Beach Riding: What You Need to Know

August 20th, 2014

Galloping your horse along the surf, water splashing up around you as the sun sets – it’s on any rider’s bucket list. As summer draws to an end, some beaches will once again open up to horses. If you’ve never ridden your horse on the beach before, it’s an experience that you’ll definitely want to have at least once. Here are some ways to ensure that your first ride on the beach is a positive and enjoyable one.

Horse Ride on the Beach

Get Permission First

Before you plan a trip to a beach, make sure that it is open to horses during the time that you will be there. Some beaches close access to horses during the summer and then reopen during the fall. Riding access may be restricted to certain areas of the beaches – for instance, you may be able to ride along the shore but might be asked to stay off of the sand dunes for the protection of the plants and animals.

If you’ll be riding along a private beach, get the owner’s permission beforehand, and be sure you understand how far their property extends. It’s always a good idea to mention that you will clean up after the horses when asking permission to ride on a beach – just be sure to bring along a bucket and a pitchfork to follow through on your offer.

Ride an Experienced Horse

Riding along the beach can be frightening for a horse at first. If you have a horse who is experienced in beach riding, it may be best to ride him on your first time out. Alternatively, be sure to bring an experienced horse along with your horse who is new to the beach. The inexperienced horse will be able to follow the other horse’s calm cues and can be reassured by his presence.

Go With a Group

Definitely go with at least one other person when you’re riding on the beach. Going with a group is a great idea as long as all of the riders are in agreement about what you will be doing during the ride, such as whether the ride will only involve walking and trotting, or if it will involve cantering or galloping. Having additional people nearby can be helpful and reassuring, especially if either you or your horse are new to beach riding.

Go Slowly

Riding in deep sand is demanding of your horse’s muscles and legs. Your horse will tire more easily and can be subjected to muscle or tendon strains if he’s not used to riding in such a deep surface. Take your first few beach rides slow until your horse is conditioned enough to handle the sand. It’s also a good idea to ride down close to the water, where the sand is more firm.

Horse Off After

After your beach ride, be sure to hose all of the salt out of your horse’s coat to keep it from getting irritated. Clean your tack as well so that it stays in top condition.

Beach rides are a great experience and give you a chance to get away from the barn – once you take one, you can be sure you’ll want to do it again.

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The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games

August 18th, 2014

From August 23rd through September 7th, top equestrians and their equine partners will descend on Normandy, France to compete at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Participation in the World Equestrian Games is an accomplishment in itself, since horses and riders must prove themselves to be among the best in their country if they are to be selected to represent their nation.

The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games

The World Equestrian Games first began in 1990 as a way to bring together the World Championship event of each separate International Federation for Equestrian Sports (the Fédération Équestre Internationale, or FEI) discipline. Before the creation of the World Equestrian Games, each discipline’s World Championship was held separately. This often resulted in championships taking place in different countries. Thanks to the Games, the championships are now unified, allowing a country’s competitors and fans to support one another during the competition.

The first World Equestrian Games was held in Stockholm, Sweden in 1990. Since then, the Games have been held every four years, and are held on years that alternate with the Olympics. The first five sessions of the World Equestrian Games were held in European venues, including Rome, Italy; and Aachen, Germany. In 2010 the Games were held in at Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, leaving Europe for the first time. In 2014 the Games will return to Europe, taking place in Normandy, France.

Since the 1990 Games, the World Equestrian Games has grown as an event. The 1990 Games featured competitions in dressage, jumping, eventing, driving, endurance, and vaulting. The 2014 World Equestrian Games will offer competitions in those same disciplines, but with the addition of reining and para-dressage. Additionally, the Games will feature exhibitions of polo and horse-ball.

With every event, the World Equestrian Games continue to grow in popularity, having become the destination for horse enthusiasts and those new to horses, alike. The 2014 Games are expected to be attended by an audience of 500,000 and will be broadcast for 500 million TV viewers. Held within seven different equestrian venues, 1,000 competitors and 1,000 horses from 76 different nations will compete during the fifteen-day Games.

Aside from the Olympics, there is no other event where you’ll be able to see the top caliber of horses and riders that will be competing at the World Equestrian Games under one roof. The World Equestrian Games offer something for every equine enthusiast, no matter what discipline you ride. If you’d like to learn more about the Games, visit the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games’ website.

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Heels Down: Tips to Help

August 15th, 2014

Carrying proper weight in your heels is the foundation to a secure seat when riding, but many riders struggle with getting their heels down deeply enough. If you’d like to be able to drop your heels down further while in the saddle, we’ve got some great exercises you can try.

Heels Down Tips to Help

Check for Proper Leg Alignment and Stirrup Length

If you’re riding with an improper leg position, dropping your heels down will be difficult. Have a friend or trainer watch you as you ride to be sure that your ankle, hip, shoulder, and ear are all in line, and that you’re riding with the stirrup on the ball of your foot.

You will also want to make sure that you are riding with your stirrups at a proper length. Riding with stirrups that are too long will make it next to impossible to drop weight into your heels. Stirrups that are too short will cramp your legs and can force you into an unnatural, unbalanced position. When you take your feet out of the stirrups and drop your legs freely down your horse’s sides, the bottom of your stirrup should be about even with your ankle joint.

Focus on Toes Up

Sometimes we get so focused on dropping our heels down that the motion gets stiff and tiresome. Instead of drilling yourself on dropping your heels down, try thinking about bringing your toes up instead. Focusing on bringing your toes up can reduce the strain and tightness that you may feel when trying to drop your heels.

Ride Around the Horse

Visualization is a powerful tool when it comes to riding. Try thinking about riding “around the horse” – dropping your legs so that they encircle your horse’s sides. This visualization exercise can help you to lengthen and relax your lower leg, which will make it easier to drop weight into your heels and maintain a proper leg position.

Stand on Stairs

You may already be familiar with this exercise, but it’s a good one and bears repeating. When you’re not riding, you can work on stretching your lower legs and dropping your heels by standing with the ball of your foot on the edge of a stair and gradually sinking your weight into your heels as you drop them down. Be sure to hold onto a railing for balance whenever you do this exercise.

Stand in the Stirrups

When you’re in the saddle and your horse has warmed up, stand up in the stirrups as your horse walks around the ring. Focus on maintaining proper leg position and sinking your heels down as you drop your weight into them. Hold this position for as long as possible, then gradually lower yourself into the saddle while leaving your legs and heels in their current position. This exercise is a great way to reset and remind yourself of good leg and heel position during the ride.

It can take some time and work to get your heels down, but once you do you’ll be a stronger and more secure rider because of it.

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Calming the Energetic Horse

August 14th, 2014

If your horse just has too much energy and is too excitable, your first impulse might be to put him on a calming supplement. But before you reach for that supplement bucket, there are a few other things that you should try first that can make a big difference in your horse’s energy levels.

Calming the Energetic Horse

Increase Turnout Time

Too much time in a stall can lead to excess energy in any horse. Increasing the amount of time that your horse spends turned out can give him more opportunity to work off excess energy on his own. Try leaving your horse outside for as long as possible each day. If the summer heat and bugs are oppressive, then consider turning him out at night, if possible.

Also consider whether you want to turn your horse out with other horses. Being with a buddy or a small herd can provide your horse with mental stimulation and will encourage him to move around more.

Provide Regular Exercise

In the wild, your horse would be naturally moving about consistently throughout the day. Since we keep our horses in barns and stables, it’s important to provide them with regular exercise to compensate. Regularly riding, lunging, or round penning your horse can provide him with a way to positively channel his energy.

Giving an energetic horse a job to focus on can help him mentally, as well. As you ride or work your horse, be sure to provide plenty of variation in the routine. Ask for circles, changes of direction, and gait transitions. Putting a busy horse to work will productively use his energy.

Evaluate Diet

Diet plays a huge role in your horse’s energy level. What works for one horse will not necessarily work for another, so it’s important to evaluate each horse’s diet individually. Adjusting the levels of fat, starch, and fiber in your horse’s diet can affect his energy levels and his reactivity. Remember, you should only feed as many calories as your horse needs for his daily activity. Feeding excess calories results in excess energy and weight, neither of which your horse needs. Consider consulting with your vet or an equine nutritionist if you have questions about your horse’s diet.

Consider Calming Supplements Last

Calming supplements certainly have a place in treating horses who cannot be improved through dietary and exercise changes. Supplementing with thiamin and magnesium are popular methods of regulating a horse’s energy and calming the horse. Herbal supplements provide another calming option.

When calming an energetic horse, it’s important to evaluate all of the factors that play into a horse’s energy level, including his diet, exercise level, and turnout time. With careful evaluation and adjustments you can help regulate your horse’s energy and turn it into something positive.

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What You Need to Know About Tying Up

August 13th, 2014

Tying up, also known as exertional rhabdomyolysis, or ER, is a syndrome that affects the horse’s major muscle groups and tissues. When a horse is tying up, he can present as being unable to walk or move, since his body cannot control what would be normal muscle contraction and relaxation.

What You Need to Know About Tying Up


The symptoms of tying up can begin at the onset of your ride, but sometimes you won’t notice the symptoms until your horse has been cooled out and left to stand for a while. Common symptoms of tying up include stiffness, reluctance or inability to move, a shortened gait, and muscle spasms and cramps.

In severe cases, your horse might display signs of shock like increased heart and respiratory rates and collapse. If he is able to stand, he may do so in a hunched position, and his urine may be a dark, reddish-brown.

Tying up can be either sporadic or chronic. According to Kentucky Equine Research, A horse can tie up sporadically if he is demanded to perform at a higher athletic level than he is fit for. If a horse isn’t properly fit for the job that’s being asked of him, the exercise level can overstress his muscles and result in tying up. The overfeeding of carbohydrates can also potentially cause tying up.

Chronic tying up occurs in many breeds, and the reason for it is unknown. Theories include electrolyte or hormonal imbalances, and possibly selenium or vitamin E deficiency. It’s possible that the condition may be inherited.


Sporadic tying up can be treated with a variety of measures. If a horse is reluctant to move or is passing dark urine, you should call your vet immediately. The vet will likely give your horse pain medication and make sure that he is properly hydrated. He may prescribe stall rest with light walking, and a decrease in grain.

Chronic tying up is more difficult to treat, since its causes are not yet widely understood. Dietary changes and careful management may be effective, and some horses are able to be ridden or exercised if they are given a sedative before doing so.

Supplementation can also improve the frequency and severity with which a horse ties up. Horses that tie up sporadically can often go on to enjoy a full, active career. Practicing good equine management and spending plenty of time warming the horse up gradually can also improve tying up issues.

If you ever notice a horse tying up, you should treat it as an emergency and contact your vet. Do not force the horse to move, and try to keep yourself calm. Tying up can often be managed, especially if it’s only the first time that your horse has tied up.

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The Connemara Pony

August 11th, 2014

Have you heard of Erin Go Bragh, the talented pony stallion who was a top eventer during his prime? Erin Go Bragh competed at the Advanced level with Carol Kozlowski in 1998 and 1999, and Breyer Animal Creations made a model of the bay stallion in 1998. Holding his own against the larger eventing horses, Erin Go Bragh, a Connemara Pony, is just one example of the incredible talents of this hardy and athletic breed.

The Connemara Pony


In the wild, horses must adapt to their environments or the breed won’t survive. Such was the case with the Connemara Pony. Originating from the Connemara region of western Ireland, the Connemara Pony faced a harsh landscape of poor quality vegetation, rocky and steep terrain, and wet climate.

It’s hypothesized that the Vikings brought the Connemara to Ireland as riding horses. According to legend the Connemaras were on board the Spanish Armada ships when the fleet was wrecked off of Ireland’s coast in 1588. The legend states that after the wreck the Connemaras swam to shore and survived in the Connemara region’s wilderness.

Irish farmers captured and tamed wild Connemara Ponies for use on their farms. Mares were popular, since they could be bred and the foals could be sold. Connemaras pulled plows and carts, completing whatever work needed to be done. The breed’s strength and hardiness came into play, allowing it to excel under heavy work that many other breeds would have struggled with.

The Connemara was bred with Arabians, Hackneys, and Thoroughbreds to give the horses additional stamina and height. As the blood of outside breeds was increasingly introduced, breed enthusiasts became concerned about the breed’s lasting integrity. In 1923 the Connemara Pony Breeders’ Society was created to preserve the breed.


The Connemara is the largest of the pony breeds, standing between 13 to 15 hands high. It is typically found in gray, bay, brown, and dun coat colors. On occasion, other rarer coat colors can occur, such as palomino and black. The Connemara is a sturdy, surefooted, and strong pony. It has excellent endurance, is gentle, and is highly athletic.

The Breed Today

Since its origination in Ireland, the Connemara has proven itself to be an excellent riding pony and it now makes a popular mount for children, young riders, and adults. Connemaras are frequently talented harness horses, and many have natural jumping talent. They make popular show horses and are competitive in jumping, hunter, eventing, endurance, driving, and even western events. Today Connemaras can be found worldwide and breeding programs exist throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and Africa.

To learn more about the Connemara, visit the American Connemara Pony Society’s website.

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Should You Let Your Child Bring Home a Summer Camp Horse?

August 8th, 2014

Many riding camps offer campers the option of bringing home a camp horse at the end of the summer. Camps save on the upkeep costs of their horses, and some lucky campers get to enjoy having “a horse of their own” for the year until it’s time for the horse to return to the camp in the early summer. But is bringing home a camp horse a good option for your child?

Should You Let Your Child Bring Home a Summer Camp Horse

Horse Suitability

Before you agree to take home a camp horse, assess how suitable the horse is for your child. Does the horse have any physical issues that would limit his use? Is he a well-trained mount that your child can benefit from over the course of a year? Carefully consider the horse’s size, too – if your child experiences a growth spurt, will he or she still be able to ride the horse come spring?

Remember that you’re not essentially getting a free horse for the next nine months or so; you’ll have to pay for the horse’s upkeep. No matter if you have a barn of your own or if you will be boarding the horse at a local facility, the costs of keeping the horse will be significant. Therefore you will want to go over the horse in a manner similar to how you would evaluate a horse you were considering purchasing.

Winter Riding

When bringing home a camp horse, your child will probably have the horse for the fall, winter, and spring, depending on the camp’s agreement. The camp will require the horse to be returned by a certain date, usually a month or so before the first camping session starts. Therefore, a lot of your child’s riding time with the horse will take place during the winter. If you live in a cold climate, you will want to make sure that you have easy access to an indoor arena. If you don’t, the value of the riding time your child can get with the horse will be decreased.

In Case of Emergency

Before you agree to bring home a camp horse, discuss who is responsible for extra bills the horse incurs while it is in your care. You will likely be expected to pay for farrier work, but you should discuss who will pay the vet bill if the horse becomes sick or is injured. Are you responsible for the bills if the injury occurs while your child is riding the horse? What happens if the horse gets into a grain bin because his stall door is left unlatched? Go over the expectations of the agreement until you fully understand them, and make sure that everything is written into your lease agreement.

Bringing home a camp horse for the year can be a great learning experience for a child who doesn’t yet have a horse of his or her own. But your situation has to be right to make bringing home a camp horse worth the financial investment.

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Tips to Develop Your Horse’s Topline

August 7th, 2014

Is your horse’s topline lacking? A good topline both improves a horse’s appearance and makes it easier for him to carry himself properly. If you’re looking to develop and strengthen your horse’s topline, these exercises can help you do that.

Tips to Develop Your Horse's Topline

Before You Start

Before you begin working on your horse’s topline, remember that for these exercises to be effective, it is important for your horse to be supple, soft, and balanced. A horse who does not give to the bit or bend in his body will be rigid during these exercises, and if left unchecked the horse can use and develop the muscles that we don’t want him to, leading to improper muscling. If your horse does not yet travel in a soft, supple, and balanced way, then focus on training him to do so before you attempt to build up his topline.


Working your horse on the lunge line is a great way to develop your horse’s topline, but only if done properly and slowly. Side reins can help to guide your horse into an appropriate frame, but as when using any sort of training device, you need to take the time to introduce side reins carefully. Remember that the side reins should be a training tool, not something to rely on.

As you work your horse on the lunge, progress slowly. If your horse is not used to traveling in a frame, then doing so will be tiring for him. Start with short sessions only and change directions frequently. As your horse gains strength and his muscles develop, you can progress begin to ask more of your horse.


Working your horse over cavaletti requires that he be moving forward and carrying his whole body deliberately and carefully. Again, your horse should be in proper form when working over cavaletti. Consider working your horse over cavaletti both on the lunge line and under saddle.

Hill Work

Hills are excellent for developing your horse’s topline. Asking your horse to walk or trot up a hill with his head held long and low will strengthen his back and hindquarters and will work his whole body. Hill work can be strenuous, so always start with a level appropriate for your horse’s condition. For additional hill work ideas, see our blog post, “How to Use Hills to Your Riding Advantage“.


The act of backing up requires your horse to engage his hindquarters and lift his back, both of which can help develop his topline. Start by asking your horse to back up as far as he is willing. Then, with each ride ask him to back up a bit further. You can also back your horse up a hill for added difficulty.

Developing your horse’s topline is something that takes time, and can only be performed on a horse that already understands proper carriage.

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Tips for a Beautiful Tail

August 6th, 2014

Are you envious of other horses at your barn with long, full tails? While some horses and breeds are genetically predisposed to having thinner tails than others, there are a number of ways you can encourage fuller, healthier tail growth on your horse.

Tips for a Beautiful Tail

Start With Nutrition

The quality of your horse’s coat and his tail hair are closely linked to his health and nutrition. If a horse is not getting the proper nutrients, he will be unable to grow a full and healthy tail. Start by evaluating your horse’s current diet. You might consult with your horse’s vet or with an equine nutritionist to be sure that your horse is getting what he needs through his feeding program.

Remember that quality pasture and hay are a major part of your horse’s nutrition – if you haven’t had your hay tested recently, it would be a good idea to do so to better understand its quality. If you have poor pasture or hay that is lower quality, you may need to supplement your horse to ensure that his nutritional needs are being met.

Clean Regularly

Putting off the cleaning and detangling of your horse’s tail can leave you with a big job that can actually damage the tail. To minimize breakage and tangling of your horse’s tail, clean it on a regular basis. Remove shavings and any other debris, like clumps of mud, by hand. Then detangle any knots using your fingers to avoid breaking the hairs.

When brushing out your horse’s tail, don’t use a large, stiff brush – doing so can pull and break many hairs. Instead, opt for a small brush with flexible bristles, and take only small sections of the tail at the time. With each section, work from the tail’s bottom and progress upward as you brush out each part of the section. Using detangling and conditioning products can help to make a tangled tail easier to brush.

Consider Banging

Banging the bottom of a horse’s tail can help to give it a fuller appearance. When banging a tail, it’s a good idea to tie a polo or a sock around the base of the tail; doing so will help to replicate the tail’s carriage when the horse is in motion. Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut across the bottom of the tail, removing the bottom half inch of hair.

Tie the Tail Up

Tail hair breakage and damage can occur when your horse has a longer tail. Additionally, any horse can rub its tail or catch it on bushes, trees, or even stall sides or latches. Tying your horse’s tail up with a tail bag can keep the tail protected and clean, allowing it to grow. Similarly, mud knots can keep your horse’s tail from getting dragged through muddy pastures.

With a little effort you can help your horse’s tail to grow into its best condition.

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The Warrenton Horse Show Becomes a 115-Year-Old Tradition This Year

August 4th, 2014

The horse world was vastly different in the early 20th century. Warrenton, Virginia was famous for breeding and show hunters, and equine enthusiasts traveled to the area for the quality horses that were bred and trained.

The Warrenton Horse Show Becomes a 115-Year-Old Tradition This Year

In 1899, Warrenton horsemen Julian Kieth and Charlie Smith decided to hold a Warrenton horse show. They created the Warrenton Horse Show Association to oversee the new show, which would turn into not just one show, but a long-lived show series.

The first show was held on leased property on Culpepper Street and proved to be a great success. Given its popularity, the Association bought the property to use for future shows. Much like the first show, the succeeding Warrenton horse shows were popular and well-attended by competitors and spectators.

It is likely thanks to the deliberate planning of the show’s additional activities that the spectator turnout was so good. From the very first show, the Warrenton Horse Show offered a variety of entertainment in addition to the classes themselves. Pageants, luncheons, and displays meant that the show offered something for all attendees, and such activities became tradition.

Today it is that tradition that draws show attendance. With the mechanization of the 20th century, the interest in hunt clubs and hunter breeding that was present at the show’s creation has waned. However, the Warrenton Horse Show still remains a staple of the hunter world, and the Warrenton Horse Show Association is now the “oldest continuously operating corporation in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

The Warrenton Horse Show offers hunter classes for a wide variety of riders, ranging from children to adults. Since the show has been in existence for so long, some equestrians who competed at Warrington as children have gone on to watch their own children compete at the historic venue. The show serves as a debut for many local young riders.

Sunday nights at the show are particularly popular. Designated as Hunt Night, Sunday night’s competition is made up of foxhunting riders from local hunt clubs. Spectators tailgate around the arena and watch the competition from their vehicles.

Among the show’s highlights include a performance by Patsy Cline in the 1950s. A horn blowing contest now makes up a part of the annual show, as does a week-long silent auction. Perpetual trophies add to the show’s tradition.

The Warrenton Horse Show is a United States Equestrian Foundation (USEF) C-rated show. Though smaller than some of its previous shows, the Warrenton Horse Show is still a popular destination for many enthusiasts of the hunter world. To learn more about this show series, visit the Warrenton Horse Show’s website.

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