Difficult and safe is always better than easy and dangerous

Safe stirrup adjusting

This is the safe way to adjust your stirrups once you’re mounted: with your foot remaining in the stirrup, and one hand on the reins.

Maybe it’s my background in Pony Club, or maybe because I just hate the thought of rushing a broken rider to the nearest emergency room, but I cringe whenever I see someone adjust their stirrups in an unsafe manner.

There’s a good (meaning safe) way to adjust your stirrups once mounted. It takes a little practice, but don’t all good skills require some amount of repetition to become more reflexive?

I’ve made a web page for my William Woods dressage riders to show them the way I want them to adjust their stirrups once mounted. You might consider trying it, if you don’t already do it this way — and if you’re a Pony Clubber, you’d better be doing it this way!

Check out the page at my ShortenYourReins.com website, at http://www.shortenyourreins.com/wwu/stirrups.html.

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Remember, your horse likes to find things on which to injure himself

The "trigger" on your snaps should face the wall, so that the horse won't catch his face or other body parts on it.

The “trigger” on your snaps should face the wall, so that the horse won’t catch his face or other body parts on it.

The headline of this post might be rather long, but the sentiment is something you should remind yourself of daily. It’s your job, as a careful horse person, to think about all the myriad ways your horse can injure himself, and avoid as many of those ways as possible.

Here’s a couple easy things to do with/for your buckets to prevent injuries to the horse’s face and eyes:

1) Snaps face in. Pay attention to how you hang your snaps, and keep the trigger — that little sticky-out part that gives your thumb something to hang onto — facing toward the wall. It does make it a little harder to hang up a full bucket of water, I know, when the snaps face that way, but we’re not worried about how hard it is. We’re worried about how safe it is.

Nope! This snap has the trigger facing out, toward the horse's delicate face.

Nope! This snap has the trigger facing out, toward the horse’s delicate face.


Wrapping a little duct tape around the ends of the bucket bail will help the horse avoid getting his mane, tail, or other more important body parts stuck in the loop.

Wrapping a little duct tape around the ends of the bucket bail will help the horse avoid getting his mane, tail, or other more important body parts stuck in the loop.

2) Duct tape on bucket bail loops. Here’s another thing to think about, when working with your standard feed/water bucket. The metal handle-thingy is called the “bail,” and the end of the bail passes through a loop in the bucket and turns back on itself. That little loop can cause all sorts of problems.

The most common problem with the loop is that your horse will get his tail caught in it. It’s quite depressing to walk in the horse’s stall and see a big chunk of tail hair stuck in the bucket bail.

It’s even MORE depressing to see your horse’s whole nostril stuck in the bail loop!  The picture below — which isn’t too gory — shows the extreme of what can happen with a bucket bail loop. A little duct tape on the bail might have prevented it.

(I lifted this photo from an internet post of some sort, and don’t recall from where, so I’m unable to give photo credit where it’s due. Feel free to pass along the info to me!)

Ouch! Ow! Owie!

Ouch! Ow! Owie!

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A leg up on leg protection

fancy_polosI’m working on finishing the iBook on bandaging that I developed for the capstone of my Master’s Degree in Education, Teaching and Technology. It’s pretty cool, if I do humble-brag so myself. :-)

But until it’s available, I wanted my WWU dressage students to have a good overview of the protective equipment we might use on our dressage horses’ legs. So I made a web page on ShortenYourReins.com. If you’re interested in how I like it done (there are many many MANY different, and mostly valid, opinions on protective equipment), you can check out the protective equipment page.

If you want to learn how to apply a fancy polo like the one in the photo, you’ll have to wait for the iBook!

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WEG Winner

Here’s the video of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro winning the musical freestyle (after already having topped the team and individual tests!) at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in France.


Go Blueberry!

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Professor Sport

Here’s an early-semester sight that always warms my heart: a group of “keepers” organizing, cleaning and labeling grooming equipment for the horses in their charge.

sport_helping_keepersThat’s Professor Sport (Lamborghini) supervising the work. Sport’s a 27-year-old Trakehner gelding who’s been at William Woods since 2000 or 2001 (before I returned from Kentucky!). His life is the perfect example of the career of a school horse at William Woods.

When I first met Sport, the first year I was back at WWU, he was a leaping, bucking, kicking, horrible-to-trailer, terrified of tractors, weaving wreck during thunderstorms, mess of a horse. But I didn’t have much in the way of school horses then, and he had some talent that I hoped I could direct in the right way.

The previous dressage instructor had a habit of sending horses back to the barn when they misbehaved, so of course Sport thought leaping in the air was a good and proper thing to do. He didn’t realize he was giving us all heart attacks. He would grunt and buck and fart, and then stand there posturing the horsey equivalent of a proud “ta da!” I mostly had to laugh at his hopeful attempts to earn that ultimate reward of being finished with work.

Thankfully, I had a very good student rider who appreciated him (shout out to Hanne Hartelius Chasney!) and we were able, over the years and despite some conformational challenges, to bring him to pretty acceptable, upper-60-percent-scoring Fourth Level work. He became more and more rideable, less and less likely to buck, and has given lots of students the opportunity to correctly ride a challenging horse.

He injured his right front suspensory one summer many years back, but came back sound after a long lay-up at our “annex” facility. As he’s aged, he’s become quieter and more reliable (although he still pretends to be terrified of tractors), and I’ve dropped him down to the lower levels again to suit his more mature body. He mostly strolls around on a loose rein or a Training or First Level frame, but can still give students the feel of a correct half-pass or flying change. He’s a school master in the purest sense of the term. He’s a been-there, done-that, but-don’t-have-to-do-it-so-often-any-more kind of guy.

He’s on medication for Cushing’s disease. He still weaves during thunderstorms, but he hauls like a gentleman. He still kicks out if the rider offends him with too-obvious canter depart aids. Like any horse, he has a distinct personality, and that, of course, is his greatest asset as a professor in the dressage department.

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How to hold the reins

One of my biggest rider position pet peeves is open fingers.

Open fingers are a misguided attempt to be “soft” on the horse’s mouth, but when riders open their fingers they remove responsibility of suppleness from the rest of the arm. It’s much better to keep the fingers closed in a supple fist, and get the rest of the arm (shoulder, elbow, wrist) involved in the act of communicating with the horse’s mouth.

Hilda Gurney’s discussion is as clear as you would want:


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Before you get on

There’s so much more to riding than just sitting atop a horse. Your pre-ride preparation and care of the horse can make all the difference to your ride, and it demonstrates your compassion for your horsey partner.

Check out this web page — complete with cheesy videos — for a run-down on what you need to know before you even get on your William Woods dressage horse.



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WWU Dressage classes: what to wear

Here’s a web page I whipped up to help WWU Dressage riders (especially those new to the program, but it doesn’t hurt returning students to do a quick review!) know the appropriate attire for applied riding classes.

Check it out at http://shortenyourreins.com/wwu/class_attire.html

I’ll do a separate web page for clinic and show attire. That’ll come later, however. :-)


What to wear for Dressage classes at WWU

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Oh, blog. I’ve been neglecting you.

No more neglect. I’m going to use the blog to supplement my teaching, so WWU dressage riders, bookmark this page!

Until then, enjoy this delightful video of a group of very friendly — and somewhat gassy — horses snoozing. There are some good demonstrations of horse body language in this video: dreaming, relaxing, and scratching bellies. These are happy, healthy, comfortable horses.

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Educational opportunities love/hate

I am an educator, and so am thrilled when my students have an opportunity to experience new things that will benefit their futures in the horse industry.

On the other hand, I hate it when a horse injury is that new thing. Thanks for tearing up your tongue, Tero, but I would have been perfectly happy with a simulation.

Nonetheless, it was wonderful to be able to invite students to watch a procedure that most of them hadn’t seen before: our vet had to “lay down” Tero, a 17 hand, 17-year-old Hanoverian gelding who managed to rip up his tongue in his stall.

You can see more here: http://www.shortenyourreins.com/wwu/tero.html . But be warned — there are graphic photos of the injury on the webpage. There’s also a video of the vet laying Tero down — it’s a textbook example of how it should be done.

Tero will be fine, by the way, if he doesn’t manage to find another way to injure himself during his recovery period. He is a horse, after all. . . .

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