February 23, 2010

Thwarted plans

I should never have cleared that terrace from snow.

During the week the temperature started to drop again, and we were down to the -20C/-4F again.
Then the snow came.

At Thursday evening, when I was to have my first training for Jimmi, it was windy and snowing.
Jimmi arrived late from Denmark, so I did not have my training until 10.20 pm.
As the stable closes at 11 pm, we just had to have the session at home in the outside arena. Jimmi was stoically shouting in the wind, slowly covering up in snow.
I was frantically trying to hear what he said.
My hearing has not improved over the years. Hahem.
Still he was happy with the progress from last time, which was nice to hear.

I was to have two more trainings, on Saturday and Sunday.
I had even booked my daughter as a photographer, so I would be able to illustrate this blog post with some pictures.
It is not easy to photograph oneself when training, and as there have been many photos of surroundings on trail with parts of a horse head, or some ears in the foreground, I guess a change would be welcome.
I was really looking forward to the training.

But I had not calculated with the weather.

During Friday both the wind and the snowing increased.
When I woke up on Saturday morning, it was as close to a snow storm as you will get in the lowlands here. Nothing like in the mountains, but strong wind and heavy snowfall.
And in addition -12C/10F.

I called Jimmi as I had a hunch that he would prefer to have the training indoors that day.
Funny enough, he thought that would be a good idea.
(And that is how you cannot see any photos of Fame and me doing upper level dressage. It would, of course, otherwise be filled with piaffes and canter pirouettes left and right.)

I wrapped myself and Fame up in layers, and started the ride of half an hour to the indoor arena.
The wind and the snow were beating against my face, and I drew the scarf even tighter up towards my eyes, bending my head against the snow so the rim of the helmet took off for most of it.
Fame heroically trudged on through the snow and the wind.
When we reached the forest, it took off for some of the wind and it was a bit easier to see where we were going.

I had calculated a bit extra time to get all the layers off once we got to the indoor arena, and to get Fame accustomed to the arena again.
When we got inside and reached her spooky corner at the short side (where I cunningly had planned to undress), the wind and the snow were beating against the wall that was partly covered with some plastic, creating an eerie sound.
My horse immediately turned into an antelope again.
All her suspicions were confirmed.
That corner had bogey men inside the walls.

I started to warm up, and even if Fame relaxed better on the circle around Jimmi at the other side of the arena, she was still somewhat tense.
I guess Jimmi could see the little black cloud hanging over my head.

So we marched over to the scary corner and played Ghostbusters until Fame finally relaxed and accepted that the tigers in the wall would not attack.
Which took most of the training session.

When I woke on Sunday, the weather had calmed down.
Then I got a phone from my friend who told me that they would be keeping the show jumps standing in the arena that day.
I was not happy to hear that.
Dressage riding in between jumps is not the same as having the arena to work in.
I conferred with the rider I was to share my training session with, and we concluded with “if you can’t beat them, join them” and put on the jumping saddles instead.

Now, Jimmi is every bit as good a trainer in show jumping as in dressage, if not even better.
But when we came down to the arena and told Jimmi we could just as well jump, he was a bit befuddled and said that we could work a bit at the circle and casually asked at the same time if we had jumped anything before?
I believe he was a bit worried about middle-aged dressage ladies etc – you get the picture. ..
I could fall off in the middle of a tiny jump and due to brittle bones have multiple fractures in arms and legs and such.
And the blingbling on Fame’s brow band could get dusty.
Now I have to admit I have not been doing much show jumping the last year as my trainer got pregnant, and I have no ambition in SJ except to have some fun, but we do pop a jump from time to time.
I have even done a bit cross country training, also just for fun.

So Jimmi started out very cautiously, with a super low X-pole jump.
When he saw that we managed to hang on, he gradually included more jumps and also raised them somewhat off the ground.
My horse loves to jump, and got going with great enthusiasm.
And I must say I find it fun as a change to the dressage work too.

In the end Jimmi had a big grin on.
He told me he had been impressed with me twice that weekend; first time with the sandwich I had brought him on Saturday (at which time he was ravenous, so that doesn’t count much), and second time with the show jumping (in which his expectations where close to zero).
Thanks mate.
What about the dressage?????

I have to get home and have a pep talk with Fame about that piaffe.

Could you spell that? P-i-a-f-f-e?? Must be some foreign language....

February 16, 2010

A treat of a day

What a treat of a day - just look at this weather!

The days are getting longer, and the sun has started to warm some again.
Such a wonderful feeling.
I got so inspired when I woke on Saturday this weekend that I promised my daughter I would clean the terrace from snow.
That was before I had a closer look at it.

I was knee-deep in snow, and I only had one large shovel.
Well, a promise is a promise.
I guess some sweat and exercise won't do any harm...

Sweating. Sweating.
Hm. I can't use up all hours of sun on snow shovelling, must get time for a ride too.

Hi. What are you doing? Is it warm in the sun?
Sniff, not very. I'll stay inside for another week or two.

King of Hunt has another approach to winter and snow.
He watches, very interested, but from the Outside.
Matcho Cats with an image don't sit in windows.
One can miss out on Something. A mouse or two perhaps.

But the icing of the cake this wonderful day was a trail ride with my daughter.
We set out, all four of us, eager to enjoy the beautiful weather.

When passing the Icelandic horses at our neighbour stable I missed a real camera. My cell phone is not doing justice to how the horses contrasted against the horizon, and the intensity of the blue sky.

After having some trot and canter intervals we let the horses walk for a while.
Good boy, Charlie!

Even if you can feel a slight warmth in the sun, it is still low.

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza?

After another long nice canter up the hill, we took a stop and relaxed a bit in the sun before taking on the last part.

Fame loves to get the opportunity to admire the surroundings. She is just one very curious horse.

Finally we turned home again.
When the sun sets, the air gets chilly almost immediately.

I love the look of the snow now when the days are getting slightly warmer. It gets kind of sugary and glossy on the surface.

Thanks for accompanying us!

February 12, 2010

Finally Friday

Friday is the best day of the week.
An evening to relax. The horses often get free this evening too.

On Thursday we had a show-jumping training session.
Every time I jump I remember why I stick to dressage.
Carrying all those jumps in and off the arena is hard work.
Can't understand why people go to training studios and pay a lot for it too. They could help me out for free instead. Carrying jumps, mucking out...getting fresh air too!
But on the other hand, I suppose I only benefit from it myself.

I have spent the evening browsing Amazon for some new horse books.
I got inspired by Di to re-read my Mark Rashid books, they are so good.
So Trudi, I am finally ready to order some of the books on your list!
I will definitely order Anja Beran, and Paul Belasik. I would have liked his book "Dressage for the 21st century" too, but it was only available as second hand at a stiff price. I will add the book by Kathleen Lindley that Di wrote about too.

My favourite book about riding is Mary Wanless: Ride with your mind - Masterclasses.
I bought that book on a visit to London some 15 years ago.
I remember coming back to the hotel room with that book, and a couple of others. I was just planning to quickly leaf through the books before going out again, but already when starting on the foreword that book hooked me.
I believe her descriptions of the interaction between horse and rider are very good, and I keep returning to it.

At Easter one of her instructors, Elaine Butler, will visit Norway and I am seriously contemplating on participating. We'll see.

What are your favourite horse books?

Lots of fun stuff in my horse life coming up!

Next weekend it will be Jimmi-training again.
The week after Kyra Kyrklund will throw a clinic at Arctic Equestrian Games, an hour's drive from Oslo.
We are going there a bunch of us, and having dinner afterwards (like last year).
And on the Friday we will drive to Sweden to watch Gothenburg Horse Show - again a bunch of us. It will be great fun, and I am really looking forward to it.

Fame has been such a treat to ride lately, and after all the antelope sessions this autumn it really makes me happy.

Last Saturday I took a trailride with Hjalmar and Tarzan.
Coming down to the creek the ice edges at the shores were quite high, especially on the other side.
Where the edges were low, we also had a flake of thinner ice reaching out into the water so I thought that would be difficult to pass.
Horses don't like ice. Any surface that feels a bit insecure is scary.
I guess I would feel the same if I was a prey animal that had to rely on my feet and legs to stay alive.
We had to try where the edge cut off clean, but that was quite a high jump straight up out of the water.
Without hesitating, Fame jumped up on to the ice, throwing me slightly off balance in the process as I was riding bareback and it was limited place to land; we had to turn sharply after the jump.
Good girl!

Further on at one of the smaller roads, Hjalmar and Tarzan trotted while Fame and I had a collected canter side-by-side with them.
Fame was quite relaxed and it did not seem as if it was too hard work for her. She kept it for quite a while, without any encouragement from me.
I was very, very thrilled about this as we were struggling with the collected canter before Christmas.
She sometimes changed behind when collecting, so I have tried to slowly build strength, not asking for too much and not for too long.
Seems as if she has gotten stronger! Yippeee!

When I left my old company, I got a gift card.
I have been saving it, thinking of what I was going to buy.
And last week I purchased.....ta-da!
An espresso machine!

I am becoming a coffee-holic.
Of first degree.

Mmmmmm.....can you feel the smell?

February 09, 2010

FEI bans Rollkur

From FEI's news centre:

"Following constructive debate at the FEI round-table conference at the IOC Headquarters in Lausanne today (9 February), the consensus of the group was that any head and neck position of the horse achieved through aggressive force is not acceptable. The group redefined hyperflexion/Rollkur as flexion of the horse’s neck achieved through aggressive force, which is therefore unacceptable. The technique known as Low, Deep and Round (LDR), which achieves flexion without undue force, is acceptable.
The group unanimously agreed that any form of aggressive riding must be sanctioned. The FEI will establish a working group, headed by Dressage Committee Chair Frank Kemperman, to expand the current guidelines for stewards to facilitate the implementation of this policy. The group agreed that no changes are required to the current FEI Rules.
The FEI Management is currently studying a range of additional measures, including the use of closed circuit television for warm-up arenas at selected shows.
The group also emphasised that the main responsibility for the welfare of the horse rests with the rider.
The FEI President HRH Princess Haya accepted a petition of 41,000 signatories against Rollkur presented by Dr Gerd Heuschman."



At last.

I suppose we all have to see how "aggressive force" and LDR are defined, but it is a step in the right direction.
Maybe I am the eternal optimist, but I choose to believe that times are a-changin'.
A victory to the massive uproar and all the petitions against rollkur the last months.

Video surveillance at the warm up pen? I like that.
The rider won't be able to solve the problem with a tense horse through rollkur anymore.
And if the horse is tense, the show results will be affected - which again might alter people's perspective...

All changes starts somewhere. The wind is turning, guys.

Unbottle the champagne in honour of our horses tonight.
Thank you, Dr. Heuschmann.
Thank you, Mr Balkenhol, and all the others who signed that letter to FEI.
Thank you, all of you who have done your best to make your voice heard - all for the good of our horses.
(And thanks for the link, Wolfie!)
Now we just have to make sure that FEI upholds its own regulations.

February 08, 2010


I am following the appeal of my fellow bloggers:

Billie over at camera-obscura has posted the logo and text, and invited us to do the same in solidarity with Dr. Heuschmann and his message at the meeting on Feb. 9th.
Please consider adding your voice to this important debate, and add logo and text to your blog as well.

"The FEI is holding a closed-door round table meeting on Feb. 9th to discuss the training method known as rollkur, or hyperflexion, which involves pulling and holding the horse's muzzle to his chest. This practice is known to have many negative effects on the horse, both physically and psychologically. Gerd Heuschmann, the lone voice for the horse at this meeting, has my support and appreciation as he presents his case "for the good of the horse" along with petitions and letters saying NO TO ROLLKUR.

Please take a moment today and again tomorrow to think positively about the outcome of this meeting. It will make a difference. "

February 07, 2010

Today's musings

Grey Horse Matters has an interesting post today about the different personalities our horses have, and how important it is to adapt to their behaviour and thus get the best out of the partnership.

That made me think of something I have been musing about for a while.

When I think back on the horses that have meant most to me - they are very much alike.
How come?
Is it because I perfer one type of horse, or is it because they are affected by me?

My favourite ones have been sensible but sensitive. Brave but also spooky. Energetic. Intelligent.
Oh, what wonderful animals they are. Or were.
And I subconsiously mixed them, and used the wrong name sometimes. At least with my two favourite geldings. With Fame it is a bit different as she is another gender, but in personality she is very much the same.
My favourites have all been brown with white markings, so when I see a brown horse with white markings, my heart beats a little faster. You can have your greys and blacks – to me a brown horse with white markings is the most beautiful horse in the world!

I know of many horse owners that when they are to buy a new horse, they look for one that hasn't got the weaknesses of the previous one.
And sometimes they take the good qualities of the previous one for granted, and forget to check that out in the potential new one...

How about your horse(s)?
What type do you prefer?
Has it to do with what previous type of horse you have had?
How do you think you affect yours?

It was a wonderful winter day today.
For the first time, you could feel some warmth in the sun.

I removed the rugs on both horses, and stood for quite a while enjoyoing the sun while scratching Fame's butt.
We felt gooood both of us.

A little bit to the left, please!

February 06, 2010

An impressive list

Klaus Balkenhol's Letter to the FEI re. the February 9th Meeting

Originally Sent Feb. 3 2010
Translated from German

Federation Equestre International
Avenue Rumine 37
CH – 1005 Lausanne Rosendahl

February 3, 2010

Dear Sirs and Madames:

We submit herewith some comments concerning your upcoming roundtable discussion, scheduled for February 9th, at which you will be establishing a final plan for the handling of the topic of Rollkur/Hyperflexion.

Those of us who have signed this letter wish to point out sharply that new or amended rules with regard to the accepted classical precepts of riding, which are contained in the guidelines written down in your Handbook, are absolutely superfluous and therefore unnecessary. These precepts, which the FEI has up until now felt obliged to uphold, are already fully developed, tried and tested! They are already recognized world-wide as authoritative, and as fair to the horse. Based on centuries of experience, they offer a stable and secure foundation even for today’s riding.

No changes may be made that constitute a burden to the well-being of the horse, either physically or mentally. If you accept riding in hyperflexion as a permissible training method, you legitimize aggressive riding. We protest against that in the strongest possible terms!

As horse people, we expect the FEI to maintain their regulations unaltered , which have until now been valid, resting as they do upon the classical precepts of riding – for the good of the horses and the continued good repute of international equestrian sport.

The undersigned support this statement:

Klaus Balkenhol (Olympic medalist)

(Joined by, in alphabetical order)
- Laura Bechtolsheimer (British Record Holder, 3. Europameisterschaften 2009)
- Wilfried Bechtolsheimer (Trainer)
- Ingrid Klimke (Olympic medalist)
- Ruth Klimke (Vice President of the German Riders Union)
- Beezie Madden (Olympic medalist)
- John Madden (Trainer)
- Debbie McDonald (Olympic Bronze medalist)
- Susanne Miesner (Trainer)
- George Morris (Chef d’equipe USEF show jumping team, Olympic silver medalist)
- Martin Plewa (former German national Three-Day Event trainer, Director of the Riding and Driving School of Westfalia)
- Michael Putz (Trainer and judge)
- Klaus-Martin Rath (Trainer, member of the Dressage Committee of the German Olympic
- Matthias Alexander Rath (German Meister 2009)
- Hinrich Romeike (Olympic medalist)
- Hubertus Schmidt (Olympic medalist)
- Günter Seidel (Olympic bronze medalist)
- Christine Stückelberger (Olympiic medalist)
- Paul Stecken (Trainer)
- Hans Günter Winkler (Olympic medalist)
- Harry Boldt, Dressur. Doppel-Olympiasieger, früherer Bundestrainer Dressur, GBR
- Beatrice Büchler-Keller, Swiss, FEI O-Richter
- Nadine Capellmann, Dressur, Olympiasiegrin
- Carsten Huck, Springen, Olympia Bronze-Gewinner
- Michael Klimke, Deuscther Meister, Dressur
- Ann Kathrinne Linsenhoff, Olympiasiegerin, WElt- und Europameisterin, Mitglied im FN-Präsidium
- Michael Robert, Olympia-Gewinner Bronze, Trainer


You rule, guys!

Thanks to Kim at Enlightened horsemanship for sharing the letter.
(Addendum: Kim has also supplied a list of the people participating in the meeting. Send a mail! Mail-list can be found here)

3-4 years ago, Klaus Balkenhol and Gerd Heuschmann had a tour around Europe together, and I was fortunate enought to attend, both in Norway and half a year later in Sweden.
Mr Heuschmann first had a post about what biomechanically happens in the horse with correct and uncorrect riding. Much of that was later published in his book "Tug of war".
After that Mr Balkenhol had some training sessions, and what a sympathetic and skilled trainer he is.
It was a treat to watch.

What makes me happy about this name list is that it brings some dressage heavy-weighters into the discussion.
From the defenders of rollkur there has been some sneering about what knowledge level the opponents have. It won't be easy to sneer now.

What did Martin Luther King say?
"...not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked people, but for the silence of the good"?

I am so happy for this.

February 02, 2010

Make your voice heard

FEI will meet again on February the 9th.
I am forwarding the appeal from my fellow bloggers; Di at Le Puy, and jme at Glenshee Equestrian Centre.
Please make your voices heard and sign the petitions from Gerd Heuschmann and Philippe Karl!

On Feb.9th, the FEI will hold a closed door, no press allowed meeting to discuss Rollkur for the fifth time.

The list of invitees is long but only one man has spoken up loudly agaisnt rollkur again and again and refused to be silenced is invited. That one man, Dr. Heuschmann will stand quite alone in a room dominated by interests that have nothing to do with the good of the horse. Please show him and the FEI that his fight, our fight has not been in vain and that there are thousands upon thousands of horse lovers who stand with him.

A petition is live on his publisher's website.

"YOU can HELP Dr. Heuschmann put an end to rollkur on Feb. 9th at the next FEI meeting by signing your name to to a list he will take with him. Every voice is needed, it is time to step up and be counted for the good of our horses. Go to www.wu-wei-verlag.com and click "Officials! Stop Hyperflexion!". If you want to help Dr. Heuschmann prevail, end rollkur and horse suffering please share this message with everyone you know, use your Facebook page, twitter, blogs, phone. Together lets make a difference.



Dear Madam, dear Sir,

On 9 February 2010, more than 20 experts will attend an FEI meeting in Switzerland to discuss once again whether the so-called hyperflexion (“Rollkur”) is an adequate method of training a horse. In order to support the opponents of this method and offer them further arguments, a petition has been initiated at www.no-rollkur.com. We’d like to invite you to support this action against hyperflexion – time is short!

You were so kind as to sign our own petition calling for reforms of the FN rules, which was initiated in May 2009. This obviously bore fruit: The German FN eventually invited Philippe Karl for a meeting in Warendorf, Germany. They now have to find an appropriate date. We will of course keep you informed about the outcome of this meeting.

Thank you very much again for your support!


Philippe Karl & his team

The petition reads:

"The signatories to this petition ask the FEI to oppose the training method of the“Rollkur”/Hyperflexion clearly and resolutely. The FEI rules are to be adapted correspondingly to ensure that in future the use of the method of the “Rollkur”/Hyperflexion will be regarded as a violation of these rules."

to add your name, please visit: