Ask the Horsewoman

I’ve been horse-mad all my life, and have owned horses for more than a dozen years. Currently I have a 22-year-old Quarter Horse and a 13-year-old Thoroughbred. I’ve mucked stalls, put up hay, groomed, fed, been stepped on, kicked, nuzzled and saved from disasters by these critters.

For non-horsefolks, I’ve noticed, horses are awe-inspiring, intimidating, fascinating, glamorous, puzzling… especially puzzling. Questions, I get questions from visitors to the barn and people I meet when I’m out riding. Cool! I love talking about horses – in general, and mine in particular.

So, any of you have any questions? I promise to give you the fruits of my many years spent studying these wonderful beasts at first hand. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll look it up. (Or fake a smart-ass reply. ;)) For advanced students, I offer discussion of the high-white rule, headset – the good, the bad, and the ugly, whither the halter world, starting two-year-olds, and other such great equine debates.

So, if you’ve got a question, get hopping! I offer you a drink from the fountain of equine knowledge.

10 Easy Questions

  1. Anky van Grunsven-The best thing to hit dressage in the last 15 years or the Devil’s Handmaden?

  2. BTV - Curable or should I just shoot the horse now?

  3. If my tack isn’t spotless should I even bother to show up for the George Morris’ clinic or do I just shoot the horse now?

  4. Eventers-do they really have a death wish and, if you respond ‘No’, explain why anyone sane would jump something called the Coffin ?

  5. Robert Dover-is he or isn’t he?

  6. Define, once and for all, the half-halt and how you know it works.

  7. Why is it called it X and not M for middle?

  8. What are the top five signs you’ve become a DQ?

  9. Hunters-Perch or Perish?

  10. Classical vs Competitive-will the twain ever meet?

(Yes I’m a smartass but someone had to get it started. :slight_smile: )

Will you adopt me?

No, seriously. If I want to learn dressage, should I became an advanced rider at show jumping and hunter first? And if I do want to learn dressage, any advice?


Allright you asked for a questions I 've got one ,but don’t get upset or anything,I’m just beeing v.curious.
How come women are so completelly crazy about horses?I have sister and she has obssesion about them so are other females I know.
I am my self afraid of horses and think they are the dummest animals in the world and a donkey has more intelligence than a hundred thoroughbred,but that is just my opinnion.

jlzania - It’s X in the middle instead of M because X marks the spot!


Nice try, StGermain, nice try, but I’m not buying it.
Your answer is way too logical.
Next you’ll be telling me that there’s actually a reason why we use those letters in that sequence 'round the arena.
Come on we are talking about Stressage here. :stuck_out_tongue:

10 Easy Questions

1) Anky van Grunsven-The best thing to hit dressage in the last 15 years or the Devil’s Handmaden?

Anky Who?? :wink: Hey, not everyone can ride with a two-by-four up their ass.

2) BTV - Curable or should I just shoot the horse now?

When in doubt, shoot.

3) If my tack isn’t spotless should I even bother to show up for the George Morris’ clinic or do I just shoot the horse now?

Show up for the clinic, abase yourself before the Master, then shoot yourself. Your corpse should make a technically challenging oxer, with enough flowers.

4) Eventers-do they really have a death wish and, if you respond ‘No’, explain why anyone sane would jump something called the Coffin ?

Nonsense! Eventers are immortal – just ask them.

5) Robert Dover-is he or isn’t he?

Only his hairdresser knows for sure.

6) Define, once and for all, the half-halt and how you know it works.

(a) Using seat, legs, and hands in a flawlessly synchronized, elegantly subtle manner, one awakens the horse to the idea that it’s time to pay attention; whereupon (b) he does something more or less approximating what you asked for.

7) Why is it called it X and not M for middle?

Because DQs need the “crossing” cue – they’re not the brightest bulbs in the barn, you know.

8) What are the top five signs you’ve become a DQ?

(1) Muck won’t stick to one’s boots; (2) one expects the grooms to bow when one passes; (3) a poorly braided mane will provoke a weeklong bout of depression; (4) one insists on one’s own personal shopper in Germany; (5) if a horse isn’t at least 17 hands, it’s crowbait.

9) Hunters-Perch or Perish?

Now, this is where that two-by-four up the ass comes in handy.

10) Classical vs Competitive-will the twain ever meet?

“There’ll be pie in the sky, by and by…”

No need to learn the jumping disciplines first, in fact, they’ll just build up a set of positions and habits that you’ll have to change for dressage. Dressage in fact is a wonderful foundation for all other disciplines, including Western. I’m not talking learning to passage on an imported Warmblood; I mean the basic building blocks of correct riding that enables the horse to carry itself lightly, with responsive suppleness and athleticism, through whatever maneuvers you ask of it.

Look for an instructor who specializes in dressage; who enjoys teaching entry-level students, as long as they truly want to learn and improve; who’s supportive, not abusive, in teaching style; who has well-trained horses on which to learn. Shop around. Go to several barns to observe the lesson programs and see which you’d feel comfortable with. Talk to the instructor about your goals and see if you two click.

Great answers, EddyTeddyFreddy, great answers.
I can see that I’m in the presence of a Master.

Taps feet impatiently
I am however, still waiting for your reply to nonpolar.
Will it take the shape of “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar…” or will you go down the “1100 pounds of throbbing flesh between your legs and who needs a man…” path?
Especially one that has problems spelling ’ beeing’ and ‘completelly’ but thinks horses are the ’ dummest’ animals in the world. :rolleyes:

Ok, I have a two year old quarter horse. My barn buddy and I (mostly her as she knows much more that I do) have been working with him over the last year. He’s halter broke and I can ride him fairly well with a halter and bareback pad around the pasture. I have ridden him with saddle and halter (again only in the pasture). He has had a bridle on that had a rubber bit, but didn’t like it.

Here’s my question: is it time to get him into professional training? By that I mean full time, boarded at the trainers, type training. I ask because I am beginning to feel out of my depth at this point, but my friend is confident that we can keep training him ourselves, taking him to clinics and such. I don’t want to ruin him.

Also, a facility near by offers training where the horse is worked 5 days a week and I would get two 40 minute lessons a week for $400/month. Does that sound like a good deal? How long do you think it will take to get him saddle trained?

jlzania - I figured nonpolar’s post wasn’t worth responding to. What people like him forget is that there are plenty of men who ride. At my old barn, the ratio of male versus female owners was nearly 50/50. Of course, there are many men who just want to go play with their balls (Baseballs, basketballs, footballs, golfballs).

sigh I wish I could afford to train again. Heck - I wish I could afford new shoes every six weeks. This unemployment crap isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.


I LOVE horses! I wanted so badly to ride them when I was a kid, but my parents said it was too expensive and I might be allergic to them (I’m not). Anyway, I’ve still never had the chance to ride one…I hope I will someday. But I jump at any opportunity to be around them. I had my wedding portrait taken with a beautiful white percheron named Magic. He was so huge and powerful, but very gentle and inquisitive and careful around me. He seemed like something out of a dream.

My question, though; I’d love to have a job as a groomer and general caregiver to horses, but first of all I don’t know if such a job is even offered, or if the owners do it all themselves? Also, if there is such a job, how well does it pay? I’m the breadwinner in the household so it would have to be enough to support us on.

Rhiannon - I think $400 sounds like a good price, especially for California. That includes board? As for sending your horse away to be trained, I didn’t with my TB boy. I bought him as a halter-broke yearling and trained him myself. I put a bridle on him and let him hang out in his stall for a while just to get used to it, then I long-reined him for quite a while before I ever rode him, so he had a good idea of what I was asking when I started to ride him. I lunged him with tack, too, soo he knew the feel of all of it. What I ended up with was a very sweet, somewhat one-mannish horse. I wish I’d had more people to ride him so he’d be used to other riders. If I put someone up on him, he’ll keep looking back at me as if to say “wait…you’re down there…than who’s this up here? What should I do?” He trusts me, but not others so much. Anyway, if you have the confidence to take things slowly and do it yourself, I think you could probably train him yourself. Be don’t be surprised if you have a few falls along the way.

I bought Irish after my Trakehner mare died in foal, so he was sort of what I was hoping my baby to be. I’m very pleased at how he’s turned out.


StGermain- Of course, you’re absolutely correct and I was just being a wee bit snarky-which is second nature to me.
When I boarded, the ratio of women to men was much higher but then I ride English and the mix ected that.
I’ve noticed western barns tend to have more male riders 'tho.

I wish I could find a trainer willing to haul out to my place-don’t have a trailer yet so I can’t go off site much.
I had worked up my nerve to ride in a clinic over Labor Day and even bartered a ride but the clinician cancelled because she need one more score to qualify for Devon this year.
How dare she-training me is much more important than some silly old show!
I’m sorry that you’re feeling the unemployment financial pinch-it sucks.
[/hijack over]

Rhiannon, may I take a stab at that? Yes, it’s time. Cowboy starts our colts (all Quarter Horses, used for roping) at two years old. It sounds like you’ve got some good basics on yours on the ground, but the initial training isn’t something you really want to screw around with. Cowboy’s been riding our current two-year old for five to seven days a week all summer, and he’s just now getting to the point where I’ll get on him, because I don’t want to mess things up. It’s very important that they learn the rules as this point.

A clinic is all very good, but Cowboy’s philosophy towards them is that either the horse OR the owner is there to do the bulk of the learning. It’s too easy to get too far off if BOTH are in strange waters. You might take an older horse to a clinic to learn new skills on, or take your horse to one to teach him things when you’re more in your depth, but there are too many variables when both are learning. It’s just so easy to learn the wrong way, and sometimes very hard to correct something mislearned.

But the trainer you mentioned sounds like a good deal. We pay more than that per month when we send our horses out for training, and it’s great that he’s willing to work with you as well. That way, you can learn how he’s training your horse, and be consistent with the cues and rules. Have you ridden other horses this trainer has worked with? Are you happy with the way they’re trained? Does he come with good references?

I can’t really help you on how long it would take to get him started under saddle, because all horses are different. Your trainer should be able to give you a rough guess based on his experience.

ETF, I hope you don’t mind the interjection. We are in such completely different horse worlds, it’s like elephants and giraffes. And even so, I’m sort of following the elephant around with a poop scoop, while you’re jumping the giraffe over impossibly tall fences and making his neck dance. I bow to your superior skills!

What do you think of rescue animals from the BLM’s Adopt a Horse program, or adopting a premarin foal?

It seems like such a good idea, but I don’t know anyone who’s actually adopted one from either program. Mr. 'addi and I have thought about it over the years, but never wound up going through with it. So what say you, o doyen of everything that is equine? Is it fraught with peril, bad temper, illness and heartbreak? Or could it actually be worthwhile?

Rhiannon, CowgirlJules has excellent advice, pretty much what I’d have told you.

The rest of you, I’ll answer more when I get home from work tonight.

Leaving you with a DQ joke:

Q. What does a DQ use for birth control?

A. Her personality.

Thanks, ETF, CowgirlJules, and** StGermain**! The trainer/facility come highly recommended. I think I will stop by and talk with them some more soon. Now if I can just come up with the $$$.

My QH is a premarin foal. He is the one of the most wonderful, sweetest tempered horses I’ve known. I got him from a friend in So Cal. She got him from a rescue group in Canada. There is a UPF ranch not far from our barn. We went out there this spring to see all the preggo mares and the newbie foals. Oh my, if it wasn’t for finances, I swear Wendy (my barn buddy) and I would have had a dozen new horses.

Please do not construe this as a criticism Cowgirl Jules, but your statement:

reflects one of the huge differences between the disciplines.
I can’t imagine even lunging a 2 year old, much less getting on it’s back.
And I’m sure you can’t imagine having a pasture pony until it was three or four.

jlzania - It is a different world. I started backing my TB at about 2 1/2 (just at a walk) and didn’t canter him till he was over 3 years. But a co-worker who had a spotted saddle horse colt was taking him on day-long trail rides when he was 2. But what I have noticed is the Quarter horse colt at my barn who was the exact same age as Irish matured much faster. By two he was built like a tank, while Irish still looked very much like a baby. Some breeds do mature faster than others.