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Toy Horse is Town Symbol

By Margaret Freeman, December 20, 2012

Living now just outside a town of 1,600 is vastly different from living just outside a megalopolis of 8+ million, where we were just 6 months ago.? Well, that's an understatement if there ever was one.? One of the joys of living here in Tryon NC is that it has a cool town symbol, and it's a horse ? well, a toy horse, but a horse nonetheless.

So, a couple weeks ago, we saw a new friend of ours sitting on the curb in town stripping green leaves from a branch that had red berries on it.? Turned out that she was helping prepare the fresh decorations that were going into the flower baskets along the town?s main street, and the decorating was going to happen that night with the help of the town?s volunteer fire department that was providing both manpower and lifting equipment.

We joined her on the curb and pitched in, and then it was suggested that my husband Henry might be able to take pictures that night for our town newspaper.? So, we showed up at 8 p.m. with the camera, but then of course we became involved in three hours of decorating.? The highlight was arranging the wreath on Morris, including all fresh materials except for the ribbons and gold gauze that would protect his gleaming new coat from scratches.? With lights also wrapped around all the poles lining the street the town looks both festive and elegant day and night.

We now have Morris license plates on the fronts of our cars, and Morris mugs, and shirts with Morris embroidered on the front.? I'm wondering if I can maybe stitch a green wreath around the neck of Morris on my new shirt.? It would be a great accessory for the Messiah singalong or town Christmas parade next year.
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Old Ways, New Ways In The Horse Barn

By Margaret Freeman, December 08, 2012

When you?ve been around horses as long as I have, sometimes you get a jaw-dropping moment from youngsters when you talk about ?the way we used to do it.?? But sometimes the jaw drops with oldsters like myself when we hear of something that might actually work better than the way We've always done it.

We have a young and enthusiastic barn helper.? My mare?s back was still a bit damp the other day, so I suggested that she put my anti-sweat (aka holey sheet) under the cooler so the mare could finish drying off in the stall.? I explained that the anti-sweat would provide a layer of air that was both insulating and would allow the hair to dry. ?Or,? I said, ?you can just put some straw on her back under the blanket.?? The worker looked at me like I was nuts, and I did a mental head slap, not just because the old-fashioned straw idea seemed so low-tech in this fancy ultra-blanketing age but because I don't think the barn worker has ever seen straw bedding.? I haven't seen any myself since the last time I was in a broodmare barn, maybe 5 years ago.

(When did kiln-dried chips take over completely from straw as the usual bedding')

This door swings both ways.? We can be resistant to change, even when logic hits us in the face that a new idea or product might work better.? ?Horse Journal? runs into this at times with our product surveys.? Readers sometimes seem to prefer that we pick a product they've always used rather than find something new that they might like better.? Is it brand-name loyalty or just habit or comfort-level that has us reaching for the same stuff at the tack shop when we learn there might be a better alternative'

At the same time, it's great to learn that some products still hold up well when going up against new competitors.? Orvus is a great (and inexpensive!) shampoo, Show Sheen is the ?Jello? (who says gelatin pudding') of detanglers, and UltraShield stays my own go-to fly spray.? On the other hand, how long did it take for zipper boots to become widely accepted in this country, something like 20 years'

I have come 180 degrees (literally) on the subject of cooling down a hot horse, and every time I sluice cold water over my mare I have to remind myself this is the right way to do it even though for my first quarter-century of horse ownership it was thought to be dangerous.? We learned pretty dramatically after research was done prior to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, that?leaving?water on a hot horse is the dangerous practice, not the actual temperature of the water, and that using cold water from a hose while continuously scraping it off is the most efficient ? and safest ? way to bathe a horse after exercise.

Sometimes it seems that the more things change the more they stay the same.? At other times, I want to go hide from computers and cell phones that are smarter than I am.? I like, really like, new ideas but I often long for the old ways as well.

We would love for you to leave a comment about some new product or different technique that has completely changed your mind.? Or, if you prefer, you can send an email to?

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Dancing With Your Horse in London

By Margaret Freeman, August 09, 2012

For those of you who have ridden a musical freestyle at a local show in the U.S., hoping against hope that no one will use the same music you?ve carefully chosen, imagine if you are riding in the individual freestyle at the Olympics to Genesis and two rides before yours is another ride to Genesis.? Talk about a heart stopping moment.? At least the editing seemed quite different for Anna Kasprzak of Denmark and Victoria Max-Theurer of Austria.

Other musical choices included Billy Idol for Patrik Kittel of Sweden, Black Eyed Peas for Goncarlo Carvalho ?of Portugal, ?Avatar? for Steffen Peters of the U.S.,? ? Lion King? for Laura Bechtolsheimer of Great Britain, Nutcracker Suite for Adelinde Cornelissen of the Netherlands and various movie soundtrack plus Olympic theme music for the winner Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain, ending with chimes from? Big Ben, a very fitting end to the two weeks here.

Most of the other riders rode to music specially composed to their choreography.? Generally I prefer ?real? music (over music composed for the specific horse) because it seems to me that that horse is then performing to the music and truly dancing rather than the music performing to the horse.

We were told earlier that the judges would split the responsibility of artistic and technical scores, but that turned out to not be the case.? Judge Gary Rockwell told me afterward that the judges all did both jobs, as usual.? He was one of the judges in the ?new? position at the A end of the ring for the freestyle and said he could see there just fine, better than he originally expected.? This Olympics added two judges to the usual panel of five.

However, there was some controversy after all the scores were announced, which hadn?t happened during the grand prix tests earlier in the ?week, since Dujardin finished two percentage points above Cornelissen despite Valegro missing a transition near the end of the test, although head judge Stephen Clarke said later that overall Valegro had more harmony and self-carriage than the Dutch horse.

Just before the competition started, while standing in line for the loo, I heard ?Margaret!? and was suddenly hugged by Lauren Spreiser, who now lives in Virginia but who I knew for several years at Lendon Gray?s Gleneden in New York.? it's a small horse world!

I am headed west now for home but taking the scenic route through Wales and Ireland.? When I get home in two weeks I'll fill you in with more tidbits from this amazing time in London.
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Dressage Freestyle Due Up in London

By Margaret Freeman, August 08, 2012

Today is the final Olympic event, the dressage freestyle to determine individual medals.? This time the freestyle will be the sole determiner for individual medals, like in the World Cup, where in the past it was a combination with the Grand Prix Special.? This will certainly make the event more exciting for the spectators.?

I remember in the past when including the freestyle in the Olympics was still in the discussion phase, that the Old Guard (aka ODG or Old Dead Guys or Old Dressage Gods) was saying it was not a true test of dressage basics, since choreography could hide a horse's weak areas.? I think that argument has long gone out the window, both because the degree of difficulty in freestyles has gone up so much and along with the sophistication of the judging.

Another change here is that the responsibility of the judges will be split.? Usually all the judges do both the technical and artistic scores, which requires some quick and complicated thinking at the end of the test.? Here three of the judges will award technical marks and four will award artistic marks.? If there is a tie, it will go to the higher artistic marks.

There are 18 riders, riding in three groupings of six each.? Since Steffen Peters, our sole U.S. rider in the freestyle, finished seventh in the GP/GPS, he was in the draw for the second group and he goes first there.? it's an unfortunate spot for him.? There are the three Brits, two Germans and one Dutch rider in the final grouping.? Just as in the team event, there is a good chance that someone other than a German or Dutch rider will be on the top of the podium.

Every time I judge a horse show, there is always a horse that catches my eye, a horse that makes me say: ?Well, that horse can go in my trailer.?? Often it isn?t necessarily the highest scoring horse but the horse that looks the most rideable.? Here I want to put British rider/trainer Carl Hester in my trailer and take him home with me to North Carolina.? Not only did he finish third in the team standings but he also produced rider Charlotte Dujardin and her horse Valegro.? He's wonderful to interview as well, funny and articulate.? He will be serving double duty here.? He rides third from last, then he will have to jump off his horse and go coach Dujardin, who will be the last to ride.

The sun is shining here this morning.? While in the past this hasn?t precluded a thunderstorm about the time I need to be out watching rides and filing stories on my laptop, it looks like the sun will shine all day.? I'll be chasing quotes from the last riders, so I won?t be able to see those rides, darn it, but I hope to see Steffen and the first dozen.
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New Judge Review System in Olympic Dressage

By Margaret Freeman, August 07, 2012

Wowee! The Brits pretty much haven't put a foot wrong here and added gold in team dressage yesterday to their medal haul.? A medal in eventing and dressage was pretty much expected but the show jumping medal seemed to be a surprise, and all this gold and silver is icing on the cake.? A lot of it has to do with the hometown ?enthusiasm throughout the entire Olympics that is bolstering the efforts of the athletes. When was the last time you went to a dressage show where 23,000 people were doing the wave'

The dressage here has running scoreboards placed around the ring in several spots that have worked better here than any I have seen.? They are positioned so that everyone in the crowd can see them but not the judges.? They show splits like those seen for ?timed events like skiing,? So, for example, if a score for the extended walk is shown, the scoreboard shows the score for that specific movement, the overall score for the rider up to that point in the test, and the corresponding score of the leader at that point in the test.? It really heightens the interest, and I don't think it detracts from watching the ride in the ring itself like it can if there is one scoreboard at the end of the ring.

As I mentioned before, there are seven dressage judges here rather than the usual five.? There is also a review panel of three judges, but I don't know where they are sitting. Maybe they have the benefit of the excellent video cameras here. Apparently, the way it works is that if any movement has a wide discrepancy, the review panel looks at it quickly and can change the score of any judge if they feel that judge missed something.? Gary Rockwell, who sat at C for the Grand Prix and B for the Special said typical examples where this might happen would be flying changes on the center line where it's difficult for the judge at C to tell if any changes are late behind or the final piaffe on the center line where a judge at the end of the ring can't tell if the horse is traveling forward off the spot at X.

Some quick numbers were done at the end of the competition.? It was estimated that 12,600 marks were issued over the three days of dressage so far, and 85 marks were adjusted.? I'll be very interested to see an analysis of the judging here in a month or two, but it looks very consistent.? I'd like to see if scores/placings might have changed with just five judges rather than seven. The judges speaking at this press conference said they welcomed someone looking over their shoulder, so to speak, and that the system seemed to work well.

We got a good example of why Steffen Peters is such an accomplished competitor. ??When Ravel was coming down the center line for the pirouette/one-tempi/second pirouette combination, Ravel stumbled a stride or two after the first pirouette.? Steffen got him up and rebalanced quickly to nail the tempis a stride later and then the second pirouette. Impressive.

A little present I give myself here is to go into the results computer and print out the marks for the individual movements for each judge for the top 10 or 12 rides.? I take them home and use them for judge forums after the dressage CD is issued.? So I looked to see what Steffen got for that sequence.? The first pirouette got 7.5s and 8s.? The sequence of ones got 4s and 3s, and the second pirouette got 7.5s and 8s.? Since the pirouette has a coefficient, that was a big save by Steffen.? His rider scores ranged from? 8s to 9s.? And yes, the jduges here are making very full use of the half point after it got a sort of slow start with the FEI-level judges a couple years ago.

Today (tomorrow depending on when you read this) will be the individual show jumping.? The stands will be bursting again with enthusiastic Brits.? Besides their successes, the big story here is the emergence of the Saudis in show jumping.? More on that later.
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