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So far Lauren Sprieser has created 336 blog entries.

Broad Strokes

By |2024-02-04T05:19:31-05:00February 4th, 2024|Snippets|

Animal abuse is unacceptable, and those who commit it need to face serious consequences. Period. Hard stop.

My heart has broken watching the videos that came out this week of an Olympian – an OLYMPIAN – torturing horses, and hearing the stories of the mental abuse of the riders in his world as well. This, and the findings of the Operation X documentary about life at a prominent training farm in Denmark have me desperately, desperately afraid for our sport.

Because those farms clearly had a cultural institution of what is obviously animal cruelty. Wailing on horses with a whip, horses that are clearly not understanding what is being asked of them. A conversation between grooms about the best way to cover bloody spur marks so that the horses can be shown to potential buyers. These are easy things on which to draw the line, on which to say “this is absolutely not ok.”

But there’s a lot of things that experienced horsemen would completely understand, and the average muggle would not. Can you imagine why the non-horse-person would look askance at a chain lead shank over the nose of a horse that can get boisterous, even though we horse folks can clearly see it as an extra line of security when a 120-pound human leads a 1500-pound flight animal? Can you imagine seeing a six foot long whip, if you were a non horse person, and imagining the worst, even though such a device is a common tool to help tactfully and fairly teach piaffe from the ground? It’s long because horses are big, and we use it to touch the hind leg or top of the croup from a safe place, free of the kick zone, but the non-horsey don’t know that.

It’s why the broad-stroke social media comments like “The double bridle is torture” are really unhelpful. I saw that one recently. The double bridle is a tool. It can be used with tremendous tact and compassion. A snaffle is not inherently better, nor is a bitless bridle. I’ve seen plenty of ick riding in both. I’ve seen plenty of tactful use of spurs, just as I’ve seen plenty of ick use of them. And when we paint the internet with these broad strokes, we run the risk that the uneducated read them and perpetuate them. And that’s bad for sport.

Remember when the Modern Pentathlete had the rough go in 2021, and her coach reached through the fence and slapped the horse on the bum? The muggles lost their minds. The experienced horsemen of the world saw the unbelievably bad riding over pretty substantial fences, saw the horses that were TOTALLY unprepared for the job of taking beginner riders over big jumps, and saw how the horses were not allowed to be schooled by good riders to give them confidence in between rounds OR allowed to be pulled from the draw pool if they were starting to struggle, and thought… the open-palm slap is the thing the world is focused on?

This is the problem. The muggles don’t know enough to separate the real, honest-to-god horse abuse from the drivel. We should continue to have productive conversations about how best to do right by our animals, and we should ALL strive to live our lives as if a hidden camera is watching us do it. But we need to remember the consequences of MISGUIDED hysteria. Let’s talk about these things with level heads.

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Rooting For The Home Team—And The Homegrown

By |2024-01-20T13:21:14-05:00January 16th, 2024|COTH Posts|

We’ve all been reading about the sales of international Grand Prix horses to new riders lately because, in order to qualify for an Olympics under Fédération Equestre International rules, a horse has to have at least one owner of the same nationality as its rider by Jan. 15 of the Games year. That deadline was Monday, and many investors both in the U.S. and abroad have made major purchases in the past month or so to bolster their riders’ chances of securing an elusive team spot.

The people who sponsor riders are amazing, and we can’t be grateful enough to them. This is a wildly expensive sport no matter how one does it, and having help along the way is critical for those of us trying to do it, and do it well. Lessons, clinics, sales commissions—those are just so rarely enough to support a horse at the top levels, particularly if you have to take time off from that teaching/riding day job order to campaign that horse.

I hope that everyone who has acquired a finished Grand Prix horse for this year achieves their dreams, and has a long, sound and healthy relationship with that new horse. I hope our riders earn medals, and our fans are inspired by excellent horsemanship.

And I also hope that at least one will be riding a horse they made themself.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

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Deferred Maintenance

By |2023-11-28T13:29:36-05:00November 28th, 2023|COTH Posts|

In Lauren’s Magical Universe of Joy and Rainbows, when I sell a horse, I get to take all that money and go get a new horse or two. While I don’t do sales for a living, and I don’t buy horses with the goal of resale, sometimes the young horses I bring up the levels don’t get far enough up the levels, or don’t get me to my goal of big, hairy, international things, and that means they get to be schoolmasters for other people. And then I have a chunk of change in my hand.

And yes, I get to put some of that into whatever critter comes next. But unfortunately, adulting is a thing too. So at least some of those funds need to go to other things. Let me introduce you all to my annoying friend, Deferred Maintenance.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

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Let’s Divide Dressage Classes By Experience Instead Of Occupation

By |2023-11-06T11:45:45-05:00November 6th, 2023|COTH Posts|

One of my favorite things about dressage is that there are so many ways to play. Schooling shows, recognized shows, little local ones, big hairy international ones, everything in between. There’s room in our sport for the person with the day job who are weekend warriors with their rescue pony, and there’s room in our sport for the independently wealthy with time and resources to ride at the top level. There’s room for the professional who teaches people how to do their first tests, and there’s room for the professional who brings them to the international ring. There’s lots of room.

But I’ve always felt that dividing classes by rider occupation was a silly line in the sand to draw. The working students of the world who come to their jobs not knowing much more than how to put their horses on the bit have to compete in their first-ever first level test against me on something with international ambitions, and that seems unfair. The weekend warrior on the pony has to compete against the amateur who’s made Grand Prix horses and is starting anew with something young, and that seems unfair.

And yeah, it’s just a ribbon. At the local shows, I don’t care, but some people do. And at the regional and national championships, a lot of people do. For some riders, that local show is their regionals, or their nationals or their Olympics.

What if, instead of dividing classes by rider occupation, we divided them by level of rider experience?

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

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Sun Protection, Bands and Virtual Lessons: Affiliate Links *Updated!*

By |2023-12-19T15:44:13-05:00September 7th, 2023|Snippets|

One of the things that I pride myself in the most is not being a shill for products. When I recommend something, I want people to know that I truly believe in it and use it in my day-to-day life. But I’m also a girl who’s gotta pay her bills, so if there’s a way to make a few pennies recommending stuff I’d be recommending anyway, then game on.

Enter the Amazon Affiliates program. So yes, I’ll get a kickback if you order via these links. But I pinkie promise that these are things I use on a regular, sometimes even DAILY, basis, and I’d tell you they were great anyway.

*Updated to include links to some virtual lesson gear, and also a handy chair I love for my desk-job riders!*

SUN HATS: I’ve got a big head. I’ve also got long hair. And I’ve got super fair skin, so if the sun touches me, I will quite simply burst into flames. I’ve got two sun hat recommendations for those of us with bigger noggins, though they do come in normal noggin sizes as well. And they both have ponytail holes!

This one is cute and foldable and straw-esque. They make a big deal about how you have to steam it; I didn’t and my life has, somehow, managed to go on even though my hat does get slightly creased. Definitely has been worn at the barn, though it’s so dang cute that I keep it more as my muggle hat.

My dedicated barn hat is this guy, which does fold up, but doesn’t roll up, so it’s not as easy to pack. But it’s comfy as hell and breathes well, and it’s a super-solid brim; no rays are getting past this bad boy!

SUNSCREEN: On the subject of being a Paleface, this is my favorite sunscreen. Mineral sunscreen means gentler on your skin, as well as VASTLY gentler on coral reefs, but straight up zinc oxide is actually whiter than I am, something I didn’t think was possible. Australian Gold tints this product in a few different skin tones (I wear the “Fair To Light” color) so it’s not so chalky, and of all the tinted ones I’ve tried, this is the smoothest to apply and most comfortable to wear.

BANDS: If you’ve ever ridden in a clinic with me, I’ve probably put a band on you. This band – which I use in the XS/Blue size – goes diagonally across the body from heel of boot over opposing shoulder, and is great for activating the rider’s leg and core, as well as proprioception. I’ll either use one on a rider’s weak side, or more often I’ll use them as a pair.

This is the band I put a rider’s wrists through, so they have to push their wrists out against it, activating their core muscles and also making it much harder to ride with the elbows out.

The bands I connect to the rider’s thumbs, behind the back, to both encourage breathing and proprioception into the back, as well as to discourage pulling back on the reins. The pickle with these bands is that they only come in sets of 12; if you want to order just one, I’ll sell you one of mine, or bring it to a clinic for you. (Shoot me an email.) But here’s the whole set. 

And not quite a band, but a chair. If you’re a person who works at a desk all day, you have tiiiiight hip flexors. I love this chair for you all, because it allows for some longer leg (though you may need to raise your desk to get maximum benefit), as well as a complimentary core workout at the same time.

VIRTUAL LESSON NECESSITIES: If you take virtual lessons, these are the things you need. First up, the Pivo is far-and-away the superior virtual lesson system. It’s cheap, there’s no subscription fee to use, and unlike certain (ahem) expensive-as-hell systems out there, if the Pivo gets distracted by a bumblebee or something, your instructor can take over the robot. I bring my Pivo to shows – with multiple horses in the warmup, where the Pivo tracking algorithm would be useless – and my coach can just take over the robot and control it herself from her computer.

You do NOT need the whole “Equestrian Pack.” You DO want this Pivo-brand Smart Mount, because it’s really easy, and not expensive. I prefer this tripod, because it’s a lot more stable, and a lot less pricey.

Lastly, you’ll need some industrial-strength bluetooth headphones. Your earbuds aren’t good enough – not enough range, not enough sound quality. These headphones have the range and quality you need, and are designed for athletes so you can sweat on them or ride in the rain without a disaster.

I’ll update this list for anything we use a ton of in the barn!

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Finding The Young-Horse Line Between Too Much And Not Enough

By |2023-11-06T11:43:00-05:00August 23rd, 2023|COTH Posts|

I bought Ojalá (Vitalis—Fienna, Sir Sinclair) from her breeder, Belinda Nairn, as a foal. She grew up in a field, learned to stand on crossties, lead, have a bath, be civilized. At 3, she was backed. She learned to walk, trot and canter on the bit like a lady, work with other horses in the ring, and hack out by the time I picked her, now 4, up in April of this year. I rode her and found her delightful, and then handed the keys to my wonderful assistant trainer, Ali Redston, who has a much greater affinity for the youngsters than I do. They went on an off-property outing, which was uninteresting. They went to a recognized show, where they performed admirably in two Materiale classes, and behaved to perfection.

And then I gave “Lala” a month off.

Why? She was sound. She was working well. She approached each day cheerfully, with good manners both on the ground and under saddle. She’s barefoot behind, clean legged and has a strong topline. Why stop?

Well … because I could. Because there really isn’t anything else I particularly care about for her right now. Lala happens to also be truly every inch of 18 hands, but I’m truthfully not sure I would have done anything differently if she were 16 hands. I came back to this: At 4 years old, there’s really not much to win, but plenty to lose by doing too much.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

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Cool Ideas For Hot Weather Training

By |2023-11-06T11:41:14-05:00August 9th, 2023|COTH Posts|

I’m writing this blog from my couch, where it is a delightful 72 degrees. I have an iced coffee, some office work and a leisurely Monday afternoon ahead of me. I am just home from teaching a clinic in Texas, where the high each day was 102. It’s been marginally cooler here in Virginia, but not by much during our recent heatwave.

We could talk about global warming, but it’s not like summertime in Virginia was a balmy experience before humans started humaning. It’s hot here. It’s sticky here. It’s certainly not going away. So, we plan accordingly.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

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Two Great Teachers: Failure And Ellegria

By |2023-07-14T19:43:17-04:00July 14th, 2023|COTH Posts|

She was 5 but green broke, still owned by her breeder. I was 21, a veteran of the Young Rider and U25 programs, and as such I thought I knew a few things about horse training. I was wrong, as young people filled with hubris are often are. But I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher than Ellegria.

“Ella’s” real name was, tragically, Elly McBeal, which clearly had to go. She was a Westphalian of great old German breeding (Ehrentanz I—Patrizia, Philipo) and one of three Grand Prix horses her mother produced, with a coat like a copper penny, and a tanky body that belied her 16.1 hands. She had an extended trot that would knock your socks off, a gift for passage and a 10 extended walk.

Read the rest at The Chronicle of the Horse!

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