Archive for Real Rider
Have a Happy Valentine’s Day
By: Barbara Cox (Larissa’s Mom)
It started as a dream…
I always knew at some point in my life, Larissa would come to me smilingly sweetly and say, “Mommy, I want to learn to ride a horse.” As far as I was concerned, that comment came far too early in Larissa’s young life. What was a mother to do? As a City Slicker, my knowledge was limited to the few trail rides I took as a child, so I did what every mother would do…”I’ll talk to your Dad!” Speaking to Dad proved useless as he totally supported Larissa’s dream. “Why not?” he said…”It would be good for her, she will develop self-discipline and patience…” Panic stricken, I mumbled…”But she’s so young… she was just learning to walk a little while ago!”
So the search was on. Locating a suitable lesson stable wasn’t as easy as I had thought, never mind determining on whether a particular instructor was right for my child, but I pressed on. Larissa was soon enrolled in a summer program and she loved every minute of her day. The summer program lead to weekly group lessons, which lead to private weekly lessons which lead to “Mommy, I want my own horse!”
Twenty years later, one horse lead to four and her dream became a reality. This Mother’s journey has been filled with triumphs and tears and very frustrating trying to understand the complicated national and regional championship points systems!
My evolution of a horse show mom was “I will never use a porta-potty!” “Never” quickly became “only in emergencies” to “just this once” to “only this weekend” to “they have really nice porta-potties here at this show!”
Good show moms also know that working with Dad can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. Larissa’s Dad is one of the few great show dads who get up early, drive the truck and trailer, muck out the stall and fill that water bucket. But really, have you ever seen a dad shine a pair of boots or wipe slobber off the face of a bitted horse? No, not really. How many of you have seen horse show moms carrying a bucket, filled with ring side necessities, in one hand, and in the other, the dressage test booklet, show jacket and camera. This mom has learned how to back the horse trailer, clip horse whiskers, lead nervous horses and to make just the perfect horse show bun! Not only that, I am an expert used tack purchaser and horse show photographer. In addition, I can quickly sub in for the pre-show coach, on the ground trainer, horse massage therapist and seamstress! Packing the trailer is now an art form which is admired by all at the barn. At the show itself, my red horse show apron can be spotted from great distances. The apron itself, with its multitude of pockets, holds all the necessary requirements to handle any horse ring emergency…from bottled water, Back’s Rescue Remedy for horse and rider, boot brush, towel, lip balm, leather towelettes, dressage test booklet, horse cookies, emergency sewing kit with extra buttons, camera and backup battery to show clothes hook and hanger. Dad carries the video camera.
The years that Larissa has been in the United Kingdom continuing her education has been very difficult. The barn isn’t the same, the excitement of the show season has come and gone and the two horses remaining at home have been on an extended vacation. However, 2012 is a new year and the anticipation of Larissa’s return home is being met with great excitement and once again the horse mom will carry on…there will be triumphs and tears and there will still be difficulty understanding that championships points system!
By: Traci Gagne
I was blessed with a gift of a horse at age 25, it was a dream come true and a lot of work ahead of me. All I knew about horses was that they can be fun and dangerous, the rest I had to learn.
My first horse was not a good fit for me, neither was my 2nd, but the 3rd, well, he was amazing! His name is Omega. He is now a 9 year old paint gelding that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I have had the pleasure of bonding with him for about the last five years.
I have had him boarded at 2 different facilities, and I am friends with both owners which was a nice advantage. I had the privilege of using tack and learning about horses right at my finger tips.
In our first summer, we went out riding a few times and besides me being green and not knowing but the basics of riding, Omega did well. I even let my friend take Omega on trail rides when I couldn’t go so he would keep his manners under saddle. However, after about a year he would start tossing his head a little when riding. My friend told me to tug a little on his mane and tell him to stop and he would. Ok, simple enough, right? It seemed to work, and he was fine with it.
About 2 years later, we moved back to my hometown, and so I brought Omega with me and took him to my other friend’s house. I no longer had tack to ride, so we didn’t. As time passed, I realized it had been a year and he needed to be ridden. I no longer had access to an extra saddle that I could use, so my friend offered to tack him up for me and I could ride him around the pasture. How nice, I thought, until he started tossing his head, popping up in the front and would go any which way but forward. So now what? Teeth! I had his teeth done, they were in need of a good float and a little work. So all should be well, right?
Nope! Same thing, he just did not want to ride. So I talked it over with my friend and we decided that since he sat for so long without being ridden, I would send him out for a tune-up. While he was getting back into riding, I bought a saddle, bridle, bit etc. The trainer (self proclaimed) used her bridle. I didn’t find out until later that she also rode him with a tie-down, and thought maybe that was it. But, he wasn’t popping and tossing like he used to. Perfect…let’s ride!
All three of us were somewhat friends now (me, my boarding friend and the trainer) and would go ride whenever we could. And I would say it was 50/50, that Omega would act up (toss and pop). I was frustrated. This shouldn’t be happening. And why is he being so herd bound? Constantly wanting to stay put. I spent all that money to ride again. What’s going on? So I thought and though and thought. Light bulb! Let’s try a different bit! His dentist recommended a dog bone bit, mouth and something smaller might help. Ok, I can handle that, the search began for the dog bone bit.
When I told my friend about my decision, she acted as if it was a good idea. Then I got this text message out of now where from the trainer I had used about me wanting to change his bit. Now I haven’t talked to her in month.’s so how did she know? Well the texts said “a different bit wasn’t going to change anything, and I don’t know what I’m doing because I’m green. And all I was gonna do is ruin my horse and waste money.” That’s right, RUIN my horse! This caused friction between my friend and myself. I did not appreciate her talking about me and my horse in that manner, but I let it go.
I finally found the bit I was looking for at the horse fair. I couldn’t wait to try it. But every time it was mentioned I was told, “It’s not the bit, it’s me” and “the one he has is just fine.” But I just had a feeling that something wasn’t right. By now I felt that I wasn’t qualified to may ANY decisions for Omega, because I was going to ruin him and I didn’t know anything.
Well, I got the same response from Omega with that bit. I wanted to scream, cry and sell him all at the same time. Maybe my friend and the trainer were right. What did I know? Well, I knew something wasn’t right, and over the years I had learned a lot from hands-on and reading and didn’t have the heart to give up on him. Then I saw this article on Twitter from Tack ‘n Talk about “The right size bit.” So I read it. WOW! Measure the mouth? Why? No one ever mentioned they measure a horse’s mouth! You buy the standard for their age/size/breed….right? Absolutely NOT! And then there was hope again.
So my next step was to measure his mouth. But, with all the comments and lack of support, I wasn’t about to measure his mouth or do anything bit related when anyone else was around. I just didn’t want to deal with the comments.
The day I went out to the barn and measured Omega’s mouth I just about fell over. His bit was too small! I just couldn’t believe it. So once again, I was on a search for a different, but bigger bit. he was tolerating at times a 5 inch bit, but he really needed a 5 1/2 inch bit. So when I did find the right size, I purchased one bit and the tack shop owner let me borrow another one for a trial to make sure I didn’t waste any more money.
I was so excited to take Omega for a test drive in his new bit. When I had the opportunity to tack him up and try it out, I was shocked. It took him a minute to take the bit, but he did. And he didn’t mess around with it in his mouth like he did the others. And he wasn’t making funny faces with his mouth wide open. It fit! And I could see how his body language changed. My “green” gut instinct paid off! I got on my horse and he didn’t toss his head, he waited for a cue. And I was so happy for the both of us! I never did mention any of this to my friend and I haven’t heard a peep from the trainer. How could that have been overlooked if you are a trainer?
Now that I have the knowledge of how to properly fit my horse for a bit, and I want to share it with others.
This winter Omega and I will be at a new facility, one with an indoor arena and other tools we can benefit from. I’m so excited to ride again, the way we should. I always told Omega…”Someday you and I will do great things.” I believe that and that someday is coming soon!
This article was originally published in February 2010. It has now been dusted off and re-published as part of November 2011′s “You Look Familiar” Series. Enjoy!
Story by Holli B. Shan
I’m an adult “re-rider” who came back to riding after long hiatus. I began riding when I was young, then stopped since there wasn’t anywhere to take lessons and I couldn’t afford a horse. Then in 1997 we moved to an area that was considered “Horse Country” and I found a job as a stablehand. I did stable work in exchange for lessons. All of my life I have wanted a horse. After leasing horses for a couple of years, I was ready to own my very own horse.
My horse is an old “schoolmaster”. When I purchased him he was 18 and he shows no signs of slowing down. He is a warmblood mix who has been there, done that, spooks at nothing and knows precisely who is on his back – and what they are capable of. I tell him everyday that he is nothing like I expected – yet everything I have ever wanted. My horse stands at 15.2 (and a half) hands, is a gorgeous chestnut gelding named William (Wills – as I like to call him), and is my dream of a lifetime come true.
All of my riding life I have been taught “The Great American Hunt Seat” (my term for the hunt seat style that is taught by most Americans). I thought for a while that I was doing rather well. People would tell me that I had a good seat with soft hands (I prided myself on having a light touch). So I would ride and I would see others ride and I would wonder to myself “Can I do better?”
As it turns out – I could do better. My re-education has come in the form of foundational dressage lessons. A huge part of these lessons is the understanding and use of the Corridor of Aids. I had only heard of the CoA, but didn’t really grasp it. There were moments where my instructor would say “Look to the right, now apply the left leg” and miraculously – my horse moved on. One day I asked her if we could spend some time practicing using the CoA, since I wasn’t getting it. That day I did grasp it and my horse noticed the difference.
Since I have begun to sit back on my sit points, and shape the channel/corridor where I want him to go with focus and confidence – I have a whole new horse under me. William responds easily to each aid I give him. He has a forward marching walk, and a strong, gliding trot (I still need to work on my confidence with the canter). When I am balanced on his back, his head comes down naturally (instead of needing to “see-saw” the reins). I looked deep into my horses’ eyes after a lesson and he said “Speak to me in a language I can understand, and I will answer your questions.” Since I have started to use the Corridor of Aids properly – I have done better for myself as a rider, and therefore done better for my horse.
Some tips for others:
- Most importantly, BREATHE.
- Keep an open mind when it comes to the Corridor of Aids.
- Remember that you are applying pressure to where you want the horse to move away from.
- When guiding with the reins – it doesn’t have to be a hard pull on the mouth – just a gentle, firm contact.
- When guiding with the legs, use the lower leg (not the thigh).
- Keep a nice, open angle with the hips.
- Enjoy yourself!
Thank You, Holli.
If you have a Real Rider Story that you would like to share with Tack n’ Talk Blog, please email Larissa at firstname.lastname@example.org – I would love to hear from you about your discoveries with riding and horses!
Story by Larissa Cox
When it comes to horses, Jill McIntosh is no rookie. After taking some riding lessons for her birthday at age 8, she was hooked! Now, Jill coaches and trains out of her own barn in Lebanon, Ohio, and competes a A circuit shows. Here is her story, as well as advice for new and experienced riders alike!
What has been your background with horses and riding?
Well, where do I start… I did not come from a horse family, in fact, except for a second cousin (whom was also a wonderful rider), I’m it. I guess I am a firm believer that some of us Horse People were blessed with a gene, a calling, a gift. From the time I knew what a horse was I always wanted to be around them. When I was 8yrs old my parents gave me a 10 week riding package for my birthday. They did this so when we went on vacation I could go trail riding…haha…Little did they know. Well to make a long story short, that was it. I was hooked and I bought my first horse with my own money that I had saved at age 10 for $700.00.
How did this lead into coaching?
I have been coaching and training horses since high school. I have always trained horses because we could not afford the nice horses, I had to get the $2000 track horses and make them into the show horses they were.
Can you share some of your philosophies about riding with us?
How horses have contributed to my personal and spiritual growth?
Do you have any other advice for riders for having fun and getting the most out of the partnership with their horses?
By Larissa Cox
Today I had the pleasure of getting to know more about rider and artist, Karen McLain. With her use of vibrant color and emotional connection to her subject matter, Karen infuses life and character into her portraits.
Here is Karen’s story:
What is your background with horses and riding?
I lived in rural Arizona during my early childhood, and always loved horses, but didn’t get my own until I was an adult. I worked at the place I boarded my first horse, giving Trail Rides and taking care of their herd. They had about 70 horses, and I learned an amazing amount from them. During that time I wrote and illustrated a kid’s story, “Liz the Hairy Horse”, a heart warming tale about three misfits and the bond they have for each other. Currently, I have my trail horse and a Percheron. It seems there is an endless amount they have to teach me, and I am grateful for having them in my life.
Which evolved first: your passion for horses or art? How do they help each other grow?
My earliest memories are of drawing. I spent many hours painting with my Grandmother when she would visit during the summer months. Through these years, horses lived in my imagination, while I focused on my art. When I was in High School my parents took me to the Phoenix Art Museum to the Cowboy Artist of America exhibit. Something inside really clicked, because I saw how wonderfully the love of art and horses was combined.
Today, I am inspired by making the connection between horsemanship and painting. There are many principles that are similar-reflective of each other. (Just like horses are reflective of where we are each time we approach them). Principles like harmony, balance, timing, feel, release, and rhythm. Where some artist relate to music as an inspiration, I relate to horses, and the powerful bond we have with them, and what they have to teach us. That bond touches our Soul in unique ways, and that is part of what I try to capture in my paintings.
How are you able to capture so much life in your artwork?
Last year, I began painting landscapes, en Plein air. (Plein air is a French word, meaning to paint from life). I was amazed and challenged. There was so much more to experience and see when painting on location. The inspiration and emotional response was so much more intense that it wasn’t long before I began painting horses from life. When painting horses from life, I can really see the color transitions in their coats, as well as the warm and cool effects of light and shadow. I also have the added experience of relating to the horse in person, without the filter of a camera between us. Although I always photograph the horse, it is the experience I have that has impact on my painting. I hold those experiences in my heart and bring them to the next painting, in this way I am able to add life to each horse I paint.
The most important factor for me is to know “Who” I am painting. When I receive a commission, I ask the person to send a number of photographs of the horse and to tell me about the horses’ personality. These antidotes about the horse and owner give me valuable insight while painting. It helps add life to a horse I may never get to meet, and to strongly depict that powerful bond between horse and owner.
During the planning stages of a painting, I feel so excited. I can best describe it as the level of anticipation we experience when we get a horse. (Or have been away from our own horse and are going to see them). I can’t wait to see “who” this is! The horses I paint are more than Bays, Buckskins, Palominos or Grays, they are living, and that is the feel I put into every painting.
Are there any artists you draw inspiration from?
I like Carl Borg’s work, as well as Robert Bateman, Richard Schmid and Jim Wilcox. I can spend endless hours looking at any artist who not only depicts the horse well, but who really makes a painting come alive.
Can you tell us any future plans you may have for your art and your riding?
My Percheron, Comanche, turned five in May, and I want to continue training and working with him to become a good trail horse as well as learn to drive. My current trail horse, Adobe, is currently undergoing treatment for a sarcoid. I am still able to ride him and hope that he will enjoy a complete recovery.
As far as painting goes, I want to paint as many beautiful horses as I can. They are all beautiful to me; they have a wonderful spirit that I connect with in every painting. I would also like to be available to travel and paint horses on location. This includes commissions as well as partnering with organizations that raise funds to help horses live a quality of life that includes dignity and fulfilling relationships with the people who are their caretakers. One of the most wonderful things that have happened as a result of painting is that people who have commissioned paintings have become friends. This is truly a rich a rewarding life!
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 email@example.com! Hope to hear from you soon