Horse Talk

This page is designed for equine enthusiasts to come together and read about and share experiences they have had. The love of horses is one that is shared by many people so feel free to comment or just read about other peoples experiences and their favorite equine friend.

About Me

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I have been riding horses for 10 years and I am an active member of the United States Pony Club. I own 3 horses and I am an HB in the Pony Club rating system. I enjoy eventing, dressage, and instructing younger club members but love to do anything dealing with horses. Currently, I am studying animal sciences and hope to use this to increase my knowledge of horses.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Safety with Horses

I have talked a little bit about my involvement in the United States Pony Club. One of their biggest concerns is safety and creating safe equestrians. Since I have been a member of Pony Club for 10 years, I have always been taught that you wear a helmet whenever you are on a horse, no matter how small of a distance you are riding. I have also been taught that you wear a safety vest whenever you are riding outside of an enclosed area and that you always wear proper footwear whenever you are working around horses.

To some people, they don't pay very close attention to safety when they are interacting with their horses and when something happens and they get hurt, they wonder what happened. These people were never taught properly and they were never shown what could happen if you aren't safe.

I'm not saying that if you wear proper footwear, a helmet, and sometimes a vest you will never get hurt. There is always a risk when you are dealing with 1,000 pound animals that have a mind of their own. Especially when you think about the only thing that is controlling them is two small pieces of leather (your reins).

Every year, in January, our club is required to show this video called Every Time, Every Ride. It has a lot of testimonials from people who were either hurt from riding without a helmet or from relatives who have actually lost a loved one because they were riding without a helmet. Many of these people in this video talk about how they were ONLY going for a trail ride or ONLY walking up the driveway. It only takes a second for everything to go wrong with horses.

Most equestrians understand that they are involved in a dangerous sport and they know that it is their decision whether they continue safely or not. Before every show, we have to sign a release stating that we will not sue anyone if we get injured because we know we participate in a dangerous sport. Everyone has become so use to signing these that we refer to it as "signing our life away".

In Pony Club, our helmets are checked before every ride to make sure they fit correctly and to make sure they are certified. Helmets should be snug enough so that when someone tries to wiggle it around on your head, your eyebrows actually move with it. This might sound like it would not be comfortable, but honestly if you purchase a helmet that you like and that you feel is most comfortable you will most likely forget you are even wearing it.

As for the footwear, we are required to wear boots with a heel that cover our ankle. This rule I do not feel as strongly about. When I am riding, I will have my boots on. However, if I am just running out to the barn to throw some hay I will sometimes just throw flip flops on and be very careful around the horse's feet. Even with boots on, it hurts a lot when they step on your toes. With only flip flops, you would most likely suffer a few broken toes.

When dealing with animals that weigh around 1,000 pounds and have a mind of their own, safety is very important. I will never be caught riding my horses without a helmet. However, I know many people who do not wear helmets everytime and they seem to be doing alright now. Maybe after that next fall, things might be a little different.

Purdue Equestrian Team

One of the most frequently asked questions after people learn that I ride horses is "Are you on the Equestrian Team at Purdue?" Unfortunately, I have to tell them no I'm not now and probably never will be. You might be wondering why this is or what is wrong with the team. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Purdue's team, it is just a decision I made early on.

When I first started looking at colleges, if the school had an equestrian team it was definitely pushed higher up on my list. But, after learning more about collegiate equestrian teams I decided it was not something that I wanted to participate in. There are many different types of teams offered throughout the United States colleges. Purdue offers both a western team and an english team. From my earlier posts, you know I would only be interested in the english team for now.

Some other colleges, especially in Kentucky, offer eventing, dressage, and hunter/jumper disciplines in their teams. Purdue however only participates in the hunter/jumper discipline and this is something I have never actually tried, but feel like I would not be very good at. The biggest difference between eventing (what I currently do) and hunter/jumpers is that in hunter/jumpers, you are scored on the rider's position as well as the horse's form over jumps. In eventing, as long as you make it over the jumps, you are fine and it doesn't really matter how you look.

The other big thing that made me turn away from collegiate equestrian teams is there way of competing. You use the school's horses and the school is responsible for bringing some of their horses to each show. Once you get to the show, before your round, you draw a horse's name out of a hat. This is a horse that you have most likely never ridden or even met before. You then have a short time to get used to that horse and ride it around and over a few jumps before you have to enter the ring and show on this horse. For some people this probably sounds like fun, but for me not so much.

The thought of having to show a strange horse is not appealing to me. I get nervous before going in the show ring on a horse I have spent 10 years riding. If I can not feel completely confident showing a horse that I have actually bonded with, how can they expect me to show a strange horse.

If the team competitions were organized differently, I would be more likely to try my hand at joining the team. However, because there are quite a few people that enjoy this aspect of the team and because they try to give everyone an equal shot, this part of the collegiate equestrian teams will probably not change for awhile. There are many people involved with the equestrian team and I have no problem supporting them. I just don't see myself as a member of any collegiate equestrian team.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Summer Memories

Honestly, I am starting to find it difficult to find things to write about. I never thought it would be possible for me to run out of things to say about horses. Unfortunately, that day has come. For this post, I think I will talk about my summer and what that will include with the horses and how it will be different from the school year.

The most obvious change between school and summer, is that I will be at home and will take over the daily care of my horses. During the year, my parents are in charge of making sure they get hay four times a day, grain twice a day, and a clean stall to sleep in at night. This means that in the summer, there is no such thing as sleeping in. I am up at 8am normally ready to go out to the barn. I will admit, I will normally roll out of bed at 7:59, throw my boots on and go out in my pajamas to do the morning feeding.

Also during the summer, I have a lot more free time in order to ride. In the perfect world, I would be able to ride both of my horses in the same day. Due to an accident that occured while riding though, I am not able to ride more than one a day. In the summer of 2005, I took a bad fall off of my horse and about a week after that started having back pain. When I went to the doctor, they told me I had a stress fracture in my lower back that would always cause me trouble. They were right, I am not able to ride both horses without experiencing severe back pain. That means that I have to rotate which horse I ride everyday which can get a little annoying.

Throughout a normal summer, I would be competing in anywhere between five and ten competitions. This summer, however, I will not be competing. There are a couple factors that play into this decision. First of all, I have not been able to ride on a regular basis throughout the year so my horses are very fat and out of shape. By the time I come back to school, they might be back up to their top performance. Secondly, I will actually have a job this summer that requires 40 hours a week which means that cuts down on my riding time too. Thirdly, the horse that I would normally compete will hopefully be sold by the time competitions start.

This summer, I am looking forward to being able to spend some time not just around my barn but hopefully at other barns with various horses. This will help me improve my riding by using different types of horses. I am hoping to ride everyday this summer and be more motivated to continue riding all through next year. The school year provides added complications when it comes to my riding schedule, but summer gives me a blank slate to start clean and begin anything I want to pursue.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What's the Big Difference?

When I'm at home with my horses, I am surrounded by other people who enjoy riding English just as much as I do. Now that I have been at Purdue for awhile, I have realized there is a whole new world of Western riders out there who are convinced that Western is the only way to go. This has been an ongoing battle for quite sometime between the equestrian community.

In my experiences, one major difference is the horses that are used for each. They are so completely different. Western horses always seem to be dead heads who can not find one thing scary or one thing to shy away from on the trails or in a show atmosphere. English horses on the other hand, or at least the eventing horses, are always on edge, ready to run fast and they are never hesitant to shy away from that trashcan that has been there for the past year or any other potentially scary object.

One weekend, two seasons ago, the horse park was hosting two different shows. They had an english show on one side of the road and a western show on the other side of the road. The routine at an English eventing show is that you drop your horse off, make sure they are settled, go out to dinner, and go to the hotel until the next morning of competition. The "westerners" however, are just starting to crank the music up and get loud and roudy around 8pm. Also, the worst feeling is walking your horse to your first class of the day, feeling like they are on cue, listening to you the whole time and then having them come completely unglued underneath you because one of those cowboys is swinging a rope over their head 50 yards in front of you.

Now, it might sound that I am completely bashing on the western community and this is not true at all. In fact, two weekends ago, I took one of my friends home with me and she is one of those crazy "westerners" and she talked me and my family into buying a western saddle. So, if you were to walk into the tack room of our barn now, you would see five english saddles and one very out of place western saddle. I honestly can not wait until this summer when I have the opportunity to play around a little bit in the new saddle.

The other major difference is the riding position of the two disciplines. English riders are always very proper and are always looking to create nice straight lines with their body. One of these ideal lines is from the ear to the shoulder, then the hip and the heel. It seems to me from the uneducated eye, that the style of western is more laid back. They always seem to have their feet in front of them and just be perching up there on top of the saddle.

Even though it might sound like I am very biased right now, you must understand that I have been riding english for 11 years and I don't adjust well to change. However, this summer I am looking forward to doing some trail riding and possibly trying my hand at some barrels or pole bending. You never know, next year I might be able to come back to Purdue as one of those crazy, barrel racing "westerners".

Monday, March 30, 2009

R.I.P. Chief of the Promise

Sunday was a good day...or so I thought. I got to sleep in, had lunch with my friends, and watched a movie. That all sounds great, right? Well it was until I got a call from one of my best friends back home. Sarah and I met through horses and have been friends for about 10 years. When I get a message from her asking me to call as soon as I get a chance, I know it can't be good.

So, I call Sarah back and she informs me that one of our good friends is having to put her horse down on Tuesday. This news is unfortunately not really surprising to me. This horse is not only very close to the owner but also very close to Sarah. When Sarah was looking for her first horse, she was only interested in borrowing a horse not owning a horse, so through pony club she found Chief.

Chief is a very special horse who has been around for 27 years. If you are familiar with the Indiana horse community, you have most likely heard about or seen Chief around at some show or other outing. He is a tall appaloosa who has the heart of a teddy bear. In his prime, he was shown at preliminary level which is a higher level in eventing consisting of roughly 4 foot jumps. As he aged, he helped beginners learn the ropes and would perform any task he was called to do.

Instructors felt comfortable putting a five year old on him because of his willingness to please. Anyone who entered the barn was automatically drawn to Chief due to his puppy dog eyes and quiet expression. He served two generations in the owner's family and touched the heart of so many others.

Chief will be greatly missed. Anyone who laid eyes on this horse knew he was something special. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Mundt family and Sarah. Thanks for sharing this great horse with us.

Spring Break

Most people who have horses in their backyard would be happy to go home for Spring Break and ride everyday. However, this was not the case for me. As I have mentioned before, I have one horse stabled with my trainer and 2 horses at my house right now. I was excited to get some free time away from school to be able to ride, but I was dreading it at the same time because I knew my horses would be hyper since they hadn't been ridden.

I don't know how aware of this you are, but when you leave a horse for a long period of time and don't ride them they get hyper. Especially if you continue to feed them the same amount of food. So, I knew when I got on I should be expecting a rodeo.

I have been having a particularly hard time with my pony lately because he is enjoying his life in early retirement and he never wants to have to work again. I am slowly trying to convince him that he will work and he WILL be happy about it.

I decided to start my break off by riding my horse who is at my trainer's barn because I figured he had been ridden more recently and it would be good for me to exercise him while I was at home. I was excited to ride until I brought him into the arena and watched every other horse rider combination quickly evacuate. That should have been my sign. I got on and before I could even think about it he was rearing. Now, in all fairness I don't mean like vertical in the air rearing, I just mean his front feet were no longer on the ground.

He does this quite frequently, so I decided to kick him to ask him to walk forward instead of jumping up and be done with that nonsense. We were done with the nonsense until I asked for a nice slow trot and he pulled that same stunt again. By this time, I decided to give up and go into where my trainer was teaching so she could help me through this. Once I did that, he was much better and I had survived my first ride of Spring break.

That all happened on Wednesday and I was in know way rushing the ride on my pony because I knew that would be even worse. Saturday came and there were a lot of younger riders coming over to our barn for lessons that day. I decided it would be a good idea to hop on my pony while they were riding because if he saw other horses working maybe he would think that he needed to work too. He didn't understand that and it only made things worse.

I got on with the older group of riders and was ready for everything to go wrong. I knew that I could expect a buck when I asked for canter, but all I was doing was trotting in a circle. I have had this pony for almost 11 years now so I know him pretty well and I could feel the energy about to explode. He was like riding a pony on energy drinks. I was just trying to work out the energy and not do anything special.

We were trotting the same circle we had been trotting for the past 5 minutes when he decided to make things interesting. Completely out of nowhere, he decides to buck. You must understand when this pony bucks (as seen below) you better give up on trying to stay on him. Some people say it is like he is doing a handstand on his front feet. So of course, I go flying through the air without the greatest of ease. I land on our lime arena floor thinking to myself, "Did that really just happen?" I am sitting there, look up at my pony and he looks like he is asking himself, "Mom, what are you doing down there?"

Let's just say, we excused ourselves from that lesson and I went and worked him even harder. I was looking forward to break being a relaxing time to ride both of my horses and enjoy some quality time at the barn. I never expected to come back to school with my back all scraped up and carrying around a bottle of Tylenol everywhere I went.

Monday, March 23, 2009