Taking The Next Step – How to get your Pro Rodeo card.

You’ve been barrel racing for years, you’ve won some hefty checks & you travel anywhere from all over your state to Georgia & beyond to compete at huge super shows & NBHA World Finals. You’re confident in your running style & have an unbreakable bond between you & your horses; an understanding, an agreement & of course, some treats along the way. Maybe its time to give it a shot with the big dogs, maybe you are ready to stop being be a big fish in a little pond.

Nellie Miller at the 2017 RNCFR

So what is the next steps? What do you have to do to get your WPRA (Women’s Pro Rodeo Association) card? Well, it’s easy & it’s not so easy at the same time if that makes any sense at all. The membership forms are readily available for download so you can print your application & mail/fax it in. Membership is only open to women aged 18 or older, with the exception of the Junior WPRA and the 17 & Under Roping programs.

Directly from the WPRA website:

The majority of members in the WPRA are barrel racers who wish to compete in the WPRA barrel races held at PRCA rodeos. New members who are interested in barrel racing at PRCA rodeos must start their membership in the WPRA with a permit. The WPRA rules require that you win $1000 in WPRA competition before you are eligible to buy your WPRA card. 

The WPRA Roping Division focuses on the All Women’s rodeo events; Breakaway, Tie Down, and Team Roping. There is a separate roping membership as well as a 17 and under roping membership that does not allow you to compete in WPRA barrel races held at PRCA rodeos.

The WPRA Junior Barrel Membership was created to develop young members (18 and under) through Divisional Circuit Co-Approved Jackpots  and to prepare our young members to enter the world of professional rodeo. 

Mary Walker at the 2016 Wrangler PRCA Champions Challenge

So let’s talk about getting your permit.

There is a fantastic set of tips and information on WPRA Permits 101 which is filled with easy to read information that you can refer back to at any point in time. We stated earlier that you must win $1000 in WPRA competitions before you are eligible for your WPRA card. As permit holder you can run & try to win money at any of the regular season WPRA approved rodeos OR in the 1D at WPRA Divisional Circuit Co-approved jackpot races. The permit is $325 & is the same application form as the card, just make sure you are checking the correct box, or it’s wasted money. I like this idea because you get a taste for the rodeo road without committing to the entire season. If you give a shot & it turns out successful, then onto getting your card you go. If you find that its not for you or one of your horses and you want to work on some learning, growing and training, it was still a great opportunity to give it a try & head back to the drawing board with specifics in mind.

Megan Warren-Swint at the 137th Silver Spurs Rodeo

I thoroughly recommend reading the WPRA tip sheet as much as you can. It will be part of your rodeo bible along with the 2019 WPRA Rule Book & will definitely get you ahead of the learning curve.

You can find the schedule for 2019 right here – it is split into 2 schedules. All events & Pro Rodeos only. There might be a local WPRA approved event near you in the “All Events” schedule. Check it out!

Being a member of the WPRA is more than just running barrels. It is a community with wonderful benefits & you’ll expand your equestrian family with all the new people you meet and friends you make. Rodeo is alive & well but anything is one generation away from disappearing. So keep up the great work & get your kids involved too while they are young, so they are ready to hit the ground running when it’s time.

Are you thinking about getting your WPRA permit or card? Comment below! We would love to cheer you on!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Stay safe & God Bless!

~~International Cowgirl

These Boots Were Made For Walking! How Western Boots are Really Made.

Ever wondered how those magically stylish yet functional boots of foot art are made? Well today’s your lucky day!

Western boots (commonly known as cowboy or cowgirl boots) come in all styles, shapes, cuts & sizes. They range from beautifully basic & functional to sassy, stylish & fashionable. Either option are wonderfully comfortable & there are some great companies out there making some stunning boots!

So here is how these babies are made!

  1. Depending on style, shape & size there can be up to sixteen (yes, 16) square feet of leather used in making one pair of boots. Once the leather is cut there is anywhere from 100 to 150 steps taken to complete your cherished western boots. Depending on the style of boot you pick, all the boots show incredible craftsmanship, workmanship pride & use of quality materials.
  2. Natural raw leather is hand selected and cut to accommodate the boot height and foot size.
  3. Once the pieces are cut – a craftsman cements (it looks like a glue paste of sorts) the piping at the tops of the boot pieces. The inside lining pieces are cemented to the outside leather tops. This helps hold everything together while another craftsman stitches together the linings to the exterior and trims off any excess.
  4. The boots are then sent off to the next step for top stitching. This is the lovely intricate stitching details along the top half of the boot. Can you believe this used to be done by hand back in the day? Today it is done by machines & still looks just as delicate and beautiful.
  5. Next is something called counter stitching where the stitched top is attached to the rear quarter (where your heel goes).
  6. Moving along now is the where the vamp gets stitched on to the front quarter of the boot. The vamp is the front part of the boot.
  7. Now these next few steps is where you can see the boot really come together. The front and back are sown together – this is also called a side seam stitch and the tops are turned right side out. Now you can see the leather that wraps around your leg & goes over & around your foot and all the wonderful details.
  8. The tops are then perforated so pull straps can be added/inserted and tagged.
  9. Now that the uppers are complete, craftsman begin working on shaping the boot into its final three-dimensional form. They are almost ready to be placed on your feet! I feel like Cinderella waiting for her glass slipper, don’t you?
  10. Freeze form molding shapes the heel counter (where you heel sits in the boot) before it heads over to a craftsman to do something called lasting. Lasting is where the leather insole is nailed to a polyethylene last which is placed inside the boot upper. This takes time & skill as the leather is hand pulled and hand nailed by individual craftsmen.
  11. Now I thought the process would continually add to the boot to make the final product but the vamp lining has to be removed from the vamp in order to apply the box toe (this is the where your toes rest in the boot). It is wet when applied but turns hard when dry. Craftsmen use copper wire to get all the wrinkles out of the leather all around the lower part of the boot where your foot goes. This is also where the box toe gets it final shape (square, snip, rounded, tapered etc).
  12. In-seaming is next – this provides a medium on which the insole can be attached to the outer sole or base of the boot. This also allows for resoling the boot if needed.
  13. After the insole nails are taken out (because I know some of you got a bit worried about the thought of walking on nails), the excess leather is trimmed off & the bottom of the boots is prepared for the metal shank. This shank gives boots extra arch support. Not all boots have them but most do.
  14. Next the out-soles are heated so that the bond applied is activated and when put under pressure in a sole pressing machine, it will bond the bottom of the soles to the bottom of the boots (believe it or not this is NOT the part the makes contact with the ground).
  15. Using the shape of the boot as a guide, the craftsmen trim any additional excess leather and then move on to out-sole stitching. This is where the out-sole (the part that comes in contact with the ground) is sown to the bottom of the boot or also known as the welt.
  16. Pegging is then a hand-finished, skillful process that involves a row of brass nails and a row of wooden pegs are used to secure and hold the out-sole between the welt and the heel because of the way the out-sole is rolled to hold the shank.
  17. Next the heels are attached, trimmed ever so carefully and shaped. Every boot craftsman know the heel specifications to each individual shape that goes with each boot style. It’s like you are getting your own custom made boots fit just for you every time! A dream come true!
  18. Now depending on which boot company you talk to or buy from the heels are then inked and varnished. Once dry the boots are technically ready to wear BUT perfection knows no bounds SO the boots are then washed, top formed, go for hand dressing, final finishing and polishing so they are more than ready to look PERFECT on your feet.

Wow! That was a ton of steps and that was me summarizing! Maybe one day we can go to the factory itself, go behind the scenes and get a nitty gritty, up close and personal look at how some of your favourite boots are made. What is your go-to brand? Do you like Justin, Corral, Ferrini, Dan Post, Ariat, Tony Lama? Please comment below! I want to hear all about what kind of boot you strut your stuff in or work your butt off in!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Stay safe & God bless!

~~International Cowgirl

International Cowgirl Blog featured on Piaffe Style – TheraPlate

Eeeeekkkkk!!! I am so excited that my article got published on Piaffe Style’s website. Have a read here!

TheraPlate – and not the kind you eat off.

I would like to extend a huge thank you to Christa of Piaffe Style for giving me the opportunity for this guest post. I am super excited to share some cool stuff with you all today!

I recently discovered the TheraPlate which I didn’t think anything of other than that it was something rich equestrians at the Grand Prix levels could use and boy, was I wrong. You don’t have to own one to have your horse benefit from it. TheraPlate owners can be anyone from individuals to veterinarian facilities.

Interested in what it is and what it does? Well here is some information to get you started.

*Please note I am not sponsored or endorsed by Theraplate products – I just have a huge interest in them*

What is this thing you call a TheraPlate?

It is a somewhat large but shallow platform which your horse stands on. There are multiple variations that can be used for equines, human, dogs, cats & minis. It vibrates at different strengths to help heals wounds, injuries, or promote circulation. I’ve seen every kind of horse with a job use it. Horses seem big enough to handle anything we “throw” at them, but they need spa days and healing days just as much as us humans do.


Image: Theraplate Website – Andrea Fappani

Introducing horses to the TheraPlate is easy and non-intrusive. Even timid horses seem to relax and enjoy the TheraPlate after a few minutes on the platform. You use it 1-3 times daily for about 10-15 minutes – short & sweet! There is a travel version available & a more permanent version for your barn or stables.

What are the benefits of the TheraPlate?

Benefits from the TheraPlate can be seen in the bones & joints, in a horse’s overall performance, improvement in cardiovascular health & neurological health. I have heard from friends who use them, it has helped when their horse has laminitis or has trouble with their hooves & in older horses with joint health and function when it comes to providing comfort even in retirement. It also seems to get horses by per say until a vet can come out to them if it not a dire emergency.

Many athletic equine teams use them to increase muscle mass, reduce injuries, reduce healing time/have faster healing time and as a tool in warm ups and cool downs. The Theraplate increases circulation, reduces swelling & inflammation and reduces stress.


Image: sstack.com – TheraPlate Graphic.

Lot of things affect our equine partners’ health. We must make sure we are feeding them correctly, riding them properly, letting them recover from a workout properly. Horses can a human’s escape from the world or even part of the human’s job, but we must remember they are not a tool, they are a partner to taken care of. When we take care of ourselves, go to the gym, eat healthy & have self-care days we work better and care for our families better; the same goes for our horses.

So, whether you have a dressage or barrel horse, a cross country eventer or a trail rider, the TheraPlate is something worth looking into to help improve the health and healing of your horse. You can find a local distributor, vet, owner or event that is near you to give it a try.

Have you tried the TheraPlate before? What do you do to help keep your horse feeling good and in tip-top condition? Comment below your thoughts or reach out to me on the blog itself, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or even Pinterest.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Stay safe & God Bless!

~~International Cowgirl

Biography: Catriona (Cat) was born & raised in Edinburgh, Scotland. She moved to Central Florida 13 years ago & has always been a lover of horses. She recently became a sponsor for West Volusia Saddle Club & enjoys celebrating & connecting the equestrian & rodeo communities on a global scale. She is blissfully married to the love of her life & law enforcement officer, Jon & they have 3 animal children. 2 cat princesses named Saphy & Mittens & 1 chickens called Xena. She works full time at a local bank & spends her free time photographing local horse shows, blogging (of course), feeding her Mum prosecco (LOL) & hanging out with her hubby.

GUEST POST! What we should learn from dressage riders

I would like to say a huge thank you to Christa of Piaffe Style for this month’s guest post. I know you are all going to love it! Head on over to her website for training, competition, lifestyle, grooming & health tips & information. Her website makes me do lots of those little emojis with the heart eyes! Anywhooo….I am taking away from her amazing post. Here you go: What we should learn from dressage riders.

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Dressage riders are definitely admirable, there is no doubt about that. The discipline, focus and precision it takes requires years and years of practice, and the learning never ends. The fact is, that dressage is the base of everything – great basics in dressage can even help showjumpers and hunters to perform better.


All of us, regardless of our chosen discipline or level of riding, can learn something from dressage riders. And here are the best tips.

1. Forward fix

When the Queen of Dressage, world number 1 ranking Isabell Werth deals with a spooky horse, she encourages forward fix. If your horse is spooky, bolting or stays behind your leg, the fix is always forward. An attitude of “we won’t discuss this” is very important in this kind of situation.

2. A million transitions will bring a better rhythm

Whatever your discipline is, a steady rhythm is important. You can’t ride a dressage test, a showjumping course or a hunter course without a steady rhythm. Isabell’s solution is doing many, many transitions during your ride. Aside from your warm up, transitions between gaits, within gates and from one movement to another help you establish a good rhythm and a supple horse.

3. Don’t overwork your horse

Kyra Kyrklund, a five-time Olympian, says that you should not ride a horse longer than 45 minutes. “A horse can carry us for 45 minutes,” she says. She also adds that you should not work a horse until he is sour. Finish on a good note and give your horse many chances to be proud of himself.

4. Work on one thing at a time

You shouldn’t work on many things during one ride. Choose one thing to work on each day: canter transitions, trot poles, distance and so on. This gives you a chance to work on one thing properly and to devote all your time for that one thing. Kyra Kyrklund says that you have to practice one thing so many times that in order to get it right, you don’t need luck.

5. Discipline

Dressage riders are very well-known for their excellent discipline. In order to become good at what you do, stay disciplined! Practice the rein-backs, practice the scary jumps, practice… and practice more.

6. Stay safe

Let’s face it: horseback riding is an extreme sport. Keeping yourself safe by wearing a helmet, using safety stirrups, protecting your horse’s leg with boots – this is all very important in order to keep yourself and your horse from getting hurt.

7. Reward immediately

Horses have a shorter memory than dogs – it’s about 3-4 seconds. It’s important to reward your horse immediately after a good reaction. A reward can be a light pat on the neck or a step or two of relaxation on your part – let the horse know he did a good job and he’s much more motivated to do it again.

Conclusion

Even if you don’t do dressage on a daily basis, practicing certain movements and learning from dressage riders can make you a better showjumper, hunter or even barrel racer. Take some time to establish a great connection with your horse, and you will surely see a reward in a long run.

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Wow! I feel like I learnt something new, did you? I always strive to improve myself or my knowledge by 1% everyday and I certainly feel like I did reading Christa’s post. Thank you so much Christa!

You can follow Piaffe Style on Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube or subscribe to her newsletter. It’s awesome!

Thank you so much for stopping by!

Stay safe & God Bless!

~~International Cowgirl

Rodeo & Country Music – What else do you need?

It’s that time again for the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo here in Kissimmee, Florida. We are already rodeo crazed and counting down the days until dirt flies BUT we have a cherry on top that you will hop right out of the saddle for.

Country Thunder is coinciding with the RNCFR this year and whoa, the line-up is INCREDIBLE!!! Luke Bryan, Toby Keith, Maddie & Tae just to name a few out of the 16 artists that will be performing this year! Do you have your tickets yet? NO?!?!?! Well, what are you waiting for? Grab a friend & head over to get your tickets for the rodeo and the concert NOW before it’s too late!

Make Spring 2019 the best yet by attending two of the hottest events in the COUNTRY!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

God bless & stay safe.

~~International Cowgirl

What I Learnt From Photographing in 2018!

As we wrap up 2018 here in a handful of days, I was reflecting on how this year went and how I can improve in 2019. I photographed horses shows & local rodeos at an 85% attendance throughout the year at one rodeo arena and one local horse club. Along with those 2 locations, I had 2 weddings, a corporate event & a heavy sprinkling of maternity, newborn, senior & family photo shoots. As a blogger I like to include my own images on articles rather than royalty-free stock images so photography has a lot to account for in my blog-life also.

Here is what I learnt from photographing & blogging in 2018.

  1. It is NOT just the click of a button. This should be a no-brainer & this is more for others than myself but photography is so much more than just clicking the button. It took me a year and a half to figure out the settings for capturing a horse running at approximately 25-30mph if not more, at night, in a somewhat decently lit arena…and even now 6 months later, I still don’t always get it spot on every single time for every run. About a quarter of the way through the year I was shooting entirely in manual mode & I still have a ton to learn & figure out. I love when people say I love your images, you must have an awesome camera…*que blank facial expression with slow blinking*. Yeah – I love your cooking, you must have a really good pan *wink*.
  2. I do not consider myself a professional photographer. I am a blogger & hobbyist photographer. Do I charge for sessions & images now? Yes. Should I as a hobbyist? I have mixed feelings about this question but the demand was/is there & it has tremendously helped my family charging what I feel is minimal considering my skills and/or talent at the moment. I have learnt so much of my skills at rodeos & horse shows that it has carried over to all my other sessions believe it or not. If I can keep up with a horse & always be ready for that action shot, then I can keep up easier at a wedding (being “on” all the time) or know when to change things up at other session. My logic may seem weird but that is what I have found. However I love the sense of community at rodeos & at some horse shows. It can clique but for the most part they are always accepting of me being there. Also they are so concentrated on their job or task at hand that they don’t think of me being there which usually results in better images. I hate it when Aunt Carol spots me trying to take a candid & ruins it by scrunching up her face & screaming “NNOOOOOOO, get my good side!!! Can you photoshop my fat rolls out???” Thanks Carol – now the whole room knows I’m there & are aware I’m trying to catch them off guard & relaxed. Que another hour of wandering around trying to blend in again. I love becoming friends with my clients who I’m not already friends with. When you are a photographer (amateur, hobbyist or otherwise) you are always there for the milestones or big events, so you end up feeling included and more connected to your clients.
  3. You do YOU! There are so many incredible photographers out there that I aspire to be able to photograph with or like one day. I feel like I can pass on some of my hard knocks learned wisdom to newbies in the field but they know I am learning JUST LIKE THEM. I love to help but I don’t claim to know it all to undermine others & take business from them. The photography industry is so saturated that you have to find YOUR style & what works for YOU. Just because you have a camera doesn’t mean you are a photographer. Don’t come in swinging your camera around & undermine others. Photography can be somewhat territorial but give it a try before saying “this is what I want to do.” I had my camera for a good year & a half before I started messing around to see if this was something I could give a try. Some people thought I was intruding, others welcomes me with open arms. I love it, I love being behind the camera & trying out new things & making a friendship with my clients. I feel a little more confident when I have my camera in my hand; that I am ready to capture action or tell a story. So whether you want to do portraits, equine, sports, wedding, newborns, architectural, food or whatever type of Photography; I wish you the best!
  4. UNDER promise, OVER deliver. I normally have a set amount of images that are given after editing so I don’t promise 20 amazingly edited images for a 15 or 30 minute mini session when it didn’t go as planned. Aim for quality over quantity. To piggy back off of this, this also applied to my attendance. I was able to attend 85% of speed shows at a local saddle club throughout the year. Now the director is beyond incredible & knew that my life didn’t revolve around the club as I have a full time job, things happen, life comes up, I got sick, I was on vacation and all the fun things life throws at us. I would like to attend more shows at different arenas throughout the month and attend more non-speed shows. I am NOT compensated for showing up, that is my choice to risk going to a show & have no one like my images enough to buy them. I have to put the work in, to get the results THEN maybe sell a handful of images. If your hard work & ethic isn’t there, I don’t feel it is right to charge people. You have to eventually concentrate and be a master of something, rather than a Jack of all trades so don’t promise “professional wedding photography” if this is something you have never done. I couldn’t have asked for a better couple for my first wedding that I had the honour of photographing almost 4 years ago now. They knew I had never photographed a wedding but liked my other work & a friend had recommended me. So all in all, I worked my ass off to make sure I was prepared & getting the shots & I felt like I produced some great, quality images. Some of which are still in my favourites list to date.
  5. Not everyone is going to like your work and THAT IS OKAY! Everyone has different tastes and every photographer shoots differently, edits differently etc. However, don’t let someone hurt your feelings because they gave you a “bad review” due to the fact that they don’t like that muffin top of crows feet in the image – that isn’t anything wrong with your image, that is something they feel is wrong with THEM. Could you be a pro in photoshop & make them 50lbs lighter & look like a wax figure out of Madame Tussauds exhibitions? Sure! Why not? But I like real, life-like photographs. We all go through stages where, especially us women, pick apart our outward appearance because we don’t look like a Victoria Secret model or some size 2 actress…but you are all BEAUTIFUL in your own ways. I am not saying you are going to get away with giving someone crappy, blurry images & not get a bad review but if the image quality is up to par & they are just nit-picking on their looks? That is a different story.
  6. YES BRO! I have photographed a few men this year when it comes to family photos & them attending maternity sessions with their wives. They are all adored by their female counterparts & smiling doesn’t make them any less masculine, however they seem to think so. I try to make them feel like I am not there to turn them into some circus monkey. They need to feel as comfortable as the women do. Do your thing, be a guy – tell jokes, wear your sunglasses for a few shots THEN try some without the sunglasses…don’t change for the photographer. The photographer will help with posing if it looks or feels awkward but you are there to have fun & capture some great memories.
  7. High end equipment doesn’t equal high end results. Some photographers are not technical photographers (as Annie Leibovitz likes to say) as in, what lens is that? what body model is that? The equipment doesn’t make you a photographer just as much as the garage makes you a car…You can have a $5000 camera body with a $2000 lens & not have the foggiest idea on how to use it. I have a relatively basic camera body with a few average lenses and one prime lens. I wanted to learn how to produce the best images from that equipment before I feel like I deserve an upgrade. Upgrades are awesome & exciting but if you can’t shoot in manual mode on a basic camera, how are you supposed to do so on a high end, expensive “AF” (as the kids say) camera? I have a friend who shoots incredible wedding images on a rinki-dink little, basic model camera & her images are stellar! Absolutely gorgeous. Now, will different lenses help you achieve different things? Of course! But if you can make what you have work for you before you add to your arsenal or upgrade then I feel that you have added to your VALUE & INTEGRITY as a photographer.
  8. Mistakes happen. Sometimes you feel like you did awesome, you feel like the session went well or you were capturing all the action and you get home, upload the images to your editing software & welp…you feel the images are nowhere near as good as you thought they would be & your balloon is DEFLATED! If you are a self taught photographer, you have to know this will happen at some point. You have to slow down & make sure your settings are right and your are as prepared as possible. As a photographer, you have to get your timing right, the angle right, the lighting be right….you can edit some of these things such as the lighting (kind of) but over-exposing an image or not having your shutter speed right can’t be helped much in the editing side of things. Have a plan & practice, practice, practice. I think I practiced with my speed-light 100 times before an event & I still want to practice a million more before my next one.
  9. Clouds are your friend! I know we all dread being rained out after planning a shoot for weeks, if not months but if the sky is overcast, GREAT! This will reduce the risk of over-exposing your images AND will reduce all the squinting from your clients. During 2 weddings that I photographed last year, it was overcast & the bride was so worried but it helped the details in her dress be prominent in the images (they both did outdoor weddings) & neither bride was washed out. Bright sun beating down on white dress on a semi-tanned bride isn’t something I wish for so the cloud definitely give us ALL a reprieve.
  10. Don’t be afraid to LEARN. No one ever started off as an expert. If you practice enough, you will only improve. Strive for improving 1 or 2% each and every day or even each week depending on your schedule. I learn more and more at every rodeo, horse show & photo session. Every event or session is different and requires a different set of skills. I pride myself on not just setting to AUTO & hoping for the best. Fast paced animals at fast paced events are a challenge that I love to go for & I am so thankful to those who gave me a chance to give it a try. I have stood alongside award winning photographers & felt like I’ve wanted to throw up, I’ve been given advice by some award winning photographers also but I have also have photographers & writers from magazines laugh in my face at my efforts to try. I’ve had TV camera guys pull me in alongside them at press conferences & encouraged me to just go for it; it can’t hurt to TRY! So I did…and I still do. You can learn from observing, asking questions, researching, trial and error, practice, mentors, workshops, classes & a whole lot more.

Thank you for staying for that novel of a post – I cannot thank you enough for being with me through 2018 or since whenever you decided to join us here at International Cowgirl Blog. I hope you had a lovely Christmas & I wish you all the best for the New Year!

Stay safe & God Bless!

~~ Cat, International Cowgirl.

GUEST POST! How Horses Help with Your Mental Health

Hi there gang! International Cowgirl here! I would like to give a huge thanks to Sarah Jones for writing this month’s guest post. Sarah is a freelance writer currently writing for Equi Supermarket in the United Kingdom. I hope you love her article as much as I did. Enjoy!

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Royalty Free Image from Pixabay

While our relationship with horses started out as a very practical one, using them for transport and farming purposes, we now know they have a much larger role to play in our lives and are very complex and sensitive creatures.

It has been proven that activities with horses, combined with more traditional treatments, can make a real difference to people suffering from mental health issues such as ADHD or depression. They can also help with those who need physical therapy or speech therapy as well.

Equine-assisted therapy, as it is officially known, has also been shown to help patients suffering from PTSD and works to increase self-esteem, build concentration and help patients to relax and reduce anxiety levels. Equine-assisted therapy covers several different ways in which horses can be used within therapy to help treat patients. For example, Hippo therapy involves using the way horses move to help with physical therapy.
Hippo therapy has been proven to help with patients who have multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy and also for those who have suffered a stroke and it has been around for hundreds of years as a known practice. When it comes to supporting mental health, equine-assisted psychotherapy uses horses to help treat behavioural and psychological problems and is a therapy which is in its infancy, and is not widely practiced as scientists are still working to understand exactly why and how horses help with mental health problems.
However, what is known is that horses are very sensitive animals, highly in tune with their environment and very good at picking up on people’s emotional states. When used in therapy in this way, the horse will often pick up on the patient’s emotions before the therapist does, moving towards them to offer comfort for example.
We spoke to the team behind Equi Supermarket and they gave us insights on other benefits equine therapy has. They stated that working with large horses help to support people trying to overcome fears and gain confidence in other areas of life. Knowing they can deal with and handle a large animal helps them overcome other challenges.
Horses also work well with people who want to build a relationship with them and this social interaction can also help with people suffering from social anxieties as the horse passes no judgement and just responds to them.
Equine assisted psychotherapy has been used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions including: depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, ADHD, aggression, substance abuse, eating disorders and communication problems.
Generally a session will involve working with both a therapist and a horse-handler and will involve psychotherapy techniques including role-playing, combined with horse-related activities such as grooming and taking the horse on a walk. The patient then talks about how they felt during the session.

There have been many case studies demonstrating the benefits of equine-assisted psychotherapy but the controlled studies to prove it scientifically are somewhat lacking. However there have been papers published in psychology journals highlighting it as a promising therapy area. The paper showed that it was also a great therapy option to try for people who had already failed to respond to a more traditional approach. From the case studies so far, it has been shown that even after just two or three sessions, people have experienced in improvement in: communication skills, self-awareness, self-esteem, empowerment, relaxation, relationships, focus, happiness and self-control. The examples also revealed that those who underwent equine assisted psychotherapy managed to reduce their levels of depression, aggression and anger, highlighting the effectiveness of the approach for these particular mental health issues.
Unfortunately horse therapy for mental health isn’t a widely available treatment at the moment so it might be difficult to find a willing practitioner however they do exist and if you do some research you will be able to find a reputable equine therapy centre to suit your particular requirements.
Riding horses has long been known to have positive health effects from the physical exercise as well as the benefits of being outdoors in the fresh air, but now it is becoming more and more evident that horses can have a strong benefit to our mental health as well. Just going out for a ride can take your mind off any worries, giving you time to relax and switch off as you need to concentrate entirely on the riding process to stay balanced and safe in the saddle.
Horses make great loyal companions which can also be a key part of any healing process from a mental health condition or life problem. Our relationship with horses has come a long way from simply using them to haul loads and pull heavy farm machinery – now we are truly coming to value the sensitivity of these animals and how amazing our  connection with them really can be. There is no doubt that equine therapy is here to
stay.

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Thank you again Sarah for writing such a thought-provoking article!

What did you think readers? Comment below if you enjoyed this as much as I did!

I would love to follow this article up with any Equine-Assisted Therapists who are avid readers or followers of the blog. If you would like to be a guest writer or be featured on International Cowgirl Blog, head over to our Contact Me page & submit a request! Easy peazy lemon squeazy!

As always, thank you for stopping by!

Stay safe & God Bless!

~~ Cat, International Cowgirl xoxo

Desert Dreams – The Gobi Desert Cup

It’s August & I couldn’t be more excited to share an adventure with you! I don’t know about you but time is flying by this year & The Gobi Desert Cup is quickly approaching.

Gobi 3
© The Gobi Desert Cup

 

What is this GOBI DESERT CUP, you say?

What: Taken straight from The Gobi Desert Website it is a “10 Days adventure, secluded from the rest of the world, living with nomadic people, riding endurance trained Mongolian horses, travelling 480km to test your endurance & challenge your horsemanship through an international endurance race” – because I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Doesn’t that sound enticing? Dreamy? Challenging? Like something you want to do?

And as if that incredible description of it all isn’t enough – you need to watch this: The Gobi Desert Cup

When: August 22nd through the 31st 2018

Where: Ulan Bataar – the capital of Mongolia & The Gobi Desert. If you are more visual when it comes to geography, here is a map:

Gobi Map
Snip-it of Google Map

 

Ride Director Camila Champagne took some time out of her incredibly busy schedule to chat with us about The Gobi Desert Cup. Note: her bio on the website proves just how much of a bada** woman & equestrian that she is so this interview is a precious one to me as she is a internationally revered Equestrian Queen!

Question 1:
IC: How many years have you been the Ride Director & what do you love most about organizing this ride with your team/staff every year?
Camila: We started in 2016, and this will be my second race as a ride director.
There are many great different aspects that I love about organising the ride; it starts with supporting the local nomadic people of Mongolia. We create jobs and hire their horses to create an extra income. Offering our riders a life-changing adventure where they may face the greatest challenge they have overcome. Every rider, horse, herder has a story, and we get to witness their incredible courage, determination, emotional and physical fitness. The Gobi Desert Cup’s of official has become a family. We are passionate about Mongolia, the horses, and endurance riding. We fight for horse welfare standards, a clean sport and lots of fun! They are all very experienced and offer great support to the riders before and during the race as they love to share their passion for the sport and Mongolia. I am very proud and lucky to have these people involved in the race, and they keep coming back! It makes for a great environment for all involved. The great people is what makes the race!
Question 2:
IC: How do you choose the horses that participate in the ride each year?
Camila: We select the horses with the following criteria: age, can they pass a basic vet check? have they had any experience over long distances? are they quiet? Are they sound on a trot out? strong hoofs? clean legs without scars, swelling or scar tissue. We aim to reuse the same horses that have performed well the year before. Then the horses undertake weeks of training, following programs that I have designed to suit the Mongolian horses.
Question 3:
IC: What is your most favourite part of the experience?
Camila: Well to be honest, it takes 12 months of hard work to bring it all together. When we get to Mongolia, meet everyone and see what WE as a team have accomplished, and to see the riders having the time of their lives is very rewarding! I also enjoy seeing our horseman’s each year, which are like my “brothers”, they call me:”sister camilia”. They are amazing horsemen. Each time I go to Mongolia to ride/train with them within the nomadic camp at our training centre is very special.
Question 4:
IC: What is the most challenging part of the experience?
Camila: Organising the riders! We also have to deal with the drought and find water. There are disease outbreaks that we need to keep an eye on to be allowed to travel our horses. And the weather, Mongolia can have some scary storms! But it is all to do with organisation and dealing with issues as they arise. Our main issue each year is the horses trying to run home. Yes, there are no fences in Mongolia, horses are let loose around the camp to eat grass, however as they are borrowed horses… some/most of them try to run home at night! The horsemen go and look for them each morning and also do rounds at night to check on them during training and during the race.
Question 5:
IC: What advice would you give someone trying to make it to their first trip in the Gobi Desert Cup?
Camila: Just do it! You have 10-11 months to get ready, we follow you every step of the way on your journey to the race. We advise on training and offer support. Believe you can and you are half way there. Join your local endurance club, start small 20, 40 and then 80km. When you get to 80km, you are getting close! Then try riding 40km 2 days in a row, a few weeks later try 3 times in a row then 4 times. Use one or 10 horses.. if you want to do it, you will find a solution, otherwise, you will find an excuse. Believe in yourself, and surround yourself with people who want to see you thrive!
The sky is the limit!

Gobi 2
© The Gobi Desert Cup

How amazing does that sound? I don’t know about you but I am ready to start training & give it a shot! Are you an equestrian? Have you been bitten by the travel bug? Then this is perfect for you! I’ve heard from friends who have traveled to & through Mongolia that it is the coolest country with the warmest people.

Gobi 4
© The Gobi Desert Cup

 

You can find tons of more information on THE GOBI DESERT CUP website & after doing some extensive research, here are some tips from us here at International Cowgirl Blog so you can be a successful international cowgirl (or cowboy) at The Gobi Desert Cup in the near future.

Tip 1: The weather is extreme year round as Mongolia is landlocked between China & Russia so choose your clothing wisely. You want to go for layers that you can add in cold mornings/evenings & take off in warm & windy afternoons. Keep it functional & don’t forget your sunglasses & SPF!

Tip 2: Riders in warmers countries will know more about this tip but neck scarves are a great functional tool & those Sham-wow towels that don’t drip water can help keep you cool but covered in extreme temps. Regular neck scarves will help keep you shaded & can also be utilized in windy, sandy areas to cover your mouth & nose.

Tip 3: Invest in a GoPro or something similar. They are easy to use whether you are familiar with using a camera or not & they are small enough to where you don’t have worry about bulky cameras & all the gear that comes with them. A plus to small Go-Pro style cameras is that their charge could probably last you whole trip if you played your cards right BUT there is a wonderful press presence along the way and at each stop so your journey will be documented well.

Tip 4: Keep a travel journal. Yeah, yeah, it may sounds like we are 16 & keeping diaries again but this is an easy & convenient way to jot down names, experiences, little things along the way that you could keep for bigger purposes down the road such as a book, scrapbook, or album depending on your preferences. For most people this could be a once in a lifetime trip and you don’t want to forget a single bit of it!

Tip 5: Don’t skip on the training. Take Ride Director Camila’s advice and start early. Keep up with your riding but also try yoga & Pilates so you are extra loose & nimble. You will have tons of help along the way from Training Day 1 until you leave Mongolia.

You can always stay up to date by following the organization on social media platforms such as their Facebook , Instagram: The Gobi Desert Cup (@thegobidesertcup), Twitter: The Gobi Desert Cup on Twitter YouTube  – I do warn you though; once you click that follow or like button, you will be hooked & calling your travel agent to book flights & get your adventure started ASAP!

Gobi 1
© The Gobi Desert Cup

As always, thank you so much for stopping by & I would love to hear about your experiences with The Gobi Desert Cup if you have gone in the past or plan on attending this year.

I’d like to publicly thank Heather Wallace -The Timid Rider for the opportunity to feature this event. She will be participating in this years ride as the Media Contact & Consultant, covering the entire event whilst immersed in the local nomadic culture. Please join me in wishing her all the best & safe travels to Heather & all the riders coming together from across the globe.

God bless & stay safe!

~International Cowgirl 

Therapeutic Effects of Horseback Riding For Adults

Guest post by the brilliant Mike Shortridge. Enjoy!

Horses have long been used to provide therapy for both adults and children for a number of reasons as well as just for pleasure or for competing. Studies have proven the benefits of interaction between humans and horses over the years.

Mike 1 Edit
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Horseback riding therapy holds specific benefits for adults with disabilities, providing amazing opportunities for strengthening muscles and helping with physical coordination as well as providing an enjoyable social interaction. The team at Horseseller.com.au were kind enough to give us their quick summary of some of the key therapeutic effects which horseback riding can have for adults.
1. Dexterity and fine motor skills
Riding a horse requires a lot of small movements of the muscles, particularly within the arms and hands, to help hold the reins and guide the horse. This type of movement helps to improve the manual dexterity and fine motor skills of adults. Holding the reins correctly is a task which requires nimble hand movements alone, helping to improve dexterity levels.
2. Better gross motor skill use
Both the experience of getting on and off a horse, and the rise and fall of the body as it moves to the horse’s rhythm, help to improve the rider’s muscle control. These muscle movements involve the use of gross motor skills so the more often the rider mounts up the more frequently they will be using and developing their own gross motor skills.
3. Better balance and coordination
For an adult who has coordination or balance problems due to their disabilities, horse riding is an ideal therapy. Getting on and off the horse using stirrups and reins requires coordination, while simply staying on a horse as it moves uses a lot of muscles to keep the rider in balance the whole time. Staying on the horse is vital for safety and the body needs to use all the postural muscles to help the body stay in the right position. This helps to improve posture and balance. Any riding activity such as starting and stopping the horse or changing direction, all require the body to move and adapt and use muscles to help the rider remain balanced.
4. A stronger core
The way a horse moves while being ridden requires the rider to use their leg and upper body muscles constantly to stay on board as the horse’s body sways. This gives the core of the body a really good strengthening workout every time an adult rides. Not only will the body’s coordination and balance improve but that central core strength will grow and increase the more the rider practices.

5. Better social skills development

Adults who have difficulty socialising or interacting will also benefit from horseback riding, certainly from developing a distinct bond with the horse itself, which can become incredibly powerful in a short space of time. But therapeutic horseback riding is often undertaken in groups meaning adults can interact with others in a similar position and share stories and experiences with the group, as well as with the instructors and stable staff. These groups can provide a valuable outlet for adults with disabilities who might not have anywhere else they feel they can open up about the frustrations of their condition, or about the joys of horseback riding.
6. Stimulation of the senses
For adults with sense disorders such as autism, horseback riding can be an unbelievably positive experience. Horses provide a positive stimulation to all of the rider’s senses including vision, hearing, touch and smell. The feel of the horse and the physical act of riding can help to stimulate the senses of adults with specific sensory impairments bringing them real enjoyment and appreciation.
7. General fitness levels
As well as the specific therapeutic effects outlined above it mustn’t be forgotten that horse riding is a great form of regular exercise, helping to keep fitness levels up and working large groups of muscles so for adults with disabilities who might not be able to access other kinds of fitness, horseback riding can be a great and enjoyable way to keep their physical bodies in good condition.
8. Mood improvements
Some disabilities can lead to mood problems and frustrations but horseback riding can have a calming, meditative effect. The combination of being outside in the fresh air and the focus on the rhythm of the horse can have a profound relaxing effect on the rider’s mental wellbeing as well as improving their physical condition.

Mike 2
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Riding a horse for a hobby is a lot of fun but there is so much more to horse riding than a quick trek through the woods. Horse riding has long been known to provide great therapeutic benefits, particularly for adults with disabilities and physical problems.
From helping to elevate the mood to improving strength, posture and balance, horseback riding can be an incredibly beneficial and positive pastime.

About our Guest Writer: Mike is a freelance writer who contributes regularly for Horseseller.com.au blog. During his spare time, he likes to binge watch on his latest TV obsession and go hunting for obscure vinyl toys.

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We cannot thank Mike enough for contributing to International Cowgirl Blog. His expertise will sure to be helpful to many of our readers. Do you have something you would like to featured on the blog? Get in touch! Comment or email us at internationalcowgirlblog@gmail.com – we would love to hear from you!

As always, stay safe & God bless!

~International Cowgirl

Beezie Madden Does It Again!

US rider, Beezie Madden, cleared the final fence in the jump off during the fifth Annual Great American $1million Grand Prix in a blazing 44.479 seconds to bring home her second $1million Grand Prix win on Sunday March 25th 2018.

Beezie is a four-time USEF Equestrian of the year & has been inspiring up and coming riders for decades. She started competing at the Grand Prix level in 1985 and won her first $1million Grand Prix at HITS in Saugerties, NY back in 2015.

IMGP6159
Beezie Madden & Coach clearing the final jump

It was incredible to watch riders from all over the world compete in last weekend’s Great American $1 Million Grand Prix – Ocala, Florida :: HITS  on pristine lawns, soaking up the beautiful weather.

The course was designed by Ireland’s Alan Tipperary which seemed to be a challenge for both seasoned & newer Grand Prix riders but it brought out the best in every rider & horse duo. The crowd was encouraging & supportive which is always a plus. You could hear a pin drop during the jump off and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how the riders communicated with their horses…those horses…sigh…a girl can dream right?

It was definitely a Grand Prix for the books! Congratulations to Beezie Madden & Coach for their win on Sunday!

IMGP6163
Beezie Madden beaming with happiness as she & Coach win the Great American $1million Grand Prix. 

We are already planning our trip out to Ocala, FL next year so between the Live Oak International & the Great American $1million Grand Prix, it will be an eventful Winter circuit at HITS Ocala here in Central Florida in 2019.

Huge thanks to Equestrian Living – Celebrating Country Life  for providing me with free tickets that I won via an online contest earlier in the month! I never win anything so I was on cloud nine for winning & for being able to attend such an incredible event!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Stay safe & God bless!

~~International Cowgirl