Tristan Tucker Clinic

Tristan Tucker, Indoor Brabant, March 2014

Tristan Tucker, Indoor Brabant, March 2014

I have been using elements of John Lyons style groundwork for years, but have had difficulty transferring that work to the saddle in a way that is compatible with the dressage training scale.  Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend a clinic with Grand Prix dressage trainer, Tristan Tucker, based in the Netherlands.  His “conditioned response system” was developed out of an eclectic background as a games, eventing and jump rider and working alongside his mom in a racing barn before relocating to Europe.  His program progressively raises a horse’s tolerance for pressure, improves their proprioception, enhances suppleness and improves their fore and hind limb range of motion.  Tristan worked with each horse/rider combination 1 hour per day which began with mobility work then transitioned to de-spooking exercises where standing still was the correct response and finished with fore and hind limb range of motion exercises.  I found his communication style to be especially effective and was impressed how much he accomplished in a short time frame. Tristan has not published books or DVDs, however I found these online videos in which Tristan introduces some of his work.  I gleaned so much but here are a few encouragements I wanted to share with you:

  • When beginning the de-spooking exercises shown in video 1, Tristan encouraged us to begin slowly and gently to insure we do not create more reaction on the end of the lead than we can manage.  Slow and steady is just as effective as the “shock and awe” approach found in other systems.
  • Tristan worked with an FEI horse that was beautifully trained and conditioned according to the training scale and yet struggled with the turning exercises demonstrated in video 2.  He discerned that the horse had a weak hind end and low proprioception of his hind legs which was interesting given the horse’s excellent training.  The horse made great progress over the weekend illustrating how some horses need more than the training scale alone imparts.
  • When teaching sensitive horses the spanish walk and piaffe steps demonstrated in video 3, Tristan only works on one side of the horse’s body until the horse is peaceful and confident, thereby making the opposite side much easier.
  • Tristan shared that a horse with slow reactions is not of lower intelligence, rather the horse has a high instinct level which varies considerable among horses.

You may also enjoy watching Catherine Haddad Staller and Hotmail, train with Tristan Tucker at DressageTrainingOnline.com.  If you are not a member you can sign up for a free 30-day subscription using code “CHResponse0914″ which expires 11-10-2014.

Tristan designed this "stretching wall" for his horses.

Tristan designed this “stretching wall”  for his horses.

Train your eye to better identify lameness in your horse

I came across this well done, five part video series, that helps us better identify lameness in our horses.  This first video discusses how lameness is diagnosed and the next four videos are actual case studies.  Each video is 1.5 to 4.5 minutes in length and was prepared by Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph.  Enjoy! Continue reading

On your mark, get set, breed show!

Ariane -/*/* Dressage at Devon Produce of Dam Champion (83.5%) in 2004 and Reserve in 2003.

Ariane -/*/*, Dressage at Devon Produce of Dam champion (83.5%) in 2004 and reserve in 2003.

Last week I discussed whether breed shows could benefit your youngster.  This week, I will help you prepare for your first show!  One month prior:

1.     Familiarize yourself with the USEF 2014 rule book (pages 91-100) and the competition prize list.

2.     Acclimate your 2-year-old to working in a bridle.  For help http://youtu.be/PCOUJvBL27c Continue reading

Are breed shows worthwhile for my youngster?

Dressage at Devon Breeder's Group Champion 2006, 2004 and Reserve 2005, 2003, 2002

Dressage at Devon Breeder’s Group Champion 2006, 2004 and Reserve 2005, 2003, 2002

At Blue Waters, we are in Devon prep mode and are honored to prepare horses for several of our clients.  Often I am asked if the breed ring is a good opportunity for youngsters to get exposure to their future life as a performance horse.  My answer is always a resounding, maybe!  In general I recommend very shy or nervous youngsters stay home until they grow into more confidence.  This includes foals who are still at their dam’s side, even if mom herself is calm.  The high energy of show grounds, particularly a venue like Devon, can really overwhelm them.  On the other hand, an independent and confident foal who has a fretful mom can still have a positive experience provided the dam is mannerly with her handler.  One of my broodmares was quite herd bound and became anxious when taken off the farm, however her foals enjoyed having new adventures and performed very well.  If your primary goal is providing life experience for your young horse, then by all means give breed shows a try.  If you are hoping to bring home a ribbon, then you have more to consider.  Foals, yearlings and two-year-olds are tricky to assess, given the fact that their bodies and movement seemingly change by the week.  It’s important to find peace with this reality, or you may set yourself up for disappointment.  If results are important to you, consider having your horse evaluated by a seasoned breeder, professional handler, breed judge or stallion owner.  Judges are charged with evaluating a few minutes in your young horse’s life and it’s a very difficult task indeed.  By no means does the outcome prophesy the potential of your youngster!  Continue reading

Aqua Pacer Conditioning

Aqua Pacer at the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center

Aqua Pacer at the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center

This week I am sharing an article I wrote and published in 2010, discussing Aqua Pacer conditioning.  Enjoy!

Emily Covington and I teamed up with Bruce Jackson at the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center (F.H.E.T.C.) in Fair Hill, Maryland, to explore the benefits of an underwater treadmill or Aqua Pacer, as part of our fitness regimen. Our training program had always put a strong emphasis on fitness. Our horses lived primarily outdoors rather than being stalled, and we utilized cross-country hacking, free lunging, free jumping, cavalletti exercises and hill climbing to enhance soft and hard tissue strength and cardiovascular health. The Aqua Pacer however, offers several intriguing benefits. Horses working in the above ground, underwater treadmill, use the same muscles, ligaments and tendons as land based exercise but concussive stress is greatly lowered. This high resistance, low impact workout, reduces weight bearing by 40-60%. In clinical settings, Aqua Pacer therapy has been shown to increase strength, fitness and cardiovascular endurance as well as improve range of motion and flexibility. The height of the water and the speed of the treadmill are fully adjustable to achieve specific outcomes. Continue reading

Tickborne Diseases in Horses

The prevalence of tickborne diseases in our equine friends is on the rise, with Lyme Disease being the most commonly reported followed by Anaplasmosis and rarely Pirplasmosis.  There is disagreement whether Rocky Mountain spotted fever occurs in equine, but a study conducted in Columbia and published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene suggests it does.  I created a table (below) describing the characteristics of each disease for easy reference. Continue reading

Stay Vigilant Concerning Tickborne Diseases

Adult Deer Tick

Adult Deer Tick

It’s nearly a daily reality, that I hear about a person or horse contracting a tickborne illness.  I thought it would be prudent to review the facts and share helpful resources.  Not all medical professionals are well versed in tick borne diseases, even in high risk regions, so I encourage you to get educated.  Here on the east coast, at least nine diseases are transmitted by ticks and they include:

  • Anaplasmosis: deer tick
  • Babesiosis: deer tick
  • Borrelia miyamotoi infection: deer tick
  • Ehrlichiosis: lone star tick
  • Lyme disease: deer tick
  • Powassan disease: deer tick/groundhog tick, primarily in the northeast and Great Lakes
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever: dog tick/Rocky Mountain wood tick
  • STARI: lone star tick
  • Tularemia: dog tick/wood tick/lone star tick

The 2014 CDC Tickborne Diseases Manual, does a great job identifying ticks, describing disease symptoms, explaining testing methods and details current treatment protocols.  The information is presented in easy to read tables.  Without a doubt, preventing tick bites is best.  Ticks are most abundant in tall grassy or leaf covered areas, so when working in high risk environments be prepared.  If possible tuck your pants into a pair of tall boots or socks and then spray your legs with insect repellent containing at least 20% DEET.  Several outdoor apparel manufacturers now offer clothing treated with permethrin. Continue reading