Thursday, December 31, 2015

What is a drop fence?

A drop fence is an obstacle where the landing is at a lower level than the takeoff. They are particularly difficult because the horse cannot see the landing and has to trust his rider. Also, it's easy to get too far forward over one and end up going over the horse's head.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What is a corner fence?

A corner fence is seen on the cross country course. In show jumping, a similar idea is called a "fan." The fence makes a V shape, and you're supposed to jump as close to the apex of the corner as you can without missing it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What is a standard or a wing?

A standard or jump standard is an upright pole which supports a fence.

When the standard is wide and has multiple upright poles, either the same length or sloping away from the jump, it is called a wing. Many riders prefer wings when training horses because they discourage the animal from running past the jump more than standards. They are often used in shows because the broader surface means more space to put sponsor logos.

Monday, December 28, 2015

What is a combination?

In jumping, a combination is any number of fences that have to be negotiated as a single obstacle. Combinations have, generally, no more than two or three strides between jumps. In stadiums, the jumps often look identical. Double and triple combinations (two or three jumps) are the most common.

Friday, December 25, 2015

What is a brush fence?

A brush fence is a hedge with brush built on the top. The horse is supposed to jump through the brush. If the fence is high enough that the horse cannot see the other side (an exercise of trust in the rider), it is called a bullfinch.

Brush style fences are common in steeplechasing.

Japanese steeplechasers jumping a brush fence. Image source: The colonel of the lamb via Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

What is a bank?

A bank, usually, is a jump that involves going up or down from one level to another, either as a single step or a "staircase." Mostly banks are seen in cross country, but some permanent stadiums also have them. The famous Hickstead bank in England is a permanent part of the All England Jumping Course, is a single bank that is 10ft 6in high.

Michael Whyte and Highpark Lad negotiate the Hickstead bank. (The person sitting down at the side of the bank is the jump steward watching to see if they knock down the fence immediately after the bank, which falls more than any other jump on the course). Image source: Owain Davies via Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What is a coffin?

No, it's not something you bury a horse in. A coffin is a specific combination of cross country fences. The horse jumps a rail, a ditch, then another rail. The ditch may or may not have water in it. The coffin is designed to make a horse and rider pair slow down and focus.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What is a bounce?

A bounce is two jumps set so closely together that the horse is unable to take a stride between them, but rather has to land from one jump and then immediately take off again. Bounces are often used when training horses to help develop their strength and flexibility over fences. They are seldom seen at higher levels in show jumping, but are more common in cross country.

Monday, December 21, 2015

What is "walking the course"?

Walking the course is inspecting, on foot, obstacles you intend to traverse on horseback. It's usually seen in show jumping, hunting and cross country. You might also walk a trail course.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Why do showjumpers "post" the canter?

If you watch a dressage rider you'll see that they sit deep when cantering. Show jumpers however, come out of the saddle each stride, almost like posting. Why?

The reason has to do with the mechanics of jumping in the modern forward seat. When a horse jumps a large fence, the rider leans forward to go "with" the motion of the horse and free it to jump - this is what the forward seat was designed for.

In order to do that more easily, jumpers ride with shorter stirrups. This in turn makes it harder to sit the canter, so a lot of jumpers do the "posting" thing because it's simply more comfortable.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What is "Raring to go"?

Yesterday I talked about champing at the bit. Raring to go is another saying used to mean the same thing - being impatient, wanting to get on and do something.

Raring in this context is a slight corruption of rearing and it refers to the fact that some horses, when asked to wait before a run - when they know they're going to get to run - will rear up and even bounce a bit on their hind legs. They may also plunge, which is going into a half rear and then leaping forward.

(Not fun to ride, and I speak from experience).

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What is "champing at the bit"?

You've probably heard this saying, referring to being impatient and ready to go to do something, or having too much energy. It's obvious horse-related, so where does it come from?

It comes from the fact that some horses, when they're having to wait to do something or run will chew on the bit in an exaggerated way - "champing" is also spelled "chomping." An excited horse may also paw on the ground and throw his head around. This is often seen in racehorses during flag starts or in barrel racers in the chute - horses that are bred and trained to run and just want to get on with their job.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Who invented spurs?

We don't know for sure.

The word "calcar," found in homer, may in some contexts refer to spurs. We have also found Roman spurs in northern Europe. A fourth century vase shows an Amazon warrior wearing a spur, but only on one leg.

Roman spurs were straight or claw shaped and quite sharp - some of them even had a guard to keep them from penetrating the horse's skin too far. (Modern horsemen consider making a horse bleed with the spur to be abuse). These guards may eventually have evolved into rowels - which first appeared in 10th century Spain. Early spurs were apparently secured to a rider's boot or sandal with buttons rather than with straps around the foot as are used today.

Monday, December 14, 2015

What are bucked shins?

A bucked shin is a swelling on the front of the cannon bone between the knee and fetlock. It's an inflammation of the sheath that covers the bone and is most often seen in racehorses that are starting their career and other two-year-olds being worked hard. It's caused by concussion and can be treated by pin firing (which requires two or three months of rest and which some vets consider not helpful) or by backing off on training and giving the horse lighter intensity work until the swelling goes down. (Not complete rest).

Bucked shins are essentially caused by working young horses too hard, which is why they're often seen in the racing industry where there's a lot of pressure to get two year olds ready for their first race.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Do horses shiver when they get cold?

I was at the barn the other day when the parent of a student asked me if a horse that was shivering was "cold."

I asked her which horse and established that it was Cowboy, who is in his thirties, and he was indeed cold - his temperature regulation isn't what it used to be and old horses, just like old people, sometimes start to feel the cold more. (Don't worry - he got his nice warm blanket quickly).

So, yes, horses that are cold or wet do shiver, just the same as we do - but a healthy, young horse isn't going to get cold enough to shiver until the mercury really drops. They are more likely to feel the cold if they are also wet.

Shivering can also be a sign of pain or certain neurological conditions in horses - but it's easy to tell the difference. If they're just cold, then if you put a blanket on them, they will stop shivering fairly quickly. Cold horses may also stop shivering when they are fed.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

What is a "thoroughpin"?

Thoroughpin is swelling of the tendon sheath in or just below the hock. It's often caused by conformational weakness, and normally shows up after intense work. The swelling is retained fluid rather than inflammation per se.

Thoroughpin shows up as a swelling on either side of the leg and pressing on one side causes the other side to swell more - hence "thorough." Most horses with thoroughpin are not lame and show no sign of being in pain. (If they are lame it often means there's an actual injury to the tendon). Thoroughpin is sometimes treated by draining fluid, but often recurs. As it doesn't cause lameness it's normally treated only with show horses in which appearance matters and often left alone in pleasure and sport horses.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What are splints?

The splint bones are small bones on either side of the cannon that run from the knee to the ankle. These bones are kind of fragile and easily become inflamed from a blow or heavy work, especially in younger horses. Boots are sometimes used to protect the splint bone.

When we say a horse has a "splint," we mean that the horse has a bump on the splint bone. This is generally caused by either inflammation of the ligament between the splint bone and the cannon bone, or by a minor fracture to the splint bone itself. These injuries often heal with extra bone growth around the damage, causing an obvious bump. The horse is generally lame when the injury first occurs, but usually recovers sound. (Unless the splint bone is fractured, in which case surgery is sometimes performed). Treatment for a splint injury is generally to administer an NSAID (usually bute) and ice the area, and may also involve stall rest and/or the use of liniments. In some cases the bump may need to be surgically removed, for example if it's interfering with the suspensory ligament. However, many older horses "have splints" that don't affect them in any way.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Why should you never ride in pure wool gloves?

I give this piece of advice to new riders all the time. Never ride in gloves that are made entirely of wool. Why?

Because wool and leather don't "grip" one another properly at all. If you ride in wool gloves, especially English, the horse can pull the reins right through your hands.

Proper riding gloves generally have rubber or some other kind of grip on the palm to prevent this from happening. Expensive gloves are generally made of leather.

If you don't normally ride and need gloves, then a pair of driving or cycling gloves will work well. But never ride in wool gloves.

Monday, December 7, 2015

What is "studdy" behavior?

Studdy behavior in horses means acting like an intact male. It's most often used when you have a horse that is not, in fact, an intact male, but is behaving like one - flirting with females (and sometimes other males), being territorial and aggressive or prancing around in a particular way stallions do.

Geldings that were cut after puberty may have episodes of "studdy" behavior. If a mare acts "studdy" then it often means she has a hormonal imbalance (It's normal for a mare to show flirtatious behavior when in heat, but studdy behavior includes "snaking" the neck, trying to round up the other horse, tec). Some mares may also act studdy when around 90 days pregnant, regardless of the sex of the foal - sometimes to the point of having to be separated from other horses.

Friday, December 4, 2015

What is "jigging"?

Jigging is a bouncy pace halfway between a walk and a trot. A horse generally jigs because they are anxious or nervous or because they are over excited and want to get going with whatever the job of the day is. It can sometimes be hard to tell which, but the correction is generally the same - to release the rein slightly and use your voice to try and get the horse to relax. A horse may also jig through a downward transition - this is not correct and judges will mark it down in the show ring. A horse that has the habit of jigging a lot is a "jiggy" horse.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

What is a "cresty" horse?

A "cresty" horse is one that has a thick, arched neck. Crestiness is normal in stallions - heavy muscle on the top of the neck is a secondary sexual characteristic in horses - and in some geldings that are cut late (after puberty). Some breeds - draft and cob breeds - also have a certain amount of heavy neck muscling.

However, in normal riding mares and geldings, the "crest" is usually not muscle - it's fat. When a horse starts depositing fat above the spine on the neck and loins, it's a sign that the animal is crossing the line from overweight into obese.

A cresty horse, thus, is most often a very fat one that needs a diet and exercise plan, but can also be a breeding stallion.

This is a Hanoverian stallion with a solid, muscular crest. He is in very good condition (note the brand on his hindquarters that identifies him as an approved breeding stallion). Image source: Kersti Nebelsiek via Wikimedia commons.

This pony, on the other hand, is obese. Note that the "crease" of the crest is further down than on the healthy stallion - and he also has obvious body fat on his midsection and hind quarters. Diet and exercise stat! Image source: Dezidor via Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What is hardware?

In an equine context, that is.

Hardware refers to the metal parts of tack and harness such as buckles and rings. It may also be used to refer to the bit.

So you might see "solid brass hardware" in a tack catalogue - brass buckles are often put on show harness and tack.

You might also hear a rider saying they think they need a bit more "hardware" to control a horse - meaning a stronger bit.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What is a jockey skull?

A jockey skull is the lightweight, tight fitting helmet worn by jockeys under their silks. This style of helmet is also often worn by eventers for the cross country phase - and sometimes for other phases with a velvet cover. (Helmets with fixed covers are preferred by specialist show jumpers).

Jockey skulls are sometimes worn by pleasure riders in Europe and other places with a cool climate, but are less often seen in the US - they can get very hot.