Horse Yoga 101

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Year One Is Over

Just a short note to thank everyone who has visited Hooves during its first year on The Net.  Without all of you, I might as well be talking to myself – which I do often enough.  I’m very appreciative of those who have participated in the comments section, sharing views or asking questions, and those who’ve e-mailed in ideas, photos or articles.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope that 2014 brings you happiness, health and success in your endeavors, especially any and everything equine related.

Cheers!

Equine Canada Amateur Status

Recently a woman, who’s been involved in horses for over three decades, claimed on a forum – quite proudly – that she had EC Amateur Status.   This didn’t make any sense to me.  She’s trained TB racehorses, later trained those that didn’t make the races or retired from the races for hunter/jumper, has had boarders on her farm, has purchased PMU foals on behalf of others and for herself to raise, train and sell, has sold horses to others for personal mounts, organized clinics, currently stands a TB stallion for stud service, and otherwise would be classified as a professional having received monetary compensation for services rendered…and yet…claims Equine Canada recognizes her as an Amateur.

Upon discussion with some acquaintances, that have far more knowledge about Amateur Status rules than I, it appears as if EC Amateur Status is wholly a joke.  That one merely ticks the ‘amateur’ box on the application and it is given.  That one can *reclaim* amateur status after a two year hiatus from being *paid*.   What?  This last is ridiculous.  If you’re good enough to be hired for a job and accept remuneration for those services, making you a professional, then simply not having received monies for a two year period doesn’t suddenly make you less knowledgeable or less skilled, does it?  And let’s face it, the point of separating amateurs from professionals in classes is for fairness of competition, otherwise why do it?

Here’s the Amateur Status requirements:

ARTICLE G108 AMATEUR STATUS

1. All seniors competing in amateur classes at EC-sanctioned competitions must possess a current EC amateur card, which is purchased annually at the price listed in the EC Schedule of Fees. Competitors in FEI-sanctioned competitions must comply with the FEI definition of amateur.

2. A person competing in EC amateur classes must hold a valid EC senior sport license, have a current amateur card and adhere to the following guidelines:
a) Pilot Project: An EC amateur may hold an EC Instructor Beginner
Certificate and teach within the context of the Instructor Beginner Certificate.
b) An EC amateur may accept remuneration for instruction of or coaching of the disabled.
c) An EC amateur may not accept remuneration for training a horse or for showing a horse at any EC-sanctioned competition. See Glossary for definition of “Remuneration”.
d) An EC amateur may not accept remuneration for coaching any person to ride or drive a horse, including riding or driving clinics and seminars.
e) An EC amateur may not train or show a horse, or instruct a rider or
driver, when remuneration for this activity will be given to a corporation or farm which he or she, or his or her family, owns or controls.
f) An EC amateur may not act as an agent nor accept commissions for the sale, purchase and/or lease of a horse.
g) EC Amateurs may not use their name, photograph or any form of a personal association as a horse person in connection with any advertisement or article sold without the approval and signature of EC (e.g. product endorsement or advertisement of their activity as a coach).
h) An EC amateur may not enter into any form of sponsorship agreement
that is in conflict with the provisions of this article. See division rules for further information governing amateur status within divisions.

3. Persons who have not engaged in any of the activities in Article G108.2 (a-g) during the preceding two (2) calendar years may request reinstatement as amateur competitors. Such requests must be sent in writing to EC.

4. Application for Equine Canada Amateur Status:

a) Amateur status is issued by EC.
b) For EC members, certification of amateur status is issued annually on EC sport license cards.
c) All persons wishing EC amateur status must complete and sign the amateur declaration, which is on the sport license application/renewal form, affirming their eligibility.
d) Eligible amateurs who are not members of EC may receive amateur status issued by EC upon payment of the fee as listed in the current

I’m interested in hearing about amateur status in other countries and if it works the same as it does in Canada.  Do people regularly run across those like this woman I mention, who’ve clearly been professionals for many, many years (decades in this case) able to compete against true amateurs AND doing it proudly?  As someone who is a stickler for what’s fair, I find the whole situation and that someone would exploit an exploitable system to be on par with cheating.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  And what’s happened that a professional would even want to compete against anyone other than their direct peers?  It’s a hollow win, otherwise.

The Head You Want To Ride

Even though most of us know that we don’t (aren’t supposed to) ride the horse’s head, many still insist on commenting about the personal aesthetic aspect of such in conformation critiques.  Rather than continuing to fight (and correct the validity of) a comment like; ‘She’s got a pretty, refined head’, in a conformation study, I’ll just talk about the kind of head that is a requirement for the horse to be useful, healthy and sound.  Ergo, the kind of head you want to ride.

Profile:  The horse’s profile (straight, convex or dished) is created simply by the relationship between the cranium and the face.  Think of the cranium as a ball that extends from poll to eye socket, and think of the face as a shoebox that extends from the eye sockets to the tip of the muzzle.  Changing how those two pieces sit relative to each other is what creates the horse’s profile.

Over the years people have selectively bred horses for exaggerated dished profiles, shortened faces and teacup muzzles, purposely (and ignorantly) breeding in facial faults that affect the horse’s ability to breath, chew, have properly rooted teeth with plenty of room, and easily hold a bit (or two in the case of double bridles).  Over-bite, under-bite and other tooth misalignments, that would have seen the individual die in the wild without the advantage of human caretaking,  processed feeds, soaked hay cubes etc…, now exist and propagate.

We also don’t want the horse’s head to look like that of a donkey or mule.  In asinines the cranium (ball) is smaller.  This causes the donkey’s neck vertebrae to attach to the skull from below the ears, unlike the horse whose neck vertebrae should attach to the skull from behind the ears.  When the vertebrae attach from below the ears, it’s called ‘hammer-headed’.  Most horses that are ‘hammer-headed’ are also ‘ewe-necked’; both serious faults in the horse.

Poll:  This should be broad in the horse causing the horse’s ears to be set a good distance apart.

Forehead:  Also needs to be broad so that the eye orbits are widely spaced and on the *sides* of the skull, not on the front.  The orbits are higher placed on the cranium for ‘ox-headed’ breeds; Quarter Horses and Morgans as an example.

Eyes:  Large and almond shaped.  The eyeball should not extend beyond the orbital ridge, if that’s the case then the horse is ‘bug-eyed’ and it can indicate endocrine system issues.  A ‘pig eye’ is a small eye, sometimes rounder and also a fault.

Muzzle:  Like the poll and forehead, the muzzle should be broad with large nostrils.  ‘Tea cup’ muzzle are a fault, directly affecting the ability for the horse to draw in air, as well, disrupting proper tooth rooting.

Mandibles:  The lower jaw bones should possess depth for good tooth rooting and have plenty of space between them; no less than a hand’s width (4”).

Here is an example of one of those ‘pretty, refined’ heads.  Let’s look more closely.   This horse has a ‘straight’ profile.  We can’t help but notice the exceptional broadness of forehead and the large, well-defined and well-placed eyes.   The ears are equally as sculpted as the entire head with their turned-in tips.  We might argue, though, that this horse lacks a touch of broadness in that poll.  Below the eyes are classic inflated sinuses.  The shorter face tapers (a bit too much, perhaps) to a smaller muzzle possessing large nostrils.  We can surmise that this horse should have no issue pulling in air.    The biggest question for this horse’s head is if there’s enough room for the teeth.

It may come as a surprise to many, but this is a purebred Standardbred, one that you certainly can’t label as having a ‘jughead’.  Indeed, I’ve known many Standardbreds to have equally ‘pretty’ heads.

Racing Standardbreds are often required to wear two bits, a driving bit and an overcheck bit.  This horse didn’t possess enough room in her mouth to comfortably carry an overcheck bit, so technically, though pretty, this is not an ideal head for her breed and purpose.  To get around the lack of room in her mouth, she wore an overcheck rein with a leather strap under her chin.  She did not have any chewing or teeth alignment issues.

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This next is not a great picture, but I use this horse’s head as an example of eyes that are decidedly ‘frontal’ placed, rather than the more correct ‘side’ placed as the horse before.  The other thing of note is that the horse’s jaw is narrower than its eye orbits.  As with the previous horse, this head is lacking a bit of broadness to the poll, and is a short-faced, but without the tapering.  Overall, this is not nearly as good of a horse head, but many would find it pleasing to look at nonetheless.

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This is a classic convex profile typical of the noble breeds.  The eye is large (don’t be fooled by the heavy ‘sleepy’ lid, and is placed lower on the skull than our previous two horses.  There’s plenty of depth to the jowls.  This is another short-faced horse that’s also rather short in the muzzle, but with good depth.

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Here on the front view we can see he’s broad through the forehead, poll and muzzle.  This is a good head despite its lack of refinement.

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Here is another straight profile with a big, generous and well-placed eye.  The jowls lack a bit of depth, but the muzzle sure doesn’t.  This is a long-faced horse that should have plenty of bar length in its mouth to hold two bits.

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Our viewing wouldn’t be complete without looking at a classic dished profile.  This is a good head with plenty of broadness and depth throughout.

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And this is an abomination.

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Next time you’re looking at a horse’s head, see if you can determine what specifically about it that you’re attracted to and if those traits make for a good horse head, or if you’ve been fooled by irrelevant aesthetics that are detrimental to the horse.

Stretching – Part 3

This is the final installment of this series and involves mostly the neck, but also the shoulders, back and ribcage.    The key to this set of stretches is that the horse plants its feet fairly square, and that there be minimal head tilting.  The ultimate goal is for equal ease and depth of stretch to both sides.

In this first stretch I place my body between the horse’s shoulder and its head, causing the horse to bend its neck around me.  From this position I can better control head tilting, as well it adds depth to the stretch.  I use treats to encourage this whole set of stretches, though, it’s not necessary.

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The candidate horse has a neck on the shorter end of the equine scale, and yet as is evidenced in the pictures, there’s plenty of flexibility.  Short doesn’t instantly mean a lack of flexibility, and in fact if you do neck stretches on horses with various neck lengths, you’re likely to discover that the longer necks tend to be stiffer.  This is due to the ease at which a horse can evade through that additional length, creating uneven soft tissue.  The shorter neck allows for pure strength of bracing against a poor set of rider hands, but it’s less likely to ‘snake’ between poll and shoulder.   It’s an upcoming discussion for our conformation series.

This second stretch is a version of ‘long and low’.  You’re looking for some base of neck lift, as well an even bend through the entire length of the neck with minimal head tilt at the poll.  Be sure the horse keeps its throat open (for all the stretches!).

I’ll often play around with this stretch, sometimes making it higher, sometimes lower.  Start with a straight forward tradition ‘long and low’ stretch, and then go from there.   I’ll also often have the horse touch the front of its knee, or the outside of the knee, or its fetlock, or toe, or heel bulb etc…  Whenever I find resistance or an inability for an equal stretch, I’ll play around to try and unlock it.

Note the *crinkling* of the skin through the ribcage, while the side the stretch is to is compressed, the other side is being elongated.

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The next stretch is the hardest to execute without having the horse move its feet.  The natural tendency is for the horse to spin around because the stretch can be tough for an individual with any sort of tightness in the neck, shoulders or ribcage.  Take your time deepening this stretch to encourage the horse to stand still in squareness.  The other big cheat in this stretch is head tilting, so beware.  One way to encourage straightness is to start the stretch away from the body, then slowly ask the horse to ‘close’ the stretch by bringing the muzzle to the hip. The ultimate goal is that the horse can easily touch nose to point of hip.

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You may have noticed that this horse has taken on a rather wide stance front and back.  Part of that is the fact he’s a wide-bodied horse, but the other part is that he’s done these stretches hundreds of times and knows that a wider stance gives him more stability and balance to do the depth of stretching.  Try to set your horse on the right path by encouraging a good strong stance of balance before starting.

The final stretch is the prelude to a full-fledged bow.   Start with a ‘long and low’ stretch and then slowly bring it in.  Head tilting or stretching off to the side that the person is standing on are common errors.  Sometimes switching to standing on the off side of the horse will correct the tendency to stretch crooked.

How deep you go is entirely up to you and your horse.  You can see this horse has reached the point where he’s had to bend his knee and lift his heel off the ground to go deeper.  Obviously, if you’re going to take the horse down to a full bow, do so on a soft surface of grass, sand or deep bedding.

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And that concludes basic horse stretching.

Nova Scotia Petition

I am not familiar with the rules and regulations in Nova Scotia, but it appears they are not enough to protect the horses or to punish those doing the abusing. 

http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/ns-agriculture-minister-the-honorable-keith-colwell-acting-minister-paul-lafleche-save-the-horses-of-breighmara-and-create-nova-scotian-legislation-protecting-equines

Thanks to Steph C for spreading the word.