Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tips On Traveling With Horses

From many years of hauling horses to shows and professional horse transportation services for a variety of owners, we at Sunlit Farm have come up with these tips for you.

Plan your route well in advance. Depending on how far you’re going, make sure you know there are plenty of easy off and on ramps to the freeways and highways you plan to take. Knowing where you are going in advance can make things so much easier on both you and the horses. Less stress is always good.

If your trip will be for more than one day, have places where you can offload your horse(s) for the night. While it’s not going to hurt the horse to stand in the trailer over one night, unless you’re heading to a show, it’s better if they can get their “land legs” back after a full day’s travel. It is surprisingly difficult to stand in a moving horse trailer. Don’t ask how I know this, but it is from personal experience! Your horse will thank you for the rest. I also suggest, unless absolutely necessary, that you try to avoid hauling horses in extreme heat. You can be sure your trailer is a good 30-50 degrees hotter than outside.

Be sure you stop at regular intervals to water your horse. The warmer and more humid it is outside, the more frequently you need to stop. Preferably bring along 5-10 gallons of water from home. Some trailers have an auxiliary water tank inside. Otherwise, bring a barrel or some sort of sealed container to water the horse from. As we do sometimes for shows, add flavored electrolytes to the horse’s water seven days in advance of your trip, then do the same to all water given to the horse during the trip. That way, when your own water supply runs short and you must refill your tank or barrel, you can add in the electrolytes and your horse will have a harder time noticing that he is drinking water from a strange place. Also try to bring enough feed for the horse from home to last your trip (unless, of course, you are delivering the horse for another owner ~ in which case it’s still best to bring enough to slowly switch the horse over.

Most importantly ~ DRIVE SLOWLY AND SAFELY, and be aware on the road!

A quick side note...

Congratulations to my friend Lori Lawrence on her unanimous U.S. National Championship in Half-Arabian English Pleasure AAOTR English Pleasure on her incredible gelding Adams Fire (Afire Bey V x Ritida-DHH)!! Three years in a row!! Adam goes in the Open Semi-Final/Final with Joel Kiesner on Friday night. That will be a don't miss class!

Congratulations also go out to my friend Kristi Waters on her U.S. National Championship in Arabian Stallion Breeding (Halter) AAOTH with her phenomenal stallion KM Bugatti (Versace x Sanegors Lady D)!! Bugatti competes again tomorrow morning in Arabian Hunter Pleasure Junior horse with Peri Tilghman in the irons.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Today we are going back to the show ring tips topic. As the title suggests ~ I am resurrecting it. Why? Because it's one of my favorite topics, very important to your show ring career and I truly enjoy helping folks excel. :)

One of the most important things you can do after arriving at the showgrounds, getting signed up or checked in and readying both yourself and your horse for the ring is to make sure you have a set of eyes on the ground. There will almost always be things a rider or handler will miss, in the excitement of the moment. Just before stepping into the ring, make sure you've got someone to wipe your horse (quick soft brush then a rag over the body, a rag to wipe the mouth and a rag to wipe the hooves), to run a brush through your horse's tail (and mane in some cases) making certain the tail knot is pulled out, to wipe your boots ~ I have a hilariously funny story about this ~ and to make sure your girth or cinch is tightened. Few things are worse than going in the ring with a tied up tail, dusty boots, a loose girth…or without your number.

My dusting-off-boots story: A couple of years back we were at a large all Arabian show in Las Vegas when I was getting ready to head to the ring for a Western Pleasure class. My daughter was assisting in making sure we were prepared to show, so I asked her to give me the final touch up, by "busting my doots". Yes, you read that right. For some reason I was struck with an episode of severe dyslexia, and could not for the life of me ask her to "dust my boots". After about the third time, she figured out what I meant, so off we were headed for the in gate with clean boots. However, my husband on an errand made a detour by Wal-Mart for a burgundy hand towel and a gold paint pen to write "Doot Buster" on said towel. Thus, an official SFTS tradition was born. We attend no shows without the Doot Buster.

Another of the most important pieces of advice you can possibly be given is to SMILE! No matter if you are competing in hand or under saddle, Western or English, in Equitation or Pleasure ~ if you do so, your judge will notice. Don't overschool your horse, especially in the lead-up to the big dance. As riders and trainers, we tend to forget this and many experience frustration when something isn't perfect in a work session or lesson. That effect is multiplied several times over when we're concentrating on a show the next weekend.

Know your patterns, your courses and/or your tests. Study them!! You are supposed to be exhibiting what you know, how well you can follow directions and how well you can execute each of the above. Judges are impressed with confidence, nothing says you are confident like knowing what you're doing. In Showmanship, quarters are pretty much mandatory. Gone are the days when judges only expected the half system ~ so know your quarters!! I drill my kids in Showmanship every bit as hard as Eq patterns.

Rely on your trainer if you have one. That's what you pay the trainer for! Personally I prefer to warm up my students' and clients' horses for them, before having them climb on board for a quick lesson (and a run through of the pattern right before an Equitation or Horsemanship class). I also do coach from the rail, but my style is more moral support and giving kudos for a great ride than actual coaching. I cannot stand trainers who scream at their students across the arena, it's unprofessional and many judges frown on it.

Make sure you give your horse a break between classes (which also goes to the overschooling issue) to allow them to relax, have a drink, take a 'potty break' and just plain enjoy him or herself. This sort of policy makes for a much happier, more sound horse and that translates to better rides. Never forget, it's about your partnership with your mount, doing your best and camaraderie with your friends, NOT about winning ribbons.

If your horse does not have flying lead changes nailed, don't ask for them! Better to execute a good, smooth simple change and make it look effortless than have a disastrous moment in an otherwise nearly flawless ride. Never, ever lose your temper with your horse…especially in front of your judge. In most circuits doing so will get you ejected from the ring if not from the showgrounds. Keep good sportsmanship in mind, ALWAYS. It doesn't matter if you got a green ribbon instead of a blue one thanks to a careless spectator, it doesn't matter if your horse picked up the wrong lead because another exhibitor ran their horse into yours, none of that matters in the big picture. Hold your temper.

One lesson I learned many years ago was not to argue with your judge, nor to correct him or her. As an exhibitor who competes primarily on Arabian horses, I frequently encounter judges who have zero experience with my breed. Comments I have heard range from "Make sure your horse's hind legs are SQUARE in Halter and Showmanship classes" to "Your horse carries himself with too much of an arch to his neck" to a myriad of other comments. My response is to politely smile, nod and carry on about showing my horses. ;)

That's all for today, folks. I am off to watch some of our next National Champions before giving some lessons and battening down the hatches for a spate of miserable weather. More later on this topic!!


Monday, October 26, 2009

It's Showtime!!

I was meaning to do this post before now, even though I hinted at it last week...

...the 2009 US National Arabian and Half-Arabian Championships are here!!

They began last Friday morning and ever since horses have been leaving the arenas wearing roses and ribbons.

In between working horses and giving lessons this week I will be watching the live video feed, to be sure. Link here.

Tonight Afires Heir will compete in his preliminary English Pleasure Open section to defend his 2008 title. Nothing could be more exciting! :)

Best of luck to all competing in Tulsa this year and congratulations to all the winners!!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Genetics and Breeding Selection

With breeding season still several months away, now is the time to begin considering all the factors of planning your next breeding choices.

From a mare owner’s perspective, there are several things which must be at the forefront: First, what are your goals in breeding your mare? You need to assess her good qualities and her bad qualities, and figure out what you should be looking for in a stallion. Second, the stallion you choose should be suited for whatever discipline you want the future foal to excel in. Above all, he should be of excellent conformation and structure, show a great deal of what we call “breed type”, have good temperament and have a sane, easily trainable mind. Remember, a well conformed horse is also far more likely to remain sound, and that’s definitely something you want in a baby.

After you’ve looked closely at your mare and are certain she’s as flawless as can be (yes, that was only a little bit tongue in cheek...seriously), you should start your list of what to look for in her mate.

Once you know the direction you intend to look, your search can begin. Whatever stallion you choose, he must compliment your mare. If her areas in need of improvement are her length of neck and shoulder angle, don’t settle for a stallion with a short neck and too steep a shoulder! Pay close attention to his legs and be sure he has both good bone and good feet. There will inevitably be stallions who catch your eye, but don’t rely solely on your first visual impression. Look closer and examine him as you would with a horse you are interested in buying. You may not be purchasing him, but you are purchasing a part of him. Naturally, you’ll want to choose a stallion who is similar in type to your mare while bringing benefits she may not possess. Don’t try to breed for a reining horse by utilizing a lanky English-type mare even if she’s an awesome example of her breeding and conformation and you have her booked to the best reining stallion in the world.

If you want a working horse such as a reiner or a jumper, is the stallion athletic enough to produce those kind of prospects? Does he have a history and show record in those endeavors? Has he produced winning foals in your chosen discipline(s)? Should you want a Western pleasure mount, the stallion needs to be conformationally correct for that discipline and he should have the proper attitude. I look for a laid back personality, a horse that can move slow-legged yet fluid and smooth, plus a neck that ties in lower than your average English horse while enabling the horse to maintain roundness and a proper frame. For [Saddleseat] English horses, I’ll seek a stallion who’s got a lot of “go”, well angulated hocks that allow him to drive forward with impulsion to spare, a good open shoulder angle, plenty of elasticity of movement, a neck that comes almost vertically out of his shoulder and a nicely hinged poll to assist him in the bridle.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the person who forsakes conformational soundness and good temperament for color. Many breeders today are far more concerned with getting a baby who has a spectacular coat pattern or who possesses that “golden ring”, the dilute gene. Nevermind that he’s crooked legged, club footed, got a short thick neck and a weak hip! Too many times I see people who are so proud of their breeding programs taking horrific examples of what can go wrong into the show ring and getting upset when their palomino, dun or loud overo gets the gate. Such a scenario never ceases to amaze me, and it plays out on a regular basis. DON’T fall into that trap. Insist on breeding good horses first, with color as an added bonus.

Another consideration to make is regarding the genetic issues some bloodlines of some breeds are plagued by. Many folks these days consider the Lethal White, Lavender Foal, SCIDS and HYPP as problems of the past. We have tests for many conditions these days and most of them we can breed to avoid. Unfortunately, not everyone does.

Unless you think you’d enjoy watching an innocent foal you have waited so long for, planned carefully for, spent money on and loved so much die, be sure you do your homework to avoid producing a foal afflicted with one of the horrible conditions that can now be prevented. Use the tools and information available to you. Don’t cause unnecessary trauma and suffering to the baby you’re going to breed because you took shortcuts.

Breeding horses is a very serious responsibility that you should approach as you would making any business decisions. Good luck in all your endeavors!

[LTF article circa 1999]


Friday, October 23, 2009

We're Almost There!

EDIT 10/26/2009 AM: It's done!! Well, except for the Newsletter pages being finished and uploaded. In good time. ;)

Yes, you read that right ~ the website update is almost complete. We didn't really revamp so much as add pictures and information, as well as make a few changes, but it's nearing completion. Trying to fit all this in between everything else has been an interesting undertaking, to say the least!!

I am still working on getting our newsletter pages uploaded, though that will be a time consuming exercise and I haven't begun to tackle that yet. For some reason, I have had trouble with converting the pages, so I need to look into that further. Patience! Show results from this year are also not listed yet on our 2009 Results page, they will be done tomorrow. Last, the revision of our pricing sheets, though I don't believe there are many, if any, changes. They just have to be clarified and re-loaded.

Unfortunately there are still a few noticeable glitches with several photographs showing up small, but I hope to have that resolved tomorrow, too.

In the meanwhile, the 2009 US National Championship Arabian Horse Show began today complete with a live video feed offered once again on the internet. This is one of the most thrilling times of the year for those of us who love and cherish the Arabian Horse, even if we're not there.

Tomorrow we'll be back on topic. Thanks for bearing with us!!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's Been a Long Time, Baby

I finally did it. Decided to update my website, which hasn't been done since the Summer of 2008. With all the traffic lately (in excess of 100 page views per day on many of my pages, which has translated into many people seeking me out to contact me for services), it was about time. While the site isn't uploaded yet, I am getting close. What a job!! So, hang in there, it will be done some time this weekend, in between working horses and giving lessons ~ at least I hope it will. ;)

Today I figured with all the website work I have been putting in, it would be difficult, though not impossible, to write a topic. So, this is going to be short and sweet. While I am at it, I might as well promote what we have going on.

Each month the Sunlit Farm Training Services newsletter contains three articles on training and related subject matter, plus a couple of other informative and educational columns. Email me if you'd like a subscription, there are already a number of folks receiving it (we mail it free to clients). In the process of the website revamping, I am working on getting all of the previous newsletter editions uploaded, but it's a long drawn out process. We have a total of 34 issues in print thus far, meaning I have to convert them all and get them on the website!

Also, every so often I am contributing to the "Horse Talk" column in the Victor Valley Daily Press Newspaper. This is an incredible honor, and I am delighted to have been chosen to answer 'Ask The Trainer' questions.

We have already been given the date for the Sun Country Horsemen's Association Awards Banquet ~ it will be Saturday, December 12, 2009. No further information is available yet, such as a starting time or location but I will keep you all posted. By all means if you are in the area let me know and I'll get you on the guest list. Partying with us in celebration of our spectacular show year will be incredible fun!!

No date is set at this time for the Mojave River Valley Horsemen's Association Awards Banquet, however I will post that info as soon as it is determined.

I wanted to personally extend a huge thank you to both of these local organizations for putting on fabulous horse show series' and giving us all a place to show our horses with class and dignity, as well as offering really cool prizes. Please, locals, support these clubs so they will be around for future generations to enjoy.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

For Those Who Were Waiting... he is. I made a post about this horse several months ago, and we are ready for the official unveiling. Please join us in welcoming the incredible...

*Noble Lord JP

(Laddinn BA by *Aladdinn x Halima Zorro by Lima Zorro)
AHA Breeders Sweepstakes Nominated Sire ~ SCID Clear

Twice Brazilian National Champion Junior Colt
Twice U.S. National Top Ten Stallion
Canadian National Top Ten Stallion
Scottsdale age-group winner
Scottsdale Freestyle Liberty Championship Top Five
Ohio Buckeye Championships Reserve Champion Stallion
Region 4 Champion Stallion
Region 3 Reserve Champion Stallion
Region 2 Top Five Stallion
Pacific Slopes Top Five Stallion

Sire of:

Noble Prize++
2000 Region 8 Unanimous Champion Sweepstakes Yearling Colt
2001 Region 10 Champion Stallion
2001 Scottsdale Champion Two Year Old Colt
2002 U.S. National & Canadian National Top Ten Futurity Colt
2004 Scottsdale Top Ten Western Pleasure Junior Horse
2004 U.S. National Top Ten Western Pleasure Junior Horse
2004 Region 16 Reserve Champion Western Pleasure
2004 Region 16 Top Five Western Pleasure AOTR
2005 Region 15 Reserve Champion Western Pleasure JOTR
2005 Region 15 Top Five Western Pleasure AOTR
2005 Region 16 Reserve Champion Western Pleasure

She Be Noble
2008 Region 3 Reserve Champion Half Arabian Mare Open
2008 Region 3 Reserve Champion Half Arabian Mare AOTH
U.S. National Top Ten Yearling Half-Arabian Filly
Region 2 Champion Sweepstakes Yearling Half-Arabian Filly
Scottsdale Reserve Champion 2 year old Half-Arabian Filly
Scottsdale Top Ten AOTH Junior Half-Arabian Filly

Grandsire of:

TF Sir Prize
2009 Scottsdale Reserve Champion 5 & Over Stallion AAOTH
2009 Scottsdale Top Ten 6-7 Year Old Stallion Open
2009 Scottsdale Top Five Freestyle Liberty
2009 Region 4 Reserve Champion Stallion AOTH
2007 Pacific Slopes Top Five Stallion
2007 Scottsdale Top Ten 4 Year Old Stallion
2007 Scottsdale Top Ten 3-4 Year Old Stallion AOTH
2006 Scottsdale Top Ten 3 Year Old Colt
2005 East Coast Championships Top Three Stallion
2005 East Coast Championships Reserve Champion Stallion AOTH
2004 Region 16 Reserve Champion Yearling Sweepstakes Colt

He Be Showy DFA
2008 US National Champion Half Arabian Yearling Sweepstakes Colt/Gelding
2008 Region 3 Champion Half Arabian Yearling Sweepstakes Colt/Gelding
2008 AHANC Reserve Champion Half-Arabian Colt/Gelding AOTH
2009 Region 7 Champion Half-Arabian Gelding
2009 Scottsdale Champion 2 Year Old Half-Arabian Gelding
2009 Scottsdale Junior Champion Half-Arabian Gelding

Great-Grandsire of:

Sirpremacy DP
2008 Region 3 Top Ten Purebred Yearling Sweepstakes Colt
2008 Scottsdale Top Ten Yearling Colt AOTH
2009 Scottsdale Top Ten 2 Year Old Colt Apr-Dec Open
2009 Scottsdale Top Ten 2 Year Old Colt AAOTH
2009 Las Vegas Arabian Breeders World Cup Top Five 2 Year Old Colt Apr15-Dec15 Open
2009 Region 4 Top Five 2 Year Old Jackpot Colt


Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Presenting, Melodys Ravishing Luna (Skeeter Chex AQHA x Ravishing Ruby GA by GA Suede):

2009 Sun Country Horsemen's Association Year End High Point Champion Late Foals of 2008

2009 Sun Country Horsemen's Association Year End High Point Reserve Champion Arabian & Half-Arabian

What a whirlwind year it has been!! We are already eagerly anticipating the 2010 show season, where Luna will be continuing her winning ways in Halter, Two Year Old Longeline and In Hand Trail. Watch for her in the Half-Arabian Futurity as well.

Our excitement is building for next year! :)


Monday, October 19, 2009

Show Ring Tips & Tricks...Part 1

This is going to be about tips and tricks for excelling in the show ring, as the title suggests. We've covered similar topics before, we have discussed tack, attire and grooming suggestions and though I am sure we shall revisit those again, I'm not going into that now. This time it's just good, old fashioned "how can I improve my performance, get the most out of my horse and enhance our showing experience".

That said, one tip I've not covered before related to attire is to bring along a pair of sweats and an older t-shirt (short or long sleeved, depending on what you're wearing) so you can keep your show clothes clean. I thought this was a BRILLIANT idea if you have more than a few classes all lumped together and run at the same time, but not have to spend so much time changing into and out of your show outfits. Great advice I wish I would have thought of sooner (which sounds like a no-brainer, doesn't it)!

I am a 'serial watcher'. Always have been. So when I have students and clients who are new to the showing scene, I am sure to bring them out to not one, but several shows of whatever level they are going to be showing at (and, of course, we always start out the rank beginners at the local open/schooling show level). It's going to be a show that we are NOT attending with horses competing at first, then later they come with us to a show in order to get an idea of how things go when you're riding into the spotlight. Finally, it's showtime!

When we attend that first show (or shows), we talk. A lot. We discuss expectations, what the judges are looking for, I like to have them do a little bit of 'judging' themselves as we watch classes so they have an in depth concept of just what we, as horse show exhibitors, are seeking to accomplish. This is very similar to the process of teaching Youth Judging ~ such as on the 4H or FFA level ~ however, extremely helpful during the learning process.

Along the lines of watching, which is always an excellent suggestion for all if for no other reason than to get an idea of what's in fashion and what the judges are looking for at the start of each new show season (and yes, along with the various attire fads will be new training strategies and methods as well as a variance in what certain judges want over last year). Taking notes, photographing or videotaping what you like and dislike ~ though I would suggest you ask a participant or entrant's permission before capturing them on film as a courtesy, and be sure to tell them why ~ can be a terrific way to know how to plan what to buy and what you should be working on with your horse. Also, during a break or after the show requesting to speak with the judge(s) can be a beneficial way to get information "straight from the horse's mouth", so to speak. They may be willing to give you pointers on how to best present yourself and your horse. You must be sure to go through the proper channels, though, and contact show officials to make sure of the right time and place to accomplish this.

Here, in the following paragraphs, we are going to explore a few of the vitally important things exhibitors can do to enhance their performances. Let's start with some basics and go from there.

Often you will hear instructors and trainers mention "riding defensively", just as in driver's education during high school you'll hear that mumbo-jumbo about "driving defensively". However, being defensive generally implies that you are having to defend what you're doing because you may be doing something wrong. I would rather ride offensively, making my own way and path, taking my ride into MY hands instead of simply trying to survive out there.

Assuming you are riding in a ring full of those less capable, who don't pay attention to where they are going, who will more than likely cut you off, ride into you and blow YOUR ride, above all else in importance is to pay attention to those around you so you can ensure no one else is going to cause you to lose your class. Keep your eye on horses that may have given their riders trouble in the warm-up ring, and on occasion glance around to see if anyone's horse is out of control. It doesn't have to be obvious, in fact it's better to be less conspicuous. But be aware! It may mean the difference between someone's horse running into yours and getting the gate, versus bringing home the blue ribbon.

One of my favorite sayings to my students is, ride your ring! You have to command that ring, stay in control, use that rail and know how to stay out of trouble.

Some trainers want their students to stay on the rail, no matter what. While I prefer my riders stay on the rail, if you need to move around someone or get away from a horse that's acting up, by all means do so. What I can't stand (as an exhibitor and a judge, both) are those riders who circle the judge, taking the shortest circuit around the ring. It's not a race, folks! Many times I have almost been run over because there are horses playing "Ring Around The Rosie". Not fun! Negotiating traffic in the show ring is simply a fact of life. Just don't make it harder on yourself (and your horse) than it needs to be.

Another place riders sometimes fail to give themselves a shot at a nice rail pass is in the corners. USE THEM! Riding deep into a corner when the majority of your competition will be cutting those same corners can set you up nicely to be seen. Circles and cutting across the arena safely (that being the key word here) are always an acceptable means of putting your horse in the right place at the right time. Getting stuck in a pack of horses or being blocked from the judge's view won't help you.

What about the horse who listens more to the show ring announcer than his rider? Some of the old campaigners do this on a regular basis, and even many trainers don't seem to know how to deal with it other than to heavily school the horse during a class. Now let's stop right here – I do not have an issue with schooling an out of control horse, or a naughty mount that knows the difference between the warm-up ring and the show arena, or schooling at home versus competing. My approach differs from many, because I like to set up "mock horse shows" where that horse simply must learn to pay attention to the rider and not the announcer. Easy? Not always. You have to have a number of riders and horses, all of you have to do your pre-show prep and it can't be the same old arena at home. Your horse already listens there, right? So, you've got to make certain the horse thinks he's at a real show. You also have to have access to the P.A. system, too…though in a pinch you can use a loud boom-box and recorded commands at intervals that make sense. Yes, you CAN do it. It just takes a little bit of planning and preparation.

Okay, as I've said before, I use the small open shows as a training ground for the big leagues. You must keep in mind, however, that some folks do participate in local show circuits for year end high point awards and those who do take them very seriously. Therefore, be mindful that you don't blow someone else's ride by schooling your horse. By doing so you could cause them to lose a silver buckle or even a saddle! My rule of thumb for schooling is, you can still follow all directions of the judge, ring steward and announcer. I can't stand it when someone schools their horse at a lope while everyone else is jogging. Follow the darn class and obey the commands given!

Another of my major pet peeves is transitions. Years ago at one of our local show circuits, when it came time to go from a walk to a lope (for instance), everyone down the line would pick up their lead, in order of how you happened to be in that line. That and it had to be INSTANT, so if you were first in line, that very second the announcer requested that lope, you had better get your horse moving. I'm sorry, in my world it just does not work that way. There I was, odd[wo]man out anyhow because I was riding an Arabian in a sea of Quarter Horses and Paints, and I…Gasp…requested that my horse lope when I felt he was ready, regardless of what my fellow exhibitors were doing.

There is never a need to rush your horse. Don't forget that! Of course, you don't want to take an entire circuit around the ring before you request the lope, hoping for that "just right" perfect timing. Let me tell you, it's probably not gonna happen like that. You need to be at least somewhat prompt, even while not immediately launching into the next gait. Something I always tell my students is, set your horse up before you change gaits. Simple preparedness can win you a class, especially if the judge is watching you (or wants to see you perform various transitions). Remember as well, the same goes for down transitions. I really dislike it when a judge will ask for the halt from a hand gallop or even the canter. Your horse had better have good brakes! Many judges will not penalize you for not instantly bringing your horse to a stop, but some will. Hence why you should know what your judges are looking for before you show. Also – be sure you know if your horse is on the correct lead. If you cannot feel it in your seat, work on it until you can. Nothing says "newbie who doesn't know how to ride" like a horse on a wrong lead.

Just as important as taking your time to ask for that lope or canter and get your leads right (any transition, really) is making certain when riding an English seat that you get your diagonals at the trot correct. You really have to take the time and you'll never get marked down if you sit a few strides before rising. I would much rather you get it right than jump into your post and pick it up wrong, then have to change your diagonal. As with everything else, it does take practice, however it's an essential skill you need to know.

A few more tips on ring etiquette:

When you are asked to back your horse, don't forget to check behind you…the same goes for the reverse. Many judges appreciate this and doing so will sometimes give you a leg up on your fellow competitors.

Try to be sure your horse's performance is consistent. You can have a horse that isn't quite as pretty or talented and still place well if you have consistency in your rides.

Please, PLEASE do not train your horse (or allow him/her to be trained) in a manner inconsistent with what is correct. There are tons of "trends" and fads in the horse show world, but there is no substitute for a well trained, correct moving, mannerly horse that moves properly. Quality of your gaits is essential. Don't fall for trends and the judge wont care if your turn-out isn't perfect as long as it is respectful and your horse looks nice. Spend as much time as you can grooming, conditioning and schooling your horse at home and it will pay off!

Be sure you are showing your horse from the moment you set hoof in that arena until you leave the ring at the end of your class, no matter how bad of a ride you had. That one is imperative! Even if you are waiting in the previous class to be pinned and your class is lined up awaiting instruction, or you're lined up at the conclusion of your class. You are STILL in the show ring, act like you belong there.

Definitely be ready to enter the ring when your class is called. Nothing is more aggravating than being in your class, ready to rock and having to wait for some slowpoke to show up. There is a two minute gate call for a reason! Also, nothing peeves off a parent like paying for classes their children miss because they were not listening or were goofing off instead of getting in the ring.

Remember that the warm-up ring at many shows can be chaos. Be prepared for horses to go blowing by you at various directions, horses running up on your horse's tail and horses cutting you off. Too many riders, including trainers, do not pay attention to where they are going during warm-up! Additionally there are sometimes those exhibitors who will purposefully and deliberately try to blow your ride ~ this goes for in the show ring during classes as well as in the warm-up pen. I personally have had this happen, you simply have to ignore it (sometimes you can take it as a compliment, that you're tough competition and they would rather take you out than compete against you). Don't allow it to bother you, because if it does, it will bother your horse.

Only YOU are responsible for your horse…no one else. Keep that in mind at every show, during every class. In the show ring, no matter your discipline, show your strengths and work hard to diminish your weaknesses.

Many riders will try to correct problems with their horses behind the judge's back. I have news for you! Perhaps they can't see what's happening when their backs are turned, but they CAN hear it. It's all good to know where your judge is (as well as the horses around you), but continually glancing around the ring to see if the judge is looking at you is a big no-no in my book. Some folks advocate doing so – I do not. Checking over your shoulder on occasion is fine. Making a small correction to your horse when you think the judge is watching someone else is okay, too, as long as it is minor and quickly accomplished. You don't want to allow your horse to get away with bad behavior, but there is a difference between major discipline in the show ring and a little bump here or a little tap there.

Along those same lines, make sure your horse is ready at home BEFORE you take him to a horse show. Train your horse! To be sure, you can never know 100% how a horse will react the first time at a show, and your horse may be perfect in your home arena. Horse shows are not the time to be trying new things and you should not need to have a major knock-down, drag out fight with your horse at a show.

Some horses have fear issues, but a confident rider can overcome them in most cases. A number of horses are afraid of being handed a ribbon, some hate the loudspeakers, others spook at a camera's flashbulb or a display in center ring. I have ridden in many arenas where the show committee will place sponsor banners or signs on the arena rails and I have had horses that hated another horse passing close by or running up behind them – ALL of these things can be scary to some horses. Get them used to things like that at HOME and they won't be such an issue when you get to the showgrounds. Set up situations in a controlled setting where you are in charge and let your horse learn to deal with them at the horse's own pace.

Try not to punish your horse if he's truly afraid. Scared horses are not safe horses, however, I've had the best luck in trying to work them through whatever they're frightened of as long as we end on a good note, just like at home. If your horse is just plain out of control and you cannot get him in hand, scratch your classes. Better to waste a few dollars on class fees than have a bad wreck or worse, wreck someone else. Along those lines, if a rider is unseated, halt your horse. Some say to dismount, I would rather you stay on your horse, it's usually a safer place to be. Consequently, if you come off your horse during a class, it's preferable that you ask to remain in the ring, because you don't want your horse learning that they can get out of working in a class by tossing you! Inevitably they will try it again.

Many times judges will pick their favorites and even start placing their classes (especially if they're rather large) from the moment you set foot in the ring, so make your entrance count! Set your horse up so you can easily head through the gate and down the rail giving the judge a great first impression.

Remember: Impulsion, impulsion, impulsion. In English classes, your judges will appreciate a horse with good forward gaits. Likewise, if you have a Western horse, keep in mind that you want your horse to show proper collection.

Take the time to give your horse a pat after the cards are turned in while you're in the lineup, and as you're exiting the ring. You will leave the impression that you're really thrilled with the ride your horse gave you (even if the truth is, not so much) and that you have respect for your horse as your riding partner. It looks professional and like you care. Every little thing can count, good judges will take notice.

Drugs ARE NOT FOR THE SHOW RING! Things like Bute have their place, but don't come to a show with an entire pharmacy. More than likely you will be caught and nothing good can come of that.

Don't forget to school your horse at the walk as much as the rest of your gaits. It never ceases to amaze me that even trainers will not concentrate on the walk! Walking accounts for 25%-33% of most classes – don't skimp. Also, refrain from allowing your horse to dawdle, wander or gawk around ignoring you, the rider. Performing a good walk can mean the difference between ribboning and getting the gate.

There is no prize for rushing into the ring as the gateman is closing that gate. Be prepared and have your horse ready to perform. I prefer to get in there early, even though I don't like being the first one in…unless I know my horse is going to knock the judge's socks off and I want to be the first he sets his eyes on. Be prepared long before the class is called to order and ready to ask your horse to move off in whatever gait is asked for.

When the announcer calls you to the lineup – LINE UP! Be prompt, don't continue around the arena for another five minutes just to show off. Making that last pass down the rail in front of the judge is okay, but don't make a scene. You don't want to make a spectacle of yourself. For myself, I like to get a spot on the end of the line, because you have a 50% less chance of running into a problem with backing. Many horses do not back straight (which is something else you need to work on at home before you ever think about going to a show), but oftentimes ~ at least in my case ~ there is far more of a concern about the backing straight ability of the horse in line next to you.

Most important of all, relax, and DON'T forget to breathe! I have had students that rode out of the ring out of breath. While this can happen under normal circumstances in some classes (Over Fences events are notorious for this, as is the English Show Hack division at an Arabian show!), this is not something you expect with a Walk/Trotter coming out of a four horse Equitation class. I've also had some kids exit a class and mention that the judge told them to breathe. Sometimes we need little reminders. This is one of those times! Anything you can do to calm yourself, which will in turn help keep your horse calm, will do wonders for your performances. A lot of kids like to listen to their I-pods or other mp3 players. Which is fine as long as they don't miss their classes!

At some point, we'll continue this subject. Until then, put in some great rides and get yourself ready to go show!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Are You Ready??

Okay, a couple of weeks ago I had intended to post a topic about packing for horse shows. Between getting five horses ready to show, plus all the extraneous things that come with the preparation of horses and young riders to show, I simply ran out of time and stamina to make that blog post. So, here we go! :)

Many, many years ago I learned that making a checklist for what was necessary at a horse show was mandatory. Having shown horses for nearly 40 years, from the local, regional, national and international level, I have a fairly good idea about what is needed at about any show of any repute, and my list reflects that knowledge. It has evolved over the years, without a doubt. What was once about one half of a page is now two pages, but that is mainly because I've divided many categories further than they used to be.

My list is now in two parts. One for single day shows where we pull in our rig the morning of the show, leaving at the end of the day's classes and one for multiple day shows, generally of the rated variety. This didn't used to be the case, I would use the same checklist for all shows, but there is so much more we bring to the big shows that I made the move to separate them.

Here is the shorter of the two:

We use the above for one day shows (click on image to enlarge). Note there are only two columns per page, but we've covered everything we could possibly need. As this is also a "living document", it can be added to ~ and is on occasion!

Covered is important paperwork, show tack for various disciplines, show attire for various disciplines, accessories, tack cleaning supplies, work or schooling tack, auxiliary saddle racks, grooming mats, feed, buckets, grooming & preparation supplies, veterinary & first aid supplies, tool box complete with hardware, other incidentals and then of course things like an ice chest for food & drinks, chairs and so forth. If an item is not necessary for a particular show, that item is crossed off the list when we pack.

Now comes the larger of the two:

This is our list for "A" rated and other multiple day shows when we'll be staying over at least one night. Again, click to enlarge the image, and note that these pages are three columns as opposed to merely two. That is how we managed to fit both into two pages. ;)

It contains the same as our single day show list, and adds vitally important things such as additional necessary items of pertinent paperwork, additional feed-related items, additional work tack and related supplies, the bathing bucket with wash supplies, clipping and hoof prep supplies, groom room supplies, tack room supplies, dressing room supplies, stall cleaning tools, barn front items plus additional miscellaneous items such as microwave oven and coffee maker. Again, as it's a "living document", it can be ever-changing, and is!

Hopefully this will be of help to others as they plan for their show seasons. And may you all have GREAT rides and GREAT classes!!


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Doing Things Right, Doing Things Wrong?

For the second time in the last few days I am not exactly going to post in the manner which my readers are accustomed to here. Yes, I admit, this post will be a slight bit snarky and sarcastic in delivery. That said, and with apologies in advance, we shall begin.

Okay, here it is. A picture is worth 1000 words, right? And, naturally, we can tell exactly what lead to the image being taken simply by viewing the picture? We know exactly how, what, where, when and why? This is just incredibly offensive, I realize, but here goes...witness the abuse for yourselves:

What I fail to understand is this ~ a photograph is one moment in time. Now, many of us judge things by the pictures we see, but really, how much do we know without being there, being involved and understanding all the facts surrounding any one, singular photograph?

As has been stated previously, there is only so much we can possibly know about the details of any particular photograph without being there. If we are going to attack based on a picture, we need more background (unless ~ yes, there are a couple of caveats ~ something obviously and noticeably dangerous is going on, there is obvious abuse or something similar). There is just no way, shape or form most of us can possibly know for certain what preceded or followed the taking of any photograph unless we were present at it's taking.

When the afore-posted picture was initially ripped apart on the Fugly Horse of the Day blog in the comments section, this is what I posted in response to that attack:

I actually use a bitting rig during groundwork (bitting & longeing), and, of course, use the bitting harness itself for longline/ground driving work. Funny thing is, the picture being bitched about was from a very quick impromptu photo session as the sun was starting to set...and the horse is in a double bridle ~ I never bit my horses (nor longline them) in the double! Sigh. :)

Perhaps in light of the existence of this photograph, and its presence on my website, I should retract the part about "never" bitting my horses in the double bridle. Here is photographic PROOF that I did, after all!! Shame on me.

Herein lies the rub, do any of the few who took offense to this singular picture on my website actually know anything about my training program? My horses? My clients' horses? How all of the above are trained? No. Are they present for the day-to-day training sessions on any horse I work, ride or have in training? Indeed not. Have any of them, at any time, seen me work, school, ride or show a horse? Have they any clue whatsoever about things that go on here, or how any of my horses, or my clients' horses, are worked, schooled, ridden or shown? Naturally, the answer to that is also a resounding no.

So there you have it, such a horribly abusive picture, from my very own website, offered up for public consumption and critique. But to be fair, the only way in which you are allowed to critique this photo is if you have firsthand knowledge of what fantastical horror the horse endured in order to capture that one moment in time. Right? Right. ;)

Have a GREAT day!!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

We Made The News Again!!

In a VERY GOOD way!

Pictured in today's newspaper was the lovely Half-Arabian Palomino filly I have been showing all year for a client, there was a very nice mention of our most recent show ring victories and my exciting debut in the "Ask The Trainer" column.

You know, there is nothing better than being able to join in and enjoy the success of others, particularly those who have spent a lifetime working hard to get where they are. Most of my clients are those sort of people, who spend many years and many dollars (which they often do not have to spend lightly or loosely) to get where they want to be in the show ring ~ and just in harmony with their horses, period.

I have spent my life working for the benefit of horses and their owners, to help them and aid in clearing paths to success for each horse and rider team. Nothing beats the pride of watching a pair you have nurtured come along, through tough times and difficulties, to shine in the show ring or excel in whatever endeavor they chose.

That is what I dedicated my life to three decades ago.

To have the endeavors and successes of those wonderful clients with their phenomenal horses lauded by third parties is not merely icing on the cake. They are not only being recognized by me, but by our peers in the show ring and in the community. I raise my glass to them and tip my hat. Cheers!! You done good!!

While I am not a rich woman, nor have ever desired to be, I have wealth beyond measure in my relationships.

Today I dedicate this blog to all the countless clients who have been so incredible over all these years, to the wonderful members of this equestrian community we live in and to my peers that are always so supportive of all that we do. There is no greater or finer group of human beings than you.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What In Hell Were You Thinking?

I began this blog back in July as a happy, positive place to exchange equestrian ideas, talk about horses and generally enjoy ourselves. That is what I have wanted from day one, and as the rules were laid out in the beginning, this blog was never to become a flamefest, a place for arguing or anything other than an enjoyable experience.

During that time, when this blog was begun, I had already been engaging in some not-so-nice exchanges with a few very ugly people on several different blogs, which is what cemented my decision to begin this one. Having good, educational discussions was paramount to making this blog a success, and I have tried to follow that high road.

Sometimes it is not so easy, particularly pertaining to the fact that certain individuals are still making nasty, snide comments about me, about my clients, about my business and other equally absurd things.

But, I have tried. Until today.


This is not going to be a nice blog entry. Nor will it be a regular feature of this blog, to travel in this direction. But, sometimes what needs to be done, needs to be done.

That said and out of the way, I will begin:

* * * * * * * *

I received your little "package" today, Christine Tally. Thank you SO much for making sure it went into the hands of my landlord, who passed it directly to my husband. That was sarcasm in case you happened to miss it.

Some time ago I figured out that you had already hacked into my email address. How nice of you to hack into not one, but TWO email addresses. Were you aware of that being a Federal crime? A felony?

This is now being pursued by the Sheriff's Department as well as the FBI as a cyber crime.

* * * * * * * *

Loyal readers, thank you for sitting through this with me. This certainly is NOT what I had in mind for my blog, nor is it what I envisioned having to deal with today.

To those who are aiding and abetting this individual, or those who, like Dena Joy Rodacker of Minnesota, who are accomplices in this crime, or who received illicitly accessed emails from my accounts as well as those who received any information from Christine Tally in any way related to me, my family and my business by illicit means due to Mrs Tally's theft of our personal paperwork, and to those who have threatened to extort us in relation to the above, do not be surprised by a telephone call or personal visit from law enforcement.

What goes around, comes around.

Tomorrow, it's back to horses.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

As Promised, Show Results!

On September 20th the Mojave River Valley Horsemen's Association held their final High Point Series show for the year.

A student of mine brought home unanimous first places under both judges in Arabian/Half-Arabian Halter, Walk/Trot-Leadline Showmanship 10 & Under, Walk/Trot English Equitation 10 & Under, Walk/Trot English Pleasure 10 & Under, Walk/Trot English Country Pleasure 10 & Under and Walk/Trot Western Horsemanship 10 & Under. She was second under both judges in Youth Halter 17 & Under, Youth Showmanship 17 & Under, Walk/Trot Western Country Pleasure and Walk/Trot Trail 10 & Under. The only class where she had trouble was in the Western Pleasure class, where she was fourth under both judges.

In addition, Alyssa won her Daily High Point Walk/Trot English 10 & Under and Walk/Trot Western 10 & Under she wrapped up her Year End High Point Championship in Walk/Trot English 10 & Under and Reserve Championship in Walk/Trot Western 10 & Under!! This has been a circuit that's had VERY tough competition all year, with a thriving W/T division and we all could not be more thrilled!

On October 3rd the Sun Country Horsemen's Association held their final High Point Series show for the year as well.

I have been competing with a yearling palomino filly owned by a client, and we brought home a unanimous first in the Late Yearlings/Foals of 2008 class (along with wrapping up our Year End High Point Championship in that division), placed second and fifth in the Arabian/Half-Arabian Halter class (wrapping up our Year End High Point Reserve Championship in that division) and she won the Yearling Longeline Futurity Championship unanimously!!

Then, the student who was showing was 3rd/3rd in the Arabian & Half-Arabian Halter, 1st/2nd in the Youth Halter, won the Youth Showmanship unanimously, placed 1st/3rd in the Walk/Trot Pleasure, 1st/2nd in the Walk/Trot Equitation and 1st/2nd in the Walk/Trot Country Pleasure, bringing home the Daily High Point for the Walk/Trot 12 & Under division (this student is not going for YEHP at this show) ~ Western and English are combined here for the W/T, she showed Hunt seat English.

We are anxiously awaiting the Year End Awards Banquets for both Mojave River Valley Horsemen's Association in Apple Valley and Sun Country Horsemen's Association in Hesperia!!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Getting it right...

What a week!!

Okay, lets hope to get this right this time, now that Fall is starting to settle in ~ with a post as close to every day as I can manage.

I will have results of the Sun Country Horsemen's Association show from October 3rd tomorrow, and I've got a plethora of topics to cover in the coming days, weeks, months.

Until then, stay warm and dry!!


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Post for Thursday, October 1st ~ What To Use On Your Horse?

This topic is about after the horse is clipped, bathed, clean and at the showgrounds when you're getting ready to enter the ring. For the sake of conversation, we have unloaded the horses off the trailer, pulled sheets or blankets and are in the process of grooming.

I have a great many things on my list of "gotta have's" for show ring finishing touches. One of them is Absorbine Super Shine hoof polish, used after cleaning with a damp rag and buffing, followed by using Ultra Hoof Enhancer spray.

Next I'll follow up a good, healthy brushing with a light spray of Ultra, Pepi or Grand Champion. These oil based sprays are NOT recommended for dusty showgrounds where the wind blows consistently, or for daylong shows where you're unable to wash the horse off between classes, because they attract dirt like mad.

Mane care depends on the horse, with Hunter seat English horses being braided, and stock breed horses being banded (which I'll do at home after preliminary pulling, followed up by trimming once the mane is banded). Pretty much the same goes for tails, minus the banding. Our Arabians (aside from those braided by necessity for the Hunter, Dressage and Sport Horse divisions) are mandated to have long, natural manes and tails. Sometimes a light spraying of Grand Champion, but again, like the coat, manes and tails will get full of dirt quickly, so it's best to avoid these products unless you have a means to wash the horse every so often throughout the day. ;)

Other than the actual braiding and banding itself, that's pretty much it. In future installments, I'll cover those topics as well. Happy showing!!


Post for Wednesday, September 30th ~ Getting Your Tack and Show Clothes Ready

Oooops, I did it again. By the time I got in from the barn last night, too tired to post on the blog, so here we are again belated. Sorry!! :)

This time around we're discussing getting ready for the big day, horse show day, by making sure everything other than your horse is clean, prepared and all set to be packed up.

For me, I have certain products I use on my tack, just like I do on my horses. My mainstay is Lexol, but Ko Cho Line, Horsemen's One Step and Oakwood are other favorites. First I want the leather clean, and that means using a good cleaner and really getting down into the tooling on Western saddles, for instance. That can be a tough order, let me tell you! I use a fairly stiff toothbrush and several soft rags, which do the job well. Then it's time to condition the leather, leaving it soft and supple.

If you need to rejuvenate, darken or supple up your leather, Neatsfoot Oil is the ticket ~ soaking will produce the best results, but you must remember to wipe off the excess oil, then clean + condition as usual or risk staining both your horse and your show clothes. For my Western saddle suede seats, as well as suede chaps, I really like the KIWI Suede & Nubuck cleaner.

Moving on, I wash my bits in an anti-bacterial dish soap, followed by rinsing them well and both towel and air drying fully before beginning the polishing process. For stainless and chrome, I use English Custom Polish's products. Expensive, but worth it. On my silver, my preference is Hagerty's Silversmith Spray. Been using it for many years, and it's still the best. Lightly spraying on a soft rag, wipe the silver, let it dry and then buff it, your silver will gleam like never before.

Another essential is ensuring your show clothes are clean, pressed and ready to roll. If you need to have anything dry cleaned, get them in long before you need to be packing!! Depending on the item of clothing, I will either hand wash in Woolite or machine wash on the "gentle" cycle, and hang to dry. Remember, this includes your boots (which need to be cleaned and polished ~ I use KIWI Parade Gloss) and your hats (which I will take to the dry cleaner, too)! Investing in a good hat cleaning sponge as well as a higher end lint roller is a must, too.

Make sure everything is spic and span, up to and including your horse's blankets and other horsewear, so that you'll arrive at the big event looking like you belong.