As some of us are hoping for a brighter show season ahead of us in 2021, one of the things we may not have practiced/thought of much in the last year is putting our hair up neatly for a show. But as spring has sprung, so has horse show season and its time to brush up on this all-important skill!
Classic Hair Up Process
Step 1: I place my hair net (I prefer the one knot) over the top half of my head (yes, it always gets in your eyes to start!). Pull the sides of your hair down over the tops of your ears while tucking the elastic under the hair.
Step 2: Then pull your hair net snug over the top of your head, wrap it around the base of your ponytail and secure with a non-bulky elastic. Now you can push the hairnet out of your eyes and up to your hairline, adjusting the hair over the top of your ears if needed. Depending on the length of your hair you can feed it into the hair net and flip that up on top of your head or if you have longer hair like I do, just flip your loose ponytail on top.
Step 3: Time to put on your helmet starting back to front. Place the elastic into the back pocket of the harness if you have a helmet with that option and rotate your helmet forward onto your head keeping a hand on the elastic to keep it outside of the actual helmet so it doesn’t interfere with fit.
Final step: Once your helmet is on your head securely tuck in any extra pieces to keep your look extra neat. Be sure the front of your helmet sits about 1” above your eye brows – too high and the helmet cannot protect you effectively, too low and you can’t see!
Your helmet should feel like it’s giving your head a hug, not a headache!
It very important to have your helmet fitted for how you plan to wear your hair daily. If you don’t want to wear your hair up everyday but plan to put it up for show and have medium/long length hair it would be best to invest in 2 helmets so you don’t compromise the fit and safety.
In the 4H ring or the dressage ring show bows or buns are appropriate (but don’t try to use one in the rated hunters!). If you plan to use a show bow, I would still use the hairnet to neatly contain your hair under your helmet and secure with an elastic. Then clip the bow in the hair above the elastic (you may need to pull the elastic a bit lower so everything sits out of the way of the helmet). Tuck your hair into the remainder of the hair net and then into the show bow net for added security- having your hair flop out in the middle of your class is very distracting!
If you are using a bun cover start the same but twist/wind your hair into a bun at the base of your neck and secure with another elastic and some bobby pins before placing the cover over it. If it doesn’t feel secure, tuck a few more bobby pins in until you can jump up and down without it moving.
Under 12 with long hair can show in braids. As a kid who lived in French braids to keep my long hair contained at the barn I don’t recommend them under a helmet as I find they create pressure points and an uncomfortable fit. If your kid is tougher then I am go for it! I personally like to do 2 braids starting just below where the helmet sits, secure with elastics at the bottom and add bows of your choice.
Regardless of your chosen style practice before show day! Wear your hair the way you will for the show and take a lesson. This way you know if it will stay put for the whole show and you can avoid embarrassing/distracting flying hair incidents. Let’s face it, shows are stressful enough, don’t let your hair be part of the worry!
Written by Sponsored Rider, Sarah Freeman from Serendipity Stable
Our Custom Boot Event is back! February 10th-20th we will be able to get your custom fit for the perfect boot of your dreams! It’s not too late to schedule an appointment, click here to schedule!
Types of Tall Boots
There are three main types of tall riding boots – Field Boots, Dress Boots, and Dressage Boots. Each type of boot has a specific purpose, depending on the discipline you ride. Over the years, much like the rest of riding gear within the equine community, styles have evolved, but the biggest change was the introduction of zippers and stretch panels. This allowed for a much closer fit as well as an easier time putting on and taking off tall boots.
Black is still the most popular and traditional color, however more colors have been seen in the rings as of recent, including brown in the hunter/jumper arenas. In fact, there is a whole rainbow of colors and materials available that are appearing more in the Jumper, Dressage, and Eventing show rings, or even for schooling. From blues to burgundy to crocodile to patent leather and more custom boots are meant to make you stand out in a crowd. Just be careful, you don’t want it to be for the wrong reasons. If you intend on competing, make sure it’s within the guidelines and rules of your discipline.
Custom boots are a fabulous way to express one’s personality and put all eyes on you. Depending on the circuit and discipline you show in, they’re an exciting way to keep up with the latest trends and make a fashion statement. It’s a thrill to pick and choose the colors, details from toe-punch to custom embroidery or engraving, and crystals or exotic leathers to make your boot fantasy come to life, and even more exciting when you put them on and enter the ring! The most important thing, however, is that custom boots are exactly that – custom. People that may have issues with fitting a particularly wide calf, high arch, wide footbed, or find that their tall boots are never “tall” enough, fully custom boots are made-to-measure with intricate detail and done in a one-on-one setting to make sure they are carefully and correctly designed. Custom boots are hand-made and hand-stitched, because these aren’t an off-the-shelf purchase but are made just for YOU. When the boots are done, there is usually a second fitting to ensure that the boots are exactly as ordered. In addition, you generally are working with a representative the entire process to answer any questions, resolve any issues, and to make sure you are completely satisfied in your investment.
What to Expect?
Big Dee’s represents The DeNiro Boot Company, Königs, The Dehner Company, and Cavallo as their custom boot makers. Lisa Goretta is one of the flagship members in the Big Dee’s Showroom and has been extensively skilled and involved in the equestrian industry professionally for over 30 years. She is our custom boot fitter here in the store and highlighted the most important things to keep in mind when preparing for a fitting appointment.
Safety Measures: Extra safety measures are in place to keep both our customers and associates safe and we ask that you schedule an appointment before arriving. Social distancing of six foot will be followed. Due to Ohio’s public mask mandate, face masks are required by our associates and customers. All high touched areas area continually sanitized.
Fitting Process: Generally, the measuring itself takes around 30 – 45 minutes. You’ll be measured beyond your basic foot and calf size, but also the exact height of your leg, width of the ball of your foot, and the depth of your instep are all carefully considered in the design of your boots.
What to Wear: If you wear full seat fleece-lined breeches and wool socks in the winter and thin tights and thin socks in the summer, bring those. You want your boots to fit perfectly, so it’s important to wear what you will most likely be riding in them with when getting measured.
With your new boots, it’s vital they are stored properly, kept free from moisture and excess sweat, and cleaned/conditioned/polished routinely. If you keep up with basic care and necessary maintenance, you’ll be thrilled with the lifespan of your new boots. In fact, Lisa’s custom Dehner boots from 30 years ago are still in use – “They’re old, but I love them, and they look just as good as custom boots today!”
The Five Love Languages are a useful tool to understand relationship dynamics better and define qualities that speak a person’s “love language.” These characteristics, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Acts of Service, Quality Time, and Physical Touch can apply to any relationship between friends, family, loved ones, and especially your horse! Read on to see what practices you can do at the barn to share your Love Language this Valentines Day.
Words of Affirmation
Everyone likes to feel validated and encouraged, your horse does too! Keeping a positive dialogue and mindset when you go to the barn will help keep any of the stress or baggage you might unintentionally bring from work, home, or other situations. Much like us, horses thrive on praise and uplifting words and tone, even if they may not necessarily speak the same language we do.
When working or riding your horse, shower them with praise when they do a job well done. So often, if we are working on an exercise trying to fix or get through something, we are more focused on the “wrong” that when they do give a release or a movement we ask, we act as if that was the expected response and wait for them to “mess up” again. Instead, when your horse does give the desired response, a simple “good boy!” or reassuring scratch at the withers will help increase your horse’s confidence, and make him eager to do it again the next time you ask. Much like physical exercise and new movements, practice makes perfect. The same thing applies to Words of Affirmation – it may not stick right away, but keep at it. Your horse – and your relationship between horse and rider – will thank you.
Although your horse may not appreciate a new saddle pad or fancy bridle as much as you, treats and toys are something any horse can enjoy! Perhaps you can try a new stretching technique or some groundwork exercises and use treats as a positive reinforcement tool. I love the Buckeye Treats as training tools because of their size and variety of flavors – my horses especially love the Peppermint!
When your horse is by himself during the day in his stall, treating him to a new toy or boredom buster like the Jolly Stall Toy will help engage his brain and keep him focused on a fun, yummy task. On days that it might be too cold to ride, have a play day with your horse in the arena with the Jolly Mega Ball! You can also cover it to look like a Beach Ball or Soccer Ball so you and your horse can play tag, “catch,” or a variety of other fun, desensitizing exercises.
Acts of Service
Kindness always reaps kindness. If you board your horse at home, or if you take care of your horses at home, having a helping hand to show someone their appreciation for all the hard work they do. Not only will it help encourage a positive, working relationship between your barn owner, the stable hands who help take care of your horse everyday, it always feels good to give back!
Whatever you put into your relationship with your horse is what you will get out of it. So be sure to spend time getting to know your horse and build your partnership! Whether it’s doing something fun like showing, taking a lesson, having a relaxing trail ride, or sharing a quiet moment in his stall, all of these will nurture and grow the bond between horse and rider. If needed, go for quality over quantity. Even if you’re super busy between work, family members, and other priorities, taking the time to find your happy place (for most, myself included, that means being at the barn) will result in a positive relationship and wonderful memories for years to come.
Even though your horse may not appreciate a bouquet of roses, gift card (though we certainly would!), or an expensive dinner, each horse has their own love language that allows them to interpret affection and the desire to achieve a close bond with their partner. Take time this Valentine’s season to discover all the many ways you can show love to your four-legged bestie!
Enjoy the ride, Colleen C. – Purchasing Specialist
For those of you that don’t know me, I am a HUGE helmet advocate. As a child, my mother, thankfully, was also a helmet advocate long before it was trendy and that probably saved my life. Just before starting 2nd grade, I was dragged 35 feet by a horse that had become uncharacteristically spooked. Thankfully, my helmet was on and correctly fitted (which the paramedics stated it likely saved my life). When you ride horses, it is only a matter of time before you experience a fall – Not “if,” but “when.” This makes helmets a necessity in my book. But it goes much further than just plopping any old helmet on and going on your merry way! There are many dos and don’ts involved in helmet fit and care of which you may not be aware.
Helmet fit has come a long way, baby! Gone are the days of ridiculously heavy and hot velvet helmets with their stiff plastic harness and uncomfortable chin cups. Now, we have vented helmets that are lighter than ever, complete with softer nylon harnesses and a chin strap that is narrow enough to not cut into your neck. There are round and long oval options to enhance safety and comfort. You can even find many options with liners that can be removed and washed, which is one of my favorite features!
Along with an improvement in comfort has come a safety upgrade. The latest technology on the market is MIPS, which stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System. Part of what sets this technology apart is that it mimics the function of cerebrospinal fluid (natural fluid that occurs between your brain and skull) by adding a low friction layer that allows a small relative movement between your head and helmet in any direction. This is important for all of us, but in particular if you have suffered a concussion in the past.
Getting the Right Fit
In order to reap the benefits of all this amazing technology, you need to be sure your helmet fits properly. Thankfully, Big Dees has staff trained to help you achieve the best fit possible! A helmet fitter should take a measurement of your head before trying any helmet on. This will give them the information they need to gather helmets in the correct sizes for you to try. If you wear your hair up, bring the tools you use (hairnet in the style you use, elastic, clips, etc.) will help assure you get the absolute best fit possible.
A helmet should feel like it is hugging your entire head, not just the front and back. If you feel pressure only at the front and back you may need a long oval shape. Conversely, if you feel extra pressure on the sides of your head you may need a rounder shape. It is important to have your helmet fitted to the way you will wear your hair and consistently wear it that way to ensure you are protected. There are some models that come with multiple liners to adjust the fit which can allow you to wear your hair up or down, but be aware that the manufacturer does not recommend that.
Once you have your helmet on, it should sit approximately 1 inch above your eyebrows and if you grab the brim and gently tug it up or down your scalp should move with it. If it slides easily, it is too big and will not offer you the correct protection. The position of the helmet on your head is also crucial. I often see riders that have pushed their helmets up several inches above their eyebrows, this negatively impacts the function of the helmet, leaving crucial areas of your head with compromised protection.
So now you have a comfortable, well-fitting helmet. Fantastic! But it doesn’t end there… How do you properly care for your helmet so it can keep your all-important brain safe? DO NOT DROP IT. All helmets are designed to be ONE impact only, this includes dropping it (even when you can’t see damage). How do you avoid compromising the integrity of your precious helmet? Investing in a good helmet bag with padding is a great way to keep your helmet safe when it isn’t on your head, I personally love the Professional Choice Helmet Bag. This bag has padding, a solid bottom with feet and pockets to stash my hairnets and gloves.
Now your helmet is secured, everything is great right? Maybe. Are you going to toss that helmet into your back seat until the next ride? That’s a big no-no if it’s summer time as heat can cause the protective foam in your helmet to break down, causing damage you can’t see. Never leave your helmet in a hot car, or in direct sunlight when its not on your head. Ideally, we could keep our helmets in a climate-controlled room when they were not in use, unfortunately that is not always an option but you can be aware of areas that may expose your helmet to extreme heat and avoid them as much as possible. However, be aware that if you regularly expose your helmet to higher temperatures that you will need to replace your helmet more frequently.
Replacing Your Helmet
Speaking of replacing your helmet, when is it time? Helmet manufactures recommend replacing any helmet every 3-5 years. If you wear your helmet a lot (professional or have multiple horses a day) or spend most of your rides out in the sun you should probably aim for every 3 years or less. The average amateur with one horse often in an indoor can probably wait up to 5 years if the helmet is stored well. Remember, this only applies if your helmet has not been dropped or if you have fallen off your horse. If there has been an impact- go directly to your tack shop and find a suitable replacement.
Case in point: say you took a spill off your saintly horse when he tripped last week and you popped off. It wasn’t a hard fall and mostly just bruised your ego. Surely your helmet doesn’t need to be replaced, after all it dusted right off and looks fine, right? Wrong! Helmet manufactures are serious when they say ONE impact. Helmet shells are designed in a way that the foam layer compresses to absorb impact but the shell often pops back into shape. If you were to fall off again and hit that same spot on your helmet, it would serve as nothing more than an expensive decoration.
Now, I know that replacing a helmet shortly after you purchase it almost as painful as the fall itself! Did you know that several manufacturers offer a discount on a replacement helmet within a year or two?This might be something worth checking into when you purchase your helmet. I make sure to file my helmet purchase receipt in my box or with my tax information so I can find it if I need it. If you are unable to turn your helmet in after a fall, or your helmet has simply aged out, please cut the straps off so it can no longer be used. Professionals, if you have a student fall – cut their straps so they are not tempted to ride in an unsafe helmet. Your insurance provider will thank you.
After covering fit, care and expiration of helmets, what’s left? How do you keep your helmet looking and smelling it’s best? I have a synthetic suede covered helmet that definitely attracts the dust. so I keep a soft boot brush in my helmet bag to flick the dust off after I’m done riding. If you have a helmet with a smooth shell, a soft, damp cloth can restore its shine after your rides. In addition to washing my liners regularly, I throw a dryer sheet in the bag to keep things smelling a bit fresher (this comes in handy particularly in the summer)! There are also spray deodorizers you can purchase at Big Dee’s to keep your helmet as fresh as a daisy after those sweaty rides.
Written by Sponsored Rider, Sarah Freeman from Serendipity Stable
Hi everyone, Colleen here from the Purchasing Department at Big Dee’s. Personally, fall is my favorite season – I love the subtle shift in the air when you step outside on a brisk, sunny day. When I walk out to feed the horses in the morning, complete with my Pumpkin Spice Latte and favorite flannel, I get so excited for the upcoming season and the chance to regroup and focus on what lies ahead. Thankfully, the chilly air and changing leaves inspire me to get some organizing done in the barn, too – plus some new upgrades!
Rubbermaid Big Wheel Farm Cart
Just like a woman has her favorite Little Black Dress, this Big Farm Cart is the best thing. EVER. I have found so many uses for this 7.5 cubic foot utility cart from loading feed/hay/equipment from my truck to the barn (it easily moves up to 300 pounds), cleaning stalls, or using as an oversized feed cart when walking up and down the aisles. I never worry about it getting stuck in mud or losing traction on slippery surfaces with the oversized 8″ wheels. Added bonus – it’s made in the USA and has a 1-year warranty!
Stainless Steel Pails & Galvanized Scoops
I love the feeling of having squeaky clean tack and buckets, and these shiny steel scoops and pails make a perfect addition to my feed room and tack room. Both items come in a variety of sizes and rust-proof; built to last for everyday use. Whether I’m scrubbing tack or need a water bucket when my dog comes to the barn, I’m good to go. Personally, I think the smaller sizes of the pails are stinking cute – I even have a couple in my home I’ve turned into flower pots! The galvanized scoops are easy to hold and scoop the exact amount I need.
Country Pride Insulated Bucket Cover
As much as I hate to admit it, frozen temperatures will be here before you know it. However, I can feel a little better knowing I won’t have to deal with frozen buckets with these insulated bucket covers. They have just the right amount of insulation that keeps them from being bulky or a pain to put on, and the Velcro reinforcements keep it in place. I like the unique design with the extra nylon ring around the lip of the bucket so Rotti’s face stays protected. Plus, if they ever get dirty, I just throw mine in the wash or spray it off with a hose, let it dry, and it’s good as new.
Burlingham Sports Grad-Dual Grain Feeder
With my horses gradually getting less turnout time and exercise between the dropping temperatures, bad weather, and a busy schedule, the Grad-Dual Feeder was an easy solution to managing their weights and making sure they stay in optimal body condition. On top of adding a Slow Feed Hay Net, this USA-made feeder features different slots for grain to sit in, making feeding time fun for Rotti by working to get in each of the little slots to eat his grain. I don’t have to worry about it using it indoors out outside, as it’s made from heavy-duty plastic in a single mold. It keeps Rotti’s tummy happy by preventing him from gulping down grain and saves me money from having to deal with wasted feed!
Little Giant DuraTote Stool & Tool Box
I am all about efficiency, and the Little Giant DuraTote offers the best of both worlds as both a roomy grooming caddy and sturdy mounting step. They come in several fun colors (the pink was my favorite). I love I can store all my brushes, spray bottles, and more in one convenient spot, whether I’m home or traveling to shows and clinics. Plus, I can add fun decals and stickers all over it to make it instantly recognizable!
After a hard day’s work, I know the first thing I look forward to is a comfortable place to sit. The High Country Plastic Barn Buddy Stool is a lightweight, portable option that doubles as a handy barn tool organizer. I like having one in my trailer to use as a useful carry-all, but the seat is the best part. It’s the perfect height and I don’t feel like I am about to fall over while sitting (which says a lot, because I’m particularly klutzy).
As crazy as this year as turned out for myself and everybody else, take this time to refresh and rejuvenate yourself to come up with some fun projects to make the barn an exciting place to be! Grab a broom, tidy up your feed room, scrub your tack until it’s squeaky clean, and get to work! And maybe grab a hot apple cider and donut on the way 🙂
Enjoy the ride, Colleen C. – Purchasing Specialist
For those that habituate in areas that frequent (unbearably) hot, humid summers; frigid, subzero winters; or dry, arid temperatures year round, respiratory issues seem to be just as common as seasonal allergies or leaves changing colors.
However, the innovators at HayGain have created a solution for keeping your horse’s lungs comfortable and meal time more enjoyable. Used by professionals, Olympic/Gold Cup/Pan-Am Games/4* Eventing Champions, and amateur horse owners alike, the HayGain Hay Steamer maximizes the nutritional value of hay, eliminating toxins, dust, bacteria, and unwanted weeds, while improving horse’s respiratory conditions for those that suffer from coughing, allergies or weakened immune systems.
“We were always concerned about infection and pneumonia and Haygain steamed hay was a huge thing for us… I could really feel the effect when I rode [recently-retired star partner] Ballynoe Castle R.M, and his career really took off and he was a much more relaxed horse. I put all my horses on it and felt it was a huge asset.”
Buck Davidson, International Event Rider, Team USA World Equestrian Games in 2010 & 2014, Olympic alternate in 2008 & 2012
A “Tail” As Old As Time
Developed by a group of equine enthusiasts back in the early 2000s in southern England, the HayGain was a brainchild of horse owners who were concerned about the nasal discharge, coughing, heaving, and other respiratory problems in their horses. They realized – much like a hot shower or steam room helps to open up blocked airways and steaming vegetables to bring out their best nutrient content – these same principles could apply to their horse’s forage.
While soaking hay is a centuries-old method of controlling airborne particles, it isn’t entirely effective, and doesn’t eliminate potentially harmful bacteria that may be ruminating within each bale. In 2007, the HayGain was born and the results were proven – clean, dust and mold free, palatable hay.
“Everything They Need and Nothing They Don’t”
While soaking hay can be a quick, on-the-go way of dampening hay, bacteria and mold-inducing spores can still linger – up to 55%! Thankfully, HayGain has been scientifically proven as an effective, safe way to reduce airborne particles (mold, dust, etc) by up to 98%. As a result, horse’s can receive quality, nutritionally-maximized forage with 0% mold, fungal spores, bacteria, and yeast that can cause equine asthma and chronic respiratory inflammation. Hay will become so palatable to your horse that he will want to gobble every flake, saving money on wasted food or messy water buckets from dunked hay! Plus, the HayGain is clean and easy to use, saving users from dealing with messy, heavy Rubbermaid containers filled with gallons upon gallons of water for minimal results.
While HayGain improves horse’s airway quality with their hay-treating system and prevents inflammatory airway diseases by up to 65%, it also boasts a variety of health benefits that any horse can appreciate.
Increased hydration – Steamed hay has an increased water content of over 3x its normal value, ensuring your horse is getting the water intake needed to keep his digestive system running smoothly
Palatability – Picking eaters have no match against the HayGain, as it boosts the smell, taste, and texture of forage.
Allergy reduction – Sensitive horses with allergy related issues such as coughing, skin-conditions, etc. can benefit from the reduced dust, air microbials, and yeast/mold spores found in poor-quality hay.
Maximize performance – Hay is the #1 source of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals for horses. HayGain offers top-quality results with hay treated from its system to maximize respiratory, digestive, and ultimately, athletic performance.
“Hay is crucial for the health, well-being and performance of horses. Haygain ensures for us that our horses get what they need and nothing that they don’t from their hay.”
Beezie Madden, International Showjumper, Team USA Four Olympic medals, Three Pan American Games medals, 4x World Championship medals
How It Works
Steaming hay is a relatively quick process that can be easily done during riding, feeding, stall cleaning, or everyday barn chores. Because each HayGain is equipped with a timer, each bale or flake will have the perfect “cook time,” every time. Even if left overnight, the HayGain allows steamed hay to be contained for up to 24 hours, allowing in-advance steaming to be done.
Available in unique options to fit various needs and lifestyles, the HayGain is available to order from Big Dee’s in portable and half-bale units – perfect for home, trailer, and away at competition.
Each HayGain steamer is designed with a patented manifold system that hold flakes or bales in place and injects high-temperature steam evenly from the inside out. Its double insulated chest and aluminum manifold materials enables the steam to reach ultra-high temperatures within the chest (up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit), maximizing the effectiveness of the unit.
Whether you ride, race, compete, or use as a preventative/treatment measure, the HayGain is the ultimate game-changer. Not only will it help to increase your horse’s respiration, appetite, safety, forage and water consumption, it’s backed from years of scientific research and testimonials from some of the top professionals and trainers in the world. Experience the difference for yourself!
“Before I was introduced to Haygain, I was soaking hay for Brentina to make sure that it was more palatable and dust free. Then I found Haygain and not just Brentina but every horse in our barn is so happy. Now after our horses are fed the only sound you hear are the horses chewing. I no longer hear sneezing or coughing due to dust or mold spores. Once you have fed Haygain you will never go back!”
Debbie McDonald, International Dressage Rider, Team USA US Equestrian Dressage Team Chef d’Equipe Olympic and World Cup medalist
many of us are more than likely experiencing some version of cabin fever during
this period of social distancing, separation, and limited access to our usual
everyday activities and routines, there are ways to remain positive and have a
bright outlook on this bizarre time in our world’s history.
Even though many local, rated, and international shows have been either postponed or cancelled, we are able to take this time to perhaps find other productive ways to spend our now-abundant free time.
you’re like me, I consider the barn to be my “home away from home”
and a safe space for me to disconnect with the stressors of the outside world
like scheduling doctor’s appointments, deadlines, voicemails, grocery shopping
(even before the TP shortage), and general everyday life stress. However, while
I’m still fortunate enough to be able to go to the barn to take care of my
gelding, some individuals may be struggling with recent changes that may not
allow regular boarders to come and see their horse, much less even ride or have
more than an hour with them. While this may be frustrating, it’s important to
understand and appreciate that those who are taking care of our beloved animals
are on the frontlines and need to ensure their health and safety in order to
ensure that for our horses.
Curious to discover ways to connect with your equestrian community while still getting your “fix?” Continue reading to find out more!
1. Spring Cleaning
During this time, take this opportunity to sort through all your tack, saddle pads, schooling/show clothes, and more. Are there any items that are worn through, rotted, or overall unsafe/unusable? If so, throw it away to create room for the good stuff – plus it makes more room in your tack trunk for new gear! Take the remaining bridles, halters, saddle pads, and more to inspect the quality of each and break out the elbow grease to give everything a good scrubbing/cleaning/conditioning (check out Cassie’s blog for some tips and tricks to make your leather sparkle)!
2. Get Fit
Just because your mighty and noble steed may have transformed into a temporary Pasture Puff, that doesn’t mean you can’t get ahead of the curve and build your fitness level to be ready to hit the ground running with your horse by the time you’re back at the barn. Take the time to enjoy some fresh air and build your cardio by walking your dog, having a dance party by yourself to some of your favorite tunes, or go hiking at your local park with equestrian friends – while keeping with proper social distancing guidelines. Think about engaging your core throughout the day and promoting proper posture while sitting at home, making sure to keep up with healthy eating habits. By giving yourself a goal to strive for, it’ll help keep you on track and stay excited about building a positive routine.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on some of the best exercises specifically for equestrians!
3. Time Capsule
In between your Netflix binging of The Office and Tiger King, go through old videos and photos from previous shows and lessons. While this may not necessarily be an exciting or enjoyable thing to do – reliving chipped distances or “ugly” riding – It’s amazing what taking the time to appreciate the growth between you and your horse can do to give inspiration for new exercises and patterns to try. I discovered that the reason Rotti would sometimes buck after fences wasn’t because he was being naughty, but because I would lay on his neck in the landing and didn’t allow him to stretch after the landing stride, so he had to work extra hard to try and regain his balance and rhythm! With the knowledge and experienced you’ve likely gained since those videos were taken, you probably didn’t realize how much you’ve learned or some of the bad habits you’ve worked through (or picked up).
You can also check out governing body websites like FEI, USEF, USHJA, USDF, and other resources like The Chronicle of the Horse to watch old show videos for you to “ride along” with to help envision your success plan for the future. Doing all these things shows your support to your coach or various small businesses during these stressful times, and keep you engaged with what’s going on in the equestrian community.
Also, take this time to catch up on going through your various magazines like Horse Illustrated, Practical Horseman, or organizations like AQHA Magazine, In Stride, and more to read up on the latest updates for show updates and what’s going on in your breed or discipline-specific community. You can also dust off some of the various books stacked in your tack room to brush up on your riding, horsemanship, grooming, or horse care knowledge – I know I’ll be diving into my copy of World-Class Grooming and looking forward to warmer weather coming upon us for him to get his first bath of the season and shedding underway for him to be show-ring ready!
included, it can be really easy to worry about “what’s next?” We are
wondering when our beloved barns and shops will reopen, the next time we can
ride, when our next show will be, or when life as we know it will get back to
“normal.” The biggest thing to rely on is trust. Your horse will (likely)
not become some feral animal or forget everything you’ve learned together, and
his fitness will not have completely fallen apart. You will not
“forget” how to ride. Thankfully, there is a light at the end of the
tunnel – this will not last forever. Before you know it, we will be back in our
barns so take the time to reflect and discover a new-found appreciation for
this world we love so much.
I started riding when I was 10 years old. My parents, albeit supportive of my “obsessed” tendencies of wanting to learn to ride, were not accustomed to the world that is equestrianism. I was lucky to attend weekly lessons and had big dreams of showing, clearing massive oxers, leaping over 10-foot Liverpools, and galloping around Spruce Meadows or the Washington International.
However, all those dreams (my parents quickly realized) cost money. How much? Well, considering I calculated how much weekly lessons cost for a year alone and maybe one or two shows a year – then promptly burned the piece of paper with the number on it – I can’t say I blamed them for firmly stating, “NO,” when I would beg to lease or buy the pony of my dreams.
Over the course of 14 years, until I made the insane decision of purchasing
a horse of my own, I had to learn to adjust – and appreciate – the value of
being the obsessed horse kid that didn’t have one of her own.
In order to get my “fix,” to earn as much saddle time as possible, I would wake my mom up at 6 AM (on a Saturday) to have her drop me off at the barn. From there I would muck stalls, groom horses for lessons, learn how to show prep horses with clipping and bathing, and learned the ins and outs of what working a full-scale show barn was like. It was a ton of fun getting to play with ponies all day, and even if I was covered in Lord-knows-what and smelled to high heaven, I felt so accomplished with my days’ work and the chance to earn an extra lesson or work off my haul-in fee for a weekend schooling show.
Eventually, I got my license (much to my mother’s delight), and began assisting in managing the barn I grew up riding in – waking up at 4 AM to do morning feed and turnouts, muck a few stalls – while balancing a Honor’s course load and after-school activities. I won’t ever say that it was easy, or I didn’t feel overwhelmed, or that I was “missing out” sometimes unlike my other 984 classmates in high school; however I was so proud of my efforts and was fortunate enough to show some amazing horses at some incredible venues that it was all worth it to me.
Fast-forward after high-school graduation and heading toward my collegiate career at Lake Erie College. I was ecstatic to have my schedule full of facility management, equine business, and course-design classes. Plus, I got to ride ALL THE TIME. Between helping at IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association ) shows, riding for IDA (Intercollegiate Dressage Association) under the tutelage of Barb Soukup and showing my leased OTTB, Tego, I was in heaven.
Don’t get me wrong, it got frustrating at times, seeing all these other people around me with their beautiful horses they’ve owned over the years or even brought to school with them! However, I was able to enjoy other aspects of my college career without having to handle the responsibility of taking care of my own horse.
There are so many ways to enjoy horses, even if you can’t own one of your own. Plus, you get the biggest benefit of not having to handle the financial burden of owning a horse! Ultimately, I learned bravery and tenacity because I would hop on anything for the chance to learn or ride something new. Offering to help at the barn gives you the advantage of learning a new skill and to absorb information like a sponge someone otherwise might not have gotten. Same thing applies to grooming at shows – you become so well-connected to your local community and watching other riders.
Attending clinics by either riding in them or auditing gives you another avenue for “pony time.” Same thing applies to traveling to fun equine-related events such as tack swaps, Equine Affaire, spectating shows and more. Plus, you have so much time to educate yourself further, whether it be books on riding, grooming, or even reading stories of famous horses from previous years. You can even try something you normally wouldn’t, like a new discipline such as saddle seat, driving, or even polo!
So, if you happen to be “horseless,” try not to feel discouraged. Take comfort in the fact that the all-consuming love and passion you have for horses is a gift. That can’t be taken away from you. Whether you own, lease, take lessons, or tack up for the occasional trail ride, you’re living the dream of having horses in your life. There are an endless opportunities to being around these incredible animals, and like my mom told me – “If something matters enough to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen.”
As a horse girl – my answer would always be a famous horse! I’ve been lucky and had the chance to meet Cass-Ole’ or as you may know him – The Black Stallion!
Picture it – 1980, Peace Bridge, New York.
I’m seven years old and on my way to the Canadian Arabian Nationals in Toronto with my family. We are stuck at the Peace Bridge waiting for all of the horses’ papers to be checked so that we can cross. Some of you may know, it takes a LONG time to get across the border. Each horse marking needs to be checked off, coggins looked at, etc. At seven years old, even 15 minutes can seem like a lifetime. While waiting, a trailer pulls up next to us. Always curious, I check out the horses. Low and behold, it is the Black Stallion himself!
I had been to the single movie theater in town recently to see the amazing movie of the Black Arabian Stallion, and I was in awe.
The owners allowed my brother and I to climb up onto the
fender of the trailer and pet the magnificent horse. Time actually sped up at
that point. I didn’t have nearly enough time to talk to him.
He was going onto the Canadian Arabian Nationals as well. He
had been shown quite a bit before the movie. With a National Championship in
Arabian Western Pleasure, Reserve Champion in Side Saddle and U.S. Top Ten in
English Pleasure. Over his show career he had won 50 Championships and 20
I was able to catch glimpses of him at the Nationals but
wasn’t able to get close to him again.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet other greats in my life at
shows – Charlie Watts (the drummer from the Rolling Stones) and Patrick Swayze.
Wayne Newton called me honey once. But, none of these greats will ever compare
to the time that I was able to meet the Black Stallion!
“If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you… Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it..” -If, Rudyard Kipling
We all know that riding and horsemanship in general is a physically demanding activity. From cleaning stalls, lifting heavy water buckets (or breaking up frozen ice buckets if you don’t have a heated option), and no stirrup work, riders must be in tip-top shape in order to keep their cores strengthened and their cardio in adequate levels to keep up with the task of riding their horses regularly. If you compete, that regiment of keeping in shape for riding and competition might include flexing your muscles at the gym, going running a few times a week, yoga for core strength and balance, and more.
However, stress-relief and anxiety management may often be put to the wayside when it comes to the things a rider carries in their “fitness” arsenal. As a result, all the hard work you might put into your equitation, position, adjustability of stride, and more might fall apart as soon as you step into the schooling ring, the show ring, or maybe try a new skill in your next lesson.
Ask any equestrian who their biggest critic is, and the answer 99% of the time is themselves. So often, we put unnecessary pressure of where we are vs. where we “should” be, compare ourselves to other riders who seem to win everything, fancier horses, or think “I’ve been riding for so long, why are riders half my age doing better than me?” Then we sit and dwell on these negative thoughts, beat ourselves up over and over, that by the time we go into the ring we are shocked when we get a refusal at a jump or a dressage test that falls apart as soon as we salute at X. Our negative thoughts get affirmed and we are stuck in a vicious cycle of thinking “I’m never going to get any better, maybe I should just quit” – or something along those lines. We beat ourselves up, we punish our horses with our tension and nerves, that so often riders wonder, “How can I get out of my own head?” Add into the fact that a lot of riders in the hunters and equitation world voluntarily walk into a ring where the first words uttered over the loudspeaker are, “You are now being judged.” We immediately stiffen our spines to sit up straight, make sure our heels are at the correct level of “down,” and strive to create the image of perfection for the sake of a blue ribbon.
I know that riding and performance anxiety plagued my equestrian career for a long time. I always read different books and articles, watched videos, and attended clinics on what “correct” riding should be even before I started taking lessons over 16 years ago. I tried so hard to emulate the greats like Beezie Madden, Geoff Teal, Ian Miller, and others. Unfortunately, I was so set in a black and white ideal of what is “good vs. bad” riding. I developed a bad habit of not finding “feel” but rather trying to “force” horses into a correct carriage, even if their own physical or mental abilities weren’t at that point.
As a result, I would get frustrated with myself because I assumed I was doing something wrong, or my equitation was incorrect. At one point, I was riding in a clinic, nervous because I was riding a young, unfamiliar horse. By the end of the clinic, I felt accomplished and proud of the tools I added to my riding toolbox. However, all that crashed down when I was told my trainer at the time had deemed me “untrainable” to parents and auditors in the viewing area. At that point, I was at a crossroads – why should I even continue trying if my own trainer didn’t even believe in me?
It’s very easy to internalize and dwell on negative memories. It’s even easier to get stuck in those thoughts, and think we aren’t capable with more. Speaking in my own experience, I’m was told (or gently screamed at) by my trainer to “Get out of your head!” However, it took me many years of practice and hard work to eventually get out of my inner critic mindset.
Flex Your Brain
Developing your mental skills and emotional fitness is a lifelong journey. It’s not a matter of eliminating fear – fear is a good thing. It’s what keeps us from putting a beginner rider on a 6-year-old stallion in the 1.30 speed showjumpers. The difference between fear and anxiety is that one is a response to an actual threat (fear), and the other is a response to a perceived threat – or one that we make up in our own minds (anxiety). Just like training horses, results will not happen overnight, and you can’t do too much too soon, otherwise you’ll only end up forcing, which will result in more stress/anxiety.
Often, people think that by simply avoiding anxiety-related thoughts or not allowing your brain to have these thoughts is the solution to not being anxious. However, that thought process is like avoiding the annoying neighbor who lives next door or the creepy aunt at every family reunion. Eventually, you’ll have to face those thoughts head on and acknowledge that they exist. However, you are ALLOWED to have these thoughts and they do not define who you are as a rider. Just like lifting weights, you’ll have to take time to flex your brain to develop the skills needed to tolerate those uncomfortable thoughts and realize. With regular practice and repetition, it’ll be as effortless of knowing what the correct posting diagonal is.
First, it’s important to build an awareness of what creates anxiety for you. Maybe it’s the fear of falling that stemmed from a bad accident years ago. Maybe it’s being afraid of your own horse due to him reacting poorly in the cross ties or spooking on the ground when you weren’t prepared. For me, I’m at the point where I’m not working through a horse or riding-related fear, but rather wanting to bring my competitive edge to the next level. Battling the monster of perfectionism, if you will, and defining the delicate balance between overthinking, not thinking at all, and being totally in sync with my horse at every exact moment of my ride.
Learn to stay focused on yourself. Comparison is truly the enemy in any aspect of life, but especially in riding. Learn to stay focused on your horse and what he needs helps you to not get caught up in other rider’s performance, giving you a clear mind to be fully present on what your horse is telling you in that moment. Trust that where you are now in your abilities did not happen by accident – that can not be taken away from you. Trust that each time you step into the irons, you firmly believe you have the best plan to success. As soon as you start second guessing is when you lose focus and things start to fall apart. A lot of the times, we can get hung up on a particular fence, a particular dressage movement, or a particular scary corner in the end of the arena that our energy and our mind is so isolated.
Instead, the trick to avoid getting hung up on those potentially scary situations is to create a mental film of seamlessly blending all your horse’s steps together from start to finish. Imagine a magnet pulling you toward the finish line at a comfortable pace, rather than rushing like a train off the tracks – frantic and scattered. That way, all those tools you have in place will help you adjust if there is a certain screw you know has a tendency of coming loose (ie: your horse loves to cut the corner on his left lead). Being mentally aware about 3 to 4 seconds before you reach that corner will help you prepare and set your horse up for success.
Don’t anticipate and focus on him cutting the turn, but that he is quietly lifted and balanced down the quarter line with plenty of encouragement in the outside rein to keep him square between your legs and hands. Keep focusing on that mental movie you have in your mind and set yourself up so that the magnet pulling you toward the finish line doesn’t have any bumps or shimmies.
Second, remember that your horse is your mirror. If you’re working a green baby, it’s especially important to be that reliable holding hand that is always present during particularly “scary” moments. Keeping focus on your breath will help him stayed cool and collected, the plan you have in your mind will give him a soft, safe place that he will want to stay inside. If you feed off your horse’s tension, it will become a nasty, vicious cycle, and your mental movie will quickly turn into a horror film. If he spooks or bucks, keep your deep diaphragmatic breathing and continue without a second thought. Keep your focus on the seamless line you have in your mind and come back to the teaching moment later. I find that keeping a journal in my riding backpack is helpful because I can “dump” all my thoughts on paper rather than holding everything in my mind without a structured way to see them, and can ultimately come up with a course of action after my lesson, ride, or show round.
I want to mention that these tips are not a hard and fast rule. Some people prefer more of a “tough love” approach, while others prefer to work things out quietly in the privacy of their own meditative states. Even so, once a person masters these techniques, it’s important to mention that it doesn’t mean the thoughts will vanish into thin air. However, you’ll have the confidence to know the tools you have in place are meant to set you up for success. And if you screw up, chocolate-chip your distance, canter when you were supposed to sit trot, or whatever else, tell yourself, it’s okay! Go back to your mental toolbox and give yourself and your horse a pat on the back. Tomorrow is a new day to try again.
Enjoy the ride, Colleen
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