Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

Archive for December, 2010

BREED SPOTLIGHT: The American Cream

by: Larissa Cox

The American Cream Draft Horse is the only breed of draft horse that can be claimed to be a native to the United States.

The foundation dam of the breed was a cream colored draft mare of unknown breeding, Old Granny, purchased in 1911 in Iowa . She was of cream colored coat, pink skin and amber eyes, the three traits resulting from the Champagne gene.  Those traits were passed on to her offspring, and those foals drew much attention in the local farming community.

Over the years, the number of Creams increased resulting in a charter being granted by the State of Iowa in 1944 for the American Cream Horse Association.  The breed was then recognized in 1950 as standard by the Iowa Department of Agriculture, giving the American Cream draft horse the same status as any other draft breed.  Unfortunately as the farm mechanization increased, this breed decreased in numbers.

By the 1970’s the breed association was defunct and the American Cream was nearly extinct.  However, In 1982, due to the persistence of a few breeders, a reorganization of the association was started. The American Minor Breeds Conservancy placed the American Cream draft on the list of “endangered breeds” and interest continued to grow in rebuilding the numbers. In 1991, members met and amended the by-laws and the Articles of Incorporation to change the name from The American Cream Association of America to The American Cream Draft Horse Association. The Articles of Incorporation were further amended in 1994 when the Charter was renewed.

According to genetic research, the American Cream is not merely a color but unique in type as well.  Foals are born with eyes that are almost white and darken with maturity to an amber or red-brown color.  These horses mature late, at around five years of age.  Mares can matures to around 16 hands in height and weigh around 1600 lbs.  The mature height and weight of stallions is around 16.3 hands and about 1800 lbs. or more.  The head is refined and in proportion to a short-coupled body with a sloping shoulder and deep girth.  Mane and tail are kept long and flowing.  Their temperament is very docile and willing and can be seen in harness as well as ridden.

For More Information on this rare breed, please contact:

The American Cream Draft Horse Association
193 Crossover Road
Bennington, BT 05201
Tel: (802) 447-7612
Fax: (802) 447-0711
Email: info@americancream.org


An Afternoon of Vaulting

by,  Sara Nicholson

Imagine you are at your urban stable or barn on a quiet afternoon tending to your horse and going about your chores. Somewhere in the near distance you can hear music, chatter, laughter, and the voices of instructors encouraging their students. It doesn’t strike you as odd, the barn is always full of kids in the afternoon, and as you walk closer to the source, you see the students.  They are not wearing boots, helmets, jeans or breeches, they are wearing leggings, t-shirts, and gymnastic shoes. They are girls and boys, young and not-so-young, all shapes and sizes, and they are taking turns Vaulting on the back of a large friendly horse.

One of the coaches sees you and waves you over. You’ve been curious about the vaulting lessons, but have hesitated because you thought it was only for kids. But you see that someone in their 50’s is out there vaulting and you are encouraged.

The coach offers, “Why don’t you come out to our free lesson on Sunday?”

You take the invitation seriously because you have heard how much Vaulting has helped riders across the world develop confidence, balance, strength, and coordination. You also know that the team’s two coaches have a combined horse riding/training background of 50 years, and Vaulting background of over 30.

The Vaulting team is run by ‘horse’ people; and you like that!

You watch the lesson in progress: A mother and her daughters, an archaeologist, a grad student, a handful of middle-school girls, an autistic man, a gymnast, a yoga enthusiast, a drill-team rider, and a tri-athlete are lined up against the far railing. Three vaulters keep the lunger, who is the Head Coach, company inside the lunging circle. Their job is to quietly listen, watch, and encourage their teammate aboard “Max” until it’s their turn to vault. And when each vaulter completes their ‘go’ and safely dismounts, the group on the railing welcomes them back to the line up with high fives and cheers!

This is a sport full of regular people, not super-star athletes, who offer a lot of moral support, and you like that!

You notice the vaulters waiting to run into the circle aren’t idle. They practice cartwheels, stretch and talk about how they want to fix their routine, or about the best hairstyle for the upcoming demonstration. The coach that you’re talking to is making sure they are safe and paying attention.

She explains how this all works, “When you come to your lesson, you’ll learn all the basics on the barrel first, and then we’ll put you on the horse. OK?”

The curious look on your face prompts her further, “The barrel is built and padded to simulate a horse, and is the best training tool. You learn how to control your body and correct any mistakes there first, and when you’re ready, then you vault on the horse, not by yourself, but with two spotters on either side of you the entire time.”

This is a sport where safety comes first, and you like that!

Casting your eyes to the center of the ring, the Head Coach asks “Max” to trot, and the more advanced vaulters move lightly along side and mount without assistance and begin their compulsory exercises.

The coach continues, “We all learn the same thing, whether we’re World Champions, like the USA team that won at WEG 2010, or if we’re at summer camp, or even if we’re Vaulting in Australia. These compulsory elements expand into freestyle routines that can be done with one, two or three people on the horse at a time. That’s what you’ll see next.”

Within a few minutes, those same trot vaulters are ready to perform their individual and double freestyle routines, and someone turns up the music that has been playing softly in the background. The coach explains that each vaulter chooses music that helps best express themselves. While one may select Flight of the Bumblebee, another may play something from Tijuana Brass, Beethoven’s 5th ,or possibly Kool and the Gang!

This sport encourages individuality and creativity, and you like that!

You notice a few spectators just a few feet away from you. They are families of the younger vaulters, and while they are not required to be there, they love to watch and cheer on the lesson-goers, especially the students their own age!

The coach confides how much she likes having this large mixed group, “There is constant role-modeling happening here, I am so glad we have them together! Each of these families have donated their time and talents in one way or another without expecting anything in return. Without them, we’d have to hire trucks, trailers, seamstresses, hairstylists, and even gymnastic coaches. These are all people who love horses, but can’t own one, and Vaulting is a terrific substitute. It’s how we also keep costs down, therefore making vaulting very affordable.”

This low-cost sport creates a supportive community, and you like that!

Your eyes have not left the vaulters performing their routines, and you notice that each is so different.

“Each routine is composed in a way to highlight their specific talents: flexibility, strength, long lines, bounce, grace, whatever makes that person special, that’s what we encourage them to do. But we don’t make them do something that scares them. If they don’t want to stand or sit reverse, they don’t have to. It’s best to let them feel their way through their comfort zone. There’s no rush here.”

This sport is sympathetic and dynamic, and you like that!

You enjoy watching all the vaulters go through their paces, some at the walk, some at the trot, some with spotters, some without, but they all get the same amount of horse time and coaching. You remember seeing vaulting on youtube done at the canter, but no one is doing that today, so you ask.

The coach smiles at you, “Not yet! “Max” is still training, he goes better to the right than to the left, and he needs to be more balanced. The Head Coach trains him outside the regular lesson in addition to training another horse we are starting to use.”

She points up the hill to a gorgeous chestnut gelding, “Pepper”, who appears to also be watching the Vaulting lesson.

“The little mare we use, “Delilah”, is perfect for our first time vaulters who have never been on a horse. But since you have a developed riding seat, we can put you on “Max”.”

The coaches are realistic and know how to uses their horses, and you like that!

The Head Coach wraps up the lesson, and automatically the entire group of vaulters surround the big black horse and pat and hug him enthusiastically to a soft chorus of “Goood boyyyyy!”.  They undo the side reins, and loosen the girth of the surcingle. He stretches his shaggy head and shakes, licks his lips, and accepts more love from this smiling group.

The horse is happy, and you like that!

To learn more about how to have Vaulting be a part of your Training program in the US and UK, contact the American Vaulting Association at http://www.americanvaulting.org, or the British Equestrian Vaulting at http://www.vaulting.org.uk. Vaulting is found throughout Europe, the Americas, and Australia.

Thank you Sara for your article and for sharing vaulting with the reader’s of Tack and Talk.  Great article and great pictures!


Breed Spotlight: The Orlov Trotter

By Larissa Cox

The Orlov Trotter from Russia is one of the world’s most rare horse breeds. In the 18th Century, Count Alexei Orlov developed this rare breed by crossing his Arabian stallions with royal Spanish and Danish mares, as well as English Thoroughbreds and Dutch Friesians.  The Orlov Trotter is noted for its outstanding speed, stamina and it’s hereditary fast trot.

During the 19th century, the Orlov trotters were used mainly for riding and harness racing by the Russian nobility. These horses were valued for their beauty and elegance along with their ability to work hard.  The Orlov Riding Horses, as they were called, averaged about 16 hands with strong, athletic bodies, but also featured dished heads, swanlike necks and an elegant look.  The Orlov Trotter is predominantly grey but sometimes bay and black are seen.

When harness racing became widespread at the end of the century, the Orlovs faced intense competition from the American developed Standardbred who generally are recognized as less refined but considered faster than Orlov trotters.  Eventually, Standardbred stallions were crossed with Orlov mares and a new breed, The Russian Trotter, appeared but this breed was not as useful or as impressive as the Orlov.

During the Soviet Revolution, the Civil war and World War II, many Orlovs were lost and so Russian breeders had to work hard not only to restore but also to improve the Orlov Trotter breed.  In 1931, a Horsebreeding Trust was organized, and regular work began with all the breeds, first of all with the Orlov Trotter.  During 1937-38 all the Orlov studs were inspects and a stock judgment was performed to show a drastic improvement in the size and quality of the breed.

Today, the breed is still in crisis with the number of Orlov Trotters declining. They are still being raised as racing trotters and are often used as crossbreeds to improve or upgrade other breeds on the twelve stud farms in Russia and three farms in the Ukraine..  However, thanks to the International Committee for the protection of the Orlov Trotter, a new strict breeding programme has begun to increase numbers of this wonderful breed.

Test the bit before you buy!


“Which bit is the right one for my horse”? Every rider, including myself,  has asked themselves this question which is often followed by investing a fortune, as every bit can work differently for each horse and rider.  No doubt you have also purchased the wrong size for your horse as well.

The good news is that Sprenger has developed the TEST CENTER which presents a clearly arranged selection of different bit variations that, for a small fee, the rider can use for testing.

This will give you the opportunity to test the bit over a period of time, for example 10-14 days without a commitment to purchase if the bit is not suitable and have the option of trying another.  This is something that will prove to be very valuable for the horse owner.  Thank you Sprenger!

Grooming Tip

Please enjoy this grooming tip from Polly Haselton Barger, CHA Program Director

Horses that live on pasture often come in during the autumn/winter months looking like unicorns because their forelock and manes are matted with burrs.

Removing these burrs can be difficult, and certain types can make your fingers quite sore.  However, here’s a quick tip:  they will come out easily if you soak the area with some sort of coat conditioner (I like Show Sheen, although baby oil is also effective).  Let it soak in for a few minutes, then just use a mane comb to remove the burrs.  This works on the horses’ coat as well as the mane and tail.

To minimize burrs attaching to your horse, you can routinely apply the detangler during the burdock season, or you can use a hair conditioner product. Shampoo your horse’s mane, forelock and tail.  Rinse thoroughly then apply the conditioner.  Work it in well and let it sit on the hair for a few minutes to really soak in, then rinse.  A conditioned mane and tail will be less likely to hold burrs and it will be easier for you to remove the few that do attach.

Do you have any grooming tips that you want to share?  If so, post a comment and I’ll put it up on the blog.

Happy Grooming,  Larissa  🙂