Kate Samuels
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Kate Samuels

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About Kate Samuels

Kate Samuels is an avid 3-Day Eventer who currently competes at the Advanced/3* level with her wonderful Selle Francais gelding, Nyls du Terroir. A rider since the tender age of three, she is a young professional in the sport learning as much as she can from various mentors, both equine and human. Kate has worked for Eventing Nation since 2011, and has enjoyed every minute of it. She brings a lifetime of experience with horses as well as a wealth of knowledge gained through competing at the top levels of the sport. When not riding through the boiling hot, freezing cold, rain or snow, Kate enjoys baking pies, photography, and finding ridiculous videos on the internet.

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area Area II
Highest Level Competed Advanced/CIC3*

Latest Articles Written

Thursday News & Notes from SmartPak

Leo is  suspicious of the pigs!

Leo is suspicious of the pigs! (But also very cute when spooking…)

I may not have moved south for the winter, but I’m braving out the cold temps and delaying the start to my competition season by a few weeks this year by staying in Virginia. However, I did change locations, and now I’m at a facility that is better equipped to handle the cold and the frozen ground, which is awesome. My new barn has some very porky neighbors, as the pig barn and turnout is directly next door! Leo and Nyls are very suspicious of the pigs, and spend a lot of time every day staring at them with wide eyes. The pigs, of course, simply lie dead still and soak up the sun with minimal physical effort involved, and are supremely unconcerned with everything. The horses think it is “pig TV” though!

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Poplar Place Farm February H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

Sporting Days Farm I H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

Galway Downs Winter H.T. [Website] [Entry Status/Times]

News From Around The Globe:

I think we’d all like to know what the Klimke approach to dressage is, and in this new article, Ingrid explains how she trains both herself and her horses, as taught to her by her father. Ingrid Klimke is a double Olympic eventing champion and a successful international Young Horse and Grand Prix dressage competitor. Her father is the late Dr. Reiner Klimke, who was an Olympic dressage champion with six gold and two bronze medals. The nature of the training system is simple and effective. [Klimke Approach to Dressage]

Everyone loves a great rehab story. Whether it brings us to tears or makes us even more grateful for our equine friends, rehab stories are some of the most inspiring stories to tell. For that reason, we’d love to hear yours! Send us your rehab story for your chance to win an awesome prize pack from OCD as well as see your story told right here on EN! [Win with OCD]

Ready for some blizzard action? While you might have been left high and dry by the recent predictions of snowmageddon,  it’s still a good idea to have a plan for your horse barn when the weather really hits hard. Mostly, you need to think of electricity and water, because a barn full of horses that can’t access water is a recipe for disaster. For good ideas on how to make sure you don’t get stranded without food or water, check out The Horse’s ideas on winter preparedness. [Winter Weather Advisory]

Interested in learning from one of the brightest up-and-comers in the sport? Hannah Sue Burnett is looking for a working student. Let her know if you’re interested! [Contact Hannah Sue]

Best of Blogs: Top Ten Things I Learned in Texas, by Aly Ratazzi

 

A real throwback thursday video….

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Product Review: Omega Alpha Supplements

Omega Alpha natural supplements. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Omega Alpha natural supplements. Photo by Kate Samuels.

You are certainly acquainted with the company Omega Alpha, as you probably see their banner flying high at events every weekend. Top level riders like Hannah Sue Burnett, Jessica Phoenix, Lauren Kieffer and many more are devoted to their product line, and for good reason. I was lucky enough to get my hands on seven of their products and give them a trial with my own horses.

Before we get into each individual product, it’s worth learning about the ideas behind the company, and what sets Omega Alpha apart from other supplement providers. It was created more than 20 years ago by Dr. Gordon Chang, who is a biomedical engineer, a physiologist and a pharmacologist. With his guidance, Omega Alpha has become a unique company that offers products to improve horse’s health through a strong foundation in science combined with botanical ingredients.

Most of the Omega Alpha supplements are purely herbal, and the company has strict quality control standards and practices when it comes to their herbs. All of the herbs supplied to Omega Alpha are in a whole and uncut form so that the verification of medicinal herbs can be performed. This process ensures that there are no adulterations or substitutions for the ingredients.

When it comes to our competition horses, we all know that we have supplements that we swear by and can’t live without. No matter the level at which you compete, eventing horses have a tough job both physically and mentally, and it’s important that we support them through nutrition and supplements to ensure that they can give us all that they have.

The policy of Omega Alpha is to begin with making the gut and digestive tract of the horse healthy and then proceed from that point. This makes a lot of sense to me, as you really can’t have much success without a horse that is internally healthy, processing all his food correctly and feeling settled in his gut. I was able to try three of these products: Biotic 8, Gastra-FX and Gastra-FX Ultra.

While my two big guys are thankfully without stomach problems, I do have several rescues and OTTBs in work who have various problems with their gut flora, due mostly to their unsympathetic pasts. Biotic 8 is one of the most all-inclusive supplements for a healthy, fully functioning stomach that you can find. It is the best-selling product that Omega Alpha offers, and for good reason!

Biotic 8 is an eight-strain probiotic with a carrier system that helps healthy bacteria survive in the stomach acid. It also offers three digestive enzymes to assist in better digestion and absorption of all the food that your horse eats. On Biotic 8, horses tend to just blossom, and you can see it in their coats as well as their attitudes, as they go from cranky to happy and willing.

Gastra-FX and Gastra-FX Ultra are more aimed at the type of horse that tends to get ulcers or stress related stomach acidity. They are used as a maintenance supplement towards overall gastric health, but also for a little extra oomph at shows. The Ultra is in a tube for your convenience at competitions. The best part of these three stomach supplements is that they are extremely palatable. This is important because horses that already have stomach issues are regularly picky eaters, and it can be difficult to get them to consume extra supplements in their feed.

Omega Alpha natural supplements. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Omega Alpha natural supplements. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Eventing is really demanding on the muscles, ligaments and joints of our horses, which is why we are all gurus in supplements that help support those systems. I got to try Sinew-X, which is unique in that it has a dedicated D-form of glucosamine sulfate, as well as three anti-inflammatory herbs to help with recovery and comfort for horses during times of physical stress.

Glucosamine sulfate is a chemical compound found in the fluid around joints and has been proven to work as well as some pain medications in reducing joint pain and inflammation. When we ask our horses to do intense dressage work, gallop and jump on varied terrain, and then collect and jump show jumps, we invariably need something to help them keep their joints and soft tissue healthy throughout their careers.

Another common supplement that we eventers are fond of are tubes of calm! It’s notably difficult to get a fit cross country horse to decide to concentrate on the tiny white arena, and as many of our eventing horses are full Thoroughbred, we are all familiar with the horse that gets a little too much show anxiety.

Chill Ultra is Omega Alpha’s solution to that, along with their daily supplement, Chill. These two products can be used together, or you can just take the tube to shows, as it’s much easier to pack and transport. They contain herbs that are well known for reducing stress, anxiety and even depression. I used a Chill Ultra tube on a young horse for her first public outing, knowing that she tended to get hot, and while she did show signs of unrest, I was pleased to see that she never lost her mental capacities fully.

One supplement that I think is particularly interesting to eventers is the Equisel-BCAA. This comes in tube form and is intended to be used after strenuous exercise like cross country to replenish minerals and electrolytes lost in sweat. It also contains branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) which are critical in reducing protein and muscle breakdown during exercise. The best way to use this tube is 10 minutes to one hour after exercise while the horse’s body is in the cooling phase.

And, finally, I also tried the Omega Alpha brand of liniment, Tetda. We all use liniment at some point or another, either for your horse’s legs after a hard workout or for a full body massage and bath to get them feeling extra good the next day. Many eventers have gone away from the old habit of using poultice after cross country and are now relying fully on liniment to keep their horses fresh for the final day of competition. Tetda has a complete collection of various herbs designed specifically to help with muscle recovery and relief from stiffness, and is also great to use for packing hooves to help with sore feet.

We are all invested in offering our horses the best of the best, and Omega Alpha is unique in their scientific yet botanical approach to supplements towards equine health. They also offer monthly seminars towards continued education on topics related to the well-being of your best friend and sporting partner. Click here to learn more about Omega Alpha’s full line of supplements.

Friday News & Notes from FLAIR Nasal Strips

Can't get enough of this dopey horse!

Can’t get enough of this dopey horse!

This time last year, Charlottesville was covered in snow for weeks already. Mercifully, this winter seems to be going much better, with reasonable temperatures and mostly unfrozen ground! I remember last year when I returned to Virginia to prepare for the Carolina International CIC3* (at the end of March) and it snowed so much in the week leading up to it that I was relegated to trotting Nyls on a section of dirt road about 50 feet long that didn’t have ice. Up, down, up, down, up, down. Yesterday, Leo was napping in the sun without a blanket! He was asleep when I went to take his blanket off, and when I attempted to pull it out from under him, he groaned, refused to move, and decided to make funny faces at me. I mean, really. What is his life?!

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Rocking Horse Winter I H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times]

Full Gallop Farm January H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

Fresno County Horse Park C.T. [Website] [Entry Status/Times]

News From Around The Globe:

Congratulations to Cayleigh Winkelhake, the winner of this week’s Fab Freebie from Bette & Court! Cayleigh will receive a Bette & Court Devona jacket, which we know she is going to love. Congratulations, Cayleigh! [Fab Freebie: Bette & Court]

U.S. dressage rider Adrienne Lyle has announced the retirement of her longtime partner, Wizard. As well as being the 2008 Brentina Cup champions, the pair represented the U.S. at the 2012 London Olympic Games and the 2014 Normandy World Equestrian Games. Wizard is 16, and unfortunately he recently came in from turnout with a suspensory strain, and rather than push him for rehab, his owners and Adrienne made the decision to retire him happily after a successful career. [Wizard Retires]

The USEA’s “Evaluation of the Young Event Horse Prospect” Symposium is FREE for USEA members. Taking place in Ocala, Florida February 16-18, this educational event is ideal for anyone interested in breeding, handling, buying, riding and evaluating young event horses. A full schedule will be available the week before the seminar to those who pre-register. [Schedule of Topics] [Panelists] [Sign Up]

In quite possibly the most hilarious clinic report I’ve ever read, Wendy Angel reports from a recent Doug Payne clinic. She introduces her “12-year-old Percheron/TB cross with the TB hiding, he’s always on the forehand, I’m a weenie, we need more from behind, OH AND SOMETIMES HE DOESN’T TURN.” Ollie, as he is fondly known, has some naughty habits that Doug helped her with, and Wendy has the best sense of humor about it all. [In Which Doug Payne Kicks Ollie’s Ass]

I’m not sure I’m brave enough to go hunting in Ireland, but I’d love to go hunting in England. One day! Recently, Pytchley Hunt did something awesome: they had a “grey horses only” day! 72 horses were in attendance, all different shades of grey, and all immaculately turned out! I would have loved to see that. I also wonder if the town ran out of purple shampoo that week….Horse & Hound was there to take pictures. [Greys Only Hunt]

Custom leather bracelets have got to be the most classic horse girl accessory. What I didn’t realize is that you can now get them padded with different colors underneath, to match your cross country colors! I remember being super jealous of the girls that had them when I was younger, and it’s no different now. They are classy, awesome, and you can wear them everywhere. [SmartPak Padded Leather Bracelets]

Hot On Horse Nation: Horse Trader Tricks: Don’t Fall Victim

Check out these horses from Storybrook Horse Farm having a blast galloping after the hay truck in their giant beautiful field:

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Thursday News & Notes from SmartPak

#modelstatus

#modelstatus

I finally, finally got a few free hours and some good afternoon sunlight to do some photo shoots for some awesome products to review this week! Nyls got to be my horsey model, and as you can see, he loved the job. He’s really very good at striking a pose in a faraway gaze and keeping it for an irregular amount of time. I’ve never had a horse that knows he’s being photographed and pricks his ears and stands stock still before, but then again, this is Nyls we are talking about. He knows the party is always his party, and he’s really just shocked you are taking pictures of anything BUT him!

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Rocking Horse Winter I H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times]

Full Gallop Farm January H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

Fresno County Horse Park C.T. [Website] [Entry Status/Times]

News From Around The Globe:

The USEA’s “Evaluation of the Young Event Horse Prospect” Symposium is FREE for USEA members. Taking place in Ocala, Florida February 16-18, this educational event is ideal for anyone interested in breeding, handling, buying, riding and evaluating young event horses. A full schedule will be available the week before the seminar to those who pre-register. [Schedule of Topics] [Panelists] [Sign Up]

Dressage on an OTTB can be challenging sometimes, because of their original education as a racehorse. Steuart Pittman, master of all things recycled racehorse, has written this incredibly insightful article on exercises to help your thoroughbred understand the complex art of dressage. I recommend it for all thoroughbred riders, and just about anybody working with a green horse on the flat at all. We should all know how to do “jockey dressage”! [Dressage Exercises for the Thoroughbred]

Are you selling your horse and thinking of asking for first right of refusal with the sale? This is a common practice with horses, because we become so emotionally attached to them, but it’s also a tricky ground. More often than not, you hear of people finding out too late that the horse has been sold without their knowledge to a third party. What can you do legally when this happens? How can you ensure that your contract will be honored? [First Right of Refusal: What You Need To Know]

What about this horse in California that fell in a ten-foot sinkhole? Somehow, this chestnut escaped without being hurt at all! Firefighters spent three hours extracting him from a hole that appeared without notice. [Horse Rescued]

Best of Blogs: Loss of Confidence…In Yourself Or Your Horse

 

This kid: her saddle slips almost all the way off the side of the pony and she KEEPS GOING!

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How Good Are You At The Limbo?

Dropping into the water at Millbrook. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Dropping into the water at Millbrook. Photo by Jenni Autry.

As a young rider, I was informed that no rider was ever born with the natural ability to use more leg and seat than hand, and that my instinct to revert to controlling my horse through my reins was not, in fact, unique. This was equal parts comforting and revealing about my educational status. While my position wasn’t remarkable, it was now my duty to work hard for the rest of my life to deny that instinct, and learn to influence my horse mostly through seat and leg aids.

As humans, we spend our entire lives obsessed with our hands, because, after all, that is how we control our environment. We drive our cars with our hands, bring food to our mouths with hands, type on computers with our hands, use our phones with our hands, pick things up and carry them around with our hands. By contrast, in modern society our legs have become less of a tool, and more of an occasional form of transport from the car to the store.

The reason why top level riders can get on a horse and work “magic” to create a result that you could only dream of is because they have a very fine tuned ability to use their seat, their weight, and pressure from different parts of their leg to achieve any number of things from a horse. Yes, they have well timed rein aids as well, but that is not half of the equation.

As German Eventing Team Trainer Christopher Bartle continues to lend his wisdom to the west coast at their ICP Symposium, I find myself watching the videos and reading the quotes from his lessons. “The leg creates the energy and the seat determines the length of stride” said Chris Bartle. “Keep the tempo throughout the turn or you will have time penalties. Tuck your seat under you. Keep the rhythm and don’t pick at your horse.”

Nyls at Plantation CIC3*. Photo by Jenni Autry

Nyls at Plantation CIC3*. Photo by Jenni Autry

“The seat determines the length of stride.” Length of stride is so important! It is in every one of our phases. It determines how you collect, how you extend, how you get the distance to the fence coming out of the corner, and how you put in another quick one before that corner on cross country. Without the seat controlling the stride, you’d certainly have a lot of problems in a lot of places.

Learning to use your seat from the beginning can be quite hard, because a large collection of muscles help hold you steady in the saddle, and it has nothing to do with gripping your way through it. To have an effective seat, you should just feel nestled right in there, and not feel tension through your legs or arms to jam yourself against your horse’s back.

My favorite way to break it down is to ask my students, “How good are you at the limbo?” This usually garners me a few incredulous stares, and most people can’t remember the last time they did the limbo. However, opening your hip angle on the down stride of a canter is an awful lot like preparing to walk towards a limbo pole. Your flexible hips are what keep your booty firmly attached to the saddle, and the ability to limbo might just be what you’re missing.

When your hip opens and closes a few degrees during the canter, it keeps your body perpendicular to the ground (in proper upper body position for dressage), and your arms and legs must remain independent. In the same way that most riders are born using too much hand, most riders are born riding with a more closed hip angle than an open one. But, one must be able to access both of these hip positions in order to excel in eventing.

When your horse doesn’t respond to seat aids, you simply have to pair new seat aids with old aids from the reins and legs, until a point when the horse associates them all together. At that point, you slowly decrease the old aids, and rely more on your seat. Making a horse that works off of subtle aids might not be easy, but it’s a lot more pleasant than physically fighting with your horse with blunt aids for the rest of your life. So, how good are you at the limbo?

Make Me A Match! Submit Your Mare For Four-Star Breeding Analysis

Sharon White and Rafferty's Rules, owned in part by Wits End Eventing. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Sharon White and Rafferty’s Rules, owned in part by Wits End Eventing. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The movement towards developing and supporting U.S. event horse breeding programs is really beginning to take a strong hold in our community, and we hope that 2015 will bring even more enthusiasm to the subject. As part of our efforts to shine a spotlight on American event horse breeding programs, we’ve collaborated with Wits End Eventing to bring you a really exciting opportunity for education and insight into one of the most intriguing systems for creating four-star horses.

In December, we brought you an inside look into the Wits End Eventing breeding process, and their approach is certainly unique. In short, their aim is to produce horses only for the highest level of competition in eventing, aiming for three- and four-star success. They’ve come up with a scientific technique, developing two databases to assist in precisely selecting matches between mares and stallions that will produce the best chance of a four-star horse.

Run by Adrienne Classen and her husband Dale Hinman, the passion for horses comes from her side, and the passion for statistics from his. “I decided to compile a database of all the successful horses in all the four-star competitions since 2006, and another database with all the pedigrees of all the horses that have competed at the four-star level since that year,” Dale said. 

For every horse that has competed at the four-star level since 2006, Dale has their height, their sex, their percentage Thoroughbred blood, their scores in each respective phase, and pretty much every other category you can think of right at his fingertips. “You can run a graph on this database to see how height relates to performance at the four-star level,” Dale said. “We use this to statistically determine the characteristics we are looking to reproduce in our breeding program”.

2002 Wits End Eventing bred filly, Stiletto (Soprano  x Mascara by Dark Hyacinth). Photo by Kristin Carpenter.

2002 Wits End Eventing bred filly, Stiletto (Soprano x Mascara by Dark Hyacinth). Photo by Kristin Carpenter.

Thanks to the generosity of Adrienne and Dale, Eventing Nation is delighted to introduce “Make Me A Match!” Just in time for Valentine’s Day! If you are considering breeding a mare of your own and hoping to get a top level eventing partner out of it, here is your chance to access Dale’s magical database!

Submit your mare for bloodline analysis and a thorough breakdown of how to select the best stallion to produce the most superior baby eventing superstar. Not only will Adrienne and Dale explain how to understand your mare’s bloodlines, they will offer an educational look at the breeding process, too.

As part of a new winter series, the information Adrienne and Dale produce for each mare will be published right here on EN. This provides a deeper look inside a top U.S. program, plus a little free matchmaking!

If you would like to submit your mare for consideration, please email the following to kate@eventingnation.com:

  1.  Registered Name: This provides access to competition records and necessary information for performance history. For purposes of breeding a performance horse, it is preferable that the mare competed successfully in one sport or another. However, OTTBs are welcome too!
  2. Brief History of Performance: It will help to know from you the aspects of your mare that you love and want to reproduce and preserve, as well as the characteristics or flaws that are less desirable. A short paragraph is great.
  3. Picture(s): Conformation pictures are wonderful, as they give an idea of your mare’s construction. Action shots are awesome too!
  4. Bloodline Info: As Wits End Eventing uses line breeding for their analysis, information on your mare’s breeding is necessary, even if it is only her sire and dam.

Friday News & Notes from FLAIR Nasal Strips

Dr. Susan Johns is in California and took some time to talk about anatomy, USEF and FEI rules and post cross country care with the Developing Riders. Photo courtesy of USEF High Performance FB.

Dr. Susan Johns is in California and took some time to talk about anatomy, USEF and FEI rules and post cross country care with the Developing Riders. Photo courtesy of USEF High Performance FB.

For my thoroughly non-horsey adventure of the week, last night I was baking some baguettes (as one does, because I found out that making your own bread is actually the best thing ever) and disaster struck. When you bake baguettes, you put a glass pan in the bottom of the oven, preheat it a little, and then before you put the dough in, you put a cup of water in the warm glass. This time, for whatever reason, the glass completely exploded INSIDE my oven. Let’s just say that vacuuming my oven of glass shards was not how I imagined cleaning my oven would go … but nobody was hurt and the baguettes turned out delicious after that!

U.S. Event Preview

Poplar Place January H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

News From Around The Globe:

Congratulations to Kimi Fleming, this week’s Fab Freebie winner! Kimi will receive a pair of Kerrits breeches to enjoy, lucky girl! [Fab Freebie: Kerrits]

Eventing is coming to Wellington, to the tune of a $50,000 showcase event! The organizers of the well known Winter Equestrian Festival and the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, Equestrian Sport Productions, are responsible for bringing Eventing to Wellington this year. The event is special invitational only, with members of the high performance squads of Canada and the U.S. competing. I’m certain that the prize money alone will turn out some of our best for an early performance. [$50,000 Wellington Invitational]

Eventing legend Richard Meade has been honored for his contribution to the British breeding industry. He was recognized with the SEIB Meritoire, which is an award specifically for a lifetime of achievements within the breeding world. A member of the British team for 21 years, Richard was instrumental in linking the high level competitors with the breeding community. [Richard Meade Honored with Award]

Looking for a great way to support local eventing and the Wounded Warrior Project? Sol Events, which runs Corona Del Sol HT in Texas, is raising money to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project as well as promoting the expansion of Eventing throughout the north Texas community. [Horse Trials For A Cause]

If you are a current veterinary or equine program student, you could win UltrOz’s second annual $1,000 essay contest. The question is: As an equine professional, how do you advise your clients on the use of the variety of therapies currently available for treating, maintaining and even improving chronic injuries? You should write around 1,500 words, and have your essay ready for submission by Jan. 30. [Enter UltrOz Essay Contest]

Do their stripes keep the Zebras cool in the heat? Scientists have found that zebras in warmer climates tend to have more stripes than zebras that live in cooler climates. Bolder striping helps them regulate their body temperature, which is pretty darn cool. [Zebra Stripes Affect Temperature]

For your new show season, wouldn’t you like a fancy customized wood grooming tote? I sure would! This would be really nice to take to the event and park in front of your stall with your clean brushes. A solid pine box with a walnut stain makes this super pretty looking, and I would totally rock one. Nyls would like it with his name on it, so nobody else can steal his soft brushes. [SmartPak Product of the Day]

Buzzfeed is making equestrian listicles now: 21 Things Only True Equestrians Understand

Twenty-two pets that have amazing cone of shame decorations? Yes Please. 

Flashback Friday…Badminton 1993!

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Thursday News & Notes from SmartPak

Jennie Brannigan riding OTTB Whitfield in the Ocala HT last week. Photo by Joanne Morse.

Jennie Brannigan riding OTTB Whitfield in the Ocala HT last week. Photo by Joanne Morse.

As I’m not going south this year, I’m resorting to more creative ways of getting my horses ready for their March debuts in competition. Nyls is doing all the horrible dressage that I can humanely force him to do, and that involves many many raised cavaletti exercises to try and convince him that suspension is a thing, and that he can have it in the trot. Leo is going fox hunting in order to help his fitness and strength. Or, at least, he was going hunting until Tuesday when he developed a very pathetic Zoolander cough, and thought that he might collapse and die. As he’s not exactly the tough-it-out type, he’s getting a little break and some meds to clear it up, so no hunting for a little while. Giant baby!

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Poplar Place January H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

News From Around The Globe:

JFK has plans for a new animal intake structure, and they’re calling it “The Ark”. No longer will your horses have to stand out on the tarmac while waiting for their flights, but soon they will have access to an “overnight pet resort” and a “large animal departure lounge with climate controlled stalls”. Slated to open next year, this will be the world’s only privately owned animal handling cargo terminal. [JFK Builds The Ark]

Good lord this is some good common sense myth busting about equine nutrition! If you’ve ever heard someone tell you that grain is the main foundation of nutrition for your horse or that a bran mash will warm him up, please read this article. There are too many myths about how a horse is best fed, and not enough education. First up: feed more forage! [7 Myths About Equine Nutrition]

As a follow-up, lets talk about the ever increasing amount of horses with gastric ulcers. Horses were designed to roam and constantly put little bits of food in their stomachs, and now we regulate what they eat all the time, sometimes leaving them for hours without anything to consume. Especially in the winter when your horse doesn’t have access to grass, don’t skimp on the hay! This makes stomach acids go crazy, and can contribute to winter ulcers. [Nutrition Related Problems: Gastric Ulcers]

Winter management problems abounding! Is it bad for your horse to stand out in the mud all the time, or worse for them to be cooped up in a stall? Dr. Nancy Loving weighs in on the pros and cons of each choice. [Podcast]

Best of Blogs: So God Made A Lesson Horse

Because why not relive glory moments of Rolex 2014?

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The Winter Woes and How To Vanquish Them

Lainey and Al are ready to take on the frigid temps! Photo courtesy of Lainey's IG. Lainey and Al are ready to take on the frigid temps! Photo courtesy of Lainey's IG.

I always think that January and February are by far the hardest months to survive for us horse riders, both mentally and physically. The rush of the end-of-season competitions and the holidays and time spent with family get us through November and December with surprising speed, and before you know it, the new year is upon you.

For those of us who don’t live in artic climates (Vermonters, you know what you signed up for!), the weather takes a certain turn in January from tolerable to downright rude. There’s the regular winter cold, and then there’s holy-crap-I’m-wearing-so-many-layers-I-feel-like-the-Michelin-man cold, and the latter usually shows up right after New Year’s.

Not only that, but unless you’re lucky enough to migrate south, it can be pretty hard to a) not be consumed by jealousy of T-shirt pictures on Facebook or b) keep your mental motivation to persevere with your seemingly monotonous and competition-less schedule.

Well, dear readers, I’m not going south this year either, and so I’ve come up with some essential survival skills for the next two months until I can see competition daylight at the end of the tunnel.

Make Your Own Motivation

The worst part of the winter doldrums is coming up with the motivation to go ride around in miserable weather pursuing some sort of post-holiday fitness and competency for both you and your horse. Unless you have some pretty big and obvious obstacles to work on, it can get pretty monotonous.

A great way to motivate yourself is to get a pen and paper and plan out your goals for each month. If you’e competing, write down the events you want to aim for and what level you’re doing. If you’re working toward competing, write down accomplishment goals pertaining to your weaknesses or troubles. Find some early schooling shows or even a clinic to help you set concrete dates.

By March 1, I want to be able to canter courses at Training height on Leo consistently, without feeling like I might rocket into space by overjumping an oxer. How do I get there? This leads me to my next point …

Break It Into Bite-Size Pieces

If all you do is plan for something nebulous in three months, its hard to get there without feeling like time is going really slow and then suddenly really fast. Work backward from a goal several months in advance and break it into week by week achievable feats.

Sometimes, I find it useful to do fitness goals for my horses like you would a rehab case: by the numbers. This week, I want to do two days of 10-minute trot sets followed by one 5-minute canter. Next week, I add two minutes to the trot, one to the canter. Bring a stopwatch on your rides; log your minutes on a calendar.

If you want to improve one thing in particular, don’t say, “I’m going to do this one thing until I either die or master it!” This will result in your insanity and probably make your horse hate you. Be reasonable! Allow for hack days and free choice days while incorporating your goals.

Invest In Lightweight Yet Effective Outdoor Outfits

Yes, only Lainey can pull off the face mask and still look good, but we can all aspire to be so fashionable! I have a very particular layering technique in the winter that allows me to go all day without experiencing discomfort or cold, no matter how the temps fluctuate. Chief among this technique is: Under Armour (AKA winter’s enemy). This stuff is my savior, and I would live in it year round because of the stretchy comfort factor. P.S. Lainey, where did you get that face mask? I want one so bad right now.

Work On Your Own Fitness

As much as we think about our horses’ strength, fitness, diet and daily regime, we probably neglect our own. Horse people are notorious for obsessing over the smallest cut on our equine partner’s leg, but walking around with an undiagnosed fractured ankle held together by vet wrap and popsicle sticks. This theme does not go astray when it comes to our fitness.

Riding a million horses doesn’t make you as fit or strong or healthy as you’d imagine. That’s why most upper-level riders combine their equine efforts with cross training of some sort. You don’t have to go all Michael Pollard with it (sorry, Team Pollard!) and do CrossFit four days a week and run monthly marathons, but you can add a little something in there. Use those extra dark hours of winter doldrums to hit the gym or do some yoga in your bedroom!

Bake A Cake

Don’t let Floridian jealousy get the better of you! Instead, think of your riding as baking a cake. You know what you want in the end, but the way to get there is to single-mindedly focus on the ingredients and the process. Find a recipe from a trusted friend. Combine the ingredients together in the correct order (aways cream the butter and sugar and add eggs one at a time). Bake at the right temperature for the right amount of time. At the end, even if isn’t perfect, it’s still cake!

OK, metaphor over. But seriously, appreciate the process and find ways to have little winning moments along the way. And if all else fails, bake an actual cake and invite your friends over to commiserate in front of the fire.

Thursday News & Notes from SmartPak

Team Boyd all settled in at Stable View Farm in Aiken, SC. Photo via Boyd himself.

Team Boyd all settled in at Stable View Farm in Aiken, SC. Photo via Boyd himself.

I cannot believe that eventing competition starts this weekend. First week in January? I feel like it gets earlier and earlier every year! I prefer to have a longer winter break, for both myself and my horses. Mine are just starting their jump schools, and getting into the swing of things. This year, I think I’m waiting until March to compete them, as I’m not going to Aiken this spring. Last year, Aiken, you broke my soul with the ice storm and the snow (twice!) and the no power for a week thing, so I just can’t deal with you again this year. Sorry, but I’m going to save money and freeze my butt off in VA.

North American Weekend Preview:

Ocala I H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

News From Around the Globe:

If it’s Michael Jung handing out advice on training Event horses, I’ll be reading it. Published just days ago, but from a story last spring, Michael Jung talks in depth about how he trains his horses on a day to day level. He talks about dressage movements, specific exercises, training for show jumping, and preparing for cross country mentally and physically. He tells us how he conditions his horses, both for speed and strength. This is your number one read of the morning. [Michael Jung Talks Training Event Horses]

Vote vote vote!!! EN Horse and Rider of the year!!! You must vote for your favorite pair, and help them win big prizes!! Voting goes on through Sunday, so be sure to log your ballot. [EN Horse & Rider of the Year]

Wellington, Florida: Equestrian capitol of the world? The Washington Post seems to think so, at least. From January to April every year, over 250,000 equestrians descend upon the southern town for the Winter Equestrian Festival, which is for hunters, jumpers and dressage riders. [Washington Post on “Horse Town U.S.A.”]

If you own a grey horse, you know the pain. There’s a certain bond that you share with all other grey horse owners, and thats a bond of purple shampoo and long hours spent scrubbing out poop stains at 4 am. It’s ok, we all know your pain. We admire your gleaming horse when we see it at shows, but we don’t envy you! [21 Things Only Grey Horse Owners Understand]

Best of Blogs: Daryl Kinney: Do You Walk the Walk?

Horses on treadmills? Going 38 miles an hour? Yep. 

 

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The Leo Chronicles: Adventures in Foxhunting

Handsome Leo goes hunting! Photo by Joe Samuels.

Handsome Leo goes hunting! Photo by Joe Samuels.

In England, it’s de rigueur for eventing horses of all levels to spend their winter season in the foxhunting field, but in the U.S., not so much. In this country, the hunt field is not necessarily where young eventing enthusiasts start their passion for galloping at hedges and coops, or where young horses find their balance and footing across varied terrain.

We reap the benefits when we import sensible Irish horses that have already been out for two seasons at the age of 5, but it is certainly less common than it used to be to find crossover between the two disciplines.

Leo, I decided, was going to take the old fashioned route to finding his cross country talents; we were going to foxhunt. He has come an incredibly long way in the 18 months that I’ve owned him, in both cross country acumen and fitness for the activities required in eventing, but there is still something missing.

A horse that doesn’t go outside of an arena for the first six years of his life is just a little behind in terms of fitness and balance, in my opinion. It’s the base layer that sustains you, and that’s established early in their life.

It’s silly, really; we eventers have very similar goals to foxhunters, but we have a bit of snobbery going on, as both sides think that the other is mostly insane. We are each seeking a horse that has a good balance, comfortable gaits, fitness that lasts, an efficient gallop, good aids for woah and go, sure footing no matter what the terrain, and smarts over solid fences set in different situations.

Yes, the average foxhunter doesn’t care if their horse goes on the bit. Yes, they occasionally trot or canter on gravel or even paved roads. Yes, they probably run through mud that you wouldn’t dream of putting your fancy import into. However, it is one of the few sports where you will find the same passion and camaraderie as you do in eventing.

Foxhunters are die hard, and they don’t shy away from rain/sleet/snow/freezing conditions. Their social circle is defined by their club, and they always have a good luncheon afterwards that is provided by the members. If there is a flask going around, you are always offered some. Sharing is important. While chitchat is not encouraged during the hunt, it always happens in hushed tones, as everyone wants to be friendly.

Leo smiling post-hunt. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Leo smiling post-hunt. Photo by Kate Samuels.

This is not to say that all eventing horses should go foxhunting. I attempted to take Nyls on a summer walk and talk two years ago, and it was an abysmal experience. For FOUR HOURS STRAIGHT, he ran sideways, he ran backwards (into a creek a few times), he reared, he frothed from every pore in his body, he champed at the bit, he jigged, he kicked out. It was a nightmare, and I quickly established a “no group trail rides” rule for him.

Leo is a much more laid-back dude, and as he didn’t really do much in his first six years of life, he has no expectations for competition or group activities, and I figured that my chances on him involved a greater survival rate. I selected a hunt on territory that I usually use for hacking, just in case I had to run home in an emergency of badly behaved horse.

I was not to worry though, because Leo took to hunting like a fish to water! He said yes to group trail rides! Yes to galloping in a cluster down a hill, yes to standing stock still and listening to hounds, and yes to trotting for long periods of time on small trails.

He didn’t mind people running up his butt, onto his butt or in fact accidentally playing bumper cars with the horse in front of him. He had no inclination to run faster, beat anybody or really pull at all. When the staff came flying by him at a full gallop on a 5-foot wide path, he didn’t move at all, but mildly watched as they blew by.

As a gigantosaurus (official title) and also a full warmblood, Leo struggles with the fitness aspect. I’ve never had a full warmblood before (Nyls is about 65%), and I didn’t anticipate the big difference in how much work it takes to get them strong for cross country.

Since this foxhunting thing seems to work out, I’m hoping to use the rest of the season to get Leo out and galloping more and using his brain to find his feet, wherever they may be. As a bonus, after the chaos of a hunt field, I don’t think he’ll ever be worried about a crowded warm-up arena ever again!

Eventing 25: Maddy Mazzola and Mojito Aim For The Stars

The USEF has named the 2015 Eventing 25 riders, and we’re excited to get to know each of them with a series of profiles on EN. These young riders are the future of our sport in the U.S., so remember their names and join us in giving them the recognition they deserve. Keep checking back for new profiles. Go Eventing 25!

Maddy Mazzola and Mojito. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Maddy Mazzola and Mojito. Photo by Sally Spickard.

Maddy Mazzola managed to escape the horse bug until the age of six, when a family trip to Arizona resulted in a group trail ride with a charming cowboy. As soon as she returned to home in Oakland, California, Maddy informed her parents that she was done playing soccer or pursuing other sports, and all she wanted to do was ride. Her family found Judi Martin at Skyline Ranch, and Maddy never regretted the decision.
After six years of riding on the local hunter jumper circuit, Maddy tried her hand at eventing with her first event at Woodside. She was mounted on a 12.2 hand pony named Twinkle, and after one event, she was hooked. Her parents decided to invest in a horse for their daughter, and that process brought them to Kismet Farms, where Tracy Bowman and Jolie Wentworth are based. Her eventing career began there.
Maddy always felt that she was serious and passionate about her riding, but it took getting to the Preliminary level to really cement her desires for the upper levels. She successfully competed through the two-star level with her own Oldenburg gelding, Man on a Mission II, before acquiring a very special ride in 2012.
While she wasn’t actively looking for another upper-level horse, Maddy says that her eyes and ears were always open for an opportunity, and when Tracy got a call that Mojito was for sale, it was all but a done deal.

“Both Tracy and Jolie had seen him at Rolex in the previous years and noticed that he was a special horse,” Maddy said. “They knew he needed to be in our barn no matter what, and she convinced my dad. Next thing I know, my new 17.2-hand horse is coming off the van in California. Mango is truly a magnificent animal and I’m grateful every day that he is in my life.

Maddy Mazzola and Mojito at Rebecca Farms. Photo by...???

Maddy Mazzola and Mojito at Rebecca Farms. Photo by Samantha Clark

Mango was brought through the levels by Kate Brown, from Novice to completing Rolex in 2012 in 22nd place. Mango is indeed a “beast” at eventing, as Maddy puts it, but getting a four-star mount is not without it’s challenges.

“The hardest part with Mango is definitely the flat work, it’s just really hard on him mentally,” Maddy said. “It is a constant work in progress and can be really frustrating at times, but working through it all has taught me so much.”

The pair has been partnered for two-and-a-half years now, and has yet to incur a cross-country penalty. Mango helped Maddy move up to the Advanced level in the fall of 2013, and in the spring of 2014, after only one Intermediate horse trials, they conquered the Jersey Fresh CCI3* together, finishing in 8th place.

“Getting to ride a horse like Mango on cross country is a special experience for which I’m forever grateful. However, what makes him really special is his overall character. He is genuinely the most loving and willing to please horse that I’ve ever worked with, and I’m so lucky to have him in my life.”

Maddy was part of the inaugural Under 18 program last year, and she says that it really helped her gain valuable knowledge for her competition season. “We are so lucky that David [O’Connor] established this program to benefit all young riders, and it is such an honor to represent and take part in such a great program.”

Maddy Mazzola and Mojito. Photo by Bill Olson.

Maddy Mazzola and Mojito. Photo by Bill Olson.

“Working with David has really been helpful in improving my personal riding, and he brought attention to small aspects that really needed improving. I feel like my efficacy as a rider has dramatically improved.

I was ecstatic to find out Leslie Law was picked for the new coaching position because I already have a bit of a relationship with him and I know how great of a coach he is,” Maddy continued. “I went to England with him to look to purchase a horse, and ended up importing my first horse, Man on a Mission III. I know that he will bring great things to the program and I’m excited to experience it!

Leslie’s help comes at an excellent time, as Maddy is eying some big things for the spring 2015 campaign. With all fingers and toes crossed, she and Mango are heading to Kentucky in April to compete at Rolex. With only four runs at the Advanced level under their belt, this is a big ask, but Maddy is positive in her determination to make it to the Kentucky Horse Park. 

“The goal is also to compete internationally eventually, but I’m trying to keep my mind set and focused on the present. My goal is to continue to grow as a pair with Mango, and hopefully we will get to experience those milestones together. I wouldn’t want to do it with any other horse.”

Friday News & Notes from FLAIR Nasal Strips

Let's not talk about my horrible posture, but instead how handsome my gigantosaurus is!

Let’s not talk about my horrible posture, but instead how handsome my gigantosaurus is!

How do you ring in the new year? By taking your gigantosaurus failed dressage horse foxhunting for the first time! Leo officially went foxhunting for the first time yesterday on the first day of the new year, and he was literally perfection! Rarely do you take a horse on their first hunting experience and have them understand the new sport from the get-go, but Leo was all about it.

Foxhunting is one of those things where they either do or they definitely do not. I took Nyls on a walk-n-talk once two years ago, and he lost his mind for four hours straight. Leo, however, was down with the whole idea of group trail riding and galloping and hounds and coops and standing and all that right away! I’m so proud of my big gigantosaur! What a champion!

News From Around The Globe:

Want a jumping lesson from Harry Meade?We all fell in love with him after his extremely unfortunately loss his amazing WEG mount Wild Lone, but now you should tune in for his expert advice on how to improve your straightness when jumping. As straightness is one of the most important factors in being successful when the lines get tough at the upper levels, I’d say it’s well worth your time. [Harry Meade’s Expertise]

Horse & Hound tries stunt riding. Need I say more? [Stunt Riding for Beginners]

Thinking about leasing a horse? Whether you are leasing your horse or leasing a horse from someone else, there are many factors to consider. While a lease can be a wonderful thing, it can also turn horrible with the blink of an eye. Horse & Country has some great tips to help you find your way safely. [Leasing A Horse]

We need your help deciding the winner of this year’s Point Two Jingle contest. The voting poll is now open, and we have seven finalists for your consideration. Trust us, you want to check out how creative these individuals are. We wish we could give them all a ProAir vest! Voting will close TODAY at 5 p.m. EST. [Vote for Your Favorite Point Two Jingle]

SmartPak Product of the Day: Best Cooler Ever! I’m super into coolers that have neck pieces for winter, because I always feel terrible for my horses when they are wet and/or sweaty in the cold weather and also clipped. I won a fleece cooler with a neck a year ago, but I was looking for another when I found this gem. This blanket is great for both my horses, both short necked and long necked! I’m sure that they are both getting the proper care after long and hard workouts in the winter weather! [Weatherbeeta Fleece Neck Cooler]

Marina DiMarco is the winner of this week’s Fab Freebie for a pair of FITS Winds Tread Pro Full Seat Breeches! Check back to EN on Monday for our next Fab Freebie giveaway, and thank you to FITS for sponsoring this awesome prize.

Non-horsey moment of the day: Taylor Swift sent her fans individualized Christmas presents….wait….what??

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Happy New Year! News & Notes from SmartPak

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! The year of the horse is officially over (sorry ponies) and now we are entering the year of the sheep (or goat, depending on what you read). Apparently, the sheep is a symbol of peace, harmonious co-existence and tranquility. If 2015 has all that, I’m down with that plan!

I don’t personally believe in new year’s resolutions, because I feel like if you want to make changes in your life you should start at the moment you reach that decision, and not wait for an arbitrary date on the calendar. However, the feeling of new beginnings and new seasons can sometimes be just the ticket to finally making moves and changing your life, so take advantage of it!

News From Around The Globe:

Andrew Nicholson has confirmed that he was axed from the NZ Eventing squad, and not just unavailable for the 2015 year. After withdrawing himself from consideration in October due to disagreements and concerns about veterinary care Nereo received at the WEG, Andrew had several discussions with ESNZ to resolve the matter. He felt that he had been heard, and notified them in December via email that he was putting himself back in contention for the team. However, ESNZ left him off. And it wasn’t a mistake. [Andrew Nicholson Not On NZ Squad]

George Morris is back at it again, teaching a horsemastership clinic in Wellington to ring in the new year. We’re all familiar with George’s take no prisoners approach to teaching, and his affinity for classical riding and no crap. He never fails to dissapoint, coming up with some pretty great one-liners every day. Click for the Chronicle’s excellent coverage of the day. [COTH George Morris: No Tricks or Gimmicks]

Don’t forget to enter this week’s Fab Freebie giveaway from FITS! You could be the proud new owner of a pair of FITS Treads Wind Pro Breeches, and we know those will keep you cozy this winter. You have until Thursday at midnight to enter, and then you can check Friday’s News & Notes to see if you’ve won! [Fab Freebie: FITS]
We need your help deciding the winner of this year’s Point Two Jingle contest. The voting poll is now open, and we have seven finalists for your consideration. Trust us, you want to check out how creative these individuals are. We wish we could give them all a ProAir vest! Voting will close this Friday at 5 p.m. EST. [Vote for Your Favorite Point Two Jingle]

Happy New Year from our friends at Hamilton BioVet! Here are some funny outtakes from their videos this year…

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‘Bad’ Behavior Is Not A Character Flaw

Eagerly looking for his next jump, Leo at Millbrook. Photo by Ellie Riley.

Eagerly looking for his next jump, Leo at Millbrook. Photo by Ellie Riley.

During the dark hours of winter, and the slower pace of the off season, I spend an inordinate amount of time pondering the individual challenges that I face with each one of my horses. I ride a lot of “problem” horses, because my life has evolved that way, and because I find that I enjoy it more than the average bear.

As such, my job is to figure out what makes each one tick, and why they behave the way that they do. This is definitely an exercise for the brain, as a lot of horses have pretty complicated pasts, and fairly ingrained behaviors.

As a group, horses are a pretty cooperative bunch, so when they don’t go along with our plans, we can get upset about it. If your horse is behaving in a strange or undesired way, he’s basically trying to communicate something to you, and it’s your job (or my job) to figure out what that is, and get on the same level with him in order to proceed with the training process.

Here’s the problem that I find, though: riders interpret “bad” behavior as an indicator of a “bad” horse, or a “bad” character trait. A year ago, I was casually talking to a local dressage trainer about my horse Leo, who as many of you know, came to me with a rather bad bucking habit.

Leo’s sire, Liberty Gold, is well known for throwing babies with great temperaments, and after hearing the story of Leo’s behavior, this trainer said to me, “Well, I guess he just didn’t get that good Liberty Gold temperament.” This really ticked me off.

Excuse my French, but this explanation is such crap. Leo didn’t buck because he’s inherently a terrible horse, he didn’t buck because he hates humans and never wants to be ridden, and he certainly didn’t buck because he’s got a rotten temperament. His learned reaction to stress and fear was bucking, because his muscles get tense when he gets worried, and if you buck most people off hard enough they never make you do anything scary again. It was his survival technique for an inconsistent and scary world, and the only thing he had known up to the point he met me.

Leo learning to jump properly! Novice at Surefire. Photo courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.

Leo learning to jump properly! Novice at Surefire. Photo courtesy of Brant Gamma Photography.

To simplify “bad” behavior into a character flaw is lazy horse training. If you’re not willing to think a little further into the problem and puzzle it out intellectually, you shouldn’t be dealing with anything other than the most compliant of animals. If your horse is acting out, he’s trying to communicate with you! Mom, I’m scared. Mom, my back hurts. Mom, this is hard and I don’t know that I can do it. Mom, I don’t like it when you use that aid so harshly. Mom, I’m being sassy because I feel awesome.

Your horse didn’t wake up in the morning and consciously decide to do something that day because he knows it will piss you off. He’s not a bad seed, or inherently an evil animal sent to torture you and make your life hell. If your trainer tells you that he’s a bad horse, you need to get a new trainer.

Here are some options for why a horse is misbehaving, and this is by no means all inclusive. He is in pain. He is worried. He is scared. He doesn’t understand what you’re asking. You haven’t explained it well. He doesn’t believe that it’s possible. He doesn’t know that he can do that with his body.

He’s having a bad day. His lifestyle doesn’t suit him. He’s tired. He feels under appreciated. Your aids are too harsh. Your aids are ineffective. Your balance is upsetting him. He had a bad experience with this in the past. He learned this behavior from someone else. He’s nervous. He has no self confidence. You’re nervous. You’re tight. Every time he tries, you accidentally punish him. He doesn’t have the strength. A plastic bag/leaf/dog/car/gust of wind just blew by and he didn’t notice it until it was right there and super scary. He feels good! He feels fresh. It’s a little cold outside. He’s been in the stall for fourteen hours straight. He is having fun.

Please note that none of those reasons involve character flaws or innate and un-fixable problems. Most issues arise from missed signals, misunderstandings, and communication mishaps that are only natural between two different species. We are humans, they are horses. We speak two different languages, and if it was so easy to understand everything that horses were saying, everybody would be an expert, and I would have no job!

So, the next time your horse does something that you consider “naughty”, instead of having a gut reaction to it, think it through. Is this a repeat behavior? When does it arise? Why do you think he does it? Do you always respond in the same way to this behavior? Does that response work in the short term? In the long term?

Don’t simplify and reduce behavior into “good” and “bad”, but rather entertain the idea that your horse is just as complex as you are in his motives and decision making skills. Work towards better communication, and know when to seek help from an expert. And don’t ever, ever, tell me that my horse has a bad temperament.

Friday News & Notes from FLAIR Nasal Strips

Even four-star horses and riders get into the Christmas spirit! Sharon White and Wundermaske (asking for his bucket of carrots please!). Photo via Sharon White.

Even four-star horses and riders get into the Christmas spirit! Sharon White and Wundermaske (asking for his bucket of carrots please!). Photo via Sharon White.

Holy Christmas hangover, you guys! I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a little woozy today, and definitely a few pounds heavier. I might have to get back to that whole running thing, although now that the Serial podcast is over I’ll have to seek out some new entertainment to keep my mind working during the dull repetitiveness of running. While I didn’t get a pony for christmas this year (I already have two, anyway), I did get a cookbook that my grandmother made herself of all her favorite recipes. This is by far my most treasured gift, and I’m super excited to spend the next few weeks testing them all out! She’s a real southern lady, and knows how to cook like nobody’s business….so I should really think about that running….

News From Around The Globe:

Guess I missed the boat on the Christmas dinner specifically designed for jockeys. With races just around the corner, jockeys can’t afford to engage in the same gluttony as we do, so a team of food scientists designed a special Christmas dinner just for them. Clocking in at 294 calories total, it consists of the following layers of foam and gel: turkey gel, umami-rich gravy, carrot fluid, dehydrated Brussels sprouts, potato infused foam, cranberry “air” and is topped with a pancetta crisp. No, I’m not kidding. [Jockey Sized Christmas Dinner]

How about all of the best blogs from the entire year? The Horse, which is a constant supply of information and entertainment, has created a list of the absolute top blogs from 2014, and some of them might sound familiar to you. Worth a look! [Top Blogs 2014]

What did H&H staff ask Santa for Christmas? Perhaps you won’t be surprised that many of them centered around a good day of hunting, and a few concentrated on less rain and more sunshine. Also, fingerless gloves and comfy riding pants. [H&H Does Christmas]

If your friends and family were awesome this year, you got a SmartPak gift certificate! The ultimate in holiday gifts, there is literally no limit to what you can find at SmartPak. I got one from a certain unbelievably awesome boss, and I’m planning on stocking up on my favorite pads from Success Equestrian. I fell in love with them this summer with the cross country pad, and now Leo won’t go in anything else. Must. Have. More. Saddlepads! [SmartPak Product of the Day]

And Congratulations to Judy Talton, the lucky winner of our Christmas Week Fab Freebie here on EN. She has snagged herself a pair of Andis ShowEdge Clippers – and a special thank you goes out to Andis for providing this week’s prize.

Give me these ponies:

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Christmas News & Notes from SmartPak

Wonderful artwork by our own Lindsey Kahn.

Wonderful artwork by our own Lindsey Kahn.

Merry merry merry Christmas everyone!!!! This year, while I managed to miss the mischief of the virtual office party for EN and HN, I did snag both Thanksgiving and Christmas News & Notes posts, which basically is the worlds smallest victory that nobody noticed except for me. If you’re reading this, congrats, you are the most die-hard Eventing Nation fan out there!

As the resident baker in my family, I’ll be spending all morning whipping up pies, specifically a chocolate mousse pecan pie and a key lime pie with gingersnap crust. My family does the customary late southern luncheon at 2 o’clock, followed by a long session of drinking wine and opening presents, while watching the smaller children go from sugar-enhanced hysteria to wrapping-covered exhaustion. May you also enjoy a day of delicious pies, flowing wine and company of friends and family!

News From Around The Globe:

Hairnets are now obligatory (thank Father Christmas for that one), but unjointed bits are illegal? If you’re going to do anything FEI related in 2015, you better check this out. The FEI is almost always a good source of bizarre decision making, and some of these I agree with, but others….well….let’s just say I wonder who came up with them. But seriously, thank goodness for hairnets. #putthatponytailaway #judgingyourmessyhair [2015 FEI Rule Changes]

Last minute Christmas cooking/baking panic? Check out my new favorite site for help (or maybe just a little food porn). [The FeedFeed]

Just in time for Christmas: Hannah Sue Burnett’s new website! Beautifully designed and produced by our friends at Athletux, Hannah Sue’s website is slick as all get out. Check it out! [HSB Eventing]

Looking for a horsey way to recover from all that pie? I say hunting in a festive manner, mucking some stalls to work off some of that baked ham, or just embrace it an snuggle down with a good book while watching the horses out of your living room window. [H&H]

The Stables At Midnight: A Christmas Story

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Eventing 25: Bailey Moran & Loughnatousa Caislean on the Move

The USEF has named the 2015 Eventing 25 riders, and we’re excited to get to know each of them with a series of profiles on EN. These young riders are the future of our sport in the U.S., so remember their names and join us in giving them the recognition they deserve. Keep checking back for new profiles. Go Eventing 25!

Bailey Moran and Loughnatousa Caislean. Photo credit to Storey Crenshaw.

Bailey Moran and Loughnatousa Caislean. Photo by Storey Crenshaw.

Growing up, Bailey Moran’s parents tried to get her interested in almost every sport except riding, but their defenses wore down when at the age of 6 she successfully convinced them to give her one riding lesson. After that, Bailey met her mentor Brooke Baker, a pony named Razzmatazz, and was introduced to eventing. To her parent’s chagrin, there was no looking back, and riding became everything in her life.

Bailey was your average horse obsessed girl, watching all of the videos that she could get her hands on and reading all of the old books on eventing. She made the long trek from San Antonio, Texas, to visit Rolex for the first time in 2007 and was witness to the wonder that was Teddy O’Connor at the Head of the Lake.

“The emotion was overwhelming as the crowd held their breath while Teddy picked off each element as easy as ever, and the screams were deafening as he galloped away,” Bailey remembers. “That’s when I decided that one day I would be there. Without a doubt, I would be competing there.”

Her quest for upper level success began almost five years ago with a trip to Loughnatousa Farms in Ireland, where she met a 5-year-old uncoordinated chestnut horse by the name of Loughnatousa Caislean, or Leo. He wasn’t the most impressive horse that she’d ever seen, she said, but after only a few minutes of jumping cross country, she had made up her mind, and the match was made.

While his name is still a mouthful (it’s pronounced Lock-na-two-sa Cash-lawn), Leo has outgrown most of his awkward tendencies, and they have travelled up the levels together through their first CCI2* this summer at the North American Junior & Young Rider Championships, where they placed 8th individually.

In 14 competitions at the Intermediate or two-star level this year, they’ve racked up five wins, four top-three finishes, and only placed out of the top 10 once. She capped off the year with winning the USEA Intermediate Young Rider of the Year title.

Bailey & Leo at NAJYRC 2014. Photo by Dan Moran.

Bailey & Leo at NAJYRC 2014. Photo by Dan Moran.

“The best thing about Leo is that he’s an absolute powerhouse,” Bailey said. “He feels unreal galloping on cross country and can go from a flat out sprint to a 10-foot stride in half a second; he’s just so adjustable. He’s a little unconventional when it comes to technique in show jumping, but he’s done six consecutive double clear rounds this year, so I think he makes it work.”

Leo can still be a little Irish in his temperament, and although he’s coming up on his 10th year of life, he still enjoys spooking violently at different shades of grass on occasion. “It makes me laugh now, and fortunately he seems to be slowly growing out of that phase, but he’s probably going to buck me off tomorrow just because I said that.”

This will be Bailey’s first year in the Eventing 25 program, and she’s delighted to have been named to the squad. She feels that the opportunity to learn from the best through training under new Developing Coach Leslie Law as well as spending time with her fellow Eventing 25 riders will serve as a very positive experience, as they have big plans to move up to the Advanced level in February of 2015.

“I never want to stop being a student of our sport, and I think the Eventing 25 program is giving me the opportunity to ‘go to college’ in my own way. Not only does it give me the opportunity to get my name in front of some very influential people, but it’s giving me a chance to further my education in a way that will allow me to continuing pursuing and one day achieve my dreams. I was lucky to be chosen to be a part of the Under 25 program and will forever be grateful and beyond honored.”

Bailey and her father "Eventing Dad" Dan Moran. Photo by Storey Crenshaw.

Bailey and her father, “Eventing Dad” Dan Moran. Photo by Storey Crenshaw.

Bailey will be using this added experience and education to jump start her season in Florida. She hopes to compete at the NAJYRC in the CCI2* again and improve upon her result from this year, as well as qualify for a CCI3* in the fall, ideally at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International. However, she knows that the greater goal for 2015 is gaining confidence and competence at the Advanced level.

“I would really just like to finish off the year feeling confident when I leave the box on an Advanced cross country, with a brave and game horse underneath me. I would love to take 2016 to get my qualifiers in for Rolex and to continue really drilling ourselves in the dressage arena. Right now the long term goal is to get to Rolex with a sound and happy horse and give it our best go!”

As  competing at the highest levels becomes more of a reality for Bailey, the entire Moran clan has taken up the call and remains her greatest cheerleaders. Her dad, Dan Moran, has in fact become the infamous Eventing Dad, whom you can follow on Twitter. Check out his EN blog here for some of the best and most hilarious commentating and what he calls “the dad experience.”

“My dad is a huge cheerleader. He’s the one racing across the cross country field so he can get a glimpse of every fence and is always the first one at the finish line or the in-gate, waiting with a smile and a high five, no matter what,” Bailey said. “My entire family has given so much to help me succeed; I owe them a gigantic debt of gratitude.”

Now that she’s come onto the radar of the Eventing 25 selectors and made it onto the squad, Bailey intends to do everything in her power to keep their attention as she moves up the levels.

“Every single day I wake up and I hear that message through my ears. Every single time I step foot into a stirrup, I think about how to keep their attention. I don’t do this — any of this — for me. I do it for the love of my family. I do it because it gives me a purpose and confidence and determination, and motivates me every day to learn and love and strive to be better. I do it to make them proud. One day, I want to do it to make my country proud. The fact that eventing is just plain awesome is just a bonus.”

Friday News & Notes from FLAIR Nasal Strips

Flash Back Friday: Nyls' first Preliminary in 2006!

Flash Back Friday: Nyls’ first Preliminary in 2006! (Also, flashback to when hunt caps were allowed in SJ)

On Wednesday, I decided that I was going to give Nyls a teensy little jump school over baby jumps after his two month fake vacation, and I would just have a little fun and pop over maybe like ten little jumps. Nyls was delighted, as you can imagine, and thought he would help me understand that he will never grow out of acting like an unbroke three-year-old after a break. He is thirteen this year….le sigh.

Life according to Nyls: Yes, it is necessary to spook at the pile of poles on the side of the arena! Make sure you spook more violently when you change direction, and when you go up a gait. After passing the spooky poles ten times at the walk, it’s all new at the trot! Lurch violently to the side and refuse to inside bend. Cross rails: DON’T jump them, they are terrifying and small and that’s weird! Slam to a stop two stride out, spook, spin, and bolt in the other direction. Those new brush boxes? You have never seen those before, so you should skid to a halt on approach, spook, spin and bolt away. Refuse to approach them at a reasonable walk, then suddenly poke your nose violently at them, and scare yourself when you touch them.

News From Around The Globe:

Fair Hill International is looking for a new Executive Director following the Charlie Colgan’s retirement. Are you organized, dependable, detail-oriented, a self-starter, able to raise funds, to attract and develop corporate sponsorships, and also to recruit, retain and motivate volunteers? Would you enjoy working with a team of hard working volunteers who share a love of the outdoors with a desire to participate in one of the most prestigious Three-Day-Events in the United States? Apply now! [FHI Seeks New Executive Director]

If you’re going to make it as a professional rider, you’ll have to be a working student at some point. In fact, being a working student is a rite of passage for almost anybody who is looking to seriously improve their riding, and something that I highly recommend. However, how do you find the right gig? We’ve all heard horror stories about terrible situations, but there are definitely some great programs out there just waiting for you. Lauren Sprieser shares her tips to finding the best place to go. [Finding The Fair Gig]

Dear literally everyone in Hollywood: horses don’t whinny/nicker/squeal all the time. As anybody who has ever been around a horse for more than a day could tell you, they really are more interested in visual communication rather than audio. They nicker more than anything else, and it doesn’t mean anything specific, but it does indicate a general welcoming social interaction. [Why Do Horses Nicker?]

Hate the feeling of bulky winter gloves slowing you down while you ride or work in the barn? You and me both, sister. My fingers are always freezing off because I absolutely abhor the lack of dexterity that comes with wearing bulky, blundering gloves that actually keep me warm. Thank goodness for these gloves from SmartPak, they are somehow super thin AND super warm, which basically means you’ll wear them out and beg for more next season. [Ariat Insulated Tek Grip Gloves]

Dear Santa……

 

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Thursday News & Notes from SmartPak

Photo courtesy of Marley Stone.

Photo courtesy of Marley Stone.

Massive congrats go out today to Marley Stone and Tim Bourke, who are brand new farm owners! They’ve been able to snag Stone’s Throw Farm in Berryville, Virginia and will continue to work closely with Sharon White as they take the next step in their business, Bourke Eventing. You could not pick a nicer, more genuine couple to hang out with, and I know just how exciting it must be for them to have their own facility. Just in time for Christmas!

With Charlotte DuJardin and Valegro smashing their own record at Olympia just a few days ago, even us eventers have to admit that we’re obsessed with “Blueberry.” I mean, his name is Blueberry! H&H has compiled a great list of fun facts about this amazing horse, including his turnout schedule, his favorite things (food), and why he is hacked two days a week by a 77-year-old Olympic veteran. [Twelve Facts About Valegro]

I can think of more than seven reasons to hate winter, but H&H is being brave and coming up with an additional seven reasons to love it. I’ll admit, I was skeptical because all I see is mud and rain and so many jackets and pants that peeing is an extremely time consuming thing, but they’re right, winter is alright. [7 Reasons To Love Winter]

Psychology is at least half of the battle with riding in any capacity, and US Eventing blogger and equestrian sports psychologist Daniel Stewart knows that better than anyone. This month, his tip focuses on the excuses that we make for poor performances, or the way that we shoot ourselves down mentally before even getting on the horse. “When we deflect blame away from ourselves we also deflect away any possibility of learning from our mistake.” [What’s Your Excuse?]

We all love Connemara ponies for their scrappy nature, their larger-than-life personality, and of course their jump! But what about their cultural significance for Ireland as a whole? Doctorate candidate Claire Brown has received a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship to spend the next year studying how the Connemara pony mirrors the Irish culture, and tells the history of the Irish people. [Connemara Ponies Provide Cultural Insight]

Best of Blogs: Horse Training: Why the Science is Flawed

100% unrelated to horses, but how awesome is this? 

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Eventing 25: Third Time’s the Charm for Lizzie Snow & Coal Creek

The USEF has named the 2015 Eventing 25 riders, and we’re excited to get to know each of them with a series of profiles on EN. These young riders are the future of our sport in the U.S., so remember their names and join us in giving them the recognition they deserve. Keep checking back for new profiles. Go Eventing 25!

Lizzie Snow and Coal Creek at Galway Downs CCI3*. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Lizzie Snow and Coal Creek at Galway Downs CCI3*. Photo by Jenni Autry.

As the most experienced pair on the Eventing 25 list for 2015, Lizzie Snow and her seasoned partner Coal Creek are looking forward to their third year of participation in the program that has already benefitted them so much. At the young age of 22, Lizzie and the 14-year-old black Thoroughbred gelding “Devon” have conquered two CCI3* events in 2014 and are planning on big things for 2015.

Lizzie has been riding for as long as she can remember, and most of her family is involved in horses in some way or another. Her grandfather was a great polo player, and her mother competes in eventing, as well as owns and operates Gallops Saddlery in Oregon. When she was 15, Lizzie moved to Southern Pines to work for four-star rider John Williams and hasn’t looked back since.

While eventing at the upper levels was always a goal in the back of Lizzie’s mind, she credits much of her experience and exposure to the top levels with being in the right place at the right time. “When I was younger, I never told myself that I absolutely had to ride at the upper levels,” she said. “It was a goal, but never a necessity. It’s just kind of fallen into place.”

Lizzie has been competing at the FEI levels for five years now, including five trips to the NAJYRC on three different mounts, four with top 10 finishes. When Devon came to her in 2011, Lizzie had just completed her first CCI2* on her fabulous OTTB Pop Star and had no idea what she was getting herself into with the experienced gelding, formerly ridden at the CCI3* level by Amy Tryon.

Lizzie Snow and Coal Creek at Bromont. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Lizzie Snow and Coal Creek at Bromont. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Kathryn Rosson owned Devon at the time and originally decided to send him to Lizzie for a year before placing him for sale, but changed her plans after watching the two of them compete together. “Kathryn was more than generous in wanting to keep half of him and letting us purchase the other half,” Lizzie said. She now owns Devon in partnership with her mother Diane Snow, as well as Kathryn.

The three-year partnership between these two has certainly had its ups and downs, but they have become a staple at the Advanced and three-star level in that time and are competitive on a regular basis. This year they were third at Bromont CCI3* and traveled all the way to Galway Downs CCI3* in the fall to finish in fourth place. They also killed it on the PRO Tour Leaderboard this year, winning the Under 25 Rider division, placing third overall in the rider division, and with Devon taking home reserve champion position for all horses.

However, getting the ride on a fully formed Advanced horse made by a different rider hasn’t always been easy.

“Devon has definitely taught me how to ride; he’s quite the character!” laughs Lizzie. “He can be a bit of a terror to ride at home. Most of my flat lessons end up with me in the woods next to the arena because of the carriages trotting up the road or a car being too noisy for his liking. Hacks turn into bolting and spinning days, and gallops days are not necessarily something that I love. He doesn’t mean to be silly; he just can’t help himself.

He’s taught me patience beyond my years and that in some cases with him, it’s better to walk away and come back another day.  I’ve learned how to ride a runaway and how to develop a partnership with something I didn’t know how to approach in the beginning. The experience he has given me is certainly irreplaceable.”

Lizzie Snow and Coal Creek at Galway Downs. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Lizzie Snow and Coal Creek at Galway Downs. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Their success has been due in part to their continued participation in the Eventing 25 program, which they have participated in since its inception in 2013. Eventing 25 is unique because it not only includes lessons under saddle, but also an all inclusive approach to education about management.

“It’s been a huge help to be able to work with David (O’Connor) at events this year,” says Lizzie. “I feel like we are continually building on previous lessons, and I’m starting to become more comfortable with the things that David is having me do. All of the additional lectures during the sessions from vets, farriers, nutritionists, grooms and David himself have been eye opening as well. The information that they are giving us are the key ingredients of what it takes to make a serious program.”

With Leslie Law just named as the Developing Rider Coach for the Eventing 25 and 18 programs yesterday, Lizzie is very excited to see what he can bring to the table and how his approach can benefit the group.

Additional education and a fresh approach is coming at an integral time, as Lizzie is tentatively aiming Devon at a very big competition this coming spring.

“If everything goes completely to plan, which it never does, I will aim Devon at Rolex Kentucky,” Lizzie said. “I’m trying not to think too far ahead and just keep taking things a day at a time.”

The Teenage Tantrums and How To Transcend Them

Maddie working at the Equine Welfare Society, slowly turning into a real horse! Photo courtesy of the EWS.

Maddie working at the Equine Welfare Society, slowly turning into a real horse! Photo courtesy of the EWS.

I adore working with young horses, and it’s a good thing too, because that’s more or less all that I do these days. Actually, let me refine that and say that I love the challenge of working with a green or un-schooled horse, because as of late I’ve been training quite a few horses that don’t technically qualify as young anymore, but are just as unlearned.

In general, we consider a horse green when it doesn’t have a consistent method of response to a given stimuli, whether that is our aids, an obstacle, or just an environment. Horses that are well schooled have a pretty set pattern of behavior for each situation that they find themselves in, and you can predict it well enough if you know them. This makes them easier to ride, and easier to teach others to ride.

I can confidently say that it takes a certain personality to look forward to a different and new challenge every day, and find small pieces of progress in each moment that sustain your hope in your training methods, and that personality might be described as “delusionally optimistic and doggedly determined”. This is a person who sees the long game, and embraces it, while sacrificing the idea of ease and visible progress on a daily basis.

It’s probably more often than not frustrating, because it is a rare horse that has a learning curve that only goes up in a linear fashion. More often than not, the learning curve looks something like what a toddler creates with a crayon and a scrap of paper. And that’s OK! Actually, it’s normal. It’s just a matter of having the right mindset to keep going and training your horse towards great things in the future.

Polly is coming along nicely, still learning to trot properly. Photo courtesy of EWS.

Polly is coming along nicely, still learning to trot properly. Photo courtesy of EWS.

Whenever I’m working with a green horse and they suddenly seem to rebel and go distinctly backwards with the progression of their training, I call it the “teenage tantrum” stage. As long as the problem is not fear or pain related, you can almost always assume that time and patience will help it cure out. After all, that’s how your parents got through your teenage years, right?

Horses are an extraordinarily cooperative species, and in general they enjoy working with us, and when trained in a fair and logical way, and very willing. That does not mean that they agree with us all the time, or even that they unblinkingly obey every day. Sometimes it means they go through phases where they toe the line of what is allowed and what is not, as a teenager would perhaps with his or her curfew.

While it is important to create and enforce rules for behavior to prevent bad habits in the future, it’s equally important to recognize and reward good behavior, and especially during times of frustration and seemingly little to no progress. If you are only ever the force that says “NO!” and never a source of guidance and reward, your horse will eventually lose interest in the game of learning. Training a horse, at its best, is creating situations where the horse wants to find the right answer and actively seeks it out.

To escape the teenage tantrum phase (or phases, because some horses re-visit it occasionally!), teach your horse that “No” is a firm but reasonable line, but also that “Yes!” is a far superior place to go, and it will always be a door available to open. That, and remember that time is the best tonic for teenage tantrums, and patience and a smile will get you further than anything else.

‘Tis The Season To Be Hairy, Fa La La La La, La La La La

There’s nothing that says “horse person” quite as much as the sensation of a buzzing clipper in your hand for two hours straight, wearing a rain coat and rain pants inside the barn, and sneezing horse hair out of your nose for days. Yep, it must be clipping season. I want to see your amazing, entertaining, beautiful and clever clipping creations. Send me a picture that shows off your artistry and a little blurb explaining what it’s all about. Include the name of your horse, your name and where you are from. Email kate@eventingnation.com!

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Rachel Walker, Wisconsin: “These are clips on three of the horses at our farm in Beldenville, Wisconsin. Top left is Kingsley with his crown. He belongs to Meg Wilkening. They do Beginner Novice eventing together and are hoping to move up to Novice this next season!

Under that is Guy with his snowflake. Guy’s an 18-year-old OTTB who took me through my first years of eventing and now does a fabulous job as a Walker Farms lesson horse. On the right is Lili, with the lily on her hip! She’s a 7-year-old Thoroughbred/Draft cross, and we accomplished our first Training together this fall.”


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Megan Burke, Montrose, New York: “This is my OTTB Jazz. He is 20 years young and can still be quite the fire-breathing dragon at times, hence the dragon design!”


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Kyrie Gausden, Runciman, New Zealand: “This is my mare Splash. She is named Splash as she fell in the pond shortly after being born. After a day of clipping and one too many coffees, I came up with her design. My father owns her, and he is a keen fisherman, so I went with a water theme. The tidal wave also looks a bit like a koru (Maori design), which fits in with me being from New Zealand.”


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Hannah Hill, Midlothian, Virginia: “I did a skull and cross bones done on both hips of my Thoroughbred. We always wear skulls on cross country as our good luck thing.”


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Ashley Hensman, Bethany, Ontario: My husband and I decided to do this because we saw a pic and thought let’s try it on Bella. Bella had a few years of bad handling with previous owners and was very scared of anyone behind her. We have been working with her for four months now, and she has improved so much. It was just so nice to see how well she handled two people with clippers around her back end!”