Sunday, January 29, 2012

Super Cool Horse Video

First of all, THG trailer music makes it even better. And watch it twice, once to let it blow you away, and a second time to actually read the words, which are very well written.

Secondly, where has Bre been? I have been in the land of homework, quizzes, college, and ponies. Oh, and in a land called Lousiana. Well, almost in the land of Lousiana haha. I'll get back to you guys soon!

Also, Greta gets another vet check tomorrow! Hoping all goes well! I'll let ya know!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Okay, on dressage horses...

I'm going to try and keep this just shy of bashing. Because I'm kind of tired of seeing all these baby videos of horses bred to be dressage horses, by dressage horses, out of dressage horses and, more frustratingly, the results.

The jumping horses do not have to be an entirely different animal from a dressage horse! A good dressage horse has a big, forward, sloping shoulder so they can get as much movement out of it as possible. They also should have pretty powerful haunches for collecting. They should also have adjustable gaits. Wait, that's a great deal of jumping horses! That is a good, all-around English horse! A lot of your older dressage sires had plenty of babies that could go either way. These new ones? God forbid they have the conformation or durability to potentially jump, even if it's not planned for them. It's a good, solid, tried-and-true conformation base. Why mess with it? It worked for several hundred years.

But then, we couldn't have all those flashy trots!

I'm starting to get pretty darn tired of seeing all these sale and baby videos of horses with really flashy trots. Really flashy trots. And it's all the same. You start them under saddle, and it all looks the same: working trot, extended trot, collected trot, passage even! I certainly can't tell the difference, and the difference should be pretty blatantly obvious, shouldn't it?

And what about the walk? The canter? Why can't I see video of that? If they don't have an equally impressive walk or canter, then why on earth would I want them as a dressage horse? If I wanted a horse with a flashy trot only, I would just go into Saddlebreds or gaited horses or park Morgans or just hit the Scottsdale show!

So, what is it with the flashy trots? Is it because it looks nice to Molly Moneypockets who wants to start riding dressage but doesn't have a clue about horses? (Easy sell: "Look at his flashy trot!") Or do people just think judges are uneducated enough that they'll be awed by those gaits and nothing else will matter? Wrong, in case you were wondering. Does it make up for a sloppy rider? Is it because it's easier to hide them not being genuinely round? Is it so you can "GP quality" (uh-huh, try telling that to 17-year-old "I just retired after many years of working to the top" Satchmo and owners and riders) in a significantly shorter amount of time? If so, please read my quote by Mr. Montgomery on the side bar. Rollkur, breeding: none of it makes up for good ole' time and effort!

So somebody please answer this befuddling riddle!

There's a difference between a nice, tracking-up, fluid, adjustable trot and these overly-flashy, toe-flicking, super-suspended, jumpy, "it would be easier to adjust your mortgage than to adjust this gait" trots that people seem to want to breed for now. Horses bodies aren't meant to move that way. It can really wear them down over time, as evolution has not caught up to their bodies.

Besides, they are hell to sit.

Maybe I'm just overreacting. I probably am. I just saw a string of Totilas baby videos and thought, "HOLY MOLY WHY DO THEY ALL LOOK THE SAME? WHY CAN I ONLY SEE THEIR TROT? WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?!" And proceeded to have a slight spasm of frustration.

I'm probably looking at this all wrong. Somebody please correct me. Why these trots?

Stuff Riders Say - Episode 1

FINALLY SmartPak did one of these "sh*t people say" for equestrians! So true!
And clucking to anything and everything? GUILTY.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Working back to where we left off... plus a cool picture

This is our most recent trot picture. You might need to click on it to see it in a more larger format. Anyway, when I first saw the video, my heart sank a bit because I thought "Wow, her trot used to be so much nicer! I hope this doesn't mean anything permanent has been done!"

I was a wee bit concerned. Until I happened across her SWANA inspection papers again from when she was a wee girlie. Let's revisit this again, shall we?

Head, Neck, Body: Feminine, low set neck, deep sloping shoulder, well formed croup. (7)

Legs: thin below the knees (8)

Walk - energetic, ground covering
Trot - energetic, needs more suspension and understep defined

And, bam! There was my answer. I had forgotten that we had to work for that lovely trot I was getting out of her before diagnosis, at the peak of our summer training (overload haha). Just like you use your muscles differently and more efficiently to walk correctly or to sit up even, so did she to get that nice working trot. She has a great walk and canter naturally, her trot probably came from her QH momma (okay, not to hate on QHs, because they can do just about everything, but most stock-bred QHs cannot trot like Qredit. If one could, it would be called a freak). We had to work our butts off to get that engaged, more defined trot, like this:

I think we had some engagement going, hmm? But that required a lot of serpentines and all kinds of sick loop-de-loop exercises and inside leg that made her step under, which required a lot of core use from Greta. This photo was a freakishly engaged moment. Normally she was nicely engaged and stretching through the bit. This time she was like "LENGTHEN WITHOUT RUSHING? GAHBLAGHAFARGA!" and her topline muscles to stretch through to the bit were probably saying "SCREW YOU!"

Now, we won't be doing sick, perverted 10-loop serpentines down the long side for quite some time, but it makes me feel better to see that she used to trot like that and we had to work to get her up to a working level+ trot.

And frankly, looking at that first photo, it's still not bad. Even for being a tad on the forehand her shoulder not being completely in front of me, she's tracking up, and that hind leg (and that's the leg with the recovering injury lol) is still engaged, and not because I'm telling her. I put no leg on her at the trot, so she doesn't strain that hind suspensory. To ask her to lift that shoulder and bring that hind end underneath her at this stage of the game would be ill-advised.

She's kinda fat right now too (we've both lost some riding muscle heehee) so that might answer some questions too. The only time I really can do some core-strengthening exercises are at the walk, which it is quite nice to be able to work through the basics. She stretching through to the contact amazingly well.

Yay, dressage, it's like watching concrete dry AND grass grow AT THE SAME TIME!

And speaking of engagement, here's that really cool picture I mentioned. This is Lucy pony and Ally at the beach. Is this horse round OR WHAT?!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Another Butters Video (don't get jealous Greta...)

I'd just thought I'd post this up before I add some updates posts on Greta, the Micklem bridle, and... I'll get around to that Traditional Dress post part 2 one of these days (still trying to think of how to put it, bear with me). School begins again in two days, so I'm milking these last couple days of freedom. Granted, I feel a lot freer in college than I ever did in public school. My schedule, even though I got screwed over a bit but I'm a freshman with the min amount of hours so I was expecting that, is quite accommodating for riding and doing other things. Anyway, enjoy some Butters action from yesterday. My eq has a lot left to be desired, mainly I'm popping up a bit over fences (still getting used to the feeling of a jump) and I'm rounding my back in two-point and over fences, that's mainly from lack of core muscles (well, a different set than what's needed in dressage). At least I'm anchoring my heels more! Enough of that, enjoy Butterball the wonder horse.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

War Horse: Um... no :(

Well, after all the raving I and what seems to be the entirety of the movie world had been doing, I am sad to say that War Horse was, well... okay.

Was is cute? Yes. Was it memorable? Relatively so. Do I think it should win all the awards it's up for? No. Am I glad I paid for a movie ticket and a pretzel to go see? No. Probably should have waited for Blockbuster.

I actually went to go see it Thursday with all of my fellow barn bums. Which, I will add, it is quite fun to go straight from the barn in your breeches and polos and dusty tall boots to the movies! And out of the whole group, only two of us got really choked up (I think if I had not read the book, I might have too, although I did kind of choke up one scene, but I got over it) and most of us had a great laugh about the training techniques and gasped in unison at the horse running through six strands of barbed wire and then groaning that he didn't even get a scratch! But the training has since become an ongoing joke, along the lines of "just tell him what you want him to do! It really works!"

And teaching a horse to take a harness collar by both horse and human putting their head in at the same time? Let's just say ongoing joke number two is "Let's see whose nose gets broken first!"

The cinematography was beautiful. The special effects and CGIs were incredible. Kudos to the horse trainers, because those horses were quite well-trained and believable in their actions and even had some nice expressions going on, even if they were sometimes easy to tell apart. The riding was actually quite decent (especially the calvary charge scenes, the first one actually gave me chills because it was very realistic).

There was a lot of overacting. The plot was more hoaky than it needed to be (the ending especially made me want to gag). The training inaccuaracies were a minor qualm to me compared to the general sappiness of the movie.

I think Speilberg really could have done something with this. It had the potential to be like a Schindler's List with horses: something that really moved you and really made you think about the services horses have given us in times of war and beyond. But I personally feel Disney kind of messed it up. I could definitely see their involvement, and it made the movie not enjoyable to me. I cried more and was moved more by the trailers before the movie than during the actual movie!

Disney did the same thing with Secretariat, so what was I supposed to expect?

So, it looks like Seabiscuit will remain my favorite horse movie. Because it wasn't hoaky. Because Disney didn't meddle with it. Which I guess is hard not to do with horsey movies.

But movie did make the SNL skit 10 times funnier.

And as a friend said, "If the guy who directed the trailer had done the entire movie, then we might have something to talk about."

So, sorry guys. Maybe you'll like it more than I did. I'll just hold out for Red Tails and The Hunger Games for my potential movies-of-the-year (but please read the books first, I think I will always enjoy them more than the movies, because you get more from them! Same goes with War Horse! I will always love the book... not the movie.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Today was a wonderful day (save for finding out about an big fix-it bill for my car. Boo. Hiss.)
So wonderful, in fact, that I shall have to present to you in list format:
  1. Greta has gone down from a 3/3 lameness upon inital diagnosis, to 2/3, to officially 1/3 today. We are cleared for trotting (5 mins total over the next 4 weeks, and then we can move to 5 mins per week for another 4 weeks, and so on.)
  2. There was no vet tech to trot Greta out for the vet, so it was up to me, and Greta decided today would be a most opportune day to show off her fabulous trotting out skills, ground manners, and ground tying while the vet the showed me what her LH medial suspensory should feel like when I palpate it. Awesome horse. Even the vet commented on how much she loved her :)
  3. I rode a fun little booger named Oliver today (AKA Oliver Cromwell, Ollie C, DJ Ollie C, or simply Ollie) who is not really little but a big 16 h QH bred for reining. He is a stellar dressage dude, once you get past the very strong in the bit part (he points out rider error most effectively) and just an overall sweetie and a fun ride. He's being brought back into work after a month long break (the holidays are busy!)
  4. I forgot to check the girth before mounting up, and pretty much did the whole ride (walk, trot, canter, canter in two-point, cantering over poles, etc.) on a very loose girth. As in, Laura could get her whole hand through it. And I did not notice until she pointed it out after the ride. Rider knowledge FAIL. Rider balance and saddle fit WIN.
  5. I might be riding in the CAQHA (ATX QH association, whom the barn owner is prez of) first show of the year on the 21st. Most likely in hunter U/S and hunter eq, just for funsies, on Butters or Ollie. Might even take Ollie out as his first show experience. We will see. Heck, I might even be taking Ollie out to several H/J shows this spring, if things fall into place nicely.
  6. On a final note... did I mention GRETA IS A FREAKY HEALING BEAST? Patience is a virtue, and it has totally paid off. I love my pony :)
  7. I love my pony.
  8. Oh, yeah, I love my pony.
  9. I'm sorry, I think I forgot to mention I love my pony.
  10. I love my ponyponyponypony.
  11. Sorry, is that getting a bit obnoxious? I just felt I needed to even things out to 11. Which is not an even number. Deal with it.
Hope everyone is having a decent-to-good-to-great start to their new year! I will finish up the Traditional Dress bit soon. Also, I see War Horse tomorrow, so I will let y'all know if it is as good or as bad as people say (I'm hearing both haha!)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Traditional dress: time to update? Pt. 1

So, all the fashionistas want to dress like us, but nobody would really call the look "athletic" or "sporty".

The following are from various popular horsey mags, and got me a-thinkin' about the standard dress code in equestrian sports, particularly dressage. Because, let's face it: to Joe Schmoe, a guy running around on a "prancing" horse in a top hat and shadbelly coat cannot possibly qualify as an athlete. To the average viewer, if you can't look the part, how could you possibly be playing the part? I kind of feel the same way about things like ice skating: how can I take them seriously when they remind me more of a Disney On Ice show than an Olympic sport? Then I remember all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into it and it becomes a sport again. They just kill it with the frills.

Jim Wofford put it perfectly in his column in the January 2012 issue of Practical Horseman:

" people are always yakking about how they want a bigger TV audience.... But then when the TV suits - who do not know anything about horse sports but really know how to increase TV audiences - tell us to change our antiquated 'competitive attire,' all I hear from the horse pols is a lot of bovine excrement about the 'sacred traditions of the sport.'
What traditions are we talking about, darling? The ones where 16th century riding master Federico Grisone was prancing around Italy practicing his rollkur, wearing a great ostrich feather in his fedora, lace cuffs on his shirts and pointy-toed booties?....
....Look, as long as you insist on careening around an arena dressed like the Phantom of the Opera, you are kidding yourself about "reaching out to the general public and increasing our audience." Joe Sixpack takes one look at you and hits the remote... he has NASCAR in his favorites, and you don't look like an athlete to him - you look like a dork."
And another reader addressed the issue of getting more men in the sport of dressage. I do believe there are quite a few men into it, just more for other purposes like eventing and jumpers and hunters and even things like reining and other western disciplines. This issue of dress, as he states, really applies to all horse riding disciplines in general. C'mon, the saddleseat dress code? Hunter shadbellies? Dressage top hats? The sparkles of western pleasure? About as sporty as it gets are the red showjumping coats and the sporty look of cross-country riders... the latter often having the biggest leaps and bounds in sportiness as any other, but still pretty slow in comparison to all the new sport-specific sneakers/clothes/etc. that come out from Nike and Under Armour and all those companies.

This is from Jack Turner, a reader from Missouri, in Dressage Today:
"From my point of view, the problem with attracting males to participate in dressage is one of image. This applies to dressage and all the equine events that demand traditional dress. Why should there be a silly dress standard when we want to have more people included in the sport? My point is not let old dress traditions impose restrictions on the growing of the sport. Allow the newer generations (and older ones too) some latitude in their dress as long as they know and understand the relationship between horse and rider and the standards of performance that are expected, along with basic safety."
I repeatedly get lots of comments from my guy friends about men in the sport of dressage: "Aren't most of them gay?" "It's a sissy sport." "They're circus people on circus ponies!" First of all, so what if they're gay? I've met many a horse riding male who was definitely not gay (and many a horse woman who definitely was haha!) Then I realize, that's a big deal to a guy who wants to maintain his macho image. Which is a lot of men. Whatever. Boys will be boys.

But seriously? The shadbellies? The top hats? The white gloves even? Even the lower-level dress is antiquated. The highfalutin horses don't help any, as much as I love 'em ;)

Dressage Today recently had a contest for riding fashions. One of them, I believe, was something along the lines of most sporty/updated/something like that. And frankly, all of those designs look downright rediculous. Monograms on your helmet? Different colored ribbons? Shadbelly-looking raincoats? Give me a break. Very little change, if any, was made. I'll just look like a multi-colored fool now (with chants of "they're circus people on circus ponies" dancing in my head... yeesh.)

But then I realized: could I do any better? No. I don't even know where to start. I kind of like Jim Wofford's bodysuit idea, but I realize... that's not really for everyone. I may be skinny, but I am by no means in fit, athletic shape. I'm just getting my core defined again, and you have to really look to see it! And not even all pro riders are built like NFL players (and heck, some of those defense players have impressive guts). Atheltic? Yes. Sculpted? No.

So scratch the bodysuit idea. We need something modernized, and a bit more athletic and formal (I use that word cautiously) than breeches and a polo. The Ariat Volant boots are an excellent start to me. Too far out of my price range, which is why they won't be in my hands for quite some time. But in the grand scheme of all things horse gear, they look pretty darn sporty. The GPA or Antares or Samshield helmets (and that style in general) look very updated in comparison to the tradition velvet hunt cap.

Equestrian sports were created to save the military horse, which were lined up by the thousands for culling after being forced to save our conflicting human butts in war after war. Not like any of those horses really thought about that, but still. So, we did that, we saved the military horse and calvary traditions. It's almost a hundred years later, I think we can start to step things up a bit and really look the role of Olympic athletes, don't you? Save the equestrian sport, perhaps?

What would you do to update the equestrian look?