Saturday, August 27, 2011


Do you have horseflies where you keep your horse/ at the barn you go to? I certainly never had them at home. We had bot flies, those wasp looking things that hovered around your horse’s legs trying to lay their tiny yellow eggs. Nasty! I once had to get off of a horse and walk him back to the barn because he was being bombarded by one and kind of going nuts. Not fun.

I really haven’t seen any bot flies here, which is a relief. We do, however, have these massive horse flies. They’re at least the size of a large bumblebee. The horses hate them and I know I would too, if their size is any indication of their bite. Of course I’d never dealt with them before, so I had to learn the protocol.

It starts off with being observant. You’ve got to know when one is stalking you and your horse. And believe me, your horse will let you know. Some are more dramatic than others. Sometimes you’ll get just an annoyed look and a quiver of skin. Or you might get a head turn and the horse will try to bite or kick it and whip their tail back and forth. You just might even have a horse who will attempt to buck it off and when that doesn’t work, go down and roll to squish it. It’s always a little tricky riding those in the latter group. That is why it is important that you get the horse to be on your side, to understand what it is that you want to accomplish. The death of the horsefly!

Okay so now that you know the little monster is after you, wait for it to land on your horse. Practically dare it. This is where your training of the horse comes in. You must tell the horse to stand still, because a moving target is harder to hit. When the bugger lands on your horse, hit it with your hand. Whammo. Double check to make it is dead by smashing it with your boot once it has fallen to the ground. Then rub the area that it had previously occupied on your horse. This probably feels good to your horse and will help them catch on to you master plan of killing all horseflies that bother it. With young horses, you have to edit the plan a little. By young, I mean still green and impressionable. If you hit them, they might at first think that they are in deep trouble and get frightened, which means that they will most likely not stand still and then you have a much greater chance of missing and the horsefly getting away scot free. NEVER!

There is also a slightly more gross approach. Crazy horse people, though, do anything for their horse. This is way more practical than putting hoof glitter on, okay? So listen carefully. With your young horse, you put your hand over the horsefly and squish it to its death. The trick is to not be too quick so as to alarm the horse or scare the horsefly, but to be very very stealthy. Like a ninja. No spooking so just grin and bear it!

The only reason that killing a horsefly is ick in the first place is because if they’ve already made a few successful landings on your horse by the time you smash them, the blood they have been slurping will gush out all over your hand. And it can be a large amount if the bug size is huge. But hey, wipe it off on your horse’s neck or on your already filthy shirt and carry on! Now the rest of your time with your horse won’t be spent frantically running away from a horsefly! Unless another one finds you, which in that case, you must hunt it down and slap to kill.

I hope this equipped you so that you will be able to keep yourself and your horse comfortable, safe, and fly-free at all times! You can even employ this swatting method while riding your horse. I know someone who rode down the centerline, halted at X, saluted the judge, killed a horsefly on their horse’s shoulder and went on to do their test. You can bet that their test went much better than if they’d had a horsefly following them around the ring!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Collection& things

I am not even remotely bothered by the fact that all I think, breathe and talk about is horses. Or at least 90% of the time. I mean, I pretty much live at the barn, have horses outside my window and ride six days a week. Doing this internship was a test. A test to see if I got sick of horses day in and day out. The exact opposite happened. I am now even more horse obsessed than I ever was in my entire life …okay well maybe not as much as when I was 10-12, but I’ve still got the bug pretty bad!

Random fact:
As of this summer, I’ve now been riding horses for half of my lifetime! :D It can only go up from here.

Early morning horse show.
-Yvonne here: gorgeous. Okay.. back to Sarah!

Anywho, back to why I started this bragging on my horse infused life… As an unexpected twist, I not only get to learn how to train horses here at the farm but I get to show them, as well! About a month after I arrived, I was headed to a schooling show with two horses. I showed so much last summer that I was completely burnt out, a new experience for me. This year we have had more breaks in between so the balance of training and showing has been perfect. Not only that, but I’m riding kick-butt awesome horses that make me look good. I’m a little bit less stressed about making the cut, as far as getting qualifying scores goes and not letting my trainers down. One big thing I’ve learned after my extensive show season last year: ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING. If you remain positive, you have very little space to fail and even if you do, you will have enjoyed yourself.

I want to give a shout-out to the good judging we had this past weekend. Something I’ve experienced quite a bit at the schooling and rated/recognized shows we’ve attended? Higher expectations than what is required in the particular level. For example, a comment like “needs better uphill balance” or “lacks cadence” when I’m riding Training Level?! The horse doesn’t even need to be on the bit according to the standards! There was none of that at this show. My fellow intern and I showed our horses at two consecutive levels and the judges showed clear distinction between how the horse was to go in each level. They were very fair and right on in their comments. I learned that my twenty meter circles tend to not be centered and that I make the second half too small. In the grand scheme of things, if they only had to pick on my circles… I must be doing pretty well, eh? Hehe.

Tom Poulin judging Rocket and myself

On the almost five hour drive back to the farm, guess what my trainer, fellow intern and I talked about? You guessed it, horses! The topic within the category of horses was varied but somewhere in Illinois we landed on what we felt like we had learned the importance of during the past year. My fellow intern said that for her, it was the importance of collection.

Collection is the foundation of doing anything other than a working walk, trot, and canter. Even Training Level horses have to learn to sit on their hocks for a ten meter turn to go down the center line. It is just “baby” collection, but it’s there all the same. And for lengthening stride or medium and extended gaits, you absolutely cannot have that without the transfer of weight to the back end of the horse.

On the thought of collection, here’s my two cents.
You can’t make a transition from a medium trot to a collected trot using only your seat when the horse is on the forehand. They’re already pulling on you by then and you pretty much have to use your reins to get them back. Only when the horse is uphill and balanced are they able to respond to your seat aid of coming back to collection. But my, is it hard!

In conversation, I said that I have just been realizing the importance of thoroughness. My trainer came up with the best description of this very elusive thing. Imagine thoroughness as the recycling triangle. You know, the arrows that go round?

Perfectly clear, right?! Haha!

Right then. So the cycle goes something like this:
  1. Your aids activate the horse’s hind legs
  2. Your reins prevent this flow of energy from just bursting out the front end and contains it; making them lift their back and have that lovely chess piece neck.
  3. You reapply your aids in a half-halt to continue the energy flow.
So pretty much you repeat that throughout your ride. Your seat and core will determine the tempo of the horse. So yeah, that is the basics of maintaining thoroughness. Getting it in the first place is another thing. I haven’t really accumulated all of my thoughts on that. I think the very basics of it is that your horse is supple. Suppleness and thoroughness really go hand in hand. You also can’t have a half-halt without some degree of thoroughness. If you don’t have that, the half-halt usually ends up being just a halt or just a random burst of speed.

A problem that I run into with one of the horses I ride is that I do step one and two and then forget to re-energize him with my leg to keep the cycle going, so we end up looking okay but only having two of those green arrows. It kind of arches up then ends.
With the other horse I sometimes only have one arrow because she is still learning to stay uphill throughout the whole ride and ends up leaning on my hands for balance and I get into the never-ending tug-o-war in which she wins and I only have the flow of energy going on a straight line with an arrow at one end. Not quite a triangle.

Anyways, I hope that gives your brain something to mull over during your next drive to the barn. I now know that dressage pretty much will go on forever, there will always be something more to learn and accomplish, which is a good thing for me since I don’t want it to end!

Can’t let Rocket steal all of the limelight. 
Here’s the queen bee herself, Renee’!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Early Riser

It’s been hot in the Hoosier State. By “hot” I mean that it’s been in the nineties (Fahrenheit) for a prolonged period of time. About twelve days. And honestly, I don’t think just being in the upper nineties would be so bad, but we have this thing called humidity. It basically makes it feel like a hundred and ten degrees Fahrenheit. Fun right? Now, as an island girl, most people would think that I’m used to this. Nope, wrong! I’m used to very mild weather, a higher elevation and fairly dry heat where I’m from. None of this oven/baking sensation. I do find it terribly ironic that Yvonne’s weather posts as of late have been about the opposite problem, cold. I would love to trade her for a few days!

So, off of the weather and onto the pony talk. Normally, my internship goes a little something like this: wake up, clean the barn, ride all day, feed horses, go to sleep. However, when it feels like you’re being cooked, riding all day is pretty futile. Horses are dripping sweat just standing in their field and you feel like the air is pressing down on you. Literally, not cool. One of our solutions to beat the heat is to do the morning chores, ride one horse, have a siesta in the mid-day heat, and then ride a few more horses in the evening. I decided to try another solution one Saturday.

For some reason, an idea flourished in my mind. As someone who hates waking up, other than the fact that it means that you’re alive, the idea surprised me. But hey, I’m young; I don’t need sleep, right? I jumped in. Change can be fun. I forgot about that when my alarm rang at 5:30AM the next morning. It looked like night outside. It’s wrong to get out of bed when the stars are still out. I went back to sleep for thirty more minutes then dragged myself out of bed. Once, I was out, I was on a roll. I let the horses onto the grass, walking from one end of the farm to the next. I was hoping for a storybook sunrise so I could write home about it. The clouds decided otherwise. I didn’t see a sunrise as I hopped on my first horse of the day. It was a blessing in disguise, since the cloud cover prevented the fine, almost white limestone in our outdoor arena from blinding me. I rode outside to take advantage of whatever breeze might come along. Had a great schooling ride. It’s nice to work hard and achieve something with the horse. I guess it’s just training, but it can still be thrilling.

Bam, I was onto my second horse of the day, Rocketman! I’m one of those riders who’d rather be safe than sorry, so not only did I lunge him for several minutes, but I rode him in the indoor arena before heading to the outdoor. Being a stallion and under saddle for barely a year, he did marvelously! Only got distracted a few times and was easily convinced otherwise. It was an enjoyable ride. As we were cooling out, I eyed the pile of dirt scraped aside to level out the arena. I decided it was time for Rocket to become a mountaineer. He climbed up the pile and we stood on the top of it for a minute. Then I pointed him down the other side and nudged him with my calves. He leaned forward and looked at his toes. He didn’t know how to get down! I nudged him again and he quivered anxiously. Poor Rocket was used to the flatness of Indiana and had never in his life had to go downhill before (apparently, going down the trailer ramp doesn’t count)! It was really only two feet to the ground, but Rocket was pretty sure he wouldn’t make it. I tried to be the tough but fair leader. I even gave him a pep talk and when that didn’t work, I called him a wimpy stallion in hopes that he’d get mad enough and just do it (way to anthropomorphize, I know). We went up and down all over that dirt pile. Once Rocket realized that he was not in a dire situation, he started getting cocky and strutting down to show the horses in the surrounding pastures just how cool and confident he was. I laughed, silly boy.

After that I cleaned the barn, rode another horse, relaxed and took a nap, rode another horse and did the evening chores. I decided that waking up early could be worth it. However, when the time came to wake up the next morning, my body thought otherwise. Needless to say, I haven’t done it again yet.
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