Monday, 12 September 2016

Judging hunters

I changed hats t this weekend-literally.  Sometimes “stuff happens” and show managers have to adjust on the fly- and so do judges!  Arriving prepared to judge the western ring , I was asked if I would judge the hunter and jumper rings instead. For those who judge multiple disciplines we must learn to change hats -scoring systems, terminology, penalties, class formats, even judging location (in the ring or in a booth), depending on the assignment.

So I didn’t have my score sheets or  whistle…  But I did have my trusty visor!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Yielding to pressure – you, not your horse!



“Just get back on! You don’t want to lose your nerve.”
“Why not enter the trail class?  You’re at the show anyway.”
“Are you coming out on a hack with us?”
Well-meaning invitations, but sadly, invitations into situations  for which neither you nor your horse are quite prepared.
Have you ever felt pressure to push the boundaries with your horse?
I am a professional bubble-burster. As clinician and coach, I act as the voice of caution. As a show judge, I can only wince.
We’d never suggest a friend commute into Toronto with unreliable brakes and steering.  Yet, it makes me sad to see at a few horses at every show,  in the pressure cooker of an unfamiliar environment without the tools needed for the task.
I’ve been there- felt the pressure from a  friend, a coach, a client.  The time I’ve spent  rebuilding confidence in myself or my horse inspires me to help other riders and horses rebuild theirs. Systematically installing the buttons to move the horse laterally, lengthen and shorten stride, connect, collect and halt.

Friday, 22 July 2016

When evidence collides with tradition: part 2


Traditions run deep in the horse world. From tack to training, to the terms we use ...WHY? - I figure it doesn't hurt to ask! Hey sometimes I've found there's a good reason - someone way smarter than me "invented the wheel" and doesn't need ME to re-invent it :) So I'll keep asking...
Like the new bride whose husband asks "Why do you cut off the ends of the roast before you cook it? — that's the best part!" She answers, "That's the way my mother always made it."
So when the guy raises the question at Christmas dinner, mother in law shrugs, "that's the only way it will fit in my pan!"
What about you?- anything you do differently with your horses
after doing some snooping into the research? Or with a few years of wisdom under your belt?

Monday, 18 July 2016

That’s just the way we’ve always done it…”



Traditions persist in the horse world. Does anyone know why flat classes traditionally start on the left rein?  I caused a little stir recently, at an open hunter show by starting on the right rein in an equitation class. Can you think of other enduring  (though puzzling)equine traditions? 


Sometimes we get stuck in a rut, until evidence leads us to look outside. I do like how AQHA is encouraging judges to mix up the gait calls and direction of flat classes. I do this regularly when I judge and appreciate it as an exhibitor. Ring sourness is a problem with show horses. Horses learn by association, anticipating what’s next. This is classical conditioning – the same principle causing my cat to appear at the sound of the can opener.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Horse whispering.


The big idea behind “horse whispering” is the use of subtle body language and keen observation to communicate with our horses. Horse communication is generally more understated than ours.
 “Horses have a complex facial musculature, allowing them to convey more information through facial gestures than other animals, writes equine psychologist”. Dr. Antonia Henderson. 
As a stereotypically reserved Canadian, judging a horse show last fall in Israel, it was culture shock!  Animated and passionate in communicating, this wonderful trait initially rattled me, (what’s the commotion??), but by day 2 of the show I’d become accustomed to it. Habituated, to use a horse training term.
One has to admire top showmanship class exhibitors who have developed a language of discrete cues to speak to their horses –  each signal distinct and preceded by a pre-signal, or “heads-up”.
“Riders may give unintended signals or a conflicting aids making it difficult for a horse to offer the correct response,” writes Dr. Antonia Henderson. “The horse tunes the rider out, soliciting an increasingly stronger aid.”
Let’s make the effort to be students of our horses body language…  and be conscious of our own!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Take a hint

Some people read people really well …picking up on subtle cues, interpreting body language -social cognition. You can actually take a quiz to rate “ your emotional intelligence”, if you’re at home with nothing better to do  (perhaps, in itself, a sign of a social introvert?)
    Horses have developed a sophisticated social cognition system to read group members rank, sex, personality.  They “read horse” expertly and can learn to read people, if we give them a chance!
“Horses have a complex facial musculature, allowing them to convey more information through facial gestures than other animals, writes equine psychologist”. Dr. Antonia Henderson.  Horse communication is generally more understated than ours.
Signals, gestures and even abbreviated versions of gestures (which require less energy), are sent and read by herd buddies. 
“We are mostly vocal communicators – so it’s easy to clash with our horses.  We not only miss their cues, but communicate unintended signals such as moving abruptly or shouting unnecessarily, “ writes Dr Henderson.