How many of you can remember that feeling as a child of wanting a horse but not having one? (As a horse-loving child since birth, I will personally never forget the gut-wrenching feeling of witnessing a friend receive an actual pony in the middle of her 5th birthday party while I remained horseless. Oh, the agony!)
Al Glann took that agonizing feeling and harnessed it to create some of the country’s most breathtaking contemporary equine sculptures. I visited his studio in Tucson, Arizona on a beautiful spring day in March to learn more about the inspiration for his work. Born in Ohio, Glann grew up on a family farm. Though they never had a horse, he pined for one for many years. The neighbors had horses, and though he enjoyed the chance to ride and be around horses with his friends, such tantalizing proximity to horses served only to fan the flames of his desire for one of his own. Growing up around farm animals, he found that it was easy for him to connect with horses, yet having a horse remained one of those things that he always wanted but that never materialized. He mentioned that growing up with western-themed television shows and movies was an influence, as the cowboy was such a popular motif of the time. His grandmother gave him a horse clock, which was about as close as he was going to get to having his own horse. Nonetheless, his interest in horses continued to percolate in the back of his mind for years to come.
Fast-forwarding a few years, Glann pursed his talent in the arts which led to a successful career as both a graphic design instructor and a sculptor working in steel and bronze. It was only in 2008 when Glann began work on a series of equine sculptures that would become known as the “Horse Series” that he would finally have an outlet for his fascination with horses. He added that at the time he started work on his first equine sculpture, he brought out that horse clock from his grandmother as one of his early reference sources for checking the proportions of a horse.
It is said that art imitates life, and thus it may come as no surprise to those of us who own horses that since Glann’s first foray into equine sculpture, these horses have taken over his studio. Apparently horses of steel and bronze operate much the same as real horses! Glann estimates that 90% of his work now focuses on horses as a subject. Glann says of creating equine sculptures, “Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I always tell people that I was just planning to do a series of ten horses, but now they’ve taken over my life.” (As any long-suffering spouse of a horse owner can attest, horses do have a way of taking over one’s life.)
As I toured his studio at the Metal Arts Village, natural light from banks of windows above filtered through the studio, illuminating the beautiful lines on both finished pieces and works in progress. The two elements of his work that I found especially captivating were his use of gesture and negative space. Glann says he loves the use of gesture, and this is evident in his work. He noted that as with Japaense sumi-e (brush painting) for example, “Gesture is about being able to grasp the essence of something with very few lines.” In other words, how much can you take away and still have it read as a horse? Glann said that because negative space is such an integral part of the signature look of his pieces, one of the aspects he has to give a lot of thought to, particularly with the larger scale pieces, is combining the aesthetic with the structural engineering necessary to support the sculpture. When you look at his pieces, you will appreciate that it is one thing to create the artistic vision of the sculpture, and another to incorporate the practical logistics of making the sculpture self-supporting without interfering with the artistic aspect of his distinctive use of negative space.
Glann’s “Horse Series” includes pieces that capture the movement of performance horses in disciplines such as dressage or cutting, as well as the everyday movements of horses at rest and at play. The sculptures are a beautiful contemporary take on horses.
His works are created in steel initially and then cast in bronze. I asked if he starts with a sketch first before creating a sculpture and I loved what he said in response. He said,“I used to start with a sketch, but not anymore. I just sketch in steel now.”
How fascinating that a frustrated ambition to have a horse as a child would have a hand in a life journey that now includes worldwide acclaim for equine sculpture! This should be a good lesson to us all that in every obstacle there is an opportunity, if only you have the vision to see it that way. Glann’s work now shows throughout North America and Europe.
Curious what became of that horse clock given to him by his grandmother? I was interested, so I asked. It sits proudly on a shelf in his art studio to this day. I asked to see it during my visit to the studio, and Glann pointed me to a bronze horse outfitted in parade regalia mounted on a base next to a clock with a horseshoe face. Did Glann ever get his horse? Looking around all the beauty of the equine forms captured in his studio on that late afternoon in March, I’d be tempted to say that from his desire for one horse sprung a complete herd of majestic horses.
Though Glann says he has yet to have a live horse of his own, he shared that one of the most rewarding moments for him is when someone who does have horses will view his equine sculptures and comment on the movement he has captured and say, “That looks just like what my horse did today in the arena!”
For more information on the artwork of Al Glann, please visit http://www.alglannsculptor.com/horses.html The artwork of Al Glann has been selected to be featured in an upcoming issue of Chronicle of the Horse.
Cori McGraw is the founder of High-End Used Saddles, an online retailer of hunter/jumper saddles, and currently resides in Tucson, AZ.
Dr. B’s Fitness Tips for Equestrians
by Emily K. Beasley, Ph.D., CHES
[Note from Cori McGraw: When I found out that Emily Beasley, a.k.a "Dr. B." has a business focusing on fitness specifically for equestrians, I had to learn more. I asked her to write guest blog to share with us some fitness tips for busy riders who are often already terribly pressed for time, and she generously agreed to write this article just for the High-End Used Saddles followers on Facebook. Thank you, Dr. B. for taking the time to share your thoughts with our readers! I know I can relate to the scenario she describes in the article, and I'll bet you can, too. While others are getting fit for bikinis this summer, we care about being fit for riding. Okay, maybe we care a little about being ready for bathing suit season, too. Fortunately, these goals are not mutually exclusive. Without further ado, I bring you equestrian fitness expert, Dr. B.]
My fiancé’ Amon and I make living a healthy lifestyle a priority and often workout together at the gym. As a matter of fact, although he may say otherwise, I really do enjoy the time that we spend together there. Unfortunately, this is not something that we get to do together very often and our daily conversation is fairly predictable:
Amon: What time do you think you’ll finish work today?
Me: Hopefully by 4:30.
Amon: Do you plan to go to the gym with me?
Me: Well, I’m going to the barn first and….
At this point in our conversation I will usually be on the receiving end of one of his infamous “head shakes,” because he knows that no matter how much I promise and try to appease him it is going to be dark before I get home. In reality, even if he did wait on me, neither of us really enjoys working out at 9:00 p.m. I’m fairly certain that this is a common occurrence among most riders and as we all know, we’re ALWAYS going to chose riding and our horses first. So the question really is how do we do our horses justice and give them our very best? We expect them to be fit and in “tip-top” shape, but often don’t do the same for ourselves. I mean really, who has the time?!
Now I know at this point you’re thinking “But I RIDE - that is a work-out!” Not to mention all of the chores you have at the barn - carrying buckets, mucking stalls, tossing bales of hay over your head like Superwoman… I hate to break it to you, but that’s not really going to have a significant impact on your fitness. Yes, all of those things are considered physical activity and will help you maintain your health, burn calories, and maintain functional strength. But, I’m not talking about physical activity for health here, or even your riding “work-outs”- I’m referring to FITNESS that will positively impact your riding. In order to improve fitness, you will actually have to train the various components of fitness (e.g. endurance, strength, etc.). You know all of those trot sets you do to improve your horse’s fitness? Consider your own training as the same thing, except focused on the rider. In addition, you know how your horse may have a “bad” side (as in his left and right sides may be unevenly developed) and you spend a significant amount of time in your flatwork addressing his weaknesses? Guess what - you have weaknesses and imbalances too! As a matter of fact, as riders, we have very distinct muscular imbalances that are unique to our sport, regardless of discipline. Therefore, as riders we need sport-specific fitness and training programs.
For those of us who work full time and have family responsibilities in addition to caring for our horses, heading off to the gym is not always practical, or even functional. That’s what Boot-Camp for Breeches is all about: Functional Fitness for Equestrians. So, here are a few barn workout tips for my fellow equestrians out there!
- If you’re like me and get distracted with various chores and tasks at the barn, set an alarm/reminder on your phone to workout. Don’t let yourself lose track of time!
- Use the resources you have - you DO NOT have to purchase and haul around expensive workout equipment. For example, a tack trunk can be used for modified push-ups. I even have my clients use saddles for dead lifts!
- Likewise, there is no need to invest in new exercise clothing - your breeches are perfect!
- Find a partner- you’ll be more likely to maintain your fitness program if you have a “barn buddy."
- Set small, specific, measurable, and achievable goals. A major lifestyle overhaul will likely be unsuccessful!
- Keep track of your progress- it will motivate and inspire you!
- Try a circuit workout. Set up approximately 6 stations and perform each exercise continuously for 60 seconds. Take a 30 second rest between each station and rotate. Repeat 3 times- it will only take 27 minutes!
- Check out a local Yoga class- flexibility is essential to riding. It will also help you become more aware of your own imbalances.
- Visit a local gym and get a fitness evaluation - it’s essential that you know what areas you can improve and will benefit most from.
- Attend a Bootcamp for Breeches clinic! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Who is Dr. B? Emily Beasley has a Ph.D. in Kinesiology from Louisiana State University and is currently the coordinator of the Health and Physical Education Teacher Education program at LSU. When she’s not working, she spends her time eventing with her OTTB, Ten Steps, and going to the gym with her fiancé’, Amon. In her spare time, she works with clients designing and implementing sport-specific fitness programs for equestrians. You can contact her at email@example.com, through her Facebook Page “Bootcamp for Breeches,” or her website http://www.bootcamp4breeches.com.
I was reflecting back on a George Morris clinic held at Karen Healey’s barn a few years back, in which he admonished us all not to be such hothouse flowers. The Urban Dictionary says of hothouse flower that “In regard to people it's used to describe someone who needs pampering or special conditions.”
George Morris went on to say that in order to not be hothouse flowers, we all need to get out of the ring more, that our education as riders was not complete enough if we limited our riding to just going around in an arena jumping things well. I thought this was fascinating, that someone known for maintaining stringent standards of excellence within this particular sport also was encouraging riders to branch out and try other things as a way to make them better riders and horsemen.
He said that you should never turn down an opportunity to ride. If it's in a different discipline, so much the better. If you get a chance to try polo, he wants you to do it. If you are offered the chance to breeze a racehorse, he wants you do it. If you are offered the opportunity to ride across the plains of Argentina, he wants you to do it.
My friend and client Melanie Roeder captures the spirit of what George was trying to tell us. Melanie has a background in doing the A Circuit hunter/jumpers, yet she also does out-of-the-box things. This summer she completed a riding trek through Mongolia, for example. The photos from her trip to Monogolia are breathtaking.
Przewalski horses in Khustai - a rare and endangered breed endemic to Mongolia
Melanie can ride in her CWD and enjoy her love of hunter/jumpers and she can also ride in a Khazak saddle in Mongolia, camping out in the elements with the horses and experiencing a whole different brand of horsemanship.
How will you apply George Morris’s advice? I've included a few photos from Melanie's trek to inspire you. Thank you, Melanie for inspiring me!
– Cori McGraw
"I will miss Indy and his awesome mullet!"
"The only tree we saw in the Altai."
I love taking notes when at a clinic in order to reference the notes in the future to try to commit some of my favorite tips to memory. Here I’m sharing my notes on the recent Bernie Traurig clinic. I’ve done my best to capture his comments accurately.
1:00 Group (I believe this is the 3’ Group)
· Backing should be rhythmic
· After backing, let your horse go forward
· Use enough leg that your horse stretches forward into the bit
· Regardless of whether you are riding a hunter or a jumper, you as rider want to be in charge of where your horse’s nose is, in terms of his frame
· Emphasizes use of light contact at the trot
· Transition to the extended trot should be expressive
· It’s easier to practice following the mouth if you are up out of your tack at the canter
· In the canter to walk transition, or any downward transition, remember to stretch your heel down.
o He recommends thinking about stretching down through the heel as opposed to just thinking about closing your leg for the downward transition
Cavaletti at the Trot
· Think about being straight and in the middle of the poles. Not two inches to the right of center or five inches to the left of center.
· Opening rein is a simple and effective tool
o Opening rein can prevent a run-out
o Leg alone is not enough to prevent a run-out
· In a group exercise, remember to be moved up and ready to go as your turn approaches
· To a jumper rider, he recommends experimenting with wide hands
o He says that if you watch European riders, you will see many of them with wide hands
· How do you get better? Practice and practice. Then perfect practice. Practice until you can get to perfect practice.
· He is a big fan of using poles to practice your technique. He says it’s something you can do every ride without overtaxing your horse. If you’re not working with poles every day, he hopes when you leave here you will start thinking about using more poles in your work.
· Observing a rider trying to get her horse to halt, Bernie reminds riders to use even pressure on the reins when halting. He says that use of the pulley rein can be great for true emergencies, but cautions that it can be habit forming.
· Reminds riders to start their course with enough impulsion. Find a canter that’s easy for your horse to jump from.
· Step one: step down in your heel
o Note that Bernie emphasizes that thinking “step down in my heel” will often be more productive than merely thinking “close my leg” for a halt.
· Step two: increase the pressure on the rein
· He normally positions spurs below the spur rest for schooling, unless he has some special reason to do otherwise.
o He finds most Americans ride with their spurs too high
Discipline and Reward
· Should occur within 3 -5 seconds after a good/bad behavior
· Beyond 5 seconds, horse not as likely to make the connection
· He recommends that riders look at the top rail of a jump
· Then raise the eyes when in the air over the jump
· As you get more comfortable, you can raise your eye a stride away, or whenever you feel comfortable with your distance
Taking Out A Stride in a Line
· To take out a stride in a line, begin with a hand-gallop pace. Have that pace before you approach the first element in the line.
· Have a sense of your track, of where you want your track to be before you approach the line.
· Angle against the bend to make the line ride more direct
· Angle with the bend to create an outside track where you add a stride compared to the number of strides in the direct track
Seat in a Line:
· Don’t sit hard and deep in the middle of a line. Barely touch the saddle in the middle of a line.
· Walk your horses a little while you’re waiting so they’re prepared when it’s your turn to go
· Bernie says that being a rider is like being an artist.
· Rhythm & pace are very important to establish in your course.
· If you work over poles every day, it will help you without overtaxing your horse. Ask your coach for it if it’s not already part of your program.
· Perfect practice makes perfect.
o You might want to lose some sleep over that which you could have done better in your lessons… so that way next time you can better move towards that perfect practice.
3:00 Group (Includes riders competing through 1.35M)
· First he looks over everyone’s tack. Tightens one rider’s cavesson, said it was too loose and that the fit should be comfortably snug.
· The first think he scans is whether you are elastic in your feel at the walk
· Start out long and low at the trot, encouraging your horse to stretch down.
o When your horse reaches down, give.
o This is a great stretch for the topline
· Step one: overbend a bit
· Step two: wait for a feeling from your horse of melting or giving
· Step three: release
· Flexion away from the direction of movement
· Seeing the inside of the horse’s eye is all you need
· From the sitting trot, he has riders practice leg yielding in from the rail and then back out to the rail.
· Shoulder comes in off the rail
· A jumper doesn’t have to do this as perfectly as a dressage horse
· On a circle, he has riders alternate canter and counter-canter while staying on the circle
· Emphasizes that it’s important for the horse to know the difference in your leg position between asking for the canter and counter-canter
· Holding the counter-canter will help fix a horse that swaps leads
· You determine the moment of change of lead, not the horse
· Counter-canter helpful for improving flying lead changes
· When a rider has control of their toe angle, they can hold the counter-canter around a turn without irritating their horse with a spur
· Has riders practice lengthening and collecting the canter as part of their flatwork
Dealing with a Refusal:
· Kick him, but don’t dwell, just jump it again and then pet him when he does jump it.
· Press your heel down before you close your hand for the halt
· You don’t think Todd Minikus has that? You don’t think every top rider has that heel-down, braced leg for the halt as part of their vocabulary?
Duck-outs (exercise is jumping a fence at a sharper angle than usual)
· Opening rein and outside leg will help avoid a duck-out
· If you practice jumping some fences at home at a more extreme angle once in a while (tougher angle that you would use in a jump-off at a show), then when you need to do more of a normal angle in a jump-off when you’re at the show, it won’t seem especially hard.
Horse that is tough in the turns (exercise is a rollback turn between jumps)
· Emphasizing strong outside aids will help you when you’re riding a horse that is difficult in turns between fences
Use of Eyes in a Rollback Turn
· Don’t look away from a jump toward your next jump until your horse’s front feet are off the ground on the first jump
· This is especially true with an older, more experienced horse; you could easily end up with a run-out if your eyes start looking ahead to the next fence while you’re still completing the last stride of the immediate fence.
· Look straight ahead until the front feet are off the ground. Then and only then can you turn your eyes.
[Note from Cori: I hope sharing these notes will be helpful for my fellow riders. Feel free to share the link with your friends and barnmates. If you have a favorite tip from these notes, let me know what it is. I know that after watching this clinic, I am trying to remember to step down in my heel before I close my hand to ask for the halt. Happy riding! - Cori McGraw]
For many of us, our desire to continuously improve our riding leads us to spend countless hours and dollars in lessons, shows, clinics, and resources such as videos, magazines, articles, and books on riding techniques.
But how much thought do we really give to the mental attitude that we need for success in our sport (or in any sport, for that matter)? No doubt we give it some thought, but if you’re anything like me, you may tend to read 10 articles on technical tips about riding for every one (or fewer) that you read about the mental attitude required for success.
In order to better balance out that ratio, I wanted to share this wonderful article that I found from Smithsonian Magazine on the topic of “Why are Superachievers so Successful?” http://bit.ly/15MYwIQ
The article discusses some common ground that high-achievers in fields from sports to business have shared in terms of the mental approach to success. Take a look, and let me know what you think. I certainly found information in that article that I think I can use to better my riding. The tip I found most helpful was the importance of the ability to be self-questioning, or in other words, the ability to objectively assess whether you have a blind spot in a particular area.
What tips can you share on the mental approach to success, whether for riding specifically or life in general? I so often find that the lessons I learn in my riding carry over to everyday life as well.
- Cori McGraw
Today I was musing on the latest trend in riding apparel that is making it's way over from Europe. (Apparently all interesting trends in the hunter/jumper world originate in Europe, or so we’re told.)
If trade show forecasts are to be believed, the latest up and coming trend is that bold primary color schooling breeches are the Next Big Thing. These bright red and cobalt blue breeches replace the traditional schooling breech palette of earth tones, navy, and eggplant.
Here’s a pair of red breeches that I’ve been eyeing. http://prestatiesport.com/en/breeches/19-red-alexa-leisure-breeches.html (Why they are labeled “leisure” breeches is beyond me, though I would surmise it is a loose translation of “schooling” breeches; but I think I’m not alone when I assert that schooling often has little to do with leisure! It has much more to do with elbow grease, I might venture to state. But that’s another blog entry for another day!)
The question is whether I can see myself being able to pull off this look in real life. The questionable part stems from the fact that my typical schooling look would best be described as…um, conservative. I typically school in tan Tailored Sportsmans and a retired show shirt. (If I really want to let loose, I might swap my tan Tailored Sportsmans for, oh I don’t know… mocha Tailored Sportsmans. I know, life on the edge, right?)
Back in my days in the corporate world, I found that dressing extra conservative was a big boost to my career that helped offset the fact that I was young and less experienced than my co-workers. I was then the 20-something who showed up to the office in a tweed suit with her hair in a bun. So I suppose I’ve translated the same conservative aesthetic into my riding, even now that I’m no longer a 20-something, LOL.
But I have to admit that all of a sudden I have this hankering to forget all that conservative stuff and dive into the pure fun of the Euro trends. Maybe one day soon I’ll throw caution to the wind and show up at the barn in bright red breeches. How about you? What do you think of the Euro trends?
- Cori McGraw