Monday, March 23, 2020

Tips To Succeed At Your Offsite Clinic Or Lesson

Traveling to a clinic or lesson?  Simple Equine sponsored rider Ben Franklin has some tips to share.  Ben has many people travelling to take a lesson or participate in a clinic with him.  Ben is also one of the lucky (and talented) folks whose trainer is the one and only Carl Hester!  Therefore, he has ample experience about this topic and can understand it from both the instructor and student point of view.  
Decide the WHO before you commit
    If it’s your regular instructor, this point can be skipped.  However, if it’s not, are you planning to take a lesson or clinic with someone new?  Take the time to do some homework. Talk to other people about the instructor’s style, what kind of things they have learned from them etc.  See if there are any videos of the instructor teaching or riding. You can learn a lot about someone, and then decide whether you believe you will truly benefit from a lesson or clinic with them.  There are many people to learn from, just make sure you make smart choices about who you spend your time (and money) with.  

Plan the journey in advance
Make sure you know the address (or GPS address) of the venue you are heading to.  Take time to look at the route in advance so that you can plan accordingly - certain roads or tracks may not be appropriate depending on the size of your truck or lorry and there could be scheduled maintenance and road repairs which might make sense to avoid.  Also take into account the time of day you are having your lesson - for example, will you need to allow extra time because it’s rush hour? And, don’t forget about the weather - a nasty rain storm, wind or snow can all impact journey time.  

Plan the gear in advance
    Traveling to a clinic or lesson is something special.  It’s a time for you to learn, but it’s also a time to put your best foot forward.  Consider what you will wear, and what your horse will wear as well. Make sure your horse will be suitably kitted out - correct boots for jumping, for example.  Take into account the conditions you will be riding in - whether you will be riding indoors or outdoors, and what the weather will be. Instructors appreciate a nicely turned out horse and rider.  Generally speaking, it’s also helpful if the rider is in reasonably fitted clothing, so that the instructor can properly see the rider’s position. Take pride and have your tack and boots sparkling, and everything freshly laundered.  Make a checklist so as not to forget anything you may need - less is not more in this case, as you want to be prepared for every eventuality!  

Make your horse sparkle
    Grey horses aside (who always seem to roll in something vile right before you need them to be clean), plan to tidy up and clean your horse the day before you go.  Prepping them ahead of time can save you a lot of time and stress on the day itself. Then hopefully, the day of, you’ll just need to give them a final hearty groom, a spot clean, and maybe a spritz of shine spray or a little tail detangler.  

On the day, allow extra time
    As we all know too well, horses are so unpredictable.  It’s always a good idea to allow more time than you think you’ll need.  Plan to arrive at the venue early. Give your horse time to settle, allowing them some hay and a drink.  A quick final brush or toweling off, a fresh coat of hoof polish and they should be good to go. Get yourself completely ready before you tack up your own horse, especially if you are on your own; the last thing you want to be doing is fussing with yourself when you’ve got a horse that is raring to get going.  

Be courteous and if possible, try to know the protocol
If you’ve gotten there in plenty of time, it can always be helpful to watch the rider before you - did they go into the arena ahead of their scheduled time?  Did they do any warm up other than in the walk? Did they walk on the inside track or outside track, or stay down at one end of the arena? Did they have a long discussion with the instructor before they got to work?  These observations can help clue you in on what to do so that things go smoothly.  
If given permission, do take your horse into the training area and walk them round for 10 minutes.  Let them get familiar with the surroundings and settle in. Evaluate how your horse is feeling on that day, and be prepared to discuss that with the trainer.  
Have the appropriate length of whip and spurs (if necessary) available by the side of the arena so that they are within easy reach for your trainer should you need them.  And, a bottle of water, because one always wants to stay hydrated.  

Tell the trainer key points
A lesson or clinic goes by quickly.  Be prepared (even consider writing down) a couple of goals, and also perhaps a couple of things you’ve been working on or are having recent problems or issues with.  The trainer is there to help you improve, and perhaps they will be able to advise you on some potential resolutions, or give you suggestions about how to achieve your goals.  
    If you are commencing test riding, make sure you have the test on hand to share with the trainer.  Discuss what you have been working on in the test and what you need to improve on.  

Work hard
Traveling to a lesson or clinic is almost like going to a horse show - it’s as if you are taking four at home lessons all at once, you’ll get so much out of it!  Do your absolute best, but don’t forget to smile and enjoy the training session. Utilise each minute of training and learning after the session and write down “reminder” bullet notes with a pen and paper so that you can recap and look back on what you’ve learned.  

Thank your horse
Your horse has just traveled in a horsebox or trailer, worked as hard, or maybe even harder than you, and they deserve to be treated with kindness and consideration.  A nice groom, a bath or liniment rinse and maybe wrapping their legs overnight are in order. And don’t forget a good pat, some praise, and a carrot, apple, polo or other appropriate reward.  

By Ben Franklin and Tara Korde

Ben Franklin is a dressage rider and trainer based in Buckinghamshire, UK. Ben travels globally to give clinics and teach his clients.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Customer Focus: The All-Rounder

The All-Rounder Andi Bill

As a young lady entering Mount Holyoke College, Andi Bill was one of the first people I met.  At the time, Andi was the assistant coach of the collegiate Hunt Seat Team. Andi had a knack at making all of us newbies feel welcome, patiently answering all of our questions with a kind smile.  As a coach she was firm, but fun, and her love of horses was evident above all else. Andi is an accomplished engineer, but has never let her passion for horses, and teaching riding take a back burner.  

Tell us about your “horse history”
Andi began her horseback riding career at a young age

I have been riding my whole life!  My mom rode when she was pregnant with me.  I started showing competitively when I was seven.  I competed at Pony Finals every year from 1986 through 1995. I continued to ride as a junior, competing in the 3’6” equitation and junior hunters always showing and learning.

Andi loved horses from as far back as she can remember
I attended Mount Holyoke College, competing as an intercollegiate equestrian and serving as captain of Mount Holyoke’s IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association) team my junior and senior years. I rode as an alternate on the United States Intercollegiate Team in Luxembourg and Malmo, Sweden, and was chef d’equipe for the winning American team in 1999. The IHSA provided a welcoming horse community of riders of diverse backgrounds and experience levels. It was at Mount Holyoke that I discovered that I enjoyed teaching just as much as I enjoyed riding.

Tell us about your riding and teaching philosophies
I like to keep it simple.  The four P’s:) Posture, Pace, Path, and Patience! I am a stickler for position; correct equitation allows the rider to effortlessly stay in balance with their horse and communicate as effectively as possible with their equine partner. Developing pace and planning your path are key to a successful ride and I focus on this with all of my riders. Finally, patience: have patience with your horse, patience with others, and patience with yourself. Slow down and recognize that errors provide the best opportunities for learning and improvement. Understand that learning and improving takes time!

Andi is just as passionate about teaching as she is about riding

I also think that a well-rounded equestrian education is essential.  It is important for riders to understand and experience different disciplines.  There is so much to learn, and the more we know, the better horse people we can be. Every experience with horses is unique, and being able to draw from a variety of approaches allows us to better engage with each experience. 

Tell us about what you are currently doing
I have found a job that allows me to balance horses and work. I work for the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a Traffic Operations and Safety Program Manager.  
In addition to that, I get to teach and ride.  I own and operate Sugar Creek Stables with my partner, Brenda Seggerman.  SCS is a multidisciplinary facility with a unique community of diverse horses and riders.  We have an awesome barn family formed around the love of horses. 

Andi and some of her barn family

SCS offers lessons and leases year-round. Over the spring and summer, some of our riders attend 4H, dressage, and hunter/jumper shows throughout southern Wisconsin and the Chicago area. Throughout the year, SCS regularly hosts dressage and hunter seat clinics.

What advice do you have for other riders?
Enjoy the bond between horse and rider! There is nothing more valuable in riding than developing relationships with the horses that you ride. Take the time to get to know your horses and enjoy the relationships that you build.

Riding builds so many valuable skills that apply to nearly every aspect of your life. One of the neatest things about riding is that there is always something to improve upon and always something new to learn. Enjoy the process and never stop learning! 

What is your favorite Simple Equine product and why?  
TWO favorites!
Illuminating Dead Sea Salt Polish: While we have just one gray horse--a mare named Channing--she keeps us busy in our attempts to keep her clean! Especially at horse shows, the Illuminating Dead Sea Salt Polish works wonders on manure stains and keeps her looking sleek and shiny.

Nourishing Avocado Tail Treatment: We use this product on many of our horses. We like to massage the tail treatment into the dock and tail while grooming, let it work its magic while the horse is ridden, and then wash the tail every so often to keep it nice and clean. This product has been keeping our horses’ tails moisturized and full all summer long. Not only does the tail treatment smell divine, but a little bit goes a long way and the bottle lasts quite a while.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Finding a Stable and Riding Instructor for your Child

Finding a Stable and Riding Instructor for your Child
By Sally Batton

You've determined that your child is serious in her wish to learn to ride but you don't know what steps to take.  How do you find a safe, reliable riding instructor and stable for her to learn? You want her to progress in her skills and have a good time, but more importantly you want to find the safest, most professional program in your area.
The best way to find the right riding program is through word-of-mouth.  Talk to your friends at work or the parents of your child's friends and see where they ride in the area.  Then ask if they are pleased with the program, ask if safety rules are followed, and are their children progressing in their skills. 
HELMETS:  When discussing safety procedures, either with parents or riding students or even the barn itself, you need to ask the following questions.  First and foremost, ask the policy regarding riding helmets. The barn should require all riders to wear ASTM-SEI certified riding helmets at all times when mounted.  Many barns also require their younger riders to wear helmets at all times, even when just walking around the barn! If there is only one barn in your area, and that one barn doesn't require helmets, make sure you purchase one for your child. 
NUMBER OF RIDERS/LESSON:  Your next question should be the rider to instructor ratio.  For beginner riders, five to six riders per instructor is good.  Some barns only offer group lessons in eight, ten or even twelve riders but if your child is a beginner, she'd be best off in a smaller group.  If your local barn only has the large groups, you might want to ask about private or semi-private lessons. They cost more, but she will be safer and progress faster in the long run. 
INSTRUCTOR QUALIFICATIONS: You next need to ask about the qualifications of the riding instructors employed by the stable. Do the instructors have some sort of certification? Many different certification programs exist and some states, such as Massachusetts, require their riding instructors to be registered with that state.   One certification to look for is the ARICP certification. This is the American Riding Instructors Certification Program and instructors from all over the country obtain certification in a variety of disciplines.  If your instructor is ARICP certified, you know that they uphold the highest standards of safety and excellence. Often any advertising for the stable will list the certification of the various instructors. Another certification program is the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA), which certifies instructors, accredits equine facilities, produces educational conferences and publishes educational resources such as horsemanship manuals, DVDs, safety video shorts, webinars, and much more. 
SCHOOL HORSE STRING: In your search for a riding center, it is a good idea to ask about the school horse string used in the riding lessons.  Although no one can guarantee that you'll never fall off, your chances are better with a calm, well-trained, older horse than a young Thoroughbred straight off the racetrack!  Ask the barn how many school horses they have and if they offer different horses for the beginner and advanced programs. At most barns, the beginner string can "pinch-hit" in the intermediate lessons, but usually the advanced horse string doesn't fill in for the beginner string.
VISIT AND OBSERVE:  Call ahead to the riding center you are interested in and ask when there is a beginner riding lesson with young children.  Are the horses moving around the arena in an organized fashion? Or does it look like a three-ring circus? Even the most novice observer should be able to tell if that lesson program is right for them.
Sally BattonSally Batton is a cross-discipline riding instructor and trainer. She has been the Director and Coach of the prestigious Dartmouth Equestrian Team for over 25 years. Her riders have many regional and national accolades. Sally has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association and was named Instructor of the Year by the American Riding Instructor's Association. Sally is the founder of the Athletic Equestrian League, which emphasizes the development of correct fundamental horsemanship skills, thus allowing for progressive improvement in technique and performance.  Sally is also a clinician and teaches jumping, horsemanship, western and polocrosse worldwide.  Contact Sally:,, 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Horse and Rider Goals For The Upcoming Year

Horse and Rider Goals For The Upcoming Year
By Tara Korde and Ben Franklin

The older one gets the more the years fly by.  As time seems to be going so quickly, it is important to set goals and aspirations, and be reflective in the process.  Life is not only about reaching Grand Prix or coming first in a Hunter Derby or a 1* Event.

Work hard and be dedicated
Nothing feels better than putting in your best effort.  If you do your best, and forget the rest, there is really nothing to regret.  When you think about improving your riding or your horses training, don’t just think about more lessons, training rides or just getting into the saddle more often.  Think outside the box - are you crooked in the saddle? Maybe Pilates or yoga can help you. Do you get out of breath easily? Maybe do some extra cardio. Similarly, think about how you can cross-train your horse.  Maybe a hack or trail ride more often would help them, or maybe some hill work. Or perhaps polework would help your horse's core. The more you and your horse do (of course, unless there is an injury or some other constraint to consider) the better you’ll feel, and the quicker your progress is bound to be.  

Play hard
Is your usual routine to ride around an arena on nice footing time after time again?  Consider varying yours and your horses routine more. Spend more time hacking and trail riding.  Consider doing something you’ve never done - perhaps a fox hunt if your horse is suitable, or a hunter pace.  Ride out on a Christmas caroling ride. Jump the occasional jump with your dressage horse, or try a dressage lesson with your hunter horse.  Ride your horse bareback. Take your horse to a friends barn for a lesson with their trainer, or try out a clinic with someone new and different.  Learn how to do some basic massage with your horse, it’ll not only help them feel better but also help your relationship. Try out some natural horsemanship or liberty training.  There are really so many possibilities!

Be ambitious but realistic
It’s always a great idea to have a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal).  There is NOTHING wrong with dreaming BIG. Hopefully you will reach that BHAG one day.  However, it’s not worth stressing over something that may seem far away. Think about smaller steps that will help you get to the next level.  What are yours and your horses weaknesses? How might you improve that weakness? Last year you showed at a certain level. What will you have to do to step up to the next level successfully?  Use the help of friends and trainers and get their honest opinions and help to give you that edge to help you keep on moving up and improving.

Educate yourself
There is an endless amount of information in the form of books, blogs, medical journals, videos, etc. out there and available.  Pick a topic you are interested in, and try to become an expert at it. There is so much out there than can enhance your knowledge.  Learn about breeding. Learn about highly contagious horse illnesses. Learn about plants that are poisonous to horses. Pick a weakness your horse has, and try to read anything and everything that might have a suggestion on how to help them overcome that weakness.  The only caveat here is to try and make sure that whatever material or medium you are using to learn is from a reputable source. If you are ever unsure, consult trusted sources, like your trainer or a vet.

Love your horse a little more
Consider what you can do to show your love for your horse more in this upcoming year.  Bring your horse extra carrots to be added to their feed. Groom them extra well if they enjoy it.  Get them a massage by a professional. Spend more time grazing them if they don’t get a lot of grass.  Do an extra saddle fitting if they seem to be changing shape quickly and might need an adjustment. Be in tune with your horses needs, and go that extra step for them.  

Above all, be EXTRA kind
The world is a crazy place.  Being at the barn or stables with our horses is often our refuge and even our therapy from the outside.  That being said, you never know what someone is facing, horse, human (trainer, groom, friend or even arch rival) or otherwise.  Go out of your way to be kind. Never forget the Golden Rule. You will make others’ lives a little brighter, and you’ll be a better person for it.  

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Tips For Achieving Your Bronze Medal in Dressage

Tips For Achieving Your Bronze Medal in Dressage
Reported by Tara Korde

In the USA, many dressage riders set goals of getting their United States Dressage Federation Bronze, Silver and Gold Medals.  The USDF medals are a stamp of approval in many ways - that you can indeed compete at a certain level consistently. At the time this article was written, to win a Bronze Medal, you must have six scores of 60% or higher, with two different judges and two different rides in each of First Level, Second Level and Third Level respectively.  In this article, we talk to three ladies, two adult amateurs and one professional, who have all achieved their Bronze Medal (or beyond), and ask them their advice on what helped them successfully earn it.

Liz Oertel Johnson - Adult Amateur

Liz Oertel Johnson teaches as a lecturer at the University of New Hampshire in the Equine Studies Program and is the owner of On The Bit Events, an equine event management company.  OTBE partners with prestigious events in the Northeast such as Fitch’s Corner and the New England Dressage Association Fall Symposium. Liz knows both sides of the competition ring and earned her Bronze medal in the Fall of 2017.  Her mount is Santa Fe, aka Santa, an 18-year-old Dutch Warmblood. Santa had scores through first level when Liz got him in late 2015, and the two have worked together to progress through the levels. Liz’s horse background has been greatly varied - from sport arabians to foxhunting, dressage and eventing. To find out more about Liz and 
On The Bit Events visit:

Find a coach that works for you
Find a trainer that will help you and your horse thrive.  It is important that your trainer understands both you and your horse - your personalities, your physical abilities, and how you work as a team. It’s also important that your trainer be accommodating and realistic - helping you to set sensible goals within a timeframe, and to be available to train you when your schedule permits.  Many amateurs work during the day. They might not get to ride as often as they would like. Finding a coach that will work when you can be at the barn is so important. You simply won't get the help you need if you don't have someone who is flexible and will work with you.  

Find an appropriate horse
Just because you have an emotional tie to a horse, does not mean it is the horse you should be competing on or trying to get to a bronze medal with.  Make sure the horse that you plan to earn that bronze medal with is a horse you feel safe with. Don't get overmounted. Ensure the horse also has the physical ability to compete at 3rd level.  Make sure you feel comfortable on the horse - can you sit to their gaits easily? Maybe the correct match isn’t available right now, but don’t let that stop you - lesson on an available horse, consider a lease, or lease to buy, or find someone who doesn’t have the time to ride every day and would appreciate it if their horse gets some exercise.  A little patience to find the right partner will definitely pay off. Your prince charming is out there, you just have to be willing to wait.

Ride without stirrups
The sitting trot has been a challenge for me.  Once I got to third level, I needed to sit well, not just in a mediocre way.  So I try to ride every ride at least 10 minutes with no stirrups, as long as I am in a safe environment.   I don’t do it with snow falling off of the roof or out on the trails. Riding without stirrups has not only improved my fitness and ability to sit the trot but has had far reaching positive consequences to my riding and has also accelerated my progress.  Lunge lessons without stirrups are also fantastic and a real treat if your ground help can help lunge you and your horse in a safe way.

Rachel Masen - Adult Amateur

Rachel Masen is the founder of lifestyle Website Decidedly Equestrian and recently earned her USDF Bronze Medal. Her mount is 22 year old Prix St George schoolmaster Thoroughbred Spice. She has used his solid training to vastly increase her Dressage knowledge in a short amount of time.  She went from Training level to a Bronze Medal in 1 calendar year. She’s been taking dressage lessons for 3 years and was previously a western rider. You can find more about Rachel on her Website:  

Don’t shun the schoolmaster  If you’re new to dressage (or haven’t shown very high), I strongly suggest you find a schoolmaster to learn from. This will vastly reduce the time it takes for you to progress. A well trained horse might be quite expensive to lease or buy...or the horse might come with some issues that keep him from being ideal for many amateur riders (these bargains are great if you can manage riding a horse with problems). You don’t need a fancy horse to get your medals, just a well trained one. There’s one out there for you, keep looking!

Be realistic  Is your horse young and green? Do you have a time consuming job that keeps you out of the saddle? Ask yourself the tough questions. You have to be honest with yourself about how long things will take. Make the right choices for your life, but know their consequences. You only have one lifetime. There’s usually another answer to the question and it may affect your timeline less.

Set goals and work your A$$ off  This is the big one. If you don’t have the work ethic or real desire, it’s not getting done. Ride as often as you can, ride with good trainers and clinicians, and take notes.  Practice what you learn in those lessons. Be mindful every moment of your ride (no worrying about picking up your kid or that work project). Read books and articles on dressage when you have time.  Watch training videos or videos of riders you admire. These are invaluable for improvement and learning when you only have one horse to ride. Set goals for what you want to accomplish in one year and figure out a way to make that happen. Create action items for those goals and set dates for completion. Intention is a biggy...if you say you’re doing’ll do it (for the good or bad).  

Molly Maloney - Professional

Molly Maloney is a USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold Medalist, who operates her training business out of Uphill Dressage Center in Salt Point NY. Molly loves training young horses and bringing them up the levels.  Molly, a former participant of Dressage4Kids, is now a clinician and advocate for the program. Molly competes at many prestigious events, from Dressage at Devon to US Nationals.

Memorize, that test
There are a lot of variables about showing that you can’t control, but one huge thing you can control is knowing that test. I can count on not sleeping at all before I show if I have not properly learned my test. Initially it’s about straight memorization. Instead of counting sheep before I fall asleep, I run through my test pattern. My general rule is that you should be able to pick up from any point and continue. Once I have the basic pattern memorized I run through the test. I always hear people say, my horse anticipates the transition, or the changes. I get that. However, you need to run through this test so much and be so comfortable with it that you can work through that anticipation. It is also really good to familiarize yourself with the coefficients. Those are the big money movements that count twice! Lilo Fore once told me to make the ring my friend. It’s something I tell myself often when I am showing. Don’t rush, take your time, utilize space. It’s all about how you prepare each movement. So, know your test inside out and backwards. It will give you the upper hand, and allow you to focus on how your horse is feeling in the moment.

Ring time is paramount
There is a huge difference between being able to ride a test in the comfort of your own sandbox and going in public and knocking off a solid test. Let’s be real, you are never going to have a perfect test. Even if you can ride at home every time for an 80%, at the show a squirrel might run under the arena after a run-away walnut and spook your horse, scaring the living daylights out of you, and therefore giving you the worst case of stage fright causing you to go off course and blow your entire test. Test riding is a whole other ball game. It’s about knowing your horse well enough to know how big and bold you can go, it’s about knowing yourself and where you might be tight or tense, but mostly it’s about mastering that confidence in the ring. So go around that arena like you own the test, you own the moment, and you will rock it and get your score. It’s also about thinking on your feet, for example, if you screw up a movement or a transition, how fast you can recover? Dressage is a mental game just like any other sport and without being able to show enough times to take an edge off your nerves and get your horse seasoned it’s very hard to score consistently. Showing is expensive but experience can be so beneficial, so utilize schooling shows, practice ride a test at a clinic, or even trailer to another farm and practice your test. There are some things that you can only get so perfect at home, and others you need to jump head first into showing to make better. There is confidence in knowing the work is solid, I am not disagreeing with that. Dressage riders as a general statement are perfectionists, and sometimes you have to take a leap and get right to the point! Getting those scores!

This is your moment
It might sound super cheesy, but this is all supposed to be fun. I can’t say I have ever met anyone who doesn’t come out of the ring with their tail between their legs on occasion. Keep things in perspective and know that every time you show, and it doesn’t go as well as planned, the victory of achieving your goals will only be that much sweeter when it happens. So, when you get a little beat up or a comment from a judge like “Nice tail” go home and keep pushing.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Customer Focus - The Gentle Giants of Charleston, SC

Lizzie, Brittany, Jackson and me

I just came back from a trip to Charleston, South Carolina.  While I was there I got to visit one of my customers, Classic Carriage Works, or rather many customers  -  Elwood, Carson, Jackson, Berry, Larry, Bud, Dakota, Franklin and Gerald.  
There has been so much press around the carriage industry lately.  I’m not an activist for, nor am I against the carriage industry.  I’m simply a horse crazy girl.  So from a horse lovers perspective, I write this article, this customer focus, about nine lovely black Percheron horses who help show downtown Charleston to folks from a different perspective.  
Brittany, the barn manager at Classic, was kind enough to let me spend a good portion of two days with the horses.  During my stay, I was also taken around to see the other 4 carriage companies that serve Charleston.  Each barn had a different personality, even different kinds of horses - for example, Charleston Carriage Works has a fleet of beautiful chestnut Belgian Drafts, and Palmetto Carriage Works is the only company in town who drives pairs of mules.  
Carson on his way out of the barn

All the horses seemed happy and in good condition; I was allowed to go around and greet horses at every company.  The barns were clean, the atmosphere peaceful, the tack clean.  Again, these are just general horse crazy girl observations.  I didn’t see anything alarming or not right, anything that I wouldn’t see at any regular boarding barn with private clients.  
Jackson and his adorable droopy lip
But let's get back to my Percheron friends and Classic Carriage Works.  Classic has been an active barn longer than any other in Charleston.  It has stalls for six horses.  In combination with the city stable, the horses are rotated in and out of town to a lovely farm so that they all get some down time.  
Many of Classic’s horses came from less than ideal circumstances.  In fact, the majority of horses in the carriage industry were bound for the slaughter house.  To put it in a not so nice way, there is a lot of meat on an 18hh draft horse.  Brittany showed me the scars on Jackson from his previous life.  Jackson is one of their newer horses, and I’m glad to say some of our Simple Equine products are helping to heal him.  Given the tough life he came from, it was amazing to me that he could be so sweet and gentle.  Brittany said it’s taken him a little while to warm up, but he’s only been with them for a short time and I was amazed at his calm demeanor and friendliness towards me.  Not only that, but when he was hanging with me he had the most adorable and droopiest lip you’ve ever seen - a sure sign of a happy and relaxed horse in my books.  

Giant 18hh+ Carson
Carson taking me on my tour

Carson is a large 18hh Percheron, very handsome, and I think he actually believes he is hot stuff.  I went on a historical carriage ride with Carson all over downtown Charleston.  I’m not at all experienced with driving, but there were definitely similarities to riding.  The main differences to me were the importance of verbal communication with the horse and also making sure you swing far and wide so as not to hit any parked cars!  I could see Carson’s right ear turned back, listening to his driver, as we would make a left or right or pull to the side of the road to let cars pass by.  

Back at the barn, Brittany decided I should see what it’s like to pull a carriage.  Yes, me, little 100 something pound person, pull the same carriage as my 2000+ pound friend Carson.  To my surprise, it wasn’t very hard, and trust me I am not a very strong human being.  She also showed me what their special cushy shoes are like.  I’ve never seen special shoes like these- a thick piece of shock absorbing material with a little bit of extra grip on the bottom.  This shock absorber goes on after the regular metal shoe, and gets changed out frequently.  It’s one of the thing that gets monitored by the City of Charleston.  
And talk about monitoring.  Brittany showed me their book of rules and regulations.  Seriously, if all horses in the world were monitored like these gentle giants, the horse world would be a better place.  They can’t work if their shock absorbers are less than 1.5inches thick.  They can’t work if their internal temperature gets too high.  If it gets above 95 degrees or a heat index of 110 degrees no carriage rides are allowed.  There is a limit on the number of carriage rides each horse can do in a day.  They have to have a certain amount of rest time between carriage rides.  And the list goes on and on.  It’s not to say all horse owners need strict guidelines, there are plenty of well loved and well taken care of horses out there in the world, but there are also those who could use some governance.  I think it’s pretty cool that there is a governing body to ensure the horses are treated well.  And beyond that governing body, you have real horse loving folks working at Classic, and they go far above and beyond the rules.  

A horse girl in horse heaven with giant Elwood
The fondness all of the employees at Classic, and for that matter all the carriage companies I visited, have for the horses is quite evident.  Everyone of course has their favorite.  The employees  know the horses’ personalities, their likes, dislikes, what makes them happy, what they are scared of, even what might catch them off guard.  I’ll use Berry as an example.  Berry, I was told, takes his job very seriously.  He’s all business.  In fact, as Berry was about to head out on his final tour of the day, Dave, the head driver/trainer, did not want to switch up the tour guide so that Berry would not be too confused.  “It’s not that he can’t do it,” said Dave, “Of course he can.  But Berry thrives on routine and I don’t want to throw him off or cause him unnecessary stress.”  I really love how in tune each and every person seemed to be with the horses.   I have seen many riding programs and other horse programs over the years where people wouldn’t be nearly that thoughtful.  
 What do the horses of Classic Carriage Works like of the Simple Equine?  They all use the Warm Weather Comfort Spray (fly spray), pretty much year round.  Charleston is warm enough that the flies never completely disappear.  All of the new horses they get in show up with docked tails, so the Nourishing Avocado Tail Treatment is also a huge hit, and Brittany reports great growth in both tails and manes.  They also use the Healing Calendula Salve and Soothing Chickweed Cream on various boo boos and irritations, especially on the new horses as they often have lots of skin injuries.  The handsome Carson is a big fan of our Illuminating Sea Salt Polish, especially after he returns from a break - the bugs out in the pasture  bother him. 

Whether or not you believe horses should have a job or pull a carriage or have a rider on top of them, I really do believe these beautiful draft horses are treated with love and respect, and genuinely like what they do.  It’s almost as if they know they’ve been given a second, better chance at life and they are happy with and thankful for the cards they have been dealt.  It seems a shame that folks don’t put their efforts to other parts of the horse industry, like rescuing horses from slaughter and trying to re-home them, just as many horse sanctuaries, and the carriage industry (in general) are doing.  There are thousands of horses in dire need.  Sure, the world isn’t perfect and not every carriage company is good, but in Charleston they all seemed pretty darn decent to this horse loving gal.  

If you are interested in visiting Charleston and taking a tour with Classic Carriage Works, please visit their Website:  Thank you Classic for pampering your horses with Simple Equine products!  

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.