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

My photo
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


Friday, March 13, 2009

Junk Mail?

This entry is very random compared to the others that I have been doing recently, but it is on my mind right now and has been since I got home. Ever since I walked in the door, I have been going through my mail that has been sent since last time I was home last week and there is a lot of junk mail.

Now, you are probably thinking that people always get junk mail and this is nothing special. Unfortunately, all this junk mail is ads or letters wanting me to subscribe to this horse magazine or buy this horse product. I have never seen so many advertisements trying to accomplish the same result with so many different products.

Honestly, I am a college student so not only do I not have the money to be spending on these types of things, but I don't have the time to sit down and flip through countless magazines all talking about horses. Don't get me wrong, my mom andI subscribe to three magazines every year. These are monthly magazines and I do look forward to receiving them every month and seeing what topics are in them this month.

There is nothing wrong with magazines or advertisements for that matter. The problem comes when your mailbox gets deluged with never ending advertisements. You start to not even care what they say or what they are offering, because you just want to get rid of all of them.

When you see that you have a stack of mail after you have been gone for a little while, it makes you feel important. However when you go through and realize that you have to throw away everything but one letter, it makes you feel like you are no longer important to anyone except the Alumni association from your high school.

Do these companies that send these out seriously not have anything better to do with their time? Has it come down to simply sending out postcards saying "Subscribe to the Perfect Horse and your horse will never be happier"? Have they never heard of this new thing that everyone is using called the internet? If they would simply catch up with the 21st century, they could advertise on the internet and people could search for them instead of them searching for every equestrian on the planet.

You know that this is annoying and it would be so much better if they would use the internet, save some trees, and stop bothering people every day with their advertisements. If they are doing that bad in sales, maybe they should considering something else besides just marketing more. With economy the way it is right now, I feel like the last thing most people are thinking about spending money on is a magazine subscription.

Work...or Play?

My most recent equine adventure actually involves a study that is currently being run at Purdue's vet school. I was contacted in November about the possibility of me helping with this study because my name was given to them as someone who likes horses. Of course, I immediately jumped on the possibility to do what I love while making a little money on the side. I was interested and excited to learn more about this study and just exactly what I would be doing.

The study is testing a treatment for heaves which is a common problem in horses. It involves airway obstruction due to mucus build up in the esophagus. This problem is triggered by dusty environments with poor air circulation. We are testing one specific treatment for this to see if it is effective or not.

I was ready to get started even though I was not sure exactly what they needed me for. I attended the initial meeting and figured out they needed students to be in charge of feeding the horses, handling them for some of the testings, and shaking moldy hay to trigger the heaves to start. You are probably thinking that this sounds cruel because honestly, I thought that when I first heard about it. However, these horses are monitored so closely that if anything is not looking right, they are immediately pulled from the study.

Unfortunately, schedules did not work out for me to help in the first part of the study, so I had to wait until the horses were brought back for the second round of studies. This means that I only started helping this week. I was pretty excited that on my first day, I had already been shown how to pull blood. I think I failed to mention that I get very light headed at the sight of blood or needles. Somehow though, I managed to watch her show me how to do it and watch other people pull blood on six horses all together. By the end of this I was ready to sit down.

Thursday night was the first night that I was actually scheduled to go to the barn and feed and shake hay for the horses. Unfortunately, two of the six horses had already triggered after three days. This is a process that is supposed to take 2 weeks. So, they did not get any moldy hay, but the other four did.

I enjoyed seeing the horses, since I only get to see mine when I go home. Thursday night, I felt like I was back where I belonged, in a barn around horses. All of the horses in the study are very cute and I love being able to not only see them, but also groom them, pet them, and just be around them. I am definitely very happy that I was contacted about this study and I am hoping I learn something from being in this and helping out wherever I can.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Infamous Quiz

Every year, the Heartland Region of the United States Pony Club has their annual Quiz Rally. This is an unmounted competition where members go and showcase their knowledge of horses by answering questions and performing various tasks. This competition is an ideal competition for members who might not have their own horse because you don't need your own horse for this competition. It is a very popular rally for younger members because after you go for a few years it gets old because it feels like you are sitting in school for a day.

This rally is one where although it gets many young members competing, it is the least anticipated rally of the year. This is because no actual horses are involved, it is held in a school, and it is all knowledge based which means you have to study before going.

This rally is coming up in one week so the younger members of our club have been preparing for the past few months. This weekend my friend and I are responsible for setting up a mock rally so that the competitors from our club can see what it is going to be like. Both my friend and I have competed in quiz for four years and now have an officiating position for one of the stations.

Of course I had to come home again this weekend in order to organize this for our members. Between tonight and tomorrow at 1pm, my friend and I have to make sure my barn is clean, put together about 12 stations with various levels of questions, and make sure everything is organized and correct to give the competitors the feeling of the real rally.

Normally, this would be very easy, but with this being my first year at college and me not being completely active with our pony club, this small task seems to become a rather large, daunting challenge. I only have the few weekends I am home to arrange this because everyone knows there is not much free time to work on things other than homework.

With both of our experiences at Quiz, we say that we are perfectly fine never competing there again and only helping. So, we have been roped into taking over what is called the Mega Room which consists of 10 tables with 10 matching questions. This sounds easy enough but when you have to come up with topics, have different difficulties of questions, and come up with so many questions it gets difficult. Not only do you have to come up with the questions, but we also normally make posters with the answers on them so they can match them.

Although this competition is not very exciting, it is a competition that requires everyone's participation. Whether you are a young member or an older member, everyone can have a job. This is the regions first rally of the year and it is a great way to start off the competitive season. Everyone looks forward to seeing old friends and catching up on the latest news of the winter. It might not be the most fun, but it is definitely worth everyone's time.

Weekend Adventures

This past weekend, I came home for the weekend. The purpose of this trip was to clean our barn up so that we could have our local Pony Club come out the following weekend for a seminar. I was pretty excited about this trip because it would give me a chance to spend a lot of time in the barn, ride my horses, and just be around my horses.

Things started Friday night when I got home and went out to clean stalls. Now, I realize that my parents are in charge of the barn when I'm away, but I didn't expect everything to be changed and moved around. I did not even know how to get in my own barn. Every door was locked and last time I checked we didn't lock our doors. After figuring out how to get in my own barn, I walked in to realize that everything had been changed or moved around. I had to search for things that normally had a specific place.

After eventually making it through the Friday night chores, I knew that the barn really did need to be cleaned up and things needed to be put back in their proper location. I was ready to tackle this project over the next two days and make this barn look as spotless as a barn could. I woke up the next morning (well, technically it was afternoon) and I was ready to get started. My mom had other plans though. She was the one that wanted me to come home and clean and now she wanted to go shopping. I couldn't complain because I do like shopping, but this was my first clue that this big job was not going to be done.

After a long day of shopping, I convinced myself that I was going to wake up early on Sunday and work on the barn for a good part of the day before I had to come back to Purdue. As you can guess though, this didn't happen either. I woke up around 10am on Sunday and knew it wasn't even worth it. Instead, I decided to go out and ride my pony, Luke.

To some, this might sound like loads of fun, but I knew he hadn't been worked in a while and was going to be crazy. So, after many failed attempts to just get in the saddle without him trotting off, I was successfully aboard. For the next 30 minutes, I found myself doing tiny little circles with him just to make sure I had some kind of control. After that amount of time and getting very dizzy, we were able to walk around the whole arena without trying to unseat me. I decided to quit on a good note and not push my luck. Needless to say, I came home this weekend too and I still have a dirty barn to clean before Saturday and I still have a pony that needs to be worked more. One of these days, I will accomplish everything I want to do in the time frame that I want it done in. Until then, I guess I will just have to improvise. (The picture is not my barn, my barn is not quite that bad, but it was used for emphasis.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Nightmares of Importing

Most horse people look at importing horses as such a luxury that only people with money are able to afford. Unfortunately, the lady I have been training with for 11 years now had a horrible experience with importing a horse from Sweden. She was interested in finding a horse that could compete at the top levels and thought of importing as the best way to make that happen.

She worked with many high class, top of the line trainers and after a trip over to Sweden, she thought she found the perfect one. This trip was a week long trip of looking at horse after horse with these trainers trying to figure out which one would be the perfect fit for her. Apparently, she rode at least five horses everyday and had a very hard time choosing which one she wanted to bring home. But, at the end of the week, she had picked a Swedish warmblood mare named Bella.

So, the process began of getting Bella over to Indiana. Once Kate, my trainer, came back there was still a lengthy process of quarantining Bella over in Sweden for a few weeks and then also quarantining her over here in the States for a few weeks. This time period is just used to reduce the risk of spreading any diseases from Sweden to the United States. This time was very hard for Kate because she was like a big kid and just wanted her "new toy" to be over here so she could play.

That period of waiting was over, and it was finally the day Kate could go pick her up and bring her home. You could feel the excitement in the air around the barn to see this "magnificent, Swedish princess". You could only imagine my dismay when I had to call Kate while she was on her way back with Bella and tell her that she couldn't bring her back. The reason for this was that one of the other horses at the barn had decided to get sick that day and no one really knew what it was. I didn't want to take any chances, so I decided to warn Kate and let her do what she wanted. She didn't want to take any chances either after spending so much money to get her here, so she stopped and waited a couple days before bringing her home.

Bella was amazing! She was so talented and even made Kate learn a thing or two in order to keep up with her training. Whenever Bella was being worked, everyone would drop everything just to watch this horse's way of gracefully gliding over the ground making it look like her feet never touched the ground. After about a year though, everything went wrong.

Bella started coughing a lot when she was worked, so Kate had a few tests done. It turns out, Bella was allergic to almost everything that was around her. This "Swedish princess" turned into a "Swedish pain in the butt". She had to be on a special diet, in a special stall, with special bedding. Unfortunately, things got worse instead of better. The only option was to bring her to Purdue for a surgery that would help her get over the allergies. The operating team knew something wasn't right after the first incision. During surgery, Bella's stomach literally exploded due to excess amount of pressure and she passed away.

This story is not a normal story of how imports normally end, but it does show that things can go wrong no matter how much money or time you put into a horse. Everyone at our barn still looks up to this horse and speaks about her with the utmost respect. She taught everyone alot and needless to say, I don't think Kate will be importing another horse anytime soon.

Start Your Engines...

It is that time of year again. All competitors know the official start of the season has come when entry forms for the spring shows begin to slowly trickle in. This is when the nerves start. Many people who have been showing for a long time now will try to tell you that they don't get nervous, but I am here to tell you everyone gets nervous.

It is around this time when people start making goals for this season and picking and choosing which shows they absolutely have to compete in. It is also the important time to figure out how much money you can really spend on shows, hotels, gas, and equipment. For some people these decisions could include being at a different show every weekend of their summer all across the midwest. Unfortunately, for others, this decision is made easier by only being able to go to one show during the season.

I always would find these decisions hard because I never could decide if I wanted to do a multitude of smaller shows or just pick a few of the bigger shows and travel a little farther to compete. Once every detail of the season is planned out, the real work begins, actually preparing for the shows.

Preparing for a show, suprisingly starts months in advance to make sure everything runs smoothly. First and foremost, you must make sure your horse is fit enough to compete. Most outsiders do not think about this very important step in preparing. You want to make sure your horse is performing his best and therefore, you must condition them for whatever they will be doing at that particular show.

Some of the smaller, but no less important tasks to preparing for a show is making sure you have a hotel if you will be there overnight. Also, you must check over your trailer and tow vehicle to make sure it is in good shape and will actually get you to the show. These minor details might not seem very important, but without these there will be no competition for you or your horse.

At the beginning of the year, you also must make sure your horse is vaccinated and that you have a copy of that record in your vehicle because without it, you might not even be let into the show grounds. When I competed at Championships, one of my teammates did not have her copy and they would not let her onto the show grounds until she had a copy. This required her going to the show office and pulling a copy from the papers she had sent in with the entry. This could have ruined the whole competition for the team before it had even started.

The part of preparing that I personally like the most is packing. When you start packing, you know that the competition is close and is going to happen. Packing can be challenging though, because not only do you have to pack for yourself but you also have to pack for a 1000 pound animal. This means that you have to analyze everything that could possible go wrong and pack for that. After packing, the only thing left to do is to load your horse in the trailer and hit the road.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Helping the Horses?

As I have mentioned numerous times, the economy right now is not at all favoring horse owners. Normally, horses are expensive but when you add increasing prices on hay, grain, tack, and everything else you could need it becomes more apparent. It is hard for people to have one horse and for those that have more than one it seems like they should be taking loans out. Recently, horse slaughter was made illegal in the United States which directly relates to the number of horses who are now not being cared for in an efficient manner.

This new law is surprisingly a very controversial subject in the horse world. There are two sides of the argument and I honestly am not sure where I stand on this matter. First, there are some people who look at horse slaughter and are completely opposed to it. These people think about the condition of the horses when they are sent to slaughter. They are normally in very poor condition because the owners have finally realized that this is the only thing left to do because they have not taken good care of them. The other point to think about is the transportation to the slaughter houses. These weak, sick horses are normally shoved in a semi-truck and transported in huge groups.

The other side of the argument is that now that slaughter has been banned in the US, many horses who would have gone to slaughter before are not being taken care of well because the owners don't have the money. In order to get rid of horses that could not be taken care of financially, owners could send them to slaughter for a very cheap price. Now these horse are being forced to suffer in barns that are not appropriate and conditions that are not healthy.

This is a very hot topic in the equine world because it is a new law and many people are not sure where they stand on this subject. Personally, I do not believe that slaughter is the only way of getting rid of a horse that can not be properly cared for. I know there are rescues and even individual families all around that would happily take a horse instead of seeing them be sent to slaughter. I will most likely never support slaughter of horses. Instead, I think we need to educate our horse owners of alternate options to get these horses out of these terrible living conditions.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Heartbreak of Horsemanship

In my first post, I mentioned that I have one of my horses up for sale right now. This could easily be one of the hardest things I have ever decided to do. I have owned horses since I was nine years old and never thought I would ever actually have to sell one. My first pony I got is still with me just because I couldn't even think about having to get rid of him. It is a hard decision to have to make because a horse becomes your partner and you form a huge bond between the two of you.

This whole journey started with my newest horse, Danz in 2004. I had been looking for a horse for awhile because I was outgrowing my pony and I needed a horse that would help me progress to the next level. After about 2 years of looking for a new horse, I found Danz and even though he was a little more experienced than I had originally wanted I thought I would try it and see how things worked. For a few months things were fine and we were working well together. Then, we slowly started falling apart as a team. We were not successful at any shows we went to and riding him and working with him was no longer fun. So, the option of selling him arose. I swept that under the rug very quickly because I felt like a failure if I sold a horse.

After a few more months, and a few more falls the option came up again. This time I considered it for about 5 minutes then again I brushed that idea away. Finally, last summer three different people told me I needed to sell him to a more experienced rider before I got severely hurt. Unfortunately, I had to comply at this point. So, I got everything together and contacted my trainer to see if she would start working with him and get him ready to sell. She agreed so he has been at her barn for the past 5 months and she has been working with him and he is looking really nice and hopefully will attract a few buyers soon.

The hardest part about this whole process was knowing that I had formed a bond with him in the past 4 years that I have owned him. That bond that we have will be lost as soon as he is sold and he will have to start over new with a different owner. It was very emotionally taxing dropping him off at my trainer's barn because I wasn't sure when or if I would see him again. After I became used to him being in our barn and seeing him every day, it was hard leading him into the dark, back corner stall of her barn.

This whole process made me think though about how relevant this situation was to making friends and aquaintances in life. You can get really attached to someone and put everything you have into a relationship and then suddenly they are gone. Whether if be a best friend, a boyfriend, or a girlfriend you never know if that one person will be there tomorrow. There is always that possibility that you won't see them again or that you won't be as close with them again. This application to real life really made me think about the uncertainty of the future and who will be there with us and for us in the future. So, appreciate those people that are special to you now while you have them around and never take them for granted.

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Close Community

When you pull up at a horse show, the first thing you will see are scurries of people all talking to their friends and catching up with old friends they haven't seen since last season. The experienced equestrian knows though that everyone is there to win whether they are competing against a best friend or not. All they have on their mind is how many people they need to beat to go home with that blue ribbon and possible prize.

Many people who are not involved with the horse community don't understand though that even if you are competing against someone if you ever find yourself in trouble the first person you call is that lady you met at the small show because you know she lives close. There are horse people all over the country and when you are found traveling with a trailer and your tire goes flat, it is nice to have that little black book of friends close by.

One perfect example of this is when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Everyone in the horse community knew that there were still horses down there, so they started sending anything and everything they had. It didn't matter how small it was. Helmets were sent so those little kids could get back on their ponies and start riding, hay was sent by the truck load to replace the thousands of bales that were lost. It was no longer a matter of who was going to win the show, it was only a matter of who was not going to lose the battle.

Michigan and had a very bad accident that landed her in the hospital for about a month. Unfortunately, she still had horses back home that needed to be taken care of and she had a kitten in her truck that needed food and water. Almost immediateAnother example actually involves a really close friend of mine. She was competing up inly after the accident happened people were calling offering to take care of the kitten and her horses back home, offering to cook meals for her family, and offering to just come visit with her. That is not to mention that multitude of cards and gifts that were sent to her to keep her mind busy. After a long recovery she healed fine and didn't have to worry about what she had to take care of when she got home.

The horse community is always there for each other whether it be a bad accident or just a minor crisis. There will always be that open door close by of a family that has a small barn in the back and is willing to give you a meal or even a bed as long as you enlighten them with your many horse stories and experiences. An equestrian will never feel alone as long as they remember the huge horse family that is there to back them up.

NYC... No Not New York City

As I had mentioned earlier, I am a member of the United States Pony Club. Every year they have an annual meeting which is held in a different place every year. This is a time when people from across the country come and learn more about Pony Club and the new things that are going on in the horse world. Something that is held in conjunction with this meeting is known as the National Youth Congress (hence the title).

This Congress is somewhere where people between the ages of 18-21 can be nominated to go and learn about leadership within the organization. It is a huge honor to be able to go because you have to be in the upper levels of Pony Club and you have to be nominated by the leaders in your region of the country. When I was younger, I always wanted to take part in this Congress because I looked up to the other girls who were a part of it.

I never even thought about applying this year because I am one level away from the cut off, so when I got a call asking if I was interested in going I was thrilled. I turned in my paperwork and made sure everything was in order as soon as I could. All of the leaders discussed it and decided that I would be the nominee for our region this year. Now the hard work started. I had to get approvals to miss class from professors and I had to reserve a hotel room and plane ticket.

This year the annual meeting and Congress were held in Greenville, South Carolina which meant I got warmer weather too. After everything was accounted for and I made sure I had everything organized for things I would be missing, I boarded a plane to South Carolina. I honestly didn't know what to expect other than I was going to get a special name tag with a special ribbon on it making me special. When I arrived there though, nothing could have prepared me for the things I would learn in those three days.

We started off with just an ice breaker reception which was very awkward being thrown into a room of girls who think they are better than you when it comes to horses. Throughout the next days though the 40 of us became best friends. Thursday and Friday we were stuck in a room in the back of the hotel for the whole day and we sat through presentation after presentation. No one would want to sit through that and at the time everyone was complaining. It wasn't until the end of the two day when we were asked to look back that everyone realized how much we had grown and learned within 48 hours.

The whole Congress was based on being leaders in not only the organization but in the world and our future careers. We outlined characteristics of good leaders and we talked about decision making and how to analyze and make decisions in split seconds that could affect your future in a career. We also talked a lot about how to make a difference in our community and we were challenged to organize a community service event to benefit the equine community around us.

I look back now and although I did not like sitting in the same room for two days listening to speakers, this opportunity has made me realize what a leader is and how hard it is to be a leader in today's world. I was challenged along with the other girls and now instead of hearing complaints from all of us we are all wishing we could go back and do it all over again.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Supermarket of Horses

There was a comment left about one of my previous posts asking how I found one of my ponies from a rescue. There are many options when it comes to finding and buying horses. The marketplace for horses, just like the economy, is very slow and numbers are way down right now but there are still lots of options. With the internet and other new technology, advertising on the web has become very popular. Whether it be classifieds on different equine organizations or actual search engines specifically for finding horses that fit your needs, you will always find horses that could potentially match your description. These search engines offer many options including searching by name, location, age, or discipline. The ads that you will see for horses on these types of sites will include information on the horse including a short description, age, sex, height, breed, etc. Although the internet is a popular way of starting your search for the perfect horse, there are other options that could work just as well, if not better. Another way of finding your next horse is by simply talking to local trainers about what you are looking for and what you need in that next horse. Most of them if they do not have a potential horse for sale on their property will be more than happy to keep their eyes open for you. Also, most states will have horse rescues or establishments that are equivalent. These places don't always offer the perfect horses, but for people that are looking for companion animals these are great places to look. We got Sheba from the Indiana Horse Rescue and we just use her to keep my other pony company if I am gone at a show. The other advantage of these types of establishments is that they are normally very inexpensive. They will normally just charge a small adoption fee and then the horse is yours after they have completed an inspection of your property. Auctions are another way of purchasing horses for a very cheap price. I don't have any experience with this but some horses can be bought for as little as one dollar at auctions. Normally these horses need some work to get them in shape, but if you are willing to put in the time and effort this can be very rewarding. All of these are options that are easily accessible, but for people who are new to this part of horses, I would recommend that you just click around on the internet and familiarize yourself with the ads and the different terminology used in advertising these horses. Also, before you ever commit to buying a horse it is best to go and see the horse being ridden. This way you can see the horse move and see how experienced the horse is. The best advice though is if you are looking to buy your first horse and you aren't extremely experienced, get help from a professional. That way you can assure that you know what you are buying and you understand the needs and requirements of that animal. Have fun shopping!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Rolex Roadtrip

So, it is that time of year again. The mailings have come out and advertisements have started in all the magazines and popular online sites. You might wonder what I'm talking about. I am talking about the Rolex Kentucky 3 Day event seeing the new, up and coming competitors. You might ask yourself what a horse show would have to offer if you are not competing yourself. Not only is the competition being run, but also there is a huge trade fair that sells everything a horse person could ever want. The show is scheduled to run over four consecutive days. However, the international horses are flown over very early to adjust and to be kept in quarantine for the required amount of time. Thursday and Friday are scheduled for all of the competitors to do their dressage test. This is just a pattern of movements that is the same for every rider and they are scored by three judges on how well they execute the movements. These days are very important because this score is the riders' starting point. Saturday is the most exciting day for spectators. On Saturday, the riders participate in their cross country course. This is when they run full speed over the rolling hills of. This horse show is only the biggest event and qualifying show in the United States. This four star event brings together some of the most famous eventing riders. During Olympic years, this show is used for these riders to get qualifying points to attend the Olympics. Rolex is one of four shows of this magnitude, but the only show in the United States. The other shows that are this big are held in Europe. Rolex is held over 4 days in April in Lexington, Kentucky. Around the first of the year, they send out the mailings about tickets, parking passes, and grandstand seating. That means that if you want to attend you have to plan early because grandstand seating sells out and so do all the hotel rooms in the area. I have attended this show as a spectator for the past 8 years and I love going every year and Kentucky and must negotiate over natural obstacles like logs, ditches, and water. The jumps at this level can be very tall and very technical. The course consists of 4 foot jumps with 6.5 foot drops on the landing side. Cross Country really tests the relationship that the horses and riders have. If they are not performing their best, accidents can and will happen. Sunday is the last day and the horses that are still moving well and feeling alright will continue on to the stadium jumping round. This is a set course of less than 15 jumps that are made up of poles and standards. This is a timed course and as long as they jump in order and don't knock any poles down, no penalty points will be added to their scores. This show is run the same way every year, but the variety of novice and veteran competitors brings something new every year. My friend and I already have our tickets ordered, our seats reserved, and our hotel reservations made. All that is left is for April 23rd to come so we can pack the car and head to Kentucky for another year of excitement at Rolex Kentucky 3 Day Event.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Favorite Memory

Since I have been riding for so long, there are many events that I vividly remember. One of my favorite memories though is when I qualified to go to the US Pony Club Nationals which is held every year. You qualify at a regional show and then during July can go to Nationals and represent your region in the discipline that you qualified for. I have been to Nationals twice, but I only rode one time. In 2006 I qualified in Training level dressage on my pony Luke. Then in 2007 I went on our regional team but only as the barn manager. I am going to talk about my 2006 experience though. My friend, Sarah and I decided that we were going to get a team together and we were going to try to qualify as a team. In our region that would not be an issue because not many people wanted to go to Nationals in Dressage. We had to commit by February which gave us four months of intense training before our regional rally. We all had our horses in top shape going into our regional rally. One of the things that is required to qualify is that you have a freestyle prepared and you have to perform that at the regional rally as well as at Nationals if you qualify. A freestyle is a ride choreographed to music. Sarah and I decided to do this together and decided to use songs from Grease the musical. After many months of long practices and a few collisions, we thought we had our freestyle ready. Everything went as well as can be expected at the rally and our whole team qualified plus one additional person who competed on a different team at Nationals. Now we had one more month before we had to drive out to Lexington, Virginia to compete. This month went by very fast since we were all excited about going. I remember the day before we left trying to pack all of the necessities for 3 people and 2 horses for a week into a truck and trailer. The hardest part about that was trying to squeeze eight bales of hay into a short bed. After squeezing everything in though we were packed and ready to go. We had to leave by 5 AM at the latest if we were going to get there and get the horses settled before they closed the barns. Needless to say, the 13 hour drive gave plenty of opportunities for napping.
We arrived and got the horses settled and equipment unpacked and we were ready for a week of showing. It was the same routine everyday, arrive at the barns by 6 AM, ride once or twice a day, and leave at 6 PM. The week went very well and the team had some very respectable scores. The last day was when Sarah and I were scheduled to do our freestyle. Unfortunately, our music didn't start at the right time so we were forced to make it up as we went along and my pony decided to buck as we were cantering toward each other. Other than that slight mishap though the week went well and we all had fun. We finished 6th out of 14 teams which we thought was pretty good for the region's first time competing in Dressage. I had a really good time and I am hoping to go again next time it is hosted in Kentucky.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

For The Love of The Horse

There is something about horses that draws a person in. Could it be the innocence you see in their eye or maybe the calmness or serenity in the way they carry themselves? What is it that draws people in? What creates that special bond between human and equine? Whether you ride for pleasure or enjoy competing in English or Western there is a common tie that draws everyone together, it is the love we share for our equine friends. When you step into the barn, all your cares from the day just fall away and all that is left is you and your horse. You work for years to establish this bond, and this camaraderie. You and your horse have finally formed a partnership, you are finally a team. As soon as you climb aboard your horse, there is nothing else around you. As mentioned earlier, there are so many disciplines to choose from that it turns into a family sport and everyone can find something they enjoy. Within the english discipline, people can choose dressage, eventing, hunter/jumpers, polo, saddle seat, and even endurance riding. Western offers many different events as well, that include barrels, reining, cutting, and roping. I have learned most everything I know about horses from the United States Pony Club. I have been a member for 10 years and I love it.

I have three horses, and two actually live on my property which is very convenient. I still have my first pony that I ever owned. His name is Luke and he is a 14.3 hh grade pony who I evented for a little while and now am schooling him in First Level dressage. The other horse that I have at my house is actually one that I rescued from the Indiana Horse Rescue. Sheba is a 35 year old appaloosa and is blind in both eyes due to a common disease called uveitis. This disease causes the gradual shrinking of the eyes and is common in Appaloosas. Her right eye has already been removed because it was too small for the socket. Suprisingly, she gets around very well as long as you do not change her surroundings. There is a picture of her below.

My other horse, Danz, is actually boarded at my trainers because we are trying to sell him. He is a thirteen year old 16.2 hh thoroughbred. I evented him for awhile but decided he needed to go to someone who didn't mind doing training or preliminary and going fast. I have had him for four years and although it will be sad seing him leave, I am hoping to eventually replace him with a really nice dressage horse. Unfortunately, with the economy, it will probably be awhile before he is sold. For now though I am just enjoying riding whenever I can and looking forward to competing on Luke this summer.