Saturday, May 26

Tack Addict Shopping Guide v. 4

Let the sporadic flood of blog posts commence! I'm in a writing mood these days, but the sun is shining. We'll see what wins out over the weekend ;) I just got a beautiful new bridle in the mail the other day...

It's really really really nice. You can buy one just like it here. This bridle has nice padding, nice quality leather, and roller buckles in all the right places. The stitching is neat and tight, and the leather is so soft and supple right outta the box. But the best part of this bridle is the price tag.... $50! Schneiders has quite a few options from the Premier brand, and, next time I'm in the market for a bridle, these are the ones I'll be buying. I have yet to actually use the bridle, so we'll see how it works at a later date, but it sure LOOKS nice :)

It's about time...

Before we get started, just wanted to say "Hey There" to all eight of my followers! Thanks for sticking with me through my sporadic spells of inspiration. I'll hit my rhythm one of  these days ;)

Recently, the TWH world has been in the spotlight. If you read my blog because you like me and not horses (Hi, Mom?), the short version is that there's a very popular type of show horse called the "Big Lick" Tennessee Walker , and the only way to get them to do what they do is by torturing and eventually crippling them.  See the ABC video and article for more info.

Here is A LOT of footage of the Big Lick walkers in action. Don't they kinda look like aliens? Two of the reasons people are outraged by the practices of Big Lick trainers are action devices and soring. Because of all the "civilian" attention this case is getting, I think it's about time we revisit a discipline that has been called out for completely unhealthy fads in the show ring, but has still not cleaned up its act. Western Pleasure has allowed ridiculous training and fads to win in the show ring, and while the style may change, the ribbons still encourage others to follow whatever is the winning style. Why would anyone going for a ride out in the pastures want their horse cantering with such a hook in his body that it's more of a crabwalk? Or is showing such a popular activity now that people breed show horses that need not even resemble what would actually be put to use in the real world? So, we are going to look at the similarities between Big Lick and Western Pleasure. Maybe people will get mad about this too!

Let's do a little comparison between these two and see what we can see

Big Lick has Soring. Trainers cover the lower leg with caustic chemicals, like deisel, and then they wrap the legs with saran wrap to make sure the chemicals get the skin good and tender. Then they put chains on the tenderized skin, which will repeatedly smack them as they move and, therefore, "encourage" their flashy gait. They also use huge platform shoes called stacks. These are extremely heavy and can warp the foot. Check out this post from a farrier about stacks on FuglyBlog if you'd like more information.

This video shows a few of the Western Pleasure problems that compare to soring. One is the "yank incessantly on the mouth while spurring" training method. This video got nearly unbearable at the two and a half minute mark. My goodness! While she's not necessarily pulling hard, it's almost incessant. That type of continuous nagging with the bit can do permanent damage to the tongue, not to mention make the whole mouth very sore. This gal seems to be fairly quiet with her spurs, but she's trying to get you to buy her how-to video. Maybe she's saving some of the really good tips for people who will shell out the cash? Some other methods to encourage the WP gaits are huge bits, draw reins, martingales, and hock hobbles. While these methods seem a little more humane than the TWH folks, many of these methods cause lasting damage to the horse and most do not remain sound.  

Hmm.. both disciplines drastically change their horse's gait in a way that actually causes harm??

Moving on...

This is a winning TWH Tail

This high tail set is sometimes achieved by "nicking" the tail, which is the nice name for slicing a tendon on the underside of the tail so that it can be held higher and look better(?!) in the show ring. They also strap them into these tail set contraptions to help the tail look more awesome. 
Sidenote: I have no experience with the above horse, and have no idea if that tail was nicked.. or set... or won anything for that matter.

Doesn't that look comfy for them to curl up in their stall with? 

This is a winning WP tail

Because stock horses have big ol' booties, fake tails have become very popular to hide the fact that many stock horses grow pathetically thin tails, and thus they balance the appearance of the horse. Why this matters, who knows? Fashion is an unruly beast! But the next tail shocker is the fact that it is fairly common for pleasure horses to have their tails blocked. The tail is injected with a chemical to temporarily "partially" paralyze it.  I've heard one reason for doing this was to stop the horse from carrying their tail away from their body. Apparently using their whole spine to move is out of fashion this year. Another added bonus is that these horses lose their ability to swish their tail when they are spurred by their rider.  This fad is not without censequence, if the injection site gets infected or the horse has a bad reaction for any number of reasons, they could die. More commonly, the effects may not wear off, the horse may lose hair at the head of the tail, or it may develop a kink in the dock.  Here is a photo of the aftermath of tail blocking gone wrong. 

I bet that cost more than it was worth....

Looks like both of these disciplines are willing to go to extreme measures to "improve" their horses' appearance. 

Here is a video of a class of 4 year olds at the Celebration last year. I think the canter is the most awkward one, but they all look like a strain on the horse.  The structures of the leg were not designed for the additional work of squatting down behind and carrying bricks on their feet in front like these horses are. 

Here is a video from a class at the 2011 AQHYA World Show. In my opinion, these horses don't look much more comfortable than the walkers. The main horse in this video looks like her booty hurts to me. 

As we've just seen, both of these disciplines promote gaits that are unnatural and affect the horses' long term soundness. 

While I know there is always a range of people involved in every discipline, nobody can deny that Big Lick and Western Pleasure have earned every bit of their terrible reputations. There is a major difference between these two disciplines that I should mention. While I feel there are people who actually care about horses in the WP industry, no horse loving person could ever do what the Big Lick weirdos do to theirs. Let's raise awareness people! Education is power and all that. 

Friday, May 4

Tack Addict Shopping Guide v. 3

For this installment, I'm showcasing not just a single product, but a whole line of great products!

Taken from the Thinline website: What makes ThinLine unique is its technology. ThinLine is an open-cell foam which moves shock, weight, and heat laterally across the pad.

These pads are great for absorbing shock, which makes the ride more comfy for us up in the saddle too, and are also reported to help saddles stay in place better. I've seen great results with my horses. s

What I love about the Thinline products is their great shock absorbing ability coupled with total ease of use. The rubbery material is super easy to wipe clean, and this stuff is built to last. I went through several pairs of smb's for my gelding who interferes while being ridden. 

Buying a pair of these awesome open front boots has saved me a ton of money in the long run. My gelding also loves them because they don't get as hot and itchy as his support boots did. 

I also have one of these awesome "saddle fitter" pads. 

The pockets allow you to add shims if you need a little more padding in a certain area. The fleece and construction on this bad boy are impressive. I feel I'll probably be using this pad for many years to come! 

Overall, my only complaint about the Thinline products is the price. They are definitely a little pricey, but with some good shopping, I've been able to find some great bargains! 

Wednesday, May 2

Training Spirit

This handsome young fellow is Spirit. He's a 5 year old TB that I have in for training. His owner plans to use him for trials, and my job is to make sure he's a perfect gentleman. He's very special to me because he was the first horse I started professionally. I put 90 days on him 2 years ago, and then he went home to grow up for a while. This photo is him on his first day back in training. 

Spirit has always been a pretty easy going fellow. Uncharacteristic of his breed, his biggest hurdle was creating forward energy. He would rather stand around for pets and cookies. Our re-introduction to riding went off without a hitch. He picked up the work routine again like he had never left the farm. BUT, he has been such a slug. Getting him to pick up a walk rather than a mosey was a project. He also spooks at the poles in the corner, and the corner with the mailbox, and when cars pull into the parking lot.

Needless to say, I was a little apprehensive about our first trail ride last weekend. After all, I'd only been riding him for 2 weeks (6 rides), and we were still having a lot of problems. It's not that he was terribly naughty in the arena, but he wasn't giving me a lot of confidence in his level headedness either. I didn't really have a choice, so I sucked it up and made my plans. I brought a whip in case of balking, two good horse companions to sandwich us in safety, and a good rope halter and lead in case we needed to do some ground work out on the trail.

We loaded up the horses on a pleasant Sunday afternoon and headed to the trailhead. This particular one only has parking on a wide shoulder of a fairly busy road, but that didn't bother anyone. Hallelujah!

Here he is, waiting patiently :)

As we set out, I was mentally prepared for a torturous battle in the woods, but boy was I in for a suprise. He. Was. Perfect. Not one jiggy step, not one spook, or even a refusal. He went up, over, and through everything I asked him to. Although, he did skirt the edges of puddles and mud in order to keep his little hoofies clean. The only time I dismounted was to go over/under a fallen tree that came up almost to his chest with a low hanging branch overhead. He even turned and approached the large, barking dog that we encountered. 

Sandwiched in between the more seasoned horses. 

We ended up riding for about two hours, and a great time was had by all! I think I've found Spirit's calling. Now just to adjust our arena rides for more success and less arguement. I think we'll spend more time working with obstacles and less time worrying if his circles are round and supple. 

Guapo, one of our trail riding companions, is ready to head home and eat dinner!