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

Friday News & Notes from FLAIR Nasal Strips

Pine Top isn't just for the big kids! Photo courtesy of Lee Ann Zobbe.

Pine Top isn’t just for the big kids! Photo courtesy of Lee Ann Zobbe.

If that picture doesn’t put a smile on your face, I don’t know what will. Indiana eventer Lee Ann Zobbe sent us this photo of her youngest student, Addie, riding her fantastic horse Blaze. Addie is 8 and Blaze is 14, and they were part of a group of eventers who came south to Pine Top for a few weeks to escape the winter and enjoy the spring events. Addie was thrilled to volunteer at the Advanced horse trials a little while ago, and was both a fence judge and a cross country warm up steward, proving that even the youngest ones can be the backbone of the sport. Afterwards, Addie got to zoom around on Blaze and jump herself!

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Rocking Horse Winter III H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

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

Sol Events at Circle T H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

Twin Rivers Winter H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status/Ride Times]

News From Around The Globe:

The Kentucky Horse Park has graciously opened the Alltech Arena for schooling due to the inclement weather impacting Lexington and the surrounding horse community. Schooling times are 4-7 p.m. Feb. 26, Feb. 27 and March 2-6. Cost is $20 per horse; pay by check upon arrival or credit card over the phone only. Bring health papers and negative coggins for each horse, as well as a signed liability waiver. Email Nicole Rivera at Nicole.Rivera@ky.gov to sign up for schooling.

Interested in a lengthy Eric Smiley clinic extravaganza? Meghan Perry Eventing is hosting Eric for nine days, March 10-18, at Bridle Creek Farm in Aiken, SC. As a world-class trainer, CCI4* rider, FEI official and coach to the Belgian 2012 Olympic Team, Eric brings a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm to the sport. There are opportunities for riders from Beginner Novice to Advanced, in the form of camps, two-day clinics, and private lessons. [Eric Smiley Visits Aiken]

Attention all Aiken Eventers! Kick off the eventing weekend at Sporting Days by attending a Young Rider benefit party TONIGHT, 5:30 to 8:30 at Tod’s Hill. No admission, lots of food and drinks and music! There will be a raffle to benefit USEA Young Riders and Aiken Equine Rescue, and you can come right off the course walk wearing your muck boots. Grab some food and drink, and check out the raffle! [Splendid Days Splendid Nights]

If you’re a young rider competing at Sporting Days this weekend, you should think about entering the Cross Border Young Rider Challenge! There is no extra cost to enter, and you can join a team or make your own team of friends. Open to all riders under 21, and extra prizes for the taking! Email Chris Donovan for your entry. [Cross Border Challenge]

Due to the success of previous George Morris clinics with the unruly Eventing crowd, he’s coming back for more. Set the date on your calendar, May 26-27th, George is coming to Cochranville PA to teach at Windurra. Get your notebooks out and your cameras ready to make some meme magic, because really, what is a George Morris clinic without memes these days? (Secret bonus to this post, Boyd is handing out his phone number, so you can prank him on text if you want). [Boyd & Silva Host George Morris]

Weird confession: I’m always super jealous of people who have matching custom director chairs in front of their stalls at events. For some reason, this always just seemed super cool to me! If you’re like me, you’ll have harbored a secret longing for your own pair for some time now. Great news guys: SmartPak can make you some custom colored and monogrammed chairs to take to shows and look fancy with! I’m totally getting some, and you should join me. [SmartPak Product of the Day]

Best of Blogs: Riding With An Open Focused Mind

 

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Thursday News & Notes from SmartPak

Icabad Crane with Phillip Dutton in the irons. Photo by Barry Bornstein.

Icabad Crane with Phillip Dutton in the irons. Photo by Barry Bornstein.

It’s official, folks — America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred, AKA Icabad Crane, is now officially a Prelim horse! He made his debut at the level yesterday at Full Gallop Horse Trials, finishing in third place on his dressage score of 30. Phillip reported on his Facebook page that Icabad was the fastest horse on cross country by 36 seconds and had an absolute blast romping around the course.

This time last year, Icabad was making his eventing debut at the Beginner Novice level, which is a pretty impressive move up the levels. For a horse that ran the Preakness in 2008 and was so incredibly successful at racing, it’s unusual to be equally successful in another sport and a real testament to the OTTB breed!

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Rocking Horse Winter III H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

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

Sol Events at Circle T H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

Twin Rivers Winter H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status/Ride Times]

News From Around The Globe:

Surefire Horse Trials is teaming up with Great Meadow CIC3* to make a historic eventing weekend extravaganza! As we all know, Great Meadow is hosting its first event in many years on June 19-21 of this year in the form of a fabulous CIC3*. This is the same weekend as Surefire HT, which hosts Beginner Novice through Intermediate every year and is amazing. They are now coordinating efforts so that riders and spectators can attend both events over three days and enjoy tailgating, mimosas, cross country and the best riders in the country. What could be better? Be sure to check out the video below! [Surefire Horse Trials]

The Kentucky Horse Park has graciously opened the Alltech Arena for schooling due to the inclement weather impacting Lexington and the surrounding horse community. Schooling times are 4-7 p.m. Feb. 26, Feb. 27 and March 2-6. Cost is $20 per horse; pay by check upon arrival or credit card over the phone only. Bring health papers and negative coggins for each horse, as well as a signed liability waiver. Email Nicole Rivera at Nicole.Rivera@ky.gov to sign up for schooling.

Attention all Aiken Eventers! Kick off the eventing weekend at Sporting Days by attending a Young Rider benefit party this Friday 5:30 to 8:30 at Tod’s Hill. No admission, lots of food and drinks and music! There will be a raffle to benefit USEA Young Riders and Aiken Equine Rescue, and you can come right off the course walk wearing your muck boots. Grab some food and drink, and check out the raffle! [Splendid Days Splendid Nights]

If you’re a young rider competing at Sporting Days this weekend, you should think about entering the Cross Border Young Rider Challenge! There is no extra cost to enter, and you can join a team or make your own team of friends. Open to all riders under 21, and extra prizes for the taking! Email Chris Donovan for your entry. [Cross Border Challenge]

Are you in need of a working student? We’re preparing a fresh list of Working Student Listings for the upcoming season, so if you’d like us to include your position, please send a description and contact information to sally@eventingnation.com. Our winter listings post was wildly successful! [Working Students Winter Listings]

Best of Blogs: The Myth of Natural Horsemanship

Surefire Eventing & Great Meadow team up for a fabulous weekend in Eventing!

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Desensitization: You’re Doing It Wrong

Nyls enjoying some spooky snow playtime. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Nyls enjoying some spooky snow playtime. Photo by Kate Samuels.

With my added hours inside due to winter weather, I tend to delve deeper than usual into the intellectual side of horse training, which is somewhat already my tendency. Each horse that I train, no matter what their purpose in life, is a puzzle waiting to be solved. I love this side of working with horses because the answer is never the same, and you are always learning something new.

Horses are tattle-tales when it comes to how they’ve been handled and ridden. If you’re paying attention, you can almost always tell what kind of training methods they have enjoyed or sometimes endured before coming into your hands. My musings lately have come from horses that I have worked with, and I’m about to ruffle some feathers, so bear with me here.

One particular technique has really been bothering me lately, and it basically makes no sense to me at all. This is the idea of “desensitization,” which is commonly used to lessen a horse’s reaction to foreign objects or situations. Basically, we have a horse that is frightened of something, and their fear response is undesirable for a variety of reasons, and we want him to stop behaving that way.

Horses, as a general rule, try to find a way to relieve pressure. This is why our systems of training are directly pressure and release oriented. You put pressure on the horse with your leg, he moves forward, you release. You put pressure on the reins, he stops, you release.

Thinking about it scientifically, the relief of pressure in this way is called “negative,” because the pressure is taken away. The removal of said pressure at a key time reinforces a behavior and makes it more likely to repeat. This is why we call it “negative reinforcement.” Horses learn to relax under consistent training in this system because there is always a solution to the problem and always an escape.

Bogey, a part of the program at Equine Welfare Society, enjoying the flurries. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Bogey, a part of the program at Equine Welfare Society, enjoying the flurries. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Desensitization is known scientifically as the process of “habituation,” which is defined as “the decrease of a response to a repeated eliciting stimulus that is not due to sensory adaption or motor fatigue.” 

If you go online or look at a book, there are infinite numbers of sources that show people supposedly “habituating” horses. They wave tarps, flap flags and sling ropes at horses so that he’ll become “habituated,” “desensitized” or “used to it.” The problem lies when the trainer doesn’t ever offer an escape for the horse and never uses timing to release the pressure.

The trainer thinks, “I’ll just keep doing this until all his reactions are done with, and he’s “used to it.” The horse thinks, “Dear God how can I get away from this terrifying thing? What do I have to do to make it stop?!”

To flap something continuously is to create an unpredictable, uncontrollable and inescapable situation for a horse. He is then unable to find a way to relieve the pressure, and so he moves away, he rears, he bucks, he stands still, he bolts and yet it still continues. Eventually, he stops because, well, he doesn’t know what else to do.

This is not “desensitization”; this is called learned helplessness, defined as “a behavior in which an organism forced to endure aversive, painful or otherwise unpleasant stimuli, becomes unable or unwilling to avoid subsequent encounters with those stimuli, even if they are escapable. Presumably, the organism has learned that it cannot control the situation and therefore does not take action to avoid the negative stimulus.”

Leo also enjoying some snow. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Leo also enjoying some snow. Photo by Kate Samuels.

We’ve all seen this training method in action before, and it’s not relegated to any one discipline more than another. Sometimes, it even seems to work because the horse does “get used to it.”

Horses who have been trained in this manner often suffer a diminished ability to train and cooperate with other humans in the future. You have effectively broken the consistency in your training method, and the horse has only learned to mask his fear, but has not conquered it in a confident way.

A good trainer knows that a combination of negative reinforcement and slow steps in the right direction are a better base for resolving issues. Such a trainer would know that fear is natural, especially with horses, and there are ways to teach the horse to resolve his fear and ways to change bad things to good by way of association.

If you are teaching your horse to rein-back, you do not simply pull on the reins until you have backed all around the arena and your horse can pull off a coordinated rein-back on command. You teach him to shift his weight back, and you reward and release. You then teach him to take one step, and you reward and release. Getting five steps in a row in a happy and coordinated manner might take you several months, but you’ll get it. This is good training.

Why then, if you have a horse afraid of tarps or frightened of you touching his ears, would you resort to a method that “solves” it in one very long session? You must know that you are teaching your horse to simply give up and to choke back his instincts.

Horses can change for us, and they often do despite all odds otherwise. A well-trained horse understands things not because of “frequent exposure,” but because his trainer has an approach that is always predictable and has well-timed releases. It’s inexcusable to flap things at a frightened horse.

Friday News & Notes from FLAIR Nasal Strips

Lyra DiCostanzo riding her OTTB partner, Pleasant Signal. Photo courtesy of Kimberly DiCostanzo.

Lyra DiCostanzo riding her OTTB partner, Pleasant Signal. Photo courtesy of Kimberly DiCostanzo.

Area I eventer and winter riding enthusiast Kimberly DiCostanzo sent us the above picture, and it definitely gave me a giggle. Her 2 1/2 year-old daughter, Lyra, is an aspiring eventer as well! Lyra’s partner is 16-year-old OTTB, Pleasant Signal, who apparently loves to ham it up for the camera. To check out Kimberly’s blog and see more funny memes about weather and eventing, click here. Go Area I! I admire your determination!

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Pine Top Advanced H.T.  [Website] [Live Scores & Times] [@eventingnation for live updates]

News From Around The Globe:

Congratulations to Nicole Fuentes, the winner of this week’s Fab Freebie from Professional’s Choice! Nicole will receive a brand spankin’ new pair of the Pro Performance Show Jump Boots — snazzy! [Fab Freebie: Professional’s Choice]

Our deepest condolences to everybody associated with Pine Top Farm and especially Glenn, who lost his mother, Ruth Wilson this week. Ruth was always very active in the farm, and greatly enjoyed the horse shows that occurred there regularly. She always brought camellias to the farm office for everybody to enjoy, and she will be greatly missed. [Pine Top Eventing]

If you’ve got show jumping questions or woes, check out this great set of questions and answers. International show jumper Paul Crago teamed up with Horse & Hound to answer seven of the most common questions that people have about show jumping. No question is too obvious! If you have a horse that rushes, hits poles behind, or you are struggling with related distances, check this out. [7 Jumping Questions You Thought Were Too Obvious To Ask]

No show jumping queries? How about some questions you’ve been meaning to ask your dressage trainer, but haven’t gotten around to? Horse & Hound is on the job again, with nine answers to some pretty common dressage questions. Read along to be educated by Debbie Lush, a British dressage judge and trainer, who knows her stuff. [9 Questions You’ve Been Meaning To Ask Your Dressage Trainer]

Were you a participant or spectator at the recent William Fox-Pitt clinic at Stable View Farm in Aiken? Are you dying to relive the action and savor the knowledge of Eventing Jesus? You can order your full video today! Produced by What’s Up Media, you can pick up a DVD in the office at Stable View, or you can order one by mail. [Order Your DVD of WFP]

Wild For Life Foundation (WFLF) is rallying the troops for hay to feed to horses in need in the U.S. Due to skyrocketing prices and a drought last year, more than the usual number of horses are left hungry this winter. Donations big and small are coming in, and WFLF is handing out hay to equine rescue operations up and down both the east and west coasts. Hay is definitely the single most costly item for any equine rescue, and every bale helps. [Read More Here] [Donate Here]

Rubber reins….can you ever have enough? In my opinion, the answer is no. I found myself in a precarious situation a few weeks ago, when suddenly my collection of reins no longer matched my collection of bridles. One of my reins broke on a young horse, and sadly two of my favorite pairs of reins reached the end of their life by melting in my hands. I just ordered these awesome Harwich Inside Rubber Reins from Smartpak, because they are leather on the outside and rubber on the inside, which looks beautiful and still functions in an awesome way. Also, they are completely reasonably priced, because sometimes I think it’s crazy to pay as much for a pair of reins as I would for a bridle. [SmartPak Product Of The Day]

 

Check out Headley Brittania’s eldest son, Brittania’s Mail (by Jaguar Mail) jumping a pretty big jump…looks like he got his talent from his parents for sure!

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Thursday News & Notes from Smartpak

Eventer Natalie Hollis says, "This is how we feel about winter!!". Photo courtesy of Natalie's FB.

Eventer Natalie Hollis says, “This is how we feel about winter!” Photo courtesy of Natalie’s FB.

There is a good portion of the eventing crowd that stayed in Virginia for the winter, as we figure it’s mostly south enough to avoid the worst of the worst winter weather, but sometimes, we regret that decision. No, we don’t have 8 feet of snow, but when the temps dip into the negative measurements, something just snaps inside.

I don’t think I could physically wear more clothing than I currently am wearing to go outside, and when my eyes tear up from wind, the tears freeze on my eyelashes, sometimes causing a dangerous situation where my eyes freeze shut. This, I found out, is not good when trying to navigate frozen pathways in a mule. I’m pretty sure that Natalie Hollis’ picture above encapsulates all of this.

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Pine Top Advanced H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

News From Around The Globe:

It’s part hunting, part eventing, and part steeplechasing…it’s the Ledbury Hunt Golden Button Challenge! Covering three miles and 25 obstacles including ditches, brush, and rail jumps, 64 riders started but only 39 finished. If you watch the helmet cam, you’ll know why… [Golden Button Challenge]

You know what’s really terrible? When the British think spring has sprung, and we’re stuck ten feet under snow drifts. Horse & Hound was inspired by warmer temps and sunny days to make this list, and we’re hating them a little for it. I’m just hoping that by reading this I can dream hard enough about spring weather, and wake up to my dreams come true. [12 Signs Spring Has Nearly Sprung]

C4 is celebrating the new eventing season by announcing new sponsorships, and expanding into the realm of saddle pads and tack! They just announced their support of Siobhain O’Connor, a long-listed Canadian eventer who embodies the type of rider that C4 loves to sponsor. They are also taking their good reputation in the production of belts and putting it into the creation of saddle pads and tack in the near future, so keep an eye on the C4 site. Don’t forget, every C4 purchase benefits a charity of your choosing! [Equestrian Belts]

Elisa Wallace is on the news again for her work with her mustangs, this time on Fox News. Focusing on her recent success with the popular little grey mare, Hwin, Elisa was interviewed on how she tames the mustangs, and how passionate she is about the hardy little breed. Placing fourth in this year’s Millionaire Mustang Challenge, Hwin has also begun her recognized Eventing career, and won over the hearts of many. [Taming One of Nature’s Finest]

Best of Blogs: A Valentines Day Diamond Disaster

Yesterday, I took a fun hack on one of the rescue ponies from the Equine Welfare Society. Gotta get some helmet cam action somehow!

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Make Me A Match: Valentine’s Day Edition

Dale Hinman and Adrienne Classen of Wits End Eventing were kind enough to collaborate with Eventing Nation on this new feature series, Make Me A Match. The idea is to take mares volunteered by EN readers and explore a scientific way of matching her with a stallion to create the best possible eventing progeny. If you haven’t already, check out our article on the Wits End Eventing breeding process, and then enjoy this insight into a premiere U.S. eventing breeding operation! 

Christina Bock & Buffalo Princess. Photo courtesy of Christina.

Christina Bock & Buffalo Princess. Photo courtesy of Christina

From Dale & Adrienne:

We were overwhelmed with 57 entries and many amazing mares including successful CCI2* horses and one lovely mare that ran Rolex. The decision was extremely difficult, but, in the end, the Valentine’s Day spirit overcame us, and we picked an up-and-coming mare that was hard not to love, Christina Bock’s Buffalo Princess. We also felt that she had the most to offer in terms of explaining what we think about when selecting a stallion match.

Buffalo Princess (Olmodavor x Neon Bright, Alphabet Soup) is a 9-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred currently competing at Preliminary. Physically, she is well put together and built uphill. Her trot is regular although not spectacular, but she has a nice balanced canter. What we really loved was her bright eye and her fantastic attitude. She looked happy to negotiate the gymnastics, she was forward and she was smart about where she put her feet. While her pedigree lacks big names in the first three generations, her breeding really shines in the fourth generation and beyond. The importance of this will become evident later.

Physical attributes: As mentioned above, our chosen mare has good confirmation and a great attitude. Like many full Thoroughbreds, however, her gaits and her jump could use a bit of Warmblood flair.

Pedigree and Linebreeding: When analyzing a pedigree, we think in terms of linebreeding, a technique that has been successfully used by both the racehorse industry and many Warmblood registries. As mentioned above, Buffalo Princess has some fantastic things going for her in her “engine room”, the fourth to sixth generations in a pedigree.

Buffalo Princess' conformation. Photo courtesy of Christina.

Buffalo Princess’ conformation. Photo courtesy of Christina

Prince John: As far as U.S.-bred Thoroughbreds go, we seek out certain horses that we feel from research and from our database are particularly potent for breeding an upper-level event horse. Buffalo Princess has a smattering of good names (My Babu and Sir Gaylord to name a few), but what really stands out for our linebreeding goals is her 5×5 cross of Prince John. Prince John is the grandsire of Lonesome Glory, the five time American Champion steeplechaser, winner of the Breeder’s Cup Steeplechase and the first U.S. steeplechaser to win over $1 million in prize money.  He is also the damsire of Cozzene (also in Buffalo Princess’ pedigree), the 1985 American Champion Male Turf horse and winner of the Breeder’s Cup Mile.

Steeplechasers and turf horses are fantastic to see in an event horse pedigree. Prince John appears in the pedigrees of eventers such as Rather Well, Chilli Morning and Courageous Comet. Buffalo Princess’s two crosses of Prince John are nice, but what is even more impressive is that one of the crosses is through a son (Stage Door Johnny) and one is through a daughter (Ride the Trails). Having both male and female lines is called sex balancing and is an important part of linebreeding.

Tom Fool: Buffalo Princess has five crosses through three different lines of Tom Fool. Tom Fool is primarily known as the sire of Buckpasser who accounts for three of those lines. Buckpasser is an outstanding broodmare sire and stamina influence on modern Thoroughbreds, and we like stamina in event horses. All three of Buffalo Princess’s Buckpasser lines are through daughters. Tom Fool is in the pedigree of upper-level horses including Sharon White’s newest CCI4* partner Wundermaske and Karen O’Connor’s old partner Worth The Trust.

Goals: Improve stadium jump and trot and find more lines of Tom Fool and/or Prince John, sex balancing if possible. As always, keep our percentage Thoroughbred around (or above) 75%. The stage is set, and the search for a stallion begins.

Here’s a short clip of Buffalo Princess and Christina in a jumping lesson:

Low Hanging Fruit: You probably have realized by now that Chilli Morning is not only listed above as a carrier of Prince John but is also not too shabby an eventer and just happens to be a stallion, so let’s take a look.

The top influence when crossed with this mare turns out to be Northern Dancer with second place going to Secretariat. Northern Dancer is a nice surprise as he is known for passing jumping ability, and Secretariat you’ve likely heard of! The combination weighs in at around 81% Thoroughbred and should succeed in improving jump and gaits (even William Fox-Pitt can’t get third at WEG on a dud).

Out of the Box: When it comes to adding jump to eventers, some warmblood lines show up regularly in the top ranks. If you have looked at any of the horses we’ve bred, you’ll notice Cor de la Bryere, Ramiro Z and Alme Z.

With a bit of searching we found the stallion Amiro Z, a 2004 Dutch Warmblood who fits our needs nicely. The cross gives us 84% Thoroughbred and Amiro Z brings in a male line of Buckpasser (helping to sex balance) as well as bringing in Ramiro Z (sire of Olympic Gold and Silver medalists) and Alme Z (sire of two world champion and three Olympic jumpers) for jump and movement. An added bonus in this match is another line of Missy Baba (daughter of My Babu, grandsire of Bruce Davidson’s JJ Babu).

Hopefully this has provided some insight into our process and into why knowing what influential ancestors (not just parents) are in your horse’s pedigree is so important.

How can you not pick the Rolex horse you ask?  Because we are pleased to announce we will be making a few more matches in a short series for EN! If you’d like a personal consultation, contact us.

Buffalo Princess and Christina compete in the dressage phase:

Friday News & Notes from FLAIR Nasal Strips

The infamous warmup at Pine Top. Photo by Carrie Meehan.

The famous warmup at Pine Top. Photo by Carrie Meehan.

Yesterday I did some gallops in a huge field that magically has a long slow uphill on one side and somehow a much less steep downhill on the other side, which makes it incredibly fun and involves a lot less pulling from the beast. It was very windy, and briskly cold enough to start with a trot set with a wool quarter sheet, and then once we warmed up, take that off. I was listening to my “guilty pleasures” mix on my phone, and Nyls was thrilled to be doing gallops (he knows the beeping patterns of the big yellow watch and behaves accordingly). I was thinking that there is almost nothing better than sitting on an incredibly powerful horse that knows his job, loves it, and is just about as smart as you, hiking up your stirrups, and going for some gallops alone on a brisk day. I mean, this is basically why we are horse junkies, for moments like that.

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Rocking Horse II H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

Paradise Farm H.T. [Website] [Ride Times]

Fresno County Horse Park CIC & H.T. [Website] [Entry Status/Ride Times]

News From Around The Globe:

Congratulations to our 10 winners from this week’s Fab Freebie giveaway! If you see your name on this list, then check your email to find out how to claim your new pair of Equiflexsleeves! Our winners are: Jeannie Baggett, Marianne Blackmore, Michelle Eubanks, Stephanie Fitkin, Page Brooke Ferguson, Sarah Garber, Louise Jordan-Beam, Danielle Molnar, Catie Morgan, and Katie Wood. Congratulations to all! [Fab Freebie: Equiflexsleeve]

Do you have a crazy and/or weird talent that you’re dying to show off and use to win a cash prize?? Carolina International has a spot for you, with their inaugural talent show on March 21st! For $1,000 prize money, you can sing, dance, or juggle your way into infamy. You have to be affiliated with Eventing (duh) and submit an audition video via Facebook. [Enter Carolina’s Most Talented Here]

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we want to see your “Smooch Selfies”! Snap a photo of you smooching your horse and send it to us for a chance to win a prize pack from Kentucky Performance Products — horses make the best Valentines, right? [Smoochin’ Selfies for Valentine’s Day]

Photographing horses on the flat: an impressive skill that sometimes takes hours of practice, a good eye, and maybe a few extra throw away images. However, if you know what to look for, you can improve your ability to market your horses, and impress your friends! Horse & Hound has some great tips. [Photographing Dressage Horses]

As I just bought a load of beautiful timothy for my horses just two days ago, I’ve got hay on the mind. Knowing how and when to source your hay is one thing, but understanding the different types and their corresponding nutritional values is another. Good quality hay is the key to a good healthy horse, and that’s the goal for everyone. How do you balance having retirees or air ferns in the same barn as high performance athletes? Dr. David Ramey breaks it down. [Hay And Such]

Long-haired girls, let’s get together on this one. Now that the FEI has made it mandatory for the ladies (and the men, I’m looking at you Ludvig Svennerstal) to make sure their hair is neat and tidy under helmets, this means two things: 1) The FEI has made approximately one rule change so far that makes any sense and 2) You are probably in search of the ultimate hairnet that is sturdy and will contain all of your hair perfectly all day. I have hair that is….well….basically too long to be allowed, and I have found the only one that works for me is Real Women Ride No Knot Hairnet. Seriously, it keeps it on lockdown! [SmartPak Product Of The Day]

I love this idea, pairs teams of top show jumpers with little kids on ponies. How cool!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFjcDdcUAOw

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Thursday News & Notes from SmartPak

When it's 70 degrees in February on a Sunday, I bathe all my ponies and take their glamour shots in the sun. Charlie, the newest member of my wolf pack. Photo by Kate Samuels.

When it’s 70 degrees in February on a Sunday, I bathe all my ponies and take their glamour shots in the sun. Charlie, the newest member of my wolf pack. Photo by Kate Samuels.

The next two weekends will have a lot of Eventers in Florida and South Carolina gnawing down their fingernails and obsessing just a little too hard over nicks or cuts anywhere on their horses. Why more than usual, you ask? Because it’s the first two Advanced horse trials of the year! Rocking Horse is this weekend, and Pine Top is next, and there will be plenty of first-timers hoping for their very first completion at the level. I always had equal parts admiration and incredulity for people who moved up to Advanced in February, because, well, it’s February! I’m a big fan of the winter break for both myself and my horses, and never could get my rear in gear to move up that early in the season. I’m into the mid-summer move up, so kudos to those brave enough to attempt it in the next two weekends, you’re more ambitious than me!

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Rocking Horse II H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

Paradise Farm H.T. [Website] [Ride Times]

Fresno County Horse Park CIC & H.T. [Website] [Entry Status/Ride Times]

News From Around The Globe:

New Jersey has awarded their inaugural “Horse Personality of the Year” to a 42-year-old quarter horse named Lord Nelson. Lord Nelson is apparently committed to education, having served as both a football mascot and an interactive teacher for Rutgers University Equine Science Center. He also has his own blog, written from his perspective, of course. [Horse Personality Of The Year]

Valegro has basically won all of the possible championship titles in modern Dressage, and owns the world records, so now what? A recent article in Dressage News reported that Valegro and Carl Hester will both be retiring after the Rio 2016 Olympics, a headline that caused a pretty big stir. A retirement at only 14 years of age? Never worry, as H&H has the real story, straight from Carl himself. It sounds more like a reasonable approach one day at a time, and less like an ultimate decision. [H&H Reports on Carl & Valegro Rumors]

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we want to see your “Smooch Selfies”! Snap a photo of you smooching your horse and send it to us for a chance to win a prize pack from Kentucky Performance Products — horses make the best Valentines, right? [Smoochin’ Selfies for Valentine’s Day]

15 Horsey Life Hacks? [Yes Please]

Best of Blogs: Jan Byyny’s Reflections on Lessons Learned at Pine Top

A little bit of Pine Top flashback…

 

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Product Review: Horze bZeen Reflect Rider Front Leg Boots

Horze bZeen Reflect Rider Front Boots have incredibly reflective straps on them, even in the daylight. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Horze bZeen Reflect Rider Front Boots have incredibly reflective straps on them, even in the daylight. Photo by Kate Samuels.

The winter months bring us three main things: cold weather, mud everywhere, and many fewer hours of sun for riding. While there are a select lucky few who are able to ride during the dwindling daylight, a great number of riders have to resort to different methods of riding at night. Some have access to indoor arenas, and others have to ride outside, which is how the recent interest in reflective riding gear has emerged.

Horze Equestrian has an entire line of reflective accoutrements for both horse and rider, aimed at increasing visibility and safety during dusk or nighttime rides. While they have everything from reflective bridle covers to reflective quarter sheets, I got my hands on their Horze bZeen Reflect Rider Front Leg Boots.

Upon first inspection, the boots surprised me with how pleasantly lightweight they were in my hand. They aren’t cumbersome in any way, either for application, or for the horse to wear as he exercises. Your horse appreciates lightweight workout gear almost as much as you do, and I enjoyed this aspect of the bZeen Reflect Rider Front Leg Boots.

The straps on the Horse bZeen Reflect Rider Front Boots are wide and sturdy, making it easy to apply them firmly and evenly to the leg. Photo by Kate Samuels.

The straps on the Horse bZeen Reflect Rider Front Boots are wide and sturdy, making it easy to apply them firmly and evenly to the leg. Photo by Kate Samuels.

Of course, the primary aspect of these boots is that they will definitely increase the safety of you and your horse when you’re riding on trails or roads with limited visibility. The velcro straps that secure the boots onto the leg are incredibly reflective, as you can see in these photos. They reflected the sunlight right back at me, creating quite a glare. They are extremely well equipped to pick up any light source and throw it back to any onlookers.

The second purpose of the bZeen Reflect Rider Front Leg Boots is to provide support and protection for your horse during exercise. Except for the reflective straps, these boots are identical to the Horze ProSoft Protective Front Boots, which are noted for their ability to protect and support the tendons and ligaments during a workout.

The boots are neoprene inside with a supportive grooves for the tendons and ligaments, and additional patches of suede for extra protection. There are three wide straps along the straight part of the leg, and one wide strap around the fetlock that acts as a brace for the joint, helping to prevent hyperextension of the fetlock joint. It was very easy to establish even pressure along the legs, which is always of the utmost importance when applying bandages or support boots.

A back view of the bZeen Reflect Rider Front Boots. Photo by Kate Samuels.

A back view of the bZeen Reflect Rider Front Boots. Photo by Kate Samuels.

I took my Horze bZeen Reflect Rider Front Boots out for a ride, working first on the flat and then proceeding to a hack around the countryside. The boots stayed perfectly in place, with no slipping or rotating throughout the ride. While I did mention that they are quite light to hold, they are also very durable, and have very high quality details, which would indicate a good level of longevity.

The Horze bZeen Reflect Rider Front Boots serve to increase safety and visibility during rides in limited light, but also provide good support to the integral structures of your horse’s legs during exercise.

Now is a great time to buy these boots, as they are 30% off! They retail for $37.76, and you can check them out here.

Go Horze Equestrian! Go safety while riding! Go awesome protective boots!

Friday News & Notes from FLAIR Nasal Strips

Cooley Cross Border being adorable after a jump school! Photo via Kim Severson Eventing FB.

Cooley Cross Border being adorable after a jump school! Photo via Kim Severson Eventing FB.

This week, I taught my first lesson at 4:30 OUTSIDE and it was mostly light at the end! It’s so exciting that it’s finally staying light later in the day, and I’ve celebrated by not finishing working at the barn until 6:30 every day this week. Did I say celebrating? I mean, it’s pretty nice, because I’m at the barn, but then I get home and turn my heat up to 70 and it’s pretty rough to get back up and do night check. I’ll admit, every once in a while I wonder, “Would my horses die if I just fell asleep on this couch….?” And then I remember Nyls, and I think, yeah, he would be totally pissed tomorrow morning, and would probably have something to say about it. Nyls always keeps me in line.

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Pine Top Intermediate H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status/Ride Times]

Ocala Winter II H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times]

Full Gallop Farm February I H.T. [Website] [Scores]

News From Around The Globe:

Congratulations to Rebecca Barber, this week’s Fab Freebie winner! Rebecca will receive a BeneFab Therapeutic Dressage Pad — congratulations! [Fab Freebies: BENEFab]

Andrew Nicholson, despite all the recent scandal surrounding him, knows how to train a horse to think for itself. He recently revealed some of his training secrets at the International Eventing Forum, sharing a specific exercise for young horses that he uses regularly. “A lot of people think I ride as fast as I can and take whatever stride I’ve got, but I’m really the opposite. The smoother you are to a fence, the less energy the horse is wasting.” [Andrew Nicholson Teaching Horses to Think]

CT scans for horses? Now you can! American company Epica Medical Innovations has announced the arrival of their Pegaso computed tomography scanner, specifically designed for horses. The Pegaso can fully scan any part of an anesthetized horse, from stem to stern. [Pegaso Horse CT Machine]

New by-laws in Halaba, Ethiopia have passed to allow global equine welfare charity The Brooke to make decisions on abandoned working equines. When horses are too sick or weak to work, they are sometimes left on the streets to suffer slowly before they die, or are attacked and eaten by hyenas. The Brooke always attempts to help them and nurture them back to health. Although, until recently, they could not make the decision to humanely euthanize them for fear of legal ramifications from owners. Now, the city has made it possible for The Brooke to make the call for these broken animals, and send them peacefully on their way. [The Brooke Equine Welfare Charity]

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]

Every time I go to an event, the day before cross country the same thing happens: the resident tack store runs out of last minute FLAIR strips! As common as FLAIR strips are now at the upper levels, you’d think we would remember to pack them, but time and time again, they are the first items to be sold out in the mobile tack stores at competitions. Good news, guys, you can buy a pack of six to last you all season! SmartPak has your back, and at better prices than elsewhere. [FLAIR Nasal Strips from SmartPak]

This is a thing:

 

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Thursday News & Notes from SmartPak

A pretty good Virginia mountain top view.

A pretty good Virginia mountain top view.

This time last year, I was gearing up for my first big run of the season at Pine Top in the Intermediate. I was also living in Aiken, covered in snow and ice and miserableness. This year, I’m spending the spring in Virginia, and the month of February working on fitness, strength, and jumping more before my debut. Somehow, the weather right now is better than it was 9 hours south last year! Today was pretty great, 55 and sunny, and I had a wonderful time jump schooling, vetting a new horse, and climbing the mountain with my best 3* horse and my dog, checking out the views. Sweet deal!

U.S. Weekend Preview:

Pine Top Intermediate H.T.  [Website] [Entry Status]

Ocala Winter II H.T. [Website] [Entry Status] [Ride Times]

Full Gallop Farm February I H.T. [Website] [Scores]

News From Around The Globe:

A fascinating new study from UC Davis shows possible links between maladjusted foal syndrome and autism. The bizarre behavioral disorder, more commonly known as “dummy foal syndrome”, shares a lot of similarities with children with autism, and learning how to cure it in horses could lead to progress for people. Scientists believe that the birthing process is key to turning off the nuerosteroid sedatives that keep the foal quiet while it is in the womb, and have found ways to recreate the squeezing of a birth canal in a way that brings the dummy foals back to life. [UC Davis Study on Maladjusted Foals]

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]

Abby Hamblin and Silver Flash and gearing up for their Advanced debut this spring, and celebrated by getting named as one of our 2014 Emerging Stars, as well as a new article from Off Track Thoroughbreds. In 2008, Silver Flash was bought for $600 coming off the track, and was passed over too many times to count as he tried his hand at being a sport horse. It only took one tilt of the head begging for a treat, and Abby Hamblin fell in love. [Abby & Silver Flash]

Are you an equestrian in high school interested in recognition from the USEF? The USEF High School Equestrian Athlete program is open to equestrian athletes in all breeds or disciplines who are enrolled in grades 9-12, and are currently USEF members, or become USEF members. The program will run June 1–May 31 of each year, and will honor those who document their training and competition involvement by awarding emblems and pins. These are designed to be worn on existing high school letterman’s jackets, or any jacket of the athlete’s choosing, as a symbol of achievement. [Sign Up Here]

A friendly reminder for Rolex fans….get your tickets now before they are sold out! RK3DE announced today that they expect Sunday tickets to be fully sold out by the end of February, and the other days are going fast too! So, if you’re looking to go watch the best in the country compete in April, don’t dawdle! [RK3DE Ticket Guide]

The U.S. Thoroughbred breeding industry is currently at odds with the British steroid policy, and looking to find ways to resolve the issue. As it currently stands, British racing has a zero tolerance policy towards the presence of steroids in any racehorse at any point in their life, and if one is found to test positive, they are banned from training for 12 months. The U.S. currently bans steroid usage on race day and at auctions, but they are still used in between. This means that shipping horses overseas to race or even having British owners buy American thoroughbreds is more or less impossible. (It would be lovely if our drug policies were to move more towards the zero tolerance side!). [British Doping Policies Affect American Thoroughbreds]

 

I can’t be the only one obsessed with Frankel, can I?

 

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Friday News & Notes from FLAIR Nasal Strips

Wellington Showcase official timetables. Photo courtesy of Lainey Ashker.

Wellington Showcase official timetables. Photo courtesy of Lainey Ashker.

Watch out, Dressage riders and Show Jumpers, the Eventing crowd is invading Wellington! The $50,000 Wellington Eventing Showcase kicks off today, with the test ride at 9:00 and Marilyn Little beginning the division at 9:30 with RF Scandalous. We are very lucky to have Jenni Autry on the ground for the entire event, bringing you the very first live coverage of 2015. Our good friends at The Chronicle of the Horse will be hosting a live stream of all three phases, so bookmark the links below to tune in:

Friday - Dressage - 9:30 a.m. EST

Saturday - Show Jumping - 10 a.m. EST

Saturday - Cross Country - 1:00 p.m. EST

Live Scores

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:

Congratulations to Amanda Zimmerman, the winner of this week’s Fab Freebie! Amanda will take home a Wave Fork from Noble Outfitters to make barn chores a breeze! [Fab Freebies: Noble Outfitters]

Mark Todd’s California Clinic this past week was a smashing success, as he showed riders how to simply but effectively deal with jumping issues. Teaching show jumping on day one and cross country on day two, Mark set up exercises to emphasize the adjustability of all the horses, and show the riders how to feel their way to a distance instead of focusing on the number of strides. On cross country, he had riders think about riding multiple fences in a row, rather than just schooling single fences at a time. The Chronicle has a great report on the clinic. [Mark Todd’s California Clinic]

 With a body score of less than 1, and about a 2% chance of survival, Hope the Wonderhorse has surpassed all expectations and is thriving today, thanks to help from all around the world! We brought you Hope’s story last week, and in that time she has inspired thousands of people from countries all over the world to contribute to her cause and help her fight for her life. Now she even got to be on TV! WNCN from Raleigh came out to the farm at Old Glory Legacy Foundation to do a story on her yesterday. [Hope On TV]

Jordan McDonald’s family has recorded and released a song in his memory. Jordan’s sister Shanna Lynn and her husband Damian Marshall have recorded a version of his favorite song, The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel. The song is now available for download on iTunes and all proceeds will go towards keeping Jordan’s dreams and goals alive, and supporting Shandiss and the horses as she pursues her career in dressage. [Jordan’s Song]

The newest USEA Podcast is up, this time discussing the east coast ICP Symposium with Chris Bartle. The second of two ICP Symposiums, taught by Chris Bartle, was held at Longwood Farm South, Ocala, Fla., on January 19-20th. Liz Halliday, Sharon White and Lauren Kieffer share their impressions and experiences! [Click Here to Listen or Read]

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]

Best thing about early spring? Winter gear is on sale! It’s still plenty cold, and I’m still totally layering up every morning, and unless you’re south of Georgia, you’re with me on this one. SmartPak is ahead of the curve, with basically all of the awesome people and horse clothing that you need to survive this winter, and the next few. A few of my favorites: fuzzy boots for me, turnout blankets with necks for my horses, and everything Under Armour. [Winter Sale from SmartPak]

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!

FlairBuck-Horizontal

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!