The Bo Jena long lining clinic was very educational and informative although I did not get to watch too many of the rides and horses go during the day. I was fortunate enough to sit and watch our in-house stallion go, Davidoff Hit (Davi), which was the one I really wanted to see be worked. He came into the clinic never having been long lined before and we were all really impressed with how he took to it. It was interesting how Bo really taught the horses the lateral aids through rein contact, much like riding in a sense. Davi played around a little bit to start with but when he settled down and really went to work he was just beautiful to watch. His ability for collection really shines! Even after watching for the day I am still unsure about a lot of it – long lining definitely went over my head for the most part. There is a lot going on. To conquer that hurdle I would have to practice with some serious guidance!
Last week was one of the best weather weeks I have had since I have been here. We got warm enough that the horses went naked, in February no less! We left the barn open for the days and even overnight. Val and I rode outside pretty much every day last week, lessoning both on the track and in our beautiful outdoor. We also got to take what Scott likes to call a “spirit day” which involves a nice gallop out on our track. I cannot wait until the weather consistently stays nice enough to start adding conditioning sets back into his routine. I really think he enjoys the break from the hard work and just being able to stretch out and ‘go’ – I know that I enjoy it at the very least!
We also had some incredible rides with Scott as well. The four tempi’s are really developing as we start to put the Prix St. George work into place. The relaxation and true throughness work has helped more than I can say. By focusing on making sure the tightness (not resistence, as Scott is always quick to remind me) is absent so that Val can really allow me to ride him through the neck and access the back and hind legs, the work is becoming brilliant. We are starting to talk about how to get those 8’s and 9’s this year as well. Most of the time we do four’s in our rides and he is nailing the count without panicking the first time! Val is starting to let me ride, and we are slowly building the trust there as well. His collection, especially in the canter, just keeps getting better and better. I am really noticing how much strength he has built up even since being up here. I am just so proud and happy with my big seven-almost-eight year old!
Scott is gone to Florida until Thursday (since Saturday) but there is never a dull day at the barn. Yesterday our equine nutritionist came out to inspect all of the horses and evaluate their condition and revise our diet program as necessary. It was so interesting getting body condition fully explained and being able to have him us hands-on what we were looking for. Just like in humans there are slow-twitch (weight lifting, heavy set) muscles and slow-twitch muscles (quick and lean). Warmbloods usually have a good mix of both types of these muscles which both need developing, while hotter horses like thoroughbreds have more fast-twitch, and heavier warmbloods and even coldbloods have more slow-twitch. Basically, you start with the overall outline of the horse. You start by feeling their fat content on their neck and crest area. You always want to evalutate at the middle of the neck because the lower you are the more influence the muscles near the withers and shoulders come into play. All body fitness is expressed on a scale of 1 to 10. The optimum horse lives between a 5 and a 6. Next we looked and the rib area. If you can see ribs the horse is usually less than a 5. Then we go to the hind quarters. You want a nice strong flat bridge of the back into the top of their rump, as well as a roundness from the hipbone to the top part of the hip as well as to their tail.
A horse needs to injest 2% of their optimal body weight a day in day. This amount should be spread out over the length of the day because the outside, “pasture” or even wild horse grazes up to 18 hours a day. It was interesting to hear how much stress we really do cause on these horses by putting them in stalls and ‘protecting’ them. Our nutritionist also mentioned a good bit about lactic acid build-up, which is as a result of the intense work coupled with stabling the horses most of the time. When a horse is in better condition they can actually recycle most of their lactic acid back for energy. However, when they are in poorer condition it can build up in the muscles after work outs which is why he stressed that it is very important for horses to get out for their second work. He told us a story that the best conditioned horses he had ever seen belonged to a thoroughbred racer who lived in United Kingdom and ran his horses every week. When asked what he did for workouts he said that he worked them at the Moors. Our nutritionist asked to come along and watch one day and he was directed to go 12 miles down the road. The man tacked up everyday, rode the horses 12 miles down the road and worked them, then rode 12 miles back. Due to all the walking the horses had no build up of lactic acid in their muscles and were extraordinarily fit. He said that a majority of riders and trainers overlook walking in their programs and that so much benefit is done by it. It is something that I always knew but to have it repeated just cemented how important a proper warm-up and cool-down really is for fitness and healthy horses!
When we pulled Val out he was actually very happy with the way he looked! For his top line/crest area he scored a 5 which is on the lean end of the middle where a horse should be. The top line is all muscles which are developed through exercise but can be influenced by a protein rich diet. This is why when horses are either young or in training they really do need a diet that has a sufficient amount of protein for proper development. Protein deficient horses, especially young horses in training, will develop weak ligaments and tendons. They will have soft tissue problems and weak bone density. This just really stressed how important protein is in the diet to develop proper muscles – and made me happy that we had always made sure Val had enough while he was younger! Over his shoulder and ribcage he also scored a 5. The ‘weight’ of the ribcage is influenced through calories in the diet. So adding more calories does not necessarily mean your horse will balloon out everywhere – good to know! He also commented that Val had a great back and loin area too and that he was very strong and well muscled there. His belly area also scored a 5. This area is directly related to how much fiber is in the diet and their digestive tract. He related the small intestine to a sausage casing. The walls are very thin and so it is better when the sausage is full to prevent twisting. When a horse doesn’t have a full tract that is when twisting is more likely to occur. From this knowledge we know that it is better to have a diet spread out through the day so that the gut always has something in it. However, if their belly is big or distended in any way it is usually a sign that they are eating their bedding – whether it be straw or shavings. Again, this is because horses are natural grazers and we have taken them out of their natural environment and stuck them in boxes. The wither area near the top of the shoulder is the last thing to develop and the first thing to leave – which is what makes developing a horse so tricky. We as riders want our horses to be strong in their backs and even by influencing them with a proper diet that place is still hard to really make perfect. I was so happy to hear that Val was very well muscled there and that he could really see how he was going to fill out – and had already begun! He had all of us feel him to show a good example of what it should be like. It made me a proud mother! Overall my horse scored an A- which was one of the few A’s that we got to look at.
I will post a lesson update later this week – I have old lesson notes that I think would still be really awesome to put up here. I am learning so much from riding and I am so enjoying my time with Scott.