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Sporthorse Florida

Spring 2011


Ashley Leith Connecting with her creative genius V ol . 2, N o . 3

Florida Sporthorse Magazine 3

Sporthorse Florida


spring 2011 K. Kennedy/Icon Studios

4 Editor’s note

Cooler heads prevail

5 ContributoRs The faces behind Florida Sporthorse

6 Caroline Roffman

18 Fine tune your Seat

The dressage ring’s ‘it’ girl

Creating a secure and correct position

10 art & athleticism

22 beyond the bling

Eventer Ashley Leith calls Ocala home

Beloved Buckles’ custom creations

12 Fit on the flat

24 Navigation 101

Conditioning on Florida’s flat terrain

Navigators do more than hanging on

14 Perfect fit

26 Finding Mr. Right

Asymmetrical vs. symmetrical fit

Open minds help in horse search

16 healing points

26 A trip to england

Acupuncture and the whole horse

Young rider finds Merlin and more

4 Inside Florida Sporthorse

Cooler heads prevail

Christie Gold I’d like to say that I’ve always worn a helmet, but that would be hypocritical. The truth is that I only started making protecting my head a daily habit about three years ago. Perhaps it was the young horse that I was starting; perhaps it was that I was turning 40; perhaps I finally got it through my thick skull that it was a smart thing to do. Thanks to an ever-evolving industry that is making ASTM/ SEI approved headgear lighter and cooler than ever, it wasn’t difficult to remove my trademark baseball cap and replace it with a helmet. Yet when it came to showing, I

still wasn’t fully committed. I wore my traditional velvet hunt cap or my top hat whenever I went down the centerline, and I must confess the sadness I felt this Spring when I started packing for a show and left those stylish items of apparel behind. Oh, vanity. Thy name is Christie. Equestrian sports embody tradition, and we are slow to make even minor changes. Edward Gal’s shadbelly last year was grey instead of black, and we acted as if lightening the traditional color palette by three shades was a major fashion breakthrough. But when the governing body of the

correctly fitted helmets be worn by all riders for years. According to Riders4helmets. com, 78,279 people visited the emergency room in 2007 as a result of horse riding related injuries. Head injuries comprised about 15 percent, or 11,759 of these visits and are the number one reason for hospital admissions for riders. Over 100 deaths per year are estimated to result from equestrian related activities, with 10-20 times as many head injuries occurring for each fatality. Courtney King Dye’s fall last year served as a wake-up call for all of us in the equestrian community. In just a few short months since the mandate, our perception has changed. In fact, at a recent breed and dressage show I attended, it was strange to see the non-dressage competitors not wearing helmets. USEF should enforce the rule in all disciplines, and every association should insist on protective gear. Wearing a helmet should be a habit, We riders have good heads on our shoulders. It’s in our own best interests to protect them.

Equestrian sports embody tradition, and we are slow to make even minor changes. sport says change, we change, and now approved helmets are the rule rather than the exception. It’s unfortunate that it took the USEF making a rule for us to listen when the American Medical Association Committee on Sports Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics have been recommending that approved,

About the cover Event rider Ashley Leith and Monte Carlo at the Florida Horse Park. Leith and her husband Brian own Heron Pond Farm in Ocala. Photo by Melanie Blanding

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Editor and Publisher Christie R. Gold

Senior Contributor Jane Whitehurst

Advertising Manager Sara Scozzafava (352) 352-585-6143

Editorial Office 8205 Quail Run Dr. Wesley Chapel, FL 33544 (813) 973-3770



Florida Sporthorse Magazine is committed to providing a quarterly publication that presents content encompassing a broad range of topics of interest to Florida’s dressage, eventing, hunter/jumper and sport horse breeding communities. It includes profiles of riders, trainers and breeders who are influential around the state and beyond, as well as product reviews of items of particular interest to Florida equestrians. Florida Sporthorse Magazine accepts freelance material on subjects that support our mission. Submission information is available at www. floridasporthorsemagazine. com or by calling or writing the editorial office.

Florida Sporthorse Magazine 5

The Faces of Florida Sporthorse


Regular Contributors



2. Amber Kimball is an FEI dressage trainer based in Ocala. In 1997 she began her dressage career as a working student in the stable of Olympic Bronze medalist Gina Smith. In 2001 she travelled to Belgium to hold a working student position in the stable of Grand Prix trainers, Penny and Johan Rockx. In 2002, she returned to the US to ride for American Olympian, Belinda Nairn-Wertman until the spring of 2010. Amber has sucessfully trained and shown horses from Training level through Intermediare II and has earned her USDF Silver medal. She now operates Southern Lights Dressage in Ocala, FL.





3. Jennifer Bate is a freelance writer and an Arabian horse owner who has been riding and showing at the national level since the age of 12. She and her horses have earned a combined 23 national titles and 36 regional titles with the Arabian Horse Association (AHA) and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF).



4. Debra Redmond has trained and shown through the FEI levels of dressage and has garnered over 20 regional and national awards. A riding injury led her to seek pain management through Eastern medicine. After experiencing relief first hand, she decided to study the modalities so that she could treat animals. She completed several programs and eventually earned a doctorate. She loves being able to assist owners and animals in restoring health and movement through the modalities of body work, spinal balancing, acupuncture, laser, and homeopathy.


5. Caroline Morrison is a freshman at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa. She is rated a C2 in the United States Pony Club and a member of the South Creek Pony Club. Caroline enjoys all aspects of horsemanship. Her concentration has been 3’3 hunters, 1 meter jumpers, equitation, and first level dressage. You will rarely find her spending time away from her horses, a nine-year-old Thoroughbred and a five-year-old Holsteiner.



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1. Jane Whitehurst is a 1982 University of Florida graduate from the College of Agriculture where she majored in Animal Science. In 1985, she earned her master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Nova University. For 20 years she taught high school science. Along with their husband, she recently purchased Nosara Farms in Odessa where she provides boarding, training and lessons. Since 1985 Jane has been an active competitor in the dressage ring and has recently earned her USDF Gold Medal.


6. Christina Heddesheimer graduated Fall 2008 with a Bachelors of Science in Equine Industry from The University of Florida. Her most recent riding activities include foxhunting with North Florida’s Misty Morning Hounds and training with eventer Patricia Deasy. Christina recently started law school at Emory University. 7. Jean White is the owner of Hammock Farms in Brooksville, where for the past 25 years she has trained students and horses from the lower levels to FEI. She earned her USDF Bronze and Silver medals, is a scholarship recipient from The Dressage Foundation, and won the Kimball Award at Prix St. Georges/Intermediare 1. Certified by the United States Dressage Federation as an Instructor through 4th level, Jean now teaches just the staff instructors at Hammock Farms. This allows her to use her extensive knowledge of riding to breed and produce the best Welsh Ponies and Andalusians for dressage and competitive driving.


8. Ashley Leith Ashley Leith is an advanced level event rider who resides in Ocala, FL with her husband Brian Leith. She has been named to the USEF Developing Rider list, is a Level III ICP instructor through the USEA and is a graduate A of the United Sates Pony Club.


9. Bryony Anderson, RYT, LMT has been riding horses since childhood. She has been practicing yoga for over 24 years, and began teaching in 1997. In addition to teaching yoga for equestrians, Bryony offers massage, Reiki, and Ortho-Bionomy for both horse and rider. She teaches yoga classes privately by appointment. Her Yoga for Equestrians audio CD’s are available at Ocala tack stores and at



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Caroline Roffman

The dressage ring’s ‘it’ girl

Christie Gold

William Tzeng


ellington resident Caroline Roffman’s riding skills earned her the FEI Rising Star award last year, but her niche seems to be helping young horses reach stardom. Florida Sporthorse caught up with Roffman between shows on the busy winter circuit.

FSM: At an age when other young riders would

be eager to ride as many FEI horses as possible in order to shape their careers, you are already making a name for yourself as a top trainer of young horses. Was this your intention?                                          CR: For as long as I have ridden I have enjoyed riding young horses. When you work with a young horse you are forced to appreciate the small details. Being able to be apart of a horse’s development, as challenging as it might be, is so rewarding. I never intended to focus so much of my career on young horses but it seems to have worked out that way. I feel it is very important not only to be able to ride FEI horses and show in the upper levels but to be able to produce horses to that level from the ground up.

FSM: As the recipient of last year’s Rising Star Award, do you feel a certain pressure to succeed that you didn’t have before?          

CR: When I first learned I was the recipient of the Rising Star Award I was truly astounded. I believe that with recognition comes responsibility— to be an ambassador to my sport, a visible faithful steward to the horses under my care—and to “pay forward” the generosity of those who have helped me along the way. I have been blessed to be able to follow my dreams on a daily basis and to be rewarded for doing something I love is surreal. 

Horse Sports Photo

Left: Caroline Roffman aboard Bon Chance at the 2010 Young Horse Championships. Above left: Roffman was last year’s recipient of the FEI Rising Star Award. Above: Roffman kicked off the New Year by competing in and winning the Young Rider Grand Prix on Lux Stensvang at the Wellington Classic Dressage Challenge I Show.

FSM: How has working with Lars Petersen changed you as a rider and trainer?

CR: Being able to ride with the likes of Lars

Petersen on a daily basis is a blessing. Lars has accomplished what myself and many others someday dream of doing. His ability to train horses and develop horses is second to few. Lars is a role model in many ways but his humility, down to earth nature and work ethic is admirable. He has given me so many wonderful opportunities I could not begin to list them all here. It is most certain to me that without him I would not be where I am today.

FSM: What horse has taught you the most? CR: The first horse that pops into my mind is

my long term friend and partner Bulgari 5. “Bully” as he is known around the stable is the most wonderful show horse you could dream of. He has not only given me confidence

in the show arena, taught me nearly all of the FEI movements but also given me a piece of humble pie from time to time.

FSM: Despite your overwhelming success, you

have reputation of being genuinely kind and generous. What keeps you grounded?

CR: I am a very lucky girl and I know it. I am

literally living my dreams on a daily basis and although I recognize how special that is I also know how hard it can be for less fortunate people. I truly believe in “paying it forward” and have found that it always makes its way back to me in one way or another. In 2008/2009 I was basically sidelined due to equine injuries and one person’s generosity in the way of a free horse called Accent Agiu FRH turned my year around. Although the story of Accent Agiu exceeded my wildest dreams it also taught me a lifelong lesson of “paying it forward.” After my year with “Aki” I decided that I

8 Florida Sporthorse Magazine too should pay it forward and give a rider less fortunate than I the opportunity that had been given to me. My friend Neve Myburgh was the lucky recipient of “Aki” and has since ridden to much success in her first small tour level shows. Just this month I decided to lend Bulgari 5 to my friend, mentor and past trainer Silke Rembacz. For as hard as Silke works she did not have a top FEI horse in her stable to show, and I knew I could help. I will proudly say she rode her first PSG test on him at the IHS Champions Cup CDI scoring a very respectable 68%. I cannot begin to tell you how much pleasure I get out of helping other people and I do wish more people would follow suit. 

FSM: Discuss the horses you are training now. CR: I have several horses in training right now

that are quite exciting. Her Highness is a black Hanoverian mare owned by Jennifer Lind of Wolkentanzer Farm. “Hannah” came to me rather green but has developed wonderfully, and I am preparing to ride her in the FEI ring in 2012. Linda Crabtree and Katie Wooten of Dream Acre Sport Horses sent me the wonderfully talented breeding stallion San City by San Remo to develop and show in the FEI five year old divisions.

Robin Shelleman of Talisman Farms has sent me some lovely young horses to develop and sell in the future.

FSM: What advice do you have for other junior riders who may not have access to the best horses or top trainers?

CR: When I started riding I did not have nice

horses or top trainers. When I was eight years old, I believed I was going to go to the Olympics on my semi-retired, 25 year old, 15 hand, excross-country horse of unknown breeding. I am a dreamer and I still have big (but hopefully less farfetched) dreams today. I believe if you work hard, dedicate yourself and dream you can make anything happen.

FSM: Where do you see yourself in the future? CR: I hope that in five to ten years I have a

successful stable of my own. I love young and junior riders and hope to have many of them training in my stable. I would like to have a successful sales business with top quality horses offered for sale at many different price points. I hope for myself to have top horses showing through out the levels. Mostly I hope to be surrounded by good friends, family, clients, horses and for everyone to be happy and healthy.

Hours: Monday-Saturday 10-5:00

10 Florida Sporthorse Magazine

Art and athleticism Christie Gold

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Melanie Blanding


Ashley Leith’s creative expression comes from training elite event horses

s a recent college graduate, Ashley Leith was settling into life as a big city girl, living in New York City and working for Christie’s. The daughter of a college professor, a Rhodes Scholar finalist and graduate of Rutgers University, Leith had always been bookish, rejecting art school for a more rigorous academic focus. Working for the prestigious auction house seemed like a dream come true. Three months into her new life, Leith had a revelation that would take her in a completely different direction. “I was working in the warehouse, going through pieces of art, when I found myself holding a Picasso. It was a lesser-known work, but having it in my hands, I could feel its genius.” While Leith’s life had followed a rigorous academic path, riding shaped nearly every

decision. Her father is a professor at Rutgers University. Her mother grew was a horse-crazy kid, but her parents thought they were “too dangerous and too dirty.” When Leith was three, her mom bought a pony that illegally took up residence in their garden. In junior high school, Leith chose riding over soccer, and throughout high school, she worked her way through the ranks of Pony Club eventually achieving her A rating. Even the decision to attend Rutgers over more elite private universities had been made so that riding could remain a mainstay in her life. At that moment when she held the work of a master, Leith realized that her creative genius was nurturing the horse and rider relationship. She simply wasn’t meant to be a big city girl. “Some people look at riding as a purely athletic thing. I agree, but it is also creative.

Melanie Blanding

It’s about figuring out what makes each horse tick,” she said. It wasn’t long before Leith had moved into an apartment in Princeton, NJ, where she worked as a waitress to support an off the track thoroughbred and another horse. Slowly, she started to build a clientele of students. Confirmation that she had made the right decision didn’t take long. Within a year, she landed a job that would evolve into a meaningful partnership. The grandfather of some of her students needed a barn manager for his facility west of Philadelphia. The 80-year-old horseman was Elkins Weatherall. “He made me an offer: if I would foxhunt with him, he’d buy me a horse or two to compete.” Leith has ridden for Weatherall for 10

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Florida Sporthorse Magazine 11

Melanie Blanding

All pictures: Ocala event rider Ashley Leith and Monte Carlo. Although she followed an academic route throughout high school and college, horses were a common thread. Today, she is an active trainer, competitor and breeder.



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years. True to his word, he purchased horses that would launch Leith’s upper level eventing career. Sword Play took Leith to her first advanced horse trial and a four-year partnership with Aly Cat Two earned her notable placings at The Fork and Jersey Fresh. Currently, Weatherall owns Jet who has placed well at events such as the Fair Hill International CCI, Jersey Fresh CIC***, Plantation Field CIC*** and Bromont CCI***. Leith had eyed Rolex this year, but a muscle strain temporarily sidelined the thoroughbred gelding. Although Leith still rides for Weatherall, she now leads a dual life, spending half the year in Pennsylvania and half the year in Ocala. The six-month shift in Florida started as a means to compete and condition in the winter, but after marrying Ocala farrier Brian Leith a few years ago and buying Heron Pond Farm, Florida officially became home base. The couple met when a mutual friend suggested that Leith take a break from training to go flying. The adrenaline junkie agreed, only realizing later that the friend had ulterior motives. “I showed up after riding—sweaty with my hair pulled back. At the last minute I thought, ‘Wait, is this a date?’” she said. The couple immediately hit it off, but after an hour of aerobatics, Leith’s head and stomach were spinning. Sure enough, Brian asked her to dinner. “I turned him down, partly because I thought I was going to be sick, and partly because I liked him. I knew he was a farrier, and I wanted to make sure he was a good one. I mean, I couldn’t fall for some guy who did shoddy work.” Leith finally accepted an invitation after visiting a friend who used Brian. His work met her approval. The couple married nine

months later and purchased their farm, a rolling piece of acreage nestled between other horse properties, close to HITS and all the other Ocala amenities. Leith doesn’t deny that living apart from her husband six months of the year poses challenges, but Leith says Brian “gets her.” In addition to being a top aerobatic pilot, Brian is a former competitive body builder. understands the rigors of being an elite athlete. “Brian gets what I do. He complements me, but we don’t conflict. That first day when we went flying, I thought, ‘Here is someone who understands precision and adrenaline.’ He was a was a top athlete, so he knows how to support me at the top levels.” When we first married, I thought, “How am I going to be in both places? But it just made sense. I have great clients and great competitions in Pennsylvania. Jersey Fresh and Fair Hill are an hour away. Ocala is a mecca in the winter.” In the summer, Leith admits that she lives like a single person, though Brian flies up to see her as much as he can and meets her at competitions. “In the winter, I am family-oriented. We have lots of group dinners with friends and spend time together. I want to be with my husband.” Leith says that marriage has given her a competitive edge. “I have consistent support. Having that in my ear has helmed me tremendously.” Their shared careers in the horse industry are also beneficial. Leith says her husband has helped build her client base. Plus, he has a good eye for horses. It was Brian who discovered Jet. The two were still dating, and Brian had been showing the off-the-track thoroughbred. “He said, ‘I’m sending you a horse.’ I was

so flattered. But then he said, ‘He moves like a thoroughbred, and he has terrible feet, but he has a good knot.’” The horse with the “good knot” became a highly competitive advanced horse. He was later sold to Weatherall, but Leith still rides him. A muscle strain kept him from Rolex this year. Another Thoroughbred, Monte Carlo, is the other star in Leith’s stable, and she is aiming for the Pan American Games qualifiers with him. Although both horses are talented, Leith says they are opposites. “ “Jet is a tight-strided workaholic. He likes to have a job, and he likes to gallop. Monte has a tremendous stride, and he is nice and loose in dressage. He has a fun, sweet and clever personality. Jet is uphill; Monte is long and level.” Two other horses complete Leith’s string of competition horses: Windsor High is an Irish Sport Horse who is currently competing at the preliminary level, and Sukhoi, who just came to her last November, is another Thoroughbred. Leith’s other interest is in breeding. Unlike their counterparts in dressage and show jumping, where bloodlines of successful equines have been traced for generations, only recently have venters in the United States begun to work on similar formulas for competitive success. Leith says that other countries, such as Ireland, have traced successful eventing lines and have young event horse programs in place. “The American way seems to be to pull something out of nothing.” In response to the need to develop future event horse talent, the United States Eventing Association (USEA) has developed the USEA Young Horse Series, which gives breeders the opportunity to showcase bloodstock with eventing potential. Young Horse classes evaluate the potential of four and five-year-olds and focus on their development in a correct manner. Horses are evaluated on conformation and type, dressage ability, and a jumping and galloping test. Since Thoroughbreds still have a stronghold on the American eventing scene, Leith and others have closely examined their bloodlines. “The common sires in eventing are the same lines that make good race horses. That’s common sense. They try. They have a tremendous work ethic as well as heart and stamina.” By breeding top Thoroughbreds to select warmbloods, Leith and others hope to build upon those qualities by adding better movement. Leith’s first foals were born this Spring. Training, competing and breeding keep Leith busy, but she enjoys the balance. She hopes to continue eventing at the top levels for at least another decade and work on developing her breeding program. “Some goals are concrete; some you try on for size. Right now, it’s all still fun.I love training, but obviously, I love competing, too. I still have a fire in my belly that keeps me out there.”

12 Florida Sporthorse Magazine

Fitness on the flat

Upper level event rider shares the conditioning regimen that takes her from Florida’s flat landscape to the more challenging terrains of Rolex and Fair Hill Ashley Leith


orthern Florida is one of the eventing meccas in this country during the winter months, and although the mild weather enables snow birds to compete from January to April, the flat geography of the state can also prove to be a challenge on the conditioning front. Upper level event horses are usually brought to peak condition twice annually, once in the spring or early summer and once in the fall. The winter months that event horses spend in Florida begin with legging up work and skill practice work and then move into heavier cardio regimes closer to each horse’s goal show for the spring, be it a goal like Rolex Kentucky CCI**** or the Florida Horse Park CCI*/** in mid-April. The big finale to the fall competition season up north is in October, so my FEI horses generally get the month of November off. They get to be horses that month, enjoying grass and sunshine in the field at my husband’s and my Heron Pond Farm in Ocala, FL. In December, I bring them back into “leg work” which is long, slow work that helps to keep the tendons and ligaments in their legs tight and strong. This includes long walk hacks and trot sets, building up to 30 minutes per trot set at this time of year. There are horse trials in Florida in January, but I generally compete in those with my lower level horses that need more exposure and save starting the eventing season with my more experienced horses for February. In January and early February, I try to take advantage of the plethora of training experiences that are available in Florida in the winter. To me, this part of the conditioning cycle is about improving on our skills from the season before. Some years I have taken trips to Wellington to train, other years I have stayed locally in Ocala to compete in dressage or jumper shows. The sport of three day eventing is unique in that it incorporates three different disciplines into one sport, and to be competitive at the top levels, each discipline must be treated as a specialty. By mid-January I bump up the conditioning schedule. My horses will begin interval training, or “gallops.” In my barn that means doing a twenty minute trot set followed by two four minute canters once a week. Before they do their first horse trial, their total canter work from an interval day will be 10-12 minutes.

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Melanie Blanding

Sometimes I will do two five minute canters with two minute walk breaks in between, other times I will do three four minute canters. Immediately after the last canter on an interval day, I take my horse’s respiration. I keep a fitness record for each horse, and I write down their respiration count after each gallop set. Over time I get to know the range for each of my horses and I can gauge how good their wind is after any given workout. By the time we get to our first horse trial in February, my horse should be ready to have his first good gallop, but I won’t necessarily go for time on cross country. During the conditioning process, one thing

that is as important as the interval training days is maintaining trot sets on a second day during the week. During the early winter months, I generally try to do fifteen to thirty minutes of trotting one day during the week, with or without other skill work such as a light dressage ride or jump school added in at the end. I am very lucky in that I have access to a lovely place to trot. My farm is a bit divided up due to our pond, but my parents bought a 20-acre farm across the street from us and it is a beautiful parcel with a gentle slope. I do most of my trot sets around the perimeter of their property. Another tool that I have used when

Florida Sporthorse Magazine 13



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Melanie Blanding

Left and above: Training for the rolling hills of northern events can be a challenge in Florida. A careful plan and the use of an aqua tread help eventer Ashley Leith keep her horses fit. preparing my top horses for three and four star competition is an aqua tread machine. This is particularly important in Florida because going up and down hills strengthens the heart, and in Florida the hills are much flatter than what you find in Kentucky, Virgina or Pennsylvania. Currently, I go to Kesmarc on Rt. 326 in Ocala. It is just minutes from my house. The

staff are professional and the facility is state of the art. The aqua tread is special in that it allows the horse to maintain his natural shape while he exercises, and it provides resistance without pounding. The aqua tread, when used properly, can build topline muscles as well as cardio strength. It is also a great tool to break up the conditioning routine and keep horses

fresh and ready for work. I will use an aqua tread session once a week in place of a midweek trot set. By late February and early March I have increased the time of my interval gallops to two six minute canters or three five minute canters depending on each horse and how they feel in their individual program. Although the time has increased, the speed is still not terribly fast. Generally, we will do an easy preliminary level speed and finish by opening up a little on the final uphill. I now also expect my horse to make time on cross country or come very close to it when he is competing. Somewhere between six and eight weeks prior to our big spring three day event, I will make two more changes. I will begin to walk my horse in a separate session as many days of the week as I can. If I have access to a hot walker, I use it. Otherwise I simply tack walk the horse. I also tighten up my gallop sessions at this time and begin to gallop once every four or five days. The entire goal of my conditioning program is to have my horse as fit as possible with as little pounding as possible. It is for this reason that I begin in January by doing gallops only once a week. I don’t start with the four or five day rotation until I have reached the time of year when I need to finish off my horse’s cardio fitness. I also can’t stress enough how important See Conditioning page 30

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14 Florida Sporthorse Magazine

Perfect Fit

In part two of this series on saddle fit, George Gullikson discusses muscles, movement and fit

Jane Whitehurst

or ver a wo un de Flo



here can be a number of causes why a seemingly healthy and willing horse suddenly becomes sullen or plateaus in his training. Pain is often the culprit, and most serious riders know to re-examine their saddle for proper fit. It’s anything but a novel idea, but what if changes to your mount’s saddle could also make them move in a more balanced frame? In saddle fitter George Gullikson’s perfect world, all horses would be long-lined until the age of five. He explains that it is during the early years of working under saddle when many of the horse’s problems occur. The young horse is not strong enough to do the required work and carry a rider. A longlined horse is able to develop its musculature symmetrically thereby able to carry a rider correctly later on. In the real-world, however, most horses are started at three, and even earlier in some sports, so it becomes imperative to do everything in order to help the horse move in a balanced frame. This includes having a correctly fitted saddle, a knowledgeable trainer who can implement the required exercises to strengthen weak muscles and an athletic, competent rider.

In the last issue of Florida Sporthorse, we examined different body types of riders, particularly women of Mediterranean lineage. In this article we will re-visit those points since they have bearing on how well a horse can move longitudinally and laterally in a balanced frame.

Longitudinal movement

With the introduction of the European warmblood to the United States, some 30 ago came the race to have the most up-hill horse. Long-shouldered horses with necks that grew up and out were fine for strong men and women with small narrowly set seatbones; but for many women. it was a constant battle in the saddle to not fall “behind the motion.” Women with wider placed, larger tuberosities and tilted pelvises would be forced to roll forward, hunching over onto their pubic bone while losing their legs behind them. Gullikson remembers a few saddle companies answering this problem by producing saddles with large gusseted panels. “Unfortunately,” he said, “ this also had its drawbacks.” The saddle was now flattened by too much

material forcing these women back into a chair position driving their seat-bones into the cantle thus once again placing the rider “behind the motion.” When riders drive too hard with their seat bones, they are unable to open their chests and use their abdominals effectively. The result is a “leg moving” horse. Because the rider is sitting to the rear of the saddle, the horse cannot reciprocate the driving aids by lowering its hindquarters to support its back. Instead it hollows its back and flatten the pelvis locking up the head of the femur, the stifle, and the hock. While the front legs may still move with animation, the frame of the horse is too long with the hind legs strung out behind placing considerable stress on all the joints. In contrast, a “back moving” horse moves by lifting his abdominal muscles and rounding his back. Their pelvis bends allowing the hindquarters to drop down and in turn the joints can move freely and the horse’s back swings happily. According to Gullikson, saddle placement is between thoracic vertebrae 8 (T8) and T 18,

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or in some breeds T 17; in any case, the last T vertebrae with ribs. Gullikson likes to place a man in the saddle over T13 while some woman he says are better at T12. Many saddles unfortunately place women of Mediterranean descent at T15 due to their conformation. (See Florida Sporthorse Winter 2011 issue.) Another very important factor to

unrestricted longitudinal movement is the distant between the two panels of the saddle called the channel. Without the space to allow for- not only the skeletal processes- but the two adjacent supraspineous ligaments which lay on each side, “throughness” will be difficult and they will lack the lateral movement of the spine,

Fit and Function

Diagram 1

The correctly balanced horse and rider

Diagram 2

The asymmetric horse

Diagram 3

The resulting horse and rider position

Florida Sporthorse Magazine 15 which is discussed in the next section.

Lateral Movement

Gullikson says he has come across very few symmetrically muscled horses. In fact, 95 percent of the hundreds of horses he’s seen are decidedly left-sided. The degree of the asymmetrical muscles can be even more pronounced in the upper-level dressage horses. For simplicity’s sake Gullikson takes us through one of the more common scenarios that arise from a left-sided horse. Diagram 1 shows a symmetrical horse with a correctly positioned rider, and an illustration of the foot-falls in line on all four quarters. Gullikson believes a truly balanced frame is almost impossible. Diagrams 2 and 3 illustrate the leftsided horse. Notice an increased amount of musculature on the left, stronger side through the gluts, hamstrings, longissimus dorsi, but especially in the iliocostalis shown in red. The more developed iliocostalis on the left also makes the horse stiffer to that side. Look to the diagram at how the rider, in order to feel balanced, has developed the same scoliosis as the horse. It is easy to predict how this horse will move before he takes the first step. The strong left side carries more of the weight of the rider causing the left hock to be more active but because the hock has the additional weight

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16 Florida Sporthorse Magazine

First in a series

Healing points Acupuncture assists in whole horse wellness Debra Redmond


Holistic animal practitioner Debra Redmond treats Flambay, a 21-year-old Holsteiner gelding who often experiences health issues during Central Florida’s hot, humid summers. In late Spring each year, Redmond provides a variety of treatments to “rev up” the gelding’s immune system. Acupuncture as a healing modality has been practiced for thousands of years. The western world didn’t know much about acupuncture until the Nixon administration’s visit to China in 1972. The practice of Acupuncture originated in China, but has been an accepted healing modality in many eastern countries for centuries. Japan’s culture of providing its citizens

with employment led to a refinement of the practice of acupuncture. In Japan many of the practitioners of acupuncture were blind. It was felt that the blind, with their increased reliance on non-visual senses, could perform acupuncture with an increased sense of feel for the precise points that are needled. The Japanese acupuncturists are often credited with discovering the intersections of the

pathways and often use these intersections to reduce the number of actual insertion points when designing a treatment plan for their patient. Acupuncture is a portion of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). According to TCM there is an energy force or “Chi” that flows in every living being. This energy travels throughout the body via meridian pathways. If there is a blockage in the flow of energy it can lead to an imbalance in the body’s ability to achieve homeostasis and illness can result. As esoteric as this may seem, conventional medicine is beginning to accept that the body’s ability to achieve balance is indeed aided by acupuncture. Studies have concluded that acupuncture has great value in building the immune system, accelerating healing after surgery or injury, relieving pain, enhancing circulation and more. The exact reason for acupuncture’s effectiveness is not clearly understood. It is known that the meridian pathways that are the “roadmap” for acupuncture practitioners is very similar to the pathways of the efferent and afferent nerve system. The efferent nerve system sends signals to the body’s various muscles, glands and sense organs. The afferent nerve system sends impulses from the various muscles, glands and tissues back to the central nervous system via the spinal column. It’s amazing that thousands of years ago the pathways that signal so many of the body’s cells to action were known to the practitioners of TCM. The efficacy of acupuncture has been demonstrated in numerous studies including those performed in the US accepted “double blind” method. There has been a steadily growing acceptance of acupuncture by physicians as well as insurance companies as a complimentary modality, and this acceptance has extended to veterinary medicine. Domesticated horses depend on us for their care. While we try to provide good

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Florida Sporthorse Magazine 17


Above: The Bai Hui is the single most important point in most animals. The same point is located at the base of the neck in humans. Animals live in their bodies while humans tend to live in their heads. Below left: TH15 is a yang meridian. Horses who struggle in the heat needmore “action” strength to push the fluids out of his system and keep the body cool. TH and its paired Yin meridian, the PC, have a lot to do with the balance in the body that controls hormones and protects the organs. Yin is considered female, passive, storing, nurturing, quiet. The Yang meridians are more male having to do with action, function, strength. As the body ages it becomes even more important to keep the vigor of the body through strengthening the Yang meridians or opening blockages which can occur.

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feed, water, exercise and shelter we can’t truly replicate a horse’s natural environment. Florida, in particular, adds the element of unusual heat and humidity to any horses living here. Acupuncture can be useful to maintain a healthy state of balance living and working in an environment that is not where an animal evolved. If blockages in the body’s flow of energy can be restored the body’s ability to deal with stressors can be maximized. Acupuncture can aid in the ability of the immune system, digestive system, circulatory system and many other of the systems functioning within the body. It can improve lymphatic drainage, aid in clearing inflammation and speed the process of cell turnover. When each system of the body is capable of working optimally the body is most efficient at maintaining health. When the body is unable to maintain health acupuncture can aid in the restoration

of balance. Chronic pain management is often aided by the use of acupuncture. Arthritis, decreased production of lubricating fluids, and chronic pain due to age or previous injury are often treated using a variety of acupuncture techniques. The treatment techniques can include shallow needling, deep needling, laser acupuncture, and electro-acupuncture. Studies using these techniques have shown significant improvement in a patient’s perception of pain and improved range of motion. In particular, repeated treatments using deep needle insertion, deep penetration of cold pulsed laser, and electro-acupuncture improve the body’s ability to produce endorphins which are natural “feel good” chemicals. Most of us have been fortunate enough to feel the effects of increased endorphins within our body after a massage or after a good exercise workout. Other benefits include increased circulation along the meridian pathway where

acupuncture is performed. One of the most interesting benefits of using points along a meridian pathway is that in order to influence a particular site of injury, it isn’t necessary to insert an acupuncture needle at the site of the injury. The practitioner can choose a point further away from the particular site, but still along the meridian that is involved. Even more amazing is that there are points along the meridians that are intersections of multiple meridians or “master” points that can influence general inflammation, immune stimulation, stomach and digestive function, lung function, etc. Acupuncture can be used to prepare the body for increased demands by using a technique called tonifying. Tonifying the system prior to a demanding workout, a situation that may be stressful (such as prolonged travel, a change in environment, or prior to a necessary medical procedure) is like prepping for an upcoming event the way successful athletes train, maintain a good sleep schedule and nutritionally optimize their system for peak performance. This type of acupuncture is useful prior to competition and increased training demands. Another technique of acupuncture is known as the sedation technique. This type of acupuncture is helpful when the body responds by increasing its inflammatory response. While inflammation is a natural response to injury or stress, its job to “call attention to an area needing repair” can lead to chronic problems if not resolved in a timely manner. Each caring owner of an injured horse is familiar with cold hosing an area of injury in order to remove heat and inflammation. Acupuncture can assist with increasing the circulation necessary to remove damaged cells and provide needed oxygen and bloodflow to speed healing. While acupuncture isn’t a substitute for necessary medical attention, a healthy environment, and good conditioning, many top trainers and competitors find it to be a beneficial addition to the health maintenance of their equine athletes. In upcoming issues of Florida Sporthorse I’ll explore areas of concern to horseowners where the addition of acupuncture has aided in the restoration or maintenance of health.

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18 Florida Sporthorse Magazine

Fine Tune Your Seat Effective aids come from a balanced seat Bryony Anderson

A secure position allows Amber Kimball and Little Herbie to move in harmony Martha Grace

In the last issue of Florida Sporthorse, we addressed neutral pelvic alignment as the fundamental foundation for a good seat and proper use of your entire body while riding. In this issue, we’ll offer you some insights and exercises that can help you develop greater precision in the use of your seat.  A neutral pelvis, one that is neither tipped too far forward nor too far back, allows the rest of the body to be stacked correctly:  ears, shoulders, hips and heels in one line.  This alignment helps us to balance more easily in the saddle and makes it easier for our horses to balance themselves beneath us.  Once we have become balanced and comfortable, we can better follow the horse’s movement and can then begin to use our seats with greater precision to direct, limit, or allow that movement.  Good riding means accurate riding, but for many amateur riders accurate use of their seats proves to be their biggest challenge.  For some, it can be difficult to even connect with that part of their bodies, much less control it with any precision while seated on a moving horse.  In our human bodies, our entire structure is oriented over and supported by our feet- along with our proprioceptive sense of ourselves, of our body’s position.  For this reason, most people are better able to sense their feet than their seats, and so this can be a good place to begin when we are working to develop accuracy in the use of the seat.

There is a direct connection between the feet and the seat:  what happens in one is reflected in the other.  If your weight isn’t balanced evenly between your feet while standing, it won’t be balanced between your seat bones when you ride.  Try this now:  stand with your feet hips width apart, and slowly “pour” your weight back and forth from left foot to right, noticing whether one feels easier or more comfortable for you.  Also notice any sensations you may experience in other areas of the body, such as your hip or low back, as you shift your weight left and right.  If you tend to carry your weight more in one foot, you most likely will sit heavier on that seat bone while riding.  The feet also reflect the pelvis in other ways.  For a moment, sit in a firm chair, your feet hips width apart and parallel.  Place your hands under your seat bones and take a moment to really feel them.  Now turn your right foot out, toes pointing to the right:  what do you feel in your right seat bone when you do that?  Most likely, you felt your seat bone slide forward.  Try the same on the left side and notice what you feel.   There is a good reason that even our beginner riding instructors nagged at us about “Toes in!”  This instruction is less about the feet themselves than it is about what the feet reflect and how they effect the pelvis and thigh:  when the foot is aligned parallel to the horse’s body, the pelvis is balanced and the thigh is rotated

inward, allowing us to sit more deeply in our seats and providing a stable foundation for the rest of the body. (This internal rotation of the thigh also causes the deep abdominal muscles to engage, stabilizing your core.)  Stability is necessary for mobility to be possible in any area of the body.  The stable base provided by the rider’s inwardly rotated thigh allows the pelvis to be mobile, free to follow the horse’s movement and to communicate to the horse with clarity and precision.  Without the stability of the thigh, the pelvis would need to create stability for the rest of the body, and would do so by tensing and holding; this tension limits both the movement of the horse’s back and the rider’s ability to use her pelvis with precision.  People commonly confuse tension with strength, but it is important to distinguish that these are not the same thing- they are, in fact, quite opposite.  Strength is developed gradually through practice, and it allows us to use our bodies with greater precision and control.  Tension, on the other hand, occurs when there is weakness, fear, or injury- when we struggle to do something that we are not yet strong enough to do or when the body is guarding itself from potential pain.  Strength provides the stability that makes movement possible, whereas tension immobilizes.  Chronic tension greatly limits our ability to use our pelvis with precision in the saddle, but we can overcome this by developing strength through practice- both on the horse and on the ground.


Florida Sporthorse Magazine 19 All photos by Caralee Gould


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Even accomplished riders with good control of their seats can benefit from gaining greater body awareness and fine-tuning their skills.  Whatever your skill level, the following exercises can help you improve the precision of your seat aids.  Please read the instructions thoroughly, as it is the detail and attention with which these exercises are done that will make them of value.  

1. Sacrum Circles

Lay on your back and bend your knees, bringing them towards your chest. Place one hand on each knee, and straighten your arms.  The pressure of the floor should be against the back of your pelvis, not the low back.  Begin to circle your knees, using your hands to create the movement; keep the muscles of the legs and hips relaxed.  Move slowly, with awareness of the entire circle.  If you find areas of tenderness or parts of the circle that lose their shape, pause before continuing on the circle, and slow down; then change directions.  Freeing the sacrum is key to being able to move the pelvis freely in all directions.  This exercise is also beneficial for riders who experience low back pain.

2. Standing Side Bends  

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and parallel, weight balanced evenly from left foot to right. Raise the arms (if you have shoulder limitations, you can place your hands on your hips or only raise the arms to shoulder height).  Inhale, pressing down through the feet as you extend the torso upward.  Exhale, and bend to one side.  Hold the position, breathing normally, for 3-10 breath cycles.  While in the position, focus on keeping your hips directly over your feet, and your weight balanced evenly between the feet.  Maintain these points of focus as you come out of the position with an inhalation, exhaling to the other side.  After you complete the Standing Side Bends to both sides, come back to center and take a look at your feet to see if either (or both) have moved from their parallel position. Standing Side Bends address deep core muscles that connect the low   back, pelvis, and thigh; they improve body symmetry and use of the leg and seat.

3. Wide Legged Forward Bend 

Stand with your feet wide apart. Lift the toes of one foot and pivot on the heel to bring the toes towards the midline of the body; repeat with the other foot, so that you are now

positioned “toes in, heels out”. Notice that this causes the thighs to rotate “internally”- the length of the outer thighs rotating forward as the inner thighs rotate back behind you.  Exaggerate this rotation until you feel it deep inside your outer hip; keep the inner thighs relaxed.  Maintaining this action, begin to bend forward from the hips by moving the pelvis around the tops of the thigh bones.  Hold for a few breaths, focusing on the rotation of the thighs, and come out of the pose in the same manner.  (Advanced Focus:  move the seat bones evenly and at the same rate, as if walking them up a wall behind you.) Wide Legged Forward Bend improves the ability to rotate the thighs internally, giving stability to the rider’s body and making possible greater mobility and precision in the use of the seat.  

4. Chair Pose

Stand with your feet hip width apart and parallel, weight balanced evenly from left to right. Raise the arms, or place hands on hips.  Slowly bend your knees, as if sitting in an imaginary chair.  Focus on keeping your weight balanced equally between the feet, and both legs working equally and symmetrically- both as you come into and out of the pose, and as you hold the position for a few breaths.  *Advanced focus:  While holding Chair Pose, practice rotating your thighs internally, so that your outer pant leg seams rotate upward.  Notice the stability that this small internal action gives to your pose.  Chair Pose develops strength, stability, precision, and balance.  As you work to keep your weight evenly balanced between the feet, you are strengthening

20 Florida Sporthorse Magazine deep intrinsic muscles that you will use to influence your seat.

5. Seated Exercises 

Sit on a firm chair with your feet flat on the ground. If you are unable to feel your seat bones from the pressure of the chair, place your hands underneath them.  A)    Press the seat bones alternately downward, noticing which movement feels easier.  Hold your easier position until you feel your body no longer wanting to be there; then press the opposite seat bone down and hold for 10 seconds.  Recheck, noticing whether your two sides now feel more equal.  If not, repeat only once more.   B)   Press the seat bones alternately forward, again noticing your preference.   C)   Feldenkrais Clock- Imagine that you are seated on the face of a clock, with 12:00 directly ahead of you, 6:00 behind.  Move your seat bones toward 12, which will cause you to tilt your pelvis and lengthen your low back.  Then move your seat bones toward 6, causing the low back to hollow slightly.  Go from 12 to 6 a few times, returning to center between each movement; move the seat bones symmetrically.  Then tip your pelvis toward 3 o’clock, either by lifting the left seat bone or pressing down slightly with the right, and then move toward 9 o’clock.  Move back and forth from 3 to 9 a few times, returning to center

momentarily during each transition. Now, beginning again at the center of the clock, move the seat bones to 12 and then continue around the clock in a clockwise direction, pausing at each hour; notice numbers that are easy to access as well as those that are more difficult.  Then go counter-clockwise, again pausing at each hour.  As you do this exercise, be aware not only of what you feel in your pelvis but also how other parts of the body get involved in the movement- the back, legs, feet, ribcage.

Take it to the Saddle 

Several of the above exercises can be done on horseback, as written here or with slight modifications. Try them at the halt, walk, and trot.  Do Side Bends, keeping your feet balanced in the stirrups, weight equal in both seat bones as your upper body lengthens and bends.  Practice rotating your thighs as in Wide Legged Forward Bend, and notice how the stability of your legs gives you a more secure seat along with greater abililty to move the pelvis with precision.  Rise up and down as in Chair Pose, moving slowly and focusing on keeping your weight equal in your feet, both legs working symmetrically.  The seated awareness/re-patterning exercises (#5) are great to do on the horse- notice not only what you feel in your body, but the way the horse responds.   

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22 Florida Sporthorse Magazine

Beyond the bling Beloved Buckles creates custom accessories Christie Gold The once conservative realm of equestrian sport has seen a surge of color and sparkle the last few years. While our peers in the Western show ring have long loved all things bright and sparkley, only recently have jumpers and

Allison Ilcken works on one of her custom creations. Her buckles feature portraits and embellishments that reflect the customer’s tastes and personality.

dressage riders started adding a little bling to their belts. B. B. Simon’s expensive embellishments may be a status symbol for the well-dressed equestrian, but for those seeking a one-of-akind statement, look no further than Tampa’s Beloved Buckles. Allison Ilcken started crafting the buckles last year after receiving a hand-crafted piece with her children’s picture on it. “I always loved art and took classes in high school and college. The buckles seemed like a natural fit for horse shows,” she said. Through trial and error, as well as the frustration of finding plain buckles that could be decorated with a photo and the beads and sequins to adorn them, Illcken began crafting buckles and quickly discovered that she had an eye for them. She began by making them for her daughters, Katherine and Madeline, who ride at North Star Farm. When the girls presented a buckle to their trainer, Diane Weber, she said, “Who do I make the check out to?” Ilcken sells the buckles at La Pink, a

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boutique in New Tampa and has a few samples for sale at Foxwood Saddlery in Pinellas Park. Mostly, clients find her through word of mouth, but she has plans to set up a booth at shows and develop a website where clients can submit orders. However, she does not want anything to take away from the uniqueness of each item. “I like to get to know the person who orders a buckle. Do they like black and white and pearls or bling and lots of color? They send me a photo, I go out and find the embellishments, and then I put everything together. It’s kind of

like arranging your family room. You get all the pieces, but you have to keep moving things around until they work.” Each buckle goes through an extensive finishing process that ensures that it will hold up against the rigors that come with horse shows, including dirt and sweat. “I’ve tried to destroy one. It’s virtually impossible,” Illcken said. Aside from riders, Ilcken crafts buckles for prep, college and professional sports fans. Custom buckles, which include a photograph, start at $95. Buckles with sports

Florida Sporthorse Magazine 23 logos start at $65. Illcken says the best part of crafting the buckles is seeing the positive reaction when she delivers the buckle. “Part of the reward is having a niche. I’m creating something unique, and I want people to love them.” For more information or to order a Beloved Buckle, contact Allison: or (813)391-4489.

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24 Florida Sporthorse Magazine

Navigation 101

Jean White

‘Gators’ do more than go along for the ride

Karen Kennedy/Icon Studios

Driver Bob Koopman and his navigator and daughter Anna Koopman competing at Live Oak in 2010. The horse is Whipper Will Keep Dancing, a Morgan Gelding.


f you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching the marathon portion of a competitive driving competition or the hazards phase of an ADT then you will have noticed that most carriages and carts have a person or two going along for the ride. This extra person or persons are called navigators or grooms. It may seem that the navigator (sometimes referred to as a gator) has a fun job going for a wild ride on the back of a carriage (or sitting beside the driver in a two-wheeled cart) competing in a HDT, ADT, or CDE. Well, it is a fun job, and sometimes it can be wild, but the navigator also has major responsibilities while on the job. What is the job of a navigator on a carriage or cart?

Navigators gather information about the course while walking the course with the driver. With this knowledge, the navigator will then communicate with the driver to help keep him on course throughout the marathon. This is particularly important while negotiating the hazards that are on the course. Depending on the level that the driver is competing, the carriage may be required to go through three to six different openings in each hazard. These openings are marked A, B, C, D, E, and F. Each of these openings is also marked with red and white markers. The red markers are always on the driver’s right side. Because the time spent in each hazard is

added to the time on course, the driver will pick what he thinks is the fastest and smoothest route through each hazard. The navigator must memorize the route through each hazard in order to help the driver not only stay on course, but also so he will balance the carriage or cart correctly. The navigator’s job of helping to balance the cart can be as simple as riding beside your best friend in a cart behind her seasoned training Level pony. At this level, the trot speeds and slopes will not be taxing the cart’s balance to a great degree. But as teams move up the levels and add horsepower, greater speed, and sloping ground, the job gets a bit trickier.



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Florida Sporthorse Magazine 25 On fast turns and on slopes, the navigator must feel to what degree he needs to be over a wheel to balance the carriage. Sometimes it is as easy as standing to one side of the carriage. Other times the navigator will be leaning sideways out over one of the back wheels. Going up hills the gator will have his weight forward, but in going downhill, the gator get down low and as far behind the axel as he can. All of these positions are to keep the carriage stable and keep it from overturning. If the navigator makes a mistake in the hazard at speed by being on the wrong side of the carriage, it can cause the carriage to overturn, The navigator can also help correct some errors on the part of the driver by moving the carriage over to keep it from hitting a part of the hazard. This is accomplished by the gator by using their weight with a jump and a pull to hop the cart away from the obstacle. Gators are not allowed to push off from an obstacle. As you can tell, a navigator should have some knowledge of the balance and weight of the carriage or cart on which they are navigating as well as some mechanical knowledge of how it works. Also, knowing the harness type and where and how the quick releases work should be a part of the navigator’s education. In an emergency the navigator may be asked by the driver to get off the carriage and assist in control of the horse(s), or to repair harness, or to reconnect anything that has become undone, or to unhitch a horse in trouble. The navigator also alerts the driver if he notices anything coming loose on the carriage or harness. Obviously, it is a plus for the gator to be a seasoned horseman. A navigator needs to know the competition rules. There are many ways in which a navigator can incur penalties or even eliminate the driver from the competition, It also helps to know which course markers each level is using in order to help guide the driver along the course. For example, training level has black numbers on white in the shape of a diamond. Preliminary has a green square and intermediate a red circle. advanced is a blue triangle. Doing the wrong course results in elimination. Navigators also help keep time on the course. Each driver will have stop watches in order to keep track of their time on course. Many drivers will have the navigator call out the time as they pass the kilometer markers. The drivers and navigators will know exactly what time that they should be passing each marker. Will you make a good Navigator? If you are good with rules, stopwatches, and memorizing courses then you are off to a great start! In order to be a knowledgeable and SAFE navigator you need to also have great balance, be in good shape (the marathon distance can be from 8 to See Navigation page 27


26 Florida Sporthorse Magazine

Finding Mr. (or Ms.) Right An open mind helps amateurs get the most for their money

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he time has come to purchase a horse. Advertisements online, flyers hanging in tack shops and trainers across the country promise to have the perfect sport horse for you. Where to start? If you are like most people surviving in the current economy, funds are limited and you are looking to find the best equine partner for your money.

Keep an Open Mind

When setting out to purchase a horse, most people make a list of qualities that the new horse must have. Soundness, temperament, correct training and good basic confirmation are important. Often though, the list becomes so specific that it becomes nearly impossible to find a horse that meets every criterion listed. If you broaden your search to include more breeds, colors and sizes, you will have many more horses to try and therefore have a better chance of finding a great horse within your price range. The most beautiful horse in the barn is not

always the most fun to ride. An honest horse with a good work ethic will be a joy to own even if he has mule ears and a roman nose. Remember, whether a diamond is wrapped in satin ribbons or in a brown paper bag, it is still a diamond.

The Prospect

You may be tempted to purchase a young horse. A fancy young prospect will be cheaper than the same caliber horse with age and training. However, a young horse that a pro may deem quiet may still be too athletic for a typical amateur. Often the seller will tell a prospective buyer that a horse is quiet and believe wholeheartedly that the horse is safe to ride. The amateur sometimes has a different idea of what is quiet or safe. It’s not that one party or the other is wrong, it’s that they are using different scales of measurement. The average young horse trainer spends all day riding and deals with the antics of many different horses. Not having the base of experience to deal with different types of evasions or a lower confidence level on the part

of the amateur may make things like whinnying, jigging or spooking seem scary, while they are just a minor annoyance to the expert. Purchasing a horse with less talent and more age and training might prove more enjoyable and cost effective. You will spend more time in the saddle and write fewer checks to your trainer.

The Schoolmaster

On the other end of the scale is the schoolmaster. An older schoolmaster can be invaluable to a rider’s education. Often the initial cost of a schoolmaster is far less than a younger aged horse of comparable training. This is because an older horse’s soundness can be limited and their useful years ahead are uncertain. If you are considering the purchase of a schoolmaster be sure to factor in the cost of joint maintenance and other medical bills that are associated with keeping an older horse sound. Also be sure to add in the cost of retirement for his golden years. An old horse may live another ten years past his useful riding age.


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Live in the moment

Buy a horse you can ride today. It can take a ride or two to figure out what type of aids are most effective for a horse and it is expected that the first ride is mostly about the horse and rider getting to know one another. The first ride may be a little messy, but if you continue to have difficulty on the second or third rides, move on to another horse. No matter how talented or beautiful the horse is or how lovely he looks with your trainer aboard, if you can’t ride him today there is a good chance you will always find him difficult to ride. Many people have purchased talented prospects hoping to learn how to ride them

later on. Sometimes the rider’s ability catches up to the horse’s talent. Most often, however, the rider becomes frustrated with the too big, too strong, too athletic equine. Finding a horse that is enjoyable to ride is paramount in a lasting partnership. Finding a horse that you can ride comfortably from the first ride will save thousands of dollars in training fees. Even if the horse is priced at the lowest point of your budget, be sure to factor in the long term cost of the horse’s training.

Don’t go it alone

Finding the perfect mount will be easier if you enlist the help of an equine professional in

Florida Sporthorse Magazine 27 your search. Much like using a realtor when you buy a house, using a pro to help you buy a horse helps you find many horses to try in a short period of time. Your trainer or sales agent has the experience to see things that you may not notice right away such as slight gait abnormalities or subtle signs that there may be an underlying training issue. The biggest waste of money is purchasing a horse that turns out to be highly unsuitable for you.


Although the initial monetary output may seem extravagant, the typical ten percent commission paid to your agent is a much smaller price to pay than the money, time and effort expended to own and re-sell the wrong horse. To make sure you don’t end up over paying for your horse, chose one professional and use them through the whole shopping process. This keeps the calculations of commissions very simple and avoids any artificially inflated pricing to include extra professionals in the sale of your horse.

The local market

Buying a horse locally will be a big money saver. Plane tickets, hotels and rental cars can add thousands of dollars to your end cost. If you plan on budgeting in some travel costs, consider purchasing a horse within the US or Canada to save on the cost of cross Atlantic shipping and quarantine.

The Bottom Line

Finding your dream horse can be a daunting task. If you are realistic about your goals, budget and abilities and are willing to look at many options you can find the perfect sport horse partner without breaking the bank.

Navigation/from page 25 14km!), and have good upper body strength. A good navigator knows their limits. Navigating behind a Training Level single small pony does not have the same strength requirements as navigating behind an advanced horse. Multiply that strength requirement when navigating for a pair or team! A consideration of the smaller equines is the navigator’s weight. These drivers will be looking for a lighter navigator that will not stress their pony. So, if you are strong and fit and want to have fun being a good navigator (and worth your weight in gold) then grab your helmet and safety vest and get some experience by navigating for drivers when they are practicing. These experienced drivers have a wealth of knowledge that they are eager to share. Other seasoned navigators will be happy to take you under their wing and teach you. Also, several classes and clinics for navigators are held each year in Florida. Cypress Keep will be hosting one in June. So hop on board and help out your favorite driver!

28 Florida Sporthorse Magazine

Saddle fit/from page 15 stress it also becomes stiff causing the pelvis to not be able to close as it should. Because the right-hind is not carrying its share of the load, it can be more expressive since this side is not stiff and the pelvis can close easily. The horse “sitting down” on the right causes the rider to feel as though she is falling to the right which results in sitting harder on the left (already the stronger side) and the vicious circle continues. Deep indentions in the left-side of the seat is a tell-tale sign of a rider sitting too hard on the left. Consequently, the flocking on this side will be compressed while the right side material may appear hardly used. The more flexible, expressive right side will create an inward rotation of the right passive hock and an outward rotation of the right stifle to make compensation for the cantilevered position of the rider. This can eventually destroy the right-hind due to synovial fluid not able to adequately lubricate joints that are meant to move front and back and not laterally. After 15 years of professionally fitting saddles and experimenting with just about every way to try to balance a horse through corrective fitting, Gullikson is confident his saddle fitting can help reverse an asymmetric horse. Yet, in a field where many believe a saddle should never

be flocked unevenly to balance an asymmetric horse, Gullikson is often met with criticism and resistance. Before beginning the saddle fitting Gullikson rules out medical reasons for the weak right side through his own observations and through information from the owner. Confident that it is only a strength issue, he will begin by flocking the right side of the saddle to make it higher. The reason is best explained in his analogy of rubber bands . If a person was to sit on a taunt, new, (with lots of elasticity) rubber band on her left-side and a weaker, older, stretched- out rubber band on her right-side, she would immediately fall into the right rubber band because it cannot support her. She would fight to stay even on the rubber bands by placing more weight on the left rubber band. Gullikson works to strengthen the horse’s right side by placing more material, thus enabling the saddle to support the rider. With the rider now truly more balanced, the rider is off the left side making the right side to begin and carry its fair load. In as early as two weeks some of the flocking will be taken out as the horse’s right musculature begins to develop. Through this process the horse’s right-hind will travel straighter and less stress will be placed on all the joints. Gullikson urges riders during this transformation time to do more work to the right encouraging the horse to become more

active with their right hind. Remember to keep these exercises short and do a lot at the walk. Muscles build better slowly. As stated before, rule out any medical problems before fitting a saddle asymmetrically. Also, only a competent, experienced saddle fitter should attempt this and one that will be available for you to adjust the saddle regularly as your horse’s musculature changes. In our modern day world of throw-away goods Gullikson worries that our horses are becoming just another disposable commodity. He feels the saddle-fitting industry needs to revamp themselves and begin to encompass the whole horse and its needs. For example some saddle fitters only adjust the saddle to accommodate the horse at that moment, while other fitters may only adjust the saddle to the static horse without viewing their movement. Gullikson likes to work along side the trainer and the rider because “saddle fitting is not as simple as black and white… there are a lot of gray areas.” Gullikson jokes that his passion for the horse has increased even more now that he is getting older and feeling the stiffness and aches in his own body. He deeply cares about the welfare of each horse and treats each one as an individual. Instead of horses ending their careers so early due to injury he hopes that soon performance horses will be competing soundly and happily into their 20’s

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A trip to England allows a young equestrian to gallop cross country and meet Merlin

Diane Morrison

Caroline Morrison spent her spring break in England where she was able to experience riding Merlin, the mechanical horse (above).

Caroline Morrison During spring break I went with my family to England. In the United States horse lovers, riders, or owners all seem to know each other because there are so few of us. In England it is not like that; a large amount of the population rides horses. One of my cousins rides, so early one Sunday morning, we jumped in the car and took the scenic 40-minute route to Shardeloes Farm. Shardeloes is located in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. When I arrived there to watch my little cousin I was shocked. My mom told me that you could not see where the fields ended and she was right. The rolling, green, lush hills morphed with the early morning fog. The yellow daffodils stood out from the green grass. The gray and brown-pebbled walkway made the grass look that much greener. Shardeloes Farm is a 500-acre farm with two internationally sized all weather arenas, one indoor and one outdoor arena. The farm has a 39 fence 4.5 miles BHS (British Horse Society) approved cross-country course. The farm has an office that is heated with a secretary and tables. They have a board where people can pin ads for sale horses, trailers and tack. Then in the far left side of the room there is a wooden door. Behind the door is Merlin, the mechanical horse. Merlin is Shardeloes’ Mechanical horse. He is a bay with a mane and tail and has all the features of a real horse, except legs. Riders can zip up their chaps, put their hair up and climb up on Merlin. Merlin is sensitive to leg aids behind and on the girth. There is a TV in front of you when you ride the mechanical horse. I got the first hand experience on Merlin. I got

on Merlin gathered up the reins and the coach I had, Ms. Karon, checked my position and critiqued what she saw. The large mirror was to my right and it clearly showed my position. She turned on the TV and turned Merlin on. There were two different trots, the collected trot and the medium trot. The medium trot being the one you post too, and the collected being a sitting trot. The canter was like a real horse. It was collected and rocking like a dressage horse. It even did lead changes. Merlin would respond to the leg and hand aids. The seat was not effective, for an example to ask for an extended canter you could not use your seat aids, it would be all leg, which is not the case on a real horse. Ms. Karon told me that Merlin is used mainly for beginners. He is used to teach the

Like Writing? Love Riding? Florida Sporthorse Magazine is looking for young riders to contribute their stories about their experiences in dressage, h/j, eventing or combined driving. For information contact Christie Gold

beginner rider to trot or canter. Ms. Karon said that Merlin has saved many pony’s back and has kept so many more mouths soft. Little kids who do not know how to post sit hard and post incorrectly, and this can damage a horse’s back. It does not hurt Merlin, though. Beginners have an unsteady hand and that causes them to yank and pull on the pony’s mouth, hardening it and thus the pony will need a strpnger bit. Both of these things are bad and Merlin prevents them from happening. Merlin also helps with the safety of riders. Most riders like to say they are above their level so Merlin helps prove if a rider can really canter or post or leg yield. I have never had an experience like that in my life. Since I am a more advanced rider, I did not have to practice any certain skill on him, but it gave me an excellent feel for why it would be so helpful to the safety of riders and how it would speed up the progress of learning to ride. Shardeloes Farm is a pony club center too. In England, Pony Club is more popular than in the United States. Shardeloes Farms also has a spa for the horses. The Hydro Therapy Spa is on the property by the completion field (where the show horses are kept). The sea water heals soft tissue injuries, fractures, wounds or infections. Any injury you can think of, it can help. Horses will get sent in for a week and get two treatments a day, or they will haul in for a day and get a treatment, depending on the injury. This is just one of the many great attributes of Shardeloes Farm. I took two lessons at Shardeloes Farm during my visit. I rode once on Merlin, then once on a real horse. I went and hacked on a school horse they

30 Florida Sporthorse Magazine had. We hacked all the way around the property. I told Ms. Karon I wanted to see the property so I could write this article. We started by walking down the gray and brown -pebbled drive that led us in between two natural fences. We trotted down the fences and out into the open field and Ms. Karon told me to ask for a canter. We cantered around the first section to warm up the horses for the ride. Then we approached this step hill, we broke to the walk. Living in Florida where there are no hills, I thought the hill was steep. Little

did I know this was not the steepest I was to encounter. Descending one hill, I felt like I was lying back on my horse’s croup. We got down the hill and walked on a wood chip path where I saw fence one. The fence was a beginner novice wooden cross-country fence that was neatly cut and groomed. We continued on until we came to the steeplechase course. The only steeplechase course I had ever seen was from a distance and not on horseback. The horses knew exactly where they were and ready to go when we asked them to canter. My horse stepped under herself with her black legs and jumped into the canter.

The course was cut to perfection and all the jumps were perfectly positioned. Not a blade of glass was out of place. We jumped a little log then brought our horse back to the walk. We walked off of the beautiful track and up near a water jump. There were two ducks in the water jump. The jump was a bank, jump down into the water and jump up out of the water. The two ducks were in the blue water floating. The scene was so beautiful I will never forget it. Trees, green grass, water, jumps, horses, morning fog, daffodils--I cannot think of a more beautiful barn than Shardeloes.

Conditioning/from page 13 the long, slow work is throughout this entire program. I can’t give a scientific number, but I would estimate that about 50 percent of my horses’ fitness comes from the walk, trot, and aqua tread work that they do. Sprint work is another important element to peak cardiovascular fitness. I use my preparation horse trials as a type of sprint work. The fitness gained from going out and making time on cross country in a competition is invaluable and can’t quite be replicated any other way. Sprint work also becomes the focus of my gallops at home in the final three weeks before our major competition. In my final group of gallops, I will find the best hill with the best footing that I have access too and after my initial trot set, which is now up to 30-40 minutes, I will work in two sets of two to three minute sprints. The first one is done at advanced speed or better, and ideally the second one is even faster. My horse should always be fresh on the first sprint, but if he is tired on the second one and wants to go more slowly, then I know that I don’t have him fit enough yet. If he is full of run on his second sprint and his breathing rate at the end is at the low end of his range, then I know that I am ready for our big show and I just need to maintain what I have. Although much of our basic conditioning work is done solo, it is always nice for the horses to have company on gallops, and particularly on sprints. Horses are herd animals so having a partner makes them try harder with less mental effort. I have ridden tired horses around three day events, and it is no fun. My goal every season for every horse is to have him fit enough so that he can come out on the Sunday of his three day event and happily jump around the show jumping. There are certain challenges that the terrain in Florida presents to the conditioning of the three day event horse, but at the end of the day, I feel that with the tools we have available here and with a thoughtful program, even top level fitness is achievable in Florida.

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Florida Sporthorse Magazine Spring 2011  

A quarterly publication dedicated to Florida's dressage, eventing, hunter/jumper, combined driving and sport horse breeding communities.