Things I find worth reading
Coming from a mare owner i found this cute
Mares get a fair bit of bad press. Not so this week when Sam Griffiths and his mare Paulank Brockagh lifted the Badminton trophy. Here are 15 tongue-in-cheek reasons why you could argue mares are better than geldings
1. Call it evolution, but mares appear to have a greater sense of self-preservation. They are marginally less inclined to reverse into a ditch in blind panic, for example. This means that even if they bolt away from that tractor, as long as you can stay on board — avoiding any low branches in the process — you should be all right
2. For similar reasons, they may be less likely to touch a pole showjumping, and would rather stop across country than sail over a fence they won’t make the distance on and risk rotating on landing. Bonus
3. On the same basis, a mare will also — fingers crossed — move out of the way of assailants in the field, rather than attempting to befriend them or wind them up with well-meant, affectionate, gelding-like pestering. And we’re all for anything that limits vet bills
4. Training a mare teaches you that, in the first instance, you’re far better off asking nicely for things than assuming you’ll get what you demand — a useful lesson to learn and apply to all areas of life
5. Training a mare will also improve your negotiation skills 10-fold, opening up a whole new world of career options, from mediator to United Nations peace envoy
6. We’re not necessarily saying she’ll never roll in the bog, or that all droppings will be neatly piled up in one corner of the stable, but it has been known with mares, and anyway they’re likely to prefer maintaining a degree of cleanliness
7. To point out the obvious, you can’t breed a foal from your beloved gelding
8. You can put a mare in pink bandages and bling browbands without constantly having to correct people as to her gender
9. Mares are often sharper and smarter than geldings. As is so often the case with a female of the species. (Yes, this office is 80% female. No, of course we’re not bias)
10. Unlike geldings, mares are unlikely to lick and slobber on you when you arrive at the yard. (Admittedly, this may be because they’re too busy pinning their ears back)
11. Mares don’t pull the toggle on your waterproof jacket and ping it back at you for entertainment value, either. They have a clear sense of personal space — and would politely request that you remember this
12. We’ve heard it said that only mares can go vertical both ways. Now that’s what we call balance and athleticism
13. Geldings are generally up for a cuddle. Mares make you work harder for any affection. It’s rather like having a cat as opposed to a dog. Geldings are every man’s best friends, whereas mares are selective and that makes their owners feel special
14. If we received a pound on every occasion we’ve heard a rider say: “If you get a good mare, they really, really try for you”, then we’d double our salaries
15. Mares do a commendable job of keeping all the geldings on the yard in check. If you left a gelding in charge, chaos would ensue
Read more at http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/features/reasons-mares-better-geldings/#MSi5HwuBJiYYbu0L.99
Understanding Winter Laminitis
Laminitis has become one of the most heavily researched aspects of lameness because it affects so many horses. Are some horses more susceptible than others? How to spot the warning signs and act fast to manage them.
Every winter some owners and caretakers are faced with the onset of obvious foot pain in their horses for no apparent reason. Once a horse has experienced this, it is likely to recur year after year. What's going on?
The normal reaction of the horse's body during cold exposure may be decreased blood supply to the hoof, sufficient enough to cause pain. In a normal horse, vessels constrict in response to cold but will periodically open up again to increase blood supply if oxygen tension gets too low. If the vascular network is damaged from prior bouts of laminitis, or if constriction is higher than normal because of hormonal issues, this protection might not occur. High insulin and cortisol make the vessels more sensitive to constrictors. High insulin is also associated with higher levels of the very potent vasoconstrictor endothelin-1.
The Insulin Factor
For insulin resistant horses or those with Cushing’s disease, high insulin and cortisol levels make the vessels more sensitive to constrictors and therefore more difficult to dilate. High insulin is also associated with higher levels of the very potent vasoconstrictor endothelin-1 so the vessels in these horses are not only more difficult to dilate, they are also more constricted as a starting point.
Protection against the cold is therefore the first step in combating winter related hoof pain. Horses should be protected from high winds, rain and snow. They should be blanketed, wear leg wraps to warm the lower legs, and boots, preferably lined. Effective lower leg wraps include standard polos and cottons, leg warmers or even fleece lined shipping boots.
Adaptogens for vascular support
This helps, but for some horses is not enough. If your horse ends up with laminitis, even after blanketing and wrapping, supplements to enhance blood flow may help. Herbal products known as “adaptogens” promote healthy stress responses and may be very beneficial. Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is a good one to use because it also strongly supports vascular nitric oxide production, which improves blood delivery to the extremities and feet. Some horses respond better to stronger adaptogens such as North American Ginseng, Eleutherococcus, Rhodiola and Schizandra. These herbs are also safe for insulin resistant horses. Jiaogulan can be given twice daily, the others once daily.
Amino acids support blood flow and insulin sensitivity
The amino acid arginine, as well as citrulline may also be very beneficial in promoting good blood flow to the hoof by opening up constricted blood vessels. Arginine is the precursor to nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator. Citrulline is converted to arginine after absorption. Taurine has been found in a recent study to improve insulin sensitivity. L-glutamine is also useful to support antioxidant glutathione and carnitine derivatives to support horses with neuropathic pain and help with insulin sensitivity.
L-arginine can be given at least twice daily, sometimes 3 to 4 times daily, to support blood flow. Alternatively, L-arginine-alphaketoglutarate (AAKG) may be used. This form of arginine seems to have a more prolonged effect.
One of the most devastating effects of winter laminitis is that it can appear to strike out of nowhere. However, if you are alert to the warning signs, you can intervene early to support blood flow and protect your horse before disaster strikes.
Eleanor Kellon, VMD, currently serves as the Staff Veterinary Specialist for Uckele Health & Nutrition. An established authority in the field of equine nutrition for over 30 years, Dr. Kellon is a valuable resource in the field of applications and nutraceuticals in horses. She formerly served as Veterinary Editor for 'Horse Journal' and John Lyons 'Perfect Horse' and is owner of Equine Nutritional Solutions, a thriving private practice. A prolific writer, Dr. Kellon is the author of many best-selling books on a variety of medical and nutritional topics and has contributed to both lay and professional publications.
Dressage is for every rider, every horse and every discipline. It is the base to build up from, like the foundation of a house. We develop a dressage horse physically and mentally through systematic and gymnastic training to perform any task to the best of his ability. Not every horse and rider will become a top Grand Prix combination, but improving and understanding the basis of dressage will create a confident, balanced, supple and happy athlete. We use correct, systematic and fair training to develop a horse so that we have a cooperative partner.
When I hear the word “dressage,” the first thing that pops into my head is harmony. Harmony is achieved through a balanced and supple seat so that the rider becomes an extension of the horse. The rider’s aids are so quiet that the communication between human and horse becomes intimate. When we watch a combination that is in harmony, we see a horse that moves effortlessly and fluidly forward into the contact. It looks easy and natural.
Dressage is an art. There is no forcefulness in that word. The way to achieve this is by creating a language through our aids to communicate with our horses. The horse needs
to understand the rider’s aids in order to respond correctly and confidently.
As riders, our main goal is to create a partnership with our horse. We must know our horse well, mounted and unmounted. We have to be able to read his mood, energy level, etc. We have to be in tune with him.
Riding dressage is all about basics, even at the higher levels. The Training Scale—or Pyramid of Training—is the guideline and checklist for every ride: rhythm and regularity, relaxation, contact or connection, impulsion, straightness and collection. We have to pay attention to all of these elements.
Dressage is not about doing fancy movements all the time, but instead about developing our horse’s body and gaits. Correct training also will prevent injuries and increase performance longevity. In order to keep our horses happy and fresh, mentally and physically, we have to do some cross-training, such as trail riding, galloping, jumping small jumps, long-lining, etc. All of this is part of conditioning the horse’s body and mind.
Dressage is a detail-oriented sport that demands a ton of focus, but I think we also need to keep it playful and fun for our horses and students. Dressage is a journey, and I love every step of the way. So, summing up, I think dressage is measured by the quality of riding, not the level at which one competes.
Mica Mabragana is a USDF Certified Instructor through Fourth Level. Riding Granada, she qualified to represent Argentina at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in France. She divides her time between Bedford, New York, and Wellington, Florida.
When riding a balanced horse, I feel as if it is soft and easy--I don't have to do anything. I don't need to do anything because I am one with the horse--as if we are dancing a seamless waltz.
On the other hand, if a horse is unbalanced, he's like a drunken person who can't walk a straight line because he does not have control of his step. Similarly, an unbalanced horse doesn't have control of the length of his step or the speed of it, and therefore, he is sometimes wobbly, too. In addition to not wanting to have a wobbly horse, you want to balance your horse so he can bear more weight on his hind legs and use more of his muscles instead of his tendons and joints--the purpose of dressage.
The key to balancing your horse is to first ask him to take smaller steps. If I walk on a road and suddenly come to an icy patch, I lose my balance if I continue to walk as if I was on firm ground. After awhile, I learn that when it's icy, I need to take small steps to keep my balance and avoid falling on my nose. Likewise, when a horse has problems with balance, you need to be able to influence him to take smaller steps. Eventually, at the same time, you will give the horse freedom in front, allowing him to find his own balance. This is the basis of collection.
Unfortunately, the most common advice I hear from ringside trainers is, "Use more leg, and ride more forward!" If a rider uses more leg and the horse takes longer steps, the horse will lose his balance even more. The rider can improve the horse's balance by asking for shorter, smaller strides. But in order to do this, the rider first must have a solid position so the horse can't push him out of balance. The rider also needs to make sure the horse will stop from his rein aids and go from his leg aids, so that the rider can make effective half halts. Only by making effective half halts can the rider ask the horse to take shorter steps. Then the rider can ride more forward, increase the horse's energy and achieve a more collected balance. So I teach my students how to shorten their horses' strides and then ride forward in better balance.
In this article, we'll review the components of a correct, balanced rider position. Then we'll go over the ABCs of riding--making sure your horse stops from your rein aid and goes from your leg aid. I'll give an exercise explaining how to put these aids together to make a half halt. In doing this, you will learn to shorten your horse's stride, maintain his energy and improve his balance.
You can't have control over your horse's balance until you have control over your own balance. To be balanced, as I am here on Flyinge Amiral, you need to be sitting equally on both seat bones and strong in your middle section so that your horse can't displace you.?Arnd Bronkhurst
Balancing the Rider
You can't have control over your horse's balance until you have control over your own balance. When you are balanced, you are the leader who oversees your horse's length of step, speed, rhythm and direction. To be balanced, you need to have a correct riding position--you need to be sitting equally on both of your seat bones, centered in your body and strong in your middle part.
To ensure that your seat is in the correct position, you need to sit squarely on three points--one seat bone on each side of your horse's spine and the crotch area down behind his withers. If you unconsciously sit on one seat bone more than the other--to the right for instance--your horse will want to go to the right all the time because he is trying to put you in the middle of his back. He will always instinctively try to make his own balance coincide with the weight he is being required to carry. Unknowingly, you are always steering him by using your weight to turn him right.
Everyone has a perception of his own balance. The crooked person must change his own picture of himself when he is riding. The unfortunate fact is that the crooked rider thinks he is straight. The correct position feels very uncomfortable and very wrong. That's why you need a trainer who can watch you and analyze your position. He or she then can tell you when you are sitting straight until that correct position becomes a new and comfortable habit for you.
In addition to your seat, you need to have your leg and your upper body in such a balance that if your horse was taken away, you would land on your feet. If you are a bit behind the balance point with your legs out front, you will fall on your bottom. If you are a bit too forward or your legs are too far back, you will land on your nose.
I often tell students not to be discouraged becauseYou also need to pay special attention to the angles of your elbows and knees. Think of having the weight of the rein in your elbow rather than in your fingers. Then your hand can be soft, supple and relaxed even when you are saying, "No, I'm not going to give you a longer rein." Many riders don't keep an angle at the elbow--they ride with straight arms so the horse meets resistance at the rider's shoulder, which makes the balance unstable. When the horse meets resistance from a deep elbow near the rider's center, the rider can stay better balanced. The elbow has to be deep with a straight line from the horse's mouth to the elbow.
As for the knee, many riders think that a longer stirrup leather makes a better dressage rider. However, when the leathers are too long, you end up with a leg that is too straight, and you can't sit around your horse anymore. In principle, because the horse's barrel is round, you can't sit with lower leg contact without bending the knee. You can find the correct angle of the knee if you stand on the ground with your feet the width of your horse and bend your knees. As a general rule, you want to bend your knees so that the top of your knees are in line with the tip of the toes.
A rider secure in his own balance will help a horse's balance and not be negatively influenced by it. I often think of how the late Herbert Rehbein sat on a horse. He would never crumble when a horse tried to get his own way. Rehbein was so strong in his position that he could keep himself balanced even if the horse tried to pull him out of balance. Ultimately, the horse would become more balanced himself because Rehbein maintained his balance.
Rehbein wouldn't move, so some considered him a strong rider. But the word "strong" when referring to an influential rider is misleading because it implies that tension is involved--and a tense muscle always has less feeling. I prefer to use the words "secure" or "centered" to describe the rider's position when a horse tries to push him out of place. I am a solid rider, but I don't need strong aids because I have body control that helps my position stay secure and centered. If the horse gets strong and tries to displace me, he usually is not successful. He then matches his balance to mine.
The balanced, centered rider is like the longeing girth and side reins. If a horse with a longeing girth wants to be longer in his frame, the side reins naturally resist him. But when he accepts the bit in the right frame, the side reins don't pull back. When the rider is like the longeing girth, he can resist the horse who is out of balance without becoming tense anywhere and without pulling back on the reins, stiffening his back or holding with the leg. He can stay secure and centered in his balance.
Checking Your Brake & Accelerator
Once your balance and position are solid, you can begin to influence your horse properly, but before you are able to determine the length of your horse's step, you need to confirm the ABCs or the basics of training dressage horses. You need to be able to stop your horse from your rein aid and make him go from your leg. This will allow you to make effective half halts--the key to asking your horse to take shorter steps and become balanced.
Stopping your horse from the rein is like using the brake in your car. When you use the brake to stop your car, it will remain stopped until you press on the gas. Once you have used the reins to ask your horse to stop, he should stand in place. If your horse doesn't stop from your rein aid, then he isn't going to be able to take shorter steps.
Your horse will remain standing still at the halt because he is relaxed. I always tell my students that you can't force a horse to relax. If your horse doesn't stand relaxed, you have to go forward, stop again and give again until he stands still without your having to influence him. Take whatever time necessary for your horse to relax even if you need to temporarily lose some activity. In the end, your horse must be able to come back from the rein aid, and you must be able to release the rein without your horse running off from tension.
Your horse also must be able to go forward from your leg, like your car goes forward when you press on the accelerator. You need to release your leg pressure when your horse goes obediently forward. If your horse doesn't move forward sharply enough from your leg, you're not going to be able to lengthen his steps or increase his activity.
When I ride any horse, I make him sharp to my stop-and-go aids. Then I check and correct the horseOnce your horse is sharp to both of your stop-and-go aids, it doesn't mean that he will be obedient to them for the rest of his life. You have to check and correct his reaction level every time you get on him.
Forward to Smaller Steps
When your horse is listening to both your rein and leg aids separately, then you can put them close together to make half halts to shorten his steps and improve his balance--remember my walking-on-ice analogy. As you make his steps shorter, you keep the energy, which goes up in higher and more expressive steps, leading toward collection.
To ask your horse to make his steps shorter but maintain the energy, put the aids together like this:
- Your hands take and give to ask your horse to shorten his steps.
- As your horse is shortening his step, your legs remind him to maintain activity--he is not allowed to just slow down the rhythm.
- When your horse's step is the desired length, rhythm and activity, release your rein and leg aids. Your horse should maintain the same quality. That is, he must keep the same length of step, speed, activity, rhythm and frame when you release the aids. If he does this, he is in balance.
- Once your horse has his balance while taking shorter steps, you can use your leg to ride more forward with longer steps and improve his impulsion with a light contact with the mouth. If he starts to rush and come out of balance, repeat the exercise.
When you're successful with this exercise, you will feel that your horse will take more weight on his hind legs and lower his hindquarters. His forehand will come up higher in the withers and the poll, and his frame will become shorter. You will have a more uphill horse--in essence, a more balanced, collected horse.
This exercise is equally effective for both hot and lazy horses. The hot horse has to learn to relax, and the exercise helps him to think and realize that it is quite nice when the rider gives the rein. The rider has to come to a point where he can release the "brake" of the hot horse without him running off.
The lazy horse needs to be able to be ridden forward. The rider has to bring this type of horse back a bit so he can accelerate and then stop pushing. If the rider gets his horse's steps shorter and more active, then he can accelerate and release the leg so he doesn't have to push all the time.
Most performances, regardless of the level, need increased balance and relaxation, and if the rider is successful in improving every movement from a 6 to a 7, he goes from a 60 percent to a 70 percent--which is a big change.
Explaining how a balanced horse feels is not easy because riding is a question of feeling, and feeling is difficult to explain. But it is this feeling that will improve the quality of your riding. There are many riders today who can ask their horses to do all the movements and "tricks." At the lower levels, they can do travers, and at the upper levels, they have learned the piaffe. But, often, winning is not a question of whether or not a horse can do the work, but rather how it is done--the quality is what matters. And the quality comes from controlling the balance in your horse's step--the basis for all of the work.
When the horse understands that you are trying to control the length of his step to help balance him, he will cooperate. You will begin to feel as if the two of you are in a waltzing across the dance floor in perfect harmony.
World-renowned rider and trainer Kyra Kyrklund has ridden in five Olympic Games and is the author of Dressage with Kyra. She has trained and competed 11 different horses to the international Grand Prix level. In her native Finland, she has been the National Dressage Champion 10 times. She won the World Equestrian Games individual silver medal in 1990, and in 1991 she captured the World Cup Final. Her world-famous horses include Matador, Edinburg and Flyinge Amiral. She trained with Walter Christensen from 1975 to 1977, and with the late Herbert Rehbein from 1980 until his death. For more information about Kyrklund, visit kyrak.com.
This article first appeared in the July 2001 issue of Dressage Today. For copies of articles, email Dressage.Today@EquiNetwork.com.
Should you use artificial aids? The quick answer: yes AND no!
Long two-inch spurs.
Super-extended flexible dressage whip.
Double bridle. Gag bridles. Twisted wire snaffles.
Hackamore or bitless bridle.
Draw reins/martingales/tie-downs/neck stretchers.
Drop or flash or figure-eight nosebands.
The list of artificial aids can be endless. Just when you think you know it all, you discover that there are new and improved “must-buy” pieces of equipment that will change the way you ride. Or will they really?
You are left wondering – which should I be using? And when do I know what I need?
The trick to using any equipment is to know why and how you should use them.
… no equipment can change your riding skills. The first two or three rides might be different as your horse adjusts to the new equipment, but in the end, your skills (or lack thereof) will shine through no matter what you do.
Don’t be surprised if your horse goes back to the same ol’ habits a few rides in – because if your own equitation has not changed, you will produce exactly the same results with or without the help of artificial aids.
Your horse will change for the better only after you change for the better. (Click here to tweet that if you agree.)
On the other hand, do not be afraid of artificial aids.
Many people shun the whole concept of using certain types of equipment. You can find camps of people based on the equipment they feel is acceptable or not.
Know that everything has a purpose. Often, equipment that is perceived as being harsher can in fact act in a much kinder and gentler way than initially understood.
For example, most people agree that a thicker bit is essentially “softer” than a thinner bit. The thin bit has a smaller surface area and therefore puts more pressure on the bars or tongue than a thick bit.
This may be true for many horses, until you meet a horse with a tiny, delicate mouth and small muzzle. Then the thick bit is entirely too large for the small mouth, and in fact causes discomfort by its sheer size. Put in the thinner bit and watch as the horse almost sighs with relief to have the seemingly harsher bit, simply because it fits his conformation better.
Another example: a bitless bridle sounds like it is kinder on the horse than one with a bit until you consider the nose, jaw, cheek and poll pressure action activated by use of the reins. Some horses might respond willingly to that type of squeezing while others would find it intolerable when compared to a bit in the mouth.
There are similar examples for any equipment you can think of. What seems harsh for one horse is what another horse really needs and does well in.
Why should equipment be used?
If your answer is to make the riding process easier on the horse, then you are on the right track.
If the equipment makes the ride safer for you, it can be used. Safety is always number one.
If the horse is young or being retrained by an experienced rider, the use of equipment can be very handy in teaching the horse what is expected quickly and efficiently. In the right hands, equipment can bring clarity to a situation. It can reduce fuss and confusion and point the horse in the right direction.
If you can be lighter and clearer with your aids, then that is the true purpose of equipment.
When not to use equipment
Simply put, equipment should not be intended to hurt/punish/intimidate/force a horse into obedience.
It should not be used to cover up rider inadequacies. Sometimes, it is much more beneficial to struggle through the learning process without specialized equipment in order to achieve better riding skills.
In the end, how the equipment is used is more important that what is used.
As always, the hands and other aids at the end of the equipment are what really differentiate it from being kind and purposeful or harsh and intimidating. Experienced riders can make a delicate instrument out of the seemingly harshest equipment.
Where do you begin?
In general, if you have complete control over your own natural aids (leg aids, seat, hands, weight), you are adequately prepared to introduce new equipment into your program. In contrast, if you still have trouble with your aids, any equipment will multiply the severity of your messages.
The horse’s needs will be another factor in determining the use of equipment. Depending on your point of development as a rider, some equipment may help the horse develop muscling quicker and easier than you can with your natural aids. Specialized equipment may make your messages softer and clearer so there is less guess work required by the horse. In all cases, if your horse goes better in the equipment and seems happier, you know you are on the right track.
When you begin using unfamiliar equipment, be sure to have educated, watchful eyesmentoring you through the process so you can learn correctly from the beginning. Your instructor will be able to help you decide if it is time for you to learn how to use new equipment.
Be prepared to have to learn to use the new equipment in the same way that you have learned to use your own natural aids. There may be discomfort and confusion at the beginning while you learn to manipulate the equipment and use it to communicate to the horse. It may take the horse some time to adjust. Through it all, work patiently and with clear regard for the horse. Listen closely to the feedback you receive and make your decisions accordingly.
The bottom line(s)…
… watch and learn from more experienced riders – how and why do they use their equipment and what does it do for the horse?
… how does the horse react?
… get help when trying new equipment.
Have you used “artificial aids” in your riding and what has been your experience with them?