Sunday, February 26, 2012

Looking at Good Horses

     To know a good horse when you see one, you must have first been around good horses.  This may sound obvious but many people don't understand the necessity of watching horses move, studying their confirmation and most of all working with them, especially riding them.  
     Whatever your equine interest is, go and find where the good horses are.  If you love hunters (as I do), go to a Class A Hunter-Jumper show in your area.  In our area there are many opportunities to watch really nice horses work and compete in a wide variety of disciplines - everything from Dressage to Cutting.  I personally enjoy watching good horses doing lots of events.  Of course I particularly like Western Pleasure and western working horses but I appreciate a wide variety of events and the equine athletes that participate in them.
     Getting back to my original point, a good "eye" is developed over time.  Some people have a more natural talent to pick out nice horses but everyone can learn by observing.  And, while we're on the subject, find out what makes these horses special.  There is no perfect horse, but horses are not equal in their talents and abilities.   What makes a horse lope nice and slow and pretty?  What makes a horse spin and stop with breathtaking beauty?  See if you can figure it out.  I guarantee you will be challenged, find it fun and, you'll become a better horseman for it!  See you next week, JD

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Can't Do It Alone

     This is such an important topic that receives too little attention:  You must make your horse's health and shoeing a priority if you want to get the best your horse can give you.  I personally advise getting on a program that includes regular dental, general wellness, vaccinations, worming and shoeing. 
     I have the opportunity of working with really wonderful veterinarians and farriers.  They are first and foremost really good horsemen.  To me, this is an absolute must.  The men and women I work with are constantly learning and always caring.  In the many years I have worked with them, they are always willing to share their knowledge and expertise with me and I am always eager to listen and learn.
     I firmly believe you cannot be successful alone - it takes a team.  Good veterinarians and farriers are a must because they give you a platform from which to work.  I attribute my success, in part, to the vets and shoers who have helped my horses so much.  They can help you understand your horse's individual needs and how to approach your goals with your equine partner.
     Pick people to work with who are respected in their fields but also are people who will take the time to explain things.  You must understand the issues if you are to help you horse the most that you can.  Good communication between you and your vet and your shoer are a must. 
     Some of our horses are on programs that comprise acupuncture, chiropractic care and drug therapy as well.  I don't believe you can remove any one part - all of these things work together.  A good example is Joanne Salisbury's VP Midnitestranger ++/ (or "Wes").  After his serious injury three years ago in Canada, we did everything we could to help him recover but most importantly, we put him on a continuing program and there has been a great payback as he is able to perform and do very well again. 
     My advice in short:  Pick good people to work with then take their advice and make it part of your training program.  See you next week!  JD

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Learning Curve

     I have been involved with horses almost my entire life and since I'm nearing Medicare age, that's a long time!  I've been in the horse business for over 30 years so I've had time to think about many things.  It seems pondering is one of the things I do best.
     I've learned that I really like to help people with their horses and their questions.  Not just about training problems or issues either.  People ask me about everything from feed issues to tack and equipment and everything in between.  It's really neat how informed people want to be - it means they truly care.
     This means I must constantly learn to stay up with new methods, new discoveries, new thoughts and finding solutions to just plain old everyday problems.  This is a very dynamic business, there's so much happening all the time.  Just because "Grandpa did it that way" 40 years ago doesn't mean there's not a better way now.  The horse business encompasses so much area.  I love to converse with my farriers and veterinarians and I talk to other trainers - always getting new ideas, new perspectives and along the way, confirming old ideas as well!
     Becoming a better horseman is about learning, practicing and understanding what you are trying to accomplish.  For instance, when you work your horse, don't just go through the motions.  Instead, consider what you are doing - look for reactions and responses.  Are they what you want?  Be looking for causes and effects.  Self-criticize yourself, not in a negative manner, but in an honest attempt to make every ride a better one and to understand why some things work and why sometimes they don't.  Your horse will teach you if you allow him to.  Your horse is the greatest teacher you will ever have - period. 
     To me, the learning curve means the more you learn and improve, the more you want to learn and improve.  Stay on the curve and you'll do just fine!   See you next week.  JD

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Glamorous Scottsdale

     There's been much said about the big Scottsdale Show.  I doubt that I can add more to what's already been said but if you show Arabians, Scottsdale is like Mecca.  It also draws many horsemen from different breeds as well as bringing nonhorsemen into the melee. 
     People attend for various reasons, one reason is to see the coming year's National contenders. That gives you a chance to see how you stack up against them.  I have both shown at Scottsdale and gone as a visitor and I highly recommend watching the show even if you don't show Arabians.  (And I especially recommend it if you're tired of rain, snow and sleet!)
     There are many arenas all going at once so you can really pick and choose what you want to see at any given time.  The shopping is great - everything horse-related and more - and of course lots of good food to choose from.  If there's a downside, that would be it - too many great things to choose from.  Sound like fun?  Well it is.  It's also one of the best run horse shows in the country.  This is a huge, colorful event that everyone should go to at least once.    
     But all of the above are not my personal favorite things about Scottsdale.  The thing that keeps drawing me back is the chance to watch great horsemen doing their thing.  It is really informative to stand on the warm-up ring rail and watch wonderful horses being worked and readied for their respective classes.  This show is a very good opportunity to learn technique as well as help you find out what you like and dislike about different training methods and different horses.  It can certainly help you when you get home and need to pick a trainer or coach and it can also help you in picking out your next prospect.   See you next week!  JD