Why You Should Trail Ride More

By Real Riderz

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Even if you’re more into comepteing and have high ambitions, staying close to nature should be something that you incorporate into your training routine on a weekly basis.

Why? Because you will look epic like this guy in the picture above! Ok, well, real talk here: it’s great for your horses mental well-being because they get out of the arena. Heck, it’s also great for your well-being. Imagine coming to your office six days a week and always just sitting at your desk, I mean, most people would go crazy after a while, and your level of productivity would likely decrease.

So, you have a horse that just seems lazy and doesn’t want to go? There could be many factors causing this, such as discomfort, pain, ill-fitting tack, etc. However, it could also be the fact that the horse is bored of being in the same environment. You would be surprised how many horses change once you take them out to the field or even just around the barn to an area that they haven’t seen before. Some might start looking, while other start to pace like a hotheaded Thoroughbred (TB) horse.

If you want to introduce work outside of the arena more slowly, consider taking your horse out for a warm up or cool down (just at the walk) outside of the arena. Although, do consider that having a day where you just walk on a trail (if you’re lucky enough to have one) is actually beneficial because that is long walks is how you start building more muscle and thus better performance. Besides, a horse that is out and about will be more used to strange objects and sounds, and thus more ready for anything that may arise in the competition.

The work doesn’t stop when you leave the arena. You and your horse can still practice moevements such as lengthening/shortening, halting, shoulder in, leg-yield, etc. This will be a real test to your maneuverability because there are no arena walls to constrain the horse, and way more distractions. Even if you hust decided to stick to the walk, you can ride, you will surely benefit from trail riding because it is yet another bonding opportunity.

Happy trail riding and stay safe!

FEI Ukraine Solidarity Relief Fund: A Hoax?

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By RealRiderz

The war in Ukraine is, unfortunately, still ongoing and many people (and companies) have come together in an attempt to help Ukraine. People have donated money and time in an attempt to help provide relief to those that truly need it. FEI is no exception to this.

FEI has created a fund (starting from Februrary 2022), a FEI Solidarity Relief Fund for Ukraine which is worth CHF 1 million. This fund has been created for certain useful activities, such as: other countries hosting athletes and horses; the creation of a logistical hub to help horses get ready to be transported to the EU; and, funding/distribution vital horse supplies.

For the FEI and the Ukrainian delegation, headed up by Secretary General Mykhailo Parkhomchuk from the Ukrainian Equestrian Federation (UEF) and accompanied by members from both the UEF and the Charity Foundation, this recent in-person visit provided a platform to discuss the priorities, review ongoing support systems in place, but also establish new programmes and set long term objectives for Ukraine and the FEI Solidarity Relief Fund.

The FEI has also had discussions with the Ukrainina Equestrian Federation about the long-term approach of the relief fund. These discussions have lead to the development of new programs/distrubution of resources, these include: athlete scholarships, distribution of necessary veterinary supplies, and purchasing of eighty temporary horse stalls for hubs in Ukraine.

Now, in theory, this is all excellent. Yet, when it comes to athlete scholarships, something does not quite add up here. FEI has already determined who to give these scholarships to, and they happen to be athletes who already come from families with financial backing, athletes that have already comepted at a high, international level. The two jumping athletes selected for the program are Oleksandr Prodan and Anastasia Bondarieva. The two Ukrainian dressage athletes selected for the program are Danylo Konovalov and Diana Borovyk. The purpose of this scholarship is to support the training and competition preparation for these athletes so that they can represent Ukraine at the FEI Championships in 2022 and 2023.

Prodan is an Olympic level rider, and he has worked with Schibrik Stables for a period of time (stable of Russian show jumper Egor Schibrik and Russian dressage rider located the Netherlands. We are not sure if he is continuing this partnership, but it is for sure that he currently lives abroad. Prodan started riding in Ukraine, but his personal trainer, Jan Hoste, who Prodan trained with, is from Slovakia.

Bondarieva has been competing internationally from an early age. At the age of 12, she competed in Europeans and in her first 135cm. To compete at such levels, you must have proper financing, this is what many people in more remote countries lack (Ukraine included). Her living abroad is further supported by that fact that she attempted Benenden School in the UK (source).

To say that FEI is not doing anything useful would be absurd, yet it is evident that many programs that the FEI has launched (be it in support of Ukraine or something else) has been helping people who already have a consistent financial backing and representation in the big leagues. Not to mention, these athletes do not live in Ukraine. Sure, they do claim to have supported Diana Borovyk, the dressage rider that survived a blockade, but let’s be honest, was it really because the FEI helped her or was it because she had the means to escape?

In the case of a humanitarian crisis, everyone deserves help, but rather than supporting riders who can afford to seek horses and training abroad, FEI should consider assiting those that lack that financial backing (espeically those athletes who cannot afford to leave Ukraine). Russians have not only targetted inconnet civilians, but also stables full of horses, many of which are lesser known (the stable was called KCK Aleksandria Stables). These people didn’t have the chance to evacuate their horses, they had no choice. Be warned that some of the pictures that you can find on the internet are quite gruesome.

For more information about the FEI relief fund, see: https://inside.fei.org/media-updates/new-fei-solidarity-relief-fund%C2%A0initiatives-ukraine-launched-may-2022

FEI World Challenges

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By RealRiderz

The FEI World Challenge program allows for riders (often living in more remote countries) with less experience in jumping/dressage to participate in international competitions. Riders can pariticpate in an international show without having to leave the country. In addition, if the rider qualifies for the FEI World Challenge Final, a horse is provided for the rider. The final is only open to 20 riders, which are the two best-placed from the highest category of jumping/dressage from the ten regional Zones


The competition is divided into ten geographical zones (each zone has four to ten countries). Riders can classify as a team (zone) or as individuals (within country, zone and category). The jumping competition has three different categories: A (1.20-1.30m), B (1.10-1.20m), or C (1.00-1.10m). The dressage compeitions offers Intermediate I, Prix St. George, Senior II, Senior I, and Youth categories. The show is divided into two age categories 12 to 16 years of age, and an over 16 years of age category.

For more information about the Jumping Challenge, visit: https://inside.fei.org/fei/disc/fei-world-challenge/jumping

For more information about the Dressage Challenge, visit: https://inside.fei.org/fei/disc/fei-world-challenge/dressage

No Horse, No Rider

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By Real Riderz

This is for all those just getting started, if you’ve been in the horse world for a while, you can skip this one.

No horse, no rider means exactly what you think it means. Without the horse, the rider is just a person. Actually, the term “horseback rider” would not even exist in the first place. No horse means no jumping, no placings, no prize money, no business, no nothing. The horse is the god here.

No horse, no rider also means you are limited in what you can do based on the horse that you have. A horse that can only jump 90cm is a horse that can only jump 90cm. Especially if it is a horse with properly fitted tack, no health issues, good training, etc. This is something that many fail to consider when they first start riding. The chances of moving up the levels on a lesson horse are slim. Why? Because the lesson horse has many riders to train. If a lesson horse is used to their maximum potential in one lesson, then how will he/she have any energy left for the next client?

However, if you are one of the lucky riders that gets their own horse (or horses) and starts to move up, remember: no horse, no rider. That really is the main principal of the sport (and also why there are many great riders who have not reached their full potential as an athlete because of lack of horses that have the athletic abilities to reach those ranks).

Underrated People in the Horse World: Aidan Reese

By Real Riderz

Who is Aidan Reese?

Aidan is a professional who has been riding for her whole life. She grew up doing rodeos and speed events. Aidan was nationally ranked for some time during her riding career. At the age of 16, she made the switch to eventing. She competed up to the preliminary level and placed 9th at the American Eventing Championship. Aidan is currently pursuing a career as a stunt double, specializing in stunts with horses.

What are some of the struggles you have encountered on your journey in the horse world? 

Trainers. I love learning and growing but I have found that most trainers in the industry have been jaded and take it out on working students (and sometimes regular students). They use gaslighting and manipulation and rob students of their passion. My goal is to change that.

What change(s) do you wish to see in the equine world? 

I wish to see working students treated fairly. I hope one day the view that you have to work 90 hour work weeks or have millions of dollars to make it in the industry will go away. I hope the mentality of “I yell at you because I care” disappears completely.

I am actually working on a podcast about my points and I’m working on building a student base that is taught out of mutual respect. I’ll be posting more about it on my Instagram @ThtBlackSheep.

Thank you Aidan for your insight! We wish you the best of luck in your professional career path. If you would like to have a chance at being featured in the underrated people of the horse world column, fill out this form:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1wvP3tT6ELOhNK3qQRuTVT2sX10kA4SsOmyiVz_uwRN8/edit

Trying Horses: What You Must Know

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By Real Riderz

Trying a horse can be an exciting and a nerve-wrecking time. On one hand, you are getting a new partner, on the other hand, you are taking a risk. Here’s a what you need to know before, during, and after you try a horse.

Before

Make the goal and budget as clear as possible before you even start searching. What do you need this horse for? Will he/she be competition or a trail partner? A budget is important to determine because it will narrow your choices, sure you might end up paying a tad bit more or a tad bit less, but it’s best not to waste your and the owner’s time on horses you can’t afford. You will also need to look at your riding experience as realistically as possible. Have you just started riding? Or maybe you have been competing for a while but are a bit more timid? This is where a trainer’s experience comes into play (or at least that of a more experienced equestrian).

Once you start looking, keep in mind the age of the horse/pony. A five year old horse which is sold as a beginner pony will more likely than not need some further support from a more experienced rider. Keep that in mind and be realistic about what you can give the horse. Height does make a difference but it should not be a dealbreaker (well unless we’re talking about a 177cm rider riding a 120cm horse, no…just no). Breed is also something that, although should play a factor, should not lead your decision. Besides, for a lower price range, a well-bred horse might be too out of reach (or if in reach, too green to even consider). Color should come last when choosing, and who knows…maybe you’ll end up loving greys!

Now that you have seen the horse (preferably in some videos), and have recieved the approval of a professional (preferably), it’s time to contact the owner! You will want to ask some questions about the horse and schedule a trial ride. Here are some questions you may consider asking over the phone:

  • Why are you selling the horse?
  • When is the last time this horse has been ridden?
  • Has he/she had any medical issues (e.g. sacroids, ulcers, colic, etc.)
  • When did you buy the horse and from who did you buy the horse?
  • How is the horse with the farrier/vet?
  • How is the horse on the trailer and can he/she travel alone?
  • How much does the horse weigh?
  • What is the horse like to ride?
  • Can the horse go on trail alone?
  • Does he/she live mostly outside or inside?
  • What type of schedule is he/she used to?
  • What type of experience does this horse have (e.g. jump height)?
  • Does the horse have a passport/registration?

Be patient and curtious to the owner when working out a time to work this horse. Once you have a time, prepare yourself by turning on your logical skills, intiution, and brining a trustoworthy horse person with you!

During

So you have packed your riding equipment and arrived on time to your trial, now what? It can be a bit daunting, but try to act as if you’ve done this before. A good sign from the get-go is if you are allowed to lead, groom, and tack the horse yourself. You will want to see how the horse handles and acts when you are on the ground. Run your hands all over the horse and take in as much detaul as you can. A bad sign is if the horse is sweaty, has droopy lips, and generally seems a bit unaware. You can test for sedation using a pen light. If you shine into the horse’s eye and the horse does not react instantaneously, it is best to leave and not bother trying the horse. This may be a sign that the horse was drugged or worked before you came. Another bad sign is if you are sent to the arena and given an already tacked up horse. The process must be as trasnparent as possible.

Avoid getting on the horse first, as this could be potentially dangerous. When the rider gets on, notice what the horse is like. Does he/she stand still? Or do a bunch of people have to hold the horse? Or maybe the rider only gets on outside of the arena? Keep all of this in mind. Watch how the horse handles under the rider. Watch how he/she uses her aids and if he/she wears crop/spurs. Also watch how the rider warms up the horse (notice details such as from which gait he/she does the canter transition). If you like what you see, get on. Or (if you are less expeirenced) have the trustworthy friend to get on first and try some things that maybe you don’t have the skills for yet. If the trainer/friend gives you the thumbs off, get on and start slow. Stay at the halt for a couple of seconds, and only then walk. Try some transitions from walk, and if you feel comfortable, move on to trot. At a faster pace, make sure you have your controls. If you like the trot, try a couple steps of canter. If anything feels out of control, stop and re-evaulate. Your safety should always come first, and you have nothing to prove.

If you are a jumper, try a few jumps, and if you are a dressage rider, maybe try a few moves. Only do this if you feel comfortable and safe, if you don’t like something, it’s ok to turn around and leave. The owners will be grateful that you didn’t waste their time and the horse’s energy that could be used for another potential client. If you did try the horse to the end, be kind enough to cool him/her down. Don’t be quick to leave and offer to help put away the horse. Note that the more time you spend with the horse, the more you may find out. Linger even a bit longer to ask a few more questions, and if you like the horse, tell them that! If you have other horses to try, keep the owners informed and tell them of a deadline when they can expect an answer. Don’t expect the owner to “hold” the horse for you and realize that business is business. Do expect that you may be able to negotiate the price with the owner, but you are unlikely to get more than 20 percent from what the horse cost. If the price doesn’t go down, consider asking them to sell the horse with some tack or perhaps help you with shipping. Do note that if the owner offer to ship the horse themselves, this may be a red flag because the horse may be a difficult traveler.

After

Once you tried the horse, avoid getting to emotionally invested because there are several pieces of approval that you need to recieve. The most important approval is from your trainer and other experienced equestrians (trustworthy!) However, keep in mind your feeling. It’s a horse for you, and if your gut tells you something is off, trust it. Avoid external pressures from the owner (e.g. them saying that they have other interested buyers….*sigh*). Any red flags and you need to run, because a horse shouldn’t be a compromise. Once you are certain and have taken the time to get approval from the pros and your brain (and soul), STILL don’t get too emotionally invested because the horse needs to pass the pre-purchase examination (PPE) or vet check. More on that in the next article but rember that if A) the owner doesn’t let you have a PPE or B) the owner tells you that they will do it but only with their own vet: RUN. A PPE may be costly, but it will save you a lot of money in the long-run. Once you get a pass from the vet, consider having the horse on trial or at least trying the horse in a different environment (maybe even at a different barn), it may cost you more, but it will ensure that you are certain about your choice.

Happy Horse Trying! 🙂

Underrated People in the Horse World: Connor

By Real Riderz

Who is Connor?

Connor is a junior show jumper who competes in the 3 foot (90cm) show divisions. He has be a part of the equine world for seven years. After retiring his older horse, he recently acquired a new horse named Hans. With Hans he has already achieved a milestone of jumping 3’9″ (1.15cm). Connor’s biggest goal is to be the first trangender equestrian in the Olympic Games. However, he hopes that there will be other transgender athletes that will start comepting at the top level of equestrian sports.

What are some of the struggles you have encountered on your journey in the horse world? 

I am both transgender and bissexual. This has been a huge struggle for me because the equestrian community tends to be extremely conservative and not accepting towards people like me.

What change(s) do you wish to see in the equine world? 

I want the equine world to be more accepting and less gatekeeping towards newer riders. I think that everyone should deserve a chance to develop as an athlete, no matter who they are.

Thank you Connor for the insight and good luck with the Olympic dream! If you would like to have a chance at being featured in the underrated people of the horse world column, fill out this form:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1wvP3tT6ELOhNK3qQRuTVT2sX10kA4SsOmyiVz_uwRN8/edit

Are You Making Your Horse Lame?

By Real Riderz

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Indirctly or directy, it is indeed a possibility that you as the rider, owner, groom, or even trainer could be having a detrimental impact on your equine partner.

So what is it that we could be doing that could be leading to potential lameness? Well, simply said, it’s neglecting the details. These details include (but are not limited to) not cleaning the hooves enough (e.g. after turnout or after a ride), riding your horse with improperly fitted tack, training too hard too soon, lunging as a means to take out energy without taking the proper precautions, and more.

So what can we do to protect our horses? Take the extra step to check your horse everyday, and avoid skipping the basics. That means basic safety precautions and of course warm ups. Take your time with your horses because your time with them is limited, and every moment counts. Groom your horses, know what is normal by observation/feel, and enjoy!

Underrated People in the Horse World: Gina

By Real Riderz

Who is Gina?

Gina is a trainer who owns an 18 year old quarter horse which was taken from the kill pen. She was an eventer for a few years before switching to the hunter/jumper discipline and comepting all over the country.

What are some of the struggles you have encountered on your journey in the horse world? 

I am a victim of body shaming because people see me for my weight and nothing more. Many do not take me seriously because of my body type. They just see me as a body and ignore what I know.

What change(s) do you wish to see in the equine world? 

I wish to see more inclusivity and open mindedness in the horse world. I want to see the equine world become more accepting of everyone (males, transgender people, people of color, etc.) I think that the horse world is a bit stuck in the past because of the fact that it is an old sport. However, I do think these changes can happen, it’s just a matter of starting small and being open to something new.

Thank you Gina for the insight! If you would like to have a chance at being featured in the underrated people of the horse world column, fill out this form:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1wvP3tT6ELOhNK3qQRuTVT2sX10kA4SsOmyiVz_uwRN8/edit

Kent Farrington Eyes

By Real Riderz

Well actually, you don’t need to have Kent Farrington eyes, you just need to keep your eyes up.

So what’s with the eyes? What’s the need to look up? And where do you even look? Well, just like you look where you go when you run or drive, we want to look where we want to go when we ride. However, that’s the simple answer.

When you look where you want to go, your body follows, which makes it clearer to the horse which direction you intend to go in. When making sharper turns, this is even more important because it gives your horse instructions instantly. So where do you want to look? To start, we want to look up and ahead, just above the ears or between them (depending on the horse’s head carriage at the moment). Besides looking just ahead, you want to plan your next move with your eyes. This means planning your track in your brain, and first riding it out with your eyes.

The sharper you are with your eyes, the sharper you are in your riding. This applies to just about anything in riding, but especially jump off rides in show jumping.

Happy riding and use those eyes!