Training and AOT

Show Ring Beautiful (for the RIDER!)

There are so many things out there to tell you how to get your horse ready for a horse show.  There are products upon products that people recommend and there are books and blogs and reviews covering every single angle of how you should groom your horse.  However, there isn’t that much out there telling you how to present yourself at a horse show.  Here, I will cover a few things from makeup to clothing for the show ring for a saddleseat show.  Please defer to the rule book on ASHA’s site for a complete list of appropriate attire, as it varies from class to class. Some require day suits and derbies, some formals and top hats.  I have always shown pleasure, so day suits have always been appropriate for me.

I will start with makeup and share some of the tricks I use.  First, if you have never shown before, you should be warned that it gets REALLY hot in those long sleeve wool habits (suits) in the summer.  You WILL sweat.  You will feel gross.  It’s going to happen.  Get over it!   That said, how are we women supposed to keep our makeup on and our faces looking as perfect as our horses when it’s 100+ degrees out and we’re wearing wool long sleeved suits and sweating like pigs?  Well let me tell you my secrets.

MAKEUP: 

Start with a bare face, and apply a face primer all over, like a lotion.  I use Avon’s “primed for perfection” from their Mark collection, and it has worked wonders for me.  Actually I use all Avon products in my make-up regime, with the exception of one, which I will talk about in a minute.  I get Avon from my Mom (http://rosewebb.avonrepresentative.com/).

After applying the face primer to your entire face, you are ready to apply the foundation/powder of your choice.  I use Avon’s BB cream, and/or Mineral Powder.  Then I apply a little bit of blush.

After you have your foundation/powder/blush looking perfect, you can start on your eyes.  Here is where I stray from Avon, simply because they do not make a product like this.  I use Mary Kay’s Eye Primer.  It is essentially a thick version of the face primer, but it works better on eyes than just the face primer.  Smear this all over your eyelids, and wherever you will be applying eye makeup.  Let it dry, or don’t let it dry, it works about the same either way.  Apply your preferred eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara as normal.

Last comes lips.  I’ll share another secret weapon with you here… Avon’s Lip Marker.  This stuff is one of the most awesome makeup inventions ever!  It doesn’t smudge, smear, or wipe off.  It’s a stain, so it stains your lips to be that color.  I use this as a base, and apply Avon’s Glossblossom lipgloss and my lips are perfect for the entire show, if I choose for them to be!

Now, if you’re like me, you don’t wear this much makeup on the daily.  When I come out of my last class in the show ring, I don’t want to have all that makeup on anymore.  No worries, because I use Avon’s makeup remover wipes to remove it all!!

Products:

 

HAIR

If you are an AOT (like we are) and you are just starting out on your own (like we are) and you have no one to do your hair, you will bow down to this wonderful lady who posted a video on Youtube on how to do your own horse show bun.  I have tried this, sitting in front of my computer by myself, and my hair turned out pretty good!  I think I am prepared to try again and do it for a show!!  So, check this out on how to get your hair into that perfect show bun all by yourself!!

 

JEWELRY

You want to wear classy, attractive jewelry,  and nothing super gawdy.

Earrings: Generally, you should not wear anything dangly.  I like a nice size CZ or Swarovski Crystal Stud-nothing expensive that may fall out of my ears and get lost on the show ring-made that mistake once with some real diamonds, never again!!!

Lapel Pin: I wear a simple small magnetic horse shoe.  You can find plenty of these online, in consignment stores or specialty stores.  I have seen people wear a letter pin with an initial or something significant to them, or something else “horsey” looking.  As long as it’s not too huge and gawdy, it’s OK to wear.  It is usually worn on the left side of the lapel on your coat.

Tie Bar:  Usually saddleseat shirts will have holes in the collar for the tie bar to go.  There are so many options here from plain to sparkly, silver, gold, etc.  I have both plain and sparkly swarovski crystal ones.  There are clip on tie bars available for shirts that do not have tie bar holes.  I also own one of these with little saddlebred horses on it, even though I don’t own a shirt that doesn’t have tie bar holes!

Number Magnets: You NEED these.  No one likes a number flopping around, and lets all be honest here pinning the number usually ends up looking like crap.  Plus, poking holes all in expensive clothes makes me cringe!  I got a set of 4 swarovski crystal adorned ones from a consignment shop for $20.

Button Covers: I use 2 swarovski crystal clip on button covers on each sleeve of my show shirt buttons for a finished look.

 

CLOTHING

I don’t even know where to begin here, as there are so so many options to put together a good looking habit, so I will just share with you what I’ve got, and what I paid for it.  You can go spend 2-6 grand on a custom made suit, sure, if you have that much money. You can also hit up consignment stores and still spend anywhere from $500 on up on a 2 piece suit with only a coat and pants.  I however, do not have that kind of money… so I pieced together separates, and still manage to make myself look presentable.  If I, the fashionably challenged, can do it, so can you.  So here goes:

Day Coat:  I got a “Snooty Fox” daycoat (Made by Carl Meyers-it’s their “economy” line, but SUPER nice in my opinion) on markdown from Hartmeyer.  I paid $250 for the coat brand new.

Vest:  I actually have 2 vests.  One I got for $50 from a consignment store, and the other I had custom made by the Lady in Yellow, and it is reversible.  I paid $90 shipped, and essentially got two vests and the quality is lovely.

Shirt: I have 2 shirts, one purchased new from Hartmeyer’s for $45 and one from a consignment store for $30.

Jodphurs:  I have a brown pair and a black pair of Hartmeyer’s “Lucky” Jods, paid $100 each on special at their KY State Fair booth.

Derby Hat:  I have 2 derbies, one brown, one black, so that I have one for each pair of pants.  One I bought used for $25, and the other I got new from Hartmeyer’s for $60.

Boots and Gloves: I got my black patent boots, and long leather show gloves for Christmas, but those both came from Hartmeyer’s also.  The gloves were $40 and the boots were $70.

Ties:  Ok, so I have to admit I have somewhat of a weird obsession with neck ties.  My Mom gets them at consignment stores and I fix them up by applying my own “bling” to them.  I have regular ones and bling ones, depending on my moods or the show.  I’m more inclined to bling it up if it’s a night show, or a championship.  The qualifiers and day shows I go a little less blingy.  I’d say all of my ties all together have cost less than $100 and I have about 50 of them.

Cost to piece together a suit with one daycoat, 3 vests, 2 shirts, 2 pairs of jods, 2 derbies, show gloves, and patent boots:  $660. Which is a LOT less than I would have spent on a custom suit, custom shirts, vests, and all that jazz.  I am ready to show for under a grand-given the cost of jewelry/accessories.  This considering all of my things were purchased on sale or special, or from consignment stores, and they were all purchased several years ago.  Good thing these habits don’t really go “out of style” very often!!!  Also consider that if I just got one vest, one shirt, one pair of jods, and one derby, it would cost even less!!! So you CAN show and look nice for a reasonable amount of money. That said, this habit would probably not be quality enough to go to the world championships, but it has been faithful to me through shows like the prestigious Rock Creek Horse Show more than once!

These are all pictures taken of me while showing, or before showing:

Please visit our LINKS page to find a list of Clothing and Accessory stores for new apparel and consignment apparel.  

Advertisements

If Horses Were People

Disclaimer, this video has nothing to do with training or AOT, but the videos at the bottom are pretty hilarious!

Fiz is very strange and has a lot of weird quirks.  We as horse owners overlook these weird things because well, we love Fiz.  But when you think about it, he really does do a lot of weird things.

1.  The strange head toss thing.  We’ve posted pictures and video of this before, so you can see what we are talking about in another post.

2.  He begs for food like a dog.  He searches you for it.  Literally, will take his nose and “nose” around your clothing to see if he can catch a whiff of something that maybe you forgot to give him.

3.  He unzips your zippers and plays with your clothing.  On several occasions, he has unzipped Cindy’s jacket.  He has been known to pull hats off heads, too.

4. After eating his treats, he will nod his head in approval. This comes right before he begins to search (harass) you for more food.

5.  He paws.  I hate it when he paws but he still does it.  Most annoying habit ever.

6.  He snorts at objects he doesn’t approve of.

7.  He considers it proper etiquette for him to eat with food hanging out of his mouth.

8.  Banging his head around in his food bowl is his way of demanding more food.  We’re pretty sure he’d eat almost anything.

I’m sure those are just a few of the weird quirks in the overall picture, but after watching the below videos, I am certain our horse’s “person” would be just as obnoxious!!

The American Saddlebred

I just wanted to take a minute and share this wonderful video about the versatility of the American Saddlebred breed with everyone.  Fiz is proof of this versatility, as he can do all sorts of things!  He rides saddleseat, western, bareback, and I bet he’d jump if someone ever tried to teach him (so NOT going to be me!) He drives as well.  He has been in the show ring and on trail rides.  He does his best to please no matter what we ask of him.  Take a few minutes to watch this video about the special American Saddlebred, the horse America made.

Training Aids

Lets talk about training aids.  There’s been a lot of activity on this page lately, so I’ve updated a few things to be a little more clear.  I want to make sure and stress that the use of any of these aids should in no way damage the horse.  If you have ill fitting equipment, or something you’re using causes any cuts, bruises, scrapes, burns, rubs, or anything else unnatural, you need to inspect and re-fit the equipment until it no longer causes these issues or discontinue it’s use.  No training aid or method is worth your horse being uncomfortable, or harmed in any way that can be prevented.

There is a LOT of controversy and a lot of misconception from people outside the saddlebred industry on training aids and practices that may or may not be harmful to the horse. Now, I have been around the Saddlebred world for a long time, at risk of aging myself it’s been about 27 years. I know there are a lot of people out there who think we are snobby, and that we “force” our horses to have their animated motion and high head carriage, among other things. While I can’t speak for every horse trainer out there, I can speak for those I have been around and consider to be knowledgeable and professional, on top of being considerate and respectful of the animal.  I can say that the training aids I have seen used and personally use are not harmful to the horse in any way at all.  I am going to talk here about a few of the common training aids that I have used, and explain as best I can my experience and knowledge.

Number one:  Action Chains

action chains

Purpose: To aid in what’s called proprioception, or a horses awareness of body positioning and movement.  This aid helps with stride, causes the horse to think about the steps it takes with each foot and help it stride more evenly.  They can be used only on the front or only on the rear, or on all four, depending on what you are trying to teach your horse.  For example, if your horse forges with it’s back end (overreaches, hits the front feet with the back feet) you can apply a light chain to teach the horse to step more upward rather than forward, and over time this can change their way of movement to eliminate that problem.  Chains alone aren’t going to cure irregular movement, however.  There are other factors such as how the horse wears it’s bridle, how effective a rider is on the horse, shoeing, etc.  But the chains can aid in training, hence why they are called an aid and not a solution.  Think about how a horse moves when you apply shipping boots.  They tend to step more upward because the item applied to the leg makes them more aware of their leg movements due to being conscious of the item applied to the leg.  Chains work in a similar manner.

Chains can also be used to imitate the weight of a shoe in barefoot horses, or to work similarly to “ankle weights” that humans use.  Helps with exercising the horse using it’s full range of motion and increases conditioning.  Used properly, these “bracelets” are no more damaging to a horse than that shiny bangle or cuff you see on the fashionistas of the world. I have never used or seen any action chains used that were more than 10 ounces each, and most of the ones I have seen were 2- 6 ounces, which is basically nothing when you consider the sheer weight of the animal it’s being applied to.  I use these minimally, because if used excessively they tend to lose their effect.  In my personal opinion, I have seen these be helpful to more horses than I have harmful, and they are only harmful if used improperly.  That said, just about anything can be harmful if used improperly.

Chains and/or ankle weights can also be used during rehabilitation.  During the study (linked below) it was found that light ankle weights facilitate muscle toning and range of motion during exercise.  Read more on this here:  Proprioception During Rehabilitation

What to make sure of:

1)      Make sure your chains are tight enough to rest above the coronary band, and that they can freely move so that they do not get stuck.  This could cause discomfort to your horse and an undesired affect.

2)      Make sure they are not so tight that they would rub or cause other discomfort to the horse.  When I work a horse in chains, I also have them wear rubber bell boots so that they don’t do either of the above unwanted things.  I have even seen bell boots that come with chains attached, though I do not own any.

3)  Only ONE set should be used at a time.  You should not have multiple sets of chains on the same leg at the same time.  If you’re going to use them, one on each desired leg works just fine.  You may choose to only use them on the front feet, or only on the back feet, depending on the needs of the horse and what you’re intending to teach them.

3) There should NEVER, in any way, shape, or form, EVER be any sort of chemical or substance applied to the chain (or the legs/feet/body/mouth, etc of the horse-unless instructed/approved by a veterinarian and for therapeutic or medicinal purposes).  I hear this is prevalent in the training of some saddleseat type horses (Tennessee Walkers come to mind) but I have never had any experience or knowledge on how this is even done, nor what it accomplishes, but I feel the need to stress that this should never be done.  To me, it goes without saying, but evidently it’s a practice that someone out there thought was a good one.  We in the Saddlebred industry do not use this method.

Number Two: “Stretchies” (Two fleece covered shackle cuffs with surgical tubing snapped to each one to connect them)

training shackles-250x250

Purpose: To help training with stride, coordination, balance, and muscle toning.  I read a blog where a professional, successful horseman explained that your intent should be specific with each horse, and that each horse should have a length of surgical tubing custom fitted to the horse, it’s stride, and your intent of end result.  Think about resistance bands that people use when they work out.  This training aid works very similarly to resistance bands in the way of building muscle. It also aids in opening up the shoulders and chest so that they move more freely.  It also controls the stride, only allowing the horse to step so far, teaching them to step evenly and consistently.  It has been explained to me that the surgical tubing causes the horse to think about each and every step, giving a consistent cadence.  When they wear them, they have to adjust their stride length accordingly, and when you ask a horse to step up into it’s bridle, push from it’s hind end, and yet, only allow a certain stride length, the only place the horses leg can go is up, rather than out on front, making them bring their knees higher, and working the muscles that wouldn’t otherwise be worked.  This will provide the horse the muscle tone to use it’s legs to the best of it’s ability when they are not being worn.  (I hope that makes sense). These should not be used in excess, but only for a limited amount of time.  I usually trot each direction of the ring for about 5-8 minutes, walking in between for about 5 minutes, then remove after the second direction trot.  I also do not use these every workout, but maybe once a week.

What to make sure of:

1)      NEVER, EVER use the stretchies on the back legs.  Only use these on the front.  Using them on the back legs is a dangerous practice that can cause serious injury to horse and rider.

2)      Secondly, never use stretchies when you canter.  They are not designed for the uneven beat of the canter.  They should only be used when doing “even beat” gaits.  These include the walk, trot, slow gait, and rack.  The canter is a 3 beat gait, and it is not safe for your horse to canter using stretchies.

3)      Make sure the shackle cuffs are properly fitted.  A lot of them come with adjustments, but if they don’t you need to make sure they fit properly.  Like chains, they should be tight enough that they do not get stuck, and that they can move freely.  They should also be loose enough that they do not rub or cause discomfort to the horse.

4)      Make sure you use a surgical tubing length that is correct for the stride of your horse. Obviously, if you are working a 13hh pony, your tubing would not be as long as it would be for a 16hh horse.  On the other hand, you would not want to use the short tubing you would on the pony for the tall horse.

5)      Be careful to pay attention when you are using stretchies so that you will notice if they break.  If they do break, stop and remove them before continuing.  Working a horse in broken stretchers could cause the horse discomfort by the tubing hitting it in the legs as it moves.

6.  NEVER snap the “stretchies” directly to chains.  Make sure proper fleece covered shackle cuffs are used.  The fleece padding is designed to protect the legs and keep the horse comfortable.

7.  These should not be used for an extended period of time.  As with any aid, keep it to a minimum to produce maximum effects.  You don’t want to overexert your horse.  Think of how you feel when training with resistance bands.  It takes a lot of focus and effort, so keep that in mind when using these on your horse.  I usually do  warm up including walking and sitting trot before applying these, then about 2 trips around each way of the arena with them on (you will have to modify this for your arena size) and after that take them off.

Number Three: Blinders

blinker

Purpose:  To keep the horses eyes focused forward, and to keep them from seeing distractions that are all around.  Since a horse can see nearly 360 degrees, there are many disctractions that can be happening that the human will not see.  Blinders help the horse focus on what is in front of it, causing it to give more attention to the tasks being asked of it by the handler.  Also used to help a horse learn to use it’s ears (forward is always preferred over all else).  If a horse can’t see, but it can hear, it will perk it’s ears forward so as to hear more of what is going on.  Have you ever heard of how if you lose one sense, all the rest get stronger?  For example, if you lose your sight, your sense of hearing, taste, smell, touch, etc all get stronger to compensate.  If the horse loses it’s range of vision (normally they can see nearly 360 degrees, with the exception of directly in front of and directly behind them) Blinders are also used in driving, so that the horse does not see the cart attached and does not get startled by the cart traveling behind them.  Blinders are a typical feature on a harness.

What to watch for:

1)      Make sure your blinders are not too far up or down on the horses face if using them with a harness.  There should be adjustments to allow the middle of blinders to be positioned about at the middle of your horses eye.

2)      The blinders should be far enough away from the horses eye so as not to rub the horses eye or eyelashes.  Most harnesses are sized with this in mind for the average horse/pony/draft.  Make sure your equipment is made for your type of horse.

3)      If you are using a blinker hood (a fabric “face mask” that has eye holes with blinder cups attached at the sides) then you need to make sure this is also made for the size of your horse and that the holes are positioned correctly and the closure of the hood is not too tight.

Number Four: Bell Boots

bell boot

Purpose:  To protect a horse’s feet from various things, but mainly overreaching with the hind feet which can cause them to pull the front shoes by stepping on themselves, or damage to the front legs or feet.   If your horse has a tendency to forge, or overreach with its hind legs, bell boots are a good idea to use during workouts just as a safeguard.  You need to be aware that there are different sizes, and that you need to purchase the correct size for your horses hooves.  You want them be fitted, but not tight around the ankle and large enough to cover the horses hooves.  In other words, don’t use a size “small” on a draft horse, or a size “large” on a pony.

I know there is a plethora of training aids out there, and I have only covered a few common ones used in training the saddleseat type horse (Saddlebred, Morgan, Arabian, National Show Horse, etc) here.  I want to point out that no matter what discipline you are in, the number one rule is to make sure your equipment fits properly, is adjusted properly, and is in good working condition. This is to ensure the safety of both you and your horse.  You want to make sure nothing you put on your horse is causing rubbing, chafing, or is too tight, too loose, or otherwise poorly applied or ill fitting.

Remember, you WANT to make sure you’re not doing anything that will harm your horse (cuts, rubs, burns, etc) because any good horseman or horsewoman knows that an unhappy horse does not perform as desired.  The happier they are, the more willing they are to please you, work hard for you, and try to do what you are asking.  When a horse/human bonds (the horse TRUSTS the human not to put it in danger or harm it) the team will perform worlds better than a forced submission. The difference is clear.  The more uncomfortable they are, the more unwilling they are to work which causes you a whole set of problems you’re not going to want.

That’s all I have on this subject for now.  Maybe later I will revisit, and have more to add.  Happy riding folks!

 

To be AOT, or not to be?

As a warning, this is a little off topic from any happenings with Twisted Sisters or our horse, but it does share relevance to the overall scheme of our endeavors.  From time to time, I might share with you some things I come across that baffle me, shock me,  or things I might struggle to understand.  This leaves a wide variety of topics open for discussion, and this is one of those times.

As part of the AOT world now (Amateur Owner Trainer for those unfamiliar with the acronym), I look at a wide variety of things online and I know Cindy does too.  I stalk forums and tack swap sites and I look for advice from those more experienced than myself. I am not too proud to ask for help and I am not above gathering tips from other experienced horse people. Gathering as much information and knowledge as we can will only aide our success with Fizzy. However, every now and again, I run across something that just blows my mind!  Today was one of those days.

Now, if you have read my background, you know that I have been around horses essentially all my life.  I have seen a lot and done a lot, and I would never, EVER take on this challenge of AOT if I didn’t feel educated and capable enough to handle it.  I know that Cindy feels the same way.  She and I both have a great deal of experience working with horses, so I feel comfortable and confident that we will be successful. I would never subject Fizzy to the kind of incompetence that some people subject their poor horses to.  You know when you hear people say there is no such thing as a stupid question?  Well, those people are wrong. There is, in fact, such a thing as a stupid question and here it is:

bithumorSERIOUSLY?  If you need to ASK what type of bit would be good to START a horse, maybe you should consider seeking professional help. Nix that, you SHOULD, by all means, seek professional help. Not only for the safety and well being of your horse but for yours as well. And by God, if you are unsure what a snaffle bit is, then I would venture to say you need a LOT of professional help before you should be working with horses on your own.  Do yourself a favor, and take the time to educate yourself and learn from experienced horse people as the rest of us have done.

This isn’t to discourage anyone from trying to learn.  I encourage everyone who is willing to love horses and learn the sport, but, let’s face the facts here people.  If you can’t identify even the most basic equipment, It’s probably not likely that you’ll be successful in trying to “start to train” a horse by yourself.  You will ruin your horse, you will ruin your love for them, and your desire to ride.  You will ruin your chance to be a part of something amazing, something fulfilling, something incredible.  Do yourself a favor and find a trustworthy trainer and allow them to help you learn, have good experiences, and enjoy your horse the way you are supposed to.

On that note, I will leave you with this gem: