Friday, June 7, 2019

Finish Your Round with Flair


Liza Towell Boyd's step-by-step approach to mastering the final stages of your hunter derby course.


The Challenge: Typically, at the end of the handy course, you see the riders come back to the walk promptly after their last fence and walk directly out of the ring. But sometimes the gate is very close and your horse may be too enthusiastic to do this smoothly. Remember that you are being judged from the moment you walk into a ring to the moment you walk out of the ring. I don’t like to see riders do a rough downward transition just trying to achieve the walk in time.


Your Goal: Landing and immediately coming back to the walk is the handiest, and over time this should be your goal. But if your horse is strong and you are going to end up in an unattractive tug of war, it is more appealing to do a tight turn and then walk directly out of the gate. The trick is testing your ability in advance and knowing what you and your horse can execute smoothly.

The Exercise: Set a simple jump on an angle near the gate of your schooling ring. Or set a simple jump heading right toward that gate. Either option works, and you will encounter both set-ups in derby classes. Place a cone about three strides before the gate.

Step 1: Jump the fence quietly and practice coming back to the sitting trot as soon as you can—if it needs to be on a circle, that’s a good place to start. Once your horse gets the idea, practice jumping and then coming back to the sitting trot earlier and earlier until you can do it by or before the cone.

Step 2: Jump the fence, land and then halt and back up a few times. Try to do this earlier and earlier until you can halt quietly by the cone.

Step 3: Now jump the fence and come back to the walk at the cone and walk out of the gate. If your horse is now responsive enough to execute this, that’s your game plan. Note that if you land on the wrong lead and you are worried that you might miss the change, then why take the risk? Just go immediately to the walk.

Step 4: Keep practicing, but if your horse is too anxious to give you the walk in a reasonable time—then plan for a balanced tight turn and then walk out of the gate. Practice this to the right, then eventually move the jump so that you can also practice a tight turn to the left. Over time, your horse should be able to land, execute a nice turn that fades into a walk and exit quietly out of the gate. The beauty is that the turn will put the brake on your eager horse. Your job is to make this transition smooth and make it look like you planned it. Which you did!

This article was originally published in the July 2017 issue of Practical Horseman.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Making the Switch to Senior Feeds

Making the Switch to Senior Feeds

When is the best time to begin a specialized feeding regimen for your older horse? These tips can help you determine how to best meet his needs.

Taking care of your horse as he ages means making management changes that reflect his current needs. So when is it time to switch to a senior feed? That depends on many factors. As a general rule, senior feeds usually become appropriate for horses when they reach the age of 15. That said, however, it’s possible that a much younger horse with digestive and nutritional challenges will benefit from senior feed. It’s also possible that a horse can coast into his 20s without needing a specialized feed. Horses, like people, show the effects of age at different rates, so here are few questions to ask to help you determine when it might be time to switch your horse to a senior feed:


How are his teeth? Aging horses often have worn down or missing teeth, making chewing more difficult and less efficient. Younger horses with unusual dental issues can face the same challenges. Senior feeds are typically processed to make them easier to chew, and a “complete” senior feed can take the place of hay if a horse is unable to eat his daily roughage in flake form anymore.

How is his digestion? Take a closer look at your horse’s manure. If you see forage pieces of more than an inch long, your horse may not be digesting his feed efficiently. This is a normal development in an aging gastrointestinal system, but one that is easily addressed with a senior feed formulated for easier digestion.

How is his “fuel efficiency?” A horse who is no longer maintaining his weight or energy levels on his usual feed may be ready for a senior formulation. Even before weight loss is apparent, a horse may lose his “bloom” if he is no longer able to utilize his current ration efficiently. Loss of body condition can be due to many factors, however, so you’ll want to call your veterinarian to rule out illness or other problems before deciding to try a new feed.