It is always great to hear when someone gets good results with some of the How To’s I provide. Especially happy about this blog post about grooming with ‘elbow grease’ instead of chemicals. Enjoy!
Originally posted on Now, that's The Spot!:
As I’ve mentioned in the last couple of posts, I’ve been grooming… a lot. But, to be completely honest, I do enjoy it and it kinda of meditative for me. It’s especially relaxing after a long day at work and I can just zone out while currying and brushing.
I’ve noticed however that grooming isn’t something people like to do, or something people do at all anymore. More than often I see people brush their horse’s saddle area as if they were feather dusting a porcelain tea cup and call it done. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m running really short on time, I’ll usually just give a quick once over so I can be on my way. As a kid and learning how to ride, grooming was taken seriously and your horse had to be nicely groomed or you’d get yelled at by your British Horse Society trainer. So, good…
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“Does Dressage Need a Makeover to Attract a Mass Audience?”
This headline appeared in social media this morning, linking to an article by a British horse magazine. Below it, a young rider in a purple dressage coat, lavender pants, horse decked out in matching colors. Frankly, I don’t remember what exactly the horse looked like, apart from the colorful accessories.
Now, thinking about that question again, all I remember in my mind is the rider’s flamboyant outfit. Reading through the ‘yeah’ and ‘nay’ comments and opinions of others, I simply can’t come up with an intelligent answer, in spite of sipping on a decaf soy latte.
But, wait a minute… Is this even the right question to ask?
“There are no right answers to wrong questions.” – Ursula K. Le Guin
Whenever there is the need for analysis, there is a need to ask the right questions and confirm the definition of the substance at stake (IT project managers will agree here).
In other words, if we want to determine whether a change needs to be made, let’s make sure we are all talking about the same thing. What exactly are we talking about? DRESSAGE, you will say.
What Exactly Is Dressage?
And where do we find the correct definition?
Logically, we would turn to the ‘rules we ride by’. The ‘rules’ are the FN Principles of Riding, which in turn are based on the pure and unadulterated classic German riding theory and source of today’s “Training Scale”, the HDV12 German Cavalry Manual, last edition of 1937. Let’s see how the HDV12 defines dressage:
“In order to be able to fulfill all requirements that military duty demands of a war-ready cavalry horse, the green horse’s body needs to be systematically developed by means of gymnasticizing, and the horse needs to be carefully educated. Both elements combined are called dressage.” (HDV12 German Cavalry Manual for Training Horse & Rider, 1937)
This makes a lot of sense. So Dressage is a means to an end, not an end itself. Horsemen, mostly in the cavalry, culminated practical knowledge over centuries, learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to creating an able and willing equine partner, documented this and it in the form of an Army Regulation.
“…The goal of dressage is to school the horse to the optimum performance level and to make it obedient. This goal can only be achieved if the horse—while maintaining and developing its natural [mental and physical] disposition—is brought into a form and posture in which it can fully develop its potential. In such form and posture, the horse will be able to prove equal to the demands of service for a long time.” (HDV12/1937)
Aha! So the goal is to create an willing and able equine athlete, who will stay healthy and usable for a long time! In 2015 speak: ROI (Return On Investment), folks!
In the context of preparing the horse for a partnership in military service (end), dressage was the systematic schooling (means) needed to create this able military steed. Not an end in itself.
Dressage competitions, in turn, are merely benchmarking events. Here is where riders show how far they have come in their schooling of their horse, here is where this schooling is judged not against the performance of other riders, but according to the governing parameters: the Principles of Riding (based on the HDV12).
- The original question was: “Does dressage need a makeover to attract a mass audience?”
- We asked the question: What are we talking about? What is dressage?
- We discovered the correct definition of dressage as a systematic schooling of the horse to create an able and willing all around equine athlete.
- Dressage competitions are benchmarking events, where we are judged against the ‘rules we ride by’, which are the FN Principles of Riding (based on the HDV12).
Final Thoughts on Dressage, Right Questions, Mass Audiences & Fancy Pants
The ‘makeover’ question raises a lot of other questions in my mind.
Why do we need mass audiences? Why does dressage need to appeal to mass audiences? Who benefits from making some of the proposed changes or even making these concerns priorities?
First and foremost, dressage is or should be about the horse. The real question is a different one. It is time to take the officials by the horns and ask more relevant questions:
Are you or are you not basing the rules we ride by on the classical guidelines (HDV12)?
“Today’s FN Guidelines—the Principles of Riding, the official instruction manual of the German National Equestrian Federation—were developed on the basis of the H. Dv. 12, whereby the 1937 edition provided the main orientation.” Eckart Meyners in his foreword to the English edition of the HDV12/1937
The answer is therefore officially – see FN Principles of Riding – yes! That means it’s time that
- Everybody learn the rules,
- Know the difference and
- Get Back to Classic!
Then, an unlimited number of athletes and spectators can enjoy dressage, knowing we are doing right by the horse. No matter what color your fancy pants…
Enjoy your horse!
This article couldn’t have come at a better time, as I am preparing to post a series of articles about “Path to Performance(TM) – A 3-Step Process to a Willing & Able Horse”. Resistance-free interaction on the emotional and mental level is part of Step 1 and this article gives wonderful suggestions and food for thought. Thank you and enjoy!
“It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.” ~Mark Twain.
Originally posted on Horses |AnnaBlakeBlog | Equestrian:
If you are standing next to your horse and he looks away, do you think he’s distracted or even disrespectful? When your horse yawns, is he sleepy or bored? If he moves slowly, is he lazy? These are important cues from your horse, are you hearing him correctly?
When it comes to communicating with horses, some humans are a bit like a self-obsessed rock star who throws a temper tantrum and trashes the room, but then assumes everyone wants his autograph. By equine standards, we ignore those around us and begin by screaming bloody-murder and escalate from there. Part of respecting a horse is remembering that their senses are much keener than ours. We can whisper.
It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions. ~Mark Twain.
Horses give us calming signals, just like dogs. Norwegian dog…
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Excellent article about world leaders of the past and their steeds.
Originally posted on The Flying Shetlands:
George Washington, The First President
Since here in the US it is Presidents Day weekend, I thought that I would feature a few of our presidents on horseback as well as other world leaders riding horses as well. I took extra time to try and find all of the artists names, but unfortunately was not able to. If anyone knows of any of the artists names or another leaders in paintings/sculpture, please contact me. Thanks!
Here is a very interesting site that has a lot of info on the horses of the White House: http://www.whitehousehistory.org/presentations/white-house-horses/index.html
George Washington and Nelson “The Prayer at Valley Forge ” by Arnold Friberg
Andrew Jackson At The Battle Of New Orleans
Andrew Jackson was the major general of thTennessee Volunteers during the war of 1812.
Andrew Jackson on horseback, engraving by an unidentified artist, c. 1830.
United States’ 7th President, Andrew Jackson
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The old saying ‘no hoof no horse’ gains special significance in the winter, when elements, cold temperatures and wetness can contribute to hoof decay. Here in the Midwest, this is a big concern.
In warmer climates, dryness and exposure to sand and rough terrain can also take a toll. Here a summary of factors that determine the condition of your horse’s hooves:
With these variables, there is much we can do to support healthy hooves in our horses. But one solution does not fit all…
What is a hoof?
The horse’s hoof is the equivalent of the last two digits of the human middle finger, encapsulated by horn layers. When caring for our horse’s hoof, we are concerned with the outer layers: the wall, the sole, the frog, and also the coronary band.
The coronary band: The equivalent of our cuticles. This is where hoof growth starts.
The wall: The wall is between 5 and 10 mm thick and consists of three layers. The outer layer of dense horn acts as a barrier to the inner layers. If the outer layer is healthy and maintained properly, it prevents dehydration of the inner layers.
The sole: The sole can grow up to 10 mm thick. Its Keratin* is more easily worn down than that of the hoof wall.
The frog: Keratin in the frog and bulb is also softer than in the hoof wall. With every step, the horse’s weight expands the frog, which in turn presses the hoof wall outward. This is called the ‘hoof mechanism’, a healthy and necessary function of a natural hoof.
[Keratin: a fibrous protein forming the main structural constituent of hair, feathers, hoofs, claws, horns, etc.]
How a hoof stays healthy
With the three elements wall, sole and frog having distinct functions that interlace into one mechanism, there is a balance that we’d like to maintain:
- The wall should stay hard and strong but resilient and not brittle.
- The sole should be dry and somewhat flexible, but not crumbling or too dry and hard (think expansion).
- The frog needs to be elastic and resilient but not soggy or rock hard to maintain a healthy hoof mechanism.
Step 1 – Determine the “Current State”
When striving to create and maintain a healthy hoof in our horse, it is first of all important to determine the current state:
- Is the hoof soft and brittle?
- Is the hoof hard and brittle?
- Is the hoof dry and rock-hard?
Then we can decide what measures to take to help our horse maintain a healthy hoof. (For more important external and internal factors that determine hoof health see below.)
Soft and brittle hooves
This is what is looks like: A soft brittle hoof will visibly disintegrate. Pieces of horn break of the hoof wall. The hoof is described as “crumbly”. If shod, the farrier will have a hard time keeping a shoe on this hoof.
Causes: Too much exposure to wetness without proper ‘barrier’. Exposure to manure/urine/wet bedding/mud. Hoof horn possibly genetically somewhat soft.
Repair: Avoid wetness! Dry bedding, dry lot without puddles. Clean hooves thoroughly with water and brush, dry with a towel, then treat hooves daily with a hoof ointment or oil without petroleum-based ingredients (no vaseline).
Maintain: Keep horse’s environment dry and clean hooves daily. Treat several times per week with a natural hoof treatment.
Hard and brittle hooves
This is what it looks like: A hard and brittle hoof has lost its resilience and elasticity by allowing too much of the moisture of the inner layers to evaporate through the outer protective layer, mainly the hoof wall. It will show up as a hard, dry looking hoof with vertical cracks.
Causes: The outer layer of the hoof wall and sole does not act as a protective barrier and is stripped of its natural defenses. Harsh hoof treatments, harsh chemicals (shampoos, soaps), very dry environmental conditions, very cold environmental conditions. Hoof genetically predisposed to hardness/dryness meets unfavorable conditions.
Repair: A horse with a dry and brittle hoof can benefit from a bit more moisture. Standing in a puddle, hosing, soaking, spraying CLEAN bedding with a little water. Clean hoof daily with water and hoof brush, then dry thoroughly with a towel and apply a moisturizing, protective hoof conditioner (NO petroleum-based products!).
Maintain: Clean and condition daily or at least several times per week to maintain the outer layer’s ability to lock in moisture. Monitor the hoof for signs of dryness and soak or hose when needed.
Dry and hard hooves
This is what it looks like: Dry and hard hooves (hooves like a ‘rock’) are often mistaken for healthy hooves. If you examine your horse’s hoof and the sole and frog present rock-hard and inflexible, this is–while it looks so clean and healthy–not a good thing when we think about the hoof mechanism. A healthy hoof mechanism requires a resilient and elastic frog and bulb and some elasticity in the sole and wall.
Causes: Horses with dry and rock-hard hooves are mostly kept in clean stalls, are shod, and generally well cared for. Genetics also play a role. That said, this is a clean, but not a healthy picture!
Repair: Evaluate the horse’s trim. Is the horse carrying weight on the hoof wall, the bars and the frog? If not, consult with your (or another…) farrier. A shod horse can still have a healthy hoof mechanism to some extent! If possible, apply a nourishing hoof conditioner on the clean hoof several times per day. Spray clean bedding with a little water.
Maintenance: Clean hooves daily and apply a nourishing hoof oil several times per week. Soaking in water, standing in puddles, turnout in pasture and hosing can support hoof health for a hard and dry hoof.
Tips and Tricks
To provide some moisture for dry hooves, cut a thick piece of felt in the shape of your horse’s hoof, soak it in water, place it in a horse boot (Easy Boot Trail, for example, or any therapeutic boot) and let the horse stand in it while you are grooming.
The low-tech version is to cut 4 pieces of an old wool blanket to size, big enough to wrap and tie around your horse’s feet. Soak in water, wrap and tie around your horse’s feet while grooming. (Be sure this doesn’t scare your horse and tie the pieces securely.)
Applying hoof oil
Laurel oil has been a staple in old-school hoof care for centuries and is ideal for the maintenance and to support growth of a healthy hoof. Massaging the oil into the coronary band and then down will improve the effect. You can use an old tooth brush to massage the oil into the hoof.
Hoof health from the inside
There are several internal factors that determine the horse’s hoof quality:
- Nutrition – Adequate nutrition, roughage, minerals/vitamins, balanced rations are crucial for healthy hoof growth.
- Genetics – Certain breeds tend to have certain types of hooves or typical hoof problems. Individuals also have their special genetic ‘hoof make-up’. Again, there is no one-for-all solution!
- Laminitic changes and other health factors – The insulin-resistant horse, the Cushings horse, a horse that has foundered in the past or is prone to laminitis is also a horse with possible hoof problems. Consult with your vet and farrier, care and hoof treatments can support your horse but not ‘fix’ the problem.
Hoof health from the outside
External factors determine your horse’s hoof health to a great extent. These are factors that you can control:
- Manure – manure disintegrates the outer layer of the hoof and can lead to brittle, cracking hooves or to fungal/bacterial conditions. Keep the horse’s environment as clean as possible.
- Trim/shoeing – consult with your farrier to determine the best possible trimming/shoeing solution for your horse. If your farrier applies a ‘one for all’ solution, look for a different farrier.
- Weather/environmental – While you cannot change the weather, you can change the way you maintain your horse’s hooves (above).
- Exercise – The ‘equine couch potato’ will have a hard time maintaining a healthy hoof. Adequate exercise is one of the important factors when it comes to healthy hoof growth.
Maintenance – Clean hooves and apply a conditioning hoof care treatment. This is the equivalent of using hand lotion, cuticle oil, hair conditioner, etc. It is not the ‘fix all’ but a necessary component of good care.
As always, enjoy your horse!
How to give wormer, medication, or electrolytes without battling the horse
Battling the horse for any reason is never a good idea. Even if we manage to muscle our way to goal achievement, both horse and human are left with a bad taste in their mouth, wormer or not. Any interaction between horse and human should be one of mutual understanding and cooperation, whenever possible.
Even the most well-meaning horse people, however, cave under the task of giving their horse an oral dose of wormer. Even for those, who practice fecal testing, it does become necessary to administer the foul-tasting chemical to the animal from time to time. No, I don’t buy the ‘apple flavor’! My horse’s face tells me that the stuff is not equine Godiva…
Over time, I have observed the following futile attempts to get the horse to accept the syringe and swallow the wormer:
- Ear twitching (very, very dangerous to the horse’s ear cartilage!!!)
- Tongue twitching (danger of fracturing small bones inside and connected to tongue!!!)
- Use of nose twitch (while not downright dangerous, should be reserved for real emergencies)
- Desperately hanging on to the halter (will help you spread wormer all over your new shirt)
- Spreading the wormer over food (will entice the horse to spread the food all over the ground, this used to be my method of choice…)
- and other similarly ineffective or drama-soaked techniques.
But what to do? The endurance riders among you probably already do it: You need to give your horse electrolytes during rides and probably practiced that with well-tasting syringe contents first. The trick is: Get your horse to happily accept syringes before approaching with the ill-tasting stuff!
This is the solution that will solve the problem in the long run and make worming ‘a piece of cake’:
What you need:
- Empty syringes (farm supply store)
- Unsweetened apple sauce (individual serving cups work well)
- Any type of halter
- A little patience
Every time you see your horse, find an opportunity to fill a syringe with apple sauce and gently move your hand with the syringe around the horse’s mouth. In the beginning, your horse may react unfavorably, thinking you are approaching with the wormer.
Don’t insist that your horse look at the syringe, simply make it available around the horse’s head. Curiosity will eventually lead the horse to take a sniff and let you touch his lips with the syringe. While your goal is to eventually be able to squirt the contents into your horse’s mouth, take your time and plan for several sessions.
- Don’t ‘push’ the syringe on the horse. Hold it near the horse’s mouth and let it be the horse’s idea to approach it.
- Be satisfied with small progress. A soft eye, not moving away from the syringe, may be a good goal for the first day.
- Don’t have an agenda. Your horse will tell you when he is ready to give this a try.
- Let the horse think that it is his idea to take the syringe into his mouth.
- From then on, it’s smooth sailing!
There will be some disappointment after the first time the syringe does not contain apple sauce, but you can remedy this by squirting apple sauce into the horse’s mouth right after the wormer. He’ll take his chances with you again.
Let me know how this worked for you and leave a comment!
Enjoy your horse!
We humans are amazing animals. With our consciousness, drive, intelligence and stamina, as well as our ability to conceptualize and plan, we accomplish great things and have thus made our mark on the planet (for better or worse…).
Yet, we still feel puzzled by our horses.
- Why can we not achieve our training goal?
- What is the reason for the ‘mystery lameness’ or
- simple unwillingness of the horse to perform to the best of his abilities?
Being the true humans that we are, goal-oriented can-do attitude and all, we usually turn up the ‘chatter’, involve different or more specialists, various techniques or gadgets and DO, DO, DO, DO…
What is my point? I believe the answer to the above questions can—many times—lie in a different mode of operation. As retired Professor for Physics at the University of Oregon, Dr. Amit Goswami, puts it: “Don’t just DO, remember to BE! Change your mode from DO-DO-DO to DO-BE-DO!”
What does this have to do with our horses? The “BE” is time we simply spend with our horses. Togetherness in stress-free situations, meaning away from training/conditioning scenarios, vet visits and other activities with an agenda, can yield incredible results.
What kind of “BE”-activities are we talking about?
- Going for walks (you walking with, not riding on the horse…)
- Conscious grooming (without agenda, moving slowly, paying attention to the horse’s responses, letting him guide you through the process)
- Taking your horse along when you want to chat with your barn buddy, simply stand there with him, relax and have your chat. He/she can ‘participate’. Same goes for watching someone else’s training (if environment is safe and appropriate).
- Very slow and soft body exercises, such as lowering the head as described in “True Horsemanship through Feel” (Bill Dorrance 1998) or “Beyond Horse Massage” (Jim Masterson with Stefanie Reinhold 2011), followed by just sitting or standing together.
In short: Involve your horse in as many low-stress activities as possible. If you do it in a relaxed way, you can even get the mail together!
Caution: DO NOT INVOLVE FOOD OR SNACKS in any of those activities.
What are the benefits of such “BE”-time together?
- By shutting out the chatter and the agenda that is usually attached to our every day activities, even with our horses, we become attuned to the horse. This can answer the question: “What does the horse think?” (In a very down-to-earth way, reading his responses.) This way we notice very subtle changes in his expression and learn to interpret our silent friend’s body language better. In turn, we can practice our own body language and level of relaxation and see how the horse responds to that.
- We may become aware of physical areas of concern that the horse may have. Why so? As trust grows between you through simply doing what horses do together—hanging out—your horse may feel free to express unwellness or discomfort. One example would be a horse that suddenly stands on three legs, lifting the right front, for example, instead of putting weight on it.
- Trust, as mentioned, is a big factor here. As you go for walks and engage in other simple ‘togetherness’ exercises, you get to know each other better and trust grows both ways. Trust is the basis for relaxation, which is the basis for wellness. In that alone, this type of “BE”-time can contribute to make the horse feel safe and relaxed around you, which may eliminate stress-related health problems like ulcers and muscular tension due to emotional stress.
- Do you want you and your horse to be ‘attached at the hip’?
- Do you want to learn how to read your horse’s slightest responses, body language and signs of unwellness?
- Do you want to enjoy the benefits of ‘accidental meditation’ by quieting your mind in soft and stress-free activities with your horse?
>>>Then you are ready for “BE”-time!
To learn more about what kind of activities that can easily be incorporated in your every day interaction with your horse, drop me a line or visit my seminars page at. I’d love to meet you and share experiences in one of my 1-day seminars for horse owners.
Enjoy your horse and remember to DO-BE-DO-BE-DO!!!