Horse Showing

The Sport of Dressage

May 27, 2015

Learn about the history behind horse showing in a dressage saddle.

American Quarter Horses have been gaining a reputation for their success in dressage. Journal photo

American Quarter Horses have been gaining a reputation for their success in dressage. Journal photo

From the United States Dressage Federation, an AQHA Alliance Partner

Dressage is one of the Olympic equestrian sports. The modern Olympics commenced in 1896, with equestrian events appearing in the 1900 Paris Games. It was the 1912 Stockholm Games where the “military test” first appeared and evolved into the separate Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing and stadium jumping.

Horses have been used as mounts for the military since early history. As the horses had to be obedient and maneuverable, a system of training was developed, first documented in the writing of the Greek Xenophon. The system of training was built upon throughout the ages, with many well-known riding masters, military and civilian, writing books expounding their methods. Read the rest of this entry »

Warming Up for a Horse Show

May 13, 2015

No matter what horse-showing discipline you compete in, these warm-up exercises will get your horse soft and supple before your class.

Performing turns on the forehand encourages your horse to move his hips and loosen up his body. Jean Abernethy illustration

Performing turns on the forehand encourages your horse to move his hips and loosen up his body. Jean Abernethy illustration

By AQHA Professional Horsewoman Traci Johnting in The American Quarter Horse Journal

When I ride a horse, I want him supple from his nose through his hips. I want to be able to move my foot or lightly lift my hand and have my horse instantly move his hip, rib cage, or shoulder.

I teach these two warm-up exercises to my horses and use them every day so that they’re part of the routine. They serve a lot of purposes: They help my horse become more supple, they stretch his body and, since they’re part of his routine, they help me get him in the mind-set where he’s ready to listen to me and work hard.

In speed events, we’re going really fast, and I need a fast response from my horse to my lightest cue. When I’m going into a barrel, if it looks like I’m too close to a barrel and might hit it, I can pick up my horse and move him away without a lot of excessive motion. I don’t have to jerk; I can just touch. These exercises make it a lot easier for me to communicate with my horse.

I use these exercises as a speed warm-up, but they will help any horse get supple and loose in the shoulders, rib cage and hips. They will improve the connection between horse and rider.

Are you interested in competing in other events with your western pleasure horse? In AQHA’s “Beyond Western Pleasure” DVD, Dana Hokana and Al Dunning demonstrate taking two western pleasure horses off the rail and unlocking their potential for other events.

Counter-Bend

The first exercise is the counter-bend. Before I begin the counter-bend, I make sure my own mind is in the right place to ride. I’m sitting in the center of my horse and am focused on him. Then I start my horse in a large circle at the walk, using two hands and slowly bending his rib cage into an arc with my foot. In a circle to the left, my inside (or left) foot is at the girth, supporting; my outside (or right) foot is slightly behind the girth to encourage forward motion and the bend. His nose and neck should be on the arc of the circle.

When I’m sure he is following his nose in the direction of the circle, I’ll slowly ask his nose to bend the other direction – to the right – while he continues to circle left.

If you’ve ever twisted your own body one way and your head the other, you know that stretch can feel good. It can feel good to your horse to stretch, too, but he’s not going to know how to do it himself. You will have to guide him.

Start off walking your horse in a circle to the left, tipping his nose to the left and getting his body supple. From there, move your left leg away from your horse’s body and straighten your left arm. This will give your horse an open space to move through. While maintaining your horse’s suppleness and keeping his nose tipped to the right, continue to push his body to the left using your right rein and outside leg.

Sometimes, you’ll need to move your outside leg back a bit on the rib cage to move the hip.

Then, when I come out of the counter-bend, I put my horse back onto the circle to the left. I might ask him to continue forward into a spin/pivot on the hindquarters.

This exercise loosens up the shoulders, neck and face. Start slowly and be patient with your horse as he learns how to do it. Remember that he might be stiff when you start and only able to do it for a couple of strides on a large circle. As he gets more supple, you’ll be able to ask him to do this for more strides and on a gradually smaller circle. Be sure to do it in both directions.

Learn to maximize your western pleasure horse’s movement, execute lead changes and achieve proper balance in AQHA’s “Beyond Western Pleasure” DVD with Al Dunning and Dana Hokana.

I do this every day with my horses, and they know to expect it. They get better with it the more they do it. I start at the walk and progress to the trot. It’s an easy exercise to do in a warm-up arena at a show when everyone is trotting around. Just counter-bend the horse for a few steps and then let him relax and trot with the other horses. It doesn’t disrupt the flow of traffic, and it helps the horse stretch physically and get ready mentally.

Turn on the Forehand

The other thing I like to ask my horses to do is turn on their forehands to move their hips around. The maneuver is called for a lot in horsemanship patterns, and you might not often think of it as a good warm-up exercise, but it is.

Sometimes in barrel racing, horses will drop a hip behind a barrel, knocking it over as they’re leaving. If I have practiced this exercise with my horse, I can just put my foot behind the girth and move the hip over.

I start from a stop. Using my hands to keep my horse steady in front, I move his hip around with my leg. He may be resistant at first, but we work on it a few steps at a time until it is easy and comes quickly. I do it every day both directions.

Again, I want my horse to move every part of his body where and how I want whenever I need it. I find that a lot of horses are stiffer to one side or the other, so that’s the side I work the most – the one that needs it.

I like these exercises because you don’t need any special equipment. I trail ride a lot, and these exercises can actually be worked on in the woods. As I’m riding through the trees, I will ask my horse to move away from my leg and follow his nose. By doing this, he learns to lift his shoulders, move his rib cage and keep his hips standing up straight. When I go back to the arena, my horses have a general idea of what I want them to do, and it comes easy to them. And we have fun at the same time!

Healthy Horse Showing, Part 2

April 29, 2015

Keep your equine partner healthy at horse shows with this expert advice.

 Always prioritize your horse’s health over winning a class at a horse show. Journal photo

Always prioritize your horse’s health over winning a class at a horse show. Journal photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Horse shows are fun places to put the partnership between you and your horse to the test and analyze your skill level. It’s important to keep your eye on the prize, but even more important to keep your horse healthy throughout your Read the rest of this entry »

Healthy Horse Showing, Part 1

April 15, 2015

Help your horse avoid the dreaded horse-show crud with these horse-health tips.

Keep your horse warm and snug at shows in a blanket. Abigail Boatwright photo

Keep your horse warm and snug at shows in a blanket. Abigail Boatwright photo

By Abigail Boatwright in The American Quarter Horse Journal

Our horses are incredible athletes. When show season rolls around, you want to ensure that your horses are able to compete to the best of their abilities. An infection or injury can sideline your horse before you even show. What can you do to reduce chances of illness or injury at major shows? These experts weigh in.

Prevention at Home

Long before they arrive at a championship show, these trainers begin a health regimen for their horses. AQHA Professional Horseman and Team Wrangler member Keith Miller, an all-around trainer, works alongside a veterinarian and farrier to keep the horses on a regular schedule for vaccinations and hoof care. He also schedules Adequan injections for joint health as needed.

“We make sure to take a sound and healthy horse to the horse show,” Keith says.

Cow horse trainer Jake Telford begins by feeding his horses top-quality feed and supplements prior to show season.

The American Quarter Horse Journal is a monthly publication that is filled with expert training advice, health articles, and news from the American Quarter Horse industry. Don’t miss out on a single issue — subscribe today!

“We keep a good eye on our horses’ body condition and their health leading up to the major shows,” Jake says. “If you get there and try to worry about it, it’s too late. A good feed program and vaccination schedule is paramount. You need to do these things ahead of time to help support a good immune system.”

Blanket Up

Especially in chilly weather or air-conditioned areas, you’ll want to cover your horse with a cooler before and after riding and baths.

Jake often shows horses at futurities where the stalls can be cold and the arena warm. He ensures that his horses don’t get chilled by throwing a cooler over them between saddling and riding, and after riding and bathing.

“We pack an abnormal amount of blankets and sheets and neck warmers and coolers,” Jake says. “We might saddle the horse and throw the cooler over him and the saddle and then head to the arena that way. When a horse is done, we might throw a cooler over him and take him back to the barn.”

Consistent Schedule

Keith encourages his horses to blow off steam and have some down time at shows like the AQHA World Championship Show by letting them run around a bit in the show ground round pens. He also makes sure his horses are properly warmed up before stressful exercising and cooled down after.

“We make sure to properly wrap legs and put poultice and standing bandages on after a hard day’s work,” Keith says.

If you loved this article, you’ll love The American Quarter Horse Journal! Each issue is filled with educational health articles, expert training advice and the latest news from the American Quarter Horse industry. Subscribe today!

Dr. David Frisbie is on hand to care for horses at major shows including the All American Quarter Horse Congress and the AQHA world shows. He advises sticking to a routine with feed amounts and times, water and exercise to reduce incidents of colic, stress and dehydration.

Soften the Surroundings

Make sure to use plenty of shavings on hard show-stall floors to reduce soft-tissue soreness.

The most common injuries Dr. Frisbie sees at shows include soft-tissue soreness or trauma, suspensory ligament injuries and ankle injuries. To prevent these types of injuries, he recommends bedding stalls with plenty of shavings and stall mats, if possible. He also suggests watching your horse carefully while it is being longed, as the ground might be a bit uneven, which can lead to strains.

“Taking extra care in those situations – such as lunging - is probably going to decrease the greatest number of problems,” Dr. Frisbie says.

Post exercise, he suggests icing your horses’ legs to reduce soreness.

Stay tuned to America’s Horse Daily for Part 2 of Healthy Horse Showing.

Improve Your Horse Show Diet, Part 2

April 1, 2015

Packing nutritious foods to eat at horse shows is easier than you think. Here’s how to stay healthy.

Packing a horse show snack bag will keep you from racing to the concession stand for unhealthy food like nachos. Abigail Boatwright photo

Packing a horse show snack bag will keep you from racing to the concession stand for unhealthy food like nachos. Abigail Boatwright photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Horse showing involves non-stop days of bathing horses, braiding or banding, warming up in the arena and rushing to change between classes. This doesn’t leave much time to sit down and eat a healthy meal. Part 1 of Improve Your Horse Show Diet outlined the importance of breakfast and interval eating to maintain your energy level. In Part 2, we’ll discuss how to pack healthy foods and ways to eat smart at horse shows.

Pack Healthy Snacks

At the very least, you should pack healthy snacks to keep at your tack stall. Registered dietitian and all-around amateur competitor Christine Sceets recommends cheese sticks, peanuts, cheese and crackers, protein bars, oranges, bananas and peanut butter to help you avoid the temptation to raid the concession stand. Read the rest of this entry »

Preparing for Your First Horse Show

March 25, 2015

A youth’s first horse-showing experience can be fun, exciting and nerve-wracking. Take Me Riding walks kids through the big day.

Take Me Riding videos feature a young rider named Grace who teaches children what to expect at their first horse show.

Take Me Riding videos feature a young rider named Grace who teaches children what to expect at their first horse show.

By Annise Montplaisir for America’s Horse Daily

Showing horses opens up an entirely new world of learning opportunities for horse- crazy kids. It provides children with a chance to strengthen the bond with their horse, perform in front of an audience and learn the importance of sportsmanship.

Take Me Riding is a website developed to educate children about the wonderful learning experiences and fantastic opportunities that are Read the rest of this entry »

Improve Your Horse Show Diet, Part 1

March 11, 2015

Horse showing takes a lot of energy. Eat right to keep yourself fueled for success.

Eating healthy at horse shows will give you the energy you need to ride your best. Abigail Boatwright photo

Eating healthy at horse shows will give you the energy you need to ride your best. Abigail Boatwright photo

By Abigail Boatwright in The American Quarter Horse Journal

Let’s talk about horse show food.

If you’re like many competitors, you wake up long before dawn and skip breakfast on your way to the show grounds. You grab a cinnamon roll from the concession stand when your stomach reminds you it’s 10 a.m. After riding through lunch, you might pick up a plate of nachos and a soda to tide you over through an afternoon of classes. By the time you bed your horse Read the rest of this entry »

The Unpredictable Champion, Part 2

March 4, 2015

Horse-showing star Silky Socks becomes a champion with his young rider.

Lindy Thompson and Silky Socks sail over a fence. Harold Campton photo

Lindy Thompson and Silky Socks sail over a fence. Harold Campton photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

In Part 1 of “The Unpredictable Champion,” you read about Silky Socks, an American Quarter Horse with a curious personality and exceptional talent. We left off where Silky Socks was sold to the family of a young girl named Lindy Thompson.

The magic between “Silky” and Lindy was near-instantaneous.

Jan Thompson, then of Plymouth, Michigan, purchased Silky for her daughter Lindy. “He was a project, he really was,” Jan says. “He was super Read the rest of this entry »

The Unpredictable Champion, Part 1

February 11, 2015

Unlikely horse-showing star Silky Socks became a world champion in 1974.

Silky Socks was supposed to be a rope horse, but he was the first amateur world champion in hunter under saddle with Jan Thompson. Journal file photo

Silky Socks was supposed to be a rope horse, but he was the first amateur world champion in hunter under saddle with Jan Thompson. Journal file photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Silky Socks was supposed to be a rope horse. But the 1974 amateur world champion grew too tall for the liking of ropers at the time, and he found a path to the AQHA World Championship Show a different way, in a saddle that didn’t have a double rigging.

The single-socked gelding with a giant trunk of personal baggage became a world-class hunter horse, remembers Colleen Miller of DeWitt, Michigan. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Horse-Showing Tips

February 4, 2015

Try these 10 easy tips before you and your American Quarter Horse load up for your next AQHA show.

Bring your A-game to the next AQHA horse show with these tips. Journal photo

Bring your A-game to the next AQHA horse show with these tips. Journal photo

By Tara Matsler in The American Quarter Horse Journal

Horse-show competitors have a lot to juggle. From the grooming and prep, warm-up and time in the show pen, it’s quite a full plate.

I’m always on the lookout for tips and tricks to make my life simpler yet at the same time enhance my horse-show experiences with my mares. With that in mind, I gathered up some of my favorite horse-showing tips. Read the rest of this entry »

Horse-Showing Goals for the New Year

January 21, 2015

We asked you to tell us your horse-showing goals for 2015. Here’s what you had to say.

Whether your ambitions are big or small, setting goals for you and your horse is a great way to start the upcoming show season. Photo courtesy of Tagxego

Whether your ambitions are big or small, setting goals for you and your horse is a great way to start the upcoming show season. Photo courtesy of Tagxego

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

The turn of the year means a new show season is approaching. While many see the New Year as a chance to start fresh, it can actually be an opportunity to continue growing and build off the hard work you put in last year.

Setting goals is a fantastic way to look ahead to the end of 2015 and envision where you would like to see yourself and your horse. Maybe you really Read the rest of this entry »

Maintaining Your Halter Horse’s Peak, Part 2

January 14, 2015

Last week, you learned about bringing your horse to his peak; now let’s talk about the importance of giving him time to be a horse.

turned out horse

AQHA Professional Horseman Luke Castle says that giving a horse time to relax and “just let him be a horse” helps the horse come back stronger when you put him back in a program. Journal photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

AQHA Professional Horseman Luke Castle of Wayne, Oklahoma, says a horse cannot be expected to always be at his peak. Eventually, the horse has to be given a break or the horse will take one himself, so you have to know when to “back off.” We continue this series by asking Luke:

When you say back off, what does that look like?

There are two different ways that we do it: Read the rest of this entry »