Aug 30, 2007

Get Me Some of Those...

If you're a dressage rider looking for well-made, attractive breeches you should look at Goodfellow breeches. I was clued into this brand about two years ago by a friend at my barn and frankly, they're some of the best breeches I have ever owned. You can customize fabric, color, slim or full-fit (warning: full-fit is the silly-looking pleated variety that I wouldn't be caught dead in), and whether you want full-seat or knee patches. The price cannot be beat for the quality - EUR 124 for full-seat (real leather) slim fit breeches. That's probably about $168 (used to be less, but the exchnage rate is getting crappy for the $) and I am the absolute last person in the world to tell anyone to spend loads of money on tack and equipment, but I would definitely encourage anyone to buy these breeches. For the price, they fit like a dream on all body-types; you get to choose from a wide variety of colors; and they last forever. I am not joking. I have had loads and loads of breeches die after one year of regular usage. These can last 2 or 3 years, even more (my friend had hers for like 5 years) and this is with someone who can not be bothered to use correct laundry detergent (for leather) or correct washing methods.

Their website sucks majorly, but it just adds to the charm. It feels like you're supporting a real mom-and-pop shop. I don't know. Maybe I just have a totally irrational love of this brand, but I do and I think more people should give these guys a shot. Really, what have you got to lose? Well, except $168? But if you have only one amazing pair of dressage breeches, this should be it.

I Hope This Isn't a Typo

Wow. I was trolling other blogs, looking for something awesome, and via bridlepath came across this. I don't even have words for this. It is the single most amazing thing EVER. Just wow.

Odds and Ends

- I found a great news item from a couple of years ago about a yearling moose and a 20-year old horse that were best friends. It just seemed fitting to post here. What with my recent musing on horse-moose dating.
"For weeks, a young moose was seen wandering around the Groton village area and on July 12 ended up in a field adjacent to Route 302 outside the village. [...] And in a hayfield close to that farm, a horse was paddocked. The two animals came together and before long, the moose was following the horse back to the farm yards and barn. They romped together, trotted together and could be seen peering out the barn window or standing side-by-side at the fence just outside the farm's kitchen door.
After more than seven weeks, the two female animals are still attracted to each other. They are both brown, the moose taller and longer. The horse is the leader and the moose follows wherever they go. The moose is about a year old, according to neighbors who have spoken with a Vermont game biologist. The farm children named her Mary."

Awwww....that's too cute.

- And what with my rant on the lack of helmet-wearing yesterday, I figured I should post a link to Troxel. They've created a helmet concealed within a traditional derby hat, for saddleseat riders (and I suppose you could use it for dressage as well). I didn't know that this existed. And yeah, I admit it's not gorgeous, but why couldn't we continue to work on creating options like this and slowly make them more attractive. I'd wear it.

Aug 29, 2007

I'm in a Ranty Sort of Mood

Heads are sweet. I like mine. It gives me so much and asks so little. That’s why I wear a helmet when I ride. How many riders can honestly say that? Not as many as I would hope.

When I was growing up and just learning to ride, I wore just a hunt cap. Remember those velveteen-covered shells that were like ½” thick and probably made of heavy-duty cardboard? I’m not sure when it became required in showing to have an approved helmet, but I must have been just on the cusp. I remember taking many a fall on that hunt cap and nothing seems to have done too much damage (yeah, I left myself wide open on that one, I know). But by the time I was 10, I think that safety standards were in place and my mom bought me one of the early egg-head helmets that were just the least attractive item of clothing ever invented. Yet it wasn’t created to be pretty – it was protection. I remember the women I rode with at the barn, though….they would never wear one of those helmets (protective or no). I can barely remember being around a single person who wore a helmet to ride. The excuse was always that they were heavy or hot or that they would mess up one’s hair. And I’ll admit it right now: I couldn’t wait until the day that I was old enough to be as cool as they were and not wear a helmet. It wasn’t until I started riding at 12 with my beloved Dressage coach that I started seeing helmets in a new light. She always rode with a helmet, and this was a tough lady who had been riding for years and years – I’d never seen her get unseated. She told me that no matter how good of a rider you are, you’re never too good for a helmet. And that stuck more than anything.

You see, I get it. I really do. Helmets kind of suck. I will readily admit that I still get that twinge of jealousy every time I see my compatriots training, hair flowing free behind them. And then I realize that really bugs me. If I still get excited about belonging to the cool group who doesn’t wear helmets, what does that say about all of the kids and teens who are at the barn (any barn) day-in and day-out, soaking it all in? They’re surely feeling my desire to join the cool kids times ten. You know what’s really underlying those feelings though? I think I do, and it’s pretty disturbing.

There are really only two reasons that people don’t wear helmets:

1) They never had to wear a helmet in all their experiences riding and have trouble changing their ways now. This includes many Western riders, Saddleseat riders, trail riders, and older riders (in many other disciplines) who had been riding and competing for years and years before safe helmets were marketed and recommended. I can understand and dismiss these people. Why fix something that isn’t broken, right? And in the case of Western riding, it’s going to take years to ever change from Western hats to helmets. If that can really ever happen at all. If statistics don’t motivate change, then who am I to argue.

2) But other reason people don’t wear helmets? The one that makes me load up Vice City and just go on a violent spree? Here’s the dirty truth: They think they are simply too good to wear a helmet. Anybody who argues this point is simply a liar or in denial. By taking your helmet off, you’ve removed all doubt from people’s minds that you’re not ultra-confident. I’m not saying that you are, in fact, a better rider. Puhleeeze. No. But you seem tough and carefree and undaunted by any challenge. The perception of you changes. Every time you work around a horse there is danger. All people are aware of this in even a rudimentary way. Seeing those people work with a horse and not wear a helmet – well, that’s just ballsy. You’re so tough that the thought of getting hurt doesn’t even give you pause. This is the subtext, folks. No matter what your primary argument is: that you need to practice without a helmet because you show without one; that you haven’t fallen in years; that you don’t own one; that your horse is so quiet….the list goes on. And hell, in America at least, old-fashioned machismo trumps caution and skill any day. It’s absurd and dangerous. But mostly, it bothers me because everyday at a barn somewhere a little boy or girl is watching a really amazing rider and picking up on the subtext that being a top rider somehow equates with nonchalance about risk. And if that doesn’t disturb you, it should.

Riding Apparel for Non-Riders

You know, because riding apparel is just SOOOOOO sexy and comfy. I've just been dying to wear my breeches to parties and things. Finally I can. Joy of joys. Thanks, fashion companies, for bringing breeches to the masses. Now you too can enjoy the fun of showing your cellulite to the world and getting uncomfortable rashes in unmentionable places. Awesome.

Aug 28, 2007

Look up in the sky! Is it a Moose?! A Horse?! No, it's Ugly!

You know, because I am nothing if not loyal to my unintentional theme of the day. I bring you another oldish story involving genetic oddities. This one comes from Canada - Quebec to be exact. A Canadian rancher claims his horse gave birth to a horse-moose hybrid. This is Bambi, the hoose. Or morse. Whichever. Frankly, I think Bambi is just a very unfortunate-looking baby horse. But Canadian rancher-dude (For real? A rancher? In Quebec?) is convinced that this foal is a hoose based on the following evidence:
  • It has an ugly moose-head.
  • It's legs are long.
  • It likes to sleep lying down.
  • And his stallions were castrated shortly before the mare became pregnant.

Okay, let me first say Canadian fake-rancher: horses can carry their foals for nearly 12 months sometimes. In my mind, this does not rule out your stallions. Secondly, some horses are butt-ugly. I'm sorry. That sucks, but mostly for poor Bambi. Finally, I would think that even as a fake-rancher you would know this, but horses sleep lying down more than people realize and foals have long legs. Always.

However, in his defense (I have some French blood, never trust me entirely), let me just mention a few things here: It is apparently fairly well-documented that moose and horses do attempt to mate. These are not successful matings (i.e. no pregnancies). It is not completely impossible for a baby to be conceived from such a mating, but it is EXTREMELY improbable. From my rudimentary understanding of genetics, the simple fact that a moose has 70 chromosomes and a horse has 64 would make it virtually impossible for a live baby to result from the pairing. Simply speaking, a baby receives one set each of chromosomes from the mother and father. The wider the discrepancy between the amount of chromosomes the mother and father have, the more difficult it becomes for a hybridization to naturally occur. It could happen, but it would be HUGE NEWS.

So, Bambi is probably just an ugly horse baby. And since scientists were supposed to be doing testing on whether he was a moose-horse, and there is no news since (this happened like a year ago), I suspect that he was not a freak of nature. Well, genetically speaking.....

They Clone Horses, Don't They?

So, I have old-ish news for you today. People are cloning horses. Okay, yeah, where have I been for the last few years? (Actually where am I right now? Maybe I'm drinking too much. Or not enough. Yeah, that sounds about right.)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Cryozootech, a French company, has been cloning horses for the past several years. You know, I imagined this was happening, but I figured it was probably motivated by scientific research. Yeah, well, not so much. So this company has cloned quite a few horses - their website isn't terribly clear (they're French, after all) - and while I am sure they are learning quite a bit about genetics and the process of cloning, etc...their primary objective seems supremely weird to me. It seems that owners are asking this company to clone their champion performance geldings (castrated males, for all you non-horsies), in order to keep the cloned foals as stallions and breed them. Examples are the clone of ET, a famous showjumper; the clone of Quidam de Revel, also a showjumper (though I must point out that Quidam is a stallion, but he's reaching the end of his baby-making days; thus, the clone); Pieraz, a famous endurance-racer; and they are looking in the future to clone Rusty, the dressage horse, and Calvaro, another top show-jumper.

Okay, first of all, WHAT?!!! Props to the horseracing world which does not allow 'weirdness' in the breeding of its horses. Cloning would definitely fall under that category. Okay, let me just be clear. I don't really have an opinion either way about cloning. Whatever. I don't honestly understand why someone would want to clone something, unless you're a scientist studying DNA and genetics, etc... But morally, I could care less. It's just not a problem for me. What I think is super-bizarre and vaguely offensive about all of this has nothing to do with the act of cloning. I mean, my knee-jerk reaction is: Well, why clone your horse? He was gelded (castrated). Too bad. That's the way it is. Deal with it. But that's just me being silly. The world changes and things adapt because of those changes.

No, I have a problem with people who think that just because you can create a clone with the exact same genetic code as a champion horse, the clone is the same horse and should be at stud. I would never breed my mare to a clone of ET. Yes, the genetic code is there. But the clone was bred for the specific purpose of being a stud. He will have been handled completely differently from the original animal. He will not be in any performance training and therefore have completely different experiences, not to mention that his immediate environment (climate, for instance) is totally different from the original's and his system will adapt accordingly... To say that he will pass on the same behavior, temperament, and ability is absurd. The expression of his genetic code could differ pretty greatly from the original horse and therefore, express itself differently in the way it is passed on to the progeny.

So, to me this is just mostly motivated by money. The clone of ET cannot and will not be ET. Collecting (probably exorbitant) stud fees for the purpose of having ET's genetic code just seems to be taking advantage both of people's misunderstandings about how DNA works and the simple desire to breed a winner. I think my mare (and breeding as a whole) would be far better served by picking a stallion that is currently on the market that has the performance, behaviors, and bloodlines that would complement my mare's. I mean, genetics only has so much to do with performance anyway. There are plenty of well-bred horses that are complete duds and the reverse is true, too.

Besides who really wants to breed their horse to a clone when the clones themselves "face a high risk of falling sick or dying young, apparently because of flaws inflicted to the genetic code during the cloning process." Um, okay, how exactly do these flaws to the genetic code not pass themselves along to any babies he might have? Please explain.

Aug 27, 2007

1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup - Exceller

This is what the best of horse-racing can be.

A Tribute to...Exceller

So, in keeping with the depressing theme of today, I'm going to introduce you to the great racehorse Exceller. Racing fans are probably already quite familiar with him, but for those of you who aren't, let's delve into his history.

Foaled in Kentucky in 1973, his owner thought he might be better-suited to racing in Europe, based on his bloodlines. He stayed there until he was 4, winning some pretty impressive victories in France and England, especially during the 70s, when many of the breed's finest were racing. Some of those victories include the Prix Royal Oak, run at a whopping 1 mile 7 and a half furlongs (For those of you who are furlong-inept, that's nearly two miles. The Belmont is one of our most grueling races at 1 and a half miles.); the Grand Prix de Paris; and finished third behind The Ministrel (a pretty phenomenal racehorse that ploughed over his rivals in England and Ireland) in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes.

Before his final destination in California, he was stabled in Canada for a short period of time and won the Canadian International. But luckily for him and for American racing, he ended up in the training and care of Charlie Whittingham as a 4-year-old in 1977.

1978 was his best year. As a five-year-old, folks. How many greats are around at 5 anymore? He won 7 out of 10 starts that year, including the Hollywood Gold Cup, Hollywood Invitational Turk Cup, etc... But for my money, his greatest victory (at least, his most spectacular) was against the great Seattle Slew and Affirmed in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup. This race was a killer. Slew broke through the starting gate before the race was started and had to be reloaded. Affirmed's trainer didn't want the Slew to get an early lead and romp to victory so easily, so he entered a 'rabbit' into the race (a horse he knew couldn't win, but who would set a breakneck speed to either force the Slew to slow down comparatively and give Affirmed a fairer chance or make him match it and be too tired to win at the end). It is also said that the jock on the rabbit was instructed to scream at the Slew to upset him and wear him down. Affirmed, Seattle Slew and the rabbit all broke fast and started an unbelievable pace on a muddy track. Affirmed's saddle slipped, which essentially took him out of the running. And Slew continued to run a killer breakneck speed with the rabbit. It looks completely out-of-control on the videos. Of course, the rabbit fades fast, but as Seattle Slew came down the homestretch, Exceller, hidden so far at the back of the pack some - 22 lengths back (that's horse-lengths) - barrels suddenly down the stretch and powers through, barely winning by a nose. That type of come-from-behind victory is legendary. (Though don't knock the Slew - the fact that he was barely beaten after the suicidal pace he ran earlier in the race, well...that's a master at work.) Exceller defeated 2 Triple Crown winners with that race - the only horse in history to accomplish that, regardless of the mitigating factors. Enough said really. That's a legend. He should have spent the remainder of his days coddled and spoiled.

Instead, (yes, here it comes) he was retired to stud like most racehorses, but he wasn't a very successful sire. His babies just weren't very good. So, a Swedish breeder managed to buy out the syndicate that was standing him at stud and shipped him to Sweden. He disappeared from stud duty for while, due to some undisclosed infection and shortly afterwards his owner went bankrupt. For a year he was allowed to stay on a smaller farm until his owner made the quiet decision to have him taken to a slaughterhouse in 1997, the same year he was nominated to Horse-Racing's Hall of Fame.

I don't even think anything needs to be said here. That a horse of his caliber ended up in a slaughterhouse....well, what do you think happened to the scores of lesser-classed horses over the decades? How could we, as humans, treat these animals so poorly? These horses to whom we owe all the money, fame and power. And to anyone who says this is limited to horse-racing, think again.

At least his case, along with that of fellow racehorse Ferdinand (slaughtered in Japan), brought awareness to the racing industry and adoption foundations galore for all those unwanted ex-racehorses.

Interesting sidenote: Charlie Whittingham, Exceller's California trainer, was also Ferdinand's trainer. What a weird, sad coincidence.

Pony Round-up

Perhaps I'm simply projecting onto the whole of the news organizations around the world, but I can only find sad horse news today. Shall I share the mood?

- Galant du Serein, Dr. Cesar Parra's 2004 Olympic mount and overall pretty outstanding Selle Francais stallion, had to be euthanized following complications from laminitis that stemmed from a May surgery for a hernia. He was only 13, poor fellow.

- This has been ongoing for quite awhile (years actually), but there are rampant reports of abuse and neglect among a herd of Lippizaners in Serbia. During the Yugoslavian war, they were taken from Croatia and since 1999, Croatia has been accusing Serbia of neglecting and starving the animals. They are petitioning for an independent vet to examine the animals and for an unconditional return of the horses to Croatia. (Serbia is requesting EUR300,000 in compensation.) The photos are here. It doesn't take a vet to see that the animals are in terrible condition. I'm not sure whether non-Croatians can sign this petition. It isn't very clear, but here it is anyway....

- There are hundreds of horses in Australia that are suspected of having or confirmed to have equine flu. Equine flu has rarely, if ever, existed in that country, so very few horses have ever been vaccinated against it.

Aug 24, 2007

Super Tölt on an Icelandic Horse

You have to go to this link of an Icelandic horse doing the tölt. It's the best footage I could find and it's amazing. This video isn't allowed to be embedded, but it's worth the jump. Not only is this horse adorable, but once it kicks into gear, it's freaking fast!! And this is just the tölt. The pace is even faster. Plus, it's freaky how it starts out kind of slow and then, bam! It's like the energizer bunny. I desperately want to ride one. I may be doing a trip to Iceland next year - if I do I will definitely be seeking out a countryside ride.

Better Know a Breed

Today's breed: The Icelandic Horse. That is correct. I did write horse. Let me just tell you right now and be very clear. If you are ever within 20 feet of an Icelandic person DO NOT refer to the Icelandic horses as ponies. I am warning you now. I can't tell you how I know, but I do. They are small and pony-sized, but not ponies.

In any case... Icelandic horses have been living in Iceland since about the 800s when Vikings started to settle the country. The breed itself is just a conglomerate of many different breeds over the centuries, as different Nordic and European settlers landed and brought their various equines. They are exceedingly strong animals - they measure only 12 - 14hh, but routinely carry full-grown adults who are in excess of 200lbs.

But there are two main interesting points about the Icelandic horse. One is their general attitude. They are extremely smart and quiet. Spending generations living in a country where their biggest predator was truly just the environment, they have adapted into non-spooky, but remarkably hardy, sure-footed animals. And wikipedia suggests that these horses are such wonderfully pleasant and willing companion animals simply because Iceland was such a small country and any non-pleasant behavior (kicking, biting, nasty attitudes) was not well-tolerated. Animals whose temperament didn't conform to the pleasant standard were culled from the herds - there is a bit of horsemeat market from Iceland to Europe and Japan. (I wish my horse could be so warned. kidding)

But more interesting to me is their gaits. Unlike some gaited horses, they actually can and do trot and canter. And the tölt is completely natural to them. This gait is supposedly very similar to the American Saddlebred's rack. It is a four-beat gait that is surprisingly smooth (especially if you're familiar with the rack) in the Icelandic (I'll post a youtube video) and also surprisingly fast. Those things go like lightning at the tölt. And the more prized Icelandics can pace. Only fast pacers are well-liked and bred, often being referred to as "flying pacers." But it is the tölt that they are most famous for and it is supposed to leave the rider completely motionless in the saddle. Supposedly there are demonstrations of riders riding the Icelandics with a glass of beer in one hand and the reins in the other and never spilling a drop. Where is the footage, folks?! I'd love that. Alcohol and riding combined yet again, to glorious effect.

Cool things to note: There is legislation in effect in Iceland that these little treasures can be exported to other countries, but once they have left Iceland they cannot return. That's kind of sad. Awwwwww.

Also, this is a country that's got its head screwed on right when it comes to the training of horses. All Icelandic horses are given a vacation in the fall of every year to live in the herds and be left alone just to be horses. And while I know we can't replicate that here in America, we could learn a little from that and give our animals mini-breaks every so often in their training cycles. So they can simply be a horse. We're a bit obsessed with coddling and protecting our animals, treating them like children.

Mini-Rant on Footballing Horses

I tell you, folks, I am not looking for this kind of stuff. It finds me. It's a gift, really. I feel that you have to go with your strengths. So, I now present Kariba, the footballing horse. He, too, used to be very difficult and has now been rehabbed through football-practice. He seems slightly more gifted that frisbee-horse in that he has been taught dribbling around the field, long-distance kicks, shots at the goal, etc...

Okay, this is cool. I grant you, but let me bring this down a bit. Why are we doing this to horses, people?! In case you haven't noticed, a horse weighs around 1,000 lbs. Frankly, I don't think this was much of a rehab - so, someone taught Kariba to stop bucking his riders off and bolting off with them, but now he rears up in the air to kick a ball with his front legs (with a rider on his back). Way to go, lady! So, when you're trail riding around in a park and a person throws a tennis ball to a dog and it just happens to be nearish your horse, will he take off (with or without your permission) and kick it around? Will you be able to teach him that it's okay to kick a ball sometimes, but not all the time.? And if he's on the cross-ties and you're kneeling down to brush some stray dirt off his hoof and a dog just happens to bring the ball over to have you throw it, will Kariba "accidentally" take a shot at the goal into your face?! These are valid questions. We teach dogs to fetch because they are small and aren't liable to, well, gee, I don't know, accidentally kill you during the course of the game. I just think it's a tad dumb to teach these behaviors to horses. Hell, have fun with your horse, but please try and remember that he is an unpredictable creature that weighs half a ton and can hurt you without even trying.

Aug 23, 2007

Linus, Linus, Linus, Linus, Linus

Here's your weirdness for the day. I didn't know that horses' manes and tails could grow infinitely. I mean, I know that most don't. But why are there a few that would just never stop growing? At first I thought it was a hoax, but apparently it isn't. I imagine that these horses would have died out in the wild - I mean, imagine running from a tiger or something and having that tail get caught in the brush. Poor thing would be the perfect target. But here is Linus in all his glory. I hope that mustachioed man tied his mane and tail up when he wasn't posing him for photos. I can imagine it would have sucked for Linus to get that caught up in everything and tangling around his legs and all. Poor Linus. Linus. I kind of love the name Linus. I like saying it. I like writing it. I just like it. Anway, I was saying.....check out a few other mutant hair-growing horses at this place.

And apparently, Linus' (mmmmm....Linus) hair never stopped growing. Here he is 3 years later:

Game On

So, I actually had to work today and couldn't update as much as I wanted. Sorry. Bite me. Bite my job.

Anyway, in addition to movie reviews, book reports (coming soon) and the like, I will also be periodically reviewing horse games. It won't be a series, seeing as how there are, like, 5 horse games in the world. But nonetheless, I've taken it upon myself to purchase these games and play them and review them. I do this for you. Yeah, so there. I sacrifice it all to you.

Today, I am reviewing Gallop Racer for PS2. Except I am reviewing Gallop Racer 2003. For any of you who are horse-gamers, you know that I own the crappy version of Gallop Racer. I didn't know this until about an hour ago when I IM'ed my 11 yo friend. (Yes, all of my friends are, in fact, 11. This should not weird you out. In fact, how old are you? What? You're over 11?! You're sooooo overed in my book.) The following is not our actual conversation. It is edited for clarity:

krazzyforhorsez: im board

Me: Hey, I'm reviewing Gallop Racer for my blog.

krazzyforhorsez: OMG?! y didn't i know u had a blog

Me: Cause I'm awesome. And you're not.

krazzyforhorsez: ur buttugly and smelly

Me: Bite me. I can't help it that I'm so cool.

krazzyforhorsez: which gallop racer

Me: 2003

krazzyforhorsez: that is soooo last year

Me: Dude, what grade are you in? It was, like, so 4 years ago. What, are you like 11?

krazzyforhorsez: That's so mean i hate you

Me: Okay, I know you are 11. But dude why is it sooooo last year?

krazzyforhorsez: 04 is way better

Me: Dude, then why did I get 03? Why didn't I know this? Why aren't you clueing me to things? That's your job. It's why I keep you around.

krazzyforhorsez: whatever im still board

Me: read a book

krazzyforhorsez: y? all u do is play videos and get drunk

Me: OK I'm busy. I have to go now. Go play with someone your own age.


Yeah, so now I know that my version is sucky and Gallop Racer 04 is less sucky. But don't blame me for this review. Blame my little minions who aren't doing their job of keeping me informed. You know who you are.

Without further ado:

I love horse games, no matter how bad. I really do. Gallop Racer 03 is not horrible, but it's not really amazing either. In case you hadn't already figured it out, it is a horse-racing game. You are a jockey and get to ride horses and move up the ranks to becoming a super-amazing rider. I haven't actually made it to the very top rank yet. I tend to get bored of the game after awhile. Because even playing it nonstop for, say, a week on end (I was sick, okay?) it still takes forever to move up the ranks. Along the way you get to retire and breed your horses. Mostly, my horses seem to breed crappy babies that can't really do much of anything, but it still seems fun. Basically I like naming the foals. After that, I start getting a little bored of them.

It's a Japanese game, so of course all of the characters you get to inhabit look like weird anime figures with giant eyes. My favorite is to choose the hyper-masculine guy and dress him in pink and purple and make him look as gay as possible. My joys are fleeting. Whatevs. And then, you have to take this super long tutorial that is run by a talking horse. I don't know why. I don't ask. Basically it's not really a game that involves much skill. You just have to be able to have quick reflexes to press the right button at the right time. You can win the majority of the time, if you can press those buttons just perfectly.

The horses are a little jerky looking and strange. In all honesty, they are the same horse with different colorings. I don't know why I play this game for hours or days on end. Nothing I am saying here is convincing as to why it is cool. But if you're a bit obsessive like me, you can't just quit something you've started. You have to see it through to the end, goddammit.

But honestly, the insane music sort of lulls you into a trance, from which you will never return. It is like a 30 sec loop of these vaguely smooth-jazzy horns that is INCREDIBLY CATCHY AND HORRIFYINGLY IRRITATING. All at once. And it never ends. Once in awhile another loop pops up during a 'special' race and you actually find yourself missing the smooth-jazzy horn loop. It's a terrible addiction.

But the real reason to play this game is really for all the weirdness. You don't get to name any horse that you don't breed. They come pre-named and often they have the strangest names. It must just be some random name generator that comes up with names like Sky Cancer and Foot Eater. I'm not kidding. Those are real names of horses I rode in this game. And overall, I kind of love the random voice-overs of the announcer that pop up every so often. There are two of them - a sultry Japanese woman who comments on your win after the race, and the Moviefone-ish race announcer who, without fail, will baffingly yell at you "Show your guts!!" I don't know how to do that Movieone guy. Please stop yelling at me. But sultry sex-kitten lady, I likes. She croons, "What an impressive victory." or "Ooooh, what power." or my favorite "A perfect victory, showing world-class...."and then, they cut her off randomly. Every single time. I wish I knew what world-class thing I was showing.

In brief, I heart this game. There is no reason to. But mainly, it's a horse game. And that's all I need to know. I have a sickness, I know. I will have to buy Gallop Racer 04 now, though. I hear you don't have to take the stupid tutorial every time you start the game and you get to negotiate with trainers to ride their horses. It's kind of the best when this game introduces any characters or random people talking, so I'm so there.

Aug 22, 2007

Evil or Awesome?

I can't decide if this horse scares me or delights me. Yeah, it's all awesome to see a horse chasing a Frisbee. I wish my horses would chase Frisbees. But there is something very sinister in his expression as he's chasing it. He kind of looks like a demon. I'm actually afraid.
Especially when you consider this sentence, accompanying the picture: "The eccentric stallion used to chase cats, pigeons, and rabbits." Apparently his trainer/breeder taught him to chase the Frisbee to keep him out of trouble. Um, thanks Mr. Evil-Wrangler...otherwise I guess there would have been many mangled animals wandering pitifully through the universe. So, way to channel this horse's aggression. Now, if he would just learn to chase frat-boys down with this expression. Then, he'd be my devil-spawn hero.

Pony Round-up

- Lake Placid QH show to be held over labor day weekend. All I really want to know is will a giant crocodile crawl out of the lake to feast on anyone? Otherwise, meh...

- I'm not sure what to say about this one. Two 18 year-olds dress up in a horse costume to climb the tallest mountain in England & Wales. Appparently, it's for charity. Is that really the best they could come up with?

- A 4-year-old Arabian mare (in-foal) was sold for EUR 300,000 at the Pride of Poland arabian horse sale. She's gorgeous. I think it's good to see the Arabian horse being well-valued again after the crash and burn of the 80s. And these are solid-looking Arabians. No more of those non-functional, anorexic models.

Aug 21, 2007

Movie Night

By the way, everyone, in addition to me randomly posting cool stuff, ranting, educating, etc...I will also be doing monthly movie reviews. This will involve me getting a bunch of horse and (especially) non-horse friends together, getting drunk and watching a horse movie. I will then summarize the best parts for your reading pleasure. I made a list of horse movies, good and bad, old and new. You will now be in awe at just how many horse movies were made over the years. The list, in no particular order:

- Justin Morgan Had a Horse
- Dark Horse
- The Horse in the Grey Flannel Suit
- Touching Wild Horses
- A Horse for Danny
- Blue Fire Lady
- Sylvester
- The Silver Stallion: King of the Wild Brumbies
- Virginia’s Run
- Running Free
- Ruffian
- Phar Lap
- Barbaro
- Flicka
- Dreamer
- The Derby Stallion
- Hidalgo
- Seabiscuit
- The Long Shot
- Young Black Stallion
- The Black Stallion
- Black Beauty
- Shergar
- Princess Stallion
- The Adventures of the Black Stallion (TV, Season 1 & 2)
- National Velvet
- International Velvet
- The Black Stallion Returns
- New Adventures of Black Beauty (TV, Season 1 & 2)
- My Friend Flicka/Thunderhead/Green Grass of Wyoming
- The Story of Seabiscuit
- The Man from Snowy River
- Return to Snowy River
- Lightning, The White Stallion
- Misty
- The Littlest Horse Thieves
- Danny
- My Pal Trigger
- The Golden Stallion
- Legend of the White Horse
- Archer’s Adventure
- Into the West
- Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken
- The Winter Stallion
- The Electric Horseman
- Medicine Hat Stallion
- Miracle of the White Stallions
- Flash
- King of the Wind
- The Last Unicorn
- Legend
- Moon Stallion
- Gypsy Colt

Carriage of Death

I can't understand why people would still be trying to train zebras to ride. I get that it was cool back around the turn of the century. It was a novelty. Nowdays, I've got to believe everyone should know that zebras are difficult, to say the least. Not only are they like many feral animals in regards to the unpredictable temperament, they are also feral prey animals. And we're the predator. SO, their startle reaction to us (or anything) is insane compared to the horse. Plus, they don't really look comfy or like, say, a saddle would truly fit. Anyway, whatever. If people are still into riding zebras, what do I really care? There are worse things to get preachy about. But in light of all that, I came across this picture that just creeped me out. This is like a horrible accident waiting to happen.... Yet, it's amazingly amazing. I want this. And yet, I know this is death on wheels. But I kind of still want it.

A Zorse Is a Zorse, Of Course, Of Course

This is Eclyse, the Zorse. According to this place, a zorse is the cross between a zebra daddy and a horse mommy. Her mother 'accidentally' found love with a zebra mack-daddy while taking a 'vacation' in Italy. She came back to her owners and, to their surprise, had this foal. That's such a daytime talk-show kind of story. I mean, if they weren't horses.
I find animal hybrids kind of fascinating in a trainwreck sort of way. This one is incredibly adorable because he is like a stripe pinto. I’m assuming his momma was a paint. If you are remotely interested in equine hybrids, you should check out this site. It’s kind of amazing and I will be citing stuff from it for the next couple of days. It’s my new favorite. I love ‘studying’ genetics and while I don’t think it’s that incredibly useful to have an abundance of zebroids (isn’t that a fabulous word? that's also my new favorite.) around, I like the idea of these experiments in that turn of the century, animal-collecting sort of way.

Pony Round-up

- This is kind of an interesting article on Dover Saddlery and its rise to becoming a near-monopoly on the tack market. Don't get me wrong - I love Dover, but I wish there were more catalog/web-based tack shops that would compete with them. I like variety. And I like unique tack items that you can't find everywhere. I feel like Dover has become the Gap of the horse world.

- And because by now you should all know that I just can't resist the thought of hundreds of tiny ponies doing tiny things.....the 25th Annual Shetland Pony Breed Show in Wales is this weekend. I must find pictures!

Aug 20, 2007


Hungover Pony Round-up

I had quite the weekend. And I'm paying for it today. Thus, my inability to post until now. Anyway, what horse-y things are happening in the world today?

- Shows in England are rewarding slim ponies. They are rebelling against the idea that ponies have to be fat to win. Personally, I love a fat, shiny pony (not obese, mind you). I like my horses skinny and my ponies fat. You try to work that out.

- This is kind of cool. People in Indiana re-enact a 13 mile pony express mail ride every year. My pony would have loved to do that - he could go for hours without ever tiring.

- And now for the tear-jerker.....The tiny pony Dino, survivor of that terrible arson attack (in 2000) on Brooklyn's Brighton Beach Stables, had to be euthanized last week. He was in his 40s and had terrible lung damage, but it still makes me feel a little sad. That said, ponies are tough as nails - he lived happily for 7 years with pretty devastating injuries.

Aug 17, 2007

Was He Bald, Too?

Go whoever you are, you short, stocky male thief, who just happened to steal a saddle, worth roughly $4,000, from the Dublin Horse Show. That takes some cojones and we at bunnynorider heartily support you in your attempt to show the world that just because you're both vertically and horizontally challenged doesn't mean you can't be totally hardcore, too.

Besides, no saddle should be $4,000 no matter what it's made of. It was just begging to be stolen at that price.

Sergej Filatow - Absent - Rom 1960

So, it's not the greatest video and I'm sure this isn't the horse's best passage, but how graceful is he? And you have to watch this video if only to see a GIANT PIECE OF PAPER blow under his legs and wrap around his hoof....and he keeps piaffing!!! I'm sold. That's class.

Better Know a Breed

Every Friday I'm going to post a nice little introduction on a horse or pony breed of my choice. This week I'm introducing the Akhal-Teke horse. And guess where this breed originates. That's right, ladies and gentlemen - Central Asia! In keeping with the theme of this week, I have chosen to focus on this rare, yet gorgeous breed from the same place that created alcoholic milk. In fact, this horse may be the cause for all those slightly inebriated Mongolians.

Picture a tall greyhound with a slightly metallic sheen to its coat. That's the Akhal-Teke. Over time I have come to the pathetic realization that I have an unhealthy love for all animals whose conformation makes them appear vaguely undernourished. Anyway, they are amazingly gorgeous creatures that are very like Arabians in that they can basically live on air for days at a time. No, really.....In 1935 a group of Turkish horsemen 2500 miles in 84 days, including 3 days through the desert with no water. And voila, the gaunt look was born.

Now, I could spout a huge load of historical data about the breed, but that's not what this blog is about. The reason why I choose this particular breed is because I have always thought that it was an undiscovered diamond in the rough. It has some of the best qualities of the Arabian (its special way of bonding with one person and its sensitive, scary-intelligent nature) and the undeniable athleticism of the Thoroughbred. To look at them, you would probably think that it looks like a conformation nightmare. Case in point:

I grant you that, but taken as a whole I think that for some reason it works well on this horse - and to be frank, if the breed can endure all the harsh conditions it's been dealt living in the Asian steppes for hundreds of years, I'm not too concerned about the animal breaking down. I think more people should be looking into this breed for showjumping and dressage. Really.

And history proves I'm right. In the 1960 Olympics, a black Akhal-Teke by the name of Absent won the gold medal, with a score of 82.4%. Then, he won the bronze medal at the 1964 Olympics. And under a different rider, I believe he won the silver medal at the 1968 Olympics. But it doesn't stop there.....he was a 7-time national dressage champion. Oh yeah, his daddy was one of those horses that participated in the 1935 crazy-endurance ride. Have you heard the one about Poligon who set 5 consecutive years of puissance jump records?

I'm just sayin'. You heard it here first: This breed is due for a major comeback.

Aug 16, 2007

Pony Round-up

- Awwwwww, John Henry, the super-famous racehorse, is 32 and doing well due to his morning walks. This is a really adorable story. If nothing else, I liked just reading a goofy story about this great champion.

- On the other hand, this is a horse that should not be doing fine right now, seeing as how some psycho decided it was a good idea to throw a hatchet into its skull?!! But by all accounts, the horse is going to be okay. Have I ever mentioned that my horses became deathly ill every time I just looked at them wrong?

Crap Blog of Crap

File this one under something that sounded awesome and turned out to be majorly lame.

I found a link to the Horse Dating Scene Blog. Yeah, sounds awesome doesn't it. Yeah, until you visit it. Go ahead. Do it, I'll wait for you.

Back already? I know, I feel your pain. Because moron doesn't seem to first of all know how to make a blog that scrolls! WTF?! I'm new to blogging and I can scroll on my site - I make blogger do the work. That's what you do when you want someone to read your site - you make it able to be read!!!! You know, I'm just putting it out there. I'm crazy like that.

But even worse, WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH HORSES?! It's touted as the dating scene for horse lovers. So, where's the gossip? Where's the important articles on how to juggle spending time with the person you love and spending the show season in Florida? Yeah, not there. I checked. No, this person would rather vomit self-help crap like this gem: "Showing interest in getting to know the person you are attracted to helps always with communication, which can lead to a friendship that you both could enjoy and share. Practice talking to everyone; store clerks are a good captive audience. Better yet if you are a store clerk, then the constant stream of customers is your captive audience. Just talk about anything."

Whatevs. Good thing you started a horse dating blog and not just a dating blog. Super job, crazy person. And yeah, this person is mundo crazy-o. "It all comes down to people not meaning what they say. Here’s a classic: “You can’t say he like chicken because he’s black, that’s racist!” No it’s not. That’s stereotypical, maybe even prejudiced, but certainly not racist. What’s that? Not a big deal you say? Tell that to Jesse Jackson, who says everything is racist, which is just not true. Oh sure, people will generalize by race, but that is far different than thinking that one race is inferior to another." Really. Need I say more?

Aug 15, 2007

I’m in a Ranting Kind of Mood

So, I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating – I grew up as a dressage rider. I’ve done a little of everything from saddleseat to hunter to western, but I would classify myself first and foremost as a dressage rider. I was very privileged to have been taught by a very patient, very knowledgeable trainer who was schooled in the classical French tradition. I’m not trying to engage in generalizations, but I think there is enough distinction between the FEI competitive dressage (German) method and the classical (French, Spanish, Portugese method) for me to use short-hand here. Someday I’ll write up my thoughts on those distinctions. Right now I would prefer to just rant a bit.

So, as I was saying…by 14 I was familiar with the methods of Baucher et al. This trainer taught me a great deal about working in lightness and never using opposing forces in my riding (i.e. kicking and pulling). I was very familiar with neck and poll flexions, half-halts, working in hand, etc…. As I say, in retrospect, I consider myself a very lucky teenager.

Years later, after having spent time in Europe, I returned to the US and rediscovered my love of horses, and dressage in particular. And upon my return I was thrilled to find myself riding and working at a pretty big barn with some top riders. I quickly learned that the majority of dressage riding and training that occurs today (and is winning) is a very aggressive, push-and-pull method that I had been aware of, but never realized it was being rewarded so much in our show rings of late. My training was disregarded and my ideas were dismissed. So, I did what any person who wants to get ahead does; I adopted the new methods. I quickly learned how to use a great deal of force to set my hands and kick the horse ever faster onto his forehand, until he finally found his natural balance and relaxed over his back. I learned the value of draw reins to quickly ‘fix’ a resistance and that big spurs can rarely be bad. And through it all, I was being fed the spiel: we are helping the horse achieve his maximum potential, we are practicing a sport that is aiding our animal to use every inch of his body correctly and symmetrically. Fundamentally, I agree with those premises, but the end does not justify the means. Having tried those methods I can honestly say that and mean it. And I cannot defend anyone who continues to practice those methods. I will say one thing: horses are remarkably capable of handling anything we throw at them and many a horse that should never have found light and ‘through’ with those methods did in fact manage to. I will not deny that many of the horses that went through that program turned out quite lovely to ride (of you don’t mind having to always have the 2” spurs on), super light in the mouth. You would not know that this horse, exhibiting such an expressive passage, was two weeks prior subjected to draw reins in a double bridle for a couple of intense training sessions.

The horse is an incredibly adaptable animal. The tendency is to want to please the herd leader and will give in to whatever tactic we use, whether it be harsh or gentle (not cruel, mind you). But that brings me back to the point. Just because the end result is as beautiful to watch and achieves the same results in typically less time, it does not justify the corruption of the values and ideals that I hold to be the foundation of all correct riding. Most importantly we should not erode the trust that animal puts in us to treat him with kindness and respect just simply because we can.

Aug 14, 2007

Bartender, one fermented mare's milk, please.

So, I’m surfing the Internet this morning when I should really be working, looking for interesting horsey new items…..when I discover my new favorite thing – Kumis. Why didn’t I know about this before? Fermented mare’s milk. Nutritious and alcoholic. Yummmmm….

Apparently this was (and still is) a staple of Central Asia and Mongolia. Wikipedia has this money quote: “it takes considerable skill to milk a mare.” Well, that's a shocker. I certainly wouldn’t be caught doing it. Cows have a placid look about them that none of my mares ever had. So, anyway, traditionally the milk was placed in a horsehide bag to be fermented for several days. Mare’s milk is very high in lactose, which makes it bad for people to drink fresh (think laxative, people), but the fermentation breaks it down into lactic acid, ethanol and carbon dioxide.

One site says that kumis “sparkles softly on the tongue.” Tell that to this traveler who posts on his blog: “What hits me is hard to describe. They say it’s fermented but when I leave milk out for three days at room temperature I call what happens “spoiling.” It’s sour and salty and just disgusting and then comes an aftertaste that doesn’t go away. For the next two hours I feel like I’ve fallen asleep with a piece of cheese in my mouth.” Awesome. That’s exactly what I want in a drink.

Supposedly in the early 1900s people even though that it could cure tuberculosis. For god’s sake, it’s horse milk. How does that treat disease? But this does mean, of course, that people wanted to make it at home. And lo and behold, I found this little gem - a 1909 recipe for imitating kumis. Seeing as how I can’t find it commercially available (And why not? I counted on you Internet. You were my source for everything wrong and bizarre in this world.), I might just have to make it at home with this recipe. Because I can’t just casually mention the existence of this amazing substance and not share my tasting notes. Obviously I’ll have to use cow’s milk because I’m not about to test my mad mare-milking skillz.

And for anyone who’s going to say it’s similar to kefir and not as cool as all that. I say (well wikipedia tells me) that kefir has like 0.7% alcohol content, while my homemade kumis could have up to 2.5%. I’m not doing this half-way people! If I’m going to drink [an approximated version of] mare’s milk, it better damn well get me slightly tipsy. Yeah! That’s how I roll.

Pony Round-up

- Fjord horses are adorably cute. I want one.
- Horse protects owner from cow. This is every kind of weird, but cool. I can't imagine any of my horses ever doing this for me. They'd have just watched me get mauled by a crazy cow.
- This sounds more like what my horses would have done to me: In Australia a horse dumps his rider into a crocodile-infested swamp. The guy climbed into a tree and had to stay there for a week before being rescued. I think I might not ride again.
- Awwww. Two horse people in love. Yeah, until they compete against each other in the final showdown. There can only be one master showjumper, bitch. Yeah, that'd be awesome.

Aug 13, 2007

Great Leaping Mules!

So, recently I was talking to a fellow horse-obsessed friend and somehow the subject of mules came up. I mean, doesn't it always? Anyway, in the course of the conversation, I quickly came to realize that I am privileged to have seen, as a young girl, a subset of the equestrian community that probably most riders and trainers have never seen - jumping mules. In general, everyone seems to think that mules are either a) ugly or b) stubborn (or both) and not really useful for anything. Well, firstly, I think they are adorable. Though on occasion at horse shows a certain mule used to frighten the hell out of my pony; something about the ears, I think. Anyway.....secondly, I have never really seen evidence of a mule being any more stubborn than a horse. In fact, I think they're pretty damn smart and talented. Which brings me to the point....

Jumping mules started from coon-hunting. I suppose you took your mule out to go coon-hunting and eventually you would come upon some sort of fence, most often it was barbed-wire. The idea would be that the rider would dismount, lay a jacket over the wire, cross to the other side and signal for the mule to jump the fence. So, imagine, a mule (say anywhere from 13.1hh to 14-something hh) clearing 5 to 6 ft. from a total standstill. I got to see this as a child and it left a lasting impression on me. Again, it takes me back to an argument that I will be harping on for posts to come. It's not about size. I have trouble imagining some of the biggest, prettiest, most talented horses (of any breed) out there accomplishing what these 'ugly' little mules can. Coon-hunting probably has no relevance to today's english riders, but I think the ability of these animals should serve as a reminder that talent has nothing to do with size or looks. Having seen that firsthand as a kid, it stuck with me in all aspects of my life.

Berkeley Medieval Watersports

I'm not 100% sure what's happening here, but I'm 95% sure it's awesome!

Pony Round-up

I'm going to try and regularly post news items that I think are interesting and/or worthy of a second look. Obviously that's not going to encompass everything, but my main goal is just to highlight articles from general horsey culture that would normally get lost in the fray.

- I have a love of all things tiny and this dwarf mini-horse is no exception.
- Convicted killer dies in freak riding accident. No comment.
- First female trainer to win the Arlington Million. Yay!!
- Any woman who would still choose to use Premarin should just be punched....hard. Really.
- Next Bond film to stage their climax at the Palio horse race in Siena. Okay, I know this is kind of a dangerous, "not-exactly-humane" race, but it still ellicits this shiver of excitement when I think about it.
- do horses get stolen, exactly?

Aug 10, 2007

Horse Fug

Okay, this is my new favorite website. Yes, I am ashamed of myself by laughing at some of these poor, pathetic creatures, but I can't stop looking.... Just like some people should not have children, some people should not be allowed to breed animals. God, this is just every kind of wrong...but come on, it's funny right? Am I right? Okay, is it just me laughing here?

Horse Owners = Big Spenders

If this report is accurate, then horse showing generates a $28.8 billion effect on the GDP. That's just horse showing, not racing. The horse community is severely underserved then, in my opinion. Where's the media coverage of horse events, for instance?! I don't see any big industry trying to take advantage of that market, with the exception of existing structures (i.e. speciality tack shops, horse buyers/sellers). This should translate into more tv coverage, better national team support for big riding events (in all disciplines) and more sponsorship and advertising opportunities for equestrians at all levels. But instead we'll be lucky if they squeeze in 10 min of showjumping on the tv in between endless hours of golf, water volleyball, bull-riding....need I go on?

Aug 9, 2007

Size Doesn't Matter (Sometimes)

Okay, I can't even tell you how awesome I think it is that Karen O'Connor won gold with her 14.1hh pony, Teddy, at the PanAm Games. I could go on about the number of times that I hear that so-and-so's 16hh horse is too small to jump higher than 3' or how many times have you been told your 16.2hh horse is so small and cute. I mean, what's up with people thinking that horses have to be giants anymore. With the advent of the warmblood, all of a sudden the equestrian world decided that in order to win in dressage, eventing, hunter, suddenly had to have, at a minimum, a 17hh horse.

I don't deny that a trot extension on a huge horse can be breathtaking, but when do you ever hear someone praising the amazing collection and spring in a small horse's step. Rarely ever anymore, and it's always in relation to the bigger horse's gait. I might be overly sensitive to this having spent an inordinate amount of time in the Dressage world, where 17.3hh is virtually the norm. But when did we lose our minds?! I grew up around Arabians and love, love them. Whatever you want to say about the way they are marketed and overbred, they are fundamentally awesome animals. I rode some 15hh arab horses that were far showier and gamer than a lot of the giants. I'm not hating on warmbloods here. Hell, I own one. But I am saying that we've forgotten that size doesn't matter most of the time - I can cite plenty of small, phenomenal horses that have impressed me as much as the 17.3hh grand prix master. We seem to forget that and it's high time that we stop dismissing a horse's talent because of his size. I'd bet plenty of people I know would have ignored Teddy's talent simply because he was small. Well, you can't argue with what he's accomplished.

And I have one more thing to add on this topic. I had a lot of smaller horses in my life - Arabs, QHs, a couple of ponies, TBs - and I never saw nearly as many hoof and leg problems as I did on some of those giant WBs. Again, I know it's horse-to-horse, but there gets to be a point when you're jumping or practicing intense dressage movements where the stress exerted by the weight of those big guys is just going to break them down a little faster. I'm not being scientific, but I think it's a matter of some common sense here. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

The Best Horse Blog Ever

So, I've decided to start a blog on horses. I mean, for god's sake, why aren't there any, like, any out there? I spend hours a week on the internet looking for new, cool horsey-stuff and trying to find out interesting horse news items. Then it occurred to me that the horse world is way behind everyone else on the techie front. Okay, so my mission isn't to bring the horse world into the twenty-first century or anything pretentious like that, but it'd be fun to build a cool horse-y community, and...yeah I'll admit it - I just love blogs. I'm addicted to reading the gossip and fashion and music blogs - why isn't there one for me? The dorky horse-lover/amazingly awesome (mostly messy and hungover) NY hipster girl.

I don't have any qualifications. I just have loads of esoteric horse knowledge dating back to when I was 3 and my aunt first put me on a horse, unleashing a lifetime of torture for any person who happened to find himself within 10 feet of me for the rest of my life. Okay, also I am a horse trainer and instructor, but mostly I just like to talk. And since my non-horsey friends are soooooo tired of my latest ramblings on exactly why they should care about the debate over the German vs French method of dressage-training, I am writing it all down for you, because I know you'll understand. Right?

PS - My friends and family send their condolences. And vodka. Lots of it.