29 September 2016

Clean your grooming tools!

   Last month I was pleased to be asked to accompany a woman to look at a dressage horse. She'd been shopping for some time. She wanted my unbiased opinion, something that just amazes me that she trusts my judgement...but I've been working on horses for many years.  She knew what she wanted: a warmblood, preferably a mare (no, I don't get that, but then, mares and I don't always see eye to eye) and within a certain price range. Said price range was, to me, in the nose bleed section, high enough that I could probably have bought a brand new fully tricked out pickup truck. 

   Road trips with horse people are ALWAYS fun. This one was no exception. It took several hours of driving to get to a lovely barn with lush paddocks full of gorgeous horses, some   with exuberant babies at foot. The drive to the barn was lined with oak and maple trees. The gate opened itself, and had a large wrought iron silhouette of a dressage horse on it. I am betting you can envision it. It was, without a doubt, a rich woman's barn.

   The owner said, oh, I'll have my help bring Mare out of her paddock and you can try her out. 
   She did. Mare was very nice but was covered in dried mud, as we'd had rain earlier that day and she'd taken full advantage of rolling in the resulting mud. Like my own Raven, Mare had the knack of getting mud EVERYWHERE, to include between her ears and an inch thick on her very lovely rump. But...I don't mind cleaning up a muddy horse. Rolling (when it's not in reaction to colic) is good for a horse.  When they roll, it's to get the kinks out of their back after standing in a stall all night. The mud cakes onto their hide and forestalls the flies, which, in late August, are numerous as the swallows have all left, preparing for migration.

I have trained Raven to roll on command, by the way. I'd rather see him roll when I can choose where (like inside a nice, clean arena) rather than in the mud hole in his paddock.

Mare wasn't a dirty horse from neglect. She was just a dirty horse from being outside, like horses should be.

    What shocked me, though, was the owner's grooming kit. Her barn was immaculate and beautifully appointed. She was walking about in riding boots that probably would have cost me a month's pay. She was a professional who could afford to hire people to do the manual work. Her fences, her horse trailer, her very appearance, was spotless. She's a pro in the horse breeding and showing world. And, to be honest, despite her obvious wealth, there isn't a bit of snob in her. But her grooming kit looked as if it'd been thrown out after ten years of scrubbing cars at the local High School fund raising car wash. 

    I am old fashioned. I prefer flat leather tack on my horses, no ''''bling''' (gads I hate that term) on me, or my horse, and I want natural fiber brushes. 

   The Owner of Mare's grooming kit had two plastic brushes with bristles so worn down I am amazed they actually touched the horse. They were FILTHY. One appeared to have been red and white at one time but you couldn't tell for sure. 
    Her rubber curry combs were worn to nubbins. And she knocked the big chunks off the horse using a METAL curry comb.

    Aggghhhhhh! But I said NOTHING. It was not my place to say anything. Still, I wanted so badly to snatch the nasty brushes and the metal curry out of her hands and say what are you, crazy???

   I learned to groom a horse from two people. The first was from the horse care books written by a wonderful author named  Margaret Cabell Self. The second was a cantankerous Irishman, a man who trained Thoroughbreds at the local race track, who hired me to walk 'hots' (at the age of 16, and much to the fury of my father). A 'hot', by the way, was a Thoroughbred who had just come off the track after a work or a race. One walked the horse cool. Now they use a 'hot walker' machine.
  Mr. Kelly, who'd grown up at tracks in Ireland and then moved to the US, taught me how to properly groom a horse, so well that to this day, I am the woman my friends want when it comes to bathing their horses for a test or a show. I'm NOT a show groom. My attempts at braiding a horse's mane are so poor that the horse is too embarrassed to come out of his stall. But I damn well can put a shine on a horse that will knock your socks off. 

  When I saw the woman's grooming kit, I had to bite my tongue.
  Must. Keep. Opinions. To. Myself. I thought, keeping my mouth firmly shut.  The horse is in excellent health and is well kept, what her grooming kit looks like is none of my business.
But I strained the hell out of my self control.

I wondered. How could the woman not SEE how bad her tools were? But maybe it's, well, she sees them every day. She doesn't think, she's grooming a horse and thinking of what she's going to do next. Maybe someone else does the grooming for her at a test. But maybe, too, it is a case where no one taught her how to groom a horse. One just...does it, you know? Maybe they teach it in Pony Club, but I don't know. But no one, it seems, thinks of how to properly groom a horse, and even fewer give any thought about cleaning their tools.

So I will do a quick instruction.

Rule number one, as Mr. Kelly so succinctly (and without his almost unintelligible brogue) told me, metal does NOT touch a horse's skin. The metal curry comb is to clean the BRUSH, not the horse. 

Metal curry comb cleans the BRUSH, not the horse.

So: Take one dirty horse. 
Take up your rubber curry comb. It is used to scrub against the grain of the hair in order to bring up dust, scurf, dandruff and 'knock the big chunks' off. Test to see how much pressure your horse wants. My Arab, Jordan, wanted a hard scrub. Raven, a warmblood, will tell you in no uncertain terms that you are scrubbing too hard!

Every once in a while, depending on the style of the curry and the amount of hair and dirt coming off the horse, knock the curry on the floor to dislodge the detritus. Mr. Kelly insisted on one knocking the curry in a row, so he could COUNT the piles of dirt to see if you were actually grooming the horse to his high standards.
Once you have done the entire horse, to include the heel bulbs! one takes up one's dandy brush.  Again, I prefer natural fibers, but they are going the way of the dodo, I am sorry to say. If yours is plastic, it's okay. 

Brush with the grain, starting at the poll and working one's way down the horse, top to bottom. Groom in horizontal 'bands', flicking the dirt down onto the band below your brush's length. End up at the belly. Brush down the legs, getting into the gaps between the tendons but be gentle.  End each stroke with a flick of the wrist to 'toss' the big chunks of dirt off the horse and onto you.  Every two or three strokes with the dandy brush, swipe it clean with the metal curry comb. (You may be different, I use both hands, the dandy brush in my left hand and the metal curry in my right when I'm working on the left side of the horse, and vice versa on the right.) Go over the entire horse. In some spots where the mud is an inch thick, keep currying/brushing until it comes clean.

Some folks brush the mane and tail. I know one person who doesn't touch a brush to her warmbloods' tail, merely sprays it with a detangler and pick out the grass, etc with her fingers. I use a human hairbrush on Raven's mane and forelock but not his tail, for that, I use detangler, too. If you don't mind split ends, use a mane comb, but I won't. Sorry. They're too damaging. 

I don't curry a horse's face. I gently brush it, covering each eye with one hand in order to keep dust and dirt out of it, as well as preventing inadvertently hitting him with it.
Scrub the hooves, if they're muddy, with a plastic scrub brush (remember this tool, as it has a part to play later) and pick out the feet with a hoof pick. 
Plastic scrub brush for cleaning hooves, and, when clean, scrubbing grooming tools.

If you want, then go over the entire horse again with a 'body' brush. In my case, it is a soft brush made of horse hair, but again, there are synthetic fiber ones that are soft enough for the purpose. The body brush gets the fine stuff that the coarser fibered dandy brush doesn't dislodge. 

If I'm feeling extravagant, I then take a microfiber cloth over the entire horse (save mane and tail and hooves) to put a shine on him.

Now: Let's clean your tools.

You don't need to clean them every time, unless they're plastic. Natural fiber brushes can take cleaning but you don't want to over do it, unless you don't mind buying new ones ever few months.

You will need:
A bucket, filled with hot water, a capful or two of bleach, and a glop of  soap such as Murphy's oil soap.  Make it all sudsy. 
Rubber gloves for you.
A hose with a sprayer on it. 
A CLEAN plastic scrub brush.
A work spot where you don't mind water puddling up.
A nice hot day with sunshine, or, if it's raining or winter, a heated room.

Separate all your tools. Brushes in one pile, currys in another, and everything else in a third.
Take your plastic brush in one gloved hand and the finest fibered brush..in my case, the horse haired body brush, in the other. 
Sploosh the body brush in the hot, soapy water. Get it good and wet. Brush the fibers with the CLEAN plastic scrub brush.

Place it aside. Take the dandy brushes and clean them the same way: swooshing them in the hot soapy water, scrubbing with the plastic scrub brush, setting them aside.

Place your rubber curry combs in the hot water. Using the plastic scrub brush, scrub the curry with the plastic brush UNDER the water. Unless, of course, you want to spray bleachy water all over your jeans.
Place them aside.

 One type of curry comb is oval (it's the blue one in the picture.). It collects hair very well but is a booger to clean. I use a knife or a hoof pick to clean all the hair out, but I recently discovered that a vacuum cleaner does a great job of sucking all the hair out. Scrub under water with the plastic scrub brush. 
From left: body brush (synthetic fiber), dandy brush (natural fiber), body brush (horse hair), a second dandy brush, natural fiber, and the blue plastic curry comb which I don't know what it's officially termed. These brushes have been rinsed and put out in the sun to dry.

Clean your other tools: sweat scraper, hoof picks, etc in the now pretty dirty water.

Now, with the hose, start 'rinsing' the brushes and other tools. Get the spray to the roots of the brush fibers but don't soak the hell out of them, just enough to get all the soap out. The plastic curry combs rinse in a minute.
From left: rubber curry combs, hoof picks, a wooden pasta fork, aluminum sweat scraper, hoof picks, human hair brush for mane and forelock. 

Set everything out in the hot sun to dry. When you first set out a fiber brush, set it handle side UP to let the water drain, but don't let it sit this way for long, as it will deform the bristles (if they're natural fiber.) Then turn them bristle side up, in the wind and the sunshine, and let them sit for several hours, or until nice and dry.

Vacuum out your kit itself, or if it's plastic, hose it out, turn it up to drain and dry, and you are done. 
Now you have nice clean grooming tools. 

If you wonder why I have a wooden pasta fork in with the picture, I made a post years ago about how I use one on my horses to do 'social grooming'. It's more to make the horse happy than any real grooming use, and I should dig out that post and re run it. But it may be too, that from a blog I no longer have, so I might just have to re-write it. Oh darn. 

25 September 2016

How do you get the horse to STOP?

     Maybe I shouldn't complain. 

     There are many folks out there who have horses that just LOVE to stop. And stay stopped. Especially with very green riders, the horse will take one look and say, "She's got nothing on me, I will just stand here." Then it becomes a dance between rider and trainer: kick him! Keep him going!"

    Raven is just the opposite. He has an enviable work ethic. He LIKES to work. He wants to work. Sue is out of town and has our barnlord riding him daily, because I am often unable to come out to the barn on a daily basis. Keeping him fit and happy is what we want, and he is more than happy to oblige. He hates 'dope-on-a-rope' (lunging) but get on his back and he's okay let's get to work.

  That's the problem I am having. I am bareback, as usual, and usually don't even have the reins in my hands. He's become very happy with working in a low, relaxed frame with little if any contact,  and I don't need the reins to get him to go.

   I need him to STOP. And he doesn't.  

  How do I get him to STOP?  Say "Whoa?" He doesn't respond to 'whoa'..he's a dressage horse. I use my seat to turn him, to sidepass, serpentine, no problems. But getting him to come to a stop is proving beyond me. I do NOT want to use the reins. Reins are for steering, not halting. Believe it or not, there is not much in my numerous 'how to ride' books that say how to halt. Go, yes. Jump, yes. Canter, passage (no way in hell am I at that level but my books can tell me) but Halt? Maybe all the authors had horses that had plenty of whoa in them, because seldom is it addressed.

   I fiddle around with my seatbones and the times he does halt, it's a half hearted one. It's not a crisp clean halt, it's more a dribbling series of slower steps until he finally comes to a halt. In the meantime I'm wondering, did he stop for me or because I said something with my seat just for a nanosecond that communicated what I wanted? If so, which was it? Engaging my core? Exhaling, inhaling, squeezing with my calves, shoving my seat bones backwards? Sitting tall, leaning back, doing everything I can think of save yanking back on the reins?

  So I try to replicate what I did. It worked five seconds ago. This time he ignores it. Arrgh. 
I have often said he is a stern teacher and in this case he's almost stone deaf to my requests, and I cannot figure out how to ask. 

  Oh, I hear some folks: do a half halt. Well, there are as many definitions for how to do a half halt as there are horses and riders. I don't think anyone really knows how to define a half halt in terms my simple mind can comprehend, never mind telling me how to do it.  And how do I know I've actually done one?  What differentiates a half halt and a full halt? If his slowly coming to a stop is a 'half halt' then I guess I am doing one but I'll be damned if I know how I did it. Nor can I replicate it.  I've heard "stop the energy from behind". Um, if I knew what that felt like perhaps I would be more successful. As it is, I am still struggling with just hearing the horse. 

   Maybe I'll get a stop sign like on the school busses. 

19 September 2016

Everyone wants a tiger

If you are an animal lover, as I have been since I first drew breath, you know the feeling.

You see it on television: this lovely animal, a living, breathing, unambiguously wild animal, living its life on its own terms. The camera catches behaviors that enchant you: an otter, playing with water, lion cubs chasing their mother’s tail, a tiger playing with her cub in the snow. You want that. You want that creature; you want to experience the behavior first hand. You want to feel a oneness with the animal. You want it to be a member of your family. In other words, a pet.

Not because you want it to be like your dog, or your cat, no-you want to be a part of that animal’s wildness, to become it. You want to BE that tiger, that lion, that dolphin, living the life as it does…but with your own human mind intact. You want to share in that experience, be that animal. You want to BE a lioness roaring in the night. You want to be a wolf, roaming with a pack.  
You want to be Elsa.
Elsa the lion by Joy Adamson

You want to see the same things the cameraman saw.
You want to experience the obvious intelligence of Rascal, or Mijbil, or Alex.
But that is impossible. So we try the next best thing: bringing it into our world.

Thus you hear of crazy-and disastrous-attempts: a 400 pound Siberian tiger raised (and abandoned) in a tiny New York flat. Any number of parrots and macaws, snatched from the wild to spend the rest of its life in a cage not much larger than its wingspan. You want an elephant to share her deepest thoughts with you.
Those with money and the best of intentions still find it daunting, keeping wild animals in impossibly small enclosures and feeding them on beef or chicken. Somehow deep inside, no matter how well they care for their wildlings, it's still not the same. It’s still not the Serengeti.

We shouldn’t, as individuals, take an animal from the wild and keep it in a sad facsimile of its natural habitat.  

We already have animal companions, many of them direct descendants of the wild ones.  The chicken was domesticated so far back in history it’s unknown when it occurred.  The dog was probably first domesticated from South East Asian wolves by the people we now call Aborigines, who carried them with them when they invaded Australia, 40,000 years ago.  The pig, the goat, the sheep and the cow were domesticated in what are now Turkey, Iraq and Iran, 8K years ago. The horse was domesticated by the Scythians on the Ukrainian steppe 6,000 years ago. The Egyptians domesticated the donkey 5K years ago, and attempted to do the same with the cat.  I hesitate to state that cats are domesticated. No, they are the only animal to willingly step into OUR world, unlike the rest that were taken from the wild for a purpose. Cats will sleep in your lap but are still quite capable of surviving in the wild, much to the detriment of songbirds.  The camelids: llamas, Bactrian and Dromedary camels were brought into the human fold about 2500 years ago. If you note, the longer the period of domestication, the more of a pet the animal is.  There are a few other animals: elephants, guinea pigs, and ferrets, for instance, that people have tamed, but have not domesticated. 
Most of the animals we domesticated we did so in order to eat them or enslave them. Or both. 

The nine (I lump the camelids all in one tribe) are the only ones out of the thousands of mammals on this planet that have been successfully domesticated, (and the camelids don’t do it nicely.)

The one animal we forget when we think of domesticated animals is us. I would hesitate to say Homo sapiens is civilized. Domesticated, perhaps, in that we willingly live in unnatural habitats and eat just about anything, but we certainly are not civil. We didn’t become even slightly domesticated until 10K ago, when we began farming. Up until then we acted like our cousins, the chimps, which are quite capable of tearing you apartA case, actually many millions of cases can be made that we humans are still savagely tribal.

Despite the trappings and conveniences of civilization, we still long for the wilderness. We envy the freedom of a lion living on his own terms, living and dying under a broad African sky, wandering over an endless landscape beneath stars and sky, amidst millions of wildebeest, zebras and gazelle. We would love to live like that, but, of course, with the comforts we’ve grown used to: air conditioning, screens to keep the bugs out, electricity to read a blog on a computer, jets to carry us wherever we want to go quickly and comfortably, flush toilets, cooked food on a daily basis, cool, clean water.

 So we take the animals we still love: lions, tigers, bears, leopards, otters (do you see what I see? The ones we want are carnivores.) out of the wild, trying to recover that feeling of wilderness, that taste of freedom.

We have destroyed their world, and yet we want it.

When you take an animal out of the wild, no matter how well you care for it, still, you have changed it into a captive. No matter how entrancing, it is still a prisoner, subject to whatever you choose to do to it or with it. When it matures into the wild animal it is, it begins to demonstrate normal behaviors that are, in many cases, harmful to us, the person who "raised it from a baby". Suddenly it is no longer a cute cub, it is a full grown Bengal tiger who isn’t so amenable to you taking away something it wants. That’s when the owner turns to the zoo. They think, oh, the zoo will want this animal, everyone knows that.
But it isn’t always the case. Zoos are highly organized and, these days, scientifically run institutions with stud books, 'natural' habitats that are difficult and expensive to create and maintain. Quite honestly, the zoo has no place for your suddenly too dangerous or hard to keep pet. They have no room for your pet, nor does your pet fit into the often balanced communities in the zoo. Your pet has never learned to be what it is. For all it knows, it is a human, and has no idea what it means to be a lion or a bear or a chimpanzee.  

I have this love/hate affair with zoos, in that the animal is being kept in captivity. Its young will never see the wilderness, it will never live its own life. It is not allowed to make decisions. Its behavior is frustrated by the necessary sterility of an unnatural, tiny habitat. Food is provided, it no longer needs to use its wits to hunt. Its mates are chosen for it.  It stops being a wild thing, and becomes: animated art, a mere symbol of what used to be. I hope the animal does not know what it has lost.
Because its wild world is gone.

The wilderness is gone. We have eaten it. We have torn out the jungles, dropped the forests, paved over the prairies, poisoned the oceans, drained the marshes, killed the reefs.  We have irreversibly changed the planet into a human one, and there is no place for wild things to live without interference (‘management’) or poaching, hunting, killing it for no reason other than its interfering with US.
Do we allow them to go extinct? Do we allow the last black rhinoceros, the last elephant, the last condor, and the last tiger, to really be the last?

No. I hate it, but no. We have destroyed the wilderness, but we cannot allow the creatures that evolved alongside us, indeed, long before us, to go extinct. If for no other reason than to remind us what we have done.

No matter how badly one wants it, you cannot recreate a wilderness by bringing a wild animal into your home.

If you want to read why, please read “Ring of Bright Water” by Gavin Maxwell. A brilliant author, Maxwell wanted an otter as a pet.  You must read the book to learn why, and in hindsight, even he realized belatedly that doing so was the wrong thing to do. Still you cannot help but be entranced by his descriptions of his otters at play, their obvious affection for him, their personalities, their lives. 

He had two species, one the native species to his Scotland, and two others, clawless otters from Africa.  They were all enchanting animals, but they were also still wild, and, being mustelids, could demonstrate an instantaneous change from rollicking clown to an attacker demonstrating such relentless ferocity that it cost one caretaker a couple fingers. It was the nature of the beast, so to speak, not that the otters were mean, or bad, or mistreated. No, they were wild otters, and were merely acting as such.

Having been raised in captivity, the African otters would never have been successfully released to the wild, although the Scottish otters were. They, however, did not live long, as they would readily approach strange humans who, in one case, killed the otter because-well, because he was a human and the animal was an otter.   

No other book I have read of people taking wild animals into their home is as wonderful, yet heart breaking as “Ring of Bright Water”. Yet it should be required reading for anyone even contemplating a wild animal as a pet.

Wild animals are not pets. They entrance and enchant us precisely because they are wild, because they are beautiful, because they are NOT a dog or a cat.

I met a woman who worked with the big cats in a large city zoo. She told me: “All the cats are the same. It doesn’t matter how big or small, they all act the same.”
So you HAVE a tiger. She sleeps in your lap. She pounces on you from ambush. she curls her tail around your leg, telling you how much she loves you and won’t you please hurry up with that tin of cat food? She purrs, she plays, and she loves you. She happens to be the perfect size: not too big like her Siberian cousin, not so small that you can’t play with her.
Wolf Park, photographer unknown

The wolf you admire? His domesticated descendant is sitting in the car, waiting to go places with you. He will chase things for you. He will bring them back. He will point out other wild things. He’s the perfect size and temperament. He’s not as smart as a wolf, but then, he won’t tear the couch apart looking for the squeaky toy…well, wait...I do know dogs that destructive.
From reddit, photographer unknown but that is a 'pet' wolf

Leave the parrots and macaws in the wild. No bird likes to live in a cage.

If you want a pet, get one that’s already been domesticated.

11 September 2016

It was worth every penny

This post has nothing to do with horses...and everything to do with being an American.

On this date, 15 years ago, a handful of murderous demons killed thousands of my countrymen in the most  horrific way you can imagine. 

Burned alive.
Murdered solely because they were American. The murderers didn't care what religion, what color, what gender, what age, what marital or parental status, what economic level, even what amount of sympathy they may have had for murderous Islamic fundamentalists. They murdered them because they could.

It was all due to one very rich man, Osama bin Laden.

It took ten years of hunting, uncounted number of manhours, incredible technology and good ol' ground pounding spy work...and who knows how much it cost? to catch him. But we did. We got that cockroach. We got that oh.....there aren't words to describe him. 

I don't care how much it cost. It was worth it. It was worth every penny.

We got him. His death was far too quick for my tastes. Part of me wishes the Navy had lied about him being dead, they snuck him into the US and now he lives in the bowels of the Pentagon, without any sort of interaction with anyone but a Marine who shoves a plate full of pork rinds to him for his dinner. 

But he's probably dead. There wasn't a death worth more to me, other than oh, Hitler.  

I will never, ever in my life forget this day. Not ever. And don't you, whomever may be reading it. 
Don't forget. We Americans are the most forgiving people on the planet. We help our defeated enemies. We send money to people who use it to make bombs to kill us. We are the only ones who consistently send money, food, aid, help to anyone in the world who needs it. We don't get that back. Only two countries jumped to our aid on 9/11...The United Kingdom and god bless their souls,the Jamaicans. Who are still pretty British.

Despite being surrounded by my countrymen, I felt so alone..until Tony Blair said, we are with you...and I don't know who in Jamaica who said the same thing.

But then I remembered how I felt during Desert Storm...when I was in the desert, with my M16 on my side and my fellow soldiers at it. I remember seeing our might destroying the enemy. Most of all, I remember the outpouring of support from total strangers..Americans from Michigan, from South Dakota, from Florida, from New Jersey, from California..people who sent me letters and packages saying We Are Behind You. 
It was like riding an elephant amongst ants. I knew we would win. How could we not, when all of America had my back?

My flag is flying right now. So many people seem to have forgotten this day, but Do NOT.
There are people out there who still hate us, no matter what we do for them. There are countries; Russia, North Korea, China...who hate us, who would love to see us go down and are doing things to make it happen. 
Don't become complaisant. We are Americans. As one politician put it on this ugly day, "We might fight amongst ourselves, but our differences end at our shoreline."

Never forget. 

05 September 2016

Bait and switch tactics used by horse trainers

Bait and switch tactics are not used solely by used car salesmen.

Look HARD before you send your horse to this trainer.
Look at this picture, and read the captions below the photo.

The structure in the picture is the covered arena. It is part of Eros Bordeaux stable in Olympia, WA. I will admit the arena itself is very nice. A covered arena in this area is priceless. But the website has only two pictures of the barns your horse will be living in. They are not realistic pictures.

Like advertising, the captions promise far more than the client actually gets.  

Let me take you on a real tour of Eros Bordeaux training facility. It is owned by Eric Rosa, the owner.

Now before I do, understand that  I am not attacking the trainer, Ron Copple. Copple does NOT own this property.
 I don’t know how good a trainer he is. However, by his using this photo-which was taken wholesale from Eros Bordeaux's website-Copple is (perhaps unintentionally) implying that the captions say what you are getting for your money. I can assure you, if you make your decision to send your horse to this trainer based on the captions in the ad, you are getting screwed.

 By the way, there is now a second trainer on the grounds, as well. Copple is in the 'new barn', which was completely rebuilt and expanded, and the "old' barn where the second trainer now keeps his client's horses, and used to be filled with boarder's horses.

 Yes, this is a full care facility. The horses are housed, trained, fed and watered.  All the horses in Copple's care are there for training for the show ring.  I don't know how often an individual horse is trained, but the regimen I have seen is a horse there for training lives in its stall 23 hours a day, seven days a week. That one hour…and I am being extremely generous with the amount of time it is out of the stall-that one hour is spent under saddle, in the arena, being trained. Again, I do not know how to train a horse, especially for showing, so I shall not go into how well it is being trained.

However, I do know that there are only two occasions on which the horse is removed from its stall. One is when it is taken into the covered arena to be trained, and the other is when it is loaded onto a horse trailer to go to a show.

The stalls are matted and bedded. The stalls have no windows to the outside, and no opening through which a horse may put his head outside the stall. Bars form the entry side of the stall, all other walls are solid, meaning, no horse can see outside his stall other than through the bars on the front.

Yet, on Copple’s website, you see this fuzzy picture (one which I can find no one to credit.)
This picture taken in the 'old' barn shows an Appaloosa with his head out of his stall, able to watch the world go by. It doesn't reflect reality, but it does make for a prettier picture, clipped from the trainers website.

Do you see a horse with his head out, looking at the world? Of course not. This is the real policy for the barns. 

  I used to board a horse in this barn.  At no time was any horse ever allowed to place his head out the window, so to speak, or over the French door, into the aisle. The owner, Eric Rosa, forbade that.We were threatened with banishment if we even dared to open the window to the stall.
 The barn where these stalls are is NOT the Copple show barn. This picture is of the 'old' barn, leased to the second trainer. Copple has no horses in this barn. But it is prettier than the 'new' barn. But then, if you look at either one of the websites, there are no other pictures on Copple's (or Bordeaux's website)of the interior of either barn other than the fuzzy one with the Appaloosa. 

   But I have some. I took one on a lovely September day when there was no training going on. An acquaintance of mine (who knew I used to board at Bordeaux)  was considering sending her horse to Copple for training, and as she is out of state, asked me to check on the conditions before she contracts. "It looks like a really nice place," she said, 'and I want to make sure I get what I pay for." Wellllllllllll, here you go, my friend.

The  weather was perfect. Not a single horse in training was outside. Not one. Despite the lovely day, every stall had a horse in it. Many of the horses were blanketed, as you can see below, despite the fact that the temperature was a nice 70° F.

  Here are some pictures I took of the Copple barn. It is clean, very clean and neat. These folks are pros, used to showing all over the country and it shows. The stalls, though small, do have bedding, unlike what we boarders had to put up with when Eric Rosa, the owner, decided to run us out. 

 Do you see any horse heads? No, despite the fact that every stall has an occupant. These pictures were taken on a lovely Saturday.  The horses are not turned out in the advertised 'roomy paddocks”.

A row of caged horses.
Interior of Copple's barn on a lovely, warm Saturday afternoon. Clean, yes. See the caged horses?

Look at all the room for turn out. That's Copple's barn in the distance. See your horse out there? No? It's in the barn on a lovely day in September. You can't see the fences, but most of this area is cross fenced with roomy paddocks.

More turn out paddocks, unused. The barn, above, is full of horses in cages, too.

Roomy paddocks for turn out? Oh, they exist. There's a LOT of them. They have not had a horse turned out in them in at least a year. 

 At NO TIME is a horse in the training stable allowed outside. There are several paddocks-at least two dozen, if not more-for turn out but no horse is in them. I took pictures of some of them. Do you see any horses in them? No? The photos were taken on a lovely Saturday afternoon. No horses outside in the sunshine. Just because there are turnout paddocks doesn’t mean your horse actually gets out into one. It just doesn’t happen.

There are no windows that allow a horse to see outside. There are a few skylights in the new barn to lighten the gloom, but not enough to provide natural light for the horses. This is fixed, though, by lights being on 24/7 during the winter. 
This isn't good for a horse. Like a human, horses need darkness in which to get sleep. Melatonin, the ‘sleep’ hormone, is only secreted when there is no artificial light, or sunlight. Any sort of light in the barn keeps horses from getting good or enough sleep. This results in stress, and low level stress is far more deleterious to a horse than a sudden spike and then release from the stressor.

The so called professional trail course, at one time, was most definitely a good one, with challenges to novice and advanced horses alike. It has been allowed to fall into disrepair as no one uses it. Of course not. These are show horses, not trail horses.

Spacious matted stalls are not very spacious, but are matted with bedding. Not a lot, but it is better than rubber. 
Pleasant atmosphere between boarders and staff? Huh. The staff consists of Eric Rosa, the owner, and any atmosphere between him and the many boarders he had was toxic. He despised us.

 Now, there are only three people left from the days when it was a boarding facility. I would say that out of 70 or so stalls available, only four horses are owned by boarders…and those horses live OUTSIDE. They are not in the barns. At all.
When the boarders were in the barn, this is what we were suddenly subjected to:
Isn't this comfy?? Get used to it, owner. This is what Eric Rosa did to us.

This is a stall that the owner was paying over $450 a month for. When people complained about the scanty amount of sawdust, they were told by Eric Rosa, the owner (Copple is NOT the owner) that if they didn’t like it they could leave.
They did. It was what he wanted.

Full board suddenly went up $500.  Bang, just like that. Was it because he improved things? No. In fact everything went downhill. 
His next step was the feed. He stopped providing the grass hay you see in the corner. 

The hay he provided was NOT the hay you see in the corner of the above picture. What Rosa began to provide was what he called a ‘compressed’ flake. Compressed hay is merely grass that has been squashed into a tiny flake, 2/3rds smaller than a regular flake of hay, and banded with plastic. Being squashed saves space but does not add bulk to a horse’s stomach. Nor does it provide much in the way of nutrition. It’s like a corn flake. Once it's been crushed into  crumbs, can you eat it? Plus, you cannot see what is IN the flake. Is it grass hay? Alfalfa? Or weeds? In Rosa’s opinion, a flake of hay was a flake of hay. Not to the horses. They were hungry, still ravenous after this ‘flake’ of ‘hay’ was tossed into the stall. We complained. That didn't set well with Rosa. How dare we bitch, no matter how much money we paid him. He had a hissy fit. We owners didn't understand hay (despite the fact that he's never been a hay farmer). 

Then there was the case of feed. Most of us paid more money for our horses to be fed oats.  
 Rosa stopped providing oats and brought in a cheapo pelleted ‘ration’. What was in the pellets? I dunno. Mostly corn, I suspect. It smelled like dog food and went rancid quickly.  Rosa got it on the cheap. He did not lower the board for substituting cheap pellets and lousy hay. The sawdust..instead of shavings..saved him a lot of money. Rubber mats were fine for horses.  This sawdust-no more than a shovel full-was what the boarders' horses would be bedded on from now on.  We complained. Rosa did not like it. How DARE we complain! He didn't like a bunch of women calling him out for the stingy, smirking fraud he is.   

What he was doing was breaking the contracts of his boarders, knowing most couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer to sue his ass for breach of contract. (although I have a really good one who has successfully prosecuted a lot of jerks like Rosa for fraud.) He wanted the boarders out of the barn but didn’t have the ethics or courage to tell people they would have to leave. He is a fraud, an oily, smarmy punk.  He wanted Copple in his bed, and by god, he was going to run everyone out so it could happen.  

 He did that to his help, as well. Suddenly his barn managers…who had run the place for years, and turned it into a first class facility-were suddenly demoted to ‘renters’. They’d done tons of work for him that he’d never compensated them for. They lived onsite and took care of the business for him.
     But Copple was bringing his own team with him, so suddenly the Barn Managers were excess to Rosa. One day they were managers, the next they were ‘renters.’ Oh and here is your 90 day notice to vacate the premises!
He hired a young girl, just barely 18, to be his manager (at minimum wage).  His help had their hours cut to the point where it cost them more in gas money to come to work than he paid them…and he was never on time with his paycheck. The help quit, which was what Rosa had intended. By quitting, Rosa didn’t have to pay them unemployment. He kept one man…an immigrant, to take care of all the horses by himself. I don't know if the girl quit, but I do know the one man is still there. He takes care of 65 horses all by himself. Why doesn't Rosa hire more help? He's a cheapskate.

To return to atmosphere: when Copple first moved horses in, he began bringing them one by one into the arena. We would be riding in the arena. Don’t worry, he said, you can ride in the arena while we are training, it’s good for the show horses to have others around it. But then he began insisting on things like: don’t canter. Don’t lunge your horse. Absolutely no jumping. I want to keep the arena gate open.  Anyone whose horse was a gate hound took it as an invitation to bolt out. 

The covered arena was the prime reason there were so many boarders in the first place. We found that our $500 didn’t pay for arena time anymore. It was nibbled away by Copple. First it was, oh, you can ride in the covered arena anytime. Then it was, well, only when we aren’t training a horse in it. (when you have at least 60 horses, that doesn’t leave much time.)  Then it became, only after 6 PM, and now it is only after 6 PM on weekends.
Do you see this strategy? Little by little, paying boarders had their contracted rights cut out, without actually renegotiating the contract.

Spacious tack room?
One. There used to be two. Now only one. Unheated.
Outdoor arena? You can see it in the picture with the captions. It is heavy going and when it rains, which it does often, the arena floods and STAYS flooded. Rosa had promised to put in drains but that never happened.

Despite the web ads, Eros Bordeaux is no longer a boarding facility. Boarders are not being accepted. Even haul-ins are no longer invited (so much for the pleasant atmosphere). IF you can find a time to haul in, it’s $20.

So there you have it. Take a long look at the Copple training facility and understand that the ad does not actually promise you anything. Again, I am not saying that Copple cannot train horses...he can, if his website is any indication.

 But your horse will not be turned out. I cannot say he will be getting the best in hay or feed. He will be in a cage for 23 hours a day.   Understand that your horse will not be treated as anything but a living bicycle. Eros Bordeaux is not a horse barn.  
It is a prison camp for horses.
Caveat emptor.