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

 

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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