Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Equine Photography Basics

We welcome Catherine Stokes, equine photographer, to share some tips on how to get that perfect shot of your horse. Catherine has been around horses since she was 5, her childhood horse farm in Rockland County, NY being only a two minute walk away from her home.

She holds a BA from Bennington College, with a degree in photography and videography. Catherine has worked closely with Ginger Kathrens, an Emmy Award winning cinematographer, known for the hit TV series, Cloud the Wild Stallion of the Rockies. She has spent time out West in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Nevada, documenting and advocating for wild mustangs.  In addition, she has been a volunteer at PATH Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) for over 8 years.

Catherine has recently started her own photography and videography company, deciding to marry her passion for horses and love of film and photography.  She currently resides in Putnam County, NY where she lives with her two rabbits, Buddy and Velvet, and keeps her horse Prince nearby.  Let’s hand it over to Catherine…

Catherine out in Montana making friends with BLM wild mustang Shane

Do you have a smartphone? A point and shoot? Or even a nice DSLR digital camera? Technology today is so advanced that you don’t necessarily need to spend thousands on a big fancy camera. A smartphone can take an excellent photo too.  No matter what camera you are using, the following tips will hopefully help you to take better photos of your equine friends.  

Step 1- Find the right light

Best times to photograph are in the early morning and late afternoon, when the light is ‘“flat” meaning there are no harsh rays that are casting shadows. Better yet, choose to shoot on an overcast day, where the light will be even and you won’t struggle with harsh shadows.

Of course it goes without saying, if your horse is doing something cute midday then of course just snap away! Just make sure, as the photographer, to face away from the sun- this will guarantee a photo without sunglare.

If you're shooting on your phone, make sure to turn your HDR on- this will find the middle ground of the light and will give you two different exposures of the same shot.
Sun glare

No sun glare

Step 2- Get in front of the horse

This can be difficult at times, knowing how unpredictable horses can be. Take a second before snapping the picture, and make a game plan. For example, when I’m in the paddock I make sure to start off standing at least 40 yards away. (Most of my best photos are from when the horse is first starting to approach me) If you're shooting in a riding ring, stay in the middle. If you can’t interrupt the horse and rider in the arena then set yourself up along the long side of the fence for more photo opportunities.

Imagine if I were in front of this wild herd of horses!

Step 3- Get down to the horse's eye level

As with any subject, having their eye be the focal point is what makes for a flattering photo. Make sure that your camera is at the same level as the equine’s eye. And remember to keep adjusting your stance, horses tend to change their body and demeanor frequently.
This is Snap the mini. She almost doesn't look like a miniature horse when you get to her eye level.  

Step 4 - Get your horse's attention

It goes without saying that 99% of the time we want our horses ears forward when we take a photo.  Therefore, it’s important to be prepared with something that gets their attention - for example, a wrapper that can be crinkled, or something to toss in the air nearby - even a bit of grass being picked and flying through the air can work if that’s all you have.  An extra set of hands can be very useful if you have a friend around to help so that you can focus on the shot.  
A bucket of treats never hurt

Step 5- Patience  

As with anything to do with horses, patience is a must! Prepare yourself to wait for the best moment.  And don’t forget, you are also testing your horse’s patience, so don’t expect stellar behavior from them for an infinite amount of time, and give them a break if necessary.  

Step 6 - Safety First!

We all know we want the most amazing shot that anyone has ever seen.  We want it to win awards, be displayed on a billboard, or be on the cover of a horse show program etc.  But never forget about your safety or your horses.  Sure, we might get into a slightly unique or different position for taking photos, but it should never come at the expense of ending up in a dangerous situation.  The same goes for our equine friends.  

Good-luck and don’t forget to have fun!

Happy trails,


Friday, April 28, 2017

The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) Network

In 2015 I attended my 10 year college reunion at Mount Holyoke.  It’s almost as if life had flashed before my eyes - has it really been 10 years since I graduated?  I mean, it’s not as if A LOT has not happened in the last 10 years - multiple jobs, graduate school, getting married, starting my own business - oh, did I mention I have moved 7 or 8 times in those last 10 years?  When I think about why it feels like I was at Mount Holyoke (MHC) just months, not years ago, it all culminates in one thing - the IHSA riding team.  

Above: the Mount Holyoke Equestrian Team in the 2004-2005 year.

The IHSA team was competitive, and our coach, CJ Law had a large pool of talented equestrians to choose from.  I wasn’t a star rider on the team, far from it.  I didn’t even make the team every semester.  But the team, and the riding program at MHC were inclusive and the group of women there became my second family, many of my closest friends, and beyond that, a network of people who always lend a helping hand when they can.  That group extended beyond our IHSA team, to others in the region.  We all have friends that went to, for example, Smith College and The University of Massachusetts Amherst.  It is this awesome group of extended friends and family that I am in frequent contact with, even though many of us live far apart from each other.  

When I started my business, The Simple Equine, which makes natural grooming products for horses and riders, my IHSA network from my college days immediately helped me when I asked.  I was given marketing guidance, product ideas, ideas about where to sell and how to sell.  People willingly volunteered, testing and trying my products, and answering questionnaires and endless additional questions from me.  I was also lucky enough to have friends, IHSA riders, who like me, had just entered equestrian related businesses too.  Lauren Morlock, owner of Galleria Morusso, and Sharon Perrin (Lilien-Zwiebel) and Katie Sutko (Matteson) who own Kathryn Lily Equestrian, have been an endless supply of information, encouragement, camaraderie, and empathy.  Of course it goes without saying that Coach CJ Law has been kind, generous, a wealth of knowledge, and enthusiastic about my endeavors.  Her love for helping her riders throughout their lives, beyond the four years they attend MHC, must be praised.  

But the story goes beyond Zone 1, Region III of the IHSA.  Literally every time I meet other IHSA folks at a barn, a show, or a social event, they offer their help, words of wisdom, or even just a “well done and keep at it.”  They are current students, alumni, and even coaches.  They are kind, professional, and intelligent.  

It goes without saying, that the common thread here is the IHSA.  The IHSA brings us together.  It turns an individual sport into a team sport.  It enables experienced lifelong equestrians to nurture walk-trot riders.  It evokes memories for the advanced riders on the team, and creates new memories for those just learning about horses and how to ride.  The IHSA encourages us to be responsible, for each other, for the horses that we practice on, the shows we run, and the colleges we represent.  Oh yes, and we have FUN.  Lots of it.  

Above: A few of us having fun at our 10 year reunion in 2015

The IHSA enhances our college experience by helping to prepare us for the real world.  The lessons learned while being part of the IHSA are extremely valuable.  I think we realize this when we meet fellow IHSAer’s.  We know that we had certain mutual experiences that shaped us in positive ways.  Of course, we don’t really think and analyze these qualities, we just inherently know it when we meet someone else from the IHSA.  

I am looking forward to many more interactions with fellow IHSAer’s.  I can already thank them for the help and guidance they have given me with my business.  As The Simple Equine grows, I look forward to having IHSA interns and employees.  I am a part of a positive reinforcing loop.  I hope the IHSA continues to be a great organization that turns out so many wonderful people.  I for one, am a very proud and grateful alumna and privileged to have been part of the IHSA.  

This post is based on experience, learning and opinion.  You may or may not agree with what is written, but we hope that you will be left with information to consider, mull over, laugh at, or even agree to disagree about.  Thank you for reading.

Tips For Working With Young Horses

We welcome guest blogger, Brittany Early, to share her knowledge of working with young horses.  Brittany has a long history with horses.  She started riding at the age of 8, competing in the hunters and later in the jumper ring.  Around the age of 20, she fell in love with dressage.  She has had her horse Ravi since he was born, and has completed all of his training to date.  She has found working with Ravi to be a most rewarding experience.  
Much of Brittany's young horse experience has come from working on her family’s sport horse breeding farm as a young lady, and being a veterinary technician at the prestigious Tufts Large Animal Hospital.  At her family’s farm, she worked with foals through adolescent horses.  At Tufts, she had to interact with all kinds of equines.  In an environment that could be quite stressful, the hospital situation taught Brittany a lot about how to handle horses in a calm and correct manner.
Brittany is currently chasing her dreams of becoming a professional dressage rider and trainer.  She is currently working for USDF Bronze, Silver, and Gold medalist Nancy Later Lavoie in Ashby, Massachusetts, where she is expanding her skills and knowledge in all areas of horsemanship.  Brittany is thoroughly enjoying all that Nancy is teaching her.
We at The Simple Equine have had the privilege of witnessing and observing Brittany work with both young and difficult horses.  We have rarely seen someone who can be so calm and at the same time command the attention and respect that she does when working with a horse.  It is these observations which led us to ask Brittany to share her tips on working with young horses.  Let’s hand it over to Brittany -
   “Working with young horses is something I have always enjoyed. They have a lot to say, and really depend on a confident leader to be successful at their job. It’s extremely important to be clear, positive, and patient. I have learned many important lessons over the years from handling and training young horses. I also love learning from the many talented trainers and experts out there, and observing different points of view, whether it be from the rider, trainer or horse’s perspective.  Here are some tips I would like to share that have made a difference for me in my training and ability as a rider that might help you and your horse to both be successful.”  
It is vital to be your horse’s leader.  Be sure you are completely confident in your actions when asking for a correct response from them. Do not ask something and then accept an incorrect response.  Keep asking until they give you the right answer, then reward with lots of praise.  It is very important to always follow through.  
Know the difference between when a young horse is playing and when they are uncomfortable. For example: you lunge your horse and they are consistently showing bad behavior such as bucking or bolting.  First determine if this behavior a.) due to pain b.) the horse is acting playfully and/or c.) the horse is conducting themselves in a disrespectful manner.  Search to find the root cause by asking questions.  Is the horse always like this?  Is the behavior getting worse?  Do they look uncomfortable somewhere in their body?  Were they sensitive in some spots when you were grooming them?  Young horses are great for testing your confidence and patience.  It’s important to know your horse and know the difference between behaviors.
   I highly recommend handling a young horse in a “rope halter”.  If used correctly, handling a horse in a rope halter for a period of time before graduating to a leather or breakaway halter is a great way to establish solid ground manners. It is helpful to both of you to avoid using unhealthy pressure from a chain lead rope. With a concrete foundation, you can easily accomplish many objectives while working with a horse in hand.
   The horse needs to focus on you, as in, you need to be the most important thing in their mind when training, especially if the horse is in an uncomfortable situation. These situations can be unexpected, so it is critical to maintain their concentration. You can practice with some planned minor distractions before going to a show or big event. It can be a dangerous situation for both of you if your horse is allowed to ignore you and go off of their basic instincts. Never forget they are fight or flight animals.  Constantly keep them thinking by change exercises, routines, and expose them to new and different situations.  Be a constant force of encouragement and keep the focus on you and not on the distraction.
   The young horse journey is a very long one, and with young horses everything comes as it comes. It is never an easy or fast process bringing one along, but if done correctly it can be extremely rewarding. Always praise the correct response, no matter how small the intent. Appreciate the progress as it comes.  And be patient.  But not overly patient.  
   Have realistic expectations and try not to change them. Clear communication, given the same way each time, is key.  Have the right mindset when working your horse.  Do not start a training session if you are flushed with emotions.  Try to stay calm and relaxed so you do not overreact. Over reacting can cause confusion. Have a clear mind when working with your horse and try to tune into their body behavior, and take notice each session. This will help your progress and gain more of a connection in your partnership.
   Sometimes we don’t give credit where credit is due.  Horses are intelligent.  Though young horses may take time to come into their own and respond correctly to a training exercise, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t constantly absorbing additional information.  Always keep it in mind that they are like a sponge when they are young.  Every moment is a learning and teaching opportunity for them.
   Work on a few very specific exercises for a brief period, and then move on.  Praise the correct behavior, and always try to end on a good note, but don’t fry their brain.  A young horse is learning so many new things, so don’t be repetitive. If you ask for something and they answer the first or second time with the correct response, move on to something different. It’s important to not keep asking the same question until they answer incorrectly.  Remember results are important and get better with time and practice.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Customer Focus - Helping the relationship between horse and owner

Laura DeAngelo and her Raptana

On a recent trip to Virginia for a graduate school reunion, I took the opportunity to meet a few Simple Equine customers from the mid-atlantic region.  One of these customers was Laura DeAngelo.  Laura is a multi-talented woman, the manager of a large tack store, the owner of her own horse and rider training business, and the artist of commissioned pet portraits.  Are you seeing a theme here?  Yes, Laura is devoted to horses like so many of us, and is lucky enough to make a living that is fully related to the horse industry in one way or another.

On a rainy day, I rolled up the gravel driveway to the farm where Laura does a lot of her horse and rider training.  She also boards two mares at this farm.  After we greeted each other, the first order of business was to meet Laura's two mares, Sookie and Raptana.  We ambled down to the large and beautiful green pasture where all the mares were peacefully eating the lush grass.

Right away, it was easy to see Laura's passion for horses.  The smile on her face grew as we approached young Sookie, a paint quarter horse just starting her eventing career.  We walked a little further afield to greet Raptana, a lovely, tall and athletic chestnut.  Laura has known both for pretty much their whole lives, as she started them both and has done most of their training.  We walked back towards Sookie, and Laura gently put on her halter.  Then it was off back up the hill to the barn so that Sookie could be groomed and tacked up.

 Laura with Raptana and Sookie

As Laura got Sookie ready, we chatted about horses, actually, I mostly peppered Laura with questions which she graciously answered.

How long have you been involved with horses?

"My mom says I was in love with horses before I ever saw one.  Though none of my immediately family rides, I sometimes wonder if it was something in my genes - I know that I had ancestors who were accomplished equestrians.  I've also always been fond of all animals.  As a child I was in awe of the horses grace and beauty."

"I convinced my mom to let me take riding lessons.  It came to me naturally.  But I struggled with my confidence in the saddle, I was a bit of a perfectionist.  If I couldn't do it correctly, I would get a little stressed or nervous.  I would think about all the possibilities of what could happen.  I was never the kid egging on my friends to go galloping across a field.  I'd be more likely to say that we should be walking across the field because of all the unknowns - whether the horses might become too excited or do something silly, whether there would be uneven ground etc.  I even had instructors who said that I was the only thing holding back my own riding ability.  What I realize now, when I reflect on that time as a novice, was that I was cautious, not because I was scared of horses or of riding, but because I knew that there was so much about the world of horses that I just didn't know."

"As I learned more and more, my confidence started to grow.  Also, when an instructor says you are the one holding yourself back, I think it makes you even more determined.  I became more devoted, I gained more knowledge, and got better and better.  Perhaps it was more of a slow and steady approach, maybe a bit unusual for a kid, but it worked for me."

Laura and Raptana

How did you know you wanted a career in the horse industry?

"Horses help me better myself as a person.  So many of the skills we learn in communicating with horses, enable us to improve our own lives.  The relationship and communication between horse and rider is what I really love."

"Horses have also been the one constant in my life.  Whether I've been down, or had a bad relationship, or even just a bad day, I could pull myself together and speak the horses language.  They would be 110% willing to work with me and that was a very amazing thing.  Even if a ride wasn't that good, you could go home, think about it, and try again the next day.  The best part is the horse doesn't hold a grudge the next day and is ready to begin again.  It's so incredible.  I'd like to be able to be like a horse: forgive and move on, and be flexible and so adaptive.  They are incredible creatures.  I continue to be awed and inspired by them.  They are our mirrors and a window into our own soul.  There was no doubt I needed a career that involved these amazing animals."

Laura giving a young horse some trail experience

Tell me a little bit about your training and teaching philosophies.

"In my business, I mostly work with horses who seem to be having an issue.  By issue I mean that there is usually a break down in communication between them and their rider, and it's causing trouble or friction in their relationship.  I will often work with the horse on my own, but I highly encourage the rider to be involved.  Yes, I often need to work with the horse myself for a period of time, but in the end it is the horse and rider relationship that needs to change and strengthen.  Oftentimes the horse is reflecting the rider.  My goal is to create peace and unity between the horse and rider."

"The first question to ask is, 'What is the root cause of why the horse is acting out in a particular way?'  Once we can reach the answer to that question, we can come to a solution.  It's also a matter of coaching the rider, to try and help them understand the situation and see things from a different perspective.  In the end, the experience has got to be fun and enjoyable for the horse and the rider.  I try to develop both horse and rider to have confidence in what they are doing, which in turn creates a real relationship."

"One of the best things for me is that seeing the elation when something clicks for the rider, when they think, Aha! that was really it.  The rider feels great, because they have been able to communicate in an easy, simplistic manner that the horse understood.  Thus both horse and rider are content."

Champions Laura and Sookie

What advice would you have for other riders?

"Remember why we did this to begin with.  We all started because we loved the creature.  We had an initial love and obsession for the horse.  The horses heart should be be at the center of everything we do.   If all we want is recognition and ribbons, it's at the sacrifice of the horse.  It's not about the fame, ribbons or competition.  You should ride because you enjoy it.  The horse needs to enjoy being with us as well. A rider should strive to find a place where the horse feels happy and relaxed about their job."

"Take the time to listen to your horse, and don't hesitate to get help if you are having trouble.  Even Olympic level riders get help with their riding and their horses.  We should all be trying to help each other be better with our animals.  There is no place for ego with riding.  Confidence yes, ego no.  Ego will get us in trouble.  Have the courage to admit when you are wrong, and admit where your weaknesses are.  The horse will often tell us where our weaknesses are.  We need to observe that and acknowledge it and work through it."

Laura giving Raptana a well deserved pat

What is your favorite Simple Equine product and why?

"Sookie, with her four white stockings, has thin, sensitive skin.  She is susceptible to skin conditions on her legs, especially when it is really wet and muddy.  The Healing Calendula Salve really helps her.  With scratches, it softens everything to where it will come off and then help to treat it.  I also believe it protects the skin and keeps out unnecessary water moisture."
We love Laura's thoughts on horses, riding and training, and thank her for being a great customer!

 Laura and Sookie

This post is based on experience, learning and opinion.  You may or may not agree with what is written, but we hope that you will be left with information to consider, mull over, laugh at, or even agree to disagree about.  Thank you for reading.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Trainer to the stars, the equine stars, that is!

It was our first time selling at a large multi-day event.  My mom and I were manning the booth, not knowing quite what to expect.  There's always some anxiety at the beginning of a show or event that you've never done before- you never know if you'll get good traffic, and if people will be interested in what you are selling.  You just nervously wait for those first few sales, those first few conversations with customers. 

The event opened promptly at 9am.  A few people came rushing by.  We fiddled with our merchandise, changing the orientation of a product here and there, moving something slightly to see if we could get it into a better, more attractive position.  We sat down in our chairs.  All of a sudden I looked up, and saw these boots.  Beautiful brown leather, perhaps custom, and shining like they had just been polished or conditioned.  My attention moved upward, a very stylish outfit accompanying the boots that I was drooling over, and a friendly face smiling at me.  "Tell me about these products.”

That smiling face was Cari Swanson.  That day, Cari, without knowing anything about The Simple Equine, patiently listened while I explained that I developed, tested and handmade all of our natural grooming products.  We discussed a few of her needs, and she bought a few things to try.  A few months later, she placed an order at our online store.  I'm always very happy when we get repeat orders; it means we are helping horses and riders to feel good and look great. 

A few months after that, I was flipping through an omnibus for equestrian-related businesses in our area.  There were a few articles throughout the publication, and I started reading one about this amazing woman named Cari Swanson  who works with horses and equines who take part in movies, TV and commercials. All of a sudden it clicked... I think she's my customer!  I searched my sales records, and sure enough it was her. 

Having done a few customer focus articles by this point, I thought it would be amazing to have an an interview with Cari.  I took a chance and emailed her.  She replied warmly, inviting me to come visit her farm and meet her horses.  In January of 2017, just after our first reasonably big snow of this year, I drove up to her farm, in the Milbrook area of New York.  

As we sat down to a cup of cinnamon tea, I couldn't help but start asking questions - how often do you meet someone whose horses are equine movie stars?  To Cari, I probably sounded like some star struck goofball, nevertheless, she took it in stride, her inviting smile making me feel comfortable to dive right in.  

Tell me a little bit about your background?  

"I grew up with horses, from 4H and Pony Club to competing in eventing, dressage and showjumping.  I am also a USDF silver medalist and judge for dressage.  I had a decade long  career in publishing, but my passion for horses brought me out of New York City to a full time riding and training career.  I  followed my heart, and horses are what ultimately make me the happiest.  I train all kinds of horses and riders across many disciplines - young horses, problem horses, beginner riders, beginner actors, people with addictions, experienced showjumpers, eventers and dressage folks, and liberty training.  My goal is to improve the relationship between the horse and the rider, for the rider to be able to read the horse and tune into their energy.  My passion is to teach both horses and people."

How did you start training horses for movies?  

"I had friends in the film industry who introduced me to Producers and Directors who needed horses.   Word of mouth quickly spread when they discovered I always delivered quality well trained horses who hit their mark  for every take. Be careful what you wish for! I envisioned myself with horses on set, and imagining myself there definitely helped to make it happen."  

What goes into training a horse for a movie? 

"They must have the right temperament.  Patience, kindness, timing and repetition trains horses. It takes about 9-12 weeks of liberty and under saddle training to prepare a horse for a complicated sequence in a film.  When they do something correctly, I reward them with a firm pat and a calm tone of approval.  I do not use treats.  Too many treats can shut the horse down when they are full and thus have no more incentive. Treats also encourage biting.  It would be detrimental if an actor or crew member was injured."  

How many horses do you have right now?  

"I currently have 6 horses.  They are all shapes and sizes, including a miniature, paint, thoroughbreds and warmbloods."

Cari working with RJ

What famous movie actors or actresses have you worked with, and what horses of yours would we have seen in a film?  

"To name a few - Kevin Spacey, Russell Brand, Russell Crow, Ethan Hawke, Haley Bennett, Jennifer Garner, Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell,"  My favorite Director is Steven Sodebergh.”  Cari says calmly.  "They're all just people like you and me. To be honest, I'm not star struck by them.  I am however, extremely star struck by amazing equines.  One of my favorite memories was meeting Secretariat.  As for my horses you may have seen, RJ was in the movie Hidalgo; he was one of 5 horses that played Hidalgo. I also discovered and train Listo, a beautiful white Andalusian stallion now owned by Ashley Waller, who stars in Winters Tale. You will see my FEI Dressage gelding, Bond, and Listo in Ralph Lauren's latest advertising campaign.

Bond and Listo at the Ralph Lauren Flagship Store 

Do you have advice for other horse people?  

"Never stop learning. Listen to your horse.  Leave your temper behind. I love to teach, and I am always learning from each horse and trainer I meet.  As my grandmother often said, "there are many roads to Rome". Every horse will teach you something if you listen.  Go out and learn from other instructors and trainers.  I always encourage my students to learn from others, not just me.  It can be such an enriching experience, especially if you travel out of your comfort zone - go visit another discipline and you'll be amazed at what knowledge you will gain.  My other piece of advice would be to teach from both sides of the horse.  What they learn on one side, they must learn to be able to do from the other." 

And your favorite Simple Equine product?  

"I'm a fan of the Nourishing Avocado Tail Treatment.  I used it on my horses, but also in my own hair.  I also use the Healing Calendula Salve on myself!"  

Though our time chatting was up, I spent part of the afternoon with Cari and some of her clients learning about how Cari uses essential oils on horses.  She had her 17 year old trick miniature horse, Mini Hop, join us in her living room as she performed a treatment on him.  (Mini was featured in a pilot TV show for Spike TV. ) You could tell he was ready for his close up on set as he stood very patiently for the duration of our time together.  Having him in such close quarters also afforded us the luxury of easily being able to observe him, see his reaction (becoming very relaxed) to his treatment, all while being cozy inside Cari's home.

Cari giving Mini Hop his treatment

I enjoyed spending time with you Cari and thank you again for letting me come visit and peek into your amazing life!  

Are you interested in learning from or training with Cari?  Her Website is:  cariswanson.com, Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cari.swanson and Instagram:  @cariswanson17

Monday, January 16, 2017

Basic horse grooming - A discussion and informational video

Just like humans, grooming and looking good starts from the inside.  If you feed a horse what they need to be happy and healthy, their coat and skin will hopefully be in reasonably good shape.  I am not a nutritionist, but it is worth looking into your horse's diet, to make sure they are getting proper food based on their breeding, performance level, their age, the environment they live in, and the climate(s) that they have to deal with.  It goes without saying to make sure that they get all the care they require from their vet and dentist, and that they are wormed regularly.  

I formulate, make and sell natural grooming products.  I believe that my products add a lovely finishing touch to robust nutrition, overall care and a thorough grooming routine of your horse. However, when it comes to taking a direct approach to making your horse shine, elbow grease is the first line of attack.  LOTS of elbow grease.  Additionally, taking the time to groom your horse can also be very therapeutic for them.  It helps increase their blood circulation, it feels good (unless you have a super sensitive horse of course), and it helps you strengthen your bond with them.  Thus hard work, in partnership with the right set of tools and products, can help make your equine show ring ready. 

When I say the right set of tools, I don’t just mean the right grooming instruments, but the ones that go a step further and actually fit the size of your hand, and help you get your job done faster and more easily.  When you are looking at brushes etc., take the time to hold them in your hand, analyze the types of bristles or teeth they have, and even imitate the motion of grooming.  Can I hold this tool easily, or is it too heavy for me?  Are the bristles stiff enough to get off the type of mud that gets caked on my horse when he rolls out in field?  Will the teeth on this curry comb irritate my horse who has sensitive skin?  Of course, the questions you ask will be very different depending on yourself, and your horses needs.  

I learned the basics of grooming when I was a child living in England.  Every horse had a grooming kit which contained a rubber curry comb, hard brush, soft brush, hoof pick and metal curry comb (for cleaning brushes, not the horse!).  These few instruments are tried and true and I use them all pretty much every time I groom a horse.  In addition to this I like to have a mane and tail brush, an instrument for shedding (shedding blade, furminator or something else similar), and a clean washcloth for the face.  There are also some items I have for bathing, but that’s another topic for another day.  

If you work hard grooming your horse, the results will show.  Their coat will be healthier and more shiny; their mane and tail more tangle-free.  The next step would be to consider grooming products.    Grooming products can help enhance the hard work you put in.  They can also help solve minor problems. 

I put grooming products into two categories.  Type one is the kind that gets to the root cause of a problem, type two being that which treat a symptom, but don’t really help solve the underlying issue.  Here is an example.  A horse has a dull, tangled tail. There are products out there that would really help to improve it’s condition over time (ha insert product plug here, The Simple Equine’s Nourishing Avocado Tail Treatment!), and there are others that would create some shine and help get the tangles out without really doing anything to improve the tail.  I myself, prefer the former type of product.  I want my horses tail to be healthy and beautiful all of the time.  The product I use should aid in helping my horse to have the longest and fullest tail possible, so that they can swat away the flies with ease.   The product should also help the strength and condition of each individual hair, which will in turn help to create a more tangle-free tail which is easier and quicker to care for.

So a quick recap - work from the inside out - feed well, provide proper care from the vet and dentist, groom with the right tools and lots of enthusiasm and use grooming products when needed to make your horse look and feel even better.  

The short video below will help a person become familiar with horse and equine grooming concepts. We show foundation grooming tools - curry comb, dandy (hard) brush, body (soft) brush, and hoof pick. Start learning now. 

This video is not an inclusive video of everything that goes into grooming a horse, it is intended to be an introduction. You may or may not agree with what is shown, but we hope that you will be left with information to consider, mull over, or even agree to disagree about.

Customer Focus - A Family Affaire

It is always a pleasure getting to know our customers a little better.  This week, I spoke with Midwesterner Lori Reglin about her multi-generational horse-loving family.  Lori, her grandparents, parents, and now her daughter have all been riders and involved with horses in one way or another throughout their lives.  That’s at least four generations of horse lovers, if not more!  

Some of Lori’s first memories were as a three year old when her parents got a pony which they kept in their suburban backyard.  At age ten, Lori and her family moved out into the countryside.  Lori, along with her younger brother and sister, became avid 4H participants.  There were many family outings; the entire family would load up their horses and head off for a weekend at a 4H horse show or all breed circuit show.  To Lori, these were some of the most memorable times of her childhood and teenage years.  

Once the days of 4H were over, the entire family shifted to showing registered paint horses, and then eventually in 1986 to registered quarter horses.  Lori said it was a special year because her Mother was the National Justin Amateur Reserve Rookie of the Year in her age division.  In 1987, Lori was awarded the National Justin Amateur Rookie of the Year her age group.  Lori says, “It was a year of really hard work to win the championship.  The last two weeks were particularly grueling, as we had to attend multiple shows in the South leading up to the final.  My grandparents often attended horse shows to support us, but it was unforgettable this time because my grandma joined me for those weeks in the South.”   

For Lori’s family however, horses weren’t only about riding and showing.  They of course enjoyed the horse shows and riding, but they were also passionate about breeding, and just genuinely loved being around all things horsey.  They had quite a few broodmares.  As Lori puts it, “It’s just what we did: breeding, raising and showing.”  
Fast forward in time to Lori’s daughter Amy.  Amy would often hop on Grandma and Grandpa’s ponies and older cutting horses when she was little.  Lori left the decision of whether to seriously get into riding up to Amy.  In sixth grade, Amy’s friend on the soccer team invited her to take a riding lesson at a hunter/jumper barn.  Lori believes it was Amy’s natural love of horses given to her by her family, plus the fact that there were many equally horse-crazy girls to hang out with, that really got her taking her riding seriously.  Lori says of Amy, “I think Amy really got into riding because she was able to pursue it in her own way.  There was a love of horses, and great friends to be made.  That combination made it really stick.”  

I asked Lori about Amy’s biggest riding accomplishments to date.  Lori spoke very wisely.  “When we talk about accomplishments, it’s more than just winning, it’s about the person we become.  Amy just dealt with a rather difficult horse for the past year, and seeing how she persevered is an accomplishment in itself.  There were some blue ribbons, but that’s not what it was all about.  Never giving up, learning from experiences, being proud of little improvements or a great lesson - these are the things that mattered.”

I asked Lori about the barn where she and Amy ride now.  “I grew up with a private barn and private trainer.  It was great, but it wasn’t very community orientated.  The opportunity to make friends was limited.  When we found Olympia Equine Ventures, there was always someone to talk to, laugh with, cheer you on, or learn from.  It’s a barn with no age barrier.  Amy, who is a junior in high school, has friends from ages 10 to 35, and it’s just part of the scene.  As a mom, I love it.  The parents all support each other's kids.  At horse shows, we move as a big herd, cheering each other on, and running from ring to ring.  It must be quite funny to watch us!  It helps having Brittany Harpool, our wonderful trainer, who fosters such a caring environment, where we are all encouraged to go beyond just riding but become great horse women too.”

Lori especially loves horse show weekends, because her Mom will often join in and come to cheer on Amy.  Three generations get to spend time together, and they are making many memories in the process.  “It is wonderful to have my Mom with us when Amy is showing.  It kicks up the horse show by a notch.  There is nothing like a Grandma’s love for her granddaughter.  It makes the horse show experience that much better for Amy.”  
Of course I had to ask what Lori’s favorite Simple Equine product is.  “Tail treatment!” Lori replied without hesitation.  “We have had a few horses over the last couple of years, and the tail treatment has been excellent for each and every horse.  The after effect, if used regularly, is of long lasting health and growth.  To me, it’s not at all sticky, which makes it nice to apply.”  

Thank you Lori for loving our Nourishing Avocado Tail Treatment and for letting us take the time to chat with you!  It’s a privilege to know you.  

This post is based on experience, learning and opinion.  You may or may not agree with what is written, but we hope that you will be left with information to consider, mull over, laugh at, or even agree to disagree about.  Thank you for reading.