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Archive for the ‘Tips and Ideas’ Category

EarthDay16

Back in 2009, TSB teamed up with green-living horsewoman and writer Lucinda Dyer to create the first book of eco-conscious tips and ideas for the equestrian community. ECO-HORSEKEEPING was called a “handy, inspiring, easy-to-read book” that “provides perfectly prepackaged tips, ideas, and expert advice” by Smartpak Founder Rebecca Minard.

“There’s no reason why each and every one of us can’t make owning, riding, and loving horses a planet-friendly activity to be enjoyed for generations to come,” writes Minard in the foreword to ECO-HORSEKEEPING.

On the eve of Earth Day 2016, we again consider the role that each and every one of us plays as stewards of the environment at large, and most certainly of the equine environment—which ensures the health and happiness of our horses. Have each of us taken a few small steps toward limiting our footprint, lowering our impact, and preserving our natural world?

“The following are just a few ways horses and horsepeople impact the environment at large,” write veterinarian Dr. Allen Schoen and horse trainer Susan Gordon in THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN. “These are factors that require thought in order to ensure the equine industry is not negatively affecting our world but rather contributing to it in the best way possible.”
• Transportation of feed.
• Maintenance of buildings and facilities to house horses.
• Consumption of water.
• Management of manure and barn waste.
• Transportation of horses to shows, clinics, training facilities.
• Creation of waste related to products and services needed to maintain
domestic horses.
• Runoff from pastures and paddocks.
• Overgrazing land both domestically and in the wild.
• Overpopulation due to overbreeding and unwanted animals.

So how do we put on the green-tinted glasses, and keep them on even when we leave the recycle-friendly world of work and home and head for the barn?

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When boarding, “research how your horse’s home could possibly be made safer, cleaner, and less toxic, and bring a list of reasonable steps to the barn’s manager,” recommend Dr. Schoen and Gordon. “Offer to help. Many equestrian operations tend to run at low to no profit, so issues of finances are often the first to be considered when changes are suggested. Even when those changes would lead to a much better environment for both horses and humans, the costs may seem prohibitive. Encourage small, affordable steps, as little changes can ultimately make a significant difference in the horse’s well-being.

“When on your own property with just your own horses, you can make a personal project out of determining what will help make your barn and property less toxic and more environmentally friendly. Put together a step-by-step plan, and, then start with the simplest thing. Do what you can under the circumstances and always remember you are benefiting all beings just by becoming conscious and aware of environmental concerns. Horses and equestrian facilities have a significant impact on their immediate and neighboring surroundings and it literally ‘takes a village’ of like-minded participants to become aware of issues with the keeping, feeding, watering, and transportation of animals, and it takes that village once again to actually improve the state of things.”

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With small, doable, affordable steps in mind, and the long hot days of summer just around the corner, here are a few water conservation tips from ECO-HORSEKEEPING to kick off your Earth Day 2016 weekend:

  • Lose the Drip: Fix or replace everything in your barn that leaks or drips, be it a faucet, hose, or toilet. A faucet that drips at one drop per second wastes 7 gallons of water a day and 2,700 gallons a year.
  • Go Low-Flow: Make certain all your barn water hoses have nozzles that let you adjust the spray as needed, as well as a “trigger” that allows you to shut off the flow of water completely while soaping up dirty legs or conditioning tangled tails.
  • Reuse Water Whenever Possible: STOP! Before you mindlessly toss that half-a bucket of water from your horse’s stall into the driveway—can it be used to control dust in the round pen or water plants around the barn?
  • Hook Up a Rain Barrel: A rain barrel can be easily connected to one or more of your barn’s downspouts to collect water that would otherwise simply wash away. Use the harvested water to wash trucks, trailers, and farm equipment; water the rings; and cool down hot horses with a pleasant sponge bath.
  • Go Grunge: The easiest step in reducing water use is the obvious one! Get choosy about when and how you use it. Before you hook up the hose yet again: Just how clean does your horse really have to be today? Are you riding in a clinic with George Morris or taking a leisurely afternoon trail ride? Whenever possible, ask yourself, “Will a strong arm and a curry do the job?”

 

ECO-HORSEKEEPING and THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN are available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more tips for an Equine-centric Earth Day.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

 

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VisPowerlineFB

In WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS author Beth Baumert explains the four physical “Powerlines”—Vertical, Connecting, Spiraling, and Visual—that she says enable us to become balanced and effective in the saddle. The Visual Powerline influences the horse’s balance, as well as his line of travel.

The trajectory of the rider’s eyes is a Visual Powerline that goes out from your body—that is, outside the physical system. It connects you and your horse to the outside world. Your body spirals onto your line of travel, and your eyes focus on a point—a dressage letter, tree, fencepost, or a jump—and use it as a frame of reference so the horse can be directed on a planned course.

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The rider who is constantly looking at her horse’s neck has a problem similar to the one who clutches the saddle with her legs. She will always be in her horse’s balance; she uses her horse’s balance as a frame of reference because she never looks outside it. The rider who stares at her horse’s neck is committed to being “on the forehand” and can’t influence her horse otherwise. Some riders have nervous eyes; they furtively glance here and there. The horse might experience this behavior in the same way a rider experiences a horse that is always looking this way and that. Maybe it’s distracting; it surely can’t help.

The trajectory of the rider’s eyes has amazing influence over the horse’s balance. It can help put horse and rider in a downhill, horizontal, or uphill balance. The angle of the floor of your seat in relation to the ground and your torso’s position is determined by the horse’s balance, but it is influenced by the trajectory of your eyes. When the trajectory is in a downhill balance, your seat is not only inclined to be downhill, but it actually can’t follow the horse’s back.

When the trajectory of the eyes is horizontal, the floor of your seat offers the possibility of a horizontal frame for the “downhill” horse. It influences the horse’s spine to travel in a horizontal path, thus improving his natural balance. The horse’s horizontal frame puts the floor of the rider’s seat in a horizontal position. When the rider is in self-carriage with the trajectory of her eyes on a horizontal line, she can influence the horse to come into an uphill posture.

If you have problems with the trajectory of your eyes, imagine “half-halting” with your head. This encourages you to inhale and shift your head up, which improves your horse’s balance both longitudinally and laterally. It puts the trajectory of your eyes on the line that encourages your horse to become better balanced. Your seat can’t work when your head isn’t balanced over the place where the two spines meet.

Try this exercise:

Step 1  Hold on to just the buckle of your reins with one or both hands, and keep your hands over the pommel of your saddle.

Step 2  Use your eyes to chart your course. Be aware of how your eyes relate to the rest of your body. Your head will want to lead and misalign your body, but don’t let it. Be sure your hands, shoulders, knees, and toes also point the way.

Step 3  Track left and spiral onto a diagonal line of travel. Weight your left seat bone slightly and turn with your outside (right) aids. Be aware of how your weight works. You might need to use more outside leg than you expected.

Step 4  As you finish your diagonal line, spiral right to turn right. Weight your right seat bone slightly and turn with your outside (left) aids. Be persistent about your horse following your body.

Step 5  When your horse is able to understand your body language, pick up the reins and begin your warm-up. You’ll find that your horse is more in tune with your body language, and you only need very subtle rein aids.

 

Learn about the other three Powerlines in Baumert’s bestselling book WHEN TWO SPINES ALIGN: DRESSAGE DYNAMICS, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont.

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40-5-Min-Jump-Fix-300Popular clinician and biomechanics expert Wendy Murdoch has a way with words…and body parts. In 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES, the second book in her bestselling 5-Minute Fixes Series, she talks booty happiness—that is, the “Smiley Butt” vs. “Frowny Butt” phenomenon.

“There is an anatomical limit as to how much space the rider’s seat can offer to the horse’s back,” says Murdoch. “I developed the terms ‘smiley butt’ and ‘frowny butt’ to illustrate two of these positions: the former when the femurs are in a neutral position, and the latter when they are in external rotation.”

The femur (the bone of the thigh) has a wide range of movement because of the hip joint’s ball and socket design. External rotation is when the ball rotates in the socket so the legs turn outward (and internal rotation the opposite—ie, pinching with the knees), but there is only one position where the femur distributes the rider’s weight over the greatest surface area along the horse’s back and around the rib cage—and that is neutral.

“For the most width across the seat, the greater trochanters [the tops of the femurs] must be the farthest distance away from each other,” explains Murdoch. “This occurs when the thighs are neutral between internal and external rotation. The pelvis (via the hip sockets) moves around the ball without restriction. When viewed from the back, the bone shape of the greater trochanters and seat bones across the seat of a skeleton looks to me like a smile.

 

The skeleton folded into jumping position and viewed from behind. The shape of a smile is formed when the femurs are in neutral.

The skeleton folded into jumping position and viewed from behind with the femurs in neutral: “Smiley Butt.”

 

“When the femurs are externally rotated (knees out) seat width is decreased at the back, reducing the amount of space for the horse’s back underneath the rider. This position also limits the movement of the pelvis. As the greater trochanters rotate back and come closer together, the bones look like a frown on the skeleton when viewed from the back.”

 

FrownyButt

The same skeleton shown with the femurs externally rotated: “Frowny Butt.”

 

So remember the Booty Happy Test, riders. Because if your backside is smiling, you and your horse probably are, too.

 

Wendy Murdoch’s 40 5-MINUTE JUMPING FIXES is available at the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to download a free sample chapter.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs for 30 years, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

 

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TSBLego

I have a six-year-old son, and it is not unusual to be deep in bill-paying mode (not the happiest of places, anyway) when a Lego structure in some disrepair arrives, along with a request to help fix it. Now, I was not born with the Lego gene—it takes me bright light, a pair of glasses, and some contemplative time before I can rectify any play-induced casualties. If my son puts on the pressure to fix it more quickly, panic sets in, and I get defensive and a little grumpy (remember, I was negotiating the fine line between “in the black” and “in the red” when this new challenge arrived, anyway), and if pushed further, I may even flee the scene completely, calling in backup in the form of “Dad.”

According to horse trainer and founder of The International Horse Agility Club Vanessa Bee, we don’t actually learn anything in our “comfort zone” (the place where I am not faced with bills to pay in addition to Lego-related conundrums); we have to step out of that cozy place into what’s called the “learning zone” (side by side with my son on the floor surrounded by hundreds of tiny, colorful, plastic bricks).

“But this discomfort doesn’t need to be painful,” reassures Bee in her new book OVER, UNDER, THROUGH: OBSTACLE TRAINING FOR HORSES, “just a little feeling of wanting to solve the problem that’s causing the discomfort so we can get back into the place we’re comfortable again.

“That’s all any of us are trying to do: solve problems to make life more comfortable, including horses,” she goes on. “Unfortunately we often aren’t too good at reading the body language of a horse that is trying to solve a problem and we go on piling on the pressure while he’s trying to think.

“Bothering a horse when he is in this ‘thinking state’ is like someone asking you questions while you’re on the phone trying to sort out an unpaid electric bill. You’re under pressure already because you have the anxiety of losing your electricity and someone else is demanding even more from you. Eventually you will snap. This is where you have moved into the ‘flight’ zone: you do and say things often out of character. All you want to do is sort the problem at hand and make life comfortable again. Once you’re in the flight zone you aren’t thinking, you just want to run away to a place where there is no pressure.

IMG_3971 copy“If we put this in a horse context, let’s say someone is riding along the road, her horse is relaxed and easy until suddenly he spots a plastic bag caught in the bushes. He stops and tries to work out what it is. What happens if, without a moment’s hesitation, the rider starts kicking and pushing, piling more pressure on the horse to get past that bag? He’ll go into the flight mode because he feels under threat and just wants to get somewhere safe, and that’s probably home. When he’s able to move his feet that’s where he’ll go, but if he’s held by the rider, he may buck, rear, or spin to try and get back to where he feels safe.”

So…our horses need time to turn on the light, put on their glasses, and think when they are in a position that is outside their comfort zone. We need to learn what our horses look like when they are thinking, how they appear when they are trying to work out internally whether they should run or stay.

That is the moment,” emphasizes Bee, “to just leave him alone and give him space to learn.”

 

OVER, UNDER, THROUGH: OBSTACLE TRAINING FOR HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to order in time for the holidays and give horses everywhere the gift of “Thinking Space.”

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–Rebecca M. Didier, Senior Editor

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs for 30 years, is a small business located on a farm in rural Vermont. Legos are entertaining, educational, and make fabulous gifts—check them out at Lego.com.

 

 

 

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Your horse can be a superhero, too!

Your horse can be a superhero, too!

No, it doesn’t mean your four-legged friend is indestructible, but it may make him a superhero! The bombproof horse is the one who safely packs around beginners and boyfriends and besties. He makes it easy on you at the end of the long, hard, work week, when you really and truly just want a quiet ride in the woods, sans fireworks. And while he may not win races or championships, he does a fair job winning our hearts.

Sgt. Rick Pelicano acquired his bombproofing skills as a mounted police officer with the Maryland National Park Police for over 25 years, and his two bestselling books BOMBPROOF YOUR HORSE and BETTER THAN BOMBPROOF translate the techniques he used in preparing police horses and officers into easy-to-use lessons from which anyone can benefit. Here are the Top 10 ways Sgt. Pelicano recommends bombproofing your horse:

1  Teach your horse to round-pen, longe, and long-line—a horse that is obedient and manageable to your directions from the ground is more predictable and enjoyable to ride.

2  Learn the 7 “magic” under-saddle skills that install the controls you need to (almost!) always get the desired response from your horse: leg-yield, shoulder-in, rein-back, turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, side-pass, and neck-reining.

3  Minimize “scary” obstacles—starting with a less-imposing version can help persuade your horse it isn’t so bad after all.

4  Begin potentially anxiety-producing activities on the ground—introduce your horse to a new situation or object before you climb aboard.

5  Perform repetitions—walk by the frightening bush, stump, mail box, or bike (whatever it may be) over and over and over, until your horse thinks nothing of it. Then walk by it again.

6  Divert your horse’s attention—when the loudspeaker at the show or the rustling in the bushes on the trail up ahead gives your horse the shakes, immediately give him a task, such as trotting a figure eight, so he pays attention to you and not what’s going on around him.

Get your horse moving—provide an outlet for his nervous energy to avoid evasion and conflict.

8  Change direction—approaching an unfamiliar object from a different angle can give your horse a fresh perspective.

Tell your horse everything is going to be all right—sometimes a little reassurance goes a long way.

10  Consistently and creatively school your horse in the bombproofing skills he should possess—cross water, walk on unusual surfaces, stand through loud noises and unknown odors, and cope with sudden disturbances.

For step-by-step instruction on how to bombproof your horse, check out: BOMBPROOF YOUR HORSE and BETTER THAN BOMBPROOF by Sgt. Rick Pelicano, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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My first digital camera changed my recorded equestrian life. Gone were the awkward, ginormous-head-tiny-rump photos I’d so often caught on film years prior. Now, when my horse moved from where I’d placed him (which he usually did) or when I got the light all wrong (which I usually did) or when the devilish red “barn eyes” were more than a clumsy editing tool could conquer, I just pressed delete and hurrah! The bad photo was no-more, vanquished, erased. All it took was another “click,” and I could try again, ensuring the pictures-for-keeps showed only my horse’s good side.

"The light shining in through the barn on this day was spectacular," says Jessica. "I love interesting light. I got very low to the ground and let the light shine directly into my phone camera. This is what created the rays of light. I then edited it with a warm filter, so you can almost feel the sunlight touching your face."

“The light shining in through the barn on this day was spectacular,” says Jessica. “I love interesting light. I got very low to the ground and let the light shine directly into my phone camera. This is what created the rays of light. I then edited it with a warm filter, so you can almost feel the sunlight touching your face.”

Of course, to most casual photo-takers today, the very idea of a digital camera sounds dated. We’re all pretty much bound to our smartphones and the ease with which we can snap and share every horsey adventure instantly. But just because we all have quality cameras literally in our pockets and at our fingertips, at all times, doesn’t mean the pictures are all that great. And of course, if we want to share our pics on social, we want them to be fab!

With horses and smartphones in mind, TSB reached out to professional photographer Jessica Dailey for guidance. Jessica recently provided over 1,200 (yes, you read that right) color photographs for the bestselling TSB book WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES by pro grooms Cat Hill and Emma Ford. Many of the excellent images in the book are step-by-step, although Jessica took pains to include a number of “beauty shots,” as well. With that kind of in-depth “horse-flavored” work on her resume (on top of her usual commercial art, fine art, event photography, and portraits, which she takes on a freelance basis) we figured Jessica could give us some great tips for taking sensational photos with our phones.

“I have loved art since I was a kid,” she says, “and that evolved into a love for photography as I got older. As a kid I remember being fascinated with my father’s old film camera. The weight of the lenses in my hands, and the way the world looked through the viewfinder.”

Jessica went to college for accounting (she’s a CPA), but in her late twenties, she says she began to feel “out of balance.”

“I felt like the beauty of the world was passing me by,” she remembers, “so I picked up a camera, and the rest is history! I can feel something deep in my heart when I’m behind the camera. When there is a lump in my throat, or tears streaming down my face, I know it’s a good subject.”

Jessica, who is largely self-taught, usually shoots with a Canon Mark III, 24-70 2.8, 70-200 2.8, 100 2.8 Macro, 50 1.4, and 85 1.8.

“There are a few more tricks in my bag,” she admits, “but those are the ones most frequently used.”

Of course, we’re not here to talk about serious camera equipment! So what kind of phone does Jessica have? And does she use it to take some of those gorgeous photos you can see on her website?

This shot and edit reminded Jessica of a vintage Polaroid. "I tried to get a little bit of the tree in the background, but not at an angle where it looks like the tree is growing out of the horse's back."

This shot and edit reminded Jessica of a vintage Polaroid. “I tried to get a little bit of the tree in the background, but not at an angle where it looks like the tree is growing out of the horse’s back.”

“I currently have a Samsung Galaxy S5,” she says. “I actually don’t like the aspect ratio—the photos are very wide. It also distorts the images a bit near the edges, so sometimes people’s heads look out of whack. It over-sharpens the images, making them look a little ‘crunchy.’ (You’ll notice this is in the images I’ve included here.) I really do love the photos that the iPhone takes. The shutter is fast; there’s not a lot of waiting around for the phone to focus.

“Believe it or not, I find taking pictures with a phone much more difficult than my camera, because adjustments are more tedious to make! I can make changes to any aspect I want within seconds on the camera, but if I want to change the ISO, or flash, on my phone, I have to click what feels like 16 times to get to the menus I need. That might actually be a function of not having found the best camera app yet. (Sometimes searching for new apps falls to the bottom of the list when life gets hectic…)

“Lately, my favorite seems to be VSCO Cam. This app does have a pretty decent camera function with advanced camera controls, including manual focus, shutter speed, white balance, and exposure compensation. As far as editing, the VSCO Cam film presets are absolutely stunning. You can edit and tweak them very easily, and the app comes with lots of free presets. Most of the photos here were shot with my Samsung S5 camera app, edited with VSCO Cam, then tweaked just a bit within VSCO Cam app. Instagram photo editing is pretty great too. They’ve updated the features that allow you to customize their presets.”

So when we’re taking pictures of horses on our phones, what are some rules of thumb in terms of composition, handling still shots, handling action shots, and getting perspective right (avoiding the ginormous-head-tiny-rump problem of my film-camera years)? Here are Jessica’s top tips for all the ringside snapping you plan to do:

 

Ÿ1  Try not to cut off feet/ears/tails (Editor’s note: As book publishers, we wholeheartedly endorse this! Nothing is as aesthetically displeasing as horse toes and hat tops disappearing at the edges of a photograph…)

Ÿ2  Keep the horizon level. (You wouldn’t believe the number of photos we have to rotate prior to publication so it doesn’t appear that every horse is stabled on a downhill slant…)

Ÿ3  Tap the phone screen to refocus on your subject (not the background).

 

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Ÿ4  When shooting from the side, always watch out for big-butt-little-head syndrome (you are standing closer to the horse’s rear so it looks disproportionately larger than the head) and vice-versa.

Ÿ5  Most importantly, if you are using a flash, stand back and take a few test shots to see what kind of reaction you’re going to get from the horse.

Ÿ6  If it’s dark, your phone will keep its camera shutter open longer in order to let more light in. The built-in flash on most phones is not powerful enough to compensate for dark conditions, so it’s best to stick to shots of horses standing very still when the light is not bright.

Ÿ7  If you are shooting outside and it’s a bright sunny day, you should have no trouble getting some jumping or galloping shots. Your best bet for capturing non-blurry fast-moving subjects is bright light. (“And I mean full-sun type-of-bright,” Jessica emphasizes.)  If there are heavy clouds, or you are indoors, it can be difficult to get a smartphone camera to ​capture motion, although some phones have a sports mode meant for capturing fast-moving subjects, which can help. (Some apps can add sports mode to your phone.)  Try turning off “image stabilization” if you are having trouble focusing quickly. You shouldn’t need it in bright sun anyway.

 

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Ÿ

8  To get a great portrait shot of your horse (posed), it’s best to enlist the help of a friend with a candy wrapper or a mint. (Jessica says this can take some patience, but it proved to be VERY effective when she was shooting images for WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES.) Have your friend stand just out of view of your photo and crinkle the wrapper after you have everyone else in place and ready to go. The wrapper will usually get eyes and ears perky and forward.

Ÿ9  To get a more candid, natural picture, you have to have the photo on your mind and be looking through your phone camera, ready to snap at the right moment. If you wait to pull out your phone until the moment is happening, you will undoubtedly miss it.

Ÿ10  Don’t be afraid to look at things from a different perspective. Get really low, or go behind the bushes and peer through. This new viewpoint can produce some really interesting shots.

Ÿ11  Although it’s not ideal, you can also crop down an image after you capture it to make it more interesting. Sometimes there is a part of a photo you might not like or that is blurry.  Try getting creative with your crop before deleting it all together.

 

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You can see more of Jessica’s photography by clicking here. And if you haven’t already picked up a copy of WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES, check it out! Here’s what the experts are saying about it:

 

 

 

WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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All it takes is one traffic cone to change your riding and your horse's riding experience.

All it takes is one traffic cone to change your riding and your horse’s riding experience.

Every rider knows the kinds of activities and exercises you can do with your horse in the ring—circles (lots and lots of circles), bending lines and serpentines, upward and downward transitions…depending on your discipline and style of riding, the options number many! But what do you do when your circles look like eggs, your horse isn’t bending evenly through the serpentine, or he’s dragging his feet so lifelessly through the sand that you would rather just get off?

In TRAINING AND RIDING WITH CONES AND POLES, author Sigrid Schope provides more than 40 exercises using simple, affordable tools that make your “eggs” round, your serpentines smooth, and your horse energized, to name just a few benefits.

Try this: Place a cone in the middle of the ring (at “X” in a dressage arena). Ride around the ring on the rail, looking toward the cone before asking the horse to turn at the center of one of the short sides (“A” or “C” if the dressage letters are marked) and riding directly toward it. Here are 6 ways that single traffic cone will improve your riding:

1   Your “plan” and focus on the cone will cause you to hold the reins more softly, improving connection and contact.

2  Thinking about where you want to ride and at what gait helps you prepare your horse properly, rather than suddenly “attacking” him with your aids.

3  Your focus on the cone will help you hold your head and upper body straight, and you will find your horse will move on a straight line toward your goal. Your head, shoulders, and body will follow your eyes, and this will also direct your horse.

4  Looking ahead toward an end point will cause a sluggish horse that lacks impulsion to pick up his tempo.

5  Practicing simple lines with a clear goal helps you learn to ride more precisely.

6  Incorporating “props” in your riding exercises adds interest for the horse, improving his concentration while making the training process more engaging.

 

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For lots of easy ways to become a better rider while ensuring both you and your horse are having fun together in the ring, check out TRAINING AND RIDING WITH CONES AND POLES, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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CoGCoE

The horse’s center of gravity is indicated by the clear circle. His center of energy and control is shown by the black circle.

As we ride, we hear a lot about getting our horses “off their forehands” or “off their shoulders”—and most of us engage in any number of schooling figures and half-halts with just this goal in mind. But without an inner sense of what it is we are doing for our horses when we shift the balance, playing with that center of gravity and center of energy and control, it’s all just circles and walk-halt-walk transitions. Here’s a quick and easy exercise from Sally Swift’s CENTERED RIDING 2: FURTHER EXPLORATION, to really hit the message home.

The horse’s center of gravity is the balance point of his body, and it is located in the girth area. His center of control and energy, however, is below his spine at the back of his loin, just below the lumbosacral joint. Similarly, our center of control and energy is in our lower back, just in front of our lumbosacral joint. Because we stand vertically, in contrast to the horizontal horse, our center of gravity is not near our shoulder blades but rather is in the same area as our center of control and energy. As a result, when we put our center of gravity over our feet for balance, we also find our center of control and energy in the same spot.

The location of the center of gravity in both rider and horse changes at times. When you are startled or frightened your center of gravity rises above its desired depth, as it does in times of tension, or apprehension. In either case it makes you less grounded. The center of gravity of a startled or actively engaged horse moves slightly back as he tips his pelvis down to bring his hind feet more nearly under his center of gravity.

You can get a sense of center of gravity vs. center of energy and control from the horse’s viewpoint with this short exercise:

1  Get down on your hands and knees. Find a balance with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hip joints.

2  Gently engage your center, and allowing your hip joints to slightly close and open, rock back a tiny bit and then back again to balance. Notice how this pelvic rocking motion tends to fill your lower back across the loin. This puts you in a position for balanced, fluid, forward motion.

3  Notice that your shoulders are also part of the rocking motion and since they are not carrying a lot of weight, they are free for forward movement. Shift your balance forward, putting your weight on your shoulders and hands, and you will no longer be able to move forward; your hands will seem to be stuck to the ground. This is how your horse feels when he is too much on his forehand.

 

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For more riding insight from the legendary Sally Swift, check out CENTERED RIDING 2: FURTHER EXPLORATION, available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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In her bestselling book WHERE DOES MY HORSE HURT? Dr. Renee Tucker provides 27 simple body checkups you can do on your horse—a DIY method of determining when and where your horse hurts, and the best professional to call to help him feel better. Here’s how you might be able to pinpoint the cause of a subtle, “mystery,” or “phantom” lameness, and keep your horse actively and happily in work for more months of the year, and more years of his life.

 

BODY CHECKUP: THE SESAMOID BONES

 

Illustration by Patty Capps.

Illustration by Patty Capps.

Common behavioral or performance symptoms that might indicate a problem with the sesamoid bones:

Very Common

> Difficulty with fetlock flexion

 Frequent

> Short-striding or “off” in front, possibly only on a circle

 Occasional

> Reluctance to jump

> Going wide on barrel turns

> Difficulty with tight turns

> Difficulty with lateral movements

> Feet landing toe first

> Tripping

 

 Common physical symptoms:

> A history of medial-to-lateral (right-to-left) hoof-wall imbalance

> Foot is “clubby” or has tendency to grow excess heel

 

What are the sesamoid bones?

The sesamoid bones function as part of the shock-absorbing mechanism of the front legs and are also a weight and power transition point. Because the sesamoid bones help transmit weight and power from the cannon bone to the fetlock and navicular bones in all directions, they need to be mobile in all directions. Their normal range of motion is most simply described as a circle. A sesamoid bone can move approximately one-eighth to one-quarter inch in each direction from its normal position.

 

Checkup directions:

Hold one of the horse’s feet up with the leg completely relaxed from the shoulder down. Cup the fetlock with both hands so that your thumbs rest on each side of the sesamoid bone being examined.

 

2  Gently slide the sesamoid bone in a circular manner, as if you were sliding it around the face of a clock. Do not use additional force if you encounter resistance in any area. The movement is very subtle. As mentioned, the normal range is from one-eighth to one-quarter inch. The key is in the smoothness of this movement. The sesamoid should slide easily along its path, rather than “sticking” or being more difficult to move in any section.

 

The sesamoid bones are most easily felt with the leg held up off the ground, as shown here.

The sesamoid bones are most easily felt with the leg held up off the ground, as shown here.

 

Diagnosis:

When there is any “stickiness” in the movement and the bone does not glide easily in all directions, it is most often a chiropractic subluxation. Be sure to check both right and left (medial and lateral) sesamoid bones on both front and rear legs. Compare the front and rear legs separately since front and rear sesamoid bones have different ranges of motion.

 

> When a subluxation is apparent, check the fetlock, pastern, coffin joint, and knee, since sesamoid bones rarely subluxate on their own, then call a chiropractor.

> When there is no movement in a sesamoid bone, call your veterinarian to X-ray for old fractures and/or calcification of ligaments.

> When the checkup is clear, yet symptoms remain, check for: hoof-wall imbalance; mineral or vitamin deficiency; arthritis in fetlock, knee, or coffin bone; or early tendon strain.

 

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Get the complete set of Dr. Tucker’s Body Checkups in WHERE DOES MY HORSE HURT?  available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

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ChainsGoneWrong

In WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES, professional grooms Cat Hill and Emma Ford provide much-needed horsemanship guidance—it’s like having an internationally renowned equine care expert by your side, in the barn, ensuring your horse is given the same top-level management as our Olympic competitors! Along with lots of ways to care for horses the right way, Cat and Emma also point out common mistakes.

For example, as many of us know, some horses lose respect for a normal halter and lead rope. “If your horse doesn’t stop when you stop, drags you faster than you want to walk, or bumps into you with his shoulders, he is being rude!” they write. “Horses should should walk next to your shoulder on a loose, relaxed lead. When your horse is ‘rude,’ a lead chain might be necessary to remind him to pay attention.

“However, many lead ropes are sold with a short chain, and this can be quite dangerous. There are two issues: First, the chain needs slack to be properly used. When it is held tight, the horse will quickly lose respect for it. A quick, tug-then-release is the correct action for using a chain. Second, a short chain that only reaches across the noseband of the halter is unsafe.

“It is common to see chains hooked to the noseband of the halter, as shown in the photograph. This can lead to two problems: The chain can slip below the horse’s chin, and when the horse pulls tight, scare him into rearing. Also, the long end of the snap can jam into a nasal passage if pulled too sharply and break the delicate bones there.

“Instead, ensure your chain is long enough to thread through the noseband of the halter, wrap once over the noseband, thread through the other side, and snap to the top of the cheekpiece. If you have a bit more chain, cross it under the horse’s jaw, and snap the chain to the top of the cheekpiece on the other side. This prevents the halter from twisting when you need to use the chain.”

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You can find photographs demonstrating how to correctly attach a lead chain, as well as over 1200 other photographs by Jessica Dailey and hundreds of other tips from the pros, in WORLD-CLASS GROOMING FOR HORSES, available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of horse books and DVDs, is a small, privately owned company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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