January 2008

Jasper is fascinated with Oscar the Cat. He chases the other cats away, but with Oscar, well, he likes to sniff him. His tail especially.

Here, kitty, kitty. Don’t notice big horsey me…

Although Jasper could quite easily crush him like a bug, Oscar has no fear of him. If Jasper gets too close, he gives him a few bats to the head.

I told you – not so close! (notice sheepish looking Jasper – ‘Uh, er, I wasn’t doing anything!’)

Oscar totally rules.

I may be small, but I have claws, big guy.

UPDATE AUGUST 2008 – Ashley Holzer is indeed competing in the Olympics. From the Dressage Daily website in March:
Not so many weeks ago, Holzer had taken herself out of the running for the Olympics because Canada had planned to require its riders to compete in Europe prior to heading to Hong Kong. Holzer felt that would be too much travel for Pop Art. After Canada dropped that requirement, Holzer then said she would go to the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong this summer if she qualified.
Good for her for sticking to her guns and getting Canada to drop the stringent requirement!
From the Ecogold website Ashley has arrived in Hong Kong and states : “The team has arrived safe and sound in Hong Kong. The horses all travelled well. It’s hot but the barns are air-conditioned to a very comfortable temperature. The stabling and the footing are top notch! Pop Art is loving this incredible facility. These Games seemed very well organized. The village is not the usual dormitory but a luxury hotel only for athletes. This place is wonderful!”

I have to say, although I love dressage, I just shake my head at some of the things that go on in competition these days. Why have the 2008 Olympic Dressage competition in Hong Kong, at a time of year when cyclones are common and pollution, heat and humidity is horrendous?
Ashley Holzer is one of Canada’s most successful international dressage riders and in the past year has been dominating the dressage world. On Dressage Daily today, in the first show of the year at Wellington:

Ashley Holzer and her own Pop Art rose to the top of the leader boards in the Grand Prix FEI test of choice scoring a whopping 76.250%. Those lucky enough to catch the first ride in the morning were treated to perfection in the pirouettes, and watching a totally harmonious and medal winning ride.

What is disappointing to all of her Canadian fans is that she may choose not to participate in the Olympics. Why? She feels the criteria will be too stressful on her horse

Ashley Holzer, one of Canada’s leading Olympic contenders, is opting out of the 2008 Olympics based on concern that her nation’s Olympic criteria will place too much stress on her horse. In December, Canada announced that members of its 2008 Olympic team would be required to travel to Europe to compete at Rotterdam and Aachen. The horses would then go into quarantine in Europe before shipping to Hong Kong. Holzer said she’s decided competing in Europe before traveling to Hong Kong would be too much stress for Pop Art. Hence, she’s opting out of the Olympics and other Canadian riders may follow.

“I told our Canadian officials that I think it’s just too much stress on my horse. Rotterdam and Aachen are two very tough shows and to add them to the stress of Hong Kong, I just felt is too much for my horse,” Holzer said. “I can respect their decision that this is the best way to prepare the team, but I lost my best horse once before and I know how quickly things can happen. I think Poppy is the most unbelievable horse and I don’t ever want to put him in a stressful situation. He’s just at the beginning of his career.”

Why on earth Canada is putting such stringent guidelines for competing is beyond me. When they qualified for the Seoul Olympics, they flew international judges to Canada, so the riders could be judged at home. Why is it not the case this time? Instead, horses must spend up to 5 months traveling and competing in Europe, not to mention the quarantine and expense involved. And a lot of it is on the riders dime. See Globe and Mail article

I have further found out the the SWISS dressage team has pulled out of the Olympics  because of concerns for the well being of their horses.

Although Canada will miss out, I applaud Ashley Holzer’s decision in putting her horse first ahead of ego. If only everyone involved in competitive horse sport thought this way!




I’m going to Equine Affaire in Pomona! I finally decided to bite the bullet and go to it this year. I’m excited to see Mark Rashid in person. I have read all of his books now and he is doing some sessions very pertinent to me and Jasper:

Troubleshooting: Understanding Reasons for Unwanted Behavior
 As in why do you go left when I asked you to go right?
Understanding the Power of Our Words and Thoughts in the Training Process
Should probably stop cursing under my breath
Understanding Footfall and Cadence and How to Use it During Training
I nicknamed Jasper ‘thunderhooves’ because he literally makes the earth shake when he gallops

There are numerous other clinicians I am looking forward to see like Linda Tellington Jones and Allen Pogue. ‘Curious’ about Monty Roberts but that’s a long story 😉

I saw Linda Tellington Jones at the Horse Expo in Sacramento last year and she is incredible. She was given a crazy mustang to demonstrate TTouch and he was quite frightened and even rearing. She calmy went on with her talk, all the while holding onto him and doing TTouch on him. The woman must be in her 70’s and all I can say is I hope I am half as good as her when I get to that age!

Well, we had some rather severe storms up here in N. Cal. Being from Canada and remembering driving a Ford Pinto in a blinding snowstorm, I really don’t consider them that bad.

Jasper, being a tough Canadian horse weathers them quite well, thank-you.

Lots of trees down, Jasper’s paddock, although not flooded is a sea of mud. When we had our training session today, Jasper was not paying attention, being defiant and testing testing testing. Longeing him was difficult, he would stiffly move a few steps, then stop. I am actually exhausted at the moment from concentrating on Jasper and being clear with him what I wanted. Also from doing jumping jacks to get his attention. (It’s at these times that I wonder, what the hell was I thinking buying a young horse – lol?)

But I really can’t blame him, not being able to move around that much lately. I could tell he wanted to play hookey. After the lesson, we put him and his paddock mate Sammy in the all weather arena and surprise, surprise. That black devil was running around, bucking, gallopping, stopping and turning on a dime…and looking as happy as a clam. 

Oh well, tomorrow is another day. 

A couple of years ago I was asked to do video work at a rodeo for competitors. I turned it down.  I knew I would be uncomfortable filming with the things that are done no matter how good the money was. Today I was sent a link to a truly heinous video of abuses that go on at a rodeo. And this wasn’t any podunk backyard rodeo, either. This was the 2007 PRCA National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada. A group called SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) captured this asstard person on film red-handed with an electronic device in his hand shocking the horses before they left the chute!

What is especially assminded SHOCKING  to me is that these devices are allowed to be used!

Their footage was picked up by a las vegas tv station, where the NFR was quoted:

“NFR claims, “harmless encouragement” to initiate “bucking” and a clean break.”

“NFR officials declined to comment on camera about what they say is a widely used practice. A spokesperson for the NFR told Eyewitness News, the mechanism is harmless, and used simply to encourage the animals out of the chute freely.”

“A small shock is permitted, but only when applied to the hips or shoulders. The neck and head are off limits.”

That is just messed up. I have never been tasered before, but I’m pretty sure I would not be moving out of anywhere ‘freely’ if I was. I would be flopping around in extreme pain crying for my mommy! 

Watch the video yourself and see if it looks ‘harmless’ to you.

I am happy to report that Jasper’s ringworm has cleared up and there are only two quarter size bald spots that will hopefully grow hair back. 

Ahh, the New Year – full of hope and excitement about the coming year with Jasper. I was full of these good feelings as I made my way up to the ranch to have my training lesson with Jasper yesterday, the first one of the new year. Well, the good feelings were not to last. Jasper was in a very strange mood. Could have been he was just having a bad day or was sensing the impending big storm we’re getting this week – but someone had definitely pissed in his cornflakes.

As I had some time before our lesson I decided to do some warm-up work on the road leading out of the ranch. I used to be able to walk him quite far down the road last summer no problem, but a few months ago, he became very spooky about it. There is a house being remodeled in the distance and the construction noise seems to unnerve him. His body would seem to grow about twice it’s size, and his head would go up like a giraffe. But what is most unsettling is Jasper would appear to leave his body.  It is what he does in most stressful situations. (Stressful situation as in introducing something new in the training, or, in the case of the road, seeing an imaginary predator behind every bush). His eyes will seemingly glaze over, and I immediately know – he’s gone. Getting him back can take a few seconds…or quite awhile depending on how stressed he feels and how good my feel of him is. Although I have greatly improved, Michelle is much better at this feel than I am so having her there is reassuring when I am not sure which direction to take. Fight or flight mode sometimes takes over if he becomes too stressed and  coupled with his dominant personality, he will get in a tizzy that he just cannot take off  and leave this stressful thing! And who is preventing him from taking off? Why the evil person holding the lead rope!

On the positive side, a year ago I would have been left standing there and Jasper would have been hi-tailing it back to his paddock with the lead rope trailing behind him. As he has grown older and developed more trust, his tizzys have become less and less…and more manageable.

Since he started to get so spooky about the road, we have worked a couple of times in lessons, just walking him down the road, stopping about every 10 feet and backing him, turning him, playing friendly game, until he will visibly lower his head and just relax. Yesterday he was becoming frightened over a bird squawking! I only took him a short distance on the road and his head was in the clouds and he had left his body. Before I could get him relaxed, a car started heading toward us. Jasper has seen a million cars so I knew this was no big deal for him. As I made my way back to the ranch, though, he sped up to me – and BIT my arm! Not a love nip, this was definitely a ‘I’m pissed off that you are making me do these stressful things’ kind of bite. Luckily I was wearing a jacket and a thick sweater. I immediately turned and very aggressively sent him backward to let him know this behaviour was NOT welcome. At this point I was admittedly feeling pissed off!  I calmed down but was kind of numb the rest of the lesson, shocked that he had actually bit me. I pay your feed bill, dammit!, I was thinking!

As my lesson started and I told Michelle what happened, we decided to try to patiently work out whatever was bothering him on the road so off we went. We didn’t get very far down the road before Jasper started to get nervous. Today was not to be an easy day. It took over an hour and a couple of small tizzys , lots of love and reassurance until he would relax and trust that we were there to help him and nothing was going to hurt him. Finally, he lowered his head and yawned about 20 times. As we headed back to the ranch Jasper could not get to his paddock fast enough. Michelle suggested I am going to just have to bring him out to the road as much as possible, and to probably bring a chair (lol).

So what have I learned ?  As much patience as I have gained in training a horse, my New Years resolution is to have more. I will have the patience of Jobe 🙂