How to be a better trainer. Do the easy stuff first.

Rudolf said to me once, with some disgust, “What is all this talk about teachers?  It is the student that makes the difference!”

Well, yes.  But there are some notable teachers, himself included, who have changed the course of many riders.  And historically riding teachers have been more or less directive.  Recall this sport started with the cavalry?

The cruel trick now is most enthusiasts are adult and professional women.  People not exactly accustomed a sound butt-kicking on a daily basis–as might have been a more common teaching strategy in the old days.

The pendulum swings. But here is something for any stalled students who wonder sometimes plaintively, where to go next:  you may have the best horse in your area, more money than most, time enough to ride, a facility lots of riders dream about.  But, if you cannot or will not take instruction, if in your heart you want praise for what you are doing more than you want to improve what you are doing, then you will someday come across someone who has all those same things–a horse, money, time–and perseverance.  Someone who knows how to be trained.  And that person, the one who knows how to be trained, will quietly leave you in the dust.  Think about it.

From what I can see currently there is a big love-in happening in the dressage community between the students (the ones with the check book that are actually in charge) and the teacher who assumes a role of being in charge for a short period.  People are so nice now!  What happened?  And are riders doing better for it?

I’ve been at this a long time.  I was a girl in the hunter circuit on the East Coast in the seventies when George Morris sent everyone on a crash diet.  Mr. Morris was (and is) one of the most revered and feared jumper coaches of our time.
Distance-George-Morris(Thank you Amy.)

This is very good advice, by the way.  Dressage riders, take it to heart on any line of changes that you engage in.

So this little ditty has some references to George and is largely about how to be a better (and possibly hated) trainer by actually making a difference in your riders.  Its also about how to determine the correct moment to duck and run if that is what is indicated.  And it has a pointer at the end to something that actually makes life easier for your horses–and thereby you. I’m going to say this several times.  In almost all cases the best teaching plan is to do the easy and obvious things first.  Horse limping?  Check his feet before you buy a new saddle.  Do the obvious–because 9/10 that is what the problem is.  Horse bites at you when girthed?


It means it hurts.  Do something.

More on this seemingly-obvious, but never-addressed issue at the base of the post.  Making your horse more comfortable is a great example of picking the low hanging fruit.  Do first the easy (and inexpensive) things that make the biggest difference. Bit trouble?  Maybe. Get his teeth looked at before you splurge on a new bit. Avoid trends.  They are expensive, designed to get you to focus on equipment rather than riding.

Anyway, in our social media-enabled age of instant perfection, coaching is getting to be a complicated subject, largely because actually being a better trainer is likely to get you fired.

Though changing old behavior into new is the reason riders presumably hire coaches, people tend to get mad when you actually ask them to change.

(Oh dear.)

First off, and question of note: why would you WANT to be a trainer in this country?  Never mind a better one?

Point one, there is a lot of free competition: a seemingly endless supply of U-tube and Facebook experts willing to give an opinion, watch a thirty second clip and make a judgement.

Point two, the liability aspect of the game in the USA is enough to send all but the impoverished (or extremely well-insured) running.

And then there is the,  point three, “meanie” quotient.

images-2George Morris fairly terrorized a generation of young riders–myself among them.  Many of which amounted to something.  There is nothing that says you have to be a tyrant to train aspiring riders.  You do not have to insult them or send them on crash diets, or be unsympathetic to their individual needs and learning styles.

But it helps.

Some advice from George:


Look at how relaxed and at peace that horse looks.  I guarantee you, the rider at the other end of that gaze did not.





Well, trainers, maybe you do need to ignore “their learning style.”

(George once famously accused a rider in a clinic of appearing like a wart on a horse.  Ouch.)

Trainers DO need to ask (and sometimes demand) their students  to change.  And as I have begun advising in clinics of late: “This part of what I’m about to tell you (over and over) is probably going to make you angry.  You are going to hate me.  That’s okay.” 

(That’s also why I have a hotel room on a clinic and probably don’t want to go out to dinner with the larger group.)

Hands up who has been mad at their teacher !!!!!!!!!!!!!!    0

(There is at least one liar in every group.)

Teachers can (should) be demanding.


(Trust me I’ve been there.)

Change is the process of letting go of what you thought you knew or understood.  Change (learning) often evokes grief, rage, disappointment, and even momentary despair. Change is about doing something different.

That’s all part of learning something that in the end may be deeply satisfying, but the road towards it is a real PITA.

So, as a teacher, if you are basically there to cheer on your students, they may feel great–but will not change/improve.  Good side of this “cheer on” plan, short term, is they won’t ever be really mad at you either, so you can probably get on for a while, and everything will be okay.  Until they decide to go to a horse show and encounter a thing called, a score.

More on simple changes that make a big difference below, but here is my advice on training, some of it gleaned from some good sources.

Check the tack. Make sure the most simple details are attended to before you ever start.  Make sure the tack fits, the equipment is in good order and comfortable for the horse.  (Unites States Pony Club.  Remember, I am a graduate A . . . we never start a lesson without checking the tack.)

Have a plan and sit outside the arena. (Anders Lindgren, Rocky Mountain Instructor’s Series.)

Make sure it is the student who is putting in the majority of the effort. (Rudolf Zeilinger, my hero and a master of inspiring his students, both equine and human.)

Be very demanding, but when they are really working make them more at ease by forgiving small mistakes–which inevitably happen. (Meg Plumb, who coined the phrase I often use, “not to worry!”  Rudolf Zeilinger’s equally profound version is: “Es macht nicht” or “it does not matter.”)

Knowing when something does not matter is critically important.

Only care deeply when change is possible. (I’m not going to attribute this to anyone, but there is no point in knocking yourself (and the student) out when change is not really wanted or it is just too hard. If the horse is old or lame, or the client is frightened, making excuses, or rides only twice a month, let it go.  They have given you a message: you have been assigned educational hospice care, not intervention.  You might choose not to teach them if it annoys you.  But let them down easily. There is no shame in that.  They are in charge of how much effort they put in).

I’m going to repeat this: The student is in charge of how much effort they put in.  Time, money, commitment, goals.  They belong to the student.  And if the student does not organize these to a level that may make a difference, there is nothing you can do as a trainer but collect a (small) check and go home.

People used to (annoyingly) say to me, You’re so lucky that you “get” to go to Germany and train! 

Luck had nothing to do with it. And my raised eyebrows at the comment had to do with the grief, rage, disappointment and despair that were often my companions on the journey.  It was not fun.  Gratifying, but not fun.  And truth was, I made it happen by giving up many things the people claiming I was “lucky” possessed.  They could have done it too.  I did it because I wanted the training very, very badly–I was tired of the grind of “almost” knowing.  But many parts of that journey were humiliating, confusing, expensive and painful.

So I am amused when my casual students seem to expect that lessons are in some way entertainment.  Sure, you can use humor to keep the mood light, but that’s not the goal.  Nor is marketing.

Which leads us to client choice.

As a trainer do not work with horses or riders whose talent, temperament, or level of training are outside your training skills and goals.  That means both horses too green and horses too experienced.

There are probably other people better suited to these jobs, and it is silly to think you are an expert in every one of the various fields.    No one is.   If you are a Grand Prix rider with good cred and no experience with young horses, then teach the upper level.  If you know about bringing a young warmblood along the levels, do that.  If you know how to break a horse and gentle them in, do that. Some people have two out of three of theses skills.  Almost no one is an expert in all three.  Live with it.


I have never done polo or tent pegging, but I have watched both with enthusiasm.

I have experience in breaking and training young horses.  I don’t do it because I don’t find it very interesting–and you need really specific facilities, help, and other very broke horses.

I have experience in jumping, eventing, trail riding.  I don’t do those much because I already have. (Well, sometimes I still jump, and sometimes I take the horses out.  But I don’t get paid for it.)

I have  experience  in upper level dressage, a background in science, a degree in English, Brown belt in Aikido, and know something about biomechanics, carriage and suspension.  I teach because I enjoy making it easier for people to understand (and feel) how they are going to get where they are going–if indeed they want to go.  If they do not want to do it my way, it is usually not a good fit.

So my training group is really limited.

That’s fine!  I don’t have all that much time.

Another great piece of advice from Rudolf?  “Get done with your riding day and go do something else.”

Sometimes productive things happen when you step back and think.






We figured out why horses don’t like their girths

In a related post I have told you we solved the girth problem.  I know that sounds weird, but really, we did.


And now in 2018 have a workshop to prove it.

I heard a story a while ago at a clinic, while showing some girths to an interested crowd.

It goes like this: A friend who also rides for pleasure, was walking through CDI stabling at Dressage World Cup, witnessed a bunch of ears back, tails swishing behavior at tack up.

She asked, “How come all the nasty faces?”

Companion’s answer, “They are ALL like that–dressage horses.”


(And please, now that we know how to fix it–FIX IT!)

Here I am also going to tell you quite simply how we finally managed to make the horses more comfortable.  So it will perhaps make more sense.

The solution came about by trying things we suspected would work.  Most of them did not.  If you do this as a job and watch carefully without investment, the so called perfect answers really don’t work as much as you’d hope.

Our prejudices at the start:

  1. We liked our cord “mohair” girths–and on investigation found they were no longer made of corded mohair, but nylon with no give whatsoever.  Their only virtues were they typically do not rub and they are inexpensive.


Would anyone like a pile of them?

2. Real fiber with spring actually is good–but you can’t buy it for $24.99.  Ever feed a goat?  We have. You shear them once a year and it takes them a whole year to “grow” a fiber girth.  Then some human has to spin it and cord it and ply it.)


These things are gorgeous!  Darin Alexander, ArtCords did these.  They are much much better than nylon but at the tension we keep them they were not a solution unto themselves. I gave mine away because I could not bear to have the moths get them.

3. We thought unlimited stretch fabric girths would be nice.  Our horses don’t like them.  We asked, they made faces.

4. We didn’t like elastic ends.  Now we don’t care–the horses don’t care. But if you have them, please have them on both sides

5. We didn’t like short girths–too much hardware in moving places.

We still don’t like short girths and the horses have gotten over the bruising from trying the standard models.  Eventually we came up with one fitted with carefully measured–buckles as high as you can get them that actually works.  A tiny bit of elastic, a girth shield added–see lump like full snake in middle–and a girth cozy–no more ugly faces.  We will show you one at the end of the post.

6. We thought anatomic girths would be nice.  The horses walked off with peg legs.


Same of the “shoulder relief” girths.  The might work with a hunter saddle designed to be ridden up over the withers.   They cause a huge amount of elbow infringement in a “normally” placed saddle.  (Try one on and stick your fingers in the front side of it and walk the horse.  OUCH!)

7. We thought contoured girths with “humane” ends (which we still like–the humane ends) would be great.


The horses would not walk at all.

8. We thought the Balding was old fashioned.


The horses liked them pretty well.

Then we got frustrated that older and older was better and better and bought ourselves one of these very new things:


It is meant to check your saddle fit, but it worked very well on the bottom side of the horse too.

We strapped it to the beast and rode with it.  (Beast did not mind).


And then looked at it carefully.  The middle section is the pectorals–still some gel.  The spots that bottomed out–you can see light through them–are just behind the elbows at the base of the ribs.  And it bottomed out every single time we tried–a lot of pressure was being exerted there at the base of the rib cage.

So then off to the Internet and much study of anatomy and other people’s tests on race horses and girth tightening pressures and many many hours into it we came up with something that worked. The Girth Shield concept allows the horses to breath naturally while securely holding your saddle in place.  And that is what the horses are grumping about when you tack them up–when a normal girth is tightened it is hard for them to breath, and it hurts.

The horses are now all very happy.  No more ugly faces

Melynnda got her Silver Medal, I dusted off my Gold and then stuck it back in the car’s ash tray.

We found a way to give room for normal rib expansion by creating what is in effect a second tree for the base of the horse. 6,7,8 or 9 inches wide.  One size does NOT fit all.  But it’s not so complicated. a length that puts the buckles where you want them and a measurement across the pectorals.


The design evolves.


IMG_6169 6.46.07 AM


There are lots of ways to get around problems.

The X Girth is above, and it is about as simple as you can think of–other than it is hard to make because of the continuous loop.  It is easy to use.  Inexpensive.  We call it the dry martini of the girth world.

If you want one, make contact.

What’s to lose?  (Strong hint–the nasty faces and peg legs for a start.)

Below a modified girth  and how it looked before we modified it.



The heavily padded shield at the base of the girth creates a place for the horse’s ribs to expand when the girth is fully tightened.  Problem solved.

The Girth Shield Project



Last summer a clever student asked me why so many horses seemed to experience discomfort at girthing?  How come they made nasty faces, tried to nip, then walked out stiffly, or stayed tight in the back–particularly the young horses in canter?  We have a gazillion saddle sizes to choose from, clean pads, no sores, and we are always very considerate about girthing slowly.  Very frustrating.

My answer was far from satisfactory.

I did what we all do when we don’t really know, and said it was a problem, I was not sure of the answer.

Then I related that the so-called “cure” was that the horses had put up with it for years, and might well continue to do so–if they had enough grit. (Bad answer!)

And, that  they were not allowed to actually bite us! (True, but has nothing to do with what they are saying.)

I elaborated what I felt at the time–that it was a major issue for almost all dressage horses, and largely unresolved.

Further, lots of marketers had tried lots of things that really didn’t seem to work.

And, like specialty saddles, (though to a smaller degree), one could spend a ton of money on the newest thing and then be left with a pile of equipment that functioned no better (and perhaps worse) than before.

So with a shrug I went on–though I know that was not right.

But that question also spawned an answer because it came to bother me that some of my favorite and very successful horses had been bothered by their girths.

That solution required a lot of purchasing of different girths and a lot of sending back those failed trials, getting closer, and then some new creations based on what we found.  (We found there were some better than others, but the answer was not out there on the market for us to find.)

Now with a pile of experience–and  a several thousand $$$ pile of trial girths that did not work as hoped–we have an answer.

So TM in place, Patent pending our next year’s final drawing, here it is–an opportunity to participate


This is anything but slick marketing, but that is not what we are about. You can  check to see if we have anything ready made in your horse’s size:

And in another related post I have written the story about how we did it.  It was not too hard–it just took a LOT of time.


IMG_0443 IMG_1719 IMG_0445

Congratulations to Melynnda on Her Silver Medal!

Melynnda, as some of you know got a new horse last fall.  He’s really a good mover.  Expressive and elastic, sensitive but not silly.  Older, had some experience at the Grand Prix.  Half TB, bred from an old stallion of mine, Watson.  Spent his life in California and Germany.

A couple of weeks ago, first show of the season, Melynnda accomplished a personal best at the Prix St Georges, handily upping her past averages by almost five points and got the second score she needed for the USDF Silver Medal award.

Great work–we are all really proud of her!

Isn’t it great getting a new horse that is a better mover?

Well, yes indeed it is, except the horse she got the score on was her 14.2 downhill Mustang mare, Mariah.  The same horse she got her first score on as well–eeking out the sixty last year once  instead of this year nailing it with room to spare.  (It was a really nice test)

I don’t know how many FEI Mustangs there are, but I bet it is not a handful.

How did she do it?  Hard work over the winter, the new horse is teaching Melynnda a lot.

AND we have found a way to make that little horse happier than she has ever been in her tack.  She’s being ridden better, but she’s more comfortable as well.  Five points up, first show, how often does that happen?  Dressage is not so easy for that little Mustang.  We made her happier.  It paid off.

And finally, something if you are interested in we can help you with.  Yes, finally, something you can buy at Dressage Snob!  You know we know what we are doing.  Happy to share:

Training: What it all costs.

Short answer:  Expensive, but not THAT expensive.
(Note: People seem hesitant to give this information publicly, so it is hard to compare.  I think the costs may be a bit higher for similar work on the East and West coasts than here in Spokane.  Australia?  If you have insider information to spill–please share below!  I don’t know what it costs now, but when I was going to Germany, training was roughly $1200-1500 US a month–far less than it was in the US, though the exchange was very good at the time.  To get my “finishing” education to a good international quality Grand Prix–and know how to recreate it, remember I started with all green horses–I had one or two horses in training year-round for about seven years.  Let’s see, without airfare or lodging, or buying the horses, that’s  about $151,000.  I already had my Bachelor’s degree (English, Colorado College) so I guess this was the Doctorate?)
Dale‘s training rates below for this year, effective March 1, 2013

A side note–I found an interesting article/website this morning about horse values.
I don’t know these people–not one bit!–but their logic seems very sound.  Worth a read.

If you don’t have time for it, the basic premise is that a top-value dressage horse is on target for certain tasks by certain ages.  Anything that deviates from this takes the value of the horse down–and that makes sense as the really sound and easy ones tick off their developmental tasks pretty easily and reliably.  Anything that complicates this (inept/inexact training or foundation, a weak gait, difficult character, soundness issues) tends to take time out of the equation.  That does not mean that the training or soundness-challenged horse cannot improve as it ages (hocks for instance) but that its value/price will be lower than the “easy” one who shows you who he or she is by six or seven.

That aside, here are current training rates–which I am happy to report are the same as they were in 1995!
(Talk about wage stagnation!)

Dale Forbes: Training rates 2013
(I define home barn as the one where I am boarding my riding or training horses.)
Lessons home barn: $50
Lessons at other local barns: $75
Clinic (excluding travel costs): $100 per lesson
Horse use–depends on the horse, typically $25.

Full time training (up to 20 sessions a month) $750  ($37.50/session. Can be lessons or training.)

Most of the barns that I work out of charge $450 for full care including hay, grain, bedding and facilities. Which makes the investment $1200 a month.

The barn that we use to do the early work
charges $250 for pasture board and $500 for full-time work, so $450 less per month.  Most young horses need 60 days preliminary work and then at least another 60 days to be reliably connected, walk, trot and cantering, both leads and happy in the work.

Two months of full-time training a year for most going horses will ensure they progress through the levels.  One lesson a week after that will keep things pointed in the right direction.  That makes a yearly training budget of about $350 a month–though of course that choice is up to the owner!

(Also keep in mind it takes a great deal longer to train the rider than the horse, but that most riders will really be happiest if the horse is mannerly and knows what to do–even when the rider makes mistakes.  Time spent training the horse is usually a wise choice.)

Dale Forbes
509 879-4619  (US PACIFIC TIME ZONE!)

The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished. ~George Bernard Shaw

I Can’t Hear You!

Dale Forbes:

In a previous post I indulged in a satisfying rant about arena manners and keeping unmounted people out of the schooling area.

I also promised to give my two cents on hearing and being heard with the thought that proper voice amplification devices can assist in keeping the instructor where I think they belong–in the corner.  Never mind it helps the student figure things out.

But first a quick story–it’s related.

I think I have told you that in my first year in Germany I had brought with me the bad habit of holding the dressage whip steady using my thumb.  I’d done it that way for some time and no one had bothered to correct me on it.  I can totally see why they did not, even if they noticed, as it took daily nagging for months to help me fix it.  I had developed a body memory that was planted as a habit and I did not actually realize I was doing it.  Given that, it was insanely difficult to correct.

But Rudolf is nothing of not persistent.   Every morning as I inelegantly bounded around the arena as I passed by him he would say one thing: “Take your thumb from the whip.”

That was it. Until I came around again, the sneaky thumb having crept back whipward whenever I concentrated on anything else: “Take your thumb from the whip.”

Yes, this is why we Americans love to train in Germany.  The glamor and high style of being an American riding student in Europe is perfectly breathtaking.  Every day there is a new treasure that makes learning difficult skills suddenly easy.  Every moment is like a great light bulb turning on in the American brain.

Er, not so much so.

So, assuming I was the most stupid student that had ever lived, after the ride one day I approached Rudolf, getting ready to leave, and red-faced blurted out, “Don’t you get sick of saying the same thing over and over again?”

He replied, “No, I assume that the rider can only hear about 10% of what I say.  They can only do another 10%.  So I had better say what it is I really want them to do.”

How very optimistic of him.  This might explain a teaching style that people have described as terse.

However, it was the correct approach for me and indeed I did eventually figure out how to adopt the correct method.

So, back to being heard.  Even if the student can only do 10% of what is being asked, it is nice to think they can actually hear it.  And it is also nice if you are an instructor not to have to shout all day–and healthier.  Also, given that most good instruction is telling someone to do a hopefully small and simple action that they CAN accomplish, being able to communicate clearly is an advantage.

As a tagline on my email I have the quotation:
The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished”. ~George Bernard Shaw

Some Solutions:

A simple megaphone–with care not to touch the inevitable siren button–can work nicely for less than $30.

Good things: Typically enough amplification and decent sound quality.

Bad things: Siren button is not a good training aid, tiring for teacher to hold up for long periods. They can’t be plugged in and they run through batteries like crazy and so are more expensive to use than you at first think.  If you get one, also get a universal battery charger.  (One of these by the way is the most thoughtful baby shower gift you can think of.  Why do people not do this?  Perhaps low ooohhhh! quotient.)


Next, a portable sound system: I searched like crazy for one of these a number of years ago and most locally available systems seemed more designed for the local rock group or karaoke.  Then I found this gem:

Less than $500


The model I got is actually no longer available, but I believe they have improved on it.  Mine has the option of plugging in to a 12 volt car outlet or a battery or a 110 plug, which I am told is also true of the new one. One can easily imagine a situation in an outdoor area with no plug, but a handy vehicle.  They report,  “It would be useful if you needed to run the system for many hours on 12V power (the internal battery will run the system for 4-6 hours) the PAS-8000 has its own, built-in rechargeable 12V battery so you can use it anywhere. It also features 2 built-in wireless mic systems and a built-in mp3 player with remote”.

These guys are thinkers  The company is Florida Magic and Sound and they specialize in equipment for–you guessed it–magicians.  (In my next life I want to be one of those–I think it would be satisfying.)  They are a super company, and at the end of the transaction it is quite likely they will list the methods of payment and add a dry, “Pick a card, any card.” comment.  What’s not to love?

Advantages: Your students can hear and so can everybody else. Good sound quality, the speaker can be at some distance from the talker, though you have to arrange where you are transmitting from via the wireless mic somewhat carefully.  Some background fuzzy noise in mine’s case–but it is eight years old or so.  Has worked for years. A Godsend.

Disadvantages: Your students can hear and so can everybody else.  If you teach and ride in a suburban neighborhood this could be an issue.  Not useful at shows.

Something that does seem to be useful at shows is this: a wireless communication system.  The teacher wears the small transmitter with microphone and the student wears a receiver with ear buds.

If used, this is an item that a student should purchase whatever ear device they like that is compatible with the receiver.  At very least every student might best have (and pay for) their own.  Sharing a device that includes ear buds is gross!  And there are lots of choices.  More on that in another post later on learning to use a communication device.


There are three main ones: Eartec, Comtek and Eponaire.  The picture above is the Comtek system.

An Eartec system can be used as one way or two-way transmission device.  At a bit more than $300, it the least expensive of the options and the only one that can do two way communication.

I have spoken with the Comtek representative, who kindly loaned us a system to try.  Their offering at about $1,200 offers only one way communication, but claims a better range and sound quality.  They are right about sound quality, it is superb.

In the middle in cost is the Eponaire system.


The Eponaire offering is very like the Comtek in that it can be used to power a portable speaker, or used with any of various earphones that might fit your I-pod.  The sound quality is very good–perhaps not quite as clear as the Comtek, and with less technical volume control, but still very workable.

The big difference between the systems is how many channels they offer.  None of the systems will interfere with any of the other systems, but the range of frequency groups available is markedly different.  The Eponaire offers two, the Comtek fifty, but cautions that only six different frequency groups can be used in each 200 foot  segment of teaching space.  (If getting two pros to cooperate over arena time is tough, I am having fun imagining the negotiations for “air time”).

So, if you are the only one teaching–a clinic for instance–it is quite likely you will not have difficulty with fewer available channels–at least for now while the technology is still relatively new.  But, if you are at the Wellington classic and fifteen trainers are on the rail, the student might very well be getting some “conflicting” advice!

My note is this is far less likely to be a problem for dressage trainers and students in the US than some other disciplines and in Europe.  We have definite times of classes, unlike hunters who might be in the warmup much longer awaiting their turn.

But back to sound systems: Back in the dark ages when this technology was just emerging I asked Rudolf what he thought of it.

Suitably long pause: “It might be nice, but it had better only go in one direction!”

I could not agree more. Having on more than one occasion while being taught, rhythmically chanted under my breath things I will not repeat.  The rider is suffering enough already–some privacy is vital.  Amusingly the Eponaire rep that I talked to confided that the Eartec systems with two way communication, are frequently purchased by students.  The Comtec and Eponaire  “one way” almost exclusively by trainers!  Go figure. . .

I will give you another post presently about what it is like to use the systems and how we found teaching and listening to be different with them–link to follow.

Tools of the trade.

Dale Forbes:

When, many moons ago,  Rudolf appeared with some regularity for a group of us in the United States, he began to bring with him two items that were useful and that we could not find locally.  These were the Schultheis-designed Fleck whip, and small cans of a mysterious substance to be daubed on boots.  He also brought his saddle and some gloves.

(On the export side, he always took back several pairs of deerskin gloves, which he said at the time were far superior to the ones he could get in Germany.  I believe this is called “balance of trade.”)

The Germans, by the way, are also one of the main importers of the American Quarter horse.

Apparently, some of them just want to have a nice walk in the woods, and at times find warmbloods challenging.

Go figure.  Er, so do we. . .

But, back to the tools of the trade!

Here are some things that will likely make your riding life easier.IMG_0163

Guter Sitz


A Fleck Whip of the Schultheis Model

IMG_0165A rubber band of the Peacock style usually used on safety stirrups, in this case wrapped double or triple mid line in the balance point of your whip.  I am going to write a whole post on the correct use of the whip, but for now, this is the one you want for dressage.

And of course Body Glide, which I have told you about, ad nauseum, in another post.


I can hear you clamoring:  WHAT is the stuff in the orange can?

Okay, I will tell you, and sadly it is now sold in plastic tins; but here is the scoop: Guter Sitz Durch: it is glue.

Well, adhesive really. (Translation, Better Sit by–meaning: sit better by using this!)

Ever heard the phrases, “Sit like glue?”   “Sit tight?”  You got it.  But, take heed, it is not used on your butt, but very sparingly on the inner side of your unpolished boot to create a very slightly tacky feel.  Works by far the best when using a saddle with a flap strap.  But on any saddle, use too much and you will never do a flying change (or canter transition) again.  It’s that good.  But, not as good as a product that we Americans produce and one of my riding students found an “off label use” for.

Here is the story.  I had a riding student once who had a background playing college football.  Played in the Rose Bowl, I believe.  And one time when I was off in Germany, having abandoned the whole tribe to do something or other–ride?–he started to think.  And he was a good thinker, and the more he thought about trying to sit better, the more excited he became about an idea and eventually headed off to the local purveyor of football things and bought himself a can of the spray adhesive that the folks designated to catch the ball spray on their gloves.

Not telling his wife, he crept guiltily off to the barn, where, before mounting, he generously sprayed the inside of his boots. Then, leaning over (I am sure with a sly grin), he equally generously sprayed his leather riding breeches, the interior of his thigh up through the crotch, around the butt, and down the other side.

He then hopped on his horse and had what he reported was “the ride of my life.”  Sitting was not an issue.  He felt powerful and in control–finally.  Problem solved.  He was in, as he later put it, “sticky butt heaven.”

Then, with thoughts of reuse and patent rights, he attempted to dismount.

And suddenly, as if in some grim Norwegian fairly tale, he understood that he could not get off.

Moral of story: Never mind American ingenuity, sometimes more is not better; and when I say use a little Guter Sitz on the interior of your boot, I am really quite serious about it.  A can should last you roughly the rest of your life.

You can get one here:

As well as a good whip, rubber ring for it, and excellent tack cleaning products like Bienenwachs.

I’ll fill you in on the darned whip use another time.

A sore subject. (Rated X–gals only)

Dale Forbes

There is a well-known phenomenon in other fields: If you put together several experts on the same subject to collaborate–say, three economists, for example–the opposite of what you expect happens.  And that is, almost nothing.

But, if you put together several experts from different fields–say, one economist, one engineer, and one chemist–you are likely to get some interesting results.

So this last year, when I began on my goal to ride a bike to the barn every day–something that took a few months to accomplish, as there is a 600-ft elevation change between here and there–I experienced a much more defined (and commercialized) attitude from bike riders about saddle sores than I ever did in the dressage riding world.

Re us dressage riders: It could be the cavalry influence, but when it comes to sores in the nether regions, I am reminded of Miss Manners’ priceless advice, which was that there are only a limited number of audible things that emerge from ladies and gentlemen of polite society.  The hiccup and the sneeze, I think.

What about the others, you might ask?

What others?

Melynnda and I began talking about saddle sores last summer when she confessed that one of her lady riding students had wailed, “I’ll never have sex again!”

Well, that’s one of the areas in which you can certainly suffer saddle sores, and it’s about time we talked about it openly!  The lady bikers have no such compunction, speaking of which, you should see what the motorcycle riders have come up with:


Apparently there is a lot of, er, vibration and friction to the southern parts of the typical Harley enthusiast.  Who knew?

Well, if they can talk about it, so can we.  So here is what can happen, why it happens, and how to prevent it.

#1. Wear appropriate clothing.  There is a reason the sports bra was developed, and the same goes for riding breeches and boots.

#2. Wear sensible things under your appropriate clothing:


Well, okay, unless you are pregnant, you don’t need to get the maternity ones–or the heels.  (If you need to dress up your look, you have spurs!) These are made by a company called Spanx and as Melynnda says, “They prevent friction and make you look better in your breeches–what’s not to love?”

#3. Ride better.  (You knew it was coming.)  If the horse is constantly falling out from under the saddle, it creates problems for both of you.

#4. On open sores–or ones you don’t want to get opened–Band-Aids work.  Think knees and butt.  (You should see the looks I got from my Rolfer, adorned with these on one occasion.)

#5. For places where a Band-Aid would not be appropriate: Forget Vaseline or aloe; there is a product we really, really like.  It is made for runners and you can buy it from our local tack store below–along with about everything else we recommend on this site.  It comes in two sizes and it’s inexpensive–under $10.

Get some:

(They have it in stock–if you can’t find it on the site, just ask.)


This is really good stuff. I don’t actually put it on my body–I put it on the inside of my clothing.  Works GREAT.

Another good place that sells it, Long Rider Warehouse with gear for endurance riders, says the following:

“Body Glide ~ for horse & rider, before & after chafing!

“Popular in other sports such as running and biking, BodyGlide is quickly becoming a mainstay of equestrians, too! Prevents chafing by creating a barrier that protects skin from friction and moisture. You will be very happy with the results! Non-staining, 100% hypoallergenic, it penetrates for long-lasting protection, anywhere… knees, feet, fannies, you name it! Ahh, no more saddle sores!

“Does your horse have girth gall, rubbing from his breastplate or loin rubs? BodyGlide very effectively prevents galling and chafing on your horse as well!”

It’s  a stick, not a cream. . .  Here at Dressage Snob, we recommend that you have two–one for you and one for the beast. . .  ‘nuf said.