Dedicated to the Art of Classical Riding and Driving for the Mature Equestrian
Welcome to the new look for The Cavalier. I thank you for continuing support as we get better and better for you!
I apologize that our March issue has been turned into an April issue, This is due to some technical difficulties and an untimely job change on my part. But, with this new format hopefully I will be able to deliver the Cavalier to you more reliably in the future. Our website is still in the works as well. We will let you know when it is up.
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In this edition of The Cavalier we will be discussing how NOT to buy your first horse in my article: "My Blind Date With a Three Year Old." There are so many misconceptions out there about young horses and what they are capable of in their early years. I was one who was just as clueless.
In the article, "Make Time to Ride" one of our readers, Pamela Tulippe, talks about her struggle with career choices so that she can have the time to devote to her riding.
Meet Jean MacDougall-Tattan, one of our contributing writers. She has more insight into practical ways in how you can include Equine Massage Therapy to better your relationship with your horse.
Nancy Lindley-Gauthier is back with her second article on how to transform a dressage horse into a driving horse.
I would like to mention that our contributing writer and expert trainer, Felice Vincelette will be back next month with her column. Due to an untimely illness she is not able to contribute to this issue. The Cavalier community misses her, and sends her our best wishes for a speedy recovery. Felice, there are ponies out there to play with! Get better soon!
I have gone a bit off the horse track with an article about an organization I have recently found out about -- KIVA. It is truly inspirational and with all of our help can truly change the world. I hope you will check it out.
We also have the Monthly Training Tip, Questions and Comments, and Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
As always, enjoy the ride...
Nancy J. Knettell
by Nancy Knettell
One of the reasons that I started The Cavalier was to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth about my horse adventures as an adult learner. I am not an expert. But, I am someone who wants to be the best horseperson I can be. And as I am not a high level trainer with tons of experience, I certainly have been making my share of mistakes. I realized I had to gather people around me who had more experience than I did. You will meet them in the pages of this e-zine. Hopefully their ideas and methods will help you with some of the issues you are dealing with. And perhaps my continuing sagas will help you feel less alone in this complex and sometimes challenging relationship.
Well, as I have said in my previous columns, I am not new to the horses. But, I have been away from it for a long time. I was so determined the second time around to get back into horses as quickly as I could, that I found I had dozens of "carts" lined up, before I even got a horse to put behind them. And thanks to my headlong rush I seemed to have tripped over every one of those darn carts too.
One thing that I did not realize, in the absence of being around horses and horse people for so long, I had lost most of my hard won "horse" sense. My first mount, many moons ago, was in fact, totally unsuitable for me as a beginning rider. But, due to the help of a good instructor, hard work, consistent riding, not to mention some pretty scary times, she ended up quite a handy hunt pony. Phew! But, she was never a trustworthy horse even after all that. You would think I had learned from that experience what a nightmare a challenging horse could be.
It was my second one, Jaicka, a sweet black horse of unknown parentage that made me realize the value of a well trained animal with a reliable temperament. She was a young person's event horse, with plenty of professional training, when I bought her. I was truly lucky to have found her. Back then I did it the correct way. I had my trainer help me find one that was suitable for me. And I was prepared to ante up more than a bit of money too. After I started riding her though, I realized how great she was. We did everything together. Trail riding, horse parks, the beach and even fox hunting. And, I would parade her around for every one to see how calm and obedient she was. In fact back then, I pontificated endlessly on the importance of a suitable, carefully trained mount with a calm temperament for a first horse. Where did I go wrong?
Yep, the old mane and tail story. That along with a good dose of reading about quick-fix trainers on the Internet helped me go astray. I started downhill at a dead gallop when I went out on the web and fell for a gorgeous mane and tail named Reglisse (French for Licorish -- spelling is another story). I found the three and a half year old up in Canada. Yes, he was backed and had been ridden consistently for six months. He had even been ridden on trails and hooked up to a cart. A real sweetheart according to his sellers. Never bucked once. His pedigree was impeccable, famous show jumper crossed with Thorcheron mare. Good breeding, apparently good temperament. His confirmation was fabulous from what I could see in the pictures. He was a grey, one of my favorite colors. But, I could not see him before I bought him because he was eight hours away. I had no trainer at the time either. And he was a bargain for the type and size of horse he was, and I was in love.
OK, I can see all of the eyes rolling now. Three years old, green and I didn't even see him before I bought him, let alone have someone with experience help me make the decision. What was I thinking? I brought him home and for the first couple of weeks I had him, he was great. Sweet, easy going, calm. You could get on him and walk and trot. He would stand for the mounting block. He would stop. He would turn. He was even a bit pokey. You could kick him in the sides to get him going and he would not even bat an eyelash. But, just as I was starting to pat myself on the back for making such a good purchase, things started to change and change fast.
Reglisse started to feel comfortable in his new home and turn the corner of his fourth year. As it was explained to me later by my new trainer, he was coming out of diapers and immediately entering his teenage years. Oh goodie! For a male, just because they are gelded doesn't mean that there isn't going to be some stallionlike acting out. And that is what started to happen. He was not remotely interested in listening to me or anyone else. He thought he was "da Boss Hoss!" and I was at the level of a feeding trough as far as he was concerned.
While he was still a baby in some ways and scared of everything new, he also was acting like the typical adolescent. He wanted the keys to the car, stay out all night, go drinking with the guys -- heck, hitchhike to Timbuktu with the Hell's Angels if he could. And I was the clueless parent. Well, at least a sullen human teen is under 1000 pounds. Reglisse, who proceeded to put on at least a half a hand more while I owned him (he was already over 16.2 when I bought him) was working his way to 1200. My beautiful horse was turning into another nightmare and this one was the size of a Mack Truck.
Things were definitely not going well. I could not lead him without him balking or shying and trying to land in my lap. I got on him and he would spook at the littlest thing and I would be on the ground. His manners deteriorated to the point where I was starting to be afraid of him. I was so confused. I had had horses before and knew at least how to insist upon good manners. But, by the end of the first six months I had him, he had all the manners of a rampaging elephant. I was looking for all sorts of solutions to be able to keep him, realizing that I was indeed over my head.
So, what else contributed to my decision to buy a green horse above and beyond that great color and cheap price? I fell for the ol' three year old horse trick. This is one myth that is in proliferation out there on the Internet. I think that is because the Internet is littered with all sorts of fancy, what I call "cowboy trainers" trying to make a bundle of money off people new to horse. You see no end of demonstrations where they are riding three year olds with either no reins or ones that are so loose you could use them for a jump rope. The horses look so perfectly broke that they would not move even if an atom bomb went off. I thought that was a picture of a typical horse. What I did not know is generally you could get a three year old horse to do just about anything. And, that is what you see in those demonstrations. Three year olds! They are very pliable and willing at that age. Sure, you might think. Just get them trained at three and just keep riding them. They will only get better.
But, horses have a mental maturation process just like humans. They go quickly from happy baby through rebellious periods where "they just don't WANNA!" They tend to stop listening to you when they turn four. And that's when they stop letting you influence them. In fact they want to tell you what to do! It is their natural instinct to try and become lead stallion or mare. And you are clueless about what tells them that they are not. Big fight with big animal. Not good! The scary part is that you are on their back (if you are riding them at four) when they decide to "take the family car out for the joy ride over the cliff." If you had never trained a horse before, there would be no way to know that was coming.
There is also something else I learned about horses. When they come to a new place, they act very calmly for the first three months. They are actually shell shocked by the move and may express this by being ever so careful with everything. But by the fourth month, they are feeling pretty sure of themselves. That's when they start acting cocky. Again, if you don't know about this fact you are not prepared for it. Add this to a very big dose of teenage hormones and "WHAT-EVAH!" takes on a whole new, in your face, meaning.
OK, OK, there are different temperaments out there. Maybe a quarterhorse is born to be ridden from the time they exit the womb. Perhaps some grade horses are the same way. Some horses you see being ridden at three maybe are just more mature. And, sure there are some trainers who are definitely more skilled than I and know how to handle a four year old nightmare, although who would want to? You rarely see those images though.
But, most of the "fancy" horses that everyone is lusting after -- me included -- are the big Warmbloods. As a person who is, shall we say, a bit on the zoftig side (translate: middle age spread), I felt that a bigger horse was more appropriate for me. (OK, that was not totally the reason for the big horse. Vanity had something to do with it.) So, I purchased a large Warmblood. Actually, I had heard before that bigger horses tend to mature later. But, I did not understand thoroughly what it meant. Until NOW! Isn't three years old "later" enough?
No it isn't. Not, at least for Reglisse. He is five and a half now and he is just starting his preparation to carry a rider. Yes, he has been backed. No, he is not ready to be ridden safely at all gaits. He clearly is not knowledgeable about or interested in that level of responsibility. My understanding this concept to its fullest is now key to my success with him. And, the enormity of the responsibility I have towards him keeps expanding in my mind the more I work with him as well.
But that is the bad news. Believe it or not there is good news. My trainer convinced me that I would be making a big mistake if I gave him up. His confirmation was fabulous. (I had remembered something from the old days about that.) He had three beautiful gaits that were pure and not ruined yet. His temperament, even through the baby episodes, was really not that bad. In fact he had the potential for being a pretty laid back guy. And since I had had some experience with horses she felt he was not a bad horse for my first training endeavor. If he was not appropriate for me she would have told me that as well.
I did make some changes that have helped our relationship immensely. I have brought him home to my backyard. Now he has to depend on me for his food and safety. I have learned how to assert myself in appropriate ways so that he has started to respect my place as his leader. But, most importantly I have a trainer that is working closely with me to ensure that both of us are safe. She is the one that is helping me to understand his needs and what I should be expecting from each stage in our relationship. I have certainly learned a great deal about patience as he is growing up.
I also realized that I had to become a more confident rider so that when I do mount him, I will be ready for the experience. Thank heavens for Webster, my sixteen year old. Getting him has taken the pressure off my wanting to ride Reglisse, so now I have all the time in the world to work with him.
It is very easy in this sport to feel either embarrassed or clueless when you are new to horses. Some horse people, who are unkind, transmit a sense that if you don't know what you are doing you don't even deserve to be around a horse. Also, the opinions out there about training are as varied as there are stars in the sky, even on the same topic. Sometimes it is hard to know what is correct or even what to ask. But, you have to start somewhere. Horses are no longer a part of our daily lives. We do not depend on them anymore so the resources we would have had a century ago are no longer there for us to tap into. It is no easy task to get the knowledge you need to know what you are doing. But, do not give up.
I would encourage you if you are thinking of starting with this sport or getting back into it for the first time to check out riding and/or driving clubs in your area. You don't have to have a horse to join. Yes, it can be a bit uncomfortable at first, but there is where the horse knowledge is going to be. Or if you have a friend who rides that you feel comfortable asking questions, start there. From there, you can continue to find people who match your interest and personality as well as help you get started the right way. I would also suggest that you take your time and have help from someone you trust when and if you decide to get a horse. A second opinion is a good way to make sure that you are going in the right direction.
I was lucky. My young horse is just barely suitable for me as a training experience thanks to the help of my trainer, so I am confident it will work out. But there are so many horses out there that are abandoned or treated cruelly because their owners were in over their head. We have so much responsibility to these big animals because they have to depend totally on us for their care and survival. If we make bad choices, they are the ones to suffer greatly.
But, if you are in a position where your choices have led you to own a horse that you feel is over your head, do not give up either. Find yourself a good trainer to help you. If the horse is truly unsuitable, your trainer will let you know that. But, if you have some experience and willing to give it a try, consider working with the trainer to get you where you need to be. I would also encourage you to find a second, more well trained horse so that you can get some confidence and not be so much in a hurry to ride this one. But above all be safe.
In upcoming articles in The Cavalier I will talk about my progress with Reglisse and what has and has not worked for us. And as we progress you maybe will find some techniques, ideas, or hints that might work for you. In any case I am sure that many of you will see your challenges in these columns and not feel so alone facing them. And if you are a seasoned horse person, make sure you do encourage the new faces out there. Maybe let them know about your horse misadventures as well. They need to know that what they are going through happens to all of us. And we certainly need all the pony lovers we can get!
by Nancy Knettell
Meet Pamela Tulippe and her horse, Poppy! Pamela has a problem many of us have. She works in the real world. And unfortunately this world is now asking many of us to not only work more hours in a weekday, but weekends as well. It is not easy to fit in a serious horse hobby with such a schedule. But, in many cases there seems to be no choice about challenging our increasing work schedule. How many of you out there are dealing with this dilemma?
Well Pamela has made a decision and one that ensures that she has the needed time to ride Poppy. But, this has not been an easy accomplishment. It has been a hard won effort. Polly is in marketing. Nine to five is not a common characteristic of this type of work. Pamela though, has made a firm decision that she will only work a forty hour week in the office.
Her former jobs have been less than supportive in this regard. But Pamela was determined to find a way to limit her hours to be home with Poppy. Her success has been due to the fact that she has a proven track record in her field and has become much sought after. So, she was able to include, as part of her negociation, that she only works forty hours in the office. Pamela did agree that if there were required hours above and beyond the forty that she would do those at home.
And her boss agreed to it. Not only that, her boss definitely is seeing Pamela's diligence in getting things done well and in a timely fashion as a reflection of this negociation. Pamela is now more focused and concientious because she is conscious of preserving her special arrangement. But, Pamela knows as well, there are some tradeoffs too that she may face. One of them is in the area of promotion. But Pamela is willing to take that risk to make sure that she gets to ride her horse.
There is a real dilemma out there now. People are now working longer hours and more and more days just to keep their jobs. How do you carve out time in a busy life for riding? Horses cannot be ridden just on weekends. They are atheletes and need to have a consistent pattern of riding to stay sound and comfortable. But the rest of the world does not have a clue about this requirement. Horses are so alien to the average person that they would have no frame of reference about your need to ride consistently. And it is sad too, that companies do not realize that when they ask you to work for extra hours they are in fact stealing from you. They are asking you to exchange your time for no pay. I wonder how many employers think about this issue from this perspective?
If there are any of you out there who have had success in finding a way to limit your work requirement so that you could ride, please share it with The Cavalier. We would love to hear of any suggestion that might help all of us to ensure that we have both the funds and the time to ride.
Equine Sports Massage Therapist Jean MacDougall-Tattan has gone from massaging horses for clients, to showing clients how to massage their own horses.
She travels to barns to show people how to do this on their own horses. She prefers clinics with five to ten horses, though other arrangements can be made. In this picture she is showing Sheri Michell how to jostle the neck of her morgan gelding, Brooks.
She is doing this approach so horses can be massaged more often, and help horse owners build better relationships with their equine partners. The seed was planted for this new slant to her existing business, Equine Muscle Menders in Merrimac, Massachusetts, because of the economy: Gasoline prices have cut into the wallets of so many of her clients, that horses in need of massage were going without and suffering. "Horse owners can't postpone the need for the veterinarian or farrier, but they can cancel the massage and some horses really need it," MacDougall-Tattan said. "What's important is that the horses get done."
She began this fall by teaching Intro to Horse Massage through Northern Essex Community College, but soon realized that horse owners wanted to learn on their own horses-not demonstration horses. And that made complete sense to MacDougall-Tattan, who knows that the more time people spend with their horses, the better the relationship between them. She has always massaged her own horses, even before she became certified in equine sports massage therapy, because she believes it builds trust through positive, healing touch. Massage was what built the strong bond between her and her first horse, which came to her severely underweight and completely out of shape.
By showing horse owners how to massage their own horses, she can help them identify where their horses are sore, and offer advice about how to work through it. "When we touch our horses in a positive way, they associate us with feeling good and want to be with us. Plus, by doing the massage yourself, you gain an intimate knowledge of your horse's body--where it's sore--so you can adjust your riding and training to alleviate stress in those areas," said MacDougall-Tattan. "That way the horse is less likely to associate riding and training with discomfort."
She believes horse owners are willing to let their horses go without a massage is that they still regard it as a "treat" rather than preventive health care. Massage eases muscle spasms, reduces inflammation and swelling, relieves tension, lengthens connective tissue, enhances muscle tone, can reduce and sometimes eliminate tendonitis, breaks down adhesions, and decreases the danger of developing fibrosis. But a major benefit of massage is improved circulation, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to muscles and hastens elimination of waste products and toxins, and it can even increase synovial fluid in joints.
"Massage promotes healing and prevents injury. All of that adds up to a more comfortable horse, which means better temperament, better performance and possibly a longer life," said MacDougall-Tattan, adding that massage helps tendonitis because tendons are the more rigid ends of muscles that attach to bone. When the muscle is tight, the tendon pulls on the bone. Massage makes the belly of the muscle relaxed, so the muscle itself becomes longer, and there is less pulling.
MacDougall-Tattan understands that some certified equine sports massage therapists may object to what she is doing, but said it's important to understand that she is not certifying people to work on other people's horses, and the type of massage she teaches is preventive care, not massage for serious injury. "There will always be a need for certified equine sports massage therapists," MacDougall-Tattan said.
She encourages people to "listen" to their horses. "When your horse develops a new behavior -- resists, refuses or acts up, consider it a sign that something is wrong. Bucking, rearing, tossing the head, refusing the proper lead and an inability to bend, can all be signs of injury," she said
When muscles become stressed, they develop small areas of tension that feel like speed bumps. Without massage, they grow, cause pressure, restrict muscle movement and become a source of pain and discomfort. As the spot increases in size, it draws in fluid, which can act like glue and cause adhesions. When a muscle reaches the point where it can no longer move, it will pull and tear.
Massage compresses muscle against bone to spread out fibers and break apart adhesions so blood can flow more easily into the muscle. As the blood flows, it carries oxygen and nutrients into muscles, and metabolic waste and toxins out of muscles. Oxygen in the muscle reduces spasms.
Jean MacDougall-Tattan, a certified and insured equine sports massage therapist and Reiki Master, is owner of Equine Muscle Menders. She can be reached at 978-346-9300 or via www.EquineMuscleMenders.com.
by Nancy Lindley-Gauthier
Likely, if you are a dressage rider, you've done some ground work, somewhere along the way. This might be lunging, long-lining, or ground driving. If you are toying with the idea of seeing if your horse would entertain the idea of driving, a great place to start is to go back to last month's issue, and revisit Nancy Knettell's article on long-lining. There is not one exercise there that would conflict with eventually driving, and it would remind your horse (especially if it has been a while) about being worked sans rider. The second thing you could focus on while doing from-the-ground exercises, is developing (or perhaps reminding) a snappy response from voice commands.
One of the great points about developing a driving horse from a dressage horse is that in many cases, all of the preliminary steps are a case of 'reminding.' Good voice response was likely something you taught your horse, back when he was just starting out on the lunge line. Tolerating the sundry parts of harness - especially back pad and crupper - is likely done, if you used any type of long lining harness in the past. At this stage, you don't need to be worried about getting a lot of different equipment, use what you have. It's fun to try some early exercises and see how you and your horse like this new game. If you have a harness to use, it might be useful in getting the horse acclimated to having a crupper on, and to having leather breeching dangling across his haunches. However, many things can be accomplished with a simple lunge line, and one step further would be long lines rigged through your dressage saddle.
For the less mobile; I should probably go ahead and confess right here that I have seen some gifted long liners, and I am not one of them. I worry, when attempting to long line, that I will trip, fall, fail to keep up... and so most often, my own plan is to either lunge or ground drive. Long lining is so hugely beneficial that I would urge you, if you have the gift, to do work on good voice and whip reactions while long lining, as well as the exercise I suggest.
For driving purposes, you do want to be sure your horse is thoroughly accepting of harness, and that he is responsive and obedient to voice commands. Voice commands are used even in competition. The voice, often in conjunction with the whip, takes the place of the 'legs' of the rider. Having said that, it is possible to over use voice. You want to use crisp commands, or a soothing word or two in tense situations, not endless stream of babble, that the horse will learn to tune out.
The whip is another important accouterment. OK, we've all seen Cookie climb on the chuck wagon and slap the big beasts' bum with the reins to get them going. What's wrong with that? Primarily, the last thing a driver wants is for the horse to think that the reins shifting around is a command to 'go.' Eventually, you'll be climbing onto your vehicle (having spent hours training Dobbin to stand like rock, so you could climb on, and perhaps allow time for a guest to climb on) when you will inadvertently jiggle the reins and Dobbin will step off smartly while you are still dangling off the far end of the vehicle!
The whip is a much better choice, which cannot be mistaken. You will climb aboard, settle yourself, organize your reins, and the horse will move off only after feeling a tap on his rump. Also, you will use the whip for more than just the "go" command. Remember, the whip takes the place of the leg. You will need your horse to respond to a light touch on either side of his body, as a request to bend. So, from the start, whether you begin with lunging or long lining, be conscious of your whip use. You need for the horse to recognize that it is not only a request for speed, but a directional aid.
An exercise may perhaps best illustrate this point. While the horse is walking briskly on the lunge line in a circle around the handler with steady contact on the line, begin to gradually bring the horse in, making the circle smaller. No need to make it terribly small, just enough to give you perhaps four or five feet of room, from this inner circle to return to his comfortable larger circle. Then, bring your whip forward - from pointing at the hip bone, as is standard, to pointing at the barrel, approximately where your leg would fall. Touch the horse lightly there, and attempt to 'push' him gradually outward on the circle. If you have little or no response, you may need to tap him to get his attention, or perhaps say 'over' or whatever word you use in the barn or on the ground in general, to move him out of your way. The goal is to move the horse from the inner circle back to the outer, all the while maintaining a steady contact on the line, and steady, forward walk. In addition to moving outward, the horse should exhibit something of an increased lateral bend, as a result of that whip contact.
If you have too much response (yikes! Full steam ahead,) your need to teach your horse not to over-react to the whip. You might start at a stand still, and very gently, with your hand in the same spot on the barrel, ask your horse for one or two steps of a turn on the forehand. When that is accomplished without excitement, use the whip very softly, in place of your hand to request that side step.
We aren't, in this exercise, (contrary to everything dressage) worrying about the quality of steps, but rather, just attempting to teach the horse that a whip can ask for bending. A bonus, if your horse is a whip-worrier, is that this exercise will also help him lose his fear of whips, as when competing and out for drives with other people, Dobbin will have to ignore the whips of other carriages.
There is a good deal of ground work to be done, prior to even thinking about hooking (or 'putting to") a carriage. Appropriate voice and whip reactions are the place to start. And to repeat; having a horse that is rock solid when told to 'whoa' is an absolute gift when harnessing, putting to, and actually climbing aboard your carriage. Time spent developing (or perhaps reminding of) manners you were likely scrupulous in training into your young horse will bring such a bonus later, do not overlook this important step. Many of us are quite careful in teaching the young animal to exhibit wonderful manners, but as they age, and likely begin to anticipate commands (quite often correctly) we become less concerned with their waiting commands. This is a common bit of sloppiness that will not do in a driving horse. So, to start a horse driving; remind them of all you likely taught him long ago, and add on a bit of whip education while you are at it.
While you will not be worrying about a vehicle at this early stage, there is no reason not to educate yourself a bit on the types of vehicles out there, those commonly in use, and the pro's and cons of each. Whenever one says "Carriage' a whole flock of people say, "A Meadownbrook?" Likely, this is the only model of carriage they have heard of. Meadowbrooks are a pleasant down-the-road vehicles. But to my mind, they are often heavy, with difficult in-out access for the driver & passenger. They might tend to be unwieldy on turns as well, although they usually give a very comfortable ride, and are quite handsome to look at.
A preferred type of cart (in my opinion) is the more modern road cart. These are lighter weight, somewhat adjustable, and often built with driver access in mind. And even better (if pricier)are some of the wonderful two wheeled vehicles made for marathons. They have a back step for the navigator, which means that in the event you need them, the navigator could dismount and get to the horse without risking life and limb baling out of the carriage.
In addition to these, a myriad of vehicles are available. The appropriate vehicle for you will depend on what you want to do, if you require something easy to get in and out of, the type of horse you drive, and (if you aspire to compete) the types of competitions you would enjoy. In combined driving or dressage, a road cart might be just the ticket, while at a more typical driving show, a beautifully presented meadowbrook might be the vehicle of choice. Beyond those, there are a myriad of lovely, elegant vehicles. Even if you aren't worried about a vehicle at this point, do take a moment to visit The Carriage Association of America's web page, Click here for the website. This organization's main focus is on antique carriages, and standard pleasure-type shows and drives. While you won't find driven dressage information here, you will discover some wonderful vehicles. Today's turnouts, like in so many parts of the equine world, are based on old, traditional styles.
This Months Training Tip: Having Trouble Keeping a Horse Straight in Long Lines?
You have been working behind your horse on the long lines for a little while and things are having been getting better. The horse is stopping when you want her too, and even turning respectably, when all of a sudden she stops and quickly turns in the long lines. Now you are having trouble keeping your horse going straight and no matter what you do she seems to have gotten your number. This is time to take a look at what you are using for long lines. Most riders who try long lining from behind, will use two of their longe lines for reins. These may work for a well schooled horse, but a young one might try and avoid going forward by turning in the lines and end up facing you. This is because most lunge lines are soft cotton and lack a bit of persuasive quality about them. Nylon longe lines may not work either, and often have a donut at the end which might interfere with using them as reins. It is hard to run and get behind the horse to get her moving forward again if she constantly does this.
If you are having this problem, try using a set of heavy leather single driving reins. (I am not sure if the coated nylon driving reins will work as well. I did not try them.) Each rein I purchased came with an extra part that was easily be removed so that I had a standard buckle attachment to the horse's bit rings. Make sure that the driving reins are running through a
It is important that you start using these new lines in an enclosed area so that if the horse takes off he cannot go anywhere. You must also make sure that you never get them wrapped around any part of you. And always make sure that you are wearing leather gloves when you do this. You definitely do not want to try this out on the trail until you both get the hang of it.
Now, if the horse decides to move his hips to one side or the other to try and face you, you can gently slap either in the girth area, or the middle of the bulging hip, to simulate a leg bump. And since the reins are low enough, the horse cannot evade the tap by going under them. This gives a signal to the horse that she has turned far enough and must go back to straight. This slap must be just enough that the horse sees it as a correction, but does not run in fear from the noise or hit. And it might have to be a bit more intense than what might happen if the reins inadvertently drop there. You might want to experiment with intensity when you try this to see what works. The driving reins will give a give the right slapping noise without hurting the horse. Think hitting your thigh with the flat side of a wooden ruler. It makes a slapping noise but does not really hurt.
Remember this is not meant to be a punishment. Just enough of a slap to wake Ms. Horse up and let her know that she has to go straight. The leather reins are also easy to hold onto and get you far enough behind the horse out of kicking range. Also, make sure that if the horse does bolt, that you let go of the reins immediately. You do no want to hold onto a running horse.
To Nancy Lindley-Gauthiers point above, you might be able to accomplish this with a driving whip instead with some practice. Preparing a horse for driving includes the added concern about a horse walking off while you are getting in the carriage when you accidently slap them with the reins.
You can get a good set of driving reins from Meader's Supply in New Hampshire. This is the connection to their website. They have a wonderful supply of all sorts of quality driving paraphernalia.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
Last week we talked about massage therapy for both the horse and rider as key to keeping both athletes comfortable for riding. I hope all of you have had your first massage by now if you have never tried it. If so, I bet you are now hooked. You will be surprised at how it will help improve your ability to be comfortable riding as well as achieve that elusive ability to sit up straight in the saddle.
This week we have looked at the importance of finding the suitable horse for your specific requirements. Temperament and training are key components of the ideal mount. Riding a horse is supposed to be fun. If you are uncomfortable with your horse, it is important to get a second opinion from someone that you trust who has the experience to help you decide if you are on the right horse. Being overmounted is the single most common reason for injuries in this sport, and the reason why most horses are cruelly treated or abandoned.
If you think you are in a situation with a horse where you feel you are over your head, don't despair and don't give up on your horse either. You may be able to work it out if the two of you are not too far off of a good match. Again, this is the time for a good instructor/trainer to step in to help you. Make sure that you are totally comfortable with this relationship with the trainer as well. She should know how to relate to adult students, not just kids. Abusive or humiliating treatment to either the student or the horse is unacceptable and in fact counterproductive. Remember, this is supposed to be fun...! Challenging, yes, but fun none-the-less.
Questions, Answers, and Comments
My friend forwarded a copy of your e-zine to me-she thought I'd be interested. Like many, I had not been up on a horse in years. In addition, I have joint and back problems, and was terrified that something might happen if I were to try riding again. My friend managed to get me up on one of her horses. I am not riding "regular", but we do go out occasionally, and she has even given me a try at driving as well. She is trying to convince me to get a horse-something I have dreamt of all my life, but never had the opportunity. Now I have to wait until my son finishes his degree, to remove a rather major expense. But I have never owned or cared for a horse. There is just so much to learn before I can even think about beginning. Where do I start? I enjoyed reading your e-zine and hope all the information it contains will help me make the next big step. Thanks.
This a great question and one that is perfect for The Cavalier. This is what we are all about. In fact, you are not alone. The largest growing sector of the riding world are people just like us. Our children and other responsibilities are behind us, so we have both the time and a bit more money to devote to this life long dream. The good news is that we can succeed in making this hobby appropriate for us too.
You have questions though that are common to most of us, and ones that I hope to give more insight in the future through the pages of this e-zine. Physical issues of various levels are a factor of our time in life. We are not twenty something. So how we approach learning to ride and ultimately our riding style is determined by what we are capable of. Maybe barrel racing is not a good choice for a more mature riders first riding goal. Driving and Dressage tend to be better choices because, while they have a physical component to them, they do not require great levels of athleticism to enjoy the sport. In fact you do see people still enjoying these hobbies well into their eighties. And, there are ways too that physical challenges can be managed. We will be addressing those issues as we look into working with the older horse and rider. Certainly, as we can see with the Driving for the Disabled program, even being in a wheelchair is no boundary to someone who is intent on working with horses.
The other is issue is also one we all deal with as well. Fear of falling off. Yup, you are really up there and the ground is pretty far away and darn hard when you hit it. We don't bounce like a kid either and face the real possibility of getting seriously hurt. But, people ride horses all the time and manage for the most part to stay on. I believe you do not need to fall off to learn how to ride a horse. You might when you are first learning, but it will be in a controlled situation, not on a horse that is running away with you. But any trainer who says that you should be falling off a horse to learn to ride should have his credentials pulled immediately. In fact if you are falling off it is a sign that you are something called "overmounted." This is the most common reason that people are injured in this sport.
Confidence and body memory is key to staying safe on a horse. These takes time to build. Unfortunately for some of us, there is no way to shorten the process. Riding horses is a martial art. You are really training your reflexes rather than your mind when you learn to ride. A horse has reflexes that are at least ten times faster than a human’s. So you are gradually training your body to react faster and faster so it will match the reaction time of a horse. Along with that, your body is gaining balancing strength to keep you in the middle of a saddle. This is so that when the horse does react unexpectedly you are able to go with the motion. To achieve these skills correctly you have to be on a very calm and well trained horse where you can build the body memory and strength without worrying about managing the horse's emotions. That will lead to increased confidence on your part. But, once you do build this confidence, the issues that can cause you to fall off begin to recede.
Now, I am not sure if it was due to just dumb luck or if it is evidence that last statement I said is really true, but I rode my horse Jaicka for twelve years and managed to stay on her. I rode her on the trails. I rode her on the beach. I rode her at a dead gallop following the hounds. And if I just held on to her mane so I did not bump her mouth, got myself in position and closed my eyes, I even jumped a few barriers out in the hunt field that I could not go around. And believe me I was not able to do more than walk and trot in a ring when I got her. That is the value of a well trained horse. (And why my confession above about by my buying a young horse is so unbelievably ironic.)
I would heartily encourage you to start with lessons. Find an instructor that you feel comfortable with. Make sure your instructor knows about your challenges. You never want to be put in a position that you could get hurt. A good place to look for recommendations is a local riding/driving or dressage club near you. You can join one even if you do not have a horse. Once you have had some lessons they you can decide if you want to go further with the expense of owning one. A good instructor will help you with that decision as well.
Learning to ride on a well trained horse is a gift that everyone should experience. Mere mortals like us can even own and take care of them quite well too. I heartily encourage you to follow your dreams. And remember, you have the whole The Cavalier community to help you with any questions or problems you might have in the future!
Become a KIVA Loaner
I am digressing a bit from horses to talk about a wonderful organization that I have just come across, and one that I have chosen to support. The organization is called KIVA -- www.kiva.org. It is a peer to peer lending organization that uses the Internet to help you make small loans to people all over the third world. You can donate as little as $25 dollars or as much as you want. What makes this enterprise so special is that you are donating as yourself, to a specific individual that you chose from the pages of KIVA's website. The individuals then pay the loan back to you. In fact, when they do, you can chose to take your money out of KIVA, or you can find another person you wish to make a loan for.
The average loan request is around $1000 but you only have to loan a portion of that. Or you can choose to loan to several individuals. It is amazing how little can do so much. What is really amazing is all the money you lend to the individual, is given to the individual. The organization does have other ways to fund their operating costs, such as selling some of their gear, but since it is only a six person operation, their cost are not extravagant. Yes, someone may not be able to pay back the loan, and you may lose your money, but so far the payback has been 100%. Once the individual is funded, you will see his payment progress as repays the loan. What is more exciting you can also see the community around the individuals transformed by the success of these entrepreneurs too, as they themselves become KIVA entrepreneurs.
There have been over $5 million dollars loaned to this organization by over 50,000 people just like you and me. Articles on KIVA have been featured in the New York Times and PBS' Frontline as well as other prominent new outlets, so you can be assured of its earnestness. The most important thing is when you make a loan to a KIVA entrepreneur, you send the American flag with a smile on it along with a gift of hope, directly to that person in need. And you are empowering him or her to achieve their own little American dream. This is a powerful message, and one that I am sure you will all agree, is truly needed right now. If you still believe that as one person, you can not make a difference in the world, KIVA will change your mind. A little on your part can go a long way. I urge you to visit their website -- www.kiva.org -- and see for yourself.
Riding horses can be a dangerous activity that requires your full attention and full responsibility at all times. This information is offered for instruction and general purposes only, with the understanding that you will use it wisely and at your own discretion. And, as always, there is no substitute for a fully qualified instructor, a safe place to ride, and a hard hat.
The mission of The Cavalier is to show you how the classical connection can help both you and your horse achieve harmony on the ground and in the saddle. I welcome all your comments and suggestions. And if you have questions that you would like answered by the contributors to this publication please feel free to email them directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will be pleased to answer them in the coming months.
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Thanks again to all of my wonderful reader and writers. You are the ones that make this e-zine happen!
I hope you will join me and continue to ride with a smile and...
Don't give up!
Best wishes from Fox Chase Farm,