There are so many things that go on day to day in many barns that can create annoying challenges. I thought I'd share our easy and fairly fool-proof way of dealing with one challenge... making sure medications are eaten. Every now and then we have a horse that doesn't care what we add to their feed but most are much to finicky. I turn to applesauce to make life a little easier. Applesauce has the perfect consistency to mix with any powdered medication and then given directly to the horse via a dose syringe. Plus the horses don't seem to be as offended since they like the taste. A win win in my book.
One of the biggest challenges in eventing is simply time... we essentially train a horse in 3 disciplines and wonder why it's difficult to make progress. My way to combat this challenge is to make the most of my training rides by incorporating multiple elements. It keeps things interesting for the horse and sharpens the rider without having to subject the horse to any excess pounding. Whether it's working on my dressage out on hilly terrain or frequently incorporating cavaletti into my daily work I am able to address many issues that I face in the jumping phases while continuing to develop the physical and mental aspects needed in the dressage ring. The photo above is a view of my ring with a variety of exercises set up, one in particular that I will describe as I have used it for horses at all levels of training and fitness.
In front of the leg...
Since arriving home for a short duration between travelling to events we've begun the process of getting the younger horses back into a program after their winter break. This process is always a good time to reassess basic areas of training for each horse and to pinpoint where we need to focus. A common theme whenever you run into difficulty in training a horse for any discipline tends to revolve around the lack of a horse being "in front of the leg". So what does that mean... To me, success with a horse comes when they have a desire to take you somewhere. It is as much, if not more, a mental state of being than a physical description as there are plenty of horses that are in a hurry but not really "in front of the leg".
Training: Narrowing your focus
As usual after an event I come home with a few key areas that I want to focus on for each horse. After Pine Top my major take away for Quincy was that I needed to jump into water to be sure he wasn't put off after our dunking. So I'll have to wait until the ground has dried out enough from our most recent snowfall to do that... For Delta the focus is going to be on narrowing her focus. She is very genuine to the jumps but doesn't really focus on "looking for" what is next on cross-country...particularly the narrow jumps. And when she does jump the narrow fences she doesn't hold herself completely straight and square which I know could end up leading to a silly glance off when she's tired at the end of a long, demanding course. I'm going to start working now to try and prevent such future mishaps and to prepare her for her move up to the 3* level later in the year when she will have less time to assess the technical questions. Here is one of my new favorite exercises...
When it comes to supplements I love working with Melyni Worth of Foxden Equine. A few years ago I told Melyni that I had a young horse that seemed to have a hard time gaining strength no matter what type of work I included. She suggested adding Muscle Mix to his diet and I've been a huge believer ever since. Now that we are starting to be able to get on the hills to do our conditioning work I want to make the most of that work so my horses receive an additional scoop of their Muscle Mix on those days. Quincy and Delta receive a maintenance dose each day but I've seen how the additional scoop on their harder days helps their muscles recover. They come out the next day without that flat, lethargic feeling which says it all to me.
The horses that head South to train and compete at the beginning of the year get their dentistry done and spring vaccines taken care of either in late December or early January. We trust the expertise of Old Dominion Equine's Dr. Gallaspy to keep my horses' teeth in order. Even with our easy access to fantastic vets I find that it's easy to get caught up in our travels and to lose track of where we are in our routine care. So the beginning of March is a good time to get caught up on vaccines with the horses that stay home for the winter as well as to deworm all of the horses with a double dose of strongid.