Yes! A clear round! Not a single bar down! Woohoo! All right! Big high-five, buddy!
Uh, yeah, maybe not.
I’m every bit as excited as the next person when my favorite sports team make a great move, whether that’s a touchdown or a three-point basket or a home run or a clear show jumping round. And I know how it goes—the loudspeakers blare out the celebration theme, the crowds jump and roar, the sports announcers declare that it’s incredible, and everyone on the team, including the coach, high-fives the superstar. That’s part of sportsmanship; it’s an expression of thrill; and it’s usually a great honor to the "high-fivee."
But when that "high-fivee" has hooves instead of hands, well, I fear the honor gets a little misconstrued.
Again and again at the 2014 Alltech World Equestrian Games in Normandy, I saw riders doing this sort of modified high-five with their horses. Yes, I get it that they’re thrilled and energized, and I get it that they are loving that horse at that moment about as much as possible. They want that horse to know that they’re about as happy with him as they can get.
But that modified high-five—most would probably call an exuberant “pat”—is actually a pretty tough slap on the neck. Three or four in a row, usually, distributed with all the power generated from the excitement of the success of the round and the ambiance in the stadium, with pops so loud sometimes you can hear them over the cheers.
While that all looks really super-duper sporty, the thing is, the horse is probably there going, “What? What did I do? Why are you slapping me? I just did a clear round!”
Of course, patting horses is a pretty common way of thanking them. People have been doing it for decades, probably centuries, in all disciplines of competition and of course outside the competition ring as well.
But all that probably means is that for decades and probably centuries, we’ve been confusing our horses. “Hey,” our horses might be saying. “I did a good job! How come I always get hit on the neck when I’ve done my best?”
Researchers have been looking into the kinds of tactile (touch) rewards horses would prefer. Andrew McLean, PhD, has even successfully trained some of his research horses using wither scratching alone as a positive reinforcement aid (with no negative reinforcement at all). And researchers know horses are sensitive to touch, with much higher sensitivity than people used to think. Some research groups have even demonstrated how differently horses respond to different kinds of massage techniques, indicating that they’re highly sensitive and able to distinguish slight differences in touch.
We know now that horses prefer the gentle touch, and my guess is that they probably have no real understanding of the concept of that honorable sportsman’s high-five they’re getting in the show ring. I know it might seem a little bit less anticlimactic out there if riders stopped slap-patting their horses after clear rounds and started scratching their withers instead.
Still, some dressage riders have already started doing this, and it works. Granted, dressage doesn’t garner quite the same ambiance as a show jumping stadium. (That being said, you should hear the explosive cheering after Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro end a freestyle routine!) But gentle caressing and scratching works to convey the “All right, buddy, you did a great job!” message to the horse far better than any human culture slapping techniques ever could.
How do you thank your horse for a job well done?
There’s only so much room in each of our barns (and pocketbooks!), and many of us have to choose our horses wisely. We seek a dependable and willing riding partner, and the common mindset is to lean toward good ol’ reliable geldings. They sport strong hips, solid minds and are ready to be told what to do.
But today, I’m here to promote the fairer gender of equines. On this never-ending road of learning and horsemanship that I’m trotting down, I’ve realized that a good mare is as wonderful and special as any gelding could ever be.
I know, there are some stigmas attached to mares. Yes, the stereotypical female horse can be moody. Her attitude may be volatile from day to day, and she is quick to remind you when her boundaries have been crossed. She advocates that she be treated with a certain amount of respect, time and understanding. Mares may challenge our perception of timing and feel (and often rock our fragile egos), but in doing so they can elevate our abilities as horsemen and create unique opportunities and learning situations.
Naturally, not all geldings are solid, predictable and steady, and not all mares are sour, squealing and moody. They do not need to be treated with kid gloves or handled differently simply because they are female. Mares can co-exist with geldings. They can learn to mind their manners and behave when loaded on a trailer full of other horses. Yes, there might be wavering attitude changes, but the tail-swishing drama that some mares exhibit can be managed and toned down in most cases.
In the performance pen, mares are valuable and cherished. A money-earning mare will have more appeal and be a sounder financial investment than a gelding of the same stature, merely because she has the ability to reproduce. The great mares often go on to produce foals with talent and ability. Some trainers prefer a string of mares, claiming that they tend to carry an extra dose of fire in their hearts and grit in tough situations. In fact, there are cowboys, competitors and horsemen in all facets of the equine world that sing the praises of a special mare in their lives. (Did I mention that my favourite using horse just so happens to be one?)
Many people will always prefer geldings, and I’ll admit, I used to be an unwavering gelding proponent. The appeal of steady, predictable geldings is understandable. But for those of us lucky enough to have a good mare, we have found a real partner. The good mares I have known possess big hearts, busy minds and beautiful, feminine features.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ll always enjoy and appreciate a nice gelding. But there will always be room in my barn for a good mare.
So I find myself getting into a brand new adventure. A group of friends of ours are taking their registered Canadians to the International Working Equitation competition this year which happens to be hosted in Canada this time AND just 10 mins from our house! I was making full plans to go and audit, until multiple friends of ours threatened our lives if we didn't register to ride and compete in the week long camp-so clearly the decision was made that we would be going.
Now let me begin by saying this-I have never watched, ridden or competed in WE nor do I know fully what it actually intales. My general attitude towards things is to try everything once and if anything it becomes a new learning experience-aka an adventure.
I am incredibly to have my incredible husband always at my side in those crazy adventures that I keep dragging his behind in. He simply is the best. He laughs and finds humour in everything and he keeps my head and mind on the "sane" side of things when it gets a little dicey. As an unpaid groom, equine chauffer, psyho therapist and source of cash as the bank of Kelly-he truly is what makes my day go round. He always knows exactly what's going on in my mind, he understands the horses like no one else and he instantly knows when something goes wrong. I couldn't ask for a better partner to go through all these crazy adventures with.
When this working equitation clinic idea came up, an immediate sense of panic came on as I started to wonder what I had gotten ourselves into. My mare has a heart of gold, and is just so willing to do anything for me so I know that no quest is to much. I'm genuinely convinced that she thinks she is of the dog specie as she asked for her daily bum scratch, and on any given day will lick you to death. If she were a dog, she would be a Maltese. She is highly motivated by food, will sit in your lap and is as sharp and smart as a whistle. When she looks at you, you know she is already planning her next action. She's the type of horse where you have to hide how to lock and unlock the gate, because if she sees you doing it even just once-she will be out of her pen in less than 5 mins. She knows how to untie herself and every other horse nearby. She knows how to open the locked cookie bin in the trailer. She knows how to remove the hardest to remove grazing muzzles. She knows to remove bridles and open most man doors. She knows how to open and close zippers for treats. She will learn new tricks by watching other horses doing them.
The just of it, should I lack brain cells to do this whole working equitation thing, she will take me through it because that's the type of horse she is. Luckily for us there is a week long clinic before the weekend show, so we will (hopefully) be able to learn enough of the basics to be challenging to those levelling with us. If anything it's going to be a fun adventure and we get to see a lot of our friends in the process.
More to come about the training coming up to it!
We are lucky enough to be able to ride our registered Canadian Horses in numerous parades around Alberta every year, one of which is the Calgary Stampede Parade. I created a vlog entry for this years parade.
The video starts off from arriving at the grounds the day before the parade, enjoying a fantastic hosted BBQ by the Calgary Stampede, camping overnight, enjoying an amazing Calgary Stampede breakfast followed by morning horse prep for the parade.
Thank you to the Calgary Stampede for another amazing year parading!
Put together a tack haul of the most asked question when I go out riding the horses. Thought I would post all the information in a review. Have fun watching!
Cache Phenom Zarra -13684- posted below.
As the year ends and the different shows and events finish, I find the horses get quite a few breaks as we get into colder weather and the snow comes in. It's almost a bitter sweet time of the year because you go parade season ends, main horse show season finishes and most of the clinics are over. For us the year doesn't start up again until the middle of May, so we have 4.5 months to do some ground work refreshers and work on an organised fitness plan for the horses-which I will share below.
Some of the benefits of putting the horses on a fitness program is it allows you to focus on certain aspects of their workout that you would otherwise not always focus on during the show season. For me my main goal is to get them fit and lower their risk of injury or illness by giving them the chance to stay active, stay curious and keep them thinking.
Record/Journal your sessions
One of the first steps in this process is to get yourself a journal where you can record what type of work you've done in your session and perhaps write down the goals you are wanting to achieve each week. You will also want to monitor the horse's vitals for each individual horse before, during and after each workout session to see how you're doing and making sure you are not pushing the horses to much(or not enough). It should also show you a clear progress line of your horses as they build more and more endurance and are able to recover and return to normal vitals quicker after each session.
It is very important to learn how to take respiratory and breathing rates. If you are unsure on how to do so, make sure to do research online. Lots of content there to show you how to achieve this. It is important to monitor this along with a few other basic vitals. You should be able to know what the baseline is for each individual horse.
A horse should be able to return to normal vitals after 10-15 mins of rest. The longer it takes to recover back to normal values, then you need to decrease the difficulty of your workout program because it is to demanding. Really fit horses may have lower values because they are already in very good shape.
Create a program
When creating your program you have to think of what you are training for. Is this a dressage horse? is this a horse you are preparing for endurance? is this horse an eventer? Your program will need to be tailored to those needs and what you are wanting to achieve. The intensity and length of your first few sessions should be tailored to your horse's current fitness level. Make sure to also consider any pre-existing issues that the horse might have(arthritis, cold back, any old injuries that maybe require more time to warm up). Whatever the program you are creating is, you need to go slow and do things correctly. Stepping up to quickly will increase the chance of injury, colic and physical issues such as soreness etc.
When looking at the example below, keep in mind that a exercise program could involve lunging, ground work or even long reining. This is not specifically about under saddle work only. This is a very general guideline if you are trying to get a horse back into shape with a gradual schedule.
Basic workout program example:
Week 1: 30 minutes per ride with 5 minutes trotting
Week 2: 30 minutes per ride with 10 minutes trotting
Week 3: 40 minutes per ride with 15 minutes trotting
Week 4: 40 minutes per ride with 20 minutes trotting and 5 minutes cantering
Week 5: 40 minutes per ride with 20 minutes trotting and 10 minutes cantering
Working training program more suitable to eventing horses:
Week 1 – Around 20 mins forward walking in both directions.
Week 2 – Increase work to 30-40 mins per day.
Week 3 – Increase work to 60 mins per day, including some hills.
Week 4 – Extend hacking time to up to 90 mins per day, including some trot work on suitable ground.
Week 5 – Start introducing some gentle schooling (20-30mins max) with lateral work. Have a riding session up to a max of 2 hours 3-4 times a week.
Week 6 – Gradually increase time spent schooling and introduce some cantering on suitable ground out hacking.
Week 7 – Build up the period of time in canter, including some cantering up hills. Continue with schooling but start to introduce jumping.
Week 8-9 – Continue with the current work and introduce some faster work (strong canter, controlled gallop) in either a continuous training or even interval riding.
These are great example(basic)programs, but they might not be fit for all horses. Monitor your horse's vitals and assess if this is a good program for you, or if it needs to be adjusted to smaller or bigger intervals. Make sure to finish your cool down gradually and finish it off with some stretching.
The 'little iron horse' came to Canada 350 years ago as a gift from the king of France
Sara Fraser · CBC News · Posted: Dec 16, 2018 7:00 AM AT | Last Updated: December 16
Did you know Canada has its own breed of horse?
The Canadian horse became our national horse in 2002, and because of dwindling numbers is now listed by Heritage Livestock Canada as "at risk," with numbers of new annual registrations of females between 151 and 500.
CBC talked to two Island Canadian horse owners to find out why they are so special — Evelyn Lafortune of North Milton, P.E.I., owns Molssen and Belle, and Orwell Corner Historic Village in Orwell Corner has Sean, Tartan and Urban — all, coincidentally, Molssen's offspring. The historic village is part of the provincial government's network of museums.
1. They date back 450 years. Canadian horses descend from a shipload of horses sent to Canada in 1665 by King Louis XIV to his subjects in New France. They were likely a variety of breeds including Belgian, Percheron, Breton and Dales that mixed to become what became its own distinct breed, according to the Canadian Horse Breeders website.
Dapples pop in summer on the sides of these two Canadian horses at Orwell Corner Historic Village. (Rick Dunphy)Only the hardiest survived those first tough pioneering decades, leading to their nickname as the "little iron horse."
"As a museum, it's our responsibility to interpret it in as authentic a way as possible," said Jason MacNeil, site director for the historic village at Orwell Corner. Since the village interprets the P.E.I. of 1895, the Canadian horse is as historically authentic as it gets.
2. The government used to raise them. The federal government had a breeding program for Canadian horses in 1913 after mass exports to the United States led to a dangerous drop in numbers, says the Canadian Horse Breeders website.
A student takes a turn learning to drive one of the Canadian horses at Orwell Corner. (Dale McIsaac)The program ended in 1940 but the Quebec government took over and kept the program running until the 1960s.
Since then numbers have risen and fallen over the years — Lafortune puts their current number in Canada at about 6,000.
Lafortune has been raising Canadian horses since 1999, and said she first heard about them on CBC Radio.
"And then I researched it and thought 'Oh my God, how could I not know about this?'" She visited farms in Quebec and fell in love with the horses, bought and raised them and at one point had a herd of 12.
4. They are smart. Because they are intelligent, Canadian horses are easy to train and love to please. Even though they are smart they are not high-strung and are very reliable — "bomb-proof" is the word horse owners use.
Canadian horses are versatile and can be ridden and driven, says Lafortune. Here she is riding Molssen and driving Belle. (Submitted by Evelyn Lafortune)Lafortune recalls when she was breaking Molssen to harness and she hadn't had much experience, she harnessed him to a cart improperly.
"Another horse would have lost his mind and went running and probably would have hurt both him and myself," she recalled. "Molssen, you just tell him stop and he does. I can't tell you just how great that horse is."
Their temperament makes them perfect around children and all the noises they encounter at the historic village, said MacNeil.
"They are calm and relaxed and in general don't spook very easily," he said.
5. They are strong. Canadian horses can pull unusually large loads for their size, which made them ideal for hauling logs in the woods or large wagons loaded with people, grain or hay.
Orwell Corner is planning to breed Tartan the mare soon so they can perpetuate the Canadian breed. (B. Simpson/Government of P.E.I.)Not only that, they love to have a job to do, and will get bored if given too much free time.
They also have incredible stamina and can work at a steady pace for many hours.
"They can go all day long," said Lafortune. "They will work tirelessly," agrees MacNeil. "A great horse for a museum but also a great horse for Islanders in the past that needed a low-maintenance animal that would do the things they needed done."
6. They are versatile Canadian horses can do anything. you can ride them, or they can haul a cart or sleigh. They can work in the woods hauling logs, do dressage or a course of jumps. They've even been known to pull hearses and work cattle.
They can look at a blade of grass and they'll get fat.— Evelyn Lafortune"They just look beautiful pulling a carriage," Lafortune said. They are also used by several police forces, especially in Quebec, she said.
Lafortune both rides and harnesses hers, while the three at Orwell pull cartloads of visitors as well as demonstrate all the farm's historic farm implements like plows.
7. They don't eat much. Canadian horses are what are known in the horse world as "easy keepers."
Tartan and Urban enjoy their work on the farm at Orwell Corner. (B. Simpson/Government of P.E.I.)It's easy to keep them because they don't need to eat grain, just hay or grass — and not even a lot of that.
"They can look at a blade of grass and they'll get fat. So they're very low maintenance," Lafortune said.
8. Horses, not ponies Although many Canadian horses are smaller — what would be considered pony-sized — they are still to be called horses.
They range between 14 and 16 "hands" high, or 1.4 and 1.6 metres.
9. They are beautiful. With their long, wavy manes and glossy dark coats, Canadians take great glamour photos. And they are full of personality.
'They are calm and relaxed and in general don't spook very easily,' says Orwell Corner Historic Village's Jason MacNeil. (B. Simpson/Government of P.E.I.)They mostly are dark colours like black, brown and bay.
"They're beautiful animals," said MacNeil.
10. There will be foals. The Orwell museum is considering breeding its mare Tartan in the next few years to ensure the perpetuation of the breed and because visitors would enjoy seeing a foal.
'Most people in Canada don't even know we have a horse called the Canadian,' says Lafortune. (Submitted by Evelyn Lafortune)Lafortune has now bred her four-year-old mare Belle, who is due to foal in the spring. She then plans to breed the mare again.
"I have no intentions of getting into being a big breeder again, I have no intentions of getting a stallion again, but what I will do is my little part," she said. "If everybody does a little bit then we can keep the breed going."
Molssen is 16 and has been gelded now, but before Lafortune had him fixed she had a friend collect his semen with a mobile lab. It's now frozen for future use by a group of Canadian horse breeders in Quebec.
"Potentially, they could use Molssen's semen in 100 years," Lafortune said, noting he is of rare parentage and is "a fabulous horse, I could never say enough about that horse."
Lafortune laments the breed's dwindling numbers.
"It's such a shame. It's such a beautiful horse. Most people in Canada don't even know we have a horse called the Canadian."
The horse in the field seemed ordinary enough. However, as I soon learned, this was no ordinary horse; he was instead a direct biological link to the first European settlers in what was known as La Nouvelle France.
And students of North American history, amateur or otherwise, will recognize that New France implied a continental territory that took in a great deal more than just “Canada” or “Québec” as we tend to think of them today. Le cheval canadien is the living legacy of the French régime in North America.
In many ways, the horse I was gazing at on that brilliant fall day in Québec’s pastoral Outaouais region, is also the embodiment of a distinct French-speaking culture in North America — in the words of the Québec Association of the Canadian Horse, “It is for our children that we are raising the horse of our forefathers.” And although for some I may be re-activating touchy “issues,” I think it is safe to say that the Canadian Horse is, in the most comprehensive sense, a political horse. When the Parliament of Canada passed a bill in 2001 officially recognizing this breed as The Canadian Horse, it also confirmed and validated over 400 years of Canadian history.
Le petit cheval de fer
The Little Iron Horse, as he came to be known, also epitomizes the enduring qualities, traits, and traditions inherent in many cultural legacies, especially those that reflect the historic and geographic realities of a people. Having a direct relationship with the colonial realities of New France, this little iron horse “evolved” as a uniquely North American breed and contributed in no small way to the physical and cultural survival of the early French settlers in North America.
Life in “The New World” was as much about a struggle for survival as about opportunities; no more so than in the French colony of New France. In this part of the New World, the climate was harsh and the terrain daunting. History rides on the backs of its modes of transportation — frequently the horse — and it was therefore the horse that would become one of the principal means of communication and economic engines of the new society — but it wouldn’t be just any horse.
When France established its new colony in North America and began to build an infrastructure in this resource-rich land, the colonial-powers-that-be soon learned that in order to reap the benefits of this part of the Americas, it had to develop a new society that would flourish in a new and challenging environment. And this included the use of horses.
A gift from the Sun King
It’s always a good idea to choose your ancestors well; and the Canadian Horse did just that. In 1665 Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, sent two stallions and 20 mares to New France, followed in 1667 and 1670 by about 30 more horses. These horses which became the foundation stock for le cheval canadien were from breeding stock from Brittany and Normandy. Le normand and le breton resembled each other in many ways but the former had some Andalusian blood from Spanish horses imported into Normandy at the end of the War of Spanish Succession (and consequently some Arab and Barb blood). It’s important to remember the Netherlands-Spain historic connection of the 17th century and the trading that occurred between these European lands; historical connections that would eventually benefit the bloodlines of le cheval canadien. Therefore you can also throw in a little Dutch Friesen blood there as well. The even, rhythmic trotting ability of le cheval canadien is evidence of that ancestor.
These first horses to arrive in New France were not of any consistent type; among them were what we would today call draft horses, some lighter trotters, and some pacers. The breeding programs in New France, such as they were, were pretty haphazard. As was the case with the human inhabitants of this part of the New World, the learning curve was very steep. And lest you think that it was all smooth sailing at this point, I must disabuse you of that notion and point out that many of these early horses led miserable lives and were not well-adapted to their new environment. The trial-and-error “breeding program” — the equine equivalent of sauve qui peut — however led eventually to a very hardy breed.
In terms of the genetic legacy of the Canadian, it is also important to note that no other breeding stock were sent to the colony after 1670, which meant that for nearly 150 years the horses of New France evolved in isolation, developing their own gene pool. (By the way, a similar phenomenon happened with the French language, and today linguists can identify many language elements in “French-Canadian French” that can be traced to the 17th century.)
A “recovering” breed
By 1679 there were 145 horses in the colony and by 1698 that number had grown to 684. By the middle of the 19th century, the Canadian Horse numbered about 150,000. However not long after, the numbers began to dwindle. By the 1860s-1870s, there were fewer than 400 horses in the colony — on the road to extinction! As late as 1976 there were only 383 registered Canadians in Canada. In the 1870s however, the precarious state of affairs was recognized by admirers of the Canadian, and under the leadership of veterinarian Dr. J. A. Couture, steps were taken to protect and revitalize the breed.
But progress was slow; and it wasn’t until the the Canadian Horse Breeders Association was founded in 1895 that significant growth occurred. As we have seen in so many other animal species, this kind of genetic decline can occur very rapidly but takes much longer to recover, if indeed it can. Le cheval canadien could have gone the way of species such as the Passenger Pigeon (la tourte), once so abundant in New France that the “national dish” (tourtière), a kind of pigeon shepherd’s pie, is named after it. (Today la tourtière contains primarily pork.)
And when the Canadian government (under the federal Ministry of Agriculture) recognized another potential loss of a kind of Canadian sovereignty, effective government breeding programs were established in 1913. Government decision-makers, however, dropped the ball again when they eventually closed down these and other government breeding operations and essentially privatized the Canadian Horse. Ironically, this led to a renewed grassroots effort on the part of private breeders to preserve and protect the little iron horse. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. However I am happy to announce that today there are more than 2000 Canadiens in Canada with about 300 births a year. The Canadian mare has always been extremely fertile.
Why did this rapid decline occur? In part, because of commerce, mechanization, and war. Because it had proven itself to be such a successful new breed, the Canadian caught the attention of others beyond our borders, especially the Americans. (Canada has always faced a “brain drain” problem in terms of our neighbours to the south.) American dealers imported great numbers of the Canadian into the United States from horse markets held primarily in the cities of Québec and Montréal. Stage coach horses in what is today New England were legendary, all of them of Canadian extraction. As a superb trotter and pacer, the Canadian also was imported and mated to American horses and thus has contributed its genes to such popular breeds as the Standardbred, the Tennessee Walking Horse, the Saddlebred, and especially the Morgan. Please note however, that you will find considerable “discussion” among breeders of the latter as to the role played by le cheval canadien in those bloodlines. (Recent DNA testing done at the University of Guelph’s Equine Centre in Ontario has confirmed that the Canadian’s bloodlines are to be found in the Morgan breed.)
The Canadian was also exported to the West Indies, and as far away as the Canadian Prairies where it proved itself once again as the quintessential work horse. It also sadly became a war horse serving first during the American Revolution and later in great numbers during the American Civil War. They were even sent to serve in the Boer War in South Africa. Canadians also saw action during the North-West Rebellion of 1885 when they were ridden by the North West Mounted Police (predecessors to the famed Mounties). And then there was that terrible war of attrition (World War I) during which the Little Iron Horse also served and suffered.
Le cheval à tout faire
Although the original stock were intended for the “noblemen” of the new colony, the breed that eventually emerged was a very “democratic” horse with the very best working class skills. Le cheval canadien eventually adapted well to La Nouvelle France and became a specialist in multi-tasking. For the habitant farmer, the Canadian became a superb plough and carriage horse. As a general riding horse, trotter, and light carriage or sleigh horse, it also proved itself well both in agility, adaptability, and temperament.
As any horse lover-connaisseur will tell you, especially if they get the opportunity (as I did) to spend some time with the Canadian horse — whether it be just grooming them, walking among them in the fields of l’Outaouais, or going for a four-hour hack through the glorious Forêt de l’aigle on a Canadian — this is one superb breed of horse.
Neither too big nor too small, the Canadian is an honest, solid, and handsome breed of horse without the excessive airs and graces of some of those other breeds. He is a “good” size; what he lacks in height, he makes up for in substantial bone and musculature. Usually between 14 to 16 hands, he weighs between 1000 to 1350 pounds. Notice how well proportioned he is; the strong well-set and arched neck; the long deep body; the heavily muscled hindquarters; the sculpted head with its widely spaced eyes. Note the bold and friendly expression and the intelligent, spirited, but calm eye. Note especially the solid joints (in particular the fetlocks) and the hardy feet and legs that are not prone to the kind of injuries that so many other more “delicate” breeds experience. But it is the temperament of the Canadian horse that is perhaps his best quality. This is a horse that has truly bonded with humans. He is generous, willing to please, and fun-loving. But he’s no pushover. The Canadian will respect you if you respect him.
What’s in a horses’s name
Throughout this piece I probably should have been referring to this horse as Le Canadien because his (300-year) heritage is primarily French-Canadian. The breed has been called “The Canadian,” “the Canadian Horse,” “the French-Canadian Horse,” “the Canuck,” even “The Norman.” The name can confuse some people who think you may be referring to the horse’s nationality as opposed to its breeding. (We are very liberal in Canada, but we have not yet begun granting citizenship to horses.) Suffice it to say that for many people, Le Cheval Canadien is a source of pride given the self-determination inherent in the breed and in its history.
Spotlight on the Canadian Horse
Just found out through a friend of ours, that one of Costa and I cross country clinic photos made it into a magazine. Super fun! Wanted to share the article. Reminds me I should also share the video content from the Calgary Stampede that we did this year(we ride in the parade every year).
Busy riding rings: I had the chance to work medical standby at a horse show, and it gave me a different view of the warm up ring than I normally do being in it with our horses. As I sat and watched I saw riders almost collide, some riders even cutting each other off. What is awful with all of this, is riders are so focused on THEIR warm up that they don't seem to put as much care into their surroundings as they should.
Is lack of experience with busy warm up rings the issue? is the stress preventing riders from making proper decisions? Even in the best case scenario it causes more stress in an already stressful situation and upsets horses and disrupts your warm up. If all of us paid better attention to the warm up arena, it would make a world of a difference in our safety and the quality of our warm ups.
Riding in an arena you don’t normally ride in, is stressful enough. Different smells, lighting, footing. Every arena has it's demons and monsters that the horses always seem to find. You have lots of people watching you and of course you feel like everyone is judging every movement you make. Different horses and different types of riders with different riding styles. Spooky horses, hyper, lazy, small, large and green animals. Warming up is not an easy thing to do when you’re away from home(or even at home really), but the thing is we are all trying to achieve the same thing so why are we watching each other's backs.
Having grown up in France, I know that even in crowded arenas these issues can be easily dealt with. Horse shows down there never run into these issues and they sometimes have 2-3 times the amount of horses in 1 warming up arena than we have-and they do incredibly well! I don’t believe that Americans lack respect or are inherently ruder but why is this happeneing?(and being European myself I can confirm that European folks win THAT rudeness competition). I think the issue really comes down to the riders might not as educated on ring etiquette and should take it more seriously. I feel like the general handling of riding in the ring in European countries, is taken just as importantly as the competition itself. Because of this anyone making a ring etiquette mistake is dealt with immediately either by the ring stewart/ or a trainer. We need to act together as a community, treating each other better and be more courteous so that every horse in the arena feels a sense of calm and security.
I think if we all followed some basic rules(which I do see some of them followed in warm up ring, though not consistently), we would really improve this embarrassing problem that we are having. Here are some rules that I feel would make a big difference:
Continuously look around: We’re all concentrating on our own warm ups and focusing on our mount so it’s easy to forget when you’re stressed but really, do you walk around with your head down? Do you know your daily activities staring at the ground? Keeping your eye up and watching the other’s riders warm ups and respecting their space, will also allow you to anticipate where they are going next. I think it is fair to say that really young riders will likely not always follow this because of their age and lack of experience, but for everyone else there is no excuse.
Keeping your eye up will also give you an indication of the horse and rider pairs and their skill level. It will give you an idea of the personalities and overall vibe that they give off. I personally stay away from pairs that seem out of control or horses that have been dressed with a red ribbon. Perhaps there are some really spooky horses in the ring, or horses that are bullies with tail swishing and ear pinning. Those things will affect where you want to be in the ring and how you are going to plan your ride.
Passing left to left: when approaching other riders head on, passing left shoulder to left their shoulder is a safe rule. It eliminates the guessing game of who is passing who on what side.
This rule might have some exceptions when there are jumps in the ring as that might not work if they are coming across a line or otherwise. Horses coming across the diagonal, jumping a line, pairs etc etc. There is always an exception to the rule.
Speak Up!: Even in a busy ring you can be vocal about some of the things you are planning to do. A good example is a calling out “outside line!” or “yellow oxer!” so everyone no knows which way you’re going and give you the space you need. Broadcasting your intentions makes it a lot easier. If you have noticed is touchy in the arena when near horses, or you notice a horse with a red ribbon ahead of you and you are passing, call out "coming up behind/passed you?". I know I myself have had to yell “heads up” on many occasions because I’ve watched a rider not paying attention heading my way and would likely lead to a collision.
Give Others Space Your job is to be your horse’s protector starts when you first arrive on the show grounds all the way to the warm up arena, during your warm up, in your class and once you load on the trailer to head home.
I have a mare who while out fox hunting has double barrelled at other horses who have come up her rear end, and she does it without an ounce of warning. She is a phenomenal parade horse, and will babysit horses all day long and allow them to ride her bum on the parade routes. In settings where things get exciting, her tolerance for that goes out the door and she demands her space.
I have never had her kick in a warm up ring, but I have also always done everything I could, to give her as much space as I can and prevent her from getting upset and giving out a kick. I now have a 3 yr old filly that I am about to start who is also a natural alpha and it will be interesting to see how she handles a busy arena and show ring.
Let's all try to be safer out there and watch each other's backs in the warm up. At the end of the day it keeps ourselves and our horses safer.
What is Working Equitation?
Working Equitation became a competitive sport in 1996 along with its first European championship being held in Italy the same year. Working Equitation is a recognised sport and it tests the horse and rider's partnership and ability to manoeuvre obstacles.
Riders will come to compete and ride in many different levels in the following 4 different trials: Dressage(functionality), Ease of Handling, Speed Trial and Cow Trial. There are many levels you can compete in with the advanced levels where the rider must ride with just one hand, most commonly their left hand, on the reins.
Competition events may be individual or for teams, and are in three or four parts, in this order:
Kristina Eckert and her Canadian Horse Stallion Amaro
I do not like belts on a good day but have to wear them with my work clothes, riding and any other extra activity that is not lounging in my house and being lazy.
I was absolutely blown away at how comfortable they were. My husband is going to hate me because he's spent countless amount of money to buy me belts that look great for different attires-but I will come clean that my Unbelts belts are my new ONLY belts you will find in my closet.
I don't know about you, but the front of my hip bone can sometimes get uncomfortable with leather belts when I bend over, even pinch! Some belts will curve from regular wear as they stretch over time. The Unbelts do not pinch, stretch where they need to and slip fit nice and tight(depending on how you set it up). They work fantastic with all work and riding attires (I work in Emergency services and wear heavy duty cargo pants and they are phenomenal).
You guys you need to buy one to try out. I promise you it will become the best belt you have ever owned. The intrepid is even neater in design because it was silicone on the inside which makes it phenomenal with skirts of pants that don't actually have a belt loop.
Phenomenal product that every equestrian(and even non equestrian)should own.
We’ve been working for literally years on the first companion belt to the Classic. You asked us for a more rugged, technical belt that would still have the hallmarks of an Unbelt: insanely comfortable, machine washable, travel-friendly, and really, really size-inclusive.
The new Intrepid ticks all the boxes above - and we’ve added a couple of brand-new features, too. First… this is a lifetime belt. Buy it once, and we’ll repair or replace it forever. It’s our way of measuring our materials’ durability and minimizing our environmental footprint. You’ll also find some hidden bonuses like a secret pocket, a no-slip inner grip, and elastic made out of recycled water bottles.
And finally - every Intrepid is sewn in our new studio in Edmonton, Alberta, where we’re determined to create the same living-wage jobs that we’ve been so proud to sustain in our other hometown of Shanghai, China.
Unbelts was founded with two goals in mind: helping you feel great in your jeans, but also creating quality jobs for the people at the beginning of our supply chain. Why?
Because we know just how many pairs of hands it takes to bring a product to life, and have learned that with every step of our belts’ production, we have a chance to insist on better working conditions, more manageable hours, and more upward mobility for the people behind your belts.
Investing in our supply chain also results in a higher-quality product. Unbelts are made to be worn and loved for hundreds of wears - and to be repairable when they do reach the end of their first life. Designing for longevity helps us reduce our environmental impact, and having a direct relationship with our suppliers helps ensure our components stand the test of time.
Beyond "Made in _______"Unbelts founder Claire here. I'm so passionate about this subject that it's impossible for me to write about it without telling a little bit about my story.
I lived in China from 2008 to 2014. When I moved to Shanghai, I knew what reputation the “Made in China” label carried with it. Throughout my first couple of years there, though, I couldn't help but notice how many locally-produced goods were of extraordinarily high quality, and how much skill even amateur "makers" (a term that had popped up in the North American lexicon) in my neighbourhood had.
Meanwhile, on visits back to Canada, supersized stores with supersized piles of very, very cheap products were thriving - especially in the fashion industry. I just couldn't reconcile the putting-down of Chinese manufacturing with the clear reality that Western demand for huge quantities of on-trend, low-priced goods was making low quality inevitable. What would happen, I wondered, if a company was willing to pay higher wages for smaller quantities of well-made goods?
When I launched Unbelts from my living room in 2011, “Made in China” wasn’t outsourcing. It was insourcing. It was my "made local," because the women sewing our small quantities of belts lived right down the street. And as the business grew and as the global movement against fast fashion materialized, my team and I became more and more determined to show our customers that a more human-scale style of manufacturing is not only possible beyond North American borders - but necessary.
Does this mean we’ll only ever manufacture in China? Nope. Our goal is to benefit as many communities as we possibly can as Unbelts grows - and in Fall 2018, we launched a second studio. This one's in Edmonton, Alberta, and we're using the shorter turnaround times and real-time prototyping opportunity to launch our brand-new Intrepid belts. So now we've got twin studios - one in Canada, one in China - both offering living wages, stable hours, and upward mobility. In other words... we're focused on the who, not the where, and we invite you to join us as we keep learning how to make the best jobs we can.
I don't know about you guys, but I actually love cleaning my tack. I love the way leather smells and I love how soft the leather gets. Nothing beats a buttery soft bridle that is conditioned and maintained. To me your horse tack is an investment, and with the amount of money I spend on it every year, I like to do everything I can and take care of it to ensure that it will last me for years.
Other than just keeping your leather clean and supple, tack cleaning also gives you the chance to inspect your equipment and make sure that it is still in good working condition or if it needs repair or replacement. Sometimes the inspection might also show you some changes in your leather and will prompt you to change the product you are using which in turn helps prolong the life of your leather.
What I find fun(and that's where you might question my sanity) is there are so many different types of products to maintain and condition your leather. Testing new products and seeing how they will react or behave once on my leather is part of what I enjoy. It gives me the chance to see which products work well to soft, condition, shine, clean or even darken it. Just so many products to work with!
Hopefully reading this post, you will give you some inspiration to develop your own tack cleaning program.
Tips and tricks
** Got mold? make sure your tack is always clean and dry before putting it away in a closed tack box. A leather cleaning product that contains a mold inhibitor (Leather Restorers & Conditioners are examples). The can also help to prevent the growth of mold and mildew between cleanings, especially in humid climates. Breathable bags are also great to store tack.
* Always make sure to keep your cleaning and polishing sponges and clothes separate. I have 2 different large ziplock bags that I have labelled and keep a sponge and a cloth in each for their designated use.
* Always take your tack apart(bridle and breastplate) apart when you are cleaning them. Most of the dirt accumulation is in the buckles, because the dust and grim has nowhere to go.
* Soft bristle toothbrush is fantastic in getting in those tiny nooks and crannies that you otherwise would not get access to.
* Keep bit wipes in your grooming kit for easy access when you are removing tack after you ride. Makes it easy to keep your bit clean.
Cleaning: Saddle soap
Leather damage on your saddle is often a result of an unbalanced pH level. When regularly cleaned with the proper saddle soap, the fatty acids in the soap combine with the salt contained in horse sweat to keep your saddle leather’s pH levels balanced properly.
Glycerine soap works to seal the pores of the leather, giving it a like-new glossy finish and protecting it from dirt.
Conditioning: Leather conditioner
I prefer using a cloth for this step because it gives you a better tool to work the conditioner into the leather than a sponge would. Make sure to condition all surface of your leather including those hidden areas under your flaps and the underside of those saddle flaps.
Brightening bits, stirrups, buckles and name plates
Once or twice a month, you should put all of your bits into a bucket for a thorough cleaning. Use a product like Bit Therapy Effervescent Cleaner, which fizzes when added to water, and let the bits sit for 8-1 mins. They’ll come out shiny and mint-scented, even in the hard-to-reach crevices. Another option is to put your bits in the dishwasher! even your stirrups do fantastic with a regular dishwasher trip!
If you don’t have time before a show, use a polish paste like Simichrome Polish on the rings of the bit to get them shiny. Your stirrups will also benefit from this-make sure you cover all aspect of the stirrup including the bottom, underneath portion. Be sure to select a non-toxic metal polish so you aren’t dyeing the surrounding leather, and allow the polish to sit for a few minutes before buffing it away.
I am a huge promoter of these. These bridles are stunning in design and quality and offer a little something different compared to some of the bridles currently available on the market. I thought I would introduce you to some of their bridles to those of you who are new to this brand or have never heard of them.
First off they use eco-friendly leather.I think we all appreciate any company who puts some thought when creating their product on how they decrease negative effects on the environment. You can immediately appreciate the beautiful leather that is used n these bridles. Over the years I have owned many brands and and price ranges of bridles, and very few have actually met the quality that these bridles offer. To add onto that I have actually refused to buy any other type of bridle and will invest in these bridles just based on the leather quality. My oldest bridle is used 4-5 days a week for schooling and shows and still looks the same as the day it came out of it's packaging.
Next the large padded poll piece that sits behind their ears offers a wide surface area with cutouts which creates gorgeous rounded corners for the ears to sit in unobstructed. It makes it even more comfortable for the sensitive(and non-sensitive)horse and provides a wide surface area for any poll pressure that might come from the bit and the rest of the bridle.
The next really great feature is the cradle feature. The bit pieces in the reins as well as the cheek pieces have elastic cradles inside the buckles. It allows the horse some soft play without feeling it has a fixed bit in their mouth. I have absolutely loved that feature when working with young horses and even keeping trained horses soft. When you combined that feature with a soft hand, you've got very happy horses with soft mouths. Still achievable without this feature, but the perk of having this extra comfort to the horse, to me is worth having.
I have personal contact Equine Canada and a couple of judges to check any possible issues in the show ring with these. If you actually took a close look at the rule book, there is nothing mentioned about the cradles themselves. At this point they are not deemed legal in the show ring (until it is revised anyways). An easy solution to that for those days when you do show, is to simply not use the cradle portion of your buckle when you compete. There was some talk about the bridle not being legal because they do not have a throat latch, but that is false information. If there are any concerns, the bridles do come with a removable throat lash.
One of the other great features that seemed like common sense to me as to why no one has ever done this, is the snapping browbands. All their browbands snap on and off for easy change. If you like your bling like I do, this is a priceless feature.