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  Mon Jul 31

30 Top Riding Tips To Get You and Your Horse In The Blue Ribbons

1. Try this test; on circles, don't ride too much with your inside hand, ride with it half-way up the horse's neck...this will show if you're using too much inside rein.

2. Be your own riding instructor! Have someone video you when you're riding so later you can watch yourself, take mental notes and correct your position.

3. When trying to collect your horse, imagine he or she is a spring that you have to coil up and store energy.

4. Think 'bounce' at the canter!

5. Pretend your favourite drink is in between the middle of your hands and you don't want to spill it...this will help keep your hands in the right place.

6. If you tend to lean inward during circle work, pretend your outside buttock is filled with lead. This 'imagery' should help you straighten up.

7. Look up...if your horse's neck isn't there you'll be the first to know!

8. Think of your body growing upwards and your legs growing downwards.

9. When doing a sitting trot, think of alternating your heels stretching down...left, right, left, right.

10. Too many riders constantly focus on trying to sit up straight, which can lead to tension. RELAX

!11. Singing the original 'Oompa Loompa' song (from the first Willy Wonka movie) really helps keep your rhythm at the sitting trot!

12. Try this little exercise...shoulders UP, BACK, then DOWN.

13. Never try and sit still in the saddle...that's a moving horse beneath you!

14. Try to make your seat move with whatever your horse's back is doing.

15. Thrust your bust! 

16. When you're cantering, pretend you're sitting on a $100 note and you don't want it to blow away.

17. Think of the reins as cotton that will break if you pull too hard.

18. When going over a jump, make a focus point in front of you, like the top of a tree in the distance, so you don't look down. 

19. If you ever feel like your horse is about to bolt or you are losing your balance, just sit back and move your feet forward putting some weight on your stirrups, just like the rodeo riders do. Try'll find you feel a lot more secure!!

20. Pretend you want your heels to touch each other, this way your lower leg won't stick out too much.

21. Pretend there is a piece of string attached to your helmet to keep your back straight, and sand bags attached to your heels so they stay down.

22. Think to yourself, "If I was in this same position but not on a horse, could I stay standing?" You need to perch between the 'wind and the water' (so to speak!)

23. Imagine a line that goes from your shoulders, to your elbows, to your hips, then to your heel.

24. Pretend the reins are two ice cream cones that you must hold carefully, so they don't crush.

25. At the rising trot, imagine there is an egg on the saddle and you must sit down gently so you don't break it.

26. Spread your toes, it will help keep your heels down.

27. Don't think of the horse as a rocking chair! When you're riding, don't sit like you do in a chair, with your legs out in front and knees bent. Sit in such a way that if the horse wasn't there, you'd still be able to support your own weight when standing.

28. Imagining you have books on top of your head helps keep it up and straight.

29. Before doing a sitting trot, take you feet out of the stirrups, pull up one leg and tuck it up for 10 seconds and let it down again. Do this a few times and then switch to the other leg. This helps loosen and relax the hips.

30. Imagine you are pigeon-toed...this stop your toes from sticking out.


  Sat Aug 12

Parts of the Horse

  Sat Jul 22

Blanket Chart

Horse blanket2: Here's how to choose the best blanket for your horse.


Horse blanket2: Choosing A Blanket for Your Horse

Here are 5 factors you must consider when choosing and using a blanket for your horse.

1. Fabric: Nylon is very strong and resilient and it doesn't hold stains, but it's very expensive. Polyester is lightweight, more affordable, and but it’s not as strong as nylon. A blend often gives you the best of both worlds.  The strength (and thus durability) of a blanket's outer layer is expressed in denier units  The higher the denier number, the stronger the material. It takes a 1,200-denier polyester to match the strength of only 840-denier nylon.

2. Linings: Polycotton, nylon, and fleece-like wicking material are the most common. Many people prefer a wicking liner because it's more breathable than the others, and breathable blankets are usually healthier and warmer for your horse.

3. Fit: Measure from the center of the chest at the point of the shoulder, around the shoulder, along the barrel following closely to the skin, continuing around the hip to the center of the tail.  The size of the blanket corresponds to the inches you just measured. For example, if your measurement comes out to 78 inches, then your horse wears a size 78.  A blanket measured this way allows four fingers at the chest and a few inches below the top of the tail.

4. Placement: Don’t make the legs straps too tight or else your horse’s hind legs will pull the blanket backwards and rub the chest. If they’re too loose, your horse can get its hind legs caught in them. It is safer criss-cross the straps for most horses.

5. Blanketing Your Horse: If your horse freaks when you try to pull the blanket over his head, you have two choices. The first is to unhook it entirely and place it gently over his back so he doesn’t freak out. Better: Work with a trainer to desensitize your horse to movements like this. It will make your horse braver, encourage him to trust your leadership, and make it immeasurably easier for the staff at your barn (or your friends) to blanket your horse for you.

  Fri Jul 21

The Hackamore

A hackamore is a type of bridle without a bit. It is designed to control the horse via pressure points on the nose and chin, instead of using pressure in the mouth like a bit does.

The hackamore is derived from a Spanish tradition, and thus more often seen in western events, although they are also seen in show jumping, eventing, and endurance riding.

There are three main types of hackamores: the mechanical hackamore, the side-pull, and the bosal.


A horse wearing a bosal hackamore. Source: Wikipedia

The bosal is a mild and "true" hackamore, meaning it does not work off of leverage. It balances on the horse's nose and uses pressure on the nose and jaws to direct the horse. It is often used on young horses because it is very mild. The bosal consists of a thick, stiff noseband with a knot at the bottom where both reins attach. The reins on a bosal are traditionally called mecate, and are often made of horsehair. Even though it is mild, a bosal is best used by an experienced horseman with light hands.

The mechanical hackamore is sometimes not considered a "true" hackmore because it works off of leverage.

It consists of a stiff rope or leather over the nose, with two metal shanks, and a chin strap or curb chain. Like a curb bit, the severity of the hackamore will increase with the length of the shanks.

The mechanical hackamore is one of the most harsh, because it works off of leverage unlike other "true" hackamores. A rider must be gentle and use soft hands since this type of hackamore works off of leverage and can easily injure a horse's sensitive face. A mechanical hackamore with a sniff nose or curb chain should always be wrapped in a soft material to provide padding. Vetwrap is often used over rope nosebands or curb chains. A mechanical hackamore is not a good choice for an inexperienced rider because it requires more subtlety.


The side pull is a very mild hackamore which functions much like a halter with a lead rope clipped to each side.
The sidepull

is a simple hackamore that consists of a loop of material over the nose and reins that connect directly to the side. It uses direct pressure to control the horse, not leverage, and thus is very mild. The noseband is often leather and has a strap that goes under the jaw of the horse. Because a sidepull is very mild, it is good for inexperienced riders so they do not injure the horse's mouth.
A jumping cavesson is a type of sidepull hackamore that is used often used in English jumping events.

Some horses prefer hackamores to bits. Horses that will not tolerate a bit, or that have had injuries in the mouth, are often ridden in hackamores.

Some riders feel the hackamore is less harsh because it does not involve pressure in the mouth, however a hackamore must still be used with care. Hackamores, if used improperly, can cause just as much damage as a bit can.

Ultimately the choice to use a bit or a hackamore it is up to the horse. Some horses work very well in hackamores while others do not. Some horses however are so sensitive in the mouth that they cannot be ridden in anything other than a hackamore.


Example of a mechanical hackamore. Note the sheepskin that pads the chinstrap. Source: wikipedia

This is an example of a sidepull, this jumping cavesson has a leather loop over the nose that controls the horse. Source: Wikipedia

  Thu Jul 13

What is a PONY ?


A horse of a small breed.

A pony is a breed of horse which has a number of distinct traits, most notably a small size. Numerous pony breeds can be found all over the world, and some well known representatives of this equine group include Shetland, Welsh, and Connemara ponies. Just like their larger relatives, ponies have been used for work, sport, and pleasure for thousands of years, and they are incredibly diverse creatures.

A pony is not merely a small horse. There are several distinct physical differences between horses and ponies which make the two easy to distinguish. Ponies tend to very stocky, with thick bones, wide chests, and small heads. Their manes, tails, and coats are often thicker than those of horses, perhaps because many pony breeds evolved in colder climates where a thick layer of insulation would be vital.

Ponies are also incredibly strong for their size, thanks to their muscular bodies. A mature pony can sometimes pull the same weight as a draft horse, for example, and many ponies are capable of carrying adult riders. Pound for pound, ponies are much stronger than horses. They are also known for being extremely hardy, and tolerant of a wide range of conditions including extreme cold. The pony is also famous for being extremely intelligent, and sometimes a bit stubborn.

Showing purposes

14.2 hh and up is a horse

Sizes and Scales:Ponies are 14.2 hands (abbreviated hh) (1.47 m) at the withers or smaller, while a horse is anything taller than 14.2 hh at the withers.

What's in a Name? The term "pony" can be used generally for any small horse, regardless of its actual measurements. It is interesting to note, however, that some equine breeds are not considered ponies, even if they are under 14.2 hh, because of their fiery temperament.

All For Show:
For showing purposes, ponies are grouped into small, medium, and large sizes. Small ponies are 12.2 hh and under, medium ponies are over 12.2 but no taller than 13.2 hh (1.27 to 1.37 m), and large ponies are over 13.2 hh but no taller than 14.2 hh (1.37 to 1.47 m).

Note, however, that miniature horses are not the same as ponies. A miniature horse is in fact much smaller, required to be no taller than 8.2 hh (86cm) at the withers. There are also miniature pony breeds.


Wild Ponies?There are several wild breeds of pony, and these have often been captured and bred for various purposes, especially in Britain and Ireland.

These wild breeds along with domestic breeds were used as "pit ponies" hauling loads of coal up from the mines, for freight transport, as children's mounts and for entertainment, and later as competitors and performers in their own right. They were also ridden (and continue to be ridden) by adults, as ponies are usually very strong.

Ponies are often said to be mean, untrustworthy, spooky or devious. Properly trained ponies can be gentle, and are appropriate mounts for children who are learning to ride.

The Riding Pony was developed in the United Kingdom, and was such a success that it is now bred all over the world. They are excellent show ponies. The breed is an extremely elegant animal, more like a small horse than a pony. It has a small head and small, neat ears.

They are compact, with sloping shoulders and a narrow front. Their feet are tough and they possess strong limbs. They are well-proportioned with comfortable gaits and free-flowing movement.

What's Your Type? There are three types of ponies:

* The show pony: super-elegant miniature show hack with pony features
* The show hunter: similar to the show pony, but with more substance
* The working hunter: stockier, and more workmanlike

Shetland ponies, also known as shelts, are small (on average up to 42 inches to the wither) but strong for their size. The Shetland Pony originated from the Shetland Islands - North East of Scotland.

The ancient ponies' roots are unknown, though it is believed that they are related to the ancient Scandinavian ponies from when the islands were joined with Scandinavia
(up until 8000 BC).

They were probably influenced by the Celtic Pony, taken by the Celts between 2000 and 1000 BC. The harsh climate and scarce food developed the ponies into extremely hardy animals. They were first used for carrying peat and ploughing. Then, in the mid-19th century, when laws were passed prohibiting children from working in coal mines, thousands of Shetlands traveled to Mainland Britain to be 'pit ponies,' working underground their whole lives
hauling coal.

Versatility in a Pony: The United States mid-west coal mines also imported some of these animals. The Shetland Pony Stud Book Society was started in 1890 to maintain purity and encourage high-quality animals. In 1956, the Shetland Islands Premium Stallion Scheme was formed to subsidize high-quality registered stallions to improve the breeding stock. Today, Shetlands are used as children's ponies and are also featured in the Shetland Pony Grand National, galloping around the course with their young jockeys.


What sizes do pony halters & bridles come in?
We have labeled all of our halters and bridles to fit the typical pony of the size mentioned. These are guidelines only! Sometimes an animal will have a smaller or bigger head for his size, plus different breeds have different shaped heads. For example, Welsh ponies usually have small muzzles and broad foreheads. Stallions will have much larger jowels as will Arabians or part Arabs.

Size Height Notes
Small Pony 12.2 hands and under Sometimes called 'Shetland'
Medium Pony Over 12.2 and up to 13.2 hands  
Large Pony Over 13.2 and up to 14.2 hands Often equivalent to 'Horse Yearling'
Cob Over 14 and up to 15.2 hands For larger Larges and Small Horses
Small/Med 12 - 13 hands For larger Smalls and smaller Mediums
Med/Large 13 -14 hands For larger Mediums and smaller Larges
Large Pony/Cob 14 - 15 hands For larger Larges and Small Horses

How do I measure for a pony halter?
To measure for a halter, use a flexible measuring tape and take the following measurements. You can then email them to us and we can check the measurements against any of our products. We have labeled all of our halters to fit the typical pony of the size mentioned (see first FAQ)

  1. The distance from an inch or two below the point of the cheekbone on one side, over the crown, to the same point on the other side. The starting and end points are where the halter side rings will be.
  2. The distance around the nose (circumference) at the points mentioned above.

How do I measure for a pony bridle?
To measure for a bridle, use a flexible measuring tape and take the following measurements. You can then email them to us and we can check the measurements against any of our products. We have labeled all of our bridles to fit the typical pony of the size mentioned (see first FAQ)

  • The distance from the corner of the mouth on one side, over the crown, to the same point on the other side
  • The distance around the nose (circumference) where you want your bridle's noseband to lie
  • The distance around the throat and over the crown where the throat latch goes. Make this measurement as loose as the throat latch will be
  1. The browband measurement from behind the ear, across the forehead, to the same place on the other side (where the browband will be)
  2. The type of bit you will be using (Dee, Eggbutt, Full Cheek, etc.) The size of the rings in various bits will affect the fit of your bridle

How do I measure for a pony in-hand bridle?
Please send us the following measurements, following the diagram, to ensure a good fit. Also, if you're ordering a bridle that uses a bit, please indicate the type of bit you'll be using including the size of the ring.

  1. From the corner of the mouth on one side, over the poll, to the corner of the mouth on the other side
  2. Noseband - measure completely around nose where noseband will be - about two fingers below cheekbone
  3. Throat - from the poll, completely around, going under the throat. (fairly snug)
  4. Browband - from behind the ear, across the forehead, to the same place on the other side
  5. Distance between splits -From where the browband meets the bridle (about 1" below the ear), over the poll, to the same place on the other side

  Sat Jul 08



By Maureen Rogers

During grazing the mandible is allowed to slide down and forward, and the atlantoaxial joint can open. This relaxes TMJ muscles and allows for proper teeth contact.

Horses rely on the proper function of the temporomandibular joint mechanism, or TMJ Mechanism, just like we do, if not more! The ability to move the jaw properly - side to side, up and down, forward and back - affects not only the ability to chew and digest food, but also affects the body’s balance and biomechanics. Proper function of the TMJ Mechanism is vital to horse health.

Today, all horses are exposed to a variety of contributing factors that affect the proper movement of the jaw. Some of these factors include the wearing of certain types of bits or nosebands, eating out of hayracks, getting stuck between fence posts, undergoing various types of dental work, and lack of proper dental work. Due to these and other factors, horses are prone to the condition known as Temporomandibular Dysfunction, or TMD.


What Are TMJ and TMD?
TMJ is the abbreviation for temporomandibular joint. Anatomically, it refers to an area of the cranium where the jaw, or the mandible, contacts and articulates with the temporal bone. The temporal bone is the area of the skull where the ear resides. When these bones are misaligned and not articulating properly and the surrounding tissue of the TMJ is stressed, the TMJ Mechanism is out of balance and cannot function optimally. This condition is known as Temporomandibular Dysfunction, or TMD.

The term TMD is used in the field of dentistry as a diagnosis for people who experience tightness or dysfunction of the TMJ mechanism or jaw. TMD affects overall health. Indicators of a TMD condition include popping and clicking in the joint area, headaches, bite misalignment, and gritting of the teeth. If the condition is left untreated, the cartilage that makes up the articular disc that allows the mandible to move will be worn down and damaged. In severe cases of TMD, the precious cartilage is completely worn away.

The condition known as TMD occurs in all horses regardless of discipline. Horses exhibit signs of possible TMD discomfort in several different ways. TMD goes hand-in-hand with the misalignment of the upper and lower incisors and/ or any imbalances that may appear in the wear of the teeth, such as hooks or waves, and each perpetuates the other.


Figure 2
Click here to view a larger image (43 Kb)

Different Signs of TMD and Imbalances in the TMJ Mechanism
TMD shows up in many different shapes and sizes and cases differ in levels of severity. Horses with TMD will clearly show low levels of performance, improper gaits, uneven wear of the teeth, possible head shaking, signs of headaches, cribbing and/or various behavior problems. In some cases, even a slight retrusion in the lower jaw can be seen - the lower incisors of the mandible come behind the upper incisors of the maxilla. Any horse that has TMD will have some level of difficulty in performance.

A way to check to see if your horse has any form of TMD is to look at how your horse’s incisors align. The upper six incisors should align with the lower set, directly in the middle. If you see a pull to one side or the other, it is likely that your horse has some discomfort with its TMJ Mechanism. Even though the teeth may align, the muscles that make up the TMJ may still be tight, causing discomfort.

Other indicators of possible TMD and/or dental problems may be ear sensitivity, head tossing, difficulty taking the bit in the mouth, leaning on the bit, difficulty with specific leads or gaits, difficulty flexing at the poll, signs of headaches, head shyness, and/ or sensitivity to any touch in the jaw area.


Figure 3
Click here to view a larger image (42 Kb)

Exploring the Anatomy of the Temporomandibular Joint
The TMJ Mechanism of the horse is more complex than that of a human. This complexity is due to three main reasons. The first reason is that horses have movable ears. The second reason is that in horses, the hyoid bone articulates with the temporal bone. The third reason is that horses have erupting teeth throughout their lifetime.

The TMJ Mechanism is more than just bone matter. Muscles, ligaments, and tendons surround the synovial joints (one on each side of the head) formed between the condyles of the mandible and the temporal bone. These bones connect in a capsulated joint where an articular disc allows for a gliding movement of the condyle. The mandible articulates and communicates with the temporal bone in this very strong, tight synovial joint capsule. It is supported and reinforced by ligaments and is then supported by the muscles that coordinate movement of the mandible for proper mastication. Any tightness in the muscles, tendons or ligaments of the TMJ Mechanism will inhibit the function of the TMJ. In the event of these muscles tightening and shortening, the body then negatively compensates for the imbalance. The proper function of the TMJ Mechanism therefore plays an important role in the whole function of the horse, including leads, gaits, balance and equilibrium.


Figure 4
Click here to view a larger image (32 Kb)

Bones of the TMJ Mechanism
There are important individual bones that make-up the TMJ Mechanism. The temporal bone is home to the auditory tube (eustachian tube), the place where balance and equilibrium are recorded by way of the vestibulocochlear nerve. Any tightness of the muscles of the TMJ Mechanism can therefore adversely affect a horse’s balance and equilibrium. It is important to note the cranial nerve, also known as the trigeminal nerve branch, rests on the inside of the temporal bone. One of the three branches of the trigeminal nerve contains the motor nerve for the muscles for mastication/ chewing.

The next major bone is the mandible. At birth, this bone consists of left and right halves that join at a cartilaginous center (like that of the pubic bone of the pelvis). Between two to three months of age, these two halves fuse together and form one complete bone. The mandible is considered to be one of the largest pattern-setters in the body. A pattern-setter is the term used to describe a body part or condition that sets up a pattern of habitual compensatory movement of other parts of the body. For example, when the mandible’s function is compromised in some way, it creates areas of negative compensation throughout the body. Any tightness in the TMJ mechanism affects other areas in the body, especially pelvic movement.

It is also important to mention the contact the lower jaw or mandible has with the 'upper jaw' or maxilla, through the teeth.

The final bone of importance is the hyoid bone, which is located in the throatlatch area. The hyoid connects to the larynx, pharynx and tongue and articulates with the temporal bone.


Figure 5
Proper alignment of the lower jaw and upper jaw, however notice the slight retrusion in the lower jaw.

Major Muscles of the TMJ Mechanism
There are several major muscles responsible for the movement of the jaw and its proper function. The largest of these muscles is the masseter muscle. The function of the masseter muscle is to bring the upper jaw and lower jaw together. The masseter muscle attaches to the ridge of the maxilla and zygoma bone, which is directly under the orbit of the eye. It then attaches to the angle of the body of the mandible. The masseter is the large muscle that can be seen moving while a horse is chewing. (Figures 2 and 3 show the primary muscles the horse uses in chewing/ mastication.)

The next major muscle is the temporalis muscle. The function of this muscle is to close the mandible. The temporalis muscle works in conjunction with the masseter muscle. The origin of this muscle is the temporal bone and it attaches to the coronoid process of the mandible.

Lastly, are the pterygoid muscles. The function of the pterygoid muscles is to pull the mandible side to side, as in chewing. These muscles attach from the sphenoid bone, the central bone of the cranium, and insert onto the medial (inside) portion of the mandible.

There are also twenty-one muscles in each ear that aid in the movement of the ears. These muscles add to the complexity of the TMJ Mechanism. When any of the above muscles become shortened or tightened, it will negatively affect the proper function of the mandible and cause improper wearing of the teeth. A crucial concept to remember is that the TMJ does not function independently, but is intricately interconnected with the rest of the body - through the Stomatognathic System.


The Stomatognathic System and Guzay’s Theorem
The TMJ Mechanism connects to the body through an intricate system known as the Stomatognathic System. The Stomatognathic System consists of the parts of the head, the neck, and the upper thorax. This system is concerned with muscular, osseous (bone), ligamentous, fascial and nervous system control of biting, chewing and swallowing, and is comprised of twenty-seven bones, one of those bones being the mandible. Thus, each part must be addressed to truly treat any TMD condition. However, another joint area that is connected to and highly affected by the condition of the TMJ is that of the atlantoaxial joint. This is the area where the atlas, the first cervical vertebra (C1), articulates with the axis, the second cervical vertebra (C2).

Figure 6 Equine Craniosacral Workshops Figure 7
Side view of a retrusion of the mandible, TMD - the masseter muscle here shows slight atrophy and other muscles have started to compensate for this.   Guzay's Theorem. a: mandible, b: temporal bone,
c: condyle, d: occiput, e: atlantoaxial joint
Guzay's Theorem was adapted by Maureen Rogers, who was the first to apply this to horses,
which is why it is now referred to as Roger's Theorem.

Guzay’s Theorem states that the atlantoaxial axis of rotation acts as the primary joint for mastication/ chewing. Although the TMJ, in the immediate structural and physiological sense, seems to be the axis of rotation of the mandible, a deeper look shows that the TMJ acts as the secondary joint of mastication. These two joints, the TMJ and the atlantoaxial joint, interact in every moment to provide healthy function for the mandible (see diagram). To properly address any TMD condition, it must be treated holistically, attending to the whole Stomatognathic System. Treatment that does not address all parts will not rectify a dysfunctional component of the Stomatognathic System; treating a singular area will only achieve a rearrangement of symptoms. This is the reason that, although it is a vital component, dental work alone will not resolve most TMD conditions.


Figure 8
TMD comes in many forms. Note the tongue between the upper and lower teeth to take pressure off of the TMJ. Proper dental work is highly necessary, as is soft tissue work, for this horse.

How Does TMD Start?
In some cases TMD patterns can start as early as birth. Getting a clear idea of when TMD patterns may have started is sometimes impossible. However, the following are some of the influences that start to affect the function of the TMJ Mechanism:

  • An early injury in life possibly stemming all the way back to birth
  • The use of bits in the mouth
  • The amount of tension applied to the bit by the rider
  • Dental work - depending on how it is performed
  • The use of the speculum during dental work (though it is usually a must)
  • The use of sedatives during dental work (often necessary) or otherwise - although the horse is 'quieted', the muscles are still active and functional under sedation, tightening the muscles of the TMJ
  • Lack of pasture grazing
  • Feeding from hayracks of any sort
  • An injury to the head, poll or pelvis; "pulling back"

Any of the above may be contributors to a TMD condition.


Physical Signs of Discomfort of the TMJ Mechanism
There are several questions you need to address to assess if your horse has physical signs of discomfort of the TMJ mechanism. They consist of the following:

  • Does your horse’s tongue rest between his upper teeth and lower teeth?
  • Does your horse drop large amounts of food?
  • Does he pass whole food in his manure?
  • Can you hear a popping and/or clicking while your horse chews?
  • Does your horse have difficulty flexing at the poll?
  • Does your horse chew more on one side compared to the other, or always in the same direction?
  • How does your horse hold his neck and move in leads?
  • How are your horses’ teeth wearing? (Accessories as simple as nosebands can and will affect the TMJ Mechanism and the body.)

Next, get physical and gently palpate the muscles on and around the mandible. Notice the quality of the muscles. Do they feel soft or do they feel like a rock? Does the muscle invite you in or push you out?


Figure 9
The alignment of the TMJ is off by one full incisor - a sign of TMD. Dental work and soft tissue work are needed.

Preventive Practices
Grazing is one of the most important preventive practices. The horse is a grazing animal and depends on the healthy function of his jaw to survive. Grazing allows: the mandible to come down and forward in the joint capsule, the atlantoaxial joint to open, and the mandible to move up and down, side to side forward and back with out any inhibition. It also allows the teeth of the maxilla and mandible to occlude properly. Normally, a horse grazes about sixteen hours a day. For horses who do not get turned out to graze on pasture, such as many performance horses who are kept in stalls, it’s best to have hay available throughout the day - on the ground, not in a rack. It is important that, when a horse eats, his head is down and extended, just like that of a horse grazing. Grazing also allows for horses to relax, and allows for the necessary wear of the incisors, which doesn't happen when eating hay.

Besides maximizing grazing, preventive practices include maximizing horsemanship to minimize restraints. Maximize nutrition and use sensible feeding and management practices. Maximize locomotion with continual turnout and regular, sensible exercise. Include gentle, hands-on bodywork in the horse-care program.


Treatment of TMD
It is beneficial to first address and correct any existing 'mechanical' contributors such as hoof trimming, saddle fit, bit use, feeding practices, and dental issues. Without addressing these issues first, the results of bodywork will be limited. In addition, it is absolutely necessary to address the soft tissue and help bring balance back to the body - through massage, TTouch, acupuncture, Feldenkrais, myofascial work, and/or especially craniosacral work, which specifically address the Stomatognathic system. Another consideration may be to change the horse’s training regimen. There is no simple answer or single approach when dealing with horses that have progressive cases of TMD, or when dealing with any problems. Remember to always consult with your veterinarian, equine dentist, and other qualified professionals who understand your horse, the TMJ, and TMD conditions.

Figure 10 Equine Craniosacral Workshops Figure 11
The use of a speculum applies some pressure on the atlantooccipital area. The muscles of the TMJ are also affected. It is important to have it as loose as possible during dental treatment.   A severe case of TMD; once again, dental work and soft tissue work are necessary here.


When TMD exists, the reality is that dental work alone will not fix this problem. The soft tissue needs to be treated, along with having dental work, to achieve substantial improvement and complete recovery. Therefore, the treatment of TMD is a bit more complicated than one might think. Because of the complex connection the mandible has with the rest of the body, "filing down" a horse’s teeth will not “fix” the problem. [See NHM Volume 4, Issue 5, Equissentials.] In some cases, filing down the teeth will worsen the TMJ condition that may already exist. In many cases, it is the soft tissue that has started an improper wear of the teeth. The soft tissue must be addressed and treated, as well as the energy patterns holding the TMJ in a “dysfunctional pattern”. Depending on the length of time the condition has existed, it may have worked its way through the entire body, causing the horse to compensate in his work, thus unbalancing him and inhibiting his performance and athletic abilities. Over time, if the soft tissue is not treated, the same patterns will continue and worsen, and bone structure and shape can be affected.
Proper dental work must be performed in combination with soft tissue work; these cannot be individual of each other.

Figure 12
Once again a case of TMD clearly shown.

About the author
Maureen Rogers is a consultant who specializes in Craniosacral work with horses and other animals. She is the founder of Equine CranioSacral Workshops© based out of Southern California. She has studied Craniosacral work extensively and her private practice includes performance horses, dressage horses, racehorses, cutting horses, hunter-jumpers, humans and small animals.

Thank you to both Laura Zuckerman and Linda O. Drake for your help in putting this article together.

© 2002 Equine Craniosacral Workshops, Maureen Rogers


For more information regarding Equine Craniosacral Work, contact Maureen Rogers at Equine Craniosacral Workshops,
by phone at 831-642-2210,
or by E-Mail



Exploring the Whole Body Connection


  Fri Jul 07

Horse Story Sent in by Caraly Roeper

 got Doc about a 2 years ago for my 11th birthday. He was the best present ever and I couldn't ask for more from him. When we got him he was green, since he had been out to Pasture for over a year. He was the first horse I went to try, and I immeadiatley fell in love. He threw me off three times when we tried him, but I knew he was the one. When we brought him home, everyone was disgusted by the horse I picked out. He was fat, had little muscle tone, and wasnt very well schooled. I didn't care what they said because I didn't want a fancy show horse... I wanted a best friend, and that's what I got. I couldn't trot him 5 feet without him stopping, throwing his head down, or hopping. The people at my barn said that we were never going anywhere and that i should just get rid of him. I wasnt just going to give up on my best friend, so we kept trying. I learned more about him everyday and our bond grew stronger. Doc suddenly went lame and none of the vets could figure out what was wrong with him. I was heartbroken since they said he might not recover. I still refused to give up. One of the trainers at my barn recommended that we move him to a smaller, less stressful barn to see how he does. We moved him in April 2012 to Willow Rock Farm in North Great River. He loved the new enviroment! He made friends right away, and he loved his new in and out! The 24/7 turnout did miracles for his emotional stability. He gradually became sounder, and we were soon back in the saddle. His SmartPak supplement, Cosequin, also helped his joints soften up and helped with his recovery. He bagan to build up muscle and within a few months we were doing walk, trot, canter, and jumping crossrails again. We have been making substantial progress together, and we have an inseperable bond. I ride him bareback and fully tackless all the time. I trust him with my life. He has made a full recovery, and is completely sound now. We are now jumping 2'6"-3'3", and proving everyone wrong. They said we could never do it, but we have. He is the love of my life and my reason to smile everyday :) i couldn't imagine my life without him. I have suffered from eating disorders and self harm, and He's helped me overcome it all. Whenever I need someone to vent to, he's always there to listen. He loves me for who I am, and not what I look like. He knows when I'm feeling down and does silly things to cheer me up. I would never have imagined that a small paint horse, with a big heart, and an even bigger personality would be my reason to live.

Thank you for reading my story, I hope you enjoy it more than I enjoy my horse :)
If anyone is having problems with their horse, I recommend moving to a more low key barn that offers LOTS of turnout... It's definitely made a ginormous change in Doc's life.
With Love, Caralyn and Doc Roeper ~
-- Live Love Ride :)
  Fri Jul 07

Living With O.C.E.A.N. Syndrome




Living with O.C.E.A.N. Syndrome

By Scooter Grubb

Just recently, after years of research, I have finally been able to give a name to what my wife and I have been living with for years.


It's an affliction, for sure, which when undiagnosed and misunderstood can devastate and literally tear a family apart.  Very little is known about O.C.E.A.N. Syndrome. But it is my hope this article will generate interest from researchers involved in the equine and psychological sciences. You will, no doubt, begin to identify similar symptoms in your own family and hopefully now be able to cope.

OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE EQUINE ATTACHMENT NEUROSIS SYNDROME O.C.E.A.N.S) is usually found in the female and can manifest itself anytime from birth to the golden years. Symptoms may appear any time and may even go dormant in the late teens, but the syndrome frequently re-emerges in later years.

Symptoms vary widely in both number and degree of severity. Allow me to share some examples which are most prominent in our home.

The afflicted individual: 

1. Can smell moldy hay at ten paces, but can't tell whether milk has gone bad until it turns chunky.

2. Finds the occasional "Buck and Fart" session hugely entertaining, but severely chastises her husband for similar antics.

3. Will spend hours cleaning and conditioning her tack, but wants to eat on paper plates so there are no dishes.

4. Considers equine gaseous excretions a fragrance. 

5. Enjoys mucking out four stalls twice a day, but insists on having a housekeeper mop the kitchen floor once a week.

6. Will spend an hour combing and trimming an equine mane, but wears a baseball cap so she doesn't waste time brushing her own hair.

7. Will dig through manure piles daily looking for worms, but does not fish. 

8. Will not hesitate to administer a rectal exam up to her shoulder, but finds cleaning out the Thanksgiving turkey cavity for dressing quite repulsive.

9. By memory can mix eight different supplements in the correct proportions, but can't make macaroni and cheese that isn't soupy.

10. Twice a week will spend an hour scrubbing algae from the water tanks, but has a problem cleaning lasagna out of the casserole dish.

11. Will pick a horse's nose, and call it cleaning, but becomes verbally violent when her husband picks his.

12. Can sit through a four-hour session of a ground work clinic, but unable to make it through a half-hour episode of Cops.

The spouse of an afflicted victim: 

1. Must come to terms with the fact there is no cure, and only slightly effective treatments. The syndrome may be genetic or caused by the inhaling of manure particles which, I propose, have an adverse effect on female hormones.

2. Must adjust the family budget to include equine items - hay,veterinarian services, farrier services, riding boots and clothes, supplements, tack, equine masseuse and acupuncturist - as well as the (mandatory) equine spiritual guide, etc. Once you have identified a monthly figure, never look at it again. Doing so will cause tightness in your chest, nausea and occasional diarrhea.

3. Must realize that your spouse has no control over this affliction. More often than not, she will deny a problem even exists as denial is common.

4. Must form a support group. You need to know you're not alone - and there's no shame in admitting your wife has a problem. My support group, for instance, involves men who truly enjoy Harley Davidsons, four-day weekends and lots of scotch. Most times, she is unaware that I am even gone, until the precise moment she needs help getting a 50-pound bag of grain out of the truck.

  Sat Jun 03

Classical Method One Should Strictly Follow While One's Horse Is Bucking!





 There Is A Definite "Classical" Method One Should Strictly Follow 

While One's Horse Is Bucking! 

1. Ensure that you have an audience. There is absolutely no point in 

being decked by your horse unless there are, oh, say a hundred 

people around to watch. This way, you will have made them feel 

better about their own inadequacies, and you won't have to go into 

tedious detail explaining to everyone you know exactly how it 

happened. It is considered good form if at least one of the audience 

members is either: 

A. Someone you admire and want to impress; or 

B. Someone you despise and don't want to give any ammo to; or 

C. Someone you have the hots for and want to impress; or 

D. Your best friend, who will have no compunction in falling over, 

laughing and pointing. 


2. Try to be spectacular. I mean, anyone can just get bucked off and 

land on their backside, can't they? You want to try to make 

this "the decking to end all deckings." The Titanic of bucks. You 

get the picture. Now, for this you will need the following: An 

extremely acrobatic horse - you want one of those twisty-turny 

jobbies last seen at the National Rodeo Championships; a supple 

back - you should practice somersaults, pirouettes and handstands at 

home; a hat- see, I can be sensible!!! 

3. It is best if this buck comes at a time when everyone is watching 

you, but no-one is prepared for what is to come. During a dressage 

test is good. Your horse should be working nicely, giving no 

indication that you are about to become "the person who learned to 

fly." Of course, experts at this will point to the tail swishing, 

the ears twitching back, and the tension around the nostrils, but 

they are show-offs and should be ignored. To the uninitiated, this 

will look like a dramatic performance which you and your horse have 

practiced at home. 

4. When the horse leaves the ground, and launches you into the air 

like a cannon ball, it is far more gratifying for the crowd if you 

can let out a blood-curdling yell. Practice this at home. When the 

local rangers knock on your door, asking if you are keeping a wild 

cougar in your back yard, you will know you have it right. 

5. You should try to stay elevated as long as possible. The longer 

the better. If your arms and legs fly in impossible directions, as 

if you were a rag doll, you will achieve additional marks for 

artistic impression. 

6. When you land, try to do so with a thud! The kind of dull kind 

that you hear when you drop a melon from a great height. Try not to 

go "splat" - it puts the audience off their hamburgers. 

7. Lie immobile for a while, as your horse runs off into the 

distance. After a suitable time, raise your head and groan.

-Author Unknown

  Sat May 13

Has Sportsmanship Gone by the Wayside?

by Laura Kathryn Gilmer


The word “sportsmanship” is thrown around today like it is a style word or some option to accept or reject if we feel like it, well-respected horseman Dale Livingston says. “It gets brought up at the year-end awards banquets but is seldom exhibited lately. Don’t get me wrong, true horsemen/women don’t generally act in an unsportsmanlike manner. I believe this is because their emphasis, their efforts and thoughts are spent on the performance of the horse, not on themselves,” Livingston explained. “When we see unsportsmanlike conduct in competition, it is always connected to an immature and selfish person’s actions, and frankly they don’t care what anyone else thinks or has to deal with. All they care about is their self, whether they are a trainer, exhibitor, owner or fan.”

Top clinician Andy Moorman mentions that there seems to be a growing lack of respect toward each other in peoples daily lives as well as at the horse shows. “Bad behavior is being rewarded and set up on a pedestal,” Moorman said. “It is very difficult for AQHA and other people that have good knowledge and judgment to stand up and be counted because they are afraid of the backlash.”

Sportsmanship is defined as: playing fair, following the rules of the event, respecting the judgment of the officials and treating opponents or other competitors with respect. Some define good sportsmanship as the “golden rule” of sports — in other words, treating the people you compete with and against as you’d like to be treated yourself.   Good sportsmanship is exhibited when you show respect for yourself, for your competitors or opponents, for those who support your performance whether they be a client, family or friend, as well as respect to the judges, ring stewards and those who hold the competition, Livingston remarked. “Sportsmanship isn’t just reserved for the people in the arena or warm-up pen. Fans, owners, family and friends also need to be aware of how they behave during our competitions. Sportsmanship is not a style, it is an attitude we need to exhibit more often if we intend to continue to thrive. Respect is the quintessential part in achieving sportsmanship and it can have a positive influence on everyone around when it is given to all involved.”

AQHA, APHA, and NSBA all have sections in their rulebooks dealing with unsportsmanlike behavior and the disciplinary procedures that take place for certain behavior. Show management has the right to expel any individuals from the show grounds that exhibit inappropriate behavior and unsportsmanlike conduct to help maintain the decorum at that particular show. Judges have the ability to oust any exhibitor from the arena for unsportsmanlike conduct, and they can recommend to show management that these individuals be asked to leave the show grounds. Also, a particular complaint must be in writing and presented to the Disciplinary Hearing Committee for NSBA and the Executive Committee for APHA and AQHA. Each individual involved in a dispute has the right to their day in court. The evidence of misconduct is presented at these hearings, and the committee members solely determine the punishment for each particular incident. Unsportsmanlike conduct is not taken likely but it is, at times, hard to prove and many people who file the complaints are not willing to ultimately follow through with the long legal process to find someone guilty of an infraction.

In light of what happened at this year’s Reichert Celebration and recently at other competitions across the country involving incidents such as fights, riding while intoxicated, abusing horses, and other unsportsmanlike behavior, many individuals are calling into question the integrity of some trainers in this industry. For the few readers that don’t know what occurred in Tulsa, there was a huge scene after the $250,000 Two-Year Old Challenge involving grown men and women physically assaulting one another after the class did not go quite as planned. It resulted in numerous police cars and an ambulance coming to the scene. Some people site the large amount of money at stake as the cause for trainers behaving badly. Others explain that alcohol mixed with intense emotions caused this unfortunate incident.

Non Pro Nancy Wilkerson who won the 2 Year-Old Non-Pro Western Pleasure with A Sensational Zippo at the Reichert witnessed this incident and was disappointed in the poor display of sportsmanship. “What was the saddest to me is that everybody was not speaking of the horse that won the big money class but the brawl afterward.”    Novice Amateur Micah Howard from Nashville, Tennessee also saw this unpleasant event. Here are his thoughts about what took place. “Horses are animals; they are subject to be less than perfect at any moment. The outcome of this particular high dollar class wasn’t great. In all honesty, I was embarrassed by the actions of the professional horsemen as a result of this class. Their actions made me seriously take stock of why I love this business and caused me to evaluate just what part I wanted to play in this business anymore,” Howard said. “I did take into consideration that a win of this particular class would make or break any trainer. However, the lack of professionalism shown, as a result of this class, was absolutely inappropriate. I believe that professional horsemen should be held to a high standard of professionalism in competition. They are representing the best in show of our breed. They are competing as professionals. Act like it. Yes, there is pressure; there are dollars at stake; there are reputations at stake; there are clients to be had or lost, but being professional and taking the high road will win in the end.”

As far as solutions, Howard adds, “I would like to see some sort of standard set with our professionals in the form of competing while under the influence. We can’t show horses on certain performance enhancing drugs, so why should we allow our professional horsemen to show intoxicated. To me, as a client, if my trainer is showing while intoxicated, it says to me that he/she isn’t taking my hard earned dollars seriously. I will say that not all of the blame should be placed on the professionals either. As the clients, we have the ability to remove our horse from a situation if we feel it isn’t going to be shown to the best of its ability. We depend on our professionals to do their jobs and prep the horses to the best of their ability and to exhibit them in the same manner. However, if more clients would demand that the trainer also conduct himself/herself in a professional manner, then this would certainly contribute to a better system.”

AQHA World Champion Hunter trainer Sandy Vaughn also believes there should be drug and alcohol testing for our trainers and riders. “My position on this is where there is that much money and alcohol you have trouble. If all other pro sports have to drug and alcohol test, F.E.I Olympic Jumpers, NASCAR, swimmers, football, baseball, and soccer, etc. – why not the riders? I suggested it last year at the convention for one of the rule changes. Not all shows but randomly and at all the big ones just like drug testing for the horses. I think integrity, acting like an adult and controlling our emotions is important. Alcohol is a strong thing. It can control us and make us do things we would never do sober. I am no angel, but when we partied it was when the work was done.”

Select Amateur Allison Ham mentions that fights break out in a variety of events. “Did you see the fight after the Oregon/Boise State football game? The Oregon player was suspended for part of the season and was in line for a top NFL draft pick, that is until this happened. One of the statements after the incident was great, ‘Play with emotion, don’t let emotion play with us.’ The NCAA has strict rules concerning sportsmanship. The NCAA definition of sportsmanship is: Sportsmanship is a set of behaviors to be exhibited by student-athletes, coaches, game officials, administrators and fans in athletics competition. These behaviors are based on values, especially respect and integrity,” Ham said.

Pleasure trainer Suzy Jeane remarks that when incidents like these happen at the horse shows there needs to be an automatic fine and suspension of these individuals. “It shouldn’t be where someone has to turn these people in in order to get some action. There should be strict rules that are automatically enforced.”

Highly respected multi-carded judge Andrea Simons mentions that she believes the fight at the Reichert was an isolated yet unfortunate incident. “Hopefully, we will all learn from this event,” Simons said. “J.R. Reichert runs a fabulous show and I take my hats off to them for being the first in the industry to elevate our industry to a new level.” Simons adds, “I understand some trainers were involved in unsportsmanlike behavior, but I don’t believe it is in their true nature. In times of crisis, some of these same individuals are ready to do anything to help people out.”

AQHA Ambassador Lynn Palm and Carol Harris of Bo-Bett Farms mention that there needs to be a steward system set up a lot like the one the USEF has in place. “It will make our shows more professional and emphasize correct horsemanship,” Palm said. “It would also help encourage everybody to abide by the rules while on the show grounds.”

Trainers need to realize that they are role models to our children and that their bad behavior does not set a good example. AQHA judge and trainer Rebecca Halvorson believes that good sportsmanship needs to be brought back to the forefront of our industry. “We spend our whole lives competing and competition is healthy.  We have parents that work so hard to make sure that there child never gets hurt or gets beat at absolutely anything (even meaningless things). Therefore, kids never learn to lose. Sure it hurts but it is life, and we all have to learn to accept the good and the bad even though we just want our kids to be protected from that pain.”

Halvorson adds, “I just want everyone to remember one thing: that it is not about us, the trainers. It is about the kids and the families that keep us going.  We all have to remember our roots and give back to the little guy, the new guy, etc. We have to make sure to encourage and take care of the young people in our industry (give them help whenever we can) and take time to appreciate our customers and all of the people that are involved with managing these shows because none of us would be here if it wasn’t for the aforementioned people.”

Select Amateur Lori Bucholz who recently won the Amateur Working Hunter at the Bayer Select World Show believes sportsmanship should always be addressed, no matter what event, sport or level of competition in which you compete. Bad sports get way too much airplay, whether it be someone like Kanye West, Tanya Harding or just an obnoxious little league parent.  “I do believe when those situations occur it becomes an excellent teaching opportunity for parents to show their kids how not to behave when they’re disappointed. Just because you show up at a show with a great horse, the correct trainer, tack and clothes this does not entitle you to the trophy.  In today’s top-notch competition, everyone shows up prepared.” Bucholz said. “I think bad sportsmanship, sadly, often leads to our horses getting abused.  A bad sport may come out of the arena and spur, pull, tug and do all sorts of horrific things to their horses when they should have taken a step backwards and asked themselves what they did wrong.  Usually your horse is just doing what you asked him to do, or he misbehaved because he was scared or unprepared for the circumstances of that day.”

Bucholz adds, “I do find that the majority of competitors are gracious, especially those in the ‘select’ group and those who’ve been very successful at the world show level.  We all realize the time, expense and heartache it takes to show.  With our life and showing experiences, we know that today could be my day and that tomorrow could be yours. So we’re happy to celebrate with the other competitors, or to commiserate, which ever the case! Those who show with me know I say a few things when I don’t do well: ‘There’s always another horse show’; ‘Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug’; and ‘We’re not out here curing cancer’.  What does all that mean?  To me it means try again tomorrow, that often you just can’t influence circumstances and, finally, get a big picture view of the world.”

Livingston expresses his thoughts about the episode at Tulsa, “I personally found it very disappointing that many people’s efforts to achieve positive changes for the pleasure horse industry and the efforts to achieve great rewards for exhibiting pleasure horses can be so disrespected by a few professionals. Professionals who don’t see and don’t want to admit that their conduct and their actions may cost others a future in the pleasure horse industry beyond the next show or the next futurity season.”

According to Livingston, we need organizations that represent the needs of the industry and hold the professionals responsible for their actions. “We don’t need a lynch party or a Gestapo. We just need a group of professionals and some association members that will institute changes that will make those involved in such actions in the future more accountable,” Livingston said. “I am struck by the example of the PBR and the fact that they took some truly rough and tough cowboys and got them to all smile; got them not to talk or act bad in public; got them to support one another which turned them into millionaire bull riders with fan clubs. If we only apply ourselves, there is no limit to the possibilities available, but it will only come through respect and the help of a strong organization.”

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