Keen Ice upsets American Pharoah in the Travers

Saratoga is known as “The Graveyard of Champions” because of the number of upsets that have occurred on that track.

  • Man O’ War was beaten by Upset in the Sanford Memorial Stakes in 1919.
  • Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox was beaten by Jim Dandy in the 1930 Travers Stakes.
  • Secretariat was upset by Onion in the 1973 Whitney Stakes.
  • And now American Pharoah was beaten by Keen Ice in the Travers today, finishing second.

American Pharoah dug in and ran hard, fighting off a challenge from Frosted before Keen Ice passed him in the stretch, but the Triple Crown winner just didn’t look like he had a full tank today. Perhaps it was too soon after the Haskell?

Owner Ahmed Zayat is already saying that he might retire American Pharoah. I hope this isn’t the last time we see him race.



Finally, a bug-free day

Heading out

Today was beautiful. No humidity, no bugs. It was the first peaceful trail ride I’ve had on Zelda for quite some time.

Zelda hates bugs. She hates bugs more than any other horse I’ve ridden. The days when we are beset with deer flies she bucks and stamps and shakes her head even if she is literally dipped in fly spray before we leave!

Mostly I’ve been riding her in the dressage ring at the barn or in one of the fields. The bugs aren’t so bad there. At least the occasional buck is tolerable.

Hutchins Pond

The water on Hutchins Pond was mirror still.

So it was a relief to go out for a ride today. No humidity and no bugs! I could have ridden for hours. As it was, I logged about five or six miles on Zelda and then another 11.5 on a bike peddling with my daughter.

Scary Bridge

We crossed a new, scary bridge today. There was a lot of snorting before Zelda decided it was safe

Having been kept of the trails by the bugs, everything seemed fresh and new.

I did a nice loop around Hutchins Pond, which is a reservoir near my barn. Water levels are very low right now, so areas that were too marshy or wet to ride in are easily crossed. We encountered a new, scary bridge on our trip. It took Zelda a few minutes of thinking about it before she would cross. Of course, there was a man and his dog there. Both seemed pretty amused that a simple bridge would cause such consternation.


At the end of our ride, Zelda got a bath and a good roll. I have never met a horse that likes to roll as much as she does. Out hunting, she’ll drop and roll as soon as I remove my saddle! Luckily, she waits until then.

Susie Hutchinson and Samsung Woodstock foiled by jump crew

Sometimes those big jumper courses can get confusing . . . at least that was probably the excuse of the jump crew when they ended up standing IN FRONT of a jump that Susie Hutchinson and Samsung Woodstock were trying to jump in the 1993 Volvo FEI World Cup Final.

I’m not sure what’s more impressive — that she didn’t run them over, that her horse came back and jumped it a second time with no fuss, or that she is riding the horse in just a bit and reins! Note: there is a chin strap underneath the bit which helps hold it all in place.

Susie was not penalized for the stop and ended up fourth in the competition.

Supracor pad helps keep horses’ backs cool

Supracor pad

After riding on a hot day, I simply hose down the Supracor pad. It’s dry by the next day.

When I was a kid, saddle pads were used primarily to keep your saddle clean. They were thin pieces of cloth, mostly white.

Now? Saddle pads are therapeutic. They have pockets for shims to improve the fit of  saddles. They provide non-slip surfaces. They absorb shock. And they can help keep your horse’s back cool by wicking away moisture.

I’ve written before about the benefits of using real sheepskin pads. When I had Kroni, he used to get terrible bumps on his back in the summer. Sheepskin was the only type of pad that kept him comfortable. Those pads are surprisingly durable; I still have most of the ones I bought for him in regular rotation, more than a decade later!

Another pad that I like is the Supracor Cool Grip pad. I found it after I started looking for a pad that would reduce impact and not retain heat, but which I could hose off after each ride. Endurance riders are big fans of Supracor pads precisely for the reasons I wanted to use it — and I figured if it works for them, anything I do will be less taxing.

honeycomb structure

Supracor pads are made with a structure that resembles a honeycomb

Supracor pads don’t feel like traditional saddle pads. They are spongy, somewhere between rigid and floppy although they do fit nicely under a saddle, conform to your horse’s back and then return to their original shape.  The company uses a material called Stimulite, which is made from a combination of thermoplastics and thermoplastic elastomers (think rubber and plastic) and manufactured in a structure that resembles a honeycomb.  According to the website:

Supracor’s flexible, fusion-bonded honeycomb technology utilizes the same geometry as rigid aerospace honeycomb, eg. a cellular matrix comprised of alternating thick- and thin-walled cells with eight interior and exterior radii. This geometry allows the matrix to be both lightweight and anisotropic: having varying degrees of resistance in its length, width and thickness.


The honeycomb structure for these pads which was originally developed for wheelchair cushions and mattresses to prevent and heal pressure sores. A nurse, who was also an equestrian, suggested to the company that they make saddle pads and thus, the Cool Grip pad was born. In addition to keeping your horse’s back cool the Cool Grip pads help reduce impact and distribute weight uniformly without significantly changing saddle fit.

Supracor under County

This shows the Supracor pad under my County saddle. Its shown just after I came back from a ride.

I have been using a Supracor pad now for about three years. They fit nicely under my saddles and have not changed how my saddles fit. I have two of the half pads and one of the endurance pads (which is much larger than the half pad. I like that one the least for my use as it’s a bit too large under my saddles).

All the science behind the pads is very cool, but the reason I like them is because they are practical, durable, easy to clean, and they look like they will last forever.

I haven’t found any real “research” about the pads’ performance except for this science project which compares Supracor and Equipedic pads. In my own experience, my horse’s backs are cool after riding, the saddles stay put and there is no soreness (keep in mind that my saddles are professionally fitted twice a year so I expect the saddles to fit and am not trying to use the pads to improve fit).

Cleaning them is a breeze. You just hose them down and leave them to dry.

The downside to the SupraCor pads (and all the other high tech pads on the market) is that they are expensive. The half pad retails for about $190 and some of the larger pads are even more expensive. I got mine either on eBay or Craig’s list. I paid half price for them and believe are likely to last for a long time. After three years of use they show no signs of breaking down or compressing.

Personally, I like the half pads the best. I bought an Endurance pad because I wanted something to use with forward cut XC saddle, and I find that a bit unwieldy, but the half pads are perfect. I keep one in the barn and one in my trailer. The black one looks practically new; the white one is a bit dingy but you can also buy covers for them that make them look more traditional (and cleaner).

(Note: I was not asked by the company to write a review and I was not provided with any product).

What’s your favorite saddle pad? Do you use anything special?

Beholder Crushes the Boys in the Pacific Classic

Just when you thought it was all about American Pharoah, out comes Beholder, winning the Pacific Classic on a hand ride by Gary Stevens, winning by 8 1/4 lengths.

The 5-year old Beholder is the first filly/mare to win this prestigious race and she sure made it look easy!  The victory, worth $600,000, increased Beholder’s career earnings to $4,256,600, with 14 wins in 19 starts, including nine in her last 10 under Stevens.

Beholder is no stranger to accolades. In 2012 she was named the American Champion 2-Year Old Filly, followed by being the American Champion 3-Year Old Filly the following year. In 2014 she won only one stakes race, losing most of her season to an injury.

There is already a talk of having her race against American Pharoah. What a match that would be.

Riding bitless doesn’t mean lack of control

Riding Bitless

You can read this article on the Chronicle of the Horse by clicking on the photo.

No, Kelly McKnight did not forget his bridle. He also didn’t forget that horses get some “say” in how they are ridden. When you read the horse bulletin boards you’d think there was a “magic bit” du jour. That if your dressage horse doesn’t like a loose ring snaffle, if your show hunter isn’t perfectly mellow in a D-ring, or your eventer can’t go cross country in his dressage bit that you are somehow doing something wrong.

For many years I hunted a Trakehner who loved to be ridden bitless. In fact, he told me very clearly, and for a long time, that he didn’t like bits, that they were

Once I discovered this bitless set up I had a much happier horse.

Once I discovered this bitless set up I had a much happier horse.

uncomfortable in his mouth, where his big tongue and low palate didn’t leave a lot of room.

Eventually, I tried riding him bitless. First I tried the Dr. Cook’s bridle, but he didn’t much care for the poll pressure. Then I discovered the LG bridle, which is basically a side pull bridle with the reins attached to a wheel. You can achieve a bit more leverage when you attach the reins to a spoke that turns the wheel very slightly.

This discovery was a real turning point for us because suddenly I had a happy, willing partner. He was soft and light in my hands, he jumped beautifully and he was never out of control. I hunted him bitless for many seasons. Sometimes it surprised people, who wondered if I had enough control in it.

Certainly, this isn’t for every horse. I’ve tried riding Freedom and Zelda both bitless and I don’t have a lot of control. It’s fine for a hack, but out hunting? I don’t think it would be much fun. But I think that everyone should try, on occasion, to give their horses a break and see what kind of ride they have without a bit. Who knows? You might never go back!

Remember Sheldon? The CANTER horse I had before Zelda? He also was a much happier horse without a bit. The important thing is to listen to your horse and see what works for him.

How about you? Do you ever ride bitless?

Keeping cool!

Freedom hosed down

Freedom enjoys being hosed down on hot days.

After a week of cooler weather, we are back to more typical August temperatures. These are beautiful summer days and I will treasure the memory of them all winter. But they are a bit hot for riding.

I love this video of a horse smart enough to create his own spa experience!

My horses, alas, have to depend upon the kindness of humans to hose them down and cool them off. Freedom, in particular, loves to get sprayed. Zelda? Not so much. She nipped me one of the last times I hosed her down, although I think she does appreciate the temporary relief.

Covered in mud

After getting hosed down, Freedom inevitably rolls so that he ends up covered in a crust of mud. It makes grooming irrelevant!

Then, they like to roll so that they emerge covered with a thick crust of mud and dirt, which I imagine works better than most commercial sprays to deter the bugs.

My horses spend most of the days in their run-in shed, and then venture out in the cooler overnight hours.

How do your horses beat the summer heat?