Me and My Horses

A few select riding and training stories, musings and ideas.

Riding Solo

A fellow horse owner and rider, Dan Sumerel of Sumerel Training System and Sumerel Therapy, shared a WONDERFUL poem with me to which I can totally relate!

They all say the same thing to warn you,
“don’t ever go riding alone,
You could fall and get hurt and lie bleeding in pain,
as the horse goes off trotting for home”
And it all made good sense, to a novice like me,
that the risk they describe was quite true
So I rode with my friends, being social and safe,
ride the trails with a group, I would do
After all it was great to go riding with friends,
we so liked to talk and have fun
We would ride in a safe group together,
yes, that is how trail rides are done
But a sport I had seen, started calling,
to do trail rides a whole different way
Endurance Rides seemed so appealing,
do ONE HUNDRED MILES IN ONE DAY!.... (truncated)
This would mean I’d be riding for hours,
with no one to talk to at all
Just trees and rocks and trails to look at,
in places no cell phone could call.

When it comes to riding the trails I am a bit of a loner also. I enjoy riding solo and I never get bored. I don’t show my horses for ribbons and prizes and don’t compete, I just train and ride almost every day of the week year round. From time to time I join another rider, or rather, another rider joins me, may be even two, but 95% of the time I ride alone–yet, there is no lack of talking and fun.

Yes, indeed, I talk and talk and talk my good horse’s ears off… From time to time I pony along my “extra” spare horse and then that makes three of us. I am yet to sign up for a community group ride, or join a riding club. My horses know my deepest secrets. Riding solo is my bliss.That’s why there are only very few photos of me in the saddle, but thousands of photos snapped from the saddle right between my horse’s ears.

Whenever I try something new, or change something I consult with other seasoned riders or a trainer, read textbooks or ask the veterinarian and such. Nothing is done without much forethought and consideration. As far as the Waterford bit, I got pointers from an expert rider at the Eqine Affaire and then I did my own research. I found out that Mike Florence uses the Waterford on his string of novice show jumpers at Mellor Vale stables and I came across an article by Ian Stark, a former world class eventer, who is using it. I know that there are some people who simply don’t like the looks of the bit and make assumptions based on that, but it is indeed a nice bit, and not harsh at all – in the right hands.

Heels Down, Toe In

heels down toe in

toe out heels level

Every time I look at a riding photo or video of myself I notice my toe! It’s like a “sore thumb sticking out” to me…. a catch 22. I have been riding like that for years, I realize that deliberately pushing my heels down and holding my toe forward seems to affect my riding efforts and style in both good and not so good ways. When I push down it drives tension into my leg and then the tightness in the calves cause my knees to pinch on the saddle. That really sucks, because this ultimately affects the release I give through the legs and how my horse goes. I can literally feel the horse tense up and invert the minute I force my heels down and toe straight. When I sought advice from a riding instructor, I was told that indeed, my toes stick out like a “blinker”, but my focus should not be on forcing my heels and toes into position, but more so, work on developing suppleness through my joints and tendons. I was also given the following words of wisdom: “Riding more frequently will definitely help. If you ride with level heels, then ride with level heels. Don’t force the toes….but continue to check yourself and periodically renew your efforts.”

The Waterford

In the video clip below you see me introducing my horse Dottie to the Korsteel Waterford bit using it for the very fist time. As you can see she seems to like it. She is soft to the bit, relaxed and eager to move. Correct schooling is key to proper balance and for a horse to carry the rider and itself correctly. Over the past few years I have successfully used different bits, bridles and bitless headstalls to soften and supple her. When I first got Dottie three years ago she was ridden in a spiked mule bicycle chain driving bit combined with a training martingale, because she was leaning on the bit, bracing herself and locking her jaw. I don’t ride saddle seat and I don’t compete and I am not a believer in a forced headset. I just want a happy horse with a lovely mouth and working toward comfortable collection.

Most horses who lean on the bit are in reality just on the forehand. It sometimes can take years, depending on conformation, ability and level of training for both horse and rider before a horse can work for long periods in “self carriage”. I first heard of the Waterford when I read an article by Ian Stark, a former world class eventer and it was recently recommended to me by a world-class rider at the last Equine Affaire. The Waterford, also known as the bubble bit, is very mild due to the fact that it has several joints. It isn’t a harsh bit and worth considering. I am really looking forward to continue our schooling in it. Here is a link for you to look at different bits and their uses.

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