Category Archives: Tack thoughts

DRESSAGE. What is was… and what it is becoming. A well written post from Erika Franz about ROLLKUR.

I generally do not get too political… You all know how I feel about things…

Today, I wanted to bring this report to you written by Erika Franz.  My need to post this was prompted by a reader who asked me about Olympic Dressage and “how do those horses do that?!”

I told her how dressage started as a communication dance between rider and horse.  How the subtle cues and joyful, rhythmic movements were the result of a great partnership… except recently, some riders now use a training method that is contrary to ‘partnership’ – rollkur.

Serendipitously, this blog post from Erika Franz came into my view.

I couldn’t have said it better.

Before You Watch the Equestrian Games

Before you watch the Equestrian Games at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, I invite you to a bit of history about the sport of Dressage.
Dressage is often called the ballet of horse sports when equestrians try to explain the sport to non-equestrians.
More than ballet, Dressage has long been considered the art of horse sport. The goal? A powerfully athletic horse, trained to perform difficult gymnastic movements, gracefully and guided by a rider whose communications to the horse are imperceptible. There’s an emphasis here on the use of light physical communications; overt physical force is something that had been left to other horse sports.
This goal was universally shared for centuries.


Change on the Horizon

At the 1995 CHIO Aachen competition we saw a glimpse of something different; horses being ridden with their head and neck over bent to gain more control over them.

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Warm-up video from the 1995 CHIO Aachen competition, Isabell Werth using Rollkur.
Two riders, Isabell Werth and Nicole Uphoff, were using this technique during their warm-ups.
By 2005 this new training technique had incubated before becoming a public eyesore again, now officially termed ‘Rollkur’. This time Anky van Grunsven and her trainer Sjef Janssen were the ones publicly using and defending Rollkur. Even as early as 2001 Sjef Janssen had been giving interviews about the method.
People were outraged then, and now 11 years later they are still fighting to ban this abusive training method from the sport.
In 2006, the FEI which governs international horse sports including Dressage, took some action based on the widespread outrage and criticism. Studies were performed, showing clear scientific evidence that Rollkur significantly interferes with the horse’s breathing by compressing the larynx, and inhibits swallowing.
The result of those studies? The FEI held a round-table conference and banned the practice of Rollkur. In the same session, they also discussed the technique of LDR (low, deep, round; the term Sjef Janssen used in his early interviews when describing the method which was publicly named Rollkur). Just as Rollkur was banned, LDR was explicitly made legal.
The difference between Rollkur and LDR? Low, deep, round can only be maintained for a maximum of 10 minutes before the horse must be given a break. A break of which the FEI has never defined a minimum time period. It is perfectly legal for a rider to use LDR during the duration of a 2 hour ride, giving their horse a 2 second break every 10 minutes.

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Can you tell which rider is using Rollkur, and which is using LDR (low, deep, round)? The horse probably can’t tell the difference either.
No studies were performed to show that an unspecified break every 10 minutes alleviates all physical damages caused by the practice of riding a horse in this hyperflexed position.
Amid the pushback from equestrians concerned for the future of the sport and welfare of the horses, judges have consistently awarded competitors who use Rollkur/LDR, giving scores previously unheard of for performances which showed very clear and significant errors.
11 years since the first public outrage of this abusive training technique, the FEI continues to ignore the tens of thousands of equestrians who have protested the use of Rollkur and LDR.

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Adeline Cornelissen, a student of Anky van Grunsven and Sjef Janssen, riding her horse Parzival in LDR at the 2012 London Olympics.
What Does Any of This Matter?
Why should you care if a horse’s head and neck are curled up into their chest?
You should care if you value a fair sport that provides protection for the welfare of the horse.
Also, you should care that there are no less than 8 separate references to the correct positioning of the horse’s head, and all of them indicate the face of the horse’s head should never fall behind the vertical.

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Left: Slightly in front of the vertical. Right: On or slightly behind the vertical.
In all the work, even at the halt, the Horse must be “on the bit”. A Horse is said to be “on the bit” when the neck is more or less raised and arched according to the stage of training and the extension or collection of the pace, accepting the bridle with a light and consistent soft submissive contact. The head should remain in a steady position, as a rule slightly in front of the vertical, with a supple poll as the highest point of the neck, and no resistance should be offered to the Athlete.
—?2016 FEI Dressage Rules Manual, Article 401, Item 5
Horses trained in LDR consistently perform in their competition ride behind the vertical. A clear violation of a rule that is obviously important enough to warrant 8 individual mentions in the rulebook. You’ll find the other 7 references in the following sections of the 2016 FEI Dressage Rules Manual:
Article 402, Item 1 referring to the Halt
Article 403, Item 3.2 referring to the Collected Walk
Article 403, Item 3.3 referring to the Extended Walk
Article 404, Item 4.4 referring to the Medium Trot
Article 405, Item 4.4 referring to the Medium Canter
Article 414, Item 3 referring to the Passage
Article 417, referring to Collection
Interestingly, scores at the lower levels still tend to reflect the rules; riders receive lower marks when their horse’s head comes behind the vertical. However at the upper levels of the sport, the opposite is true with horses behind the vertical receiving higher marks, even while displaying increased conflict behavior.
Abuse Begets Abuse
The line is continuing to blur as to what is acceptable within the context of horse welfare. Additional insults to the horse being ignored and side-stepped by the very organization which continues to announce their dedication to the welfare of the horse.
No fewer than 2 separate incidents have now occurred at public exhibitions, where a horse’s tongue had turned blue due to the force of the rider’s hands as they forcibly placed their horse’s head and neck into LDR. The first offense was by Patrik Kittel with his horse Watermill Scandic.

Click to watch the video

Click to watch the video

Patrik Kittel was completely exonerated for the blue tongue incident by the FEI. Kittel was at the center of much controversy again at the 2012 Olympic Games when he was photographed riding his horse in such extreme LDR that the horse’s chin was touching its chest.

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Close up of Andreas Helgestrand’s horse Akeem Foldager clearly shows his tongue has turned blue.
The second offense was by Andreas Helgestrand, and again the FEI did nothing.
Please Reconsider…
This year’s Olympic Games will include rides by Edward Gal, Patrik Kittel, Isabell Werth, Adelinde Cornelissen; all riders who have historically used Rollkur/LDR in public.
Before you decide to watch this year’s Equestrian Olympic Games. The FEI has ignored the voices of the people directly involved in the sport and chosen instead to pursue financial gain above the welfare of the very animals the sport relies upon.
Equestrians can no longer fight this front on their own. We need you, the general public.
This fight has never been about banning horse sport, or Dressage. It has been about enforcing the clear rules published by the FEI in competition and ensuring the horses aren’t permanently injured by a training method.
Please help us by turning OFF the Olympic Games this year during the Equestrian Dressage competitions and tweeting #EndHorseAbuseWithRio.
It’s not a lot, but maybe, just maybe the FEI will finally heed this protest.


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HOW MUCH DOES A HORSE COST? Buying, Vet Check, Bill of Sale, Transportation, State Lines, Board, Feed, Vet, Farrier, Tack, Training, Supplements, Showing…

First off, I need a Bucket Fund nomination for May!  The tiny foal I had ready for urgent care, passed away last week and I have not found a replacement.  If you know of any equine in URGENT/DIRE need, please email me the details and contact information.  We cannot give funds to a private party – only established rescues, vets and feed stores.

ALSO, we have one black LG bridle available!  Click here to purchase for $125!



Buying, Vet Check, Bill of Sale, Transportation, State Lines, Board, Feed, Vet, Farrier, Tack, Training, Supplements, Showing, Insurance, Lessons and on and on…

I was sent this article for new horse owners and thought it was good to get the discussion started.  I found each headline to be something to definitely consider as a new owner, but it would take much more discussion to really understand.  So, maybe one thing missing here is to consult a trusted equestrian friend or two to help with novice horse ownership.

Having said that, owning a horse is a process.  And, it is important to also know that it is an investment for your soul.  You might never see that money again.  But, you should be happier, if you consider the following article and all that it implies.

We were all novice horse owners once.  Don’t make the mistakes we’ve all made, if you can help it.  Think about these things and go forward with intelligent gusto!

(Beware of actual prices.  The prices listed here are not true for all states.)

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The Cost of Buying a Horse   Before You (Really) Begin

The only gray hair you should potentially get from the buying process should be from a gray horse, shedding fuzzy flecks of love that stick to everything you own. Not your own hair! Before you start looking at what’s for sale, know your budget. Don’t fall into a pit of debt, an ambush you have created for yourself after becoming an owner. A free horse is never free and the best way to prevent financial chaos, especially the first year of ownership, is to plan and sketch out your horse-owning-budget. It is unfair to the horse (and the people around you) to buy it, then realize you cannot afford it, and wish it a sweet farewell shortly afterward.

Add up the costs it will take just to buy the horse of your dreams, and then the cost of owning as described below. Check, then double check again that your income can afford it, along with your own costs of living, before moving forward. If not, look at other options such as leasing or co-owning a horse.

Enlist Help of Others: Trainers, Friends and Family

If you are really interested in competing and wish to do it often, it is best to find a trainer in your area who specializes in that type of training, and start building a good working relationship with him or her immediately. Most likely you will all be together a lot, maybe even boarding at the trainer’s facility. Trainers have a network of horsey connections and are a great resource to use when looking for a horse. Sometimes trainers will take a 10-15% “finders fee” for helping you to find and purchase the horse. This option should be determined at the beginning of the hunt, so there are no complications or misunderstandings.

Trainers also make great companions when you are going out to look at and try horses. Find out how much they want for their time on the road with you. The distance/ number of hours it takes usually determines how much they charge for their service. If the horse is for sale nearby, the trainer may charge anywhere from $50- S75 for about two to three hours of their time.

If you are not interested in working with a trainer, at least take an interested friend, and or critic with you. Have them record the experience with a smartphone or video camera so you can watch the experience later. Many people make the mistake of falling for the first horse they check out, their mind over-rationalizing the good things and saying to themselves, “I like him a lot! He’s great!” forgetting to process the negative, even dangerous things wrong from the get go. A skeptical or experienced horse buying friend or family member may be the only yield sign or half halt you need as you scan potential advertisements, reminding you of exactly what you need versus what is being shown to you, saving you precious time and money in your quest to buy a horse.

Whether you bring a trainer, friend or family member along, calculate your cost of gas there and back and include a lunch or snack break if it is going to be a longer trip. Hungry trainers are always dangerous to transport.

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Endoscopic tests, drug testing, bone scans, ultrasounds, and thermography scans are all additional ways to learn more about the horse for sale but with significant investment from the interested buyer. Generally these are only used on high-performance and competition horses or if the veterinarian highly recommends them after his or hers’ basic pre-purchase exam.

Expect the pre-purchase exam costs to be no less than $200. $200-$300 should cover a thorough, basic exam, with lots of scribbled notes and numbers written down by the vet throughout the exam. Many times it is printed very neatly and sent to you shortly after the exam.

If the horse didn’t “pass the test” for whatever reason in your mind, and you decide not to purchase it, swallow the money you spent on the pre-purchase exam and quickly pat yourself on the back for not buying the horse. Keep from feeling pressured or obligated to buy a horse just because you invested in a vet check, no matter how much money you think you’ve “lost”. It is far better in the long run to keep your search going then purchasing something not completely suitable to your needs.

Luckily, the bill of sale is free. Sometimes people write their own, but it is more common to print a standard bill of sale from an online source. When you do find a horse you feel 100% confident in buying, print 3 copies (one for you, one for the owner of the horse and one to keep in the vehicle you transport the horse in), and start preparing a folder for the day you pick up the new member of the family. This is also the time to start thinking about equine insurance policies for your new bundle of joy if you have extra money in your budget to invest in equine mortality or medical insurance.

Tidyforms is a great place to find examples online. Click here for a equine bill of sale sample.

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If you have not taken the “plunge” yet and bought a dependable truck and loyal trailer yet to complete your equestrian “lifestyle”, you need to figure out how to bring your new purchase home. If you are lucky, the horse is local and the current owner is able to haul the horse to you, free of charge. If not, reaching out to fellow trailer-owning friends or commercial haulers is your next best bet. If you are lucky, the going “minimum” rate is around $.75-S1 per mile. Depending on where you live it may start as low as $2 per mile. Factors include how many other horses are in the trailer, who is shipping the horse and what the current price of gas is. Contact reputable haulers in your area and request a quote and do your research to find one that works best for you.

Hauling a horse adds wear and tear to both the truck and the trailer being used. If a friend is helping you, be considerate of both their time and their personal property being used and offer to pay them comparably.

For example a trip from Green Bay to Chicago is 210 miles. Round-trip it is 420 miles. If you have a newer truck and your own trailer, the cost of gas will cost you between $60 and $80 for the entire trip (again depending on the price of gas, gas mileage, etc). If you are unable to haul the horse yourself, a quote from a professional hauler may range between $350 and $600 for a 420 mile trip.

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In this example, and in many situations, the horse will be crossing state lines. Check with the veterinarian who completed the pre-purchase exam to learn what is required to have with you as you take the horse over state lines. Every state requires something different, but the minimum you should have is your bill of sale, current Coggins test paperwork, and a health certificate no older than 30 days tucked somewhere dry and safe in your vehicle. Normally, the horse already has a Coggins test when you buy it and is valid for one year, so only an additional health certificate is needed. The total costs for a health certificate could be:

Farm Call + Exam + Certificate = total cost (depending on veterinarian)

60    + 20    +    15    = $95

If you want to save money and have a bit of time and patience before taking physical possession of the horse, talk to the current owners or barn owner and see when the next time a veterinarian is scheduled to come to the barn. If the vet is going to be there for other services, the farm call fee may be dropped or divided among a number of people, greatly reducing the high farm call cost.


Request a health certificate on the day of the vet check.  If you think the horse might be coming home with you in the next 30 days (meaning you are very interested in purchasing him) request a health certificate for after the end of the exam. The veterinarian will most likely charge you only for the cost of the certificate, saving you both time and money.

Potential Total Minimum Costs around Purchasing a Horse- local, in-state, without finders fees

Trainer’s Costs 1x                                     $75

Costs of Trip to “Try a horse 1x”             $75

(including gas and lunch for two people)

Pre-Purchase Veterinarian Exam 1x        $200

Trailering the horse                              $60

(personal truck and trailer, gas only)

Total                                                           $410

Keep in mind this is only adding up the cost of checking out one horse. Multiply your costs of checking out one horse and any additional pre-purchase exams if you are having a hard time deciding between horses.

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After considering the expenses of actually buying a horse, you will need to consider the costs of actually owning one. Again the circumstances vary from one owner to the next, so do your research and find out prices specific to your area, with each of these variables in mind.

The Cost To Board a Horse

Paying Rent
Are you lucky enough to keep your horse at home with you? Or will you be boarding at a boarding barn, or at a friend’s farm? Do you want to keep your horse indoors in a stall or outdoors? Will it need special care or facilities? Do you need a riding area, particularly an indoor riding arena for the winter?  All variables will determine how much you are able spend on “rent.” Your location is going to greatly affect how much you will spend keeping your horse somewhere. A boarding facility in Connecticut is (probably, unanimously) going to cost a lot more than a boarding barn in Montana.

If you are interested in taking lessons or training for competitions, factor in the price of keeping the horse at the facility where you want to train, versus the costs and your time of trailering there each session. In some cases, your trainer or instructor may be allowed to travel to you. This is dependent on liability, insurance and trainer-barn contracts, and should be set up with prior approval.

Self/Pasture Boarding
The least expensive type of boarding with the most amount of work for yourself is self or pasture boarding (or if you are fortunate and can have a simple pasture and shelter to keep your horse at home). Think of it as a land-lease agreement. You are the sole responsible person for your horse’s health and diet. Self-board barn owners are very hands-off, keeping the cost of keeping your horse there very inexpensive.

Responsibilities that come along with self or pasture boarding include purchasing and storing hay and feed, organizing vet and farrier appointments, keeping an eye on water tank levels and light pasture or facility maintenance. If this type of boarding is located right “around the corner” from where you live or on the way to/ from where you work, you may not find it inconvenient to feed and check your horse one to two times daily.

If you have to travel out of your way to go there, calculate how much money and time you will need to invest each day in maintenance and feeding, and make sure you have enough time after that to enjoy your horse. If you are juggling that with a full-time job and family, think about if the money saved doing the “grunt” work is really worth it.

Approximate price

Per month of self/pasture boarding: No more than $125/month

Annually: $1500 (or less)

Full Boarding
Full board, the most common type of boarding is quite the opposite to self board. Feed, bedding and care should be included in the basic price. Additional services may cost extra, such as bringing the horse to turnout, blanketing and holding the horse for the farrier or veterinarian. For busy, full-time working horse owners, this is the hassle free way of owning a horse. Price of full board greatly varies and is dependent on the quality of the facilities (arenas, round pens, pastures, trail access etc.) and its location.

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If you have property or are interested in keeping your horse in a self or pasture board situation, it is good to sit down and calculate just how much money it will cost you feeding your horse every month.

A rough estimate to how much hay a horse eats is 2% for every 1000 pounds. If it weighs 1000 pounds, 20 pounds of hay per day is the base amount to begin with. If the horse has access to grass and is able to graze, this may be too much hay, if the horse is using more calories to stay warm in the winter for example, 20 pounds a day may not be enough.

So if an average bale of quality hay weighs 60 pounds (which it may not, weigh yourself holding a bale  to always know how much hay is in the bales you buy) and you purchased the bales at $4/bale, you will be spending $4 every three days on a horse that weighs 1000lbs.

This calculation brings you to about $9 per week, or $36 a month for the cost of hay. Keep in mind transportation and storage costs for hay have not been calculated.

Hay at $4/60 pound bale for a 1000 pound horse = $36/month

$36 per month x 12 months= $432 annually

The amount of grain required also varies. Simple factors to keep in mind when determining how much grain to feed include the horse’s age, weight, condition and workload. A performance horse will need to consume far more grain than one used for light, recreational riding. Talk to your local feed stores about the different grain options available and have them help you calculate rough estimates on how much you might spend per day, week and month on grain.

For example, if you take the same 1000 pound horse eating 20 pounds of hay per day that is only used for light riding, 2 pounds of grain per day is all the horse might need. Maybe none at all! A 50 pound bag of grain can cost anywhere from $10 to $20. Using an average of $15 for a bag of grain, the owner will go through a bag of grain every 25 days (50/2lbs=25).

To calculate more specifically weekly or monthly costs, take the price of the bag of grain and divide it by the number of pounds to get the price of grain per pound. Take the price per pound and multiply it by how many pounds the horse should receive to find out how much you are spending daily on grain. Then multiply this by the number of days in the month to see how much you spend per month. Please note that this calculation can also be used when determining mineral or nutritional supplement costs.

Normally you should not “over invest”, and spend a lot of money on supplements. Try and see how the horse’s health is, and then discuss any potential nutritional deficiencies with a veterinarian, farrier or professional.


$15/50=.30 cents per pound

.3 x 2 pounds daily=.60 cents daily

.60 cents x 7= $4.20 of grain weekly

.60 cents x 30= $18 of grain monthly

$18 x 12 months= $216 worth of grain annually

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The price you pay for your horse’s health care is an inevitable cost of being a good owner. Standard veterinarian expenses include annual vaccinations and dental checkups, feed supplements, and dewormer. All will vary in price from region to region, and if you can avoid paying a full “farm vet call” in any way, you will be able to reduce your veterinarian costs every time you have a vet out.

New studies suggest a 2-4x/year deworming program is best suited for managing a horse’s “wormy situation.” Too often (every two months) will create super drug resistant worms. The best way to save money on worm infestations is to maintain a stall and pasture free of decomposing “horse apples”.

Cost of annual vaccinations plus vet call:    $200

+ dental checkup                                          $150

+ dewormer (3 times per year)                     $50

Total                                                             $300

Include a “buffer” and calculate another $200 in additional veterinarian services/ feed supplements. You can never have too much money saved when an emergency vet call is needed. $200 will at least cover a basic farm call and services.

Approximate annual vet expenses: $500


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Equally crucial to horse ownership 101 is selecting a reliable farrier. Different types of riding and equine activities shape how much money you will spend each year on your horse’s feet. Some only require a monthly or every other month manicure (or would it be a pedicure?). Others will need ultra custom fancy shoes, “Pradas” in terms of horseshoes and will need a farrier every four to six weeks.

For two, very vague and general options, we can compare the approximate annual prices to a horse that goes barefoot, natural or otherwise known as without shoes, compared to a one that has a standard set of four horseshoes.


Trim, all four feet

every six weeks                                $50

Annually (52/6= 8.6, 8.6x$50)=      $430



Standard full set/4 shoes and trim

every 12 weeks        $150

every 6 weeks            $80*

Annually (52/3= 4.3, 4.3x$150, 4.3x $80=344)= $645 + $344=$989

*This is an example of reusing the shoes, setting new shoes on the horse every other time he/she see’s a farrier (money saver!). If the farrier suggests new shoes are needed each time for specific reasons, your costs will remain the same every 6 weeks. Factors include how much the horse is worked (wears through the shoes), its footing conditions, and the state/health of the horse’s feet.

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If you have ever been to a horse expo or a well loved local tack store, you know that the possibilities of things to buy are unfathomably endless. Local “tack swaps”, second hand sales and good online shopping tactics can reduce costs associated with your beloved equine, but the equipment and daily supplies to take care and to ride a horse are always things to budget into your costs.

Picking up a horse catalog is the easiest way to estimate your tack and equipment costs. Big purchases such as saddles, saddle pads, bridles, girths, cooler sheets, boots, tack trunk, shampoo and grain buckets, a new helmet and a complete set of grooming and first aid supplies will cost you an initial investment of normally over $1000. Replacing or repairing things that wear out such as girths or blankets become annual costs. Monthly costs may include fly spray, a fly mask in the summer and your horse’s favorite treats. Each month you may want to calculate $50 for “the little things” or tuck the unspent money away for a bigger investment and or emergency fund.

Initial tack and equipment costs: $1000+

Annual costs of equipment and supplies: $50 x 12 months= $600

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Included in the list below are all secondary costs beyond the basics of horse ownership. Today’s market is flooded with must-have products, bombproof insurance policies, god-like clinicians and boosting/magical supplements that might not be completely mandatory to have for your four-footed friend but in any case, a bonus.

Lesson Costs
Training and Clinic Costs
Equine Insurance
Truck and Trailer
Show Costs
Specific discipline equipment (i.e. barrels, poles, jumps, etc.)

In Conclusion

Before you throw in the towel, or horseshoes in this case, on your horse-owning dreams as a result of the start-up and annual costs, think about how rewarding and refreshing it would be to have a horse of your own. The initial costs may be intimidating, the long term costs constricting, but the final conclusion is that you will always run into costs in order to do the things you love to do. Don’t let the costs of owning a horse turn you away from the equine world. Rather calculate and monitor your budget. Know what you can and cannot afford, your limits and equally important, remember to set aside time to enjoy your new horse!


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