Horses

Time for some spring cleaning…of bad habits

It’s that time of year again. The weather is better, horses can stretch their legs, you aren’t in the mud all the time. It’s also when your horse’s energy is sky high and their ground manners could probably use a good brushing up. I wrote a post similar to this (here’s the link), but let’s review the basics so your horse isn’t constantly dragging you to the nearest grassy patch.

Just like riding, horses benefit from assertive handlers. There is no need to be aggressive or try to “man-handle” them, but just emulate Beyonce’s confidence and you’ll be good. A horse with superb ground manners also respects their handler. Along with being assertive, create a give and take relationship. Allowing your horse rewards for their good behavior only leads to better things, so feel free to let up on the pressure, give them a cookie, or give them a pat whenever you think they are listening to you!

Now that you’re as confident as Queen Bey, let’s choose a method of training. While I cannot say enough things about Clinton Anderson’s Method, some horses will do better with other training. Versions you can use include other methods of natural horsemanship or just the good ol’ fashioned stud chain and whip. You can even mix and match these training forms; you don’t need to choose just one! Whatever you choose, allow room for some trial and error, because your horse might suddenly decide she doesn’t like it anymore when you use a carrot stick.

Practicing these methods can sometimes be the worst. I don’t know about you, but I’m almost as impatient for results as a dog waiting for a treat. But this is actually one of the most important parts. Consistency with your training is key. If you don’t practice, you won’t have a responsive horse. This means that you need to take your horse for a walk every single day and you need to make them back up every single time they don’t stop when you stop.

Ok so now we that we have the boring stuff out of the way, time to get into the actual training. No matter the method you choose, the fundamentals behind ground manners stems down to having a responsive horse. Doing different exercises with them using different tools will achieve this result. The bottom line is to keep your horse mentally and physically engaged, aka listening to you, so that they won’t feel like they can do your own thing.

  1. Start with the simplest exercise. When you’re walking your horse, stop and make them halt. The key here is they must stop with you. Don’t let them stop ahead, don’t let them stop when they feel like, don’t let them stop and whip around to eat grass, and especially don’t let them stop with their hindquarters facing you. If they don’t halt at or behind your shoulder, make them back up until they are in the desired location. This implies that they must work when you tell them, and work until they get to the place they are supposed to be in. As soon as they respond and do what they’re asked, give them rest, to signify they did a good job.
  2. Another exercise to do on ground is similar to the first: having them back up. Just making your horse back a few steps when you tell them to shows that you are assertive enough to tell them what you want. This is also a good tool if you feel like they aren’t listening to you. The trick to making this an effective tool relies on you keeping your feet planted, so that you don’t walk with them to back up. This is a serious learning curve, and might involve you breaking this rule to initially teach them to back, but it’s so freakin’ effective. By you planting your feet, and making them back, you’re telling them that you have the only control in this relationship.
  3. A good thing to teach them is your personal space. If they are too close to you, you can get in serious danger if they get scared of something. Make sure they keep about a 2 foot space away from you. You don’t want them giving you flat tires every 5 feet, anyway!

And of course, ask your trainer, read up on methods, or ask me for more information! There’s tons more exercises you can do to improve your ground manners, and your relationship with your horse.

 

 

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Now Raven can even ground tie!

 

Remember to just take everything one stride at a time and you’re golden 🙂

 

Horses, Uncategorized

Interested in 3-Day Eventing?

 

 

Oh my, where to start. This sport has so much to talk about!

Eventing is not for the faint of heart. While eventing is ridiculously fun, it is also takes a ton of discipline and learning. I miss it, and after you’re done reading this post, you’ll understand why everyone is addicted to it as I am.

3 day eventing incorporates 3 phases – dressage, show jumping, and cross country – over a course of 3 days with at least one phase each day. During the show, you are mentally and physically tested, and it’s the most rewarding experience. One of the best parts of eventing is that all equestrians can do it. The energy and people behind eventing is  very inclusive. This is what makes the sport truly enjoyable, the feeling that everyone is connected and spirited about the same thing.

Before I get all kumbaya on you, I wanted to briefly explain each phase.

Dressage is what I always call the building blocks of eventing. If your horse can’t respond to the simplest of commands in dressage, you will not excel in the other two phases. Here, you ride a test, depending on your level, to display the horse’s responsiveness to cues. Don’t worry about the fancy moves — worry more about suppleness, rhythm, and your geometry. The judge will score you on how accurately you do the test, but also these qualities.

Now on to stadium jumping. This was my trainer’s favorite phase, and I never understood why until now. Stadium jumping is very technical because you need all the same qualities as dressage while navigating a course. Your horse must be willing to give you their head, adjust their stride, and pick up their feet! You’re being judged on how quickly you go through the course, so purely time, but you get a better score if you don’t knock any poles or have any refusals. Your course will also have a higher quality ride if you have a responsive horse, like I mentioned, allowing you to have a faster time.

Next is my favorite, cross country. Here is where your horse’s bravery, and your’s, is tested. You are literally galloping and jumping over natural obstacles for about 10 minutes straight. If you are an adrenaline junky, this phase is for you! Anything can happen while out on this course, making it the most dangerous out of all of the phases – and the most controversial. The USEF, USEA, and other organizations are working to make this safer for horses and riders, but don’t let that interfere with your interest for this sport. If you are safe, aware, and responsible when you ride, you should love it!

All three phases make up this beautiful sport, but there is so much more to it! The eventing community is one of the nicest I have ever been a part of. This sport also exposes you to multiple disciplines, allowing you to deviate or move between different areas and try something new.

There are lots of reasons to try eventing. But the best reason of them all is that you develop one of the strongest bonds with your horse. I know Raven will have my back every time we’re on the cross country course. I know she’s going to stay collected and focused through every dressage test. And lastly, I know she’s enjoying her ride as much as I am.

If you have any questions, want to know more about the sport, or just want to talk, feel free to contact me! You can also read more about it on the USEA website, Eventing Nation, or contact some eventing trainers in your area. Now get out there and kick some butt!

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Horses

Thanksgiving

Hi, all!

So I’ve been gone awhile….sorry! Grad school is kicking my butt. Not gonna lie I have been so busy and today I totally forgot to shower and I didn’t realize that until just now.

But anyways, on to what I actually wanted to say.

I tried something new and hopped on the Western train! As many can tell from this blog, I ride English and, aside from a couple of tourist trail rides, I have never ridden Western. Over Thanksgiving I was able to try something new, starting with a Western saddle.

thursdaywesternriding

(Excuse my riding attire, my family abruptly asked me to ride with them while I was in the middle of cooking so I had no time to change)

On Thursday, I warmed up my ride on the “western” side to get a feel for the tack change and for the differences in command. My AQHA judging experience came in handy!! It was definitely a learning curve to ride in this saddle, but I acclimated quickly. I even taught my boyfriend how to ride and he grew comfortable enough to go out in the pasture on his own.Thursday was a good warm up for the big guns. We were able to become comfortable with the horses and tack in time for the next adventure – a BLM trail ride.

Friday was the big day. We decided we were going on a trail ride, rain or shine. We loaded up the horses in 45 degree pouring rain and headed to the Bend in Red Bluff.

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Oh. My. Gosh. So gorgeous. The rain actually stopped (thankfully) as soon as we hopped on our horses and headed for the trail. Even though we ended up walking and trotting a bit, I absolutely loved it. There was no one on the trail, everything was fresh from the rain, and the views were absolutely to die for.

We even had enough time for Wes and I to take cute pictures with all the gorgeous nature. Once of my favorite things about the Bend was the always changing scenery. There was over 300,000 acres full of rolling hills, rivers, forests, and meadows. The trail ride was truly a beautiful thing.

These pictures do not do the area justice, but take my word because this ride was one of the most serene and picturesque. It was also a great experience to try something different.

As a typical horse girl, I will take just about any opportunity to spend time with a horse. However, I get so caught up in my discipline that I sometimes forget about others or I never think to try something new with my horse. Spending time with family, especially with a fellow horsewoman who strictly trail rides and packs, gave me a different perspective.

My horse sense grew over the weekend because I was able to learn from the trails. These horses were so comfortable with trailering, with jogging on trails, even with gunshots! It reminded me that increased exposure makes a better horse – something that my horse definitely needs to work on.Trail riding also taught me to slow down and enjoy the view. Constantly in the competition world can be detrimental to both our horses and ourselves. This is why I think we need to experience different things. It doesn’t need to be as drastic as racing barrels on Saturdays and show jumping on Sundays, but a casual trail ride every once in awhile could benefit your horse. You can even work it into your training regimen as a hack or conditioning!

All in all, doing something different every once in awhile not only opens your perspective, but it could maintain the health of your horse, and you might even find your next new hobby!

 

Horses, Life

Senior Pictures with Horses: How-To

I recently graduated from college and….ohmygosh I’m an alum!! So weird to think about, but I’m so happy I now have a bachelors. Even though I will no longer be in college, I still will post tips and college experiences, because well, because college is really damn hard.

Since I just finished a huge task, aka mastering the science of animals, I decided to take some beautiful pictures to mark the monumental feat. Since there aren’t many senior picture examples with horses, I thought I’d share the photos that I had done. I didn’t take any of these photos (obviously…), so I give all credit to my amazing photographer, Asia Croson! If you are looking for a bad-ass photographer to bring out the best in you, I linked her website; you can find her here.

View More: http://asiacrosonphotography.pass.us/kaitlynandravenandmila

I originally booked a session with 3 different locations. I did the first two locations with just me at the beach and on top of a hill. If you’d like to see those, and the different poses that came along with them, comment below! These are from the last session I had.

Anyway, I love this photo because of the trees. They look so daunting, and really emphasizes that Raven and I are on this journey together. Which is completely representative of our relationship through college, and even through the 7 years that we’ve been a team. Plus we look like we’re dominating the world.

View More: http://asiacrosonphotography.pass.us/kaitlynandravenandmila

And of course we had to get a couple shots in the grass, so she can chow down! Playing around with the sun and how you’re positioned in relation to your horse really makes the portraits interesting. Even though my beautiful town is more brown than green, I love the contrast between her dark coat and the golden grass. Whenever I get pictures taken, I always try to angle my body and move my limbs so I don’t look awkward. It’s hard to master, but practice in front of the mirror or something if you’re worried about it!

These two are beautiful. This is the exact reason I wanted a professional photographer with me. They know how to capture the sunlight in the best way. I  absolutely love that I am casually focused on the railing while everything else is slightly unfocused! Having your horse in the background will not only put the spotlight on you, but also showcase your love for horses, in an artistic and adorable way.

View More: http://asiacrosonphotography.pass.us/kaitlynandravenandmila

Like the cover photo, I just had to get some photos of us with my graduation attire! The cover photo has me wearing the sash, but I also put it on Rae. Play around with your props, like your cap and sash, because it makes the photos more interesting and unique.

I LOVE these! I saw pictures of some people signing a heart on their horse like I’m doing here, and I just had to do it! These are some of my faves (I feel like I saw that with every portait…) because she looks so content and happy. You can just see the strong bond we have with each other.

I also brought my best friend along to appear in some photos. She and I have been riding together for almost 12 years, so I figured it would be cute and fun to have her with my horse. They kind of turned out like our engagement photo, but I don’t care!!  I love the ones where we’re resting on the railing, because you can see our jewelry. We decided to wear pieces that had meaning for us.

I also got some photos of how I decorated my cap. I am in love with them because its somewhat original and totally applicable to my life (I am doing the MBA program in the fall).

View More: http://asiacrosonphotography.pass.us/kaitlynandravenandmila

Lastly, I wanted to talk about your outfit/props/makeup and stuff to be thinking about when you do your pictures. Since my horse is black, I wanted my outfit to be light colored. I chose a simple white tank top, jeans, and boots because I wear an outfit similar to this everyday and because it complemented my horse. When you choose your outfit, make sure you are comfortable and confident. The same is for makeup, except you could get away with exaggerating. I wore three times as much makeup as normal, curled my hair to enhance my natural curls, and wore fake eyelashes. With all of this, everything looks pretty natural, right? Just keep that in mind 🙂

Just as a disclaimer, most of these photos are completely candid. I thought of poses on the spot that I thought would look cute, but I literally had no idea what I was doing. That’s where Asia saved my life. She made me feel so comfortable goofing around and having fun.

I hope these pictures provide some inspiration with your upcoming photoshoot with your horse! I know I had a blast and they turned out better than expected.  I will always have these pictures to remember me and my girl, and I am forever thankful to have her.

View More: http://asiacrosonphotography.pass.us/kaitlynandravenandmila

On that note, did anyone have a similar experience with graduate pictures?

Horses

In Response…

Recently, Eventing Nation posted an article titled, ‘Is This Sport Safe Enough? Breaking Down the Latest Eventing Statistics.’ I believe that this article is very appropriate for all riders to read, whether eventers or not.

The eventing world has seen some hard times in the past couple of months as multiple riders (and horses) have fallen to their deaths out cross country. This cues the debate on all social media whether safety for eventing needs to be increased. This article is well written because it addresses everyone’s concerns in an empirical, logical way.

As a refresher, eventing contains three phases: dressage, stadium jumping, and cross country. Each of these phases are crucial to the overall performance of the pair competing — something that I feel many forget. In the article, an analysis of falls out cross country concluded that there was a correlation in eliminations, faults, and falls cross country and relatively poor performances in dressage. When I read this, it startled me because of the truth behind it. I grew up with many riders never having a solid dressage test with their horse because they only liked to focus on jumping because it was more fun. I believe that this is a huge problem.

While Stevenson makes other points about this situation, the conversation needs to expand on coaching and riding. If riders are proficient in dressage, flat work,  the fundamentals of riding and horse behavior, there is a chance that horrific accidents can decrease. Therefore, dressage should be a huge factor in all disciplines. I feel that a rider should understand how to make the horse bend, be supple, and the basics of collection and extension. The problem with flat work is that not a lot of people want to spend time doing something that is ‘boring.’ We should shift the stigma and promote dressage!

Now to say that knowledge in dressage will completely eliminate risk in eventing would be incorrect, but it could severely decrease preventable accidents. Overall, the article stated that fatal falls and other disasters in eventing have decreased over a period of 30 years. With this knowledge, it is great to see how eventing is somewhat improving. There might be more to do, but this discipline is getting where it needs to be!

I am looking forward to seeing where it leads us 🙂

Horses, Life

Combatting Stall Rest

We’ve all been there. When your vet mutters the dreadful words that your prime competition horse is lame and needs time off, a little piece of soul dies. Recently, Raven somehow hurt herself and needed a couple of months off. This wasn’t our first rodeo, so I came up with a couple tips I’ve learned from her multiple injuries.

  1.  Listen to Your Vet. This is obviously a no brainer, but your vet really knows what he’s talking about. Not only did they go through nearly 8 years of school to be able to diagnose ol’ Buddy, but they probably have many more years of personal experience with lame horses. If they advise you to only handwalk for a certain period of time or insist on re-evaluating your horse every couple of months, it’s because they want what’s best for your horse. (Although, try to avoid crazy ass call fees as much as possible — it can really do a number on your wallet.)
  2. With that said, you know your horse better than anyone. When Raven was 6 years old and she fractured her coffin bone, I knew there was no way that she could survive 6 months off without drugs or some type of stimulation. I pointed this out to my vet and we were able to come up with a plan so that she wouldn’t try to kill herself in her stall from boredom. Talking to your vet to work out a plan that fits both you and your horse will only make things better. If your vet recommends that your horse should be handwalked, make sure you and your horse can do that while being as safe as you can. The purpose of stall rest is for them to heal. You don’t want them making silly decisions that only cost you more time and money.seniorpicswithraven 067
  3. Sometimes drugs are the answer. The first time Raven was off, Ace was my life-saver. I administered it in a cookie before I groomed or walked her and it really helped. If I didn’t use drugs, I would have a horse for a kite every time I had to do something with her. The second time around, I tried to go without Ace (she was about 5 years older), and it worked beautifully! I simply used a rope halter for more control (see this post on how rope halters can help with ground manners) while walking on the flat. Before you make any decisions, it’s best to talk it over with the vet, whomever is around, your trainer, or the knowledgeable gal at the barn.
  4. Alter their feeding regimen. Because your horse will no longer be able to work or go to turnout, they will have to spend a lot of their day doing nothing. I can’t speak for everyone’s horses, but mine gets fat…and gets fat quickly! By changing their grain to a low starch formula, nixing grain completely, or cutting their feed down, you can delay the side effects of stall rest. Also coinciding with my next point, switching your horse to a slow feeder can help ease the stress of staying in a stall while also preventing them from over eating.
  5. Mental stimulation is just as good as physical stimulation. Even if Raven isn’t on stall rest, I still like to play games with her to exercise her mind. Sometimes I will set up a walking obstacle course where she has to go over poles or weave cones while I’m walking her on the ground. This is good to do on stall rest too! You can also hide cookies and make your horse find them. For this exercise, I usually end up placing treats in cerIMG_1810tain areas and make Raven sniff them out. Since she’s not a dog, it’s hilarious to watch her try and find these!
  6. Stretch! Since your horse can’t work, they can lose a lot of muscle. Many studies have shown that a horse won’t start to lose their fitness for up to 3 weeks, but that doesn’t really help if your horse is off for 6 months. However, stretching their muscles can help them from getting stiff. Aside from walking, performing neck stretches, leg stretches, hip stretches, and overall massaging them will really help.
  7. Groom. Everyday. Grooming helps for a world full of reasons. Not only will it help maintain the bond with horse and rider, but it will provide some mental stimulation for your horse. They will also appreciate it to be groomed as much as possible. And even though they will be stuck in a stall, they can still get hooves full of crap that need to be picked everyday. Plus, doting on a horse is ridiculously fun!!
  8. Lastly, make sure to stay up with your health, too. This last go round, I became so bored from not riding that I took up running (idk why tho, running sucks, lol). Maintaining your physical fitness and nutrition is important so that you will be able to handle your horse at all times. Not only that, but it’s healthy for you to maintain some form of exercise as often as possible. So, make sure to take care of your body while taking care of your horse.

Having a horse on stall rest can provide some benefits, too. You can always put yourself out there to ride other barn mate’s horses during the free time that you allocated to riding yours. You also have more time to do other fun things and pursue other interests, like hiking or reading or vegging out and watching Netflix! Just remember to take stall rest one stride at a time and that it can be a good experience!!

What other tips do you have for stall rest?

Horses, Uncategorized

Show Time!

I’m about to head out to the Santa Barbara jumper show! I’ve never competed in a sole jumper show. My past showing experience has been primarily eventing, so this will be a new and fun experience!img_3640_26976171045_o

One thing that I think everyone can relate with me on is that packing for shows is a process. Not only do you have to pack for yourself, but you need to pack for your horse, get everything clean, make sure you have everything, and give your horse a bath. All in a day’s work! It can be frustrating, but over the years I have learned a couple things that really help.

First of all, spacing tasks out really helps! I often forget a lot of things and often times end up buying new stuff or just forgetting crucial things, like a whip or a lunge line or something like that. I’ve found that packing over a couple of days really helps because you can think of everything you need and make sure you don’t forget anything.

Another helpful tip is remember to bring a sharpie, duct tape, and ziploc bags! For some reason, these essentials are necessary at shows and can never be found when you really need them.

It also helps to clean your tack before the show so you can have the day before to prepare for other things. I always get so busy the day before trying to get everything set up that cleaning my tack is the least of my worries. Having everything spotless before hand makes it easier to do spot treatments on the big day! The Effax Combi comes in handy for those finishing touches. It’s really convenient to use as you don’t need any water!

Try not to over pack. I know this is hard to do because there are so many “what if?” situations. Just remember that your other teammates will be around, as well as other trainers and barns. People will have extra things if you forget them! Everyone at the show is a horse person and will be more than willing to help if you forget some treats or a bell boot.

Take a deep breath and get excited!!! You’re about to show off your beastly abilities at whatever you excel in! I know how stressful shows can be, but you will rock it. Just have faith and have a good ride!

Horses

You Can Never Learn Too Much

Even though I have had the pleasure of riding multiple of horses, I still feel like I know nothing about bits. I work at an online tack store and I often get a lot of questions about bits. First of all, I know the difference between a loose ring, double jointed snaffle, a pelham, a ported 7-inch shank bit, a waterford, and a slow twist dee ring. However, if you need me to compare the difference between a loose ring double jointed, loose ring with a french link, or a dog bone, or even a Myler, I will probably tell you that all are really similar and will do about the same job. And don’t even get me started on Western bits. The second I need to explain the difference on five different shanked bits with all sorts of chains and wires, I am completely lost! It seems to me that all bits are basically the same. They all go in a horse’s mouth.

Yes, yes, I do know that there is a difference between different bits and different disciplines. Heck, there’s even a difference between Hunters and Equitation and Jumpers (why they’re grouped into the same show setting is beyond comprehendable to me)! But what  I am trying to get at is that WE ALL DO THE SAME THNG. We ride.

I believe that we need to take things we learn from our Jumper friends, from our Eventing friends, from our Reining friends, from our Barrel Racing friends, from our Long Distance friends, and all the different disciplines and learn from everyone.

Before moving to college, I was so narrow minded about horse riding. I believed that the best riders and training came from Eventing. I was totally wrong! I have learned an enormous amount from Western Pleasure riders and Natural Horsemanship riders. I’ve learned that you need a horse to be respectful and “well broke” before you even think about asking them to do things like jump a 4’6″ course. I’ve learned from Barrel Racers that you need to add style to everything and sometimes you need to gain speed to really have your horse listen. I’ve learned from Jumpers that outside rein is your friend in every single aspect of a ride. I’ve learned from Hunters that postition of leg and your hip angle will change your whole ride. I’ve learned from Reiners that self carriage is key. I could go on and on about what I have learned from everyone I have met in the horse industry, but my blabbering doesn’t deliver the point. The key is that we all strive to do the same thing — to have a great ride.

So if you are navigating through life, determined to be close-minded and resistant, I urge you to give people a chance. You never know who you meet that might just have the answer to your problems, whether it’s because you cant get your horse to have a balanced canter or you need a recommendation for a book.

And just remember to take things a stride at a time —