From Endurance to Dressage
As you read this, I am probably already headed south toward today's show. Speedy G and I are attending the Kick Off the Season schooling show at Hansen Dam Equestrian Center today. We'll ride the Introductory C test at 10:03 and the Training Level Test 1 at 10:24. Wish us luck!
This is terrible to say, but my confidence is not high. Speedy G was an absolute stinker when I rode on Saturday. I am sincerely hoping that he got it out of his system and will be ready to do some honest work at the show.
While I am traveling, I thought I'd leave you with some more information about the Freedom Feeder. Lytha, from A Horse Crazy American in Germany, asked a few questions about the feeder. My mom did too, so I thought I would answer them in a new post.
A horse's digestive system is designed to process food all day long. In the wild, horses forage nearly non-stop which accomplishes several things: the digestive system is called upon to work all day, a horse's teeth get filed down naturally, and bad behaviors from boredom never happen. Domesticated horses, on the other hand, are generally fed only twice a day. When the stomach empties, and there is nothing to digest, horses frequently develop ulcers or experience colic. To alleviate this problem, many owners provide free choice hay so that horses can graze all day long like they might in the wild. This works well for many horses. Speedy G is happy to nibble on his hay throughout the day. Sydney was not.
There are many horses like Sydney. When presented with a big hay meal, they eat rapidly until they are full. The extra, uneaten hay is then stepped on and ground into the dirt which Sydney found unpalatable. With nothing to do, he started looking for his next meal and became more and more anxious as meal time approached. Even though there was plenty of discarded hay on the ground, he didn't find it appetizing.
Enter the Freedom Feeder. Although it seems counter intuitive, the small holes in the net actually mimic the grazing process. Sydney has to use his remarkable prehensile lips to delicately separates the hay from the net, which we keep filled with hay at all times. He uses his lips much like a horse at pasture will. Grazing horses are very adept at picking out the nicer blades of grass from in between weeds or other unpalatable plants.
Separating the hay from the net takes time. It prevents Sydney from getting full too fast. As a result, he spends more time eating which has allowed him to put on a few pounds. And instead of the hay falling to the ground, more of it gets eaten which has also helped him put on some weight. With more time spent eating, he has no reason to feel anxious about his next meal. Since he spends most of his day picking at the hay, he has less time to feel bored. I don't know if nibbling will improve his dental health, but it surely won't hurt.
So there you have it. The Freedom Feeder mimics a horse's natural eating pattern. It helps their tummy's feel better, alleviates boredom, reduces wasted feed, and probably helps their oral health. Man, is that the best $50 ever!
Don't forget to wish me luck and I'll let you know how our day went.
Have I mentioned that Sydney tends to waste a lot of hay? If not, he does. Once it hits the ground, it's dirty. I don't think that's what he thinks, but whatever his rationale, very little of what hits the ground gets consumed. RM has hemmed and hawed over what we might do to reduce the waste. We've given him a DEEP feeder, we dole out his hay in smaller meals over the weekend, but aside from that, we haven't hit on a solution ... until now.
At the Horse Expo, I passed by the booth for the Freedom Feeder, something I've seen before, but never had the need for. I actually kept on walking, but after talking to a lady in another booth about saddle fitting, we started talking about feeding and she actually escorted me back to the Freedom Feeder booth to show me why she liked their product. Once I started chatting with the folks there, I threw caution, and my credit card, to the wind and plunked down the fifty bucks. Yeah, I know. Fifty bucks for a hay net?!
I followed the directions and hung it up on Sunday morning. Everything is hung with break-away carabiners and the netting is too small for a hoof to get tangled in. I wasn't 100% sure that I liked how it hung from the top so I modified it a bit so the the net wraps around the top rail and snaps back onto itself. This eliminated the hoof-grabbing holes that the first method of hanging created - sorry, no updated photo. The way it's hung, the person feeding is able to fill it from the barn aisle without removing the net, which is far more convenient than most hay bags and all other hay nets.
There's more below ...
Sydney took to it immediately. I could see right away that he was fascinated by the challenge of the "game." The alfalfa leaves do fall through the net, but since they fall immediately below the net, they don't get dragged around in the dirt. And since they're the yummiest part, it makes them less likely to be wasted.
I watched Sydney work at the bag for the better part of an hour. He didn't seem frustrated by the small bites he was able to get. If anything, the opposite was true. He seemed to enjoy the process. The manufacturer recommends feeding in the previous type of feeder as well as in the net until the horse adapts to the slower delivery method. After watching him, I didn't think Sydney would have a problem. He didn't. I removed the feeder tub mid-week.
This thing has turned out to be a miracle. Sydney is beyond relaxed. He has the calmest, most relaxed look on his face all day. RM, Other Boarder, and Neighbor Feeder have all remarked at his new attitude. And to top it off, he has already gained weight! For most horses that's a problem. For my slow-pokey, never-pig-out ponies whose flesh just barely covers their ribs, this is a great thing.
Who knew that all along the Freedom Feeder was (one of) the solution(s) that I needed? Best $50 I've ever spent!
I know I wrote about the great clinics at Horse Expo, but our favorite part is always the shopping. For as many horses as there are in this area, our tack shop options are severely limited. Our feed stores stock fly sprays, medications, and feed items, but English tack has to be ordered online. So when we go to these kind of things, Taz's Mom and I always bring a wad of cash. Here's what I bought.
And yes, it's been carefully added to my monthly expenditures.
The fly masks, fly sprays, fork, and brush were all things that needed replacing for this spring. Most of the items I could have bought here in town, but they would have been a lot more expensive. The prices at Horse Expo were just too good to pass up. The two items that I couldn't buy here are the black snaffle bridle and the Freedom Feeder.
The Freedom Feeder was something that I didn't know I needed, but once I saw it, I knew it was the solution I'd been looking for (more about that later in the week). The black bridle was super cheap - $40. It's not the best quality ever, but what I liked about it was that it was a COB with a THIN caveson and a THIN browband. I always chuck the flash. It fits Speedy pretty well, although we are on the second to the highest hole. The browband has some delicate bling that makes it look just slightly fancy.
I've posted many, many times about hard it is to find dressage tack that fits my smaller-than-average dressage horse. While I like really nice quality, it's not worth it if Speedy G looks like he's wearing his daddy's shoes. With a good saddle soap and lots of conditioning, a lesser quality bridle that fits well can do the trick.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read