Thursday, July 24, 2008

Caption Challenge!!

Bleh! I'm so very behind in my posting. Yes, I did get one lesson so far with the dressage instructor. Will catch up on all of it ASAP. In the meantime, how about some fun? I found this image and thought it was just asking for a funny caption:

So let's hear from y'all! Share a laugh with your fellow bloggers and let's have some captions!! I'll start us off with this:

- "For Sale: grade Clydesdale cross. Super quiet, easy keeper. Currently owned by adult man but much more suitable for children.. Trained in Unnatural Horsemanship. Will stand on YOUR back.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

That's That.

Aww, thanks for the comments on the posts about my weekend trail drama, you guys. My friend and I were starting to feel bummed about the carrot gesture with all the other fallout after this. I'm glad you saw it as the simple act of thanks we intended it to be!

I also thought the comments we were hearing at the time on the fallen rider's condition didn't jive with having her airlifted to the hospital. I'm sure it was much more serious than we were told.

I stopped at the barn last night to see Monty and the vet who owns the stable where I board was just pulling out of the driveway with his son. We said our "hellos" and then he told me, "you know about her not allowing any outside riders on her property."

I said, "yes."

He said, "I heard she had a pretty bad wreck up there on Sunday."

I smiled and said, "yes, with the helicopter airlift and everything."

Then I asked if the owner had ever considered having waivers for riders from our barn to sign. This woman has a friendly business relationship with the vet, she brings horses from her place to his if there are problems. The vet told me that his office had even offered to work up the forms for her and set up the same kind of liability safeguards he has in place at his farm but she just thanked him and never pursued it.

I have a call in to my farrier for those caulk holes in the front shoes. Hope he will do it and that I have the right road studs in my collection. I can always write an interesting post about proper use of shoe studs!

The section of road we now have to ride on has a slight shoulder but it's a paved shoulder, there are hills on either side of the bend and it's a "blind" bend, to say that as you drive around it, you can't see out of the bend until you come to the top of the hill. Drivers always go way beyond the speed limit there and my fear is to have 2 cars pass us at the same time on the bend. Not much room for that! The other problem is the turn outs for the horses from the big stable all back up to the bend in the road. Sometimes those horses start acting up if they hear the clip-clop of hooves on the road. We all know what can happen to even the quietest horse when horses in turn out start getting rowdy. And a skittering steed on a busy road is not my idea of fun!

Helmets, Dammit!

Since it was a riding accident that has caused us to lose our access to the stable down the street. I think it's a good time to post about riding helmets. Do I wear one? Yes, always. Do I like wearing one? No, not always (especially now, as with summer and sweating my helmet gets stinky too fast between cleanings) I am amazed at the riders who don't wear one and all their stupid (yes, stupid) excuses why. I especially like the ones who have the biggest opinions about riding, training and safety where others are concerned but when asked why they don't wear a helmet, they get all defensive. Guess what? Unless you practice what you preach, your lofty opinions are suspect, too.

I found this on and I think it's the best I've read on the many excuses riders give for not wearing a helmet. I think if more of them actually had that talk with family members as in reason #1, they might change their mind.

Top Reasons People Don't Wear Helmets While Horseback Riding And Why They Are Poor Excuses
By Katherine Blocksdorf,

There are a lots of excuses for not wearing a helmet when you ride. But there is no good reason. The quietest, most well trained horse can cause injury if it is startled or hurt. Ask anyone who has accidentally ridden over a nest of ground wasps, or were riding calmly along when a car backfired. A helmet won't make you invincible, but it will help protect the one part of your body almost impossible to fix -- your brain. Please don't use these excuses and do use an ASTM approved riding helmet every time you ride.

#1 - It's my head, and I'm willing to take the risk.

You might think, it's my head and I'm willing to take the risk. But, what if your head meets an arena wall, fence post, rock or hard ground? Head injuries can lead to permanent debilitation. And while it may be your head, have you decided who will spend their life looking after you if you can't look after yourself due to a head injury? If you think you don't need a helmet then you should look your son, daughter, spouse, or friend in the eye and tell them: I don't need a helmet, but if I am wrong it will be your job to care for me. See what THEIR answer is.

#2 - I can't wear a helmet in the show ring without being penalized.

Dressage riders, western riders, and other folks who compete might feel they will be penalized if they wear a helmet in the show ring. I can understand this from the judge's point of view. When comparing two equal riding performances, with one rider wearing a hat, and one a helmet would you consider the helmet a negative? Might it be a disrespect of tradition or a indication of insecurity of the rider? Or is the helmet wearer just showing good sense? I wish judges would reward the later, but unfortunately this often isn't the case. There is no justification for valuing fashion and tradition over safety. Shame on any judge or association rulings that penalize helmet use.

#3 - I know how to do an emergency stop and dismount.

Emergency dismounts and emergency stops are useful skills to learn, but they don't replace a helmet if you take a fall. Falls can happen so quickly that you don't know you are going to come off, leaving you no time to prepare.

#4 - Helmets give me headaches.

The solution to this problem is not to avoid using a helmet, but to find one that fits. Also, I find I get headaches when I'm out all day with my horse. The problem I discovered (it took me years to realize this) was not the helmet, but dehydration. Riding is a sport and like any athlete you have to care for yourself properly, especially when heat and stress can take their toll.

#5 - It will mess up my hair.

I have one young friend who can take off her helmet and look like she just walked out of a shampoo commercial as she flings her locks in the sunlight. The rest of us have helmet hair. While a good shampoo and blow dry can do wonders for fixing your hair, brains are a little trickier to fix.

#6 - I'm a very experienced rider.

A study conducted by a team of Alberta researchers found that riders who reported an injury had an average of 27 years of riding experience. New riders had a relatively small incidence of injury. Alberta Researchers Study Equestrian Injuries

#7 - Helmets are hot and uncomfortable.

With the number of styles and fits now available there should be a helmet to fit everyone. Many are adjustable for a custom fit. Troxel, Tipperary, IRH are just a few of the manufacturers you can choose from. All have a slightly different fit and are different weights and styles. Try lots of helmets on before you buy. Ask your friends what they like. With a little research you should be able to find a helmet that will keep you both more comfortable and safe.

#8 - It's not traditional to wear a helmet when you ride western.

No, it's not. But consider what the traditional hat of the cowboy really was. It was a form of protection. Cowboys wore gloves to protect their hands, chaps to protect their legs, sturdy boots to protect their feet, and a bandanna to protect their face. Extra cinches, deep seats and tapadaros (hoods) on their stirrups, where all forms of safety protection. Their hats were primarily functional--protecting them from the elements. If the cowboy of yesteryear had the knowledge and technology we have today, I have no doubt a helmet would have been part of their gear. Tradition, like fashion, is not a justification for ignoring safety. Even cowboys knew that.

#9 - Helmets are ugly looking.

Again, there are helmets in many different styles, like the Troxel Sierra and the Troxel Cheyenne. If you don't like the way the shell of your helmet looks put on a funky helmet cover. This a great way to personalize your look.

#10 - Helmets are expensive.

ASTM approved helmets cost as little as $50, sometimes less. This is a small expense compared to the amount you could spend on hospital costs or long term care. International Equi-Lite Dial Fit System Schooling Helmet is just one example of several schooling helmets that are under the $50 price mark.

#11 - I wear a helmet--but it's made for another sport.

Riding helmets are made specifically to withstand a fall from a height or a blow to the head by a hoof. Bicycle, hockey, baseball and other helmets are not made to protect the head from these incidents.

If you want to read this entire list with ALL the related links, click here: Reasons Not To Wear A Helmet

And my own personal experience with helmet safety came at an early age. I was about 11 or 12 years old and went trail riding with my dad and another boarder at the first barn I rode at. We were cantering out of the woods in single file when her young horse bolted ahead of us, made a sharp right turn at the end of the trail, stumbled and the woman riding went right over the mare's head. The mare took off for the barn, my dad stopped to help the inert woman and he told me to get help from the barn. I galloped off in the direction the mare went and found her trotting slowly ahead of me. She stopped and let me catch the reins and I ponied her back to the barn, hollering for someone to help us.

The barn manager jumped on one of the trail hacks (it was a rent-a-horse trail barn in addition to a boarding facility) and took off back to where I told him the fall was. Another worker phoned for an ambulance (this was way back in 1975 B.C. - B.efore C.ell phones!) The woman had to be hand carried on a stretcher out of the woods (nope, no A.T.V.'s either back then) And it turned out she had a broken nose and severe concussion.

Was she wearing a helmet? Yes. Granted it was one of the old-school fiberglass shell helmets we wore back then. But I'll never forget when my dad showed it to me. He had brought it back with him as he followed the emergency crew back to the barn. On the back of the helmet was a perfect imprint of a horse shoe. Where her mare had stepped on her head and shoved it into the ground. I can't imagine the outcome of that fall if she hadn't worn the helmet that day. I don't want to.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lessons, continued...

So to recap from the previous post, we are now stranded at the stable on the corner. Be prepared, it's a long one...

There are a lot of people in the parking lot and courtyard milling around and trying to see what has happened. They are telling us we can't get through, that a helicopter is coming and the field is full of emergency vehicles. Some people are saying we could try to take the road back but I am adamant it's not a good idea, if the helicopter comes while we are on the turn, all I need is for the horses to spook. I have a healthy fear of getting dumped onto pavement and into traffic.

The boarders were very nice, they offered us to take our horses behind the main barn, maybe hose them and offer them water and keep them on crossties in the barn until the problem was resolved. We elected to dismount and find a quiet corner to hold them in where they couldn't see into the field. My horse has seen the medivac copter before. I was riding once in the polo ring and it landed across the street in the sports field in front of the high school. Monty didn't even give it a toss of the head.

The buzz was this rider's horse had simply stumbled as she was riding on the grass hill. The rider had gone over the horses head or shoulder and fallen off. She had a broken wrist (or wrists) and they thought she also had a mild concussion.

We were held "hostage" by the situation for about 30-40 minutes. Once the copter came and went, we ventured from behind the barn to the field. All the vehicles were gone except for a lone police car who's officer was talking with the woman who owns the stable. We quietly walked our horses off her property and directly to home. The horses had even had enough. Where they usually try to graze on the church lawn as we walk home, this time the two of them marched over the grass and down the road to our driveway.

E.W. and I were so relieved when we put the horses in their stalls. What a stressful ending to a nice ride. We decided to go have a nice refreshing sweet tea at McDonald's. While we were there, we thought maybe it would be a nice gesture to bring some big bags of fresh carrots to the stable owner and tell her to share with the boarders since they were so kind to us. So we went to the grocery store and bought 10 pounds of carrots.

We went back to the stable and met the owner. She was nice enough as we dropped off our gift. We said we hoped the woman was all right and that her horse was too and that her boarders were very kind to offer our horses water. The exchange seemed to be appreciated.

Well, it doesn't matter because as of yesterday evening there is a sign posted in our tackroom at our barn that the owner no longer is allowing access through her property. I don't know what transpired but obviously she called our barn management and told them her place is now off limits.

My friend and I can't think of anything we did wrong. My husband thinks it's mainly because of liability. But this woman has been holding horse shows on her property so obviously there's a risk with liability there from people outside her barn community. However, there are also release forms that must be signed before you can compete. Are there non-competition release forms a barn owner can have people from outside their property sign? I know the management at the barn I am at now is very concerned with this and has everyone sign releases. Since it is also a medical clinic, there can be horses coming and going and not always time to ascertain what the owner's experience is. So forms must be submitted.

I was so interested in riding over to compete in the dressage shows at that stable but now I'm not so sure I want to do it. Even if I pay an entry, I still feel like I'm not welcome.

What a stupid society we live in. I am old school. Unless someone maliciously attempts to cause me to fall from my horse, I assume responsibility of my skills in handling my horse if it should spook, buck, stumble, whatever. I always wear a helmet. I try very hard to be courteous, in control and respectful of my actions and my comments when I am on someone elses' terms. I just don't know.

So now my only options if I want to go trail ride is to use my horse trailer, which is more effort than I have time for and to try having my farrier shoe Monty with stud holes in his shoes, then I'll put road studs in and hope the extra grip enables him to handle the paved hill on the bend.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Well, after another round of telephone tag, I used email to arrange another lesson with the dressage instructor. Now all I need is nice weather on Wednesday evening and I'm good to go! This delay has kind of dampened my enthusiasm. I'm hoping all goes well to get me back into the drive to get to a show.

My boyz had lesson number 2. They enjoy it so much! Their smiles as they ride the pony tell me all I need to know. The best part was, when they were mounted, it was as if their first lesson had only been the day before. They retained everything! I marvel at the difference between them and me where horses are concerned. And I wonder if it's just them or is it a difference in how boys and girls relate to horses.

When I was their age, I ate, slept and breathed horses. After a riding lesson I went home and played with my Breyer horses. I wanted to know about horse care. I read horse books, watched horse movies. Obsession was too simple a word!

The boys like to ride, they look forward to the lesson. They talk about it a bit afterward. Then they go home and play with Transformers and ask when are we going to take them to the park to ride their bikes. It's like it's just another thing they do. Their main interest in riding is to get good enough to go trail riding with me.

Speaking of trail. Sunday was a lovely day. My friend, E.W. and I went to the park for a long walk on trail. It was surprisingly quiet, both in the woods where we met no other riders and on the roads where all the cars passing us were very courteous and slow. As we were returning I'm thinking, "wow, what a nice quiet ride, today", but didn't verbalize the thought because I was afraid to jinx the day.

Too late.

As we turned down the road for home, a car approached us and slowed down. The woman driving asked if we were headed to the big stable at the corner. We said yes, as that's the place where we cut through their property to avoid riding on a very nasty bend in the road back to our barn. She warned us there had been an accident at the stable and there was a medical helicopter on the way in and there were all sorts of emergency vehicles on the field. No horses were allowed outside on the property.

Oh great. And all we wanted to do was get home. More to come...

Monday, July 7, 2008

No Crossties?

I've had people ask me how is it that Monty just stands there? I almost never use crossties with him and he just stays in his place on the aisle floor. And the only answer I can give is he taught me to let him do that.

Maybe you have as puzzled a look as they did with that answer. Well, here's the "secret", maybe someone will find it useful to try with their horse.

Monty was always good on crossties at my last barn. When I moved to this place, he was fine for awhile, but then began to have issues with pulling back and breaking the ties or his halter. This could happen just from raising my hand with a brush to brush his face! I know the guys who work at the barn are not rough with the horses. Something was up.

All the crossties at this barn have a rubber "O" ring fastner at the end that will simply break if a horse pulls back hard. The vet would rather replace this cheap part than have someone's horse seriously hurt themself. After my horse went through a few of these I thought he had just figured out it was too easy to break them. I continued trying to crosstie him and watch his body language as I groomed him. If he gave any indication of going back to pull into the ties, I'd move to the side behind him and tell him "Step up!", but this only worked when I was grooming around his back and hind end. I couldn't get in position fast enough if it started when I was working around his head. I also noticed that after he broke the ties and was free, he didn't bolt or run out of the barn. After the initial pull and scramble until the ties or halter broke, he'd back up a few steps, then stand there. Also, if he's crosstied in an area that is closed behind him, like at the end of the aisle with the door closed, he won't pull back. Which is what my farrier does when he's being shod.

Ah, that's why I had no problem at the last barn, that's exactly the way the ties were set up. Okay, I guessed he just didn't like being crosstied with all that open space behind him. Well, then if he was willing to stand still in the aisle untied then I was willing to allow him to do it.

So from then on, he was haltered with a long lead shank clipped to it. I would either hold the lead or drape it across his back where I could grab it if I needed to in case he moved. Any time he moved a step, I would put him back in place with a gentle push and a simple command to step up. As time went on with this repetitious cue, he would just stand where I put him and I didn't have to hold the lead. He was never allowed to walk away, walk into his stall or move over unless told to do so. And after several weeks, he "got it".

Now, when I come to the barn in the evening and I'm alone, I can ask him to walk out of his stall, turn around and stand in place on the floor with no halter or lead. I have even went to the tack room to get things and left him there completely free and he doesn't move! I would never, ever do this during the day when the workers and other boarders are around, for their safety and ours I keep a grooming halter and lead on him but no crossties.

Patience and kindness are key but the important point is the constant repetition of the desired behavior. It took him weeks, it could take a different horse days or months.

HE taught me to let him do what he wanted, on MY terms.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lessons = Me:0 - Kids:1

Hope your Fourth of July was a sparkler! Mine was boring, quiet and uneventful. The cloudy awful weather here in NY did nothing to enhance the experience, either!

Well, my much anticipated lesson on Wednesday evening was cancelled due to a call from the instructor apologizing for a family matter that needed her attention and she had to cancel all her evening lessons. I have been busy with the holiday and kids being off from child care this week so I have not yet had a chance to call and reschedule.

However, my boyz had their first official riding lesson this past Thursday and they both enjoyed it! They looked so cute in the jodphurs my friend gave me that her daughter had outgrown. The hardest part for me was to keep my mouth shut. I wanted on several occasions to correct things that I just KNEW were not exactly right but I know if I let myself do that I'm not going to make a good situation. Has anyone else had a similar experience - that you have years of expertise in a field but you have to have someone else teach your kids and you just see things you WANT to comment on but you are unsure how it will be received if you do? I wish I could teach them myself but I don't have the resources (a reliable pony) and I know they will "hear the lesson" better if it's coming from another voice.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

So Who Needs a Horse?

Okay, I thought iGallop was kind of silly but this is kind of cool.

No mucking, no flies, no bucking-rearing-biting-kicking, no feeding or board payments, can ride in any weather from the comfort of your living room... ah, kind of takes the fun out of it. Fellow Bloggers I give you: Horseback Riding Simulators

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Dressage Lesson Tomorrow Night!

I've been so busy that it's been impossible to catch up! I've been working Monty quite consistantly now. We even got back out on trail this past Sunday. The previous Sunday my friend E.W. and I walked over to the stable down the street to watch the dressage show.

She introduced me to her friend who boards there and was also competing. It is this friend's trainer who is coming to give me a lesson tomorrow night! I got to watch this instructor perform a second level test with a young horse she's bringing through the levels and was very impressed with this lady's ability to ride a very consistant test. Even when the young horse spooked a bit and flubbed his lead change, she collected him, corrected him and proceeded as if absolutely nothing wrong had happened. I enjoyed watching her ride, I can't wait to have her work with Monty and I!

And, to top it all off, my twins are taking their first official riding lesson this Thursday. They are really into doing this, I always thought, "ah, boys and horses are 50/50 as far as interest goes at best, and even then it would only be to play cowboys and indians". I'm getting this uneasy feeling I may be wrong about that where these two are concerned. Time to sell more stuff on Ebay to raise funds for this!!