As a kid my parents bought me my first horse, an off-the-track Thoroughbred gelding named George. He taught me many, many lessons and ended up being a great first horse. There was nothing particularly fancy about him, plain bay who wasn't a particularly fancy mover.
I spent years getting him to respond to my aids and learn to be a riding horse. I fed horses in exchange for my lessons, since my parent's horse budget was only enough for George's board and shoes.
We fumbled our way through 4-H local shows. Typically ending up towards the bottom of the ribbons, while the other kids with push button ponies pinned first time and time again. Every once and awhile a judge would really like him other days I could hear the parents of the other kids in my classes telling them to get as much space from me and George as they could.
Now...I really hope I'm not sounding bitter, I was so lucky that my parents bought me a horse and let me ride, there are a lot of young horse crazy kids that never get the chance to take lessons. But I've always really enjoyed showing and always craved success in the show ring.
Like most adult amateurs, my budget and schedule limit me in my riding and showing endeavors but my current horse, Lilly, although she may not be A show hunter quality has become a great show partner for me. But self-confidence is something that I think all riders fight with...I know I have my entire riding career.
I'll admit I get self conscious about my horse, worried about what other's could be saying about her movement (she's 1/4 Friesian...) and size (she's 15.2 on a really good day). She doesn't fit in with the other hunters, and I know that. When we go to a horse show I feel like I'm back in high school, feeling like I don't fit in with the other kids.
That is the thing about showing the hunters, you are asking for the judge's opinion. Whether you and your trainer (and your mom) don't agree - it is purely based on opinion. But there is a different kind of judgement that can run rampant at horse shows, one that only we as exhibitors can stop.
I'm talking about is the judgement that happens outside the ring, the whispers behind your back, the stares of trainers and competitors, and the judging eyes of the show secretaries. Just because a rider isn't wearing the newest of the new, or doesn't have a pair of custom boots - if they are turned out professionally and have put in the work to get to this point we should be celebrating their successes.
I want us to bring sportsmanship back into the sport, even at the local show level. Offer a smile and a compliment for a fellow competitor, it'll make for a much more pleasant community. If you don't want to do it for yourself do it for me, because I'll be that girl who needs a smile.
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I was bitten by the horse bug early in life. Since then I have been blessed to establish relationships with many great horses. As a child 90% of the time I spent at the barn was just walking my grandmother’s horses around, more trying to pull their heads up from the grass so I could walk them, grooming or sitting on them while they ate hay in the stall.
When you are young or new to the equestrian world you rely on trainers, vets, and other professionals to help guide and educate you. The goal is to create a team that can work together to do what is best for the horse. As I look back, I can see how much I relied on these people.
I wanted to learn and thought they knew what was right for me and my horse, but in hindsight now there were several situations what my horse was trying to tell me that something was wrong.
Refusing fences was not a behavioral problem, he was in pain. He was able to happily come back into work after some rehab, but by making a change in his training could’ve avoided the behaviors that were dangerous for both of us. I wish I would have been an advocate for my horse.
I was always a little nervous to speak out because I felt inferior to those who have been in the industry longer than myself and were more ‘experienced’ horse trainers. The value that I find in what was an extremely frustrating situation was the hard lesson I learned of the importance of looking into physical problems before ‘fixing’ any training challenges. At this point in my career, I will no longer stand in silence.
Trainers have different training methods and some may look tough but are needed for that horse or situation. Not every program is for every horse, just like we talked about on this podcast.
A good way to keep track of your horse’s behavior is to use is a journal. We all can forget informations or timeline of events in a month’s time. Recording every ride can be helpful to catch these things. If they were a little stiff starting or refused a jump, make a note of it.
If lameness occurs, you can go back into the journal and show the vet the timeline of events and highlighted instances. Not only could this be a faster way in catching an issue, but your vet will love your detailed notes! Every horse needs an advocate. We have domesticated these creatures and now it is our responsibility to care for them.
Leave a comment and share when you've had to be your horse's advocate!
I’m going to warn you, this one isn’t just about horses…
I’ve been on a war path lately about doing some major renovations on our house and harassing my husband with my new Pinterest projects. One evening after sharing another project with him, he looked at me and said “You are never satisfied with anything”. His comment had no ill will it is actually just a true statement about my personality. I have an insatiable craving for perfection and a constant project.
Once I get one piece of my life sorted I begin to look for the next one to focus on. Now this personality quirk could be easily shed in two different lights. The positive side is that I believe it is a trait found in the most successful members of society. On the other hand I think it is easy to get caught up and never truly know contentment. It is like an unquenchable thirst, an addiction.
I would bet any amount of money that most of those who have been very successful have this drive, along with that I think it also an affliction to many equestrians. When I look at all my friends who have been bitten by the horse bug I notice so many parallels in our personalities that it is sometimes frightening. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a perfectionist and a bit of a control freak but at least I have strong thighs right? Still waiting for them to turn to Carrie Underwood legs though...
This sport is more to us than most athletes and because it is everything to us we constantly want to be better at it. And let’s face it, it takes time and some really hard work for the average person to be a good rider. It simply doesn’t happen, it’s why we spend every free hour at the barn perfecting our craft (or avoiding our dirty house, just me? okay…) .
I can say I’m never pleased with my riding - that sounds harsh I know. I have good rides, rides where my horse is right where I want her and we get the distances to the fences but I always walk away thinking about what I’m going to work on next time…Isn’t it the same thing that applies to every day life? We have good days, of course, but is that voice always in the back of your mind thinking what you would change or improve.
These changes or improvements don’t have to be things or money, that isn’t what I am referring to it could even be things like more time to work out or perhaps a job change. If you are an Ariana Grande fan you know the lyric “whoever said money doesn’t solve your problems must’ve not had enough money to solve them was right”. The desire for more money or resources is something hard wired in us I believe.
So how can we over this mentality? How can you find contentment? Whoa, loaded question. I think it is different for everyone but I’ll share some of my new found mental health habits with you.
Start journaling your gratitude. Buy a journal and each day right one thing you are grateful for. If you have trouble finding one, take 15 minutes and mediate for some clarity. If I struggle with this practice I’ll close my eyes and the first place my mind goes to I’ll write down or follow that line of thoughts.
Another shift is change your self talk, instead of negative self talk especially on those areas you want to improve remember one thing that went well or you have noticed has improved. For example, my statement above that I’m never that pleased with my riding, instead think of saying my eye is getting much better at seeing distances and my horse’s trot felt round and collected.
This third step isn’t going to make sense but pick one thing that you do want to focus on. But here is the catch, make it something easy to accomplish in the next 3 months. For example my house renovation, instead of thinking I’m doing my entire house instead I’m going to think about just working on my office first. In regards to riding this shift would look like instead of thinking I’ll be going out and showing 3ft this year I want to get my confidence up in the 2’3” or 2’6” divisions first. I also think of this in three separate categories: work, personal, and riding.
By breaking it down like this it makes it easy to not only accomplish but you save your mental health a little in the process. I hope these tips were helpful and I’d love to hear in the comments if you have similar issues with being content and any tips you have for how you mange it!
Let's stop coddling people, stop doing them favors. Sounds cruel right? No, not cruel…I think this has contributed to a recent shift in the equestrian world.
In today’s world we do too many favors, we make things too easy on people. Everything is about doing it faster, rushing to a finish line on the easiest path possible. But being a good rider, a good horse(wo)man takes time, patience, and understanding the large animal that is our teammate.
Now I’m not discounting innovation at all…innovation is awesome, like I feel like that is what makes humans so amazing is how we can think through new ways of doing things but the traditions of our interactions with horses were created for one reason: they worked.
Growing up so many of the lessons I learned were cemented with me because I had to go through the struggle to figure them out. I had to feel some pain of my actions and decisions. I wasn’t given everything with my hand held along the way.
George Morris just wrote a fantastic article about this same sort of idea that so many young riders don’t have to do things on the ground level of horse care or training. They don’t clean stalls, or their own tack. They know little about general horse handling and care, or handling situations on their own. Highly recommend this article, read it here.
I see this happening all too often. If you aren’t put in a situation where you have to go catch a horse in the pouring rain before your riding lesson or you don’t understand what it is like to be the first one at the barn and the last one to leave....aren’t we teaching aspiring riders that if the situation isn’t ideal that they should give up?
I can remember as a kid never caring what the weather was, how tired I was, or anything else in my life for that matter except getting my butt on the horse.
"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." Winston Churchill
This is not an easy sport. This isn’t where you can spend one hour a week at the barn and except huge changes and consistent improvement. You have to want it and have the drive to go for it and push yourself sometimes. And be honest with yourself...if you are spending more time at the barn you are just down right going to feel better about yourself.
I think if you are new to riding, and you truly want to improve, you should spend as much time at the barn as long as your schedule allows. Whether that means volunteering at a therapy center tacking up horses, or volunteering at a rescue, those types of programs are looking for people that are hungry for experience, why not capitalize on that?!
Get out there, get experience, get comfortable, and stop letting people do favors for you. Clean the stall, wipe down your tack after your lesson, offer a helping hand to the barn manager next time you are out for a ride.
If you had asked me a few years ago if I would microchip my horse the answer would have definitely been a strong no. This was before the USEF started requiring the microchip for competition horses, but also more importantly before there was a national database in place.
There have been microchips used in horses for years, but unlike the companion animal industry there has not been a database to register your horse's microchip to a particular owner like you can do for your dog. To me, this almost negated the entire point of microchipping.
I made the decision to microchip my horse based off of the new USEF rule for competition and just a few days ago when the vet was out my horse underwent the simple procedure. The microchip is placed in the nuchal ligament of the horse, on their left side. And when it was over my vet informed me that I could actually register the microchip under my name my opinion did a complete 180!
The process of entering my information into the Equine Protective Registry only took me about 5 minutes and for a one time fee of $24.95 (plus the cost of the actual microchip which was $58.00). It was super easy and once you make an account you can go in and change information whenever need to update your address or any other information. You also have the option to purchase a tag for your halter ($12 charge for the tag) with the microchip information - I didn't feel like it was something I need since my horse doesn't get turned out with a halter on.
The MicrochipIDEquine microchip comes with a lifetime warranty, is ISO and USDA approved! They are also affiliated with the American Holsteiner Association, American Warmblood Association, USEF, and USHJA just to name a few.
Even if you don't horse show or have a need to microchip for competition reasons, if your horse would to ever get separated from you due to a natural disaster or if they are lost or stolen for any reason any scanner can find your microchip and return them home safely!
Saddle fit is one thing everyone struggles with, whether they are aware of it or not. It easily relates to Aristotle’s quote:
“The more you learn, the less you know”
If you’ve never been taught to be aware of saddle fit it doesn’t really stand out necessarily when a saddle is a bad fit, for the horse or the rider. There is a little bit of a theme where we tend to blame our animals for their bad behaviors, but should be really be blaming them when asking them to perform in an ill-fitting saddle?
I am not pointing fingers but instead speaking from experience. I never even thought about the impacts of saddle fit until three years ago when I started riding more than one horse on a regular basis and notice the change in fit using my saddle at the time on multiple horses. We can’t always expect the same saddle to fit a broad backed, no withered Warmblood and a shark-fin wither, narrow barrel Thoroughbred perfectly.
I understand, horses aren’t the cheapest hobby, but I don’t think most riders are educated on this topic or understand the impact of what their saddles are potentially doing to their horses. Even if you don’t have a big budget if you take some time to educate yourself you’ll find you’ll have a much happier horse.
In recent years foam panels have taken over the saddle market, especially if you are looking to purchase a close contact saddle, luckily for you dressage riders many of those saddles are still available with wool flocking. Most of the major, well-known brands available today don’t have wool flocking, which was traditionally used to fill saddle panels.
Now, the problem with the foam is that it offers little adjustability. Basically the saddle as it comes cannot be changed. Now, there are some adjustments that can be made with padding but you have to be very careful with that, and ideally we want the saddle to fit well with simply one pad underneath.
Another issue with foam is that over time it can breaks down, it basically compresses and most of the time it doesn’t compress evenly along the panel, which results in bridging in the saddle. Bridging basically means that there is contact on the front and back of the panel but in the center there is no contact with the horses’ back. This is exaggerated when your weight is added to the saddle because those points of contact become pressure points and therefor your even weight distribution along the panel is lost.
Now, it is important for me to mention that wool can do that same thing; it packs down in certain areas and results in an uneven pressure along that panel. However, the beauty of wool is that we can have it serviced by a saddle fitter and the wool can be re-flocked and restored back to a shape that will comfortably fit your horse. To a certain degree adding lifts to the foam panels and shims in saddle pads can help with some of this. Or the panels can be replaced with certain companies.
Now, the solution seems simple right? Let’s all just buy a wool-flocked saddle but the sad truth is that they can be very difficult to come by, so few brands offer them and for those of us who prefer to buy used your pool of saddles is even smaller to choose from. Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick and easy solution to every saddle fit situation.
The best piece of advice I can give, from someone who has had enough saddle struggles and learned from them, consulting a professional if you can is the best course of action. That being said, if you do choose to hire someone it is important to make sure that they are looking out for you and your horses best interest and not just looking to sell you a saddle, even if it isn’t a great fit for your horse.
I realize and fully appreciate the fact that not everyone has access or the resources to have a saddle fitter, which is why there so much great literature out there, one of my personal favorites is ‘The Horse’s Pain-Free Back and Saddle-Fit Book by Dr. Joyce Harman. She has written both English and Western saddle book. Even if you are not able to consult a professional saddle fitter, having a good book to educate yourself on can give you great insights as to whether or not the saddle is making your horse uncomfortable.
You can also contact us either using the form on this site or send us an email at email@example.com if you would be interested in more information on a virtual saddle fit available through Miranda!
I wish each and every one of you the best of luck in finding a saddle that is a great fit for both you and your horse, it can be a bit of a bumpy road but your horse will thank you in the end!
There is something so satisfying about taking a mud-caked horse from the field and grooming him until his coat is sleek and shiny. I think my love of grooming began during my halter horse days, where the horse's turnout was paramount.
For the halter horses grooming was just as big of a part of their appearance as physical conditioning was, regular grooming kept coats tight and brought those natural oils to the surface.
In the years I've spent around horses I've picked up on smalls tips and products that make grooming an easy and productive practice, that can be use even if you have no interest in showing and just want to have the shiniest pasture ornament on the farm!
Tools of the Trade
Ride or Die Products
More recently I've used it on Lilly's tail, she has never had a very thick tail and I apply it every few days to her dock. I started this just two months ago and I would guess it has grown at least 3 inches and the top is getting thicker! The only downfall is this stuff smells like a barbecue but they do have a new formula that is much better!. Plus, the price I linked above from Amazon is way too good to pass up!
These are just a handful of our favorites, I'll be adding more posts with products I find and really enjoy. If you have a favorite that I should check out please let me know by leaving a comment below!
Meet the Bloggers
Miranda and Julia bringing over 20 years of experience in the horse industry in a wide variety of experiences and disciplines. Here on this equestrian blog we'll share our horse experiences, tips, plus advice on surviving as an adult amateur rider.