Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Is your horse "happy" to work? is it?

I just want to say right up front, I DON'T HAVE THE ANSWER to this question that I have been pondering since about April 2013. I guess the closest I have come to an answer is: It depends.....

 Let me give you some background:

I was riding in a clinic, the 2nd clinic of my, at that time, short riding life. The trainer was someone I respected, and even admired, and I was excited to be a "real" rider. I was new to riding, and was new to Pippi, but Pippi was not new to being ridden. And being a mare, she held all the cards. As we walked and eventually trotted around the indoor arena, Pippi kept stopping at the gate to the aisle. I urged her on, and after a circle, she stopped at the gate again. Tried walking me out the arena, clearly saying "we are done here." The trainer urged me on saying "Don't let her get away with that. You work 8 hours per day, she can give you 45 minutes."

Now in essence that makes sense right? Pippi is a working animal, I am a working animal, we have jobs to do. In some ways I am her employer. I have work for her to do, and in return I pay her in housing, feed, excellent health care and treat her well. Among other perks such as massage.... I don't ever get massages at my job!! EVER!! You know what, let's not go down this road of how she is treated better than I am..... (I have had one manicure this year! ahem.....)



We all want our horses to be "happy" in their work, right? But are they always going to be "happy?" I mean doesn't work just kind of suck, even on a good day? Wouldn't most horses, on most days, chose a breezy field with fresh green grass over being ridden? Okay, please spare me the "my horse loves to work" comments ok?  Not minding it, and loving it are two very different things! I'm sure you have all heard the comments "I don't even have to tie up my horse to tack him up, he just stands still and loves to work." Seriously? Is he loving it, or has he been trained to do so? That's like saying "my dog loves to "SIT!" when I tell him to." Or "my child just loves to clean her room." All I am saying is that the shear fact that they comply, without a fuss, is not proof of "loving to work." Using that logic I must love doing the dishes, or scrubbing toilets! But I digress (I always wanted to use that line! yay)

We all want our horses to be "happy" in their work right? But are they always going to be "happy?" To progress, get better, learn new skills, get fit, improve communication, well, that stuff is physically and mentally tiring, so how do you do that and make sure your horse is "happy?" Yep, you can change the way you train and not be too repetitive. You can go for a trail ride, you can cross train, etc...... but in the end you are taking up your horses time, expending energies both mental and physical, with pursuits the horse didn't really pick to do.

Let me insert here that I am not talking about a horse that is in pain and is therefore showing signs of being "unhappy" (ie tail swishing, balking, general non compliance, rushing, refusing leads, bucking, etc.) I am talking about a horse that is being ridden and is not enjoying it because they are being encouraged to work harder, and encouraged to learn new skills. There is a balance here that we must all strive for, and I think anyone who has ridden for awhile has failed at this. Failed at reading the signs; pain versus general resentful grumpiness. Is your mare swishing her tail because she is getting physically tired, or is she in pain? To get fit, we must push to the point of tired, and the signs of that sure look a lot like "unhappiness." Is your gelding resentfully throwing in a buck after a lead change, because he is sick of it, or actually sick?

I have been using quotation signs around the word "happy" (see I did it again) to illustrate the uselessness of that word when talking about a horse at work. We have all heard the statement "if you love your job, you will not a work a day in your life." Yeah right!!?!! (sarcasm - gotta love it) My job is quite fulfilling, but sometimes I don't like it at all. It pays my bills, and gives me security but if staying at home with the pay was an option, well, I'd take it! In a heartbeat. So I do the job, and I guess if I was a horse, that would mean I'm "happy" right? Cause I'm doing it with minimal fuss.

Clearly I am talking in circles here> The bottom line is as equestrians we have a responsibility to make sure our equines are as "happy" as they can be in their jobs. We need to be soft and giving riders who perfect our skills to be clear and precise and take care of our horses needs, both mentally and physically. We need to keep our egos in check, and realize that our goals may or may not happen, and we need to be good partners to our horses to ensure everyone has a good time working. But it is work. And work is hard, and can get challenging, especially for someone who sees no real value in it.....

Like I said, I don't have the answers, I just keep pondering and mulling and looking at my mare and trying to find a balance. It's really just a "need" versus "want" issue at its core. I have learned that I shouldn't be surprised that a horse seems "happier" when not being asked to expend much energy or effort. I mean I am happier on vacation too. Doesn't mean work is bad for me though.... I am "happier" eating chocolate than I am walking up the hill for exercise in my neighborhood. Imagine how "Unhappy" I would be if walking that hill wasn't my idea in the first place, and all my friends were at my house watching Netflix and eating junk food. I have also learned not to judge a rider with an "unhappy" horse, any more than a judge a mom with a kid crying when they leave the pool. Maybe that kid just fell and hurt itself, or maybe it just really wants to swim more, or maybe that mom is truly abusive and is pinching that kid under that towel. Or maybe the kid has a fever!

Not sure I expressed any of what I meant to say here. Just know your horse, and know that sometimes they are in pain, and sometimes they are just not "not feeling it today." You will know the difference, or not..... I just think the idea that only horses in pain, or being used/trained/ridden wrong, would be a grouch to ride. That's too simplistic to me, as though horses do not have preferences, and days where they are more willing than other days. I mean...... you have met a mare right?






Sunday, February 12, 2017

DIY - Horse Show Ribbon Belt



I decided to use some of my Horse Ribbons that were just gathering dust to make myself a "good luck belt" for riding. I think it turned out well. I actually made it last year, and it has held up better than I dreamed. Here are some info about the steps:

1. Select ribbons and segments of the ribbon you like.

2. Measure the width of the belt, or is that the breadth? What a mean is, not the length around the waist of the belt, but how wide is it? Double that and make yourself a template (make a tiny bit smaller than double the width) to use when cutting segment of the ribbons.

3. Lay your template on the ribbon, making sure you place the part of the ribbon in the middle of the template. Cut and put aside. Keep doing that until you have enough ribbons cut to cover the belt as much as you want.

4. Go to your iron, and turn it on to satin. Make another template the exact width of your belt, or use the belt, and press the sides of the ribbons to make little rectangles.
Make sure you iron it so the side you wants out is out. :)


5. After ironing them all into desired shape, place them onto belt with pins, pick a cute stitch on your machine and stitch them all on.
My daughter modeling the belt on regular jeans

6. I decided it would be smart to secure the gaps between each ribbon, and decided to hand stitch that with a bead to add some subtle bling. You could just stitch that on your machine too....



Here is a video showing what the belt looks like, and with some short hints on how to make it.

Please comment with any questions. 



Thursday, November 17, 2016

TBT - I can't afford it all!



I wrote this a few years ago, some things have changed, some have not,......

"I can’t afford it.” “I don’t have the money.” How come those sentences are so hard to say? Sometimes I think people have a harder time with that than saying “sorry” in a heartfelt apology. We lie, we distract, we dissemble, we do just about anything not to have to say that we just cannot afford to go to the show (the fees can be outrageous), buy a new saddle or get a massage for our horses.
Well, I am coming out of the closet on this on; I cannot afford it all. I have a job with decent wages, but I have to make choices all the time. I have one used saddle that is way too small, the knee blocks are useless for me, and it is what it is for right now. My girth is an old English girth because my billets are too short for a dressage girth, which doesn’t matter because I don’t own a dressage girth. I have two bridles, only one of them is a Dressage bridle even though that is my discipline. The Dressage bridle is my show bridle, but I don’t really show because I can’t afford a truck to take me to shows. In my yard sits the used trailer that was supposed to be step one in hauling myself, but step two (the truck) is just not on the horizon. Pippi’s blanket was bought used, and has, in its second season with me, several tears in the cover. She does not get supplements, a massage (other than by me), regular chiropractic care, or aromatherapy treatments. (Okay, that was snarky)

It’s hard this balancing act that we do. And it’s really hard to see others that seemingly do have it all. “How do they do it?” we ask ourselves and quietly with our best and most trusted friend. “She must get her Visa bill delivered in a box!” You know you have said worse things!
Sure, that feeling of envy is useless and negative, but so very human.  Life isn’t fair, and no matter how many times we stamp our feet like little three year olds, it’s not about to change any time soon. I admit I get jealous, envious, and I wish so much to win the lottery (I bet buying a ticket would help).

There is a feeling, for me at least, that as equestrians we are expected to be willing to make every sacrifice available for the betterment of our horses and our sport. The horse comes first, and the pressure to get the latest tack innovation and best care can get intense. “If I had to live in a tent to keep my horse, I totally would!” Really? Well, I can’t do that! What I wouldn’t do for a saddle that fit and a Toyota Tundra! I know that I am just a few lost paychecks from having to make very hard decisions about the future of Pippi, and even scarier I am not ready for a medical emergency. Sure, we are supposed to have funds put away for that sort of thing, but realistically how many of us are financially prepared?

I had this, but never got to use it...... sold!

Pippi is my dessert in life, but I have to have real food and so does my family. And even if you are ever so willing to make a lot of sacrifices, as I am, how do you ask your partner and family to do the same? I realize that my love for Pippi is not shared by my husband. He sees it as my passion, and would never dream of asking me to make sacrifices for his work outs (one of his passions). Time is one thing, but serious changes in our lives so that I can keep a horse is asking a lot from the poor fella. As I stated in an earlier blog, a horse can cause divorce. Relationships can be difficult when different sets of priorities enter the picture. The pressures we put on ourselves, the shame/ jealousy/envy (of which we ourselves should take responsibility) we may feel at times, are understandable as we make choices based on our funds. Few of us are in position to not have to think “money” when we think ”horses.”  We work hard, we don’t have the time we would like to spend with our horses, the horses don’t always get everything we would like them to have, and we make the best of it. The next time you can’t go to the show, replace broken tack or put off vaccinations because you don’t have the funds for it, please know your boat is filled with equestrians doing the same. When I feel a little “jelly belly” it is not that I don’t want that other rider to have what they have, I just long for a day when I can have the same without feeling very stressed about it financially. 

I’m jealous, but I own it.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Apply your outrage locally!

This past weekend at Fair Hill International a rider was allowed to finish the XC portion even though blood was clearly visible in the mouth of the horse as early as fence 10( according to pictures and reports from those present). This has caused quite the ruckus, as it should in my opinion. I have read opinions and great blogs questioning the blood rule, and decisions made by the officials, fears that this type of PR will hurt equestrian sport, and just pure outrage regarding all kinds of things connected to this event. Borrowing from political journalists I say we call this whole thing "Bloodgate." And "bloodgate" sure is getting people fired up, and I think that's good! Get fired up! State your opinion! Sign that petition and take a stand.

But you know what? I'm going to ask you to stay with that feeling of outrage and activism for a while, and try to apply it to your local equestrian community. Quite often equestrians at local levels "get away with murder", or more likely, negligent homicide. (Negligent homicide is the killing of another person (horse) through gross negligence or without malice). We all talk about "those people"at the local level: that have malnourished horses. Old school horses who can no longer carry little bouncy kids in lessons and instead of being given the sweet retirement (after earning money for their owner carrying one bouncy ass after another) in a field of clover, are dumped at meat auctions (I for one would rather the vet come out and give them a pain free end).
 How about the ones who have one freakish "accident" after another, when everyone knows it's caused by mis-management (if one is being kind and not just calling a spade a spade). Horses are getting hurt by people who cut corners knowingly every day. Horses are hurt because repairs were not done, and then not given the care and consideration they need to heal.
Old horses that have given their lives to their sport, are drugged and competed way too long, and everyone who sees it shakes their heads and whisper. "Can you believe she is still running that horse? How old is it now? 26?"
Crimes happen and people talk, but no one presses charges because they don't want any more drama, and just want the offender off their property so "they can move on." And they do, they move on to do it again to someone else.

These things go on in every community, and I could go on and on..........

So what do I want you to do? Make a big stink? Raise your voices? grab your pitchforks and run the bastards out of town? (YES!) No! You do not have to go that far.... You know what I'd like? I'd like to see the offenders we know about, (because we saw it, and there is no doubt) not be supported by people in the community. I'd like those that whisper and spread the rumors, shake their heads and "just feel awful" to put their actions where their mouths are.
You don't have to take a big public stand and yell from the mountain top that "so and so" did "this and that!" You can just NOT support them by action or word. Don't help them earn money, and don't give them your money! Stop going to that barn! Stop taking lessons from that trainer! Stop attending clinics/events at that boarding place! Stop recommending that person! Stop "liking and sharing" their events and results on social media! Just stop!
You can do that very quietly and without drama. You don't even have to tell others not to support that person, or even why you are not. If asked, just make a bland excuse and move on. Just distance yourself and leave it at that!  If you see the person, be polite, but don't invite them into your social equestrian circle. The best part is you do not have to spread the rumors, or be involved in the drama in any way. All you have to do is walk away! Retreat! And shut up! Easy peasy!

As equestrians we have a responsibility to stand for the horse, and sometimes the best way to do that is to do just that; just stand! Take that stand personally, and support horse people whose actions you agree with. Make sure those you recommend really are equestrians you recommend without reservations. Give your funds to people who you feel care for and treat horses ethically. Spread the word about trainers and barns that treat horses well. Support their events, and cheer them on.
 And apply the Thumper rule liberally:



"If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all!" But let's amend that a little: If you can't say something nice, don't talk crap about them, and then support that person in other ways.
...................... Just sayin'...................











Friday, October 7, 2016

The Learning Buffet

In my quest to becoming a better horse owner, and trainer, I am always looking around for pearls of wisdom. There are lots of venues to learn, great trainers, and I also find that I learn an incredible amount from "ammie" riders just like me. I read everything I can find, watch videos, read blogs and books, and peruse facebook groups. Basically I am obsessed!

Once in awhile I come across a type of person that I will call "the Cult Disciple." They are so convinced, and may I say "brainwashed," to their leader's way of training and riding that they are defensive right off the bat. And also often arrogant and self righteous. "So and so" uses only "this and that" method, and "no Gadgets," and anything else is "cruel," "abusive" and "unjust" and at best is a total "waste of time"and it will make you horse "fractious." This is a quick way to make me leave your school of thought behind. Nothing turns me off quicker than a hard sale, and the words "this is the only way...."

You know why? Cause there are 100s of ways to Rome. I will never become convinced that it is a good idea to swallow one training method, line hook and sinker, to get the best result with yourself and your horse. And the good news is that I don't have to do that; I can approach learning and training the same way I approach The Golden Corral Buffet. I can walk in, grab a plate, and fill it whatever I want. Maybe a little clicker training, with a bowl of BioMechanics and side of cowboy sauce. I don't enjoy the real crunchy Parelli stuff, and the Modern Dressage can be a little undercooked and tough, but boy I do love me some Classical Dressage. I eat that a lot, and have tried recipes from a variety of old chefs. But as I grow and mature, so does my taste buds, so I try new things, and if I still don't like it, I will just put it aside, and perhaps come back to it later on. 

The most important thing for me is to stay open minded, and ready to listen and learn. The only thing I try to judge is how the training method affects my horse, and if I am getting the desired results without causing pain or undue stress to my horse or myself. When something works I could care less if I heard it from Monty, Jane, Buck, Karen, George, Charlotte, Will, or Carl, read it in a blog, or heard it from a friend. Good Dessert is just good, no matter who first came up with the recipe. 




Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Selling my Lorenzini Evo Action Stirrups

"The Royal Rider Evo-Action Stirrups include a spring and coil system at the stirrup leather placement that is designed to adjust to the weight of the rider. The shock and tension of impact are absorbed and smoothly distributed through the body of the stirrup, through the natural flexibility and strength of the stirrup’s techno-polymer components. These durable, lightweight stirrups are made to ensure maximum shock absorption, providing cushioning relief from stress of impact and jostling movements upon the your joints."


I only tried these for a few rides, and they still look brand new. Great for bad knees. I really liked them but my ankle prefers the stirrups that drops to a 70% angle.
FREE shipping inside continental USA

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Not knowing shit might be a good thing!

Have you seen the pictures of the Grand Prix riders in the Falsterbo warm up ring wrestling their horses? These are Grand Prix riders, the top of our sport, the riders that know how to passage and piaffe and who should be some the best our sport has to offer. They should be the elite, the ones "in the know." The Masters, the Professionals.....

I, on the other hand, am a student, not a teacher, or trainer or master. And I know that I don't know shit about horses or dressage. But knowing that I don't know, and truly recognizing that might just be the most important thing that I DO know. Because I am open, a sponge soaking in horse and dressage knowledge from any source I can find. I study the true teachers; Podhajsky, Lundqvist, Klimke, Savoie, Morris and the like. I watch western trainers like Brannaman, and learn how to listen and hear my partner. I watch videos from the Olympics in the 60s and 70s looking for softer and more relaxed movements.
I peruse Dressage Facebook pages, and read the advice to issues Pippi and I don't have (right now), and file it away for "some day." For what I reject today, I may use tomorrow. And I reject a lot! A LOT! And then a new issue comes up, and I flip through my mental rolodex and come upon some tidbit or advice, or recall someone I saw and either try it or reject it again. Often I try, and then reject only to perhaps revisit it again. And I ask everyone I know for anything they can tell me. And when they speak I listen, quietly, and sort through what I just heard and decide if this knowledge is for now or later.
I study the USEF rulebook by reading the The Snaffle Squads "one rule per day" at noon every day. Those rules are the perimeters and there is a lot to learn in them. I want to know what the rules actually say, and I want to know the goal of each step.




So when thinking about those riders in the warm up ring I have to wonder if they forgot a lot, or just think that they know. Did they get to such a high level technically that they no longer hear their horses? Did their knowledge drown out their hearts? Do they hear the concerns of the masses, that may not be able to piaffe, or do they just "know" that they know better. They are the best after all, so why should they still have to learn? Just because they know how to make a horse pirouette, do they know how to ask a horse to pirouette? A gaggle of riders, at the highest level, warming up together, do they show off to one another and feed off each other, and let their ambitions get the better of them? Are they honest with themselves, or do they know better than the rest of us "what it takes" for the horse to work at that level?
I am just happy that I don't know shit. It makes me question everything, search for answers and it makes me curious. The greatest barrier to learning and growing as a rider is thinking that I already know. I mean.... even I know that!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dressage Stock-tie for $3.73!

Who here has no financial concerns whatsoever? You are excused, please go back to your charmed life, while the rest of us try to squeeze the last drop out of every last penny. It is Vet season, as in shots/coggins season, membership renewal season and show season, so my pennies are on fire.

As I am going to my first rated show, cue the applause, I need to look the part, which requires a Dressage Stock tie. You can find those quite inexpensively online, even Amazon has a few decent ones, but that is still too rich for my blood. Plus I didn't want to be all white and boring, and I have an imagination and a sewing machine with passable skills. So I puzzled and puzzled 'till my puzzler was sore, and went to find cheap material. The best place to find scrap material may not be your local fabric store, but instead your local Goodwill, where found exactly what I had in mind; white with a little color and a little sparkle with some great details already done for me:
White with blue and silver stripes.






I know the silver is not really showing in the pic, it is quite subtle, so perfect for Dressage. And since the front had all that detailed pleating, I decided to use that in some way. 
Just to be clear; I don't have a pattern for a stock tie, I just went for it. First I decided to make the collar part, and I looked at the collars of shirts and thought, whoa that's not easy to trace..... Come on Google, and lo and behold the interwebs had just what I needed; a Shirt Collar Pattern. So I printed that off and I was off and running. This shirt was made with wide interfacing at the front, the part that is sewed back from the buttons. The picture doesn't show it, but right below where the pic ends so does the pleating. I used that doubled up, folded back part with the interfacing for the collar, cutting one side for the collar on each side if the shirt. After finishing that, I played around a bit, and came of with this:
Upside down front portion of shirt

After cutting off the bottom of that, and sewing all the sides neatly, I ended up with a nice rectangle for bottom of my Stock tie. I then went and found one of my husbands old wider ties, and used that as a guide for cutting the tie part. I made two sides and then sewed them together. Then I attached the tie part to the collar and the rectangle on top and:
Finished!

I think it turned out just fine. I added a few crystals for some bling on the buttons, and plan on adding a Stock pin of some sort to hold it together and keep it from flying up as I ride; a dressage NO!


And the final price was just right for this cash strapped Dressage rider:


Hope that gave you some ideas........