Archive for May, 2009
Story by Libby Keenan
There is a hum of activity at Sunhall tonight. Tomorrow a young student is setting out to her first show.
It brings back so many memories of younger days The excitement , the nerves, the dreams of red ribbons(blue for those of you south of the border ) , the fun and the panic.It could be the farm around the corner or the Olympics , the feelings are the same.
The horse has been bathed (twice) rolled after first time! The braids are partly done , quite uneven , some fat , some thin but not bad first try.
The walk/trot test has been learned and relearned but could fly out the window any minute.
A list is made so we don’t arrive sans bridle as did first rider last season.
The new gloves are the white they never will be again no matter how much bleach goes in the wash. Hooves are oiled , tack is somewhat clean , had to be sponged off after explaining that soaping the seat makes it quite slippery
First aid kit fit for a Derby entry is loaded. The hay net is full , trailer hitch and tires , lights and brakes all tested. We’ll be gone by 7.00 am and her classes will done by 11.00. Roughly a day and a half of non stop attention to the smallest detail for two five minute tests in the ring.
She is hoping for high point of the day , I will pleased be with the right diagonal
No matter how much we preach : have fun , this is just for experience yaydyayda….the weight of the moment is pulling her down and bouying her up to that place reserved for the night before one’s first show. The night of endless possibilities , supreme hopes and fears.
I envy her , knowing full well the tears and the struggle , the ups and downs , victory and devastating defeat…I envy her still
Is it Friday already? The week went by so fast! Nonetheless, here at Tack n’ Talk, we have some interesting finds for all our readers
Libby was enchanted by Clifford of Drummond Island this week. He was “a crooked-legged runt gelding that eventually proved himself in hos own quirky way.” You can read more about Clifford in two books, written and illustrated by his Mom, Nancy J. Baily, “Clifford of Drummond” and “Return to Manitou”. Follow Nancy and Clifford on twitter here.
Larissa has been brushing up on braiding for the upcoming show season. She recommends the Lucky Braid videos and tools for learning to braid or improving your braiding technique. Learning these braiding techniques from RuthAnn many years ago, Larissa has braided horses ever since with no cramped hands in record time. The braids look fabulous and stay in longer.
Another braiding tip Larissa picked up: if your horse has a black mane, try braiding with BLUE yarn for a little bit of pizazz in the show ring
Happy Riding Everyone!
Libby Keenan and Larissa Cox
by Larissa Cox
At Tack n’ Talk, we love hearing stories of how you were influenced by horses, and what impacted you about these gorgeous creatures to take up riding. We will be having a regular feature called “Real Riders Stories” – your stories - on our blog.
Today, I have the pleasure of introducing to you Jenny Sweedler of Plymouth, New Hampshire. Along with both being a fan of horses, she and I realized that we have the commonality of both riding BIG warmblood geldings!
So, Jenny, how did you get into riding?
When I was a kid, we got a free lease of an older Shetland. We put her down when I was 12, and I can still remember it was a Monday afternoon. A horrible Monday in fact. After that, beyond summer camp, I had very little horse exposure. Then when I was a freshman in college I enrolled in the university horse class. Loved it. Lots of horse work plus book work (though I did not learn the sitting trot AT ALL). When I came back after that semester I had to take more lessons.
I hooked up with Steel Dust Farm and haven’t looked back. I am now a working student there as well as really great friends with the owner (and the web designer). We often go riding in the mornings after finishing chores, before I go to my real job, in addition to weekly riding lessons.
Sounds like a lot of fun!
…I am not the most confident rider but my riding instructor pushes me to my limits and at the end of a lesson or ride my face is hurting with the smiles.
Why do you love horses?
I love horses because of they way they smell and the way they feel and the way they respond. Some are like giant dogs, some like giant cats. I know horses that are happiest when they are not worked and some that are MISERABLE unless they are. They are such individuals, and while they are so huge, they are so delicate.
Which horses do you ride?
Errol is the perfect lesson horse. Perfect in that he reminds you that he knows WAY MORE ABOUT THIS than you do. If you do it right, you look Blue Ribbon perfect. If you do it wrong, he won’t do it. He is an Oldenburg and is quite the gentleman. He is big at 17hh but is so smooth.
My third horse is “Big Eric.”
He is a 17.3hh Hanoverian with a pretty rough past. He is completely a gentle giant who has no idea of how big he is. During shows, I can’t hear the announcer because his canter is SO LOUD.
If I could be responsible for one horse for the rest of my life, I’d like it to be Eric.
Well Jenny it looks like you have great horses and wonderful opportunities at your barn!
I am so lucky in my barn because there are so many options that are open to me. I feel beyond blessed to be able to go to a horse farm every day.
Thanks you Jenny for sharing your story with us here at Tack n’ Talk!
Happy riding everyone!
We want to hear from more Real Riders! Share your riding stories and pictures with us by emailing Larissa Cox and Libby Keenan at firstname.lastname@example.org! Hope to hear from you soon
On this Friday’s Tack n’ Talk “Hello Weekend” post, I mentioned I had installed a stable mirror (with help from my boyfriend, Tim) in my horse Phantom’s stall. Phantom took to the mirror right away, licking and cuddling with his “new best friend” .
Here are some pictures of Phantom’s new stable mirror:
Since the stable mirror has been installed, Phantom has been weaving noticeably less. I am hoping to see that vice go away completely. I will post again in the future to let Tack n’ Talk readers know how the stable mirror is working out for Phantom.
Earlier this year, January 2011, Phantom’s acrylic mirror shattered. Have no idea why, but it was found in pieces in his stall (Phantom was fine). Within days, Phantom started his weaving. Within a month (February 2011) Phantom’s weaving was just as bad, if not worse than when I first installed the mirror! The purpose of installing the mirror in the first place, was to see if Phantom’s weaving behavior decreased as the studies show, and yes the mirror did almost eliminate Phantom’s weaving. Very soon after the mirror was installed, Phantom weaved considerably less and even when he was under stress (ie when it was time to get fed…yep that’s his stress…what can I say) his weaving was minor almost eliminated. After the mirror was removed, Phantom started his weaving with days to the point he just stood at the bars of his stall and was rocking back and forth! Initially, I installed a 2 x 4 mirror, however, I replaced that mirror with a 2 x 2 size. Good news it worked. Phantom has again stopped his annoying behavior.
UPDATE: August 02, 2011
Phantom really enjoys interacting with his mirror and once again the acrylic mirror broke and once again, Phantom has started with his annoying behavior. So, a new purchase was made for another acrylic mirror. This time the installation will be a bit different. Instead of screwing it directly onto the stall wall, we are going to glue it to a sheet of plywood and then screw that onto the wall. That way, we feel that Phantom won’t be able to break the mirror when he plays with the good looking fella on the other side!
For those of you interested in reading a study on mirrors and stall weaving/walking you can past this link. http://wvc.omnibooksonline.com/data/papers/2007_V411.pdf
Well, another week full of adventures has past! Cold wet winter seems finally past us, and the summer sun seems close at hand. Hopefully everyone reading has had an enjoyable past few days. Now, time to welcome the weekend! Libby and I would like to share with you new discoveries, interesting or innovative products or training approaches we have found, or anything we hold as inspirational or meaningful that we have found in the past week. Enjoy!
Libby found herself in awe of the art of Julie Bender this week. An artist from Atlanta, GA, Julie Bender uses “pyrography”, literally drawing with fire to create beautiful and inspiring horse portraits.
Larissa has installed a “Stable Mirror” in her horse Phantom‘s stall.
Stable mirrors have been shown to reduce or even eliminate stable vices such as weaving, crib biting, or box walking. The horse takes comfort in seeing another horse in the reflection of the mirror and does not seem to become as stressed while in the stall, which can manifest itself in the vices listed above. Larissa will see how this does for Phantom, who often weaves in his stall.
You can read more about stable mirrors here.
Thanks for stopping by Tack n’ Talk blog – Libby and I certainly appreciate your support!
Larissa Cox and Libby Keenan
Ovation Pink Camo K/P Breeches
The Pink Camo K/P Breeches are pull-on cotton breeches with a secret treat pocket! Features a bright and fun inset pocket with horse and cherry blossom embroidery design on the back and a pink camo fabric on back pocket and knee patch. The elasticized drawstring waistband allow for a comfortable fit and the elastic bands around ankles assure the breeches will not ride up legs. Made to coordinate with the other Pink Camo items for both horse and rider that are proudly brought to you by Ovation™.
For Tack n’ Talk blog readers, when you order these adorable Pink Camo K/P breeches for yourself, your daughter…or any horse-loving girl from Equestrian Collections, you get the OvationPink Camo tee FREE! The Ovation Pink Camo tee has a retail price of $19.95, so as a Tack n’ Talk blog reader, you are saving almost $20!
Click here to order: Ovation Pink Camo K/P Breeches
Thank you for the support of Tack n’ Talk blog! Be sure to check back often for more great deals on wonderful merchandise!
Larissa and Libby
I love watching those Youtube videos of gorgeous horses passaging around an open sand ring with a cheery looking trainer smiling from the middle.It would be wonderful to be able to tell you that I will teach you to do that in twenty minutes or less by reading my blog. Sorry to disappoint:(
I have , however hit on something pretty amazing:) that may help you in your everyday work toward being “Part of the Art” of Dressage.
Fortunate to have been trained by the late Col. Michael Gutowski , founder of the Canadian Equestrian Team, I received excellent basic skills in the practice of longeing or “riding from the ground” as Walter Zetl often referred to it.
This article will apply to those with a sound knowledge of basic longeing.
As you know, in longe work the line hand represents the rein and the whip your leg. It is as essential to keep the horse between the line “hand “and ‘leg” “hand”as it is in riding. I have seen countless pitiful episodes where the uneducated blamed the horse for things going badly awry when , in fact,the horse was merely allowed to get behind the ground peron thereby assuming control.
When we see a person longeing the horse from the centre of the circle it is assumed that this is a positon the horse has earned by demonstrating honesty and willingness to be longed.If we picture longeing as a slice of pizza, in the beginning it is a very narrow slice with the handler/”rider” forming a narrow , long triangle from the horses mouth to the longe line to the inside hock of the horse which the whip hand “leg” gives driving aids to.
Once this is understood the angle can be enlarged ( a very large slice of pizza ) to appear as though the person is standing in the middle of a circle.However, it must always be dynamic with the person ready to close the angle taking excess line into the whip hand and moving back and in much closer to the hock at any time the horse begins to evade the driving aids. Very basic longeing 101 still with me ?? good.
Now for the fun part
One day I was going to longe a horse prior to a student mounting for a lesson. I like to do this as it gives me a chance to assess the horse’s mood , make sure he/she is sound and get them somewhat loosened up and on the aids and voice commands before the student is on.
This particular day I forgot the longe line in the barn. Running short on time I decided to improvise and just pretend I had the longe (over the poll , snapped to the outside ring of the snaffle ,for outside rein effect) , as per usual.I held my hand as though holding the line with a light feel on the horse’s mouth and with a very slight flick of the whip toward the belly asked the horse to move out on the longe circle.
Out he went without the slightest hesitation, with my rein hand I half halted and then snaking the whip slightly toward the inside hind fetlock ( never bringing the whip handle past my hip), and we were off. We went through walk , trot , canter and halt transitions up and down , with me bringing my voice upward and slightly turning my upper body toward the horse for upward transitions and the reverse , voice included , for downward transitons.
Other than hardly being able to believe the zone we were in it seemed a fairly regular longeing session. I played lightly on the “imaginary rein line ” and subtly drove or held back with the whip “leg”.The student was waiting and I had to end the session but decided to proceed with this again the next day when I had time and could process this amazing development. I began to encourage some extending saying ” BIG WALK ” , then “steadyyy” voice lowering during the word , then “BIG TROT” etc. I found that by flexing my wrist with arm outstretched toward the mouth I could bring the horse into a lovely frame, drive it up from behind and actually achieve” Ramener”by voice variations and various light “imaginary aids in the air , the horse came up into the bridle and moved forward incredibly on my slightest signal.
I have since used this approach with almost every horse in the barn. When very fresh , it will sometimes take a horse about 10 minutes to fool around and get the playful edge off before being able to focus on me and settling onto the circle and going to work.
One day last summer I was getting ready to longe a horse in this way and decided it was just too hot to close the arena doors.This was truly a leap of faith but I determined not to advise the horse that anything had changed in our routine. Very shortly we were on the twenty meter circle in a lovely frame , doors wide open and tempting paddocks of grass completely accessible!
Now I seldom use the longe line , unless of course at shows or with a very green horse. I find I can relate my intentions better without it.
What have I learned? That horses follow our every move whether we realize it or not.That subtlety in the aids result in unbeleivable subtlety in response. That we can encourage better movement from our horses with our voice and by demonstrating our point with our own bodies (modelling) and voices, BIG STRIDE taking BIG STRIDES .I have had a lot of luck correcting wrong lead departs in canter by half halts and stronnnggg ( imaginary flexing to the inside in the depart ). This correction has carried over to less wrong lead departs when mounted, which by the way , has made training the counter canter much easier.
All of this is a work in progress but I hope you get the idea and try it out for yourself. At first you may feel a bit silly with exaggerated voice and fingers flexing away on a rein that is not there. Balancing an unrestrained horse between a hand and leg from many metres away! Fear not , the bottom line I’ve learned is that without a doubt…. If you BELIEVE it your horse will as well. Cheers and happy experimenting with your horse. Libby Keenan
A very special thanks to Larissa Cox for all of her computer savy getting this blog off the ground. She has spent a lot of time teaching me how to post and use the site (kids these days ) Horses I like to think I know a fair bit about (though learning every day)but computers remain a daunting mystery to me. “Baby steps”so…THANKYOU LARISSA!!!!!:) ps. she was too humble to add this in the bio email I sent so I’ve had to learn to post so you all would know Cheers, Libby
Besides owning and maintaining New Song Stables, what else do you do, or have you done?
I’ve already said I owned and operated a marina outside Olympia. For three years while operating my own private marina, I also operated a marina for the Port of Olympia. That gave me a different perspective. My marina had 110 moorage slips, sold fuel, and had a small convenience store. I had a partner at the Port’s marina and together we managed over 400 moorage slips, and were responsible for all the maintenance on the docks and about twenty acres of land used for parking and grounds. While owning the marina I had it completely rebuilt, getting all the permits, writing an environmental impact statement, going to hearings, etc. During that time the County bought out the local water system and installed a sewer system in the neighborhood. Since we were a large part of the neighborhood focus, I was very involved in all of those discussions, planning, and zoning. At the Port we had to make presentations to the Port Commission, be the front persons for the Port in discussions of live-a-boards, maintenance, stores, etc – anything that is sometimes involved in a marina. We went to boat shows and had promotions at the marina, too. At my own marina, the issue of selling gas and diesel on the water was big. The EPA requirements were changing and tightening up and that became very costly.
After 15 years of marinas, I went to law school. For three years I drove daily to Tacoma, about an hour one way, and worked with a trusted employee to keep my Marina running. By this time, I was no longer working at the Port of Olympia. When I had finished law school and taken the bar exam, I had an opportunity to sell the Marina, and I took it. A marina, like a horse stables, has a lot of maintenance to the physical facility; it needs periodic infusions of a lot of cash.
So then I practiced law in Thurston County for several years. I worked mostly in Family Law and juvenile law, although I also did misdemeanors. I still do legal consulting and document reviews, etc. I liked that too.
My children grew up around the marina business. They know boats and fishing. By the time I was practicing law, they were both out of the home, in college or just out and teaching.
In both the marina management business and in practicing law, women were in the minority. Maybe that’s why having mostly women in our barn is so significant to me now.
While I was managing marinas and raising children, I also earned a private pilot’s license. I had always wanted to fly, and at one point I said to myself, that no one was ever going to get it for me, so if I wanted to learn I had better go out and do it myself. That was fun, sometimes a little scary. But I stayed with it and finished it. I like flying, but the time and money it takes were not available for awhile and I got out of it.
I also earned a real estate agent license. My Dad sold real estate in Whatcom County for more than 40 years, and I had learned a lot from him. By the time, I earned my license I and my husband had bought and sold a couple of houses, and with my back ground, I found the learning interesting and the test not too hard. Of course, that’s expired now, too, but it still gives me a perspective that is helpful.
My greatest loves are my children and grandchildren, my family. Outside of them, I enjoy gardening, especially vegetable gardening. I have grapes near the stables, now, and this year, I should be getting a decent harvest. I like watching plants grow, digging in the dirt, and seeing the results of that work. These days, while it’s warm enough, you’ll often find me on my knees in the dirt. I proclaim the goodness of home-grown, organic food to everyone who will listen, and promote using composted horse manure for mulch whenever possible.
By: Larissa Cox