With horses, naughty is never nice

I’m always amazed to see people smiling or laughing when their horses are obviously naughty. They almost think that is funny or somehow something worth showing off. Picture this – a horse bucking and the rider smiling and giving a little laugh without telling to the horse to stop. Or a child being pushed and butted by a pony for carrots and the child laughing and saying “look – he’s asking for carrots”.
People let horses get away with behaviour they shouldn’t for a range of reasons. Some of these reasons include:
1. they don’t know any better (for example they don’t know what horses should or shouldn’t do);
2. they are scared of their horses;
3. they don’t want to discipline their horses; and/ or
4. they don’t know how to discipline their horses.
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry, many of us have been there too. I remember when I was a little girl having a Welsh pony. I let him get away with murder. My father told me to ‘give him a smack’ and I used to burst into tears at the thought of hurting my beloved pony. Of course he only got naughtier and naughtier. In the end I was in tears because I became too scared to ride him – he would bolt and buck me off. It was a bitter lesson. I was just lucky I didn’t get hurt.
Now, 30 years later, I work on the premise that:
1. while we humans work in shades of grey, horses work in black and white; therefore
2. its kinder to horses to have set rules and to be consistent about them;
3. if you enforce small boundaries and rules e.g. standing when mounting, it’s easier to enforce others because you have set a tone of your horse always listening;
4. its hugely beneficial to have lessons with a qualified riding instructor on a regular basis;
5. be firm and kind.
At the end of the day we want a safe and pleasant working relationship that is enjoyable and rewarding for both horse and rider. Like any relationship it takes time and work – but then we will always reap the reward.

Dealing with accidents when hacking horses

We were having a lovely outride the other day. The sun was warm and there was a crispness in the air. Most of us were experienced riders and there were two less experienced riders on very stable horses. All the horses were used to outrides, none were fresh and they were all behaving well. We were all walking along chatting. As we stepped down off a bank onto a dirt road one of the horses gave a small buck. The horse behind then followed with a jump off the bank and unfortunately the less experienced rider fell off. She was very sore and had quite a fright. What had been an uneventful outride turned into a coordinated effort in no time! This is some of what we did that helped ensure a positive outcome:
1. The horses behind the girl who had fallen immediately changed their path so they were not near the loose horse or fallen rider;
2. Everyone halted; people who thought their horses would not stand still quietly got off; and someone held the loose horse from the injured girl;
3. Someone got off, gave her horse to someone else to hold, and examined the girl who had fallen off to determine the extent of her injuries. (We were riding with a qualified nurse in our group). She stated that the girl should not be moved and called for an ambulance on her cell phone;
4. Two people stood well away on either side of the road from the accident scene and slowed passing cars;
5. Someone phoned the stables and they brought a person to ride the horse home.
Luckily our fellow rider escaped with no serious injuries when she was examined at hospital. She had been riding with her riding helmet. The fact that we had cell phones and could identify and direct where help should go was important. It also helped that we all listened to our riding instructor who was knowledgeable and immediately took charge.
This all got me thinking to other safety tips regarding outrides. These include:
1. Wear clothing so that you can be seen;
2. Go out in a group or if you go out by yourself tell people where you are going;
3. Stay on recognised paths, where you can get help or where help can get to you;
4. Look out for traffic (trucks, cars or bikes) that can upset your horse;
5. Always keep a safe riding distance between horses;
6. Ride slowly through livestock;
7. Be careful of the condition of the surfaces you are riding on – look out for holes, broken glass, if the ground will sink away etc; and
8. Make sure that you can be seen – if weather conditions are poor wear reflective jacket or purchase reflective horse wear for your horse. If you have other tips or suggestions please let me know. I’d appreciate it. Here’s to safe and happy outrides.s

Are you a pushy or supportive horse riding parent

I was at a training show the other day when I saw something quite disturbing. A little girl and her pony were warming up for a 30cm show jumping class. She was in control of her pony and when she started jumping they cantered into the warm up jump and popped over very sweetly. All seemed to be going very well. Then the mother arrived. She started criticizing and screaming at her child to the point where her child started crying. From jumping confidently over her warm up jumps, I then heard the little girl say to her mother that she was too scared to go into the ring.
That was a rather extreme case and I remember it well because it’s something most of us wouldn’t want to have happen. So being a riding parent, I consulted a few people, and have come up with a list of essential do’s and don’ts.
Be sure that you are supporting your child’s needs not your own
Remember that your child needs to be motivated and take the actions themselves, not you.
Help your child be organized for and at shows. Give them to tools to be able to do this
Listen to your child
Give encouragement and positively framed feedback
Love and accept your child unconditionally
Help your child cope with stress and pressure including contextualizing it for them and giving them tools
Don’t get too emotional in a negative way
Don’t interfere with the riding instructor’s instructions or advice
Don’t push your child beyond their capabilities – either in terms of the ponies they ride or in terms of classes they enter at shows (e.g. height)
Don’t be pushy or lecture. Let your child learn from his or her mistakes
If you have any suggestions please let me know. Kids especially – I’d love to hear from you what you think we as parents can do to help you.

Circle grid work exercise for training show jumpers

When I first saw this exercise I thought it looked easy. Then I tried it and realized how difficult it really is. That is – if you want to do it correctly.
The exercise asks you to ride a circle on your horse and go over 4 poles or if you want, 4 small jumps. (You will see from the diagram below how to set the exercise up. If you are less experienced or your horse is less experienced you can always make the circle larger. For example, make the distance from the centre to the upright or pole longer than 10 metres – just test the striding for your horse first! Another thing you can do if you are less experienced or if you just want to get used to the exercise, is just do it at a trot first).
It’s really important to:
1. Ride from the centre of each pole to the centre of the next pole
2. Decide how many strides you are going take between each pole or jump, and stick to it throughout
3. Keep your balance and your horse’s balance
4. Maintain rhythm and impulsion
5. Turn out and away from the exercise after three or four circles – it is very tiring for the horse
6. Do the exercise on both reins
The exercise helps highlight challenges some of us may have. Here are some questions you may want to ask:
Are you able to work on a true circle and are you accurate? Do you hit the centre of the pole each time?
Are you over-reliant on your hands? Do you find yourself tugging on your inside rein to help stay on the circle? Are you pulling and pulling to slow down?
If your horse is moving on, do you think she would slow down if you slowed your body down and sat more quietly over the fences?
Are you able to effectively control your horse’s outside shoulder?
I have found this exercise really beneficial not only for my competitive horses but also myself. It has helped my balance, my eye for a stride on a corner and my ability to “sit still” and be effective. I think it’s such an important exercise for show jumpers that I’ve just started my baby, King William, on it. He only does it at a trot now, but it is important that he learns the basics.

Tradition V.S. Horse Whispering

Many folks say that traditional methods of horse training (i.e. bit, bridle and spurs) are the best methods for training a horse. Other folks swear on a stalk of Bibles that to really train a horse you should focus on horse whispering. For those of you that don’t know, horse whispering became popularized because of the movie The Horse Whisperer with Paul Newman. It is a touching tale about a man who seemingly whispers to horses to get them to do as he asks.
The short answer between these two is actually a matter of time. While horse whispering is extremely non-invasive, it takes time to cultivate a relationship with horse and still see you as the dominant one in his or her herd. After all, you are trying to speak the horse’s language, and this is not an easy feat when you don’t have a mane and tail!
Bit and bridle techniques are superior when speed is on the line. While some may be abusive with these techniques, skilled trainers know the difference between training and torture. Just because these techniques can be used to cause pain in a horse, doesn’t mean they should. Quite often after a short period of time you can train a horse to move at just the touch of a reign; and after a while that bond does grow.
So which is the best technique? It all depends on the rider, how comfortable they are, and how much time you have.

Rant about communication

Ok…so I know this is a blog about the Dating scene for us equestrian types; but I have to rant a bit about communication. After all, if you are dating, communication is the oxygen that breathes life into your relationship.
As a society continuing to devalue the power of our main forms of communication. What strikes me as odd is that people are surprised that the divorce rate continues to sky-rocket when the average person says their wedding vows with about as much fore-thought as they use to picking a condom color. I mean, the vows say -”Till death do us part…” which seems pretty freaking final to me. It’s obscene with the flippant attitude that people now take to marriage.
Granted, I hear the argument, “I don’t need a piece of paper telling me about commitment.”, but since when was marriage just a piece of paper? It is SUPPOSED to be a commitment between two human being, whom after much deliberation and courting, finally make the biggest decision of their lives and commit to each other forever. And by forever, I don’t mean like the “life-time” warranty you get with you average Wally-world purchase, I’m talking about the kind of commitment that leads to children, arguments, money-problems, errands, etc. – and still ends up with you going to bed happy the other person is there.
It all comes down to people not meaning what they say. Here’s a classic: “You can’t say he like chicken because he’s black, that’s racist!” No it’s not. That’s stereotypical, maybe even prejudiced, but certainly not racist. What’s that? Not a big deal you say? Tell that to Jesse Jackson, who says everything is racist, which is just not true. Oh sure, people will generalize by race, but that is far different than thinking that one race is inferior to another. One breeds Nazis, the other breeds comedy [although Nazi jokes are still often funny].
Let’s do something as a species. Let’s pick up a freaking dictionary and look up a word if we don’t know what it means. When people start using words incorrectly, it dilutes the power of the language and hinders communication. It’s called language ecology, and ignorant use of the language is tantamount to verbal-pollution. If you want to save the world, you need to start with the basics, and communication is just one of those important fundamentals.

Colleen Loach Takes the Lead at Bromont CCI

The going at the Bromont CCI** in Bromont, Quebec was slightly heavier than John Williams expected and slowed him and Sweepea Dean just enough on cross-country to add 5.2 time faults to his dressage score, dropping the pair to second place. This allowed local competitor Colleen Loach to take the lead riding Peter Barry’s 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse, Longfield Dougal.
“The course was challenging but flowing,” said Loach, 24. Of her horse, she commented, “He was really on and rideable today.” Loach has been riding the gelding since last summer; he was imported from Ireland by Barry and sustained an injury shortly after his arrival in Canada, so Loach is the first one to compete him here since his time off.
Loach is an accomplished rider and rides horses for Barry as she is working towards becoming a professional herself. She has competed to the three-star level at the Foxhall Cup with Dare to Compare, her first horse, who she rode from pre-entry up to the three-star level. The 19-year-old gelding, still owned by Loach, is competing at Bromont this weekend with Erika Kocze in the CCI*.
Loach is also competing Rising Spirit, a five-year-old homebred belonging to Barry, in the mare’s first training level event this weekend. The mare was in fourth place after dressage but time faults cross-country put her out of the placings in the large division.
Phillip Dutton is third in the CCI** on Loose N’ Cool, owned by Nina Gardner, and is currently in the lead in the CCI* on Mighty Mangaroo, owned by Ann Jones. Loose N’ Cool won the Intermediate at Southern Pines this spring and has had successful competitions at Plantation and Fair Hill as well this spring. This was the horses’ first two-star competition and Dutton said that it was a big test for the chestnut gelding. “It was the longest and hardest he’s done,” said Dutton. “He’s not the fastest horse but he’s easy to ride so we didn’t waste any time.”
Mighty Mangaroo is a newer ride to Dutton – Boyd Martin, of Dutton’s native Australia, imported the gelding to the United States after the horse had competed to the Novice level in Australia – equivalent to the North American preliminary level. Like Loach’s horse, Mighty Mangaroo was injured shortly after his arrival on this continent and had time off to recuperate, so this is only his fourth competition with Dutton.
“He’s an Australian Thoroughbred, six years old, and he’s a very good galloping horse,” explained Dutton. “I’m quite excited about him – he’s a good jumper and he’s quite. This was a hard test for him, but in a good way. It was tiring for him, but he got more confident as he went around.”
Shawn Price and Jack The Lad took the lead in the CIC** when overnight leader Peter Barry had an unfortunate two refusals at only the fourth fence on course with Jefferson D’Aurois. Stephanie St-Pierre, who was second after dressage, also had two stops on course. Martha Griggs and Gregory moved into second and Diana Burnett is third on Manny.
In the CCI* dressage leader Brandon McMechan had two stops and posted 30.8 time faults, allowing Susan Berrill and Welton Hvala to take the lead. No one in this division was under the time allowed. Young Rider Carroll Courtney is second on Karoo and Ariel Grald is third on Practically Perfect.
Meghan Baille and her handsome Irish horse Stryker are leading Open Training, while Etienne Souske and Noah lead the Junior Training. Organizers were pleased with the successful day of competition over the newly renovated cross-country course, with a great deal of work by course designer Derek diGrazia and builder Jay Hambly and crew. Technical Delegate Peter Fell of Ireland said, “The event is taking a very good direction. Derek is spot on – the track was beautiful, and the venue is superb.”
Organizing Committee member Charles Baudinet said that the event’s success is due to a lot of work and dedication from the staff and volunteers, not least of all show organizer Sue Ockendon. He pointed out that Bromont is a special event because much of this effort is made in the memory of Todd Sandler, to whose memory the competition is dedicated. “Todd was a special person and an up-and-coming eventer” said Baudinet. “This event is really about the Young Riders and building a future for eventing in Canada.” The competition concludes Sunday with show jumping.

The mysteries of having a successful date unlocked

It can be difficult when you are dating, there is so much bad advice out there, it can be hard to figure out what to do. Here’s some advice that I find works in every season.
We all know to be yourself…talking in that British accent is only going to get you so far, and then you are on your own. What a lot of people don’t realize is that being yourself also means being honest. If for example, she likes pop-music, but you don’t, then don’t try to hide that, let her know. Trust me, you are a lot more interesting to a member of the opposite sex if you have your own opinions and you are comfortable with who you are.
Secondly, the key to a good conversation is not in what you say, but in how well you listen. If you want to be a great “talker”, ask your date or date-potential about them. You are interested in them, right? That must mean there are a million things you would like to know about them and their personality. As luck would have it, conversations are excellent opportunities for asking someone those questions. Don’t worry about talking about yourself or making yourself look interesting – if your date is interested, they’ll ask you the questions that they want you to answer.
Lastly, it doesn’t matter where you go on the date, so long as you ask the person to go in the first place. If you’ve been talking to someone, you know them better than I do, which would be more comfortable for the both of you? More importantly, which setting would be more comfortable for you? After all, you can make someone more comfortable just by being comfortable your self!

Cling-wrap romantic tactics

Ok, great! You’ve found somebody who makes you laugh, or hates to laugh; is angered by liberal media or positive reinforcement; basically someone who you can enjoy more than just a sweaty time with. So how do you fan the flames of romance without blowing out the spark, or suffocating it with the cling-wrap of smothering behavior?
First of all, go your own way. This person may be an important part of your life, or one day could be, but like you they have more going on than tapping out the emotional lines of your new relationship. Give them space, and what’s more, give yourself space. The reason they like you in the first place is because you are you…not because you are throw your life and personality away for an emotional bed-warmer. They want to be in a relationship with you, not your security blanket.
That also applies to an old saying, “Men marry a woman believing she’ll never change; and a woman marries a man thinking she can change him.” DO NOT BECOME THIS CLICHE’! Ladies, why become involved with a man that will be the equivalent of a real-estate renovation product? Try to get it right the first time; if you can’t get that big…erm…pool you’ve been dreaming about, either keep shopping or remember that the fireplace is nice and cozy.
And fellas? Just because I said a lady shouldn’t try to change you, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for compromise. Don’t try to make a woman the bigger man because you have to much pride to change. A relationship is like an oak tree seed, with both genders playing the parts of the soil and seed. The tree will change the soil, the rich earth supporting it even as it moves, allowing room for growth; compromising without changing. Don’t try to overwhelm her with your way, drop the “y” and the why….a relationship is our way.

US Names Eventing Squad for 2007 Pan American Games

On June 11 The USEF Executive Committee has announced the following combinations to represent the United States at the 2007 Pan American Games in Eventing. The 2007 games are being held in Rio de Janerio from July 13-29.
Mara Dean and Nicki Henley (Irish Sports Horse)
Stephen Bradley and From (Russian Sports Horse)
Phillip Dutton and Connaught (Irish Sports Horse)
Gina Miles and McKinlaigh (Irish Sports Horse)
Bonnie Mosser and Merloch (New Zealand Thoroughbred)
Karen O’Connor and Theodore O’Connor (Thoroughbred Cross)
Before the First Horse Inspection, four of these combinations will be named as the squad and the other two will represent the USA as individuals.
The following combinations have been named as alternates:
Kristin Bachman and Gryffindor (Thoroughbred)
Darren Chiacchia and Better I Do It (Swedish Warmblood)
Phillip Dutton and Truluck (Thoroughbred)
Will Faudree and Antigua (Australian Thoroughbred)
Bonnie Mosser and Close The Deal (Dutch Warmblood/Thoroughbred Cross)
Karen O’Connor and Allstar (Thoroughbred)
The six horses will be transported to Brazil and will leave from Miami, Florida on July 11.
On June 11 The USEF Executive Committee has announced the following combinations to represent the United States at the 2007 Pan American Games in Eventing. The 2007 games are being held in Rio de Janerio from July 13-29.
Mara Dean and Nicki Henley (Irish Sports Horse)
Stephen Bradley and From (Russian Sports Horse)
Phillip Dutton and Connaught (Irish Sports Horse)
Gina Miles and McKinlaigh (Irish Sports Horse)
Bonnie Mosser and Merloch (New Zealand Thoroughbred)
Karen O’Connor and Theodore O’Connor (Thoroughbred Cross)
Before the First Horse Inspection, four of these combinations will be named as the squad and the other two will represent the USA as individuals.
The following combinations have been named as alternates:
Kristin Bachman and Gryffindor (Thoroughbred)
Darren Chiacchia and Better I Do It (Swedish Warmblood)
Phillip Dutton and Truluck (Thoroughbred)
Will Faudree and Antigua (Australian Thoroughbred)
Bonnie Mosser and Close The Deal (Dutch Warmblood/Thoroughbred Cross)
Karen O’Connor and Allstar (Thoroughbred)