History of the Saddle

Posted on September 9, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, history, riding.

Dr Henry Van SchaikA brief history of the saddle and dressage seat.

Great study by Dr Nancy Nicholson

Dr Stephen O’Grady:Flexor Tendon Flaccidity

Posted on August 23, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, handicap, health, hoofcare, therapy.

tendons

Flexor tendon flaccidity or tendon laxity is a relatively common limb deformity seen in newborn foals usually involving the hind limbs although all four limbs can be involved. Weak flexor tendons is thought to be the cause which results in digital hyperextension where weight-bearing is placed on the palmar/plantar aspect of the proximal phalanges and the toe of the hoof is raised off the ground. The condition often tends to self-correct within days after birth as the foal gains strength and is allowed moderate exercise. However the tendon laxity often persists and it is not uncommon to see a fool that still has digital hyper-extension at 4 weeks of age.

Treatment is sequential depending on the severity of the tendon laxity and the response of the foal to treatment. Therapy begins with controlled exercise allowing the foal access to a small area with firm footing for 1 hour three times daily, the toe of the foot can be shortened and the heels can be rasped gently from the middle of the foot palmarly/plantarly to create ground surface and a palmar/plantar extension can be applied if necessary. This extension which extends approximately 3-4 centimeters beyond the bulbs of the heels immediately relieves the biomechanical instability. A cuff-type extension shoe is commercially available or a small aluminum plate extension with clips. In either case, the author feels that either type of extension should be attached with adhesive tape rather than a composite if the foal is less than 3 weeks of age as this avoids excessive heat being applied to the fragile hoof capsule as the composite cures and prevents contracture of the hoof capsule at the heels. Regardless of the method of application, the extensions should be changed at 10 day intervals. Bandaging the limb is contraindicated as this will further weaken the flexor tendons.

Photo: uncorrected adult legs in 7 year old mare

Angular limb and deformities are common limb abnormalities in foals that require early recognition and treatment. The pathogenesis of this problem is not clearly understood. Angular limb deformities can be classified as either congenital or acquired in the first few weeks of life. The primary lesion is an imbalance of physeal growth; for various reasons, growth proceeds faster on one side of the physis.

Coffin Bone Rotation

Posted on August 21, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: handicap, health, hoofcare, riding, therapy, training.

GUEST ARTICLE FOR OUR READERS

photo: groton city vet .com

New information from the Swedish Hoof School (swedishhoofschool.com) on this controversial issue. Translated into english

To read Article click:    swedish hoof school

What is a Horse Whisperer?

Posted on August 11, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: history.

nezrova2.jpg
photo of Nevzorova & horse courtesy,Lydia Nevzorova

Near the beginning of the 19th century, the slow and bulky oxen used for farming began to yield to the use of draft horses. The horse’s greater efficiency and speed was welcome but their belligerent attitude was not. Many an agriculturist found themselves in dangerous disagreement with their plow-horse. A collection of horsemen in Scotland collaborated to design a new, and soon to be, powerful profession. They named it simply:  The Society of the Horseman’s Word.

The aim of the “Society” was to gather the local blacksmith, horse tamer, and dealer together under one listing, and offer the public a core of qualified horse professionals. The Society’s fees for membership guaranteed its members a place in the forefront of all public inquiries for horse services.  The public would gain a standardized quality of work and the coveted use of its members’ mystical, ‘supernatural’ power. You see, Society members were taught to practice incantations and rituals to give the impression that magical spells could control cantankerous horses. As local farmers signed on to the Society’s services, they felt the members did indeed fix their recalcitrant horses. In fact, they coined and attached the words  ‘horse-witchers’ to Society members to describe the magical way the horses seemed to settle down during such magical sessions. For instance, a Society member would draw a circle round the horse, then they would chant while shaking a magical object, until at last they would whisper a special ‘word’ into the horse’s ears. The phrase ‘horse-witcher’ then evolved to ‘horse whisperer’ as members modified the sessions to just whispering into the ears of the horses. The popularity of the ‘Society of the Horseman’s Word’ escalated, not only throughout Scotland but into parts of England as well.  When the technique crossed the ocean, the phrase ‘horse whisperer’ became the highest endorsement of a horse professional’s talent.
Of course, the industrialization of the 20th century brought an end to the era of the horse. The invention of the tractor and the car permanently changed the course for horses. Even the cavalry disbanded after the 1940’s, leaving horses to become just another expensive luxury. The Scottish ‘Horseman’s Society’ that had monopolized and ruled the horse industry for so long with its “horse whispering” techniques slipped quietly into oblivion by 1930.

So, was horse whispering actually “discovered” by the Scottish? Only the phrase ‘horse whisperer’ originated from The Society of the Horseman’s Word. It was nearly two thousand years before the Society was even formed that Alexander the Great, and Xenophon the Greek, (both horse masters from around 300-355 BC), showed such compassion and logic in their training that they are considered among the first documented “horse whisperers”.  In fact, Xenophon was the first horse master to write a book on meeting the horse through its ‘soul’.  Fast forward to the mid-1600’s and you find another application of horse whispering techniques. Known only by the name Pietro, a young Neapolitan gained notoriety through his singular success with a wild barb horse named, Mauraco. An intensely dangerous animal, Mauraco was the great ‘untameable’. Many professionals failed with their use of both torture and deprivation to make this black horse submit. It was Pietro who decided to see if a rewards program might gentle him. Through use of treats and kindness, he successfully educated the horse to respond to subtle hand gestures that indicated a certain trick to perform. Mauraco is one of the first known horses who could sit, kneel, lie down, jump through hoops, and even take a glove to someone Pietro pointed toward in the audience. Pietro completely won the horse’s co-operation and gentleness with his rewards method.  He promoted his training technique in public with shows throughout the European Continent. Unfortunately, the trainer was too far ahead of his time. Performing his show in the city of Arles, France,  he induced hysteria in the townspeople. It was black magic, they claimed. The casual hand movements and ear-whispering were putting demons into the horse. The town demanded the horse and master be executed, and sadly, both were burned to death on the spot.

Today’s current use of the term ‘horse whispering’ resurfaced through such individuals as Tom Dorrance and Monty Roberts. Both authors have written excellent books promoting the harmony of horse and rider. They have renewed the message of using intelligence in horse training. Tom’s book “True Unity” is a must read for every horseman. Monty’s book, “The Man Who Listens To Horses” explains: “A good trainer can hear a horse speak to him. A great trainer can hear him whisper.” Monty learned the body language that wild horses use to communicate among themselves, and began using this same horse ‘language’ to teach his horses in training. It was a  revolutionary breakthrough, bridging the gap between the human and the equine, creating a common ground that connects the horse straight to the ‘human intent’.  “Capture their willingness and …make them happy to work” wrote Xenophon of the horse. Here is a definite and clear declaration of both the spirit and origin of the ancient art of horse whispering.

monty-roberts.jpg

Monty Roberts & horse

What is Riding ‘Forward’?

Posted on August 1, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: history, riding, training.

excerpts from:        Charles de Kunffy’s article in Dressage Today magazine:

photo from Dressage Today

photo from Dressage Today

Straighten your horse and ride it forward” was dressage master Gustav Steinbrecht’s admonition to equestrian scholars in the 19th century. Riders understood what he meant because they lived in an equestrian culture that spoke its own scholarly language with established meaning by tradition. However, in recent times, those not familiar with the intentions of Steinbrecht’s command have managed to misinterpret the urging of “forward” as a command to chase the horse into rushing, and then they have to pull on his mouth because he goes too fast. Remember, speed is also the enemy of impulsion.
When driving is misguided into demanding speed and agitated toward restraining hands, horses have nowhere to escape but upward with their croups. Their buttocks bounce with stilt-like, open-jointed hind legs—what we call “out behind” or “butt bouncing”—while heads are pulled behind the vertical with over-flexed necks. While these speedy chargers  often display a high, short and forced neck posture, let me assure you that they are the very documentations of horses on the forehand.
While this misplaced devotion to the “forward” part of the admonition has been championed, the “straighten your horse” part has been disastrously, continuously ignored. Yet straightening a horse is a precondition for the correct achievement of forward, the real meaning of which is locomotion with correctly articulating joints propelled by supple muscles. In other words, going forward means moving forward with strengthened and, therefore, engaged haunches.
Sadly, we often see a caricature of what was meant as guiding advise to those who lived in an equestrian culture of the past when horses were vastly important and horsemanship was an academically sound discipline. Too often we see tense horses running away with passenger riders balancing on their mouths. However, there are reasons for this misinterpretation and remedies for it.

from artuk

from artuk



The urge to run:
We all know the horse is an animal of flight. He survived by early notice of lurking predators (startling instincts) and outrunning them (the flight instinct). If he were to be overtaken and contacted by the predator while in flight, he would fight by bucking, kicking, or striking. Hence, when a startled horse takes flight his rider should not act as his predator and try to pull him down, but rather accompany him in an unrestricted partnership in flight fully reverent to the horse’s survival instinct. Had horses not been strong and swift, we would have nothing to ride today for their ancestors would have been eaten. Only those horses alert enough to be startled in time to run fast to escape their predators remained in the genetic pool. A horse can take off in full speed even from a halt. Therefore, the halt is also a “movement” because it is latent energy, potential for flight.
The instinct to flight was what attracted mankind to riding horses. A fast-running horse was a treasure for traveling and military action. Desire for speed became one of the guiding principles in breeding horses. Indeed, it was racing that contributed considerably to the creation of the contemporary “super horse.” Without the horse’s forward instinct and energy for flight, we would have nothing to tame, shape and ride for our precisely controlled transportation. However, the horse’s ability to speed is just the starting point. It is the energy reserve and the raw material that by taming and training is groomed and altered into the wondrous variety of movements a correctly gymnasticized horse can offer his rider.

GreyEagle2

Kyra Kurkland riding

Kyra Kurkland riding

How to avoid running: Begin by developing an adhesive seat. The rider’s seat is a “transformer” whose role is to modify the energy emitting from the horse’s haunches. Remember, riding is controlled transportation, not just where we go and at what speed, but how effortlessly we arrive due to the schooled use of the haunches. The horse needs a relaxed, well-balanced tempo in order to take a longer stride and step with his hind legs past or into the footprints left by the front legs. Riders must learn to induce the correct posture of the horse (longitudinal flexion) and only then influence the level of engagement in his haunches. Horses not in a correct posture should not be driven, because they cannot engage to move and are forced to proceed under duress. With gradually increasing strength and skills, the horse begins to shorten the distance between his hocks and the bridle. That distance could be likened to the string of a bow, which could be “tightened” or “loosened” by the rider. According to the engagement of the horse, the “bow string” will determine the amount of kinetic energy in the longitudinal flexion of the horse’s body. To achieve this, riders must slow the horse to a tempo that allows him to move by articulating the joints in his haunches evenly and unencumbered by the reins. Slow the horse until he is balanced, taken off his dwelling shoulders and gathered more weight toward his haunches.  Slowing the tempo allows the rider to create impulsion, the indispensable foundation of engagement of the haunches. “Impulsion” refers to the horse’s ability to use all joints in his haunches with equal and unhindered articulation and thereby produce an efficient—not rapid—source of energy. Impulsion improves with the gradual increasing articulation of the joints. Impulsion, not running, is the source for strengthening and suppling the joints. Impulsion is based on the taming of the flight instinct and altering it into effortless efficiency. The rider’s understanding of the goals of training and his knowledge of the means to attain them comes from Baroque ideology. This means that the horse’s natural potential can evolve into a monument of art only by the intelligent schooling of his rider. In other words, correct schooling makes the horse more beautiful. It all begins with “Straighten your horse and ride it forward.”

Riding After 50?

Posted on July 31, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, health, riding, training.

groundpole

Are you over fifty and still enjoying activities such as: bicycling, skating, hiking, skiing, jogging, dancing? Then perhaps you would enjoy the sport of horseback riding. The world of horses holds the interests of many senior citizens, although it is largely overlooked as an activity for retirees. Did you know that some participating Olympic Riders have been in their  sixties and seventies? Ian Millar is a Canadian rider whose passion is horse jumping. He competed in his ninth consecutive equestrian games at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 when 65 years of age. Kyra Kyrklund, from Finland, was 61 had participated in five Olympic Games, four World Equestrian Games, and six World Cup Equestrian Dressage Finals. Josef Neckermann rode in the 1984 Olympics at 71 years old. Are these the only older people riding horses?

Well, in southeastern Massachusetts, where we have a thriving horse community, over half of the riders are over 50, and most of these are in their mid-sixties. These riders participate in every facet of horsemanship, from horse clubs, riding clinics, overnight trail rides, to costume making and saddle-bridle decoration. They also participate in equine expositions including horse shows, horse breed demonstrations, or equine educational seminars. Each of these venues requires knowledgeable riders either willing to explain or to demonstrate good horsemanship skills.

But is horseback riding for you? Learning to ride a horse does require similar intensive learning as that required when learning to ski or to ride a bike, if you’ve never done so before. These sports depend heavily on technique and specific equipment in order to insure a safe and enjoyable experience. Also, every potential rider over 50 needs to accurately assess their degree of mobility and agility. The highly motivated, energetic individual will find the intense pace of competition riding easily equal to their passion for cutting edge excitement, once their riding skills are intact. Likewise, the nimble but more meditative environmentalist will enjoy the interaction of the horse-rider relationship with its opportunity for trail riding in local recreational parks or secluded natural habitats. Many senior riders in rural areas sign up for local Search and Rescue Posses. These riders help the Sheriff Department to find lost hikers, missing children, or even other lost animals. The photo is the author’s brother, (in his mid-sixties) participating in the training program for the Yolo County Sheriff’s posse.

learning rescue techniques

learning rescue techniques

There are riding and training facilities in nearly every agricultural or urban town. You can use the local listings, computer, or local livestock/feed store for inquiries into locations of horse farms. A recommended professional is best for learning technique and equipment basics. They may even have a horse owner willing to half-lease a reliable horse for you to begin to gain your mileage and balance in the saddle. Another great starting point is the local horse club where you can meet other horse enthusiasts eager to add you on to their events. So what are you waiting for? Let’s saddle up and go!

Mark Russell’s “En”-lightening Approach

Posted on by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, riding, therapy, training.

“..elicit a calm thoughtful movement from the horse..”

While he is no longer with us to teach in person, Author and Horse trainer Mark Russell continues to explain the value of suppling the horse before and during the riding session in his book, “Lessons in Lightness”, available through his website. The book delves into the bio-mechanics of both saddle and ground work with engaging additions of his own personal life lessons that helped to shape his riding talent.   His web site: naturaldressage.com still provides insights through his articles. Here is an excerpt of one that was published in PRE Magazine:

The Pursuit of Artful Riding  (by Mark Russell)


author demonstrating: Lessons in Lightness

Artistry and lightness in riding is often an elusive goal for riders although paving the path to its development is really very simple. The integration of a few basic principles and adherence to them throughout the training process will create a scenario in which responsiveness and lightness will flourish.  The Reality We Present to the Horse is the Reality That He Lives In.. One of Natural Horsemanship’s most significant contributions to the development of the horse is its approach to the training process from the perspective of the horse. This includes an understanding of who our horse is and how he learns: qualities to which we temper our approach. The horse learns from us every moment we are with him and each of his behaviors, no matter how subtle, reflects a message he is sending us.  Importantly, this process includes mindfulness of ourselves: where we are emotionally, what information we are sending the horse through the reins and through our seat. There is a continuous back and forth conversation between us and our horses every moment we are with him whether intentional or not.

Artistic dressage forsakes force. A horse that has been brought down the path of learning in his comfort zone will easily learn balance without brace. Channels of energy will be opened in the relaxed horse which the rider can then direct. Once the basic principles become a staple in the horse’s training we can begin to advance the concept of relaxation through releases of the jaw, poll, neck, through the back and hind end of the horse. Flexion, impulsion, balance, and freedom of movement will thus come easily. An attentive and conversant rider creates a scenario where their requests can comfortably be followed by the horse. The outcome will be a horse who will be able to express free flowing energy and movement which is a pleasure to ride and beautiful to watch.

You can read the entire article at: Mark Russell Dressage     videos of his sessions are on our Equi-TV page

 

 

 

Feeding The Angry Horse

Posted on July 14, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, handicap, health, history.
toddler with horses (from simply marvelous wordpress)

toddler with horses (from simply marvelous wordpress)

Toddler entertaining horses

(Photo from Simply Marvelous WordPress)

Horses love to eat.  Having daily turnout time where they can graze connects them back to the time of their ancestor’s nomadic life.  Wild horses still walk and graze for miles in rocky terrain foraging for food.  Of course, domesticated horses are not dependent on wild foraging. Grazing is more of an activity, since the bulk of their day is confined to a small area where they eat, sleep, and watch over the fence for entertainment.  Most horses have been instructed and guided from birth to understand interaction with humans. They even prefer the company of their owners rather than standing alone all day.  The horses in the photo above are clearly enjoying the attention the toddler is giving them. These horses can be trusted not to bite or kick when someone approaches them, or hands them a treat, even if that person is a wandering toddler.

But feral horses, or horses who spend their formative years trapped in neglect or abuse, develop a view of humans as predators. Young horses, or newly caught wild horses, trapped with owners who withhold their food, shout at them, or inflict pain through harsh training methods, these horses cannot distinguish the human from any other predator who threatens their safety. This is why they resort to using defensive behavior. They become biters, kickers, and chargers.  To onlookers, such an animal looks (and is) too dangerous to be around. If the horse is part of a herd and fears for the safety of the herd, it will use deadly force to protect its mates.  At mealtime, you will see this behavior escalate in horses who fear that having their head down makes them vulnerable to attack.  These are the types of horses who become dangerously defensive eaters.  Can this kind of horse ever become safer?   Yes, these horses can be rehabilitated, but not overnight, or in one training session. The behavior that took years to imprint needs length of time to unlearn. If the handler understands the reason for the horse’s behavior they can begin a new track of training that will replace the horse’s fear with confidence. To isolate this type of horse and apply even more physical force on the assumption that this will induce submission only serves to engage more brutality.

I once cared for a rescue horse who was so dangerous at feeding time we could only drop the food over the gate then run! He bent his metal gate by body-slamming it at full force, several times. If grazing in the pasture he was off limits to visitors as he would charge and attack anything that wandered inside his pasture, including dogs or other horses.  But within two months he had changed.  While he ate, I could blanket him, lift and inspect his feet, put on his halter, or brush him.   He learned to wait for strangers to put down his food while he stood politely nearby. How?

Horses are blessed with the gift of curiosity and the ability to change when they no longer feel threatened. Therefore their daily environment can be structured to engage their attention and focus, and to subtly integrate humans as a partner and not a threat.  Something as simple as having them watch you carefully place several piles of hay in remote areas, and their water in a far away corner, so that they must search and find when turned out to pasture, activates their curiosity. Placing tarps and ground poles on the ground for them to learn to walk over, requires them to use their reasoning powers and serves to build their confidence. If their owner is there to cheer them on with each new discovery it will begin to build a bond of trust between them.   Graduating from there to learning the comfort of being brushed, sensibly handled, blanketed or saddled, encourages the horse to let go of the defensive mechanisms he depended on for survival.

In the case of my foster horse, when he relaxed enough to show a desire for attention, to be petted and touched,  I  agreed to do so only on the condition that he be eating while I patted him.  Once he became comfortable with that I added cleaning his paddock while he ate. Then I added putting on a blanket, lifting a hoof, and even brushing, while he ate. The process took many weeks, but in view of the many years he will have as a trusted companion in his permanent home, the time is minimal.
Most animals react with defensive behavior because they have felt compromised and endangered at some point. Correcting the cause of their defensiveness, that is, fixing whatever it was that made them feel afraid, just as we correct the cause of an illness or lameness,  can restore harmony.

The First Cowboys; the Vaquero

Posted on July 5, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, history, riding, training.

The Vaquero vaquero.jpg

The Vaquero, or Mexican cattle herder, came from Mexico in the 1800’s and eventually became employees of the cattle and horse ranches that developed in the southwest.  Two parts of the southwest were predominantly Vaquero namely, Texas and  California. In these states the parents of many vaqueros  raised their families on the ranch where they worked, and as their children became Vaqueros and married, they too raised their families there. The beef industry was a powerful market, rising to its peak in the nineteenth century. The daily duties for a vaquero required long hours of strenuous livestock management, seeing to the transportation of cattle which they drove through rugged, raw territories to the markets where they were sold and shipped. The vaquero was also responsible for the breeding, branding, and safety of all the cows and horses on the ranch as well as the maintenance of the fencing and stabling. Although the western United States was still Mexican territory during this time, the ranchers carried a lot of influence since they were the providers of the food and the mounts for the Mexican Calvary, and eventually the US Calvary.

‘Most vaqueros were men of mestizo and Native American origin while most of the hacendados (ranch owners) were ethnically Spanish. Mexican traditions spread both South and North, influencing equestrian traditions from Argentina to Canada.  As English-speaking traders and settlers expanded westward, English and Spanish traditions, language and culture merged to some degree. Before the Mexican-American War in 1848, New England merchants who traveled by ship to California encountered both hacendados and vaqueros, trading manufactured goods for the hides and tallow produced from vast cattle ranches. American traders along what later became known as the Santa Fe Trail had similar contacts with vaquero life. Starting with these early encounters, the lifestyle and language of the vaquero began a transformation which merged with English cultural traditions and produced what became known in American culture as the “cowboy”. ‘ (J.Malone, p 3)

As eastern and mid-western settlers began their migration into the western territories they watched and learned the vaquero methods of cattle ranching. They adopted these methods when establishing their own ranches. When the western territories became adopted into the United States, many vaqueros stayed on to work for smaller ranches since many of the elaborate Mexican ranches were dissolved and their territories divided.
For a rare opportunity to learn more about the history of the Vaquero from someone who had personal experience, read Jesse Wilkinson’s site:   Vaquero.

Doma Vaquera Equitation

Posted on July 1, 2017 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, history, riding, training.

doma_vaquera.jpgby Jerrilee Streeter

Doma Vaquera is a Spanish phrase that defines the individuals in Spain who work with the cattle and bulls on the ranches and out on the hillsides. The doma vaquera is a person who has a special manner, or style, in which they dress. There is special riding tack , and a unique, individual way in which their horses are taught and ridden that distinguishes them from other riding disciplines. In Spain, some Doma Vaquera still go into the bullring to challenge the bull and still others demonstrate their skillful riding as they guide their horse in their work among the cattle. Included with the regular gear that a doma vaquero works with is the use of a garrocha. The garrocha is a long wooden pole used as an extension of the doma vaquera’s arm to activate, push, and guide cattle along the hillsides. In countries outside of Spain, the Doma Vaquera has evolved into a riding discipline that simulates the pattern work and movements of a working bullfighter mount. The rider still wears the traditional outfit and saddles the horse with the traditional gear to practice a combination of lateral jumps, sudden stops, and pirouettes which are used by today’s working doma vaqueras. There are even riding competitions where participants can show their horse’s special abilities in performing the patterns and movements of the doma vaquero horse. This includes the garrocha which, when used in the competition arena, can be an artful, breathtaking performance, especially when the rider works through the maneuvers without the use of the reins. A demonstration of this can be viewed on the La Garrocha . (To preserve the purity of the performance the link has been kept in its original Spanish format.Click video to begin)  Doma Vaquero will show an public demonstration.

for riding demo.

equi-works

equi-works