Monthly Archives: February 2016

Swedish Rider Karin Persson Wins High Score Award in AGDF Week 5

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Karin (left) and Beth (right)

It was Swedish dressage trainer Karin Persson who raised the bar above the rest during week five of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival by capturing the highest score of the week’s entire show. Persson rode her KWPN (Bon Bravour x Mondilia) five-year-old gelding Giuliano B to a staggering 79.565 percent in the Training Level Test 1 class. The pair was honored with the The Horse of Course High Score Award, sponsored by The Horse of Course Inc., a quality tack shop from Claremore, Oklahoma that by popular demand is based at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival show grounds in Wellington, Florida throughout the winter show series.

Persson partnered with Giuliano B a year ago, and devoted her efforts to training the young horse for a future career in dressage. Persson keeps busy training three other horses that she has for sale, but Giuliano B is her main focus and pride.

Giuliano B went into the show ring for his first time only a couple of weeks ago. Persson described, “He was a bit fresh the first time, so we did a few tests in training level. Each time he has been better, and now I think he is established. Now that he is focused, we can start moving him up.”

Beth Haist, CEO of The Horse of Course, presented Persson and Giuliano B with The Horse of Course High Score Award tri-colored ribbon and embroidered cooler for their stellar performance. Haist stated, “I am so pleased to present this award to Karin and Giuliano B. I wish them the best of luck with their future training.”

“He is a very easy, quick, and willing learner,” Persson said. “For now I think the goal is to try to prepare him for the five-year-old test. Long term, my goal is for him to compete in the Grand Prix, which I think we can accomplish!”

The Horse of Course’s sponsorship of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival show circuit will continue with The Horse of Course High Score Awards presented to top horse and rider pairs throughout the upcoming weeks of the winter show series. On the show grounds, The Horse of Course’s mobile tack shop offers a complete line of everything needed to compete. “We are so proud to sponsor the Adequan Global Dressage Festival,” Haist stated. “To watch our sport and its talent blossom each season, and recognize and encourage such talent, is our privilege. We are always looking to give back and support our dressage community.”

The Horse of Course has everything today’s fashionably competitive rider needs to dress for success in the arena. The shop serves a five-state area, including Florida, with its convenient mobile unit, attending and sponsoring horse shows. “Dressage riders from around the world have come to rely on finding our products, clothing, and saddles at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, and we really have begun to feel like partners in many of their show careers,” Haist commented. The Horse of Course has a complete selection of tack and apparel for the English rider— including show clothing, stable accessories, training equipment, gifts, books, and equestrian sportswear.

Merita Hagren & Belle Ami Win The Horse of Course High Score Award in Week 3

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Week Three of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival saw many victorious rides, with one pair rising above the rest to capture the highest score of the entire week’s competition. It was Merita Hagren with Belle Ami who won not only their Third Level Test 1 class, but also The Horse of Course High Score Award sponsored by The Horse of Course, Inc., the popular tack shop known for being one of the busiest places on the show grounds. The pair was thrilled with their 73.939 percent score— the highest score received by any rider all week— and was awarded a tri-color ribbon and embroidered cooler courtesy The Horse of Course.

After competing in the six-year-old division during last year’s Adequan Global Dressage Festival, Hagren and Belle Ami, a Westfalian (Belissimo M) mare co-owned by Dr. Cesar Parra of Piaffe Performance Farms and George and Brooke Feldman, returned to compete in Third Level. Even after their impressive score, Hagren remained modest. “She was super good today. There is always something to improve on, but I’m very happy.”

Originally from Finland, Hagren contacted Dr. Cesar Parra, a Pan American Games Gold Medalist, in hopes of having the opportunity to work and grow under Parra’s guidance in the sport of dressage. A year and a half later, Hagren is an essential team member at Parra’s Piaffe Performance Farm, and has improved tremendously.

Parra commended Hagren’s high score performance, stating, “She is a true horsewoman, and I am very happy with their performance. I am also so happy and grateful to be a co-owner of this horse and to have the opportunity to train her. We are lucky to have these two with our team, and we all pay a lot of attention to the development of these horses and riders alike.”

Hagren has a deep appreciation for Parra and the wealth of knowledge that she has gained since joining his team. “I am very, very happy with Piaffe Performance, I have been learning so much,” she reflected. “I hope to continue learning more and more every day, trying very hard, and staying for a long time.”

Beth Haist, CEO of The Horse of Course, said, “I am so pleased to present this award to Merita and Belle Ami. I like to be able to recognize horses and riders that are doing super well, so I’m glad to give this pair this beautiful award.”

The Horse of Course’s sponsorship of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival show circuit will continue with The Horse of Course High Score Awards to be presented to top horse and rider pairs throughout the upcoming weeks. On the show grounds, The Horse of Course’s mobile tack shop offers a complete line of everything needed to compete. “We are so proud to sponsor the Adequan Global Dressage Festival,” Haist stated. “To watch our sport and its talent blossom each season, and recognize and encourage such talent, is our privilege. We are always looking to give back and support our dressage community.”

The Horse of Course has everything today’s fashionably competitive rider needs to dress for success in the arena. The shop serves a five-state area, including Florida, with its convenient mobile unit, attending and sponsoring horse shows. “Dressage riders from around the world have come to rely on finding our products, clothing, and saddles at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, and we really have begun to feel like partners in many of their show careers,” Haist commented.  The Horse of Course has a complete selection of tack and apparel for the English rider— including show clothing, stable accessories, training equipment, gifts, books, and equestrian sportswear.

Betsy Steiner Talks Equestrian Fitness

Betsy Steiner and Rainer.

Betsy Steiner and Rainer.

Betsy Steiner is a legend in the dressage community. She’s represented the United States at the World Equestrian Games, spent three decades competing at the top of the sport, and has trained multiple horses to Grand Prix. Betsy’s also a fitness advocate and has developed Equilates, a Pilates-based rider fitness program. Recently, The Horse of Course’s Stephanie Peck talked with Betsy about Equilates.

SP: Can you tell me about Equilates? What is it?
BS: Equilates is a Pilates-based system of fitness training for the rider. It’s sports-specific (for dressage, jumping, any kind of rider) exercises off the horse. It’s unmounted exercises for the most part. We’ve also developed different exercises and used the Pilates-based exercises for mounted exercises as well. In my lessons, I always refer to the different Pilates terms and the exercises that we’ve done in Equilates. So if somebody, for example, learns some of the exercises on the ball, I can say, “Remember how it felt on the ball when you rolled back and forth, how it worked your abs? That’s your canter transition.” So it really helps the rider identify something when they’re not worried about the horse and everything that’s going on: keeping them on the bit, keeping them moving, what is he going to do. It takes them out of that very multi-tasking place into one focused area to think about “this is the movement and these are the body parts you are using.” So it really brings huge body awareness.

SP: I can imagine! It sounds like it would be a really beneficial program for any sort of rider at any level.
BS: Yeah. It also helps me as a trainer. It helps me see. You can keep telling a person, “Sit straight, don’t keep collapsing on one side,” but when you see them off the horse, you can kind of tell in the work that we do if they really have a severe weakness on one side or the other. Or if they really can’t do something- say if they can’t really keep their heels down or whatever it may be. I’m not going to keep telling them to do that because they may try all the time but they’re never going to do it. So what kind of exercise can I do to help them do that simple thing? Or I’ll think, “No, that’s not a possibility. They have restrictions in their body, they can’t do that, so how am I going to teach them better?” So it helps people coaching other people to understand that individual’s body because everybody’s so different.

You can say to a rider, “Drive,” but what does that mean? How do you initiate drive? Where does drive come from? How do you explain it? Like, if we’re here face to face, I can say, “Okay, you engage your abdominal muscles, you push your hips forward,” and you actually do it, say, with an exercise on the floor or sitting on the ball, and just by engaging those muscles you move the ball forward, you’re like, “Ahh!” So you get that. You can do great things on the ball. Just imagine the energy’s behind you and when you pull it in a forward direction, the horse comes forward and onto the bit. So everything we do, it’s not like a pilates class per se, but it all reverts back to your riding.

SP: So it’s very riding-specific.
BS: Very riding-specific.

SP: So how did you come to feel like this needed to be developed? Was there just nothing out there, or were riders doing exercises but not ones that were very beneficial?
BS: Yeah, when I started it, nobody was doing cross-training. Or nobody was talking about doing cross-training. I had always done cross-training with my riding career. That started very early on. I went to Canada and worked at Christilot Boylen’s barn and her mother taught dance and I had to go to the dance studio. When I went, I thought she did a lot of Pilates- it wasn’t called Pilates- but she did a lot of Pilates-based exercises and she explained when you did these, it helped your riding. So from the very beginning, I thought, “Well, that makes a whole lot of sense!” You understood your body and you understood straightness.

I had a very arched back at the time and she said, “That’s not beneficial for your riding, you need to use your back like this,” and because the riding was my complete and total passion, I thought, “I’ll do whatever it takes to be able to do it!” So that’s what sort of planted the seed to bring the fitness training into my riding. Plus, I love working out anyhow. I love different modalities of it.

I did a lot of weight training. That made my muscles too bulky- I didn’t feel like I was supple enough. I then I went to Tai Chi, which was really nice and that brought in a looseness and also core strength. And then I found Pilates, and that was, gosh, back in 1994 or something. I’d started working with this coach, the personal trainer I was working with at the time, and she started doing Pilates. She came back to the studio and said, “This is what you’re going to love.” And then on the reformers, we started worked on the reformer. [Ed.- Here’s an article on Pilates reformers if you aren’t familiar with them.] And because the reformer moves and has reactions, I thought, “This is the closest thing to simulating being on a horse.” So for me that was huge.

From the different things I’d learned from Tai Chi and in weight training and some yoga training and with the Pilates, I thought, “If you combine all those things…” It doesn’t have to be strictly one thing, because every body is different. So whatever works for a particular body, that’s what you should do. For a while, I was working on strength, and then it was like, “You don’t need strength now, you need suppleness.” So it changes, and sometimes you go to the suppleness, and it’s like “Okay, let’s build our strength again.”

SP: It sounds like it has a lot in common with the way we train our horses.
BS: Exactly! Exactly. That’s nice that you brought that up. To me it was the same thing. With our horses, we do the gymnastic work. From the very first time I started riding horses, I thought of it as being an athletic endeavor in equal. Like, if I expected this from my horse, he expects this from me. I have to be fit, I have to be balanced, I have to understand my body and know where it is. That was a real interesting thing that I’ve always had problems with.

I think probably, then, gosh back in…gosh, that was a long time ago. There was no Pilates studio at all in Wellington. And you’d say “Pilates” and nobody really knew what it was. I was going all the way out to West Palm Beach to find a studio. One of the gals that worked out there, I convinced her- I said, “You have to come out to Wellington” and she said, “Well, I don’t know if there will be enough business,” and I said, “Trust me.”

At that time, I started developing Equilates and that’s when I wrote the book and did all of the comparisons- “when you learn this exercise yourself it really helps you do these movements on the horse.” And I’ve really seen that a lot, even in just using the language. You know when you’re talking to a rider and they’ve been working with you on Equilates and you say, “Feel the difference between your upper and your lower abs” and they can really articulate that and can really feel it. So it’s just developing a language and a body awareness so that when they’re on the horse they’re not balancing on the horse and they really have control. And I think a person really has to understand that to allow the horse self-carriage. That makes a long answer for that, doesn’t it? [laughs]

SP:  It seems like riders in general are starting to approach the sport from a more athletically-minded standpoint than maybe they did in the past. Do you have any advice for riders on where to start?
BS: I think if somebody took a beginner Pilates mat class- Pilates targets so much to the core strength. Then you can do yoga and different things like that. I think for a base, Pilates is really the best. When you get the concept of Pilates and working from your core, then everything you do starts there.

Then you go back to our horses- we want them to balance through their bodies, bring their bellies up, use their back, go forward towards the bit and be able to bring the haunches under. And you think, “Okay, if I’m asking them to do all of that, then I want to be able to create the same position in my body that I’m asking them more.” So you need to be able to engage your abs, bring your seat forward, push in a forward direction, and have them reach into the reins, not balance in the reins. Any beginner rider who comes to me, if the balance is off a little bit, we always go back and talk about body awareness and when they’re on the horse too “Can you feel this? Can you feel when you’re moving and when you’re allowing the horse to move and when you’re forcing movement in the horse because your body is either tight or stiff or holding, not letting them move.”

Pilates also offers a wholeness- you know, like, it’s a little bit ‘mind, body, spirit’. In training a horse, you can never just train the body, you have to train the body and the mind. And sometimes the body goes ahead and the mind has to catch up, so you slow down a little bit there and you give them time to understand and give them confidence. And now he’s confident and everything else, and you say, “Now we can move the body forward again” and I think for humans, my riders, I watch them, and it can be a rider of any age or experience, and you say, “If we just got them a little bit more balanced like this they could understand then how to release their energy and their horse’s energy in a positive way”

In my mind, it just keeps growing in benefits. It’s not just riding now, it’s blending together, it’s melting into the horse. You know how they say, “Become one with the horse.” When you have use of your body and you’re strong enough and can let go enough to let the horse move and you move with him, you can CAN feel like you’re one with him. And to me, that’s the most glorious feeling ever.

To find out more about Equilates or buy your own copy, visit www.equilates.com

The Horse of Course unveils new look for 2016

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The 2016 winter equestrian competition season has finally arrived, and riders and vendors alike are pulling out all the stops. One of the country’s most-loved tack shops, The Horse of Course, had a makeover for this season in Wellington, Florida, the winter dressage capitol of the world. As an elite supplier of dressage equipment across the country, the mobile tack shop’s new look is sure impress both year-round residents and competitors from around the world who are attending the 2016 Adequan Global Dressage Festival.

“Every year we try to up our game, and being at the Global Dressage Festival, we would like to respect the world class facility that has been created,” said Beth Haist, CEO of The Horse of Course, Inc. Haist founded the company in 1995 to meet the demand for unique, high-quality tack items in the U.S., which she realized after bringing back hard-to-find products for her equestrian friends during frequent business trips to France and Germany.

Twenty years later, The Horse of Course has expanded to a full service tack shop with expertise in dressage and hunter/jumper riding. In addition to its brick-and-mortar establishment in Claremore, Oklahoma, the company boasts an online store and two mobile units which bring a complete selection of quality tack and apparel to the most prestigious show grounds on the east coast. The Horse of Course supplies riders with popular brands such as König, Pikeur, Vespucci, Cavallo, Passler, and Sommer to equip both horse and human. The company has also partnered with experts to design their own innovative saddles and apparel. “We are a company that strives to have long range commitments to our clients and to bring fashion forward products and the latest technology available at the best value,” said Haist.

A proud sponsor of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, Haist is excited to unveil her company’s new image at the worlds largest international and national dressage circuit. “As we have new products arriving every week from Europe all season, we need a way to spotlight these new products,” she explained. “Currently, we are looking for fresh, upscale displays that better reflect our brand. We are consulting with a talent that has worked for top retail companies such as Neiman Marcus.”

Along with a knowledgeable sales staff that can help riders and competitors find what they need quickly so that they can spend more time in the saddle, The Horse of Course is proud to offer the expertise of two saddle fitters, Marty Haist and James Houston, both of whom trained for years to be the best in the business and continue to expand their knowledge of saddles and saddle repair. They are available for repairs, reflockings, and fittings and typically travel with the dressage mobile units. The company also offers saddle consignment services and free ten-day trials.

With so much to offer, The Horse of Course is the whole package, complete with shiny wrapping. As always, its impeccable reputation and careful attention to the needs of its customers make The Horse of Course mobile unit a must-see for all attending the Wellington show circuit, and the company’s stylish presentation and fresh new displays promise an even more impressive experience for this year’s clientele.

For more information on The Horse of Course’s selection of the quality tack visit www.thehorseofcourse.com or call 888-494-6773.

Bit Talk

Beth lecturing on bits at the Robert Dover Horsemastership Program.

Beth lecturing on bits at the Robert Dover Horsemastership Program.

According to Beth Haist, CEO of The Horse of Course, there are a few key things you need to know about bits: they need to be the correct weight and size, and they need to be made of copper. And one more thing – you’ve probably been fitting them wrong all along.

Haist knows this because she’s been lucky enough to have exposure to several bit engineers who have passed on their knowledge about the right way to select a proper bit for a horse. Not to mention, as an entrepreneur, CEO, and founder of her full-service tack shop The Horse of Course, Inc., she’s been partnering with bit developers to fit horses since 1995. “You really have to think like an engineer when finding the right bit. This is an engineering feat,” The Horse of Course CEO explained.

If you’re interested in learning just how to think like an engineer and finding that perfect connection with your horse, you may be interested in Haist’s latest discussion on bits in her radio interview with Biostar’s Tigger Montague and Pati Pierucci of Pierucci Dressage. In the Healthy Critters radio episode, Haist gives listeners several tips on proper bit fitting. She discusses everything from the most common factors to the minute details that some equestrians overlook. You can listen to the episode on the Healthy Critters Radio website.

For example, she explains that most riders are using bits that are too large for their horses’ mouths. “I never find that Warmbloods or the Spanish-bred horses need more than a five-inch. About 95 percent of horses are going to be a four and three-quarter inch curb,” Haist said. For horses not ready for double bridles, she suggests a three-piece snaffle, like a French Link. But like with the curb, Haist encourages riders to ensure that the bit isn’t too large. “You have to be careful not to get them too big, because if you do that the three-piece rubs back and forth across the bars of the horse’s mouth.”

Equally important to the bit’s size is the bit’s weight. But in this case, Haist thinks riders tend to underestimate how heavy their bit should be. “There’s two positions in a horse’s mouth,” she explained. “There’s an on position and an off position. So when you pick up the reins, you’re pulling the bit up into your horse’s mouth, which is what we talk about when we say the ‘on position.’” Haist continued, “The bit has to have weight. If it doesn’t, it can’t automatically move into the off position when you start to loosen the reins at the end of the ride to stretch the topline.”

Yet another key piece of advise Haist offers in her interview is the importance of what the bit is made of. In her eyes, copper is the only option. “You need to have a bit that’s heavy and copper – and it has to be at least 70 percent,” she said. “The reason for that is it literally warms to the temperature of a horse’s mouth and, when it does that, it becomes more neutral.”

To find the perfect combination of size, weight and material, she suggests two brands: Neue Schule and Herm Sprenger. Both brands can be found at The Horse of Course and at The Horse of Course’s popular mobile tack shop, which is currently located at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida, for the winter show season.

To listen to the full radio episode featuring Beth Haist (and to become a more informed horsemen along the way), click here

To dive right into finding the best bit for your horse, visit The Horse of Course online atwww.thehorseofcourse.com or look for The Horse of Course’s mobile unit at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, where it will be stationed through the twelve-week show series.

Meet the Staff: Stephanie

Stephanie and Moe in the show jumping phase of an event.

Stephanie and Moe in the show jumping phase of an event.

Part of what makes The Horse of Course great is the diverse and hard working staff. We’re pleased to introduce them to you through our “Meet The Staff” series! This week, meet our website and marketing manager, Stephanie Peck.

Describe what you do at The Horse of Course.
I’m responsible for keeping the website up-to-date with the latest products and make sure everything is running smoothly so customers can place orders online; I run the store’s social media accounts, too! I also produce ads to run in magazines, on equestrian websites, and in show programs. I handle local donation and sponsorship requests, and can often be found with the local mobile unit at shows. I wear many hats, but I enjoy staying busy!

Do you have horses?
Yes, I have two Thoroughbreds: a mare named Gina and a gelding named Moe.

What discipline do you ride?
I primarily compete in three day eventing. I’m on the board of Green Country Dressage, so you can find me at a lot of dressage schooling shows, too. I started foxhunting on Gina last year, which has been very fun. I’ve also played polo and ridden show hunters.

What’s your favorite product?
This is a difficult question for me, because I love so many things! It’s probably a toss-up between the Horze anti-slip gel pad and Lucky Braids dry wash/whitener spray. The gel pad is a must-have for hunting or cross country; it does a fantastic job of keeping my saddle in place. The Lucky Braids dry wash is very easy to use and keeps both horses looking great without a lot of effort!