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One of the best indicators of good horse health is the skin and coat. A shiny coat isn’t just attractive, it also shows that a horse is in top shape. Proper equine skin care is paramount. When your horse has rashes, swelling, bumps and even irritation, these are clear signs that there is a problem. […] The post 6 Things You Should Know About Horse Skin Care appeared first on...
One of the best indicators of good horse health is the skin and coat. A shiny coat isn’t just attractive, it also shows that a horse is in top shape. Proper equine skin care is paramount.
When your horse has rashes, swelling, bumps and even irritation, these are clear signs that there is a problem. It is good to note that these signs may not just indicate poor skin health, they may suggest an underlying health condition. The following information gives you top tips on things you should know about horse skin care.
A shiny glowing coat comes when your horse is eating right. This means that the diet must be balanced with all the vital and essential nutrients. The quality of the food must also be high. Omega 3 fatty acids are particularly beneficial to equine skin. Therefore, supplementing this nutrient is key to enjoying even better horse skin health. When your horse is well fed and properly hydrated with clean water every single day, the internal functions will promote healthy skin and coat. In addition to water, your horse will need high quality protein.
Protein helps build body cells while promoting healthy skin. It also builds the right hormones, and promotes the development of muscles and enzymes. For energy, your horse will need fat and carbohydrates. As high energy creatures, horses need the fuel to build their strength. Other nutrients are minerals and vitamins. Exposure to sunlight boosts the production of vitamin D and this is great. Without a proper diet, equine skin health will be compromised greatly.
As alluded to above, sunlight helps in vitamin D synthesis which is good for your horse. However, too much exposure to the sun is detrimental in horses just like in humans. In fact, there is a list of skin issues that arise from UV light exposure. First, horses can get sunburns which can be very painful. Pink areas of the skin will suffer the most. Sunlight can also trigger photosensitivity. Some plants and even medications make horses photosensitive and when exposed to sunlight, painful blisters form. Another problem is the formation of skin tumors due to prolonged sunlight. As you can see, the sun can prove more harmful to your horse.
You can remedy these problems by preventing excess exposure to the sun. Provide a shade for your horse so that they can be shielded accordingly. You can also consider sun shielding sheets which come with UV blocking abilities. These are used like garments for your horse. Consider a sunscreen for your horse and a good example is zinc oxide. Use in the most sensitive areas. Also, avod photodynamic plants like St. John’s wort. If your horse is showing signs of skin issues caused by the sun, expert help is needed.
In summer months or hot weather, a host of insects will thrive. Your horse can become the victim of uncomfortable bites. It is not just temporary discomfort you have to worry about for such bugs: there are serious skin issues that can develop; like a condition called ‘sweet itch‘. This is an allergic reaction that causes hypersensitivity in horses. This condition can last very long and some horses are more predisposed to it.
The bugs that cause this problem include stable flies, horn flies, black flies; among others. The best way to remedy this problem is to use insect repellents together with insecticides. Spraying will help reduce the problem. For horses that have already been afflicted by sweet itch, seeking the right treatment from your vet is the best way to go. Prevent exposure to bugs as much as possible to avoid escalation of the problem.
It is hard to prevent exposure to moisture in horses. However, continual wetness and dampness will soften the skin. This will in turn give way to fungal and bacterial infection. As a result, your horse will always be scratching. This can lead to dryness and cracking. In some cases, scabs and crusts are formed from oozing skin. You therefore want to keep your horse as dry as possible. Horse bedding and stall must be dry at all times. Draining water that forms in puddles is also important to keeping your stallion as dry as possible. Conditions like rain rot are common during wet weather. Again, dryness is the key to keeping skin issues at bay.
Equine grooming tools like currycombs, brushes and hoof picks are often shared in barns. Tack, blankets and saddle pads are other items that are shared. This is highly dangerous because it leads to the spreading of diseases. The best thing is to avoid using the same tools for many horses. Also, make sure that all tools are cleaned properly before use. Skin conditions like ringworms are common where such items are shared. Disinfect the tools regularly even when there is no infection outbreak.
New equine skin care products can cause allergies. Therefore, when you are introducing something new, take time and make sure to test it on a small portion of the skin. Also, choose natural skin care products that do not have additives or synthetic fillers. For natural equine skin care options, check out Equi- Spa. In case of a serious reaction like swelling of the face, make sure to call a vet immediately. Some allergic reactions can be intense for horses.
Equine skin care is best done daily. Good nutrition and avoiding too much exposure to sunlight, are some of the many things you can do. Put in place a regime that will make your horse’s coat and skin thrive. Remember, lack of proper grooming will also affect the health and aesthetic appeal of your horse. Observing optimal hygiene with grooming tools as highlighted above is the way to go. All in all, you will achieve the best equine skin health when you take control.
There are some issues in life that are just hard to put into words. Some may feel stressed, worn down, and desperate about certain life issues. Yet these may be hard to verbalize and process on their own. When words fail to bring us emotional catharsis, there is another way to find peace while processing […] The post 5 Ways Equine-Assisted Therapy Can Work For You appeared first on...
There are some issues in life that are just hard to put into words. Some may feel stressed, worn down, and desperate about certain life issues. Yet these may be hard to verbalize and process on their own.
When words fail to bring us emotional catharsis, there is another way to find peace while processing the pain. Animals help people go through and feel certain emotions even without verbally talking to each other.
Some find it by simply sharing some time with their pets. For others, comfort may come from equine assisted therapy.
Equine-assisted therapy can be any form of activity that entails the interaction between a horse and a human. One crucial aspect of this experience is that a medical professional oversees the entire activity. This sets apart equine-assisted therapy from regular clubs or training sessions with horses. You can tap a medical professional such as a psychologist or a physical therapist, depending on your needs.
Horses can mirror the emotions that humans have. They can become a sounding board for people to realize their current feelings. Horses can also respond to the emotion, to put it in the spotlight so that the individual can process the emotions, especially if they are hard to verbalize or understand.
Because of their sensitivity to others, horses can sense changes within a person. Thus, they can sense when one’s emotional state is high or low, or whether they are experiencing depression or anxiety.
Best of all, when a person is experiencing certain issues, feelings of judgment may stop one from truly going through the process of healing. For teens and young adults, this feels especially pronounced, since a lot of those who suffer from mental health conditions may feel judged by their peers and even family.
What separates equine-assisted therapy from these experiences is the unconditional love and companionship that horses show towards a person. This creates an open and safe space for individuals to let out their emotions.
Almost anyone can go through equine-assisted psychotherapy and enjoy its benefits. It can even be used as either an individual counseling method or a group counseling experience, depending on the type of persons who will undergo the treatment.
Children and teens may not only find horses as a therapeutic partner to process any grief, anxiety, or trauma. They may also be able to develop skills like assertiveness and trust in the non-threatening environment.
What’s important to note is that equine-assisted therapy needs to work within the context of a full treatment experience.
Benefits of Equine-Assisted Therapy
Wondering if equine-assisted therapy is something for you? This therapeutic experience actually holds a lot of benefits for everyone. Soothing the soul and learning to ride are just the tip of the iceberg for all the good things you can learn and earn from the ride.
Facing horses may already be a challenging experience for some, because of their size and majestic nature. Riding a horse may pose a different kind of challenge, but one that hones one’s body and mind.
Equine-assisted therapy may encourage the use of different muscles. You have to work with the horse, because riding one entails focus and strength just like in other sports. In fact, you need to find your balance and adapt to the movements of the horse.
Physical therapy using this technique can exercise joint mobility. It can also strengthen the muscles in the calves, arms, and abdomen. When you are tasked to care for the animal, this can also be helpful exercise and a relaxing activity in one.
Furthermore, equine-assisted therapy can also increase attention span and improve concentration. This provides a unique approach for individuals suffering from ADHD.
There may be nothing more majestic than riding a horse that you have a connection with. While this image alone already contributes to your confidence, mastering the skills to ride and tame a horse can be a booster. Individuals who feel that they have not achieved a lot can feel confident when they master skills in horse-riding.
Part of this is the communication skills that one needs to hone when learning how to ride. Communicating with a horse can be a challenge because of nonverbals. Yet when one finally gets the groove, it shows a more refined way of communicating with the horse using nonverbals. This will be useful in other aspects of one’s life.
Not being in control may seem scary at first, but with practice and the right environment, this can become a very valuable lesson learned. Equine-assisted therapy teaches individuals to go beyond trust, because they learn how to negotiate with their equine companion. Part of the experience also means caring for the horse, and this puts responsibility on a whole new level.
There is a thin line between surrendering completely and understanding the process of vulnerability. By knowing this thin line and applying it to the therapeutic scenario, one learns important valuable lessons which they can hopefully apply in the long run.
Sometimes, when faced with what society deems to be negative emotions—sadness, anger, frustration, depression—most people tend to bottle them up instead. What is accepted by the public is not necessarily great for others. When horses step into the therapy experience, they introduce a new channel to identify these feelings.
It may be non-descript and subtle, but they can help both the individual and the therapist to steer the therapy into a more concrete territory.
Vulnerability is an important aspect of the healing process. Yet for most people, it is hard to allow the self to become open and vulnerable. It’s the same as being stripped naked and having no protection from potential danger.
When interacting with horses, people can try opening themselves without words. A horse’s sensitivity can work wonders. They not only sense a person’s vulnerability, but they also respond to whatever feelings they may let out.
This can then be redirected to more concrete ways of processing. Thus, it is crucial to integrate equine-assisted therapy within the framework of a holistic therapeutic experience.
Equine-assisted therapy may not seem to be for everyone, but it’s an experience that everyone can learn something from. These therapies and physical exercise can go a long way towards teaching a person a thing or two about life.
“Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.” Marcus Aurelius’ – Meditations I’ve spent my “down” time (non-horse show season) when the days are shorter, and the Midwest slowly becomes uninhabitable, studying the Stoic philosophers. The three major ancient Stoics are: […] The post The Stoics Pt 1 appeared first on...
“Not to assume it’s impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize if it’s humanly possible, you can do it too.”Marcus Aurelius’ – Meditations
I’ve spent my “down” time (non-horse show season) when the days are shorter, and the Midwest slowly becomes uninhabitable, studying the Stoic philosophers. The three major ancient Stoics are: Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Seneca.
Stoicism is a type of philosophy that was developed by people who were do-ers. No one left everything and sat under a tree to meditate. One was a Roman Emperor, probably a more stressful life than even this humble horse trainer has. These men actively participated in the trials and tribulations of everyday life. They had responsibilities, families, employees, jobs, political concerns, etc. Stoicism appeals to me because it is based on facing real world problems in a real way. In this series of articles, I will look at some of the basic stoic philosophies because, yes, you guessed it, they fit in perfectly with Dressage.
Student: “Be honest with me. Will I ever get this?”
Me, answering with a straight face, but laughing on the inside, “Yes. You will. Just remember, you need two lifetimes before you will master Dressage.”
Why do I find this amusing? Am I full of baloney? Am I securing my paycheck by lying so she’ll continue taking expensive lessons? No. I am chuckling to myself because she is incapable of seeing the amount of progress she has made. She has improved her riding so much since her first lesson, but her self-critical attitude blinds her.
I have many students. On any given weekend, I am teaching eight or nine lessons each day. I have taught people who have never sat on a horse before their first lesson, and I have taught people who have ridden their entire lives. I have mentored women who don’t have an ounce of athletic talent, and I’ve instructed women who are naturals. I have developed perspective through experience.
Mastering Dressage is a daunting task. I think a small group of people on the planet have done so, and I am aware of some dead people who mastered it; I personally have not experienced this level of success. It is hard. If you don’t think it’s hard, you are Cleopatra, the Queen of Denial.
It is hard, but it is humanly possible, and you can do it.
A few tips to keep you sane:
One clinician who taught at my barn told each of my clients over the course of the year, that each of them needed a new horse, or she could not help them anymore. One by one, each quit participating in clinics and eventually we could no longer employ this instructor to come teach us. One of the ladies this trainer estranged had a 30-year-old quarter horse. This trainer was not interested in teaching her. Fast forward 10 years. This same owner kept her horse in my barn until he died. She leased a mare from me, bred her, had a foal that she kept in my barn, put in training when he was three, all because I treated her well and met her where she was with the horse she had. About $72,000 later, she is still with me and owns one of the most talented horses I have ever trained. Lucky me. Our clinician was knowledgeable, and she advanced my education. She just had a niche of people and horses that she could help. Not her fault, but a bad fit for our barn.
I had a client come into my barn with a horse that I absolutely adored. He was a purebred Arabian that had tons of talent. He was amazing. He was the exact wrong horse for Lisa, his owner. When I took Lisa as a client, I did not know that this horse had already dumped her twice and fractured her shoulder. She fell off twice at my barn when the horse bolted. I put an end to that. Bye bye Mr. Talent, you are not a good match for your owner. Lisa searched on her own and found a little white 5-year-old Arabian who had about 30 days under saddle. He’s a strange little horse, and now, my ever increasingly anxious client owned him. I felt the impending disaster in my bones. I did not know if an inexperienced youngster would put up with an amateur rider. But Lisa put him in training, began taking lessons on Kiki the Wonder Horse, and sent her new horse to shows with me for experience. Now, every weekend, my 60-year-old client rides her little Arabian with joy in her heart. Her horse has turned out to be a pleasant little trooper. He’s the cutest horse and travels around for her steady as a rock, a safe and a good partner. Who would have guessed it? She stuck with it, trusted me, gave her horse the time, sharpened her skills on another horse, and now has her perfect dance partner. We’ll still have bumps in the road, but she’ll get there because she can work with this horse.
Last year I also added a daily Yoga practice. I found that as I got fit, I had the energy to last out the ten plus hours a day I spend in the barn. The aerobics added to my overall fitness and stamina, but the Yoga really helped my riding. An added benefit: I discovered that many of my old wear and tear injuries from riding completely disappeared. You must commit to increase your fitness apart from the time you spend on the horse!
Dressage is challenging, humbling, but, oh, so fulfilling, and since it is humanly possible to do it, you can too. Set yourself up for success
Caring for horses requires more than love and care. Any individual in the equine industry understands that your horse requires a routine and program to ensure maximum health and performance, whether for recreational riding or professional performance. Part of this routine is grooming and feeding the horse. While some people consider them as pets, their […] The post Hold Your (Healthy) Horses: Natural Care Benefits People and Horses appeared first on...
Caring for horses requires more than love and care. Any individual in the equine industry understands that your horse requires a routine and program to ensure maximum health and performance, whether for recreational riding or professional performance.
Part of this routine is grooming and feeding the horse. While some people consider them as pets, their diet, exercise, and grooming regimen needs to be controlled and routinely done.
Years of research have shown that the use of natural solutions, products, and feeds is important to maintain a horse’s optimal health. Yet what really happens when toxins get in the way of a horse’s TLC? It’s best to understand how toxins can impact a horse.
Horses can come across various toxins, in both their diets, grooming, and even exercise. Horse owners may have preferences when it comes to the products and solutions they use for grooming.
Apart from this, there are many ways that horses can encounter toxins in their daily lives. That’s why it’s best to know the most common ones that are also the most toxic and do the most damage.
While most people would associate botulism with Botox, this toxin actually comes from a bacteria called Clostridium botulinum. This is found in haylage, lawn clippings, treated hay, corn silage, and dry hay. Experts caution that risk of exposure to botulism increases as the moisture content of the material also increases because like any bacteria, botulism grows with moisture.
Botulism poisoning typically brings a myriad of symptoms. These include weakness of muscles, tremors, and tremors, while the worst cases could end in respiratory or cardiac failure.
Some places that are near gold mining areas tend to be more susceptible to arsenic poisoning. For horses, arsenic can be beneficial in trace amounts, but with accumulated exposure, this can lead to dangerous side effects.
In areas that are prone to a lot of arsenic content in the soil and water, horses are more likely to get into contact with it. It is necessary to have your horse checked if there are symptoms of liver dysfunction, hoof issues, a dryer coat, hair loss, skin conditions, and muscle weakness, as these are the most common ways that arsenic can affect horses.
Pastures may be nice grazing and exercise grounds for horses. Yet owners need to understand the structure and composition of the lands where they let their horses roam. Pastures fertilized with either rock phosphates and super phosphates or sewage sludge may endanger your horse with cadmium poisoning.
A foal who is suffering from cadmium poisoning may suffer from orthopedic disease, swollen joints, and lameness.
Using pesticides and other rodenticides may be targeted to eliminate other pests like rodents and gophers. However, when you use them in your area, you may end up endangering your horses with the powdered or pelleted bait.
Pesticides contain toxic agents that are lethal when ingested by horses. Even a small dose can cause bleeding and hemorrhaging even in larger species like horses. Considering how foals can easily put anything, even these small pellets in their mouths, accidents can easily occur.
Avoid using baits that have sweet flavors, as they tend to attract horses as well. If this cannot be avoided, one other solution is to make sure that your horses cannot access them in any way. In the event that you would need to use these, create a barrier that will not allow your horse to get through.
In the same way that pet owners will keep away certain foods or items away from their dogs or cats, this same caution must be practiced by horse owners. The best way to do this is to minimize the presence of toxins and chemicals that are accessible to your horse.
Even though some of the toxins may come from plants, there are toxins that have been processed and incorporated into solutions, items, and containers, which can endanger your horse.
Personal grooming is a therapeutic experience for you and your horse. Some owners and riders use this quality time as a way for them to further bond with their foals. Brushing their mane alone allows you to show affection, and as an owner, this simple act is a soothing way to keep close to your horse without the need to participate in games or training.
When you think about it, a horse’s hooves are a major part of his foundation. Between supporting him and enabling him to walk, hooves need to be maintained and taken care of to avoid future posture and mobility issues.
Hooves need to be groomed and trimmed regularly. Professional trimming can be done on a regular basis, but it pays to have knowledge on some aspects such as safe shoe removal.
Your horse needs to have proper and regular exercise. Consistent exercise and motion actually strengthen the hooves as it promotes circulation and growth. This exercise will be safer if your horse wears proper shoes. Choose a hoof moisturizer with natural ingredients so it will be safer for your horse.
Competitive training can be tiresome and taxing for any horse. In the case of overworked or strained muscles, it helps to use a natural cooling muscle wash. Specifically, this type of solution is beneficial for the legs, hocks, and back. The cooling sensation will further relax your horse.
Brushing is an important part of his grooming. Even if he has shiny and silky locks, your horse will still look and feel unkempt if his mane is always mangled and tangled.
Your horse’s coat also needs to be properly and regularly maintained. To get that extra shine, use a coat refresher solution to clean out the grime and dirt. Afterwards, go for coat conditioners that are made only of natural ingredients. Pairing these two solutions will ensure that your horse’s coat shines and retains body.
If you have ever done some aromatherapy at home, you would know that this has a unique but effective way of relaxing your senses. The same effect applies to horses; this naturally therapeutic approach allows them a horse to achieve balance, especially when they have been through a bout of training or exposed to new stresses.
Essential oils have a synergistic effect on the body, as it penetrates the dermis and helps with cellular regeneration and strengthening the immune system.
To effectively induce relaxation in your horse, let them get accustomed to the scent, especially if it is this first time with natural essential oils. Let them smell the oil. Once they are used to it, place a drop on the forehead and neck crest.
Be mindful of how your horse reacts to the essential oils. Some may take to it easily; others may not feel relaxed or comfortable. Just like how humans have preferred oils, horses will also have different reactions, so try to experiment while being watchful of your horse’s experience.
Just as you would care for your horse’s grooming, part of having a healthy foal is to ensure that he also glows healthy on the inside. Diet for your horse is extremely crucial, whether they are still growing or are already in their prime.
A horse needs to have a well-balanced diet that has the ample amount of calories, vitamins, proteins, and minerals for proper and complete nutrition. This is even more crucial and specialized for competitive breeds, because they will be enduring stricter and more taxing training.
Throughout the years, your horse’s nutritional needs will differ. The biggest aspect to note is that, as much as possible, try to avoid processed foods and food items that may contain toxins and other substances that may be harmful for them.
Maintain a regular grooming schedule with your horse, and make sure you use this time to also bond with them. These are the special moments between training and rest where you can cultivate communication and encourage relaxation when he is around you.
The post Hold Your (Healthy) Horses: Natural Care Benefits People and Horses appeared first on Equi-Spa.
Always Learning New Things: 7 Important Life Lessons I’ve discovered deep in my heart, that I am not a very good blogger. My entire life I’ve wanted to keep a diary or memoirs, an insightful journal filled with wit. The problem is that I am rather boring and lack the Sedaris kind of wit, so […] The post Fear the Little Bay Horse: The Conclusion appeared first on...
Always Learning New Things: 7 Important Life Lessons
I’ve discovered deep in my heart, that I am not a very good blogger. My entire life I’ve wanted to keep a diary or memoirs, an insightful journal filled with wit. The problem is that I am rather boring and lack the Sedaris kind of wit, so even though I wanted to keep a detailed file of my experiences at Sport Horse Nationals, I found myself walking the dogs, working the horses, enjoying the experience. Every day I stepped out of our barn, looked at the grounds and thought, “Another beautiful day in Crete.” And it was. And I was happy to be there. And I was grateful. So, I guess I had a successful show.
There it is.
Just kidding. I’ve kept a diary my whole life. Each successive diary looked the same: a line or two written on the first page, then, nothing. My good intentions have never been strong enough to overcome the fact that I find myself boring. The segments I wrote daily at the show are real snooze fests. What I don’t find boring are ideas. I learn something new in this life every single day, and the depth of wisdom is sometimes, well, deep. Sometimes funny. Always interesting. Some things I learned in Crete:
Don’t go if you can’t cut the mustard.
Trust your work. Trust your horse. Trust yourself.
Usually you are going to mess up at least a little. Relax. Embrace it.
Friends are awesome. My ladies are the best and I am so lucky.
Don’t go shopping when you are in a psychotic state. Just. Don’t.
Winning is more fun than losing.
Everybody needs to go to the dog park
As mentioned, the competition has improved since I last was at Arabian Nationals (2011). Back in the day, one or two horses competed in the FEI levels, and, honestly, they were not very good. In the lower levels, a few talented teams would show up, a bunch more that were average, but pretty good, and half of them that were very bad.
When we arrived at the show and began schooling the horses, I sized up the talent. It looked good. A lot of trainers were doing a really good job, especially above First Level. Don’t get me wrong, I am tickled pink that we have improved. It speaks well of the breed and it predicts a wonderful future for the sport within the Arabian community. This makes me incredibly happy. I compete in Open shows against Warm bloods and their trainers because they set a high bar. They are usually going to score better than I am, but if I can nip at their heels with my Arabs, I will be one of the better Arabian Dressage trainers. Imagine being a serious golfer who cares about your game. Now imagine you get to golf with Tiger Woods regularly. Your game will improve exponentially. I drove into Balmoral Park thinking I would be better than most of the Dressage riders there. I am thrilled to say that I was wrong! I witnessed some good people riding well. I was humbled by some. This knowledge will keep me edgy and trying hard. That said:
I am instructed by one of the best Dressage trainers in the country. I am a fantastic student. I try hard. I work even harder. I have a moderate amount of talent. I am a great competitor. Working with my clinician, my horses have improved by leaps and bounds. They are the real deal. They are correctly trained in classical Dressage. They both try hard and seem to love the work. I get a charge out of showing. Competition just ignites something in me. I love the challenge of rising to the occasion. So, relaxing and having a little faith in having done my homework well, I was able to really enjoy the week and feel peaceful, because:
I hate the confessional that follows. On a positive note, Lorix was just barely solid enough to be competing in Second Level this year, but I rode well, and he ended up 3rd out of 18. Petie, on the other hand was well prepared to win. In her first class, the Intermediarre 1, she saw a “cougar”, aka, the show photographer squatting next to the ring and immediately got tense. I immediately quit riding well. I let her anxiety flow instead of managing it as best I could, but I did manage it, so she was able to complete a nice test, a test that would have won her the Reserve National Championship if I hadn’t messed up. During the second pirouette I over aided her and caused a change of lead. I recovered and changed back, but the two scores were seriously affected, one of which was a coefficient. I was so proud of her, she overcame her nerves and did her best, I just messed up. What do you do? Shrug and go on. Nothing you can do about the past. Nothing. She was still 3rd on the cards out of 11 horses, so that was awesome.
I regrouped and did a postmortem on my ride. What could I change? Well the probability that the photographer would be in the same place for my PSG test was high. I needed to ride her differently, to take charge and ride her a little deeper into the bridle. When she got tense in the first test, I tensed up too. I held myself up off her back instead of sitting deeply and asking her to carry me, so I resolved to sit deeply during PSG and give her some support.
I did and she had an outstanding test. My pirouettes shone, I nailed my four tempis, then, as I finished, I got all teary eyed and squishy. I remember being overwhelmed by emotion. She had given me her all, we really worked as a team and I thought, “It could end right here, and I’d be so happy with her.” And it did. End, that is. I quit riding and whiffed my 3 tempis. Despite this screw up on my part, Petie sat in the Reserve Champion position all day until the last rider, who beat my score and put me 3rd out of 16.
So, I have a choice. Remember, Petie doesn’t know who I am disappointed in, me or her. SO, do I choose to be sad after my ride. I know I messed up. Or, do I choose to be happy and proud and pleased with the team I’ve become with my little mare. I choose the second. It’s the truth, and it’s the only way to stay sane in this sport. Maybe in this world.
I spent the week, the entire 7 days, with my husband. Let that sink in. I didn’t have any of my crew to girl talk, or focus on instructing, or anything. My husband and I get along well, but I admit, I had my concerns about both of us would living through this experience of togetherness. When I was a young teen, I had a best friend, and we would switch houses every Friday night to spend the night at the other’s house. On Saturday afternoon, we would start to beg our mothers to let us spend the night one more time. Usually they said “No”, but occasionally they would let us. Sometimes on Sunday morning, during breakfast, after we spent two nights together, I would hear the noises that she made while she ate and had to restrain myself from smacking the spoon out of her hand. My mother would let us eat breakfast and then announce that my bestie had to go home because, “You two girls have had enough of each other.”
I was pretty sure that would happen before we got out of the truck on Saturday. It did not. We were both so relaxed and he was such awesome support that we just really enjoyed each other the whole time. But I still missed my crew.
We stalled across the aisle form a barn of ladies from somewhere out East. Although they were friendly enough with us, these ladies filled their own relationships with drama and pettiness and gossiping behind each other’s back. They argued before classes. They complained about the judging all the time. They complained without ceasing. When they were around, I vacated if possible. I was so grateful for my barn and clients. They are the most encouraging and supportive group. They are legend. NO backstabbing, no drama, no pettiness. Love those gals, and I missed them. I am the luckiest trainer/barn owner on the planet.
So, we had been at Balmoral Park for four days. I had been Top Ten on Lorix in Second Level Open, but I had yet to show Petie. Everything with her was going eerily smooth. She was working well and had gotten better through the week. She was accepting and comfortable in her surroundings. I was relaxed and riding well. I was surprised I wasn’t battling nerves, that I was indeed quite relaxed. This freaked me the fuck out.
Enter the Perfect Storm. Three days in, and I was feeling homesick. I missed my crew. In one way, I was enjoying the solitary nature of the horse show. I am not chatty by nature, so, while maintaining a friendly countenance and greeting people with small talk as I passed, I basically spent my time alone. I watched classes alone, took the dogs on long walks alone, worked the horses alone. My husband was perfect. He hovered happily in the background to lend a hand but was equally happy to let me be. On the other hand, I missed sharing the experience with my group. So, day four, and I am homesick and alone. My husband has gone off to do man things like vacuum the truck and find a TSC. I was alone.
I am a health nut and Crete was proving to be a food desert. My meals consisted of frozen food I bought from a Walmart, stored in the hotel room and made myself. Lots of rice with veggies and sriracha sauce that week. So, despite my best intentions, when I found myself alone, I walked the dogs the half mile to the show office where they had been providing coffee (which I don’t drink) and doughnuts (which I don’t eat) in order to get coffee and doughnuts. The Perfect Storm continues: The coffee pot was empty. I shrugged and approached the doughnut boxes only to find them empty. A crushing blow. I went to the concession stand to buy a cup of coffee but changed my mind and bought a $3 tea. When my journey to self-medicate failed, I walked to a tack trailer that we passed in the truck every day on our way to the stalls, but I never went to because it was quite a hike back. All of the stores up in the Grandstand held no interest for me: jewelry stores, voodoo horse products offering miraculous results, overpriced clothing stores (not the practical, oh, I can ride in this type of clothing, but the worthless, let’s go out on the town type of clothes), so I was pretty excited when I approached this trailer and saw tack and horse supplies, and a rack of breeches. I needed breeches. Good, on sale, work breeches.
At some point in time, I must have blacked out because I woke up dashing out of the trailer, answering my phone as my husband told me that he was headed back to the grounds from the man store. I dragged the dogs back to the stalls. In my bag I carried 2 pairs of show breeches, and a pair of work gloves and a jacket that looked really cute on me and had been on sale. Help me Baby Jesus. What did I do? I had a panic attack and bought several hundreds of dollars’ worth of clothes that did not even fall into the category of NEED. If you know me, you would know how uncharacteristic this is. I am a tight ass. I literally watch every single penny we spend. I don’t do frivolous. Ever. I haven’t bought a new bra in several years because the ones I have still work. This event or any like it have never occurred before in my entire life. I guess I was stressed about Petie’s test. Even writing this down has stressed me out. I want to go eat something.
Do I even need to say anything? I am a good loser. I contemplate and learn the important lessons. I am a pretty good winner. I am quietly self-satisfied with my performance, but I don’t broadcast. Of course, winning is more fun than losing. The middle ground is harder to navigate. Don’t get me wrong; I am not disrespecting the quality of the competition. The other exhibitors in the upper levels rode well and deserved to be there. But, with Petie, I came to win, not to go Top Ten. To win. Not to be third, to win.
A funny thing happens in your brain. I even sat in the position of Reserve National Champion in both classes until the final rides. I didn’t dare own the win until the cards were all in, but I tasted the victory. When I ended up third on the cards, I was still grateful. In every competition things you can’t control misfire. Every single time you ride in a show, no matter how well you prepared, you need to be ready to lose. Anything can happen. But I am a savvy competitor, and after my tests, before I got the judge’s scores, I knew. After the first test, I knew where I had failed to ride well; I knew where I had let Petie down. I also knew what to do in the second test. I analyzed the rides and planned what to do. I gave my husband a trigger phrase to say to me that would re center my mind. During the second test, I improved my performance and had a better go. But I also knew where I had dropped the ball. Because I was able to recognize both the strengths and the weaknesses of my tests, I could predict with a certain amount of accuracy where I would fall in the line. I placed higher than I thought I would. So, again that funny thing that happened in my brain: I had prepared for months to win the Nationals in my divisions with Petie. She was poised and ready to do that. The atmosphere, the weather, the whole situation was stacked in my favor. When I rode my tests, I rode well, but made the expected errors that happen during competition. I was happy with myself but was realistic enough to understand that because the competition was good, my mistakes might keep me out of the ribbons at all. So, when I saw that I not only made the Top Ten, but was third, my slight disappointment turned back into grateful pleasure. Because, it is more fun to win than it is to lose.
It was Friday. We’d been in Crete since the previous Sunday. The dogs, who are the best show dogs in the world, are never off their leashes, except in the hotel room, or if they are shut up in the tack room. For all the walking we did, even though it seemed like they napped every moment we weren’t walking, they never really got to play, and I knew they were a little depressed. Another exhibitor had mentioned that Balmoral Park had a dog park next to the show office. Although I knew it was there, by the time we’d hiked up from our stalls, it seemed ridiculous to go into the park. One day we weren’t showing, and I was bored, I took the dogs over. We were the only ones there and when I took my poor exhausted dogs off their leashes, they exploded with joy. Just kidding. They stood there and looked at me like they didn’t know what was happening. I probably had made a mistake. Pretty soon, Ruby, the Jack Russell smelled a smell and ditched us. Lucky, my fluffy Aussie mix looking dog, just stood there. I started jogging away from him and calling him. Then he realized he was off leash and he exploded with joy. He went cracker dog and raced and raced around the park as fast as he could. The park had a mini jumping course set up for dogs and Lucky learned in a matter of seconds how to jump the course on his own. We had so much fun, and then we sat in the grass and enjoyed the day.
I had no idea the dogs were tense. I had no idea that I was tense. We just needed to go “off leash” and have a little fun, to enjoy the beauty of the place and go cracker dog for a bit, then the world was centered again. I learned that day that it doesn’t have to be because of a stressful event, or a heavy work week, we all need to stop and refresh in the “Dog Park” to get our minds and hearts in the right place. I mean, all the work, all the money, why only take home a ribbon and a trophy? Why not take away wisdom, peace, presence and fun? Why not just really enjoy the moment? Ultimately, isn’t winning and losing partially a matter of perspective?
When I was about eleven years old, my Grandma Kennedy, who lived in a remote rural area in Missouri, called me into her kitchen to show me something important. I obediently followed. My Grandma was always kind to me and taught me several important life lessons, but I also knew that she was a sharp, critical old woman, and my love for her was tempered with a little bit of respect, or, more truthfully, fear. Grandma Kennedy, whose house never changed: plastic furniture covers and plastic carpet mats. Although it was clean, I was also aware of the likelihood that creepy crawly things could be anywhere in her farmhouse, which was the reason that I was ushered into the kitchen. My Grandma needed to educate me. She took me over to the counter and pulled open one of the drawers. She pulled out a small glass jar with its lid screwed shut. She held it in her hand and explained to me that she had caught a Brown Recluse spider in this jar so she could show it to me, and I would know what the poisonous spider looked like, and thus, avoid them. She held out the jar. I looked inside. The spider had died and was curled up, as spiders do when they die. She told me to look closely so I could identify it. I looked closer. Upon this examination, I realized that I was staring at a brown ball of lint, captured in a glass jar. It’s all just a matter of perspective. So is evaluating your success at a horse show. The reason we all engage in this discipline is the relationship you develop with your horse. A horse show is a minor part of that relationship, and many people pursue Dressage and never show. So, I figure, if the overall experience was positive, if I had a good time, if the horses had a good time, and the dogs had a good time, we had a successful show. The ribbons were a bonus.
We had a clinic this last weekend. I already had a plan formed of where to move on with Petie’s training. If she is capable, and, if I am capable, I want to move her into Grand Prix and earn my Gold Medal on her. She also has a National Champion statue somewhere in her future. This weekend, we began working with my trainer to develop her. On the last day of the clinic, at the end of my lesson, my trainer wanted me to dismount so she could show me how to start developing the Piaffe. Usually it is a time-consuming process. First you might begin teaching the horse to pick up their back feet quickly to a tickle of the whip. I won’t try to explain the entire process, but it is time consuming and involves many steps, while the trainer attempts to keep it light and fun for the horse. When my trainer took Petie and started this process, Petie Piaffed. Immediately. Both directions. I think she’s capable. I hope I can keep up.
I can’t help it. I have always been competitive. My entire family and extended family are big board game players. Some of my earliest memories are of playing board games with my brothers. Since my brothers are all older and, in their minds, smarter than I am, they usually won (by cheating or by skill, […] The post Ambition is a Hard Master appeared first on...
I can’t help it. I have always been competitive. My entire family and extended family are big board game players. Some of my earliest memories are of playing board games with my brothers. Since my brothers are all older and, in their minds, smarter than I am, they usually won (by cheating or by skill, though most often by cheating). An insane desire to win grew in my little heart.
As I grew, it grew.
Naturally, as a masochistic over achiever, I was drawn to Dressage.
The tricky part about riding Dressage; you must temper your desire to achieve in order to nurture the horse’s desire to perform. I mean, he or she did not ask to participate in the sport. We chose for them.
Dressage is a complicated sport that is physical, mental and spiritual for the rider. At the same time, the horse is asked to submit to complicated and athletic movements. So, our strong desire for perfection, both in ourselves and in our horses must be balanced with kindness and empathy for our partner.
The horse’s needs must come first.
So, what does this have to do with Nationals? I brought two horses to nationals. Petie and I are simpatico. We are a team. She will work for me no matter what. I just need to manage her confidence level and anxiety at the show.
Lorix and I haven’t known each other for very long. I’ve had him just over a year, and he had not been worked the year before I got him. In Dressage time, this is like a snap of your fingers. We haven’t had time to get really good, to get on the same page. To really become partners.
When we arrived at Balmoral Park, I realized the competition had improved over the years. If I could ride clean, Petie could win her division, but I suddenly realized that Lorix needed to perform to his absolute best, and I needed to ride well in order to get into the Top Ten. The funny thing about Lorix is that he is full of shenanigans. He is all boy and likes to screw with me if I am stressed. When he canters, he likes to twist his head and pop up his butt, nothing dangerous, but more of a disruptive “Fabio moment”.
So, as my hyper competitive heart created a work plan for him until his class, focusing on the areas that I thought I could supple up before the test, Lorix decided to wind up his butt for popping up at the canter. Every single time. I became crazy. Every time I rode him, all I could focus on was the naughty canter. Accordingly, it became worse and worse. Two days before my test, my mind stepped in and put its hand on Ambition’s shoulder. Quietly, it whispered, “Let it go”.
Let it go? How could I improve before my test? Let it go. I realized that the last thing I wanted to do was make Lorix hate this. I want this horse to have a long, happy career. He is an awesome athlete and has a fantastic work ethic. I was going to ruin his attitude. So, I let it go. I clearly wasn’t going to change the canter before Wednesday, so quit. Focus on what he can do well; let him feel successful.
Immediately everything changed, we began communicating again. The poison of my ambition had leached into other areas of the test. When I stepped back, he stepped up and did his best. Funny thing, his canters improved and, as I relaxed, so did he. Not one moment during the test. Lorix was US Arabian Sport Horse Nationals Top Ten Second Level (Half Arab) Open. Makes you think.
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