Setting Riding Goals for 2020

The start of a new year is the ideal time to step back and look at your goals and plans for the year and to map out what you need to do to achieve them. Whether you’re reading this in January or June however, there is always benefit in taking time to reflect on what you’ve accomplished and hope to accomplish.

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when doing so and a few things to consider when setting your riding, training, and competition goals for 2020.

1. Reflect on the past year.

Look back on the past 12 months. What worked? What did you accomplish that you are proud of? What didn’t work? What do you feel needs the most improvement? What did you learn? Draw from your answers as you begin to make your plan for the year ahead.

Look back on the past year to help you plan your year ahead.

2. Make S.M.A.R.T. goals.

One great way to avoid defeat on the way to accomplishing your goals is to make them “S.M.A.R.T.” or “specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timeline-able.” Here are some examples of what that looks like:

Specific – Focus on making your goals precise. For instance, a goal such as “improve my riding” is rather ambiguous and could be made more precise, such as “improve my scores in the equitation ring.”

Measurable – Goals like approving scores, completing a competition, jumping a new height, or finishing all of your cross-county rides within the optimum time are all examples of measurable goals.

Attainable and Realistic – These two go hand-in-hand. If you were competing in the 0.80m Jumpers last year, the 1.40m may not be an attainable or realistic goal for you or your horse. Understand you and your horse’s capabilities and avoid setting yourself up to fail.

Timeline-able – Put a time frame on your goals. With horses things are often bound to change, so give yourself the flexibility to adjust your timeline if needed, but try to keep your eyes on a goal date.

3. Set short-term goals that lead to the long-term goal.

In order to not get overwhelmed and to have a realistic chance at achieving what you’ve set out to accomplish, break down your large goals into smaller steps and map out an action plan to make the big goals happen. Short-term goals can even take as short as a day to complete, such as “confidently jump a 3’6” course at home.”

Take small steps toward your larger goal.

4. Record your progress.

It’s inevitable that you’re going to have ups and downs throughout the year on the road to your goals, no matter what they may be. When you hit a low, it can be encouraging to look back at where you started! Track or journal your activity, such as your workouts or rides, that relates toward your goals. There are a number of goal-tracking journals, worksheets, and applications, specifically designed for this purpose.

5. Take advantage of available, value resources and those around you.

Planning out your competition year and your horse show goals? Check out Jumpfax. Striving to achieve your barn management organization in 2020? We might have an idea of an extremely helpful tool for you! (Hint: It’s BarnManager! ;))  For more specific ways that BarnManager can help you achieve your equestrian goals, be sure to check out this list we compiled!

No matter what your goal may be, there is likely to be a tool available aimed at helping you achieve it. In that same vein, there are likely going to be people who want to see you succeed! Connect with others who can hold you accountable, have similar goals, or can help mentor you or steer you in the right direction.

6. Celebrate your successes!

As you achieve even the baby steps along the way toward your big goal, take a moment to recognize your progress and celebrate the fact that you’re making headway – even if it feels like you have quite a way to go! Recognizing your accomplishments, no matter how big or small, can go a long way in building your confidence and commitment toward achieving what you’ve set out to accomplish!

Good luck as you go after your goals this year! Let’s make 2020 the best year yet!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Holiday Horse Treat Recipes

‘Tis the season for indulging in tasty treats and cookies – so why not treat your horse to something special too?

We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite holiday horse treat recipes, all of which make easy, inexpensive, and tasty gifts for the four-legged family members on your list!

Christmas Carrot Muffins 

What You’ll Need:

– 3/4 cup of old-fashioned oats
– 1/3 cup of molasses
– 1/2 cup of water
– 3/4 cup of flour
– 3/4 cup of bran
– 1/2 cup of brown sugar
– 1 apple
– 2 carrots

How To Make:

Step one: Preheat the oven to 400 °(F) and grease muffin tins.

Step two: Shred the apple and carrots into fine pieces.

Step three: Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

Step four: Scoop the mixed ingredients into the muffin tins and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Click here to open printable recipe card

Peppermint Present Cookies 

We couldn’t help but whip up a batch of these as we prepared our recipe list! They take less than 20 minutes to make and are sure to please.

What You’ll Need:

– 1 cup of old-fashioned oats
– 1 cup of whole wheat flour
– 1/2 cup of shredded carrots
– 1/3 cup of molasses
– 1 small, ripe banana (or 1/2 a large, ripe banana)
– peppermints

How To Make:

Step one: Preheat the oven to 375°(F).

Step two: Combine all ingredients except the peppermints in a large bowl, and mix well.

Step three: This step is a choose your own adventure! To make the peppermint cookies, spoon the mixed cookie ingredients into balls and place evenly on an un-greased baking sheet. For a fun alternative, roll out the mixed ingredients and use cookie cutters to cut the treats into holiday shapes!

Step four: Bake for 10 minutes.

Step five: While the cookies are still warm, place a peppermint into the center.

Step six: Allow to cool. Then feed to your horses and watch as they enjoy!

Click here to open printable recipe card

Christmas Cake (This recipe comes from “The Ultimate Guide to Pampering Your Horse” by June V. Evers.)

What You’ll Need:

– 4 cups of sweet feed
– 1 apple, chopped
– 1 cup of raisins
– 1/2 cup of molasses
– 2 eggs
– Purple grapes
– 2 carrots, diced
– Sugar cubes

How To Make:

Step one: Preheat the oven to 350°(F).

Step two:  Generously grease a cake pan and set aside.

Step three: Mix sweet feed, apple, raisins, molasses, and eggs together well.

Step four: Press into cake pan, and bake for one hour.

Step five: Remove and let cool completely. Top with grapes, carrots, and sugar cubes.

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Holiday Gift Guide for Equestrian Tech Lovers

Finding the perfect gift for the equestrians in your life can be hard – especially as the holidays are rapidly approaching! Fortunately, if any of the equestrians on your list (alright, or you!) love technology even remotely as much as they love horses, we may have just the solution. An added bonus? Many of them can be delivered digitally – no need to worry about shipping in time for Christmas!

For the Rider Who Loves His or Her FitBit – Try a Hylofit! Hylofit is a wireless heart rate monitor for horse and rider that uses zone training to set fitness goals, track performance, and prevent injury. Shop here.

For Your Favorite Show Jumper, Show Barn Manager, or Show Jumping Super Fan – Give the gift of a Jumpfax subscription! The Jumpfax app allows riders to plan their season, access practical show information and key contacts, find start lists and results, and much more.  Shop subscription options starting at only $5/month here.

For the Friend That Loves Online Shopping for the Best Products – Sometimes allowing someone to shop for whatever they want is the best gift, and with a Corro gift card, they can shop for all the best, thoughtfully curated riding and horse care products in one spot online! Visit www.corroshop.com to purchase a gift card (and maybe a few things for yourself while you’re there).

For Your Barn Manager (or You!) – We may be a bit biased, but of course we can’t make this list without including BarnManager. BarnManager is the official barn management software of U.S. Equestrian, and gifting your barn manager a subscription may just make you their new best friend! Subscriptions start at less than $10/month and include:

-unlimited horse information, health, and wellness recording
-the ability to upload attachments directly to records to easily access files when you need them
-searchable barn-wide conversations and messaging, as well as private conversations and messaging
-a virtual “white-board,” that takes the conventional barn white-board and makes it accessible anywhere
-customizable tables and free form lists
-contact management and more.

Click here to explore the options!

For any Horse Owner (Especially That One Friend that Misplaces Her Paperwork!) – Know anyone who has ever shown up at a horse show without a horse’s health certificate or who just wants to stay on top of her horse’s care (a.k.a. all of us)? Then consider a subscription to Electronic Vet – currently available for only $50 a year.

Electronic Vet provides an innovative, user-friendly, digital health certificate designed to meet the ever-growing needs of horse show venues. By providing accurate, efficient, and secure information, “eVet” is the authority in online equine health certificates and immunization records – and a great gift. Visit www.electronicvet.com to find out more.

For the Eventing Rider – The CrossCountry app may be just what your eventing friends didn’t know they needed. The app allows riders to record their cross-country course walk with GPS; add photos, comments, and striding; share courses and download virtual guided course walks; and much more. Learn more at www.crosscountryapp.com.

For the Friend Who Always Wants to Know What Her Horse is Up To – Give the gift of Nightwatch! Nightwatch is a smart halter that monitor’s the horse’s safety when no one is around, including tracking the horse’s heart rate, respiratory rate, activity, motion, and posture. Shop online at www.SmartHalter.com.

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

 

Could Being a Barn Manager or Groom Affect Your Amateur Status?

Suppose you are a barn manager or groom showing your horse in the Low Adult Jumpers. You consider your riding skill level far from that of a professional, so you have no doubts as to your amateur status – until someone complains.

The person complaining states that you are violating the U.S. Equestrian “amateur rule” and should be considered a professional as they have seen you riding other clients’ horses at the barn where you work and helping to instruct younger riders at horse shows. Is the complainer just trying to stir up trouble? Or do they have a legitimate point? Depending on your specific circumstances, they just may be correct.

Let’s walk through the U.S. Equestrian rule book, rule GR1306 (a.k.a. “the amateur rule”) to understand why.

First, the rule reads:

“3. Permitted activities by Amateur. An Amateur is permitted to do the following:

Accept remuneration for providing service in one’s capacity as a: clinic manager or organizer (so long as they are not performing the activities of instructor or trainer), presenter or panelist at a Federation licensed officials’ clinic, competition manager, competition secretary, judge, steward, technical delegate, course designer, announcer, TV commentator, veterinarian, groom, farrier, tack shop operator, breeder, or boarder, or horse transporter.”

While barn manager is not specifically listed among the permitted activities, groom is, and it is a safe assumption that barn management falls into the same “safe” category.

However, there is a caveat. The rule also states: “…a person is a professional if after his 18th birthday he does any of the following:

Accepts remuneration AND rides, exercises, drives, shows, trains, assists in training, schools or conducts clinics or seminars.”

Let’s first address the riding of client horses at home. If you are receiving any sort of payment for your riding of these client horses or if you are actively training them, it would be in violation of your amateur status.

The exception would be if you are riding them for fun or with no direct compensation.

Armand Leone of Leone Equestrian Law explains: “If you are not receiving remuneration for exercising horses at the barn, and hacking is an informal arrangement for your enjoyment and not part of your ‘job,’ you may be able to ride barn horses and not be considered professional. Again, it all depends on the context. Activities such as grooming, office paperwork, or barn maintenance work are permissible and do not affect your amateur status.”

In this situation, instructing younger riders is likely where you are more apt to find yourself in violation of the rule.

Leone further explains, “The most important thing to keep in mind is that instructing even the youngest, most beginner riders at your barn or helping to train any of your other barn mates would again render you no longer an amateur. Even something as simple as walking a course at a horse show with a younger rider and providing them with input on how it should be ridden while your trainer is tied up at another ring could put you in violation of the rules. Again, the facts matter. Such a scenario could be fine were you not receiving remuneration from your trainer for this activity, because you are…this sort of assistance to your trainer could be viewed as a violation.”

The bottom line: it is important to be cognizant of your actions and to avoid any sort of training – either of horses or riders – for payment or other compensation!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

501(c)(3) Feature: Worthy Stables

Through our ‘Free for 501(c)3’ program, our team at BarnManager has had the opportunity to learn more about incredible equestrian non-profit organizations from across the country. Each month, we’ll be featuring one such organization here on our blog!

There’s only one place where Jessie Reeves has heard a child say her first words, seen young people lifted from wheelchairs to run around on four powerful legs, and witnessed military veterans heal from combat-related traumas: Worthy Stables Therapeutic Horsemanship.

The non-profit riding organization was started by Reeves in 2017 and was fueled by Reeves’s desire to share the joys and benefits of horsemanship with the surrounding Mississippi community.

Today, Worthy Stables provides programs to a broad range of individuals, with personalized curriculum designed to help them reach their goals, improve their situations, and become the best versions of the themselves.

“Our broadest reaching program is Exceptional Equestrians, serving individuals with special needs such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Downs Syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury, Cerebral Palsy, and many others,” explained Reeves. “We also serve our military families with programs for veterans who have experienced trauma. Our military veterans program has three levels beginning with Boots on the Ground, an unmounted program in which the participants learn to work with untrained horses on the ground and progress into riding as they develop their skillset, confidence, and passion.”

Worthy Stables also serves children who have experienced foster care or developmental trauma and women who have survived assault, as well as offering camps and classes for children who homeschool.

“The heart of Worthy Stables is inclusivity,” said Reeves. “It is unique among equestrian centers because qualifying participants are not turned away if they cannot afford our services. We are donation funded, volunteer staffed, and our horses are donated, rescued, or on loan from friends of the organization.”

Presently, Worthy Stables is home to seven full-time therapy horses, two horses in training, and two therapeutic donkeys.

When doing an online search for software to help keep the horses’ information organized, Reeves and the Worthy Stables team discovered BarnManager.

“For the first time since opening Worthy Stables, I recently had to travel for over a week,” said Reeves. “Being able to share horse care information so easily was a lifesaver and provided much needed peace of mind that my horses would be well cared for and my volunteers would feel confident in caring for them.”

Learn more about Worthy Stables by visiting www.WorthyStables.org.

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Four Ways to Streamline Your Barn Management

Whether you are managing a large show barn or boarding operation or taking care of your own mounts, chances are good that you got into the role for one primary reason: because you enjoy spending time with horses.

Unfortunately, if you’re in one of the aforementioned positions, you also know that far too often time spent enjoying the horses can get overshadowed by the scheduling of lessons, and farrier visits, and veterinary appointments, and the horse show entries, and the feeding, and the record keeping, and the tack and equipment organization and maintenance, and the planning of each day, and… well, you get the idea!

While you can’t eliminate these things entirely – they’re important to keeping the horses happy and healthy and the business running smoothly – there are several ways that you can streamline your paperwork and simplify your barn management to get you out of the office or away from the white board and back with the horses more often!

1) Take advantage of time-saving barn hacks.

Want to save time watering horses? Add a second water bucket to each stall and fill them up simultaneously to last longer and save you a refill trip.

Using polo wraps? ProEquineGrooms recommends using a pair of scissors to cut a design, like a notch or zig-zag, into the ends of matching polo wraps to save time matching up pairs. Do you have to make multiple trips to the feed room at dinner time? Instead of going back and forth, prepare all horses’ meals and put them into a wheelbarrow or add feed and supplements to a wheeled cart with compartments so that you can roll down the aisle way, stopping at each stall as you go. Peruse our blog, and you’ll find lots more tips and tricks like these!

2) Go digital with BarnManager! 

Of course, we think one of the best and most all-encompassing ways to streamline your management responsibilities is to cut back on the paperwork and binders of information by using BarnManager!

With BarnManager, you can house all of your horses’ health records, feed schedules, and training notes in one location rather than in binders, file folders, and notes on a white board. You can also grant access to any additional members of your team so that they can be kept in the loop and receive notifications should anything, such as a horse’s feed or supplements, change.

Within the app, you are also able to schedule lessons, send searchable barn-wide conversations and private messages, make customizable tables and lists such as horse show packing lists, snap photos of your horses’ records to directly attach them to their records, and even create “discharge reports” that quickly compile all of a horse’s key information and veterinary records so that you could pass them along to a new owner or caretaker as needed.

3) Get organized and plan ahead.

By staying organized, continually looking ahead to the next day, and planning in advance, you can save yourself a great deal of time in the long run! In speaking to many of the industry’s top barn managers and grooms, the top two time-saving tips that were repeatedly given were setting yourself up for the next day the night before and staying organized.

 Some managers recommended creating lists of what tack and equipment is used with each horse (either within an app like BarnManager or a physical list hung in the tack room), so there is no question for any students or other staff unsure of what to use – and it will save you time having to answer questions.

Others suggested putting tack or equipment away as soon as you are done with it so that there isn’t a pile to clean and organize at the end of the day. Almost all managers asked agreed that leaving the barn unorganized at the end of the night only sets you up for disappointment and a harder day the next morning! Particularly if you are at show, it can be wise to think about what equipment you will be using the next day and in what order and put it away in a manner that makes it most accessible in that order.

4) Maximize your down time.

If you are managing a barn full-time, take advantage of any free time to squeeze in tasks that will make your life simpler later. This could be picking stalls so that the piles don’t add up and make the full stall cleaning more difficult later, or topping off water buckets, or polishing tack, or maybe just squeezing in a little bit of extra one-on-one time with your favorite horse to remind you why you’re doing this in the first place!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

501(c)(3) Feature: Homeward Horse & Hound

Through our ‘Free for 501(c)3’ program, our team at BarnManager has had the opportunity to learn more about incredible equestrian non-profit organizations from across the country. Each month, we’ll be featuring one such organization here on our blog!

Miranda Swilley was rehabilitating a rescued hound dog named Sadie when she came to the realization that there was no hound-specific rescue in her home state of Mississippi. Recognizing this, Swilley began advocating for and taking in abandoned or neglected hounds.

Three years later, Swilley encountered a similar scenario – this time with horses.

In 2015, Swilley took in two horses from a 17-horse neglect case being handled by another rescue. It was at the seizure of those horses that Swilley also met the now-vice president of Homeward Horse & Hound, Angel Weldy.

“We kept in contact, and as time went on our concerns grew that there would be a need for another rescue able to take horses in our area,” said Swilley, who soon founded Homeward Horse & Hound. “We established our 501(c)(3) in 2015, and in 2016 the other rescue dissolved. The calls have been coming in ever since.”

“We knew when we started that we wanted to help our local law enforcement,” continued Swilley. “Mississippi has pretty poor animal laws, so our hope was that if we were there to give law enforcement an assist, fewer neglect cases would fall through the cracks.”

The majority of the horses rescued by Homeward Horse & Hound come from law enforcement calls, with a few also coming because of owner surrenders due to mental illness, age, or other circumstances.

Off-the-track Thoroughbred “Major Bingo,” was rescued by Homeward Horse & Hound and was adopted and renamed “Jackpot” by one happy young girl! We think he definitely hit the “Jackpot!” Photos courtesy of Homeward Horse & Hound

“It’s made adoptions a little more challenging since we never know what we will get or when, only that they will be in bad shape,” explained Swilley. “We also get the occasional goat from the city or an abandoned pot belly pig, even chickens and ducks sometimes! We still rescue hounds, but there has been such a need for the horses, that has become our primary focus.”

With horses as the organization’s focus, the team was looking for an app or software that would help them to stay organized and share information with others within the group, which is when Swilley came across BarnManager.

“The ability to access and input records without having to hand each other paperwork physically has been a blessing,” said Swilley of BarnManager. “I am horrible at forgetting things. Recently a horse of ours, Pedro, was adopted, and the trainer needed a copy of his Coggins paperwork. I had forgotten to take it to my partner’s house the night before, but she was able to access it through BarnManager.”

To learn more about Homeward Horse & Hound, visit HomewardHorseAndHound.org.

“Sometimes we lack the pizazz and following you see on bigger rescue pages, but one of the things I love about us being small is that you can really follow along with the horses in our care from the point of intake to adoption,” concluded Swilley. “For us, their stories are what’s important!”

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Does Your Horse Need Its Teeth Checked?

What to Look for to Determine if Your Horse Needs Dentistry

By Mike Lawrence 

Proper dentistry is an integral aspect of optimal horse welfare. As an owner, trainer, rider, or barn manager it is very important to be aware of symptoms that indicate your horse is due for dental care.

The easiest way to know a horse is due for dental maintenance is to put a reminder into the horse’s BarnManager record for a dental exam every six months.

Horses’ teeth naturally erupt and develop sharp enamel points when they masticate. These points can abrade the tissues of the mouth and cause your horse discomfort. These points and malocclusions, or deviations from normal dental contact, can also affect the natural motion of the mandible when chewing or being ridden, particularly if the horse wears a tight noseband.

If a horse’s teeth are regularly maintained it is more likely that the horse will have normal dentition and not exhibit dental symptoms when eating or being ridden.

Here are several signs and symptoms that indicate it could be time to call an equine dental professional:

– Eating abnormally, dropping grain, and quidding hay are all symptoms that your horse’s teeth should be checked. Eating related symptoms often may indicate an acute change in a horse’s condition or reveal an advanced chronic condition.

– Any musculoskeletal abnormalities such as atrophy of the masseter muscles or over-developed temporalis muscles in the forelock area are symptoms of abnormal mastication. Often your veterinarian, chiropractor, or body work therapist may observe body issues that appear to have a primary dental origin. That is why for optimal equine care it is important that the person responsible for the horse’s care shares relevant information, so all the health care providers can work as a team to help your horse.

– Facial swelling, odor, and/or drooling are signs of acute issues that warrant immediate dental and veterinary attention.

– Riding issues such as head tossing, rooting, head tilting, resistance, or not staying on contact are also key symptoms that your horse needs to see a dental professional.

– Looking at the incisors for asymmetries or excessive length is another way to determine if your horse needs to see a dental provider.

These are some of the many clues that your horse’s teeth may be bothering them. If you keep your horse on a regular preventative maintenance dental schedule, often many of these issues can be averted. Dental conditions are not always the primary cause of these symptoms but frequently are. It is best not to wait for an acute dental problem to occur and your horse to be in discomfort, before we check its teeth.

 

Mike Lawrence has been practicing equine dental maintenance since 1992 and is a Certified Member of the International Association of Equine Dentistry. To locate an IAED certified veterinarian or dental provider in your area, visit iaedonline.com.

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!

Five Ingredients You Need for Your Horse’s Best Training Program

By Caitlyn Shiels, True North Stables

In every show season, there are certain events for which we want our horses to be at their absolute best. One of the most important skills a trainer or rider can have is knowing how to prepare a horse to peak at a certain competition, whether it be an important indoor show or a particular class.

Expecting our horses to perform their best means preparing them to the best of our abilities with the best possible training program for their needs. For any horse that comes into our barn at True North Stables – be it a hunter, jumper, or equitation horse – I create a routine that is specifically best suited for them. There are, however, five key ingredients that I’ve found are important across the board.

1) Clear goals

First, I think it’s important to set attainable goals for the horse, and assuming that they are competition-oriented objectives, look at those goals on a calendar. What events are most important to you as a rider or trainer? And what events are realistic for your horse?

Caitlyn Shiels with student Marisa Malevitis. Photo by Fine Art Horses 

The realistic part is important; take into consideration factors such as your horse’s capabilities and your time and budget. Once you have your sights set on what’s important to you for the horse, you can build your training program around that goal.

2) A focus on fitness in various forms

This one is no secret, but just as we wouldn’t be able to hop up and win an 800-meter hurdles race after months of sitting around, we can’t expect our horses to go out and jump or compete well if they haven’t been properly conditioned. Similarly, just as a human athlete may train legs one day and upper body another, it’s important to vary your horse’s fitness regime. What this may look like for each horse will inevitably vary, but your program could – and should – include some of the following:

Low-intensity work – This might be walking on a hot walker or treadmill, trail riding, or light hacks in the ring.

Flatwork, flatwork, and more flatwork – We don’t jump our horses very much at home. Instead, we place an emphasis on building fitness and a strong foundation on the flat. This is different than the low-intensity hacks or trail rides mentioned above, as you should be flatting with intention during these rides, keeping your horse engaged and varying your movements and what you’re working on. Depending on the horse, I might incorporate exercises such as lateral movements, counter-cantering to work on balance and engaging the hind end, or a focus on transition work.

Caitlyn Shiels incorporates various forms of fitness work into the programs for all of her horses, including
Corporate Way LLC’s Incorporated, pictured. Photo by Fine Art Horses 

Ground poles, cavalettis, and grid work – When we do incorporate fences at home, it’s often in the form of specific, shortened exercises rather than full courses. Straightforward ground pole work can also be extremely beneficial in encouraging a horse to develop better rhythm and balance through the hind end, as well as improving timing and adjustability, and cavalettis and grid work can be set for specific areas of focus.

3) An emphasis on knowing the horse

To me, this is the number one key to success in any training program and the most important ingredient that you need. Really knowing your horse and creating a program accordingly can go such a long way!

Just as humans all respond differently to the same situations or learn differently, our horses do too. For instance, my mount for Derby Finals, Durpetti Equestrian LLC’s Cassius, does not do as well in a highly-structured program that works extremely well for some of our other horses. High pressure or more difficult situations like complicated grid work make him nervous, and really focused flatwork several days in a row makes him sour. So instead, his weekly routine and fitness program is more relaxed than many of our other horses. He’s still kept fit, but many days he’s allowed to go around more casually or with his nose poked out a bit just enjoying the ride. He’s the happiest he’s ever been and jumping the best he ever has!

When you truly know your horse’s personality and idiosyncrasies and tailor your program to them, you’re far more like to achieve success in the show ring.

Caitlyn Shiels and Durpetti Equestrian LLC’s Cassius. Photo by Fine Art Horses 

4) The addressing of weaknesses

In knowing your horse, it’s also important to know what its weaknesses are and address them through your training program. If your horse is weak behind, maybe it’s time to incorporate more hill work. I have one young horse that arrived not quite as strong on his left lead as he is on his right lead, so some of the exercises that I’m doing at home involve big cross-rails with landing poles that make him really think about his shape. The only way to strengthen those weaknesses is to effectively and consistently work on them!

5) Fun!

If you’re not able to also enjoy the process and have fun along the way to your goals, your horse is not the only one who isn’t going to want to perform! Have fun with your training program; reflect on and celebrate your horse’s progress, and don’t get hung up on plateaus or frustrations. At the end of the day, this sport and your training should bring enjoyment for both you and your horse!

Michelle Durpetti and Caitlyn Shiels. Photo by Fine Art Horses 

Best of luck, and happy training!

BarnManager is designed to be a part of your team, with the compatibility and credentials necessary to improve communication, simplify the management of horses, and get you out of the office, off the phone calls, and into the barn with the horses you care about! Click here to get a free demo and find out more!