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Our Newsletter

August 2003


Tricks Of The Trade




Proper hand position is tough not only for beginners, but sometimes for intermediate and advanced riders too. While beginner riders typically have their hands way too high, sometimes more advanced riders tend to ride with their hands too low. All riders tend to occasionally have their reins too long and then find their hands in their laps. Using the concept of "riding in the box," it is easy to teach riders where their hands should be. Imagine a 8-12" box in front of and centered on the saddle horn; the rider's hands should always be within this box. When riding English, the hand position is the same, you just do not have the convenient landmark of the horn, but the hands should always stay in front of the pommel. When the hands come outside the box, either the rider is excessively cueing the horse or the rider's reins are too long. When the hands come very far outside the box, the rider's balance is seriously compromised. Riders must also be taught how to shorten and lengthen the reins and should practice this maneuver a lot, since shortening and lengthening of the reins is a constant process when riding.



Julie Goodnight, 
Clinician and Trainer












The Tom Thumb bit, commonly called a Western snaffle or shanked snaffle, is not a snaffle bit at all. Because this bit has a jointed mouth piece, people often confuse it with a snaffle. If a bit has shanks and a curb chain, it is a leverage or curb bit, no matter what shape of the mouth piece. Furthermore, the Tom Thumb is often misunderstood to be a mild bit for the same reason (because it has a jointed mouth piece). In fact, the Tom Thumb is quite harsh as it has what is called the "nut cracker effect," when the shanks squeeze the horse's jaw bone like a nutcracker, while the joint pokes un into the palate of the horse's mouth. This effect generally causes horses to gap their mouths open whenever rein pressure is applied. A bit is considered a snaffle, or direct pressure bit, when the reins are attached directly opposite the mouthpiece. Conversely, in a curb, or leverage bit, the reins are attached below the mouthpiece and the curb strap and shanks provide leverage.



Ardith Turpin, 
Equestrian Director, 
YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin









A handy item for cleaning superficial wounds or sensitive areas on the horse (mucus membranes) is hygienic wipes. You can purchase a jar of medicated wipes, used by humans for vaginal and hemorrhoid cleaning, for not much money (if you buy the generic version). These wipes are medicated with Witch Hazel, which is a mild, soothing astringent. These wipes are good for cleaning abrasions, mild saddle sores, noses, etc.




Julie Goodnight, 
linician and Traine






This is not just something you do when you want your horse to stay put, it is also a very painful and debilitating condition in horses, sometimes known as Monday Morning Sickness. The medical term for this condition is Azoturia and it is characterized by painful movement when all the horse's large muscle groups begin cramping at once. Azoturia is believed to be associated with forced exercise after a period of rest during which feed has not been reduced. The term "Monday Monrning Sickness" stems form the days when draft horses worked hard all week long but then had Sunday off, but then went back to work on Mondays. To prevent a horse from tying-up, it is advised that his rations are cut on the days he does not work. Tying-up is very common at the race track and for that reason, horses on the track are kept moving, even for dismounting and unsaddling, so that the muscles do not have a chance to cramp. Azoturia is not fully understood and it is possible that genetics and diet can also play a role in the condition.


From the Dictionary of Equine Terms, compiled by New Horizons Equine Education Center