Dressage Horse Story from For the Love of the Horse by Ann Jamieson


He is the “ultimate underdog.”  When the stunning stallion with his bright dun coat and waves of silky black tresses was named Reserve Champion Stallion at Dressage at Devon in 2010, he confounded onlookers curious about his origins. German riding pony?  Lusitano?  Andalusian?  Welsh cob? Nobody guessed correctly.

Padré is an American Mustang.

And yes, it was the first time in history that a Mustang qualified for, and competed at, Devon.

Cover image of the book Love of the Horse, Volume IV, by Ann Jamieson.

Patti Gruber, a dressage trainer from Illinois, wanted a new dressage partner, a horse that could be competitive at the upper levels.  She was thinking along the lines of an Art Deco pinto warmblood.

Patti always brought her horses to the International Equine Podiatry Center in Versailles, Kentucky to be looked at by veterinarian Dr. Rick Redden.  Dr. Redden owned the center’s Mustangs and Patti would always joke, “If you ever want to see what one of these horses can do, let me know.”

Dr. Redden had been studying the relationship of genetics in over-bred domestic breeds.  His focus was to determine if leg problems could be eliminated by breeding domestic mares with his genetically pure Mustang stallion Padré.  Padré came from the Palomino Valley herd outside Reno, Nevada, and had been captured as a yearling.

Dr. Redden often spoke of the great personality and quiet nature of the horse, traits the stallion always passed on to his offspring.  Patti had watched Padré grow from a gawky two-year-old to a beautiful seven-year-old.  She’d always admired his natural ability and undeniable presence, along with his sweet temperament.

One day Dr. Redden took her up on her offer.  Would she like Padré? The timing couldn’t have been worse.  Patti had just gotten divorced.  She had cats, dogs, and other horses.  The Art Deco baby remained in her head.  This wasn’t what she had thought about for her dressage partner.  But there was no turning down this magnificent horse.

Padré was sent to a Western trainer, Nathan Stephens, for a 30 day introduction to life in a stable complete with a regular work schedule instead of the life of leisure he had known.

Nathan had worked with many Mustangs before and understood their difference from domestic breeds.  Since Padré and Nathan were seven hours from where Patti lived, many hours were spent that month on the phone discussing how well Padré was adapting to his new working life, and his particular nuances.

Nathan repeatedly told Patti that to be successful with Padré she had to earn his trust, and respect him.  After the 30 days were up Patti traveled to Nathan’s farm to take her horse home.  She rode Padré for the first time in a round pen.  As they started off Patti found herself amazed by the amount of power Padré had for a 15.1 hand horse.  With each gait his power increased and she began to realize his true athletic ability.

The next morning, Padré and Patti left for Wayfarer Farm in Wauconda, Illinois where Patti trains and teaches, to begin bonding and building trust with one another.

After riding him only three times their first week at home Patti took Padre to a clinic with a well-respected German trainer, Andre Heufler.  Patti didn’t mention that Padré was a Mustang, as she wanted Andre to judge and work with them based on Padré’s ability, not his breed.  At the end of the weekend when she revealed Padré’s origins to Andre, he was stunned.  He was also very impressed with the stallion’s ability, and recommended that Patti enter him in a schooling show at his barn, Sunflower Farm in Bristol, Wisconsin, in three weeks.

Patti thought it was too soon to compete. Andre thought that Padré had enough natural talent to compete in dressage and get good scores despite his extremely limited training.

Andre was right.  Padré did better than Patti could ever have imagined.  Entering two classes, Green as Grass 1 Horse and Green as Grass 4 Horse, they won both their tests, with scores of 67.65% and 64.5 % respectively.  After they finished their rides, judge Joan Pecora called them over to satisfy her curiosity about Padré’s breeding, background, and training.  Naturally she was surprised to find out that he was a Mustang and that he had only been in dressage training for three weeks! She told Patti that Padré had a good future in dressage, and a great natural rhythm.  She encouraged them to continue, and said she would look forward to seeing them in the future.  Padré finished the day with the High Point award for the division!

“We did better than I could have ever imagined for his first show,” says Patti.

Andre, who continues to train Patti and Padré (currently working at Third/Fourth Level), trained in Germany with Conrad Schumacher, and then moved to this country to work for Temple Farms with their Lippizan stallions. His experience with stallions has given him great insight into working with Padré.

Patti and Padré have participated in several clinics and with each clinic Padré has shown the clinicians his intelligence, natural ability, bold movements and quiet disposition. When the pair worked with Steffen Peters during the 2010 Midwest Horse Fair in Wisconsin, Steffen paid them a great compliment.  He told Patti that he could “see something special” in them.

Although Padré is still a stallion, Patti turns him out with six geldings without a problem. He is a perfect gentleman both while out on trails and working in the arena with mares that are in heat.

Padré was named an ambassador for the Bureau of Land Management Wild Horse and Burro Program, and represents the program at Equine Affaire in Columbus, Ohio. With thousands or people coming by and stopping to see him, Padre was a rock.

It was while at Equine Affaire that Patti realized, “There are so many people who don’t realize there are still mustangs in the wild, and that they are naturally gifted.  A lot of people think Mustangs are crass and rough and you can’t do anything with them.  Padré proves them wrong.”

She does caution potential owners. “Mustangs differ depending on what herd management area they are from, as they are built for their particular environment.  They vary in height, color and build.  People must keep in mind that they are wild and are guided in life by instinct. Mustangs view their people and other horses as part of their herd.  They are not a horse for everyone.  To work with them successfully one must be patient and kind, and understand that the only way to develop a successful partnership is by building trust and listening to them.”

Patti doesn’t limit Padré to strictly dressage.  They tried their hand at halter classes at American Buckskin Registry Association shows, where Padré took Reserve Champion stallion their first time out.  They’ve had very good placings in hunter under saddle classes.  “There’s nothing he can’t go and do.  People, whether it’s judges or spectators, are fascinated and don’t really know what to do with him, since he looks and moves a little differently from horses he competes against.  He challenges people’s perceptions.”

When a friend recommended Patti try in-hand classes at dressage sport horse breeding competitions, Patti jumped right in.  In their first try they placed third in the 4-year-old and older stallion class, scoring a 75.  Patti didn’t think much about it.  She had no idea how good or bad the score might be.  Next they competed in the Great American Insurance Group/United States Dressage Federation Breeders’ Championship Regional Finals, taking home the blue in the 4-year-old and older stallions and the reserve Grand Championship.

Working with Padré has presented Patti with both challenges and victories. “I’m learning how to read him; he really tells me when I’m doing something wrong.”  Patti spends a lot of time playing with him, working on body language.  “He has a wonderful attitude; he doesn’t kick or bite. He’s SO smart I have to be careful how I teach him because if I teach him wrong; I have to go back and re-teach him.  He learns the first time you teach him anything.”

She can’t believe how much she has learned about working with all the horses she has in training simply by listening to Padré.  “I am a better trainer,” she says, “because of him.”

Padré is not shy about expressing an opinion.  If Patti nags him too much with her spurs, he picks up a back foot on the side.  He kicks at her foot to let her know that he got the point.  When he has had enough he will plant his feet, turn his head to look at Patti and snort as though saying, “I have had enough and if you ask me one more time I am going to have to give you a non-playful buck.”  Then they take a deep breath and move on to something else.

Padré has quite a sense of humor and loves to make Patti laugh.  With his long hair and regal mentality, he will not go out of the barn in the rain.  He peeks out the door, but refuses to go outside and get wet.  He enjoys breakfast (and dinner) in bed.  If his grain is served in his ground feed pan while he is in the middle of a nap he will remain lying down as he eats.  Although he loves carrots and apples, he has also acquired a taste for french fries, marshmallow peeps, jelly beans, peaches, bananas and ice cream.  He enjoys his warm, comfy blankets in the winter and a cooling, sudsy bath in the summer. His attitude is “I am the coolest thing on four legs!”

His connection with Patti is outstanding and unmistakable, whether he is giving her everything he’s got at a show, or giving her kisses under the mistletoe in his stall.

Patti spends hours caring for his hair.  She says, “My own hair is short now because I spend so much time taking care of his!”

Patti wasn’t planning to go to Devon.  In fact she thought it was way out of their reach. But she discovered that the in-hand score of 75 that they had achieved qualified her for Dressage at Devon.  Her first thought was “Panic! How do I get there?  How do I get my Mustang half way across the country?”

Fundraising provided the money for the trip, and Patti was thrilled with the tremendous community support for Padré.

At Devon Patti found herself in awe of what was happening.  “Just knowing the caliber of horses, and I’m standing among them in a championship class with my little wild stallion without the genetic gifts and generations of selective breeding that these horses have—that was my proudest moment.”

The little wild stallion won the in-hand 4-year-old and older stallions class and won lots of praise from the judges as well.  Janine Malone said “This horse showed very consistent and clear rhythm at the walk and trot, and in particular the walk was active and ground-covering.”

Hilda Gurney said “This stallion was by far the most correct in his class.  Mother Nature did a nice job producing a nice-moving and very well-mannered mustang.”

“Can you see the mascara running down my face?” says Patti, referring to the photo of she and Padré winning the class. “This has exceeded my wildest dreams.  I’ve never been to Devon before, and it felt so far out of the realm of possibility.  But everyone here has been so welcoming, the judges so kind, the officials so generous and helpful.  I wish every show could be like this; I could not have asked for a better experience.”

.Patti is so proud of her horse. “He’s raising awareness, inspiring people.”  She gets numerous emails from people who are inspired to try more things with their own horses, whether Mustangs or other breeds. Padré gives a great deal of hope to people.

Patti recently received a note from Nathan Stephens on Padré’s Facebook page.  “Hey Patti,” he wrote, “I had Padré and broke him for Doc.  It looks like he’s doing well.  I always knew he was a very special horse.  To this day, he is still the nicest horse I ever swung my leg across!”

In September, 2011, at the Great American Insurance Group/USDF North Central Series Division Finals Padre’ was named Grand Champion Stallion receiving his highest score ever in hand, 76.125 %.  The judges’ comments included: strongly built, presence, active, correct rhythm, uses body well, good reach and swing through back, well behaved, cooperative and willing with promise and potential. The Reserve Grand Champion horse was owned by the USDF Breeder of the Year and Padre’ was 4% ahead of him!

The show was held at Silverwood Farm in Camp Lake, Wisconsin. Although Patti “didn’t think it could get any better than Devon, one Grand Championship ribbon, one Grand Championship cooler, and a plaque later, I think this definitely feels as good as Devon last year.”

On the way home, Patti spoke to her trainer, who had suggested they compete in in-hand classes. Patti said she’d had a talk with Padre’s before the class and explained how important this was since the only horse who had beaten them this season was in the class.

The trainer replied that Padre’ is a perfect mix of being serious in his work but a ham and a half when people are watching. Shortening it up, they decided that Padre’ is a Serious Ham.

“He is,” Patti says, “such a good boy and makes my dreams come true. I could not have imagined four years ago when I got him that all this would have happened.”

Patti and Padre have taken a journey no one ever would have thought possible.  Patti took a wild horse, a horse few people would have believed in, and showed the world what he could do. She says, “Padré is the most amazing dressage partner I could have asked for.  His presence, natural athletic ability and personality are phenomenal.  I am lucky to have many horses to train but the best part of each day is when I work with Padré.”

Excerpted from For the Love of the Horse, Volume IV, by Ann Jamieson. Available at local tack shops and on Amazon.com.

Guess Blog post from Ann Jamieson.

She writes…

I write a book series called For the Love of the Horse, Amazing True Stories About the Horses We Love. Each book contains 30-40 true stories about the bond between people and horses. My horse stories have received rave reviews on Amazon and from such leaders in the horse industry as Lendon Grey, Stacy Westfall, Chester Weber, Will Faudree, and Georgina Bloomberg.

Why Horses Need Grooming

horses (Photo credit: willg willg.photography)

Regular grooming gives the horse and handler an important opportunity to connect and establish and strengthen a good working relationship. Horses are relationship animals. All of the horses in a herd know where they stand in the herd hierarchy. They live, play, and work together according to this hierarchy. Grooming sets the handler apart as a caregiver for the horse so the horse learns to defer to and trust the handler.

For competition horses, grooming can account for up to 40% of the score. And that is obviously not just grooming on the day of competition; judges can distinguish between a horse that gets regular grooming and one that does not. But whether the horse is in competition or not, the horse and rider both benefit from daily grooming as it contributes to the horse’s overall well-being, performance, and happiness.

During the daily grooming process, before the horse gets worked, the handler has an opportunity to examine the horse’s overall well-being. Is the horse acting strange for her personality? Are there any missing horseshoes? Does the horse have any cuts or swelling? Is he favoring a leg? Are there any signs of abscess such as swelling or hot spots? All of these potential concerns are more easily noticed during a grooming session than when the handler and horse are busy with a work task.

The horse’s skin and coat are greatly improved when he or she has regular grooming. It is true that wild horses may get by without it, but one need only compare the coat of a wild horse or un-groomed horse and a horse that receives regular brushing and cleaning to see the difference made by regular grooming. Brushing keeps dust and debris at bay while spreading the animal’s natural skin oils, lending shine and strength to the hair.

Keeping the horse clean through appropriate and timely washing helps prevent chafing that can occur when dirt and oil builds up underneath tack. Problems such as thrush, sores, and itchy skin can occur if the horse’s coat is not cleaned, particularly in the areas covered by the saddle.

Grooming for a horse show can involve some extra steps, like using highlighter, a substance that is spread on the horse’s face (which is sometimes shaved) that draws attention to certain of the horse’s facial features. Neck sweats are neoprene wraps that are wrapped around the horse’s neck or jowl to make it sweat just at that location. This makes the neck or jowl look temporarily thinner and thus more fine, when the look is important for a show. Coat treatments are also often used for competition, making the coat smoother, shinier, or glossy.

I am John, I love to write about horses. Click here to know more about tail wraps.


5 Thousand Dollar Reward Offered for Information Leading to Arrest of Horse Killer

$5,000 Reward Offered for Information Leading to Arrest of Horse Killer

Megan Backus, ALDF

The national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) is offering a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator(s) who shot and killed a horse Sunday in Santa Rosa, California.

The attack took place near Bennett Valley and Annadel State Park, where several horses had been standing in a pasture. Using a high-caliber rifle, someone shot Delta Fox, a 17-year-old male horse, Sunday morning. The wounded and terrified horse fled back to his stable, collapsed, and died. Press Democrat reported that sheriff’s deputies, animal control officers, and the sheriff’s helicopter conducted an extensive air and ground search for the shooter to no avail.

Under California Penal Code § 597 (a) any person convicted of maliciously and intentionally maiming or killing an animal can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined $20,000. In California, it is at the DA’s discretion whether animal cruelty is charged as a felony.

“Residents of Santa Rosa have a legitimate cause for concern when criminals are on the loose who could shoot a kind and gentle horse for no reason,” says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. In story after heartbreaking story, abusers repeat their violent crimes against helpless animals, and often go on to victimize people as well.

After seeing ALDF’s pledge the Coastal California Friesian Club graciously added $250 to the reward for information leading to the arrest of the person(s) that killed Delta Fox.

For more information about the Animal Legal Defense Fund please visit www.aldf.org


Standing Still: Training Your Horse to Stand Quietly for Your Farrier

What could be a pleasant experience for your horse and your farrier quickly goes awry if your horse is not trained to stand for a farrier. Horses need shoes or at the very minimum a regular trim to keep them from going lame or developing hoof problems. If you recently adopted a horse or find you need to “refresh” your horse’s memory about how to stand still for the farrier, use this quick guide to help you.

Horses require routine hoof care
Horses require routine hoof care (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Horse Handling Basics

Before you start with any training exercise, your horse should have a good grasp of basic ground handling basics. She needs to be able to stand still when you approach her, lead quietly with a halter and lead, and is completely relaxed when you touch any part of her body. Your horse should also stand still when tied. If you feel your horse does not have ground manners down, you should review these training concepts before you train your horse to stand for a farrier.

Get the Right Gear

Make the most of your training sessions by using the right gear for your horse. Essentials include:

  • A rope training halter
  • A 12 ft. handling rope or lead (a longe line works too)
  • A 27 inch long riding or training crop

Slip the training halter over your horse’s head, clip on the lead or longe line and lead her out into an enclosed area where you plan to have your farrier work.

Put Your Horse in the Right Frame of Mind

Before the farrier arrives, work out a few of those extra oats by sending your horse out for a few laps in a round pen or small paddock. Work all major muscle groups by trotting you horse in a small, controlled circle several times in both directions. No need to exhaust her, just help her relax for the training session.

Implementing the Exercises

Talk to you farrier beforehand and let him know your training plan. The first few sessions may take longer than a regular session as your horse learns how to stand quietly. Make sure you leave enough room in your schedule to work with your horse instead of trying to force her to “get it.” When you are both on the same page, use these steps to get your horse to learn how to stand still.

Step 1:

Ask your farrier to lay out his tools, stand or anything he needs to get the job done. For the first few sessions, your farrier will need to work directly in the paddock. As your horse gets more comfortable with the farrier process you can move the sessions indoors to a barn or lean to.

Step 2:

Walk your horse up to the farrier and let her smell and get to know the farrier. Allow her to inspect and smell the tools and implements around the farrier. Hold on to the longe line and give the training crop to the farrier. Ask him to first rub the crop on the lower belly/upper-leg area of your horse in a gentle, circular motion. If your horse tenses starts to pull away or threatens to kick, send her out to trot a couple of laps. Keep her moving at a good clip for two or three laps until you feel she is ready to try again.

Step 3:

Repeat the process with the farrier and the riding crop. When she is used to and comfortable with her legs being handled with a crop, switch to physical contact. Your farrier should feel confident and your horse should be relaxed as he touches all parts of her lower body and legs. As soon as she pulls away, send her out again for a couple of laps.

Most horses understand that it’s much better to stand still with a farrier, than to be sent out to “work” running in circles, ovals or other training runs. Don’t get discouraged if you need to send your horse out a few extra times for her to stand still. It’s a matter of being consistent and patient.

NOTES from Joni: I have also found it helpful to cut up some carrots into coin size slices and keep them in a nail pouch around my waist. When my horse is standing still and relaxing for the farrier and has allowed him or her to finish one hoof I make a click sound with my tongue to the roof of my mouth and then hand my horse one or two pieces of carrot. I do this when the farrier is finished with each hoof.

This will help your horse see the farrier’s visit as a good thing and not just a time to be told to stand still while someone handles his or her hooves or trot around on a longe line.

Also please do not rush the introduction of the horse to the farrier specially if the horse is meeting this farrier for the first time. I have the farrier walk in a circle of about 20 feet and I follow behind with the horse on a lead to allow the horse time to get use to the farrier’s scent and motion. I also ask the farrier to carry a couple of his tools with him and clang them together from time to time so the horse will get use to the tool noise too. When my horse is following well and relaxed I click and treat him or her to a piece of carrot. I want the farrier visit to be a positive experience for my horse and one that he or she will look forward to.

Be thoughtful about your farrier too and if you have taken up more of his time than usual to get your horse standing well for the farrier then please tip him some extra money for his troubles. If you have found a good farrier you will want him or her looking forward to your calls too.

Historic copperplate engraving of a horse and ...
Historic copperplate engraving of a horse and rider being worked on a longe line (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guess Article by David Baker

eFarriers.com – A comprehensive directory of farriers from across the United States and Canada featuring full-page farrier profiles with biographies, photos, training and qualifications.

Twitter: @eFarriers
Facebook: eFarriers


Complete Coach for Equestrian and Equine Biz Success

The Complete Coach for Equestrian and Equine Biz Success: It Takes Way More Than You Think

Cathy Rivers of Big Horse Dreams

Olympia, WA, Oct. 5, 2012 — The Olympics always teaches us a lot about being an athlete, about focus and commitment and what it takes to win. For those of us who are equestrians there’s a little bit more to it though than just us as an individual athlete. Our sport is about our horse too. It’s about how we work together as a team; it’s about horsemanship and often it’s about operating an equine business of breeding, training and sales.

Not that all sports don’t have a price tag, they do and to compete whether it be in gymnastics or track means there’s a price-tag. But there’s also a reason that all equine sports, be it racing, polo, grand prix jumping or three-day eventing, is called the “Sport of Kings.”

It’s expensive! And doesn’t always fit well with a 40-hour week needed to make a living.

Also, success in the show or equine business arena is the coming together of many components from confidence to sustaining a positive relationship with your horse to wisely managing your finances.

Not long ago I was talking with a friend of mine who no longer competes. She can’t afford it though she’s a huge talent. She was saying how great it would have been if there was one source, one person who she could have gone to who could have coached her in all of these areas.

I shook my head. “You’re never going to believe this,” I said, “there is. Her name is Cathy Rivers.”

Cathy Rivers
Cathy Rivers, The Equestrian’s Confidence Coach

Cathy Rivers, The Equestrian’s Coach, is not only in the equine business herself breeding, training and selling Swedish Warmbloods, she’s also an accomplished equestrian, and an experienced expert coach in the areas of Equestrian Confidence,

Confidence Jump Start, Inner Nature Design, Leadership and How You Do Money Matters.

Recently featured on Dressage Daily [dot] com in an article that focuses on the amazing benefits of Cathy’s Inner Nature Design modality and dressage, and a recent guest on The Rick Lamb Show discussing the importance of confidence coaching, Cathy recently launched her complete equestrian coaching service. She explains that she sees the need to offer equestrians coaching in all the areas of the sport required to reach success.

“I coach the equestrian who is ready to ride like a champion,” said Cathy recently from her horse farm in Olympia, Washington. “I coach the equestrian who is serious about using tools to sustain and grow his or her confidence, who wants to create and sustain a profound equine partnership with their horse, and who wants to sleep at night and not worry about how they’re going to pay for the next hay delivery or vet bill because they have a healthy mindset about money and money management.”

For those interested in speaking with Cathy about her couching services she suggests you e-mail or call her. For a limited time she’s offering a free 30-minute Discovery Session.

Cathy is also available for workshops, clinics, and private engagements.

Cathy Rivers of Big Horse Dreams, Inc. is a certified professional coach and alumni of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

Cathy Rivers
P: 360.480.0183

War Horse for the Win

Official original poster for the play
Official original poster for the play (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had the rare opportunity (for me) to be in London before the massive crowds descended for the Olympics in July. I saw the National Theatre’s production of War Horse at the New London Theatre on a balmy May evening in the brief stint of warm weather before it got cold again.
What a show. This play reminds us, yet again, why we love horses.

Based on the book by Michael Morpugo and adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford, War Horse tells the story of an English horse named Joey and his boy named Albert who, separated by World War I, experience the horrors of trench warfare as they desperately seek to find one another once more. The production uses life-size, jointed puppets engineered by Handspring, a South African puppet company, to bring Joey and the other horses to life.

The production was less about portraying stories and concepts with a high degree of realism and more about capturing the essence of things—the essence of war, the essence of humanity, the essence of the love between a boy and his horse. Joey’s three puppeteers capture the essence of horse in a symphony of perfectly coordinated movement and sounds. As an audience member, you forget that the puppeteer is standing there by Joey’s head controlling the movements, and you begin to believe that this wicker and metal puppet is a living, breathing creature because the puppet moves and breathes just as a horse would. And as a horse lover, you are reminded of looking into the eyes of your horse and seeing in them the eyes of a friend.

The puppeteers also captured the fact that horses react as a mirror to the people who are with them, and you can get a feel for the character of any one person in the play by seeing how he or she reacts to Joey and the other horses. Joey acts as a great humanizing element, and this becomes especially apparent at a few different points during the show.

One of the most touching scenes in the play is when Joey becomes entangled in barbed wire in the no-man’s land between the trenches of opposing sides. A cease-fire is called, and men from each side flip a coin to see who will take the horse with them. The coin is tossed, the English win, and with a friendly handshake and a pat on Joey’s nose, the German returns to his trench once more. For a moment all conflict between men and nations is stripped away, and two people make a connection over a horse.
As I watched this scene and others, I was reminded again of a great truth: Our horses can help us to be better human beings and citizens of this world. And that, for me, made the play worth seeing.

War Horse is now touring the United States, and it’s bound to be a good run. Get more information and tickets at: War Horse on Stage | Official International Site | US Tour

Guess article by Matt James.

Matt James is an avid outdoorsman and a lover of all things horse. He currently writes for the quality horse trailer supplier doubledtrailers.com.

Keeping a Sound Sport Horse

Horses are beautiful animals with long slender legs and muscular bodies, but the conformation that makes them so elegant also predisposes them to serious limb injuries. Horses do not have any muscle below the knee on the front limbs or the hock on the hind limbs. Only bone and connective tissue provide support in these areas. In order to keep an equine athlete healthy and pain free, it is vitally important to employ correct training methods, and to provide proper nutrition. Training regimens should be rigorous, but not overzealous, and must always include sufficient time for warm up and cool down. Increase workload gradually while constantly observing for signs of strain.

Bilateral inflamed flexor tendons in a horse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Horse racing is perhaps the most physically demanding equestrian sport. Very young horses are pushed to their absolute limits on the track. Conditioning must be done carefully, as training a young horse for endurance can slow their sprinting speed. However, some conditioning is required to build strength and minimize the risk of injuries. It takes a highly skilled trainer to successfully walk this line. Even under the best circumstances, most horses will retire from a racing career with long-term injuries that will affect the animal throughout its life.

The following is a list of the most common racing injuries:

1.    Bucked Shins

The repeated concussion to the cannon bones sustained by racehorses in training can lead to the development of calcium deposits on the thin membrane covering these bones. Bucked shins will cause a horse to appear sore on its front limbs. Affected horses require rest and slow reintroduction to training. Some veterinarians still use a treatment method called pin firing, where small pin holes are burned into the skin over the affected bone in an effort to draw increased blood serum to the area. Unlike many equine limb injuries, bucked shins have a very low rate of recurrence if treated properly.

2.    Bowed Tendons

Conformational flaws and poor shoeing combined with strenuous training can lead to bowed tendons. The flexor tendon behind the cannon bone becomes inflamed and fibrous tissue develops, causing the tendon to appear bowed out from the limb. Rehabilitation will require at least six months of rest, and many horses will never return to full form. Surgery, laser therapy, and enzyme injections are additional treatment options.

3.    Bone Chips

Small pieces of bone may break from the knee or ankle joints. Depending on fragment size and location, bone chips can be quite painful or may cause no discomfort at all. X-rays are used to identify bone chips, which may then be removed through arthroscopic surgery. With surgical repair and adequate rest, the rate of recovery is quite good.

4.    Bone Fractures

The anatomy of the equine limb combined with the weight of their body and the sheer force sustained in racing make horses susceptible to bone fractures in the lower limbs. Contrary to popular belief, a limb fracture does not always require euthanasia. Often these fractures are quite small and treatable. The portion of the cannon bone that articulates with the ankle and the small sesamoid bones in the fetlock are especially prone to fractures. In some cases stall rest and careful reconditioning are sufficient, while other cases may require surgical repair and longer rehabilitation.

5.    Splints

Tears in the ligament that connects the splint and cannon bones can result in the formation of new bony growth between the two bones. This bony growth has the effect of fusing the bones together. Splints are typically a result of repeated concussion on hard surfaces. They may be treated surgically and will require rest. While they may initially cause lameness, splints usually heal well with proper care. Splints can be identified by visual inspection of the front limbs.

In order to minimize injuries and improve long-term soundness, trainers and owners must provide their horses with preventative care, including regular veterinary checks, proper vitamins and minerals, and specially formulated joint supplements for horses. Veterinarians are trained to recognize signs of weakness and injury long before they are patently obvious. Scheduling routine checkups with your veterinarian greatly improves the chances of catching a problem in its earliest and most treatable stages. X-rays and ultrasound may be used for more accurate diagnosis if a problem is suspected.

Nutrition also plays a vital role in keeping a sound, healthy horse. Providing adequate amounts of anti-oxidants such as vitamins C and E can help maintain joint fluid viscosity. It is now believed that vitamin K is important for maintaining bone density. Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D all play a major role in replacing lost bone, and the trace mineral silicon is necessary for collagen production and bone mineralization.

Providing joint supplements for horses goes one step further in promoting joint health. The most common joint supplements include glucosamine, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), and avocado and soy unsaponifiables. All are widely available in oral preparations, and there are also several injectable options available through your veterinarian. These compounds are intended to improve joint cartilage and synovial fluid, as well as to reduce joint inflammation. In order to reap the greatest benefit from joint supplements, you should begin using them as a preventative measure before joint problems occur. Providing your horse with a moderate training regimen, excellent nutrition, and additional joint support will help to ensure that he has many competitive and pain free years ahead.


5 Essentials For Your Summer Equestrian Wardrobe

It’s summertime and while you are on the road traveling the Hunter Jumper summer horse show circuit, attending a local horseback riding or 4H camp, or riding your beloved equine on some trails, it’s time to update that riding wardrobe.  Summer is one of my favorite seasons, not only because the sun shines practically every day, but also the fun floral prints and summer hues brighten up the closet.  It is time to step away from any dark and heavy fabrics and lighten it up with some sweet summer shades like turquoise, pinks, and whites.  Below I have listed some top picks for the equestrian summer riding wardrobe:

  1. Performance Cooling Riding Shirts:  with performance fabrics like Coolmax will keep you cool under the most intense competition.  Staple shirts in basic summer pastel colors are great, but even more recently some horse show shirts have been designed to feature special summer prints on the inside of the color and on the sleeve cuffs.  I would prefer to roll the sleeves after a long day of showing, and give the shirt a little bit of style to walk around the show grounds.
  2. A Bright Colored Polo: A cotton striped pink and turquoise polo from Joules or a floral printed performance ventilator shirt from Kerrits would be two cool and colorful additions to your closet.
  3. Colored Stretch Breeches:  Get Excited: European styles are finally hitting the U.S.  Trendy breeches are a fashion statement, but traditional colors are still needed for the show ring.  Brighten up your summer schooling apparel with a summer colored breech like the Tailored Sportsman in French Blue, but tone it down for the show ring with tan colored breeches in your favorite professional style and brand.
  4. Summer Printed Boot Socks: We all wear through ‘em, and some of us are known to lose ‘em!  But remember, don’t be ashamed to mix and match your riding boot socks… how about pairing two different socks together—I’ve heard it brings some riders good luck in the horse show ring!
  5. Aerated Vented Riding Helmets: Make sure your helmet has ventilation to keep your head cool and avoid the “helmet head hair” we all know so well.  Most states have already reached 90 degrees, so do your best to avoid overheating.

With these five equestrian wardrobe essentials, you will be on your way to a super stylin’ and cool summer (especially at the barn).    So get out and trot on to updating your summer wardrobe!

Guess Post by Ashley Cline. Ashley is the founder of EquestrianStylist.com, where she blogs about equestrian fashion.