Lesson Recap: The Diagonal Pair

It’s no secret I love getting lesson from Brett Parbery, I was fortunate to meet Brett when he hosted his first Intelligent Riding Retreat back in 2016. (umm, wow, where has the time gone!) Which has been one of the biggest game changes for my training to date.

I had my first actual lesson from Brett early in 2018 through Sydney Dressage Club, which I haven’t really looked back since! I always try to get a spot on these super popular clinics, if you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend. You won’t regret it 🙂

Lesson Diagonal Pair

I thought I would do a mini re cap on our lesson, as I hope it would also shed some light for other Standardbred riders out there whom are experiencing the same training bumps as myself.

If you are a dedicated reader and have viewed over some of my other posts, you will know my history with Standardbreds and how I am a firm believer that they are born to pace. Meaning they are a 5 gaited breed, not a 4 gaited breed like most other riding horses. If you haven’t checked out my mini-series on the Standardbred Myths, sit down with a coffee and have a read! Part 1 and Part 2.

Out of all the Standardbreds I could have chosen on the property; I chose Arnie to re-educate and ride. His always had a lovely temperament and loves going places and being centre of attention. However, he is probably the one horse on the property that literally paces the most! At the end of the day it is natural for them to do it! We as riders just have to show them when and where to do so.

I was super pumped for our lesson last weekend, because we didn’t have the most positive week prior. You see, I entered a protocol day the week before our dressage competition, which was a week before the clinic. I went to the protocol day with lots and lots to work on for our competition the weekend following.

As I was riding during that week, I couldn’t paste it all together properly and I felt like I wasn’t riding well at all. I didn’t want to drive all the way down to the competition after a bad week and knowing I wasn’t giving my horse the best possible chance of doing well.  I decided to scratch and then re-focus on the lesson the following weekend.

There were two areas of our lesson that we focused on, the first one, which was the main point from my struggles the week prior. Nailing the canter transition in the 2B, coming from the free walk, quickly gathering him trot then canter. I find him a bit difficult to gather! We worked on leg yields and cutting the corner slightly and leg yielding him over and then canter transition. Which really helped! Can’t wait to ride the test next!

The second area, which I really want to share with you is the transitions. You see, because Arnie likes to pace, he doesn’t pick up the diagonal pair quickly he puts in this little thing then goes into the diagonal pair. It worked hand in hand with the previous exercises. We focused on gathering him in the halt, by this we just let him soften and yield with the rein contact. Not to be pulling forward and against the rein aid. The aim was to see the upper part of his neck to relax. It’s a simple exercise to do whilst warming up or even during your training to help re gather and to start listening and waiting  a little more, especially if they get a little longer and become a little sticky/against the rein in the contact.

While working on these little improvements, we decided to try and get his stride in between the walk and trot happening a little quicker.

Here is a clip of this part of our lesson, there is some background noise but you can hear some of Brett’s commentary. I think his training system, horsemanship and philosophy is amazing, it is well worth a watch and listen to if you can hear!

What it means to be an Amateur Dressage Rider

In this day in age in our wonderful world of our beloved sport of dressage, we are fortunate enough to see the beginnings of the recognition of an Amateur Owner Rider division. The beginning of a new competitive edge with our fellow ambitious equestrians who look up to our fellow professional riders within the game.

But firstly, what really is an amateur?

Well, when we type it into our search engine the first hit we discover the meaning defined as a person who engages in a pursuit, especially a sport, on an unpaid rather than a professional basis’ my second hit reads ‘a person who is incompetent or inept at a particular activity.’

Personally, I feel as though both definitions sell us short. Because we don’t train and ride full time doesn’t mean we are not passionate about our sport. It doesn’t mean we treat this sport as a hobby that we can just pick up and leave at any time. It is full time around the clock, looking after our beautiful animals that we always put first.

I like to call it a lifestyle choice instead of a hobby for this very reason.

Amateur Dressage rider

What does it really mean to be an amateur owner rider?
  • 5am starts to feed your horse/s, if you’re lucky to not hit snooze on your alarm 5 times and head out to the stables on time to actually have a ride before you have your first coffee and your real work day begins.
  • If by some off chance (or maybe 3 during the week) to hit that snooze button to only have time to go out and feed your horse before going to work. It really sets you in a crappy mood for the work day! Look out co-workers…. Keep the coffee coming.
  • To arrive at work looking like you have been partying all night to have bits of feed in your hair, to mix it up from that helmet hair you rocked the day before.
  • To arrive at work after having a horrible ride to be grouchy at everyone for the rest of the day.
  • Pretending to be busy at work while scrolling through your daily search on Nominate for the upcoming competitions.
  • Talking to your non-equestrian co-workers smiling and agreeing with their boring conversations to only be thinking about your ride that morning, what sale is on at the moment for the latest gear or if the weather is changing and if you put the right rugs on when you left them this morning.
  • Prioritising your wages for lessons and competitions. If you’re lucky perhaps After Pay that new bridle you have been eyeing off.  Then to pay the bills.
  • Getting home late after tucking your horses into bed with multiple carrots after telling them how perfect they are.
  • Arriving home after spending time at the horses just in time to miss out on cooking dinner. (or is that just me!? Conveniently have to have a shower when it’s washing up time too?!?)
  • Spending quality time with your partner watching TV after a day at work to only be focused on visualising  your dressage tests for that weekend or to mentally plan out our competition schedule for the month.
    • Take my advice, only pick your phone up twice during the TV show, otherwise they will eventually realise your mind is elsewhere! Cover blown.
  • Instead of counting sheep to fall asleep you visualise riding down that centreline and tracking left perfectly like in the 2A.

I think it is fantastic that the dressage organisers are rewarding us fellow amateur riders with our own division. Us, what some would call crazy– people who live and breathe the sport who go to this ‘other place’ for the majority of the day to pay for our passion. We live and breathe the sport much like our fellow professional riders. Who we are incredibly fortunate to be inspired day in and day out by their work ethic.

But let’s face it, this is our lifestyle. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

My Top 5 Stable Products

Top 5 stable products

I’m going to be completely honest, I may possibly be described as an impulsive buyer. I mean in this day in age it can be so easy to have multiples of certain types of product. Especially when you’re shopping online, and your eyes light up when you see that After Pay icon!

When your other half asks how much the new rug costs you can easily assure them it was only $50. With that voice inside your head whispering $50 fortnightly repayments.. Or you can just get everything shipped to your work address and they wouldn’t know any better!

But that’s not what this post is all about!

Firstly, I would like to be crystal clear.

The below products I’m discussing I am no way shape or form affiliated with them. I’m recommending them because I honestly love using each and every one of them. I use these products on a daily basis, they are part of my stable and work routine. Sharing is caring, and I have this fascination about what other products people use in their daily stable routine.

 

Therapy Rugs

I’ll gladly admit my rug wardrobe isn’t extensive. It is limited to the basics. A while ago I was doing some research on different therapy rugs. Not that Arnie has any obvious issues, I’ve always wanted to ensure I do the best by him and do everything I can physically do to help him.

I purchased the Rambo Ionic Stable Sheet and honestly haven’t looked back. He wears it at night while stabled and occasionally out in the paddock during the day (when his friends play nice and don’t want to destroy it!!). It’s also the first thing I put on him once I finish working him. Since I purchased the Ionic rug earlier in the year, his work has improved. He is really starting to work beautifully over his back and carrying more weight behind.

Plus, I find it a great rug to put on before warming up at a competition and also in-between tests.

It may not entirely be the rug, but it has contributed towards our improvements! Plus, doesn’t he just look gorgeous in it!?!

Top5 stable products

Magn8 Therapy Boots

Now these boots are an oldie in my stable but a goodie. I use them all the time. Race horses and riding horses. I absolutely love them, literally my rock when it comes to anything. Any slight sign of an issue and I put them straight on.

The magnetic boots are also perfect when stabling during those horrible winter rainy days. It keeps the circulation going to reduce any sort of stiffness or puffiness.  Even travelling to competitions or clinics I put them on.

Couldn’t tell you when I purchased these boots! It was many, many years ago. But, the Magn8 boots are the best. I purchased them from Stable8, who also make amazing show rugs.

Precision Equine- Muscle Bars

At times I can be sceptical about different feeds, often hearing conflicting reports. To find out you wasted your money.  But after reading all the reviews, I thought to go all in when I was looking at the Precision Equine site. I purchased the Intense Show Prep Pack. Which consisted of 6 Muscle bars and a packet of Intense Tissue Repair.

Top 5 Stable Products

Haven’t looked back.

Super stoked on how Arnie went on the Intense Show Prep Pack, I’m not the best before and after photographer but I can see a massive difference.

Top 5 Stable Products

I still feed Arnie the Muscle Max Bars, I don’t think I would get out of the stables in one piece if I didn’t! I adjust the amount of the bar to what work he gets. I even purchased my second Intense Show Prep Pack for my young horse, half way into the pack and I can see a big change in her body. Its amazing.

Precision Equine has definitely been one of the main changers in my stables this year.

MP Gloss Products

I’m a bit precious when it comes to shampoos, I do enjoy trying new things and I am heavy handed! Note to self, don’t ever try and dye a horse again 😉 I always try and get something that not only smells great but also gives a super shine.  Oh and of course a good clean!

Before any competition and everything in between, I always use the MP Diamond Gloss Body Wash. It smells amazing, trust me! Not just smells amazing while your are washing, but still smells amazing the next day!

For the rare occasions I step out in the show ring I also use the MP make up range. I wish I had back in my showing days. Super easy to use and don’t need much at all, so it lasts literally (well for me) a good amount of shows!

Top 5 stable products

Work Boots

Some girls have an obsessive shopping disorder when it comes to fashion and shoes. Some equestrians will admit they have a rug obsession or perhaps a bridle/browband obsession. Mine is boots.

More sparkles the better. They have to be white, blue or green. Maybe not all on the one boot 😉

But, they must do the job. I have many boots, draws in fact. I use a few different types of boots pending on what I’m doing and where I’m working the horses.

I purchased my HKM work boots many moons ago, they are still going strong this day. Super easy to tack up, un tack and clean.

I have several tendon boots, each are all different. I love my Maxwell Equestrian work boots. I’m trying to save these pretty white ones for clinics, warm up at competitions. They are super strong and won’t be breaking anytime soon.

Top 5 stable products

Bell boots are probably my weakness! I tend to use ones with the sheepskin, I feel like they are more comfortable for the horse. I love my Woof Wear bell boots the best. Strong, nice and soft around the top for the horses comfort. I’ve been using mine for a fair while now without any damages.

Top 5 stable products

What products do you use part of your daily training routine? Would love to hear them!

Happy Riding 😊

The Training Plan

The Training Plan

I’ll be the first to admit I used to have a horrible plan when it came to organising my weekly sessions. Even more so when they were leading up to a competition. I used to drill, drill and drill until I stressed myself out, made the horse tense and then felt like throwing in the towel for that weekends competition.

Perhaps have a little sob on the inside… and outside.

It can be so easy to spiral down into a rut when you feel under pressure. I haven’t been into the competition arena for over 7 months, while this might not seem like a long time for some it was an extremely long time for me! I’ll be honest, I didn’t have a perfectly planned week leading into it. But it worked out pretty well on the day.

Why?

Because I didn’t stress out. I stuck to my usual weekly plan.

I had a paddock ride on the previous Sunday, Monday was a day off, Tuesday was a lunging session, Wednesday I had a super ride in the arena, Thursday was day off, Friday was a lunging day as was Saturday.

Things come up during the week and the days get shifted around or I simply run out of hours in the day.

The day of the competition I made sure I got on and had a good strong walk around the indoor to warm up, followed by a forward trot and canter. Then I ran through our transitions within the trot and canter. Made sure he felt positive, forward and was listening to my aids.

The training plan

My goal on the day was to score over 60% and I achieved this goal. I felt focused, I felt like I rode positively towards that goal. Of course, there is always something to work on and to strive for better marks, a few miscommunications and not well-prepared transitions during the test. But that is what this sport is all about, setting a plan to achieve your goals to progress through the levels.

Ideally my weeks would be to ride 3-4 times a week, lunge at least 2-3 times a week with 1-2 days off. Of course, being an amateur owner/rider, the days can change with work and weather etc. The days I ride I mix it up between the arena and the big paddock. I don’t like to do the ‘same thing’ two days in a row. Mixing it up is beneficial to the horses’ mind and body.

The training plan

 

It is all part of our training system that we are forever evolving and shaping into something better. Every rider is different, every rider runs their stable differently and every rider trains differently. But we are all in this sport together, wanting to achieve our goals and become better riders to advance up the levels and get the best out of our horses. While keeping them fit, healthy, happy and enjoying the work.

the training plan

 

I honestly enjoy reading about other riders training systems. How many days a week they work the horses, what kind of work, what body work the horses have, what training gear they use, how they recover the horses after the work and what they focus on with their horse within their weekly routine. I find it so fascinating finding out even the smallest detail of the way they run their own stable.

When you really think about it, it is everything and everyone involved who contribute towards your training system, your weekly plan and your success to achieving your goals.

For me most importantly besides the training aspect, I ensure our horses body work is once a month. Which, since setting their body work on a regular basis. I can see a huge difference not only in their performance but also in their posture and their work ethic. I also have set homework of stretches for the horses to help improve between their sessions. But I have to admit, I do try and be an A+ student! ? it truly is satisfaction seeing the horses improve between visits knowing how well you have been doing your homework!

So.

How does your training plan look? Do you have a plan, do you wing it, do you feel stressed out week after week or simply play it by ear?

I’m one of ‘those’ people who enjoy reading a book that as paper pages, I enjoy printing things to highlight important details. That why I have a small basic planner to help you think about your weekly aims and goals. I find it beneficial to sit down and put pen to paper and write out things.

The basic weekly planner can be downloaded from here, completely free! It is emailed directly to you after check out! (it’s my way to keep tabs on how many are downloaded ?, any problems let me know and I can send it to you directly!)Basic weekly training planner

 

Most Common Myths Surrounding the Standardbred: Part 2

I enjoy writing and sharing my insights about what I am passionate about, anything Standardbred and dressage I can chat all day. It is important in our sport that we are a supportive bunch of individuals, this is why I find it incredibly frustrating reading and listening to people putting down and creating a negative environment surrounding the Standardbred.

I previously posted about how Standardbreds are trained to pace and trained not to canter in Part 1 of Common Myths Surrounding the Standardbred. I discussed my insights about how the Standardbred are naturally a 5-gaited breed. Thanks to the scientists at Sweden’s Uppsala University, who discovered the gene called DMRT3. In turn, allowing the Standardbred to have the natural ability to pace.

Standardbred Myths

Personally, I feel every myth surrounding the Standardbred stems from myth #1 Standardbreds are trained to pace and trained not to canter. This cloud of misconception hangs over almost every aspect with Standardbreds after racing.

Personally, I feel every myth surrounding the Standardbred stems from myth #1 Standardbreds are trained to pace and trained not to canter. This cloud of misconception hangs over almost every aspect with Standardbreds after racing.

I wanted to discuss what I personally feel is the second biggest myth surrounding the Standardbred.

Standardbreds will never make a competitive mount.

Discussion purposes, let’s just assume 95% of people who have this brain wave of ‘Standardbreds will never make a competitive mount’ believe this because the horse is a ‘Standardbred’ meaning they pace. Which, they believe they will always pace and nothing else. They only believe they will be good trail horses or anything in a ‘non-competitive’ event.

Then the remaining 5% are individuals who aren’t on any of our Christmas card list, they just dismiss anything or don’t even have a second thought about it.  Closed book, Standardbreds don’t exist.

Rather than laying the facts out explaining that the Standardbred is naturally a 5-gaited breed and they have the capability (like any other breed) to trot, canter and gallop. I thought to discuss how to successfully show the 95% can be a competitive mount, as they say a picture is worth 1,000 words.

Because, guaranteed to any Standardbred owner you know your horse has what it takes to hold themselves in any show line up, in any dressage arena, in any endurance ride and even out there eventing. You know from firsthand experience how trainable, quiet and willing the breed really is.

How to successfully make your Standardbred a competitive mount?

I’ve picked a few main areas on how to make your standardbred into a competitive mount, how to reflect your hard work and make them be noticed in a positive way to the wider equestrian community. Turn heads and make everyone take notice on how great the Standardbred can be. These areas are what I feel are very important, not just for Standardbred horses but for any breed of horse.

It all starts from the beginning

Most of the Standardbred’s that we acquire have not been started under saddle or they have only had a few rides. Don’t be despondent, the Standardbred is already broken into harness. They have been mouthed, long reined, driven, floated, cross tied, worked with other horses. All the basic work has already been put into them. It is at this point of their changing careers, the saddle is introduced, the leg aids are introduced, the weight is shifted from being pulled to being carried on their backs.

It is at this stage I encourage (from personal experience):

  • Patience
  • Hard work
  • Patience
  • Hard work
  • Patience
  • Enjoyment

Balance is the main area I would set my focus. I too often see horses out that aren’t balanced, running forward and on the fore. I just love reading anything from Kyra Kyrklund, if you are after a good read about balance I strongly recommend visiting Dressage Today’s website to read all about her ‘smaller steps for greater balance’.

Don’t rush to take your horse out under saddle, it’s no longer a race! Don’t take them out until they are ready. If you are going to be showing, don’t take them out until they have a nice balanced walk, trot and canter (3 beat), smooth transitions in and out of canter. Same if you are going out to compete in dressage, know your test, if it is preparatory ensure you have a nice balanced walk and trot with smooth transitions.

Training is the Number 1 area no matter what level rider you are or what level your horse is at, everyone needs a good coach. A genuine set of eyes on the ground to assist with your journey. I hear too frequently how riders are put off asking for coaches for lessons because they have a Standardbred and are worried they may be rejected for a lesson for it. I feel extremely blessed to have (who I feel) are the best coaches I have access to for lessons, the amount of hours in the saddle during these lessons are invaluable. Not once throughout my career have I had any rejection or negativity from coaches, if you are willing to learn and progress your riding there won’t be anyone stopping you.

A few friendly tips to help change the 95 % perspective:
  • A picture says 1,00 words, so train and work hard at home before you have your first outing
  • Get a good coach, EA has a list of qualified coaches (dressage and showing) in your area.
  • You are never too good to learn
  • Negativity makes you ugly, ignore any hate. We all have our bad days just keep working towards your goals.
  • Enjoy your small successes as much as the large ones
  • Never think that because you ride a Standardbred you are disadvantaged
  • Professionalism goes a long way

What is your Riding Ambition? – Equestrian Blog Hop

I’m delighted to join in and be part of this month’s Equestrian Blog Hop run by Bridle & Bone. The topic for November is, what is your riding ambition? Do you have one? As I sat down and thought about what my riding ambition is and if I have a riding ambition, I started doing a little research and reading about ambitions.

 

Ambition is defined as “a true desire to do or achieve something”. Now, after some reading I believe if you have a passion, such as riding, there is no doubt that you would have a desire to go out and be with your equine partner. You do have ambition and desire to achieve the best you can.

“Ambition and love are the wings to great deeds”- Goethe.

You could say my ambition started from an early age. Being surrounded by horses, riding and competing at shows, qualifying for royals. The desire to achieve my best in the show ring soon developed into my harness racing days. My ambition shifted to become a better driver and achieve the best for the horse. Again, my focused shifted as I made the change to get back in the saddle again after a break. This is when I found dressage, which has become my love and passion ever since. I have found a discipline that allows my riding to grow and develop into a better rider.

Arniwho Riding ambition

The early morning alarms, saddling up while the sun is rising just so I can get a good 30-minute ride in before heading off to work. Walking through the front door after the sun has gone down after exercising horses after work. Falling asleep on the lounge after dinner while watching TV. Non-equestrians really sit there scratching their heads wondering why on earth we do it and what possibly could we gain out of it.

Love is why we do it, ambition keeps our head in the game. The ups and downs, tears and laughter, equestrians wouldn’t have it any other way. No matter what discipline we are all set out to achieve something.

 

Riding Ambition

For me where I am with my dressage journey, no matter how far down the path I go. It’s the burning desire to become a better rider that keeps me heading on my merry way. The path will never come to an end, you will never stop learning. Most importantly, you are never too good to learn.

How do I stay on the path? I have two main things that help me.

First one, I currently I have 12-month goal set out on a poster written up the very top. I have the months broken down underneath in headings, I plan out parts of the 12 months. Such as, lessons, competitions, time off, body work etc. Basically the building blocks heading towards that end goal.

Second one, surrounding myself with like minded people. Whether you surround yourself with positive like minded friends or even having your social media feed positive and inspiring. Chatting to the other dressage girls inspiring and motivating each other to keep striving to do our best each ride. Or simply following the top riders and trainers in our sport, aiming to be that person you follow religiously online.

 

It begs the question, what are your riding ambitions? What is your burning desire with your equestrian partner?


My Trip Across The Ditch

My trip across the ditch

 

Earlier this year the family purchased 3 lovely fillies from the Yearling Sales in Christchurch, all 3 lovely fillies and 3 very different fillies! Making our latest team 5 Kiwis in total, sounds like we have an addiction! I was fortunate enough to hop back on the plane across the ditch and see how they were going after the breaking in prep. With New Zealand winters not favouring the horse training, a little too cold and wet. It was nice to see the fillies back in work after their winter holiday, still a little scruffy with their winter coats.

trip across the ditch

Friday

I arrived in Christchurch on a beautiful Friday afternoon, sun shining, spectacular clean crisp New Zealand air. We are so fortunate to live in this part of the world, especially when Middle Earth is only a 3-hour flight away.

We were in for an absolute treat on the Friday night with Addington races having a table in the members room with beautiful food and watching an action-packed race night. It was a spectacular experience, especially witnessing the running of Heat 3 for the Sires Stakes series. It was amazing to see Chase Auckland get the win in the heat, who went on to win the final. You can see Chase Auckland’s Heat win here on Harness Racing New Zealand website.

We retreated for an early night after the ninth race knowing we had a jam-packed Saturday!

trip across the ditch addington

Two reasons for the trip across the ditch, first one was to see our fillies and how they are developing after their breaking in prep. But also, to have a peep at Equidays NZ and to sit in on an incredible masterclass with Kyra Kyrklund. You can read all about the recap here with Kyra in my earlier blog post here.

Saturday

With Christchurch weather still on our side on the Saturday morning, it was time to drive some fillies! We watched Spider (Betterthencheddar) a nice little compact filly with a striking part white tail- workout first. At this point with her training she can be a little head strong and is a little opinionated!

trip across the ditch spider
Spider

Next, it was Libby (Sportswriter) and Misty (Shadow Play) turn to work out, I managed to steal the drive on Misty. I became rather attached to this big black girl this trip. I had an amazing experience driving Misty first up on Saturday, pushing her through a few gears with Libby. Who might I add was exceptional to watch, Libby has an amazing turn of foot. She really does look impressive when she finds that next gear!

trip across the ditch misty
Misty

I defiantly chose the right horse for me, managed to get the phone out for a quick snap on the way back in!

 

Trip across the ditch Misty Shadow

 

 

We also had a treat to see a filly who was only born several hours earlier! This stunning little girl is half sister to Spider.

 

To top off a wonderful horse day in Christchurch we visited Equidays, a pre- visit to Kyra’s Masterclass on the Sunday and to do a little shopping. I purchased a snazzy new Spooks vest and bought a matching pink one for my mother who was unable to join us on the trip. We finished off an amazing day with an absolute feast at the local Tai Tapu pub! If anyone is travelling to that area, I highly recommend the pork belly. ?

Kyra Masterclass

 

Sunday

As it was only a short trip across the ditch, when Sunday rolled around, yet another beautiful clean crisp day. I knew it was going to be a jam-packed day. First up we attended Kyra Kyrklund’s Masterclass at Equidays, full details can be viewed here on the previous blog.

I was excited to take the reins on Misty again on day 2, she is such a straight forward filly to drive. Leading the way out on the track with Libby on my tail we pushed the fillies through the gears. We were extremely impressed how the fillies worked today. I was very chuffed with Misty, we both performed better together today over our first drive together on Saturday .

 

trip across the ditch
Misty and Libby

I just can’t believe how wonderful Christchurch’s weather can be, we were incredibly fortunate to experience sunshine over the weekend. Some of our previous visits all we have had is rain, wind and more rain!

Can’t wait for the next trip next month to take the reins with the fillies again! 🙂

Most common myths surrounding the Standardbred: Part 1

common myths surrounding the standardbred

I have long wanted to write about the most common myths about Standardbreds. Having grown up my whole life around them, enjoyed seeing their whole life. From breeding, breaking in, race prep, racing, retiring and starting under saddle.

Which I consider myself fortunate to be a part of many aspects of the breed during their life. I have an understanding about the breed, the mechanics of the breeding and have an understanding and respect for training after racing. Which is the main reason why I have held off for so long on having my opinion about what I believe are the myths about the breed.

Common myths surrounding the standardbred
All Smoked Up and half brother All The Rhythm

I’ll be honest, it used to grind my gears reading the absolute hogwash on social media about the breed. It is unfortunate to witness this hype as many people out there that know little about the breed are quick to pass judgement.

I have learnt to just keep scrolling past, when it comes to any discipline with horses you always are going to find people who are completely left field to yourself. You must learn to respect their way of thinking and way of training, and just put your block eyes on, keep hustling and focusing on your training system and your own horses.  For me this has taken a lot of time and self-discipline to be able to achieve.

So, I thought to myself, why not just put these myths on the table for discussion. I wanted to break down what I believe are the top three myths surrounding the Standardbred over three separate posts. Covering each myth in a bit of detail. I have previously posted a quick overview on the origins of the Standardbred, which I always find fascinating!

-Most common myths surrounding the Standardbred-

-Standardbred’s are trained to pace and trained not to canter-

I hear this one way to often.

To begin, Standardbred’s are a 5-gaited breed. Walk, trot, pace, canter and gallop, naturally they can canter without difficultly. The standardbred is a special breed of horse, thanks to scientists at Sweden’s Uppsala University who discovered a gene called DMRT3. Explaining how Standardbred’s have this DMRT3 gene which allows them to have the ability to pace. New York Times has an interesting article about the discovery of the DMRT3 gene.

Over the last few years learning about self-discipline also my own personal development with my training system, my reaction has changed. I used to dismiss such claims that ‘Standardbred’s would never make a riding horse as they do not have the ability to canter’.

But as I have learnt we are all different, we all have our own views nowadays, I just nod and smile and keep on scrolling on social media. If life has taught me anything thus far, all riders train differently and all horses learn differently. However, you cannot go past the fact that scientifically the horse is a 5-gaited breed.

I hear this comment from two different groups.

One, people who are not involved with the breed and have formed a misconception of the Standardbred.

Two, people who are involved within the breed but only from an “after racing” situation.

What we should remember (or learn for any new Standardbred fans) is when the Standardbred is in race training they’re not hoppled seven days a week forced to pace around and around the track forever and a day. Depending on the trainer and where the horse is up to with its training, they can be “fast worked” 2-3 times a week.

This is mixed up during the week with various training such as incorporating jogging up, swimming, galloping and a day off etc. With the various exercises the Standardbred becomes a fit athlete, capable of trotting, pacing, cantering and galloping.

I believe that many Standardbred riders out there are all individually trying hard to promote the breed with life after racing.  That’s why it is important that we support each other with our journeys, because it is damn hard to get the rest of the equestrian community to sit up and take notice. Especially to take you seriously in open competition.

common myths standardbred

Looking forward to sharing the next two parts to common myths surrounding the Standardbred.

Happy Training ?

Lessons learnt during our September competition

Arniwho APD

What a month September was, time as seriously flown by. I was fortunate enough to attend the SPPHA NSW Training Day with Kate Taylor-Wheat, Kate is our coach who I try and have lessons with at least every 2-3 months (time slips away a little too much!). I always look forward to a lesson, I love to see how far we have come from our previous lesson and where we are currently at working towards our goals. Plus Kate makes Arnie feel very clever! Such an amazing horse to work with. During the beautiful day at Suntori Park at the SPPHA NSW training day, we worked through our lengthening movements. You can read the full lesson recap here. ?

So, when it came to our competition the following weekend I was more than ready to set my goals! I entered two unofficial Novice tests with 3 main points in mind.

  1. Improve our scores with our lengthen trot
  2. Improve our scores with our lengthen canter
  3. Improve our marks for the 10 m trot circles and 15 m canter circles.

I’m so proud that we managed to tick 2 out of the 3 off from our competition! We improved our lengthen trot to get both 6 & 6.5 in our tests put a smile on my face! Our circles were pretty sharp also ?

Unfortunately,  while I was reading over my test paper beside the car before we left the grounds this sad feeling came over me when our overall score sunk in. I thought Jesus, can I not catch a damn break. Why can’t I get a better score? Our tests felt better, I feel like we are slowly turning a corner and getting somewhere. I’ll admit, it did take a few extra minutes (or maybe it was the car ride home) to evaluate the test and realise what areas really let us down.

It was point number 2. Our lengthen canter. In a novice test, you are scored on the lengthen canter but also on the transition back to working canter. If you don’t show a nice bold lengthen canter,

A) you won’t achieve a great mark and,

B) because of point A, you won’t get a great score for your transition back to working canter.

When I saw a nice 7 and 6.5 then followed by a 5 or even a 4, its EXTREMELY deflating. BUT what I set out to achieve at the competition I managed to score better than my previous competitions. While i was reflecting back on our rides during the day I realized it’s one of the main reasons why I love training and competing in dressage, I have my goals each competition that I wish to achieve. To keep training and improving our work to keep ticking our goals off! I always have to remember at the end of the day, did I achieve everything I set out to achieve?

Arniwho APD

I appreciate techniques of different sportsman and sportswomen, I follow and read about so many different individuals… Including Rugby players. What I love is the different techniques and how I can apply them into my riding and competition training. I mentioned briefly in my previous post “what’s on my book shelf” about Richie McCaw. Huge fan, naturally own his book and watched the movie Chasing Great. The most important thing I learnt from his movie is how he mentally prepares for each match.

I adapted it to suit, I mean I can’t convince the judge to take the 5 back and give me a 7 ? while smiling….. (non Kiwi rugby fans might get that!) Before each competition I go through my tests, the night before I write down key points on what I want to achieve. I have my overall score, and I also have key points such as the 3 mentioned above.

Arniwho APD Cuddles

How have everyone’s September panned out? Let us know!

 

Happy training 🙂

Why we need to hack out more

I must admit I do not hack my horses out as much as I should. But when I do, I find it the best therapy for both of us, mixing up our day to day work and heading out on a relaxing stroll.

Being from Australia I do envy seeing posts and photos circling around on social media from England and how they hack their horses out across the beautiful countryside. One day, this is on my bucket list, to go hacking like a true English lady across the countryside! However, until then I must hack out like a true-blue Aussie.

Now, there is a difference for me between hacking out and going on a trail ride. My trail ride I like to also refer it as ‘bush bashing’, I LOVE to make my own trail up to the top of the hill where it meets up to the main fire trail in the state forest. Hanging on the reins in one hand and pushing branches away with the other. Nothing quiet gets the heart racing and smile on the face. This takes a lot of effort and skill of the horse – and no doubt the rider too. I use this a completely different exercise. As it is quite physical, whereas my version of hacking out is a quiet stroll along the flat and a few hills. Keeping it relaxing and putting the horses in a different environment away from their usual arena work.

I’m sure I can relate to a few, day in day out arena work. Even though we might mix up our exercises throughout the working week we are still going around in that 60×20 arena. After a while it can start to feel mentally draining on the horse or even yourself, beginning to switch off and left wondering how you’re going to freshen up your work the next day.  It is important to keep everything in your training fresh and positive (because who wants to be a negative Nancy every day!). Adding hacking out once a week or even twice a week to your program helps to keep your horse and you as a rider mentally fresh. Take that break from the ‘normal work’, sit back and relax with your equine partner, enjoy the scenery, take a beautiful easy stroll around. When I hack my horses out it’s only ever at a leisurely walk. It’s relaxing and enjoyable to have no pressure, long rein, keeping them relaxed and happy. Getting them out of the 60×20, keeping their minds fresh, keeping the work positive. Happy horse, happy rider.

Hacking out is also a great way for your horse to become more confident in different surroundings. I am fortunate where I am situated, I have the advantage to hack my horses around the property and out on a quiet road. It’s fantastic exposure, seeing different environments. It was only the other morning on my ride along the road I said hello to a fellow neighbour who I doubt I’ve ever spoken to before in all my 20 odd years living along the same road. An energetic good morning is simply enough to make a positive start to the day. It was also a good experience for the horse as I now know he is completely fine with rubbish from a plastic bag being tipped into a big rubbish bin!

Hacking out is also beneficial to the horse’s fitness, if your horse is coming back into work, or even during their prep or towards the end of the prep before a spell. They’re interested in the new surroundings, motivated to work forward into the direction of the ride. Hacking them out over different ground, slightly up hill and along the flat helps them build and develop muscle.

Even if you only squeeze in a 10-15-minute hack out around the property or even down along the road. That is 10-15 minutes of a new relaxing exercise, enough to break up the normal work and recharge for the next day.

Now the question is, when was the last time you took your horse out on a hack?

why we need to hack out more