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February 27, 2013

The Lines That Make You Go, “Duh!”

If you’ve never sat in on a lesson between two upper-level riders, I bet you’d think it’s really beautiful work, full of piaffing and passaging and half-passing and the upper echelons of dressage.
You’d be mistaken. I spend a remarkable amount of time in my lessons trotting a 20-meter circle and hoping that whichever horse I am on will put his or her head up, down or in, respectively.
What also happens in my lessons, 99 percent of the time, is being reminded of things I already know and have forgotten, or am not doing enough, or am doing too much. A little bigger, a little smaller, a little higher, a little lower, give, not that much!, etc.

But there’s that 1 percent of the time where I hear something NEW, or if not new, at least revolutionary. And it’s almost inevitably something really, really simple, which makes me feel really, really stupid. Today, it was a brilliant little nugget on the transition from extended trot to passage.

Michael: Pretend like you’re going to bring him back for one step of walk.
Midge: (executes it perfectly)
Me: (dies)

Here are a few other DUH one-liners that changed my life:
– A stroke of brilliance from Max Gahwyler during my young rider days: In the canter pirouettes, look where you’re going.
– From Lendon Gray: When you school trot extensions (or mediums, or lengthenings) on the diagonal, bring your horse back at X for a couple of steps every time. When you show, he’ll half-halt himself, and you can just push your leg on and find a whole new gear.
– Not sure who this is from, but if your horse tends to fall to the inside in the half-pass, sit to the outside.

From Chronicle of the Horse February 20, 2013

February 12, 2013

How Horses Stay Warm

By the Editors of EQUUS magazine

Here’s how your horse’s fluffy winter coat keeps him warm in chilly weather.
The same reaction that produces goose bumps in people causes a horse’s hairs to straighten up and stand on end (piloerection).
On a chilly winter day, it’s natural for your horse’s coat to seem a bit “puffier” than normal. When he gets chilled, the hypothalamus, the primary control center for thermoregulation located deep within the brain, triggers the contraction of the smooth muscle that attaches to the lowest point of each hair follicle. As a result, each hair straightens up and stands on end. This extra fluffy coat creates a large insulating pocket of air right next to the skin. The same reaction, called piloerection, is what causes goose bumps in humans.
Keep all of this in mind if you decide to blanket your horse this winter. A lightweight blanket will simply press the hair down and eliminate the coat’s ability to hold and heat air, without adding any warmth. Either opt for a heavier blanket or, if your horse’s natural winter coat is thick, leave him without a blanket as long as he has adequate shelter.
A fluffy coat is not to be confused with one that is “staring,” however. Horses who are suffering from a systemic illness can have a coat that appears to stand on end. This is caused by poor circulation and a lack of oils in the skin, resulting in dandruff and scurf. If your horse has a staring coat, call your veterinarian.


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