Riding is enormous fun until the saddle starts to chafe the sensitive parts of your body!
Once that happens it only gets worse until eventually you have to stop riding for a couple of weeks to let everything heal. But when you get back into the saddle, your issues start all over again.
This had been happening to me consistently over the past few years. At my last recognized show, I was in such agony I didn’t even want to ride on the second day. But my friends told me I’d spent so much money entering the competition that I ought to finish it.
After those agonizing last two rides, I became determined to find a solution to this painful problem - and giving up riding wasn’t it!
My two specific issues were bruising and chafing between my legs and bad sores on my butt.
Most women (or men) don’t like to discuss this embarrassing topic with others. I suspect partly because we assume we must be riding badly - and who wants to admit that?
But when I did dare broach the subject with a riding friend my age, she mentioned the fact that women’s nether regions become drier as we go through menopause. That gave me an aha! moment, which led to my discovering the way to ride in comfort again.
1. Save Your Seat!
Invest in a real sheepskin saddle ‘seat saver.’ I recommend the Vast Merino Fleece English saddle Seat Saver currently for sale on Amazon for $49.99. Mine has lasted for decades, just to give you an idea of how well made it is. The Western one is more expensive at $87.99.
This seat saver gives wonderful soft comfort in the saddle, is machine washable, and easy to put on or take off. You’ll instantly relax on your horse when your butt sinks into the deep wool!
You will have to take it off for recognized shows, but no one has complained when I rode in mine at schooling shows.
2. Pants Power
If, like me, you don't have enough money to buy a week’s supply of specially reinforced dressage underpants at $34 plus a pair, here’s a cheaper way.
Wear two pairs of underpants every time you ride. Your normal underpants are fine, just as long as they are comfortable.
Combine this with the next two solutions and you’ll be amazed at the difference.
3. (P)added Protection
Buy a roll of foam from Walmart - the thicker the better.
Cut off a strip the width of your underpants’ crotch, long enough to fold in three and place between your legs, over the first pair of underpants. Your second pair of underpants will keep it in place.
You now have a cushion to sit on in addition to the seat saver.
4. Grease Monkey
This solution applies especially to post-menopausal women riders!
Buy a large, cheap tub of vaseline. Before each ride, smear generous amounts over any area that is painful when you ride and this will prevent chafing.
For extra healing properties, you can add tea tree oil to the Vaseline before you apply it.
5. Easy Does It
It took me a long time to make the connection between getting sores on my butt and the way I was riding. But I finally realized my troubles begin whenever I’m stiff and clamped in the saddle.
A classic example is when I’m performing trot half-pass. Instead of being loose and relaxed, I tighten up my butt. My poor horse can’t do what I’m asking of him and my rear-end complains, too!
Once I maintained a soft position in the saddle, together with the help of the other tips, there was no more rubbing and my horse moved way better. It wasn't until I got off my horse that I realized I'd been pain free during the entire ride!
If you’re suffering from soreness and chafing in the saddle, try these tips. You’ll no longer be in pain and will look forward to riding again!
They are very impressive advertisements for the mesh type of pool cover. They look indestructible, don’t they?
So when my horse showed an interest in it and raised a front hoof to walk on it, I wasn’t too concerned.
He’ll be a bit surprised, I thought, and he won’t like the feel of the cover sagging underneath him, but at least he’ll be able to get off it without going through the material into the water.
Boy, was I wrong!
During 2015 I worked very hard with Cruz to get him to trust me when I asked him to walk on ‘strange’ surfaces.
Following his adventurous pasture buddy, Gabe, the 18 hand Clydesdale/Thoroughbred cross who belongs to my friend, Christina Dale, he had become very brave.
By the end of the year he was walking fearlessly across bridges, through streams and into water with the waves lapping around him. He finally believed he wouldn’t die if he trod on pallets with rubber on them for the trail class at the OPRC rally.
I was so proud of him!
And I paid for all that hard work on Tuesday, 16th December last year, when a gate blew open and the three horses wandered into the back yard.
Setting the Scene
Dusk was descending when I happened to look out of the back window and see equine forms drifting past the bushes around the pool. I did a double take: they weren’t supposed to be there, of course, plus the dogs were outside and had given me no indication that anything was amiss.
Sure enough, Cruz, Gabe and CD were happily grazing on the much nicer grass of our four acre lawn. Mercifully, the dogs came when called and I walked outside.
The horses were close to the pool at that point. It has happened before that they got into this area, without mishap. Normally they give the pool a wide berth.
Cruz raised his head as I came out of the back door and I said “Hi, there. What are you doing, buddy?”
He took a few steps forward onto the brick area by the pool, as if to get closer to me. However, he didn’t need to go near the pool to reach me.
But for some bizarre reason, he was fascinated by the pool cover. He stretched out his neck and smelled the edge, then inched forwards.
Amazed at his boldness, I decided he was close enough and should back away.
“No, Cruz!” I shouted.
To Exit Or Not to Exit?
People often ask me how I pulled him out.
Here are my answers:
1) It never occurred to me that my athletic horse couldn’t get himself out.
2) Anyway, how could I get a horse out of a pool with his legs flailing in all directions?
He got his front hooves onto the pavement and almost heaved himself out.
Then sparks flew off his metal shoes as they scraped on the cement and he came crashing down on his knees and slid back into the water.
Now I started to panic. Supposing he couldn’t get out by himself? What then?
But he gave a huge lunge and sprang out of the water before I had to put a plan together to assist him.
A Blasé Fellow
This is where the change in his feed and our work during the year had some benefit.
Cruz shook the water off his body then put his head down to graze as though nothing had happened!
By now it was dark, so I couldn’t see how badly hurt he was. In the light from the house he looked sound in walk, but that was no guarantee of anything. I wanted to check him for injuries.
He was very easy to catch (what a star!) although it took some clever thinking to get the other two to abandon their new-found lush grass.
Eventually I had everyone back in the barn, and was able to examine the damage to my poor guy.
His front knees were pretty scuffed up, and he had a small gash on his left stifle, as well as a long cannon bone graze on the left hind and a few fetlock grazes.
I cleaned the wounds with iodine in warm water and spread triple ant-biotic ointment on them. I also gave him 15 SMZs and prayed he’d be sound in the morning.
On Wednesday I gave him 15 more SMZs. I washed the wounds again and reapplied the triple antibiotic cream. Nothing had swollen overnight, which was a good sign.
The question then became: should I, or should I not, call the vet?
The injuries seemed superficial, with the possible exception of the one on his left knee. Better to be safe than sorry, I thought, and rang for a veterinarian’s opinion.The Prognosis
The main vet was busy, so a new lady came who was possibly not long out of vet school. She was very nice, but unfortunately began with the worst case scenario.
Being: broken left stifle bone and knees that would remain swollen and become arthritic.
On top of that, Cruz was to go on stable rest.
I explained that Cruz – in the immortal words of this vet's boss – ‘is not a candidate for stable rest.’
He appeared a little stiff in trot, unwilling to completely bend that left stifle joint. But that was to be expected, since it had taken a bit of a bruising.
I then asked for the best possible scenario?
This was: a bit of bruising round the stifle joint and no riding to let the wounds heal. I assured her that I had no intention of riding him until he was fully recovered!
So she shaved around the wounds and cleaned them off, before applying generous dollops of antiseptic cream.
I was to do this every day for five days, and give him 13 SMZs twice a day, as well as 2 bute for five days, and one daily for the next five days. She would check him in a week.What I Actually DidI explained that I would hope for the best and not change his daily routine. He would continue to wander in and out of his stall at will with the others.
The vet was fine with this when I explained that Cruz would go ballistic inside his stall and do more damage to himself than good. I am a great believer in allowing a horse to maintain his habits, if at all possible, to prevent inhibiting his recovery through becoming stressed.
If in seven days he appeared lame, I would reconsider his treatment.
The thought of his being on bute for 10 days bothered me a lot, so I consulted another vet. He said that I should give my horse UlcerGuard or the equivalent if I really wanted him on bute for that length of time. But 5 days would be better.
So I gave him 2 bute for two days, and 1 a day for the next three days.
I cleaned is wounds daily and plastered on the goop until Saturday, when I had to drive down to Florida. Gabe’s owner, Christina, then had to take over.
She did a wonderful job, and switched to Equaide a fantastic cream that prevents proud flesh (another concern I had) and brought down the swelling around the wounds – a big worry especially for that left knee.
She sent me photo updates to reassure me that he was healing well.Last Call
A week later two other friends, Kelli and Joan, were kind enough to be there for the vet when she finally arrived at 6:30 p.m. in the pouring rain. Joan had to trot Cruz up and down my barn aisle with most of the lights not working!
Cruz was pronounced sound.
The winter weather is hampering my efforts, but I am now working him again in walk. He is trotting and cantering just fine in his field.In Conclusion...
When something like this happens to your horse, you think: This will make a good story if, and only if, it has a happy ending.
Thankfully, it has.
And now I’ve tied rope around the gates which lead into the pool area for added security. Not that I expect Cruz to wander over the pool cover again. Actually, it’s currently being repaired and the pool has turned into one huge ice block.
I originally posted this on Things Equestrian in February as technical difficulties prevented my posting it here.
But by re-posting it here, I can now give you an update on Cruz.
His wounds have healed perfectly, and he walked straight into the Potomac River as though he'd never had a bad encounter with water!
He's one brave dude.
In June 2014 I wrote:
“Last weekend I took him into the warm-up at a big recognized show. My next post will cover our success there. :)”
I apologize for taking so long to fulfill my promise to give you the details.
Each day I gave him two tubes of Total Calm & Focus paste three hours before I got on him. I was anxious to see if it would work.
The show I took him to is an annual two-day competition, only twenty minutes away. The venue is huge, with five rings, three warm-up areas, and many barns for visiting horses.
There is a great deal going on all the time and it all starts on the Friday at noon. Competitors arrive early to settle their horses in, lead the hot ones around and ride in the arenas they will compete in the next day.
I was not competing this year. I didn’t need that pressure on top of worrying about how Cruz would behave in the warm-up.
For the past four years I had competed him successfully, but only because there were plenty of grass areas away from the madding crowd where I could warm him up alone. This year I had one goal only: take him into the warm-up with the other horses.
All the way to the venue I was playing my special music in the truck. It’s a track from Johannes Linstead’s album (insert details). It calmed me down on the way there, and I looked forward to its becoming my victory music if all went well that day.
As I swung into the saddle I repeated my mantra to myself, and rode Cruz purposefully into each of the three warm up arenas.
This was a good day to start our rehab: there were fewer horses in each ring, not the full complement I would meet on the real show days – Saturday and Sunday.
I chose a ring with no horses in it to start with. My heart was pounding as we were then joined by one horse, then a second then a third and then a fourth. I relaxed as best I could in the saddle, and told myself that all would be well.
There was plenty of room for each horse, and I was thrilled at how Cruz paid no attention to the others in there with him.
Flushed with success, I then rode him in the other arenas, where horses were already working. Again, there was plenty of room for us, but even when a horse came close, Cruz paid no attention.
A Bad Moment
I was thrilled, and rode briefly in the third and last warm-up, also with success.
My work for the day was done. Tomorrow would be a big test, with many more horses to contend with, and I quit while I was ahead.
I was walking him back to the trailer, when a tractor with loud grading chains behind it came roaring straight at us. Cruz became scared and I frantically waved at the driver to stop.
He ignored me and kept bearing down on us.
Of all the things to go wrong!
I quickly leapt off while others, who had seen what was going on, ran into the man’s path and made him turn off his engine.
But the damage was done. Cruz was terrified. The tractor was on our right, so I had to lead my horse from that side to ‘protect’ him from the monster machine while I gave the driver the evil eye.
Cruz calmed down and I continued on foot to the trailer.
But he had been relaxed with the other horses in the arena. On the way home I listened to my music over and over again, feeling elated. We were in the middle of another big breakthrough!
The Training Level tests were going to begin, so I knew the horses warming up in here would mostly be doing innocuous walk, trot and canter, with no ‘twiddly’ bits like half-pass and canter pirouettes.
There was as yet no horse in the ring when I took Cruz into it. This calmed me down as I began to walk him around. Then he suddenly became agitated, and at first I couldn’t figure out why.
Then I heard it, too. The tractor from the day before was grading an arena close by. He hadn’t forgotten.
This was something I couldn’t do much about, except put him into shoulder-in to make him concentrate on me.
The irony of the situation is that he calmed down as soon as another rider came into the ring! Her horse wasn’t afraid of the noise, so Cruz settled down.
More horses gradually joined us, until the arena was full of riders going in all directions.
I rode Cruz in walk on a soft contact to get used to the others working around him, just as I had done at home.
The Defining Moment
Suddenly he started throwing his front end up. I was unaware of any particular reason for it, but possibly he realized that he was in among a ton of horses, and felt claustrophobic. He was thinking about rearing.
An awful panic rose in me: that same paralyzing sensation I’d experienced the moment before Cruz reared on me seven years earlier.
My friends later said that they wondered if they should rush in and help me. But there is little they could have done. I was the only one who could handle the situation, and the moment had come for me to prove whether I could.
At the same time as nauseous fear gripped me, I became angry at the thought of all the hard work I had done on myself over the last six months.
Was it all for nothing? Was I going to cave in now that I was being put to the test?
The whole reason everything had gone belly-up on that horrible day in 2008 was because I didn’t take charge when my horse most needed it from me.
This was my second chance to show that I was in control.
“Oh, no you don’t!” I said between gritted teeth. “Shoulder-in, buddy!”
I used all my strength to place him in that position. It took a couple of steps before I got a true shoulder-in, but get it I did. The awful moment had passed.
Pressing my advantage, I urged him into trot, and we rode around the arena on the inside track where he feels more comfortable.
He behaved beautifully.
I then trotted him around the outside track, with horses coming towards him on the inside, which used to scare him witless.
Again, cool as a cucumber.
Time to canter. I began with the inside track, his less uncomfortable zone, and he behaved like a normal horse.
My final act was to canter him round the outside track. He behaved like a perfect gentleman.
I patted him on the neck and exited, exhausted – but elated.
Cruz was a good boy the next day and I now knew that I could take him into the warm-up arena just like a normal horse.
It has been a long, long journey, which I should have begun six years ago. But what matters is that I finally did it.
A rider who needed his First Level scores took Cruz this year to the same show. Cruz was fine in all the warm-up situations except on day one, when he heard a noise that scared him. He began his bouncing up and down while his trainer and I shouted “Shoulder-in!” at him. He stayed calm and executed the movement, which worked beautifully.
Cruz simply needs to know that his rider is the boss, and then he relaxes.
These days we have fun together. With his new field companion, an 18 hand Clydesdale/Thoroughbred cross called Gabe, we go on trail rides every month.
We splash into the Chesapeake Bay at high tide, and Cruz arches his neck and smashes the water with his left foreleg.
Last time I watched his brushing boot come off and float away. This week his boot was on more securely, although he crashed the water with such force that the boot split.
But who cares? He’s having fun.
Even though the waves were lapping noisily against the shoreline, he still followed Gabe in quietly. The rolls of rough water bopped him on the nose while he was drinking: he raised his muzzle briefly in surprise, then lowered it into the surging Bay again.
We’ve trained over cross country jumps, participated in quadrille practice, and even jousted – on a windy day with loose horses in the neighboring field running down towards us! He doesn’t care when a horse finishes his run and canters back towards him.
And, of course, we continue to compete at dressage shows. He is doing well, and we hope to move up to Third Level sometime next year if we ever get those pesky canter lead changes!!!
It’s been a tough journey because I’m not a particularly courageous rider.
But I’ve learned that all my horse asks of me is that I stay calm and lead him firmly, with fairness. Then he’ll try his hardest for me.
It’s a wonderful feeling to be back in love with one’s horse!
Has a bad experience with your horse ever ruined everything about riding—not only for a few weeks or months, but for many years?
Have you continued to ride despite your anxiety? Or not wanted to get back on after that one awful incident?
I understand: It happened to me.
I’d finally got my seven year old home bred to relax in the warm-up at schooling dressage shows, and we were winning all our Training then First Level classes—and I do mean all of them—because I was so relaxed and my horse completely trusted me.
We could do no wrong!
Feeling ready to tackle recognized shows, I took him the following year to the New Jersey Horse Park.
If I had known what a zoo that place is and that we would be warming up with Grand Prix dressage riders who think it’s funny to mow down us lesser humans, I would never have taken Cruz.
We were both scared out of our wits. When I should have shown Cruz calm leadership, I panicked at his reaction to two big horses coming at us in canter half-pass. I could feel him building up to something.
In terror, he reared vertically, I fell and he fled from the scene.
That did it. He completely lost confidence in me, and I in him. Our happy days of trust were over.
The Fear Is Real
I writhed in agony for the six hour trip home, towing the trailer and getting lost. (Then bursting into tears!)
I was able to walk only with the assistance of two walking canes: it had been a hard fall from more than one perspective!
For two weeks I didn’t want anything to do with Cruz. I licked my wounds and begrudgingly fed him every day.
Finally I realized I must sit back on him—or sell him and never ride again. Well, that wasn’t an option!
After lunging him for the next two days, I donned my body protector and, with either a friend or my husband supervising, I gingerly got back on my bewildered and innocent horse.
The most awful scenarios were playing in my head as I put my foot in that stirrup.
After about a week of Cruz not putting a single hoof wrong, I was able to ride alone without someone standing ready to dial 911 if needed!
Two months later I took him to a show where I knew there’d be hardly any other horses warming up.
I was in tears as I mounted him, terrified that he’d rear again.
But he didn’t. (Why would he? He's not a rearer!)
When a lively stallion came a little too close (the only other horse on our warm-up patch of grass) he shied away very violently: he was back to his old behavior.
I survived the warm-up, and won both dressage classes, although I was back at Training Level.
But it was the first big step in what was to prove a very, very protracted rehabilitation process.
The Blame Game
It took a long time for me to accept my part in the New Jersey disaster. I hated Cruz for ‘letting me down’ and ‘frightening me like that.’
Only after a lot of soul-searching did I come to admit my own culpability. I should not have put him into such a daunting situation: neither of us was ready for it. I should have had the courage to scratch.
On top of everything, I’d had to stop giving him his calming supplements, because they weren’t legal for recognized shows. The poor animal was expected to cope in the most frightening situation without his regular help.
I let him down and now felt awful.
But here we were, and I had to do something about it.
A Shrinking World
For any of you reading this who’ve have carried around your fears for years and years—I hear you!!
I have spent the past six years taking Cruz to shows where I know there's enough space to warm him up away from the other horses. We’ve come home with plenty of blue ribbons, don’t get me wrong, but it was through evasive action.
I tried to take him into regular warm-up arenas at recognized shows, but as soon as a horse came too close or bucked, we both lost it. I would be shaking too much to be of any use to Cruz, who'd go into a tailspin.
Our world was now shrinking. Trail rides never happened because I didn't trust him to behave. I became that person I used to laugh at, the one who won’t leave the safe confines of the fenced in arena.
Life was getting very dull for Cruz and me and something had to change.
Carrying Out New Year’s Resolutions
In my post A More Relaxed Approach to Dressage I talked about how I am now varying Cruz’s work. As a result we’re having much more fun together and have ventured off the property to enjoy a long trail ride and go splashing around with other horses in cross-country water jump training.
(Since I wrote that last post, the rain has dried up in my arena and we’re popping over small jumps in the sand instead of in a pond!)
At the beginning of this year I vowed to change my own attitude to riding, and have done two important things to help Cruz and myself.
Cruz is on some new supplements which are working extremely well for him, and my next post will cover the details. They are all 'legal': finding ‘legal’ options that work on him has been a real challenge for me. More about them next time.
It Took Two Books to Change Me
I could throw all the supplements I wanted at my horse, but until I overcame my own fears, I was not going to become a confident leader for my horse.
I was so tired of being that rider who keeps ‘hoping her horse will behave,’ instead of being proactive and influencing the animal's behavior.
But for that I needed a confidence in my own ability, which had been lacking for years.
My brain needed rewiring.
Not having the money to go to a sports psychologist, I did the next best thing, and looked up books on the subject. I ended up buying the following two based on their reviews and what I read in the sample.
I haven’t looked back.
Inside Your Ride by Tonya Johnston
The subtitle of this book is ‘Mental Skills for Being Happy & Successful With Your Horse’ which tells you right away this is a book worth reading!
I strongly urge you to buy a copy if you’re struggling with issues of confidence around your horse, and not enjoying your riding because of them.
One of her aims is to ‘boost your confidence, and improve your focus, as well as to overcome the stress and fear when you ride or compete.’ Tonya Johnston gives you ‘psychological tools designed to enhance your thinking, approach, preparation, and partnering with your horse.’
One major tool I use from the book is a version of her ‘Post-Ride Notes’ which I complete after every ride. I begin by recording the date, the weather that day, my mood and that of my horse.
I then read my Pre-ride Preparation (tool courtesy of Ms. Johnston) to reduce stress before the ride, such as positive self-talk and breathing exercises to perform before getting on the horse and while you’re in the saddle.
When I finish riding I fill in the Goals Accomplished section. You set these goals before you ride - ensuring they are attainable.
One of my early goals was to be able to ride Cruz back up to the barn without a major spook.
It doesn’t sound like a big goal, but it was a big deal for me. I was always having to get off in the arena and lead him up – admitting defeat yet again. Now I can ride him up on the buckle!
She quotes three-time Olympic dressage bronze medalist Günter Seidel, who says we shouldn’t train each day with only one goal in mind, because we’ll be disappointed.
And we need to enjoy the training as well as the attainment of our goals.
Now come the Highlights, my favorite part of the Post-Ride Notes. These are often the same as the attained goals, but also wonderful moments such as ‘I relaxed my inner thigh and Cruz moved forwards with new energy and freedom,’ or ‘when he spooked in his usual corner I ignored it and kept going, and he didn’t spook there the next time.’
Tonya Johnston stresses the importance of being positive and recording at least two good things under the last two headings.
No negatives allowed!!! The human brain is always looking at the negative, but these Post-Ride Notes have no use for that thinking. Only the positives are mentioned.
I’ve been completing a riding journal for just over a month now and it's making me more and more aware of the good things in my rides. The ‘bad’ moments are few and far between—the exception, not the rule—and I don’t dwell on them. If I do mention them it’s in order to prove to myself that I coped well in those moments and went on to the good stuff.
As a result, my Post-Ride Notes are now covered in smiley faces. :)
With Winning in Mind by Lanny Bassham
This is the second book that I recommend you read. It is not specifically for riders (the writer is an American sports shooter who won a gold medal in the 1976 Summer Olympics) but is written by someone who overcame pressure by winning the mental game.
He explains how to get your brain to accept a new self-image. He calls the process a Mental Management® tool and says that ‘you can change any habit or attitude that you do not like about yourself, normally within 21 days.’
That’s pretty revolutionary stuff, isn’t it?
He describes how to write a Directive Affirmation, which is a statement of what you want to be, written in the present tense, to read several times daily for twenty-one days.
He states that if you follow the steps ‘there are only two possible outcomes. You will either become the person you want to be or you will stop reading the affirmation. It is that simple.’
What could I lose?
I wrote out my Directive Affirmation and read it daily for 21 days.
Lanny Bassham also tells us to record a Performance Analysis after every training session.
I incorporated this into my Post-Ride Notes, to produce what I call my ‘Performance Analysis Ride Notes.’
My pre-ride preparation now included positive self-talk, a solution oriented attitude, my affirmations (part of the Directive Affirmations), my negative thought-stopping cues (from Tonya Johnston) and concluded with goals accomplished and highlights.
Last week I got off Cruz after yet another terrific ride, and realized something wonderful.
Before mounting I had forgotten to record my mood and Cruz’s mood. I’d failed to go through my pre-ride routine of positive self-talk and had not reminded myself of the negative thought-stopping cues. I hadn’t read through any affirmations, such as “I ride Cruz with super-confidence and give him total confidence in me” and my solution oriented attitude of “I have the riding skills to meet the challenge.”
In short, for the first time since beginning this strategy I hadn’t needed it.
You can imagine how elated I was!
My Performance Analysis Notes have now become a useful daily record of how my rides are progressing. But here is the only positive self-talk I need:
‘God is watching over me and I am a good rider!’
My new-found confidence is making me less ‘driven’ when I ride. I don’t obsess about a movement, and I relax in the saddle, striving to make it easy for Cruz to do the right thing.
Instead of walking forever before trotting and cantering, I now walk, trot and canter on a long rein before coming back to work correctly in walk and building up slowly to the other gaits.
Cruz is happy with this system. He relaxes at the outset, is more responsive to my aids, and I don’t have to work so hard to get results.
We finish after only forty-five minutes: it’s a win-win situation for both of us.
And he drops his sheath when we get back to his stall, which he never used to do.
Not only did we go for that cross-country training with a bunch of other horses, but last weekend I also took Cruz for a jumping lesson. Life is getting to be fun again. :)
The Next Step
Other horses, including big ones, come into my arena and work around us to get Cruz comfortable with having other equines in his space.
I’m learning to stay relaxed when they come towards us and all I’m getting from him is a twitch in one ear.
This is HUGE!!
Last weekend I took him into the warm-up at a big recognized show. My next post will cover our success there. :)
Look who showed up in my back yard!
My good friend Christina has just bought a beautiful Clydesdale Thoroughbred cross. A bay gelding, he stands at a mere 17.3 hands and is 9 years old.
A Fast Purchase (Because She's an Experienced Horsewoman)
Last Sunday she was on her way to try him out, and a week later he arrived on my doorstep.
A group of us went out to lunch the Thursday after she'd tried him out, Over our meal we discussed the video of Christina riding the horse.
He looked sweet and calm, the perfect complement to her 18 year old Percheron stallion.
In the truck on the way back from our get together, Christina got a phone call from the horse’s owner, accepting her offer. A quick back and forth ensued about when would be a good time for him to come to my place to live until Christina finds a house of her own with more pasture.
Within five minutes she was the owner of a new horse which would arrive in three days.
Note: I must point out that my friend is a very experienced horse person. This is not the way a beginner rider should approach buying a horse, as my upcoming book will explain.
All These Feelings....
On Friday I asked her how she was feeling about her current status.
“You should write a blog about the ten emotional stages of horse purchasing,” she replied. “At the moment I’m really nervous!”
I, of course, happily volunteered for the task!
The Ten Emotional Stages of Horse Purchase
Once her horse arrived the purchase cycle was complete and we identified the following ten stages:
1. Excitement about the decision to buy a new horse
It’s a big deal, planning the major purchase of such a large animal. This is not a snap decision, and involves a lot of budgeting and planning.
2. Anticipation about finding one’s potential equine soul mate
Now comes the long search for suitable equine candidates: you make a list of horses to try out, eager to discover The One among their number.
3. Nervous thrill of trying him out
You experience an element of worry mixed in with thrill at going to ride a new horse with the thought that he might be the equine buddy you’re looking for.
When you do find The One, you make an offer (contingent on his passing the vet).
4. Hope that the owner will accept your offer
The first hurdle is having the owner agree to the amount you’re prepared to pay. You’ve made a reasonable offer, either at the top of your budget or leaving you with a bit of wiggle room.
But either way, you’re not certain that you’ll both agree on the final price of this horse. And that makes you want him even more.
5. Happiness when your offer is accepted
There’s a sweet delirium when the owner says “Yes” to your offer. It’s almost as wonderful as getting your offer on a house accepted.
You and your friends can now drink a toast to new ownership, providing the horse makes it through the next and final step.
6. Praying the horse passes the vet
By now you’re so deeply in love with the horse that you’re in danger of ignoring the vet’s opinion if it’s a bust. Even though you know that a bad horse costs as much to keep as a good one, you’re prepared to make an exception for this one.
But thankfully you have smart friends who are telling you that there are other horses out there and if this one doesn’t pass the vet, he’s not The One after all.
7. Hysterical excitement when he does pass the vet
Now you can really, really celebrate!
8. Eager desire to get the horse home as soon as possible
Enjoy this phase while you can, because it soon turns into #9.
9. Anxiety before he arrives: “What on earth am I doing?”
This is the toughest phase of them all: you’ve gone through the depths of anxiety followed by the heights of euphoria, so it's inevitable you’ll crash again.
What on earth am I doing? What if he’s the wrong horse after all? Supposing we don’t get on? What am I going to do – I’ve already spent the money!
But fear not, it quickly lead to #10!
10. Delight when he arrives
Once you get your new horse home, and start going through the business of settling him in, you’ll have less time to worry about your decision.
The next morning you’ll wake up with a happy feeling and forget what's causing it.
Then you’ll remember: Yay! I’ve got a new horse!
And off you’ll go to begin years of fun adventures with your new equine soul-mate-in-the-making.
Have you ever bought a horse?
What emotional steps did you go through during the purchase period?
Can you relate to the above stages or would you add/delete some?
Go to my Contact Page and let me know!
Now comes the hard task of integrating him into my tiny herd.
There is already much to tell, but all will be revealed in my next post!
If you’re a beginner horse rider, I need your help!!
The popularity of my blog series on the Top Ten Horse Breeds for Beginner Riders suggests that many beginner riders would like to own a horse. But it needs to be the right horse.
I'm writing a book for first time horse buyers who are also beginner riders, looking for that special equine buddy who’ll take care of them while they’re in the early stages of learning to ride. The horse must also be able to take them further.
Horse Buying for the Beginner Rider: A Stress-Free Strategy for Finding Your Ideal Horse
will be available as an ebook in many different formats, not just Kindle, and also in hard copy.
The success of my book for first-time dressage competitors gives me confidence - in fact I'm almost sure - that I’m up to the task. :)
But, as I mentioned earlier, I need your help, please!
First, see what you think about the following details I'm including in the book. While you're going through, would you jot down anything you feel is missing?
Thanks! I'll catch up with you after you're done reading.
Part One: The Easy Section
No one wants to open a book and immediately be told about how much money this whole enterprise is going to cost.
That's why we're gonna start with the Fun Stuff.
This talks about you, and how certain breeds could be a good fit for you.
It goes into stuff like:
The Fun Stuff helps narrow down the type and breed of horse which will work the best for you.
As you read the next section, you'll be carrying a more definite image of your ideal horse in your head and your dream of owning a suitable equine partner will now become more real to you. :)
Part Two: The Slightly Harder Section
Now comes the Serious Stuff.
This includes budgeting for your horse - how to determine the amount of money you’ll need to spend on him. It also covers the nuts and bolts of finding and buying your ideal horse.
After reading the Serious Stuff you’ll be able to refine your short list of horse breeds to look which you first wrote based on the Fun Stuff.
The Serious Stuff will talk about:
Finally, so as not to leave you hanging once you’ve made up your mind which horse you’re going to buy, the last chapter will discuss bringing your new equine buddy home and how to acclimatize him to his new surroundings while you both get to know each other.
This Is Where You Come In aka This Author Needs You!
Now that you’ve perused the intended contents of
Horse Buying for the Beginner Rider: A Stress-Free Strategy for Finding Your Ideal Horse
- do you have a topic which I haven’t addressed? If so, I'd love to hear from you!
If you're a beginner rider and looking to buy a new horse, what else do you want to know about?
What do you need or what kind of equine buddy would you love to have?
Have you had good experiences with a breed which you want me to be sure and include?
Do you have certain horse or riding details that you’d like to see addressed in my book? Things like what is the quietest breed of horse? Or what horse should you get if you have a disability?
Send me an email via the Contact Page and ask me anything: I’ll do my best to accommodate you by putting it in my book.
What’s in it for You? :)
If you email the details of what you’d like included in the book, I will do two things for you.
1. I'll send you the publish date of the book which means that you’ll be able to get the ebook version FREE FOR THE FIRST FIVE DAYS.
2. If you like, I’ll include your name and a link to your website in the acknowledgements. Just give me the information :)
If that sounds like a good deal (and I hope it does!) please go to the Contact Page and email me your requests.
Training is tricky when the weather doesn't co-operate!
Usually I panic when spring is late in coming, as it has been this year. (See above photo!)
I make up for lost time by sticking to a regimented Back Into Work Program, after Cruz’s unavoidable winter lay-off due to the bad weather and no indoor arena.
No time for frivolity and games: I hear the Siren Call of the New Show Calendar and have to get my horse fit in time for that first dressage competition.
It’s flatwork, flatwork all the way.
But this year, I decided to introduce fun stuff right from the beginning. If we’re ready for the first show – great. If not, who cares as long as we’re enjoying life?! :)
“Steady On!” Doesn’t Mean “Creeping Forwards”
I still need to protect Cruz’s tendons by building his fitness gradually. But there is such a thing as going too slowly. I’ve noticed that my friends don’t crawl at the same excruciating pace as me and their horses survive just fine. :)
My guy has been roaming the great outdoors throughout the appalling weather months, with the occasional trot and canter. It’s not as though he’s been stuck in his stall for four months, doing nothing.
These poles were on dry land when I was trotting through them last week!
Poles on the Ground
When I trot Cruz over poles on the ground, he leaps over the whole lot in one bound.
The last time I trotted him over cross-poles, he bucked. A lot. I then put him on the lunge and asked him to pop over them without me on him.
This time his buck after the obstacle was so huge that when he took off I was pulled face down into the dirt. I let go and watched him roar back up to the barn.
That was two years ago, and I’d not had the nerve to try again. I wanted to have fun with my horse instead of just doing dressage drills, but didn’t want to end up in the dirt!
So I decided to take advantage of the fact that Cruz is currently unfit.
Right on day one of our return to work, I lay a single pole down on the ground, and in a separate place put down two poles with the correct distance for walk between them.
I use Ingrid Klimke’s brilliant book Cavaletti: The Schooling of Horse and Rider over Ground Poles to help with the distances and gymnastic jumping ideas.
I rode him long and low in walk, giving him extra rein as we approached the single ground pole. He walked over it quietly so we went back and forth over it between shoulder-in, leg yield and haunches in, only riding for about 15 minutes.
On day two, I rode him over the two walking poles with a light rein contact, not tensing my seat as we approached them. He was happy to walk over the two poles, not even thinking of rushing over them. :)
I added a third pole the next day, with the same calm response.
I then put them at trot distances. He sped up a little, but was easily persuaded to slow down.
Building on this success the next day, I placed a pole over two upturned plastic feed containers (see photo) to raise it a couple of inches. Our walk warm-up included moseying over it from both direction and then I approached it in sitting trot, as Ingrid Klimke recommends.
This would not normally have water on one side!
In Cruz’s mind this had now ‘become a jump’ and he wanted to rush it. I kept my seat calm and maintained very light rein contact to stop me pulling back on his mouth. He popped over it a little hastily, so I brought him back to walk before trotting him again.
To my amazement, at our second attempt he reacted to my seat cues by slowing down to a walk in front of the ‘fence’!
With Ingrid Klimke's book to guide me with the distances, I set up cross-poles and a trot take-off pole. The approach included the same three trot poles Cruz had been trotting through, several strides before the take-off pole.
To ensure that I stayed calm when asking for my horse to pop over the line (remember how badly he’d bucked the last few times!) I had a friend join me.
Cruz loves Kelli’s mare, Pippi. He goes almost limp with calmness when she walks into my arena. Kelli calms me down, too, so they are a great combination for us
Pippi went first over the three trot poles and the cross-poles. I couldn’t believe how she simply glided over everything in a trot stride. She didn’t even attempt to jump the cross-pole, but fitted it into her regular trot rhythm.
If only Cruz would do the same! However still I tried to sit, his ears shot forward towards the upcoming cross-pole when we trotted over the ground poles. But he jumped quietly over the cross-pole and halted after a few strides in a straight line.
This was massive progress!
Then he actually transitioned into walk in front of the cross-pole!! And no bucking. ;)
I kept the session really short, suppling him with walk exercises for ten minutes before popping over the cross-pole.
But Cruz was enjoying the change in routine. The added interest in his work (plus his being unfit) were keeping him sane.
The plan was working!
It was time to add canter work over small jumps.
Again, I would begin with walk work and keep the sessions really short. But I did want to build on my success with the trot exercises.
I invited Christina over, who has a gray Percheron stallion. Cruz used to be deadly scared of this big guy’s huge presence. But after a weekend show where they were stabled close to each other and chatted over their stall doors, Cruz decided that Peanut is a good guy.
Our first time together, Peanut and Cruz alternated going over the same combination of trot poles and the cross-poles as before with Pippi. Peanut was also just coming back into work, and that was enough for him.
A few days later, Peanut returned to join us for The Canter Exercises.
We began with the previous trot work, then took turns cantering over my raised ground pole, once in each direction.
Peanut was very calm in his approach and popped over the pole in stride.
Cruz was more animated, and needed a quick correction to shorten his stride in front of the ‘fence.’ Although he listened, our first two attempts were a bit discombobulated. But I stayed calm and had faith in my ability to positively impact my horse.
Peanut is a big 17 hands high Percheron stallion with a lot of presence. But he's actually a real sweetheart!
Once Peanut had gone over a second time and Cruz had his breath back, we tried again. This time our stride was flawless, in both directions.
Flushed with success, we moved onto a tiny upright. I’d placed this across the width of the arena, so our horses couldn’t gather speed before or after the obstacle.
The previous canter exercise now paid off. Both our horses popped over the upright calmly and in stride, on a circle in both directions.
The Grand Finale
With Cruz behaving so well, I decided to see if he was ready for one final exercise.
This one didn’t involve jumping: it meant facing his fear of horses coming towards him in trot and especially canter. I need to use every occasion which presents itself to work on the issue.
I positioned Cruz by the little fence he’d just jumped, where he would be facing the oncoming horse, and asked Christina to bring Peanut over it again in canter. This meant Peanut would momentarily be cantering towards Cruz before turning to pop the jump right next to us.
This was the moment of truth. I held the reins on the buckle and told myself: “If Cruz goes crazy, I’ll deal with it then. I’m not going to worry about it until it happens.”
Peanut was now rounding the arc of his circle and cantering directly towards Cruz. My bay pricked the one ear nearest to Peanut, and I felt a quick quiver go through his neck – not even his whole body. Then he relaxed as Peanut came round and finished the fence.
I was on cloud nine. “Do it again, would you, please?” I asked Christina. I had to make sure this was for real – that no one was pinching me!
This time Cruz didn’t even register the 17 hand stallion as he came towards him.
This was unbelievable progress for my horse and for me. He usually does a half rear and spin.
I aim to build Cruz’s confidence in me in these quiet yet playful ways and continue doing fun stuff which involves other horses.
As an example, next Saturday Christina and Peanut will accompany Cruz and me to a local cross-country venue. We'll splash about in the water jump which is open to the public for the day. There will be a lot of other horses milling around, and with Peanut’s help Cruz will stay relaxed.
Soon it will be time to focus more on preparing for dressage shows. And really, we’re already doing that, aren’t we?
P.S. Yesterday I splashed Cruz over the watery obstacles in readiness for Saturday. He LOVED it!
Update: I went to that cross-country water training. Christina couldn't get off work, so I joined a lesson instead at the same venue.
Cruz absolutely loved the Appaloosa-donkey in the group! He was very hesitant about getting in the water (which has a swimming-pool blue base) even though the other horses were milling around happily in it.
But the instructor talked me through it, telling me to look ahead at one of the riders standing in the water and nudge Cruz forwards at his elbows with my foot.
I was proud of him for not rearing or spinning round. He just kept backing up, then taking a few steps forward, then backing up again, etc.
I could feel he was about to lunge in and held my bucking strap for security. But I was told that this changes my position in the saddle. So I had to stop being a wimp and let go!
Eventually Cruz closed his eyes, held his nose and jumped in. It was not a huge launch as I'd anticipated. I patted him like crazy with a big grin on my face.
After that he was happy to trot and canter in.
What a great day!
A horse collectible site well worth checking out
A unique site, The Collectionary is dedicated to gathering the world’s collectibles into one fun location on the web, where you can discover the history, facts and special attributes of different items in your particular area of interest.
The word “collectionary” is a combination of “collection” and “dictionary” describing both the brand and purpose of the site.
What Is The Horse Collectionary?
One of several hundred Collectionary categories on the site, The Horse Collectionary displays unusual equine collectibles, some of which may evoke fond childhood memories. Maybe you’ve lost a beloved piece and will be able to find a replacement on this site.
There are currently more than 34,700 items to browse through!
As well as learning about these collectibles, you can locate them by linking to sites which sell the items.
Are You Knowledgeable About Horse Memorabilia?
The Horse Collectionary is looking for more moderators who are willing to help the collection grow.
So if you have a collection of unique horse keepsakes to share online or know where to find them, contact the folks at The Horse Collectionary – they would love to hear from you!
I came across Health Benefits of Riding in the UK, a report by the British Horse Society, which discussed among other things the gender of most horse riders.
As a female rider, I was pleased to have it confirmed that I'm ‘normal’ in the horse world, and that our sport benefits us as we get older :)
45 Is the New 16
While it is not ground-breaking news that most riders are women or that many older women are still riding or coming into the sport, the statistics do make for interesting reading.
93% of those who responded to the questionnaire were women, and 49% of those were women of 45 or above. (The UK national average is 37%)
The report notes that equestrianism is the only sport with this female age profile. Most sports are for younger women.
When asked whether they had ridden 12 times or more within the past month, the highest percentage were within the 16-24 year old category. No surprises there.
However, more than 50% in the 45-64 age range and 65-74 age range of women had ridden 12 times or more in the past four weeks.
This frequency only starts to drop off in the 75+ age group. A fact which I am quick to tell my husband, who vainly hopes that I’ll soon stop ‘this horse business.’ I’m in the 45-64 age range, and keep telling him that I intend to ride well into my 80s.
Which reminds me, I do want to read that book Still Riding at 80 by Helen Hills, in which she interviews twenty elder riders and drivers and was riding herself as at publication. It has 4.5 star reviews, so clearly resonates with many older horse people!
Horses = Poverty & Health & Happiness
Some of the survey respondents were adamant that riding improves their physical and mental well-being.
I love this quote from one lady:
“I am a fit 76 years and I am sure that as well as keeping me poor, (horses) help to keep me fit and happy. I can’t imagine life without them.”
I think she echoes the sentiments of all of us!
Another lady is 79 years old and has had her 29 year old horse for 21 years. She describes how he is a ‘great joy’ to her and that she ‘always feels happier after a ride.’
Horse Riding = Social Opportunities
The survey mentions that Age UK reports how the odds are double, that those over 65 years old spend 21 plus hours a day by themselves. Depression and illness are the inevitable results of such a lonely and isolated existence.
According to the questionnaire respondents, horse riding ‘may contribute to maintaining kinship and social networks among older participants and potentially avoiding isolation and loneliness.’
I’m inclined to say that there’s no maybe about it! I’ve had to move from country to country a great deal in my life, following my husband’s job. If it hadn’t been for my horses, even at a much younger age I would have felt isolated and lonely.
Horse riding provides an instant network of like-minded friends from all walks of life, with the common goal of enjoying their sport. Most of my best friends are fellow riders.
Equestrianism keeps the body fit, the mind active (there’s no slacking when you’re on a horse!) and creates common bonds with other riders. Mentally and physically, horse riding is so beneficial that it’s no wonder many women continue the sport well into their later years.
This is the last part in our series of articles looking at the best horse breeds for beginner riders. So far we’ve checked out great horses for the larger/taller and the medium weight and height beginner rider.
Now let’s discover the best breeds for smaller adults and children. Like those we’ve already seen, these have been chosen for their quiet temperament and ability to excel in many different disciplines.
8. Highland Pony
This beautiful pony usually ranges in height between 13 and 14.2 hh, but can be a little taller or shorter. He comes from the highlands and islands of Scotland, and is a hardy animal with a quiet, sensible disposition.
This, plus his excellence in dressage, jumping, eventing and driving, makes him an ideal family pony. The Highland is very athletic and famous for his calm level-headedness. He is capable of carrying a child or a small adult.
Crossed with Thoroughbreds, he produces a great warmblood type.
Highland Pony manes and tails are long and thick, and their lower legs carry some feather. The usual colors are grey and various shades of dun, although black, bay, and chestnut can also be found. A white star is acceptable in purebreds, but white markings are not considered correct.
Resources for Highland Ponies:
Highland Pony Society in Scotland
Scottish Highland Pony Association of North America
Images of the Highland Pony
Highland Ponies for Sale (U.S.)
Highland Ponies for Sale (U.K.)
9. Dales Pony
This pony is described by the Dales Pony Society of America as ‘the great all-rounder’ and ‘a strong, active pony, full of quality and spirit, yet gentle and kind.’ He is very calm and courageous, with great intelligence.
Able to easily carry heavy adults, Dales Ponies are sweet enough to carry children. They have a quiet temperament and are usually great in traffic, since they do not panic in awkward situations, and are extremely sure-footed.
The versatile Dales Pony makes a good jumper, dressage performer, eventer and endurance partner. He has tremendous stamina and staying power.
Originally from the Dales area of England, near the Scottish border, this hardy breed has silky feathers on his legs, and a long mane and tail. Dales Ponies stand between 14 – 14.2hh and their normal colors are black or brown, with some greys and bays and the occasional roan. A star or snip on the face is acceptable, and white markings only on the hind legs, reaching up to the fetlocks.
Resources for the Dales Pony:
The Dales Pony Society (U.K.)
The Dales Pony Society of America
Dales Ponies for Sale
Images of Dales Ponies:
10. Dartmoor Pony
This little guy stands at 12.2 hh and his excellent temperament makes him an ideal children’s first pony. He is calm and friendly, and perfect for jumping, driving and showing. He lives a long time and can also be ridden by adults.
Although still considered a rare breed, Dartmoors are becoming more popular in America now due to their wonderful disposition and quiet dependability.
True Dartmoors are only bay, brown, black, grey, chestnut or roan, with no piebalds and skewbalds (paints), and no excessive white markings. He has a full, flowing mane and tail and is a very attractive riding pony of sturdy build, yet shows quality.
Resources for the Dartmoor Pony:
Dartmoor Pony Society (U.K.)
Dartmoor Pony Registry of America
Dartmoor Ponies for Sale (U.S.)
Dartmoor Ponies for Sale (U.K.)
Videos of Dartmoor Ponies for Sale U.S. and U.K.
Don’t touch Welsh Mountain Ponies (Section A) or Shetland Ponies if you’re a beginner who wants to ride off the lead rein!
I hope this list has been useful to you in helping you find that perfect first horse or pony to give you confidence as you begin your fun journey into the world of horse-riding.
Horses are my big obsession, and I'm constantly striving to get better, smarter and more in harmony with my equine buddy, Cruz Bay.
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