About Lauren Sprieser

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So far Lauren Sprieser has created 268 blog entries.

Pick & Shovel Work

By |2021-07-04T16:28:27-04:00June 22nd, 2021|COTH Posts|

I’ve made many FEI dressage horses, most of them out of horses who were complete and utter ding-dongs as children but reformed enough by middle age to be able to do the top-level work on a combination of training and adrenaline. I’ve never really had to think about horse fitness before. But Elvis and Helio are really pleasant, agreeable fellows. They’re not nutty. And they’re not hot. So with Elvis’ Grand Prix debut, and Helio’s rapid approach to that level, I’ve realized that I need a lot more gas in their collective tanks to execute that level of work, with aplomb, and on a hot competition Sunday.

And I realized I don’t know how to do that. So I fumbled along for a while, and then I got some help from one of the best in the world.

Allow me to explain.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

A Medical Jour-Knee

By |2021-06-14T14:37:27-04:00June 18th, 2021|Snippets|

When I was ten, I broke my femur, and had a pin put through my left knee for a month. It was removed, but that trauma, combined with years of running and triathlons, a genetic predisposition to crummy joints, and a lifetime of mounting from the left, that knee has ached for years. It’s been getting worse, so I finally made an appointment with a local orthopedist.

I was quizzed about my symptoms – aching or stabbing? localized or specific? when moving, or all the time? – on a form, and then shepherded into an exam room. The doctor spent about 2 minutes with me, moving my knee, putting her hand on it while it moved, and then sent me off to x-ray. 2, maybe 3 views? The doctor reviewed them, diagnosed me with deterioration of the cartilage above my knee, and then gave me three choices: a daily NSAID, joint injection with a steroid, or joint injection with Hyluronic Acid (which, by the way, she said was unlikely to be covered by my insurance until I’d tried the steroid, given my age).

It should go without saying that I had some questions.

When I think about how my horses are treated when they go see my exceptional sports medicine veterinary practice, Virginia Equine Imaging, it’s a very different experience. Their exam is thorough and holistic, even if I have a specific complaint; they watch my horses at rest and in motion, both free and with the rider if possible, and perform flexion tests. They rule things out one at a time, and it takes time.

Now horses can’t talk, so for sure the exam has a practical reason to look at the whole body instead of just the specific complaining part. And I recognize that VEI, and my vet, Dr. Cricket Russillo, are elite-level, world class sports medicine specialists, and so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison to the local human orthopedist in my wee town. But whenever I have a horse see Dr. Russillo, the conversation always goes beyond pain management.

That was my first question for my orthopedist. Ok, cartilage doesn’t grow back, I know. But my options are whole body painkiller or local painkiller? What about something to help condition the cartilage? Not until I’d tried the painkiller, according to insurance.

Ok, I said, let’s think outside the box. Is there something like Adequan for humans? Nope. Legend? Nope. What about a biologic, like Platelet Rich Plasma? That exists in humans… but isn’t covered by insurance, so I’d have to pay for it out of pocket.

So that’s that. Apparently we do more to help slow the decline of a horse’s joints – horses, with a lifespan of 20 years – than we can do for humans. And it would seem to me that there would be some wisdom in getting ahead of problems like mine, that will inevitably be more expensive to treat down the road, with things like joint replacements. Fortunately for me, the NSAID is working great, and I’m able to go about my life like before. And also fortunately for me, I’ve got time, hopefully such that modern human medicine can catch up to all that we’ve learned to do to help our equine friends.

The Show Season Puzzle

By |2021-07-04T16:25:09-04:00June 3rd, 2021|COTH Posts|

I like showing, but I’m not a maniac.

I don’t personally feel like there’s anything to be achieved by taking the same group of horses to two shows every month; I think training is done at home, and I think that I’m more likely to win at the show if I’ve logged sufficient training. That’s just how I do it—not how everyone does it, nor is it the only way it can be done—but it works for me.

What I really like is the puzzle of it all: how to plan a season, which shows to go to and when, to make for peak performances from my horses. And then there’s also the question of what to do in between those shows, how to give my horses sufficient down time so they can catch their breath and let their tired bodies recuperate, but also build condition, strength and new skills.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

8 Things That Make Me Crazy

By |2021-05-25T13:56:18-04:00May 28th, 2021|Snippets|

Here’s a list of things that make me nutsy. Most aren’t actual crimes, they’re just Lauren crimes. But crimes they are, in my mind, so spare my delicate sensibilities and don’t do them in my presence.

1. White ear bonnets. Just… don’t. It’s a FLASHING NEON SIGN drawing the eye of all – including the judge – to any moments of imperfection in the contact or self-carriage your horse may have. (Unless your horse is gray, obviously.)

2. Dirty bits. You should clean at LEAST your bridles and girths daily, and as part of bridle cleaning, you need to clean the bits. The goo that comes out of your horse’s mouth during work is bad for leather, and then hardens and gets icky when you have to put it back in your horse’s mouth. Water, a towel, and a little elbow grease. You can do it.

3. People who do it wrong the same way over and over. Whatever “it” is, in your lessons, make a new mistake. A fair amount of my annual income is spent repeating myself, so this is really against my financial interest to fix in humanity, but it can be rather annoying. Don’t worry about whether you’ll fail or not; just fail different. That’s how you figure out where the right answer is!

4. Hand walking around the arena at shows. You can’t see through your horse’s head, so you’re going to walk your horse in front of me. And either you’re nervous, in which case you should walk yourself around the arena and leave your poor horse alone in front of his fan with some hay, or your horse is a wing nut, in which case you’re going to cause a ruckus for those who are riding. Lunge it, get a trainer to ride it, something, but hand walking around the show ring is a good way to get someone hurt.

5. People who park badly at shows. In the parking lot, take your time and do it right. Others have to share that space with you. If you don’t know how to drive your trailer backwards, don’t drive it to the show until you do. And when you’re loading or unloading, do your best to not be a tool and block access into or around the barn. Easier said than done at some horse shows, but it’s better that you have to walk a bit than that you make everyone else’s life harder.

6. People who bitch at ring stewards, or rely on them to be their brains. Ring stewards are almost always volunteers, and sometimes they’re relatively new to the sport. Check in when you show up. Ask who you follow. Ask if the ring is on time. And then be a responsible adult and pay attention to what’s going on. The ring steward is not your mommy; it’s up to you to get yourself into the ring on time.

7. Nosebands that aren’t level. Cavessons need to be parallel to the ground, not up on one side and down on the other, but more importantly they need to be level from front of nose to back. If your flash is pulling your noseband down, your bridle isn’t the right size. Get some help in getting the right gear, because the wrong gear is both ineffective and uncomfortable for your horse.

8. Test readers. Memorize! Using a reader is like failing an open-book test. You have the answers in advance! And if you’re relying on a reader, you’re riding the moment, rather than riding the moment ten steps from now. You will score better when you know where you’re going.

Three Superpowers I Want

By |2021-05-11T10:08:51-04:00May 14th, 2021|Snippets|

Invisibility? Nah. Super speed? Only if it came with Super Strength, so I could just carry horses in from the field in the mornings. But there’s three superpowers I would definitely take, if made available.

  1. The ability to know whose damn wraps these are. Hey, guys? Whose wraps are these? They’re navy. I can’t read the initials that someone wrote onto them with Sharpie two wash cycles ago. I think they’re the SmartPak ones? Not the Dover ones? The velcro looks the same. Do they have a corner cut out of them? Which corner? Who is the one who cuts the corners out of their wraps? Is that me, or is that someone else? Oh, do they have initials embroidered on them? Crap, they do, but they’re on the velcro, so I’m not going to see it until I’ve already wrapped someone else’s horse in them. … see why I want this superpower? Life would be easier.
  2. The ability to make anything clean and waterproof at the touch of my hand. Like Midas, turning anything he touches to gold, I’d like to be able to pick up the ten-year-old turnout sheet and – voila! – good as new. White polos? Done! Show pads and white breeches? Like magic, and Scotchguarded for easy stain removal the next time!
  3. Lastly, and I hope this can be taken in the spirit in which it is intended, the ability to be a human electric fence, at a distance. Stop touching each other, horses next to each other in the field playing bitey-face, six paddocks away! Stop pawing on the crossties, bitch mare at the other end of the aisle! COME WHEN CALLED, GEORGIA THE DOG! And maybe, just maybe, HEY STUDENT, STOP LOOKING DOWN! Not enough of a shock to cause pain, just enough to say HEY!

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The Things I Carry

By |2021-04-23T05:58:04-04:00April 23rd, 2021|Snippets|

I have a coat bag – in my farm colors, brown and blue – that I’ve been schlepping around with me for more than a decade. It had to be a custom order, because I’m so tall that standard size bags scrunch my tails up at the bottom. And over the years, I’ve collected a few things that I carry with me to shows. I’m not a superstitious person, but they’re little mementos that help me remember what’s important, and think of a few old friends.

– tail hair bracelets from a few special horses. Whether they’ve moved on from me or just moved on, I have a collection of bracelets from Pony Locks that come with me. Bellinger, Clairvoya, Victorious, Stratocaster, Ellegria and Danny Ocean are all represented, and I like to think that they come with me (and, for a few of them, heckle me) down the centerline.

– a buckeye. One of my dearest former students gave me a buckeye nut from a tree in her family’s back yard. It’s supposed to bring luck; I like it because it reminds me of a fun kid, and the times we shared.

– a stock tie pin made by another former student. Sometimes I wear it, and sometimes it just travels with me, but it’s incredibly beautiful, an oversized pin with a collection of blue beads, and it also reminds me of how long I’ve been doing this, because the maker was one of my first students.

– a rubber duck. A friend of mine gave me the duck at my last NAYRC (2005!); she called it my lucky duck, which it may be, but it also makes me think of days gone by, and how far I’ve come.

– a little elephant figurine. The elephant itself is meaningless, but it was inside a bag of things that were given to me after my amazing student and friend Beverley Thomas’ passing last year, and carrying it is like carrying a little talisman from her.

There’s also an assortment of safety pins, mascara, sunscreen and a sewing kit in case of disasters, plus at least three emergency pairs of semi-retired Roeckl white gloves. But they’re not as poetic as the keepsakes!

Fear Is A Funny Thing

By |2021-07-04T16:21:53-04:00April 16th, 2021|COTH Posts|

Fear is something I see every day. Not so much in myself (more on that in a sec), but as a teacher of amateur people, many of whom either aren’t young or started riding as adults or both. It’s been a companion of mine throughout my teaching career, and it was one I didn’t really understand in the beginning.

Flash back to about age 26: I was on a client horse, a normally quiet and civilized one. I was in my indoor, and I closed my leg and my seat at the same time to close him up a bit. Instead of doing that, he stood straight up on his hind legs. I did not fall off. He landed, I drove on, and he never did it again. But for the first time in my life, when I looked at his belly button in my arena mirror, I was flooded with fear.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

Homecoming, a once-in-a-lifetime lease opportunity, and more – April e-Newsletter

By |2021-04-09T05:28:48-04:00April 9th, 2021|News & Events|

It’s T-minus two weeks until we’re back up and running in full swing at our Virginia facility, and we couldn’t be more excited about what’s on our event horizon! Our Florida contingent has had an incredible winter, and our Virginia team made the most of our fabulous facilities to be ready for the Spring competition season and beyond. Read all about it in our April e-newsletter, and sign up to receive it directly in your inbox!

Sale Ad Translations

By |2021-04-09T05:21:46-04:00April 9th, 2021|Snippets|

One of the many hats I wear is matchmaker, helping my clients find horses. That means a lot of reading sale ads, and over my years, I’ve developed a little dictionary, to translate into normal people speak. Here are a few of the entries. (And if you’re lacking a sense of humor, I’d stop reading, right now.)

Well-bred prospect for any discipline! = but not good at any of them. This is the branch of the family tree that needed to be pruned.

Hunter or dressage prospect = moves like a Dodge Dart but I’m hoping you won’t notice because Donnerhall is in it’s pedigree.

Competed to 3* but selling as a dressage horse = lame.

Competed to 3* but selling as a jumper = feral.

Competed to Second Level but selling as a hunter = fat, pretty and with hind legs so far out behind it couldn’t change clean if it’s life depended on it.

Competed to Second Level but selling as an eventer = feral.

Competed to 1.30 but selling as a dressage horse = lame AND slow.

Competed to 1.30 but selling as a hunter = lame, fat AND slow.

Competed as a hunter but selling as a dressage horse = clean up on aisle 4.

Has papers from the Friesian Heritage Horse Association = at least half Percheron.

Has papers from the International Dutch Harness Horse Association = at least half Standardbred.

This unexpected breeding… = goddamn 2-year-old colt jumped the fence and bred a lesson horse.

This unexpected line breeding… = goddamn 2-year-old colt jumped the fence and bred his sister.

Serious inquiries only = expensive.

To a loving home only = I’m going to email you every week to ask how Fluffy is doing.

To a competition home only = needs to stay in training or it’ll eat you

For the ambitious amateur, Jr/YR or pro = hope you have a half halt or you’re going to be paint on the train.

Many in-hand successes! = thank god it’s pretty, because it moves like a Jack Russell Terrier on linoleum.

Outgrown by his amateur owner = amateur owner found out having to kick every stride is a bummer.

Schooling First Level = leg yields are harrrrrd.

Schooling Third Level = changes are harrrrrd.

Schooling Fourth Level = First Level horse with a clean change that defies explanation, but will probably high-ho silver if you half halt.

Schooling Grand Prix = will jiggle out hacking when his buddy leaves.

Bombproof = hope you can kick really hard.

Athletic = hope you can pull really hard.

A Unicorn! = can’t afford it.

World Class! = either can’t afford it, or it trots for a 5, and the seller should probably spend more time on YouTube.

Getting By With A Little Help From My Friends

By |2021-07-04T16:18:18-04:00March 30th, 2021|COTH Posts|

Elvis is really cool, guys. He’s keen but relatively unemotional. He’s athletic, but he’s also efficient. His default answer is yes. There’s a heck of a lot to like.

He also was weird about the whip when he came to me, and he had a bit of a misunderstanding about what piaffe was all about, so it took some time to get him confident enough to accept a new approach. And then, about a year ago, he started letting us in, and over the course of the summer it started becoming a re-creatable phenomenon, first in hand, then from the tack. And then we hit a bit of a plateau, which isn’t unusual. And a year in the life of a horse learning to piaffe is such a tiny amount of time.

But I just felt stuck and lost. Ali Brock, my amazing coach, kept telling me that I was on the path, and that it was improving, but I really wanted someone else to feel what I was feeling from the tack, and Ali is pregnant and not riding right now.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

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