Finding a New Barn

While I, like the rest of us, wish that we could all stay at our childhood barns. In a euphoric and naïve haze we can dream about the facilities, trainer, and friends you grew up with and had become comfortable with. Unfortunately this isn’t the case for about 99% of us, and we must spread our wings and find greener pastures. When you’re starting your search or making the decision where to move your special animals, there are three major things to consider.

  1. The trainer and the program

If you’re moving to train, make sure the person you’re moving for is actually worth the move. You don’t want to uproot yourself and your horse for a subpar training schema with someone who doesn’t lift you up. Make sure they’re good, healthy minded people, whose passion is continuing people’s riding educations. Ask questions! If you’re going into a full training program, how does that effect how many times you ride your horse in lessons or does that mean the trainer rides them? Can you take lessons on schoolmasters? Are you required to participate in extra-curricular activities such as clinics that cost a fortune or instead of a good gallop in the pasture, is your horse required to do treadmill or water resistance activities? How do they train when you aren’t around? Are they the type to bring you down to get more money out of you or give you the boost to help your long-term goals? If showing is important to you, are you required to go to a certain amount of shows per season? Are you allowed to take lessons from other trainers or go to clinics? Do you have to use their farrier and vet? It might seem like a lot, but listen to their answers carefully and ask for a copy of the requirements in a contract before agreeing to anything. All these things can vastly impact your barn life and your price. (p.s. all these things are real and have been experiences first hand by myself and my group of friends)

  1. The facilities

Facilities are probably the second most important thing when choosing a barn. Try to find somewhere that will help you with the transition, like if you’re horse is used to 24/7 turn out, find somewhere that will help ease them in to a stall. It’s also important to find a stable whose facilities align with your discipline and horses’ needs. What’s the turn out schedule like? How big are the pastures? How many times are stalls cleaned and what’s the size? Do you have control of their feeding regime or are all the horses fed the same brand of grain and anything extra, you have to pay for and feed? Who works there? I’m not kidding when I say a lower income barn I know of that specialized in younger girls (10-16 years old) had an actual sex offender on their payroll. Another barn I boarded at let all the teenage girls with little hands on horse experience “run” the place, including the once a day feeding, cleaning stalls, workout schedules, and “turn out”, which consisted of 35+ horses running together in a 6 acre pasture. You can imagine how hands on I was at the latter with my two horses to avoid allll of that… Arenas and trails are other greatly important aspects to consider when deciding on a barn. If you live somewhere where the weather is consistently hot or snows or has lots of rain, an all weather, covered arena might be worth looking at. If you’re an eventer, do you have access to school cross country or do gallop sets? If there are large pastures horses stay out over nights, is there a covered dry area for them to get out of the wet or cold? Is there trailer parking available? Is the tack room dry and comfortable? Is there a security system? SO MANY QUESTIONS TO ASK.

  1. The budget

Be sure to have a good understanding of what you (or your parents) can pay and what you’re paying for before agreeing to anything. Pasture board, full board, training, full training, and all inclusive all have different prices, especially at nicer barns, so make sure what they’re asking price wise is in line with the quality of the training and the facilities. Get a break down of how everything is charged and why before making a decision. I’m not joking when some barns will charge extra for horses to be turned out more than once a week/on the weekends or will charge for unnecessary supplements that they believe all horses should be on. Again, hands on experience here. Be calculating and careful when discussing money to make sure you’re getting honesty about what will be charged and why and if things are optional.

In the end, you’re trying to find somewhere whose equestrian philosophy and facilities align with your own beliefs and needs. There are plenty of other things to consider, but these are just the bare minimum. As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Happy riding and barn shopping, y’all!

Until next time,

Bailey

Clinic Etiquette: 101

As the off season comes to a close, clinic season is in full swing. If you’re like me, you’re shaking your head and wiping your eyes, wondering where the time has gone. 2017? Really? I swear I blinked in 2014 and suddenly here we are, three years later. The winter months (I say winter jokingly, it is south Texas, after all!) should be used for R&R: rest and reconditioning. Jumping on the clinic train during these brief peaceful months is of utmost importance for the upcoming season, and while we train as much as possible during clinics, not a lot of importance is placed on understanding proper etiquette for them. Fresh off a clinic, I decided to write about clinic etiquette 101, as much for myself as others.

  1. Proper turn out is like underwear …

You shouldn’t go anywhere without it! While true “turn out” attire varies by discipline and seriousness of clinic, there are some minimum standards that should be met in order to show respect for your clinician, your trainer, and your horse. For you, a fresh, clean face with minimal make up (you remember the adage you’re never fully dressed without a smile?) portrays a sense of professionalism. Contour away and turn up the eye shadow any other time, but in a lesson, try to keep it subtle. Neutral or dark breeches are always a solid choice, paired with a matching collared shirt (short or long sleeve), create a sophisticated and timeless image. Tall boots/paddock boots with half chaps are great, as long as they’ve been given a good spit shine! Also, always mind your melon with an approved helmet 🙂 For your horse, bathed, neat, and clean is the key. A white or black saddle pad with matching leg protection (this depends on your normal turn out for training) and neatly trimmed points, including a brushed tail and pulled mane. Button braids always make a smart impression, but aren’t always necessary, while a horse with a long mane should always be presented in a running braid. Don’t forget to give all your tack a once over with the tack soap! Respect for your equipment = respect for your horse! While some clinics are less “traditional”, it’s always best to air on the side of caution (muted/demure colors) when presenting yourself unless you know for a fact how informal you can be through previous experience.

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Example of informal clinic attire. I’ve previously had many lessons with this clinician, and he constantly jokes that he won’t train me if I wear pink!

2. Timeliness 

Clinics run like shows, sometimes early and sometimes late. Be sure to ask. My rule of thumb is to be on 10 minutes before my scheduled ride time. Give yourself ample room for grooming and tacking up to not feel rushed. Even with that time frame, you have plenty of time to walk around and do your own little warm up. Try to watch at least one ride before yours to see what the structure of your lesson could be like. If the clinician expects you to be warmed up before the lesson, make sure to take the time to do so and schedule accordingly. They’ll want to get to work right. Be sure to confer with your trainer to make sure you’re on schedule and always check your girth, just in case!

3. Notetaking

Now, before the awe-inspiring invention of smartphones, recording a ride and all the things learned was much more of an undertaking. People actually had to take notes! The horror! What I will say is videos ARE helpful, but having a designated person to take notes if possible (trainer/parents/best friend) is always a fantastic extra layer to add to your clinic experience. Additionally, some clinics require the attendance of all riders for all rides. Make the most of the experience by watching/listening intently for thing you can catalogue away in your mind to add to your repertoire. To do this, take as many notes as possible.

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My dad used to be my notetaker when I was younger, but that job was delegated to my lifelong best friend Erin. It’s a job we don’t take lightly and do for each other as much as possible. 

4. Respect

As I mentioned in #1, respect is everything. A well turned out pair is respectful to your clinician, but also is a courtesy to them. Your demeanor should reflect that as well. You’re a representation of your trainer, your stable, your parents, your horse, and especially yourself, so PLEASE do yourself a favor by representing an honest and appreciative attitude for all involved. Lead by example. Nothing is too hard for you to simply try it. Say yes ma’am, yes sir, listen with eye contact, ask questions, give everything a try, and if you’re auditing, don’t talk during lessons or whisper with buddies. You definitely have plenty of time to do that at the barn! This is a time to participate in higher learning to furthering your riding education.

5. Have an open mind, but be guided by your heart

Now, above I said that nothing is too hard. What I really mean by that is never ever say “I can’t do that,” or “it’s too hard!” Even if an exercise is new or complicated, it warrants at least a try. Nothing is ever perfect the first time, so focus on understanding the purpose of the exercise and keep trying. There is a “what if” clause in this tip. Not everything a clinician says or does you will agree with. Somethings can be downright wrong. If you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach, you know the one that feels like the bad kind of butterflies, listen to it. That’s the moral fiber of your heart telling you what you’re being told is wrong or against your personal values. Be aware of that. If you feel like you can’t say something to the clinician, it is of utmost importance to tell your trainer or your parents, whoever is there with you. On the other hand, if you know you’re strong enough to stand up for yourself and your horse, don’t be afraid to say you’re not sure if that’s a good idea. To be a bit crude, you’re paying them when it comes down to it, and they can’t make you do anything you feel is wrong. A good example of this is draw reins. I don’t use them (a blog post for another time) but I’ve had two clinicians ask me if I would like to use draw reins for their “benefits”. The first time, I was on a backyard appendix paint whose wither was 2 inches shorter than his haunches, and we were schooling 2nd level with difficulty in the left shoulder-in due to developing self-carriage. My clinician at the time wanted to make it easier for me (I was only 15), but I was able to ask my trainer and she concluded it would be best not to. The second time was yesterday with Joy, who I’ve carefully developed in a snaffle through the PSG. Our clinician suggested I use draw reins or a double bridle and I felt that iron butterfly feeling, knowing draw reins are against my classical beliefs and I’ve worked so hard to do everything in a snaffle. But, a double bridle used correctly is an instrument of high learning and is not against my beliefs. Now, at 22, I have to make those decisions myself, knowing what I know about Joy after our seven years together. Let’s be real for a second, you don’t owe anyone (any trainer or any person) anything. You do, however, owe your horse and must make responsible decisions as such for their well-being. They are your first priority. Keep an open mind, but ALWAYS make decisions based upon your heart’s instincts. Your ties should lie with your four-legged best bud.

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Celebration after a successful first passage tour with Alfredo Hernandez yesterday, who helped with experienced guidance for Joy’s first full ride in a double bridle and understood my reasoning against draw reins, making it a positive experience for all. 

Again, this is just a basic guide for Dressage clinics. I certainly do not claim to be an etiquette master for all disciplines or clinicians. Above all, have fun and learn a TON!

Happy riding, my dears. Until next time!

Bailey

AAW: Adult Ammy World

Hi everyone! I’m very excited to be able to join the team for another year of FUN. 2017 is just around the corner, and I can’t be the only one over the moon about the possibilities a new year brings. As 2016 comes to a close, so does my first year of competing as an adult amateur through the USDF and a thousand more lessons I have learned while watching the world through a pair of red ears. I’ve decided to share the top 4 things I’ve taken away from this new era of my riding career.

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Baby Joy and baby Bailey.
  1. What an adult amateur is:

Per the USEF General Rulebook: an adult amateur is someone 21 or older that does not accept monetary or gift compensation for competing, training, breeding, or coaching. Those between 18 and 21 are Young Riders and compete as such. It gets a lot more complicated than that, but the general gist of it is that if any type of compensation over $300 is being traded for services, you are deemed a professional. Anything under $300 is not considered remuneration, but the situation can get sticky if people believe you’re receiving money for services. Make sure to keep immaculate records of donations or brand ambassadorship (hint hint, insta ladies!) that way if necessary, you have proof you’re following the rules. Sponsorship can be very tricky too, so make sure to clarify with the USDF/USEF before accepting any sponsorship you think could be questioned. The last thing you need is trouble from your governing bodies!

  1. Take every educational opportunity you get.

Get in contact with your local competing body and GET INVOLVED! I try to get as much time to watch tests or volunteer as scribe to continue my education. As an AA now, automatic educational opportunities have begun to wane. The USDF has done a fantastic job of building an AA program to help foster more learning, but I still believe it takes a lot of personal initiative to continue your own dressage education. So scribe, gate keep, audit, clinic, with open ears and a principled heart. You’ll know what’s right and wrong, and even if you can’t afford to show or be in every clinic, you still take away lessons that you can bring back to your personal riding. One of my favorite things is have a riding friend of yours (that you TRUST) come and ride your horse. Give them a lesson or ask them what they feel. Listen to what you’re saying and what they’re feeling, because with every word you’re learning something. You might not agree 100%, but you’re still learning, and as my trainer told me, “when you think you’ve learned it all, get off the horse and don’t get back on.”

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Offer to get your hands dirty and observe as many lessons as you can.
  1. Budgeting

While financial management is a HUGE life skill for the rest of your life, it’s especially essential to understand just what a mountain you’re going to have to climb when paying your own bills and your horses. During college, I was EXCEPTIONALLY lucky to be able to have my horses on my parents’ property, where I was spoiled to live rent free and for the most part, bill free, while working part time to accumulate savings and have money to pay horse bills – vet, farrier, feed, tack, facility fees for the stable that let me use their grounds to train, and shows. Eventually, that transitioned to still living at home, but boarding full time but working off some with manual labor and helping around and working full time. The next step was moving out of my house for the first time, working full time, and boarding two horses. Rent on top of board on top of day to day expenses make you really realize what a luxury having a horse is, much less two. Suddenly paying all the expenses for both horses (my retired show pony and my completion horse) means living on a shoestring budget with not much wiggle room. We made it through this year with heavy competing, not without financial pitfalls here and there. Going into 2017, I’ve definitely revamped my finances, especially going into a brand new training program at a new boarding stable, and limited my showing expectations in lieu of just enjoying my horses.

  1. Horses First, No Matter What

This might seem like a no brainer, but if you’re like me where you’re used to being able to check on your horses 3x a day, not including riding, the adult ammy lifestyle comes at a bit of a shock. Sometimes doing what’s best for your horse means sacrificing your time with them, either to work and get money to keep them fed with or sacrificing riding to make sure stalls are cleaned and you have their feed mixed for the evening properly. It’s not great. It limits your riding time, leaving you a little nonplussed at how to juggle all the things in your life when suddenly, riding cannot be your main focus in your life. Training wise, this often feels like you take a step forward and three steps back, especially if you can’t afford a trainer to ride your horse in the days life gets in the way of you riding. With all that in mind, time with your horse becomes even more precious and pure. A good grooming or some grazing should mean the world to you, even if you can’t afford a clinic or the weather rains out the arena so you can’t ride the one day you have off. Again, horses are a LUXURY we are lucky enough to enjoy, and they need to be treated as such. So many people dream of riding, or even someday leasing a horse, but we get the opportunity and the privilege to call these animals our life partners. They deserve all the hard work we can provide and all the love we give, so enjoy any moment you get no matter if it’s a brief curry or a ride down centerline.

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Grown Joy and newly AA Bailey.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to reach out to me and I’m happy to help. My AA career is in full swing as a college graduate, working full time, two horses, and now, law school applications for fall of 2017. Keeping horses through college isn’t impossible, especially if you have a job or with your parents’ help, but if you need any advice, I’ve got your back.

 

Happy riding, ladies!

Much love,

Bailey

Lessons from Tex-Over

Some of you may or may not know that I do most of my training alone, headphones in, in a borrowed arena that’s a mile walk away from my stable, usually between shifts at my job. While I wouldn’t change this for the world, it does make when I’m finally able to get to a real stable to train even more intoxicating. Stepping away from my “grown up job” and being able to involve myself so thoroughly in the sport I adore was close to spiritual. The want and need to watch, learn, understand, absorb everything overtook me. I was lucky enough to be invited to spend some time with a good friend of mine, who only 3 years ago, returned from Germany with his Bereiter degree. It was hard not to fall in love with the facility at his stable Tex-Over, in Conroe TX. For five glorious days, I fell back into my working student routine and from 7am to 7pm, helped him and his grooms any way I could for the sheer desire to learn. Through watching him ride, coach lessons, hack out together, and over a couple margaritas (obviously to replenish much needed electrolytes, duh), I took enough notes to fuel me until the next time I could get some time to go train with him again.

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Even knowing that I would love many places in my life, this place became special. Main barn 1 at Tex-Over.

The most valuable lessons were small and maybe overlooked by others, but they left their impact on my training methods and my beliefs. I’m lucky enough to have written most of them down and would love to share them with you!

  • To collect, you want to make the horse physically smaller from nose to tail. Isn’t that a great visual?
  • If you bend without your leg, you’re just pulling. Leg sends the horse forward, rein brings her energy back, and they meet in the middle.
  • Gripping with thigh ruins the effectiveness your seat has.
  • Shoulder fore should be used to correctly position for the outside hind leg drive to inside leg steps.
  • Walk to canters come from inside leg and seat, not outside leg.
  • Always push forward to bit.
  • Always take more snaffle and less curb if you are in a double. The weight should be in the snaffle to take away the danger if the curb.
  • Compact and active, that’s how the outline should be.
  • Over bent = shoulder falling out.
  • Ask for halt from outside rein, and ask for connection over the back with leg on, even in immobility.
  • Never let go of the half halting rein.
  • Anytime your horse is too long or hard in the hand, he needs more leg.
  • Haunches out is NOT shoulder fore.
  • On the stiffer side, drive from outside rein and leg!
  • Start everything in forward trot, end everything in forward trot.
  • It’s important that in the collection to feel bursting at the seems forward, almost exploding out the front, so as not to suck back.
  • *reinforced* Just because you can buy a horse doesn’t mean you can ride it.

Now these aren’t my lesson notes, because lord knows I’m still trying to apply the complex concepts to Joy, who is not enjoying it. Once I sort those out, I’ll share them as well.

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By far, my favorite sandbox I’ve ridden in! Swoon…

My favorite lesson was this:

“Okay so we fixed one piece, but as we know, Dressage is the french word for if you fix one thing, the rest falls apart.” (edited for less profanity)

HOW TRUE IS THAT?! Even watching him school clients on their professionally trained, imported, gargantuan creatures, there’s always the understanding that the work is never over. You never just leave something alone. You know that you’re working towards a state of suspension near complete collapse. Like Chris Pratt in Jurassic Park, with his raptors. At any moment you know everything you’re working on could be miscommunicated and fall to pieces (hopefully not get eaten by raptors..?), but you carry on, knowing your fighting an endless battle to work in tandem. If you wake up, get up, show up, and work your ass off, the understanding that your work is never over should be a motivator. You always have another day to improve. You always have another ride to further your understanding of just how you’re influencing your ride. Surrender yourself to your lack of knowledge and drink from the well of self improvement.

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“You could improve by not taking pictures that make my ass look as giant as yours,” Joy says. So sweet.

As always my dears, happy riding and never stop learning!

Much love,

Bailey

The Happy Athlete

In 2015, Joy and I missed regionals due to an minor soft tissue injury. Her moody, stall bound ineptitude was immortalized in a series of posts called #TheStallRestChronicles that helped followers understand just what a finicky creature she is. Whether that has anything to do with the whole chestnut mare situation or not, I’m unsure. Granted, it could be the Trakehner. Maybe it’s all three things. No matter what, she doesn’t hide her feelings. On the ground, under saddle, you name it and she’s got an opinion.

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#TheStallRestChronicles summed up in a nutshell. 

Now, I love that about Joy. She’s honest and sometimes overly emotional, but she gets her point across. The best part about riding in any discipline is learning to work with your partner who happens to be half a ton and have a mind of her own. They have bad days and good days, just like us, and as athletes, their work is hard. No one doubts that. So it’s our responsibilities as riders to make sure we do our part to keep them happy! A happy, healthy athlete is a necessity. With a princess like Joy, it’s difficult, but here’s how I manage it.

  • We never warm up in the arenas! Either we take a solid 10-15 minute trail ride or walk around the fields that surround the arenas. This keeps Joy more engaged and excited about what comes next. If we’re lucky enough to travel down to the Rose Palace for a school, I count the mile trek as part of our warm up.
  • We also never train in the same arena two days in a row! I’m lucky enough to have three arenas to choose from with very different conditions. With the changes in scenery comes no anticipation of what we’re plan on schooling.
  • I’m always trying to find unique ways of doing movements in a different order or different direction so we aren’t doing the same thing more than a handful of times. Boredom breeds irritation. An extra shoulder-in isn’t worth risking my life.
  • Cross training. I’m not talking about pole work. I’m talking about letting her channel her show jumper sire!
  • Fitness days filled with trot sets, canter sets, breezing, hill work, swimming (when it’s warm!), and long trail rides, sometimes 6-10 miles!
  • Schooling or playing around bareback or even completely tackless. Obviously, this should always be done in a controlled setting, but sometimes we even use it as a cool off from a lunge session.
  • Lunge days in different arenas, targeting different things (stretch, transitions, engagement, etc) but always working towards consistency, tempo, and rhythm. I’m not a huge fan of side reigns unless lightly used during pole work, so most of it is done in a simple surcingle.
  • Trot and canter poles! Never more than twice a week because that is a great deal of stress on joints, but they are a great addition to lunging days. (This is per the great Reiner Klimke recommendation)
  • Never underestimating the amount of warm up or cool down needed. Can’t have enough of either of those!

That list is pretty comprehensive and high-maintenance but I’m willing to do ridiculous things to keep Joy happy. Keeping her body strong and fit is a task, but nothing compared to the task that is keeping her brain busy and equally as fit. We spend plenty of time bonding on the ground and doing in hand work to increase lateral suppleness and loosen up tight muscles. Additionally, there’s lots of baths and grooming, because nothing beats that!

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Werk werk werk. Joy really utilizing her hind end and engagement to make it through a long line of trot poles – my favorite exercise. 

There’s no “secret recipe” for keeping your horse a happy athlete. Each one is just as uniquely complex and the next and you, as a rider, have to gauge what and when your partner needs a change of pace. In addition, you have to have a deep enough understanding of what they are physically and mentally capable of. It’s a balancing act of trying to accommodate working towards your training goals with the hope of helping create a better athlete. A happy, healthy, mentally active horse that is excited about the days work is going to be more willing to learn and engage themselves in new concepts. Bland routines are the enemies of ever getting 110% out of the bond you’ve created with your partner, so do yourself and your horse a favor. Step out of the arena, try something new, and don’t be afraid to take a little adventure with your four-legged best friend. You never know how it could benefit you!

Happy riding, preps!

Much love,

Bailey

Leg Protection: Pros and Cons

As a rider, my job is to question any small abnormalities that appear on my best friend. This is true a tenfold over for legs. Horses legs have very little protection considering the sheer amount of important things that make their home underneath that delicate skin… We use support wraps, sport boots, standing bandages, anything we can to swing the odds in our favor, but sometimes there’s just nothing you can do! Horses are big, clumsy creatures balancing on the equivalent of four giant toes. Injuries are bound to happen and we just have to adapt that we’ve chosen this life of inevitable vet bills. Now, it’s likely that if you do any work with your horse, you use some sort of leg protection to stack the cards in your direction, but what really works? Can you do more hard than good with certain types of boots? Let’s discuss:

Bell Boots:

Bell boots, or overreach boots as they’re sometimes called, protect the heel bulb of the hoof and the back of the pastern, encircling the ankle. They protect, traditionally, from the horse causing damage with their hind legs by grabbing the heel or over-tracking too far during work. They come in traditional rubber pull on or petal bell boots, made famous by the early eventers, rubber with Velcro fastenings, and no turn, which have a neoprene inset and Velcro that keep the hell/pastern substantially covered at all times.

Pros: relatively cheap and easy to replace while providing generally the same amount of protection. Fun patterns and colors too!

Cons: The skin of sensitive can be damaged by constant rubbing of basic rubber bells boots or neoprene if worn for extended periods of time, leaving small, uncomfortable wounds in the skin. Incorrect fitting (too small or big) will make bell boots useless for any type of protection.

 

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Personally, I prefer fleece lined rubber or no turn neoprene for arena work, and no turns or basic rubber for exercise days of hill sets and trot/canter work or jumping.

Splint/Brushing/Galloping Boots:

These types of boots are all made to take care generous care of your horse’s legs, no matter the type of strenuous workout. Made of many materials, they can be lined with fleece or some other type of cushioning material, with the cushioning side on the inside of the cannon bone, Velcro or fastenings facing outwards. They protect legs from rocks or sticks thrown up during work or from striking their legs together due to work/conformational problems.

Pros: Normally easy to clean and relatively accessible. Also, normally durable to water work. Difficult to ruin, huge perk with my two beasts!

Cons: Do not offer as much comprehensive protection as I prefer. Easily incorrectly fitted, so please have a trainer help fit them to your horse. Can chafe and cause rubs on the cannon bone while not offering much tendon/ligament support.

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I use these for light work on lunge days or while in a quick warm up before entering the show ring as they are easy to take on and off quickly and allow enough protection for me to feel comfortable. Without real hock support, I cannot be behind them 100% for heavy collection work. 

Open front boots:

Same for the above mentioned boots, but another con is that they can be easily tightened too much and instead of supporting the tendons/ligaments of the lower leg, it can cause extra pressure leading to additional problems.

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Doesn’t mean I don’t let my bestie use them while jumping in a clinic with the fab Lainey Ashker!

Sport Medicine Boots:

A more substantial alternative for leg protection, they offer more energy absorbing neoprene enveloping the leg. Made of neoprene, they guard the cannon bone, tendons, soft tissue, and help limit any lower leg hyperextension. Velcro and lycra help snuggly fit them to the leg. They protect from a wide variety of problems that could cause potential damage.

Pros: Durable, long lasting, patterns and styles galore, and relatively easy to fit. They offer more encompassing protection than the previously mentioned styles of boots and also are very easy to keep clean.

Cons: Some vets have suggested that they don’t breathe enough and that the build up of heat can cause potential break down of tissues within the lower leg. While this hasn’t been proven correct 100%, this is enough of a warning for me to stay away from them as an educated equestrian.

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Thanks for the picture, SmartPak!

They are very common in western sports, and I’m sure they have their purpose, but I won’t jeopardize my mare’s already sort of screwy legs by adding extra heat.

 

Polo Wraps:

Usually made of fleece or of a stretchy material, they vary in length to accommodate the length of cannon bone and protect against a wide variety of swelling, bruising, scrapes, and cuts. The most traditional of all the boots mentioned, they’ve lasted the test of time for the very reason they came into existence – they WORK!

Pros: no problems fitting as they easily customize to each leg through layering and are very breatheable. A more traditional and clean look, they are always in style. If you know your horse’s legs and problem areas very well, you can customize leg support and protection through correct wrapping. They additionally come in millions and millions of colors and patterns, making them wonderful to collect (I’m a polo wrap addict, my friends).

Cons: Not suitable of wet or muddy riding, as they absorb water and begin to sag, causing problems in the support. Time consuming to wash (which must be done frequently), roll correctly, put on, and then unroll. The biggest danger and disadvantage of polo wraps is that they do more harm than good when incorrectly applied. Do not, I repeat do not use experiment with polos. It is an accident waiting to happen.

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Pretty in pink, you see. 

Due to my traditional German training, polo wraps are my personal favorite. I wasn’t allowed on unless polo wraps were correctly affixed to the legs of each and every horse I exercised. I stand by their support and protection, as they have withstood the test of time with flying colors, but by far are the easiest to cause tendon and ligament damage by incorrect application. Please, please, PLEASE educate yourself before making this your protection of choice. Your pony’s legs with thank you! Here’s a good tutorial:

Okay guys, that’s your dose of Bailey opinions for the day. These are just observations and personal beliefs from my 19 years as a rider, so no need to take offense or to heart!

Until next time, my dears…

Bailey

 

Beat The Heat: Texas Style

The term “hot” has a different meaning when you live in Texas. People joke about how you can fry an egg on the sidewalk or roads that are so hot, your flip-flops will melt. Well, I’m here to tell you as a Texas summer survivor, both those things are real. Triple digit temperatures partnered with 85-100% humidity makes for a lethal combination for athletes; human and equine. With myself being overly heat sensitive and Joy as well, we’ve learned some tips and tricks to beat the misery.

  1. Prepare for the sweat fest:

This means making sure you and your horse are properly hydrated, full to the brim with electrolytes, and also aren’t working on empty stomachs. Adding electrolytes and high protein to you and your horse’s daily diet will help increase your heat resistance and help make recovery time easier.

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Joy Pro Tip: use your human’s sweat as a mineral lick.
  1. Stack the cards in your favor:

By planning and adjusting your training according to impending weather, you can better prepare for summer. In other words, suddenly deciding to add hill work or gallop sets into your training routine in the middle of June likely will create problems. Even the fittest horses can take up to three weeks to adjust to more temperate weather. By implementing a tailored conditioning program earlier in the year and gradually building up you and your horse’s cardiovascular fitness leading into summer, you can still train consistently with less chance of heat distress.

  1. Warm up/cool down:

As riders, we all are aware of the crucial nature of a correct warm up and cool down. During the summer months, these become even more of a dire necessity. Not only do these two things decrease risk of injury or fatigue, they also help the horse return to its normal heart rate and temperature.  Ever heard the term “ridden hard, put away wet” for horses that aren’t in the best health? There is a reason for that. My general rule of thumb is either cool out under saddle or hand-walk (after a quick bath) until the horse is dry and proper breathing has returned, if a little winded. No matter the level of horse, a proper warm up and cool down is must to increase/decrease the amount of heat generated by work that will cause problems. In a pinch, ice water or alcohol can be used to help cool a horse down that is having problems in the heat. If that is the case, it might be time to reevaluate your horses ability to withstand the heat by riding early morning/late evening or if possible, keeping your horse somewhere with more shade/breeze.

 

  1. Invest in proper equipment:

Who doesn’t love an excuse to add a little to your ROOTD wardrobe? It’s particularly important in the hotter months, as most of us do not have the lovely luxury of a covered arena. As some of our Team Riders have recommend, Kastel shirts are UV protective and also made of a breathable, wick away fabric. Additionally, Ariat and Sport Horse Lifestyle all are all choice picks by our variety of riders from varying climates. Kerrits are another brand that is well known for their durability and wear-ability, including their ice-fill breeches, tops, and scarves. ROMFH has lovely show shirts in fun patterns made from mesh panels and microfiber to make those jacket waived shows classy and cool.

When you’re minding your melon, make sure to wear a helmet with a lot of airflow and venting to keep your head from overheating. Over 45% of body head dissipates through the head, that’s why it gets so hot in an ineffectively vented helmet. For your horse, make sure not to swaddle them in extra fabric that will trap heat and invest in a good hoof conditioner to keep cracking down to a minimum.

  1. Become Familiar with the Signs of Heat Distress:

Every horse is different when it comes to managing the heat, but knowing the basic signs of distress is crucial. Normally, horses of hotter ancestry (Arabians, Thoroughbreds, etc.) manage heat well, while horses of colder blood or more muscling tend to be more affected by the heat. Horses who sweat more than other quickly become dehydrated and need to be treated with a little more care, but what’s most important is to become familiar with signs of listlessness, discomfort, and raised vital signs. In order to test dehydration levels, you can gentle pinch a little skin at the point of shoulder and see how quickly it returns to normal position. If the skin doesn’t return quickly, this is a sign of at least mild dehydration. Something else to become familiar with is a digital pulse, which can be found on the fetlock, and also temperature. Normal body temperature for a horse is 99-100 degrees, somewhere between 101-103 during exercise. If the temperature goes beyond 103.5 degrees, this is considered overheating and should be treated immediately. Ice water and alcohol as mentioned above can be used in small areas like the neck or haunch, but ice water can over large areas can cause tying-up or muscle cramps.

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The epitome of heat distress after playing too hard in turn out.

Whether you are like me, who heat strokes out unless I ride at night, or you are braving the heat to work multiple horses during the day, make sure you’re protecting yourself and your equines. Know your personal limits, your horse’s limits, and how to prepare for a scorching summer. Drink plenty of cool water and remember to protect your beautiful skin from the sun’s harmful rays! Take it from a Texan. Becoming familiar with these five tips will help you make the most of your summer without breaking TOO much of a sweat.

Stay cool, y’all!

Until next time,

Bailey