Make The Best Use of Barn Time During Shorter Days

Riding at sunset WesternHorseman This weekend marks the “unofficial” end of summer.  Since late June, the days have been getting shorter and shorter.  Which means daylight time to ride is getting less and less.  In order to make the most of your time with your horse, here are 12 tips to save time on barn chores. With organization and a plan, you can still deliver a high level of care, but now at a faster rate.  

  1. Clean up the tack room once and for all and then set it up in an organized fashion. You’ll save loads of time if you don’t spend it looking for that missing leg wrap or crop.  Classic Equine Equipment has an organizational system for your tack room that can help you find what you want when you want it. 
  2. Move the feed room to either the middle of the barn or to the end closest to where you enter. Hay kept at the opposite end of the barn can mean wasted time walking to it before starting to feed.
  3. Color code. Depending on how many horses you have, consider color coding buckets and other accessories. This really helps at feeding time keeping everything straight.   At a small barn, one horse has a green bucket as well as a green grooming kit with mostly green colored brushes, combs, etc.  Another horse has black items and a third is purple.   Even the blankets are color coded.  It can be a bit of a challenge to find the right items in the right colors, but worth it in time later on.
  4. Use available barn accessories. Classic Equine Equipment offers some terrific automatic waterers.   They even have a water heater attachment.  You’ll save a lot of time cleaning and refilling buckets.  No more chipping ice or lugging hot water to the barn either.
  5. Consider upgrading your stall doors to include swing out feed and hay doors. They save quite a bit of time rather than opening each stall and trying to dump the grain in the bucket before Mr. Horse gets his nose in the way.
  6. Install blanket bar(s) on the front of each stall door. Not only are they a handy place to put your horse’s blanket when not in use, but you can also hang fly masks, bell boots and other things.  You can also attach a bucket to the blanket bar small items like gloves, polo wraps, etc. 
  7. Organize a shot clinic and have all the horses get their spring/fall shots at the same time. Ditto deworming and getting teeth done. You’ll also save money with just one vet barn call. 
  8. Find out if the blanket laundering place will pickup and deliver – have everyone prepare the blankets that need cleaning/repair in a plastic bag, properly marked and arrange for the place to come to you.
  9. Use a company like SmartPak for feeding supplements. I know, you think you can do just as well yourself using baggies and a mortar and pestle to grind everything up.  If you’ve done it for a few years, you’ll soon see it’s a wonderful thing to have someone else do it.   Prices are competitive, but the time you’ll save is priceless.
  10. Investigate new ways to bed and clean your stalls. Use rubber stall mats (Classic Equine Equipment offers some nice ones) to cut down on how much bedding you use.  Consider using bedding pellets – they last longer and are easier to clean.  Some come with additives to help eliminate the ammonia smell, cutting down the necessity to add something separately.
  11. Move your manure pile closer to the barn and start composting. The heat from properly composting kills parasites and eliminates the odor from the manure.  Plus, when it’s finished you’ll have a ready supply of fertilizer.
  12. Use the right tools and buy the best. Buying a manure fork that is heavy-duty can make the job go much faster as you can scoop up more.  Using a wheelbarrow or utility cart to feed hay and grain can also cut down on time.  Make sure these are all stored in a safe, but convenient place.  You don’t want to be lugging them back and forth to the barn to use them.

There are many other great ideas and tools that can save you time in the barn.  If you have a special trick, why not let us know and we’ll share them.  Then we can all have more fun riding!

Photo credit:  Western Horseman
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WEG Dressage Competition Refresher

dressage REVERSED TheHorseWith the World Equestrian Games (WEG) just around the corner, here’s a quick refresher on the dressage competition.

For many years, dressage has been described “as exciting as watching paint dry.”  That’s the beauty and curse of dressage.  If done correctly, the spectator should see absolutely nothing – except a horse calmly and smoothly executing precise movements. 

As horse people know, “dressage” means “training” in French and is the basis for all equestrian sports.  Without the basics of dressage, especially lengthening/shortening and flying changes as well as balance and suppleness, riders would have a hard time competing in eventing, jumping, carriage driving, polo and most other riding sports.

In dressage competition, there are levels that a horse progresses through in his training. The World Equestrian Games represent a test of the highest level of training. It consists of prescribed movements, each of which is graded on a scale of 1 to 10.  Based on the number of movements, there is a highest possible score.  Seven judges sit at different points around the arena and separately grade each movement during the test.  At the end, scores for each movement are added up and then divided into the total possible score for a percentage score. The higher the percentage score, the better.

Dressage is performed in a 20 meter x 60 meter arena with a low railing surround it.  Around the outside of the arena, you will see letters placed at various points. These letters tell the riders exactly where a certain test movement must take place.  Accuracy in performing the movement at the prescribed letter is part of the judging. There are many theories why those particular letters are used, but no one knows for sure.  However, they are exactly the same in every dressage arena so you only have to memorize them once!

Dressage will take place over several days to determine both the team medal winners and the individual medal winners.  The first day of dressage, all riders will perform the Grand Prix test.  The teams that have the seven highest scores will proceed to ride the Grand Prix Special test. The winning teams are awarded their medals.

In addition, the top 18 riders from the Grand Prix Special will continue on to perform the Grand Prix Freestyle. Only the results from the Grand Prix Special determine who competes in the Freestyle for individual medals.

The movements prescribed in the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special are determined by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). The Grand Prix Special test is a slightly shorter and more concentrated version of the first test with the same movements, but in a different order.  In both tests, the horse and rider are judged on correct execution of movements, the willingness of the horse and the effectiveness of the rider’s aids.

The highlight of the Dressage competition is the Grand Prix Freestyle. The Freestyle combines the elegance and beauty as well as the power and strength of the horse with the stirring impact of music.  Much like the long program in Olympic figure skating, riders choreograph a routine that includes movements from the Grand Prix test, but one that also best shows up the horse’s movement as well as musical interpretation.

Based on all scores, a gold, silver and bronze World Champion of the FEI World Equestrian Games will be crowned.

A sample of the best in dressage:  https://youtu.be/cDKWnCNpmQA

Human First Aid You Should Know If You Are A Horse Person

fallen off a horseWe all probably know at least the basics of how to take care of  your horse in case he gets hurt.  But do you know what to do in the event that a rider is injured and/or is left unconscious? Could you recognize the signs of shock, and do you know how to treat it? If you spend time around horses, then it’s possible that you will have to help a rider in a serious situation. Let’s review the First-Aid basics that you will want to know.

Dealing with a Fall

If a rider is injured, immediately call 911 and keep him or her still. Do not remove the rider’s helmet. If the rider is bleeding from a wound, use a clean towel to put firm pressure on the wound. Do not remove the pressure until medical assistance has arrived. Have another person catch the horse and instruct any other riders to dismount and hold their horses as the ambulance approaches.

Performing CPR

If a rider’s heart or breathing has stopped, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is necessary to keep the rider’s blood flowing to his or her brain until medical help arrives. The American Heart Association recommends that anyone not trained in CPR provide only chest compressions and not attempt rescue breathing.

Before beginning chest compressions, you will want to make sure that the person is not conscious and that there is no heartbeat. Call 911 imediately, then begin chest compressions. To perform chest compressions, lay the person on their back on a firm surface and kneel near their shoulders. Put the heel of one hand in the center of the person’s chest, and put your other hand on top. Using your upper body and keeping your arms straight, push down into the person’s chest firmly – you should be pushing their chest down by about two inches. Repeat the compressions at the rate of 100 compressions per minute and continue until help arrives.

For emergency cardiovascular training, visit the American Heart Association’s website.

Dealing with Shock

A rider can go into shock for any number of reasons, including a traumatic fall, blood loss, and heatstroke. Signs of shock include a weak and rapid pulse; skin that is cool, clammy, and pale; the person feeling nauseated or vomiting; and the person feeling weak or being confused.

If you believe that a rider is going into shock, immediately call 911 and then have the person lie down. Elevate their feet higher than their head (unless the person is injured – in that case, allow them to lie flat). As you wait for help to arrive, keep the person warm and make sure that they are breathing and that their heart is beating. Monitor them to make sure that they don’t vomit – if they do, you will need to turn them on their side.

In a medical emergency, acting quickly is key. Always call 911 immediately. It is a great idea to take an emergency training course, and to post “how-to” tip sheets in your tack room to help teach other riders.

first aid kit image red crossSince hopefully any injuries at your barn will not be this serious, it’s not only a good idea to be prepared, but to also be ready for the small cuts and bumps of everyday riding.  Have a full stocked first aid kit available.

photo credit:  Country Stable UK, American Red Cross

Buying A Used Saddle?

used saddles HappyHorseTackTwo of the problems with buying a new saddle is the cost and the sometimes uncomfortable process of breaking in the new leather. However, when buying a used saddle, you need to be on the lookout for a variety of issues that could signify that the saddle is damaged. And that spells danger to you and possible problems for your horse. Here’s what to look for:

Check for Tree Soundness

The integrity of a used saddle’s tree should be top priority when you evaluate the saddle. In many cases, asking the seller if the saddle’s tree is sound may not do any good, since the seller might not know much about saddles or even be aware that the tree has been damaged.

To check the saddle for a broken or twisted tree, hold the saddle over one thigh with the pommel facing you. Grip the cantle with one hand and pull it toward you as you hold the saddle’s seat down with your other hand. If the saddle “gives” to the pressure of your pulling on it, the tree is broken. Reverse the saddle’s direction so that you are pulling on the pommel and repeat the process.

You will also want to examine the underside of the saddle for signs that the tree has twisted. Check to make sure that the center of the pommel lines up directly with the center of the cantle. You should be able to draw a straight line through the middle of the gullet. Any misalignment signifies a twisted tree. Uneven wear or warping in the saddle’s seat can also indicate a twisted tree.

Look for Cracked Leather

Examine the saddle closely for any leather that is dried and cracking. While superficial lines will appear in many saddles, be on the lookout for leather that is too dry. Once leather has dried to the point that it has cracked, it is no longer safe for you to use. Pay particular attention to the billets, and check to make sure that they are sound and secure. Billets can be replaced, though, so this doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.

Test the Saddle’s Panels

The panels of an English saddle distribute your weight over your horse’s back, so it’s important to make sure that they are in good condition. Foam panels can become hard and stiff over time, and wool flocked panels can become compacted. If the panels on a saddle don’t have any give and seem stiff, you may need to build the cost of having the panels replaced or reflocked into your saddle buying budget.

Buying a used saddle has many advantages, but be sure to carefully evaluate any used saddle for potential issues before purchasing it.

photo credit:  Happy Horse Tack

What Are The World Equestrian Games?

 

weg poster FEIThere are plenty of opportunities it to make the top of your horse sport – the Olympics, World Cup, National Championships and, of course, the upcoming World Equestrian Games.  Ask any horse person what their riding goal is and they’ll likely say “the Olympics.”  But those games only include the disciplines of dressage, show jumping and eventing.  What about you reiners, vaulters, drivers, para dressage and endurance equestrians?  

Since 1990, the FEI World Equestrian Games are the major international championships  for equestrianism, and are administered by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). The games have been held every four years, halfway between two consecutive Summer Olympic Games.

If you want  see (or participate) in ALL the equestrian disciplines, you’ll love The World Equestrian Games (WEG). While, like the Olympics, they are held every four years and at various venues around the world, this year we’ll have them right in our own backyard in Tryon, North Carolina from September 11th-16th, 2018.   That’s less than a month away and tickets are available.

Scheduled to be the ultimate human-equine interaction event, not only will you be able to see up close the beauty and power of horses in a variety of disciplines, but WEG is also set to host an array of diverse programming that includes renowned exhibitions, demonstrations, authors and speakers. The EQUUS Film Festival and an extensive Art Festival will accompany more than 200 vendors in a family-friendly, immersive and interactive experience.

Don’t forget to stop by the Classic Equine Equipment booth in the Vendor Village.  And get ready to shop til you drop!

Click To Train Your Horse

clicker AnimalwiseClicker training is now well established as a leading force-free method for training animals as diverse as dolphins, dogs, giraffes and even cats! And now clicker training is proving its value with horses.  Using a clicker is a science-based training method that traces its origins back to the work of B.F. Skinner. Karen Pryor, one of the early pioneers of marine mammal training, coined the term clicker training and helped expand the work into the broader training community. 

The name “clicker training” refers to the most commonly used marker signal, which is a hand held clicker. In clicker training, the marker signal is paired with a primary reinforcer (usually food).  There are several types of clicker training:

Capturing: This is what many people think of when they first think of clicker training. You wait for the animal to perform a certain behavior, and then you click and treat. This marks the behavior and makes the animal more likely to repeat it.

Shaping: This is the essence of clicker training and a clicker trainer’s main tool. Shaping is the name used to refer to the process of starting with a small piece of the behavior you want and transforming it over time by carefully reinforcing those efforts that lead to the final behavior.

Shaping is also sometimes referred to as training by successive approximations. The key point about shaping is that in shaping you are building behavior in small steps. You get from one step to the next by selecting what behaviors you choose to reinforce and allowing the horse to experiment a bit to figure out what behavior gets clicked. It is a very creative process for both trainer and trainee.

Luring: Luring refers to using the food directly to get a behavior that you can click and reinforce. Most clicker trainers use luring sparingly or not at all as part of the reason clicker training works well is that the food is used to motivate and reward, but since it is only delivered after the click, it does not become a distraction.

Molding:  The horse or a part of its body is physically put in the desired position. If trying to teach a horse to step on a mat, pick up the foot and place it on the mat. The goal is to show the horse the desired movement and then encourage the horse to initiate the behavior on his own.

Shaping using pressure and release: This is one of the most common ways that clicker training is used with horses. It is a subset of shaping, but it is a directed form of shaping where the horse gets information about what you want through standard pressure and release cues. It is combined with clicker training so that the horse is rewarded by the release of pressure AND a treat. The addition of the marker signal adds a level of precision and timing that makes the training process clearer.

clicker training Equi-libre HorsesTargeting: Targeting is the behavior where an animal learns to touch a body part (with horses we usually use the nose) to another object (the target). Targeting is a behavior that is taught through capturing or shaping, but once learned, it becomes a valuable tool in its own right.

Clicker training allows you to pinpoint and reward desirable behavior. As a result the horse doesn’t have to try ten ‘wrong things’ before it gets it right. The one ‘right’ thing it does is rewarded and the undesirable behaviors ignored. With positive reinforcement horses become very eager students and lessons are quickly learned.

REFERENCES:

Karen Pryor, Clicker Training:  http://www.clickertraining.com/

F. Skinner, Operant Behavior: http://www.bfskinner.org/bfskinner/SurveyOperantBehavior.html

Photo credits: Equi-libre, Animalwise

Promote Your Horse Business With An Open House

barn open house BunkerParkStableEach year, “Time To Ride” is presented by the American Horse Council’s Marketing Alliance to promote the to encourage people in your community to Meet A Horse. This equine industry initiative created to encourage and champion the growth of the U.S. horse industry, “Time to Ride” was pleased to announce that the fifth annual National Meet A Horse Day was held Saturday, July 21, 2018.

While it’s too late to get involved with this year’s program, to hold an event like this at your barn can take some time to arrange so it’s not too early to start thinking about next year. 

All barn owners, instructors, non-profit organizations and clubs are encouraged to celebrate National Meet A Horse Day by hosting an event, and to consider enrolling in Time To Ride. Enrollment is free and provides access to a wide variety of marketing materials and tips on promoting and holding successful activities, plus the opportunity to win cash and prizes for attracting the most newcomers. Whether you want to get involved in next year’s Time to Ride Challenge or just host your own barn open house,  consider the following tips and ideas.

Check Your Insurance

Before you hold an open house on your property, make sure that your barn’s business insurance is in effect and will fully cover you for the event. A quick call to your insurance company to verify that the event will be covered is always a good idea.

Perfect Your Marketing Materials

Before the day of the barn open house, make sure that your barn’s marketing materials are professional and perfected. Your barn should have a quality barn website up and running, and you will also want to have brochures, business cards, and possibly flyers present at your open house.

Include Demonstrations

Offering interesting demonstrations is a great way to draw in the local riding crowd. Consider offering introductions and displays of the styles of riding that you will be specializing in. Demonstrations provide the audience with entertainment and a reason to stick around, so schedule a few demonstrations throughout the open house.

Have Food Present

While you don’t have to go all-out, having refreshments present at a barn open house is a great idea. Refreshments can help to establish a friendly atmosphere, while visitors will appreciate having cold drinks available on a hot day.

Get Attendees Involved

Making your barn open house engaging and entertaining can help to draw attendees and keep them at your barn. If you are operating a child- and family-friendly barn, consider offering pony rides to attract young and future riders. Be sure that property tours are readily available for horse owners considering boarding. Other activities, like a raffle or giveaway, can also draw attendees.

Work with Local Businesses

Consider reaching out to local horse-related businesses ahead of time to see if they would like to take part in your barn’s open house. Business owners may appreciate the opportunity to set up a small exhibit table in your barn aisle or in the indoor arena, while you will be establishing excellent networking connections with local business owners at the same time.

Offer Specials

There is no better way to drum up new business than to offer specials at your barn open house. Consider offering special discounts on a first riding lesson, a first month of training, or a first month of boarding. Doing so can lead to new clients who may go on to be long-term clients.

Hosting a barn open house is a great way to spread the word about your barn’s completion, as well as to show off your beautiful barn to friends, family and the public. To learn more about Time To Ride and becoming a Challenge host for 2019, please visit www.timetoride.com, email info@timetoride.com, or call 512-591-7811.

photo credit: Bunker Park Stable

Continue Competitive Riding At College

horse and college graduate. REVOwning a horse in college can be a challenge, with its significant time and financial demands. Luckily, you don’t necessarily have to own a horse in college to keep riding. Try out these tips to keep riding while you’re in school.

Join a College Riding Team

One of the easiest solutions to riding during college may be to join your college’s riding team. (If your college doesn’t have a riding team, fear not – we have more tips to keep you riding even without a team.) While every college riding team is run differently, typically you will have a lesson at least once a week. The college may have riding facilities on campus, or you might need to travel a bit. In being part of the team you will meet fellow riders, form new friendships and compete during the school year.

You will have to pay in order to be a part of your college’s riding team, and depending on your college, you may have to audition just to make it onto the team. Many colleges offer teams at varying levels so that you can find the riding level that is right for you. Some teams have additional requirements, such as doing barn chores or going to the gym a certain number of times per week. It is best to consult with your college team’s director to decide if riding on the team is right for you.

Volunteer at a Barn

Volunteering is a great way to earn yourself some time in the saddle, especially if your funds are limited while in college. Approach some local barns to see if they are in need of stall cleaning help or other help with barn chores. Many barns or horse owners will be happy to let you ride in exchange for helping around the barn.

Lease a Horse

If you are able to afford it, leasing a horse during college will keep you riding regularly while allowing you to maintain a relationship with a single horse. If you are looking to lease a horse, make sure that the horse you choose is appropriate for your riding experience and confidence level.

Take Lessons

Taking regular riding lessons can ensure that you keep advancing as a rider during college, even if you’re not able to ride on a team or lease a horse. In fact, taking lessons can be highly beneficial because you will ride a variety of horses and are sure to learn something new from every trainer you work with.

While owning a horse in college may not be a practical option for everyone, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop riding while you’re in college. There are plenty of ways to ride without owning a horse.

Training While Trail Riding

riding on trail rotatedTrail riding is a great summertime activity, but if you’re hesitant to head out on the trail because you feel that your horse might miss out on schooling for the day, that doesn’t have to be the case. There are plenty of horse training and schooling exercises that you can put to work on the trail so that your horse gets his training and you get to enjoy the change of scenery. Here are a few exercises to get you started.

Leg Yields

Leg yields are a great exercise to work on out on the trail, especially if you’re on a wider trail. Leg yields can help to keep your horse’s attention focused on you, while also developing his responsiveness to your legs. Work on moving your horse from one edge of the trail to the other and back again. Start at the walk, and then progress to leg yields at the trot.

Shoulder Ins

If your horse is trained to perform shoulder ins, put them to work on the trail. Shoulder ins help to further develop your communication with your horse, improving his responsiveness to and awareness of your body position and cues. Shoulder ins can be an excellent way to help an anxious or forward horse to focus and relax while on the trail.

Gait Transitions

Trail riding provides the perfect time to check in on how well your horse performs gait transitions when he’s out of the arena. Whether you’ll be competing in Western pleasure or plan to head to the cross-country course, the better your horse’s gait transitions are, the better your overall ride can be.

Working on gait transitions on the trail can help to bring underlying issues to light. If your horse tends to rush into gait transitions, this behavior may be amplified by the excitement of being outside of the arena. If your horse’s transitions are a bit uncoordinated, you’re sure to feel this more when faced with uneven trail terrain.

Spend some time working on gait transitions while you’re on the trail. When you can perform excellent gait transitions on trail rides, then you’ll probably be able to replicate them in the arena.

Extension and Collection

Ask your horse to extend and collect his stride within each gait. Focus on maintaining extension and collection for a certain number of strides, and try to get your horse to move between the two without needing to make major changes in your own body. Remember to keep your horse’s pace at the same tempo; the extension and collection should be reflected in his stride, not in his pace or speed.

Your horse’s training doesn’t always have to take place in a riding arena. The trail can be a great place to put these exercises to work.