In This Issue
Barn News & Updates
Dressage Training Video:
Perfecting Your Trot to Canter Transitions
Why an Active Stretch is Nothing Like a Neck-Down
Horse Care Tip of the Month:
Don't Skimp on Shavings -- a New Study Proves Why
Life & Style:
Do You Have "Horse Guilt"? Knock it Off!
Recipe of the Month:
Thai Coconut Soup
"Ah-Ha!" Moments in Riding
A Little Inspiration:
Watch a Hero Endanger His Life to Save a Dog
About Paula Paglia Dressage
Holiday Barn Party
This is the group that makes my life so much fun! Last month we had a beautiful Christmas Brunch at our ranch. While much of the country is in a deep freeze... we are eating on the patios in Arizona! I am so grateful for all of my dedicated, hardworking students! I am also grateful for my sponsors who trust me to ride and train their horses. I am very excited to see where 2020 takes us!❤️
Plus, we have some talent in this group! Kate Earl painted a portrait of everyone’s horse for Christmas! Mine is the one in the middle... the big one. Thank you Kate from all of us!
Dressage Training Video
Perfecting Your Trot to Canter Transitions
Why an Active Stretch is Nothing Like a Neck-Down
In the beginning, if I could get the horse to drop his head even just below the withers, I thought I was getting a beginner sort of stretch. I was so pleased that I could influence the horse enough to get him to drop his neck.
Then as time went on, and with my ever-patient instructor at my side, I realized that just getting the horse to drop his neck actually had nothing to do with getting a stretch.
Well, that was my burning question after about a month (or more!) of neck-downs and still no real stretch!
The Passive Stretch
In reality, the passive stretch is not really a stretch. It is more of a what I now think of as a "neck-down". The catch is that many people cannot tell the difference between a passive versus an active stretch, and therefore get caught in the passive conundrum without even knowing it.
When you are new to getting your horse to stretch, you don't know what a truly active stretch feels like. Initially, it can even be a little overwhelming to watch the horse as his neck goes down, down, down, seemingly into a never-ending abyss. It can even become a little uncomfortable to feel the imbalance the neck-down may cause, since the horse does in fact fall to the forehand in a passive stretch.
The neck-down comes from the reins. You learn that if you take the contact long enough, the horse will start looking for a release. At one point, the horse will drop his head and you will release. And so - as with anything (right?) - take more contact and the horse will quickly learn to drop his head even lower. Your release at the bottom will reinforce that he did the right thing.
And then your superstar fantastic instructor tells you that you are NOT doing a stretch!
After many, many more tries, you might start to discover that the problem with the passive stretch is that it is merely a posture. Similar to reaching down for grass, the horse learns to reach down for the pressure release. If the back was hollow before the neck going down, it will still be hollow. If the horse wasn't properly using his hind end, the disengagement will continue and might even become more pronounced.
At the walk, it might not be much of a problem. At the trot, you can begin to really feel the horse leaning to the forehand. If you try a neck-down at the canter, you will really know what imbalance feels like! Beware - the horse may fall to the forehand enough to slip or trip.
The Active Stretch
The active stretch is different in so many ways.
1. It starts from the hind end. The key is that there should be movement. So without initiating impulsion from the hind end, there will be no stretch.
2. The energy travels over the top line, and because of that energy, the horse reaches forward to the bit. If the horse is being truly energetic - from the rear - he will spontaneously want to round, release the tension in the top line, and begin the stretch.
You should feel a surge of energy (I think of it as a mild whip-lash effect) which ends in the horse's desire to reach forward and down. How far he reaches forward and down depends on the depth of your release.
3. Finally, the major difference is that your release of the reins encourages the horse to reach down even more. Therefore, other than the original level of contact, there is no more taking up of rein or tightening or pulling or moving your elbows backward.
During and After the Stretch
The other major difference between the active and passive stretch is level of activity. While the horse is stretching, he is still with you. In the passive stretch, you effectively drop the horse and let go. Then, you must "take up" again (your reins, contact, energy, connection).
In the active stretch, you are still there through the whole movement. You can half-halt through your seat and reins, you can use your leg aids and you can smoothly resume the usual riding outline once the stretch is over.
The reins are not loopy, or completely released.
There is always a light, effective contact between you and your horse, regardless of where the head and neck is.
Begin to Float
You will know when you have found the active stretch. There is simply no comparison to the neck-down. You will feel:
- the horse's energy surge
- the back actually becoming rounder and stronger
- the strides become larger and bolder
- the body loosen up, the horse become enthusiastic and calm at the same time, and just this overall buoyancy that wasn't there with the neck down.
Combine all the above and you will begin to float, equine-style!
If you’ve ever carted wheelbarrow loads of soiled bedding to the manure bin, you’ve probably wondered, at one time or another, if your horses really need all those shavings or straw in their stalls. Wonder no more: New research shows that bedding does matter, and so does the amount of bedding available. In fact, the greater the surface area of soft bedding (straw or shavings) available—that is, the size of the area that is bedded—the more time horses spend lying down.
Longer times spent lying down are important, as they allow horses to recover from stress and exercise, promoting better equine welfare, said Christina Rufener, a master's student at the Ethology and Animal Welfare Unit at ETH Zurich, in Switzerland. She presented her findings at the 10th Annual Swiss Equine Research Day, held in April in Avenches.
Rufener and colleagues assessed 38 horses divided into eight groups, each of which lived in group housing (a group stall, plus access to an outdoor run with firm footing) and were tested in four different bedding scenarios based on Swiss welfare requirements. The law requires that horses be offered a minimum surface area of bedding—straw or shavings—as a function of their body height. For example, a 17-hand (170 cm) horse in a group housing situation should have at least 75 ft² (7.5 m²) of “resting area.” (That’s roughly an 8.6-by-8.6-foot bedded area, though not necessarily in a perfect square, required for each horse.) Essentially, the larger the horse, the larger his resting area must be.
Within the resting area in the study, the depth of the bedding “was always sufficient (more than 10 centimeters, nearly 4 inches)," said study co-author Joan-Bryce Burla, PhD, of the Ethology and Animal Welfare Unit at ETH Zurich, study co-author. "But (bedding depth) was not part of our research question, (so) we can’t make any statements about it," she said. "We solely tested for the effect of the available space allowance/dimensions (in meters squared) of the (bedded) area.”
Rufener’s study conditions tested percentages of the minimum bedding required (or MBR) by the Swiss equine welfare laws—again, the resting area—as follows:
- 150% of the surface area required per horse;
- 100% of the surface area required per horse;
- 50% of the surface area required per horse; and
- Rubber mats with no straw or shavings.
The greatest incidences of lying behavior (the frequency of lying bouts and length of time lying down) in all horses occurred in the bedding condition covering the most ground—150% of the surface area required, Rufener said.
They also found that regardless of the bedded dimensions, low-ranking horses spent more time lying down in areas with fewer or no shavings than high-ranking horses, she added. But in the 150% MBR conditions, higher-ranking horses less frequently “required” lower-ranking horses to get up and liberate the bedding area before they were ready, compared to 100% and 50% MBR. This is important, as higher-ranking horses often prevent lower-ranking horses from getting the rest they need in group scenarios, she said.
Without the bedding, however, the horses rarely lie down, Rufener relayed. Providing comfortable bedding is, therefore, critical to equine welfare, she said.
“Our study showed that horses prefer lying down on bedding and that hard rubber mats (alone) are not an adequate support surface for them,” Rufener said.
“The minimum statutory bedding requirements (in Switzerland) seem to be adequate, but there are large differences among individuals,” she added. “Including social parameters in our study revealed that optimizing the bedding areas … can help improve the welfare for the lower-ranking horses, as well.” In other words, the more bedded area you supply, the more likely the horses lower in the pecking order will lie down.
Further research is needed to determine how individually kept horses respond to different bedded surface areas.
Are You Feeling Guilty? You know what makes us feel guilty? Spending time at the barn, and not spending that extra time with our family.
You know what else makes us feel guilty? Spending time with our family, and not spending enough time at the barn.
We also feel guilty when we clean the tack room but not the house, or we help with the yard work instead of doing dressage. We can barely validate going to a horse show on Saturday instead of catching up on laundry, and Heaven forbid we need to run some errands on a sunny day when we should obviously be riding.
It’s enough to make anyone insane! Society tells us to do one thing, (okay, 20 things) but our heart wants to do another. The trainer says yes; the husband says no; the kids say whatever they want, apparently. We feel torn in so many directions at once, that it’s a miracle we are all still in one piece!
So knock it off!!
Be nice to yourself! You can only do so much at once!
Let’s break this down for a minute. If you need to go to the barn and take a riding lesson and shovel some manure to make yourself happy, do you think your husband/boyfriend/family really cares? They benefit from your sanity too, you know. If you’re in a better mood after a few hours at the barn, the whole family has a better day. Let’s just face it. After you get your crack- I mean, horse fix, you are ready to face the day, and your attitude is significantly improved.
Additionally, all that physical activity and manual labor that happens around horses is surely not doing any harm to your figure. I bet your spouse likes that part too. 😏 Just guessing.
Now, if your significant other has some sort of weird problem with your horse habit, I would venture to guess that there are underlying issues that need to be sorted out, and they’re not horse related. No healthy relationship includes trying to talk your other half out of their hobbies, independence, and happiness.
Generally speaking, our families want us to be happy. They knew we were horse crazy when they first met us. They didn’t expect us to change. If money were no problem, 100% of them would say sure. Have the horse. Buy the trailer. Make yourself happy.
You have literally trained him that when you ramble on and smother him with attention, if he stands and accepts it, you will feed him. It’s nice to think he genuinely cares about your well being and loves you with his whole heart, but he doesn’t. He loves you with his whole belly. To the moon and back. ❤️
Some people will read that and the hackles on their back will go up. What?! No! *gasp* Not my precious Buttercup!! He LOVES ME! Who does Shallary think she is?! Buttercup and I are besties! She doesn’t know MY horse.
Yes. Yes I do. I know that horses generally like interacting with their humans. I do think they like us to come around. We are one of their herd. Mine follow me around, watching me do chores, offering a helping hand, and biting at my pockets any chance they get. I think they like to play with us. And when we ride them, and they get more flexible and more fit, they do feel better. So yes, your horse likes you and the benefits you bring to the table, but let’s face it. Cookies. He wants all the cookies.
Also. Your horse has no goals. No Olympic dreams. No hopes of Third Level. Not even one tiny thought about running a 2* at Fairhill in the spring. None!! (Can you believe the nerve?! After all the hard work, time, money, sweat, blood, and tears you have invested into him, and he’s not even on board with your plan!!) With that in mind, you do not, I repeat, do not, have to feel guilty if your horse doesn’t “reach his potential.”
If I had a nickel for every horse sale ad I have read that the reasoning for the sale is either “not getting the attention he deserves” or “needs a rider that will bring him to potential” and “I’m wasting him”… I would be a millionaire.
As long as your horse gets adequate care, that’s all he really needs. He has NO IDEA there is anything else on the agenda besides what you present to him that day. Do not feel guilty if you only ride once a week. Do not feel guilty if you have no idea how to properly ask for tempi changes. Your. Horse. Does. Not. Care.
He probably would love to go on a few trail rides, hang out at a ranch, live in the back 40 with his friends, get into mischief, and have the whole winter off. He does look really cute wearing his rug in his stall, but at the end of the day, he’s still a horse.
If you need to spend time at home for a month to feel happy, then do it. But if you want to spend some extra time at the barn, then make it happen.
I used to try to cram as many things into my schedule as the day would possibly allow, because I felt bad or guilty if I didn’t ride, do the chores, and spend time with the boyfriend every day. Sadly, I am human too. I couldn’t do it all every day, and neither can you.
Sometimes we have to just do the errands, fix the horse’s waterer, and get dinner on the table before midnight. And that’s okay. You can ride tomorrow. You can also do all the laundry tomorrow. Because today, you found the living room underneath all the stuff, and even cleaned the bathroom. And that has to be good enough. There has to be a point where we stop picking at ourselves and being upset by the things we didn’t get done and the horses we didn’t ride.
I can’t ride everyday. I get off work and it’s been dark for hours. But I don’t feel bad or guilty. It is what it is. So I go harass the ponies, give them cuddles, hand out some cookies, and go inside for some tea. And I don’t feel bad for doing it.
The family is still there. Your trainer is still there. And they all want you to be happy, and you should want that too.
So I challenge you to try it. No more guilt. Ride when you can. Take a day off if you need to. Buttercup will still be there to nicker at you, and he will still love you. I promise.
"When it's chilly out, there's nothing more satisfying than a hot bowl of soup. This recipe is so simple and delicious. Try it in a bowl by itself, or over jasmine rice." Paula
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 stalk lemon grass, minced
- 2 teaspoons red curry paste
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 3 (13.5 ounce) cans coconut milk
- 1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 pound medium shrimp - peeled and deveined
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- salt to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Cook and stir the ginger, lemongrass, and curry paste in the heated oil for 1 minute. Slowly pour the chicken broth over the mixture, stirring continually. Stir in the fish sauce and brown sugar; simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and mushrooms; cook and stir until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp; cook until no longer translucent about 5 minutes. Stir in the lime juice; season with salt; garnish with cilantro.
"Ah-ha!" Moments in Riding
Your hips need to be able to swing with the horse's back, but if your knees are tight and/or pinching, it locks your hips and restricts the ability to follow the movement of your horse's back. Relax your back before your horse can relax his back.
Watch this hero save a dog from an icy creek. I'm so thankful there are such people in our world! It's heartwarming!
Paula Paglia, owner and head trainer of Paula Paglia Dressage in North Scottsdale, Arizona began her professional training career in 1979. Paula is a USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold Medalist and has been named ADA Rider of the Year numerous times through 2018. Paula has been an integral part of the training and success of her clients. She is credited with creating numerous winning horse and rider combinations through the FEI levels. She has developed Regional Winners and sent many students to the National Junior Young Riders Championships, the North American Young Riders Championships and the National Dressage Seat Equitation Finals.
Formerly the head trainer at Dynamite Dressage, and the head trainer at Los Cedros, she is thrilled to now offer her own niche to her clients: a full educational program based on dressage, developing amateurs, young riders and other professionals to their fullest potential. As owner of Paula Paglia Dressage, she has taken the best of training practices used throughout her career to offer a specialized experience for her clients. She considers her facility to be "heaven for horses." Owning her own facility allows her to cater to every horse's special needs.
Paula has trained with some of the most successful trainers and riders in the world, including Debbie McDonald, Leslie Reid, Christine Traurig, and Conrad Schumacher.
In 1992, Paula began importing warmbloods from Holland, Poland and Germany. Presently, Paula conducts personalized buying trips abroad for her clients, as she has extensive experience selecting and starting young horses and developing them up the levels.
The Paula Paglia Dressage philosophy is to develop a partnership between horse and rider. The well-being of the horse is the primary consideration. Paula evaluates each horse and rider individually and will design a program appropriate to their ability, yet focused on the long-term goals of upper-level classical dressage. Each horse and rider is developed at their own pace, allowing each team to be mentally and physically strong at each level of competition.
Paula believes that a successful training regimen is a logical, step-by-step process that utilized the horse's natural intelligence, his loyalty, his goodwill, and his honesty. A sensible, kind and structured training program will produce a horse with a strong muscle structure and a sharp working mind. Both are necessary to compete at the national and international levels of dressage.
Paula Paglia Dressage
Services & Facility
- International Equine Procurement
- Regulation arena with premium footing
- Oversized stalls, cleaned multiple times daily with premium shavings
- Fly misting system and cooling misting system
- Two all-weather turnouts
- Premium hay feed 5x a day
- Personalized grain/supplement feedings 2-3x a day
- Automatic waterers/outside tubs and interior buckets cleaned daily
- Hot water wash racks
- Locked tack rooms
- Laundry rooms
- Blanketing/final night check
- Caveletti course
- Access to Equine Corridor trails
- Regularly scheduled on-site clinics
- Trailering to shows available