Ask Horse Journal Dressage Patterns for Fun

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My sister and I downloaded the USDF introductory dressage tests, set up a make-shift dressage arena with letters and read the tests to each other. We came up with the idea just for fun, and now we're hooked on it. One reason we're so upbeat about it is that our horses were more alert, engaged and had much better forward movement. Is this just in our minds' We don't think it could be, as we both felt the same way.

Associate Editor Margaret Freeman responds: I suspect that when you're just riding on your own in the ring you spend most of your time on the rail, changing direction once in a while or doing an occasional transition.? When you spend all your time close to the rail, the horse takes over control from you by subtly holding his shoulder near the wall, almost like a security blanket.

When you take on the challenge of a set pattern like a dressage test, you're changing directions and doing transitions much more frequently.? You?re also attempting transitions at specific locations rather than just when the mood strikes.? The horse has to pay more attention to your aids, especially your leg and weight aids. He becomes more alert and energetic.

Another interesting exercise for you might be to ride an entire session on the ?second track,? which is 3 to 6 feet inside the rail.? Try staying straight on that line, alternating with riding the center line, diagonals and circles, but never staying on the rail for more than a couple steps.? you'll find at first that you'll be battling the tendency of the horse to drift back to his comfort zone along the wall.? To stay straight on the second track takes keeping the horse on your aids.? If you can do this, he'll almost automatically move with more energy and better balance in the turns.?

CHIROPRACTIC ?TAIL PULLING?

Two veterinary chiropractors have given me two completely opposing views on tail pulling and stimulating the horse's hind end to cause the horse to tuck under itself. One believes it's beneficial, and one does not. Does Horse Journal have an opinion on this'

Contributing Veterinary Editor Dr. Deb Eldredge responds: There are different versions of ?tail pulling? as a therapeutic technique for a horse. it's important to remember that your horse's tail is an extension of his spine. Pulling on the tail should ideally release pressure and tension in the spine. If your horse has an injury or chronic pain in his spine, pulling may aggravate that.

Whether or not pulling on the tail will help your horse will vary with the individual and the problem you're trying to correct. When you pull on the tail with a steady motion?being extremely careful to avoid being kicked?most horses will pull against you. Many seem to enjoy this, almost like a big stretch.

I don't see how this would help your horse tuck under himself, though. If a horse has his tail clamped down it's usually a sign of pain or irritation. Those horses are tucked under but not in a positive way. As long as your horse does not have an injury that tail pulling would exacerbate, it should be safe. I doubt it will help with your goal of getting your horse to move under himself, however.

INSURANCE CLAIMS

Last year, two different vets checked my horse for a stiffness issue. When I inquired about putting in a claim to my insurance, I was given a lot of varied information and didn't file.

When it came time to renew, I asked my rep why I had insurance when I couldn?t put through a claim for the issue I'd had. She said I could, so I sent in the vet invoices for reimbursement and renewal payment. They responded that I needed a ?health report? from my vet. I sent that and the vet?s invoice.

Now they insist I pay for a full exam if I want to renew. I'm not sure I do, but would like to be reimbursed for my claim last summer.

My agent says they need the exam for the renewal because of the claim. But when I ask about the processing of the claim itself, she says it won?t process until I have the full exam. It sounds like double-talk to me.

In addition, you were right about the agents vs. insurer vs. underwriter. I had to swim through quite a line-up of agents, companies, subsidiaries before I learned the actual underwriter was Chartis. I thought I'd go right to them for an answer, but they state that I have to deal with the agent. What do you think I should do next'

Contributing Writer Susan Quinn, Esq. Responds: Working with your insurance company is a two-way street. First, as to the claim, your insurance policy is a binding legal contract with terms and conditions pertaining to both the insurer and you, the insured. These terms and conditions are explicit and will ultimately determine what is covered.

In addition to the terms set forth in your contract, such things as immediate notification of a health problem and the payment of your deductible come into play. Insurers require that you call their claims office immediately when you call the vet out for a problem. Your agent should have told you that you MUST file a claim because, if anything further were to go wrong, the insurer would likely deny coverage. Hopefully, you're still within time limits at this point.

Second, the payment of a claim has nothing to do with renewing your policy. If you met all the contract requirements, the company should pay. (Remember that it's likely that your insurer may exclude coverage for the stiffness on your renewal.)

If you're not satisfied with the service provided by your insurer, here are a few steps you can take:

1) Find out who the appropriate insurance company management person is and write a concise letter explaining the problem and what you consider a fair resolution.? Include all previous letters, vet records, invoices, canceled checks.

2) If that doesn't work, contact your state?s insurance department, consumer protection division or Better Business Bureau or seek an out-of-court resolution through mediation or arbitration.

3) If all else fails, you can take legal action. Depending on the amount of money at issue, your case may be brought in small-claims court. Larger amounts may require a case in state or federal civil court and hiring a lawyer, with the caveat that this last resort can be both costly and time consuming.