Saturday, January 1, 2011

Horse Hunting :)

I never thought this day would come... or at least not so soon. It has been a dream of mine since I joined a local riding school in 2004 (or was it in 2003... it seems so long ago!). However, things just wasn't working out at the time and I got by riding riding school ponies and horses owned by other people. This journey has led me to meet some very interesting horses, and ponies, and have taught me a lot.

Imagine the excitement and joy when my dad finally decided to buy me my first horse as my 21st B-day present :) I was over joyed. The excitement was constantly threatened by some hiccups along the way, but I stuck through it and am one step away from my dream.

At first I was given a chance to get a 7 year old Arabian mare for “free”. The owner valued her at around R15000 and would have had to for her owner to pay her off. I had grown very attached to this mare, because she wasn't the easiest horse to work with and I love challenges! She had been abused before and had very little training, but I just fell in love with her from the first minute I saw her. I was very tempted to take her, but after a lot of thinking I decided not to take her. There was just too much at stake and I wasn't quite sure what I would be getting myself into (with the owners that is). All I will say is that you get some dodgy, greedy people in the horse industry.

So the hunting started... and how very exciting and educational it was! I had a very good friend help me with my search, giving me opinions on conformation etc. And eventually found the perfect horse for me...

Before I talk of my chosen horse I thought I would first show some horses that were available at the time. My heart was set on getting a TB, relatively young, something between the ages 3 and 5 and at least 16h.h.

The first horse I found was a beautiful dapple grey gelding. He was absolutely stunning! However, he got sold before I could make an offer (I'm not surprised though!). He was more or less what I was looking for in my horse and so set a very high goal for the other horses to meet :)

Ain't he stunning!

The very same owners had a couple of other Tbs for sale and I saw a couple that looked promising, but I wanted to wait a little longer. These owners take Tbs off the track and then rehab them for a bit before selling them. They have gotten some lovely Tbs off the track in the past, so I was willing to wait. At the time 2 of their horses caught my eye.

At some point they had a lovely light bay mare for sale. His conformation wasn't what I was looking for, but I loved his colour. It was just something different to the usuall bay and chestnut colours.

Do you see what I mean about her colour?

Then I saw my boy! He is a dark bay, 4 year old gelding standing at 16h.h. He has an honest looking face with a real sparkle in his eye. His conformation is as good as it will get for me so I decided that he was the one :)

If all goes well he will be coming to me end January the latest... so fingers crossed!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Importance of Saddle Fitting

I recently bought the latest issue of the HQ (a South African Equestrian magazine) and found a very interesting article on saddle fitting. The article was about Norman Hyett (ECBS.ESEBT UK Qualified Saddle Fitter) and the saddle awareness workshops he hosts. I've been rather interested in the biomechanics of the horse's back, especially how the rider and the saddle influence/affect it. The more I've been learning on the topic, the more I have become to realize how important a correctly fitting saddle is. It is amazing how something so “small” can have such a BIG affect on your horse way of going and its wellbeing. Here is what I found most interesting in the given article:

(Note: the text written in italics are my thoughts and not necessarily that of Norman)

Modern Materials

Most modern saddles are made with plastic trees. This is not necessarily something to be afraid of. Old saddle are made from wood that can bent out of shape throughout the saddle making process.

Does this mean that plastic trees are less likely to loose its shape when compared to a wooden one?

Uneven Padding Causes Muscle Tension

The flocking used to stuff a saddle is very important. Balling up of flocking causes lumps underneath the saddle which will be uncomfortable for the horse and lead to uneven weight distribution. One must be careful not to over flock a saddle, because it makes the saddle harder and more unbalanced. “A harder, more padded-out area of the saddle will create rigidity that the horse will brace against- hardening the muscle against it”. However, atrophy of muscles are more likely to occur on the side (or areas) that do not press down hard on the horse. This is because the horse does not use the muscles on that side (or in that area). To fix this problem the saddle must be fitted evenly and the problem area be padded out to allow enough room for the muscles to develop. The saddle must then be checked regularly. The pads are eventually removed once the muscles have developed evenly.

Fit For The Future

The saddle must always be fitted where you expect the horse to be. In other words the saddle must not be fitted to fit the horses as he is now. A narrow saddle will atrophy the muscles either side of the withers (because the muscles do not have room to expand) and inhibit free movement of the shoulders.

The Young Horse

It is not advisable to use any old saddle for lunging a young horse. If the saddle doesn't fit the horse correctly it can put it off saddles for life and even cause damage to the back. I for one believe this. Remember that young horses have weaker and more vulnerable backs than older horses. A young horse's saddle will have to be checked regularly because it will be developing muscle as it trains. However, this is true for horses of all ages.

Girths and Stirrup Leathers

It is best to have stirrup leathers that don't stretch. This helps prevent uneven wear of the saddle. The correct length of girth should be used. The ideal is for a girth that will be on the 3rd or 4rth hole when tightened. Always make sure to tighten the girth equally from both sides to prevent uneven wear and/or pressure. Guard against over-tightening the girth as it can lead to nerve damage. Avoid girths that have one end elasticated will cause uneven pressure on the horse's back (one side pulled down more), resulting in muscle damage. A girth that is elasticated on both ends would be better.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A new beginning :)

I haven't blogged in ages. The main reason for this is because we recently moved to a new town where I will be going to University :) The internet has been a royal pain in the BUTT and has taught me the value of patience... or at least I hope so. Anyway, we have now managed to get internet that is a little better and faster, so now I can blog again! Yipee!!!

I really suck at blogging. I never really know what to say and when I do know what to say I never know how to begin. BUT, I'm doing it anyway. After having watched the movie Julia & Julia, I 've been thinking to change my blog a bit. I will still be typing about my journey with horses, but i wanted to make it something interesting... something some people could use.

So, here goes...

Going back to the topic of moving and University... I am FINALLY (after 3 years of waiting) going to University! I am so excited. I will be studying Equine Science (duh!). I am very amped for it and can't wait to start. This is what I have been waiting for... a chance to learn even more about horses and in greater detail. I've been doing my SANEF modules (it's like South Africa's version of the BHS exams) and found it fun, but not challenging enough. And I don't really seem to see myself as a teacher, even with others reminding me otherwise (to this day I still have "students" writing to me and saying how much the miss me... and I'm only 21!). However, I will see to complete my first level in the distant future.

Anyway, so that was part one of my blog. The second part will consist of my horse! Yes, I am getting my own horse. Finally!!! It is like a dream come true :) I have found the perfect hrse to start with. It is a TB (since they are easy to come by and make good all rounders), dark bay, 4 year old gelding. I fell in love with him the second I saw him :) At the moment he is still by his old owners and will only come up next month when I pay the rest of his fee. I will be keeping all of you updated on our training together. I will be attempting to combine Natural Horsemanship and Traditional horsemanship together, a lot like what Karen Rolhf does. More on this later ;)

So, this is it for my first blog in what seems to have been FOREVER. Stay tuned for my next blog!!!!

A Merry Xmis for everyone!!!!!!!


Testing Testing Testing Testing

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hello, it's me :)

It has been a VERY long time since I have had the patience to sit down and type something for my blog. If I had any sense in me, I would say that I am lazy, but that would be me just being hard on myself. Usually, about 90 % of the time, I'm actually busy with something. I hardly sit still for a moment, but when I do I'm not in the mood to type away on a keyboard (that and I never know what to say or where to start). Yet, I really want to start blogging about what I am up to :)

Anyway, so lets start with what I've been doing this past 6 months. I spent most of it at a private dressage stable which is run by the very people that first taught me to ride! I was really excited to run into them again, even more so when I was allowed to work there for a bit. As usual, I didn't get paid for my work, but got riding lessons etc. I even had the honor of taking a Lippizaner x Thoroughbred schoolmaster to a show (this was the best show ever!!!!!). My days would start of around 7 am and end at 6 pm. My daily work involved feeding, grooming, lunging and riding the horses. I also went as a groom to shows when I wasn't riding myself.

After having worked at a dressage yard, I have a little more respect for this discipline than what I initially had. I was shown that there are people out there that does it correctly without having to compromise the horse at all.

My family and I have now moved up to Pretoria which is approximately 1400km (870 miles) from where we lived. As per usual I found myself a horsey place to go work at. The owner is a very friendly lady. She used to be an endurance rider when she was younger. She is now a qualified child psychiatrist and uses horses, more specifically miniatures, to help them. At the moment she has 26 horses of which 6 are miniatures. The rest are Arabians and Arabian crosses with one Welsh pony.

At first I was a bit apprehensive about working with these horses. Firstly because they are Arabians (they are a feisty breed!), secondly because some of them are a handful, and thirdly because some of them have little experience under saddle. However, I am going to give it a shot and see what I can do with the lot of them.

I am still torn between following a natural approach or a traditional approach. If I had a horse of my own I would do Parelli with it all the way, incorporating just a little bit of traditional riding into it. I have found Parelli to be something that works for me and the horses I used it on seemed happy to me (they sure looked it!). However, I still believe in the values of lunging as long as it is done correctly. And I have seen horses that sorrowly need a bit of lunging to get them to carry themselves better. I cringe every time I see a horse carrying a rider while hollowing its back and bracing its neck. It looks so painful! I just wish I could find a way to mix natural horsemanship with traditional horsemanship. The question is how much of each to use??? Trust me to get myself mentally entangled :@ !!!!!

Well, this is all I have for now, but I will write some more later ;)

Keep it horsey, lol !!!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sockies :)

Life is good this side :)

I have been working really hard with the horses and am learning loads every day :) I have been "given" a horse to ride for the time being. She's a tiny little "farm" horse... a beautiful bay mare. I really like her. She's very tricky to ride. You have to be VERY soft with your hands and use your legs and seat more than anything else. She's teaching me so much!

Working for these people have really showed me how much I still need to learn about riding. They are helping me to improve my seat, teaching me all the basics. I don't seem sit evenly in the saddle and tend to fall in to the inside, especially when riding circles. I also seem to tense up in my upper leg ( a terrible habit I need to break). It will take a lot of work to get my seat sorted, but I WILL get it right :)

If all goes well I will be taking Sockies to a small show in April. I can't wait! I would love to do a dressage class on her. She moves so beautifully when I ride properly! Well keep everyone updated on our "training". For the next week we need to take it slow though, because she got her seconds AHS shot and must not sweat. But after all that we will be in full work :)

I am also studying like mad when ever I find the time to. I have my third stable management exam on the 20th of March. This is one of the biggest exams by far. There is so much we need to know! I really want to do well!!! I passed my first two exams with 84 percent, but want to do even better with the next one. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tum Tum Tum :)

It has been a loooooooooooong time since my last post. So I managed to find Joy a good home. She has settled in and is loving her new home. I couldn't have found her a better home.

Anyway, so we recently moved down to a little town (well it is more like a fisher's village). I got back into touch with some old friends of ours and got given the opportunity to work by them. They run a dressage/ training yard and was in need of some help (the wife had broken her arm two days earlier). At first I was very nervous, because they are REALLY good at what they do and I really wanted to impress them. They taught me how to lunge, properly, and lunged me to see how my seat was. They seemed to see some hope for me and “hired” me :) They needed the help. The wife has six horses to work on everyday!

BTW, they were the people who first taught me to ride! Even chose my first pony for me back in the day :)

Currently our focus is on three horses in particular: Sion, Llywd and Kishma. Sion is a little Welsh Cob (a cute little pony!). Llywd is a 14.3 h.h. Welsh Cob X Arab (the most docile horse I have ever come across). Kishma is Boerperd (very sensitive).

Sion is struggling with some confidence issues. He was apparently doing fine until a little girl fell off him. Ever since then he has been very spooky and very saved to have a rider on. I can see how some Parelli can help him, so I am slowly throwing some Parelli in the mix. Today I just played around with draw with the halter. He usually turns his head away when the halter is put on. I tried to get him curious enough to tough the halter. With some persistent approach and retreat I got him to sniff it, but he would move his head away again (like he can look at it but then needs to feel safe again). I also did some flexion, getting him to move his head towards his shoulder. I am hoping playing around with this will help him some. It is as much Parelli as I can do for now .

Llywd is VERY lazy but so cute! He is so calm and can't be bothered by anything. Lunging him is a bit of a mission. At times it takes two people to get him going! He is learning though :)

I am so tired writing this. Today we managed to work 6 horses in total! Anyway, I just thought I would write again :)