Stuff I Discovered Climbing the Beanstalk

gustafson_-_jack_and_the_beanstalk-726768DRESSAGE Unscrambled (although it did not yet have a name) began in my head over fifteen years ago.  Not unike the brooms in Fantasia, once started, it was impossible to stop. So added to the original manuscript, here are more than 450 blog entries to cover a few things that I missed.

As before, the tales which follow are not arranged chronologically but in studied disorder. Some are meant to illuminate. Others to distract. Some just can’t stand to hide in the dark any longer. Light and Truth R Us.

                                               Don’t leave them

 (posted 8-15-22)

This is from the internet but worth sharing here.

“It turns out that pets also have last wills before they die, but only known to vets who put old and sick animals to sleep.” Twitter user Jesse Dietrich asked a vet what the hardest part of his job was.The specialist replied without hesitation that the hardest thing for him was seeing how old or sick animals look for their owners before they fall asleep. The fact is 90% of owners don’t want to be in a room with a dying animal. People leave so they don’t see their animals leave. But they don’t realize it’s in these last moments of life that their animal needs them the most.Vets are asking owners to stay close to animals until the end. “It is inevitable that they die before you. Remember that you were the center of their lives. Maybe they were just a part of you. But they are also your family. Even if it’s hard, don’t give up on them.Don’t let them die in a room with a stranger in a place they don’t like. It’s very painful for vets to see how pets can’t find their owner in the last minutes of their lives. They don’t understand why their master left them. After all, they needed the consolation of their master.Veterinarians do their best to make animals not so scared, but they are totally strangers to them. Don’t be a coward because it’s too painful for you. Think about the animal. Endure that pain for them. Be with them until the end.Tony Lapshinoff

             If you like Denny, you’ll like the Real Bill

(posted 8-4-22)

Back in the mid 60s, the first serious riding book I ever read (Walter Farley didn’t count) was Riding and Jumping by Bill Steinkraus. He was a role model: smart, articulate, a true amateur, and a very good rider. He graduated from Yale the year that I was born, and later in my dorm at school I watched him become the first American to win Individual Gold which he did on Snowbound at the Mexico City Olympics. This was long before I envisioned myself as a full time horse person, but the image of being a successful rider and having a normal career was very appealing to me.

Purloined from a Face Book post, here Bill Steinkraus’ words of wisdom:

“No. 1. Get your tack and equipment just right, and then forget about it and concentrate on the horse.
No. 2. The horse is bigger than you are, and it should carry you. The quieter you sit, the easier this will be for the horse.
No. 3. The horse’s engine is in the rear. Thus, you must ride your horse from behind, and not focus on the forehand simply because you can see it.
No. 4. It takes two to pull. Don’t pull. Push.
No. 5. For your horse to be keen but submissive, it must be calm, straight and forward.

No. 6. When the horse isn`t straight, the hollow side is the difficult side.
No. 7. The inside rein controls the bending, the outside rein controls the speed.
No. 8. Never rest your hands on the horse’s mouth. You make a contract with it: “You carry your head and I’ll carry my hands.”
No. 10. Once you’ve used an aid, put it back.

No. 11. You can exaggerate every virtue into a defect.
No. 12. Always carry a stick, then you will seldom need it.

No. 13. If you`ve given something a fair trial, and it still doesn’t work, try something else—even the opposite.
No. 14. Know when to start and when to stop. Know when to resist and when to reward.

No. 15. If you’re going to have a fight, you pick the time and place.

No. 16. What you can’t accomplish in an hour should usually be put off until tomorrow.
No. 17. You can think your way out of many problems faster than you can ride your way out of them.
No. 18. When the horse jumps, you go with it, not the other way around.
No. 19. Don`t let over-jumping or dull routine erode the horse’s desire to jump cleanly. It’s hard to jump clear rounds if the horse isn’t trying.
No. 20. Never give up until the rail hits the ground.

No. 21. Young horses are like children—give them a lot of love, but don’t let them get away with anything.
No. 22. In practice, do things as perfectly as you can; in competition, do what you have to do.
No. 23. Never fight the oats.
No. 24. The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

~Bill Steinkraus

                              She comes in colors

(posted 7-24-22)

So I have a major complaint about the new dress code rules which came into effect early this year. My problem is that they are immensely complicated and subject to a wide variety of interpretation. Furthermore, if they are violated, the rules call for the judge to make a mandatory elimination of the rider. If the judge gets it wrong, he or she is subject to a penalty from the USEF.

At assorted recognized shows recently there have been multiple occasions where everything has stopped while the judge and technical delegate try to determine if the dress (or saddle pad) rules are being violated. It is a special concern because if the judge lets a borderline case pass, and later at the Regionals the rider is eliminated for the same in fraction/non-infraction, there will be hell to pay!

I have my own (old person) opinion about some of the outlandish outfits  people have been showing up in lately as they try to push the boundaries of what is acceptable, but for now let’s leave that aside. Legal or not legal,  I find this whole dance to be incredibly stupid and distracting! You would think the riders would rather have us concentrate on their horses and the performance of the test rather than parsing out penalties for stripes that are too wide or multi colors when only one is allowed. It’s not supposed to be a fashion show for chrissakes. Get a grip and think of the riding!

Veddy intereschting  but schtupid!


(posted 7-7-22)

Sometimes what I see makes me crazy(er); so here are my own thoughts on the topic that I wish you would take into consideration when you lunge.It is said that whenever you work with your horse you are “training” him— sometimes for worse, sometimes for better but he will always draw some conclusion about what you have done. That said, from the moment you bring him out of his stall you should be “riding” him— directing him in a positive way to accede to your wishes. If you let him walk all over you in hand or pull his head down to grab at the grass when he feels like it, it will not bode well for work under saddle.

Briefly, regarding equipment: Obviously you need a lunge line, not a little short one that keeps your horse on a circle that’s so small he can’t move or that will damage his hocks, and preferably not one of nylon which can burn your fingers if he pulls through them suddenly. BTW, you should be wearing gloves too! You also need a lunge whip, not a little short dressage whip but a proper one with a long lash and definitely not thinking you can wave the end of the line around in your hand and get any useful effect.

A lungeing caveson would be nice, but not everyone has one these days. Don’t just clip the line to the inside ring of the bit. You can do it the Pony Club way – through the inner ring,up over the poll, and down to the ring on the outside. On horses that tend to be obstreperous, I prefer using a line with a chain, going through the inner ring and up over the nose, under the nose band, and fastened to the outside ring. This makes it easier to have your horse’s attention.

Lungeing should be reminiscent of riding your horse from the ground. That means he should be respectful of your driving aids and regulatable with your receiving ones. He must be ratable and guidable. In the most basic sense lungeing is a combination of leading and yielding. Before you begin on a big circle, you should be sure you can displace the horse’s body around his forehand (specifically his inside front leg) as though you are asking for steps of turn on the forehand from the ground. The whip should be applied slightly behind the girth area to get a step over, followed by a half half on the line to catch and balance him, followed by softening/releasing of the contact. The whip must help him learn to move over. The horse must trust it, not want to run away from it. It is to direct him, not terrorize him!

As he understands, lead him around you with an opening rein (line) While ushering him forward with the whip held low and pointed at his flank. Your goal is to maintain contact on the line as though you were riding, your whip preventing him from falling on his inner shoulder while at the same time having him follow your hand and not bulging out or dragging you off the circle.

The USDF Instructors Manual goes into all of this at great length. Some of it is pedantic to the point of silliness – a function of the individual author’s personality. I honestly don’t care if you stick your leading heel into the ground and pivot around it, but the point is you should be aware of maintaining a round circle and not letting the horse dictate the size and shape of where he is going. I also don’t care if you fold the excess line back-and-forth across your palm in the British Horse Society prescribed manner, but if you don’t, you better be darn sure the loop doesn’t wrap around your hand and damage your fingers if the horse acts up!

In the beginning the circle can be fairly small so you can reach the horse with the end of the lash, but as he comes to understand its message, the circle should get considerably bigger – 20 meters or more.

In general the whip should be pointed fairly low and not be waved around in the air. It should rarely be cracked, especially if there are other riders in the arena.

When making a downward transition on the lunge, the horse should continue to face around the circumference of the circle, not turn and look at you. Likewise, although it may be cute to have him turn around on his own when you wish to reverse direction, that seems contrary to the overall point you’re trying to make as you work your horse.

As for what you do with your horse on the lunge, when you start him, don’t allow him to go bursting off in whatever gait he likes. Ideally, start in the walk and then trot on your terms. If your horse is fractious or over energized as they sometimes can be on a cold day, don’t let him zoom around in a fast trot. I want him to learn that his trot must be rhythmical and of a tempo that promotes elasticity and the use of his back. If he just can’t help himself, I’d rather have him play in the canter and get his bounces out so he can settle into a working trot.

As for side reins or running reins, it’s fine to use them, but I find it depressing when someone fastens them to the bit while the horse is still in the stall and he never has a chance to work loose and free in his first warm-up.

Treat this as a thumbnail of first things to think of when you lunge. There are plenty of other details which I could add, but go from here.

                                         Just for Kicks

(posted 6-14-22)

There are multiple reasons why a horse might kick out at his rider’s leg. The first cause may be related to pain or discomfort. Ulcers in his hind gut would be a for instance. Before you go blaming him, you need to be sure there’s not an easy solution through veterinary assistance.

A fairly harmless but occasional cause is simple exuberance. Actively kicking out isn’t the same thing as bouncing his hind end up into the air. While you don’t want him to do that, it’s much less critical than if he is actively trying to buck you off! Lunge him a little while to get the bounces out, and you may have no further problem.

Then we come to training-related situations. Your leg aid may simply be too strong, and especially if he doesn’t understand it, you can get that sort of reaction. Go back to simple work in the walk or even from the ground teaching him to yield from pressure and respect what your leg is telling him. Then apply it mounted, then in motion, then at faster gaits. Be aware that the placement of your leg can be an issue. Put your outside spur too far back at what he perceives as his “private space “and he may be offended enough to kick at the leg. Be sure your horse is understanding what the leg means before you just try to amplify it!

Then there are also the occasions when the horse is spoiled from his earlier (non) training and is disinterested or thoroughly unimpressed with your aids. Using aids which are routinely too small to get a response can persuade him that no response is ever required, and when you ask more he feels rightfully offended. Sometimes you simply need to escalate and ride through his complaints and out the other side, ignoring his antics and showing him that regardless of his opinion on the matter, the work you were demanding simply must happen. With persistence the horse will usually decide it’s not worth the trouble to complain, especially when the correct response results in smaller aids and follow up rewards.

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