American Pharoah breezes home in the Haskell

Triple Crown winner American Pharoah romped home in the $1.75 million William Hill Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park today, making it look easy. The Haskell is part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series so with the win, American Pharoah earned guaranteed entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

American Pharoah won the Haskell by two and a half lengths, but the margin is not a good indicator of his effort. He pulled easily away from the field around the far turn and Victor Espinoza was gearing him down as he approached the wire.

Keen Ice finished strongly under an aggressive ride by Kent Desormeaux but watching the race you definitely got the impression that American Pharoah could have opened up a larger lead if asked; he finished on a hand ride!


It’s International Helmet Awareness Day!

Aegis matrix

My schooling helmet is an Aegis Matrix with the new conehead technology. I bought one last year and like it so much that I bought a second. Since my horses live in separate barns, I try to have duplicates of important items like helmets. I bought mine at VTO saddlery, one of the tack stores that is supporting the sale.

If you have been on the fence about upgrading or replacing your helmet, today is the day to do it. Thanks to National Helmet Awareness Day, many retailers are offering discounts on helmets, making it even easier to keep safe.

For those of you who say that helmets are too hot or too uncomfortable, I encourage you to look into the new designs that are available. Compared to helmets just a few years ago, today’s equestrian helmets are lighter, have cooling vents, and are available in different shapes to fit your head better.

My own schooling helmet is the Devon-Aire Matrix, which uses “cone head” technology, designed to help dissipate impact. It’s very comfortable and quite cool. My foxhunting helmet is a Charles Owen Wellington — not quite so cool but very comfortable and with a traditional look.

In addition to finding discounts on helmets today, Riders4Helmets has a full educational program. The group is live streaming “Get Educated” webinars via on Saturday August 1st, in which equestrians will be able to ask a variety of experts real-time questions. The webinars will feature experts in fields such as: Traumatic Brain Injury and Concussion; Helmet Manufacturers and; Traumatic Brain Injury Survivors.

Helmet brands that have committed involvement in International Helmet Awareness Day 2014 to date include: Antares-Sellier, Champion, Charles Owen, Devon Aire (Aegis), Gatehouse, GPA, International Riding Helmets (IRH), KEP Italia, LAS helmets (Leslie Sutcliffe),  One KOvation, Samshield, Tipperary, Troxel and Uvex.

The relative meaning of “Just Fine”

Thank you for Flying Air AmateurHorse people ARE crazy, there is no denying it. And one of the ways that you can tell is how we react to injuries. Specifically injuries related to/caused by horses. You could call it being tough, or you could say we are in denial.

Take this Facebook posting that I read this morning:

Well, this certainly is putting a damper on my week… Dislocated hip, some fractured back bones and some neck pain. But I can move everything so I’ll be just fine.

Just fine? Even to my jaded eyes, that sounds like a bit more serious than just fine. It sounds more like “hurts a lot” or “I’m really not doing too well right now.”

But, I will admit to concealing the extent of my injuries with platitudes. After all, I picked two quarts of strawberries right after Freedom landed on my heel this summer . . . and previously have been known to get up off the barn floor and drive myself home after a flying stall door broke a rib, bruised my liver and sent my glasses flying . . . and have walked around with a broken hand for three days after hitting it on a jump standard after an unscheduled dismount.

So what is it about equestrians that make us so stupid (I mean stoic)  about injuries?

  • There’s the “I told you riding was dangerous” response from our loved ones. We’ve all heard that. We all want to downplay it. That’s why many of us have a rule: No visible bruises? You don’t have to tell anyone you fell off. Of course driving to the supermarket is dangerous, too and no one tells you not to do that.
  • There’s the embarrassing feeling that you might have been able to prevent the accident so you don’t want to ‘fess up. I certainly felt that way about my recent heel laceration.
  • We understand that it probably could have been worse and we are grateful that we are only semi-permanently injured.
  • We are actually tougher and more stoic than the average human being. We have a higher pain tolerance than most people so we actually do feel that we’re “just fine.” There’s something about riding horses that attracts this type of person.
  • We want to start riding again ASAP. Seriously, I asked my doctor when I went to the two week check up after I broke my rib if I could start hunting again. The look on her face was priceless. I decided to stop asking. The orthopedic surgeon who set my hand was much more sensible. When I asked him when I could ride, he shrugged eloquently and said: “Now. You horse people are crazy so I know you’ll do it anyway.”

How about you? Have you hidden injuries from your family and friends? Started riding again while your leg/arm/hand is still in a cast? Time to confess!

Zelda makes me smile

XC school

I haven’t had a lesson in about a year but boy did those eyes on the ground help! Stephie Baer runs a great XC school and the whole experience was a confidence builder.

I love it when your horse makes you look good. You know, when they behave themselves and it looks like you can ride?

I took Zelda for a cross country schooling adventure and she was a star! My expectations were modest. I wanted to jump some small fences, get some eyes on the ground and see if I could get her through the water complex (on some of our Hunter Paces, Zelda has preferred to jump the water rather than go through it). It ended up as a real confidence builder. Since I mostly ride alone, I don’t generally push her to jump much on the trails. Now I know she’s willing and able.

In the water

Zelda didn’t hesitate to walk (and trot) into the water. It didn’t hurt that it was a hot day and the water looked inviting. I was mostly worried that she was going to roll in it.

Zelda walked off the trailer, looked around, and went to work. She figured out that this job was pretty fun and basically, if I aimed her at a fence, she went right over it — straight, willing and without any fuss or bother. Basically, she was a point and shoot type of horse.

As for the water complex? She walked into it like she’d been doing it for years (it was hot and I had a strong feeling that she would lie down and roll in the water if given half a chance). Then trotted through it, leaving a wake that would make a small boat proud, and jumped out up the small bank. The only

Water complex

You can see the water complex behind us, along with some of the jumps. This was a great course where you could pick the level where you felt comfortable. I started small and then asked her for a bit more when I realized she was going to be so good.

time she hesitated was when we jumped down into the water. Can’t say that I blame her as I wasn’t so sure of that myself. In fact, I handed over my cell phone to a spectator in case she launched me. Once she was completely sure I was serious, she was fine!

She even jumped the ditch without a hitch and was looking for more.

You know, I really like this girl. She doesn’t have the springs that Freedom has, but for him, every jump is an event. For her? It’s just part of the adventure and she’s always looking for more.

I left feeling like I could ask her to do a lot more . . . and the next day I incorporated a few more jumps into my trail ride. Then I did the same with Freedom. I guess I really need those eyes on the ground.

Only a penny?

Mechanical pony

When I was a kid, riding one of these mechanical ponies was a treat. I’d drop a nickel or a quarter into the slot and spend the next few minutes blissfully imagining that I was riding a real horse. I came across this pony in Cincinnati. I’ve been here for the past five days while my daughter rows in a regatta. A penny seems like a bargain and I find it unbelievable that it’s not in constant use!