Horse Breeding, On the International Trail

Breeding Quality Horses in the United Kingdom

July 28, 2015

Correct conformation, overall balance and consistency are at the heart of Sovereign Quarter Horses’ breeding program.

By Katy Krshka, AQHA international intern, Summer 2015

A few SQH 2 year olds.

The moment I walked out into the lush green broodmare pasture, I knew I had stumbled upon something special. The scenery was dotted with sorrel mares and their beautiful babies. As we walked closer, one thing became very apparent about these horses: consistency.

Sovereign Quarter Horses, owned and operated by David and Sarah Deptford, is located in March, Cambridgeshire, England. They currently stand three stallions and foal out around 10 to 12 broodmares each year. Half of those broodmares are home bred and raised. David grew up in an equine-centered family. David’s grandfather was internationally recognized for the show ponies he bred and raised, and David’s father began importing Quarter Horses in the 1970s, with David following closely in his footsteps. Needless to say, an eye for a good horse is a characteristic that has long been a trait of the Deptfords, and it carries on today.

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Five Exercises to Improve Your Riding Seat and Leg Position

July 20, 2015

Develop a balanced seat for horseback riding with these tips from the AQHA international horsemanship camp in Sweden.

By Katy Krshka, AQHA international intern, Summer 2015

leg exercise heels down

For Step 4, riders are asked to bring their toes up and stretch as far as they can down through their heel. (Credit: Katy Krshka)

The first day of AQHA international horsemanship camps usually consists of observing the riders and evaluating what they need to work on. A step the clinicians usually start with is working on the riders’ seat and leg. As most of us have experienced, this is something we can never get too good at! This is a key component to building a strong foundation and applies to all riding disciplines. Listed below are a few simple steps the international participants went through to strengthen their seat and leg.

Starting at the walk, participants walk in a circle around the clinicians. Something to remember when doing this is to not pull on your horse’s face to balance yourself. When going up and down, it is important to keep your hands in the correct position and not worry about the horse’s face. Working on the horse’s flexion and body position can come at a later time when you are not working specifically on your body.

Step 1: two-point position

1. The first step in the series is to rise up in the two-point position. The phrase “two-point” comes from the two points of contact the rider should have when in this position. A two-point contact lifts the rider’s weight off the horse’s back and puts it down into the rider’s heel and stirrups. The body, by leaning slightly forward, somewhat lightens the weight on the horse’s back and allows the balance point to shift toward the forehand. At this moment, the two nominal points of contact between horse and rider are the rider’s legs. Riders should not be standing up in their stirrups or using their stirrups to balance off of. This is simply rising out of the saddle while tipping the pelvis forward and using your leg strength to keep yourself up in this position. This helps riders find their balance and stay in the middle of their horse. Use this exercise to drive down through your leg and into your heel. Keep in mind, this does not mean to shove your hands forward with no contact with your horse. This is quite the opposite. Riders should shorten their reins to maintain the same contact they had while sitting in the normal position.

2. The next step is standing straight up in the saddle to drive your heel down. This exercise strengthens your thighs and improves balance. The ideal line you should be striving for is a straight line from your shoulder to your hip to your heel (demonstrated in the picture). This is important to maintain anytime you are riding, because it allows you to maintain a consistency in how you ask your horse to perform. Also, it is imperative for horsemanship and equitation riders to keep this position, as these are classes judged on the rider’s form and ability to perform.

Step 2: standing up

3. The next exercise requires riders to drop their stirrups. This allows rider to freely feel what their leg is doing without the aid of the stirrup. Clinicians first ask the riders to point their toes down. This may seem contradictory at first, but there is a method to their madness! Stretching the toe down helps strengthen and utilize tendons and ligaments in the front and back of the foot.

Step 3: pointing toes down

 

4. After feeling your legs with your toes pointing down, riders are asked to bring their toes up and stretch as far as they can down through their heel. When doing this, your toes should never be turned out. Turning toes out can leads to gripping with your spurs and creating a constant grip on your horse that is detrimental to teaching your horse a variety of maneuvers. It can also open your knee and thigh, leading to a weaker seat and leg.

Step 4: pushing heels back down

 

5. Keeping this position, riders are then asked to pick up their stirrups. All previous steps should be kept in mind and riders should continue sitting in the correct position with the ideal straight line being drawn from the shoulder down through the hip and heel. After continued practice, it will become natural to feel right where your leg and seat should be at all times.

Step 5 : returning to correct position with stirrups

 

Bits and Pieces: How Your Bit Works

July 11, 2015

Reporting from Denmark, AQHA international intern Katy Krshka shares facts about horse bits and their function.

IMG_0229.JPGBy Katy Krshka, AQHA international intern, Summer 2015

While in Denmark for the AQHA international horsemanship camp, Dr. Holly Spooner, horse science professor at Middle Tennessee State University, gave a short talk about bits and their functions. A few different points were discussed, and everyone walked away with a little piece of information that could be useful to them in the future.

To preface the lecture, Dr. Spooner asked the participants two fairly simple questions. The first, “What is the purpose of a bit?” The most basic answer is communication. A bit works via pressure and is simply a means of communication between the horse and rider.

The second question was, “What is the No. 1 thing that affects how severe a bit is?” Although this might seem like a no-brainer for some individuals, people often have a misunderstanding with this concept. The answer: the person using the bit. No matter what bit you may be using with your horse, it is the rider who contributes to the severity of the bit. Of course, there are going to be bits that have a higher port, longer shank, etc., but it is the individual using it who decides how that bit is going to be used. For example, an inexperienced rider is going to have much different hands and therefore a different feel to a horse than an experienced rider with the same horse and bit.

To follow that, one must remember when selecting the correct bit for your horse, there are multiple factors that go into the process. Two of the most important elements are the horse’s level of training and the rider’s experience level. Nevertheless, knowing where a bit distributes pressure on a horse’s mouth and how it functions is essential for determining what bit is appropriate for you and your horse.

In this lecture, Dr. Spooner first differentiates bits into two main categories: snaffle bits and curbed bits. The difference in the two is the type of pressure they create: direct vs. indirect pressure. In a snaffle bit, both reins and headstall are on the same ring causing direct pressure to the horse’s mouth. With a curbed bit, the reins and headstall will be attached at two different fixed locations, creating leverage and an indirect pressure to the horse’s mouth. There are three main pressure points the snaffle bit can create, and seven different pressure points a curbed bit can create. Read the rest of this entry »

A Girl and Her Love for American Quarter Horses 

July 2, 2015

Meet Maruša Flajs, an #AQHAProud member from Slovenia.

By Katy Krshka, AQHA international intern, Summer 2015

When I first met Maruša Flajs, she was sitting atop her beautiful 6-year-old palomino gelding, “Snapper.” She caught my attention right away. This was Maruša’s third year to attend Slovenia’s AQHA international horsemanship camp. Each day she quietly mastered the skills taught at the camp. In no time at all, I could tell this 16-year-old from Radovljica, Slovenia, was a force to be reckoned with.

Maruša has been riding horses for most all of her life and began competing when she was 9 years old. She is actively involved with the Slovenian Quarter Horse Association, and her father currently serves as the vice president of the SlQHA. Maruša has three horses she actively rides and shows, or is planning to show, and attends several AQHA-approved shows in Slovenia each year. Puro Chic Fritz, or “Fritz,” is her 12-year-old seasoned show gelding, and the team competes in reining. One of her proudest accomplishments with Fritz was marking a 73.5 in reining at a recent horse show. Her other two horses include her palomino gelding I mentioned earlier, Snapper Fly Glo, or Snapper, and a 7-year-old stallion, Jeronimo Chic, who Maruša is training to show once she turns 18. She started Snapper as a young colt and has done all the training herself. To no surprise, her favorite event is reining and says if she could wish to show anywhere, it would be at the European Reining Futurity. Read the rest of this entry »

Farm to Fork at Galloway Farms

June 21, 2015

Tour this eccentric, organic farm in the Czech Republic with AQHA international intern Katy Krshka.

By Katy Krshka, AQHA international intern, Summer 2015

The view from the apartment overlooking part of the farm.

Centered here in the quaint town of Roupov, Czech Republic, you will find the renown Galloway Farms, owned and operated by Vaclav Vacîk. Galloway Farms was established in 1994, then passed down to Vaclav, from his father, in 2001. They currently have 240 hectares (about 595 acres) of land. They use about 445 acres as grassland for their cattle to graze and the remaining 150 acres for wheat pasture. And from June 19 to 21, Galloway Farms served as host to the AQHA international horsemanship camp taught by Louisiana State UniversityRead the rest of this entry »

Ground-Work Exercises That Relate to Horseback Riding

June 17, 2015

Katy Krshka shares four ground-work exercises from the AQHA international horsemanship camp in Austria.

Long View Ranch in Austria

By Katy Krshka, AQHA international intern, Summer 2015

Today, I am reporting from the beautiful countryside of Wilhelmsburg, Austria. We have started our three-day camp at Long View Ranch, owned and operated by Gerold and Gabriele Dautzenberg. They have been wonderful hosts to AQHA international horsemanship camps for 15 years. Their long list of accomplishments include multiple top-10 rankings in the world rankings in reining, trail, working cow horse and cutting, as well as European Championship titles. Their loft above their indoor arena is adorned with trophies over their years of involvement with the Austrian Quarter Horse Association and AQHA. The Dautzenbergs are a prime example of what hard work and dedication to your clients, association and American Quarter Horses can accomplish. Read the rest of this entry »

Enjoy the Ride With International Intern Katy Krshka

June 9, 2015

Katy Krshka is about to travel the world this summer to eight AQHA international horsemanship camps.

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Hey y’all!

My name is Katy Krshka and I will be representing AQHA as the international intern this summer. I recently graduated in December from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in animal science and am currently still at OSU working toward my master’s in international agriculture.

I have shown American Quarter Horses for nearly all my life. I competed in my first horse show at the Canadian County Fair in El Reno, Oklahoma, when I was just 4 years old. There was no stopping me after that – I had the bug. I was fortunate that my mother and father were very active within AQHA and I was showing in Novice (now called Level 1) classes before I knew it. As a youth member, I also had the opportunity to be the youth president for the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Youth Association, as well a serving as a regional director for AQHYA. After that, I continued my journey showing around the nation and ultimately chose to ride on the OSU women’s equestrian team.

For me, like many others, horses are a way of life. Throughout all my experiences with AQHA, including representing Team USA at the 2010 American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup, I could not have ever dreamed I would have as great of an opportunity that lies before me now. As the international intern, I was able to help plan and will now attend eight different camps with three highly qualified universities. I know how greatly American Quarter horses have shaped my life and I cannot wait to share and promote our exemplary breed all around the world so that they can continue their impact! Here are a list of the camps and the universities who will be teaching them. It is going to be an amazing and eventful summer, so stay tuned! Read the rest of this entry »

Three Exercises to Gain Body Control

August 14, 2014

Find out how to gain proper body control of your horse with these tips from an AQHA international horsemanship camp.

By Lauren Wells, AQHA international intern, summer 2014

Sam Houston State University students during the AQHA Horsemanship Camp in Slovenia. From R-L: Doran Proske, Turner McQuaide, Professor Dr. Jessica Leatherwood, Michelle Majewski, and Rafael Martinez.

Sam Houston State University students during the AQHA Horsemanship Camp in Slovenia. From right to left: Doran Proske, Turner McQuaide, professor Jessica Leatherwood, Michelle Majewski and Rafael Martinez.

Sam Houston State University professor Jessica Leatherwood has formulated several lesson plans that she uses with her students and while teaching riders during the AQHA international horsemanship camps. Jessica, along with Sam Houston State University students Rafael Martinez, Michelle Majewski, Doran Proske and Turner McQuaide, focused on a particular lesson titled “Basic II: Gaining Body Control” with the camp participants. Basic II has been incredibly useful for the camp riders to improve their transitions, lope departures and lead changes. Try out the lesson plan for yourself with your horse to see improvement in a variety of maneuvers. If you are not confident in performing these exercises correctly on your own, you can seek advice from an AQHA Professional Horseman. And it’s always helpful to have a friend to watch you from the ground to provide feedback.

The idea behind Basic II is getting your horse to move away from pressure, and there are three components to this lesson. They include hipping-in, “snaking” and side passing, and two-tracking.  Read the rest of this entry »

Five Yield-Point Exercises to Enhance Your Ground-Work Training

August 11, 2014

Learn how to improve your horse’s flexibility and responsiveness on the ground using these exercises from an AQHA international horsemanship camp.

By Lauren Wells, AQHA international intern, Summer 2014

Sam Houston State University Professor Dr. Jessica Leatherwood

Sam Houston State University Professor Dr. Jessica Leatherwood

During my travels in Europe, I have found the transition to each new horsemanship camp refreshing and interesting. Moving from camp to camp allows for the interaction with a new group of AQHA members and American Quarter Horses, as well as seeing the difference in the interests and events of the camp participants. Each college that I’ve had the opportunity to travel with has done an excellent job of tailoring its training methods and approaches to conform to the skill and interest levels of the camp riders. Whether the group is more involved in showing, trail riding or simply enjoyed the company of their American Quarter Horses, the college instructors and students have certainly spread a large scope of knowledge and skills to all types of AQHA members during the camps. Read the rest of this entry »

American Quarter Horses Making a Difference in Sweden

July 28, 2014

AQHA Member from Sweden Emilie Stiwing and her American Quarter Horse stallion, Doc's King Calibar

AQHA member from Sweden Emilie Stiwing and her American Quarter Horse stallion, Docs King Calibar

Learn the incredible story of an American Quarter Horse who saved the life of an AQHA member from Sweden.

By Lauren Wells, AQHA International Intern, Summer 2014

Like most young children, Emilie Stiwing was crazy about horses. Born in 1979, she has been around horses since she can remember. She started to ride at age 3 and quickly developed into a talented horsewoman. She received her first pony and competed in dressage and show jumping when she was 9.

However, unlike most children, Emilie was diagnosed from birth with a disease called cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder affecting 70,000 people worldwide. Cystic fibrosis is caused by a defective gene that creates a build-up of thick mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. In the 1980s, the average life expectancy for an affected person was around 18 years. Emilie recently celebrated her 35th birthday. On top of dealing with this debilitating disease, she also suffers from gastro-paresis, asthma, diabetes, a minor heart defect and chronic kidney failure.

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Four Weeks, Six Amazing Cities

July 23, 2014

These young AQHA horsemen are traveling the world and teaching horsemanship camps; see their incredible photos.

By Lauren Wells, AQHA international intern, summer 2014

Hello, everyone!

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Lauren Wells, AQHA’s 2014 international intern, enjoys the company of one of the Long View Ranch’s weanling colts during her stay in Austria.

It is hard to believe that I have spent a full four weeks outside the United States! I have absolutely loved promoting the American Quarter Horse and AQHA while visiting with members across Europe. I am currently writing from Frauenfeld, Switzerland, the location of our seventh horsemanship camp for the summer.

Besides traveling to some of the most state-of-the-art equine facilities in Europe to conduct the international horsemanship camps, I, along with students from the University of Findlay and Colorado State University, have been very fortunate to also visit some of the most incredible cities during the off-days between clinics.

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Eight Ways to Improve Your Horsemanship Position

July 14, 2014

Practice these eight exercises from an AQHA international horsemanship camp to develop into a more functional rider.

By Lauren Wells, AQHA international intern, Summer 2014

AQHA member Zoe Shillabeer of the United Kingdom and her American Quarter Horse Seren Firefly demonstrate correct horsemanship position. Lauren Wells photo.

During the AQHA international horsemanship camps in Europe, participants have the option to select a particular discipline or event they’d like to focus on for improvement with their horse. However, prior to making this decision, the students from the University of Findlay required participants to work through a preliminary horsemanship pattern to analyze their skill levels in order to place them into proper groups. Then, for most of the first day of camp, the riders worked through the following eight riding exercises.

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