Sunday, January 25, 2015


     Whatever your discipline, how you position a horse’s body makes all the difference so it is of paramount importance that you understand the demands and needs of the discipline you are riding.  Positioning a horse’s body for barrel racing, for example, is very different than getting your horse correct for Trail, Western Riding or Reining.
     But…… it’s not my intent here to explain or go into the details regarding the needs of each of the aforementioned disciplines but rather I want to discuss how the rider influences the body position of the horse. 
     I’ll give you one clue to where I’m heading with this:  you must have your own body correct or nothing else can be correct.  In short, nothing really works correctly until you do.  Typically for most disciplines correct for you will mean: well balanced, heels deep, straight and square through your rib cage and shoulders and never stiff or arched in your back – remember sit up straight with your stomach muscles and hold up your chest and your back will follow without becoming hollow or arched).  If you are not sitting correctly you can interfere with your horse and in no way are you be able to help put the horse in the proper position that he needs to be to work his best. 
     Hand position is very important as well.  So often, I see horses dropping their shoulder because they’re “just following” the rider’s poorly placed hand.  You must be able to activate the correct rein and relax the opposite one when needed to allow a horse to have space to move while you still remain even and balanced. 
     The position of the rider’s legs is also so important.  I see riders attempting to collect their horses yet their own legs are way out in front, or they just have what I call “noisy” legs, meaning legs that are just not stable so they cause annoyance and possibly even confusion for the horse and an unstable seat for the rider. 
     In horses as in everything else, there is a direct relationship between cause and effect!  All horsemen must be effective and stable riders and to achieve this they must be aware of their own bodies and body parts and how those parts can positively or negatively affect their horse’s ability to perform well.  Now that I have you thinking about positioning, we’ll talk more about this at a later date!  Talk to you next week, JD

Thursday, January 8, 2015

To Wrap or Not to Wrap, That is the Question!

     Christmas may be over but the season made me think of wrapping - wrapping legs that is!  And, let me first state: when it comes to wrapping legs it's very important to learn to wrap correctly because incorrect wrapping can cause damage and do more harm than not wrapping at all.  Your vet can show you how to wrap or an experienced groom or your trainer can take the time to help you practice wrapping correctly.  There are also many good articles with pictures on the subject that can help.  Good wrapping takes practice though - it's a skill everyone should learn!  And now, on with this discussion.....
     There are many reasons to wrap.  The general idea is to give support and to give protection against bumps that may cause splints.  Wraps are also used to reduce swelling and tighten legs, especially before halter and in-hand classes.  Often standing wraps are applied to give support after a horse has been worked hard in an event such as jumping.
     I personally prefer splint wraps for just protection against bumps that may cause splints.  I think good splint boots, because they are heavier, provide more protection than polo wraps.  They are quick and easy to use and wash up really nicely - often they just need a quick rinse.  And, best of all in my opinion: they don't need to be rolled!
     For horses such as reining horses, I have used polos but often also use splint boots, again because they seem to provide a better cushion against bump and strikes.  There are some "sports medicine" boots that give a lot of support as well.  Mostly I like to see what a horse perfers to work in.  I sometimes have used polos with quilts to give added protection and some horses really do well wrapped this way.  Much like a top human runner though, who's particular about which brand of shoe they wear, I've found that some of my Reining horses can be rather fussy about what you wrap them with.  On the other hand, my Western Pleasure horses don't seem to care what I wrap them with.  In any case, never forget that your "rail horses" - Hunters, Western Pleasure - and Trail horses, can not be shown with wraps on - of any kind.
     As a general rule, I don't haul in wraps.  If you're not using the new ice wraps, I find that horses seem to heat up during the long hauls that I frequently make.  I must add that I do haul in about four inches of shavings to give plenty of cushion for their legs and it also helps keep down the amount of heat coming up from the road which is very important.  A hint here:  If your shavings are too deep, they just bank up in the front and back of the horse and are wasted.  I do though put on wraps and bell boots if I'm hauling a horse with built-up shoes or if I'm not sure of a horse's hauling manners.
     I'm also not a fan of wrapping horses each and every time I ride.  If a horse is mature, shod properly, conditioned and sound and is being shown in an event that does not allow wrapping, I actually believe it's better not to wrap.  Horses that are used to always being wrapped and then are shown without wraps are more prone - I believe - to injury when showing.  Now, I know it's really popular to always wrap but I have had 100% success with the management I have described here.     With my Trail horses, I again prefer not to wrap because I want the horses to occasionally feel the poles and therefore learn to be "careful with their feet". 
     It's always good to consider when a horse is most likely to need wrapping.  Longing is a good example.  Also, horses that are carrying built-up shoes need more protection, including wraps and probably bell boots.  Younger horses that are learning how to carry their bodies correctly as well as balance under a rider's weight are good wrapping candidates.  And even youngsters, when they're turned out, if they're being "fractious" and playing and running hard, are good candidates for good wraps to avoid splints.
     Wrapping can and should be geared to what a horse needs and whether it will benefit from the wrap.  Wrapping with polos and track bandages (I only use polos) is an important skill that all horsemen should learn.  Take the time to learn to apply wraps correctly and to learn what type of wrap or boot is correct for you horse's needs.  And two last thoughts:  Polos and boots must be kept clean - I'll never re-use a dirty boot or wrap - and, I believe that all polos should be taped.  A little duct tape applied to the last wrap will help keep the wrap in place.
     I hope this discussion helps!  Talk to you next week.  JD