As the year ends and the different shows and events finish, I find the horses get quite a few breaks as we get into colder weather and the snow comes in. It's almost a bitter sweet time of the year because you go parade season ends, main horse show season finishes and most of the clinics are over. For us the year doesn't start up again until the middle of May, so we have 4.5 months to do some ground work refreshers and work on an organised fitness plan for the horses-which I will share below.
Some of the benefits of putting the horses on a fitness program is it allows you to focus on certain aspects of their workout that you would otherwise not always focus on during the show season. For me my main goal is to get them fit and lower their risk of injury or illness by giving them the chance to stay active, stay curious and keep them thinking.
Record/Journal your sessions
One of the first steps in this process is to get yourself a journal where you can record what type of work you've done in your session and perhaps write down the goals you are wanting to achieve each week. You will also want to monitor the horse's vitals for each individual horse before, during and after each workout session to see how you're doing and making sure you are not pushing the horses to much(or not enough). It should also show you a clear progress line of your horses as they build more and more endurance and are able to recover and return to normal vitals quicker after each session.
It is very important to learn how to take respiratory and breathing rates. If you are unsure on how to do so, make sure to do research online. Lots of content there to show you how to achieve this. It is important to monitor this along with a few other basic vitals. You should be able to know what the baseline is for each individual horse.
A horse should be able to return to normal vitals after 10-15 mins of rest. The longer it takes to recover back to normal values, then you need to decrease the difficulty of your workout program because it is to demanding. Really fit horses may have lower values because they are already in very good shape.
Create a program
When creating your program you have to think of what you are training for. Is this a dressage horse? is this a horse you are preparing for endurance? is this horse an eventer? Your program will need to be tailored to those needs and what you are wanting to achieve. The intensity and length of your first few sessions should be tailored to your horse's current fitness level. Make sure to also consider any pre-existing issues that the horse might have(arthritis, cold back, any old injuries that maybe require more time to warm up). Whatever the program you are creating is, you need to go slow and do things correctly. Stepping up to quickly will increase the chance of injury, colic and physical issues such as soreness etc.
When looking at the example below, keep in mind that a exercise program could involve lunging, ground work or even long reining. This is not specifically about under saddle work only. This is a very general guideline if you are trying to get a horse back into shape with a gradual schedule.
Basic workout program example:
Week 1: 30 minutes per ride with 5 minutes trotting
Week 2: 30 minutes per ride with 10 minutes trotting
Week 3: 40 minutes per ride with 15 minutes trotting
Week 4: 40 minutes per ride with 20 minutes trotting and 5 minutes cantering
Week 5: 40 minutes per ride with 20 minutes trotting and 10 minutes cantering
Working training program more suitable to eventing horses:
Week 1 – Around 20 mins forward walking in both directions.
Week 2 – Increase work to 30-40 mins per day.
Week 3 – Increase work to 60 mins per day, including some hills.
Week 4 – Extend hacking time to up to 90 mins per day, including some trot work on suitable ground.
Week 5 – Start introducing some gentle schooling (20-30mins max) with lateral work. Have a riding session up to a max of 2 hours 3-4 times a week.
Week 6 – Gradually increase time spent schooling and introduce some cantering on suitable ground out hacking.
Week 7 – Build up the period of time in canter, including some cantering up hills. Continue with schooling but start to introduce jumping.
Week 8-9 – Continue with the current work and introduce some faster work (strong canter, controlled gallop) in either a continuous training or even interval riding.
These are great example(basic)programs, but they might not be fit for all horses. Monitor your horse's vitals and assess if this is a good program for you, or if it needs to be adjusted to smaller or bigger intervals. Make sure to finish your cool down gradually and finish it off with some stretching.
The 'little iron horse' came to Canada 350 years ago as a gift from the king of France
Sara Fraser · CBC News · Posted: Dec 16, 2018 7:00 AM AT | Last Updated: December 16
Did you know Canada has its own breed of horse?
The Canadian horse became our national horse in 2002, and because of dwindling numbers is now listed by Heritage Livestock Canada as "at risk," with numbers of new annual registrations of females between 151 and 500.
CBC talked to two Island Canadian horse owners to find out why they are so special — Evelyn Lafortune of North Milton, P.E.I., owns Molssen and Belle, and Orwell Corner Historic Village in Orwell Corner has Sean, Tartan and Urban — all, coincidentally, Molssen's offspring. The historic village is part of the provincial government's network of museums.
1. They date back 450 years. Canadian horses descend from a shipload of horses sent to Canada in 1665 by King Louis XIV to his subjects in New France. They were likely a variety of breeds including Belgian, Percheron, Breton and Dales that mixed to become what became its own distinct breed, according to the Canadian Horse Breeders website.
Dapples pop in summer on the sides of these two Canadian horses at Orwell Corner Historic Village. (Rick Dunphy)Only the hardiest survived those first tough pioneering decades, leading to their nickname as the "little iron horse."
"As a museum, it's our responsibility to interpret it in as authentic a way as possible," said Jason MacNeil, site director for the historic village at Orwell Corner. Since the village interprets the P.E.I. of 1895, the Canadian horse is as historically authentic as it gets.
2. The government used to raise them. The federal government had a breeding program for Canadian horses in 1913 after mass exports to the United States led to a dangerous drop in numbers, says the Canadian Horse Breeders website.
A student takes a turn learning to drive one of the Canadian horses at Orwell Corner. (Dale McIsaac)The program ended in 1940 but the Quebec government took over and kept the program running until the 1960s.
Since then numbers have risen and fallen over the years — Lafortune puts their current number in Canada at about 6,000.
Lafortune has been raising Canadian horses since 1999, and said she first heard about them on CBC Radio.
"And then I researched it and thought 'Oh my God, how could I not know about this?'" She visited farms in Quebec and fell in love with the horses, bought and raised them and at one point had a herd of 12.
4. They are smart. Because they are intelligent, Canadian horses are easy to train and love to please. Even though they are smart they are not high-strung and are very reliable — "bomb-proof" is the word horse owners use.
Canadian horses are versatile and can be ridden and driven, says Lafortune. Here she is riding Molssen and driving Belle. (Submitted by Evelyn Lafortune)Lafortune recalls when she was breaking Molssen to harness and she hadn't had much experience, she harnessed him to a cart improperly.
"Another horse would have lost his mind and went running and probably would have hurt both him and myself," she recalled. "Molssen, you just tell him stop and he does. I can't tell you just how great that horse is."
Their temperament makes them perfect around children and all the noises they encounter at the historic village, said MacNeil.
"They are calm and relaxed and in general don't spook very easily," he said.
5. They are strong. Canadian horses can pull unusually large loads for their size, which made them ideal for hauling logs in the woods or large wagons loaded with people, grain or hay.
Orwell Corner is planning to breed Tartan the mare soon so they can perpetuate the Canadian breed. (B. Simpson/Government of P.E.I.)Not only that, they love to have a job to do, and will get bored if given too much free time.
They also have incredible stamina and can work at a steady pace for many hours.
"They can go all day long," said Lafortune. "They will work tirelessly," agrees MacNeil. "A great horse for a museum but also a great horse for Islanders in the past that needed a low-maintenance animal that would do the things they needed done."
6. They are versatile Canadian horses can do anything. you can ride them, or they can haul a cart or sleigh. They can work in the woods hauling logs, do dressage or a course of jumps. They've even been known to pull hearses and work cattle.
They can look at a blade of grass and they'll get fat.— Evelyn Lafortune"They just look beautiful pulling a carriage," Lafortune said. They are also used by several police forces, especially in Quebec, she said.
Lafortune both rides and harnesses hers, while the three at Orwell pull cartloads of visitors as well as demonstrate all the farm's historic farm implements like plows.
7. They don't eat much. Canadian horses are what are known in the horse world as "easy keepers."
Tartan and Urban enjoy their work on the farm at Orwell Corner. (B. Simpson/Government of P.E.I.)It's easy to keep them because they don't need to eat grain, just hay or grass — and not even a lot of that.
"They can look at a blade of grass and they'll get fat. So they're very low maintenance," Lafortune said.
8. Horses, not ponies Although many Canadian horses are smaller — what would be considered pony-sized — they are still to be called horses.
They range between 14 and 16 "hands" high, or 1.4 and 1.6 metres.
9. They are beautiful. With their long, wavy manes and glossy dark coats, Canadians take great glamour photos. And they are full of personality.
'They are calm and relaxed and in general don't spook very easily,' says Orwell Corner Historic Village's Jason MacNeil. (B. Simpson/Government of P.E.I.)They mostly are dark colours like black, brown and bay.
"They're beautiful animals," said MacNeil.
10. There will be foals. The Orwell museum is considering breeding its mare Tartan in the next few years to ensure the perpetuation of the breed and because visitors would enjoy seeing a foal.
'Most people in Canada don't even know we have a horse called the Canadian,' says Lafortune. (Submitted by Evelyn Lafortune)Lafortune has now bred her four-year-old mare Belle, who is due to foal in the spring. She then plans to breed the mare again.
"I have no intentions of getting into being a big breeder again, I have no intentions of getting a stallion again, but what I will do is my little part," she said. "If everybody does a little bit then we can keep the breed going."
Molssen is 16 and has been gelded now, but before Lafortune had him fixed she had a friend collect his semen with a mobile lab. It's now frozen for future use by a group of Canadian horse breeders in Quebec.
"Potentially, they could use Molssen's semen in 100 years," Lafortune said, noting he is of rare parentage and is "a fabulous horse, I could never say enough about that horse."
Lafortune laments the breed's dwindling numbers.
"It's such a shame. It's such a beautiful horse. Most people in Canada don't even know we have a horse called the Canadian."
The horse in the field seemed ordinary enough. However, as I soon learned, this was no ordinary horse; he was instead a direct biological link to the first European settlers in what was known as La Nouvelle France.
And students of North American history, amateur or otherwise, will recognize that New France implied a continental territory that took in a great deal more than just “Canada” or “Québec” as we tend to think of them today. Le cheval canadien is the living legacy of the French régime in North America.
In many ways, the horse I was gazing at on that brilliant fall day in Québec’s pastoral Outaouais region, is also the embodiment of a distinct French-speaking culture in North America — in the words of the Québec Association of the Canadian Horse, “It is for our children that we are raising the horse of our forefathers.” And although for some I may be re-activating touchy “issues,” I think it is safe to say that the Canadian Horse is, in the most comprehensive sense, a political horse. When the Parliament of Canada passed a bill in 2001 officially recognizing this breed as The Canadian Horse, it also confirmed and validated over 400 years of Canadian history.
Le petit cheval de fer
The Little Iron Horse, as he came to be known, also epitomizes the enduring qualities, traits, and traditions inherent in many cultural legacies, especially those that reflect the historic and geographic realities of a people. Having a direct relationship with the colonial realities of New France, this little iron horse “evolved” as a uniquely North American breed and contributed in no small way to the physical and cultural survival of the early French settlers in North America.
Life in “The New World” was as much about a struggle for survival as about opportunities; no more so than in the French colony of New France. In this part of the New World, the climate was harsh and the terrain daunting. History rides on the backs of its modes of transportation — frequently the horse — and it was therefore the horse that would become one of the principal means of communication and economic engines of the new society — but it wouldn’t be just any horse.
When France established its new colony in North America and began to build an infrastructure in this resource-rich land, the colonial-powers-that-be soon learned that in order to reap the benefits of this part of the Americas, it had to develop a new society that would flourish in a new and challenging environment. And this included the use of horses.
A gift from the Sun King
It’s always a good idea to choose your ancestors well; and the Canadian Horse did just that. In 1665 Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, sent two stallions and 20 mares to New France, followed in 1667 and 1670 by about 30 more horses. These horses which became the foundation stock for le cheval canadien were from breeding stock from Brittany and Normandy. Le normand and le breton resembled each other in many ways but the former had some Andalusian blood from Spanish horses imported into Normandy at the end of the War of Spanish Succession (and consequently some Arab and Barb blood). It’s important to remember the Netherlands-Spain historic connection of the 17th century and the trading that occurred between these European lands; historical connections that would eventually benefit the bloodlines of le cheval canadien. Therefore you can also throw in a little Dutch Friesen blood there as well. The even, rhythmic trotting ability of le cheval canadien is evidence of that ancestor.
These first horses to arrive in New France were not of any consistent type; among them were what we would today call draft horses, some lighter trotters, and some pacers. The breeding programs in New France, such as they were, were pretty haphazard. As was the case with the human inhabitants of this part of the New World, the learning curve was very steep. And lest you think that it was all smooth sailing at this point, I must disabuse you of that notion and point out that many of these early horses led miserable lives and were not well-adapted to their new environment. The trial-and-error “breeding program” — the equine equivalent of sauve qui peut — however led eventually to a very hardy breed.
In terms of the genetic legacy of the Canadian, it is also important to note that no other breeding stock were sent to the colony after 1670, which meant that for nearly 150 years the horses of New France evolved in isolation, developing their own gene pool. (By the way, a similar phenomenon happened with the French language, and today linguists can identify many language elements in “French-Canadian French” that can be traced to the 17th century.)
A “recovering” breed
By 1679 there were 145 horses in the colony and by 1698 that number had grown to 684. By the middle of the 19th century, the Canadian Horse numbered about 150,000. However not long after, the numbers began to dwindle. By the 1860s-1870s, there were fewer than 400 horses in the colony — on the road to extinction! As late as 1976 there were only 383 registered Canadians in Canada. In the 1870s however, the precarious state of affairs was recognized by admirers of the Canadian, and under the leadership of veterinarian Dr. J. A. Couture, steps were taken to protect and revitalize the breed.
But progress was slow; and it wasn’t until the the Canadian Horse Breeders Association was founded in 1895 that significant growth occurred. As we have seen in so many other animal species, this kind of genetic decline can occur very rapidly but takes much longer to recover, if indeed it can. Le cheval canadien could have gone the way of species such as the Passenger Pigeon (la tourte), once so abundant in New France that the “national dish” (tourtière), a kind of pigeon shepherd’s pie, is named after it. (Today la tourtière contains primarily pork.)
And when the Canadian government (under the federal Ministry of Agriculture) recognized another potential loss of a kind of Canadian sovereignty, effective government breeding programs were established in 1913. Government decision-makers, however, dropped the ball again when they eventually closed down these and other government breeding operations and essentially privatized the Canadian Horse. Ironically, this led to a renewed grassroots effort on the part of private breeders to preserve and protect the little iron horse. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. However I am happy to announce that today there are more than 2000 Canadiens in Canada with about 300 births a year. The Canadian mare has always been extremely fertile.
Why did this rapid decline occur? In part, because of commerce, mechanization, and war. Because it had proven itself to be such a successful new breed, the Canadian caught the attention of others beyond our borders, especially the Americans. (Canada has always faced a “brain drain” problem in terms of our neighbours to the south.) American dealers imported great numbers of the Canadian into the United States from horse markets held primarily in the cities of Québec and Montréal. Stage coach horses in what is today New England were legendary, all of them of Canadian extraction. As a superb trotter and pacer, the Canadian also was imported and mated to American horses and thus has contributed its genes to such popular breeds as the Standardbred, the Tennessee Walking Horse, the Saddlebred, and especially the Morgan. Please note however, that you will find considerable “discussion” among breeders of the latter as to the role played by le cheval canadien in those bloodlines. (Recent DNA testing done at the University of Guelph’s Equine Centre in Ontario has confirmed that the Canadian’s bloodlines are to be found in the Morgan breed.)
The Canadian was also exported to the West Indies, and as far away as the Canadian Prairies where it proved itself once again as the quintessential work horse. It also sadly became a war horse serving first during the American Revolution and later in great numbers during the American Civil War. They were even sent to serve in the Boer War in South Africa. Canadians also saw action during the North-West Rebellion of 1885 when they were ridden by the North West Mounted Police (predecessors to the famed Mounties). And then there was that terrible war of attrition (World War I) during which the Little Iron Horse also served and suffered.
Le cheval à tout faire
Although the original stock were intended for the “noblemen” of the new colony, the breed that eventually emerged was a very “democratic” horse with the very best working class skills. Le cheval canadien eventually adapted well to La Nouvelle France and became a specialist in multi-tasking. For the habitant farmer, the Canadian became a superb plough and carriage horse. As a general riding horse, trotter, and light carriage or sleigh horse, it also proved itself well both in agility, adaptability, and temperament.
As any horse lover-connaisseur will tell you, especially if they get the opportunity (as I did) to spend some time with the Canadian horse — whether it be just grooming them, walking among them in the fields of l’Outaouais, or going for a four-hour hack through the glorious Forêt de l’aigle on a Canadian — this is one superb breed of horse.
Neither too big nor too small, the Canadian is an honest, solid, and handsome breed of horse without the excessive airs and graces of some of those other breeds. He is a “good” size; what he lacks in height, he makes up for in substantial bone and musculature. Usually between 14 to 16 hands, he weighs between 1000 to 1350 pounds. Notice how well proportioned he is; the strong well-set and arched neck; the long deep body; the heavily muscled hindquarters; the sculpted head with its widely spaced eyes. Note the bold and friendly expression and the intelligent, spirited, but calm eye. Note especially the solid joints (in particular the fetlocks) and the hardy feet and legs that are not prone to the kind of injuries that so many other more “delicate” breeds experience. But it is the temperament of the Canadian horse that is perhaps his best quality. This is a horse that has truly bonded with humans. He is generous, willing to please, and fun-loving. But he’s no pushover. The Canadian will respect you if you respect him.
What’s in a horses’s name
Throughout this piece I probably should have been referring to this horse as Le Canadien because his (300-year) heritage is primarily French-Canadian. The breed has been called “The Canadian,” “the Canadian Horse,” “the French-Canadian Horse,” “the Canuck,” even “The Norman.” The name can confuse some people who think you may be referring to the horse’s nationality as opposed to its breeding. (We are very liberal in Canada, but we have not yet begun granting citizenship to horses.) Suffice it to say that for many people, Le Cheval Canadien is a source of pride given the self-determination inherent in the breed and in its history.
Spotlight on the Canadian Horse
Just found out through a friend of ours, that one of Costa and I cross country clinic photos made it into a magazine. Super fun! Wanted to share the article. Reminds me I should also share the video content from the Calgary Stampede that we did this year(we ride in the parade every year).
Busy riding rings: I had the chance to work medical standby at a horse show, and it gave me a different view of the warm up ring than I normally do being in it with our horses. As I sat and watched I saw riders almost collide, some riders even cutting each other off. What is awful with all of this, is riders are so focused on THEIR warm up that they don't seem to put as much care into their surroundings as they should.
Is lack of experience with busy warm up rings the issue? is the stress preventing riders from making proper decisions? Even in the best case scenario it causes more stress in an already stressful situation and upsets horses and disrupts your warm up. If all of us paid better attention to the warm up arena, it would make a world of a difference in our safety and the quality of our warm ups.
Riding in an arena you don’t normally ride in, is stressful enough. Different smells, lighting, footing. Every arena has it's demons and monsters that the horses always seem to find. You have lots of people watching you and of course you feel like everyone is judging every movement you make. Different horses and different types of riders with different riding styles. Spooky horses, hyper, lazy, small, large and green animals. Warming up is not an easy thing to do when you’re away from home(or even at home really), but the thing is we are all trying to achieve the same thing so why are we watching each other's backs.
Having grown up in France, I know that even in crowded arenas these issues can be easily dealt with. Horse shows down there never run into these issues and they sometimes have 2-3 times the amount of horses in 1 warming up arena than we have-and they do incredibly well! I don’t believe that Americans lack respect or are inherently ruder but why is this happeneing?(and being European myself I can confirm that European folks win THAT rudeness competition). I think the issue really comes down to the riders might not as educated on ring etiquette and should take it more seriously. I feel like the general handling of riding in the ring in European countries, is taken just as importantly as the competition itself. Because of this anyone making a ring etiquette mistake is dealt with immediately either by the ring stewart/ or a trainer. We need to act together as a community, treating each other better and be more courteous so that every horse in the arena feels a sense of calm and security.
I think if we all followed some basic rules(which I do see some of them followed in warm up ring, though not consistently), we would really improve this embarrassing problem that we are having. Here are some rules that I feel would make a big difference:
Continuously look around: We’re all concentrating on our own warm ups and focusing on our mount so it’s easy to forget when you’re stressed but really, do you walk around with your head down? Do you know your daily activities staring at the ground? Keeping your eye up and watching the other’s riders warm ups and respecting their space, will also allow you to anticipate where they are going next. I think it is fair to say that really young riders will likely not always follow this because of their age and lack of experience, but for everyone else there is no excuse.
Keeping your eye up will also give you an indication of the horse and rider pairs and their skill level. It will give you an idea of the personalities and overall vibe that they give off. I personally stay away from pairs that seem out of control or horses that have been dressed with a red ribbon. Perhaps there are some really spooky horses in the ring, or horses that are bullies with tail swishing and ear pinning. Those things will affect where you want to be in the ring and how you are going to plan your ride.
Passing left to left: when approaching other riders head on, passing left shoulder to left their shoulder is a safe rule. It eliminates the guessing game of who is passing who on what side.
This rule might have some exceptions when there are jumps in the ring as that might not work if they are coming across a line or otherwise. Horses coming across the diagonal, jumping a line, pairs etc etc. There is always an exception to the rule.
Speak Up!: Even in a busy ring you can be vocal about some of the things you are planning to do. A good example is a calling out “outside line!” or “yellow oxer!” so everyone no knows which way you’re going and give you the space you need. Broadcasting your intentions makes it a lot easier. If you have noticed is touchy in the arena when near horses, or you notice a horse with a red ribbon ahead of you and you are passing, call out "coming up behind/passed you?". I know I myself have had to yell “heads up” on many occasions because I’ve watched a rider not paying attention heading my way and would likely lead to a collision.
Give Others Space Your job is to be your horse’s protector starts when you first arrive on the show grounds all the way to the warm up arena, during your warm up, in your class and once you load on the trailer to head home.
I have a mare who while out fox hunting has double barrelled at other horses who have come up her rear end, and she does it without an ounce of warning. She is a phenomenal parade horse, and will babysit horses all day long and allow them to ride her bum on the parade routes. In settings where things get exciting, her tolerance for that goes out the door and she demands her space.
I have never had her kick in a warm up ring, but I have also always done everything I could, to give her as much space as I can and prevent her from getting upset and giving out a kick. I now have a 3 yr old filly that I am about to start who is also a natural alpha and it will be interesting to see how she handles a busy arena and show ring.
Let's all try to be safer out there and watch each other's backs in the warm up. At the end of the day it keeps ourselves and our horses safer.
What is Working Equitation?
Working Equitation became a competitive sport in 1996 along with its first European championship being held in Italy the same year. Working Equitation is a recognised sport and it tests the horse and rider's partnership and ability to manoeuvre obstacles.
Riders will come to compete and ride in many different levels in the following 4 different trials: Dressage(functionality), Ease of Handling, Speed Trial and Cow Trial. There are many levels you can compete in with the advanced levels where the rider must ride with just one hand, most commonly their left hand, on the reins.
Competition events may be individual or for teams, and are in three or four parts, in this order:
Kristina Eckert and her Canadian Horse Stallion Amaro
I do not like belts on a good day but have to wear them with my work clothes, riding and any other extra activity that is not lounging in my house and being lazy.
I was absolutely blown away at how comfortable they were. My husband is going to hate me because he's spent countless amount of money to buy me belts that look great for different attires-but I will come clean that my Unbelts belts are my new ONLY belts you will find in my closet.
I don't know about you, but the front of my hip bone can sometimes get uncomfortable with leather belts when I bend over, even pinch! Some belts will curve from regular wear as they stretch over time. The Unbelts do not pinch, stretch where they need to and slip fit nice and tight(depending on how you set it up). They work fantastic with all work and riding attires (I work in Emergency services and wear heavy duty cargo pants and they are phenomenal).
You guys you need to buy one to try out. I promise you it will become the best belt you have ever owned. The intrepid is even neater in design because it was silicone on the inside which makes it phenomenal with skirts of pants that don't actually have a belt loop.
Phenomenal product that every equestrian(and even non equestrian)should own.
We’ve been working for literally years on the first companion belt to the Classic. You asked us for a more rugged, technical belt that would still have the hallmarks of an Unbelt: insanely comfortable, machine washable, travel-friendly, and really, really size-inclusive.
The new Intrepid ticks all the boxes above - and we’ve added a couple of brand-new features, too. First… this is a lifetime belt. Buy it once, and we’ll repair or replace it forever. It’s our way of measuring our materials’ durability and minimizing our environmental footprint. You’ll also find some hidden bonuses like a secret pocket, a no-slip inner grip, and elastic made out of recycled water bottles.
And finally - every Intrepid is sewn in our new studio in Edmonton, Alberta, where we’re determined to create the same living-wage jobs that we’ve been so proud to sustain in our other hometown of Shanghai, China.
Unbelts was founded with two goals in mind: helping you feel great in your jeans, but also creating quality jobs for the people at the beginning of our supply chain. Why?
Because we know just how many pairs of hands it takes to bring a product to life, and have learned that with every step of our belts’ production, we have a chance to insist on better working conditions, more manageable hours, and more upward mobility for the people behind your belts.
Investing in our supply chain also results in a higher-quality product. Unbelts are made to be worn and loved for hundreds of wears - and to be repairable when they do reach the end of their first life. Designing for longevity helps us reduce our environmental impact, and having a direct relationship with our suppliers helps ensure our components stand the test of time.
Beyond "Made in _______"Unbelts founder Claire here. I'm so passionate about this subject that it's impossible for me to write about it without telling a little bit about my story.
I lived in China from 2008 to 2014. When I moved to Shanghai, I knew what reputation the “Made in China” label carried with it. Throughout my first couple of years there, though, I couldn't help but notice how many locally-produced goods were of extraordinarily high quality, and how much skill even amateur "makers" (a term that had popped up in the North American lexicon) in my neighbourhood had.
Meanwhile, on visits back to Canada, supersized stores with supersized piles of very, very cheap products were thriving - especially in the fashion industry. I just couldn't reconcile the putting-down of Chinese manufacturing with the clear reality that Western demand for huge quantities of on-trend, low-priced goods was making low quality inevitable. What would happen, I wondered, if a company was willing to pay higher wages for smaller quantities of well-made goods?
When I launched Unbelts from my living room in 2011, “Made in China” wasn’t outsourcing. It was insourcing. It was my "made local," because the women sewing our small quantities of belts lived right down the street. And as the business grew and as the global movement against fast fashion materialized, my team and I became more and more determined to show our customers that a more human-scale style of manufacturing is not only possible beyond North American borders - but necessary.
Does this mean we’ll only ever manufacture in China? Nope. Our goal is to benefit as many communities as we possibly can as Unbelts grows - and in Fall 2018, we launched a second studio. This one's in Edmonton, Alberta, and we're using the shorter turnaround times and real-time prototyping opportunity to launch our brand-new Intrepid belts. So now we've got twin studios - one in Canada, one in China - both offering living wages, stable hours, and upward mobility. In other words... we're focused on the who, not the where, and we invite you to join us as we keep learning how to make the best jobs we can.
I don't know about you guys, but I actually love cleaning my tack. I love the way leather smells and I love how soft the leather gets. Nothing beats a buttery soft bridle that is conditioned and maintained. To me your horse tack is an investment, and with the amount of money I spend on it every year, I like to do everything I can and take care of it to ensure that it will last me for years.
Other than just keeping your leather clean and supple, tack cleaning also gives you the chance to inspect your equipment and make sure that it is still in good working condition or if it needs repair or replacement. Sometimes the inspection might also show you some changes in your leather and will prompt you to change the product you are using which in turn helps prolong the life of your leather.
What I find fun(and that's where you might question my sanity) is there are so many different types of products to maintain and condition your leather. Testing new products and seeing how they will react or behave once on my leather is part of what I enjoy. It gives me the chance to see which products work well to soft, condition, shine, clean or even darken it. Just so many products to work with!
Hopefully reading this post, you will give you some inspiration to develop your own tack cleaning program.
Tips and tricks
** Got mold? make sure your tack is always clean and dry before putting it away in a closed tack box. A leather cleaning product that contains a mold inhibitor (Leather Restorers & Conditioners are examples). The can also help to prevent the growth of mold and mildew between cleanings, especially in humid climates. Breathable bags are also great to store tack.
* Always make sure to keep your cleaning and polishing sponges and clothes separate. I have 2 different large ziplock bags that I have labelled and keep a sponge and a cloth in each for their designated use.
* Always take your tack apart(bridle and breastplate) apart when you are cleaning them. Most of the dirt accumulation is in the buckles, because the dust and grim has nowhere to go.
* Soft bristle toothbrush is fantastic in getting in those tiny nooks and crannies that you otherwise would not get access to.
* Keep bit wipes in your grooming kit for easy access when you are removing tack after you ride. Makes it easy to keep your bit clean.
Cleaning: Saddle soap
Leather damage on your saddle is often a result of an unbalanced pH level. When regularly cleaned with the proper saddle soap, the fatty acids in the soap combine with the salt contained in horse sweat to keep your saddle leather’s pH levels balanced properly.
Glycerine soap works to seal the pores of the leather, giving it a like-new glossy finish and protecting it from dirt.
Conditioning: Leather conditioner
I prefer using a cloth for this step because it gives you a better tool to work the conditioner into the leather than a sponge would. Make sure to condition all surface of your leather including those hidden areas under your flaps and the underside of those saddle flaps.
Brightening bits, stirrups, buckles and name plates
Once or twice a month, you should put all of your bits into a bucket for a thorough cleaning. Use a product like Bit Therapy Effervescent Cleaner, which fizzes when added to water, and let the bits sit for 8-1 mins. They’ll come out shiny and mint-scented, even in the hard-to-reach crevices. Another option is to put your bits in the dishwasher! even your stirrups do fantastic with a regular dishwasher trip!
If you don’t have time before a show, use a polish paste like Simichrome Polish on the rings of the bit to get them shiny. Your stirrups will also benefit from this-make sure you cover all aspect of the stirrup including the bottom, underneath portion. Be sure to select a non-toxic metal polish so you aren’t dyeing the surrounding leather, and allow the polish to sit for a few minutes before buffing it away.
I am a huge promoter of these. These bridles are stunning in design and quality and offer a little something different compared to some of the bridles currently available on the market. I thought I would introduce you to some of their bridles to those of you who are new to this brand or have never heard of them.
First off they use eco-friendly leather.I think we all appreciate any company who puts some thought when creating their product on how they decrease negative effects on the environment. You can immediately appreciate the beautiful leather that is used n these bridles. Over the years I have owned many brands and and price ranges of bridles, and very few have actually met the quality that these bridles offer. To add onto that I have actually refused to buy any other type of bridle and will invest in these bridles just based on the leather quality. My oldest bridle is used 4-5 days a week for schooling and shows and still looks the same as the day it came out of it's packaging.
Next the large padded poll piece that sits behind their ears offers a wide surface area with cutouts which creates gorgeous rounded corners for the ears to sit in unobstructed. It makes it even more comfortable for the sensitive(and non-sensitive)horse and provides a wide surface area for any poll pressure that might come from the bit and the rest of the bridle.
The next really great feature is the cradle feature. The bit pieces in the reins as well as the cheek pieces have elastic cradles inside the buckles. It allows the horse some soft play without feeling it has a fixed bit in their mouth. I have absolutely loved that feature when working with young horses and even keeping trained horses soft. When you combined that feature with a soft hand, you've got very happy horses with soft mouths. Still achievable without this feature, but the perk of having this extra comfort to the horse, to me is worth having.
I have personal contact Equine Canada and a couple of judges to check any possible issues in the show ring with these. If you actually took a close look at the rule book, there is nothing mentioned about the cradles themselves. At this point they are not deemed legal in the show ring (until it is revised anyways). An easy solution to that for those days when you do show, is to simply not use the cradle portion of your buckle when you compete. There was some talk about the bridle not being legal because they do not have a throat latch, but that is false information. If there are any concerns, the bridles do come with a removable throat lash.
One of the other great features that seemed like common sense to me as to why no one has ever done this, is the snapping browbands. All their browbands snap on and off for easy change. If you like your bling like I do, this is a priceless feature.
One of the new products I have recently acquired and wanted to do a review on is the Schockemohle Lorenzini Titanio Stirrups. Waiting for my new saddle to come in and I think a new pair of stirrups will be super timing. I’ll be honest hubby takes the credit for that one because he pushed for me to spend the money on another great pair of stirrups.
I currently ride in Makebe Jump Wave Stirrups which I will also make a review of in the near future, and I absolutely love them but when I found a set of the Lorenzini stirrups this past weekend partnered up with one of my favourite brands and one of my favourite colors, it was just a match made in heaven.
I am quite excited to own Schockemohle stirrups because I love everything they make. The quality of their products is always top notch and the design of their equestrian gear and apparel always shows that extra ingenuity in their designs.
To start this off the color of the stirrups is absolutely beautiful. Very vibrant colors for those who want to have some fun with the standard silver and black for those who compete in hunter competitions or want the more classic look.The stirrups have the Schockemohle logo on one side and Lorenzini logo on the other side.
Youtuber doing a review on the stirrups below:
The height of the stirrup itself is also a little smaller than most which is once again really nice it just fits your foot better and they don’t look like a massive piece of metal hanging off your saddle. Another great feature is the slight angle of the base which helps keep your foot in a more natural position and helps promote your heel down. That style of cheese grater is also fantastic in really keeping your foot secure where it needs to be.
The weight of the stirrup is also fantastic. If you do happen to lose one of them, the weight on them helps keep it still in the right spot for you to easily find and get back. I found it to be a little heavier than a standard stirrup. Heavier than a regular steel stirrup but definitely not a composite stirrup. The balance of the stirrup itself is perfect
Having had flex stirrups in the past and having enjoyed the flexibility and softness they offer, going back to a solid base has been really nice. I think you forget how beneficial it is to have a solid base when you are going over bigger fences. That is one thing I have really enjoyed with these stirrups is that solid base that they give you. My leg position is still perfect where it needs to be, solid yet with a great angle to soften your ankle just enough. They ride very similar to my Makebe Jump Wave Stirrups(which are also phenomenal).
Overall I think it’s a great stirrup iron. The weight, the narrow base, height and colors are just gorgeous. They feel very secure and comfortable for long rides. I would purchase them again and recommend them to anyone wanting a classy stirrup that will provide a lot of support. I would rate these a solid 4.5/5!
The weather was not in our favour this year unfortunately but we still had the chance to have some phenomenal rides. Super grateful for the great people who run our club. Excited to get going again next year.
It's hard to imagine losing a horse or rider to an accident. I think everyone realises the risks of cross country eventing and it's why it's a sport that is not as popular compared to other disciplines and I think for good reason.
Cross-country is known to be the most dangerous portion of the three-day eventing, a triathlon for horse and rider teams, composed of three types of competition that require endurance, and test the bond between the horse and rider team.
Dressage, which is sometimes known as horse ballet, tests a rider’s discipline as they guide their horse around a set course of movements as gracefully as possible. Each move in a dressage test is scored between a 0 and a 10, with a 10 being the highest mark a rider can achieve for a move. At the end of the round, the marks for each move are added together to come up with a final score.
Cross-country follows the next day, and is an endurance test that sends horse and rider over a course of 30 to 40 jumps long, set over a large green area. Obstacles are usually built from solid objects such as trees, boulders and sometimes even vehicles. If the horse refuses the jump, there is a penalty of 20 points. There are additional penalties for subsequent refusals, with the third causing elimination. Finishing the course over the time allowed will also cost the rider one penalty per second. If the horse or rider falls on course, they are eliminated.
Finally, on the third day, horse and rider must have enough strength left to compete in show jumping, where they must get around a set of jumps in an arena. The jumps are built of poles instead of solid objects, and will fall over if the horse even brushes them slightly. The team must complete the course as fast as possible without knocking any of the fences down. Penalties in show jumping are similar to those in cross-country, with four faults given for each jump knocked down, or refusal to jump a fence, with a third refusal resulting in elimination. Completing the course over the time allowed costs the rider one penalty per second, and a fall results in elimination.
It’s believed that since 1997, nearly 40 people around the world have died in various levels of competition in the cross-country portion of eventing competitions. In at least 25 of these cases, the rider died after the horse tripped and somersaulted.
Cross-country is not only deadly for riders, but for their mounts too. While information about horse fatalities is harder to come by, at least 19 top level eventing horses died in 2007 and 2008 while competing in the cross-country portion of the event.
Despite the danger, the sport has a long history, and is even popular among British royalty. Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter Zara Phillips is competing in the 2012 Olympics as a member of the British team.
From a distance, Kelsy Smith’s horse looks like most Preliminary-level event horses: he’s fit, he’s bay, and he’s over 16 hands. But if you look closely, you’ll notice one major difference between Huxley Heights and the other equines in his classes: Huxley does not wear horseshoes.
Eventing barefoot is not the norm in the Pacific Northwest, but that didn’t stop Smith and her Dutch WB x QH, Huxley, from taking on their debut season at Prelim without shoes. In 2013 they competed in five USEA horse trials, accumulating scores to earn them the title of Open Prelim Year-End Champion in USEA Area VII. And this season they plan to compete in their first CCI*… barefoot.
Smith has kept Huxley barefoot for his entire riding career. “Every horse is an individual,” she says, “for Hux I think barefoot offers more advantages [than shoes]: easier on his joints, better circulation in the hoof/leg, good traction, etc. Also, I never have to worry about if my horse pulls a shoe on course or what type of stud to use.”
Smith is quick to point out though that she “spends a fair amount of time conditioning his feet for the workload. Making sure he’s turned out as much as possible in a large space, graveling his paddock, and working him on different terrains: gravel logging roads, paved roads, hard and soft pasture/grass, etc.” She cites lifestyle management and a thoughtful hoof conditioning program as key to Hux’s soundness.
Smith is not the only eventer keeping her horse steel free; there seems to be a small but dedicated number of eventers competing barefoot in the U.S., especially at the lower levels. Amrita Eldine Ibold competes at Training level on a home-bred, self-trained Akhal-Teke gelding, Turkmen Air. Ibold challenges the status quo that a barefoot horse is at a disadvantage or lacks quality care; she points out, “According to the barefoot movement, a horse that needs shoes is a lame horse.”
Amrita Ibold and Turkmen Air schooling XC barefoot. Photo by Jenny Rice.
Bridget Brewer has been taking her horses barefoot for seven years, including two OTTBs. She currently competes barefoot on her Novice-level mare, Moonshine, a 9 year old Irish Draught. Her reasons for keeping her horses barefoot boil down to health: “From a physics perspective, a bare hoof absorbs the shock better [than a shod hoof] as it expands on contact, which reduces the shock that gets transmitted up the leg into the joints and soft tissue. This same mechanism also provides increased blood pumping action.”
Undoubtedly, in three-day eventing barefoot eventers are a minority group. Shoes and studs are widely considered necessary tools of the trade, and it goes against the grain to keep a show horse unshod. Responses to barefoot competitors can range from genuine curiosity to grave concern. Some riders report push back from trainers or fellow competitors when they choose to compete without horseshoes. Amrita sums it up: “In eventing, most people think you are crazy for going without shoes and studs.”
But the reality is that barefoot does work for some event horses. Smith says, “I think more horses could go barefoot than people think or allow,” and she encourages folks who have horses with quality hooves to consider barefoot hoofcare. After all, to shoe or not to shoe is a conscious decision riders get to make when it comes to their horse’s welfare; it appears the USEA, USEF, or FEI do not have rules regarding shoeing.
There are pros and cons with any hoofcare decisions. To riders who want to venture into barefoot territory, Smith cautions: “Don’t expect to pull your horse’s shoes and be competing at the same level the next weekend. It takes time, conditioning, and work to ‘fit up’ the hoof to be able to handle the workload. If you try to push too hard, too fast you’ll set yourself back a long way, just like with anything else.”
Bridget Brewer competing unshod. Photo by Kevin Michael Brewer.
Brewer elaborates on this, “Barefoot is not an easy road as today’s urban, mostly stalled horse lifestyles make it hard for the barefoot hoof to become robust and strong… Successful barefoot requires lots of movement, a low sugar diet, and frequent trims from someone who specializes in the barefoot trim. The hoof will adapt and change over time and the walls will thicken and the sole will develop a callous. Some horses are easier than others, and some may always be a tender on rocks and rough surfaces.”
Many recreational riders have embraced barefoot hoofcare for their horses, and if you look, you can find barefoot horses competing in mainstream sporthorse disciplines outside eventing. For example, some racehorse trainers are running unshod Thoroughbreds, and barefoot dressage horses are starting to make the headlines, with well-known riders like Shannon and Steffen Peters giving it a try. Brewer explains, “I am excited about some of the momentum barefoot is gaining as better information on how to be successful becomes available and the advantages to the horse is better known.”
When it comes to preserving equine health in our sport, honest discussions about what works and what doesn’t work for our horses is key. As a long-time “barefoot eventer,” I find that many of us are asked why when we don’t shoe, but few ask why when we DO shoe. At the end of the day, any conversation about what is best for our horses is a good one to have. What hoofcare practices work well for your eventing partner?
When you are wearing spurs, where does the buckle of your spur strap fall? As the result of the concerned suggestion of James Wofford, Olympic veteran and articulate three-day coach, Foxhunting Life has changed its recommendation for the proper way to wear spurs.
Wofford writes: “I (and others, George Morris, for one) want the buckle exactly centered on the rider’s ankle, thus the least likely to catch the branch of the stirrup in the event of a fall. For your consideration, I enclose photos of what I refer to as THE Lower Leg Position, meaning, in my opinion, correct in absolutely every aspect.”
Wofford believes that this practice has its origins in the military. That’s the way it was taught to him in his days at Culver Military Academy, their teachings based on theU.S. Cavalry Manual of Horsemanship and Horsemastership by Gordon Wright. Wofford continues:
“Like many things in horses, verbal traditions are usually at the base of things. Probably some grizzled General remembered watching a "corporal of no consequence" get his spur hung in the stirrup and figured it out. In a cross country clinic, I once told a talented, but big-mouthed boy not to do something I considered potentially dangerous. ‘Oh, Jim,’ he popped off, ‘that’s a million-to-one shot.’
“‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘but I watch a million horses a year...quit it.’
“I'm the same way about people at a check, normally riding astride, lifting their leg over and sitting side-saddle...that's fine, rests your back or seatbones for a second, but take your other foot out of the stirrup, too! If you sit, for example, right leg over, with your left foot in the stirrup, and your horse spooks left, the best thing that can happen is that you did not forget to WD-40 the safety catch on your stirrup bars...otherwise you WILL get drug. You only have to ever see that once (Ballsbridge, 1960) to remember it forever.
“I finally figured out why [former USET Three-Day Coach] LeGoff was so picky about stuff...because he had already watched a million of them.”
Thank you, Jim. I have always inserted my own stirrup leathers into the spurs with the buckles arranged as far as I can get them to the outside stirrup slots. I couldn’t even tell you why. Just habit. I may never reach a million rides, but “a one in a million shot” doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t happen ’til the millionth! I will adjust my straps.
The updated recommendation for the proper wearing of spurs: Buckle should be centered on the ankle for safety, with free end of strap pointing to the outside.
WHY USE THEM?
Spurs are often a symbol fo horsemanship, but do you really need to ride with spurs? A very long time ago, I met a horse that had been on a team that went to the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. While I don't remember very much about the horse, I do recall the rash of short scars down either side of the horse's barrel. These scars were very clearly the result of the aggressive use of spurs. Perhaps that's where my aversion to using spurs began, and while I understand they may have uses in advanced riding, I feel most of us are better off without.
I have very rarely ever felt the need to wear spurs. When I was in my early teens I had a large pony, that in order to get it to do anything beyond a cow pony jog, needed the occasional nudge with a spur. The task of getting my current horse to trot along smartly would certainly be made easier if I wore spurs, but because I'm probably as belligerent as she can be, I choose not to, relying instead on a dressage whip to reinforce my leg and seat aids. Spurs are rarely necessary and it's all too easy to rely on these artificial aids before learning the proper natural aids.
Spurs should be a last resort for the beginner rider, although they can be used effectively by advanced riders to give refined cues to a well-trainedS horse. If you're still struggling with keeping your seat quiet or mastering the trot or canter/lope, spurs are rarely a good idea. It is very easy to inadvertently jab a horse if you don't have perfect control over your lower leg. Spurs aren't really intended to make a horse simply go faster, but to add precision to leg cues.
If you do choose to wear spurs on the advice of your instructor or coach, choose the shortest neck you can find. Spurs with rowels, disks, long, curved necks and points are not suitable for beginners. The most common type of spur is the English "Prince of Wales", and these are suitable for both beginner English and western riders. These can be found with either a round button or very short shank. Motivator spurs are also available, and these have no neck or shank, but a thicker bluntly serrated edge along the inside of the heel band. The downside of these spurs is that it's almost easier to bump the horse with them accidentally as you don't have to turn your heel in to apply them.
All spurs are worn with the neck or shank pointing downwards. They should sit at the junction of your heel and ankle, although some "motivators" will sit atop the heel seam of your boots. If there are small spur rests on your boots, the spur lays on top of these. The strap should buckle on the outside (not the 'horse side') of your riding boot, with the point of the strap pointing downwards
Like using a whip, the spur has to instantaneously back up any ignored demand. If your horse ignores your leg aid, you will use the spur, as a quick press, not a jab, within seconds of your ignored cue. The cues should be ask-slight leg aid, tell-a bump from the calf, demand pressure from the spur. You should not be lifting your leg away from the horse's side as this happens.
Overuse of the spur can cause a horse to become frightened or provoked. Bucking or bolting can result if the rider uses spurs improperly. Some horses may learn to ignore the spur and become deadened to the cues the rider gives. So the spur, which is applied to the horse by slightly lifting the heel and turning the heel inwards, needs to be applied very judiciously. Spurring should never, never be a form of punishment. If you're turning your toes out so that you are jabbing your horse with the spur shank, you are overusing the spur and need to learn how to apply proper leg aids. Spurs should never leave a mark in the skin or hair coat. This indicates the spurs are being used improperly.
Choosing the right type of spur
Choosing the right riding spurs based on disciplineDressage
Dressage spurs tend to have a short shank length due to the close contact leg position. Dressage riders tend to prefer a Waterford style spur with a round ball at the end, the Disc spur with no teeth or the Swan Neck spur due to its design.In British Dressage, spurs can be worn at all levels and are mandatory from Advanced level upwards. Dummy spurs are permitted. There is no restriction on the type of shank or Rowel as long as they are free to move. Only blunt spurs without rowels can be worn in Young Horse Classes.
Show Hunter/ Jumpers
May use a flatter style spur to encourage impulsion, such as the Prince of Wales spur. In BSJA spurs with a shank in excess of 3cm long, with a rowel diameter in excess of 1cm or spurs with roughened edges are not permitted. In pony competitions only blunt or roller ball spurs may be worn. Sharp or Rowel end spurs are not permitted. The overall length must not exceed 2.5cms in length measured from the back of the rider’s boot.