A warm welcome to our new boarders!  Kelly and Claudio, her two-year old Dutch warmblood/ Oldenburg gelding, and Mercedes and Bing, her 3-year old QH/ Dutch warmblood gelding, have joined our farm family.  It’s great to have you with us!

Pick the Perfect Horse Trainer

Spring is the traditional time for young horses to get started under saddle, or mature horses to get a pre-season tune-up. Spring must be coming soon because my horse training roster is full and the waiting list is growing!

With all the trainers out there, how do you know who is right for you and your horse?  Here are some suggestions to make sure your new trainer will make a great addition to your team.

Top 10 Tips to Pick the Perfect Trainer

1. Interview trainers that fit your goals. Jane Cowgirl might have trained the last 5 world-champion reining horses but that won’t help you if your goal is the show jumping arena.

2. Be open-minded. Tip #1 being said, if your show jumper has holes in his basic education or you just purchased an unstarted but incredibly talented jumping prospect from Europe, Jane Cowgirl might be a great fit IF she is well known for phenomenal foundation training she gives every horse.

3. Check credibility. Though the horse training profession is largely unregulated, research the trainer’s professional credentials. Read testimonials from happy customers. Ask for referrals. Find out what her previous clients think about her services.

4. Are the facilities safe? Bear in mind that you are visiting a working farm not a static showplace. Tack may be hanging on hooks along the aisle or arena walls and cross-tie areas may show signs of recent use. Beware if the tack is lying in tangled heaps on the ground waiting to trip passing horses, or the grooming area is fetlock deep in dirt and hair! The overall sense should be neat, functional and orderly.

5. Are the facilities adequate for your goals? If you’re looking for a cutting trainer, expect to see cows. If you want your horse to jump courses, look for jumps!

6. Watch the trainer work a horse. If anything happens that you don’t understand or are uncomfortable with, ask the trainer about it.

7. After the training session, ask yourself three questions. Is the horse calmer and more confident than when he began? Has he learned something new or progressed further along the path? Did the trainer stay calm and levelheaded through any dicey situations? If the answer to any of these is no, ask the trainer to explain or interview another trainer.

8. Does the trainer consider the whole horse? Does she ask that the horse is up to date on vaccines, dental work and hoof care before the horse begins her training program? Do the horses on her farm show evidence of up-to-date health care? Many training issues are the direct result of physical imbalance or pain. A comprehensive training program addresses the whole horse: mind, body and emotions.

9. What value does the trainer offer? Notice I said value offered, not price charged. Jane Cowgirl might charge more than lower-priced competitors but if she produces better results in a shorter time, or produces results that are meaningful to you, you have gotten better value for your money

10. Educate yourself. Your horse is going to school. Do you need to brush up on your own skills in order to keep up with him? Take some lessons, read some good books, audit a clinic with a top trainer in your discipline. Book a session with your trainer at the end of the program to make sure YOU are able to cue your horse’s new skills.

11. The responsibility is ultimately yours. You are your horse’s spokesperson. He depends on you for everything. If at any point you feel like he is being mistreated or abused, remove him from the situation, no matter how many prizes hang on the trainer’s wall.

Do you have any nuggets you’d like to add?  What have been your experiences finding a horse trainer?

And by the way, if your horse needs training (and is a good fit for our program), we’ll see what we can do to fit him in!

Horse Domestication Reconsidered

Findings from Krasnyi Yar, the Kazakh site inhabited by the Botai culture, suggest that domestication of horses occurred 1000 years earlier than previously thought.  Traces of milk and meat in unglazed pottery and evidence of bit use on jawbones date back 5500 years ago.

These new findings are cause for reexamining current theories on the spread of civilation.  As we know, horses bestow miliary, trade, and cultural prowess on their riders and communities. It is commonly accepted that the spread of bronze working throughout Europe and Asia is directly linked to the domestication of horses.  Ditto the spread of Indo-European languages.  With the date of horse domestication pushed 1000 sooner, new doors open in current sociological theories.

The evidence gives me pause for reflection.  Jawbones damaged by bit use.  The thought that actions taken to subjugate these early horses would cause damage on a skeletal level is revolting.  Even more distubing is that such evidence is common through time, and even into our modern age.  Ironic that horses sped the spread of civilization, yet remain the victims of barbarism.

What will our horses tell future researchers about our training methods?  Food for thought….

Click here for more research from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History on the Botai horse culture

Click here for yesterday’s BBC announcement

New Findings in Horse Domestication

Recent findings suggest that domestication of horses occurred 5500 years ago, 1000 years earlier than previously thought.  A site from the Krasnyi Yar in Kazakhstan, home of the Botai culture, yielded equine jawbones that show evidence of bit use, and pottery fragments with remnants of horse meat and milk.

These findings are causing scientists to reconsider theories regarding the spread of civilization. Horse domestication enables trade and military prowess, and speeds idea exchange.  Horses carried civilization as well as destruction through history.  Moving their timeline back 1000 years opens doors in currently held suppositions.

Read yesterday’s BBC announcement here:  Horses Tamed Earlier Than Thought

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History reveals more about the Botai horse culture here.

“Armored Horse in Europe”:NYC Met-stravaganza

in 2005 my dear SCA friend Sueva did the books for my business.  Around that time I found out she’d never been to the the amazing museums of NYC which were my playground in my northern incarnation.  I was horrified–Sueva is of strong artistic bent–if anyone NEEDS to enjoy these museums, it’s her.  As a “thank you” I hosted her on a great metropolitan adventure.

We had ulterior motives.  Sueva is an accomplished glassworker.  She was in the process of recreating a vibrantly-colored stained glass piece… from a black and white photo.  That piece resides at  the Cloisters, a reproduced monastery in the Bronx which houses much of the Met’s medieval collection.  And it just so happened that the “Armored Horse in Europe” exhibition was running alongside the Met’s amazing permanent armor collection.

Off we went, artistic spirits hungry, camera in hand.  I recently found my photo archives from this adventure, including pieces that are STILL on my list of things to recreate, along with documentation.  Enjoy!