Last website update: December 3, 2007; This page updated: December 03, 2007
Please email questions, comments, or suggestions to: email@example.com
You may also contact us by phone at (801) 860-2669 along the Wasatch Front or (435) 224-2263 in the Tooele Valley area
This page contains an indexed archive of articles from previous issues of The Centerline. All photos, graphics, advertisements, and extra features from the original issues have been omitted.
Greetings (from premier issue-April 2000)
Analyzing your trainer (June 2000)
The "Best" Feeding Program (Holidays 2000)
Better Understanding and Increased Knowledge in Breeding (October 2000)
Effective lunging (April 2000)
Equine health maintenance: An owner's manual (July 2000)
Equine Massage: An all-new experience (October 2000)
Equine nutrition (June 2000)
Giddy-up doesn't work! (May 2000)
Great changes at Universal Equestrian!! (April 2000)
Making the most of the Walk, part 1 (June 2000)
Making the most of the Walk, part 2 (July 2000)
Picking a Trainer (May 2000)
Simple Safety (May 2000)
Surviving the Winter Lay-off (Holidays 2000)
When Opinions Differ (October 2000)
Why Dressage? (April 2000)
My name is Cynthia Minor, and my husband Stephen and I are the founders of Camelot Equestrian. I have ridden horses for about 13 years now, and Dressage for the last 6 years. I have studied with Stefanie Sheffield, an excellent Dressage instructor and trainer of more than 25 years, as well as riding in clinics with renowned trainer and clinician Bill Woods.
I currently train horses in Dressage and its principles, both for Dressage itself and as it applies to other riding disciplines. I combine my training with "Natural Horsemanship" as developed and taught by John Lyons, as I have found his methods to be highly effective in developing and communicating with horses, especially young and untrained ones.
The basic principles of Dressage can be applied to any style of riding, including Western, to help make the horse more supple, relaxed, and willing to work. Because of this, I enjoy teaching any horse, in any discipline and at any training level. No matter what the horse or riderís experience, the benefits of the training are well worth the effort put forth.
My husband and I plan to found and run Camelot Equestrian Center as a boarding stable and home for shows and clinics. It is our hope to have this facility built and functioning sometime within the next three to five years. Until then, I will continue to train wherever I can, and continue learning and growing with horses.
Oh, and donít forget to visit Camelot Equestrianís web site at:
So again, Welcome to The Centerline.
Analyzing Your Trainer--Cynthia Minor
In the May 2000 issue of The Centerline I presented an article on picking a trainer. Since that article came out, a good deal of discussion around the points made has ensued. Singularly the point that has gotten the most attention centers around using references to find a trainer. It was pointed out to me that someone may be working with a trainer and be very happy with them without realizing that problems exist or that they are not progressing properly. They simply donít have the skills or knowledge to realize that what they are learning is less than what it should be. The problem then feeds on itself via the recommendation and one more person is pulled into working with a trainer below the standard they are actually seeking.
So how does someone who already has a trainer start examining their situation to assure that they are indeed achieving their goals and learning things they should be?
The first thing to realize in answering that question is that the responsibility to question and assess progress with a trainer lies solely with the owner (or parents if the student is a younger child). Begin by questioning the progress of both the horse and rider. What progress has each made from where they began with the trainer? Is the horse more obedient? Is he capable of more tasks than when he started? Can he do more difficult tasks than when he started? And subjectively, does he look and work better than when he started?
Also consider your goals: what were they when you started with your trainer, and have those initial goals been met or gotten closer to? Has the trainer helped you to define new goals as youíve progressed, allowing you to reach further than you were aware you could at first? Do you know more about your discipline of choice than when you started, such as the goals that discipline promotes for horse and rider teams?
The next thing to consider is your trainerís attitude. Does he/she encourage you to seek outside lessons, clinics, or other sources of information? You should be very wary of any trainer who locks you into their singular way of thinking and doesnít allow questioning or outside sources. Hand in hand with this question is whether the trainer themself is also taking lessons and striving to advance in their own learning. Always remember that the single most dangerous attitude around horses is to believe that you know everything, or that you donít need to keep studying and learning.
While these questions are far from all-encompassing of the many considerations involved in training and lessons, they should provide a good starting point for examining your current situation and assessing if you are headed toward achieving your goals. If you have any doubts about what youíre doing, do some serious questioning and listen carefully to the answers. Then use your own best judgment in your decision. Best of luck to you!
The "Best" Feeding Program--Dr. David Hill, DVM
Dr. David Hill is the primary Veterinarian at Kayscreek Veterinary Clinic. He has been practicing for nearly 20 years, and is a lifetime equine enthusiast!What is the most important thing that we can do for our horses every day? Obviously, it is to feed them right! Good quality hay, with adequate mineral and clean water is sufficient for 90% of horses. Most hay fed around this area is alfalfa hay. Alfalfa hay is a great hay for two reasons: high protein, and high energy. Many things you read say that the high protein is hard on the kidneys of horses, or it is too "hot" for horses. Itís being too "hot" simply refers to the energy content of alfalfa. The only problem I see with alfalfa is that it is easier to overfeed our horses with alfalfa hay. Because of the high energy content, some horses can become obese on this hay. Therefore, simply controlling the amount fed daily can solve this problem. One other problem is the high calcium content of alfalfa. This is not a problem if a supplement is used to balance the calcium and phosphorous content of the ration. One such supplement is Gro-rite vitamin/mineral pellets, proven in over ten years of use with hundreds of horses of all ages and in all endeavors from month-long wagon trains to cutting or racing.
Gro-rite pellets, and similar supplements, balance out the problems caused by the high calcium content of alfalfa hays. Problems such as epyphysitis, OCD (developmental growth defects in growing joints), contracted tendons, angular limb deformities, etc. We have also added yeast to our horsesí diets, because yeast increases the ability of the gut to digest fiber, increases digestion of phosphorous, and binds pathogenic (disease-causing) Salmonella and E. coli bacteria in the gut. When fed on a continual basis, yeast stabilizes the pH of the cecum, where most of the fiber digestion takes place. This helps to stabilize the fermentation process in times of stress, and keeps your horse "on feed" maintaining optimum digestion.
All hays lack selenium, zinc, and iodine. Alfalfa lacks manganese and timothy hay lacks copper. These elements are all essential for normal growth and function. The red "trace mineral block" was never designed for horses, and horses can never get the necessary minerals from these blocks. Supplements such as Gro-rite pellets contain the levels of all of the necessary minerals and vitamins recommended by the National Research Council, and with the addition of yeast, the digestibility of your total ration is increased. With this scientifically formulated supplement, you can be assured that your horseís nutritional needs are being met for optimum health and performance. So to provide the "best" and balanced nutrition for a top performing horse, we recommend supplementing your horse with a pellet feed such as Gro-rite when feeding alfalfa hay.
There is a lot of marketing in the magazines of feed supplements, and their arguments are convincing, but the reality is that we need few, if any, of them. With selectivity and experience, you can save a lot of money and do a better job feeding your horse.
Better Understanding and Increased Knowledge in Breeding--Dr. David Hill, DVM
In the summer of 1992, I attended a week-long Theriogenology conference, a conference of veterinarians who specialize in equine reproduction. Experts from the Eastern United States and Great Britain were there to discuss problems in equine reproduction. One of the main topics was the breeding of the older mare and the special problems that she can present. The main problem being that of an inability to effectively clear her uterus of fluid. The importance of this is that any presence of uterine fluid can be detrimental to conception, so many therapies were discussed and presented. Over the breeding seasons, we have been using many of these therapies and found them to be very successful.
Probably one of the main things that changed in recent breeding seasons has been the manner and frequency with which we use our ultrasound machines. In the past, the ultrasound was mainly used for early pregnancy diagnosis and ovarian measurement. After years of experience with these machines, we discovered their importance in diagnosing and effectively treating mares with problems. So we purchased two of the finest "state of the art" ultrasound machines to offer the very best expertise and availability in equine reproduction.
In years past, we would bring the typical mare to the breeding shed. She would come into her heat cycle, be bred, and 14 days later be ultrasounded for pregnancy. If there was a problem that prevented her from conceiving, it was usually diagnosed at that time, after one cycle had passed. We have since thought, "Why not ultrasound the mares entire reproductive tract upon arrival to avoid the time and money wasted on the first heat cycle and breeding if there is a pre-existing uterine problem?" The most common undetected problem is the accumulation of intra-uterine fluid. Uterine fluid can only be detected with the ultrasound, and cannot be felt by palpation. We found that if we examined the mares ultrasonographically first, then any pre-existing problem would be detected immediately and we would not have to discover the problems after the mare was bred and found to be open. Thus, we saved time and money for everyone concerned. We also began charging one ultrasound fee per mare per season, which accomplished two things: first, it allows us the freedom to ultrasound the mare at our discretion, without worrying that we are going to make the owner angry at the increased cost; then, if there is a problem, we can diagnose it properly, which allows us to treat the problem properly and in a timely manner. Second, it then allows us to track the progress of the treatment without incurring any additional expense.
Our treatments have also changed somewhat. In years past, the culture swab and cytological procedures were the standard. Now with more research and experience, we have seen that other less costly procedures can be equally effective. We have used more hormone therapy to assist the mares own system in throwing off infections, and have used much less antibiotic therapy in the treatment of uterine problems. Another advancement was the addition of a Beta carotene supplement called Equate. Beta carotene is a sort of cousin to Vitamin A, and this substance is vital in the formation and maintenance of the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum is the structure that forms on the ovary after ovulation, and when the mare is bred and in foal, this is what maintains the pregnancy for the first month and a half. We had some re-breeds, mares that did not leave the farm in foal the previous year, that we used Equate on; every mare that it was used on left the farm in foal. On several, we also used some thyroid hormone therapy. These were mares that had normal uteri (as determined by ultrasound), clean cultures, and their cytological (study of uterine cells) exams revealed nothing abnormal.
For some mares, there are still no miracles, but with the advance in knowledge and experience in using the tools at hand, we are finding greater success in the breeding of horses. By combining modern technology with good nutrition and care, we are helping to develop better breeding habits and stronger, healthier foals.
Effective Lunging--Cynthia Minor
Regardless of your training discipline, the use of lunging as a tool in training is invaluable. Yet how many times have we all seen the rider who puts their horse on a lunge line and simply runs him in circles to "wear him down" or "take the edge off" of his energy level. The horse uses what should be valuable training time to play, be inattentive, and ignore any sense of learning or discipline. Worse yet, the person pays no attention to what the horse is doing, his bend, balance, gaits, or any other of so many vital things happening during this time.
The fact is that lunging can be completely useless, as in the above scenario, or it can be a vital tool in the training and development of the horse. Lunging can help the horse learn to balance and bend correctly without having to worry about the additional weight of his rider, as well as allowing him to develop muscles and stamina before being asked to perform more demanding work under saddle. So how do we learn to lunge the horse correctly, rather than allowing him to run around uselessly?
First of all, if the horse has so much energy that he wonít listen to commands on the lunge line, he should first have some turnout time to work off that excess energy in play. This way, he learns to distinguish buck-and-play time from work time, rather than thinking that itís ok to ignore his handler when he should be listening and working. (Note that the only exception to this idea would be if no turnout were available and running on the lunge line was the horseís only possible outlet to his excess energy. The play time on the lunge, however, should definitely be followed by some serious work so that the horse doesnít begin to associate the lunge line only with playing and bucking.) To begin work on the lunge, the horse must first be taught the commands to be used and acceptable behaviors.
When teaching commands, make it a point to differentiate the sounds. For instance, Walk and Trot both sound very similar to a horse when spoken normally, i.e., they both have an "ah" sound and are a single syllable. The easiest way to eliminate this confusing point for the horse is to break one of the words up. So you might use "trot" spoken normally, but say "wa-alk" in two drawn out syllables and in a slower, lower tone of voice. For canter, a simple "Canter" or "Canter-up" works nicely. "Whoa," or "Ho," has a totally different sound and should be easy for the horse to distinguish as his command to stop. So your four basic commands for lunging should be "Wa-alk," "Trot," "Canter" or "Canter-up," and "Whoa." Before proceeding any further with your lunging exercises, be certain that your horse understands and responds to these four basic commands.
The next thing to decide is what your goals are in using lunging for training. This includes understanding what equipment to use and how to set it up. The simplest, and least effective, way to lunge a horse is by simply attaching the lunge line to his halter. This gives very little control and offers no support to the horse to allow him to learn or understand what is expected of him. For better control, use a lunging caveson, or use the horseís bridle and attach the lunge line to the bit by running the line through the near side bit ring and under the chin, then connecting the snap to the outside ring (this assumes use of a snaffle or similar bit). To use additional equipment such as a chambon or side reins, add saddle or lunging surcingle. DO NOT use these additional pieces of equipment without proper instruction, and be certain that the equipment you will be using will help accomplish what is needed for you and your horse.
Once the equipment has been chosen and the commands established with the horse, you can begin working toward your goals. To simply work on gaits, or for light exercise and to help build stamina, lunging can be as simple as the horse working in control and responding to proper commands. To help stretch the horseís back and topline, add equipment such as a chambon; for bend, use items such as side reins. For joint mobility and to help concentration and confidence, add 2-3 ground poles for the horse to lunge over (make to sure to set ground pole spacing according to the horseís stride length and the gait being used).
Regardless of your choice of work and your goals, remember two vital points: 1) Never use equipment or methods you are unfamiliar with unless you have proper instruction and/or supervision while learning; 2) Always keep in mind the horseís learning and fitness levels and work within his limits. By following these simple rules, you will be able to use lunging to your advantage to enhance your training and help your horse in his required work.
Equine health maintenance: An owner's manual--Dr. David Hill, DVM
Congratulations on being a horse owner! In all my years of training, shoeing, and treating horses of all breeds as a veterinarian, I can say that the relationship between man and horse can be most satisfying. You are now on the road to that extremely fulfilling relationship between "man and horse." As Will Rogers said: "The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man (and woman)."
The purchase of a quality horse is the beginning of that relationship. Those of us who have been around horses all of our lives take for granted the tremendous amount of time and energy necessary for the full enjoyment of our equine friends. But as great as that commitment may be, the fulfillment and joy received is well worth the effort. What follows is an "ownerís manual" to help you achieve your goals in the equine world.
Pre-purchase examinations: Horses seldom come with a money back guarantee. Thatís why itís so important to investigate before you buy. While many horse professionals can help you evaluate performance or breeding merits, only an experienced equine veterinarian can help determine the prospectís overall health and physical condition. This is probably the most significant factor in deciding whether an animal is going to be a wise and suitable investment.
Once you have your horse, maintaining the animalís health and well-being becomes top priority. There are four main areas of veterinary care that are vital: Nutrition, dental care, immunizations, and parasite control. Letís look at each one individually, as well as considering another area that is far less controllable: emergency care.
Nutrition: What you give your horse daily in clean, quality feed will be more important than anything else you might do for your horse. The first rule of thumb as to the amount of feed to be fed is about 2% of their body weight daily. So for a 1000-pound horse this would be about 20 pounds of total feed per day. For an adult horse, alfalfa hay and a source of trace mineral salt will provide all of the energy, protein, and minerals needed for moderate work. Obviously, plenty of clean fresh water is mandatory for the maintenance of good health.
If you have young horses (foals to 4 years of age) or broodmares (barren or in foal), the specific amounts and types of feed for growth and training need to be tailored to your horsesí specific needs by a qualified nutritionist or an equine veterinarian that is experienced and trained in nutrition. Your veterinarian can plan a specific feeding program for your horse according to their age, activity level, breed, and reproductive status. In this way, you can be assured that your horse is receiving the correct amount and quality of energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals to assure optimum health and performance.
Dental care: Of course if your horse cannot chew effectively then all of the good nutrition is of no avail. Therefore, routine examination of the oral cavity by an experienced equine veterinarian is essential for the maintenance of good health. Horses younger than five years of age should have their teeth checked twice yearly. These horses still have their deciduous (baby) teeth which are very soft and wear sharp edges very quickly as the teeth grind on each other in chewing. As your horseís teeth wear sharp edges on them, their ability to chew their feed effectively diminishes. These sharp teeth can be a cause of oral discomfort, weight loss, and colic. Also, as the horse is uncomfortable in itís mouth this can cause problems with the bit, and training problems may arise. Horses older than five years of age should have routine dental care annually.
Immunizations: Few things will protect your horse from the ravages of disease as easily and effectively as immunizations. The vaccinations administered to your horse place a protective barrier between the animal and a whole list of problems such as: tetanus, encephalomyelitis (sleeping sickness), influenza, rhinopneumonitis, rabies, strangles, endotoxemia, and Potomac Horse Fever, to name the most common.
Vaccinations are a vital part of proper equine management. Vaccines, like cars, come in differing levels of quality, with some offering better protection with fewer side effects. You should work closely with your veterinarian in choosing the vaccines to administer, as well as set up a proper immunization schedule depending on the individual circumstances of your horse, to maximize protection.
Parasite control: Internal parasites are silent killers. They can cause extensive internal damage, and you may not even realize that your horses are heavily infected. At the very least, parasites can lower resistance to disease, rob the horse of valuable nutrients, and cause gastrointestinal irritation and unthriftiness. At their worst, they can lead to colic, intestinal ruptures, and death.
In terms of management priorities, establishing an effective parasite control program is probably second only to supplying the horse with clean, plentiful water and high quality feed. Itís that important! There is no one "best deworming medication." But there is a "best" deworming program for each horse! This is made up of various products that your veterinarian can evaluate to be the most effective when used in proper rotation with other products. This program can only be developed when your horseís individual circumstances are evaluated. Some of those factors and circumstances that are considered in developing a "best" deworming program for your horse might be: age, weight, housing, previous health history, level of activity, reproductive status, and time of year. Maximizing effectiveness while minimizing cost is the goal of a proper deworming program.
Emergency care: If you own horses long enough, sooner or later you are likely to confront a medical emergency. There are several behavioral traits that make horses especially accident-prone; one is their instinctive flight-or-fight response (almost always flight!); another is their dominance hierarchyĖthe need to establish the pecking order within a herd; and a third is their natural curiosity. Such behaviors account for many of the cuts, bruises, and abrasions that horses suffer. In fact, lacerations are probably the most common emergency that horse owners must contend with. There are other types of emergencies as well, such as colic, eye problems, foaling difficulties, acute lameness, seizures, and illness. As a horse owner, you must know how to recognize serious problems and respond promptly, taking appropriate action while awaiting your vetís arrival or while trailering your horse to the veterinary clinic. Talk with your vet about common signs to look for in an emergency and what actions you should take prior to his assuming care. It is always advisable to have your veterinarianís telephone number in a conspicuous place for easy reference in the event of an emergency.
There is no greater satisfaction than that of riding a quality horse that is healthy and responsive to our commands. For these reasons, it is important to ally yourself closely with a quality trainer and a knowledgeable veterinarian. These are the people that can help you most when things go awry. As your horse learns, it is important that you as the owner learn also, to fully enjoy the relationship of horse and man (and woman!) A trainer can open up new areas of expertise and enjoyment never before experienced with your horse, and your veterinarian can help you maintain that enjoyment through routine and emergency care that will keep your horse functioning to its fullest potential. By incorporating all of these vital care and handling elements, you and your horse will be all set to enjoy many happy, healthy, productive years together.
Equine Massage: An All-New Experience--Dave Hunter, LMT
Dave Hunter is a Licensed Massage Therapist in the Salt Lake City area. In addition to his excellent massage work, he also teaches at the Utah College of Massage Therapy and frequently participates in seminars, workshops, and other extra activities.
(Editorís note: In June of this summer, Sir Lancelot, my Dressage horse, fell and injured himself. In addition to a bruised hock, he wrenched his back in the fall. The back injury was further complicated by his favoring of the bruised hock, which caused him to walk with an additional hitch in his rear quarters. The back injury was particularly visible at the top of the lumbar area, where obvious lumps in the muscles and flinching at pressure made Lancelotís pain and discomfort very obvious. I asked Dave Hunter, an excellent LMT here in the Salt Lake City area, if he would be willing to have a shot at working on a horse, since he had mentioned an interest in doing so previously. He studied up a bit, then began his work. The benefits after each session were visible, and after only 3-4 sessions, Lancelot was doing very obviously better. The benefits of Daveís work were confirmed by a check with the vet after all the sessions were done. The article that follows is Daveís impression of this new area of work for him.)
An all-new experience! I imagined going to school and learning to become a Massage Therapist to work on the human body. I had learned the integral parts of anatomy, the skeletal structure and how the body works. Now as a Licensed Massage Therapist a situation had arisen where I was being asked to apply the knowledge learned and the skills developed on a different body structureÖa whole different skeletal and muscular make-up: A Horse. Wow, thirteen-hundred pounds of animal. I thought, there is no way I could get this animal on my massage table to massage. How would I approach this? What angle would I need to approach to help this animal with its injury? Would I stand on a chair, use a step stool to reach the afflicted area. When you work a patient's back, you need to be able to reach it. This would be a challenge.
There is a complexity here. The horseís conformation is dictated by its skeletal make-up. The way the skeleton is put together in terms of angulation of the joints, the lengths of the bones of the limbs and the attachment of the limbs to the spine significantly influences the efficiency of the horseís movements. I had to learn new names of some bones, know which muscles were involved and where the muscles attached. To learn the skeletal structure and muscle arrangement was interesting. Now I knew I couldnít just use my hands. I was going to have to use my body and most of my body weight. This was going to be a challenge. I thought now I will convert what I have learned about the human body to Lancelot, with a little bit of adjustment.
I was off to see a horse. When I got there: Wow. Here is this magnificent creature and he (the horse) was going to let me work on him. Yeah, right. Thank heaven for owners. With Cynthiaís help we began. Cynthia walked Lancelot around the lot so I could observe. I could see there was a distinct hitch at the hindquarter. So we started by warming Lancelotís back with a heating pad to help try and relax the muscles. Then I proceeded to work the low back lumbar vertebrae and the sacrum, which extends out a little farther than on humans because of that tail they have. Then I worked the muscles around the ilium and then down around the ischium and the femur. I even worked a little on the patella and the muscles on the tibia and fibula bone. Most of the bodywork was on the low back and side close to what I would call the gluts on humans. I used fingers, palms, arms, hands, and a little elbow. It was interesting to watch Lancelot cooperate with me. He would shift weight in his stance that would allow me to get deeper into the muscle. It was amazing. After the session, I found myself pretty dirty.
This was a very good experience and we could see some real positive work going on here. With soothing words and comforting touch by Cynthia and Steve, Lancelot was very cooperative. I felt really good about the work that had been done. Beforehand, I wasnít quite sure if applying similar principals used on humans would work on a horse, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it made a positive difference. And to later have a vet confirm that what I was doing made a difference, made me feel even better. I was happy to help.
Massage works!!!!!!! It relieves pain in man and beast alike!
Equine Nutrition: Vital from the Beginning--Dr. David Hill, DVM
As horse owners, we put forth a lot of time, money, and effort to breed, raise, sell, or train our horses. It all begins in the breeding shed, right? WRONG! The real beginning of a successful breeding operation is in the feed room!
There has been a lot of research in the past decade addressing equine nutrition and how it related to disease. We now know that there are many nutritional factors involved in developmental defects in foals such as OCD (osteochondritis dissecans), contracted tendons, angular deformities, epiphysitis, subchondral bone cysts, etc. Some researchers even say that the cause of carpal chip fractures is related to early nutrition in the young growing foal.
I have had farms that had what seemed like epidemics of developmental defects in foals, which were corrected with nutritional therapy. This therapy consisted of evaluation and correction of some very critical protein, energy, and mineral imbalances. The interplay between energy, protein, calcium, and phosphorus levels along with other mineral supplements can create serious mineral imbalances that greatly affect the developing foal. The calcium to phosphorus ratios and copper, zinc, and manganese levels are what are most critical to normal development in the growing skeletal system of a foal in utero, or a young foal on the ground. Simply adding mineral can be a serious mistake because the high levels of one mineral can inhibit the absorption of another. Therefore, it is critical that the entire ration be evaluated and formulated to optimum levels for normal, optimal growth of that foal that we all worked so hard to produce.
Our greatest expense in raising foals is the feed we purchase. With proper ration formulation, this expense can be minimized and put to its best use. The best genetics in the world will not produce a great foal if our feeding program is out of balance. In the majority of cases, a great deal of money can be saved by eliminating the fancy supplements that are not necessary, and sticking to a sound, correctly formulated ration for mare and foal.!--Cammie Barrus
Growing up in the city can be very difficult when you love horses. I still remember running to the window when I would hear the rare clip-clop of a horse. I would dash out the front door to the sidewalk to watch the horse and rider go by my house and disappear down the street. I was only a child then, but I still look whenever I hear that familiar sound. By now I have had the pleasure of riding, but never the opportunity to own a horse. But, throughout the years I have learned the basics of western riding.
One summer, one of my friends asked me if I wanted to learn dressage. She had been an instructor for many years and knew I loved riding. She thought it would be fun to teach me a new style of riding. Maybe she just needed a good laugh. Of course, she kept a straight face throughout all the lessons, well almost all of the lessons. We set up Wednesday nights and since it was summer I could get up to a full hour after work to ride.
My first lesson on Wednesday night I was introduced to Sir Lancelot. He is a very large Appendix Quarter Horse. A beautiful horse to look at, but did I mention large? Lancelot is well-trained but too smart for his own good. As soon as I sat on him he was on to my lack of experience. He obviously did not care if I knew anything about western riding. The very first think we practiced with Lancelot was stop and go, or is that go and stop. Since he was already stopped, I needed to learn go. I was instructed on how to squeeze my legs and hold the reins to move Lancelot forward. You hold the reins differently in western riding than in dressage. In western riding you hold the reins loose in one hand. This is to avoid pressure on the mouth of the horse. But with dressage you use both hands and apply just enough pressure so there is light contact with the horseís mouth. At least that was how it was explained to me. Before I mounted I noticed Lancelot had a slight smile. In fact he was grinning at me, and that was before I even took the reins.
I squeezed Lancelot gently with both legs, which did not work. I increased the pressure, no movement. I ask my friend wouldnít a kick with the heels and a giddy-up work? No! Lancelot was taught better manners than that. I tried again, sitting really straight and squeezing gently, whew, he finally moved forward. I yelled "yippee, move along little doggie." Lancelot did not approve of that and gave me the eye. Well the ear too; it went back and down.
Now that I was moving forward the goal was to walk in a straight line. Sounds easy, doesnít it? Either I was having an inner ear problem or Lancelot was sneaking a quick beer or two before his lessons. What did a straight line mean anyway? I was getting somewhere. Of course my friend was continuing to give me instructions on how to keep Lancelot in a straight line. That is after she picked herself up off the ground. She said she had tripped and fallen. I think she was on the ground for another reason. I hope she pulls a stomach muscle.
The next skill to learn was to stop. All you had to do was stiffen your back and get your butt down in the saddle. At least that is what I thought she said. I put all my effort into the instructions, after all I was still moving. As the fence came closer and closer I repeated the movement. No such luck, so does Lancelot know to stop when confronted with a fence? What happened to whoa? I thought all horses knew what that meant. Dang, Iím sure glad those plastic fences are made strong; now what do I learn nextĖbacking up, right?
Oh too bad my hour is up, gosh darn and things were going so well. When I dismounted we eyed each other over. That is, Lancelot and I. My good friend was wiping something that got in her eye, a speck of dirt or something. She explained that was the cause of all those tears. I smelled Lancelotís breath just to be sure. Nope, no smell of beer. Beer is probably not good enough for him. There was that grin again and I wasnít even holding the reins.
Well, that was the end of lesson number one. Iíll be seeing you again, horse.
Great changes at Universal Equestrian!!--Kelli Johnson
Universal Equestrian Center, one of Utahís finest horse facilities, is proud to announce several exciting changes this year. For years, UEC has provided its clients with an outstanding horse boarding facility, and is the only equestrian center in the area to boast an on-site tack and western wear store, The American Cowboy.
Now, UEC is proud to announce the completion of a new 28,000 square foot indoor riding arena. This new arena, surrounded by beautiful landscape, is spectacular to behold, and is one of the largest privately owned indoor arenas in the state.
In addition to the new arena, UEC has an Olympic-sized outdoor riding arena, an indoor round pen, a second 9,600 square foot indoor arena, a stallion barn, hot walker, turn-out pens, and over 100 indoor and outdoor stalls. UEC takes pride in offering the horse enthusiast outstanding service, including having an on-site manager available 24 hours a day.
UECís owner, Don Christensen, has hand-selected several trainers to provide clients with many different training options. From western pleasure to reining, hunter/jumper, or just plain pleasure riding, UEC prides itself in being able to find the right training program for everyone. Mr. Christensen is pleased to have the following fine trainers working out of his facility: Larry Larsen, Quarter Horse and Paint Horse show training; Jim Montgomery, Reining; Kelli Johnson and Julie Tomlin, all-breed training, lessons, and Arabian show training; Jan Wilcox, Hunter/Jumper training; and Jeremy Christensen, Quarter Horse and Paint Horse training and lessons. All of the trainers have worked at UEC for many years and are well-established, qualified professionals.
UEC is located at 1450 West 400 North in West Bountiful, or you can call Don Christensen at the American Cowboy at (801) 295-7433. So next time you are in West Bountiful, come on by and check out what UEC has to offer.
"Horses help people heal". This is the motto of the Therapeutic Riding Foundation (TRF.) The foundation was established by friends of Cindy Roy, owner and Riding Director of DraperDale Riding School, who is a certified instructor of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association. Royís primary goal has been to provide individuals suffering various physical challenges a therapeutic riding program that also helps build patience, confidence and self esteem through equine activities. Due to overwhelming response, DraperDale needs to expand its current facility into an academy that can accommodate the growing demand.
"The new academy will allow us to expand our therapeutic riding programs. Weíve found that the discipline and movements of dressage are very beneficial to our clients with physical challenges. A larger facility is necessary because we cannot provide enough space and instructors for all of the demand," says Roy, "We want to also continue offering riding lessons and dressage instruction to those individuals who do not suffer with disabilities. "
In order to debut its goal of expanding DraperDale into a larger academy for TRF, DraperDale has obtained several smaller unlimited editions of Leonardo da Vinciís Horseô, ILCavallo, which will be offered at an auction to be hosted by ebay.com from July 1-10. All proceeds will benefit the new academy.
Over five hundred years ago, da Vinci dreamt of building the worldís largest bronze horse sculpture. Last year, his dream came to life in Milan, Italy where a 24 foot bronze sculpture inspired by da Vinciís sketches was unveiled.
Much like da Vinci, the TRF has a grand vision. The dream of TRF is to acquire and transform "DraperDale" into a unique riding academy with special provisions for persons with physical challenges.
The new Academy will benefit residents of Draper and Salt Lake County while also serving a growing global therapeutic riding community with research, grants and a self-financing Internet eLibrary.
TRF chose da Vinciís Horseô because it represents the realization of a remarkable dream as well as strength, courage, and endurance. Such are the qualities of persons with physical challenges who are pursuing their own personal quests for healing and self-realization in therapeutic riding programs around the world. "We hope that this auction will attract venture philanthropists who will empower TRF to fulfill its mission," says Roy.
In addition to helping local persons of all ages with physical challenges, TRF also provides volunteer opportunities for those who are interested in helping people and enjoy being around horses. For more information on riding programs please contact DraperDale at (801) 572-4069, or visit DraperDale on the web at:
Making the most of the walk, part 1--Cynthia Minor
Many riders and trainers are hesitant, and even fearful, of using the walk in training. Contrary to popular belief, however, the walk can be one of the most beneficial means of achieving the relaxation and obedience so important to successful and enjoyable riding. Remember, the walk is the horseís slowest and most controllable gait...if movement can not be controlled at the walk, there is no hope of truly controlling the horse at the faster trot and canter gaits.
One simple exercise to begin honing your horseís responsiveness follows:
1. Begin by walking a straight line, such as along the fence line of your arena. Maintain a light contact on the reins and avoid leg signals as you walk. Away from a corner, ask your horse to stop by applying both reins. As soon as the horse stops, release both reins and allow the horse to stand for a moment on the loose rein. If the horse starts to walk off, reapply the reins to stop, then release again, repeating this as often as necessary until he stands still. Be patient, as this exercise may take some time, particularly with a horse that is unfamiliar with this concept.
2. Once the horse is standing quietly, apply a light leg pressure while maintaining the loose rein. He should walk forward immediately from the leg aid; if he doesnít, use a tap with the whip to get an immediate response.
3. Repeat the stopping and starting exercise until the horse responds correctly to the lightest possible touch of either the reins or the legs.
4. Once the horse is fully responsive and correct on the straight line, add corners to begin combining the rein and leg aids. Use an opening (not pulling!) inside rein to ask the horse to bend his neck in the direction of the turn. He should respond with a soft bend of the neck without over-bending. Over-bending will cause him to throw his weight onto his outside shoulder, thereby losing his balance and falling out on the corner.
5. When the soft neck bend is achieved, release the inside rein and ask the horse to move through the corner using your outside leg. As the horse begins his turn, your inside hand should return to the normal position at the withers. You should also maintain a light contact with the outside rein throughout the exercise.
The most common errors in the cornering exercise are pulling on the inside rein when asking for the turn, pushing with the inside leg when asking the horse to turn, and losing connection with the outside rein.
First, if you pull on the inside rein, you restrict the horseís legs on that side rather than allowing him to flow into the turn. The rein should guide the horse, not pull him.
Second, the horse should always move away from a pushing leg. Therefore, if you push with the inside leg, you are asking the horse to move to the outside and causing him to fall out of the turn. Remember that you want to lead the forehand around the turn, not push the hindquarters out. Inside leg should only be used if the horse starts to fall in.
Third, use the outside rein with light contact to control neck bend. Do not allow this rein to become loose, or the horse will lose his balance through the corner.
Finally, throughout the entire exercise, when you apply the reins to ask the horse to stop you should also "stop" your seat by tightening the muscles of your mid-section. The horse will learn to respond to this feeling as part of the stopping aid, which will be used later at the half-halt and at the higher gaits. The tightening also allows you to re-balance your seat so that you are not flipped forward when the horse stops.
Regular use of this exercise, such as in warm-ups, will be beneficial to both horse and rider in terms of balance, responsiveness, and correctness in understanding the aids. There can be a lot learned from even simple exercises, and the better horse and rider are with their basics, the better they will perform as a team when they begin to advance in their performance.
Next issue: More exercises at the walk to help with seat, balance, and transitions.
In the June issue of The Centerline, I wrote an article on using the walk in training, including some basic exercises to work on with your horse to help him become more responsive to your riding aids. With this issue, Iíd like to add some more exercises to continue working on your horseís suppleness and response to the aids.
Youíll recall that in the first article, I discussed the horseís response to leg and rein aids, including using those aids in combination to ride through a corner. At the end of the article, I briefly touched on using the seat as a stopping aid by tightening the lower back slightly to deepen and "stop" the seat, thereby asking the horse to also stop his motion. In this article, I would like to expand on the use of the seat in riding, driving, and even guiding the horse.
The first thing to realize as you begin working on controlling the horse with the aid of your seat is that the position of your seat bones and the weight distribution on them has a great influence on the horseís position. He can feel the pressure of the seat bones through his spine, and will respond to that pressure with appropriate bend. This is true in all riding, from bareback to western styles, but becomes more emphasized by more contactĖa dressage horse will feel more through the thinner dressage saddle than a western horse will feel, and likewise a horse ridden bareback will be the most sensitive to shifts in the riderís seat. Therefore, it is vital that the rider be on the correct seat bone for the requested bend, or the horse will simply not respond the way the rider wants; he will be bent incorrectly and off balance through no real fault of his own.
You should begin by checking that you can truly feel your seat bones in their position against the saddle. With the horse standing still, sit in a centered position and drop your stirrups. Staying centered and with as little weight shift as is necessary, raise your leg into a bent position while keeping it against the side of the saddle. As your leg comes up, you should feel your seat bone deepen and press down slightly against the saddle. Keep this contact in mind and try to maintain it as you lower your leg. Repeat with the other leg to be certain you can feel the contact with each seat bone. You are now ready to begin the exercise:
1. Without picking up your stirrups and keeping both heels pressed down equally, gently squeeze your horse forward into a walk. Remember that as you press your heels down, you should stretch through the back of the calf muscle; do not press your heels out by straightening your knees, as this will cause you to bring your leg off of your horseís side. Another way to think of this is that you pull your toes up as you press your heels down, such that the movement remains in the lower leg and the knee is unchanged. As you walk forward, be sure to allow your back to remain loose and in motion with the horse.
2. Once you are walking forward in a comfortable, rhythmic walk, press harder into your inside heel so that your seat deepens on that seat bone. Your horse should respond with a slight bend to the inside and a very slight shift of weight to the outside shoulder. Again make certain that you press down through the calf muscle and do not allow your leg to come off your horse.
3. Repeat this exercise to the opposite side, and continue alternating back and forth until you can feel the shifts in your own seat, and your horseís responses to those shifts.
Once you have a feel for the exercise just given, pick up your stirrups and try the same thing with them. When you and your horse are both comfortable with the exercise, then you should move on.
Pick a corner and ride it exactly as you did in the previously given exercise, but now add the slight deepening of the inside heel and seat bone to the aids. Be careful not to lean to the inside. As before, remember, the most common errors in the cornering exercise are pulling on the inside rein when asking for the turn, pushing with the inside leg when asking the horse to turn, and losing connection with the outside rein. Please refer back to the June article for details on these errors.
After you and your horse have mastered all the exercises from this and the previous article, try adding some variety to the work by doing the same exercises at a posting, or rising, trot. The same cues and aids apply at the trot. Also be certain to post on the correct diagonalĖyou should be sitting as the outside leg strikes the ground and rising as the inside leg strikes the ground. Most of all, though, have some fun with these exercises and try adding some of your own variations so that you and your horse donít become bored. Try different lines, circles, and other pattern combinations that utilize these principles. And of course, whatever you do, just enjoy being with your horse!
Picking a Trainer--Cynthia Minor
So youíve decided to make the move into using a trainer to help you further your riding goals. Or maybe you and your horse just arenít getting along as well as you should. Or youíve just gotten a young or green horse and you need some help getting started together. Or you want to buy a horse and are looking for some good advice. Whatever your situation, when you decide to hire a trainer, you have a big decision to make and a lot of things to consider.
The first thing to consider is what style of riding youíd like to pursue. Aside from simply saying English or Western, there are many subdivisions within each to consider. You can simply trail ride in either style. In English, you can choose Dressage, Hunter/Jumper, Eventing, or Saddleseat, to name just a few choices. The same applies in Western: choose among cutting, roping, reining, team penning, and the list goes on. And of course, you can choose a combination of one or more of these areas. But first things first: start by simply narrowing it down to English or Western, then begin examining your choices within that general style. This way, you can at least speak with a trainer who works in the general area you are seeking to pursue.
Now on to the hard part: picking a trainer suitable to your abilities and needs. The simplest, but least effective, way to find a trainer is the obvious look-it-up-in-the-yellow-pages approach. There are two major problems with this tactic: 1) Horse training is unregulated, so anyone can call themselves a horse trainer and run an ad regardless of their actual ability or experience; and 2) Many good horse trainers you would actually want to work with donít list their business in the yellow pages. A better approach is to go to horse businesses such as tack shops or public stables and start asking about trainers in the area of riding you are considering.
Once you have a prospective trainer in mind, ask for references from current students, and donít forget to clarify such items as cost per lesson, or monthly cost if that is the preferred arrangement, and availability of the trainer to give lessons. You should also make it a point to observe the trainer giving lessons and working with horses, both with and without the owner. If you question anything the trainer does, donít hesitate to ask about it, but most importantly judge the answers for yourself. Does what the trainer answered make sense? Are you comfortable with the trainerís methods and manner of doing things?
It is also essential that you decide what works for you even after you have signed on with a trainer. Remember, there is always more than one "right" way to do something, so make sure it is you controlling what happens. In addition, the trainer should be actively riding and be able to get on your horse so that he/she can find out firsthand how the horse is behaving and what you are dealing with. Because each horse is individual in his reactions, it is basically impossible for a trainer to recommend the best training options without ever having been on the horse and working with him firsthand.
Another extremely important criteria for the trainer is that he/she is comfortable with students seeking advice and information from other sources, such as clinics and symposiums, or even lessons with other trainers. While most trainers within a specified discipline teach the same general principles, it sometimes takes another trainerís different way of saying something for it to finally get through to the student. In addition, a trainer who is very familiar with a student may become inadvertently complacent to some flaw that student is having, while a different trainer may be able to spot and correct the flaw just because they have a "fresh" eye for the student. Regardless of the situation, though, the trainer must be secure enough in his/her own work to be willing to let their students grow beyond the scope the lessons they can give. Another aspect of this idea is that the trainer should also be learning at his/her own level and studying in some way to better his/her own work. Horses and the art of handling them are an ongoing education...you simply can never stop learning and growing with them.
A final point to remember is that you are paying your trainer for the privilege of learning his/her art. In return, the trainer should never be harsh or overly critical of your work. He/she is there to correct and teach, not to demean or put you down. The best trainer in the world is useless to you if he/she does not promote your advancement in a positive way. In addition, if you have a personality clash with the trainer, you would be better off finding a new trainer with whom you can get along better. If you donít, your work will always be overshadowed by personal conflict.
So, in closing, remember first and foremost to use your own best judgment about your work, and how you and your horse are treated. Donít be afraid to question what you are told. In the end, you alone decide what works and what allows you to grow. The best rule to follow in training and lessons: If it feels right, go for it; if it feels wrong, donít be afraid to question and challenge. Only then can you grow as a true equestrienne.
Simple Safety--Cynthia Minor
How often do we tend to ignore the simplest of safety rules just because we get in a hurry, or want to get through with something quickly? Or how about that quick hop-on and ride bareback because youíre short on time, neglecting the safety of a helmet, and frequently even a bridle?
It is far too easy for any of us to become complacent around a horse we know and trust. An older horse, or one that simply has a nice mellow personality, makes it far too easy for us to take for granted that nothing will happen. We know, or think we know, that we can "get away with" things that we shouldnít do because the horse is easy to work around or familiar with such things. But we must always remember that even the quietest horse can spook or bolt given the right motivation.
Safety is simple and basic, and can save a lot of pain and hassle if followed, so here are a few simple reminders to heed:
1. Always wear a helmet when riding, even if itís just for a short jaunt around the yard.
2. Never take for granted that your horse wonít spook. Be alert to your horse and surroundings at all times, and expect the unexpected.
3. Examine all tack for fit, wear, and any potential problems on a regular basis. Tack failure can be dangerous, especially if it panics your horse to boot.
Following these few simple rules, along with some common sense, will assure that you and your horse both stay safe and happy. Riding is a lot more enjoyable without the pain and fear that come with injuries. Be safe, and have fun!
Surviving the Winter Layoff--Cynthia Minor
We know the scenario all too well...we work through the Summer show season to learn, develop, and advance with our horse. Then Winter hits, the weather turns cold and wet, and we canít continue to work. By Spring, we have to spend much of our time getting both ourselves and our horse back in condition, relearning much of what we had learned, regaining flexibility and dexterity, and just generally trying to get back to where we left off.
With access to an indoor arena, many of these problems can be minimized in spite of cold temperatures since the footing stays good even in wet weather. Unfortunately, the majority of us simply donít have access to indoor riding. So we come up against the familiar question of how to stay in shape, keep our horse in shape, and not lose all our progress from the last riding season.
The fact of the matter is that itís way too easy to just blow off your riding during the winter months. Itís too cold to be pleasant, the Holidays keep all of us extremely busy, the weather is wet and yucky, itís dark after work, ... the excuses/reasons for not riding or working with your horse go on and on. But how do you get to Spring without a total loss of previously gained skills and abilities.
First and foremost, keep in mind that you will get out of shape a lot faster than your horse, and it will take you a lot longer than him to get back into shape. Therefore, your first priority should be to keep your own body in as good of riding condition as possible. Barring riding itself, your best choice is good solid exercise. If you can go to a gym and use some good equipment, you will be way ahead of the game. Focus on aerobic exercises (treadmill or bike), machines that work back and shoulders, and machines that work legs in all directions (thigh presses both in and out, and lifting exercises for upper leg muscles and hamstrings). If you donít have access to a gym, take walks or ride a bike whenever the weather permits. For your back and legs, the best exercises to do in the home are ballet-type exercises that promote overall strength and flexibility. It would be advisable to pick up a good exercise book or video that focuses on these areas.
Also remember that one very simple exercise you can do at home is indispensable to your riding. Stand on a step with the back half of your foot hanging off the step. Maintaining the balance on the balls of your feet, allow your heels to drop below the level of the stairs so that you are stretching your calf muscles and Achilles tendons. A small amount of bounce to promote a longer stretch is okay, but be careful not to bounce too hard as it is easy to overstretch a muscle or tendon when doing so. This exercise makes staying deep in your heels, and therefore your seat, much easier when youíre on your horse.
And for your horse, remember that even in less than ideal footing (not completely wet or mud that is dangerously slippery) heíll be able to walk and trot, so working on a lunge line (no side reins), or even at liberty if he works that way, will help keep him in shape aerobically. This simple work will also keep his strength up so that he will not find it as hard to get back to previous training with some work. The greatest loss for your horse over the winter will be in flexibility and suppleness, so keep in mind as you begin your work in spring that these are the areas that your horse will need the most help on.
One way in which you can help your horse to avoid muscle strain both during the winter and as you resume your training in the spring is to stretch him and warm up slowly. Stretching is as simple as picking up one foot at a time and carrying each leg slowly and without stress through its full range of motion. This allows leg and quarter muscles to stretch gently before they are asked to work harder while carrying weight.
For winter work on the lunge, start with 10-15 minutes of walking, gradually picking up the pace as the horse warms up. After the walking warmup, you may ask for trot work. Stay very aware of temperature and your horseís breathing, as excessively cold air can strain his lungs. For early spring work, also use the lunge as a slow warmup, which is always a good practice anyway but takes on particular importance when returning to work after some time off. When you do get on your horse, do walk work again under saddle for the first 10-20 minutes to allow your horseís back muscles to readjust to this work.With some simple planning ahead, basic exercises for yourself and your horse, and a little patience, you can minimize the damage of a winter layoff and get back on track with your training in the spring. While the best exercise for riding is riding itself, itís possible to use other forms of exercise when needed to combat the times you canít ride. The nice thing about the information presented in this article is that it is also useful in the event of long-term layoffs due to injury to either you or your horse. If youíre unable to ride due to injury or illness, have a friend keep your horse in shape (by riding if possible), and if your horse is laid off for any reason, keeping yourself in shape either by riding other horses or by following the guidelines above will make everything easier for you. Remember that itís always easier to have to bring one of you back to condition if the other has been kept in condition.
When Opinions Differ--Cynthia Minor
In the field of working with horses, whether as an owner and rider, Trainer, Veterinarian, Farrier, or any other associated profession, it is inevitable that you are going to find differing opinions on a lot of different matters concerning horses. In many cases, such as training methods, there is generally no right or wrong answer, but simply a different way of looking at or doing something. Usually, the difference in viewpoint has to do with experience, or simply a difference in the goals you are trying to achieve.
In training a horse, these differences of opinion and methods are so common that most people involved with horses simply shrug them off. As long as a training method doesnít do any mental, emotional, or physical harm to the horse, itís probably just fine. The only time problems really arise in training differences is when shortcuts are taken for the sake of hurrying something along, usually at the cost of the horseís comfort, or worse yet his health. As an owner, you always have to choose what feels right for you based on what you believe and what you want to achieve.
But what happens when a difference of opinion occurs around something so vital that it can affect the horseís well-being, such as a lameness? What if, for instance, your vet sees a problem one way, and your farrier sees something totally different? Add to this that each is recommending a totally different treatment route based on their own views, and you as the owner are caught having to choose which view to take, and consequently which treatment route to choose. Worst of all, the wrong choice could have dire consequences.
When faced with such a decision, it is always too easy to choose the side we want to hear, usually the less severe, most hopeful view. Or perhaps we pick the route that is the easiest for us to act on, such as the easier and more convenient treatment. Remember, too, that we must weigh the backgrounds of the people involved. A farrier simply does not have the same training and experience as a vet, but to totally discount his opinion if he has a lot of experience can also be a mistake. The challenge is to step back from the situation enough to make a rational decision without getting your emotions involved. But how?
The logical first step is examining facts. Letís stay with the lameness example. Start by considering the history of the situation: How long has the horse been lame? Did a specific incident occur that caused the problem, or did the lameness just show up for no apparent reason? Are other nutritional issues potentially involved, such as diet deficiencies or weight problems (either over- or underweight)? Next view the facts: Are there any medical tests or x-rays backing up either sideís viewpoint? Has there been any response, good or bad, to the current treatment route, if treatment has been started? What symptoms are there already, and do they fit one view or the other better?
Now comes the challenge of weighing information and history against potential results for each treatment route. If there are no x-rays of the area involved, and if the nature of the lameness warrants it, my first suggestion is to have some taken. They may or may not show anything, especially in the case of soft tissue injuries, but they do eliminate any questions about bone involvement and provide a baseline for the bone situation should future problems arise. In the case of foot and leg injuries, particularly traumatic ones, x-rays are a must. Consider even a horse that has been showing lame in a foot for no apparent reason; the x-ray can show if the horse has any internal changes occurring in the foot that can not be detected by external examination. Early detection of such problems can put treatment on the right course and save a lot of headaches down the road.
Keep in mind that major problems, such as foundering and laminitis, occur "silently" almost never. These are the kind of problems that usually manifest in blatant lameness, often to the point that the horse does not want to be weight-bearing on the affected foot or feet. While changes in diet, weight, and exercise levels can certainly contribute to these conditions, you must always keep in mind recent circumstances before even considering these as a potential. A great example is my own horse, Sir Lancelot.
During the summer, Lancelot was diagnosed with White Line Disease in his right front foot. White Line Disease is a fungal disease which attacks the lamina of the foot, or the "White Line." Due to the extent of damage done to the foot by the time it was discovered, we had to resect the foot about 2/3 of the way up and about half way around. The result was a severely deformed-looking foot which had to grow out (and still is in that process). Of course, since no shoe could be attached, the foot also changed shape and grew differently, giving what might be construed as early signs of rotation in the bones, or foundering. The main clue here was that Lancelot was never overtly lame, but rather just sensitive and "bruisy" when walking, such as when hitting a rock or similar object. His tenderness was typical of a horse left barefoot and therefore being a bit tender because of having no protection from a shoe.
While my farrier is an excellent shoer, White Line Disease and its consequences were something he had no experience with and had not seen prior to my horseís contracting it. (As an aside, White Line Disease is very rare where we live due to the dryness of the climate, so its occurrence is pretty unusual.) Based on his experience, he told me that he suspected possible slow foundering and rotation in that foot. On consulting with my vet, who has seen White Line Disease before, he ruled out the farrierís thoughts and assured me that the changes in the foot were normal for the circumstances, and he definitely did not feel that Lancelot was or ever had been lame enough to even consider anything more serious. So in this case, the experience of the individuals weighed with the circumstances and observations of the situation helped me to choose to pursue the vetís recommended course of treatment.
Since not all situations present a clear-cut solution, it is vital that the owner gather as much information as possible, because regardless of opinions from the vet, farrier, trainer, or any other individuals, the final decision of how to handle matters and what treatments to pursue rests solely with the horseís owner. Once a problem is identified, use every available resource to learn as much about it as possible. The internet, books, other vets and farriers, and people who have had similar problems are your best possible resources. No matter what the problem, the better educated you are about it, the better chance youíll have of making the correct and informed decision on how to handle it.
Why Dressage?--Cynthia Minor
The first question that comes to mind in training horses is: Why Dressage? What is it about the principles and methods in Dressage that makes it so ideal of a background for any horse in any discipline?
To understand this question, we must first consider the goals of Dressage itself. The purpose of Dressage training is to develop a relaxed, supple, and obedient horse. Yet doesnít that seem to be exactly what every horse owner is in pursuit of?! So we have to dig deeper: what training specific to Dressage can be expanded in such a way as to benefit any horse?
The Dressage horseís frame and carriage, perhaps, are the most distinguishable feature of this style of training. However, horses trained at the advanced levels of Dressage obviously move and perform in a manner that most horses simply will not attain. What we need to realize is that the concepts that lead to such a performance can be used to improve any horse in any discipline. So we should begin by examining these basic concepts individually:
1. The horse should accept contact with the rider through the reins and be "on the bit". This should not be confused with the horseís head being bent into a pre-conceived position that is forced and does not result from correctness in the rest of the horseís movement. If the horse is relaxed and moving correctly, he will come "on the bit" naturally. It should be noted that this concept can only be partially applied to certain styles of western riding, such as cutting, due to the nature of the riding style. However, the acceptance of contact of some sort is a must even in these other riding styles, and must merely be adapted to suit those styles.
2. The horse should be responsive to the lightest aids possible. Any heaviness of aids or constant effort on the part of the rider to keep the horse forward will only appear forced, not to mention be exhausting for the rider.
3. The horse should be relaxed in his work and submissive to the riderís aids. He should yield through his jaw, poll, neck, and back and allow the rider to shape and maneuver him as suits the purpose of the riding style.
4. The horse must wait for the riderís aids rather than second-guessing what the rider plans to do. The rider can not ask the horse to be forward from the aids if he/she is restraining the horse in order to even maintain control.
Once these basics are solidly established with the horse, training can proceed much more successfully in the chosen manner of riding. Regardless of your chosen style of riding, though, the horse must respond to the applicable rein and leg aids when asked to do so. Only then can horse and rider become a team and enjoy the thrill that is riding.
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