13 March 2015

An Eloquent Voice of Reason

Racing has long been controversial and racing over fences even more so. Of late, dressage riders have turned gorgeous horses into pretzels. Then some FEI level endurance riders began running horses to death and indulging in various less lethal but still disgusting behaviors.

Now, with the deaths of some top level horses, evening has entered the spotlight.

Jimmy Wofford, an elite horseman, offers his excellent insight into the troubles with eventing:

"Jim Wofford: Eventing Lives in the Balance"

I fear that all elite equine competitions are endangered because of the unfortunate tendency of humans to put themselves first. I read or hear about so many incidents where the rider's only concern is being able to finish. I hear so few stories such as that of Ingrid Klimke in the 2004 Athens Olymics. Her wonderful TB Sleep Late slipped on a turn in the cross-country, dislodged Klimke, and nearly fell. She sprung back on her obediently immobile horse and continued, finishing under time, Sleep Late passed the vet inspection for the stadium jumping but once Klimke mounted him she decided he wasn't right and refused to jump him, something I rate higher than all her medals and wins. That refusal was absolute proof she cared for the horse, not the win. The world needs more Ingrid Klimkes and fewer of those who don't put their horses first.

Accidents will still happen. Horses are fragile creatures, but competitions and riders that put the horse first would lessen the number of those accidents.

08 March 2015

If a Little Is Good, a Lot Is Better?

Cruising on Facebook, I found this photo. I do not want to get into names or anything so I've cut out identifying info. While I own neither photo nor comment, I find both so disturbing I'm posting them here, hoping to attract some educational discussion.

According to the information on FB, this yearling in the photo is a halter winner. An example of near perfection according to American Quarter Horse breed standards. How could this be? I've seen enough AQHA winners to believe this owner's comment is likely true, but how can this be? What's the matter with people, specifically, what's the matter with AQHA judges?

A few years back, I looked at a horse magazine that ran a series on conformation. The article I saw showed three AQHA horses in conformation poses and asked readers to rank the horses and then to check their ratings against those of a breed show judge. I looked at the photos and took a deep breath because I saw so many dangerous flaws in the legs and bodies of all three horses. Judged against all the information in my horse books and against over half a century working with horses, all three animals in that long gone article were too upright in the legs and had major problems with their backs and shoulders as well. And the judge's top selection of the three was the one I put last because of her underpinning. That horse looked the most like the colt here.

The colt pictured here is refined, but the refinement is exaggerated to the point where it's the refinement of a human body builder on steroids.

The heavily sweated neck doesn't bother me much. That's fixable, but the post-legged rear isn't. Neither are the upright pasterns or the shoulder. Poor horse.

07 March 2015

Pointing out the Obvious

Back around 1970, I realized that when I pointed, my mare responded by doing what I wanted. Since I'd been told--repeatedly and by people I respected--that horses did not understand human pointing, I kept quiet about it and when caught in the act explained apologetically it was just something I did and that I realized horses didn't understand my pointing.  Despite occasional indulgent smiles from other horsemen, I kept pointing because horses responded by doing what I wanted.

Nice to see that pointing now looks to be in the totally accepted category.

"Horses Understand Human Gestures"

Now I wonder what "near" means.This article says pointing only works "when the human remains near to the reward." Is near two feet? Ten? A hundred?

I'd like to know because a few weeks ago I turned out my Andalusian to frolick in the arena, the only place not slippery with ice and snow . As he was tearing around, I wondered if he'd stop if I put my arm straight up, his halt command. He was in a full gallop on the far side of the arena maybe eighty feet away when I punched my arm straight up. When he saw my signal, he flung himself sideways to face me and halted, standing immobile while I trotted over with the expected treat. I then pointed in his original direction and gave him an "OK," his verbal release. He instantly struck off in the exuberant gallop I'd interrupted.

I have a witness. Neither of us really expected him to stop. This was not something I worked at training him to do, but he's a remarkable horse so we weren't surprised either.

Here's Simon a year earlier, his first time on double lines without a surcingle holding them up. I took him out for a friend to see and she captured this few seconds on her cell phone. Before this, I had no idea I bobbed around so much. I also know I don't have to lift my leg so high for the strike off. I'm waaaay overdramatic. I need to stop moving so much,. And maybe shut up? But he appears to take his rhythm off my verbal tempo, but I guess that's another thing horses can't do, isn't it?

Simon in Long Lines