Posts Tagged With: three-day eventing

Conversations

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Since the title of my blog is Conversations With Horses, today I thought I’d talk to a couple of horses. Fictional ones, of course, featured in my book Forewarning. They are based on ones I’ve known and hopefully will give you an insight into horses’ minds.

grey horse 2The first horse to appear in Forewarning is Paris, a brash adventurous type, who finds a gate unlatched and decides to explore. (Unfortunately, a young filly follows along.)

So Paris tell us about yourself.

“My real name is Harrbit’s Parisienne. I’m a beautiful dappled grey Anglo-Arab. That means I’m half Thoroughbred and half Arabian—horse royalty. I was bred for Three Day Eventing and I loved to jump, particularly in the show ring where people noticed and admired me. Something bad happened to me before I came to live with Kasey; I don’t like to talk about that. Kasey fixed me up but I don’t get to jump any more. I miss all the attention and fussing and special things associated with showing.

What do you do now?

I alternate between having foals–oh how I love my babies—and being a trail horse. Dancer and I make really nice foals and Kasey lets me keep them for six or seven months and then waits until the following year to breed me again. After my babies are weaned, I become her trail horse and ride the mountains with her. I love exploring new trails. I get enthralled and walk so fast other horses have a hard time keeping up. But I don’t like it when things change on familiar trails. I have to look very carefully to be sure that big branch or rock slide isn’t something to run from. Once in a while, I’ll play games with Kasey and pretend to be afraid when I’m really not. She usually figures it really quickly and stops my fun. That’s okay, I love her and always run to gate when she comes.

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Now I’m going to skip to the most important horse on ranch—Dancer, Kasey’s regal stallion.

medium_2568292756“My name is Willow’s Sundancer and I am a chestnut Trakehner stallion. My breed developed in East Prussia in the 1700’s and were used as cavalry horses. It is the oldest of the European warmbloods. Like Paris, I was bred for Eventing too, but I also quite enjoy dressage. Kasey bought me as a yearling and trained me. We competed for a few years and I was very successful.  I had lots of admirers, which is why I am so popular as a breeding stallion. I have offspring all over the world,.

Now I have an even more important job—protecting the ranch. As a stallion, I must make sure my herd, which includes Kasey, is safe from danger. While I may romp and play, I never relax my vigil. I’m very aware of everything that goes on and ready to take action if necessary. Of course, I’m also quite interested in the ladies and wish I could live with the mare herd. Unfortunately, Kasey doesn’t agree. I definitely could do without the pesty geldings. They can be so ridiculous at times.

Hope you enjoyed meeting the horses. You can learn more about them and others on the ranch in my book FOREWARNING

If you have horses, what are they like? What kind of personality does your animal have?

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Grey horse: photo credit: *Chutor at 6 years via photopin (license)

Categories: foals, horse personalities, Horses, Jumping, Three Day Eventing, Trail riding | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Horses at the Olympics

Olympic rings

If you were at like me you probably spent the second and third weeks of last February watching the winter Olympic Games. Ice skating, skiing, luge, bobsled, snowboarding, and a host of other events kept us glued to the TV, reveling in the skill and determination of the competitors. In 2016, we’ll again have the chance to stare in awe and root for favorites when the summer Games are held in Rio de Janeiro. My primary interest, of course, will be in the equestrian events. In years past only small snippets were shown by the networks, but now with wonders of the internet, we’ll be able to see much a larger number of competitors and get a major horse fix.

The earliest Olympics in ancient Greece were tests of skills that warriors needed and since horses were a vital part of battle, they included horse and chariot races. The modern Olympics began in1896 but it wasn’t until 1912 that the equestrian events we’re used to seeing were included. Horses are the stars of three events – dressage, eventing, and show jumping – and play a part in a fourth competition I wasn’t aware of before. The Pentathalon has a show jumping phase where competitors ride horses they’ve never handled before over a challenging jump course.

dressageEquestrian events are among the few where men and women compete against each other. This wasn’t true initially. Up until 1952, only military officers and “gentlemen” were allowed to take part. Starting with the Helsinki Games, all men could participate in all the events and women could ride in Dressage. In 1956 women were permitted to do Show Jumping and finally in 1964, they began to compete in Eventing. Now they contend on equal terms in all the riding disciplines.

Dressage starts with a Grand Prix test that all the teams take part in. The scores of the top three riders on each team are added together to get the team score and placing. Then the top 25 go on to do the Grand Prix Special test to compete for individual medals. The thirteen best then compete in the Freestyles. These are the crowd pleasing performances where the horses “dance” to music. The scores from these two tests determine the individual medalists.

Cross-countryEventing originated as a three day contest to prove the quality and endurance of cavalry horses. Today it still consists of three separate competitions: dressage, cross-country jumping and show jumping. On day one, the dressage demonstrates the horses’ suppleness, training and obedience. Because these horses are not specialists, they do somewhat less demanding tests than the dressage stars and their tests are scored by listing the number of faults. So the lower the score, the better. On day two, they show their skill and courage on a demanding cross-country course with difficult and often scary solid fences. The Show Jumping phase on day three demonstrates their fitness and soundness. Again the riders vie for team and individual medals.

medium_515302767The last equestrian event is Show Jumping, the exciting attraction that usually sells out. Everyone likes watching the horses and riders tackle the very challenging and technical jump course. Again, because these horses are specialists, the jumps are bigger and harder. The team and individual medals are well earned.

Have you watched the Olympic equestrian events? Which one do you like best? Have you ever attended an Olympics? I know I’d love to go to Rio in 2016. How about you?

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Olympic rings: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/joncandy/7267452456/”>joncandy</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Dressage horse: photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/jessicamulley/3118654629/”>Jessicastjohn</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

 

Categories: animals, dressage, Horses, Olympics, riding, Show jumping, Three Day Eventing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Eventing – Not For the Faint of Heart

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Cross-country

Three-Day Eventing is an Olympic and international equestrian sport that originated in Europe as a competition to demonstrate the fitness of cavalry horses. In those days, the armies wanted horses that looked impressive on the parade grounds, could travel across any kind of terrain at speed and for long distances, and then be ready and able to continue the next day. To test these abilities they developed a three day competition—in essence an equestrian triathlon.

The first day the horses demonstrate their dressage skills, performing intricate movements requiring high levels of training and obedience. The second day they show their courage, endurance, and ability to handle all kinds of difficult situations by completing a challenging cross-country course. The last day they prove their fitness by doing a precise and demanding stadium jumping round.

These tests developed into national competitions, culminating in becoming an Olympic sport in 1912. Initially, only military officers were allowed to compete. In 1952 male civilians became eligible, but women weren’t allowed into the club until 1964. Equestrian sports are among the few where men and women compete head-to-head. With a couple of exceptions—rodeo and racing—male strength is not a particular advantage and both sexes can be equally successful.

Eventing has become a popular activity for all levels of riders. You can start out on very easy Beginner Novice, Novice or Training courses, then move up to Preliminary, Intermediate and Advanced. You can also take part in one day events known as Horse Trials.

A horse and rider compete either as individuals or, at the international level, also as members of a team. Scores are computed on the numbemedium_2568292756r of faults a pair collects. As in golf, the lowest score wins. You acquire faults through mistakes in the dressage test and refusals, course mistakes or taking too long in the two jumping portions. Three refusals or a fall of horse or rider will result in elimination. Horses are also eliminated if they don’t pass the daily vet inspections.

The most important qualifications for the horse and rider are courage and fitness. The horse has to trust her rider and be willing to go where asked, sometimes jumping blindly, not knowing what is on the other side. Of course, the rider has to be equally brave, trusting that the horse can do what he asks and will keep him safe.

One year I served as a jump judge at a local Intermediate championship. This involved sitting by a large wood pile jump and watching to see if any horse refused, totally missed the jump, or fell. While I had done some cross-country for fun, I’d never tried anything the size of that wood pile. The sight of those horses tearing downhill and then having to slow and gather themselves to jump had my heart in my throat a good part of the time. Unfortunately, one rider did not get her mount back enough so the pair did not make it and fell hard. The rider got up sooner than the horse. There was no question of it doing anything more that day. That was the inspiration for a similar incident in my book Forewarning. My heroine Kasey Edwards is a former Three Day competitor.

Just as vital is the athletic ability of both. Top ranked riders cross-train, ride multiple horses daily and are extremely fit. They also put in long hours conditioning their horses to be able to finish the grueling second day.

medium_8123864734Unlike most other Olympic sports, Three-Day Eventing started as an Olympic event and then developed as a more general contest. The Badminton Horse Trial in Great Britain was the first major non-Olympic event and is still considered the most prestigious. The premier Three-Day in the US in the Rolex, held at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.

While the limited TV coverage of Eventing in the Olympics used to concentrate on jumping falls, the increased public interest has resulted in actually being able to see portions of all three events. Below are a couple of videos.

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Three Day Eventing:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Fqjo9EST8I
2012 Rolex:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfYJjdggyq0
The Cross-Country Ride to London: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8aShtqmJ_o

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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/21795222@N06/2568292756/”>clickerjac</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/zlatko/8123864734/”>Zlatko Unger</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Categories: dressage, Horse Trials, Horses, Kentucky, nature, Olympics, outdoors, riding, Three Day Eventing, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Riders and Writers

 

What I’m reading: Gnome on the Range by Jennifer Zane       http://tinyurl.com/c4yztwh

While watching a video of an Olympic equestrian contest, I nearly fell out of my chair at a commentator’s remark to the effect that “the riders weren’t really athletes.” After regaining my equilibrium, I came to the conclusion the guy must never have ridden at a competitive level. What was even more jaw-dropping was he made the comment about a rider in Three-Day Eventing—the equestrian equivalent of the triathlon.

As the name implies, a three-day consists of three separate competitions whose scores are combined to determine the winner. The first day is a dressage test, the second is a cross-country race against time over jumps, and the third is jumping in an arena.

On the first day, the horses are well aware of what is coming and most will be eagerly anticipating the exciting cross-country. But in a dressage test, the horse and rider must execute a series of precise movements at specific points within a small arena. Even the slightest error adds to your overall score. (Eventing is scored sort of like golf. Lowest number of errors wins.) So you have to get your horse into a quiet, relaxed mode where it is listening to you and concentrating on the dressage moves. This can be quite a challenge and at times the riders look like they are mounted on powder kegs ready to explode. To achieve the calm focus, you must be still and quiet, and communicate with subtle, precise cues, which require superb muscle control.

Day two, the horses and riders gallop plus or minus four miles at top speed over varied terrain while jumping 40-45 solid and challenging obstacles. The horses have to be extremely fit, amazingly courageous and highly motivated. To ride an equestrian athlete of this level, you have to be equally fit, courageous and motivated. Among other things, you ride most of the course in what is called a two-point position, where you are partially standing in the stirrups with your seat out of the saddle while maintaining your balance over hills, drops, water, or whatever else the designers throw at you. And this is not counting the jumps themselves. Can you say wet noodle legs by the end?

Since every movement of your body affects the horse’s balance and ability to perform, you need tremendous core strength to keep still and not interfere. You also need strong legs, as I mentioned earlier, and strong arms to control and sometimes contain an overly excited, 1200 pound animal that has a mind of its own. As a result, most competitive riders do extensive aerobic and strength training, cross-train in another sport, and spend hours each day on a variety of horses, perfecting their skills.

The last day is the show jumping phase, where the horses must negotiate a demanding, intricate jump course within a specified time. Knocking down a rail or refusing to jump affects your score. These jumps are much higher and closer together than those of the previous day, which add to their difficulty. Again, balance and control are imperative.

To make it even more demanding, many of the top riders compete more than one horse at a time. This means double the physical effort and double the mental stress of having to get the best out of distinctly different equine personalities. Don’t tell me these riders aren’t athletes!

Of course, most casual riders, like most weekend skiers or tennis players, aren’t superbly fit athletes. And lots of people have taken horse rides where they’ve just been passengers, so they tend to think that’s all there is to riding. They couldn’t be more wrong. To compete in any sport, including equestrian events, it takes dedication and skill and athletic prowess.

This attitude reminds me of the mindset writers often encounter when talking to non-writers. Most people have no concept of the effort, dedication and hair-pulling mental agony writers go through for their art. The off-hand dismissive, “anyone can do that” attitude is infuriating to say the least.

Have you experienced this kind of put-down? What has been the most objectionable or ignorant comment that you’ve had to deal with?

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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