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Kate Chadderton

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Perseverance and Wet Saddle Cloths

Kate Chadderton and Collection Pass. Photo by Jenni Autry. Kate Chadderton and Collection Pass. Photo by Jenni Autry.

My good friend Dom Schramm always says, “Wet saddle cloths make good horses.” It’s a saying we grow up in Queensland (Australia) hearing from the time we start riding.

I’m not sure of its origins but I could well imagine some old stockman announcing it as he got off an especially wild brumby! As a kid I didn’t understand what it meant, why would I want a wet saddle cloth on my horse? Doesn’t Pony Club specifically advise against putting wet tack on a horse?

The older I got, and more horses I rode, I started to get an understanding of what those wise old stockmen were talking about. A lot of behavioural problems in horses come from a lack of work or education. Generally speaking, the more time you spend in the saddle with your horse actually training, the better he’ll go and become more educated.

The concept may sound obvious but you would be surprised just how many people are conservative in this area. I’m not talking about getting on your horse and working him to within an inch of death, I’m talking about consistent, intelligent, hard work.

The good news for the average amateur is that your relationship with your horse is just like your relationship with a human being. That is you don’t have to be perfect in your delivery, you just give it a try!

For example, if you are struggling to the get the correct lead with your horse don’t just give up and put him away: try everything you’ve learnt how to do, be bountiful in your praise when your horse gets it correct and understand that he is learning that whatever signal you give him is the correct signal to canter.

If your horse is naughty try working him for 15 minutes longer, and try more difficult exercises. A lot of naughty horses are in fact merely very intelligent and under worked/under stimulated. This is particularly true of the Thoroughbred and Thoroughbred infused breeds.

I guess what I am trying to say is sometimes a little extra physical perseverance in developing your riding relationship with your horse can go a long way!

Training When You’re Not Riding

Ingrid Klimke and FRH Escada JS. Photo by Jenni Autry. Ingrid Klimke and FRH Escada JS. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Even during the festive season I enjoy refining my training even while not riding (whether that’s because I’ve enjoyed too much Christmas cheer Christmas Eve or too much Christmas cheer Christmas night).

As a visual person I’ve always found watching videos of other riders very educational, particularly competition videos. Riders such as Ingrid Klimke, Doug Payne and Lainey Ashker post wonderful at home training videos which I recommend to anyone, however I particularly find the competition ones useful as you get to see the riders acting and reacting in high pressure situations.

It’s then you can see where the training pays off, for the athlete both horse and rider. For example, we all know in order to stay safe in cross country you need your heels down and eyes up. However, watching Michael Jung’s horse leave a leg at the coffin and see his reactions both physically and mentally inspire me to react the same way in the same situation.

Personally I am a “monkey see, monkey do” kind of person, meaning the first thing that comes to my mind is to copy someone else I’ve seen successfully handle the same situation.

When choosing which rider to watch I take into account my body type and natural riding style and then selecta similar, more successful rider. Personally, I love watching Ingrid Klimke ride cross country. I also watch a lot of Beezie Madden show jumping rounds then do my best to emulate their skills. Jessie Phoenix also has a great style in the show jumping that any small rider would want to copy.

Videos also give you a close up of different horse emotions and thought processes. You get to see just how they react and think while adrenalised, which helps when selecting a young horse for the upper levels, as many horses don’t change their natural response to high pressure situations.

I began to obsessively watch horse videos when I was 10 years old and over the years I’ve noticed many of the more successful horses have bright, relaxed eyes and very quick foot work and a strong desire to get to the other side of the fence.

This is one of my favourite videos of Beezie:

Training Tip of the Week with Kate Chadderton: Perfecting Your Transitions

Kate Chadderton and VS McCuan Civil Liberty at Blenheim. Photo by Samantha Clark. Kate Chadderton and VS McCuan Civil Liberty at Blenheim. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Normally at this time of the year I’d be in Australia enjoying time with my family and friends, eating pies and sausage rolls, checking out our young horses, and flipping burgers in my mum’s fish and chip shop. However, this year I’ve stayed in the U.S., primarily to save some money, and have been treated with some very agreeable winter weather.

Instead of the average below-freezing temperatures, it has been T-shirt and vests every day! On a side note, I’m available for hire as the good luck weather charm next December …

Whether you’re lucky enough to travel south for the winter or December begins the looong abyss that stretches from now until the first spring event, this time of the year is a great time to fine-tune some of the smaller details of your riding. My horses are legged back up and are starting to resemble event horses rather than wild yaks, so I’m working on transitions. Transitions can be useful for so many reasons: control, balance and preparation for other movements.

For the hotter horses, I find it useful to do less stimulating transitions. For example, I’ll spend a fair bit of time going from extended walk to collected walk to extended walk to collected walk. Then I’ll do a lot of trot to halt, or canter to halt. These get the horses thinking to wait and want to slow down.

For the more laid-back horses, I do a lot more transitions involving forward energy. For example, I’ll move up to trot or canter quite early in my training session, then make transitions from working canter to medium canter, or working trot to medium trot. This gets the horses more interested and excited about their work and quicker to move forward from the leg.

Then come the first event of the year, hopefully they’ll remember all this pre-Christmas work, and I’ll be rewarded generously by the dressage judges!

What do you want to hear as next week’s tip? Please let me know; I’m all ears!

As a bonus, here’s a video from Kate showing ideas for indoor training exercises this winter:

Bored this winter? Here are some ideas to play around with.

Posted by Kate Chadderton on Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Occupying the Horse on Stall Rest

Photo by Doug Payne. Photo by Doug Payne.

From time to time, everyone finds themselves in a situation where their horse needs to be confined to a stall. Reasons can be many and varied from simply staying in out of bad weather to more drastic problems like a traumatic injury. Whether it’s one day or three months, a lot of horses aren’t fond of confinement and appreciate an attempt to keep them happy.

First of all, it’s super important to keep their stalls clean, obviously this makes the horse feel more comfortable. Cleaning the stall thoroughly twice a day is the best bet. As labor allows it’s also helpful to pick it out throughout the day.

I love using hay nets to help keep a bored horse occupied. The nets with the smaller holes work best as the horse then has to ‘work’ to get the hay out. It’s more difficult and more entertaining for them to have to pull the hay out rather than eat it directly from the ground. It also feels a bit more natural, like ripping the grass in the field. When using a hay net it should be secured high enough so the horse can’t get tangled up.

There are a multitude of ‘toys’ on the market designed to entertain a horse. I haven’t found huge success with most of them however the balls with a handle on the side can be mildly amusing. I find the dogs enjoy the horse toys more than the horses!

I also have a rule that a horse can not be in a stall for more than 24 hours without going out, working or grazing in hand. If they are injured then follow the vets instructions, but almost any type of injury allows you to at least hand graze. This is vital for their mental and digestive health.

I’m a huge proponent of horses spending as much time outside as possible, so it has to be pretty bad out for them to be in. For injured horses I have a couple of small turnouts they can go out in for short periods of time throughout their recovery.

Legging Up Your Horse Following a Break

Beth Sokohl on Buckharo and Kate Chadderton on Collection Pass out for an afternoon hack. Beth Sokohl on Buckharo and Kate Chadderton on Collection Pass out for an afternoon hack.

For me, Thanksgiving not only means bountiful amounts of delicious food, it also marks the end of most of my horses’ holidays.

After a 3-Day Event (or the end of the season), they get a break from riding and the opportunity to hang out and get fat (much like me!). Over time I’ve found that the Thoroughbred horses enjoy the routine of being in work and often want to come back in.

For the first week they only walk. If the weather is lovely they’ll go into the woods, if the weather is average they’ll hack around the farm, and if it’s snowing then it’s straight to the indoor. As I’ve said in the past, I’m a big proponent of walking on hard surfaces to aid soundness.

After the first week, I add in some trot basic trot work. Nothing too stressful on the horse, and I use the opportunity to work on my position.

By the third week we’re cantering and starting to do a few movements. In this time there’s nothing too stressful, it’s more about strengthening their bodies than fine tuning.

My horses normally start competing late January, and I find this routine helps get them where they need to be in time to be ready to compete.

Looking for more useful tips and tricks? Check out Kate Chadderton’s previous columns here.

The Migration Begins: Trailering Tips and Tricks

How well do you know your horse trailer? Photo from TheHorse.com and Photos.com How well do you know your horse trailer? Photo from TheHorse.com and Photos.com

Unless your riding plans involve staying on your farm, you will at some point need to trailer your horse(s). Whether you’re heading down the road to ride in a clinic, two hours to a show or all the way to Florida to escape winter, here are some tips to help prepare you and your horse.

Be sure that your trailering set up is suitable

I always like to think of emergency situations. For example, IF the unthinkable happened and some impatient genius was to pull out in front of you, could your vehicle handle an emergency stop? Yes I’m calling him/her a genius as his/her mathematical and comprehension skills must far exceed mine if they conclude that they will be safe in their Prius should they find themselves in a collision with a 6-horse trailer filled with tack.

If the weight of your trailer exceeds the ability of your vehicle to control, it’d be worth upgrading your vehicle or downgrading your trailer. It’s import to ensure your brakes and lights are working EVERY time you drive. It’s quick and easy to do.

It’s also worthwhile giving your trailer a good going over once every 6 months. Check the boards under the mats, check the tyres, check your electrics etc. Obviously your mechanic can do this but it’s important to have a working knowledge of simple maintenance yourself.

Setting up the trailer

Full haynets always accompany my horses wherever they go. Obviously it’s good for them to eat but the nets can also help keep them entertained. Fresh bedding on the floor improves comfort and stability. I travel with some fresh water as well.

Travelling

Most of my horses are well accustomed to travelling and are comfortable with loading and unloading. However on the odd occasion I get one who is new (or downright unwilling, hello Vinny!) to trailering, I take the time to make sure the horse fully understands how to get on and how to get off.

Typically my horses are in a 6 horse trailer with 5 of their favourite or least favourite friends. For this reason it’s handy to have a working knowledge of how they interact with each other.

For example, Collection Pass can travel next to anyone and is a calming influence. Civil Liberty is at the other end of the scale and is allowed minimal contact with the other horses as he’s not super friendly. Buckharo only likes travelling facing forward and on the passenger side.

Paying attention to these nuances helps the horses arrive a bit happier, a bit more rested (particularly if they’re NOT next to Lib..!) and less likely to be injured.

After many years of travelling with many horses and using different methods, I’ve found the horses are most happy if I drive straight through to the destination without a break. They’re offered water every 4 1/2 hours when I stop to refuel. The horses find it harder to stop and settle into a new place, only to be packed up again the next morning.

I learned to drive animals from an old farmer who had spent his life driving horses and cattle. He instilled in me the importance of giving the ‘stock’ a smooth ride by carefully negotiating each turn, speeding up and slow down as gradually as possible. This makes for an easier ride.

I’m also a stickler for constantly observing my surroundings. I’m forever checking the rearview mirrors and predicating what the cars ahead of me are doing. This goes a long way avoiding accidents.

Protection

For as long as horses have been transported there have been many and varied opinions on how best to protect them physically. I’ve used every variation from wrapping to shipping boots to nothing at all.

Shipping boots are the easiest, most fool proof method of providing protection. Anyone can put the boots on safely and they definitely prevent minor injuries. The drawback is that ill fitting boots can annoy the horse and create more problems than solve.

Wrapping needs to be done with expert hands. The most nerve wracking of all is travelling without any protection. I’ll do this with young horses who are just learning as I find shipping boots tend to annoy them. I know of many high value racehorses who regularly ship, by both road and air, without any boots at all.

The most important consideration is “Am I making the horse more or less comfortable?”, for a comfortable horse will travel quieter and more safely than an uncomfortable one.

Arriving at your destination

If I’m travelling to a show where I’m stabling, I will leave the horses on the trailer until we’ve set the stalls up with bedding, hay and water. I find this the quickest and easiest way to settle the horses as once they enter their stall it’s ‘theirs’ and they can roll, jump about (Liberty), weave (Liberty), eat and drink without interference from us.

If I’m stabling at a show then I’ve typically driven a fair distance so I’ll place the horses hay and feed on the ground to encourage them to get their heads down.

If I’m travelling to a day show, the horses stay on the trailer unless they’re being tacked up and ridden. I find they’re happier and safer on the trailer.

If I’m travelling a long way, i.e. south for the winter, I try to plan my trip so I arrive at lunch time. This allows the horses to go out in a field and stretch their legs. The next day I hack them then they’re ready to go to work the following day.

If you follow my advice it’s important to remember that the horses I take long distances are quite experienced and accustomed to travelling. If your horse is inexperienced I’d be a little more conservative.

Lastly, don’t forget your travel documents!

Disclaimer: As with all of my tips, this merely my advice based on my own experiences. I’m not a mechanic and each state has its own laws on transportation — take the time to check into them. Not sure “but Kate Chadderton told me it was ok” would go over well with your local policeman…!

Training Tip from Kate Chadderton: Never Give Up

Kate Chadderton and VS McCuan Civil Liberty at Blenheim. Photo by Samantha Clark. Kate Chadderton and VS McCuan Civil Liberty at Blenheim. Photo by Samantha Clark.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. “

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

And by far the most important of all:

“NEVER, NEVER, NEVER give up.”

You may wonder why my tip of the week consists entirely of Winston Churchill quotes. There are two reasons: 1) they’ve always been a true guide in my life as I stretch from a very low rung to one (nay many) far beyond what I should be able to reach and, 2) I recently had the phenomenal fortune of competing at the birthplace of Sir Churchill himself, Blenheim Palace in Woodstock UK.

The horse I chose to take as my partner in this adventure is a West Virginian bred mongrel with a heart mixed of pure gold and pure rotten tomato. The heart jumps me out of any rough distance, the tomato spooks at a bird and tries to dump me, the rotter! As one of my owners Beth says, he’s a bar room brawler and would never say die.

After qualifying for the Rio Olympics at Bromont in June I decided we needed to test our metal where it counts, amongst the Europeans. So off we went.

Our dressage was not of the standard we were conditioned for here in the U.S (we really should take a good hard long look at ourselves there), our cross country, while ‘keen’ for the first couple of fences, was as easy as the apple pie I enjoy eating on every possible occasion.

If you allow me to digress, as a rider I was invited into the Duke of Marlborough’s palace as a guest for a cocktail party. One can’t be rude and turn down such an invite, especially if you’re from the middle of nowhere Queensland in the convict stronghold of Australia, I arrived in my best attire (a dress normally reserved for fancy dinners and a shawl which was a Christmas gift from Carla MacLeod) and a genuine love of the artwork and (obviously) complimentary cocktails.

The point of this recount is there’s a whole room devoted to the one and only Winston Churchill. What a leader, visionary and most importantly horseman he was. As a man he not only had to lead the free world through a world war, he also had to breed top class racehorses and win with them! And that he did.

As I mentioned I come from a middle of nowhere, no income, make your own destiny background. And here I find myself, in Winston Churchill’s birthplace on the official invite of the the Duke himself. And the handsome steed I’m riding cost dimes from WV having raced a couple of times at Charlestown. Hardly royalty. Which brings me back to the start of my story, in Sir Churchill’s own words.

NEVER. NEVER. NEVER give up.

Regardless of how poor your are. Or how badly you ride. Love your horse and love your craft and before you know it you’ll be in a palace too!

The additional quotes are just some free extras for you!

Aim for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land amongest the stars.

And, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER give up.

Weekly Training Tip from Kate Chadderton: Walking Cross Country

Kate Chadderton and Buckharo. Photo by Jenni Autry. Kate Chadderton and Buckharo. Photo by Jenni Autry.

You’ve done your lessons, you’ve cross country schooled, your horse is fit and now you’re at your show and have gotten that pesky dressage test out of the way — it’s time to inspect your course!

I see cross country as a series of puzzles set by the course designer for the horse and rider to figure out. For me personally I take two separate perspectives: A) my gut instinct walking up to a fence and B) logically assessing the lines to figure out distances and angles.

As the horse only gets seconds to assess each question, I use my instincts help with getting an idea of the horses initial reaction (e.g.: this log on this mound looks HUGE! Then you have to turn sharply and jump a corner? I’m going to have to be bold and quick to regain control here).

Then I use logic to come up with a plan (e.g.: Well actually the log on the mound isn’t so huge when you get up to it. If I line up the tree with the green leaves in the distance and turn after two strides I’ll be right on line for the corner).

Then when I’m then galloping up to the question on cross country day, I can communicate that information to my horse.

Bucky: “Wow, that log on the mound is huge!”
Me: “It’s not that big, but there is a corner to the left afterwards so don’t carried away with yourself here by jumping it like its a two storey house!”
Bucky: “Gotcha. Just let me know when I have to turn.”

I also consider my horses strengths and weaknesses. If he’s really quick thinking, I can turn up to fences a bit tight thereby saving some time and distance. If he’s a bit careful about getting his feet wet, I give him a little extra time to understand the question before jumping in. I’ll walk those lines prior to riding them. Civil Liberty is really good at dodging trees so sometimes I’ll take shorter routes thru the woods.

Each person is different depending on their personality. I walk my horse trials courses only once or twice, Advanced and CIC courses two or three times and 3-days I’ll walk four times. I want to know where I’m going and fully understand the questions, but I also don’t want to be out there for so long that I start to second guess myself and see a lot of different scenarios. It’s important to know where your options are too.

Making Each Cross Country School Productive

Kate Chaddeton and Buckharo. Photo by Kasey Mueller. Kate Chaddeton and Buckharo. Photo by Kasey Mueller.

As much as I love eventing, I hate cross country schooling! As brave as I am about leaving the start box at a show, I’m loathe to school. There’s something about the adrenaline that I just can’t recreate at home. But obviously it’s a necessity for an event horse and rider!

With a green horse I like to do a little often. The first time I’ll start with easy stuff (logs, etc.) then add in a couple of more difficult fences like the water and a ditch. I certainly don’t want to overwhelm him and jump EVERYTHING just because it’s there!

The first time out. a lead horse can be an advantage. I’ll let the green horse follow the more experienced one so he knows what to expect. Trotting fences is a useful method to encourage a young horses confidence and thought process.

I also try to think laterally about any problem the horse may have, for example he doesn’t want to jump down the bank? I found jumping up it s couple of times sorts out any issues he’s having. Won’t go over the ditch away from the trailer? Then jump it towards the trailer first.

Schooling is also important for the more experienced horses although I don’t take them out anywhere near as often. For them it’s more about reinforcing the basics, I’ll jump smaller versions of the big stuff they do in competition.

If they’re going around the upper levels, they clearly know how to jump big, I don’t need to put more wear and tear on the horse than necessary. I have show jumps in my cross country field and will move them to different exercises to mimic lines we find at competitions. I’ll set up a corner to corner, or corner to skinny. Another advantage of using show jumps is that I can start small then make them bigger.

I also tailor my schooling to my horses. If they’re not brave into water, I’ll go and school that, and only that, the day before a competition. Same goes for corners/skinnies/ditches etc.

When What You’re Doing Isn’t Working

Kate Chadderton and Buckharo. Photo by Jenni Autry. Kate Chadderton and Buckharo. Photo by Jenni Autry.

You’ve done your lessons, you’ve dutifully stored your skills away in the compartment in your mind specifically reserved for horse training (i.e. the most important part of your brain!), yet you’re still stuck on that left half pass. Every time you ask Blackie for more cross over he starts leg yielding — REALLY fast!

This is AFTER you did what you’ve learned: you started with some shoulder in, then you did some haunches in, then you did haunches in on the diagonal. Now what? Personally I’d consider to turning the day into a jump school instead but that’s a different story…

It’s important to remember through your training that horses, like people, have their own learning pathways and not all of them think/learn the same way. Their thought patterns can change regularly also. I find that there are two main reasons a horse will have trouble with a movement or exercise.

Lack of understanding

One of my old trainers would often repeat the same words of wisdom again and again, “Even if you are (applying the correct aids) right, if the horse doesn’t understand what you’re asking he’s never going to perform the movement. You have to live in the horse’s world of understanding, he cannot live in yours.”

This didn’t make sense to me until I rode my 232 thousandth horse, then it clicked: you have to ask the horse in a way that he can process. If we continue to use the half pass example, it makes sense to teach him shoulder in and haunches in. It also makes sense to the average rider that you can easily turn haunches in into half pass simply performing the movement on the diagonal.

But now we’re back to where Blackie is running sideways. This is where you have to get a bit intellectual and creative. In this instance, my first reaction is to slow the whole process down by doing the movement in walk. This gives him more time to process and understand where his legs are supposed to be, once he gets it move back into trot.

Alternatively if canter is an easy pace for him, school him there until he really gets it, then back to trot. If that’s still not working break it down further: leg yield 4 steps, half pass 4 steps, 10 metre circle, leg yield 4 steps, half pass 4 steps, 10 metre circle.

Like I said, be creative and give him small, easy bits to work on until he figures out exactly where his legs need to be.

Confidence

But what if Blackie used to score 10s and now he’s getting 6s? First of all, if he can score 10s on the flat and jumps, I’ll buy him sight unseen!

Typically you find a loss of form like this when a horses loses confidence. Confidence is just as important for dressage as it is for jumping. We all know that we shouldn’t over face a horse over fences, however this is just as important to consider on the flat.

I’ll use the half pass example again. Let’s say he had the cross over of Totilas and covered the diagonal in only five magnificent strides and now he’s forgotten what cross over is and it takes him 25 crab like steps to reach the end of the diagonal — I’d say he’s done something to scare himself.

Perhaps he lost balance and struck himself with an opposing foot, that may have been scary. Perhaps he was in such a high gear that he almost overbalanced, that may have been scary. Perhaps he checked himself out in the mirror and saw my shirt didn’t match his bandages, that may have been scary.

When a horse loses his confidence, the trick is to reassure him that you’ve got his back and that mistakes are ok. Then go back thru the steps you used to teach him in the first place. With careful guidance and reassurance you should have him back again in no time.

You’ll notice my example uses only the male pronoun, we all know mares don’t make any mistakes and clearly understand every movement without being taught!

Weekly Training Tip from Kate Chadderton: Daily Schooling

Kate Chadderton and Buckharo. Photo by Jenni Autry. Kate Chadderton and Buckharo. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Each day I set out with a purpose for each horse. It may be to improve their medium trot or shape over a fence — the idea is that you practice what you’re not good at. This is great in theory but unfortunately someone forgot to tell the horses that they should be improving on their rider’s schedule!

With the day’s plan in mind I get on each horse ready to put it into action. The problem is that although you’ve been up all night stewing over your flying changes, your horse has been munching hay watching Modern Family. This means that you don’t always pick up where you left off the day before.

Accordingly you need to be prepared to abandon your plan and react to what you’re riding. For example, I really wanted to work on Cole’s canter/halt transition, turns out he perfected it overnight but he no longer remembers his left half pass. What do I work on? Left half pass!

The young off the track horse isn’t picking up his left canter without bucking? Go for a hack and come back to it! Or even leave it for tomorrow. Practice what is difficult AND be prepared to change your plan.

As much as I like to think I’m bright, it has actually taken hundreds and hundreds of horses to reinforce this principal to me!

Six Keys to a Successful Relationship with Your Horse

Kate Chadderton is an Australian native who operates a competition and training business in Maryland. She recently began offering weekly tips and advice, and we're pleased that she's graciously allowed us to share them here on EN. Keep an eye out for a new tip each week from Kate!

Kate Chadderton and Buckharo. Photo by Jenni Autry. Kate Chadderton and Buckharo. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Before you get too excited and think I’m about to share my eHarmony dating experiences with you, I should explain I’m referring specifically to the union of horse and rider!

There are many factors which, when combined, lead to success in our sport, but I would probably put one’s relationship in the top three, along with soundness and training.

Everyone is familiar with the wonderful stories you hear each year of someone riding their Pony Club horse around Rolex or some other four-star. We’ve all seen International Velvet and Sylvester.

How is it that these seemingly normal horse/rider combinations achieve extraordinary things? Because they believe in each other. As in every successful relationship, both parties play their own roles. I like to relate things in human terms:

1. They communicate. Sometimes that means your boyfriend/girlfriend tells you that you’re a genius; other times they tell you you’ve made a mistake. Either way, there’s honesty. You and your horse must be certain that you’re honest with each other — don’t tell him it’s a vertical if it’s really the widest oxer you’ve seen in your life.

2. They try for each other. Your boyfriend/girlfriend will go to lengths to help you achieve your goal, whether that means stopping at Safeway on the way home to pick up the pasta you forgot when you’re making your favourite recipe, or driving 200 kilometers to pick up the dress you have to have for your friend’s wedding. I like to relate this to your horse finding a fifth leg when you miss at the biggest oxer on course.

3. You know each other’s likes and dislikes. You know he/she likes blue. He/she knows you don’t like cilantro in your fish tacos. Your horse likes peppermints? Buy him some. He likes being scratched behind his ears? Scratch him behind his ears. You want him to do half pass? He should do half pass.

4. You’re athletically attuned. You stay fit for each other so you can enjoy the same physical activities. This one may sound a bit weird, but I’m a firm believer in making an effort, any effort, to keep yourself in a position where you reactions and balance can compliment the horse. Remember, it is a sport! This doesn’t mean you have to be a jockey; just that you strive to be a little better.

5. People in successful relationships share the same goal. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. He/she wants to win the lottery to buy a house; you prefer saving instead. But the point is you both want a house. Likewise, I want to jump calmly and carefully through today’s show jump course, Civil Liberty wants to leap and buck his way, carefully, through. We both share the desire to clear the fences; we just have a different method!

6. Genuine affection. Your boyfriend/girlfriend will hold your hand walking down the street, and you’ll tell him/her that they’re the best looking person in the room. I always think that if you smile when you see your horse, you’re on the right track.

As with any relationship, I do have ups and downs with my horses. Sometimes we disagree (no, Cole, you can’t jump eight days in a row), and sometimes we REALLY disagree (NO BUCKY, I already told Cole you can’t jump eight days in a row!), but because we check all the boxes above, they keep coming back to work for me every day.

A strong relationship can conquer or achieve almost anything, and I think the proof is in the pudding: The three Advanced horses I ride are just OTTBs, and small ones at that, but we just happen to really like each other and agree on enough topics, so it works!

Weekly Training Tip from Kate Chadderton: Scheduling Shows

Kate Chadderton is an Australian native who operates a competition and training business in Maryland. She recently began offering weekly tips and advice, and we're pleased that she's graciously allowed us to share them here on EN. Keep an eye out for a new tip each week from Kate!

Kate Chadderton and Buckharo. Photo by Jenni Autry. Kate Chadderton and Buckharo. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Each person has a different time frame to work with when planning their show schedule. For me, the upper level horses start competing at the beginning of February in Georgia and continue on their way to spring three-days.

However, most people have work and family schedules to work around, in which case I recommend a different approach. Making two big goals each year is a great way to go.

Whether it’s the American Eventing Championships, a three-day, or a move up to the next level, it gives you a point to work back from. In my area (Maryland) a popular goal is to use the double weekend of events at The Maryland Horse Trials (MDHT) at Loch Moy to move up a level. It’s an event most horses and riders are familiar with, which helps generate confidence.

Typically a combination would compete at the Novice level at MDHT 1 and then make the move to Training at MDHT 2. For this particular goal, I would decide how many more Novice events a rider and horse needs, then work backwards and figure out the calendar to get them to the point where they can achieve their goal.

A similar process applies to the AECs. First, the combination has to qualify, so I would plan a fair way in advance to qualify then select a couple of testing events (the AECs are championship level, i.e. hard!) to make sure the horse was capable. Then I would use the event preceding the AECs to give the horse an easy, confidence building run.

If a horse has a weaker area in dressage or show jumping then they’ll go to specific dressage and show jumping competitions to nail that area down.

I try not to do more than two eventing competitions in a month and really try to avoid going back to back on upper level horses. This allows them to have a mental and physical break. I will show jump (for example, at HITS) on a Thursday and event on the weekend as it’s not too strenuous.

Weekly Training Tip from Kate Chadderton: Conditioning

Kate Chadderton is an Australian native who operates a competition and training business in Maryland. She recently began offering weekly tips and advice, and we're pleased that she's graciously allowed us to share them here on EN. Keep an eye out for a new tip each week from Kate!

Kate Chadderton and Buckharo. Photo by Jenni Autry. Kate Chadderton and Buckharo. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Aside from nutrition and shoeing, fitness is the most important part of a performance horses program. I rate it above training. For a horse to answer the questions you ask him on the flat and jumping either at a show or home, he must be physically able to respond.

For example, if you’re asking your horse to gallop around a 6 minute course on the weekend, it’s not fair to him, physically or mentally, if you have only flatted him once that week and he’s stood in the paddock the other 5 days.

Equally, if you’re asking him to perform a high degree of collection for half pass or flying changes, it’s only fair if you have prepared and strengthened his muscles over time. Which brings me to:

Types of Fitness

Obviously the event horse has to use his body in a multitude of ways — sometimes fast, sometimes slow. I like to incorporate several different methods of work.

Firstly I find trot sets, whilst boring (hello working students!), are great for building long slow endurance. My horses typically do it out in a hilly field and on the bit.

For my gallops I use a mixture of hills and flat ground, alternating fairly evenly between them. The hills are awesome for building amazing amounts of strength and the incline really gets their heart rate up.

I use a flat surface to encourage them to gallop on a longer stride, if they’re comfortable opening up and understand how to use their stride length for speed, we can save time without going quicker between the fences.

Footing

Your footing is of utmost importance. As I don’t have an indoor, perfectly manicured hill (yes they exist!), my galloping is done outside and at the mercy of Mother Nature, which means I’m obsessed with the weather!

I have a gallop schedule for my horses but will readily deviate from it to get better footing. For example, if the ground is hard today and it’s going to rain tonight, I’ll switch my gallop to the following morning. Same goes if it’s too wet and 12 hours of drying improves the ground.

Another technique I love using is walking the horses on hard surfaces to strengthen their legs. I’m lucky enough to have about a mile of pavement on my farm so it’s easy for each horse to do that three times a week.

Typically they go with myself or a working student after I finish schooling them. This doubles as a relaxing hack which the horses enjoy. I’ve found this really helps keep their legs tight and strong; it’s an old technique I stole from the English foxhunters!

Obviously I’m talking about event horses, but dressage horses, jumpers and almost every other equine athlete,  improve their performance thru fitness. Of course you’re not going to gallop your fancy dressage or jumping horse, but trot sets and walking on hard surfaces can be a good additional to aid in soundness.

Weekly Training Tip from Kate Chadderton: Warm-Ups

Kate Chadderton is an Australian native who operates a competition and training business in Maryland. She recently began offering weekly tips and advice, and we're pleased that she's graciously allowed us to share them here on EN. Keep an eye out for a new tip each week from Kate!

Kate Chadderton and Buckharo. Photo by Jenni Autry. Kate Chadderton and Buckharo. Photo by Jenni Autry.

After weeks (years!) of training and lessons, your performance at a show largely comes down to your warm-up. My warm-ups vary from horse to horse and between the phases. For the dressage phase I start with some slow stretching in walk, trot and canter. Once my horse is relaxed I bring his/her frame up and start to work on the movements. 

Typically I’ll go straight into the ones I know will be more difficult for the horse, eg. shoulder in, half pass. Once I’m comfortable I have the horse on my aids I will finish with the easier movements which are more fun right before we go in the ring. I want my horses to be happy and confident as they head down the centreline.

For example, (VS McCuan Civil Liberty) LOVES medium and extended trot. And he’s really good at it! So I’ll finish my warmup with a couple of really big ones and I swear he feels like the biggest and greatest horse in the warmup! That’s the feeling I try to take into the ring. For the younger horses it’s the same concept but I might use canter as it’s an easy and soothing gait for a baby.

In the jumping phases I use a similar approach. It’s so important to me that each horse wants to do and enjoys his job. Of course there are particular fences that are more difficult for the individual than others, so I like to prepare them for that.

After jumping a couple of warmup fences to get them going I then start to get specific. For example, (Buckharo) doesn’t always pick up on angles right away, so I’ll jump 6 or 8 fences on an acute angle to get his eye in. Generally it’ll be three times off each rein, but sometimes a warm-up will be fenced so I can only do one way. Then I always finish by jumping something big and easy from a gallop, again so they head to the start box feeling awesome!