Does Turn Out Matter – Horse Show Turn Out Does the Judge Really Notice?

In a word yes, turnout does matter. Having correctly fitting equipment and being properly dressed proves you belong. You can have a great round of jumps and poor turn out and still be the winner but presenting yourself as the winner even before the class begins gives you a head start for the class.

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To your riding success

Although we do not like to say we make snap judgments based on appearance, we do. You can be sitting on the best looking horse, have the best form over fences but if you have poor ‘turn out’, dirty horse, no braids and badly adjusted equipment, you will have to work hard to prove you belong in the competition ring.

Then there is the ‘flip side’. You have seen them as well. People who have all the gear but cannot get to a fence correctly. Believe me, I have seen a lot of this. If you present yourself with a well turned out horse, equipment which is fitted correctly, you better back it up with some nice jumps.


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Have Good Turn Out

I remember judging a horse and rider combination which commanded my attention right from the ingate. I thought, WOW this is going to be great. Beautiful turn out. The rider wore a lovely jacket with complimentary shirt, immaculate tail braided and the horse had sparkling white socks with oiled hooves. The picture presented was excellent. I thought, great, we have a winner. That was the thought going through my mind – we have a winner. Before she even stepped over a fence I had her in mind for the first place round. Unfortunately for her, the winning spot was short lived. What she had in turnout was not matched by her ability. There were chips, popped fences and rails. All in all it was a bad round but beautiful turn out. The moral of this story? If you are going to have excellent turnout, then back it up with a powerhouse performance as well.

Do you practice good turn out. What is the best turnout tip you can give our fellow readers?

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Hot weather hints. Simple tips for hot weather horse care

During these hot hazy days of summer I sometimes refresh my memory of how cold things were in the winter time. Here is a short video of some snowy weather we had and how we persevered during the deep snow.

So – not to worry, the cold weather will be upon us soon enough!


Riding up the bank at Thistle Ridge Skill Builders

Posted by Equestrian Skill Builders on Sunday, December 23, 2012

Extreme Heat Considerations

Summer riding can be fun but when extreme temperatures come your way you have to be diligent to keep your horse from over heating.

Here are some tips for dealing with hot temperatures.

1. Have access to clean fresh water.
If you own and keep horses you are not surprised to learn horses drink 5 – 7 gallons of water per day. When you add sweat loss due to hot weather and riding horses may drink up to 20 gallons per day. Having access to free choice water is important. For horses which drink a lot of water consider putting up 2 drinking buckets.

2. Supplement with electrolytes.
During this time of year I add approximately 1 teaspoon of salt to their grain to make sure they are drinking properly. The salt encourages them to drink (just think how thirsty you are after eating a bag of potato chips). Adding salt or other electrolyte supplement could help them restore any imbalances in their electrolyte levels caused by sweating.

3. Water their grain.
If you are concerned they are not drinking properly or would like to increase their water intake, water their grain. As a rule, I water down the complete pellets I use. This is just another way to get more water into your horse’s system.

4. Be diligent with fly spray.
The heat will foster a whole new crop of insects. Keep your horse comfortable with fly spray. Some people have had some luck feeding garlic and apple cider vinegar. Send me an email if you have had success with this.
I am very cynical regarding fly spray and have yet to find one that works to my satisfaction. I have had some success using natural sprays.
Get your free download of fly spray recipes here

5. Have Shade for Your Horses.
Shade is a simple way to offer relief to your horse. A stand of trees or loafing shed provides a cooling for horses and just a place to get out of the sun.

6. Do not override for the circumstances
Horses are well equipped to handle most situations from frigid temperatures to heat. Heat stress may be a concern during vigorous exercise such as distance riding, sprinting or racing events particularly in hot humid weather. During these times consider your work out and adjust it accordingly.

If you have to ride, show or compete have your items ready to cool your horse down. Hosing down, rinsing with cool water will help your horse to cool down. If you think your horse is becoming over heated, immediately get off your horse and remove the tack and move to a shaded area.

Have a ready supply of cool water to rinse of your horse. Sponge water on your horse and scrape it off. If you do not scrape it off it will act as a barrier and keep the heat in your horse. Sponge, scrape and sponge, scrape to get the cool water onto your horse.

Cooling the muscles off too quickly may cause muscle cramping so periodic walking to assist in the cooling process will help.

For additional information about heat and your horse please visit



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Planning – Do You Think Planning is Important?

This word has been floating around in my head the last few days.
Planning – It is the key to success and although you can do things ‘on a whim’, planning will add to your successes.

Stirrup on an (admittedly dirty) endurance saddle

Have a plan for each ride(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Plan your ride  – Each time you step your foot into the stirrup, you should have a plan for that ride, exercises and goal or outcome for your ride. Having a plan gives you a systematic progression towards a specific goal. Not having a goal makes you a reactive rider and reacting to your horse rather than planning how to achieve a goal or outcome.

This does not mean however, once you are on you have to ridgidly stick to that goal. Your horse may not have had the same plan as you that day and you may have to juggle your plan to accomodate the horse you are sitting on today.

For example, today you may have planned to, based on your previous ride, work on your lateral suppleness and have a circle, serpentine routine developed. Once you get on your horse you realize he has not read the plan book and is not moving off the leg as he should. This means you may have to scrap your plan and move onto Plan ‘B’, getting the horse off your leg.

All this to say once you have a plan do not be afraid to morph it into something which is going to work with you on the day.

Planning keeps you on track

Trakehner stallion, born 2000, by Tambour out ...

If you are going on vacation you usually have some kind of itenerary. How do you know when you ‘get there’ if you don’t have a plan.

Keep this planning mantra in mind

“Begin with the end in mind”
Steven Covey

When you are setting out to achieve something make sure you have a clear ending of where you want to be. From here you can formulate your plan of action.

If you would like to get to L.A., that is the end point – your arrival in LA. You begin with the end in mind. Then you can fit all the other details into place.

How does this relate to riding?

It’s easy. If you know where you want to be, then you can fill in the blanks of how you can get there. Right now get a piece of paper and a pencil.

  1. Take your pencil and divide your paper into three columns.
  2. Number the columns 1., 2., 3.
  3. Label column 1. Where I Am Now
  4. Label column 3. Where I Would Like to Be
  5. Label column 2. – Stuff I have to get done to get from column 1. to column 3.

Column number 2. is where all the action happens. Here is a sample of how to fill it out. Download your planning table with a sample filled in for you already.

If you plan now and understand which direction you would like to go in, then you will be able to achieve your goals faster and have precise actions which should be taken to make those goals obtainable.

When in doubt – Plan!

Understand what it is your horse is looking for from you

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It’s all about respect – or – How to get your horse to move sideways!

We’ve all seen those riders who magically have their horses sidestepping and effortlessly

In the leg yield, the horse is looking away fr...

In the leg yield, the horse is looking away from the direction of travel, with the spine straight, the inner nostril and eye just visible, and the inner legs crossing in front of the outer legs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

moving with grace and sophistication. You can teach your horse to move sideways with elegance.

Here is what I expect usually happens to you when you are riding.

  1. you give your aid
  2. your horse ignores you
  3. you give your aid again only stronger
  4. your horse ignores you
  5. you give up and move on to something you both understand.

I am here to tell you moving away from the leg is not that difficult.

Educate your horse

Does your horse know what is being asked of him? Your horse must understand he CAN go sideways. When training a horse you must consider the ability of the horse to understand you are asking something from him and you EXPECT a result – an action – or movement.

So start on the ground. Have your horse in a halter and lead rope. Face your horse’s shoulder and gently place your hand on his withers and slide your hand down toward where your leg would be if you were riding.

Ask your horse with a closed fist, pressing gently against his side, to move sideways. As soon as you get a shift of weight or understanding – and this is important – remove your hand and praise the horse.

If your horse does not move away from your fist bring the horse’s head toward you with your left hand, and press on his ribs – with your right hand – where your leg would be if you are riding. This will make it easier for the horse to swing his hindquarters away from you.

Each horse is different and each horse may react differently. Some horses may run in circles around you and some may trip over their own feet so look for clues how much oomph your horse requires.

Repeat on each side.

Put it into practice

We would like the same response while mounted. We would like the same reaction to a sideways leg aid in much the same way we would like the horse to move forward from our leg.

While mounted:

English: A Standardbred horse going nicely in ...

Each horse is different (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Give a light aid by bringing your left leg back behind the girth (where you applied your fist when you were on the ground).

If he ignores you, gently bring his head around to your left leg and allow his quarters to escape to the right. Praise the horse when his quarters swing right. This is a correction.

Now you have reinforced that going sideways is ok.

Re-test the leg aid and see if you get a better response. If not make the correction again. If you get a better response then praise him.

Repeat on the other side. Make sure your praise is proportional to the effort the horse is offering.

Now include this in your riding routine

Ask for a leg yield in the head-to-the-wall position where the front legs are in the track and the hind legs come to the inside at about a 30-degree angle to the wall.

When you are on the right rein turn early across one corner, counter flex to the left and slide your left leg back behind the girth. This will make your horses hind quarters come to the inside track, toward the middle of the ring. Your horse should step sideways toward the middle of the ring just like you trained him to do at the halt. Reward him for moving sideways.

NOTE: counter flex does not mean turn your entire horse’s head and neck. The horse’s neck should remain straight.

Don’t push with your leg. Train him to go sideways more from the position of your rather than kicking. Kicking deadens your horse’s sides.

If he ignores you or doesn’t step sideways enough, tap him with the whip behind your leg or ‘flap’/’bump’ with your leg in a way that makes him go sideways as opposed to forward.

Once he has done it successfully once or twice halt and let him process the information.

Doing this exercise in the ‘head to wall’ position we can use the wall to help with control and preventing the horse from running away.

Now change the rein and repeat on the other side.

I invite you to share your thoughts and experience about how you trained your horse to move sideways!

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