In This Issue
Barn News & Updates
Dressage Training Video:
How to Start Training Flying Changes
In Between Jelly Elbows and Clutched Elbows
Horse Care Tip of the Month:
10 Ways to Support Your Horse's Senior Joints
Life & Style:
Lessons Horses Teach Us
Recipe of the Month:
Old Fashioned Silky Creamy Custard Pie
"Ah-Ha!" Moments in Riding
A Little Inspiration:
Something to Make You Chuckle
About Paula Paglia Dressage
UPCOMING ADA COMPETITIONS TO LOOK FORWARD TO
Road Runner 2020 Dressage Show I
June 5 @ 8:00 am - June 7 @ 5:00 pm
Pima County Fairgrounds, 11300 S Houghton Road
Road Runner 2020 Dressage Show II
July 10 @ 8:00 am - July 12 @ 5:00 pm
Pima County Fairgrounds, 11300 S Houghton Road
2020 ADA Flagstaff Shows
August 15 @ 8:00 am - August 16 @ 5:00 pm
Grandstands/Rodeo Arena, Ft. Tuthill County Park, Ft. Tuthill County Park
Flagstaff, AZ 86001
Maybe I should call this article something like, "How To Maintain Quiet Hands."
That's because we are more likely to notice the hands of the horse rider more than anything else. We likely never notice the elbows at all but there is quite a lot to be said about the elbows.
This time, we're going to take a look at the two extremes of what can happen in the elbows, and then see what the in-between can do to help us keep quieter hands, more subtle rein aids, and generally become more stable in our riding position.
The Jelly Elbows
These elbows are often so willing to open that the rider often goes around the ring with straight arms. Jelly Elbows open whenever there is any pressure on the reins. Sometimes they close when the rider feels that there is little control of the horse, but then then they open again. Sometimes, they open wide even when the horse isn't pulling or falling to the forehand (and thereby putting pressure downward). You can get a feel for the confusion that these elbows can create just by reading through the above description!
When the elbows are inconsistent, the horse ends up feeling the result in his mouth. On-again, off-again contact often ends up being reflected in the horse's head. If you notice your horse bobbing his head up and down repeatedly, it might be due to on-and-off contact. Which might be due to jelly elbows.
The Clutched Elbows
These elbows are exactly the opposite of the the Jelly Elbows. These elbows stay tight and strong constantly. They usually have a strong "L" shape to them, and sometimes, they might be so tight that the rider can actually hold the horse's head and neck in place regardless of the amount of pressure on the bridle.
You won't see the horse doing much head bobbing with these elbows, because the pressure is consistent. But what you might see is the horse going around with a tighter, shorter neck outline. You might see the horse bracing through the jaw and neck because invariably, the horse is stronger than the rider and can capably hold that kind of pressure with the front end.
Some horses and riders go along seemingly fine for years and years in this manner, and many horses (but not all) comply without too much fuss. The thing is, if the rider tries to work on more demanding or advanced movements (like lateral movements or collection), there will be major stumbling blocks to overcome.
Well, this third alternative is absolutely the most difficult to achieve. This is why it might take years to develop really, truly "supple" elbows that can navigate through the gives and takes - and not change the pressure the horse feels in the mouth. Tiny, not-more-than-needed movement in the elbows is the key to achieving quiet, responsive (but not throw-away) contact.
How To Work On The In-Between
The best thing I know about finding those in-between elbows is to stabilize your hands and let the elbows do what it takes to keep the hands stable.
If you ride in an English saddle, place your hands on the pommel of the saddle right above the saddle pad. If you have a bucking strap on your saddle, actually hold on to the bucking strap with both hands.
If you ride in a Western saddle, you have the pommel as well that you can just rest your hands on. Make sure they don't move.
Make your reins long enough that your horse is comfortable, but short enough that you have enough control to be safe (safety first always). Then start riding. (If you ever need to take your hands off the saddle to take up the reins to maintain control of the horse, do so. You can always stabilize the hands again after the horse is moving quietly)
Don't move the hands!
In trot, you'll be amazed at how much your elbows will need to move in order to keep your hands still. In canter, they move slower and more deliberately but your hands can still be steady and sure if the elbows open and close enough.
Don't worry if your horse isn't going perfectly for the moment, and just focus on your hands. They must stay still while the elbows do their job. You'll notice there will be times when the elbows MUST open and then there will be times when the elbows MUST close - all so that the hands can be quiet and calm.
When you get nice and comfortable with the elbow movement, take your hands off the pommel or bucking strap and try to maintain those In-Between elbows. Keep the hands close to each other, near the front of the saddle.
Every time you feel that you're heading back into the Jelly or Clutched elbows, go back to the pommel to remind your elbows of the feel you need. Then let go of the pommel and try again.
The thing is, if you can achieve suppleness through your elbows, you will also free up through the shoulders, the neck and even through your lower back. It's all connected. And guess what? Better contact will also be a part of the aids that free up the horse's poll, shoulders and back too.
Aging horses are more susceptible to arthritis and other mobility issues. Here are 10 ways you can maintain his joints well into his senior years.
Domesticated horses are living longer than ever before – well into their late 20s and early 30s in some cases. This increase in life expectancy can be attributed to advances in veterinary medicine and nutrition, as well as a rise in alternative healthcare options being used by more informed and proactive owners. But with increased age comes additional wear and tear in the joints, which can lead to the development of arthritis, a common obstacle faced by those with senior horses. While existing arthritis cannot be reversed, the simple strategies outlined here will help ease symptoms and delay progression in your aging equine partner.
1. Routine veterinary care
Ensure your senior horse has routine veterinary care to monitor organ function and identify any treatable health concerns before they escalate. Older horses tend to require more consistent dental care and may need modifications to their diet based on dentition and changes in energy expenditure. Maintaining an optimal body weight is crucial for joint health. Excess weight gain places undue stress on joints, which perpetuates the symptoms of arthritis.
2. Chiropractic care
Chiropractic care is not just for the young equine athlete. It can keep your senior horse comfortable in his old age, and lengthen his athletic career. Chiropractic adjustments help maintain joint and intervertebral disc health and ensure the nervous system functions optimally. Animal chiropractors deliver gentle yet specific adjustments to the joints of your horse’s spine and/or extremities that are not moving optimally. These adjustments maintain proper spinal/joint motion, allowing for optimal functioning of the nerves, muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joints; this results in pain relief and improved movement, stance and flexibility.
When choosing an equine chiropractor, ensure he/she is fully certified through The College of Animal Chiropractors and/or The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association.
3. Joint support supplements
There are hundreds of supplements on the market for geriatric horses, designed to promote joint health and reduce inflammation. Research on the clinical efficacy of these joint supplements varies, although the general consensus is that the benefits outweigh the risks. While these supplements cannot reverse existing joint damage, they may help slow the progression of arthritis by optimizing the production of fluid within the joint, and nourishing articular cartilage.
Two of the most commonly-used ingredients in joint support supplements are:glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate. Glucosamine is one of the building blocks of cartilage and a component of synovial fluid – the lubricating “oil” within the joint. Chondroitin sulphate is an important structural component of cartilage that attracts and holds water and helps the cartilage resist compression. When shopping for a well-rounded joint support supplement, look for one that also contains hyaluronic acid and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM); these compounds are also important for joint lubrication and for protecting intra-articular cartilage.
4. Pelvic tucks
When it comes to equine back health and mobility, a pelvic tuck (“bum tuck”) is a simple exercise with several benefits. This reflex-like movement mobilizes the spine and stretches the paraspinal muscles of the back, while also strengthening the abdominal muscles and topline.
Starting about 3” on either side of your horse’s dock, press your fingers into his rump and run them up towards the croup – he will tuck his pelvis and round through the back as you do this. Those who are comfortable standing behind their horses can do two or three pelvic tucks prior to tacking him up. This will warm up his back and mobilize his spine prior to riding.
5. Reverse walking
Backing up is a safe and easy exercise with plenty of benefits. Not only does it enhance hind-end awareness/proprioception, but it also strengthens the muscles of the topline/core while simultaneously mobilizing the spine and sacropelvic joints. Pay attention to your horse’s topline as he backs up. You will notice that he actually rounds through the spine as he engages the hindquarters to step back. If he drifts to one side, place that side against the long-side of the ring to ensure he tracks straight through the hind end.
6. Slow and steady warm-ups
Much like senior humans, older horses tend to be stiff at the onset of activity. Joint stiffness and short-striding that improves with exercise is typically indicative of stiffness caused by arthritis. Allowing your older horse to warm up slowly with plenty of time at the walk will help decrease joint stiffness, prevent injury, and allow the cardiovascular system to gear up for exercise. Senior horses who are retired from under-saddle work can still benefit from a structured hand-walking exercise regime to maintain joint health and overall well-being.
7. Cavaletti/pole work
If your horse is sound, walking and trotting over ground poles, and/or raised cavaletti once he is thoroughly warmed up, is a fabulous way to increase muscular strength and endurance. Additionally, this exercise promotes full range of motion for the joints in the extremities.
8. Stretch it out
Stretching your horse’s limbs can help ease muscular tightness, maintain or even enhance range of motion, assist with exercise recovery, and keep him supple. Three common extremity stretches involve:
- Bringing the forelimb forward in front of the body
- Bringing the hind limb forward towards the back of the front leg
- Bringing the hind leg back behind the horse.
These stretching exercises are not recommended prior to activity as it can actually increase the risk of injury. Instead, opt for slow and steady warm-ups while under saddle, and follow up with a stretching session after the ride is done.
9. Heat and cold therapies
Applying heat to arthritic joints prior to exercise can help ease chronic stiffness associated with arthritis. Leg wraps and quarter-sheets with ceramic textiles woven into the fabric are an easy strategy for applying heat to arthritic joints. Cold therapy such as cold hosing or ice wrap application can be beneficial during acute episodes of joint pain and inflammation, or after strenuous exercise.
Horses are genetically programmed to move and forage up to 17 hours a day. Not only is turnout important for mental health, social interaction, and a healthy respiratory system, but the movement it provides is paramount for maintaining optimal synovial fluid lubrication inside the joints.
Motion is lotion; joints are self-lubricating and require fluctuations in the mechanical pressure caused by movement to facilitate the production of synovial fluid and the subsequent nourishment of articular cartilage. Active movement helps promote joint health while optimizing the extensibility of supportive soft tissues (see sidebar above).
While arthritis tends to be an ominous diagnosis, plenty of strategies and treatment options — in addition the ones outlined in this article – can keep your equine partner comfortable and productive throughout his golden years.
It’s easy to overlook how much we learn from horses every day. I’ve been riding my whole life, and still have a new takeaway from every lesson. While the mechanics and nuances are the things we tend to notice the most, it’s the less obvious life lessons that stay with us the longest and have the biggest impact.
As a lifelong equestrian, these teachings might feel like second nature, but they’re the really important stuff. They’re the reasons we tell all the future Pony Moms and Dads out there, hesitant to get their kid a first pony, that yes this hobby is incredibly expensive and time consuming. But it’s also an investment in your child’s future. It’s a path to learn invaluable life lessons.
Horses teach us confidence. They are herd animals, and every herd has a leader. If you don’t provide the leadership, your horse will. I am sure every one of us can recall a moment when a typically kind lesson horse dragged some poor, unsuspecting kid to the grass for the millionth time until the kid finally realized enough is enough. They found the confidence to tell the horse to knock it off, and the horse listened. Imagine the impact that kind of interaction can have on a timid kid, to realize they have the power to control 1,000 pounds of (stubborn) horse. Those kind of moments build leadership skills. By the time your pony kid enters the work force, they will be prepared to take on a leadership role in whatever job they chose. Years of working with horses will have prepared them to be a kind leader and recognize when to stand up and assert themselves.
Horses are also gifted at teaching us how to communicate. They don’t speak our language, so they base their translations off our body language. They hear our tone, and see our actions. Keeping our shoulders back, head tall, and voice strong communicates assertive, but not aggressive, confidence. When a horse is nervous, we can change our body language to eyes shifted down, soft voice, and slow movement. Speaking with them isn’t about words, but meaning what you say with every part of your body and demeanor.
Many adults have a hard time identifying and maintaining their personal boundaries. I mean, haven’t we all felt like a doormat from time to time? But our horses show us their boundaries every time we are around them, and teach us to communicate ours. My pony is a licker. He licks me the whole time I am grooming and tacking up. One day last week, he got a little overzealous and nipped my shirt. I turned fast and used a loud voice, and he immediately knew he had crossed my boundary. Anyone who has lunged a horse has seen the effect of a physical (yet invisible) boundary we convey with our body language. We send them out to work by focusing our eyes and body towards their hind end. When we are ready to change the boundary and allow them to come in to us, we move our attention to their head. Our eyes create a shifting boundary that the horse respects. How many teenagers could benefit from not only knowing what their personal boundaries are, but also having the confidence to hold those limits tightly and confidently? Far more than the ones who ride, but the horse girls have a baseline built in the barn.
Recipe of the Month
Old Fashioned Silky Creamy Custard Pie
"Doesn't food seem to taste the best when it's made with simple, fresh ingredients? This reminds me of what my grandmother's generation would make." Paula
- 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In small bowl separate one egg white from egg yolk reserving both.
- Brush crust with beaten egg white and pre-bake for 7-8 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.
- In large bowl whisk together 3 eggs plus the one spare yolk and whatever is left from the beaten egg white , sugar, salt, vanilla, cream and milk.
- Pour egg mixture into piecrust and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack. Store in refrigerator.
- If available use fresh ground nutmeg because it so full of flavor
- I pour the egg mixture into the pie crust very carefully right there in the oven while the piecrust is on the rack.
- Do not over-bake. The pie should still be somewhat giggly.
- This pie tastes and cuts best when chilled.
"Ah-ha!" Moments in Riding
- The outside rein brings the shoulders inward as in a shoulder in.
- The outside rein balances the horse back to its hind legs as in a half pass.
- The horse must turn on the outside rein.
- The outside rein plays a major role in keeping the horse balanced under its rider.
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