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!

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!

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!

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.

Assorted Training Metaphors & Similes

By |2021-04-07T16:03:54-04:00March 6th, 2021|Snippets|

Fender, one of Lauren Sprieser's dressage horsesA few neat training metaphors I’ve either made up myself or shamelessly stolen from others. If I could draw, I’d draw these, but I can’t, so instead you get my words. Enjoy.

– a horse’s body is like a garden hose, with the power coming from the spigot that is the horse’s hind legs. Through training, the horse develops an increasingly sophisticated nozzle at the front that allows for the release of energy – water. A green horse just has a simple pressure nozzle at the front, with only one functionality; by the time a horse is a Grand Prix horse, he has a cone function, a jet function, a shower function, a mist function… you get it. But a fancy nozzle can’t make up for a horse who isn’t totally through, because that’s like a hole in the hose; it doesn’t matter how many cool functions there are for the release of energy if the water is sneaking out the middle of the hose.

– a horse should hold his head and neck like he’s peering off a cliff. He should arch his neck and back up and out, so he can see, but still keep his mass leaning a bit backwards, so he doesn’t fall on the forehand and out over the cliff.

– riding the piaffe should feel like you’re in a hallway full of doors, and there’s a stranger walking towards you. If all the doors are closed, your anxiety level goes up, because if the stranger means trouble, you have no way to flee. But if the doors are open, you’ve got an escape route, even if you don’t need it.

– the lower leg, ankle and spur on a trained horse don’t mean go; they means lift. So your lower leg wraps around him like Spanx, and draws his belly into his spine.

– a downward transition is like downshifting a manual transmission car. Just as you keep your foot on the accelerator, so you can go forward as soon as you shift gears, you should keep driving your horse forward even as you drop a gait. Going down gaits doesn’t mean slowing down; the gait should still think forward.

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!

Some Hot Weather Favorites

By |2021-04-07T16:00:58-04:00February 25th, 2021|Snippets|

I know it’s impolite to whine about the weather in South Florida right now, while the rest of the country is Ice Station Zero, but it’s really been quite hot in Wellington. Here’s a few products I can’t live without at the moment, when the high temperatures are keeping me and my horses sweaty and gross most of the day.

 

 

– my new OneK Avance CCS helmet. The science on the MIPS system is quite incredible, and they are dramatically safer. But other MIPS helmets I’ve tried have either looked big and bulky and absurd, or they’ve not fit well. My OneK CCs fits like a glove, and still looks neat and trim. The Avance model has a wide brim, to help keep the sun out of my eyes. And the CCS style means you can tart up your hat with some fun colors! Like all OneKs, this one has a removable liner, so you can wash it when your head gets stinky.

– Zephyr’s Garden Summer Spray Plus. Florida is… gross. Skin crud is a constant battle here, and the Ph of the apple cider vinegar, plus the herb blend in the summer spray, help keep my horses’ skin healthy and comfortable even in the icky, sweaty heat of Florida. It also smells great, and helps keep flies away.

– Romfh full grip breeches. I love a few different styles – the Isabella is high waisted, the Sarafina is medium waisted, and the Sarafina Bling is… well, sparkly, of course! But what they all have in common is the full grip seat, a silicone pattern, rather than the traditional full suede seat. The silicone provides the same grip as a traditional full seat, but in hot weather, I like the breathability of the silicone grip. It allows for better airflow… anywhere you might need air to flow. Just saying’.

– this cold brew coffee pot. I’m one of those people that sometimes needs a 1p wake up call, but hot coffee on a sweaty day is just not my favorite thing. This bad boy is my go-to, and if I use a flavored coffee, I can even do cold brew black, or close to black, because it’s just a little less bitter than traditionally brewed brew.

– my Roeckl Madrid gloves. I love all my Roeckl gloves, but in the heat, my Madrids are my favorites. They have a mesh-ier back, so they breathe a little better, and dry a little faster, than my other favorites, the Roeckl Grips.

The Yam Unit

By |2021-02-06T05:05:17-05:00February 6th, 2021|Snippets|

(The following blog is a light hearted and irreverent piece on a very serious subject. Wear a mask, get vaccinated, believe in science, and also enjoy a chuckle at this.)

I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I’ve… cured COVID. Or at least I’ve found a really, really effective treatment. Allow me to explain.

Last summer, I was at the farmer’s market when I came across a sweet potato in the shape of… well…

Yep.

It was hilarious, so I took a picture of it. And later that afternoon, I learned that a member of my extended family had lost her sense of taste and smell, sending her, and her as-of-yet asymptomatic family in for COVID tests, with three positive results.

Figuring they’d need a laugh, I texted them the picture of the sweet potato. And they never got any sicker than that. Two of them are in their 50s, one with another co-morbidity. No problems.

A few weeks later, another friend and her partner started experiencing symptoms. They were pretty sick by the time I heard, but I knew they’d also need a giggle, so I sent her the picture. And that was as sick as they got. From that point on, they started improving, and came out the other side just fine.

Weeks after that, a third friend told me that her husband had just tested positive. Eek, I thought, she’s going to need a laugh. So I sent her the sweet potato, and guess what? Never got sick.

Obviously, a sample size of three is sufficient scientific evidence, because that’s how THAT works. So: you’re welcome. Consider yourselves protected. (Wear a mask and stay home as much as possible, though, just in case. Can’t be too careful.)

Are you liking Snippets, my little bonus blogs? They began because I had all these little ideas for blogs that maybe weren’t long enough to be proper content for COTH, or weren’t horsey in nature. So they’re here. If you like them, leave a comment to let me know you’re seeing them. And if you like hearing EVEN MORE from me, consider joining the Sprieser Sporthorse Elite Club! Your membership – for as little as $.25/week – helps me keep producing things like this, as well as all the special content Club Members get to see. 

Musings on Masks, Horses and Crappy Weather

By |2021-02-01T06:23:18-05:00February 1st, 2021|Snippets|

If your barn is remotely responsible, there’s at least some mask-wearing requirements going on right now. And unless you’re in one of the handful of places where it’s warm right now, you’re learning the joys of breathing through a mask plus cold air: a chapped face.

I wanted to share what I’ve learned about stable mask wearing, as well as what I’ve learned about doing so in crummy weather.

First off, what kind of mask to wear? I have KN95s for when I’m in indoor spaces, like going to the store, or the little bit of air travel I have to do for this job. They’re reasonably comfortable (though I did hang the expense of a $6 “ear saver” because the backs of my ears were NOT having it.

But in my largely outdoor job, I wanted more flexibility. Enter these, a gaiter-style face covering with ear loops. I like these because they live around my neck like a scarf, and I can pull them up over my face as needed with ear loops for security. For sure they are one layer and not snug to my nose, so they are nowhere near as safe as something that has a nose wire, or has multiple layers, but it’s just not that hard for me to socially distance when I’m in the barn and out of doors, and just want a baseline of protection.

Make sure, if you order something like this, that you do your reading. I ordered one batch that arrived only to see that they had small perforations in the mask. Um, duh, that’s not going to work – increasing ventilation in your face mask defeats the purpose.

So that’s what my staff and I are primarily wearing, plus using good judgment about social distancing, not lingering in enclosed spaces like the tack room, and just generally not being a yutz. And that’s easy to do in South Florida, where it’s been pretty reliably in the 70s and 80s since we arrived. But it’s not so easy to do at home, which means that my Virginia team – and me, when I’m at home – need to make good decisions about dressing warmly because the tack room just isn’t a place we should be hanging out.

Then there’s the skin care challenge. Yes, face chapping is real. When you breathe into your mask and condensation becomes a thing, wearing a wet rag around your face all day really stinks. I know there are some companies out there advertising winter proof face masks, and I have no mileage with those. When I’m somewhere cold right now, I always have a second mask ready, in case my first mask gets wet or uncomfortable (frankly, I always have multiple masks everywhere I go, just in case). But I also can’t say enough nice things about Kiehl’s snootily named Creme d’Elegance heavy face moisturizer. It’s remarkably light for how heavy duty it is, and all the Kiehl’s products are really top quality. They’re also manufactured in the United States, which is neat.

And if you don’t know this, an aside on lip care, as the owner of EXTREMELY dry lips: petroleum based products like Chapstick protect, but do not moisturize. That’s fine, in a situation like this, where you want to shield your lips from crummy wet conditions, but once you’ve got a chapping situation, you need to use something conditioning. I personally dig the Burt’s Bees or Trader Joe’s lip balms, and here in FL, I use Sun Bum, which has sunscreen in it.

Important caveats: I’m not a medical expert, consult one if you have questions or concerns, bla bla bla. I’m just a dumb horse trainer trying to a) avoid COVID, and b) not have my face fall off. But that’s what I’m doing in my barn, and so far, it’s worked for me, combined with a WHOLE LOT of good judgement and NO going out anywhere unless I can make sure it’s a safe experience.

But also, know this – if your barn isn’t requiring masking, your barn is doing it wrong. If you’re a barn owner that isn’t requiring masking, you need to. And if your barn owner is requiring masks and you’re bitching and whining about it, you’re a part of the problem. Get it together. It’s not that hard.

Are you liking Snippets, my little bonus blogs? They began because I had all these little ideas for blogs that maybe weren’t long enough to be proper content for COTH, or weren’t horsey in nature. So they’re here. If you like them, leave a comment to let me know you’re seeing them. And if you like hearing EVEN MORE from me, consider joining the Sprieser Sporthorse Elite Club! Your membership – for as little as $.25/week – helps me keep producing things like this, as well as all the special content Club Members get to see. 

Write A Letter (also, introducing Snippets)

By |2021-01-30T06:04:29-05:00January 30th, 2021|Snippets|

Hi all! Lauren here. I write a lot, and much of it goes into my blog for The Chronicle, or into the Sprieser Sporthorse Elite Club. But some of what I write is too short to be a fully fledged blog, or it’s not horse related, or in some other way unsuitable for either of those mediums. So they mostly sit in a document on my computer. And I realized that that was silly, because I have a website.

So I’m introducing Snippets, or at least that’s what I’m going to call them for now. They’ll be little hits of whatever’s in my brain. If you like them, tell me, by leaving a comment, or writing an email. (This will also help me gauge if anyone actually reads my website!)

Thanks for being a part of my team. On with the show!

I’m in a happy headspace right now. My horses are being smart. Wedding planning is actually rather fun. I have amazing people in my life, and there’s hope on several fronts on the landscape. It’s been good. I’m good.

And I’m grateful for that, because I haven’t always been good. There have been windows of time in the few years where things were dark and grim for me (and in the past year for everyone!). I’m no fool, and I can put my heartaches into context, but in the moments that are filled with sadness, context can be irrelevant. The darkness is very real.

I know this, and so I cherish times like these, where the sun is shining inside my head. But when I started my business, I started keeping a folder in my email called “Happiness.” Into it, I file any emails I get that bring me joy, like emails from clients about how much they loved their last lesson, or how happy they are with their progress, or nice notes about blogs. It’s a great folder to read when I’m down.

But it’s all emails. The lions’ share of my communication these days is digital. It’s efficient, it’s the way of the world. I do my lesson scheduling online. My professional reputation has been built, in no small part, to blogs like this.

So a few weeks ago, when I got a handwritten letter in the mail, it was unusual.

It was from a woman who bought a horse from me recently. She wrote about how much she loved him, which is, of course, wonderful to hear. But she also wrote about what he meant to her in her life, about how she’d been struggling with some health issues that had kept her out of the saddle and away from the barn. He brought her back to riding, and to the stable. And she said that it had also meant so much to her to come to my stable, full of fun and laughter, when she was so nervous about getting back into horses. She said we made her feel comfortable and at home.

I know I’m good at my job. But that doesn’t mean I’m not happy to hear it from others. And a handwritten letter, that someone took the time… it brought tears to my eyes. My horses are working brilliantly—Puck’s big expressive Second Trot is regulatable enough through the FEI work for me to enter him in his first recognized Prix St. Georges, and Elvis is developing a really elegant transition both into and out of piaffe—but it was that letter that stopped me cold.

The world can be a divisive place. Times are hard right now, really, desperately hard for so many. And even in the best of times, someone is always struggling. Getting that letter reminded me how important it is to be good to each other, and to take the time to lift each other up, when in a position to do so. So if you’ve got someone in your life who is bringing you joy, tell them. Leave a Facebook comment. Write an email. Even tackle a handwritten letter, if your handwriting is up for it. It’ll mean the world to them, I promise.

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