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Friday, April 30, 2010


cupcakes make me feel better. YUM!! Especially when they are from SweetDreams! Best little treat I've had in a while. What a great guy Joe is to save me from my sorrow.

here's a link, in case you've never had one:


It occurred to me that I hadn't written in a few days and should. I'm currently in law school hell which translates effectively into the wonderful time of finals. Its not like normal finals for other students where it lasts one week and is over and is just a portion of your grade, oh no. Law school finals is every single subject, tested in three hour chunks, somewhere spanning in a three week time on ever single little ounce of everything you learned over the last semester, and its you're only grade. Yup, the only thing you receive in the class comes from the blindly graded essay(s) that are written in those sweat filled three hours. Its ridiculous. Oh... and I'm sick. Like, a bad sick with a fever and sweating and everything. Just what I need right now. So now here I sit cuddling with the cats. See above.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Last Class...

Today I had what should effectively be my last class ever. No, this doesn't include any drivers classes I may have to take to get out of having too many points on my driver's licenses, thus driving up my insurance cost, or the classes I'll have to inevitably have to take as continuing education when (if??) I become a lawyer. It wasn't anything epic like I thought it would be. I didn't hear Vitamin C in my head, no, my memories were not playing in my head with no sound. I was sitting in the same second row seat I sat in every day listening to my professor try to cram more information into our heads that we didn't get the first time around just thinking about how I thought something epic should be happening.

There were no words of wisdom. The class did clap for us graduating third year students at the end of class, which was a nice note to end on. I'll take a mediocre applause.

So, like a nostalgic woman (because that's what I am... a nostalgic woman) I approached my eclectic professor, who ironically in one semester has become my favorite, and asked if we could take a shot together for posterity sake. That maybe I could find a photo of myself and my kindergarten teacher and put the photos together. Her reply? "Well, I hope I don't die."

Yup. Epic.

Back to the basics: Lunge

I was born with a lower back deformity that has caused me to have severe lower back issues that now causes intense low back and leg pain. This is actually what has caused my professional animal training career to be cut short, but that's a whole different story in itself. Since getting back in the saddle I've found it hard to re-find my great seat on a horse. I tend to block the horse's movement with my lower back by "protecting" myself. I tend to what I like to call "duck" out my lower back... which is effectively sticking my rump out instead of sitting on my butt and then getting stiff and blocking through my thighs. All together this isn't helpful to myself or whatever horse I'm riding. My problem is that I'm currently working Fire who is young and needs direction and I haven't found much "me" time. So, in comes my friend Julie to help me with this issue. How do we decide to fix this? We go back to the basics. We go back to the lunge line and no reins and JUST seat. Julie hooks us up and begins to spin herself silly in the center, coaxing me gently to not "duck" my rear, to focus on opening my hips up correctly, even to just breathe, and feel like I use to and just "find that sweet spot that you know"... which I did. And you know what? It didn't hurt me. Not one bit. My core is strong enough now to protect my back against a lot of the impact that happens now in riding, but my back had learned to protect itself in a particular way, and I hadn't "unlearned" it, until that night. So it took about 100 no handed sitting trot circles with my best friend on the end of a line telling me to sit like I had learned almost 15 years ago. But sometimes it takes going back to the basics.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wedding Freebie!

For those of you who don't know... I'm engaged. We're just starting our journey [through hell] and have looked a a few venues, are fighting about colors (I'm determined to win on this one) and am going to drag whomever is willing to read this blog through the white mud with me.

This is a fun nice one though. In my random no-logic search today I found a free template for a pretty cute invitation. I personally don't think I'll be using it (not a bike theme person), but for that bride on a budget who still wants to do a nicely printed invite at home, I think that this is a very nice option. The only cost to the bride and groom would be the ink for the printer and some nicer paper from your local Office Max.

So then... Free-Template Away!!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

When they make you smile

Sometimes, I have bad days. I feel like this happens to everyone, that I'm not that unique in this bit of information I'm sharing here. What might be unique is my coping strategy of dealing with the times when I get overly stressed out or things just don't seem to go my way. I find that taking some time out to go out to the barn, to share the time with a horse (Fire in particular) can be more healing than any prescription medication or therapist in a lounge chair. Maybe its the "wax on wax off' motion of currying and brushing the horse while getting ready? It's the rhythmic "woosh woosh" of the bristles flicking off the winter's leftovers or the smell of Showsheen on a freshly evened tail. I'm not even talking about the riding at this point. Riding is just its own world that can lift even the grim of spirits. Ever wonder why riding therapy works so well for handicapped people and disturbed children? There are no words to describe the inner zen that is felt when you can communicate with an animal to a point of actually thinking and feeling the same things without having to say something. Its really a remarkable experience. So, on those days when everything seems to be going south, I'm glad that I know that there is a 16'3 hand big man who, without a word, can make me smile.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Don't ride your Horse too Young:

The first thing to note is that as a two and a half year-old, Ranger is a "teenager". He's not mature physically, nor will he be until he's at least six. Despite a nice development of chest and a fine long neck, there is that unmistakable lack of length and muscular fullness to the hindquarters and the little weakness or lack of arch at the base of the neck that smacks of the gawkiness of sub-adulthood. The withers are not as high as they will someday be, either. Right now though I want to return to the issue of maturity and deal with that concept thoroughly.

Ranger is not mature, as I said, as a 2 1/2 year old. This is NOT because Ranger is a "slow-maturing" individual or because he comes from a "slow maturing" breed. There is no such thing. Let me repeat that: no horse on earth, of any breed, at any time, is or has ever been mature before the age of six (plus or minus six months). This information comes, I know, as a shock to many people who think starting their colt or filly under saddle at age two is what they ought to be doing.

This begs discussion of (1) what I mean by "mature" and (2) what I mean by "starting".

Just about everybody has heard of the horse's "growth plates", and commonly when I ask 'em, people tell me that the "growth plates" are somewhere around, or in, the horse's knees (actually they're located at the bottom of the radius-ulna bone just above the knee). This is what gives rise to the saying that, before riding the horse, it's best to wait "until his knees close" (i.e., until the growth plates fuse to the bone shaft and cease to be separated from it by a layer of slippery, crushable cartilage). What people often don't realize is that there is a "growth plate" on either end of EVERY bone behind the skull, and in the case of some bones (like the pelvis, which has many "corners") there are multiple growth plates. So do you then have to wait until ALL these growth plates fuse? No. But the longer you wait, the safer you'll be.
Owners and trainers need to realize there's a definite, easy -to- remember schedule of fusion - and then make their decision as to when to ride the horse based on that rather than on the external appearance of the horse. For there are some breeds of horse - the Quarter Horse is the premier among these - which have been bred in such a manner as to LOOK mature long before they actually ARE mature. This puts these horses in jeopardy from people who are either ignorant of the closure schedule, or more interested in their own schedule (for futurities or other competitions) than they are in the welfare of the animal. The process of fusion goes from the bottom up. In other words, the lower down toward the hoofs you look, the earlier the growth plates will have fused; and the higher up toward the animal's back you look, the later. The growth plate at the top of the coffin bone (the most distal bone of the limb) is fused at birth. What this means is that the coffin bones get no TALLER after birth (they get much larger around, though, by another mechanism). That's the first one. In order after that: Short pastern - top & bottom between birth and 6 mos. 3. Long pastern - top & bottom between 6 mos. And 1 yr. 4. Cannon bone - top & bottom between 8 mos. And 1.5 yrs. 5. Small bones of knee - top & bottom on each, between 1.5 and 2.5 yrs. 6. Bottom of radius-ulna - between 2 and 2.5 yrs. 7. Weight-bearing portion of glenoid notch at top of radius - between 2.5 and 3 yrs. 8. Humerus - top & bottom, between 3 and 3.5 yrs. 9. Scapula - glenoid or bottom (weight-bearing) portion - between 3.5 and 4 yrs. 10. Hindlimb - lower portions same as forelimb 11. Hock - this joint is "late" for as low down as it is; growth plates on the tibial & fibular tarsals don't fuse until the animal is four (so the hocks are a known "weak point" - even the 18th-century literature warns against driving young horses in plow or other deep or sticky footing, or jumping them up into a heavy load, for danger of spraining their hocks) 12. Tibia - top & bottom, between 2.5 and 3 yrs. 13. Femur - bottom, between 3 and 3.5 yrs.; neck, between 3.5 and 4 yrs.; major and 3rd trochanters, between 3 and 3.5 yrs. 14. Pelvis - growth plates on the points of hip, peak of croup (tubera sacrale), and points of buttock (tuber ischii), between 3 and 4 yrs. ...and what do you think is last? The vertebral column, of course. A normal horse has 32 vertebrae between the back of the skull and the root of the dock, and there are several growth plates on each one, the most important of which is the one capping the centrum. These do not fuse until the horse is at least 5 1/2 years old (and this figure applies to a small-sized, scrubby, range-raised mare. The taller your horse and the longer its neck, the later full fusion will occur. And for a male - is this a surprise? -- you add six months. So, for example, a 17-hand TB or Saddlebred or WB gelding may not be fully mature until his 8th year - something that owners of such individuals have often told me that they "suspected"). The lateness of vertebral "closure" is most significant for two reasons. One: in no limb are there 32 growth plates! Two: The growth plates in the limbs are (more or less) oriented perpendicular to the stress of the load passing through them, while those of the vertebral chain are oriented parallel to weight placed upon the horse's back. Bottom line: you can sprain a horse's back (i.e., displace the vertebral growth plates) a lot more easily than you can sprain those located in the limbs. And here's another little fact: within the chain of vertebrae, the last to fully "close" are those at the base of the animal's neck (that's why the long-necked individual may go past 6 yrs. to achieve full maturity). So you also have to be careful - very careful - not to yank the neck around on your young horse, or get him in any situation where he strains his neck (i.e., better learn how to get a horse broke to tie before you ever tie him up, so that there will be no likelihood of him ever pulling back hard. And readers, if you don't know how to do this, then please somebody write in and ask!). Now, the other "maturity" question I always get is this: "so how come if my colt is not skeletally mature at age 2 he can be used at stud and sire a foal?" My answer to that is this: sure, sweetie, if that's how you want to define maturity, then every 14 year old boy is mature. In other words, the ability to achieve an erection, penetrate a mare, and ejaculate some semen containing live sperm cells occurs before skeletal maturity, both in our species and in the horse. However, even if you only looked at sperm counts or other standard measures of sexual maturity that are used for livestock, you would know that considering a 2 year old a "stallion" is foolish. Male horses do not achieve the testicular width or weight, quality or quantity of total ejaculate, or high sperm counts until they're six. Period. And people used to know this; that's why it's incorrect to refer to any male horse younger than 4 as a "stallion", whether he's in service or not. Peoples' confusion on this question is also why we have such things as the Stallion Rehabilitation Program at Colorado State University or the behaviour-modification clinic at Cornell - because a two year old colt is no more able to "take command" on a mental or psychological level of the whole process of mating - which involves everything from "properly" being able to ask the mare's permission, to actually knowing which end of her to jump on, to being able to do this while some excited and usually frightened humans are banging him on the nose with a chain - than is a 14 year old boy.

Now, let's turn to the second discussion, which is what I mean by "starting" and the whole history of that. Many people today - at least in our privileged country -- do not realize how hard you can actually work a horse - which is very, very hard. But before you can do that without significantly damaging the animal, you have to wait for him to mature, which means - waiting until he is four to six years old before asking him to carry you on his back. What bad will happen if you put him to work as a riding horse before that? Two important things - and probably not what you're thinking of. What is very UNlikely to happen is that you'll damage the growth plates in his legs. At the worst, there may be some crushing of the cartilages, but the number of cases of deformed limbs due to early use is tiny. The cutting-horse futurity people, who are big into riding horses as young as a year and a half, will tell you this and they are quite correct. Want to damage legs? There's a much better way - just overfeed your young-stock (see Forum postings on this. You ought to be able to see the animal's ribs - not skeletal, but see 'em - until he's two). More likely is that you'll cause structural damage to his back. There are some bloodlines (in Standardbreds, Arabians, and American Saddlebreds) known to inherit weak deep intervertebral ligament sheathing; these animals are especially prone to the early, sudden onset of "saddle back". However, individuals belonging to these bloodlines are by no means the only ones who may have their back "slip" and that's because, as mentioned above, the stress of weight-bearing on the back passes parallel to the growth plates as well as the intervertebral joints. However, I want to add that the frequency of slipped backs in horses under 6 years old is also very low. So, what's to worry about? Well...did you ever wish your horse would "round up" a little better? Collect a little better? Respond to your leg by raising his back, coiling his loins, and getting his hindquarter up underneath him a little better? The young horse knows, by feel and by "instinct" that having a weight on his back puts him in physical jeopardy. I'm sure that all of you start your young-stock in the most humane and considerate way that you know how, and just because of that, I assure you that after a little while, your horse knows exactly what that saddle is and what that situation where you go to mount him means. And he loves you, and he is wiser than you are, so he allows this. But he does not allow it foolishly, against his deepest nature, which amounts to a command from the Creator that he must survive; so when your foot goes in that stirrup, he takes measures to protect himself. The measures he takes are the same ones YOU would take in anticipation of a load coming onto your back: he stiffens or braces the muscles of his topline, and to help himself do that he may also brace his legs and hold his breath ("brace" his diaphragm). The earlier you choose to ride your horse, the more the animal will do this, and the more often you ride him young, the more you reinforce in his mind the necessity of responding to you in this way. So please - don't come crying to me when your 6 year old (that was started under saddle as a two year old) proves difficult to round up! (Not that I'm not gonna help you but GEEZ). If he does not know how to move with his back muscles in release, he CANNOT round up!! So - bottom line - if you are one of those who equate "starting" with "riding", then I guess you better not start your horse until he's four. That would be the old, traditional, worldwide view: introduce the horse to equipment (all kinds of equipment and situations) when he's two, crawl on and off of him at three, saddle him to begin riding him and teaching him to guide at four, start teaching him manoeuvres or the basics of whatever job he's going to do - cavalletti or stops or something beyond trailing cattle - at five, and he's on the payroll at 6. The old Spanish way of bitting reflected this also, because the horse's teeth aren't mature (i.e., the tushes haven't come in and all the permanent teeth) until he's six either. This is what I'd do if it were my own horse. Now I'm at liberty to do that because I'm not on anybody else's schedule except my horse's own schedule. I'm not a participant in futurities or planning to be. Are you? If you are, well, that's your business. But most horse owners aren't. Please ask yourself: "is there any reason that you have to be riding that particular horse before he's four?"

-Dr Deb Bennett

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Another new item!

Bling bling!!!

I ended up finding this AWESOME bridle for a steal... brand new Kieffer bridle for only $100! Its got a wonderful padded crank noseband, and a pretty crystal browband that is also padded. I brought it to the barn yesterday and tried it on Fire and it looked great on him. Lucky he's so manly looking, the rhinestones didn't make him look girly in the least. The bridle came with two pairs of reins as well, one pair of Kieffer web reins and one pair of thin leather reins. I rode with the webbed reins and though I'm not the biggest fan and I like my rubber ones better, I think they will make a great backup rein option, and are very nice.

I think that this deal is up there with the Schleese Wave saddle I got last last year in the "deals" area. I may be running out of luck with my ability to find these amazing deals! It is all so much fun to do. I just hope that I don't run out of money!

Friday, April 9, 2010

First sign of spring... spaltted fly on my windshield on the way home from the barn.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sing Louder than Your Horse

I was recently forwarded a correspondence between two people by another fellow rider and found it interesting. The first was asking the second about the changed in dressage and how one uses the aide to effectively communicate with the horse. Now, I do think that the original writer was stretching things a bit far in what she has seen now, as opposed to 30 years ago, but I do think that the essence of what she was saying does right true of the change. Here is an exert of her question/comment:


In my mind dressage is inextricably associated with the qualities I was taught to value: Softness and rhythm and a horse with a relaxed way of going and a soft mouth and a soft eye. The horses I see at this barn, including the one I lease, aren't anything like that. Some of them have huge gaits, I can see that for myself, but they move like pile-drivers, there is some rhythm but no softness and I see no relaxation. Also there is certainly no softness in their eyes, they are either rolling and you can see the whites, or they just look dead as if the horse's soul had left its body. And their mouths are certainly "dead" at least by the old standards, the riders brace against the horses and the horses brace against the riders; instead of communication through the reins I see a brutal pulling contest. I realize that is a melodramatic statement but that is what I see. In the "old days" we did use whips and spurs but more as reminders and "precision aids" and we were - at least at the barn where I boarded my horse and took lessons for twelve years - taught that bits and spurs were only ever to be used to communicate with the horse and never to be used to punish it, and that there were no exceptions to that rule.
Now I am being told that none of that was correct and that it's important that a horse have complete respect for the bit, and that the rider teaches that respect by showing the horse that it must always obey and behave or the bit and spurs will punish it immediately. This is apparently the new definition of submission - can that possibly be accurate?


I find her comments very thoughtful of what she was seeing, and though I either believe that her trainer was off base at being able to describe things, or that she is being a bit indulgent in her description. Never the less, I do agree with the writer in saying that things have changed. People seem to be harsher these days, doing more forcing and less asking of the horse. Riders are now taught to be in a frame of mind that the horse needs to submit now, or face a consequence, instead of thinking that there will be long periods of waiting, and when the horse comes to terms and begins to go in whatever correct manner you are asking (not forcing) that there will be reward.

The person who responded said something along the lines of what I just did, but also included a good adage that was remembered from Betty Howett:

On one memorable occasion, it was clear that the rider in the ring had one idea about what she wanted to do whilst her horse had an entirely different idea of what HE wanted to do. The conflict was quiet, but the tension was palpable, and it mounted until some of us began to feel a bit uncomfortable. At that point, Betty stepped in with a brilliant analogy. "Do you sing?" she asked. "Do you know that singing game that children play when they're riding the bus to school or to summer camp? The children on one side of the bus sing THIS song; the children on the other side of the bus sing THAT song, and the winner is the side that sings SO LOUDLY that the other side gives up and begins to sing that song too. Right now you're having a problem with your horse, but force isn't going to provide a good solution. You've got to get him to WANT to come with you and do what you want to do - YOU HAVE TO SING LOUDER THAN YOUR HORSE."


I think this is good to remember as well: that we cannot just let a horse "run us over" while riding, but need to know when to "sing louder than your horse" and buckle down. I believe that this takes a skilled rider, and an even more skilled trainer to execute, and that it can be easily lost in the chase for the better stronger faster learning horse that gets you to Grand Prix or gets sold.

Its not about the final destination, but the journey getting there.

Turi: Test Dog

This is Turi, test dog professional. She is helping me test to see if I like this program for blogging on my Blackberry. So far? Not so great. No double-space gets you a period feature, annoying ad that runs along the bottom, bad lime green color, and just not all that user friendly. I cant even save the address to the blog to get to it easily. I guess this is what free gets me.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

New Rules from USEF

The USEF (United States Equestrian Foundation) enacted some new rules as pertaining to dress in the dressage ring. Among quite a few other interesting now acceptable choices in colors etc. that one can wear in the ring, it is now okay to have up to two logos on your jacket. Here is the exact wording:

Page 47 DR120 Dress. Chapter DR. Dressage Division Effective
12. When sponsorship is permitted in accordance with GR1306, the name and/or logo of the individual’s sponsor(s) may appear on each of the two sides of jackets or top garments at the height of breast pockets not exceeded 80 cm2 in size. Logos described under DR121.1 are also permitted as above.

This means that we can all now have sponsors prominently on our coats, which means we can all get someone to pay for our habits, and they can get some air-time for their logo on top a horse. This makes me want to think up the perfect sponsors. Not ones like Dressage Daily, or Smartpak. Those would be obvious. Ones like Durex, who can make a fun little play on words in their slogans. For example, "Sponsored by Durex, always riding well protected", or "Trojan, no need for the wood horse", the possibilities are endless. I'm sure it won't be long before it is like Nascar, where there will be logos everywhere we can put them and it will be forgotten that this was once a very prestigious and refined way of riding with lots of stout tradition. Pink shadbelly anyone? I'm sure Katie Price will be thrilled...

I love the postman

Every once in a while I get really bored and decide that I need to buy stuff. Recently I think that I was extra bored because I think I went a bit overboard. I just can't pass up a good deal! If I can find something that I don't have, or may use in the near future for a price well under what the object is worth, I find it hard to say no. This occurs especially when said things have something to do with horses.

I've got a few things now on their way to my house, which is where the postman comes in. Really, he's a wonderful guy. Not only does he re-route the things that end up at my old address (only a few blocks away) to where we live now, but he is ever ready for my dogs by carrying Milkbones in his pocket. This man is God to my dogs. I kid you not, he will stop me if he sees me walking them on the street to give them a bone. On my block the postman is not a threat to doggies. But I digress away from what really matters here.... what showed up at my door!

This is my newest item. It came in a box with a cord to charge it, some grease and a little brush. The Woman I purchased it from even put a "thank you" note in with the item! "No... THANK YOU!" is what I wanted to say. You see, these clippers are about $75 new in the store. These ones don't seem to be any worse for wear, and are sharp (maybe pictures soon of them in action) and cost me a mere $25. They are Wahl brand, and my favorite-ist color: purple.

So, thank you Mr. Postman with the Milkbones in his pocket, and lady who no longer had a use for the spiffy purple cordless Wahl clippers. I'm sure Fire will learn to love them (he's a bit scared OUT of his MIND of clippers now).

Julie made me do it.

that is all.