Author Archives: AJ Dyer - aka Visionaire

What conformation feature do four-star horses have in common?

mr medicott

  In 2012, I attended the Wednesday jog at Rolex with a particular mission in mind. I was preparing to breed my mare for an event baby, and I had been spending hours analyzing the conformation of particular stallions and their offspring, and how that would fit my mare. I wanted to produce an elite athlete capable of Eventing at the Advanced level. Just what does that animal look like? So I set out to answer my question at Rolex’s first horse inspection. If you want to see successful upper level eventers, that’s a good place to be. My main…

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Coaching isn’t easy – Remember to thank your trainers

Lunging lesson

  What makes a great teacher? Is it someone accomplished at a high level?  Someone who has won blue ribbons, Olympic medals, traveled the world, and has a barnful of expensive horses? Success is surely a plus, but not a guarantee that one individual can improve another. Of all the attributes a teacher can have, communication and dedication are probably the most important. Great riders have one thing in common: FEEL. They feel things. They sense things.  They have an innate sense of timing, and natural instincts that are honed with hours of practice and use. Yet, those very attributes are perhaps the most difficult…

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The key difference between a good rider and great one


  What makes good riders great? Their sense of timing. Riding and training horses requires a lot of feel, and to do it well also relies on applying the right aid at the right time. For example, a lateral leg aid must be applied when the horse can properly respond to it– when that hind leg is just leaving the ground and moving upward. If you close your leg when the horse’s hind leg is going down and weight-bearing, he won’t be able to react in the way you want. This can frustrate both of you! How can you develop…

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Lost a shoe – Five tips to help while you wait for the farrier

Sometimes they lose a shoe even with bell boots...the day after being shod...while trotting on good footing.

  If your horse wears shoes, it’s inevitable that, at some point, your horse will pull one off.  Usually, such occurrences happen at the worst time, like the day before a show or the day after your farrier goes on vacation.  Though my career of managing horses, I’ve been lucky to have a few with excellent feet who rarely ever lost a shoe.  And then there were those others I’d rather forget: the ones with crappy feet who routinely ripped their shoes off and made the farrier cringe each time I called. Fortunately, I’ve got some decent-footed horses in my…

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When the going gets tough, keep riding through it

naughty dressage

  Let’s face it: horses will be horses.  We can have wonderful rides at home: relaxed, rhythmic, forward, and obedient…but sometimes when we step foot in public, that’s not what happens.  It can be frustrating, for sure– we know we have a wonderful horse and we want everyone else to see him that way.  Sometimes horses sense this pressure we have to do well in front of a crowd, and things go from bad to worse. What is there to do?  Ride through it.  Embrace the notion that your horse isn’t perfect, that riding isn’t perfect, that life isn’t perfect.  Do…

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Taking care of basics with your OTTB before your first ride

Photo by CANTER KY. Used with permission.

  My recent article, “What you should know before your OTTB’s first ride off the track” spawned some great discussion from the audience.  First of all, I’m glad it was helpful to so many of you!  Taking in those comments, I thought it might be useful to back up and provide some insight on what to do before you get on: basic handling and tack choices, for instance. As far as daily handling goes, most OTTBs are just like any other horse.  Some of them are sensitive and flighty, others are quiet and dead-broke about life; it depends on the horse’s…

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What you need to know before your OTTB’s first ride off the track

TB conformation

  Each year, lots of racing thoroughbreds find their way into new homes and new careers. There are two schools of thought when a horse steps off the racetrack: turn ‘em out, or get on with riding Prior to my experience in the Thoroughbred industry, I was a member of the “turn ‘em out” crowd. I figured it would be best for the horse to “detox” and enjoy a month or more of turnout, relaxing and just being a horse. I assumed all the horse knew was running, and I wanted to put some distance (time) between that association before…

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Make your horse an easier ride with these training tips

RF Scandalous-IMG_0712

  I have a novice horse for sale, and a lovely young adult came to try him on Saturday. I got on the horse first, as customary, to put the horse through his paces and show he can perform as advertised. He was a little distracted during the first few minutes of warmup, but he eventually settled and showed a pretty good walk, trot, and canter. I hopped him over a few low fences, and then the potential buyer was ready to give him a try. I advised her that he was pretty straightforward, ride leg-to-hand, with light, small aids. She…

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Life is too short to ride the wrong horse


  I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve had a lot of good horses– not “good horses” because of talent, but appropriate horses for where I was in my riding career.  I began Eventing on a 15hh foundation-bred Quarter Horse, Casey.  What Casey may have lacked in talent or dressage-winning gaits, he made up for with enthusiasm and work ethic.  He taught me that cross-country should be FUN, and jumping should always put a smile on your face.  Otherwise, why do it? The confidence I gained from him set me up well to start with a willing, trainable green horse.  Before I committed…

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Assessing whether an OTTB will make a good Eventing prospect: Shine She Will

Shine She Will

  This series examines off-track Thoroughbreds by evaluating their sport potential from pedigree and conformation. If you’d like to participate, send us your OTTB’s Jockey Club registered name and a quality conformation photo (with photographer’s permission, of course). Submissions will be published in the order that they are received. Remember, for fairness to the horse, we ask that readers please submit GOOD photos, showing the horse standing balanced with head in normal position, on a level surface, neither sprawled nor scrunched; as the photographer stands at least 10 feet away, squarely aiming the camera at the horse’s heart-girth. Cell phone pics are fine,…

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