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Profile On: Julia Dixon, Saddle Fit Technician

How much of your day/week is related to horses?
The awesome thing about this question is there is rarely a day that goes by let alone a week that isn’t related to horses in one way or another. I can be on the road working as a Certified Saddle fit Technician for Schleese Saddlery from early mornings till late at night.  Still somehow I end up at the barn where I board my horse even if it is just for a quick brush or ride.

Julia Dixon, Saddle Fit Technician

Julia Dixon, Saddle Fit Technician

I am also a Registered Equine Massage Therapist.  When I am not fitting saddles or with my own horse, I might just be found at another barn treating a horse.

What is it exactly that you do?
Being a Certified Saddle Fit Technician, my role is creating the optimal saddle fit for horse and also rider. So there are certain territories that I travel along with a client success manager.  In Ontario I take on both those roles. I am responsible for booking all my appointments in Ontario and servicing the saddles.  Some are refitting existing saddles or helping new clients find the right saddle for their horse(s) and themselves. I spend most of my time on the road travelling from barn to barn.  I also work trade shows and do lectures in barns. The lectures are on the areas where a saddle should sit and also where it needs to stay clear from to allow for optimal long term riding to prevent any long term damage.

In this field of work, is it possible to be a full time professional and earning a liveable income?
This has most definitely become my full time profession. I would say “yes” you can earn a liveable income.  It is just like anything, the more you put in well of course you can see the more comes out!  My response to this question as it is the same for Alexa and myself, is the same answer.

Julia Dixon, Saddle Fit Technician

Julia Dixon, Saddle Fit Technician

What are the general steps taken to be employed in such a role?
Saddlefit4Life is a non-profit organization that provides education and certification in the assessment of saddle fit for horse and rider. I encourage anyone interested in assessing and fitting saddles to research Saddlefit4Life, the fitting philosophy, and upcoming courses and events.

Saddlefit4Life offers a range of educational opportunities.  This is from introductory seminars to intensive courses for those interested in learning more about pain free saddle fit.

Favourite horse memory?
When the Obrigado model came out and I was able to take it for a test ride.  I can’t really put into words what the feeling was like, I will try though… It is like that feeling when you just become one with your horse. With the shorter pommel sitting over the horse’s strongest point of their back lets you feel like you can lift them up so lightly with every stride and just float.

I feel blessed to have a technical feeling when it comes to saddle fit. Horses can feel a fly land on their skin.  So when I can make what might feel like a small adjustment, to them it feels so big. I have such a large box of great memories.  Especially during every saddle fit appointment when you can see that horse moves more free, taking that bigger stride, and the rider saying the “shoulders feel so much freer” just makes my day!

Julia Dixon, Saddle Fit Technician

Julia Dixon, Saddle Fit Technician

Future goals?
I am always looking for ways to better myself and learn ways to help horses. My goals are to help as many people suffering with lower back pain, something I have had in the past.  Knowing what I know about how saddles can help with that, drives me to help anyone that has maybe stopped ridding and could possibly ride again. Which in turn follows our saddle fit 4 life in protecting as many horses and riders from long term damage as possible 🙂

Best thing about your sport/profession?
Working with the horses and people I get to. Most people may think “horse people” are sort of their own breed.  They may not be far off, but I wouldn’t change for a minute to people I have met over the years.  And seeing their horses change in positive ways over the years.

Every time I measure a horse and get to go over the numbers with the owner is such an added bonus. Most times it shows how well the owner has ridden the horse.  And how positive the changes are and with that is its weight in gold. The smile on their faces, knowing how well all their hard work has paid off is just an awesome feeling.  I am so lucky I get to share that with them.

Gate to Great – Retraining Racehorses

Perhaps you have a desire to train horses as your equine career. Recently I was made aware of a setup that focuses on retraining racehorses.  It’s known as Gate to Great. Once the horses have finished racing, they can be unsuitable for riders of other disciplines – especially those who are inexperienced riders.

That said, I know of a long list of people waiting to take on ex-racehorses local to me! A previous employer at the local track always has people asking him about horses he needs to re-home after racing.

Gate to Great appears to be a setup where horses are taken in, retrained and then re-homed. Love the idea! Perhaps a similar setup could appeal to you for a business idea?

It states on their website:

“Under the program name of “Gate to Great Geldings”, we provide a rehabilitation process that gives Thoroughbred geldings a chance to recover from the rigors of a racing career and time to develop new skills outside the backside environment. Relying on our experience using Thoroughbreds for ranch work, we expose former racehorses to tasks necessary for success in new vocations, be it on the range or in the arena.”

Gate to Great - Retraining Racehorses

Gate to Great – Retraining Racehorses

Like humans, horses don’t need to be made redundant after they’ve finished a particular career. Especially a horse that has raced. Often this profession is short lived and horses can find themselves retired even before they’ve fully matured. If they aren’t to be used for breeding, then they should be considered for a new riding career.

Gate to Great Training Program

There are many people who love to take on off the track thoroughbreds and then retrain them. It’s great to see a program that is set up and follows a particular philosophy for their horses. What great OTTB retraining program or trainer do you know of?

Horse Training with Bilger by R J Bilger

I recently received a copy of Horse Training with Bilger to read and review. I was surprised to read from the author that the book is one that can fit into your back pocket. Also, it is a quick read – 45 minutes from cover to cover!

Curious, I sat down one evening and did indeed progress through it quickly. Horse Training with Bilger outlines certain tasks with horses – in a particular order – that should be undertaken by all who want to be safe riders. It has a focus on establishing ground work and a safe working relationship with the horse.

Horse Training with Bilger by R J Bilger

Horse Training with Bilger by R J Bilger

As the handler achieves one aspect of safe handling, it is then able to move onto another. Bilger has created a simple book that is well explained. The tasks outlined are defined, so that it is clear why things are done and in the order he puts forward.

For ease of reading, I did struggle with the particularly long paragraphs. That said, the book is broken into a number of small sections and these are easy to read through. Readers are first introduced to the horse’s flighty nature and their use of body language. Once this is explained, the concept of handling the horse and working in a round pen is introduced.

Bilger then goes on to explain simple tasks that the handler should work to get the horse to do in a calm and safe manner. Once this is achieved, the focus moves from free lunging to in hand techniques. Once the ground work is complete, tacking up the horse is then addressed and from here, the opportunity to mount the horse and finally, to ride.

The order of the tasks is logically sequential. Once riding the horse in an enclosed, familiar area is addressed, it is then time to consider riding out alone. A separate word on horses that panic – and why they do – is offered to the reader. Although this is a short read, it is packed with simple, but effective ways to improve your working relationship with the horse and above all, to stay safe.

Author: R J Bilger
Non-Fiction – horse training
In My Library? As an eBook.
Want it? Get it now on Amazon.

Forageplus – Forage and Soil Analysis for Horse Environments

Recently Equus Education received a new follower on Twitter – Forageplus. Curious, I had a look at their profile. Set in North Wales, it turns out that these guys focus on welsh horse supplements, forage and soil analysis as well as managing horse environments.

As it states on their website, the Forageplus team mission statement is:

“To promote whole horse health using the ideas of the leading horse educators around the world. To create value and make a difference to equines and their horse owners through good science and information that works.”

I love that we live in a time where science and education is being used to better horses lives as much as possible. Whether it’s to do with saddle fit and function as in equine ergonomics or better nutrition practices after studying the horse’s digestive system – it’s all good! We’re continuing to learn and better understand this great species. Consequently, we’re able to more effectively meet their needs and this will continue to improve.

Forageplus - Forage and Soil Analysis for Horse Environments

Forageplus – Forage and Soil Analysis for Horse Environments

If you explore the Forageplus website, you’ll see that they offer many services, including:

  • Soil analysis – what’s in the soil on your property affects the types and quality of grasses. This in turn affects your horse’s digestive system.
    • Knowing what’s in the soil and what’s missing means that property owners can make adjustments that are better for the land and their horses.
  • Forage reports – this looks at the varying minerals in the forage you’re feeding your horse as well as the nutritional make up. It’s a great way to see what you’re really giving your beloved equine and what may be lacking.
    • Everything needs to work in balance; too much of one thing can affect the right amounts of another.

It’s great to see another business that has a passion for horse nutrition and health. The website offers many products for horses as well as free articles relating to horse health and digestion. Why not check it out?

The Saddle Fitter and Saddle Ergonomist

Perhaps like me you’re aware of people who work under the profession of saddle fitter. It wasn’t until recently that I became aware of the phrase equine ergonomist. As it turns out, there are actually three professions relating to saddles and horses that I had thought were one.

With a bit of help from Saddlefit4Life, here are some definitions. This can be especially helpful to those considering a career relating to saddle fit and horse function.

  1. The Equine Ergonomist is not trained to actually adjust a saddle at this stage.  They however are acting as advocates of the horse with an unbiased analysis of the situation to supervise the proper adjustments made.

  2. Saddle Fitters have traditionally been trained either through ‘ad hoc’ apprenticeships working with professional fitters.  Or at various ‘schools’ in North America, certification through the Society of Master Saddlers in England or through the Qualified Saddle Fitter process in the US. For most saddle fitters, saddle fitting consists of reflocking.  Or in cases where the flocking has been changed to air panels, they will be able to adjust the air levels to change the fit.  There is usually no requirement for ongoing professional development and re-certification.

  3. Saddle Ergonomists have been highly trained in all subjects in the philosophy of Saddlefit 4 Life ® global network of equine professionals working together.  This is to protect horse and rider from long term back damage resulting from poor saddle fit. Certified Saddle Ergonomists have studied human and equine anatomy and biomechanics in depth.  They are skilled in both static and dynamic fit for onsite adjustments. Also, they are able to measure both horse and rider and offer solutions in saddles that will work for both.They will be able to diagnose and evaluate fit issues and make suggestions for solutions.
    Saddle ergonomists are unbiased, not working with any one company.  They have the ability to make decisions to determine the best solution for horse and rider knowing what the market offers. Certified Saddle Ergonomists are to be considered the pinnacle of holistic saddle fit experts. Working with a Certified Saddle Ergonomist will ensure that you have a highly trained, well-connected individual.  Their education is based on current scientific findings.  They aim to care for you as well as your horse’s comfort and well-being.

Equine Ergonomsts, Saddle Fitters and Saddle Ergonomists

The Saddle Fitter and Saddle Ergonomist

The Saddle Fitter and Saddle Ergonomist

Feeling better informed?  If you have an interest in saddle fit and horse performance now you know of three possibilities.  This can help you to better decide on where you would like to focus your energy.

Riding for Redemption by Bev Petterson

Now this is a book where the cover caught me – I really like its design! Two or three photos have been fit nicely together, showing a gorgeous property, horses running and a couple embracing. The cover is beautiful and the story a delight. Riding for Redemption is a truly enjoyable horse story for the mature age reader.

Riding for Redemption by Bev Petterson

Riding for Redemption by Bev Petterson

Scott Taylor runs a successful investigative business. He has a great team and is good at his job – things are going great. On his last task however, he got hurt as he was protecting an innocent young boy. And so Scott finds himself with an overprotective assistant who makes him take some time off. This just happens to coincide with a time where a friend needs his help at a school he runs for jockeys, exercise riders and stable hands.

Knowing his reputation and background from the police force will help his friend Garrett, Scott eventually agrees. Although he can’t think of anything more distressing than time away from his business, he is thankful that there are at least horses for him to ride.

Megan Jones is undertaking the exercise rider course. It’s not exactly how she pictured her life – especially when she has a flourishing jewellery business of her own. But it’s the only way for her to do a little undercover work and find out what happened to her younger brother Joey. Knowing he had a history with drugs, Megan is suspicious of his sudden disappearance. The fact that the police have written him off as just another junkie has left the young woman feeling frustrated and not knowing how to progress.

As Megan is making her way back to the academy one afternoon, she is shocked to see a vehicle driving recklessly in front of her. It results in another driver being run off the road.

Megan pulls over to help and finds herself amazed at the attraction she feels toward the driver – Scott Taylor. It seems the feeling is mutual. As she helps him tow his vehicle, Scott grabs her details and they plan to catch up for dinner.

The date feels so far away and yet Megan finds she bumps into Scott a lot sooner than expected. Their growing attraction quickly develops, despite Megan’s secrecy at the riding academy. As she learns more about the people in the school and discovers more about Joey’s disappearance, Megan questions if Scott can help her. He is a private investigator, after all. But the fact that the school is run by his closest friend Garrett is a hindrance.

As the two work out where their relationship is headed, they are caught up in a unique mystery in the horse industry. Megan is desperate to clear her brother’s name. Scott is adamant he won’t get caught up with drug addicts – not again. Riding for Redemption builds well and has a delightful ending. The characters are realistic, the horse information rings true and the romance captures you.

Author: Bev Petterson
Fiction – adult
In My Library? As an eBook.
Want it? Get it now on Amazon.

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Profile On: Alexa Frye, Regional Client Services Manager, Schleese Saddlery

How much of your day/week is related to horses?
I am happy to be able to say that the vast majority of my week, both professional and personal, is related to horses. When I’m not traveling to barns for my job as a Regional Client Services Manager for Schleese Saddlery, I am working from home and spending most of my free time riding my own horse.

Alexa Frye, Regional Client Services Manager, Schleese Saddlery

Alexa Frye, Regional Client Services Manager, Schleese Saddlery

What is it exactly that you do?
I am a Regional Client Services Manager for Schleese Saddlery. I travel to different territories on regularly scheduled Saddle Fit Clinics.  We provide saddle fitting services to new clients seeking an optimally fitting saddle for horse and rider and to our existing clients in need of routine saddle fitting adjustments.

My primary role is to create and maintain lasting relationships with our new and existing clients and with equine professionals to promote Schleese Saddlery and our saddle fit philosophy of pain free riding for horse and rider. I travel with a teammate who is a Certified Saddle Fit Technician, and together we provide thorough assessment, education, and offer solutions to saddle fit needs.

In this field of work, is it possible to be a full time professional and earning a liveable income?
Yes! We work hard and love what we do, and we are fortunate to be able to make a sustainable income doing something that is really a lot of fun.

What are the general steps taken to be employed in such a role?
Saddlefit4Life is a non-profit organization that provides education and certification in the assessment of saddle fit for horse and rider. I encourage anyone interested in assessing and fitting saddles to research Saddlefit4Life, the fitting philosophy, and upcoming courses and events. Saddlefit4Life offers a range of educational opportunities from introductory seminars to intensive courses for those interested in learning more about pain free saddle fit.

Favourite horse memory?
It’s safe to say that most of my favorite memories are horse related! Personally, my favorite memory with my own horse was showing our fourth level freestyle test that we prepared. The whole process of choreographing the test and arranging the music with a wonderful clinician, to schooling the test and finally culminating the experience in showing the test was a wonderful goal that we achieved together.

I also have many wonderful work related horse memories. One that particularly sticks out in my mind is when we were consulted on a horse that refused to move forward in his current saddle. The saddle was restricting his shoulder movement and literally blocking him from moving forward. We identified the problems and provided him with a well-fitting saddle. The immediate, drastic difference in the horse under saddle was incredible. He became a completely different animal; moving forward freely, happily and relaxed. I am lucky to have many other memories just like this in my job.

Alexa Frye Riding

Alexa Frye Riding

Future goals?
My goals focus on continuing to promote pain free saddle fit for horse and rider. I look forward to continuing to provide educational opportunities to Equine Universities, groups and events to reach those in the equestrian community that are in search of safe and comfortable saddle fit.

Best thing about your sport/profession?
The best thing about my profession is that it allows me to spend every day in the barn with horses.  I can’t imagine a better place to spend my time! We get to provide helpful, integral, important information and solutions to riders who want their horses to be happy, healthy and also comfortable in their saddles. We have the opportunity to watch our clients and their horses grow and progress in their training together and to be a witness to their journeys.

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Profile On: Bob Bilger, Horse Trainer

Horse trainer Bob Bilger was kind enough to answer some questions about the work he does at Horse Training with Bilger.  You can find his answers below.

How much of your day/week is related to horses?
All of it, and many weekends as well.

What is it exactly that you do?
Education and truth about working with the horse and also how to quickly be respected and a leader by any horse.

Bob Bilger of Horse Training with Bilger

Bob Bilger of Horse Training with Bilger

In this field of work, is it possible to be a full time professional and earning a liveable income?
Yes, especially if you are an expert at what you do, a good listener and also a great teacher.

Bob Bilger, Horse Training with Bilger

Bob Bilger, Horse Training with Bilger

What are the general steps taken to be employed in such a role?
Apprentice with someone that is a true expert in their field. This is not something to be learned from our educational systems in place today.  Or from the Internet, CD’s, DVD’s, Etc..

Favorite horse memory?
Last ride in championship jackpot sorting cattle against the clock, 2 men, 10 cattle, 34 seconds start to finish, in order, to win the whole thing! Best part, was riding my favorite paint mare out of the pasture, bareback with spurs on and sand flying 🙂 !

Future goals?
STOP the USA Bureau of Land Management from removing, traumatizing, killing and stockpiling Wild Horses and Burro’s that Federal Laws were passed to protect!

Best thing about your sport/profession?
The rewards every day of working with a horse and also developing a true partnership that allows the horse to choose to respect the human as a leader.  This makes a safe and excellent learning experience for both!

“When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes. ” ― William Shakespeare

Faris and Jack by Melanie Cusick-Jones

Do you know about the Free Horse Books List on Goodreads? If not, check it out! This is a list of books that are always free on Amazon. Cool, huh? Now this specifically relates to Amazon.com and I buy from .com.au, which meant that I couldn’t access Faris and Jack by Melanie Cusick-Jones for free. Thankfully someone commented on the list, indicating where I could still download it for free – score!

So recently I’ve downloaded and read this fantasy children’s story. Faris and Jack is about a 9-year-old boy called Faris and an unusual horse named Jack. Or perhaps I should say that Faris is the unusual one.

Faris and Jack by Melanie Cusick-Jones

Faris and Jack by Melanie Cusick-Jones

Young Faris lives in a home for unfortunate orphans. To the outside world, it appears that the owner/facilitator Mr. Grimbaldi is a caring soul, who takes in many a young boy without prospects. The opposite in fact is true; the boys are made to work gruelling hours and are given the bare minimum – not even toothbrushes for hygiene.

Faris dreams of the day he will leave the place. He senses deep down that something incredible is going to happen and he will then be able to go free. Faris isn’t wrong. The way things come about however, are more than a little surprising.

One day Faris is carrying out the usual daily toil, the next he is on a wild adventure with an unusual horse that he can talk to. He is also joined by a figlia faerie that can change forms when necessary.

For a young boy who wasn’t privileged to attend school, Faris finds himself on a steep learning curve. It seems that the world as he knows it isn’t the only one and there are greater forces at work. And better yet, Faris is needed to help Jack fight against an evil source.

Faris and Jack is a unique tale that features people who can talk to horses – as well as other hooved animals. There are other mythical creatures, too. The ugly and not so bright Spriggans and powerful Figlia faeries. This is a short story that is sure to capture the imagination of young readers and it’s nice that the focus animal is the horse.

Author: Melanie Cusick-Jones
Fiction – children
In My Library? As an eBook.
Want it? Get it now on Amazon.

 

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Profile On: Marilyn J Agee, Horse Property Real Estate Agent

What is it exactly that you do?
I am a Real Estate Agent specializing in horse property, farm, ranch and land. I own 5 horses so I know what it takes to purchase property that suits their specific needs.

Premier Town and Country Realty Logo

Premier Town and Country Realty Logo

In this field of work, is it possible to be a full time professional and earning a liveable income?
Yes it can be very lucrative. But my focus is more about helping people.

What are the general steps taken to be employed in such a role?
Over 600 hours of study and a state exam and license approval by the Texas and National Association of Realtors.  Plus continuing education each year to maintain my license.

Favourite horse memory?
That’s a hard one. Was it my first ride when I was 3, was it when I won a first place ribbon for jumping when I was 12? Or was it when I bought my first horse Chochese an Appaloosa when I was 21, was it when I purchased my heart horse KoKo 10 years ago?

Or when I decided to take a new softer approach to training because she had shut down. It took about a year and a half to gain her trust but when I first saw her with a big swinging walk and a very confident tail lift as if she owned the world. I think that was it.

Future goals?
My future goals are to help people find that perfect horse, farm, ranch or land to build their dream home. I love helping people find the right fit for their specific needs.

Marilyn

Marilyn Agee, Horse Property Real Estate Agent

Buying a ranch or farm or next home is usually the largest investment people will make in their life. I want to help make that investment/home for their families and animals be everything they want. Most of my business comes from referrals and I’m proud of that.

Best thing about your sport/profession?
I get to work with horse people mostly, I understand their needs. It’s not just a home to them it’s a home for their horses and horses have special needs. I know what they are.

Being outdoors showing properties in the country is something I love. I also love talking about horses but any farm animals, or crops or whatever their focus is. I have a Farm and Ranch Certification, I am a preferred Texas Veterans Agent, I have a GREEN certification, and am a Premiere Luxury Marketing Consultant.

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