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The Eloquent Equine In this issue: Cowgirls With a Purpose

The Essentials

Dealing with Saddle Fears Gymnasticising Your Horse ... and more!

Issue 2 Athleticism

Ath路let路i路cism Characteristic of an athlete, vigorous, active, strong, powerful, present, skill, stability, stamina, competitive, brave, bold, agile, determined, mentally nimble , hardy, sturdy, strong, admirable, august, stately, noble, honorable, smart, robust, healthy.

It is not simply a matter of body, but of mind and spirit also

1 The Eloquent Equine

Hello Again! To all of our new and returning readers, welcome to the second issue of The Eloquent Equine. This issue is more than double the size of the first, and we’ve got some great things in store for you. First our Spotlight gallery features pictures contributed by Gord Lambert of the horses and riders of Homestead Hills Equestrian Centre (page 5). In the Unexpendable section of this issue we have an interview with Cowgirls with a Purpose, a great non-profit organization based in Oklahoma. This issue also features The Essentials, a brand new section featuring training tips for horse and rider. On page 15 you can learn about how Gymnastic exercises can spice up your lesson, while on page 19, you can find information on dealing with a horse with fears of the saddle. We hope you enjoy the second issue! Stay tuned for more exciting things from The Eloquent Equine. You can learn more about what we have coming up by visiting our Twitter or Facebook pages! Thanks for reading!


Eloquent Equine Issue 2

Editor Krista Rivet Creative Director Samantha Wild

Contributors Krista Rivet, Gord Lambert, Nancy Elwood, Ashley Lambert, Kirstin Beatty Advertising, Submissions, & General Inquiries theeloquentequine@gmail.com

Online Website: www.theeloquentequine.webs.com Email: theeloquentequine@gmail.com Facebook: /TheEloquentEquine Twitter: @EloquentEquine

Subscriptions Free!

On the Cover “Little Horse, Big World” Photo: Krista Rivet

The Eloquent Equine is a quarterly publication, producing four issues a year Reproduction of any material from this issue in whole or part is strictly prohibited The Eloquent Equine welcomes all submissions and suggestions. Please feel free to email us.

The Eloquent Equine 2

In this Issue ... 5

Spotlight Photographer Gord Lambert shares photos of the horses and riders of Homestead Hills Equestrian Centre in Kendal, ON

12 Cowgirls with a Purpose

Bonded by their faith and their mutual love of horses, these woman work to provide a safe and friendly environment for families to experience and share in their love of horses.

15 Gymnasticising

Gymnastic lines are great tools for building up the horse and rider. Come learn how these simple exercise can help enrich your training regiments and spice up any lesson.

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Saddle Fears We’ve got some tips on how to assess why your horse is afraid of the saddle, and how to begin training them to overcome that fear.

23 The Library

The School Master, examining the bond between horse and rider and the magnitude of their subtle communication.

The Eloquent Equine 4


“All your dreams can come true, if you have the courage to pursue them�

Photographer: Gord Lambert

“I have been riding for about three years now. Throughout the years I have grown to love horseback riding, and there are many things that I love about riding. Being able to work with the horse is one of the best parts. You get to learn about how each horse is different, and the way they act when you are riding them. When I am on the back of a horse I feel like I don’t have a care in the world.”

Back in Black, aka Nikki, is a Canadian X Mare that Ashley has shown.

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“Riding a horse can sometimes be a challenge, but without a challenge you would never learn anything new. The challenges are what make horseback riding so interesting! The best part about horseback riding is showing. There are many things that I enjoy about showing. I like being able to show off what I have learned. Competing against people makes it challenging, which to me makes it all the more fun.� The Eloquent Equine 8

“Travelling to different shows can be nerve-racking; because there are different sights and sounds that your horse may have never seen or heard before. That can make the horse uneasy. Placing in a show can be very difficult at times, but knowing that is what makes me want to work that much harder to win!�

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Top Secret, aka Abby, is a Clydesdale/Thoroughbred Cross that Ashley also rides and shows.

Ashley is an avid young equestrian who rides at Homestead Hills Equestrian Centre in Kendal, ON

The Unexpendable


with a Purpose With a little strength, faith, and determination, these women are working to better their community one step at a time.

Founded in October of 2011

by Nancy Elwood, Cowgirls with a Purpose is a non-profit Christian organization that made its debut in December of the same year. Bonded by their faith and mutual love of horses, the Cowgirls with a Purpose, now ten members strong, seek to provide a safe and fun environment for families to enjoy horses while also raising money to benefit their community. The dutiful women who make up the organization are single mothers with children of their own, who willingly sacrifice their time to help others in their community. It often takes a lot of work to plan, organize, and run many of the events the organization offers, but these women are always willing to help. Their ‘posse’, as Nancy calls them, includes not only the woman who form the core of the organization, but the sponsors and other volunteers who are always willing to lend a hand when necessary. In December of their inaugural year the Cowgirls held a toy drive for children. All the toys that the women collected from the drive were then donated to the mayor of their city, who donates the toys to children every year. Since then, the Cowgirls have hosted numerous events including a Men’s Barrel Race, which was held to raise money for Relay for Life, a charity that raises funds for cancer awareness and treatment. The men who participated were not trained barrel riders and rode the race upon their wife, sister, or mother’s barrel horses. The Cowgirls have also held a clinic to teach children how to properly saddle a horse. The clinic also provided

12 The Eloquent Equine

the children with a working knowledge of the various parts of the saddle. The women who comprise the Cowgirls with a Purpose also generously donate their time to help community members in need of assistance. Recently, these women heard of a single mother and her children who required a refrigerator for the summer. Not only did they provide a refrigerator that met the needs of the family, but they also helped to take care of some of their other needs as well. In one day the Cowgirls managed to undertake a massive property clean up that would have taken the family over a year to complete. At the beginning of September of this year, the Cowgirls got together to represent their organization in the Elk City 74th Rodeo of Champions Parade. The Cowgirls rode alongside the float they entered, and won second place. The shirts and club outfits the women wear in their events are all paid for out of pocket so that they do not take away from the organization’s community fund. They also collect aluminum cans to help raise money. These women are truly unexpendable and inspirational. The time they contribute to help raise money for their community, as well as to provide family friendly environments to enjoy and experience horses, makes them invaluable members of their community. You can learn more about Cowgirls with a Purpose and their upcoming events by visiting their Facebook Page. PICTURED Top: The Cowgirls in the Elk City Parade, Centre: Children’s Saddling Clinic, Bottom: The 2011 Toy Drive

Written by Krista Rivet with files from Nancy Elwood

The Eloquent Equine 13

The Essentials Training tips for horse and rider

g n i s i c i t s a mn


Building Horse & Rider skills with a few basic exercises

Photos: Kirstin Beatty

When you think of gymnastic exercises for horses many riders think of training for jumpers. Though you may be surprised to know that gymnastic exercises can be beneficial for horses and riders from all disciplines. Gymnastics can be simple or complex, small or large, but no matter what they are or how they are set up, they serve as a valuable training tool to build up horse and rider skills.

For the Horse Gymnastic exercises can be a valuable tool for training horses of any level and discipline. No matter how simple, gymnastic lines and exercises encourage the horse to loosen their body and engage, allowing for better horse and rider communication, and an overall better ride. Gymnasticizing your horse can help to increase 15 The Eloquent Equine

suppleness and forces the horse to work various parts of its body. These types of exercises help to work the horse from back to front, developing the hind end and getting the horse light on the forehand. Working the horse this way also helps to engage the hind end. Gymnastic exercises also encourage the horse to articulate through its legs as it is forced to pick up its feet and push with the hind end over the obstacles. This articulation and movement throughout the body, also helps the horse work the back and spine, helping to develop the body and general fitness of the horse overall. Gymnasticising can also serve as a mode of distraction for a horse and rider during training. Should a horse grow bored or distracted and start to fight or pull on the rider, popping over a small gymnastic can help the horse regain focus allowing the rider to regroup and put the lesson back on track. The gymnastic will force the horse to ‘sort itself out’, because as much as the rider needs to set the horse up for the obstacle, the horse also needs to be attentive and aware in order to navigate the object with ease.

For the Rider The gymnastic exercise is ideal for building and working on a variety of rider skills. Gymnastic lines encourage and help develop rider focus. As a rider you need to be aware of the oncoming obstacle, the way you are going to navigate it, and the pace and position of your horse. The gymnastic helps the rider work on controlling the pace of their horse as well as their spacing. Whether it be a single low cavaletti or a series of jumps in a specific pattern, the exercise forces the rider to be aware of and control the speed and stride of the horse so that each obstacle is approached at the optimal distance. With a properly trained horse the rider can use the gymnastic to help

You can change your gymnastic as you go, starting with simple poles (top) and progressing to a low crossrail and pole combination (centre, bottom).

learn the effects of shortening and lengthening stride, and when this needs to done so that the horse does not need to add or remove strides. Over time this will allow the rider to build up a consistency of pace when riding, which can be beneficial in any discipline, be it in the Dressage ring or Jumper arena. The gymnastic line can also encourage better rider positioning. Higher jumps and a series of obstacles can help a jumper rider work on two point position, while a low cavaletti or trot pole can encourage the rider to stay upright and maintain position to help keep the horses’ pace consistent.

Building your ideal Gymnastic The gymnastic you build for you and your horse can be simple or complex and can reflect the level of training or the set of skills you want to work on at a certain time. The exercise does not need to be complex and the jumps do not need to be high in order to be beneficial, even a single cavaletti at a low level can be an effective tool in your training regime. Start simple; try riding your horse over a low cavaletti a couple of times each time you ride, pay attention to pace and spacing as well as your position. Having a mirror, or friend or coach nearby, can help you assess how your horse looks when going over the obstacle. Practice this exercise a few times a day, and always end when the horse completes the obstacle in the way you want. If after a few times of trying this simple exercise your horse navigates it with ease, take a break from the exercise for a couple of days and come back to it. When you try again, if the horse navigates the obstacle with ease, you can change the exercise to challenge yourself and your horse. ------- No matter what your discipline or riding level, gymnastic lines not only benefit you and your horse in terms of training, but can also help break up the monotony of a repetitive training regime and serve as a valuable distraction for a horse that is acting out in lessons due to boredom. Whether it is a series of trot poles, a single cavaletti, or a complex series of jumps, gymnastic exercises can spice up any lesson or training regime while also serving a vital function in helping build the skills of horse and rider combined.

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Tr y These Exe rcises! Trot Poles Trot poles are great for gymnastic exercises as there are almost endless variations you can use to exercise you horse. All with just a few simple poles on the ground! The Straight Line

Arrange your trot poles along the ground in a straight line. The spacing will vary depending on the horse so you may have to adjust them as you go along. You can approach the line from any direction and incorporate turns and patterns.

The Raised Pole

To make the exercise more difficult, you can raise one end of each of the poles in the line. This will encourage the horse to articulate and engage its muscles as it is forced to lift its legs.

The Cavaletti

The Fan

You can also arrange the poles in a fan pattern, this will allow you to work on extending and collecting your horse’s gaits. By riding along the inside of the fan where the space is smaller, your horse will have to collect, but when you go over the wider section the horse will have to extend its gait.

The Cavaletti is great for gymnastics as it can be used alone (as a single obstacle) or you can use multiple for a more complex exercise. You can also vary the height of the cavaletti as needed. The Single

The Circle

Try placing a single cavaletti somewhere in the arena. Ride over it as an exercise on its own, or incorporate it into your riding by riding over it when working on circles and serpentines

Place two cavaletti’s side in line with each other in the arena, try riding over both of them while riding on a large circle. This will help you keep the horse supple and balanced while also working on spacing and pacing

The Eloquent Equine 18

s r a e F e l d d a S

Tips and Tricks to help your horse begin to overcome its fears of the saddle

So you’ve discovered that your horse seems to have a fear the saddle. Tacking up

often becomes a battle, which can lead to frustration. This can be a challenging issue to overcome, and there may be a variety of factors contributing to your horse’s problem, but with a bit of time and patience you can help your horse overcome this fear and come to enjoy your rides once again. There are various factors can contribute to your horse’s fearful reaction to the saddle and discovering what is causing the reaction is the first step to treating the issue.

Fear or Pain In some cases, a fear of the saddle may not be a result of training or behavioural issues, but may be a response to pain the horse is feeling. This pain could be caused by two factors, problems with the horse’s back or a poorly fitted saddle. A poorly fitted saddle can cause discomfort and even pain to your horse, which can contribute to behavioural problems when your horse is approached with the prospect of wearing a saddle. Over the long run, a poorly fitted saddle can contribute to more severe injuries, including muscle wastage and even lameness. You can do some initial checks on your own to see if your horse is having pain as a result of an ill-fitting saddle. Run your hands along your horse’s barrel and back, does the horse react in a negative way to your touch? If so, he/she may be experiencing pain or discomfort. Look for any signs of swelling in the muscles along the spine, or look to see if there are any cuts or scrapes that may be causing pain or discomfort. Any rubbing or

19 The Eloquent Equine

discolouration of the hair may also be a sign that your saddle is rubbing or putting uneven pressure on your horse’s back. If you are concerned about anything you find, make sure you talk to your veterinarian to ensure there are no major injuries that need be addressed. An equine chiropractor or certified equine massage therapist may also be able to assess and alleviate any discomfort your horse is having due to a poor fitting saddle or pre-existing medical condition or injury. Addressing and relieving back pain in your horse is only half of the problem though, without a properly fitted saddle your horse will continue to have issues. If you think you have a saddle fitting issue, take some time to assess your horse and check the current fit of your saddle to see if you can determine where there is a problem. There are also professionals who have the training and expertise to properly fit a saddle to your horse. If you are having difficulty, you can try to reach out to a professional or attend a saddle fitting clinic. Also consider approaching your coach or trainer, they may be able to help you assess the fit of your saddle or may be able to put you into contact with someone who can help. Remember that over time your horse’s body will change, so it is important to regularly check the fit of your saddle. A saddle that fits one year may not fit the next.

Back to Basics So you’ve checked your saddle and determined that it is not causing any problems, and that your horse is not suffering from any other underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to discomfort. Now what? It’s time to go back to the basics and re-introduce the saddle to your horse. This process will take time and patience, only move as fast as your horse is willing. If you push the saddle onto the horse too quickly,


for checking if your saddle fits properly:


There should be space between the pommel of the saddle and the withers, even when the rider is seated on the saddle that gap should still be present. You also need to make sure that there is adequate space in the gullet (the channel running from pommel to cantle). A gullet that is too small will not allow the horses back muscles and spine to move as they need to when the horse is being ridden. If the gullet of the saddle is too narrow it will put pressure on the horses back which can cause serious damage. While the use of various pads can be used to alleviate this issue, it is only a temporary fix, and investing in a properly fitting saddle can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Pressure Points: The panels underneath the saddle need

to distribute pressure evenly through the body of the saddle, any uneven pressure can lead to pain and discomfort in the horse. This pressure should be even along the horses back without any pads or rider present. To test this, place the saddle on your horse. With one hand hold the saddle in place while running your other hand under the saddle between the panels and your horse’s back. Be attentive for any changes in pressure, are there spots where you have difficulty running your hand under the saddle; are there spots where there are gaps in pressure? If so you could have a problem.

Position: The placement of the saddle on the horse

will have a direct effect on its performance. Make sure the saddle is not too far back or forward. The saddle should not be placed on top of the horse’s shoulder blade, as it will affect the movement of the horse’s front end.


The saddle must also be an appropriate size for the rider. If the saddle does not fit the rider it can lead to changes in rider position which will ultimately affect how the saddle fits and moves on the horse, which can contribute to discomfort.

The Eloquent Equine 20

you may reinforce the fear behaviour you are trying to get rid of. Start slowly, assess your horse’s reaction when approached with the saddle and react accordingly. Remember, you do not want to get into a situation where you or the horse is in danger. Take things slowly and only move forward when you feel the time is right. If you do not feel you are qualified or are not sure how to proceed in a safe manner, talk to your coach or a local trainer to see if they have any tips or if they can help you with your horse. When re-introducing your horse to the saddle, you need to make the saddle into something that is not scary. Do not immediately try to place the saddle on the horse’s back, this will only cause stress to the animal and could contribute to further issues. Try to introduce the saddle in a non-threatening manner, let the horse inspect the object prior to it being placed on or near its body. Make the saddle into something that is normal for the horse, something that the horse is used to. There are various ways to do this, and the speed at which you can move forward depends on the horse and its level of fear and acceptance. Always remember, when training you need to reward good behaviour and not reinforce the bad. If the horse gets agitated or upset, remove the saddle or stressor until the horse calms, and then try again. Getting the horse used to the presence of the saddle can happen in a variety of ways, be inventive while also being attentive to your horse’s reaction. Try putting your horse in cross ties and simply present the saddle to him/her. If this provokes a reaction, try repeating this exercise regularly until the horse ceases to react, and then move forward. If the horse does not react to the sight of the saddle, try approaching the horse slowly with the saddle

21 The Eloquent Equine

Remember to take it slow when approaching your horse with the saddle and pay attention to his/her response

and move towards his/her back as if you were attempting to put the saddle on. If the horse reacts, back off a bit and provide a ‘release’. When the horse calms down, try to approach again. Do this until you are able to get close to your horse with the saddle. Remember, always approach and release. Horses are prey animals with a strong fight or flight instinct, if they feel threatened they will try to flee and if cornered may lash out in reaction. By giving the horse a ‘release’ (often by simply backing away), you let your horse know that you are not a threat. Build up slowly, if you can approach your horse with the saddle without a reaction, do not immediately try to place the saddle on its back. Instead, just try holding the saddle over the horses back until the horse calms down or shows no reaction. When that is achieved, slowly try to place the saddle gently on the horse. Repeat this step until there is no reaction, then move forward by introducing (or reintroducing) the girth.

You can also try removing the stirrups from the saddle when you are first introducing the saddle to your horse. Stirrups, even when drawn up, can often bang against the side of the saddle and cause sounds that may startle a nervous horse. Once your horse is comfortable having a saddle on its back and the girth attached, slowly reintroduce the stirrups. Continue until the horse has no reaction to the saddling process and always remember to praise the horse when you get the reaction you want. If your horse is expressing fear at the saddle as well as other objects and appears to be very ‘spooky’ in general, you may need to spend some time doing some standard de-sensitivity training with your horse. This type of training will help your horse get used to scary objects and will help them learn to cope with them while also trusting you, which may help when you need to introduce seemingly ‘scary’ objects in the future (such as the saddle). If the horse is moving away from you when you approach with tack, you may also have a trust or respect issue. Try moving the horse around before you put the saddle on, make them move forward or backward and then make them halt again. If the horse still moves when you approach with the tack the next time, repeat this step. Move the horse around, make them stand, and then re-approach with tack in hand. Make the horse have to work when they don’t do what you want. By doing this you are making the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy. Eventually the horse will realize that standing still and waiting while you put the tack on is easier than having to constantly move around.

Try introducing the saddle first, without stirrups and girth.

“The process of helping your horse overcome its fear of the saddle may take time, and some horses will adapt faster than others.” The process of helping your horse overcome its fear of the saddle may take time, and some horses will adapt faster than others. Watch your horse’s reaction to each step and try not to push your horse too fast as this may serve to reinforce negative behaviour. Be patient and moving forward at a slow and consistent pace, it will pay off eventually. Remember, horses learn by repetition. You need to move slowly, but you also need to be consistent and regular in your training.

The Eloquent Equine 22

The School Master The morning is cold. Crisp. Breath suspended in air, before dissipating on the wind. Fog lifts with the sunrise, revealing glossy green hills that roll like waves into the horizon. But the landscape is irrelevant; it’s not what I’m here for. This weather will pose a challenge. I find it satisfying, she will find it glorious. The bucket rattles but she doesn’t seem to care (no surprise there). Beyond the gate lies control and work, today she prefers her freedom. This chill breeds fire in the equine heart. The bucket rattles again, an act of desperation. She laughs from behind the foggy veil, the sunrise at her back (not going to happen). I must be patient, she’s playing games, but I will be the victor. It’s only a matter of time. The fog long dissipated, the lead finally clicks on the dark leather of her halter, the one with the little gemstones on it. The first triumph of the day, but there are many more to come (there always are). She pauses at the tie stall, three partial walls that seek to bind her. She paws and snorts. I clip her in nonetheless. Blanket lowered, quarter sheet raised (to guard against the chill), I feel I am preparing for a voyage. Minutes later we are tacked, black leather shining against the white pad, clean on her chestnut coat. She paws the rubber (let’s get this show on the road). Stirrups lowered, buckles checked, sugar administer (her drug of choice), today’s battle begins. It is her job to push me, test me; it’s what makes her the ideal partner. There are no words to describe the dance, on four feet not your own, across this dirty dance floor with all eyes watching. In.out.breathe.in.out. This makes all the difference. In this world, words are made of breath and muscle, and every move must be invisible. Perhaps today will be the day in which we achieve the perfection which we strive for, or perhaps today will be like so many other days, filled with failed expectations. If we are lucky, we will break even and achieve some small victory. This silent dirt floor will see no great glories like when those we idolize perform, no piaffe nor passage nor pirouette. We are not ready for that brand of perfection. Today’s goal, achieving lateral movement (without argument). The fire that fuels this equine dancer is inspired by the chill, and I must learn how to be its master. To control and express it through controlled movements, not a fireworks display. We start simple (game plan). A few laps of walk, ease her in, let her stretch. Done, the time for collection looms. Subtle movements, reins tightened, breathing altered, she senses change. Muscles tense, neck bends, chin tucks, things are going well so far. Circle, circle, circle, she wants to spin in tiny whirls (I can’t let her). I want twenty, she gives me ten. Compromise is necessary. Inside bend (tug.tug.tug gently on the inside rein, subtle pulsing). Elasticity is key. Bend achieved we now seek lateral movement to rectify our disagreement. Inside leg to outside hand, steel to flesh (extra encouragement), she reacts. Hindquarters cross. Half halt. Mustn’t break the flow. We achieve twenty. It takes but a second, a breath that speaks volumes to one who understands. Now for something more difficult. Breathe (mustn’t forget that), subtle shift in weight, inside ben, inside leg to outside hand, outside leg behind the girth, lift off, half halt. She gets the lead. One two three, onetwothree. Canter on the spot (almost). Compression. She’s getting agitated now, I can feel it, she’s not the only one that has to listen and react. She’s bored, anxious; I must reassure her and keep her entertained. Simple is no longer working. Traversing the quarter line I sit back, forward and down, into the trot. Bend correct (I can see her look at me, challenging), I apply the spur (gently), her tail swishes but she complies. Hindquarters and forelimbs in harmony, leg over leg, diagonally with forward impulsion (lateral movement achieved). Small victory, we must savour it. She has earned her reward, relaxation and release into those rolling hills.

DON’T MISS ... Our Special Edition! The Eloquent Equine is going to the Royal! We’re planning to bring you inside interviews and coverage of some of the top events of the fair. You can find more information about the Royal Agricultural Fair and what they have to offer this year by visiting their site at royalfair.org

Featuring: Horse & Rider Fashion

We take to the floor to find out what the new and popular products are for horse and rider this season!

Dancing in the Dark

We’ve got an exclusive interview with the riders of the Lit Dressage Quadrille.

... and so much more!

Stay Tuned!

Our next issue! Due out February 2013 The theme for Issue 3 is:

Competitive Edge

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Thanks for reading!

Profile for The Eloquent Equine

The Eloquent Equine | No. 2, Athleticism  

The second issue of The Eloquent Equine. This Fall issue takes a look at how you can help your horse overcome its fears of the saddle and ho...

The Eloquent Equine | No. 2, Athleticism  

The second issue of The Eloquent Equine. This Fall issue takes a look at how you can help your horse overcome its fears of the saddle and ho...


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