Perfectly even sweat marks in all weight-beating areas with clear spine and wither clearance. I’m so thankful I can adjust his @dp_saddlerysaddle to perfectly meet his measurements. This is with JUST a @thinlinellc sheepskin pad. No bulky or “supportive” wool or panels necessary when your horse’s saddle fits him right and sits with stability on his back. It has made a clear improvement in his movement, focus, and work-ethic levels to have a saddle that fits him correctly. There are two primary things I look for in saddle fit:
1) Spinal clearance. This includes the withers, and means that the saddle has only light or no pressure across the spine of the horse. The horse’s spine is both an incredibly strong and incredibly fragile structure. Due to its transmission of nerve signals throughout the body, minimizing direct pressure to it and the ligaments immediately surrounding it is very important.
2) Stability on the back. People often oversimplify saddle fitting by stating that it’s pinching or bridging somewhere. While those issues might be true at a square halt, as soon as the horse moves all of the pressures and forces beneath the saddle are constantly changing. What you want is a saddle that will stay STABLE in the face of those pressures. Often saddles that pinch in one place are too loose in another, and it is that instability that truly causes the soreness. Focusing on having a saddle that follows the horse functionally rather than statically is so important. Does your horse’s saddle fit him properly?
Sometimes, y’all, there simply aren’t enough words to describe how much I love this animal. He’s spooky, a giraffe, humongous, and an absolute goob, and I love him with all of my freaking heart. Back to back horse shows this weekend, and where most horse’s scores would falter as they got tired, his stayed stellar. A 71.3% in Walk Jog 2 and a 70.9% in Walk Jog Lope 1. He goes out there and tries his absolute hardest for me every single time, and I am the luckiest girl in the world to share the arena with him.
A MASSIVE thank you to the brands that support my boy and allow him to do what he does best:
Sid was SO. GOOD. this morning. Our first test he was a bit tense (my fault, needed to chill out in the rein aid department and just let him go forward), but the second test felt MUCH more fluid and forward. So proud of him for beebopping right around like he does this every weekend, when our last Dressage show was 4 or 5 years ago. Ended up with a 66.9%, and a 67.3%. Lots to work on, but I couldn’t be more proud of him! Looking forward to show #2 tomorrow! A massive thank you to my sponsors for making this possible:
@triplecrownfeed for keeping him shiny and happy
@cavallohoofboots for protecting his bare feet and allowing him to move as naturally as possible
@cleverlarkphoto for her support today and A+ video and picture taking
@the_horse_holster for keeping my phone by my side while I run around the show like a crazy person
As many of you know, I am a Cowboy Dressage Clinician. However, you often see pictures of me riding in my Dressage saddle. How does that make any sense?? The reason I practice sometimes in my Dressage saddle is threefold:
1) I take lessons from a Dressage trainer (yes I take lessons - if your trainer doesn’t, run away).
2) It’s closer contact than my current western saddle. This allows me to more efficiently help Sid when asking for bend and balance, because we can more clearly feel each other’s engagements of muscle and body position. As my current western saddle is technically a trail saddle, it was not designed with technical riding in mind, and therefore makes it difficult to achieve these things. I’m on a hunt for a new one though!
3) It’s lighter. This is another place the bulk of my current saddle works against me. The weight of it is over double the weight of my Dressage saddle, which especially in the heat is hard on him.
Do you practice in a different saddle sometimes? I of course still practice in the western - this is just handy for REALLY hot days or in places he needs a bit more guidance.
So, so, SO proud of these amazing people for what they accomplished yesterday. Bravery, perseverance, hard work, and positive attitude all paid off in some beautiful displays of horsemanship. The judge was incredibly impressed with Ashley/Sparrow and Ellen/Trixie, and for their first show the scores they brought home were excellent! Ellen even earned the Best Sportsmanship trophy for her positive attitude and support of other riders.
Sid was great as always, helping me earn a 73.7% and, more importantly, an 8.5 soft feel score! It was nice to feel him settle in to his own a bit, and see our partnership rewarded. Love, love, love this horse.
A massive thank you to my sponsors who support my journey and help my horse feel his best: @triplecrownfeed (check out Trixie’s shiny coat!), @cavallohoofboots (protecting his bare feet from the gravel around the show), and @the_horse_holster (keeping my phone by my side).
Contact is a privilege the horse earns through consistent and quiet conversation. It is not a thing to be “taken” at will, but instead should be a state the horse seeks because he desires even quieter and gentler communication than you can achieve otherwise. You cannot force contact. At that point you are pulling, and the horse will only become duller for it. Instead, you must set him up in such a way that he is interested in the conversation that takes place through the reins, and is excited to have an avenue through which you can speak to each other clearly. I think of the reins and contact like a telephone line. If I pull or bump on it, it will fly out of the wall and our conversation will be over. Similarly, if I drop the receiver and “hang up”, our conversation will end as well. Instead, I treat the reins as a delicate tool used to carry messages from myself to my horse, and back again. How do you think about contact?
Something I’ve struggled with in the past is actually going to the barn. I know that sounds silly - as a horse trainer isn’t that my lifeblood? Well, yes. But it’s also one of the largest burdens on me. As something of a perfectionist, if one little thing seems slightly off about going to see my horse, I simply won’t. It might be that there’s wind, or that I have a headache, or even that I didn’t ride him yesterday so he might be wild.
Lately, I’ve been working really hard to just go. Even if it means I just stand by him in his field for 20 minutes then head home, I do it. That sometimes seems like an absolutely monumental task, but by the time I actually get there I usually end up doing more than I had planned on. However, even if I don’t, that’s okay too.
Letting go of the expectations I have at myself at the barn has actually made things go much better. I’m sure I was stressing Sid out being hard on myself all the time, and I’m also sure it was holding us both back from what I wanted for us. So I’ve made it my mission to simply go to the barn. Accept the hot-mess express rides, the great rides, standing in a field, or just grooming him for two hours as all part of the process. I don’t need to get it all right all the time. I just need to make the most effort I can that day. Have any of you ever struggled with this? I’d love for you to share your thoughts below - I think it can be an isolating feeling in this social media age of seeing everyone ride every day and succeed, and it’s good for others to know they aren’t alone.
Professor Sid is here with 100 questions to ask when buying or adopting a horse! It’s always so stressful that sometimes we can forget to ask really important things. So here’s a handy pocket guide for some of the things you can ask, as well as a few you should run away from specific answers. Please note that I know horses are wonderful special individuals but to save space I’m using “it” instead of saying “this horse” 100 times. Be sure to tell me one question I missed in the comments below!
1. How old is it?
2. What breed?
6. What is it eating?
7. How much is it eating?
8. Is it on turnout?
9. Can it go barefoot in an arena?
10. Can it go barefoot on a trail?
11. How often does it need trimmed/shod?
12. Can I have a vet check? (If no - RUN)
13. Can I have X-Rays done? (If no - RUN)
14. Have you ever had soundness issues with it?
15. Does it have any genetic disorders (HYPP, PSSM, etc)?
16. Does it have a current Coggins?
17. Do you currently hold its brand inspection and/or registration papers?
18. How many owners has this horse had?
19. Who bred the horse?
20. If you are not the owner, may I speak with the owner before purchasing? (If no - RUN)
21. Does it tie quietly?
22. Is it good for baths?
23. Does it lead well?
24. Is it quiet on the ground in new places?
25. Has this horse ever kicked/bitten/reared/struck at a person?
26. Does it tolerate sprays?
27. Can it be led by children?
28. Does it load well?
29. Does it tolerate injections quietly?
30. Can it be wormed/given oral medication easily?
31. Is it headshy?
32. Is it girthy?
33. Can you handle its feet, legs, tail, and ears easily?
34. Does it lunge both directions W/T/C?
35. Is it quiet to approach?
36. Does it ground tie?
37. Is it quiet about ropes around its feet?
38. Is it quiet about things around its haunches?
39. Does it come when called?
40. Has it been trained under any particular method (If so - Parelli, CA, etc)?
41. Can it be sent over obstacles?
42. Will it lead across water quietly?
43. Can it be ponied off of another horse?
44. Can it yield its hindquarters on the ground?
45. Can it yield its forequarters on the ground?
46. Will it lower its head to be bridled or pet?
47. Can the horse be hobbled?
48. Can it lead by its feet?
49. Has it ever been laid down?
50. Is this horse comfortable working in a round pen?
51. Can this horse W/T/C both directions?
52. At what age was it started?
53. Was it quiet to start?
54. What bit/bitless bridle does it go in?
55. Can it be ridden quietly in different equipment?
56. Has it been hard to fit a saddle to?
57. Has it ever thrown its rider?
58. Has it ever bolted/bucked/reared?
59. Would you feel confident putting a beginner on it?
60. Has it ever been to a show?
61. What is it performance record?
62. How long does it take for it to settle in at new places?
63. How does it handle new riders?
64. What cues does it know for different things undersaddle?
65. What type and level of rider rides it regularly?
66. Does it have a solid stop?
67. Can it back up easily?
68. Will it yield its hindquarters undersaddle?
69. Will it yield its forequarters undersaddle?
70. Will it sidepass?
71. Does it root against the reins?
72. Will it walk quietly over grass?
73. Will it cross water?
74. Has it been exposed to poles/jumps?
75. Has it been exposed to barrels?
76. Has it been exposed to tarps?
77. Has it been exposed to loudspeakers?
78. Has it been exposed to bikes and strollers?
79. How does it ride in a group?
80. How does it ride by itself?
81. Is it gate sour?
82. Is it barn sour?
83. What is the largest arena it has ridden in?
84. Will it trail ride quietly?
85. Can you ride the horse first? (If no - RUN)
86. If a rider were falling off, what would it do?
87. Is it spooked by taking off/adding jackets?
88. Is it spooked by water bottles?
89. Is it tolerant of other horses close behind it?
90. Does it stop to go to the bathroom?
91. Is it comfortable urinating undersaddle?
92. Is it good with cats/dogs?
93. Has it ever been around other livestock?
94. Is it tolerant of loud noises?
95. Will it stand quietly to be mounted from the ground?
96. Will it stand quietly by a mounting block?
97. Does it know any tricks?
98. How often is it worked each week, and for how long?
99. Can you work it less and still have the same horse?
100. Why are you selling it?
Check out this video on how to ensure your horse is solid about all parts of his saddle before you start swinging a leg over!
Baby Spirit learning a new trick! This is so valuable to teach youngsters because they can get used to hearing/seeing/feeling you way up above and behind their head before they have to carry you as well. It’s also valuable to swing your legs along their sides, and gently lean against them, to get them used to a number of stimuli they may experience while being ridden. I sing songs, flap my arms, and swing/toss my rope around up here to help prepare them for ridden life. They learn that while they can move away when they get scared, if they come back underneath the scary thing they get a big reward! This smart little monkey picked this up (both sides!!) in about 20 minutes. Have you ever used this technique with a young horse? You might be surprised what spooks them when you’re way up in the air!