Fighting on the side of love

Susan Salk has an awesome blog, OffTrackThoroughbreds.com. It focuses on the rescue, rehabilitation, and sometimes remarkable recoveries of OTTBs, and sheds light on both the beautiful and the often very ugly side of thoroughbred racing.

I don’t read every post, but I do read the posts that tell the Cinderella stories – the stories of racehorses who have been abandoned, fallen on hard times, and who have found their personal angels.  Some go on to achieve remarkable things in the show ring, others to family homes, or therapeutic organizations. Each of these is a transformational tale – a horse risen from ruin, starvation, disease and suffering to the life of love and purpose that every animal (including we people) deserves.

Many are fortunate enough to be part of a rescued horse’s journey as one of its angels, as its destination, or both. Not many of us take this to the next level. Richard “Kudo” Couto of Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) does, and today’s OffTrackThoroughbreds.com post, “Liberated from Illegal Butcher, Horse Inspires“,  is one that that should be shared, and shared again.

The story is beautiful and compelling. Following the trail to the ARM website is a profound experience.  Founded in Florida in 2010, ARM is the investigative animal welfare organization founded by Couto to expose and address extreme criminal acts against animals.  Along with the ugly areas issues of illegal horse slaughter, ARM deals with people who practice acts of cruelty against animals that many of us would prefer to pretend didn’t exist.

Reading about ARM’s beginnings, and the organization itself, makes me think that this is what was meant by the expression “fighting on the side of love.”

And of course, it’s always nice to read about a hero!

 

Ride on, Tom Brennan!

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Congratulations to Tom Brennan and Rio Bandit, regular/green conformation reserve champions at the Gulf Sunshine Classic V. Photo credit to Mollie Bailey, taken from The Chronicle of the Horse.

Last week, a picture of Tom Brennan and Rio Bandit was posted on the Facebook page of The Chronicle of the Horse,. The photo was taken during a round at the Gulf Sunshine Classic V, where Brennan and Rio Bandit received an impressive score of 88, earning the reserve championship. While the round was beautiful and professionally judged accordingly, some of Facebook’s so-called equestrian “experts” were less than generous in their opinion of Brennan and his ability (read “judge my ride”). Brennan’s response to his critics was classic, and very classy.

“You will meet many ‘experts’ in life…most of them sit on the sidelines where it is safe to say, ‘They are not good enough.’ The only one who can tell you ‘You Can’t’ is you—and you don’t have to listen! No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. We do not let anyone else make this sport unfun for us. The only expert opinion that matters when you ride is right underneath you. Listen to your horses and treat them with tact and kindness today.” (read the full article in The Chronicle of the Horse.)

Often it strikes me that, as equestrians, we could take a whole lot of “shut the hell up” with a healthy serving of “get over yourself” and a side of “mind your own business.” For some reason, we love to turn a casual and uninformed opinion into a feeding frenzy of so-called expertise. Jealousy and insecurity come in many guises, and belittling others is certainly one of these. Like many, I’m not always blameless in this game. 😦

Thank you, Tom Brennan, for being so secure in your expertise that instead of shooting back, you took this opportunity to remind us all that riding is a joy, and the only judge qualified to critique our ride is the one we partner with over fences, and on the flat.

What to do with your ponies when winter blows!

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Another beautiful, snowy day out, with the promise of colder weather on the horizon 😦

As anyone who knows me will attest, I hate the cold. This winter, we’ve experienced some desperately cold temperatures, which have derailed training plans and limited riding opportunities significantly.

While I know there is a school of thought that suggests that “if you might be competing in it, you should school in it,” I am not a huge fan of working the horses too hard when it’s bitterly cold out.  I wouldn’t run in the cold because it’s hard on my body and my lungs, and I believe this to be true for the horses as well. With winter coats, sweating causes chills, and it’s impossible for horses to dry out in this weather.

And of course, I hate the cold.

Rather than be frustrated by a climate that I cannot change, I make up for time not spent in the saddle, and:

1. Bundle up and spend some quality time with the horses.

My horses are out 24/7 and they have access to shelter, heated water, and excellent hay. When it gets bitterly cold, and the wind blows incessantly, I put on my polar gear and trek out to the barn to bring them in for a break from the  elements. These times are usually quiet at the barn, and a great opportunity to give Chaos and Dayo a warm mash, take off their blankets to ruff up their hair. Sometimes I’ll do maintenance – main pulling, fetlock trimming, other times a thorough and leisurely grooming. Sometimes it’s just cuddles, and they take advantage of the peace and quiet to wander around the barn, visiting other horses, and exploring that world.

2. Develop detailed training plans.
I’m a professional event planner, and a firm believer that success lies in the details. When it comes to the horses, I am no different. Coupled with this is the fact that Dayo, Chaos and I all seem to get bored rather easily. And so, each of my horses has a training plan, and when it’s too cold to ride, I use the time to project, set milestones, goals (horse shows and classes) and develop strategies to make sure every ride counts.

3. Get better!
Cold weather means sitting indoors, snuggled under a blanket – a great time to explore training ideas for the horses, to look up new ground work exercises, and to plan out lessons with jumps and poles. I’m a HUGE fan of poles – you can do almost anything with them – and they constantly offer the opportunity to challenge the horses. An added benefit for me, because I have time constraints at the barn, is the fact that pole exercises can be adjusted for Dayo, who is quite green, or amped up for Chaos, for is fairly advanced.   One of my favourites to build on is 4 Poles, 7 Exercises. A google search will give you many more!

4. Get better – part 2!
Study the habits and skills of really good riders. There is so much information out there, and so many great riders to emulate! I watch hours and hours of video – jumper classes, schooling videos, and read books. Some of my favourite videos come from the Bay Area Equestrian Network, and from the pros like Bernie Traurig, Tim Stockdale, George Morris, Denny Emerson, and Jim Wofford. I’m also reading Denny Emerson’s book, How Good Riders Get Good, and looking forward to reading Bill Steinkraus’ Riding and Jumping.  A friend recently turned me on to the De Nemethy method. I get caught up on the Grand Prix action, zooming in to see how the riders use their hands, their seats, and how they approach the courses. One of my favourite vids features Margie Gayford and Stuntman – there’s a part where you can actually see her fingers talking to the horse.

5. Get Better – part 3!
Winter is also the time to hit the exercise ball, the yoga studio, the gym and the pool to build core strength, improve flexibility, and get in shape to ride! I’m not saying I’m as dedicated to the non-horsey fitness pursuits as I should be, but a girl has to do something besides hide under a blanket when she’s not in the saddle!

6. Do some ground work.
Ground work is invaluable for horses, and particularly for Chaos, who can be, well, pushy sometimes. When the barn is quiet, it’s nice to take advantage of the long wide aisle to work on some basics, and re-establish connection. My daughter Emma is a huge fan of this, and much better at it than I am, so ground work time is also daughter teaching mum time. More bonding time for ponies and  people!

7. Keep the faith!
Spring is just around the corner, and there will be much fun in putting plans into action.

Food for thought: Let the germs eat the worms!

It’s almost de-worming time for Chaos and Dayo. I am a huge fan of Quest and Quest Plus, recommended to me by a sage horsewoman, but I like to do research to make sure that my de-worming program remains as effective as possible. In doing so, I have come across Dr. Martin Nielsen, an equine parasitologist at University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Centre. Dr. Nielsen has lauched a project to test a novel probiotic compound for a more effective treatment of equine parasites. The project, called “Let the germs get the worms,” is hosted at the website http://equineparasitology.ca.uky.edu/ and has a goal of raising $30,000 before March 10.

Dr. Nielsen’s study is based on the theory that a naturally created protein in horses could be used to combat parasites more effectively than current products on the market, and particularly where a resistance to de-wormers has built up. The appeal is in part the “natural” element of the study. I know it works, I know it’s good for the horses, but I hate the idea of plugging the horses full of chemicals and look for effective natural options whenever possible. This study is in the first stages of its infancy, but you can sign up through the website link above to learn more about the project, to ask questions, and of course, to support.

Dr. Nielsen has chosen crowdfund to raise an initial round of funding. Personally, I love the idea, the creativity, and the ownership and accountability associated with crowdfunding, and I love the idea of a way to control parasites without harmful chemicals.

http://equineparasitology.ca.uky.edu/ This study could be a win-win. Check it out!

Tent pegging – it’s not as easy as it looks!

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Tent pegging is the name given to a class of equestrian mounted games. The category includes:
Tent pegging (in which a mounted horseman uses a sword or lance while galloping to pierce, pick up, and carry away small objects);
Ring jousting (in which a galloping rider tries to pass the point of the weapon through a suspended ring);
Lemon sticking (in which the rider tries to stab or slice a lemon suspended from a cord or sitting on a platform);
Quintain tilting (in which the rider charges a mannequin mounted on a swivelling or rocking pedestal); and
Parthian (mounted archery).

Tent pegging has been practiced since at least the 4th centry B.C. and originated as a series of training exercises to develop a cavalier’s prowess with a sword and lance. Because the specific game of tent pegging is the most popular equestrian skill-at-arms game, the entire class of sports became known as tent pegging during the twilight of cavalry in the twentieth century.
The Olympic Council of Asia included tent pegging as an official sport in 1982, and the FEI recognized it as an official equestrian discipline in 2004. Tent pegging is one of 10 equestrian sports recognized by the FEI.
It’s a fantastic sport requiring skill, agility, tremendous balance, and an unerring eye, and it’s not as easy as it looks!

It’s cold outside. Do the mash!

Chaos and Dayo live outside, and with the weather here colder than it is at the North Pole (!?!), I fret. To keep them warm, they wear layers, have access to good quality hay 24-7, warm water in the troughs (they have heaters), and good shelter. I take their blankets off regularly (it helps because they are ridden five times a week, so checking all over is second nature), and have started giving them a warm mash with their regular grain.

Their favourite recipe so far includes:

  • 1/2 scoop Beet pulp
  • Flax meal
  • Tumeric
  • Cracked pepper
  • EV Coconut Oil
  • Apple sauce *sometimes molasses as an extra treat
  • Cut up apples and carrots
  • Salt

Many people prefer a traditional bran mash, and I suspect there are as many good mash recipes and opinions as there are equestrians themselves. There are pros and cons to feeding bran regularly, and I have chosen to opt for beet pulp as my mash “base”.

Do you mash once a week, or daily? What mash recipes do your horses particularly enjoy? My horses would love to know 🙂