Kudos to De Kunffy
When I received my issue of Dressage Today and read Charles de Kunffy's article I felt I must impart my thoughts and feelings on this subject. Over fifteen years now I attended my first Charles de Kunffy Clinic and I can remember it as though it was yesterday. I Was beginning my journey toward dressage work and I was teaching a lady on her lovely Arab gelding. The opportunity arose in my area to ride in his clinic, so with my student and her horse together we took a deep breath and met Mr. de Kunffy And the lesson began. It was amazing how within an hour's time I saw such a transformation in both the horse and rider. His voice orchestrated the ride as he began sculpting and molding her seat and body to present herself as a new rider to her horse. Then through the gymnastics and rib boning of the patterns the horse began to relax and the partnership began to happen. Watching this come together brought tears to my eyes as I felt this is the beauty of dressage - the relaxation, the unlocking of stiffness, the enhancement of the bend ability and suppleness to give our little horse all the wonderful things he needed - to make him an athlete and offer him the therapy to enhance his health and well being. It was all there. As an instructor, his work and his words have stayed with me, always in my mind in all I do with a horse and rider. So, to read His article in Dressage Today was splendid and so needed. There are such valuable words within. I am so happy to be again clinicing with Mr. de Kunffy and as I listen to him and as I read and re-read his books there are always Things that give me "aha" moments and on goes the journey! So, Mr. de Kunffy - I thank you for all you do for horses and riders - from the bottom of my heart!
Mary Lou Moody
San Antonio, Texas
First of all I love reading your magazine, but..I.n the July issue I was reading the answer to the 'accepting the rein' question. I was curious to the answer because i had the same problem with my horse. I missed a huge solution to this problem. Let me explain: At a dressage clinic, I asked the clinician what the reason could be to my problem. The first thing she asked me was: How stiff is your side? And she was right. I was creating the problem. My back at the right side isn't perfect because of neck problems. My horse was compensating for me. By paying more attention to my seat, she was slowly accepting the rein better. My point is instead of not only addressing to the horse, maybe the rider should be mentioned too. Quite often he or she is the beginning of the problem.
Helmets off (or should I say HELMETS ON) to you for your editorial and for the entire focus of the July issue of Dressage Today regarding the importance of wearing a maximum-safety riding helmet regardless of the rider's perception of "trust" in the animal. As was stated over and over in this issue, riding accidents affecting the head are NOT always caused by the misbehavior of the horse. I have ridden every horse I have owned for 25 years with a top-quality riding helmet and have had more than a couple of spills where my helmet likely prevented serious head injury. Most of these spills have occurred because I had lost control to some degree of the horse I was riding, be it a quick movement I didn't expect or some sort of misstep, as experienced so tragically by Courtney King-Dye. However, this past January, I was riding the quietest and calmest draft cross gelding wearing my helmet in an indoor arena in a brand new saddle and girth. I didn't even consider the girth might loosen up as we rode, but it did, and as I was cantering into a corner, I felt a strange sensation which turned out to be the girth and the entire saddle slipping sideways to the left. If you've ever been in that situation, you are not immediately sure what is happening. To me, it felt as if the horse had decided to spontaneously change leads. I must have somehow reacted by shoving my foot farther into the left stirrup (where it got stuck in the stirrup). The next thing I remember was feeling a total lack of control to control a fall and then the back of my head hitting the sand packed in the corner followed by a sensation of my the contents of my skull recoiling hard against the front of my skull. Then I lost consciousness. I was incredibly lucky because the horse had stopped and from what I was told, I kept a grip on the reins while my left foot was hung up in the stirrup, probably subconsciously to keep him from moving and dragging me. Then I remember yelling for my friend Peggy (who is an R.N.) as loud as I could. She apparently had to remove the whole stirrup leather to release my foot because the tension prevented her from merely sliding my foot out of the stirrup. I ended up in the E.R. with the diagnosis of a concussion and was restricted from riding for 8 weeks. I was told by the physician that I would likely be dead or brain-damaged if I had not had the helmet on. Recovery from a concussion is not easy and to this day I feel I was altered cognitively to some degree. I am still riding (not scared because I don't remember much !!), but when I contacted the helmet company, they were insistent that I throw this helmet away and obtain a new one. They told me any helmet that sustains enough impact to cause a concussion should be discarded and replaced because the construction of the helmet is such that it is made to react in a certain way to a single hard impact and afterward loses some or all of its ability to perform equally effectively in another fall. My point is that serious riding accidents involving the head can and do occur for reasons other than the misbehavior of the horse. My accident was caused strictly by "equipment failure" and had nothing to do with the horse. I think that people who consider it "amateurish" or unsightly to wear a helmet are detracting from the concept of equestrian safety because they pass this absurd and unsafe myth to the upcoming equestrians. If everyone wore a helmet, no one would feel like a geek because it would become the norm. What will it take for people to learn?
Gail F. Haskins
New to Dressage
I would like to congratulate you on a wonderful magazine. I am new to dressage, normally doing endurance riding. Last year my much-loved pony was put down after a sudden and severe bout of colic. Under endurance rules here in Australia my young horse is too young for endurance so I thought a few dressage lessons would be good for the two of us with the plan to do some training day tests and maybe some low level official tests latter this year. All was going along well until May when I suffered a mild stroke. Just the weekend before we were going to our first show. My boots had been cleaned and ready to go. I had even planned on getting some photos taken to submit to your clinic. Your articles cover a wide range of topics and the clear instruction and photos have allowed this newbie to gain some (maybe not full) understanding and insight into the complex world of dressage. Emily Anhalt wrote a wonderfully inspiring article in the February issue about her recovery from lymphoma and getting back in the saddle. I am lucky my stroke has been a warning (I now know I have a blood disorder) and I have no long-term side effects. Thankfully I was not without my horse for as long as Emily was, but when he came home last weekend it was wonderful. So as I get stronger I will keep reading your magazine, start some groundwork and be back in the saddle soon. Still aiming for that show in December, if anybody can keep up with my expectations. Some adjustment may be needed! Keep up the great work.
Kathy Cameron, Australia
Tennessee Walking Horses
Even though I am not a dressage rider I have subscribed to your magazine for several years now. I like the original idea of dressage, to become one with your horse. I am into Tennessee Walking Horses. My breed is infamous for its abuses, and I must say, I am VERY concerned about the dressage industry as it exists today. Horses that have been trained with "questionable" (rollkur) methods are winning in the show ring, and it seems to me that the horse with the biggest gaits does better than normal movers. This is the same path that took the Walking Horse industry down. How long will it be until dressage trainers realize that by "soring" the horse's front legs will give him a bigger trot with huge reach? We need to stop the abuse NOW, before the Horse Protection Act comes into play.
Andrea A. Anderson
The Horse Boy--Horses and Autism
I enjoyed reading Rupert Isaacson's story so much in Dressage Today's February 2010 issue. I was deeply touched. I have a heart for rescue horses, dogs, cats, and any animals whatsoever. I have a small place outside of Marble Falls, and currently own 15 equines. They are all "unwanted," but one is a young Arab gelding that the breeder simply gave me, due to market conditions. I have been eager to get involved with therapy situations, but had to take a while just to train the horses that I had. I have studied under a Parelli instructor, Kerri Joosten, among others, and have been very successful in getting them started. Now, I need to get busy on the non-profit status, and moving forward with the mission of ministry to those in need. I am actually very interested in the Wounded Warriors concept as well as anyone who could benefit with the special relationship with a horse. I agree with you that the journey is only at the beginning point, and really appreciate your sharing the scientific research in the article. No wonder we love riding horses! I look forward to speaking with you and coming out for a visit. Thank you!
I usually hesitate to contact authors of whom I think, "I'd love to meet this person" while reading his/her work. When I read Mr. Isaacson's closing statement of "I invite other dressage enthusiasts to explore this path with me," I decided to give it a shot. I had heard about his family years ago when my niece in Ireland sent me an article she found in a rag there, which I saved, about the trip his family was making. She knew that I would feel drawn to it because of my interest in therapeutic riding and also because I've told her in the past that my dream travel destination was Mongolia: both for its scrappy hardy horses and its Buddhism and Shamanism. I am Buddhist, though raised Catholic. In college I studied American Indian Studies, and I see the link between these cultures. I am a 35-year-old mother of a son who is on the Autistic spectrum (Asperger's with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and savant-like abilities in Visual/Spacial/non-linear Reasoning). He was finally diagnosed less than 2 years ago. I have been an advanced level NARHA-certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor since 2002. I attended the NARHA endorsed Instructor Course at Equest in Wylie, Texas, back then--when Lilly Kellogg was still running it. My life's work involves horses, and I have since "the beginning" personally experienced the healing power of horses, as it has helped me to overcome a rare form of muscular dystrophy.
I woke up this morning and found Rupert's article in Dressage Today in my mailbox. I read his book, The Horse Boy, and last month I saw the documentary. I was moved by both. I admit to initial resistance when I first encountered the book. People kept suggesting that I read it because of my love of horses and my work with autism...There was part of me that said, "No". No more books about "curing" autism with diets, and hug therapy and skill drill, and now...shamans?! But I did read it and you and your wife are wise and funny and open to the limitations of western scientific thinking and to the wisdom of children and what they can teach us. I am the clinical director of a graduate program in speech-language pathology at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Institute of Health Professions in Boston. Language is my area of expertise and I have had a long history of working with children on the spectrum. I have a longer history of loving horses, and I grew up in CA with a Western pony. I fell in love with dressage as an adult and I next to my work with children with communication disorders it is my greatest passion. A number of years ago I began riding with a man named Vitor Silva who has the largest Lusitano farm and classical training school in the country and he and his Lusitanos have been wonderful teachers for me. I currently ride a Prix St. George level warmblood that a friend gave me to put back into work. I do not know if Rupert has people working with him in systematic way to develop a communication curriculum as part of his work or whether he and other instructors working with the kids feel that they have the knowledge of language and facilitation techniques. I would be very interested in collaborating with him as he moves forward with his work. Though autism spectrum is an area of expertise I am not a typical practitioner, I am a language expert more broadly and my other work is with high poverty school districts and developing language and literacy curriculums. I am an outside of the box thinker. I believe that Dr. Margaret Bauman was in your documentary as an expert. She is a colleague at MGH and has referred children to me over the course of many years. I have many contacts here in Boston with researchers in the field of autism and dressage professionals interested in therapeutic work with children. Rupert and his family are an inspiration to me. Many thanks.
Remember to Smile
Great article [in the May 2010 issue] and for me, timely. I am about to show a baroque horse, and after years of riding 17-hand warmbloods, I confess to feeling some trepidation about going down centerline on a 15.3 hand "pony-esque" mount. This article is a good reminder that it's all about the training and the execution, and a test is just a gauge of what needs to be improved and what parts are going well on a given day.
Was it coincidence or planned that on page 16 of April's issue both the notice that VanGrunsven wins Exquis World Dressage Masters and the FEI February Conference on Rollkur appeared? If I recall correctly, Anky is a stark proponent of the Rollkur and sees nothing wrong with it. If the Rollkur is so bad, why does she keep on winning and winning? If the FEI governing body really wants to tackle this issue, more needs to be done than just expanding current guidelines in the hopes that they will be followed.
More Helmet Concerns
I just wanted to comment on the cover of the April 2010 Dressage Today. You show Akiko Yamazaki on one of her FEI horses. She is without helmet--as are the majority of the pictures in this issue. After Courtney King-Dye's injury, helmet usage is at the forefront of many dressage communities. I feel this cover shows a complete disregard for safety, and implore you to ask riders to wear helmets in your photos. While you cannot force people to wear helmets, you can ask. This article was little more than an ad for Yamazaki and her trainers. Safety needs to come first, and lots of little girls read this magazine. You would do well to embrace a better example.
I have been reading your magazine for several years now and am saddened about the recent accident involving Courtney King-Dye. However, her unfortunate situation just puzzles me all the more since I cannot understand why riders are not encouraged to wear helmets in this country! I grew up in the U.K. and had to wear a helmet, not only when riding a horse, but also when working with and around horses. As much as we all detest wearing helmets, they are lifesavers. As a recent Level 4 graduate of the CHA riding instructor certification program, safety is my utmost priority. All of my students are required to wear ASTM-SEI certified helmets, and I am a role model for my students in doing so also. I feel that as a representative of the horse industry, Dressage Today should only allow photographs of riders wearing helmets. Dressage Today should be a role model, not only for the sport, but for the safety of the sport. I was absolutely appalled to see the photos of Catherine Haddad riding without a helmet in the May 2010 issue. I know that it happens in our industry, but the bottom line is that it should not. If it does, it should not be photographed and advertised! If riders in general lack the common sense to wear a helmet, that is their own choice. However, industry professionals should exhibit model behaviors. I hope that you will seriously consider this concern and make adjustments as fitting.
I was quite surprised to see a picture of Catherine Haddad on page 42 of you May 2010 issue. The image shows her riding Winyamaro without her helmet and it felt awkward to me especially after reading the letter section where readers comment on Courtney's heart-breaking accident. I know that Catherine's expression piece was done long before it went to print. But it may be time for Dressage Today to set the example by requesting featured-riders to wear helmets during the photo shoot, like Mary-Anne Grant does on page 36. Of course, until the FEI wise-up and let go of the top hat, we will have to deal with these images and, like I say often, be wiser than the wiseman by keeping things in perspective. Nevertheless, young riders, who like to emulate the looks of their idols, will have a chance to learn the right behavior and will become better rider while being safer riders. I believe that DT's editorial orientation has done a good job through the years by making better riders out of us. Thus I think it is time to push the bar higher by requesting helmet in shoots and by doing so in every Equine Network publication.
Saint-Tite-des-Caps, Qu?bec, Canada
A Useful Invention
I am a huge fan of Lendon Gray and have been ever since I saw her showing Seldom Seen at Dressage at Devon many years ago, so I was interested in her tip in Solutions in the February 2010 issue. Making rein contact equal on both sides, and knowing what contact you have, is important for all riders, and Lendon's visualization is excellent, but now we also have the invaluable new coaching tool called TeleRein. TeleRein consists of an over bridle for the horse with a small, light transmitter positioned on the poll. Sensors attach to the snaffle bit and the reins are attached to the other end of the sensors. The instructor holds a receiver about the size of a TV remote which shows two columns of red lights indicating on a scale of 1-12 the pressure involved on each rein. The device will function up to a distance of 40 meters from the receiver so it is equally successful for jumping horses or horses working on the flat.
This device helps to develop the rider's sensitivity and feel. It gives accurate and immediate information about the weight and consistency of the contact between rider and horse on each rein. It allows the coach to assess the contact even when the rider's hand or rein is out of sight and acts to support the instructor by giving a factual and objective demonstration of the amount of tension on each rein
TeleReinT is the invention of Jennifer Howard and information about it is available from www.telerein.co.nz or from firstname.lastname@example.org. Jennifer Howard has received very positive feedback from Dr. Gerd Heuschmann and Steffen Peters and many other international figures during demonstrations and TeleRein was featured a few months ago in the Emporium section of Dressage Today. I encourage all coaches and instructors to look into the benefits of this useful invention.
Mary Rose FBHS, Texas
In October 2008, your publication printed a Viewpoint written by Dr. W. Robert Cook regarding riding bitless.Having engineered the bitless bridle in 1988 and made subsequent changes due to operating flaws, I can state unequivocally it does not allow the riders to obtain lateral and longitudinal flexion, does not allow the rider to maintain a constant "light" contact with the horse and does not allow the horse to engage its muscle system in the correct manner.
Overbent and behind the vertical, being demonstrated in bitless bridle dressage, is in violation of the rules of dressage. What needs to be demonstrated is that any bitless bridle can allow the rider to apply such light pressure to the reins that the horse does not overbend or go behind the vertical. What needs to be demonstrated is that the horse changes its way of going in such a manner as to lengthen stride and equal stride in complete freedom and softness.
In 2004, a well-known dressage clinician met with me and understood the simplicity of schooling horse and rider for dressage in a bitless bridle, because the schooling could easily be transferred to riding with a bit. In fact, the gentleman showed the bridle to a group watching his clinic and stated that everyone should learn to ride with this piece of equipment. That being said, not all bitless bridles function correctly.
FEI and all the national governing bodies for dressage place the health and welfare of the horse first, and the education of owners, riders and trainers is also referenced. Bitless schooling of the dressage horse alleviates muscle injuries to the horse, teaches the horse self-carriage, teaches the horse collection, teaches the horse balance, teaches the horse flex.... all without any constraints or restraints being placed upon the horse by the rider.
Proposition: I propose that USDF, with the assistance of Dressage Today, hold a symposium regarding riding dressage bitless. I propose that invitations be sent to Dr. Cook of Bitless Bridle, Zoe Brooks of Nutural Bitless Bridle and myself of Spirit Bridle. Let there be horses presented that have never been ridden in a bitless bridle with riders whom have never used bitless bridles. Each horse and rider will first use Bitless Bridle then Nutural Bitless Bridle, then Spirit Bridle. The horses should be ridden through dressage movements that each horse is schooled in. Each presenter should (in the order stated above) take the horse and rider combinations through the same movements so that the horses and riders will reflect any changes that will arise as each bitless bridle is used.
This symposium will clarify that the schooling and riding of dressage bitless has tremendous advantage for the horse and rider, and no disadvantage. This symposium will give those present, the opportunity to ask viable questions of the presenters. It will allow those present to ask the presenters to show that their bridles can achieve certain descriptions of the horse and dressage movements as described in the rules of dressage.
E. Allan Buck
I recently received my first issue of Dressage Today after a long hiatus from magazines, horse-related or otherwise. While the magazine is beautiful and the articles informative, I was aghast to see the number of riders portrayed without wearing helmets-- especially on the front cover! I took a quick count of all mounted riders in the April issue in both ads and articles (whether they were actual photos or only drawings): of 45 riders shown in advertisements, only 16 (or 35 percent) were wearing a helmet. In the articles, only 7 of 29 (or 24 percent) wore protective headgear. Granted, many riders shown were upper-level performers, and dressage tradition is that they don't wear a helmet. Believe me, I agree that there is nothing quite as beautiful as a well-turned-out upper-level horse and rider. The truth is, though, that accidents happen. Dressage riders pride themselves on having well-trained mounts and great skills as riders, but we are foolish to think that we are infallible. As our sport gains in popularity, we as dressage riders find ourselves in a position to influence riders of other disciplines in both the training of the horse (hooray!) and rider safety. We should seriously reconsider dressage's dress code, and include mandatory protective headgear. However, until the day comes when we can overcome our tradition and vanity at shows, the least we can do is portray responsible riding in our publications.
This is really simple. I don't think you should publish one more picture of one more rider without wearing a helmet, no matter who it is. I can't believe you put Akiko Yamazaki on your cover wearing a baseball cap--sending the wrong message to all of us, especially the young riders who want to be "cool." What happened to Courtney King-Dye is a perfect, tragic example of what can happen to all of us that ride. Hope you change your requirements for headgear in the future.
I know this has been written about many times. However, I do find it particularly distressing in light of Courtney King-Dye's recent head injury that Dressage Today would choose a cover with a rider not wearing a helmet. Perhaps the cover photo was chosen before Courtney's injury. Even so, I think Dressage Today should set a better example in the dressage world by never using cover photos of riders without helmets. As Courtney is proof, it only takes a moment for your life to change forever regardless of the ability of the rider.
As an avid reader of your magazine and also an instructor of young students, I am very disappointed to see Akiko Yamazaki on your April cover without a helmet. There is an incorrect belief in the dressage world that helmets are not necessary for dressage riders working in the ring. Let me remind you of Courtney King-Dye who suffered a terrible yet preventable head injury. Being in the dressage ring does not guarantee that you will not fall off! In fact, while I was at the Bromont 3-Day last summer, Darren Chiachia fell off in the dressage warm-up ring. That's right, warming up for dressage! If Ms. Yamazaki wants to ride without a helmet on her own time, that is her decision, but Dressage Today needs to insist that those who are fortunate to grace its cover do so with appropriate head protection to set an appropriate example for riders of all ages and disciplines.
Rachael Little, Vermont
The dressage community has been deeply saddened by the injury sustained by our young Olympian Courtney King-Dye. As a spokesman for dressage riders, it is your responsibility to set an example for everyone that reads your magazine.
Riding under the best conditions on the most dependable horse still has inherent risks, as there are many variables that can influence any horse. Your April cover showing Akiko Yamazaki riding, wearing a baseball cap is not only disappointing but irresponsible as well. You have the capability to impart the value of safety measures to every rider regardless of their experience and encourage them to always wear a helmet when mounted in order to prevent serious injury in the event of a fall. Many dressage riders feel if they are not jumping a helmet is unnecessary. Did we need one of our best to show us that there is no logic to this way of thinking?
Karen Feldgus, New York
I just wanted to comment on the cover of the April 2010 Dressage Today. You show Akiko Yamazaki on one of her FEI horses. She is without helmet--as are the majority of the pictures in this issue. After Courtney King-Dye's injury, helmet usage is at the forefront of many dressage communities. I feel this cover shows a complete disregard for safety and implore you to ask riders to wear helmets in your photos. While you cannot force people to wear helmets, you can ask. This article was little more than an ad for Yamazaki and her trainers. Safety needs to come first, and lots of little girls read this magazine. You would do well to embrace a better example.
Just found my latest Dressage Today magazine. Two glaring mistakes on the cover popped out at me: Akiko Yamazaki is not wearing a helmet in the front cover picture. Given what happened to Courtney King-Dye, don't you wish helmets were as necessary as, say, a girth? We wouldn't try to ride without a girth. Why ride without a helmet? The second problem is that the line should read, "Whom to Watch at the WEG." We expect such excellence from our riders and horses, how about expecting the same high standards in grammar? Thank you very much for letting me complain.
I just love Dressage Today magazine, but when I just recently received the April issue I cringed! In light of the severe head injury that landed Courtney King-Dye in a coma, I was shocked to see an image of Akiko Yamazaki not wearing a safety helmet! The choice of images to use in your magazine is exactly that, your choice. I would expect that a magazine that reaches so many riders would set an example for all equestrians. I am truly perplexed as to why the magazine would not insist on putting a rider with a helmet the cover! We all have freedom of choice. However, common sense dictates that everyone should wear one when they are around horses. I just don't get it. Do people think that they are immune to head injuries? Chances are a helmet could have helped Courtney and she could have avoided the horrible situation she is in. Dressage Today needs to lead by example and heighten awareness about the importance of safety in our sport. Thank you for your kind attention
Will We Never Learn?
I just received my April issue of your magazine and was quiet dismayed to find again you were featuring a rider without a helmet. I don't care how experienced she is, will we never learn? How many more riders like Courtney King-Dye have to suffer these horrific accidents? Do think twice about what you put on the cover and the articles you feature.
Will Caution Dwindle in Time?
As we are all keeping Courtney King-Dye's recovery in our thoughts and prayers, one cannot help to also think, without being critical, that as we ride, we would all be better protected by wearing helmets. And while there are so many people using them now, even at the CDIs, I worry that this precaution and concern will dwindle once Courtney is back in the saddle, and there are no accidents for a while. My concern stems from the knowledge that some trainers and barns have laughed at and kidded riders for using helmets, and that many riders wonder if judges have a subconscious belief that a helmet vs. a top hat is an indicator of rider insecurity, a naughty horse or rider lack of confidence, and that helmets are for amateurs and kids. I am not suggesting that USEF and the FEI change the rules to require protective headgear, but I would like to hear regular announcements at shows that strongly encourage riders and handlers to wear helmets. I would like these announcements to be encouraged by judges, TDs, show management and trainers. A huge positive influence for helmet use is the encouragement of our top trainers who write articles in Dressage Today, USDF Connection, USEF Equestrian and other publications. Without their support of helmet use, some riders will not use them. I would like to see the attitude about helmets change from something you only put on when you are riding a young horse, or working on the changes, or working through a naughty or difficult issue with a horse, or that only fearful riders wear them, or that they ruin your hairdo, or that it doesn't look "cool" to wear one, to being something that every trainer encourages, if not demands, of their clients, to something that every horse owner demands of their trainer when he/she is riding their horse, to something that is viewed as smart and responsible to do, and that riding without one is reckless and unwise. One idea for encouraging competitors to wear protective headgear during competition would be to add a point or points to the test for use of a helmet with a chinstrap. I don't know the mechanics of test writing or how that could be implemented, but if there were points associated with helmet usage, there would be little need to mandate usage during tests. Most of us who ride regularly and love horses and love this sport want to continue to do so into our golden years. I personally have worn a helmet for many years. I wore a top hat when I competed my daughter's very quiet mare to get my bronze medal, but always wear the helmet when schooling. Now that I have two fairly young horses, there is no question about the helmet in the show ring, as well as when schooling at home or clinics. I hope our mentors and coaches will encourage us to wear helmets whether at home, or competing at open shows or at CDIs.
Upon hearing the news of Courtney King-Dye's accident, I felt compelled to write in. I had an accident in which my horse tripped and fell going through a small gymnastic. That accident was almost eight years ago, and just now, I am getting back into eventing with the same horse. I was wearing a helmet, and I feel that it saved my life. My horse was lucky and wasn't hurt, but I suffered a grade three concussion and had amnesia. I don't remember the accident, or months of information surrounding the accident either. My helmet probably kept my neck from breaking. My helmet brim was ruined (but it saved my face), because I did a sliding stop with my face into hard-packed stone dust. I always wear a helmet and require my students to do the same. Because of my helmet, I rode in a neck brace the day after my accident. My father was acting as photographer the day of my fall, I have an entire slow-motion series of pictures of my fall, and keep them in my planner to show people if I EVER hear that they don't wear a helmet and think they don't need one!
I thought Gina Duran gave some excellent advice about motivating the lazy horse. I can't stress physical health enough, as she did--hoof imbalances, ulcers, EPSM, nutritional deficiencies, etc., can all have a huge effect on forwardness in a horse and it is often too easily assumed the horse is "lazy."
Rider interference is, of course, also a huge factor, and unfortunately is more common than not. Tack fit could be an issue as well by the way. I have also found that my horse really responds well to lavish praise, which often comes in a gleeful happy and loud voice and clapping hands --it seems to bring out more cooperation, as his efforts, no matter how small, are truly appreciated. It feels like it lifts his spirits and makes work more fun for him. Now this may not be the same for all horses, depending on how sensitive a horse is.
On a side note: I thought all dressage experts knew well that collection meant taking more weight behind and elevating the horse in front and not shortening the horse.
Ute Miethe LMT/LAMT
Massage Therapist & Natural Performance Barefoot Trimmer
Healing Power of Horses
I would like to say that I appreciate that others are sharing the mental health benefits that horses provide. I want to thank Rupert Isaacson for sharing his story "Autism and the Healing Power of Horses" (February 2010). It was truly inspiring to hear about the work that is being done. It gives me great hope to see that therapy and horses are continually being brought together. I feel that horses can be an invaluable therapeutic tool in many aspects of mental health. However, with these difficult economic times, we need to remember to support these invaluable equine organizations that help so many through our donations and volunteering. This will ensure that we can continue to learn about the incredible journeys of recovery and hope that horses can offer.
Send your letter to the editor to DressageToday@aimmedia.com. Letters are edited for length and clarity.