Sunday, August 30, 2009

For all of you "traditional riding" junkies, like myself...

No, This Horse Ribbon is Not For Decoration!

Author: Lydia K Kelly

You may have seen it at a show, a lovely horse trotting around the ring sporting a fancy red ribbon in his tail. Sure it is pretty, but did you know that it also has a meaning? Surprisingly, many riders do not.

The tradition started many years ago. Riders would place a ribbon in their horse's tail when riding in the hunt to warn other riders of things they might not have the time to tell them before the ride. When there are a lot of horses working in a group, it can be hard to know which horse is which, and a ribbon makes it clear when there is a something that needs to be considered before approaching.

Understanding the Color of a Ribbon

There are four colors of ribbon that you might see on a horse's tail: red, green, blue and white. Each color has its own meaning.

Red ribbons signify that a horse is a kicker. This means that any other riders should be careful not to crowd the horse, especially from behind. This is the most common color of tail ribbon and thus is the best understood. Often people choose to use a red ribbon if a horse is green or inexperienced because other riders are more likely to understand the meaning.

A green ribbon means that a horse is inexperienced and likely to misbehave. This is suitable for young horses or for horses who are particularly spooky in nature. If you see a horse with a green ribbon in his tail, approach him with caution. Give him space when riding near him, and be sure to keep an eye on him when in the ring. A green horse may spook or otherwise misbehave in unexpected ways.

A blue ribbon says that this horse is a stallion. Because stallions should only be handled by adults, and can be unpredictable at times, stallion owners will sometimes use a blue ribbon in his tail to warn off other riders. This is particularly important if you have a mare. It is unfair to a stallion's rider to ride your mare too close to a stallion in the ring, especially if she is in season. The stallion can be the best behaved boy out there, but having an in season mare close by will distract him. In the worst case scenario, you could cause a serious accident by bringing your mare too close to a stallion. Caution is always sensible when seeing a horse with a blue ribbon in his tail.

White ribbons signify that a horse is for sale. Because it can be difficult to successfully advertise at a show, using a white ribbon is an excellent way to show that your horse is for sale. That way prospective buyers can see him perform in the ring, and know that they can approach you after the class if they are interested.

Common Practice

Not many people use ribbons in their horses' tails anymore. This is a pity as many accidents could be prevented through their use. Often there is a fear that a judge might mark a horse more severely for having a kicking ribbon or a green ribbon in their tail.

If more coaches and riders began using colored ribbons, it could become common practice again. The results would be beneficial to everyone involved. At the very least, riders at the schooling level should be taught what red and green ribbons mean, and horse shows should encourage their use, even supplying appropriate colors of yarn at their registration tables.

An ounce of warning can make all the difference between a safe ride and a dangerous accident. If all kickers wore red ribbons, all green horses wore green ribbons and all stallions wore blue ribbons, everyone would know which horses to be careful of at the show.

About the Author:
Lydia K Kelly is a writer for HorseClicks, classifieds of horses for sale Ohio, horses for sale Oklahoma, horses for sale Oregon and other states. Lydia is also a featured author at

Article Source: - No, This Horse Ribbon is Not For Decoration!

Now, my question is, is there a color for a mare in season? Might be helpful at a show. I know at the CTDS schooling shows there's usually a stallion or two present amongst the masses of geldings lol!

"All my friends are horseback riders..."

Whoa, 5 followers! Eep! So exciting! I'm serious!

Today was a-mazing! Everything seems to have settled down in the pasture. Greta was all by herself munching on hay, but I didn't see any new wounds and she wasn't nervous. Just keeping to herself. Poor thing. She glanced over to me when she saw me walking up. I think she's having to make sure it's me all over again now that we're in a new spot. If I could've rode in the trailer with her on the way there yesterday, I totally would have, just she would see that I would actually be there at the other end!

Regardless, she was happy to see me (I'm flattered) and especailly the apple. She let me lead her - though her head was up and she was excited, but she wasn't out-of-control like yesterday - all the way up to the barn were our tack room and washrack/grooming area is. Lessons were already going on in the outdoor arena and the indoor arena, and a little girl on Peter the Great (one of the English lesson ponies, totally adorable and super sweet!!!) was having a private lesson in one of the round pens. I felt like the new kid at school, so I just walked by and tried to stay out of everyone's way. Greta thought that we were supposed to go right past the cross-ties and through the door, so I had to lead her around the barn and through the entrance again, and she walked right through, again. So I led her back around and made her stop-and-go through the barn until we reached the cross-ties. Thens he stood still. She was very excited, the big old turkey!

I groomed her off, put the new ointment on her boo-boos, and the barn manager came by. Very nice, said Hi to Greta and I, and went along. Tacking up went as usual, though it took a little bit longer since I still developing the "routine" now that where everything is located is different.

I took her into the round pen and she was vey good! Beautiful trot and canter. The dressage (well, really she does combined training, but she'll be the new dresage instructor to me. I will miss Joanne though) came over and said that she had never seen that horse around here before and I told her she was new, yada yada yada. She was very nice and very complimentary of Miss Greta and I apologized for her anxiousness (she was tossing her head all over the place!) and that is normally very calm and sweet. She totally understood - anyone who knows horses should!

She introduced me to her daughter, who was riding a gorgeous grey paint horse named Socks in the outdoor arena, and her daughter was super nice too. She talked me into riding with her and her friend, riding a flashy chestnut paint named Finale, to walk around the property and take a tour. She flagged down anyone she knew and introduced me and Greta to them. I felt very welcomed.

Rode around in the arena: Greta was much more anxious since this was a big arena! She wanted to go, go, go! Sock's rider and Finale's rider both understood. I met a very good rider (I'm not giving out names, so hence why everyone is a "rider") and her gorgeous black horse named Mithrandir (heehee LOTR name! Sweet!) and they were an amazing pair, though her flash noseband was way too low, but that's just me being picky. Honestly, all of the students and horses looked great. They were all bending at the poll, no third-vertebrae crooked over. That says good things about the instructor to me.

We cooled down in the round pen so we could keep out of everyone's way in the arena (it was noticeably cooler out there, even though the day had progressed....) and I got off and talked some more with the instructor and then Finale's rider. I will be going to watch a lesson Thursday night! Yay!

I cooled down Greta (though she only broke a sweat under her saddle pad even after almost two hours of riding) and hosed her off and brushed her teeth and put some more ointment on her ouchies. I just now realized I forgot her liniment gel. Shame on me! Regardless....

I took Greta out and led her to the water and she chug-a-lugged down (had to pull her away after a while, didn't want her to get sick!) and then I let her go. She was a happy girl and went back over to eat her hay. We cuddled and I gave her a kiss and then I was off. I'm going back out tonight to see how feeding goes. She needs to eat: she only was able to sneak in a quarter of a scoop this morning! She got three apples today, if that helps any!

But all in all, I adore this new facility. Nothing short of wonderful.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"Move along, move along like I know ya do"

Well, we moved Greta to her new place today! She was calm when I brought her into the barn to get her ready for the trailer ride: groom, liniment on the legs, all that jazz. We nuzzled and got kisses. And then everyone else started to arrive to help get her ready. I explained to them the game plan: get out of the way when I load her, don't make a bunch of noise, don't hover, turn the car off (she hates the sound of big engines) and just let it be me, her, and instructor (holding open the door).

Um.... yeah......... I walk around to the trailer and all of the sudden pots and pans are being banged around inside the barn because stuff had to be moved then? So Greta totally lost focus of my treats and refused to trailer. Her last trailering was quite a traumatic experience, I wanted this to be different. Nope. We gotta move stuff around in the barn!

So, as you can imagine, that did not make me very happen. We had to bring Sneaky into the trailer and then Greta loaded just fine. She trailered like an angel. Good girl!

I took her out at the new place (which everyone who tagged along went "ooh" and "ahh" at) and she was very ancy, but we worked it out. A girl from my physics class walked by: I didn't recognize her but she recognized me.

"Hey, you're in my physics class!"

"I am?"

"You go to ----- ---- High School, right?"


"Yeah, you were the one explaining to Mrs. Lopez how hands went up and down and not side to side! (We had been talking about different measurements and the teacher had brought up hands) I was about to raise my hand, but you got there first. I didn't realize you worked with horses too!"

"That's so cool! You ride here?"

"Yeah! I board here! Me and (Cooper?) barrel race."

"How cool! I used to barrel race, then I decided to do dressage.... don't know how that happened, but it happened."

And so on and so forth. Can't wait to talk Monday! Also, I found out that my PreMed/Clinicals teacher boards her horse there (did I already tell y'all that?)

Greta, however, waited until all the talking was done, then she acted up again. I led her to the new pasture, and we did loopty-loops all the way down. At a trot. She did not want to go in a straight line.

We made it to the arena, let her go, and she pranced all over the place. Soon, the other horses came up and wanted to see who this new girl was. They were all running and playing when we left (I wanted to stay and watch, but it was "too hot". That's what I get for not taking my own car haha!)

I put my grooming stuff and Greta's halter in the pasture tack room. I still can't figure out how to close and lock the door on that. It won't shut! But I got keys and I tried to make it look like it was closed. It's really nice. Right next to it is a little bathroom and those two rooms border the large wash rack/grooming area. Really nice. The cross ties face one of the barn entrances so the horse is looking outside the whole time. Really cool.

And the indoor arena has mirrors! Suhweet! Some pictures from the website:

So, yeah................

I came out later when the horses were being fed dinner. Greta was in a corner of the pasture. Pacing. She kept looking towards the big barn. What was going on????

I went out there to her and found a bite mark and a kick mark. I was expecting that: she's gotta establish her place in the herd. She would hang out with her new mare buddy, Gracie, whenever she came over, but if she left, Greta continued to pace. I put her halter on and tried to lead her around the pasture. Bad idea!

She did the loopty-loops again, at a trot, and I had to drag her away from that corner to the round bale and again to the water, where she stuck her whole nose in to drink. That was good at least! I made her stop, and once she stayed at a stop I pat her and let her go. She went right back into that corner. Ugh!

Still couldn't get the tack room door to close when I put her halter up.

But at least she's moved, right?

I'll see how she is tomorrow. I'll bring her in and groom her and clean off that kick wound (it's superficial) and bite mark. And then I'll actually ride her. I haven't rode her in the past week! Shame on me! But I should be able to from now on, because now I won't be dogged to take care of the rest of the barn first. It's all Greta now!

Gosh, I hope she's not pacing again tomorrow.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Guusje fan, Breanna, from Texas USA trying to pronounce Dutch name "Guus"

I am still cracking up at this. Originally from a video on my YouTube account, and Jolanda got a hold of it, so the fun began! Enjoy my butchering of Guusje's name! Love ya guys!

I am sooooo still laughing.

Ignore the dead-end, nasty hair (got it cut, and totally re-styled!) and the horse-infested room!

Tomorrow Greta moves! Everything's ready, let the fun begin! Also, found out that my PreMed/Clinicals teacher also boards her horse at the new stables. That should be interesting.....

Also, about my earlier post about the record-breaking 89.? % dressage test by Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas.... I found a much better version and actually heard the music. Pretty epic-sounding stuff. I love it!! He even throws some Pirates of the Caribbean in the canter! I'm such a hypocrite. Enjoy!

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Enjoy your horse"

Just some pre-school (no, not that pre-school) pausing for consideration. This summer with Greta has been nothing short of an exhilarating roller coaster ride. Might as well blog about it.

I guess I could say that I have this jealousy of those excellent riders I see on the covers of Dressage Today. They don't bounce all over the place sitting the trot. Their feet don't do the Charleston or the hillbilly jig when they post the trot. Their canters are collected and controlled. Their horses are supple and rounded and on the bit. They are nothing short of perfect. I admit it: I am insanely jealous. Why can't I be there? I've already shown successfully at Training Level. Greta is supposedly trained up to third level. And I've seen her, felt her, collect the canter and the trot and even do a flying lead change. But I didn't ask for it. It seems like everything I do ask is just responded with a burst of speed. What am I doing wrong?

What am I doing wrong? Well, let's answer that.

"Foundations" is a song by Kate Nash. One of the lines, she sings in her very-apparent British accent, "My fingertips are holding onto the cracks in our foundations / And I know that I should let go / But I can't."

We have cracks in our foundations. I'm expecting instant perfection, even though my instant perfection from previous horses was primarily due to the fact that they were all schoolmaster horses that I was riding. Of course I looked good. Greta has a year and a half of retraining for polo and who-knows-what-else between her previous training and now. I do put some slight blame on our riding situation until the end of this week, but it doesn't even compare to how rusty we both are.

I am holding onto the cracks in our foundations. I'm blaming this and blaming that. I'm expecting perfection in that instant. There have been a few times in this past three months I have just hopped up on her and gotten frustrated at myself for not knowing what the hell I was doing and then getting frustrated at poor Greta because she was hyped because I was hyped up. I know that I should let go of all this frustration with our riding status, but I have not.

I took Greta out on a trail three times this summer. Each and every time was so very refreshing. We were just dawdling along, just us. I took her into her pasture, the least hole-y of the pastures, and just rode her. Let her run around a bit. We had a blast.

Today was my last lesson at the HELP Barn. The arena was closed off, so we had to do a lesson in the pasture. I was already frustrated at my inability to wake up on time and the fact that the arena was closed off and the fact that there were still ditches around the barn from where they were planning to lay the new electrical wire and the fact that I hadn't ridden Greta for two days and the fact that she had gotten into a fight with a temporary pasture mate and I felt that Greta was just about being blamed for something that the other mare equal dealing with (neither sustained serious injuries anyway!) The mess of it all was just frying my brain. I was calm grooming Greta and tacking her up and talking to her and cuddling with her and telling her honestly what a perfect and beautiful horse she was. And then I got on her.

A big open field seemed much more ideal than a tiny intended-for-walking-only arena. But my frustration made me stiff and anxious. I bounced all over the place at the trot, our canter was totally on-the-forehand, and I still couldn't get my feet just where I wanted them. Greta's weaving all through the mesquite sproutlings was driving me crazy and throwing me off which threw Greta off. It was disastrous. Finally, I just stopped and gave Greta her head and walked her. I suddenly realized my stiff back and my clenched jaw.

I let go of the cracks in our foundation and I moved on. I actually relaxed. I felt better. I felt calmly happy. I tried a trot. Smooth. Perfect. I tried a canter. Collected. Controlled. A walk.

"Perfect!" my instructor called.

This was. This was perfect. We were tapping into the little thing called harmony.

The lesson ended, my instructor walked up to me. "Cool her down and quit trying to make everything like a lesson. We're not cramming for a show. Enjoy your horse."

I walked Greta around, and she picked her way through the brushy part of the pasture like the smart, trail-savvy girl that she is. We walked. We reached the other end of the pasture and I halted. Greta seemed to follow my gaze to the other end, and she flicked an ear and eye back at me. I flopped over her neck and whispered, "Me and my temper. We'll get there.... eventually."

She perked both ears up at the end of the pasture. Nothing was there. I felt some energy churn up in her. We were in a big, open, spacious field. We walked for a few strides, and then we ran. I stood up in the irons and let her go.

I felt so silly about my petty frustrations. For God's sake, I have a horse of my very own! What more could I want? She still comes up to greet me and check in on me no matter how flustered I get. She came up to me and let me hold her the day Claudia went away. She called for me and nuzzled me when she heard me crying behind the barn the night we put Rocket down. Three months, and she is strangely already in tune with me. What was my problem?

I saw what Greta had been looking at earlier. My instructor was at the entrance to the barn. I was embarrassed that she saw my cliche run. But she just smiled.

"Walk Greta," she called, "then you'll be done with your lesson."

Lesson indeed.

Excuse the rambling. Just a story.

I really do look forward to starting up school again and going out to groom Greta for the rest of the week, and then the rest of next week, and maybe the next week after that while she and I both get adjusted to the new stables. Besides, riding isn't everything. It's fun, yes, but I find it just as fun to sit and socialize.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Heads up....

Will ride Greta tonight and tomorrow morning we have a lesson. I'll ride her Sunday night and hopefully Monday morning (I'll see how getting school parking permits and a new ID goes). Tuesday I start school! From there on, I'll hopefully ride her in the afternoons, if not just lunge her, if not just hang out and groom her because anyone who has ever gone to high school knows how hectic they like to make the first week. The world of academia is a strange one indeed.

If you hear nothing from me until next Saturday the 29th (when Greta gets to go to the new stables!) then do not fret - not that I think any of you will. I love y'all but I got a life too heehee!

Until then, my "going away" shopping continues. I'm really tempted to get the brushes off of SmartPak: you can get your horse's name lazer-cut onto the handle! Oooh, it's so tempting! But so expensive.... hmm, that's horses for ya.

And until until then, enjoy some killer cross-country vids of my friend's new horse, Pepo!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bits of fitness and liniments

Bits Here is some good info on the bits and nosebands (above the bits section). Currently Greta is in an eggbutt snaffle. When she was a polo pony, and probably in her previous dressage career, she was in a pelham or a double bridle. It was not used harshly, but it gave me something to think about when it came to buying a bit. I wanted something that was legal in dressage - though there are some pieces of tack that are legal in dressage that I think should be far from legal, but I'll save that for another day - but the regular loose-ring snaffle just seemed too sharp and narrow for novice hands. Eggbutts are wider, don't pinch the lips, nor do they rattle around as much. Yes, they are more expensive, but welcome to world of horses!

Greta has been crossing her jaw and opening her mouth a lot lately when I ask for her to slow up or rein back. I'm no professional and I might just be doing something wrong, but my gut instinct is that there's something up in Greta's mouth... or she's just having an attitude. She currently without a noseband until her new cob-sized figure 8 comes in, thank goodness. The plain cavesson that was originally on her bridle serves no purpose, so why have it there? I'm still keeping it though, just in case.

Just a forewarning... we'll see how things are after the noseband comes in. I might need to get a three-jointed bit. I hope not though. I'm already Craigslisting the old noseband and the saddle pad that I thought would work under the new saddle. It worked great under the old saddle but jeez I just want something to work for once! Well, the saddle has, so that counts. I might want to start looking at a French-link eggbutt snaffle, or something of the like.

Fitness I discovered the blog The Jumping Percheron and boy do I feel out of shape now! I keep forgetting that just not eating in excess and sometimes eating right (after reading Fast Food Nation I want to avoid any fast food as much as I possibly can, not just because of the disgustingness of the food, but because of the politics of the big fast food companies, the crap deals the ranchers, farmers, and suppliers get, and the gross obesity "outbreak" sweeping the nation, seriously I cannot go anywhere without seeing a "curvy" person.... agh, don't get me started on it!) does not mean that I am technically in shape. I can guarantee you that my fat percent is undesirable and my muscle mass and functionality is just above plain weak. Working with horses has definitely helped me work up some muscle, but I could afford to do some more.

As for Greta.... she is actually pretty fit since I have been working consistently with her (she had been put out to pasture for a few months before she was sold, and I know she liked it to a certain degree!) but we could afford to do some stretches. I know a few already.... and I did them once...... They don't take that long: I'll live. Greta could care less!

Liniments Today I groomed and tacked up Greta and got in the ring as I normally would, and two of my riding buddies were resting with their horses under the trees at the picnic table. They asked if I wanted to go for a trail ride behind the HELP Barn and the showjumping barn next door. I agreed, and I thought it would be nice change of pace for Greta, who I am sure is getting tired of running around a small arena all morning.

We walked around the trails, and go to where next door had cleared out land for new pastures or a cross-country course or something. Where the trucks had driven consistently over it, it was fine and flat and I felt comfortable enough to let Greta trot over it. We walked back around the trails behind our barn, and then went back over next door. Friends wanted to venture out off the trail (it was all just one big plot of dirt hills and gullies at this point, so it wasn't like we couldn't see the trail) and I hesitantly agreed. The dirt was deep! I could see the other horse's legs go almost mid-cannon into the dirt. Poor Greta hasn't been worked for two days, and all of the sudden I'm asking her to not only ride around on trails for a long time, but now go through deep dirt! We might as well be running around in deep water! I had to cut things off at that point, I just didn't feel safe at all, and told the other two I'd be heading back to the arena. We got to the arena, I walked her around once under saddle and got off and hand-walked her both ways once as well. Then I brought her into the barn and untacked and hosed her off and rubbed her down. You think she's spoiled?

I had remembered seeing some Absorbine Veterinary Liniment in the medicine cabinet in the barn. Greta had a particularly lengthy and strenuous workout today, so I thought some liniment might be good. This was always applied on the horses after a long trail ride at my old western barn, so I thought it was worth a shot. The back of the bottle said to rub it in (with a good warning of if you rub, don't wrap!) on the legs. I didn't have hot water to steam the pores open, so I had to put it on in a small amount. Greta seemed to feel much better afterwards. Even if she wasn't sore, it probably felt good anyway.

So now I know something else I need to add to my "going away" kit (aka, all the stuff that I could share at the old barn is now on my own terms at new barn, I already have some) is Absorbine Veterinary Liniment Gel. That is the stuff I had always used on Emma and Song - foster horses from long ago - when arthritis or in Song's case the pressure of having a baby on her skinny legs (seriously, you don't breed if you can't feed it, come on people!) caused some leg pains. I also learned never to rub my eyes until I had thoroughly washed it all off my hands. Then I learned to just use a towel. Go me!

So Far...
  • Towels (two for rubbing down/drying off, one for occasionally applying liniments/poultices, and extra one just in case)
  • Body brush
  • Whitening shampoo
  • Paddle brush
  • Conditioner
  • Braiding bands
  • Liniment gel
Already have...
  • Hoof pick with hoof brush
  • Soft curry and coarse curry
  • 2 Small towels, one for face and one for the "lady areas"
  • hoof conditioner
  • mint-flavored pet toothpaste (keeps those chompers pearly white and lasting longer!
Anything else guys?

I will look into getting a set of clippers when winter draws closer, because I don't know if Greta will become a yak or if she'll be like Claudia and have just small layer of shag, and I'll also see how our work level is. A quarter sheet is a must nonetheless, because I don't want to do a full body clip (I don't want to show in the winter anyway). I won't invest in standing wraps unless Greta needs them, same with polo wraps, or anything that goes around her legs. We don't do highly strenuous movements like the piaffe or passage or (God forbid) airs above the ground.

It would be great if I could just sit the trot at this point.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

S.O.S. Sing Or Speak

When a mare is in heat, they tend to be more alert. Not for predators, not for obstacles, not for other people. No, God forbid they focus on typical things. What are they looking for? STUDS! Boys! Boys! Boys! Boys! Boys! Boys! OMG BOYYYYYSSSSSSS!

That's my impersonation of Greta when she's just going into heat.... she get's over it after a while. TBH She's really only bad when she's in that annual breeding heat. But any other time she is as placid as a gelding or just a little bit more alert.

So when she's more alert, it can make riding a challenge. She knows to focus on me, but instinctively she wants to REALLY focus on her surroundings. I've kind of voice-keyed her to the word "Focus!" when I really want her attention, and just "Greta" any other time. You can tell when she's not listening to me because her ears are straight forward, or occasionally flicking back to me for a second, then flicking forward. That's great when she's out in the pasture being a horse, but when I'm riding her I kind of want us to work as a team, not her still in "pasture mode" and me really being the only one who's doing all the "work." So I tell her "focus!" and she snaps back into riding mode and things seem to go along better.

If there's nobody around and Greta begins to get a little ancy, I'll sing to her. I've done this with all of the horses I've had and it seems to calm them down. But I'll only do it when nobody's around, because it gets kind of embarrassing otherwise and I don't want to play up "I'm a horse whisperer. Horses love me cuz I sing to them" and that la-tee-dah crap. Cuz I am far from a horse whisperer!

All of the horses have seemed to like Bob Marley songs so far. Greta likes "Three Little Birds" in particular (singing don't worry, about a thing, cuz every little thing is gonna be all right!)

So I was pleasantly surprised to see some of my little "secrets" in a lecture by Jane Savoie - though I thought that the sound of my voice relaxed the horses, but apparently it could also do with your breathing rate and thus your brain waves and overall stress rate. I don't get to go to clinics all that much, and Jane Savoie is the only pro dressage rider out there that has a YouTube. Easy access! She looks like a good horsewoman too. Far from a Sjef Janssen......

Wish I could've attended that.

And on a final note: I haven't touched on this all but a few scant times in the blog because I didn't want to make a big deal about it. But.... we are officially moving Greta, not just considering it! It is of no offense to where she was being kept before, but my family decided it would be more logical for Greta to be boarded at a facility with an actual dressage ring than at a handicapped riding center:

  • Big green pasture with lots of trees and moderation of horses
  • one covered arena with lights (thank GOD!)
  • an uncovered arena with lights (both arenas are unobstructed)
  • two round pens (one with lights)
  • a semi-private tack room for pasture horses (so I know longer have to lug tack back and forth in the poor little SmartCar)
  • Lots of trails and near a state park that also has horse trails and creeks so we can go swimming!
  • Tacking up area
  • Grooming area
  • Farrier station (and they use our farrier too!)
  • Vet stockade (not like Greta will need that......)
  • Warm water wash rack indoors
  • Cold water wash rack outdoors
  • Very sensible manager (and a very thorough contract)
  • Very well-kept, sociable, sane horses (which shows everyone gets attention!)
  • Coded gate with a super fancy gate design (wish I had a picture!)
  • and the list goes on and on......
I think Greta will find the place to her liking. She will be moved by September 1st, so be on the lookout for "first day" pictures!

And lastly, Snoop Dog attempts to feed a horse. Cute. And I mean that sarcastically.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Can't you see the resemblence?

Sorry for the recent blog spam, but I just had to laugh at this!

I had the urge to watch The Last Unicorn (one of my favorite animated movies, next to The Lion King) and I couldn't help but notice the similarities between Greta and the unicorn! Can't you see the resemblance?

Even the way they hold their lower lip and everything! LMAO!

You know this a partial joke, right? Just making sure. But they do both kind of hang their lower lip. And they have very bright, expressive eyes. And they're both "white". And they both have long, slender ears. And they're both quite glamorously gorgeous. I just hope Greta doesn't break out into song. I'd be worried then.

I've been thinking of a show name for Greta for next year, and I was really just thinking that "Greta" would be good. But I think "Amalthea" might be really cute too. Ooh, that sounds really good! We'll see when registration time comes in January! We got a ways to go!

Oh, it's just so exciting!

Oh, a quirky question for everyone.... I just have always liked whoever voiced the unicorn. It's perfect. Who do you think would voice your horse if they could talk?

I think Greta would sound like Ashley Greene. Or maybe Ellen Page? I can't decide haha!

Very Important Update: I have decided: Greta would sound like Ashley Greene LOL

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Random essay


I've had Greta for over two months now, and yet the entire concept of actually having a horse to love and ride is still a bit unreal. A horse of my own has only been a dream in my head since I was seven, when I had my first riding lesson on a cross Shetland mare ironically name Jiffy, and surely I had wisps of that dream even before then.

But now, it's real. Really real.

After working with rescue horses and lesson horses for so many years, I'm used to horses coming and going. I'll get very attached to one, and then they go to a new home. I'm happy for them, because they'll be with that special someone forever. I was left in the dust awaiting the next horse to come along so I could help them, too.

Once Claudia left, things began to settle in place it seems. Slugger, the charismatic quarter horse I took my first dressage lessons on and went to my first show with, had moved up to Tyler with my first instructor, his owner. A few months later, Claudia went to her new home. I thought that perhaps I might have her forever, since I had been there the day she was picked up and I had been there through all of her surgeries and incidents for four years. So when she left, I really felt left in the dust.

And then along came this Craigslist ad with a fuzzy picture of a white horse grazing and her head turned away from the camera. Not the most attractive picture, but the mare was said to be trained in dressage and very nice. My family and I had been looking. Just looking. Not really taking anything serious. Usually the nice horses are also the unreachable horses, right? They're too expensive, too far away. But not this mare. We might just take a look.

Driving up that dirt road, in my tan jodhpurs and leather boots fitted over a downsizing swollen ankle from a previous horse incident (not fun trying to cram tall boots over) and a polo on so I could look somewhat nice, I didn't know what to expect. We were looking at this mare first because her owner had gotten back with us first. That's all. I wasn't setting myself up too high....

But I saw this mare's pretty face nicely tied to the trailer, her bright inquisitive eyes looking at me, her growing mane sticking straight up, and the most beautiful grey coat I had ever seen glowing the Texas sun. She had me from the first sniff of my hand, the first casual head scratch against my arm, and the first big breath of horse air when I breathed into her nose.

But I had to try her out under saddle too. Already I was giddy of the prospect of not just owning a horse, but this horse. I could actually ride her too!

She listened to my aids, as muffled and rusty as they were, and she tried to please me as best as she could. She even did a half pass when I unintentionally asked her to! This was the one, there couldn't be any other. My grin said, "cancel all the other offers. This is it. This is her."

But the vet came the next day. She had to have a physical examination, and she flunked. He thought he felt something wrong with her leg. My hopes were crushed. Once again, another horse passed by and left me in the dust.

But I guess there was something in my absolute and unconditional enthusiasm towards this particular horse that pushed the x-ray to happen the next day. She was flawless standing in the x-ray room and being put in and out of the vet stock for over an hour-and-a-half. It was all worth it: it was a false alarm. She was clear.

When I came out to the barn, and took Greta - and it felt so sweet to say, "my horse" - out of her stall and out into the pasture, it all felt dreamy. This was something I could only keep to myself in daydreams and taken away from me in nightmares. But now it was all real. Really real.

It's real enough so I can honestly say, "my horse is my best friend and my own little charismatic, dazzling, elegant, grey miracle."

I look fly, I look good!

HAHA! Yes, I love that song. It's Greta's anthem right now (nothing like Chalie Boy and horses, eh?) Oh, yeah!

Ahem. Anyway....

I did an official test ride today, as in both my instructor and the Director of Equine Care (aka, a very knowledgeable horsewoman) checked out the saddle with and without me riding it, made sure I had it on right, most importantly made sure it fit Greta right, and so on. My mother-dearest got video footage of us riding with it, so I could see for myself, and we look pretty good! I keep thinking that every time we sit the trot it just looks horrible, as Greta's trot is so bumpy to sit, but then I watch it on video and we look fine. So deceptive!

She had a really nice canter going though. It felt a bit more collected than her usual "I'm a polo pony, gotta flat-out gallop and be on the forehand like a cross country horse!" canter haha! Cutie.

Obviously, the videos have found their way into my Sony Vegas program, slapped together with some snazzy effects, and put up on YouTube for the world to see. So enjoi!

Said mother-dearest also got some fabelachtig beelden (fabulous pictures) of Greta in the Wintec. I didn't braid up her mane for show - it's quite shoddily done, anyway, since each braid is just held up by being rubber-banded back under itself hehe - but just to keep her growing mane off her neck while we did our little fifteen-minute ride so her neck had more area to aerate. It is just too darn hot at 5:00!

I'd love to get Greta's mane to grow out long and thick like Jolanda's horse. It would give me an excuse to go out to the barn every day ("Guys, I have to go to the barn! Greta's mane needs re-braiding so nothing gets pulled out!") Oh, and yes, that's a fjord in the link!

We still have a ways to go. It's growing out fast though, probably because the mane had just been roached instead of being pulled. Thank goodness!

My favorite picture is the last one. Kusje voor Greters!

And to finish things off, a GREAT quote from jacksongrrl's blog:

Not everyone can win national titles. Very few ever compete beyond the local or regional level, and only the especially fortunate ever make it onto the world stage. But no one who has ever sat in a saddle....HAS LOST.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Until then....

The new saddle updates will be coming soon. Promise! Promise! So far it is working very well. I saw the sweat patterns on the underside of Greta's saddle pad and there were no pressure points. She seems to moving nicely underneath it too. Probably because my seat has improved. Such a good girl, always trying to figure out what the heck I'm telling her. I think we might just show after all sometime in the near future! I'm still debating on a show name... but we won't need that for quie some time.... like, next year!

Well, I was acting very.... female doggish this morning while riding. Heat and frustration was getting to me and I definitely had to get off before I completely blew up :(

Sorry, Greta.

So until some good footage comes of Greta under new saddle, enjoy this beautiful boy! Is name is Orpheo, or "Merlin" and he is a Spanish Lusitano. I love the Baroque breeds! Absolutely amazing footwork. I'm not a fan at all of bull-fighting, but this is still impressive. This is what I was talking about a few posts ago (the one entitled "Flashes and Figure 8s") about how the Spanish "cowboys" (or bullboys... or whatever they're called.... not the matadors, they just fight the bull!) incorporate dressage into their work. Now it's just mostly for show, but it's still friggin' cool to watch! I wish I could find one of them using the "long stick" that is used to herd the bulls. That is some other really cool stuff to watch!

From 3:09 on they actually show the horse in several bull fighting rounds. I know it bothers me, so I would just stop watching there :(

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"She's not top of the line..."

I have a barn buddy who is actually a guy. He doesn't go out to the barn for horses necessarily, but more as our junior fix-it guy when the fix-it guys aren't there or need help. He likes horses. That's about the only horse-related thing we have in common. He can ride, but only if he has to (and I laugh when he does). When it comes to carpentry, I can drill a nail in, drill a hole, and use a hammer. Barely. We both laugh when I'm given the task of driving a nail into some piece of wood. I'm usually only given it because I'm a last resort. And it doesn't need to be done well. I admire his handiwork, he admires my dressage riding. Nonetheless, we have other teenagery things in common: football (he plays, I watch with an educated eye) and school, friends, movies, the like.

So I was excited to show him a bit of my horsey world when we and and his grandmother -a friend of my instructor - made the long trip from Austin to Seguin (near San Antonio) to visit a gigantic tack store. His grandmother and my instructor were to pick up other items for thier horses, I went to try out a saddle I had seen online. We walk in and my jaw drops at the size and selection of the place, and then we all dispersed. They go and look for bridles, and I go on to admire the beautiful tooling of all the western show saddles.

My guy friend tags along with me and asks questions like "who would pay this much for a saddle?" and I tell that someone who wanted to look good and get attention in the ring would.

"God, I miss riding western sometimes. All the tack was super pretty. Dressage, everything is just black."

"So, get one of these! You're looking for a saddle right?" I look at him in horror.

"I'd get disqualified!"

He laughs. "Damn, they're that picky?" I laugh too.

"You have no idea..... oooh, they have an English section!"

I drag him over there. He watches me gaze in awe at the $3,000 Passiers and delicately set them on the plastic horse model and try them out.

"This is amazing!"

"It's just a saddle."

"Just a saddle? It's a Passier! A Passier!"


I jokingly scoff at his ignorance, remembering that my instructor and I were probably the only ones in the group who realized the amazing-ness of a Passier. I then saw the saddle I actually had intention to buy elsewhere: my Wintec synthetic. I try it on, and my instructor and I gawk, and then go to look at bridles. I, of course, eye the pretty ones with the padding and the crystal browbands. No intention of getting one, just admiring what I usually only see on the internet or in magazines or on Grand Prix horses.

Guy friend finally speaks out, "Why do you want to get all of this stuff?"

"I don't. I'm just admiring. Greta and I already have everything we need."

"No, I mean, why get stuff like this in the first place for your horse? She's not top of the line."

Why I oughtta....

I could not laugh this one off. My instructor froze and turned around. He had just pushed the envelope. Not top of the line! He knows just how much I love Greta! How much I dote over her and spend an hour-and-a-half after a 30 minute ride just grooming her. Again. I was being a bit materialistic, true, but how could he say this?

"She most certainly is top of the line! Her sire was imported from Sweden!" my instructor says, and lightly pops him on the head and walks away, leaving me to deal with it.

I sigh, cross my arms, and shake my head, trying to give the best "I'm very dissapointed in you" look I could give: something I have learned from watching the parental units. Not the best, but I tried.

"I don't care if she had been sired by a godawful-looking grade and then [foaled by a goat] she is my horse and I am allowed to spoil her. Besides, it's none of your business what I do and don't get for my horse. Just stop me if you see me getting one of those wire bits they had over there."

He shrunk away. We didn't really talk much afterwards until he apologized later during lunch:

"Sorry about what I said in the store-"

"I could see where you were coming from." He raised a brow.

"You just worded it very wrongly. What you should've said is, 'I understand you love Greta very much, but she doesn't care whether or not you get her the $3,000 Passier or the $50 used one off of Craigslist. She could care less if you ride her at all. She could care less who her parents' parents' parents were. What she does care about is that you are her human and that you care for her and watch out for her as she does for you despite all of your antics. You do, and that's all that matters. Though nice saddles are great, too.'"

"I don't know if I could've thought that one up...."

"You didn't need to. It was just a personal eureka." And then I went on to sprinkle some salt on the chips.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Faster than a cross country run

Like the saddle? Or the messy desk? Or both? Nonetheless, the saddle came in one week! I was anticipating two to three weeks like the confirmation email had said. Go!

  • Wintec 500 Dressage (not the Pro version... this one lacks the unsightly and dysfunctional thigh blocks)
  • Black (obviously.... cuz it's a dressage saddle, right? Though I've seen brown ones that look pretty snazzy)
  • 18" seat for my long legs. And the seat itself is deep but not huge and the leg panels are nice and long, which is perfect.
  • Easy change gullet system... comes with medium and hopefully that will work. If not, I have a feeling a medium wide will work. This is a great idea because it is much cheaper to get a different gullet than it is to get a whole new saddle or get it readjusted by a professional saddler (these are meant so you can open it, screw it in, and go actually ride on the saddle!)
  • Synthetic! Easy to take care of.... and I didn't kill three cows........ and it still looks like leather. I don't like cows, but the thought of two or three for a petty saddle.... jeez!
  • Downside: long billets! PLEASE don't tell me I have to get a new girth. Won't be a killer, but still :(
I wanted to run out and try it on Greta when I got it.... but it would make more sense to try it on tomorrow morning when I'll be riding her. The suspense is killing me! Totally sad!

Greta had her spurt of "craziness" from the beginning of her heat cycle yesterday. Today she was a saint. I give credit to the raspberry leaves once a day only when she's in heat (does wonders for moody mares) and the fact that I'm used to her now. She's also used to where she is. Instructor says that she's also starting to trust me and get used to my crazy riding. Aww. I love you too, der Greters!

I'll be posting up pics and video tomorrow of the test ride. Hopefully all will go well!

I also want to post some actual stories soon. Maybe some more opinions. We'll see what comes up!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mayhem and Foolishness

I have been a temporary hiatus - internet-wise that is. Riding has continued as normal, but with school dawning closer and closer - looming over the thousands of children with summer dreams still dancing in their heads like a starving lion going after the youngest antelope.... haha just kidding, I'm actually kind of excited to get things moving along again - I am having to consider some things involving Greta.

  1. Riding - if not in the morning, when? So far, I am thinking that a schedule I want to work out is to go to school, come home, do homework, and ride then go out and ride Greta (or just socialize if I had a pileup of school work... and I know there'll be the few nights where I just can't do it and I have to skip out on the barn. Sorry Greta! Believe me, those few missed days will be worth it when I haul you off to Texas A&M and then to a new, nice, permanent barn when I get that vet job. My mind's set, no problems! Hopefully....)
  2. Instruction - my very close and very good instructor can only teach me so much... we are nearing that point. I want to continue learning, and hopefully we can find an instructor who can either A) come to our barn (really, really hope so!) or B) is in a very close and reasonable proximity and who's barn offers reasonable prices as far as horse boarding (hopefully not this option as Greta loves her Sneaky and I would hate to see her have to get used to a new place all over again.)
Well, that would be a couple of things to consider. Oops.

I'll think on all of that.

But in the meantime, Greta has some new additions to her "wardrobe". First and foremost: a new Wintec 500 Dressage Saddle!! Not the Pro version with the huge and ugly knee rolls that hinder one's ability to be able to move their leg back and forth for certain movements. Just a classic, genuine dressage saddle that will hopefully fit Greta right and me right. And it's synthetic, so me and my laziness don't have to actually oil a saddle. Blasphemy!

My family and a few of the other volunteers from the handicapped riding program (where Greta is being boarded at) went all the way down to Seguin, Texas to go to D&D Tack. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and this tack store defnitely lived up to the name. It was HUGE! I was in hog, err, I mean horse heaven. They did have the saddle I was at the time considering to buy, and I tried it out and I loved it, hence why we bought for a much better price and new online the minute we got home. I will be donating my all-purpose to the riding program. It done good.

We went to the tack store to try and find some nylon headstalls for the lesson horses. They had them in lavender, so of course I got it for der Greters. For just-messing-around riding. It's really pretty!

As for Greta's new crossed noseband... well, the term "horse" meant "full sized" to this company, or they think that a horse who uses a crossed noseband must obviously be a big ass warmblood.

I other words, we're poking some more holes in Greta's noseband. But hey, at least we finally got it!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This is inspiring!

Well, the Adequan FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Champsions (NAJYRC, please) just concluded last weekend in Lexington, Kentucky at the Kentucky Horse Park. I have been to the horse park myself twice, and the second time I went - though I was unaware of it at the time - they were having the NAJYRC going on. I saw some of the riders doing dressage and I was happy to see others doing what I was just barely getting into at the time.

On they followed a rider a from each of the disciplines. Surprisingly, there were two very nice-looking boys riding: Jacob Fletcher in Eventing (but goodness talk about not the best dressage rider!) and Karl Cook in Showjumping. Both had quite the show record racked up and were riding horses that soembody else owned and that they had only been riding for a very short time. Not something uncommon in the higher ranks of riding - save Gina Miles and MacKinleigh (a favorite eventing duo of mine!) and a select few other riders.

There was one girl, the dressage rider in fact, that really inspired me though. Her story speaks to me, "You don't have to be filthy stinking rich and ride other people's horses and have an already well-established showing record and have a horse already trained for you to get into NAJYRC." Corny, but in a nutshell that's what I thought!

It is expensive to get in though - last I looked the cost racked up about $500+ (the majority of it going to a silly FEI horse passport that cost $300. Seriously now. I could buy a nice synthetic saddle with that money. And do I need a passport if I live in the U.S. already? Last I checked Texas and Kentucky are in the same country!) Regardless....

Her name is Alis Claiborne and her horse is a Dutch Warmblood named Navarro. She is riding a horse that she worked from the ground up. He is 14 years old and she got him three years ago. There's a twist: he was totally unrideable at age 11! My goodness! She began showing him at first and second level after about a year, and then third level the next, and look at them now. They only got a 59.47 score, but they looked pretty dang good to me for a hot green horse and green rider! Congratulations to both of them!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Augusti Goles

August Goals

Inspired by Andrea on Eventing-A-GoGo, I am hoping to keep a monthly list on my blog of riding goals for every month. They should hopefully keep things in check so I don't work on our poor half halts one day and then expect Greta to magically give me a simple lead change the next. I know better!
  1. Continue working staying on the bit. The new, properly-fitting saddle I've almost saved up enough money for should help a lot, as I found the one I have is way too small! I'm sorry Greta! But I also need to work on "pushing her into the bit," as my instructor put it, with my legs. It isn't all the saddle's fault!
  2. Sitting the trot, and posting it. Though I feel I post my trot pretty darn well, I will need to continue using it in schooling no matter how high up I get, and also I'll need to use in competition in training level and first level - I plan to start off Greta at Training level next year (if at that time I feel it would work out) so we can know for sure that the basics are down. You mess up on the basics, and things will be pretty difficult the rest of the way!
  3. Voltes! Once Greta gets trotting it down, I'm going to try canter. Once we have all three gaits in a volte down, I'll work on making them smaller and smaller.
  4. Basic extension and collection of the gaits.
  5. I still resort to flopping my arms around like a chicken occasionally if Greta decides to pick up the pace when I'm sitting the trot. That's a definite no-no!
So there are my Augusti Goles. That's Svenska/Swedish for "August Goals" cuz Greta's a Swedish Warmblood, get it? Eh? Eh? Oh, nevermind..... ;)

My friend (JEM Photography) came out and took some pictures and video of me riding Greta, and also of me turning working girl Greta into My Pretty Pony afterwards. The video is at the top. A few of the pictures are as follows. I love the ones of me walking Greta back to the barn. The riding ones.... well let's just say Greta had some pent up energy from not being ridden for two days and I had been kind of out of the game for two days as well. It just wasn't pretty!

Checking the arena out

Aargh, my posture! Oh, my eyes!!! They burn!!! Well, at least my upper body looks good.

Adjusting the girth. Greta is so patient.

She is picking up her feet nicely.

My favorite picture of me riding Greta!

Free walk. And donkeys.

Walking back to the barn.

Another very pretty shot.

Kusje voor Greters!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Flashes and Figure 8s

Greta needs a noseband!
When one thinks of a dressage bridle, usually they will think of a things like a french link snaffle and a flash noseband for the levels below Prix St. George and then a full bridle (two bits with two separate sets of reins, the most unattractive peice of tack I have ever seen) with usually a crank/Swedish cavesson (even though it is a German invention, and it is unnecessarily cruel, I think) or just a regular (French?) cavesson.

What about figure-8/crossed/Mexican/grackle nosebands, hmm?

"Only jumpers use them." True, but I would word it as mostly jumpers use them. Eventers use them too.

"They're not stylish in the dressage arena." Well, I think they look pretty snazzy myself, but that shouldn't be why you purchase a particular type of noseband.

"They're not legal for competition." Oh yes, they are! According to DR121 Sec. 2 of the USEF Dressage guidelines, and I quote:

For Training, First and Second Level tests and FEI Pony tests, a plain snaffle bridle is required with a regular cavesson, a dropped noseband, a flash noseband (a combination of a cavesson noseband and a dropped noseband attachment) or a crossed noseband.

And read this from DR121 Sec. 3:

For Federation Third and Fourth Level tests same as (2) above, or a simple double bridle bridoon [snaffle] and bit [curb] and curb chain, lip strap and rubber or leather cover for curb chain optional, cavesson noseband only).

Read it for yourself.

It is only once you get beyond the FEI Junior Preliminary tests that you must use a full bridle. I'm not going for Grand Prix. A regular snaffle will suffice for most of my riding days.

The Flash Noseband or Swedish Cavesson
Why do I bring up the Figure-8 noseband?

Because I have this little problem with flash nosebands. I do need something to keep the bit in place in Greta's mouth, and it must be legal for dressage. If I went with what everybody else got, I'd go out and get a flash noseband. But me, being Miss "It must be good for the horse too!" I did some research.

Flash nosebands are notorious for being tightened too much, inducing flaring nostrils and horses that are slick and shiny by the time they leave the show or even end a simple workout. A good rule to go by is that you should be able to put two fingers worth between the horse and the noseband. That's great if your fingers actually measure and inch in length. Mine are like sticks. Two fingers is maybe and inch-and-a-quarter. You'd be surprised how big a horse's nostrils can get to allow in air. Just look at a closeup of a horse doing four-star cross country and you'll see what I mean. They flare.

Some examples of improperly fitted flash nosebands. Notice how they some are so tight that the cavesson, which should be up just in front of the jawbone, is practically three-quarters down the bridge of the nose:

This one is not as bad it could be, but notice how the horse's nostrils seem to be squeezed a bit, and how the cavesson (this is a funky-looking cavesson though) is drawn downward. That is usually a sign that the flash noseband is too tight. But it is a very easy-to-make mistake, as what fits a horse when they are relaxed and being tacked up is very different then when they are working and their nostrils are expanding to allow in more air.

This is a much more extreme example. Ignore the fact that whoever tacked up this horse is doing overkill with a curb bit (if that's what this Spanish-Inquisition-era-looking bit is) and a flash noseband, but my God that noseband is too tight! See how wide the nostrils can expand? They might not be that wide if the horse didn't have to struggle for air, but still....

My favorite example from Sustainable Dressage. Do I need to say more?

I've heard mixed reviews on the mechanics of a flash noseband, some saying that they are not engineered correctly in the first place and others saying that they are good when adjusted and used right. And I do have to admit - and I feel the same with polo wraps or medicine boots or anything that goes around a horse's leg for that matter, afterall, no leg no horse - flash nosebands can serve their purpose of keeping the bit in place and/or the horse's mouth shut if they are used right. But you have to know how to use them right. They can do much more harm then good unless you know exactly what you are doing.

A much more properly fitted flash. See how much more clearance the horse's nostrils have? Now we just need to see how it looks when the horse is being worked.

Oh, what a sight for sore eyes. I was looking through Google Images after almost an hour of seeing improperly-fitted nosebands on horses doing extended trots and collected canters, nostrils flaring and eyes rolling back in pain. Not pretty. This horse looks like it's doing some sort of work, but nonetheless, the flash band fits!

The Figure-8, Mexican, Grackle, or Crossed Noseband
It's funny, because the flash noseband was invented for use in jumping and the crossed noseband was developed off of a noseband that the vaqueros and Spanish riders used in not only cattle working, but also in the strongly-dressage-influenced moves that one would see a horse perform during bull fighting (though I am not in any way a fan of bull fighting, it is amazing to see these horses so gracefully move out of the way with not even a flick of the hand and only a slight tense of the calf or shift of seat. Quite beautiful, despite the cruelty of the sport.)

Looks like they switched! Flash bands reassigned themselves to dressage, and crossed nosebands went to jumping. That's what happens when people experiment with what they think might be best for their horse (and discipline.)

Figure-8 nosebands are more commonly found in jumping and eventing because of their clearance of the nostrils. They allow the horse to breathe in a practically inhibited way but still keep the bit in place. And I think they look quite snazzy.

See how much more clearance of the airway this beautiful horse has? Now let's see some in action!

Those horses are obviously doing some jumping, which I admit, is a bit more aerobic than doing level 1 dressage! Especially that last cross country pic. But alas! Both horses seem to not be asphyxiated! Praise the Lord!

In Conclusion
Yes, flash nosebands are more commonly seen and accepted in dressage, but I am not a fan of the dangers of them not being fitted right. A figure-8 noseband allows more clearance of the airways and if it tightened too much you'll have some unsightly (and uncomfortable for the horse) rubbing, but that can be a lot easier to fix than a horse that suffocates. Hopefully I can recognize when a noseband is too tight!

And don't think you'll change my mind: Greta's new Kincade figure-8 noseband came in yesterday! All that needs doing now is some fitting with help from my instructor and to dye it black with the help of my leather-savvy grandfather and myself and some good quality leather dyes. I think we can suffice.

I'll put pictures up as soon as I get the noseband correctly on Greta!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

High Volte-age

Well, Greta and I have discovered a wonderful little exercise called a volte. For all the non-dressage people out there, a volte is where you go around in a little 10-meter circle - it doesn't seem that bad on the ground, but once you're on top of a horse, it makes those 10 meters feel like 2 - and is apparently a common exercise, hence where all the ignorant statements about dressage being "where you just run the horse around in circles" come from! We do use them a lot, yes, but it is for good reason. In accordance to article by George Williams from the Dressage Today magazine. My comments are in yellow:

Excersise 1: the basic volte is a small circle usually 6, 8, or 10 meters. The primary difference between riding a 20-meter circle and a volte is that bending of the horse's body is the first priority on the larger circle, while turning is the first priority on the smaller one. Bending creates an inside and an outside , which encourages the horse to "fill out" the outside aids. Then, the outside aids (hand, knee, thigh and calf) can turn the horse. This should not be confused with neck reining I don't see how it would be considering the way you hold the reins is a big difference! Well, if they're talking western neck-reining. But that is regardless.... In the volte, the bending aids must be so well-established that the horse retains the bend when the rider uses the outside aids to turn him.

The paragraph goes on about the technicalities of the volte, but I'll try and summarize with how I interpreted it (which might be totally wrong!)

The circle is so small that the horse cannot efficiently turn unless he actually bends as a whole. A larger twenty-meter circle would have him not bend so much, since he is not making that tight of a turn. The larger circle just teaches him to listen to your turning aids, which will become more and more defined and exact as you move up in the levels. The tight turn of a volte exercises the muscles that will later help him to collect himself, because in the tighter turn, the horse must step under himself more to control their hind thrust and they must collect their front end - the two-wheel steering, so-to-speak - so they make that tighter circle. The volte, in general, is used as a collection exercise.

It is hard for a horse until his muscles get used to being used that way. It is different then the forward-moving trot they've usually been asked for at training level. Just try turning in a tight circle yourself for a little while, and you might feel a little crick here or there. But it is not bad for a horse, it is just toning up different muscles. And you'll need it later on!

Why do people usually refer to a general horse as a "he"? Just curious...

Anyway, I actually had to use my crop on Greta! It's brand-spanking new and really nice, but Greta has never needed for me to use it. The voltes needed some extra encouragement, and squeezing as hard as my skinny little legs could wasn't cutting it. I never had to whack her, just a light little tap, and then she listened for the rest of the way once she saw the crop in my hand. You're not supposed to whack 'em with it anyway unless they've repeatedly not listened to your aids. I always make sure I'm conveying my aids right before I resort to a firm tap. I wouldn't want to be punished for simply not understanding something!

Greta has gotten the hang of a 10-meter volte at the walk and trot. We could use a little more work on the trot, and then we'll try a canter. After we can perform a 10-meter volte very nicely, then we'll go onto 8, then 6. We have large cones in the arena that do help with judging the distance, though I do need to do some actual measuring!

Enjoy the little video that contains some footage of us "volte-ing" and the nice trot Greta had going on afterwards. The videos of us trotting before the volte are actually of her trotting after the volte, at about 0:36. The videos of us actually "volte-ing" start at 0:50. Once again, enjoy!