Saturday, November 26, 2011


I know a lot of people ride horses non-competitively and are perfectly happy achieving training goals and just all-around enjoying their horse. Unfortunately (because competitions can be expensive), I'm not one of those people. I'm the kind of person who needs to constantly challenge myself or I'm bored. Competitions give me that challenge. I am so much more motivated to train when I know I have a goal set of attending a competition.

I think I went to my first show when I was 8 years old. I rode my welsh pony Diamond in a welsh pony show. My major memory of that show was staring longingly at the prize table where there was a welsh pony tote bag I wanted so badly. I asked my mom to buy it for me, but as it was a prize, that didn't happen. I hadn't won anything off that table, since Diamond was a typical pony and I didn't have a lot of riding experience yet. But somehow in our western pleasure class, everything came together and we ended up in first place. The prize? My tote bag! I guess that was the point where my fate was sealed and I was hooked.

After Diamond I got my first horse, a quarter horse named Casper (registered Shock N Roll). We went through the ranks of 4-H, where I was usually near the top, since my parents spent a lot more that more parents to make sure I had a safe, trained horse to learn on (a rant on parents buying untrained horses for their 13-year-old 4H kid is for another post entirely). I showed in 4H at the club and regional level and went to lots of open shows. I won a pile of classes with Casper, as well as high points. On the flip side, I didn't do so great in a lot of classes as well. Casper was a lazy, somewhat-cranky western show horse, which meant he was too slow for gymkana and too lazy for jumping (although that didn't stop me from trying both).

Once I had outgrown Casper, my parents and I decided I was ready to go up a level and show on the QH circuit. That's when I got Hootie. Hootie and I had our ups and downs, from circuit champions to last-place days and everything inbetween. With Hootie I learned a lot, especially that I'm my own worst enemy and over-think everything. My parents and I decided that it wouldn't be fair for me to show Hootie in 4H as there weren't many horses that would be competitive with him. So I rode a couple of my parent's ranch horses in 4H and the odd open show and had fun. Then I gave up on 4H altogether and focused on my breed shows

From Hootie, I went on to Scarface, a young three-year-old with lots of potential. With Scarface, I confirmed that I think to much, realized how much I preferred the pattern classes over riding around the ring over and over in western pleasure. He was my trail star and won me my first (and only) AQHA trophies for performance all-around and grand champion halter (there were no halter horses that day). In my last QH show with Scarface (2007), we finally won that elusive Canadian Nationals Buckle in Novice Youth Trail (and reserve in Youth Trail and Youth Hunt Seat Equitation).

I enjoyed showing and the training leading up to it. I was always focused, always had a goal, always had a reason to be better than the ride before.
Then, university, work and being an adult got in the way and I didn't compete for 3 years and I know that my rides were less focused and less productive with no upcoming competition to light a fire under my butt. Even making the 1.5-2.5 hour drive out to ride became a chore. At one or two points my parents suggested selling Scarface and I would dissolve into tears, regardless of where we were (including shopping in Banana Republic). Scarface is a forever-horse for me and, as such, I owe it to him to focus and give riding my full effort.

So this summer I swore I would show again. I was planning to go to a AQHA show in May, but the EHV scare caused it to be cancelled or postponed. After this cancellation, I reconsidered my riding goals and realized the AQHA circuit no longer fit my goals. I was more interesting in trying out disciplines like dressage and hunters. Then I moved to a new city to go back to university that's further from my parents, who kindly still keep Scarface around for free. That was a bit of a setback, but I didn't let it stop me. My nieces and I went to a little open show where Scarface realized he enjoyed being a kid's horse, but that wasn't enough. At the end of August, I went to a little dressage schooling show. It might not sound like much, but it was enough to get me hooked on competing again. I proudly display my pair of 6th-place ribbons; not bad for a rehabbing ex-western pleasure horse and rider at their first dressage show.

Now I have the goal of taking lessons over the winter and going to clinics in the spring and showing in some more schooling shows next summer. With a clear competition goal, my motivation is through the roof!

Do any of you feel the same way or am I just crazy competitive (also possible)?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Early Scientific American Article

I just wanted to share this.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Christmas Present

While I realize that it's a bit early to start talking about Christmas (tell that the radio stations that have already pledged to play 100% Christmas music), I just couldn't wait. Last Friday I went the Farm Fair with my parents. I was supposed to help out with one of the big cattle shows as part of my university judging club, but they ended up having too many volunteers, so I just got to go to Farm Fair for free instead!

My parents and I watched a bunch of the working cow horse events (that is what their stallion Ben does, but he had the summer off after a bad colic on the way home from Idaho this spring). It was fun (always exciting). Also, a friend of ours was leading the Non-Pro futurity after the 1st event (3 events over 2 days: cutting (herd work), reining (dry work) and fence work), so that was really exciting. I watched her herd work and she had a smokin' good go!

After that we shopped a bit at the trade fair and I got my Christmas present: new western boots! To be honest, it was about time I got a new pair. I got my old pair over 10 years ago and they are worn out. They are all scratched up and have a hole worn in the sole of one. My new boots are pretty (brown bottoms with teal uppers) and comfy as well. Too bad I have to wait until the end of December to wear them! It's snowing like crazy here, so I guess my winter boots will have to do!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

RIP Hickstead

Today the horse world lost one of it's great ones. Hickstead passed away today after completing the course in Verona. He will be sorely missed I am sure.
Hickstead and Eric Lamaze on their winning run of the 2011 CN International at Spruce Meadows

Here is a video of Eric Lamaze and Hickstead winning the CN International this year at Spruce Meadows.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Equine Science Studying

I've been completely swapped with school lately. It feels like I'm studying all the time (which I guess I am). On the bright side, one of my last two midterms next week is equine science, so at least the content is super interesting! So I thought I would share some of the interesting points with all of you!

Exercise Physiology:
-Sweat contains latherin, a protein that helps spread sweat over hair.
-At rest, a horse respires 50-60 L of air per minute. Maximally, a horse can respire 1800 L per minute.

Pasture Management:
-Control weeds by not overgrazing pastures.
-Alsike clover can cause liver damage and photosensitization. Could that be why Scarface and Teto had sunburns in the summer? I know there's clover in their pasture, but I'm not sure what kind. I'll definately look into it before next summer. Alsike clover is fairly easy to identify because the leaves don't have white watermarks like those found on red or white clover.
Could we have found a cure for your sore nose Scarfie? Now I feel really bad!

-According to Martin Beeman, a conformation exam should be divided into 5 categories (check out a full article from here):
     -Head, neck, body and balance
     -Way of going

-5 Freedoms of Animal Welfare:
     1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
     2. Freedom from Discomfort
     3. Freedom from Pain, Injury and Disease
     4. Freedom to Exhibit Normal Behavior
     5. Freedom from Fear and Distress

-5 grades of lameness used by vets:
      Grade I = Inconsistent lameness
     Grade II = Consistent under certain circumstances, ie: circling in one direction, while going downhill etc.
     Grade III = Consistent, constant, visible when horse is trotting on a circle AND when he is trotting in a straight line
     Grade IV = Lameness is obvious at a walk
     Grade V = Extreme lameness - hopping, dragging a limb, unable or unwilling to move

-The upper arcades of teeth are slightly wider than the lower arcades. The chewing surfaces of teeth are not level, but have an occlusal angle of 12-15 degrees
-Watch out for performance signs of dental problems, such as resiting turns, head tossing/shaking, mouthing or chewing the bit, head tilt while ridden or lunges, resisted bridling etc.

Infectious Diseases:
-West Nile Virus has similar symptoms to a number of other diseases such as Rabies, Botulism, Western/Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis (WEE/EEE), Equine Herpesvirus (EHV) and Equine Protozoal Myelitis (EPM), making diagnosis more subtle and difficult.
-Horses as 'dead-end' hosts for West Nile Virus and WEE/EEE, meaning they can't infect other horses

Hopefully you've learned something and wish me luck on my exam!!