Blog Anna: sunny days, saddle fit and trotting races

Victory Lap, third place, riding Wiebold ( Jochem 259) at traditional trotting race ca. 1988

The snow is crunching beneath my feet. Yes, we still have lots of it as I start writing this blog. Those colder days with daytime temperatures between -15 degrees Celsius and – 20 C are really not too bad as they are often sunny. That’s healthy weather 😉 Snow here had accumulated to quite a bit with a snowstorm for almost every weekend in February! The cold temperatures however are intermittent with periods of rain and high winds. The rain that came with the warmer temperatures took care of a lot of snow. The weather is fluctuating a lot. Just last week we had a temperature change of more than 30 degrees, from one day to the next. Climbing up to plus 8 and dipping back down to minus 28 degrees Celsius. BRRR . But some fresh snow again on top of the old rained on snow, makes everything look fresh and clean again. If the world could only be as peaceful as the falling of fresh snow.. Wishful thinking.

Mare pampering

Wunder (Tsjalle 454) and Wiecke (Tsjalle 454) are doing well. It is really noticeable now that they are in foal. They both have a nice round belly. Wiecke is already showing some edema strands under her belly.
This week they will get their annual vaccines for tetanus and influenza etc, so the foals will get some immunity as well. Teeth, also an annual thing, have been checked earlier as when sedation is needed it is best to have that done before they are in their last trimester. Little things like udder cleaning is important as well. The dirt gathered between the udder halves can get very itchy. A few more weeks until they are due. It is time to pamper the girls. Shedding season is here, hair everywhere. Time to tackle the shedding with a shedding blade or also called sweat scraper. The mares love it!

Wiecke (Tsjalle 454) showing off her Matthys 504 baby belly

Saddle fit

Starting Juniper (Thorben 466) lightly under saddle is next on the agenda. I usually start backing them around 3 years old and then turn them back out to pasture. Now let’s check if I have a saddle that will fit her. I have a few dressage saddles; surely one of those will work! Well, no way. One is too wide, another too narrow, and others are too long. The saddle panel length (part on horses back) is not supposed to pass the last thoracic vertebrae; it must keep the lumbar region free. If this is not the case, more often than not, back problems will be the result. After some online searching I found a shorter model. It has a shoulder relief feature (for more shoulder freedom) and a wider gullet as well. Saddle fit has come a long way! This is important so a horse does not feel restricted in its movement or worse gets lame. To make this saddle work well for Juniper, I have decided to send it away for adjustments. That means taking lots of measurements. Filling in an online form and send it away! Quite the job! Now all that’s left to do is send the saddle away to get fitted. Fingers crossed.

No saddle, no problem!

What a difference with times gone by. You rode without a saddle. The horse had lots of freedom of movement! The Friesian used to be famous for trotting races. For over a hundred years, they were well known outside and inside Fryslan as trotters. Their gate was described as short and fast. There were many competitions held (2847competitions between 1800 and 1850) (from the book Het Friese Paard written by Ir.G.J. A Bouma) These competitions are described in detail in this book.

This tradition is kept alive at an annual festival called: De boerebrulloft (Traditional Farmers Wedding) in Joure, Fryslan. The races are called Trotting ”under the man”. I also participated a few times. Some sand on the street cobbles and grass sods as divider of the two lanes. Such a fun race! No saddles but a bright orange furry blanket, loaned from my grandparents. The blanket folded in a special way, a surcingle around it, holding it in place. The tail of my horse done up in a trotters knot and off we went! My wooden shoes left behind because I would have lost them in the race anyway! A twig for a whip. In the picture below I ride Wiebold (Jochem 259) He was too sweet really to be a trotter. Trotters need to be fiery, eager to start. Wiebold would show of his fancy show trot. He didn’t have a quick start. Wieskje (Freark 218) the grandmother of Mintse 384 on the other hand was better suited to this. She barely had the patience to stand. She had the will to win! After the race all participants got a small silver spoon. And for the winner, a silver whip! Such rich traditions! So incredibly great to have been a part of it. When you race, it feels like going back in time. A time where life surrounded around the horses and fierce competition. Well, maybe it’s time for me to go back to riding bareback more. Feeling the warmth of my horse on the colder days, (spring isn’t here yet), sounds like a good idea to me!

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