing competitive goals, her main goal is to enjoy her horses, and for her horses to enjoy her.

Photo by Ana Barros

Dressage Leg vs. Jumping Leg, & How to Use No-Stirrup November to Benefit Both

This article originally appeared on our sister site, Horse Nation.

Your horse called. He said he has a monkey on his back. No, he wasn’t referring to his increasingly problematic peppermint addiction — he was referring to you and your seemingly aimless approach to No-Stirrup November. So as we continue our journey through this month of stirrupless bliss, how do we ensure that what we are doing will actually benefit our riding? The first step is recognizing that what makes a good leg for one discipline just might be the antithesis of what you need for another.

Dressage Leg

Function: While riding dressage, your leg has two major functions: aiding the horse and deepening your center of gravity so it is as close to the horse’s back as possible. It needs to do this while creating as little tension as possible to allow your seat to move with the horse.

Form: Your weight is passively sinking into your heel, but you are not forcing it as that creates tension and tension is the enemy of a soft seat. Your calf, thigh and hips are relaxed allowing for your horse to register the slightest contraction of your calf as an aid, and your seat to move with your horse.

Photo by Morgan Gardner.

No-stirrup exercises:

General guidelines for riding without stirrups: Think about keeping your leg long and relaxed with a slightly flexed ankle. Contract calf and thigh muscles only when aiding the horse, remembering to release the aid immediately after you get a response from your horse. DO NOT CLING TO THE HORSE WITH YOUR LEGS!

  • Leg pedal: For this exercise, let your legs hang long, and point your toes in so your heels are slightly turned away from your horse. Then by alternately bending each knee, pedal your legs back and forth. This exercise is great for stretching out the hip flexors and keeping the low back soft.

via GIPHY

  • Toe point/ankle flex: Keep those ankles flexible! A consistently flexible ankle is way more important than a deep heel when it comes to dressage.

via GIPHY

 Grounded exercises:

  • Forward bend: It is imperative to keep the back of the leg long and the lower back soft. A simple forward bend is an easy way to help make that happen.
forward bend

Photo by Biz Stamm.

  • Standing hip stretch: Tight hips are frequently the cause of a discontinuous seat and a leg position that comes too far forward. The standing hip stretch is a quick and easy exercise you can do before hopping on your horse. Cross one ankle so that it lies across the opposite knee and push your hips back until you feel a comfortable level of stretch. Repeat on the other side.
standing hip stretch

Photo by Biz Stamm.

 

Jumping Leg

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Morgan Gardner on Marika exhibiting an exemplary lower leg. Photo by Charlotte Gardner.

Function: This is what is commonly referred to as your “base of support.” It is literally what keeps you in place on your horse as he soars gracefully over a jump. In order for your leg to be a solid base of support, it must remain stationary as your hip angle is closed by the upward thrust of your your horse’s jump.

Form: The main differences between a dressage leg and a jumping leg are when you are jumping you are actively pushing weight down into your heel and the contact of your calf with your horse’s side is increased. Ideally, your calf stays in contact with the horse’s side just at the girth unless you need to do something like aid a canter transition, or help your horse hold a bend around a tight turn. This form is partially shaped by the typically shorter stirrup-length used when jumping, but since this is No Stirrup November, you’re on your own, kids!

No-stirrup exercises:

General guidelines for riding without stirrups: Ride as if your stirrups were still there. Recreate the same knee and hip angle you would have if you were riding with stirrups, and keep that ankle flexed!

  • Posting trot: A common mistake I see when people are posting the trot with stirrups is that they catapult themselves out of the saddle every stride. Posting without stirrups really forces you to allow the bounce of the horse’s stride lift you out of the saddle. The key to keeping the posting motion smooth and protecting your horse’s back is to stabilize yourself with your core at the top of the post, and making sure you have adequate calf contact to slowly lower yourself back into the saddle.
  • Posting canter: While the posting trot is ubiquitous, the posting canter seems mostly to be utilized by the hunter crowd these days. Done without stirrups, it is a great way to improve the independence of your seat.

Grounded exercises:

  • Squats: Squats are a great way to improve hamstring and glute strength. We riders tend to have obscenely strong legs as it is, so you might find it necessary to add some weight to make this exercise effective. I find a paunchy kitten works quite well for this purpose.
squat

Photo by Biz Stamm.

  • Lunges: Again, thigh strength is imperative to be a good jumper. The lunge gives you an entire leg workout in one exercise.
lunge

Photo by Biz Stamm.

  • Downward Dog: With all this strengthening, it’s important to remember that you’ll still need your depth of heel when you take your stirrups back. The downward dog is great for keeping the back of the leg soft, allowing you to keep your “heels down!” just like your instructor is always yelling at you to do.
Downward Dog

Cat optional. Photo by Biz Stamm.

I hope this little bit of guidance can help make your No-Stirrup November a bit more productive, because as the saying goes, “perfect practice makes perfect,” not “desperately clinging to your horse’s back makes perfect.”

Go riding!

Biz Stamm is a part-time seed scientist and full-time trainer/riding instructor at Stamm Sport Horse LLC specializing in starting young horses for sport horse disciplines. She brings the analytical mind she developed while working in a lab to her riding and teaching, emphasizing a thorough understanding of how the horse’s body works. She currently owns two horses: the Kalvin Cycle (Kalvin), a 10-year-old half-Arabian gelding, and DB’s Alpha Helix (Helix), a 5-year-old Kiger mustang gelding. While she is currently pursuing competitive goals, her main goal is to enjoy her horses, and for her horses to enjoy her.

Back to Basics: The Elusive 20-Meter Circle

Ah, yes. The 20-meter circle, something that seems like it should be so simple, but still winds up looking like amoeba with flailing pseudopodia. Is it because we all failed geometry in high school, or is it harder than it looks? I’m gonna go with the latter, if only to feel better about myself.

illustration by Joseph Leidy, 1879

Illustration by Joseph Leidy, 1879

So what is the purpose of riding a 20-m circle? First off, it is a simple test of geometric accuracy. Schooling figures helps to strengthen and supple the horse, but only if the figures are ridden accurately. Inaccurately-ridden figures can lead to incorrect alignment and asymmetrical muscle development, so being accurate matters even while schooling.

The most common geometrically-based mistake I see is caused by the unmistakable gravitational pull of the rail. Being away from the rail is scary, so people have a tendency to stick to it, and instead of riding circles they wind up riding squares with rounded corners. If you find yourself on the rail for more than one stride, you are not riding a circle. I repeat! You are not riding a circle!

This is not a circle:

Not a circle. Illustration by Biz Stamm.

Illustration by Biz Stamm.

This IS a circle:

Illustration by Biz Stamm.

Illustration by Biz Stamm.

Aside from testing our geometry skills, the 20-m circle requires us to create bend throughout our horse’s body with our inside seat bone and inside leg, while controlling the degree of bend with the outside rein. You know how people are always yelling “inside leg to outside rein!” That. You need to be able to do that.

Why, you ask? (P.S. you should always ask “why?”) First off, lateral flexion (bending side to side) supples the horse over the back allowing for increased flexibility. Secondly, a horse exhibiting a correct bend will be stepping diagonally under the belly by engaging the abdominal muscles, encouraging him to lift his back and become round. Check in with my previous article to learn about the importance of a round back.

Lastly, when the horse bends, you’ll notice his neck presses into the outside rein as shown in the figure below, creating increased pressure in your outside hand. You have two choices. You can either open your ring finger or release your outside hand forward to allow for bend, which you will want to do to a certain extent on a 20-m circle, or you can keep your outside hand static and use that pressure on the outside rein as a restraining aid. So seeing that the pressure in the outside rein comes from the bend in the horse’s body, and the bend in the horse’s body is coming from your inside leg, you are essentially creating pressure in the outside rein, which can be used to slow or rebalance the horse, with your inside leg. OMG! There’s that inside leg to outside rein thing again!

Illustration by Biz Stamm.

Illustration by Biz Stamm.

Ok, so I know I started off this series telling you not to drill test movements, but the 20-meter circle is one worth drilling. You will be aligning, suppling and strengthening the horse by doing so. As I stated before, riding accurate figures is a key part of schooling, so I’m going to give you a few tips to ride an accurate 20-m circle.

Start off by asking your horse for the appropriate amount of bend for a 20-m circle. This will require some trial and error and/or someone helping you from the ground. Then just move forward while holding that bend and you should create a perfect circle. I like to imagine it like an ice skater carving a circle in the ice. Find your bend and carve that circle!

Go riding!

This post originally appeared on EN’s sister site, Horse Nation.

Biz is the author of Horse Nation’s “Back to Basics” series, which follow the journey of a “somewhat ordinary” horse and rider pair as they strive for greatness. Catch up on her past columns by clicking here.

Biz Stamm is a part-time seed scientist and full-time trainer/riding instructor specializing in starting young horses for sport horse disciplines. She brings the analytical mind she developed while working in a lab to her riding and teaching, emphasizing a thorough understanding of how the horse’s body works. She currently owns two horses: the Kalvin Cycle (Kalvin), a 9-year-old half-Arabian gelding, and DB’s Alpha Helix (Helix), a 4-year-old Kiger mustang gelding. While she is currently pursuing competitive goals, her main goal is to enjoy her horses, and for her horses to enjoy her.

biz profile

Clinic Report: George Morris … with Memes

"Just like people expect a bit of a show when they attend a George Morris clinic, they also expect George Morris clinic recaps to be presented in meme form." Biz Stamm reports on her recent experience.

This post originally appeared on EN’s sister site, Horse Nation.

This past weekend I had the absolute privilege of attending a George Morris clinic in Wilsonville, Oregon. I am primarily a dressage rider, but have begun to dabble in the jumpers with my horse, Kalvin, who was dissatisfied with a dressage-centric lifestyle.

I was hoping to gain some useful insight on riding him, which I did, but if I’m being honest with myself, I really just wanted to watch George yell at people. That is what he is famous for, and that is what we expect.

George did not disappoint. He began the clinic by giving a stern talking to a group of spectators who were fawning over a dog when he was trying to begin. “This is a riding clinic!” he said. “Not a dog petting clinic!”

Throughout the day George was tough on riders, spectators, and the jump crew just as expected, but in addition to a bit of a show and some good jumping advice, I got something quite unexpected out of the clinic, a full-on dressage lesson.

It turns out that George is a student of the classical German school. He stressed the importance of keeping the horse in front of the leg and had riders schooling shoulder-in, renvers, and travers during the flat portions of the lessons.

He was also quite generous with praise when it was due, and given the quality of horses and riders at the clinic, praise was frequent. The highlight of the clinic was the last group of riders which included Olympian and World Cup Champion, Rich Fellers, along with his wife, Shelly, who is quite the rider in her own right. Watching George teach such a talented group was a real pleasure and truly inspirational.

Of course, just like people expect a bit of a show when they attend a George Morris clinic, they also expect George Morris clinic recaps to be presented in meme form. I’m not one to disappoint, so here are my favorite gems:

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Go George. Go riding.