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:
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.
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.
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.
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.