Sunday, September 30, 2012

Set Up for Success: Conditioning

I have learned that I am repeatedly setting my horses up for failure by not conditioning them well enough.   

This was true in taking Hudson out to hunter paces a few years ago.  I thought I had conditioned her through a couple of months of trail rides on hills, but in the actual event, she became very tired before we were done with the approximately two hours of walk, trot and canter with a few little fences along the way.

Boyd on Remington, who resisted fitness work, Boyd said.
Recently, Starlight simply stopped cantering during a horse show in deep footing, even though I had worked her on trails and in a home-made grass arena for much of the summer. 

After listening to the conditioning routine that Boyd Martin puts on his horses, I can easily see how insufficient my conditioning efforts were.  I listened to him describe his new routine during a recent episode of the Eventing Radio Show (link here).   

Granted, Boyd rides top-level event horses, but even a low-level event horse has to be able to canter for eight or ten minutes straight and jump, not to mention the other two phases, so I don’t think the conditioning routines for high or low level should be all that different. 

Boyd said his horses do fitness work every second day.  His fitness work includes a “show jumping canter” for eight to ten minutes, or cantering up a hill two or three times at a fast clip, or a 25-minute trot.   

My horses might keel over if I tried any of these activities now, but I’m hoping, by next spring, with a lot of regular road rides this winter, they will be fit enough to compete.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Twin Tiers Horse Activities, Sept 29 - 30, 2012

This looks to be the weekend for trail competitions, with several obstacle-full events from which to choose. You could also check out the area's only mounted shooting competition, held in Elkland on Saturday.  

Have a bang-up time with your pony this weekend!

Sept. 29: Northern Tier Horse Club Mounted Shooting: Signups start at 8 am. Competition starts at 9 am. $30 per class per horse/rider combination; Pre-registration is appreciated so that we have the proper amount of ammo on hand. Prepay is not required. Just call or email that you are planning on coming.Contact: April Smith River Run Ranch 1329 Barney Hill Rd.Elkland PA 16920 570-827-0987

Sept. 29: Northern Tier Horse Club Trail Trial Competition: Signups start at 8am. Competition starts at 9 am. $25 per class per horse/rider combination. One rider can use more than one horse. And any horse can be used more than once as long as it is by a different rider. This competition is targeted for all equine. All breeds, all diciplines. Gaited, or non gaited, The only equipment requirement will be safe usable equipment. Clothing requirements: NO tank tops, No shorts. Boots or shoe with a heel, Helmet required for 18 and under.
Sept 30: Trail Competition Callie Winds Stables 929 Hornby Road, Beaver Dams, NY
Sign-up at 9 a.m.; Walk-through at 10 am. Fees: Junior (to 15): $5. Novice: $8; Open (payback): $20; Contact Danielle Hendrick 607 769-6967; Christina Wilson 607 382-9418

Sept 30: GRVDC Trail Trial - at Booth Farm. Access is via Hartman Estates 1554 South Road, Scottsville, NY. Download the Flyer and Entry Form. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dee Gets Her Girl

Yesterday, I signed the papers that transferred ownership of Biltrite Smokin Dee to a Greene-area family, most particularly, an 11-year-old redheaded girl who has been riding Dee for the last month or so. 
For several months, Dee has been away for training and to sell at Lane Cove Dressage in Greene, under the hand of trainer, Ashley Haffey.  

My intention is to reduce my horse number from five to three, and Dee was the first I decided to move along.  She was barely ridden and extremely herdbound when she went out for training.  At that time, both Dee and her brother Stormkite needed to be trained to be ridden and I was feeling overwhelmed, knowing I could not sell an untrained horse and knowing that I didn't have the time or desire to train Dee.  She had gotten the better of me in the past, and I couldn't muster the desire to start work with her again.

But I won’t sell an adult horse who hasn’t been trained to ride, except perhaps to a trusted trainer, because the likelihood of its having a good life, from that point on, diminishes greatly. 

I believe that if you take an animal, all aspects of its life become your responsibility, including, for a horse, giving it the ability to thrive in someone else’s care.  Unrideable horses may be bought and sold, and there may be lots of good intention and optimism along the way, but very often, that horse ends up on a truck to Canada or Mexico, or in some other wretched circumstance.

So my husband and I made an investment in Dee, paying someone else to do what I didn’t have time or inclination to do, and now she is most definitely a ridable horse.  She is green and inexperienced, but she is carrying beginners under a trainer’s eye, and this has given her the edge she needed to be a desirable and useful mare.

Yesterday, after the exchange and some small talk, I popped my head in to watch Dee, who was starting a lesson at with a different rider, a young woman.  Dee walked quietly in a circle, obviously familiar with this routine, watching Ashley much of the time, but giving me long looks as she circled in my direction.  She still knew me, but I will fade from that famously-long horse memory over time, as she enjoys her work and new life with her own little girl.

I hope it is a long and joyous relationship.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Twin Tiers Horse Events, Sept. 20-23, 2012

There are a lot of horse-related activities this weekend, and many more in the upcoming weeks.  Fall is a great time to have a horse in the Twin Tiers!  Get out there and enjoy!

September 19 – 23: ESQHA Fall Show (5 Shows double Pointed) Double/Triple Judged/Split Combined (5 shows) - Package Deal; Show at an Indoor Coliseum before the All American Quarter Horse Congress New York State Fairgrounds, Syracuse, NY; Show Manager: Charlotte Jaynes (607) 546-7373 email:;

September 21-23: Pure Country Versatility Cowboy Course- Timed, payback, great obstacles, give it a try if you dare. Third one. Greenhorn, Amatuer & Cowhand divisions. Points will be kept for Year- end awards. 607-847-9265, 607-847-6139

Sept 22: Dressage & CT Schooling Show Series; Sweet Water Farm (Championship Show) Contact: Alison Kropff kropffsweetwater@gmail.com

September 22:  Big Loop Hunter Pace: 9:00 AM - 12:30 PM; 640 Artline Rd Eldred, PA 16731 RAIN OR SHINE!

Sept. 23: Hunter Pace and Timed Trail Ride Series, Impatient Acres, (Vicki Bolton Farm), 3120 Henry Drum Road, Cohocton, NY 14826 Lynn Sick 585 384 9221 or 585 519 1039, Cost:Adult $20.00 per ride, Youth (under 18) $15.00 per ride, Season pass: Adult $60.00, Youth $50.00. This is a team ride. Riders must go out in groups of two or more. Children 13 and under must ride with an adult 21 and over; Proceeds to benefit Local Youth Horse Clubs.

September 23: Horse Show - Welcome Fall Series I; If Only Farm, Ithaca, NY
Sept 22:  Ranch Sorting at night​​​​ Way-On Saddle Club; 5763 Clark Road, Newark, NY 14513 (The ranch horse competition on the 23rd is canceled.) 

Sept 22-23: Michelle LaBarre Dressage Clinic - Black Points Farm, Honeoye Falls, NY. For info about Michelle,; To ride in the clinic, contact Mary Delton at Auditors welcome.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

And the Winner is...

I’ll will tell you honestly that Starlight and I came home with a fistful of ribbons from the Empire State Paint Horse Club’s Paint-O-Rama.  And among that fistful are a blue and a red. 

All polished up
But focusing on ribbons would only tell you a tiny bit of truth about our day, and it does not tell the real story.

The real report would tell you that, competitively, Starlight and I were mediocre in halter and abominable in riding.  But it would also tell you that I’m proud of every shampooed, blued, Show-Sheened, braided and powdered hair on Starlight's fat little body, from the whites of her pasterns to the tips of her pointy ears.

She did everything I asked from her at the Chemung County fairgrounds, including displaying patience for all the pre-halter class scrubbing and fussing, performing like a pro in those classes and standing like a saint during all the waiting.   

She also watched scooters and bicycles zip by, dogs running, playing and barking, plenty of flapping things, some very anxious, whirling, rearing young horses who were repeatedly getting their faces jerked with chains, and all the rest of the activity that makes a horse show, and she never spooked, shied or deviated from the course I requested.

Except when she just plain ran out of gas. 

Before the halter classes.
She did that in our first riding class, after cantering around the 150-foot arena in deep sand a couple of times.  She just stopped cantering and would not pick it up again.  We tried it once more, in a second class a few minutes later, and she stopped cantering even sooner.  At that point, I knew she was exhausted, and we scratched from our last two classes. 

I didn’t mind doing it.  As you can tell from my posts, Starlight is a good pony who does what I ask unless she has good reason not to, and I could tell from her lack of energy and total dullness in those classes that she had given what she could and was just used up.  We had trailered to the show at 6 a.m., been in multiple halter classes, warmed up in three different arenas and had lots of long waits in between.  And then she was asked to perform in a huge, deep arena.

Obviously, I had not conditioned her well enough for the physical exertion required at this show.

And while other horses did not appear to struggle with the footing as much as Starlight did, I can tell you that the lower arena at the Chemung County show facilities is too deeply sanded.  This would be especially hard on a pony like Starlight, who has only worked in the grass this summer, except for one clinic in sand of the correct depth.   Pushing her to keep trying would likely have resulted in an injury.

"Let's see, is it heads up/heels down or heads down/heels up?"
So, I put her back in her rented stall and let her drink and eat and relax, as my husband and I scurried around again, lugging, packing and cleaning, until it was done and time to put said tired pony on the trailer to go home.  

She whinnied all the way through Elmira.

Oh!  And the blue ribbon?  It was for a class that required no skill or even good conformation.  It was simply the “Tobiano Color” class, and the judging criteria calls for identifying the horse that is most closely half white and half colored.  Hey, THAT we can do!  We got that. 

The short kid in class.
A side note:  Starlight had a mysterious effect on a big huntery critter in front of us in the second class.  She trotted up behind him when he was cantering slooowwwwly and he suddenly started bucking.  Now, just because Starlight is new at shows doesn’t mean I am, and I can tell you for certain we did nothing to crowd this horse.   
And my dear husband, who was as great a saint as Starlight was yesterday, said he overheard the rider saying, after the class, “I don’t know what happened.  That little black and white one came up and he just went bonkers!” 

The official groom
He added it was said without blame, just surprise.  So, although I do think Starlight’s little black and white presence influenced that buck, I have no idea how, since she didn’t do anything or even get close enough to be a direct cause.   But my apologies to the rider, who, unlike us, was probably having a good class until that point.  Incidentally, that was the second horse that bucked in front of us.  So, out of two classes, two different horses abruptly bucked in front of us.  Hmmm.  What is Starlight saying to those horses?  Maybe: “Get out of my way, you skinny giant.  Roly-poly alpha pony mare coming through!”

One final note.  Although I don’t think I’ll show again in that deep sand, the Empire State Paint Horse Club did an excellent job on the show.  It’s part of a two-day fall futurity, and it was run very well.  My compliments to them, as I can only begin to imagine the work that goes into making a horse show work.