Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Report on Road to the Horse 2009

Just got back from RTTH. Great new venue this year with plenty of room for vendors and the 6,000 folks who attended. Thanks to Tootie for the pro sound system and to Craig, Andrew, and Diana for running it so well. The VIP room was awesome, although I didn't get to spend much time there. I think most folks felt it was worth the extra money. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the booth.

It seems to me that the horses were a bit tougher overall this year. John and Tommy ran into significant resistance getting their horses to move out freely. They may have picked up some extra points for degree of difficulty and lost some for how physical they became along the way. Richard's horse appeared to be the easiest, but I suspect he just made it look that way.

The test was 35 minutes this year instead of 25, allowing time for extra training in the open arena before being judged on the required tasks. Tommy and John used the time to good effect and everyone was impressed with how far their horses had come by the end of the event. However, Richard's test also went extremely well, especially when he asked his horse to canter. They were flying around the arena like they'd been doing it for months. For his freestyle, Richard had his colt track a cow. When all was said and done, Richard was named the winner.

There will undoubtedly be people who disagree with the outcome. There always are. Sometimes this is pure partisanship and I can do nothing about that. But sometimes it comes from not understanding how the judging works.

1. There are four equal things judged: round pen session 1, round pen session 2, the rail portion of the test and the obstacle portion of the test. Each is worth 165 points. The freestyle at the end is worth 15 points.
2. The judges' scores are collected after each round. They cannot change a score later.
3. The high and low scores from the judges are discarded and the remaining scores are averaged to get a competitor's score for each category judged. No one judge can determine the outcome.
4. The competitor with the highest score at the end wins

Bottom line, it's not only the end result that matters, but how the trainer got there. The judges are experienced horsemen and they understand what they see, what degree of firmness is necessary, what kinds of choices the trainer makes. Every year the rules are tweaked just a little to make this as fair as possible and always to keep the welfare of the horse the highest priority.

I'll announce the plans for RTTH 2010 here when I know them.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Untangling a matted mane

Hi Friends,

Got a great question about the best way to clean up a matted mane. My wife, Diana, is very good at this. Here's the procedure I learned from her:

Preparation: Teach your horse to stand quietly while being groomed. Set aside at least an hour to work on the mane.

Product: A bottle of tail and mane detangler and a wide-tooth comb.

Procedure: Work with a three inch section of the mane at a time. Saturate it with detangler. Work from the end of the hair back toward the base.

Start four or five inches from the end of the first section. Grab the section of hair firmly with one hand and brace against the horse's neck. This effectively shortens the mane and reduces the chance of breakage.

With the combing hand, gently comb this short section out. If you encounter a tangle, spray a little more detangler and gently work through it with the comb. When that short section is done, grab a bit higher with your other hand and continue work on that section, proceeding back to the base of the hair.

When the whole section is done, start a new section. Rewet with tangler as often as needed. Most detanglers do not need to be rinsed out. Leave the horse standing tied until the mane is dry. Dry comb the mane very gently the next day. The more often you comb or brush the mane, the less likely it will be to get really matted.

FYI, I'm not crazy about hoodies (spandex hoods that cover a horse's head and neck) but that is certainly an option if you need to keep your horse's mane nice for a particular event. Just be sure you don't make that a regular way of life for him. His mane needs to be free.