Feeding Your Horse With Less Hay


hay-balesThe most basic of feeds for your horse (forage) is sometimes the hardest to find available.  Recent high temperatures and little rain, sometimes followed by too much rain, play havoc with farmers and their crops.  These crops especially include corn, oats and, most importantly, hay.  When a tough growing season hits, horse owners can expect hay prices to rise and continue rising over the next year.  Hay may also become scarce and of lower quality.

Forage hay and pasture is necessary to provide fiber to help keep the horse’s gut health intact. Forage should represent 1.5% to 2% of a horse’s bodyweight in roughage.  If hay becomes scarce, a fiber alternative such as beet pulp can be used.  Bridgett McIntosh, PhD, assistant professor and horse extension specialist at the University of Tennessee, says beet pulp is widely available and nutritious. “The nutrient content of beet pulp is similar to good quality forage and one pound of beet pulp has the same amount of calories as one pound of oats.”

McIntosh also feels that soybean hulls are another option. A soybean processing by-product, soybean hull pellets have a similar nutrient composition as good quality hay and can be used to replace up to 75% of hay in a horse’s diet.  She goes on to caution that any changes to your horse’s diet should be made gradually.forage-cubes

Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, associate professor in the Rutgers University Department of Animal Sciences, suggests that horse owners also consider hay-based cubes as an alternate source of forage.

To ensure that your horse is receiving all his daily nutrients that he may have normally obtained from hay or pasture, Carey Williams, PhD, extension specialist in equine management at Rutgers University recommends adding a grain supplement with concentrated levels of protein, vitamins, and minerals.  Some “complete feeds” are meant to be fed WITH forage so be sure to check the labels and find one that is a “stand alone” product.

Remember, too, this winter that horses, especially older horses who may not move around as much, use the digestion of hay to help them keep warm.  You may want to consider blanketing this winter if forage is in short supply.

In addition, if you keep your horses on pasture, be sure to use good pasture management practices.  Routine mowing and harrowing of the pastures to keep pastures nutritious and parasite free are important.  Using rotational grazing (moving horses from pasture to pasture when the grass gets overgrazed) will also keep your pastures healthy.  Remember to set up a sacrifice area this winter to keep horses from trampling your pasture when it is wet.  Hoofs can do a lot of damage to wet ground and next spring you may end up with more weeds than pasture.

Finally, if you find that the quality of hay in your area isn’t what your horse is used to, you may want to consider having your veterinarian do a dental exam and possible teeth floating on your horse.  If you end up having to feed your horse more “stemmy” hay, your horse may have difficulty chewing and digesting it and this can lead to colic.hay-storage

If you find a good supply of hay in your area and have room to store it, it’s not too early to start stockpiling hay for winter feeding.  One of the best ways to avoid worrying about having enough hay is to plan ahead.


The Pre-Purchase Exam

AHC Time To RideYour eyes meet across the barn aisle.  Your heart beats a little faster. “There’s the one I’ve been looking for, “ you think.  And, suddenly, you’re in love. But before you ride off happily together into the sunset, consider a pre-purchase exam.

One of the best investments you can make BEFORE buying a horse is to have a pre-purchase exam done by a veterinarian* of your choice. While it’s tempting to forgo the cost of another vet visit, it is in your best interest to have the checkup done by a vet that you know and trust.  It is insurance for you, the buyer, that you are protected and are getting exactly the horse you were promised.

Talk with your vet before the exam about how you plan to use your new horse.  A pre-purchase exam for a broodmare may be a bit different than one for a Grand Prix show jumper.  At the exam, the vet will want the horse to be presented right out of the stall, if possible.  Ideally, the horse will not have been recently shod.  A horse that is warmed up before the vet comes may have lameness issues that won’t be seen.  Lameness issues can also be attributed to the new shoes.

temple-vet-clinic-prepurchase-examThe vet will go over the basics of the horse – check the temperature, respiration and pulse, look at the eyes, teeth, ears, nose and many, many more places, including those specific to mares, stallions and geldings.  .The vet will also do a flexion test for soundness on all four limbs and will check hoofs with hoof testers.  She will want to see the horse move at liberty, best done by free lunging the horse, in both directions.  Afterwards, the vet may want to reexamine the horse’s vital signs or flexion.  If there are any questions, the vet may ask the owner’s permission to draw blood or take x-rays.  While some buyers routinely have x-rays done, it may not be necessary and can help keep the pre-purchase exam costs down.  Again, communicating with your vet about how you plan to use the horse is essential.

It is best if you can be present during the pre-purchase exam.   The vet will give you her findings as she goes and you can ask questions or request further investigation.  You will also be provided with a written report.  .Remember that no horse is perfect.  Any limitations noted, whether large of small, are to help the buyer find the horse most suitable for the job intended.  Remember, too, that the vet is looking at the horse as he is right now.  She can’t see into the future and cannot foretell how a particular horse will perform in years to come.  Vets don’t give horses a “pass/fail” determination, but will provide you with all the information, good and bad, about the horse’s physical condition so you can make an informed decision

The videos below offer an overview on the pre-purchase exam.

PrePurchase exam (part 1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhBI1gx1sVw

Pre-purchase exam (part 2) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuHJTndLdew

*while we know there are many fabulous male veterinarians out there, for purposes of this article we are referring to veterinarians as “she.”

Photo credit:

American Horse Clinic

Templeton Vet Clinic

Your Horse’s Mouth

horse teeth slohorsenews.netWhen someone says, “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” they are talking about the custom of telling a horse’s age by looking at his teeth.  It is possible to estimate the age of a young horse by observing the pattern of teeth in the mouth, based on which teeth have erupted.  A horse’s incisors, premolars, and molars, once fully developed, continue to erupt as the grinding surface is worn down through chewing. A young adult horse’s teeth are typically 4.5–5 inches long, but the majority of the crown remaining below the gum line in the dental socket. The rest of the tooth slowly emerges from the jaw, erupting about 1/8″ each year, as the horse ages. When the animal reaches old age, the crowns of the teeth are very short and the teeth are often lost altogether.  Differences between breeds and individual horses, however, can make precise dating impossible. 

Horses are both heterodontous and diphyodontous, which means that they have teeth in more than one shape (there are up to five shapes of tooth in a horse’s mouth), and have two successive sets of teeth, the deciduous (“baby teeth”) and permanent sets.  By the time a horse is fully developed, usually at around five years of age, it will have between 36 and 44 teeth – mares have 40 permanent teeth and males have 42 permanent teeth.  The difference is that males have 2 canine teeth that the female does not have.

All horses have twelve incisors at the front of the mouth, used primarily for cutting food, most often grass, whilst grazing. They are also used as part of a horse’s attack or defense against predators, or as part of establishing social hierarchy within the herd.  Behind the front incisors is the interdental space, where no teeth grow from the gums. This is where the bit is placed when horses are ridden.  Behind the interdental space, all horses also have twelve premolars and twelve molars, also known as cheek teeth or jaw teeth. These teeth chew food bitten off by incisors, prior to swallowing.

Equine teeth are designed to wear against the tooth above or below as the horse chews, thus preventing excess growth. The upper jaw is wider than the lower one. In some cases, sharp edges can occur on the outside of the upper molars and the inside of the lower molars, as they are unopposed by an opposite grinding surface. These sharp edges can reduce chewing efficiency of the teeth, interfere with jaw motion, and in extreme cases can cut the tongue or cheek, making eating and riding painful.

In the wild, a horse’s food supply allowed their teeth to wear evenly.  But with domesticated horses grazing on lush, soft forage and a large number being fed grain or other concentrated feed, natural wear may be reduced.  Equine dentistry can be undertaken by a vet or by a trained specialist such as an equine dental technician, or in some cases is performed by lay persons, including owners or trainers.  Regular checks by a professional are normally recommended every six months or at least annually. 

Many horses require floating (or rasping) of teeth once every 12 months, although this,dr johnson dental too, is variable and dependent on the individual horse. The first four or five years of a horse’s life are when the most growth-related changes occur and hence frequent checkups may prevent problems from developing. Equine teeth get harder as the horse gets older and may not have rapid changes during the prime adult years of life, but as horses become aged, particularly from the late teens on, additional changes in incisor angle and other molar growth patterns often necessitate frequent care. Once a horse is in its late 20s or early 30s, molar loss becomes a concern. Floating involves a veterinarian wearing down the surface of the teeth, usually to remove sharp points or to balance out the mouth. 

Problems with dentition for horses in work can result in poor performance or behavioral issues.  However, good dental care can not only eliminate these problems, but can help your horse lead a longer, healthier life.

Guest Blog: Hopes & Dreams On The Backs of Horses

Many of us have experienced that almost spiritual feeling we have when connecting with our horses. For us, to ride is to fly, to leave our cares behind.  But try explaining that to a non-horsey person.  Most times they will roll their eyes and shake their heads when we praise our horse.  Or, even worse, sigh and ask when you’re going to “grow up and give up horses.”

Guest blogger Katie Peery is a former race horse trainer and now runs Hidden Fox Farm in Ridgefield, WA, specializing in the retraining and rehoming of off-track thoroughbreds.  For a school assignment, she had to write about something she loves. It was no surprise to her teacher that she elected to write about race horses.  With her permission, I borrowed an excerpt from it.  I think she captures the true meaning of being a “horse lover.”  This is why we are “horse people.”

♥    ♥    ♥    ♥    ♥


Hopes and Dreams on the Backs of Horses
The air is filled with smells of leather and horsehair, the sounds of hoof beats on the track and the feeling of excitement radiating electric in my body. I am in my element, my soul bursting with happiness in the company of horses.
harbor-the-goldGlistening flesh, flaring nostrils, muscles rippling with excitement, and a look of eagles in his eyes . . . the racehorse anticipates the moment when he gets to break from the starting gate and extend his stride as his many ancestors have done before him with a jubilant crowd to urge him on around the turns and through the homestretch to the finish line of victory. This stallion is not solely ridden by the jockey upon his back, he is ridden by people near and far, their hopes and dreams for his success ride him through every step of his race. He is admired and cherished not only by the gamblers, but by those who care for him daily, people who have followed his career as he grew and by the children who are brought to the races just for the chance to get to see a beautiful horse such as him. He is loved as a champion and as a piece of exquisite equine art. He is a Thoroughbred.
bella-cantu-9-2-06Silent is the crowd as the horses stand in the gate ready to burst from their post. Bang! The gates open and the brilliant steeds lunge onto the track, gaining a longer stride every second! They round the turns and jockey for position as they expand their speed and stamina they carry from many generations before them. Spectators and gamblers across the world ride each horse as they gallop to the finish line. Cries of excitement come from those whose horse finishes first and silence from those whose horse was bested. The adoring crowd flocks to the winner’s circle to have a photo taken with the champion to be a part of the moment in history.
girl-kissing-race-horseTime and time again the effect race horses have on people astounds me. I have been a horse lover and racing fan my whole life and only became a trainer alongside my husband a handful of years ago. These horses truly touch the hearts of the fans, the pockets of the gamblers, and the souls of those who work with them. They are athletes, friends, and a gift to all of us. I leave you with a quote from those who have witnessed some of racing’s greatest feats:
 “What the horse supplies to a man is something deep and profound in his emotional nature and need.”WILLIAM FAULKNER, while watching the 1955 Kentucky Derby (Cassidy)
Photo Credits:  Bar C Racing Stables –  Portland Meadows –  Hidden Fox Farm


Choosing The Right Cover-up For Your Horse

horse-blanket-3Days are getting shorter, nights are getting colder. Look through any horse product catalog and you’ll see an overwhelming amount of cover-ups for your horse for the coming inclement weather.  Quarter sheets, coolers, stable sheets, turnouts.  While it’s great to have so many choices, having all those options can be a bit overwhelming.  Here are some things to think about before you decide to buy.

Consider where you live.  If you live in the very cold climates like Minnesota or Montana, you want to look for blankets with a lot of insulation.  However, if you live where there are milder winters, like in California, you’ll most likely only need a sheet.   Finally, if you live in the Pacific Northwest or other area where winters are mild, but wet, you’ll most likely need something water proof.

Consider where your horse lives. If your horse is in a stall without a paddock, he may be warm enough with a wool blanket.  But wool will not keep a horse warm if he gets it wet, so opt for another type of material if you do turnout.  The more access your horse has to move around, e.g. a stall and paddock, the more opportunity he has to keep himself warm with movement and not a blanket.

Consider whether your horse is clipped or furry, young or old. Clipped horses need heavier blankets to stay warm in the winter so even if you live in California, you may find you need an insulated blanket.  And not all unclipped horses develop thick warm coats in the winter so an additional layer may be needed.  Finally, older horses have a harder time staying warm.  They may sometimes have arthritis that keeps them from moving around to stay warm as a younger horse may do.  If you have a senior horse, think about providing him some extra protection from the cold.

Consider how easy your horse is to blanket. Blankets come with a variety of front closures, including no closure at all.  If your horse is the easy-going type, simply slipping it over his head is going to be quick and easy – though you may not have the adjustability of a front buckle blanket.  Newer blankets may use hook and loop or hook and eye closures – there’s even a magnetic one.  Judge your horse to see what works best.  Also consider let straps – they are designed to help keep the blanket from shifting, especially during turnout.  But too short straps can cause rubbing while too long straps can catch a rolling or bucking horse’s hoof and cause an accident.  It’s safer to keep them a bit longer, but to cross them underneath the horse, ex. Right back end connects to left front end and vice versa.

Consider how your horse is built. Look carefully at the picture of the blanket before you buy.  Some blankets have very large neck  openings that actually cause the blanket to slide back on your horse’s shoulders.  If your horse is narrow, look for European cut blankets which tend to stay a little higher up on the neck.  Try your blanket on your horse (over a clean sheet) to make sure it fits.

Consider what you will use the blanket for:

Sheets and blankets – used to keep horses warm when the weather turns cool.  Sheets are more lightweight, while blankets are heavier and often have insulation.  There are both medium-weight and heavy-weight blankets – buy the one for the coldest part of the winter.  Or you can layer blankets.  Put on a sheet and then add a medium-weight blanket on top.  The air trapped between the layers will help keep him warm.

Dress sheets – used to keep your horse dry and clean when showing.

Coolers and anti-sweat sheets – used to help dry your horse off after bathing or exercise.  Coolers used to be large square pieces of wool that attached to the horse’s halter, but these rarely fit well.  Look instead for a cooler that is shaped like a blanket.  And while wool is still the warmest, it is hard to wash so consider machine-washable fleece instead.  Anti-sweat sheets are usually made of cotton and have larger holes in them.  They are best used in the warmer months of summer as they don’t offer much in the way of insulation.

Quarter sheets – used to keep the large muscles of your horse’s rear warm when just starting to or right after exercise on cold days.  They usually extend from under the saddle to over his rump.  Some of them will fasten around your waist, keeping your legs and rump warm at the same time

Take the time to measure your horse for his blanket.  Any blanket can keep him warm, but an ill-fitting one can rub and cause sores, especially on his withers.  Measuring is best done by two people.  Take a cloth tape measure (metal works OK, but doesn’t bend around corners as well) and place one end in the center of your horse’s chest.  Have your assistant hold it there while you stretch the tape along the side of your horse at the same height.  Bring the tape all the way around the horse’s backside just to the edge of his tail.  The number of inches on your tape measure is the size blanket your horse needs.  If the measurement is an odd number, order the closest blanket size BIGGER than your number.  For example, if your horse is a 79 and your choices are a 78 or an 81, buy the 81.  Don’t assume that if he’s the same height as your friend’s horse that they wear the same blanket – comparing two 16.2hh Thoroughbreds who were built about the same, one wore a 78 and one an 81.

While cover-ups aren’t necessary for every horse, it’s important to choose the right one for your horse.


Photo credit: Horse Channel

2016 Equestrian Paralympics

uspea logo

U.s. Para-Equestrian Association

If you are going into “Olympic withdrawal” after the excitement of the equestrian competitions in Rio, fear not.  There’s still one more event – and it’s one of the best.  The Paralympic Games featuring equestrian competition in dressage begins Sunday, September 11th.

Sport competitions for athletes with impairment have been around for more than 100 years. But it wasn’t until 1948 that these competitions became associated with the Olympics.  The first competition was in archery for servicemen and women. The official Paralympic Games first took place in 1960 in Rome, Italy and, like the Olympics, is held every four years with separate summer and winter games.

At the Atlanta games in 1996, the equestrian sport of dressage was added to the Paralympic Games.  More than 61 riders from 16 countries competed, mostly on borrowed horses.  It wasn’t until Athens in 2004 that athletes started competing on their own horses.

While dressage is the only equestrian support at the Paralympic games, driving and reining are open to para-equestrians at World Championships

This year, the Paralympics in Rio will bring together 78 of the world’s best para-equestrian dressage riders.  Like the recent Olympic equestrian events, the competition will be held at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Deodoro.   The travel arrangements for the Paralympic horses are exactly the same as it was for the Olympic horses.

There are a wide variety of impairments that qualify an equestrian to be considered a para-equestrian.  These range from visual impairment to limb deficiency.  To compete, each para-equestrian competes in a category based on their particular impairment(s). The lower the grade number, the more severe the activity limitation.

The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), working with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), has developed the following classifications for equestrian competition:

Grade Ia – Athlete have severe impairments affecting all limbs and the trunk. The athlete usually requires the use of a wheelchair in daily life.

TESTS:  Individual Championship Test Freestyle Test

Grade Ib – Athletes here have either a severe impairment of the trunk and minimal impairment of the upper limbs or moderate impairment of the trunk, upper and lower limbs. Most athletes in this class use a wheelchair in daily life.

TESTS:  Individual Championship Test;  Freestyle Test

Grade II – Athletes in this class have severe impairments in both lower limbs with minimal or no impairment of the trunk or moderate impairment of the upper and lower limbs and trunk. Some athletes in this class may use a wheelchair in daily life.

TESTS:  Individual Championship Test;  Freestyle Test

Grade III – Athletes in grade III have a severe impairment or deficiency of both upper limbs or a moderate impairment of all four limbs or short stature. Athletes in grade III are able to walk and generally do not require a wheelchair in daily life. Grade III also includes athletes having a visual impairment equivalent to B1 (very low visual acuity and/ or no light perception).

TESTS: Individual Championship Test;  Freestyle Test

Grade IV – Athletes here have a mild impairment of range of movement or muscle strength or a deficiency of one limb or mild deficiency of two limbs. Grade IV also includes athletes with visual impairment equivalent to B2 (higher visual acuity than visually impaired athletes) competing in the grade III sport class and/ or a visual field of less than five degrees radius.

TESTS:  Individual Championship Test;  Freestyle Test

Eleven gold medals will be awarded at the Rio games.  There will be a gold medal awarded each grade level for the Individual Championship Dressage Test and an individual freestyle test.  There will also be a team competition medal awarded.

The United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) selected the following to represent the United States at the 2016 Paralympic Games:

2016 equestrian paralympians

Sydney Collier (Ann Arbor, Mich.), Grade Ib, and Wesley Dunham’s Western Rose, a 2003 Oldenburg mare

Rebecca Hart (Wellington, Fla.), Grade II, and her own Schroeters Romani, a 2002 Danish Warmblood mare

Margaret McIntosh (Reading, Pa.), Grade Ia, and her own Rio Rio, a 2006 Rheinland Pfalz-Saar mare

Angela Peavy (Avon, Conn. and Wellington, Fla.), Grade III, and Heather Blitz and Rebecca Reno’s Lancelot Warrior, a 2002 Hanoverian gelding

For more information on the United States Para-Equestrian Association (USPEA), click HERE.


Photo credits:
US Para-Equestrian Association
US Equestrian Federation


A Political Voice For Horses: The American Horse Council

American Horse Council logoIf you’ve been involved even peripherally in the political scene over the several months,  you have probably heard of lobbyists and special interest groups using their voice to be sure that our government is aware of their concerns and needs.  But who is speaking up for the horse industry?  The American Horse Council!

Founded in 1969, the American Horse Council (AHC) was organized by a group of horsemen concerned about federal legislation affecting their industry. They recognized the need for national and coordinated industry action in Washington, DC.   Since its inception, the AHC has been promoting and protecting the equine industry by representing its interests in Congress and in federal regulatory agencies on national issues that affect to each and every person involved in the horse industry.

The AHC promotes and protects all horse breeds, disciplines and interests by communicating with Congress, federal agencies, the media and the industry itself each and every day.

The AHC is member supported by approximately 160 organizations and 1,200 individuals representing every facet of the horse world – from owners, breeders, trainers, veterinarians, farriers, breed registries and horsemen’s associations to horse shows, racetracks, rodeos, commercial suppliers and state horse councils.

The AHC has seven committees – the Government Affairs Advisory Council, Racing Committee, Showing Committee, Health and Regulatory Committee, Animal Welfare Committee, Recreation Committee and the State Horse Council Advisory Committee – that we look to for expertise and advice on the issues we face.

In 2005, the AHC wanted to demonstrate to the general public, the media and federal, state and local officials that the horse industry is diverse, vibrant and provides a significant economic impact to our country.  An economic study was done by Deloitte Consulting LLP validated what the industry has known for some time.  The horse industry is a very large, important and wide-ranging part of our national, state and local economies, involving agriculture, business, sport, gaming, entertainment and recreation.

Highlights of the national study include:AHC Time To Ride

  • There are 9.2 million horses in the United States.
  • 6 million Americans are involved in the industry as horse owners, service providers, employees and volunteers. Tens of millions more participate as spectators.
  • 2 million people own horses.
  • The horse industry has a direct economic effect on the U.S. of $39 billion annually.
  • The industry has a $102 billion impact on the U.S .economy when the multiplier effect of spending by industry suppliers and employees is taken into account. Including off-site spending of spectators would result in an even higher figure.
  • The industry directly provides 460,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs.
  • Spending by suppliers and employees generates additional jobs for a total employment impact of 1.4 million FTE jobs.
  • The horse industry pays $1.9 billion in taxes to all levels of government.

To purchase the comprehensive 2005 National Economic Impact of the U.S. Horse Industry, go to: http://www.horsecouncil.org/national-economic-impact-us-horse-industry

In addition, the AHC has joined with the Unwanted Horse Coalition, a broad alliance of equine organizations is to reduce the number of unwanted horses and to improve their welfare through education and the efforts of organizations committed to the health, safety, and responsible care and disposition of these horses.  Their focus is to educate owners who are unaware of, or do not give enough thought to, the available options, services and assistance available in the industry to help them ensure that their horse has caring and humane support throughout its life.

For more information on the American Horse Council:  http://www.horsecouncil.org/

For more information on the Unwanted Horse Coalition:   http://www.unwantedhorsecoalition.org


Improve Your Dressage – Volunteer To Be A Dressage Show Scribe

scribeOne of the best ways to improve your dressage scores is to volunteer to scribe for a judge at a dressage show.  This gives you a front-row seat to see the ride and hear how the judge scores it.  It can help you learn just what the judge’s are looking for in each movement.  Not only will you hear the number score, you will also hear any comments the judge makes as to why they scored the movement the way they did.

The Scribe is the person who sits beside the judge during each ride and writes the judge’s score and comments onto the test sheet. The Scribe must be able to record the judge’s comments accurately and consistently. While the numbers indicate the score, the remarks will most often tell you why you received that number or what  you need to work on.

You will be required to sit quietly and concentrate for several hours just listening and writing.  The time commitment is typically four hours, but some judges prefer to have the same scribe all day. At the end of the test, the Scribe gives the completed and signed test sheet to a runner who takes it for official scoring.

dresage test score sheetA Scribe should have familiarity with dressage and the terms that may be used during a test. They must be able to record the judge’s score and remarks quickly, clearly and legibly.  Scribes must maintain confidentiality and make no remarks about any horses or riders in the competition, including but not limited to, any background information about the horse or rider, their trainer/coach, breeding, etc.  Above all, a Scribe must never repeat any of the judge’s remarks.

In addition, the Scribe helps the judge prepare for each test. At the start of each class (ex. Training Level, Prix St. Georges), be sure the judge knows what test is being performed. A spare copy of the test should be available for the judge if they need to refresh their memory. Be sure that everything the judge needs is available.  This can include a copy of the ride time schedule, pens/pencils, test sheets, whistle or bell and water/coffee if the judge prefers.

Before the first ride, discuss with the judge how he/she prefers to report scores and comments.  Establish clearly whether comments for a movement will be given before or after the score so that comments will be entered in the proper place.  Establish whether the judge wants comments abbreviated or will not accept abbreviations. If judge allows such, use abbreviations as much as possible.  You should not talk to the judge during a ride. However, if you get lost on the correct movement being scored, quietly ask what movement the next score will be for.

As the rider enters the arena, check each rider’s number, confirming it with the number on the test sheet. If the numbers do not match, find out who the rider is and locate the proper test sheet. Write the judge’s comments exactly as given. Do not rearrange or edit. At the conclusion of the test, but before giving the score sheet to the runner, review what you’ve written reflects what the judge said.  Double check that the test includes all required scores, that errors are clearly marked and that the judge has signed the test score sheet.  Some judges may wish to write their own note to the competitor on the bottom of the test, or may dictate them to you.

The United States Dressage Federation (USDF) has put together a list of guidelines for Scribes.  Click HERE for a copy.  Note, too, that it lists the most common abbreviations used when scribing.  With the permission of the judge, use this to make your job easier and more efficient.

What I Accidentally Learned at a Julie Goodnight Clinic

Julie goodnight horse masterEarlier this year, I attended my first Julie Goodnight clinic at the Washington State Horse Expo in Ridgefield, WA.  For those of you who don’t know her, Julie Goodnight is a multidisciplinary rider and clinician, with experience in dressage, jumping, racing, reining, colt-starting, cutting, and wilderness riding. She teaches natural horsemanship, emphasizing doing what is best for the horse, and also the rider’s safety at her clinics and on  her television show on Horse Master With Julie Goodnight.

Julie’s clinic are a combination of “show and tell.”  She was working with another rider, while riding her own horse and explaining what she was doing.  Suddenly, the participants horse started to whinny and whinny and whinny.  Julie advised not to punish the horse and went on to explain the way horses communicate “verbally.”

“Horses are limited to just a few audible expressions that they use to communicate: the whinny, nicker, snort and squeal, all of which have varying deliveries and subtle inflections. The four audible expressions each have specific meaning.

Nickers are the guttural, low-pitched pulsating expressions and occur most often just prior to being fed and announce the horse’s presence and anticipation. Stallions will also nicker at mares during reproductive behavior to draw the mare’s attention. Mares typically give a third type of nicker to their young foals when the mare is concerned about the foal. Basically all three types of nickers mean, “come closer to me.”

Whinnies or neighs are high-pitched calls that begin like a squeal and end like a nicker and it is the longest and loudest of horse sounds. The whinny is a social call and seems to be a form of individual recognition and most often occurs when a foal and mare or peer companions are separated or when a horse is inquisitive after seeing a horse in the distance. The whinny seems to be a searching call that facilitates social contact from a distance.

Snorts and blows are both produced by forceful expulsion of air through the nostrils. The snort has a rattling sound but the blow does not. The snort and blow communicates alarm and apparently serves to alert other horses. The snort may also be given when a horse is restless but constrained and in this case it should be taken seriously as a sign that the horse is feeling trapped and alarmed and may become reactive.

The squeal is a high-pitched outcry with meaning as a defensive warning or threat that the annoyed individual will become aggressive if further provoked. Squeals are typical during aggressive interactions between horses, during sexual encounters when the mare protests the stallion’s advances and when a pre- or early-lactating mare objects to being touched anywhere near her sore teats.

Horses also make body noises that are not communicative but may tell you more about the horse’s physical state. They may groan and snore; the groan occurs mostly when the horse is lying down on his side (lateral recumbency) and is often made by a tired horse as he lies down. The groan may also be an expression of prolonged discomfort like when a horse is colicking or a mare is in labor. The snore is usually labored breathing in a recumbent horse and sounds a lot like the human snore.” – Julie Goodnight, 2007.

Many of us have experienced working with our horse and suddenly they go off on a bout of whinnying, i.e. looking for a friend.  Horses can feel insecure, especially when working alone in a large space.  The best way to overcome this is to working with your horse to establish that YOU are the herd leader.  You are the one in charge of keeping him safe.  He doesn’t need to call for a friend because you are already there to take care of him.  Once he accepts you as the alpha, the whinnying should cease.

Next time there’s a clinician in your area, don’t miss it because they may be focusing on a discipline you don’t practice.  I ride just for pleasure, but it was great to learn something new about horse behavior.

Photo credit:  Julie Goodnight



Creating the Dressage Musical Freestyle

It’s sometimes called “horse ballet” by those that don’t understand the sport.  But actually, they are not too far off. The power and elegance of dressage combined with the beauty of appropriate music can turn our sport into art – like figure skating or, yes, even ballet.

The Dressage Grand Prix Freestyle is coming up in the 2012 London Olympics and if there’s one thing you can watch, this would be it. Unlike the dressage tests like the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Special, every freestyle will be different. However, jus t like figure skating, all freestyles must contain certain movements to show the level of training of the horse and rider. To see a copy of the Grand Prix Freestyle score sheet, click HERE.

If you watch and listen carefully, you’ll notice that different riders use different types of music, based on their horse. A rider with a big, powerful horse may use music that is more majestic. A rider with a smaller, finer-boned horse may use music that is lighter and “airy.” The choice of music is probably the most important part of the freestyle, even more important than the choreography. In fact, there is a specific score for the music and the interpretation. To evaluate your horse’s way of going to different music, riders will often video having their horse ridden at all the gaits and movements they will use. They may even put a different color boot or polo wrap on one of the front legs to help visually see the cadence of foot falls and how it matches up to the music. After the video is made, you can try different types of music and see what best fits your horse’s way of moving. This is often the most difficult thing for new freestyle choreographers to embrace. They have a favorite piece of music that they desperately want to ride to. However, it may not be the best music to show off your horse and choreography. The music rarely, if ever, contains vocals as they can be too distracting when watching the artistic interpretation of horse and music. It is also rare for one piece of music to fit your whole freestyle, so be prepared to use different types of music, though you’ll notice they are usually in the same genre, e.g. all classical, all show tunes, all Big Band.

charlotte dujardin record dressate London Olympia.JPGAt the Grand Prix level, some of the riders have music choreographed especially for their dressage freestyle. This is the case for Charlotte Dujardin who rode, at the London Olympic World Cup, received a record 94.3% for her  freestyle with music composed by Tom Hunt.  To see that awesome ride, click HERE.

Here’s some expert advice from Tom Hunt on designing your own freestyle:

“My advice to anyone starting out would be to find music that really suits the personality and characteristics of your horse. Once you have a style of music that you like, whether it’s classical or pop, it is important to try and create a theme for the freestyle. That can be a musical theme that is repeated throughout the routine or music from a show soundtrack for example. It’s important that there’s a connection linking the music choices together so that the freestyle makes sense as a whole piece. This will also make it easier for audiences to stay engaged with the overall experience of the freestyle.

“Getting to grips with the differences in tempo of your horse’s paces is crucial. Make a video of your floorplan and, with a metronome, take some time to work out the BPM (Beats Per Minute) of each pace and work with music choices that complement the horse’s tempo, style and rhythm. If you have a big horse with powerful movement it is important to use music that emphasizes these characteristics.

“Another good piece of advice is to arrange the music to highlight the changes in the floorplan / choreography. This may sound obvious but it can really help a rider stay on the beat if they know where they need to be at any given point in the music. Understanding the phrasing of music can help you with this aspect when it comes to putting the music to your floorplan.”

While anyone can create and ride a musical freestyle, the United States Dressage Federation recommends that you ride at a level BELOW what you are currently showing in regular dressage. For example, if you are showing at 2nd Level, you should create a freestyle for 1st Level or Training Level.

So for all you frustrated “So You Think You Can Dance” dancers or choreographers, here’s your chance for you and your partner to show off!

dressage freestyle cartoon

Photo credits:
www. MichiganDressageClinics.com