About Lauren Sprieser

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Lauren Sprieser has created 274 blog entries.

Holiday Gift Guide For Your Horse Professional 2021

By |2021-11-24T05:31:09-05:00November 24th, 2021|Snippets|

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! The time where you have to figure out how to not go into debt while also showing your love and appreciation for those you care about, and also where here in Virginia it’s 40* during the day but 20* at night so the ground is a shoe-sucking quagmire. (Ok, so maybe it’s the Second Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Or the Third. Whatever.)

I can’t solve the shoe sucking problem, but I can make some recommendations on what the horse professionals in your world would appreciate if you’re working on your holiday gift list.

1. New gloves. I can basically guarantee that your trainer and/or her working students needs new gloves. In our line of work even the best of the best don’t last all that terribly long, and we try and squeak as much time out of each pair as possible. I ride in Roeckls myself, and if you live in a place that experiences a cold winter, I can’t say enough nice things about the Roeckl-Grip Winter glove, which is on sale at Tack of The Day. They’re not so bulky that you can’t still feel the reins while riding. Love ’em.

2. A MIPS helmet. The science on MIPS technology is amazing – it is HUGELY better at protecting your brain in a fall than even the best of the ASTM approved helmets, and OneK makes one that’s not wild expensive (plus it comes with the fun CCS system so you can swap out the colors on the center details and make your hat your own).

3. New boots from Kingsley. Want to splurge on your favorite horse professional? Kingsley boots are my favorite, because they wear like iron, AND you can be as garish (or not) in your footwear choices because there’s colors and styles galore, at a range of price points. Plus, hypothetically speaking, playing with the Boot Configurator after a couple of cocktails is a barrel of fun. Not that I would know, of course.

4. Some self care. Book a session to care for your favorite rider (or favorite rider’s horse’s) body with an expert bodyworker like Meghan Brady, or their brain with an expert professional coach like Jen Verharen. Both of these amazing women keep me going, in more ways than one.

5. A custom saddle plate from Swanky Saddlery. I LOVE my fancy little logo plates, and they set my black saddles apart in a sea of black saddles. And it’s something that we professionals would never treat ourselves to.

6. Cash and gift cards are never the wrong answer, and I love shopping small whenever I can. Don’t forget that it’s possible to get gift cards to your trainer’s feed store, which we probably spend more money at than our local tack shop. And most veterinary practices will let you make a payment on your trainer’s account as well. And for the working students of the world, think about helping in the direction of the grocery store or gas station, especially in this tricky world we’re living in now. They’d be very grateful for the help!

Out Standing In His Field

By |2021-11-18T09:00:06-05:00November 17th, 2021|Snippets|

I was 19 or 20 years old, working summers for my childhood trainer outside Chicago. He’d been sent this shrimpy little three year old KWPN Harness-type stallion, cheeky as hell, lightly broke, and very, very spooky. I had to lead him with a whip, not because I was afraid of him, but because he wanted to balk and hide behind me as he walked. We restarted him, and then I had to have someone in the arena with a lunge whip for a while, because he’d suck back so badly about the corners of the indoor that I couldn’t make him go without assistance. He was a nuisance in the gelding field, constantly pestering the big draft cross – appropriately named Thunder – who had heretofore quietly run the herd with benevolence and grace, and instead had to contend, daily, with this annoying little Midge of a Dutch Horse… which led to his nickname. And when I went back to college in the fall, I didn’t give him a second thought.

Over the winter, the breeder – his owner – passed away, and my mother, apparently looking for a way to punish me, bought him (with no pre purchase exam, by the way), and declared him my college graduation project. I rolled my eyes and said fine, geld him, and I’ll deal with the madness when I come home in the Spring.

Gelding improved things. So did turning four. He grew to the towering height of 16h, and become actually very pleasant. I taught lessons on him. I jumped him over tiny things. I won things at horse shows. I left him in Illinois to grow up while I was a working student for Carol Lavell, and I figured I’d pick him back up in the Spring of his five year old year, do a few more shows, and sell him.

That was a nice thought I had. But at five, Midge – real name Victorious – became an absolute monster. No longer balky but still definitely spooky, I had to put him in the double bridle because, even though he was still maybe only 16.1 and I’m a big, strong lass, I could not stop him. He was strong as an ox, hot as hell, and couldn’t maintain an uphill balance at the canter unless he was going at warp speed. Famous people told me to get rid of him, so I put him on the market, and somehow, someone was just crazy enough to vet him. It was then that we discovered a chip in the right stifle, and so they passed. I went to my mom and said well, we’re stuck with him now, so I guess I’ll have to train him.

He was an extremely quick study, thank God. Midge learned his changes in a minute, and half steps about a minute after that. But he was so, so hot to the leg. I would tell people along the way that I put my leg on at the mounting block and took it off when he turned 10. And he was, much to my dismay, incredibly balanced on his hind legs. He could stand up and stay there, like something out of the Spanish Riding School, for as long as he chose, and I’d just sit up there and wait for him to land.

I was young and brave and I stuck it out. He showed Third Level. He showed Prix St. Georges. Along the way, his wagon horse roots kept his knees and hocks bending, but he learned how to canter, learned how to really piaffe (without a whip, by the way – if you tried to carry one, you’d die.) He got eliminated once at Prix St. Georges because he stood up for so long that the judge feared for my life. Another time a judge told me that it was time for me to stop riding rogues and try and ride nice horses for a change. But by then I was smitten, and you couldn’t have pried him out of my hands with a crowbar. I rode him bareback in the snow. I took him swimming in the pond. He was the pony I’d never had as a kid – stubborn like a pony, aggravating like a pony, but utterly my pony.

He made his Grand Prix debut at 10, including a ticket to the first ever Developing Grand Prix Championships. He learned to make extended trot. His piaffe and passage were phenomenal, and the entire canter tour was all 7.5 or better, every time. An Olympian approached me to ask if he was for sale. The president of the 2012 Olympics ground jury said he was in love. At 11, in the early days of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, Midge won an open Grand Prix class in the international arena in front of the 5* judging panel, beating a class of team riders. And two days later, he just wasn’t quite right. We chased it around for 2 years – first lame behind, then in front, problem after problem. I couldn’t do it anymore – the heartache, the time, the money. I sent him to the retirement field, with the idea that I’d look at him again in six months, but I figured he was done.

But Midge was not done. He came out of the field remarkably sound. And at the same time, a student named Liza came to the end of a bad string of her own horse luck, with two horses suffering from career-ending health conditions. Horseless, and one 3rd Level score away from her USDF Bronze Medal, I made her a deal: take Midge. If he breaks, no worries, he can go back to the field. As long as he stays sound, he’s yours.

Liza’s care and ministrations were meticulous. He came back, and while he was still hot and feral, time had mellowed him to the point of being vaguely dependable. They showed Third Level. She earned her Bronze, and he still looked good, so we said hey, let’s try Fourth. Then Prix St. Georges. Her USDF Silver Medal. He was still holding steady, so I sold him to Liza – for $1. Then they showed Intermediate II. Then Grand Prix, and her Gold Medal. Maybe we should be done, we thought.

But Midge was not yet done. COVID caused us to hit pause on competing him in 2020, but he continued to teach his family, and tortured more than one working student into tears as they tried to just do simple, low level work. He did Grand Prix demos, and became internet famous for a few one handed stupid pet tricks. This summer, at the age of 19, he took one of my employees around at Grand Prix as well. And only then did he start to show his age. There was a spot of not-quite-right behind that we could have gone on medical safari to treat, but with nothing left for him to give (and also because the little stinker was such a menace to the lower level girls), his amazing owner decided instead to send him back to the retirement field, this time for good.

Naturally, he bucked and squealed his way around his last few weeks with us, and then bronc’d his way around the field, stirring up the other senior citizens. But to the end of his time as a riding horse, he bore the look of eagles. And I’m so grateful for all of the amazing people who have provided loving homes for the horses I’ve brought up the levels, but the decision to retire, such a hard one already, is so much better made 6 months or 9 months or 12 months too early than five minutes too late.

Cheers, Midge. You, eventually, kicking and screaming, made believers out of everyone you met. Enjoy your golden years being your naughty pony self.

Learning Lessons, Keeping Perspective At The U.S. Dressage Finals

By |2021-11-17T05:11:26-05:00November 16th, 2021|COTH Posts|

The U.S. Dressage Finals is one of my favorite shows, for a few reasons. It’s a big-deal show, at a fantastic venue. The team that runs it is the All-Stars, the best of the nation’s various show management companies all coming together. It’s a great way to get the young horses some mileage in a big environment, and success here is a nice feather in your marketing cap. But none of those are the biggest reason I love the U.S. Dressage Finals. Let me explain.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

Horse, Know Thyself

By |2021-11-11T04:48:01-05:00October 21st, 2021|COTH Posts|

The weather is turning, and our horses coats are growing. Last week my 6-year-old, Eddie, was clipped, his first time doing so in my owning him. He was perfect, the clip came out great, and the next day, I went to ride him. The second the saddle pad hit his back, he curled up and froze. He held his breath. His eyes went wide. He walked around the arena in hand for a bit, but discretion being the better part of valor, I stuck him on the lunge line. And he exploded, huge bucks, over and over and over. I’ve never seen anything like it. I struck a balance in my lunging between letting him let the energy out (honestly, I didn’t have a whole lot of say in the matter), and making transitions so he had to stay at least vaguely present and with me.
It was unbelievably naughty. And it was unbelievably out of character. Eddie is a kind, gentle-natured horse. He’s bright and engaging, with a soft eye. I’ve also learned in our 8 months together that he’s a little insecure, particularly about his back and his hind legs. So when I saw that look in his eye, saw him hump his back up underneath the saddle and walk like he’d been hobbled, it reminded me of a look I sometimes see in my human students’ eyes, when they’ve had a bad day at work, or they’ve had a bad night of sleep, or they’re going through a divorce, or they’re feeling the pressure of an upcoming show. Sometimes the barn is the best place for them, when they’re dealing with difficult moments, but sometimes they can’t check it at the door.
Read the rest at Noelle Floyd!

5 Things Trainers Wish You Knew: Sales Edition

By |2021-10-16T20:44:53-04:00October 15th, 2021|Snippets|

We’re coming into horse sale season, and particularly at a time when sales have been wacky for more than a year, it’s going to be an interesting ride this autumn. If you’re on the hunt for a new horse, here are a few things trainers wish you knew.

1. Often – not always, but often – you get what you pay for. If quality is what you want, you’re going to pay for it one way or another, either in the form of the expense of a trained horse, or the expense of the training help required to guide you into getting a prospect there. And let’s be clear: I’m not saying that getting a young horse is the wrong answer for a rider who wants to learn and go up the levels. Far from it, as I much prefer working with good raw material and helping my students install the training themselves, rather than trying to learn someone else’s work (and, often, undo someone else’s messes!). But just know that, especially if you’ve never done it before, you’re going to need some help molding that prospect into a useful citizen.

2. Horses do not stay trained on their own. If you go the schoolmaster route, there is no amount of money you can spend on the animal itself that will keep the horse sharp, supple and capable in spite of inexpert riding. It’s ok that you’re learning, and that you bumble around a bit while you do. But that bumbling is going to inevitably dull the horse you’ve bought. Staying in a program with a competent trainer can help you both maximize the opportunity to learn from an educated horse, and also protect your investment.

3. Selling a horse is not giving up, failing, or abandoning it. Anyone who gives you grief for selling a horse that isn’t working out for you can go right to hell. There’s a million reasons why a horse isn’t right for you, even when you did your due diligence in purchasing him in the first place. Or maybe you’ve invested in a project that you put your time in and want to move along. No matter what, it’s your business, and everyone else can stick it.

4. No matter how wonderful a new horse is, there will be a point in the “getting to know you” process where it stinks. The honeymoon tends to end at the 3-6 month mark. Try not to panic. It gets better. Listen to your coach. And yes, sometimes things go bad because you and the horse aren’t going to work out. But I’m a professional rider, and I’m a good one, and I usually hit a wall somewhere in that 3-6 month window, too. It happens.

5. Lastly, “maintenance” is not a sign that a horse has a problem. Maintenance is a sign the animal has been well cared for. A lack of maintenance isn’t a sign that the animal is healthy, a lack of maintenance is a sign that the animal’s veterinary needs may not have been met. And being proactive with veterinary needs reduces the likelihood, over time, of injury due to overcompensation, hurting one body part trying to avoid using another body part that hurts.

Like Snippets? Sign up for the Sprieser Sporthorse Elite Club, where you’ll get even more monthly goodies, training tips, and a peek behind the scenes in the development of horses from foal to FEI. Click to learn more!

5 Things You’re Definitely Not Doing Often Enough

By |2021-09-12T09:07:28-04:00September 12th, 2021|Snippets|

1. Riding corners. It’s so easy at home to get just a little lazy about corners, and that’s an expensive mistake. Because then when you start putting tests together, surprise! There are corners in those! And even just in regular schooling, corners are where all the prep lives for your lateral work, for your turns, for your transitions. Corners are where the magic happens, and when they become a habit, they require less conscious thought when the chips are down.

2. Practicing good mounting block etiquette. We’ve all been there, right? Our left foot is in, we start to swing over, and our horse starts to meander off. Do you stop and fix it, or do you just let it slide, just this once? “Just this once” quickly becomes a habit, and it’s not a great one. What if you ever have a sore back, or a bum ankle, and you need to take a minute to mount that your horse isn’t going to give you? What if you lose your balance and your horse is already on his way out from underneath you? Or what if you ever want to sell your horse to someone who requires that their horse stand perfectly still? This is an easy thing to practice and make a good habit, and it also sets your ride off from the right foot, one where your horse patiently awaits further instructions, instead of calling shots on his own.

Want the easiest way to fix this? Keep a treat in your pocket. Horsey doesn’t get said treat unless he’s immobile. It’ll fix it right quick (though sometimes EDDIE I’M LOOKING AT YOU you’ll create a monster who likes to swing his head around to your boot while mounting. But then I just give him the treat from the other side. They’re fortunately not all that hard to outfox.)

3. Letting your aids go to 0. I promise you that you are not taking your leg off enough. And I can similarly promise you that you’re not giving the reins enough. Überstreichen – the German word for the act of putting slack in the reins for a stride or two by straightening the rider’s elbow – is a a beautiful thing, and a test of your horse’s self carriage. Your horse should maintain his own balance and posture for the strides of the release. It also allows the rider to retake less contact than they had before, by resetting the contact to zero.

Ditto taking the leg off. Remove it altogether, from the hip, once in a while. Your horse should maintain the same posture, gait and energy level without your leg as with it, and will allow you to do more from less leg once you put it back on. Work smarter, not harder, my friends. It’ll save you money on bits and spurs, not to mention being, you know, good riding.

4. Cleaning your buckles and stitching. Bridles and girths are the big offenders here, and I know how easy it is to just pop a little tack soap on a sponge and wipe things down. But you need to get into buckles, including undoing them, cleaning, and redoing them. Same story with the stitching on your leatherwork, especially high-sweat things like riding boots and girths. Get in there with your tack soap, and get hair out with a hoof pick or stiff brush. Dirt, sweat and moldy hair can break down your stitching over time, and nothing says fun like breaking a girth while riding. Take the time.

5. Replacing your helmet. Many – though certainly not most! – of us are good about replacing helmets after a fall, even if you don’t see any damage to the hat. But did you know that helmets have a lifespan, even if they haven’t had any trauma? The foam and other materials inside helmets do break down, and so it’s recommended that you replace your helmet every 4-5 years, no matter what, and possibly more often if you, like me, are in your helmet for hours a day.

Here’s a great article from my friends at OneK about the whys and wherefores of helmet replacement. And if you’re reading this going “Uh oh, I’m guilty!” then your timing is impeccable, because Helmet Awareness Day is upon us! There’s usually lots of great sales on OneK helmets that weekend, including my favorite, the Avance CCS, which features their cool color change system, a wide brim for sun protection, and the absolutely-critical MIPS safety functionality, which helps protect your brain from shearing forces better than a traditional helmet.

Like Snippets? Sign up for the Sprieser Sporthorse Elite Club, where you’ll get even more monthly goodies, training tips, and a peek behind the scenes in the development of horses from foal to FEI. Click to learn more!

…And Then What Happened At The Big Show

By |2021-09-12T08:52:43-04:00September 9th, 2021|COTH Posts|

I’ve been home from the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions for a week, and this is the first time I’ve had five minutes to actually sit down and write about it. I am so grateful to my awesome team for letting me sneak away for a week, and for letting my head be 100 percent in the zone while I was there and for the week or two before. But the penance for that, of course, is now being screamingly behind in my office work, up to my eyeballs in lessons and riding, and generally being a bit insane.

But I’ll pay that toll every time, because the big shows are where the magic is.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

What Happens At Home Before The Big Show

By |2021-09-12T08:54:59-04:00August 10th, 2021|COTH Posts|

Huzzah! I’m qualified for the U.S. Dressage Festival of Champions. I’ll ride The Elvis Syndicate’s wonderful Guernsey Elvis in the Developing Grand Prix Championship, for 8- to 10-year-old horses at the Grand Prix level. It’s a big deal, and it was my big goal for the year. Mission: accomplished.

But now that I’m qualified, I have to, you know, go.

I’m in the middle of a four-week gap between my last outing and the championships, and I’m making the most of that time to get Elvis and I as ready as possible. He had a little downtime after that show in July, the last in a long slog of competitions. I’ve spent this entire spring and summer addressing his fitness. As I’ve mentioned before, Elvis isn’t a super hot horse by nature, so I’ve needed to make a concentrated effort to increase his conditioning. By the time we leave for the Festival of Champions, being held Aug. 24-29 at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois, he’ll be walking five days a week for north of 40 minutes, up and down my Virginia hills, in addition to his daily dressage work.

But there’s more than just dressage, and even more than just fitness, involved in successfully getting down centerline at a big show. Here’s what I’m up to this month.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

Go to Top