USEA Convention: Friday Morning Live Thread

Still Dark AM EST: Good morning Eventing Nation!  Thank you for joining us, it’s always a pleasure.  I will be updating this thread at least once every two hours throughout the day as I go from meeting to meeting.  This is real-time, so please forgive the informal writing.  Time spent writing after I left the convention last night: 6 hours.  Time spent sleeping last night: 5 hours.  Knowing that most of Eventing Nation is at work and enjoying our posts throughout the day: Priceless.  This post is going to get long, please scroll down for our Trade Fair Awards and more fun from Thursday.  Convention Schedule
7:30 AM: Rule Change Open Forum-Malcom Hook, Chair of the USEF Eventing Committee is presiding over the meeting.  A quick glance around the room, and about three current 4* riders cared enough to get up and attend this meeting, probably 40 people overall.  Just a few qualifying details being discussed, such as what to call the prelim 3-day qualifier, i.e. either ‘prelim three-day’ or ‘one-star,’ etc.  The word is that the FEI will change their rules to give people an error for riding with a dresage whip in and around the dressgae ring, rather than eliminating them, and it seems like US eventing will follow suit.  My take: makes sense, I was eliminated when I was 10 for taking my crop into the dressage ring.  
Now bickering over the word ‘any.’  Make that four 4* riders are here.  Debate now over the number of solid jumps in the XC warmup.  Some riders want it mandatory to have a solid fence in warmup, organizers support the concept but don’t want this to be a ‘must,’ particularly in the instance of limited warmup space.  Someone just said “specifity.”  Interesting question just raised: is an ‘x’ a vertical?
Now chatting about the bit check.  One issue is that the current rules do not seem to provide a consequence for not getting your bit checked.  The idea has also been brought up by whether or not a spot check (such as once every 10 riders) would allow organizers to not have to use a volunteer to only check bits.  Little resolution, there are still concerns that the bit check rule is not strong enough.  
9:00 AM-Training Solutions for Top Riders. Phillip Dutton, Allison Springer, Mike Huber, Karen O’Connor, Kim Severson, Buck Davidson, and Will Coleman are seated at a long table and responding to questions from the audience.
*Question: When do we know when to move up?
-Allison-Trainers and riders need to know that the rider and horse understand each question at a given level, such as the coffin canter, before moving on.
-Mike Huber-The move from training to prelim is much harder than novice to training, and probably the hardest move-up in eventing.  This is a 4 inch increase, and all the others are two inches.
*Question: How much priority is placed on rider fitness?
-Karen-Older riders need to focus on cross training because riding each day does not stress the body like competition xc.  Fitness is about being able to maintain a position, such as galloping or sitting trot for an extended period of time.
-Mike Huber-Need to be able to do twice the length of your competition xc comfortably before you are ready.
-Allison-Says she does a lot of Yoga, which helps her with fitness, balance, and body control.
*Question: What about moving back levels?
-Kim-Don’t be afraid to move back if you meet a roadblock, and pay attention to how difficult each course is at a given level.
-Mike Huber-Consider stepping down a level at the beginning of the year for one show as a confidence booster.
-Karen- Said she rode Teddy at prelim as the last prep for the Pan Ams to build confidence.  We need to show horses what they can do, not what they can’t do.
*Question: Favorite exercises at clinics?
-Will-Always immediately take stirrups away and put rider’s hands in some sort of exercise, such as one hand behind the back.  This sharpens the natural riding instincts by taking away the crutches.
-Kim-Pace work for XC.  Pace it out at 350 meters per minute, 450, etc.  Most riders, even pros have no idea how fast they are going.
-Buck-Two verticals 4.5 strides apart, do 4 strides, then 5, then 6, then come back to 4 in the balance of the 6.
-Karen-Do every dressage movement for each level in the jumping position.  Should be able to do all movements in any position.
-Mike Huber-Placing rails 9-10 ft out of jump to make people and horses wait.  Need to start small, because many people have not seen placing rails.  Work on between the jumps turns and rideability.  
-Allison-First make sure that horse is in front of riders leg, which doesn’t mean going faster, but that the horse responds good from the calf rather than heel or spur.
-Phillip-Main theme is that adjustability of horse is key through all three phases.  Don’t ask horse to be adjustable jumping until he can do it on the flat.
*Question: What about student who takes time off and gains weight?
-Karen-Buck should answer this because he lost so much weight.
-Buck-Said he lost weight by eating right, but it all starts with a mental commitment to being more healthy.  After a follow up question about if people should be allowed to jump overweight, Buck said “how fat is this person?”  Buck said start with trot sets, then dressage, then dressage without stirrups, etc.
-Karen-Need to identify characteristics of rider.  Many overweight people have natural balance and ride very light, and many skinny people ride very heavy.  Need to identify and fill in holes of rider.  The horse is not a vehicle.
-Will-Simplest and easiest training tool to get someone in shape is to lunge while they are riding.  This allows them to focus on their seat and strength development.
*Question: Methods to teach flying changes to young horses.
-Allison: Lots of counter canter and transitions.  
-Karen: Do it early, as soon as get horses cantering under saddle, take the across diagonal and do changes.
-Mike Huber: Start asap with young horses, but not in dressage ring or dressage saddle.
*Question: What about if you live a long distance away from an instructor?
-Mike-Consider cross training at hunter or dressage shows.  Also consider traveling to a coach for a concentrated week of training.
10:00 AM-Board of Governors Meeting: A few notes~Eventing has fared much better in the bad economy that other disciplines.  Hunter disciplines are down entries by 20%, and the USEA was only down 3% for the year.  Rule changes over past few years had the effect of seriously reducing fatalities in 2009 over previous several years.
There was a very long discussion on the elimination of the paper omnibus.  The conclusion is that there is a significant minority who really wants/needs a paper omnibus, and that many of those people are opposed to paying the over $30 price.  Just over 350 people paid the price for paper omnibi in the Fall of 2009.  Most of the board seems to feel that the elimination of sending the paper omnibus to everyone, at the expense of the USEA, was a critical step to ensuring the financial security of the USEA during the worst portion of our economic downturn.  However, the board is working hard to reduce the price of the paper omnibus, such as by finding sponsors, for those members who want to pay for the paper omnibus.
11:00 AM-Equine Respiratory System Lecture by Dr. David Marlin, Presented by Flair: A smattering of points and facts from the lecture.  A horse moves 500 gallons of air at gallop.  The respiratory system brings in oxygen, releases CO2, and gets rid of heat in horses.  Horses only breathe through the nose. The right lung is larger than the left lung.  The nose is a relatively small opening for the amount of air that passes through it, and the nasal passage gets smaller down the respiratory tract-more narrow than a finger in some places to warm and humidify the incoming air.  The respiratory tract divides about 80 times into the bronchial tree in the lungs, and eventually turns into a honeycomb structure.  The blood vessels in the lung are separated from the air in the lung by a membrane less than 100th the diameter of a human hair.  When the horse is galloping, the air moves in and out of a horse faster than water from a fireman’s hose, which places the respiratory at maximum output.  Horses breathe once for every stride because the locomotion moves air in and out of chest.  Limiting airflow shortens the horse’s stride and vice versa.  Dr. Marlin says hyperflexion impedes airflow. 
Horse’s don’t breathe while jumping.  If a horse spends a second in the air, with 18 jumping efforts in a 60 second SJ round, the horse spends 1/3 time not breathing.  Imagine now the strong innate response in animals to breathe and you can see why some horses do funny things when jumping. In XC, the horse may also not breathe during sudden increases or decreases in speed.  
The amount of air a horse moves after a long training period (months) is the same as it moves before the training; you can’t train the respiratory system to take in more air.
An over-tight girth limits performance.  The old thought was that it limited rib-cage from expanding in breathing.  In fact, a tight girth limits the muscles that move the forelegs back and forward.  Don’t make your girth too tight, and consider supplements to the girth like breastplate.
The major reason horses breathe hard after exercise is that they are hot, not that they are out of oxygen, the oxygen levels in the blood return to normal after only a few seconds of rest.  6-7 out of 10 horses surveyed have at least minor signs of respiratory disease when scoped in a study.  Healthy horses should not cough, if your horse coughs, talk to your vet.
Low dust management is essential for performance horses.  Feeds, hay, bedding, ventilation.  Keep dust away.  Don’t compromise the ventilation in the winter time, just put another blanket on the horse.  Elevated head and neck position in transporting horses is not natural (horses are used to having their heads on the ground grazing), which leads to increases of bacteria in airway by 100 million times, possibly leading to shipping fevers and infections. 
The most common exercise-induced injury is pulmonary hemorrhage-bleeding in the respiratory tract-even if we don’t see the blood come out the nose.  Bleeding is not good, it can damage the lungs.  Bleeding is common at any pace above trot.  Bleeding can get worse with weeks of training, and can cause permanent damage to the lungs.  Sorry about all this negativity, I’m waiting for him to talk about a solution.  Bleeding due to exercise may be related to blood-pressure, stress on lungs by large movement, and restriction to upper airway.     Treatments (here we go) include Lasix, Nasal Dilator Strips, and possibly Omega 3.  As always, prevention is best.  Control dust in stalls, don’t muck with horse in the stall, have the horse scoped if you suspect an issue, keep new horses separated from healthy horses for a few weeks to make sure they don’t have an issue.
Ok, break for lunch.

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