Emotions are flying high when and where it comes to the competitive aspects of dressage.
On one side, there are spectators hungry for circus like displays of bigger-is-better movement excitement. These include horsey and non-horsey admirers of our field that is (always has been) the culmination of art, not of artisanship.
Dressage hence – admittedly somewhat like classical music, ballet, or figure skating – is an eclectic discipline and not an ideal draw for a voracious action-focused public appetite. But it has changed into something that bears little resemblance with any classical form of art. On the other side, there is our international equestrian federation, the F.E.I., and their officials that are in the crossfire. There are issues of dictating administrators unfamiliar with equestrian sports and especially the intricacies of dressage. Its officials duck a wide net of bullets without understanding the difference of competition between humans vs. the age-old competitions among human-horse partnerships.
In the cross hair are also today’s F.E.I. appointed judges who developed through an era where the old training knowledge was watered down due to the sudden popularization of the Art of Dressage into the Sport of Dressage.
TAKING AIM AND IS IT ALL ABOUT THE F.E.I.?
The recent 2019 European Dressage Championships once again brought to a boil the minds of dressage aficionados and animal rights protectors alike. Pictures of hollow-back, red-army-goose-stepping horses with dragging hindquarters abounded. Rider biceps muscles appeared to have to hold up 600 kgs of power projectiles as not to let them fall.
No, indeed, this is not the dressage we want to see. Nor is this a representation of the horse-centered optimizing dressage training and riding that has for centuries been praised as extending a horse’s lifespan, fitness and health.
Yes, the FEI judges (as well as their lower level national colleagues) fail to penalize these inverted horses, speak their riders and trainers. No, this is not new. It has been going on since the late 1980s when a new generation of judges, unfamiliar with the decades of classical dressage development, came to judge at the precise time when riders from upcoming nations using training short-cuts attempted to break the phalanx of the long established cavalry tradition-based countries.
Do today’s judges not see the blatant training shortcuts and lapses? And then, how are they going to mark and defend a sport when 90% of its participants are presenting something that doesn’t even closely resemble its own F.E.I. rules and statutes? That indeed is a big problem and calls for new approaches in the schooling and selection of dressage judges.Of course this also brings us back to the basics of training and rider/horse interaction and education. Things indeed have changed since the last major use of horses in war times, i.e. post WWII, and the abandonment of cavalries all over Europe (1972 for example in Switzerland).
The commercialization of dressage away from the basic gymnastic preparation for all other horse activities has led to dressage as a sport in itself and, subsequently, to changes in horse selection and breeding. Many of today’s horses pinned highly in breeding classes wouldn’t hold up through a mere 50km ride. Short-backed, long-legged, they may look impressive yet are no longer really bred to carry a rider.
Horse-related products too are being commercialized. Sadly, it seems more important what bling your horses wears and how the colours suit your horse and your jacket than how correct and horse-like its training is. As in the case of tack being more and more guided by visual appeal the experience and knowledge of skilled master craftsmen who themselves are excellent riders is missing. Professional level riding knowledge is even more rare among tack fitters.
WHAT IF THE ANSWER TO THE RIDING ISSUES LIES IN SADDLE DESIGN?
So, what if there was a somewhat more practical and down-to-earth explanation of what is going wrong in our beloved art/sport of dressage, and why our better bred horses are broken down quicker?
A recent picture from the European Championships showed an eliminated horse presented by a rider who over years garnered our admiration for her love and skill to develop horses along the old classical guidelines.
One time or not, the rider’s weight towards the cantel of the saddle hollows the horse and blocks out the quarters.Nothing classical about the rider’s seat here. For decades we fought against the barbarism of saddle seat riding with the rider’s weight towards the horse’s loins. Yet today some of the dressage riders who surely know better present us with similar pictures – in fact in the example above with quarters that are all push no carrying; something we know to lead potentially to sacroiliac issues, kissing spine, not to mention stifle, hock, and muscle, tendon, and ligament problems.
Demonstrating the extreme of a hollow horse by riders sitting close to the horse’s loins, not to mention the horrific shoeing practices for saddle seat saddlebred riding.What then could so deceive such an experienced rider not to feel what is going on? Clearly, in the above picture we see a rider sitting way behind the desired 9th to 10th thoracic process (i.e. right behind the withers).
For Comparison: Note the entirely different rider position with seat weight placed closer towards the pommel of the saddle.
THE “@” – THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HORSE AND RIDER
When we look at today’s saddle construction we notice a huge deviation from the old and established rules for the position of the deep spot of a saddle; rules that were established in order to give the rider the best possible balance and the horse the greatest freedom of movement without being burdened by the rider’s weight. The rider needed to be seated as close to the CoG (center of gravity) as possible.
Simplified, these rules indicated the following:
=> Place the deep spot in dressage saddles in the middle to first third.
=> Place the deep spot in jumping saddles in the middle to last third.
Despite centuries old knowledge about horse health and tack design many of today’s top brand saddle makers build dressage saddles with their deepest spot behind the center of the seat of the saddle, similar to Western saddles. This will place the rider’s weight somewhere between the 11th to the 14th vertebra. Even the smallest pressure to the top or sides of the T11 and T12 vertebral processes will infallibly make a horse drop its back.
A rider’s “Deep Seat” is to be a light seat and is learned over years of work – no saddle “crutch” can shortcut this.Most riders’ seatbones exert more downward pressure then two fingers in testing mode lightly applied to a horse’s spine. This holds especially true for female riders. As opposed to the male pelvis, theirs is narrower to the back and wider at the front of their body. Not a pleasant situation for any horse’s trunk.
Instead of being allowed to let the back swing up and down into elastic and shock-absorbing inner quadriceps muscles these horses encounter female riders’ gripping back hamstrings and blocked, downward-drilling seatbones. Maybe one of the reasons why we seem to encounter more female riders using rollkur principles and heavy bits etc. in their training?
THE GREATEST PUNISHMENT IS A SUDDEN PRESSURE OF THE SEATBONES
Does nobody anymore realize that the scale of punishments grows incrementally?
1) touch of the whip
2) touch of the spurs
3) dropping of the seatbones?
Today’s saddle construction, by dropping and fixing those seatbones in the poor horses’ backs, bears a lot of responsibility for all that inverted riding that infallibly leads to the arm-wrestling and rollkur front-to-back riding of many of today’s less refined and more quick result trained riders.
In fact, a quick internet search brought up dozens of dressage saddles with biomechanically wrong deep spots – deep spots that push the riders further and further away from the horse’s center of gravity.
Random Dressage Saddle search results show few saddles with a proper deep spot between the middle and the 1st third.
LET’S BE SPECIFIC ABOUT FIGHTING THE MONEY TRAIN!
So, all those of us hell-bent on regaling in the FEI, what about a firstline attack singling out the saddle makers – speak saddle maker sponsors – of our dressage pros and having them go back to the drawing board on saddle construction?!
The bottom line is that today’s saddle construction allows for and promotes “split horses” and rollkur training.
Rest assured, while quite a few riders would have to make schooling their own self-carriage and seat a priority for a while, many of those nasty pictures of leg-whisking, rigid-backed horses behind the vertical will disappear once we again follow the biomechanical demands for a deep point in the middle or first third of a dressage saddle along with a “schooled” balance seat and rider self-carriage.
In short, it may not all be the riders but what they are riding in and what deceives their feel.
copyright Rivkah Roth DO DNM
Dr. Rivkah Roth is the founder of Equiopathy and a natural health practitioner, lecturer and author with over five decades in the saddle as a correction rider (Swiss National License LMS since 1968) and many hours as a National Grand Prix and FEI C dressage judge. Student successes include professional coaches on 5 continents (incl. CDN/EC I to III, ISR I to III, Dutch 3rd Level Instructor, USA, AUS), 1986 Dressage World Championships alternate (CDN), 1986 National GP Kuer Champion (CDN), 1992 Barcelona Olympics Longlist 3-Day (CDN), 2002 Young Horse Dressage World Championships – Verden/GER (ISR), World Cup and WEG dressage horse (CDN), many Nat. and Provincial Champions all levels (CDN / ISR / SUI).
Unfortunately the breed numbers continue to decline and go down. Such an amazing breed of horse is just not going up in numbers. A mix of a lot of things I think is the cause of it. Lack of education, public knowledge, lack of breeders, lack of money to bring horses in and compete them to expose them and breed them. A lot of horses are being sold without paperwork which means we are losing track and records of their registration and therefor the numbers. There is a very large amount of reasons that is causing the issue.
Absolutely heart breaking really because it is such an amazing breed of horse.
This means there are fewer than 200 annual registrations in the United States and estimated global population less than 2,000 Canadian Horses.
A dressage saddle? job is to keep the rider attached to as much of its leather as possible. Thus, while a jumping saddle will angle the body forward at the waist and raise the hips, the dressage rider wants a posture that is perpendicular to the ground, with an open pelvis that drapes down to a long leg hanging directly below the hip. A dressage saddle requires a longer, straighter flap than a jumping saddle, plus a deeper seat and a higher cantle.
A dressage saddle is like a well-constructed athletic shoe that fits precisely and molds itself to the foot for maximum comfort and utility. Riders generally shop for one saddle that will fit both themselves and a specific horse.
Dressage saddles have morphed toward deeper seats and larger thigh blocks over the past 20 years, to the point where there is literally little ?wiggle? room. With all these construction elements, fit for the rider has to be precise. Deep-seated saddles appeal especially to those who work long hours at a desk all day. The professional who rides several horses a day will have the muscle tone needed to remain secure on a saddle with a flatter seat.
Dressage saddles cost $500 to $8,000. You can usually find a serviceable used saddle at around $1,000 and up; a new synthetic saddle from $500 to $2,000; a new leather saddle from $1,000 to $6,000; a new leather saddle through a saddle fitter/custom saddlemaker for $3,500 and up.
Synthetic saddles have the advantages of lower price and easier care and, yes, you can show in them. They generally can't be altered to make small adjustments that can make a big difference in fit. They also likely won?t last as long as leather, maybe 15 years rather than 30 or more.
Foam padding, rather than wool, also reduces the price. While wool padding needs yearly inspections (thus adding to the upkeep), it's actually an advantage as it can be adjusted as the horse's muscling changes. Wool breathes better and conforms better to the horse's back. Foam padding will retain its shape longer initially than wool, but any changes needed down the road are more difficult and thus costly.
The quality of the leather affects price as well. A softer seat is often more a factor of the quality of the leather than padding.
Varied features don't affect the price as much as the quality of the materials and construction. Do you want a deep or flat seat' An angled or straight flap' A specialized billet connection' Longer stirrup bars'
You may have to sit in a variety of saddles to figure out what you want, so don't just eyeball the passing parade of tack in the warm-up ring at a show or follow the narrow dictates of your trainer.
What's becoming harder to find is a plain flap without thigh blocks or even just a basic knee roll. For that, you may need to go custom or search for an older used model.
?Adjustable? is a term that can be applied in a variety of ways, such as changing the gullet yourself with a simple wrench, changing the overall fit though a saddler, or altering thigh blocks. Verify the exact interpretation of ?adjustable? for a saddle you're considering and how easy the adjustment is to make.
Adjustable saddles can be cost-effective over the long term, if you may be switching horses. One of the benefits touted is that the saddle can be altered as your horse develops. But, unless you're starting out with a 3- or 4-year-old, there may not be a significant physical change after the horse is 5 or 6.
ROLE OF THE SADDLE FITTER
Saddle fitting has emerged as a separate equestrian profession over the past decade, especially with dressage saddles. The alternative is to haul around a wither tracing of your horse and endlessly test ride saddles from a variety of sources.
Left to right, trees for: Thoroughbred (on the narrow side for load bearing); Warmblood (medium width, even along the rib cage); Warmblood/cob cross.
Ideally, saddle fitters have specialized knowledge of equine and human biomechanics, plus saddle construction, that most of us don't possess. Many are associated with a specific brand or tack store and thus, in a way, are salesmen as well as fitters.
The beauty of using a saddle fitter is that they come to your own barn with a van full of test models, devices to measure you and your horse, and equipment to restuff or repair a saddle you already have.
When you use a saddle fitter, much of the guess work will be gone. If the fitter doesn't have just the right model on hand, he should know enough after watching you and your horse in several saddles to either order one for you or have one custom-made.
Making the rider happy, though, can be harder than making the horse happy. Often riders aren?t realistic about their own limitations (including seat size) and order what they want, not what they need, such as a smaller thigh blocks. Nor can the saddle fitter really gauge the angle of an individual rider?s pelvis, which can be affected by the choice of twist.
If you use a saddle fitter, You'll pay up front for their time, usually around $100 for an initial fitting. If you buy a saddle, that fee may be applied to the purchase price.
Be careful, though. While there may be claims of ?certification,? anyone can hang out their shingle as a saddle fitter. There also isn?t a lot of solid science yet in this field, so a fitter?s education, know-how and judgment are their main assets.
Check with friends who?ve had a good experience with a specific fitter. Inquire about specific brands they represent and about any special training they may have had.
This saddle tree?s angle matches the angle of the horse's back very well.
When fitting a saddle, there are no substitutes for actually riding the horse. Be sure to check the seller?s policy. Ideally, you should get a two-week trial period with full right to return the saddle if it doesn't work out. Our saddle-fit checklists (see sidebar) should be evaluated first without a pad, then with girth attached, then with the rider in the saddle using stirrups, then with the horse in motion in all three gaits.
You'll have a good idea that you?ve found the right saddle if you can forget about it during a test ride. You should feel you're riding the horse, not the saddle. If the horse's gait loses suppleness ? his canter flattens, his back stiffens, or he braces his neck when you post ? the saddle?s not going to work for him. If any soreness or resistance develops in the horse or rider, the saddle goes back.
We polled various saddle manufacturers to describe highlights of their various models. Several responded without mentioning specific models, emphasizing that a ?best buy? or ?best seller? is simply the best fit for both horse and rider. And some catalogs have given up offering dressage saddles because there are so many variables involved to satisfy a customer making this an expensive investment.
Do not select a saddle because you like one you?ve seen or because someone recommends a specific make or model. This is a very individual choice.
If it fits into your budget, use a saddle fitter, which reduces time spent and frustration in your search for the perfect saddle. Don?t make the common mistake of putting up with a saddle that fits the horse but isn?t perfect for the rider. If the rider is uncomfortable, she'll make the horse uncomfortable. No amount of money spent on lessons will overcome saddle fit that is less than ideal.
The Costs of Horse OwnershipFor those of you reading who are not involved in the horse community, I’m sure it’s no surprise that horses can be very expensive. And, as a freelancer, I do not make anywhere near a six-figure salary. And yet, I make the room in my budget for Peanut every year, because he’s important to me.
How much of my budget? Glad you asked.
There are two types of expenses in horse ownership: one-time, and ongoing.
One-Time Expenses Include:
yI had never thought to add one when I go out on cross country, but you know what why not?! I know how many times I have wished I had had a chunk of main I could grab in sticky situations-but unfortunately for safety reasons, I always braid our horse's manes because there is such an abundance of it. I have always gone by the beat of my own drum, so my fear of judgement from others has never been an issue. I literally had never realised that it was an option AND it was that common to have one! so why not?!
What am I talking about is a neck strap. I am now rethinking that one, and will be adding a "oh sh*t" strap to my cross country gear.
As I did research for this post, I realised there are so many riders that ride with them from William Fox-Pitt all the way to lower beginner levels of eventing. Don't get me wrong, most of the eventers out there are not jumping at his level, but nonetheless I have no doubt that all involved were sure glad they had one.
Neck straps have long been associated with beginner riders and that was how a lot of riders get started I think. As you learn to ride the different types of obstacles, you really start to appreciate that a neck strap was a really useful piece of equipment in so many situations. Whether you be off balance, or you need to quiet down your hand for a very difficult situation, you always the option of that strap. Our horses do a lot of natural horsemanship as well, so they have learned to slow down and stop with that strap so another useful tool.
I feel like it's either always been there and I have never noticed them, or they are just starting to make a come back. Some people just use the martingale strap and although I have done that on occasion it’s not quite the same because it doesn’t sit in quite the right place and a breastplate is no good because it sits too close to the saddle. I just wouldn't want the strap to go off and up their neck. How do riders solve that issue? is it even an issue?
If you are going to give a neck strap a go you are better to get your saddler and ask him to make one for you out of the leather from a piece of leather. It just needs a buckle and keepers so you can adjust it for different horses and you will be set. Another creative option is DIY'ing your own strap to the custom measurements your horse fits.
Work at the walk, practiced and touted by old classical dressage masters, is always better than letting a horse stand around when for whatever reason he is not able to perform a regular training schedule.
Walking allows for full contraction of the long back muscles in a contraction-relaxation cycle that prevents tension. Its low-aerobic effort ensures recruitment of small muscles that support the spine, the ones that create and store postural patterns.
Further, the fine-tuned motor control that is possible at the walk enables you to help your horse find more range of motion and joint flexion that will become habitual.
Within each routine featured here, spend about two minutes on each exercise and continue to cycle through them until your time is up.During periods of reduced exercise due to either weather or injury, you can accomplish a great deal in 25 minutes with one of the walk routines featured here. Even for riders with busy lives, there is no reason to not make use of these.
Concentrate on creating the highest quality movements and figures for these 25 minutes. Treat them with the same focus as you would a dressage test or show. You can easily extend their benefits by doing three minutes of dynamic stretches or calisthenics prior to mounting.
How to Handle DowntimeInterruptions to a horse’s normal training routine or exercising fewer than three days per week will lead to a measurable loss of fitness after four weeks. This “detraining” effect continues up to 12 weeks, at which point a rider should consider the horse entirely out of condition.
A horse’s metabolic system and connective tissue are stressed by large vacillations in fitness, especially as he ages; every effort should be made to avoid long layoffs lasting more than four weeks at a time. Obviously, every rider will experience schedule restraints that lead to periods of lesser activity, during which the walking routines I’ve just described, at the minimum, can be used.
During periods of less activity, riders often may fret unnecessarily about the horse losing cardiovascular fitness. Instead, they should concern themselves with postural tone and fitness of muscular patterns. Horses make cardiovascular adaptations quickly and efficiently. It’s fine for them to lose fitness in their respiratory system, sweating responses, and blood volume for an extended period. Once a horse is placed back in full-time work, his cardiovascular system makes fitness gains in as swiftly as two weeks. His supporting tissues, muscles, and bones, however, will require up to four months or more.
Do not be tempted to make up for a diminished training schedule by getting your horse out once or twice a week and making him work up a good sweat with the hope that you are thwarting fitness loss. I sometimes see riders with good intentions but tight schedules show up at the barn once or twice a week, only to hook their horse onto the longeline and run him around until he is panting and sweaty. Obviously, they believe they are combating a deterioration of fitness.
In reality, they are doing more harm than good. While they are in fact taxing the horse’s respiratory system, they are allowing his postural muscles to slacken while simultaneously creating poor habits in his gymnastic muscles that build tension during these short bursts of activity without precise alignment, warming up, or signals from his proprioceptors.
Walk Routine 1With each of these routines, spend about two minutes on each exercise and repeat for 25 minutes.
It’s far better to forego the once-weekly, sweaty workout in place of multiple shorter sessions using exercises to recruit postural muscle effort. In sum, allow cardiovascular fitness to go by the wayside because it comes back quickly. Do not allow postural practice and muscle training to go by the wayside because you will create problems down the road.
Accordion Topline:Riding around the edge of your arena in a brisk, forward walk, practice lengthening and shortening your reins and asking your horse to change frames, from longer to shorter.
Spiral In and Out:From a 20-meter circle, spiral in to an 8-meter circle. Then, maintaining inside bend, leg-yield back out to your original 20-meter circle, being careful not to lose energy.
Snowman:Ride once around a 20-meter circle to the left, then, at the top, change bend and ride a 10-meter circle to the right. Resume your 20-meter circle. Your figure should look like a snowman with a fat body and a smaller head on top.
Simple Ground Poles:Set up as many poles as you have available in a random fashion all around your arena. Proceed in a brisk walk over the poles, riding turns and loops creatively.
Walk Routine 2Long-and-low Transitions:With the horse in a long-and-low frame, ride transitions from working walk to extended walk; repeat. Aim to keep his head and neck reaching down low toward the ground into a light rein contact during these transitions. He will need to recruit core musculature for balance.
Polish Your Turns:Interspersed with intervals of active, ground-covering walking, practice several turns-on-the-forehand and turns-on-the-haunches in each direction. Be sure to ride several vigorous walk steps between each turn.
Proprioception Box:Arrange a box using four ground poles with the corners of the box lifted on risers. Ride a variety of patterns over and through the box—cloverleaf, circle around each corner of the box, figure eight.
Walk Routine 3Speed Changes:Ride various figures in the arena while changing the speed of your walk. Aim for four distinct speeds (super slow, slow, medium and fast), and spend 20 strides at each speed. Repeat.
Cornerstone Transitions:Ride transitions to the halt every 10 strides. At every other halt transition, ask the horse to back up 6 to 10 steps, then carry on.
Wavy lines:Ride a “scalloped” edge around the track of your arena. Maintain a brisk, lively walk tempo and ride a wavy serpentine with approximately 3-meter loops back and forth from left to right.
I am awful because I am just now going through cross country footage I have from our rides. I got a new phone so I had to transfer quite a bit over and then I forgot I even had them OOPS. So here are some of the videos.
The one thing that I really don't like about helmet cams, is that they never do justice on the size of what you're jumping. The fence vary from 2 logs to 3 ft with some that are much larger but they are few and far between.
I need to really set up my helmet cam somewhere else where you can appreciate the size of the fences and set up my second camera somewhere else(perhaps where my helmet cam would normally be.
Horse owners and veterinarians have been treating equine wounds for centuries. After all, horses are unabashedly practiced at the art of sustaining wounds. Over the years we’ve tried many different wound ointments and salves, cleansers and dressings, but not all of them are backed by evidence of safety and/or efficacy.
So Dean Hendrickson, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, professor of equine surgery at Colorado State University, in Fort Collins, went back to basics, describing effective and ineffective wound-cleaning agents.
Although our intentions are good, “most wound-cleaning agents and techniques will cause chemical or mechanical trauma to the wound bed,” he said. “Weigh the benefits of cleaning the wound against the trauma that agent will cause.”
In other words, ask yourself: Is that cleaning agent ultimately going to speed up or retard wound-healing?
Before applying anything, however, clip the hair around the wound to prevent it from contaminating the area. Then, use sterile gauze to very gently scrub the wound. “If gentle scrubbing doesn’t work, use a different technique,” said Hendrickson. “Don’t scrub harder.”
One approach is saline lavage to remove surface debris—“One of the best things we do,” he said. Again, don’t use much pressure; a gentle showerhead-type sprayer works well.
Hendrickson then delved into the common topical treatments we apply to wounds and which ones are safe to use.
Saline: Hendrickson referenced saline again and again throughout his presentation as one of the most simple, yet effective, wound-cleaning agents. Hypertonic saline, in particular, is very effective for debriding (removing surrounding dead, damaged, or infected tissue) while lavaging and for reducing bacteria in the wound. It does have the ability to damage normal cells, as well, he cautioned, so use it only in infected wounds.
Povidone Iodine (PI):While povidone iodine has been used extensively in equine wound care, Hendrickson cited several studies showing that it causes tissue necrosis, impairs healing, and leads to increased infection. “Consequently, PI should only be used around the wound over intact skin and never in the wound itself,” he said.
Chlorhexidine: Hendrickson explained that chlorhexidine has low systemic toxicity, but studies have shown little evidence of its safety and efficacy reducing bacterial numbers without causing wound trauma. It also causes tissue necrosis and bacteria regrowth, he said.
Hydrogen Peroxide: Popular for its effervescent activity, which can convince the user it’s thoroughly working, hydrogen peroxide has few beneficial or negative effects. “Its antimicrobial properties are probably greatly overestimated,” said Hendrickson.
Acetic Acid (Vinegar): “There is science behind using common distilled vinegar, even though most people don’t consider it,” he said. “Its low pH is not compatible with certain bacteria like Pseudomonas,” meaning it can be effective against this common disease-causing pathogen.
He suggested using this agent as a 15-minute gauze soak or compress per day and then rinsing with saline.
Surfactant-Based CleansersHendrickson explained that these cleansers are minimally toxic and irritating, but not necessarily nontoxic. “They are very effective on minimally contaminated wounds and should be applied, allowed to sit for 1 to 2 minutes, rinsed off, and reapplied as necessary,” he said.
Topical AntibioticsDrugs in this class are effective at reducing bacterial numbers, but their overuse contributes to antibiotic-resistant microbes. Thus, Hendrickson suggested using them for only one to two weeks and choosing one you have confirmed the infecting pathogen has sensitivity to. Common topical antibiotics for wound care include:
Dressings: Hendrickson described a variety of dressings that serve different purposes. Debridement dressings, for instance, are designed to remove bacteria and necrotic tissue from the wound. Gel dressings are designed to encourage moist wound healing in dry wounds. “We know moist wounds are healthy wounds,” he said. Granulation tissue dressings help encourage proper wound healing and contraction when the wound is lacking granulation tissue. And epithelialization dressings help finish off the wound healing process.
Take-Home Message: In summary, Hendrickson encouraged us to forget what we’ve heard about “magical cleansers” purported to heal wounds and, to take a line from human medicine, “Don’t do to a wound what you wouldn’t do to your own eye.”
Saline, surfactant-based wound cleansers, silver, and triple antibiotic ointment are the few things we should put in wounds, he said.
Saddle fit Issues: As a therapist I do continually deal with saddle fit issues. To tackle this issue I have also just started studying to become an Accredited Saddle fitter as there are many inconsistencies in saddle fit for both horses and riders. Many of my clients as myself are never sure the type of flock used and what saddles are better used for different horse body types.
Where one brand of saddle may have worked for someone else may not work on your horse. Thus, I figured the more people of aware of saddles the more we can help our equine partners.
The horse has nothing to say regarding what we impose on its back, so it is a mark of respect to look for a saddle that will not pinch, rub or injure it
Adjusting flocking is the saddle fit version of fine-tuning. It is not changing the overall fit of the saddle.
Adjusting the flocking when the tree is the wrong shape would not fix the problem. It's like adding an extra hole to your belt in an attempt to make a pair of jeans fit.
Adjusting the flocking only works when the tree is already a fundamentally good fit. The same goes for any flocking substitute, such as risers or wedges inserted into the panels. It is not enough to make a saddle fit the horse, when the tree is the wrong shape.
Many Horses have high withers, middling withers and rangy tabletops. High withers can extend way back into the area of the saddle. Looking along the spine, we can see dippy backs, straight backs and bumpy backs.
This is before we even look at damaged backs, uneven shoulders, laterally curved spines, and all manner of physical issues affecting the horse, rider and the saddle in between.
Horses have a combination of these features. Many horses have one or two that can make saddle fitting a bit tricky. Some have combinations that make saddle fitting an utter nightmare.
The saddle's tree must reflect all those variations. It's what makes saddle fitting such an interesting challenge, and occasionally a very hard one.
The Comfort Connection
Whatever the panels are constructed of, they must, first and foremost, be comfortable. The ideal panel is soft (not too soft) and supple, and elastic enough to absorb shock while being breathable. Since our horses are athletes, their comfort is essential to enhance performance and prevent breakdown. If you were asked to run a mile in uncomfortable shoes, you'd find that your entire body hurts – it's not just about blisters on your heels.
Panels that are hard and lumpy don't just cause back pain, they can actually bruise the muscles, and in severe cases, a horse requires months off before being able to be worked again.
Depending on how your horse's back slopes down from the spine on either side, you will want to consider the shape of the panels from side to side in hopes they are similar angles.
Horses are constantly changing shape
Also, the tree shape vs your horse's profile can seriously impact flocking. If your horse is curvy backed and your saddle has a flat tree/panel profile you will have to reflock a lot more than if you have a saddle tree that matches your horses back profile. Flocking naturally congregates to follow the tree profile.
Complete reflocks cannot be done in a day. Why not? Because the flocking needs to settle for at least 24 hours as, even the most experienced saddlers have found, sometimes wool will settle and create holes. We prefer that the wool settles at our place for easy correction than you discovering the problem and being disappointed.
Fitting the wither: The gullet
(or front of the channel under the tree points)
The gullet, which sits over the wither, must be of an angle and width and shape that compliments the wither. The gullet shape is dictated by the angle and width of the tree points and the thickness and shape of the padding overlying them. Saddles that are too narrow in the gullet are one of the most common causes of back pain. ( Second only to saddles that are fitted too far forward).
Ideally most horses should have their saddle checked every three months or so in case adjustments need to be made to compensate for changes in wither shape with the changes in fat and muscle cover that occur as diet and exercise programs change.
Adjustable gullet systems. Adjustable gullet systems are usually necessary for maintaining good saddle fit. Several such systems are now available. Ainsley, Bates, Kieffer and Laser all have saddles with adjustable gullet systems. The Bates "Easy change gullet system", Ainsley adjustable head system and the Laser "InfiniTree" system.
Panel softness and ability to absorb concussion. Different fillings are available. Air Panels can be comfortable if fitted properly. These are able to conform to the changes in the horse's top line shape, as it moves and changes posture. There are known as FLAIR or CAIR system which are nice and soft and comfortable, and yet are not so thick as to cause excessive motion between the rider and the horse.
The Flair system (Wow Saddles) can be fitted to most saddles and requires inflation by a trained fitter, with the saddle on the horse and rider in the saddle. A simplified air bag system (CAIR – Bates/Wintec) has been developed and offers very good comfort for the horse. The CAIR system does not require special inflation and is suited to a wide range of horses and riders. They do require adding shims to allow for change in shape. Ideally to be done by saddle fitter and not owner.
Next to the air panels, the best, commonly used filling or flocking is synthetic wool. Often some of this white woolly material is seen protruding from the underside of the panels. If not over packed it offers good comfort for the horse where the panel surface area is adequate. This type of flocking can be adjusted by your saddler to suit the shape of you horse and also tends to move a little to conform better to the horse's back.
Broad, flat panelled, gel-foam fitted panels can also be comfortable for horses, but in general, foam or felt filled panels are less comfortable than wool or air filled panels. Regular foam or felt filled panels suit a small number of horses well but in many instances are associated with back soreness.
Often the angle of the foam panels is not suited to the horse's back and as a result pressure points are commonly created towards the outside of the saddle seat. Felt and foam panels are difficult or impractical to adjust and thus are a problem if the horse changes shape with muscle cover, fat cover or age.
Panel surface area
Broad panels distribute the weight of the saddle over a greater surface area. This reduces the pressure under the saddle and reduced pressure simply means less damage to the horses back. It's just like the difference between the pressure under high heeled shoes as compared to that of flat heeled shoes.
Panel shape. The panels of the seat area should conform to the shape of the horse's back. In most cases a reasonably flat panel will be appropriate as this is the shape of the top of the rib cage that is the underlying support for the saddle.
The importance of girth point placement is very often overlooked. Inappropriate girth point placement can cause the saddle to continually move forward or back. Adjustable Y systems or similar, with the most forward girth point coming off the tree point of the saddle, are recommended. The points should then be adjusted according to the chest shape of horse. Most have a girth notch into which the girth tends to lie.
Muscle atrophy (indentations) underneath or just behind the saddle panel.
If the horse's back is showing visual indentations under the panel wedge, this is a clear sign that either the saddle is too long or there is too much pressure on the loins because of the wedge itself.
The horse must be able to move freely under saddle; a saddle that has been fit correctly to the moving horse. The saddle should never make the rider feel like he is glued to the horse's back, nor should the saddle be fit exactly to the static back, so that the rider can actually ride the horse in suspension, in motion.
The trainer teaches the rider to sit the horse lightly and freely. The saddle fitter needs to fit the saddle to the horse so that the horse and the saddle both adapt themselves to the movement of the rider
The question is whether you want to have engaged, supple harmonious riding due to a properly fitted saddle, or if you prefer to have a saddle that looks like it fits absolutely perfectly – when the horse is standing still in the crossties. The saddle should be fitted with rider up and asses whether the rider suits the saddle as well and how the saddle fits in motion. If Saddle doesn't fit in motion then further adjustments should be made so as to not result in discomfort, and potentially long term damage.
A correctly fitting saddle should need no saddle pad – their function is to protect the panel leather from the sweat of your horse, but too often they are used as Band-Aid's to help out where the saddle doesn't fit
The panel should always be thoroughly inspected to make sure it is smooth and even. Often when a saddle has not been reflocked in a long time the panel needs to be completely removed and the wool mix properly distributed or changed. Though not always necessary, when restuffing is done without removing the panel, the correct saddler tools and same flock as in the saddle should be used to prevent damage to the leather itself.
When a rider has a behavior or a training problem, a succession of bad performances, they rarely think of the saddle. The rider would rather think they have a bad horse, a bit that is not strong enough, or a coach who is not good enough. However the rider does not know, or think, that all those issues can be caused by an ill-fitting saddle.
A horse that bucks when cantering can buck because his loins are crushed by the saddle. A horse that does not stay on the bit and hollows his back when bending might do so because the gullet of the saddle is so narrow that the spine cannot correctly bend. It is not a real training issue, but maybe we prefer to force the bend and the attitude and risk back soreness. If we don't think of the way the saddle fits the horse, come to an end where the saddle causes severe injuries to the back.
Why start with selecting a saddle that is comfortable for your horse rather than yourself? If the horse is not comfortable then ultimately it's behavior will deteriorate to the point that you will never get a good ride anyway. The rider is more likely to accommodate to a saddle that is not completely ideal for the rider than the horse is to a badly fitting saddle. Ultimately, however, both the comfort of the rider and the horse are very important.
Comfort for the horse is dictated by the placement of the saddle, the saddle fit with respect to the withers and shape of the spine, the comfort of the panels, the length of the saddle and closeness of the saddle to the horse (and of course, the way that the person rides).
Horses change shape: as they move, with the amount of fat cover, with their degree of fitness and muscle development, with pregnancy, with muscular problems of the spine, and with age. Saddles need to be such that they can be adjusted to accommodate for these changes.
Before any saddle is fitted you should have your horse's spine checked and treated so call Nash now to discuss any issues with your horses back.
I have always been known for always pushing the envelop, but then I am also highly requested for bombproofing horses because I am so thorough. These guys take it to a new level and I truly admire them.
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.