Archive for July, 2009

Operator Error

Today Elvis was sporting his typical sunny personality.  We tacked up and began to run through our softening exercises.  It was hot, so I decided to do this in his stall, and a strange thing happened.  He wasn’t soft at all!  He was distracted.  This was so out of character, I wondered if it had anything to do with the location.  Well, sure enough, once I moved him to the field he was as soft as ever.

Once in the field, we worked on circles and blance.  I keep him on a pretty small circle so that he can bend and work on balancing through the bend.  I moved to holding the reins as though I were sitting in the saddle.  I found this to be so difficult!  I kept teasing Elvis that he was fat, because I couldn’t walk along side him without getting bumped out of the way by his barrel.  I ended up finishing after this portion of the training because this was so counter productive.  I did, however, come up with a great idea which I plan on implementing next time.  It involves two lines (maybe long lines, or maybe something shorter), a 3″ metal ring, and an old bucking strap.  If it works, photos to come!


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All Dressed Up

Elvis has been doing very well.  I worked with him this past weekend, but worked on maintaining focus through lessons already learned.  The weather was so nice on both Saturday and Sunday,that it was hard for anyone to focus on working! We did have an audience though; A friend visited specifically to see Elvis for the first time.  Her riding experience has been with hunter/jumper, and therefore her familiarity was with warmbloods, thoroughbreds, quarter horse crosses, etc.  From photos, she’s been a big supporter of Elvis, but I was curious to see what she’d think after a face-to-face meeting.  Well, she loved him!  Many times she explained that the breed “saddlebred” would have never come to her mind if she didn’t already know his story.  I could hear the same surprise in her voice that I had experienced myself, the first time I saw Elvis.  Another important thing to mention: she commented that there was nothing “gaited” about Elvis.  It is so common for outsiders to the saddlebred industry to believe that Saddlebreds are an entirely gaited breed.  I certainly thought so!  It amazes me to be standing on the dividing line between two entirely separate worlds.

Anyhow, seeing as how we reviewed so much this weekend, today we made some significant steps forward.  I decided to tack Elvis up and work him in hand, under saddle.  He was a champ.  In fact, he acted as though he were an old hat!  I have to say, too.. boy is he handsome under tack!  In addition to sporting handsome kit, he also donned his very own monogrammed saddle pad.  Two Sundays ago I felt rather crafty, so Mom and I worked together with the monogram sewing machine.

Elvis was so nonchalant with his new garb, that I decided to hook him to the lunge.  He was moving under himself very nicely, and was carrying himself for more than half of the time on his natural circle.  He naturally sought contact, and seemed to self correct when he began to fall apart.  We only worked at the walk, in order to let him really feel himself.  He remained happy, consistent, and relaxed.  I gave him many rewarding stops, and after a few moments he would move confidently back onto the circle at my request.  I’d say that is success!

After being un tacked and brushed down, Elvis took some time to play with his new and exciting toys.  I’ve gotten the impression that he needed to be better occupied when in his paddock.  His unoccupied mind often turns to naughty things, like chewing on things, eating other horses’ fly masks, messing with gate latches, etc.  So, I rigged up a pretty neat stall toy out of a heavy duty juice jug, hay twine, and peppermints.  I then bought him a flexible rubber bucket with small handles – Otherwise known as The Bucket of Fun.  We’ll see how long these things last!

Handsome Boy!

The Pepperming Jug

Elvis’ Bucket of Fun

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The Peppermint Thief

You know, I think I could get Elvis to do anything for a peppermint.  Once, during a ground tying lesson (which is like teaching a horse to “stay”) without a lunge line, Elvis was startled by a loud noise.  He didn’t take off, but his concentration had been broken.  All I had to do was reach into my pocket, pull out a peppermint, and begin unwrapping it.  It’s as though I were reeling him in on an invisible line!  There are always a few peppermints in my pocket; he’s trained me well, what with his investigative nuzzles and pleading eyes.

Today, Elvis deserved an entire bag of his favorite treats because he did so well.  We started with a review of voice commands.  Unlike previously, I worked him in bit and bridle for voice commands.  This was a great reinforcement for him; he quickly realized that woah means woah.  If he didn’t woah, he wouldn’t get relief from the bit until he stopped and rocked back.   We worked on straight lines, curves, and circles.  Then, we moved to ground tying.  He stood for about five minutes while I wandered around his paddock.  I was pretty pleased, especially since this is only the third or fourth time he’s done it!

After ground tying, we moved to softening of the jaw, poll, and neck.  We breezed through these exercises, and moved to holding the softness for about thirty seconds as well as reaching for the bit.  I really enjoyed this time with Elvis.  He was so soft in my hands, and followed the bit down to the ground when I asked him to.  I’m using a Herm Sprenger KK Ultra loose ring lozenge snaffle, and he’s really started to respond to it with a lot of foamy salivation and such.  I have ridden plenty of horses, but this is the first time I have had such softness on the bit.  There was such potential for a conversation with movements in the hand that were more like thoughts, or intentions.  I’m more committed than ever to take things slowly, so as to preserve this quality.

After working on softness in contact, we moved to softness in bend and movement into the hand.  Two days ago, Elvis was really starting to understand stepping under himself with his hind quarters.  He had had a few successful attempts at moving his fore quarters over, but I admit to being frustrated by my limitations.  Today however, he was spot on.  We did it three times perfectly on the left, and five times perfectly on the right (his sticky side).  He was bending a little too much at this step because he figured out that I was keeping peppermints in my pockets, but even still there was no running through the hand or falling out in the outside shoulder.  We ended here.  We will continue to solidify these movements; in no time he will be ready for the lunge.

Still no photographer to document the exercises, but I snapped some photos while I was out there.  It was a really peaceful day..

Grooming time.

Isn’t shedding supposed to be done with?

Horse shoes

Elvis’ daytime field.

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More In-Hand Work

Worked Elvis again today.  He retained everything from yesterday.  We just reviewed, then added the moving of forequarters after the hind quarters.  This was really difficult for Elvis in comparison to how quickly he learned to manipulate his body thus far.  He did get it, but I presented the greatest issue.  I find it so hard to do this step, because I need my eyes to be watching front and back.  Until it’s a more familiar set of motions, I’m afraid I will be rather discombobulated.

Also, I need to review “woah” with him. Since he’s learning new things, he’s throwing me behaviors in a trial and error fashion in order to find what it is I’m asking him to do.  Walking through my hand is naturally one of the first things he tries when I combined the HQ and FQ movement.  At least he was soft on the bit when he was walking through, not setting his neck or anything, ha!  So, probably tomorrow we will review voice commands in hand before we work on moving the HQ and FQ again.  In his defense, it’s been weeks since we worked on voice commands, ground tying, and such.

Sadly, since I play the part of teacher and photographer, there were only a few photos.  I did snap a cute one of Elvis wearing his brand new bridle, and looking pretty handsome.  We are still without a nose band.  At least everything else fits, though!

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…of Elvis’ re-starting!  Over the past seven weeks, life has been too busy to commit to a regular training schedule.  This was expected though; I’m so happy to have finally gotten to work with Elvis!

He did so well, and I did well also, especially since all I really want to do is get on him. My experience with starting horses has always been about getting on them as soon as you can, and teaching from the saddle. I think this is a very common thing in the land of H/J. I’m trying something new though, a training program that is more dressage centric. So, I’m starting everything from the ground. The template I’ve been following the most would be Michael Schaffer’s method.

Anyhow, we didn’t do too much today really, but it was important stuff. I bridled him and worked on softening of the jaw, poll, and neck. I started first with pressure on both reins. My reward was dropping the reins and stepping back. He understood very quickly, and progressed to holding the softness, then holding the softness on the outside rein when the inside rein was dropped. Pretty soon, he would soften and seek contact with me just moving to pick up the reins.. the stinker! Then, we worked on engaging the HQs and stepping over under his body shadow. I bridged both reins in my hand and asked for softness, while tapping with the dressage whip around his gaskin/hock. Ideally, he would have moved away from the whip. I had to tap increasingly hard for him to wake up, but he did and quickly figured it out, and then he did it a few more times right away. This was confirmed when, later during his bath, I casually tapped his gaskin to get him to move over. With confidence he stepped over under himself. Good boy!

Anyway, that’s all we did, other than other mundane regular activities. It’s difficult though, resisting the urge to climb on.

We’ll review this stuff over the next few days, and add to it. I’ll ask him to also move his FQ with his HQ, bend evenly, and step under his body shadow.. all with softness. We’ll then move to the lunge.

No pics though.. the camera battery was dead! I should have checked!!

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Occasionally, I will feature Guest Authors on Pariah Pony.  Julie Andrew has the honor of being our very first Guest Author.  Ms. Andrew has been one of the most visible driving forces in the saddlegreds-as-sporthorses movement.  Be sure to check out her wonderful and informative website American Saddlebred Sport Horses!

American Saddlebred Bloodlines for Sport Horse Disciplines

by Julie Lynn Andrew

It is undoubtedly the highest goal a breeder of American Saddlebreds can aspire to: raising a foal that grows up to wear the roses on the green shavings of Louisville- the World’s Championships. Sport Horse breeders aspire to win at the World’s Championships also. However, these competitions really are open to the entire horse world, and are held only once every four years. They are the Olympics. Think the Saddlebred isn’t suited for this work ? Think again. The Saddlebred, through the Army Remounts, and private purchase, was the one of the breeds of choice for the American teams starting at the turn of the century, until Imported Warmbloods replaced him. Today, the breed remains an amazing resource waiting for re-discovery. The Dutch, German, and Swedish breeders, amongst others, have imported American Saddlebreds, some from the very lines that do wear those roses, for inclusion into their genepools. The time has come to look again at a true athlete; the American Saddlebred sport horse.

American Ace

When we think of the gifts that the Saddlebred is blessed with that are traditionally considered as show horse qualities, we look for motion (use of the shoulders, as well as the lower leg), hocks (use of the hindquarters), gameness (toughness and drive), a horse that “thinks right” (a great attitude, and more) wears themselves right (sets up correctly in a bridle) wears their ears right (bright attitude). All of these are also the attributes of a competitive quality sport horse or show horse: they are the traits of an athlete. The older type of European Warmbloods, those enormous “stump pullers” of the Olympics of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s are disappearing. In their place is a lighter warmblood type- an amateur or ladies mount, if you will. The American Saddlebred, with his ancestry partly in Thoroughbred lines, shares this influence with the updated models of European Warmblood. The majority of those horses competing successfully at the National and International level horses are at least fifty percent- or more- Thoroughbred blood.

Golden Cavalier

Sport horse owners typically work their horses on their own; either shipping in for a lesson or clinic, or boarding at a facility where they can takes lessons as needed or desired. Having a horse that works with you, as a Saddlebred will, naturally lends itself to this work. As they progress up through the hierarchy of a competitive discipline, instructors and horses commensurate with the level of the competition are necessary for success. Progress of improving one competitive level a year is the standard, and in most disciplines, there are many tiers to the levels. These are partnerships that learn and grow together. Thus, sport horse owners tend to offer long term, high quality homes to these horses. Many owners are content to achieve lower level competence, and just enjoy their horses’ versatility- cross-country hacks and occasional competition. For sport horse work any tendency toward a more upright hoof capsule, or lordosis, is considered a negative. While there are always niches that a good minded, but less than talented, show horse prospect can fill, such as pleasure riding and driving, the caliber of partner required by these competitors is more stringent. A horse that can successfully complete the enormous obstacles in a stadium jumping competition, a cross country driving course, an endurance test, or the show the brilliance necessary to pursue FEI level dressage cannot have any shortage of gameness, athleticism.

Mountain Highland Memories

What types of horses can do sport horse work ? Essentially, any horse can do Dressage work. However, just as there are many horses that can perform five gaits, not all of them are going to be truly competitive at it. For the most part, the conformation and movement that we tend to associate with the horses most suited to being five gaited prospects mirror the image that is best suited to Sport Horse disciplines. A bigger horse (averaging sixteen hands or a bit more), with quality of feet, bone, and joints is helpful. Useful, yet strong, angles in their hindquarters and longer movement across the ground, is desired, as opposed to being the more hingey and park trotting walk-trot and harness types. A stride with motion and suspension or “hang time” is extremely desirable, especially in the competitive and lucrative Dressage prospect market. These Sport Horses must be able to work “long and low”; stretch their head and neck down and lift their backs. Ideally, these horses are what Saddlebred trainers refer to as slightly “forward headed” which should not be confused with “straight necked”; a more extreme and low neckset. What Sport Horse aficionados refer to as a horse being built “uphill” (higher in their withers than the point of their croup) is almost a conformational constant for the Saddlebred- in other words the ASB’s “forward headed” is the Sport Horse worlds’ ideal. It is always possible that horses that are more upheaded or extremely forward headed may develop into quality dressage, event, or jumpers- and always can make fabulous using horses for many other pursuits- but as with a young show horse- it is easier to start closer to the ideal. Just as with American Saddlebred show horses- a better understanding of bloodlines helps in the search for the best quality prospects.

New Yorker

First, we know that the American Saddlebred represents one of the most diverse and phenotypically (physical type) prepotent genepools in existence. The influence of stallions such as Kalarama Rex, Anacacho Demark, Edna May’s King, Stonewall King, American Ace, Bourbon Genius, Captain Courageous, Rex Peavine, Sun Beau, and through them, sons and daughters make the breed what it is today. We look to each of these families for particular qualities, even though generations have crossed and modified the essence of these great horses. Traditionally, savvy breeders consider the mare to impart as much as seventy-percent of the outcome in the creation of a foals’ makeup. Hence, we must strongly consider great maternal lines when we evaluate a pedigree. With the understanding that it is always, at the end of the day, the individual that makes the difference, lets look at some of the most popular show horse lines to see what their influence offers for sport horse work.

Wing Commander

For quality of bone, athleticism, size, gameness, and type of movement Wing Commander is hard to beat in a sport horse pedigree. Through sons and grandsons such as Yorktown, Wing’s Fleet Admiral, High Rank, Center Ring, Flight Time, Mr. Magic Man, Callaway’s Johnny Gillen and New Yorker, Jamestown, Courageous Admiral, Will Shriver and Grape Tree’s Fox, his presence continues to be felt. Whether on the top or bottom side of the mix, his is undoubtedly the most welcome addition to find for the sport horse disciplines. When doubled up, and close up in the pedigree, these bloodlines express themselves more vividly, and individuals with enormous potential can result. Therefore, broodmare sires of these lines with high percentages of WC producing daughters to their credit are worth noting. Thirty-eight percent of the daughters of Wing himself produced World Champions. From New Yorker, an astonishing forty-six percent, Mr. Magic Man, (31%), Jamestown, (27%), Flight Time (15%), Grape Tree’s Fox, (19%), and Buck and Wing, (24%), Yorktown daughters tie the old man (38%).

Will Shriver

These descendants each offer something a little different in a pedigree. For example Courageous Admiral may have been on the smaller side, but his beauty and proportion, and ability to “trot in a high class fashion” can still be seen in his get and descendants. While Flight Time, in his day, sired as many horses as any stallion out there, only a handful of show horses regarded as being truly great resulted. Yet, as a broodmare sire, his presence is of importance. Chief of Greystone- a big horse, yet low backed, sired the brilliant five gaited stallion, Attache, who is perhaps, not the least volatile horse to find in the family. Sunset Commander, at sixteen hands, was bred to the purple, and brought a lot of heart to his babies. Of course, Mr. Magic Man, a big horse of great beauty, offers high quality on either top or bottom of your horses’ papers. Buck and Wing has been described as short and punchy, however, crossed on today’s larger stretchier types, much can be made with the Wing Commander connection. Yorktown has blessed many of his sons and daughters with quality of underpinnings, bone and size, and the ability to transmit these qualities to their offspring.

From Anacacho Denmark, come descendants of great influence on the breed. While Anacacho Denmark’s record as a broodmare sire is not impressive, as a sire of broodmare sires, he is phenomenal. Remarkable stallions such as Oman’s Desdamona Denmark, Denmark’s Bourbon Genius, and Americus Denmark, and Hideaway’s Wild Country have produced a legacy of greatness; through both their male and female descendants. Produce of the daughters of these three horses have produced respectively, 28%, 23%, 20%, and 20%. Their records as sires of performance horses are no less impressive. The presence of these horses in a set of papers for a sport horse offers the opportunity for diversifying a pedigree, while maintaining brilliance.

Valley View Supreme

The King’s Genius great-grandson Valley View Supreme offers beauty, ridability, and refinement through his son, Supreme Sultan, and his grandsons like Status Symbol, The Rambler, and Champagne Fizz. The same magic cross- Wing Commander on Sultan or vice versa- that has given us so many World Champion show horses lends itself well to this arena. The strength that these horses have in the bases of their necks, as well as in the loins area makes them fabulous for show horse work, but can be awkward for Sport Horse work. In these disciplines, it is necessary for the horse to pick up the base of their neck, and loin, and be flexible in these areas. One cross to Sultan in these pedigrees can be helpful; more, perhaps less so. However, with the Saddlebreds’ desire to please and inherent trainability, very few obstacles deter him. The Status Symbol horses have a reputation for being almost too easy to bring along, and we have The Rambler who was “game as the devil” and harder to find in today’s breeding, Supreme Spirit, out of the brilliant Wing Commander sister, Dream Waltz, offers gameness and athleticism. Other horses from the King’s Genius line, Shoreacre’s Anacacho Genius, Greenway Commander, and Mountain Highland Memories, bring size, gameness, and talent to any pedigree, and no less to this work.

Preferred Property

As a broodmare sire, sons of Valley View Supreme are, of course, exceptional. Sultan, (30%), Santana (10%), Longview Supreme, (30%), Supreme Spirit (33%), Status Symbol, (18%), Sandalwood Supreme (14%), the linebred Sovereign Path (16%), The Supreme Look (13%), The Great One (16%), are excellent examples. As mentioned earlier, these horses work best when found in conjunction with Wing Commander descendants. Horses such as Supreme Spirit, and The Rambler offer brilliant crosses of the King’s Genius lines. Preferred Property get offer beauty, athleticism and gameness to the top or bottom of a sport horses’ papers. Daughters of Preferred Property (13%) and The Rambler (27%) also bring brilliance to a pedigree. The big beautiful Royal Rambler is also a marvelous broodmare sire (21%).

Stonewall Premier

Stonewall Kings’ influence is dramatic; either on the top or bottom of a set of papers. As the patriarch of sires of unbelievable producers and performance horses, he is as important to the show horse legacy as he is to sport horses. These horses mirror the imported warmbloods in that they are late bloomers, and can be great performers for a long time. Their quality of bone, and durability, make them especially desirable for sport horse disciplines. Many have a reputation for being horses that do not tolerate force happily; they require patience. While many of the Kalu horses are known for their inconsistency and sometimes difficult temperaments, they can also be game and useful in a pedigree. From this line, Captive Spirit, brings size and gameness to his get. Stonewall Supreme, the big bay horse who was blind in one eye, was a very game big horse, and many of his descendants show these qualities. Mountjoys Premier Starheart, a big horse at 17 hands, and linebred to Stonewall King, has proven himself a “premier” broodmare sire (17%), Mountjoys Big Hit, also a big horse, has thrown talent and size. Stonewall’s Main Event (13%), a big stout pretty son of Starheart Stonewall (11%), earned a reputation for throwing quality, however, for gameness and a more ground covering trot, a balance needs to be established in the breeding. As an example of the quality of these horses as broodmare sires, Stonewall’s Magnificent Genius (17%), Stonewall’s Beau Peavine, (21%), Stonewall Supreme (24%), and Stonewall’s Crescendo, at eighteen percent, bear out the strength of the family’s influence.

The descendants of Diamond Denmark, most particularly through the half thoroughbred, Montrose, offer great stamina, wonderful movement, strong hocks, and quality bone. The full brothers, Beau Fortune, and Beau Gallant, have each, in their own right, founded dynasties. It is through Gallant Guy O’ Goshen (21%), the pretty, game and prepotent sire, that their line is probably best represented in sport horse breeding.

Society Rex

Finally, the Rex Peavine line, most prominently through Kalarama Rex, offers sport horse breeders horses of great beauty and substance. Society Rex, noted as a handsome and refined horse of his day, reigns as a brilliant sire of sires. Through the get of his sons, Night of Folly, Society Mastermind, and Special Society, horses of athleticism, size, and beauty are available. Through Vanity’s Sensation (15%), Broadland’s Kilarney (11%), and Spring Valley’s Deliverance (10%), this line is carried through to today.

Vanity’s Sensation

This outline of bloodlines only touches on the great horses of the past, and their influence on the show horses and sport horses of the present, and future. The illusive “X” factor; that indefinable quality that some horses have that defines them and sets them apart for greatness can appear in any of the multitude of combinations of these lines. The individual, as stated before, is always the deciding factor. The great horses of the past showed immense durability and versatility. From the earliest American Saddlebreds who proudly and courageously carried their officers into battle, come our beautiful Saddlebreds of today- still ready and willing to meet any challenge we ask of them. Perhaps we should challenge ourselves as well, to find each and every one of the 2500 horses registered each year a high quality, caring, long-term home. No breed rivals these horses for attitude, athleticism and beauty the sport horse disciplines offer the perfect marketing outlet for these horses. For more information, please visit http://www.americansaddlebredsporthorse.com , or call 610.458.8652.

Information and help with this article was provided by David Mountjoy, Patricia Last, Longshadows Farm, and Dr. Steven Passman. Thank You!

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I’ve not forgotten…

For those who are following my blog, I just wanted to apologize for the lack of content being added.  Not only do I feel as though the basic needs of the blog have not yet been met (an articles section, expanded ‘For Sale’ section, etc), but I’ haven’t been making many posts.  Please don’t loose interest though.  I actually wasn’t planning on “going public” until after the middle of July.  My plate is just too full to be working with Elvis regularly until then, let alone add to the blog.

Anyhow, that is the update.  Again, please don’t lose interest!

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