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Fri, 2014-12-05 19:24

A Wealth of Wisdom Is Imparted in Educational Meetings at USEA Convention on Friday

The Omni Fort Worth Hotel has proven to be an ideal spot for the USEA Convention. photo.

Sport Horse Conformation with Dr. Dan Marks

Dr. Dan Marks attracted a large crowd for his Sport Horse Conformation lecture, which he supported with a myriad of photos displaying the conformation of many horses for different disciplines. Dr. Marks proved an engaging and entertaining speaker, and the lecture ran over its allotted time since the crowd was so interested in capturing some of his wealth of knowledge. Here are a few tidbits of wisdom from his lecture:

  • “The great show jumper Hickstead had a turned out right front foot but it never caused him any problems. Would I go out and buy one like this? Maybe not if I could help it. But if it jumped like Hickstead, maybe I’d take a chance.”
  • “Taking horses too soon into major competitions is very dangerous. I’m not saying start later – start early, but progress very slowly. Be careful about the footing you’re on and get the best farrier care you can get.”
  • He explained that soundness depends on fitness, not just conformation. “When a horse is fatigued and they land, their muscles are a little slower, so they are resting on other structures. It may not be obvious at first, as it is microdamage, but you’ll pay for it months or years down the road.”
  • “A lot of great show jumpers toe out, but almost none toe in. They also have a fairly narrow chest, in comparison with dressage horses, which makes them good gallopers.”
  • The most important jumping muscle is the biceps femoris.
  • “You don’t want a wasp waist in a horse. It results from a pelvis that is narrow from top to bottom and makes it hard for the horse to collect himself.”
  • Some horses that stand camped under in front have been the greatest show jumpers we’ve ever seen.

ICP Show Jumping Seminar

Another opportunity available to all Convention attendees was to dissect and discuss some training videos with some of the top trainers in the country. In a roundtable discussion, Robin Walker, Phyllis Dawson, Brian Sabo and Mary D'Arcy-O'Connell discussed clips from the ICP Seminar at Windchase provided by The videos could be viewed in slow motion for further study and coaches and riders alike were encouraged to chime in with what they observed. Here are a few points of interest from the meeting:

  • “Inside leg to outside rein only works and is correct when the horse is already going into both reins from both legs,” explained Mary, adding that the concept can also only be felt correctly when the horse is in front of the leg.
  • “Ninety percent of jumping is having the horse in the right balance,” said Phyllis Dawson.
  • “There are often two types of instructors: ‘positionists’ and ‘exercisists.’ You need to be both,” said Brian Sabo.
  • Robin Walker emphasized that when the rider is taught about mechanics too much, the don’t learn to ride by feel and by making mistakes. “The American rider is dangerously overtaught,” he said.
  • “Whenever you put pressure on a horse, if you are then able to push through and get the result you want, and you can take the pressure off and reward the horse, that’s a good school,” explained Phyllis. “If you put the pressure on but you don’t get the good result, it’s a negative school and they will hold onto that tension.”
  • “Contact is the hardest thing to teach because it changes all the time,” said Robin. “One minute it’s going to be light and feel good and the next it will change. The best analogy I can think of is that it’s like fishing; it’s a live event that’s ongoing and it’s going to change.”
  • Robin explained that when a rider is start learning to jump a bigger fence, it is best to use a crossrail oxer to allow a bigger margin of error in the distance. Leave the front rail out of the equation until the rider is more confident.

The Myths and Facts of Online Privacy with Scott Weber and Robert Winter

Director of IT for the USEA, Robert Winter, teamed up with Managing Partner of StartBox Online Scoring, LLC, Scott Weber, to inform horse people about protecting themselves online. It is no secret that much of the horse business is now run and advertised on the internet, with horse sales taking place on various websites and riders promoting their businesses on social media, so Robert and Scott outlined some ways to stay safe while maintaining an online presence.

  • Myth: A good password is difficult to remember. Instead of using words that you’ll never remember as your password for any website requiring a login, “padding your password” is a good way to add security without making it too difficult to remember. Pad you password with a pattern that adds some extra length and complexity, like numbers or brackets in a pattern that makes sense on your keyboard. Or, change the characters; instead of “Blue” as a password, use “B!u3”
  • Complexity of passwords depends on varied characters, upper and lower case, and length. 25 characters in a password is significantly more challenging for a hacker to find than 24.
  • It is best to not use the same login for all of your websites because if one site gets hacked, the hackers then have your info for all of the sites you use. If you can’t keep track of all of your passwords, try a password manager. Many password managers are online, easy to use, and free.
  • An openly stated privacy policy will not necessarily keep your data safe. For instance, Facebook states in their policy that they give your information to the people and companies that help them provide, understand and improve their services. They also state that they are not responsible if there is a hack or breach.
  • Even the flashlight app on your phone may collect your GPS location, contact lists. Install apps from companies you know.
  • Fingerprints are not necessarily better than using a PIN as a password. If you’re a target, hackers or criminals can find your fingerprint easily and replicate it. Also, you can’t change it if someone gets it, and it would not make your information protected by the 5th amendment. A PIN (personal identification number) is something you know, so it is protected by the 5th amendment. You can also change it easily if someone takes it.

Future Event Horse Open Forum

The USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) Program was discussed in an open forum setting led by Robin Walker. Robin began with some statistics, saying, “We’ve got 64 horses this year from FEH that have gone on to show in the Young Event Horse (YEH). We had 52 different breeds of horses that have turned up for FEH competitions. The number of American-bred horses starts to increase; as of 2014 we’re up to 136. We’ve almost doubled our stats from 2008-2014. That’s a total of 1000 horses from 2008-2014.”

“It’s very encouraging the horses are transferring through both programs,” he said. “The FEH Grand Champion on the East coast last year, went on to win the YEH 4YO division at the Championships this year.”

One of the most important developments that was announced is the introduction of canter, and eventually the free-jump, in the FEH competitions.  

“Something that will be introduced this year is the canter. I would not go buy a young horse if I didn’t see it canter, and if I didn’t see it jump,” said Robin. “Why haven’t we done this before? Here’s why: Two years ago we discussed this whole process, and it was going to present a whole lot of issues and push back we got from people on loose schooling and jumping like they do in Europe. We’re not a mature enough program yet. However, this year, we will start to get there, and the jumping will be in the finals on each course. The canter is going to be introduced in whatever format we deem to be most productive.”

Robin explained that if the canter is introduced in qualifying events, instead of just the FEH Championship, that the safety of the venue is paramount.

“That footing has to be good, and we have to get the education out there so that people can start getting ready,” he said. “I do not want to see horses getting pushed too hard.”

Young Event Horse Open Forum

The Young Event Horse (YEH) forum was led by Marilyn Payne, who explained the YEH program to those unfamiliar with it. Marilyn explained that the program is strong and growing, and that the quality of horses seen in competitions is continuing to improve.

William Micklem, who judged at the 2014 Young Event Horse Championships, was impressed by the caliber of young horses that he saw in the 4-year-old division, according to Marilyn. He told Marilyn that from that group, more than a handful could be team horses and many were of better quality than he has been seeing in his homeland of Ireland.

Tim Holekamp introduced the YEH/FEH Seminar coming up in Ocala, Florida on Feb 16-18, 2015. “This educational program began as a certification process for judges, but is now growing to an even larger educational program to teach breeders, handlers, owners, competitors and any interested parties in the young event horse,” he said.

“The focus on half of this seminar, which is YEH, is going to be how to use your eye to see the efficiency of gallop and stamina to make it to the top level of the sport.  There’s a real temptation to look at the quality of the jump, but we need to continue to focus on the gallop.”

The forum leaders invoked the participation of upper-level riders to become involved in the YEH program as potential judges.

Tomorrow, the Convention continues with the Annual Meeting of the Members at lunch time, during which the new Board members will be introduced, and the day will conclude with the Awards Dinner and cocktail hour, honoring many of the top riders, horses, and grooms in the sport of eventing. 


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