Grooming Good Behaviour

This post was originally published on Academie Duello’s blog in May 2013, and is part of a series detailing the requirements for the Blue Spur, or second rank of the Mounted Combat program.

Horsemanship Level 2: Grooming

By the time you are testing Level 2 you should be able to groom your horse quickly and confidently.  On the checklist for Level 2 is:

5. Groom horse; three reasons for grooming; common sense around horse.

Grooming, and the reasons for grooming are pretty well covered in this level one post: The Well Groomed Horse.  Take a moment to review that post, and the video of a complete grooming.

Grooming and Common Sense

The way you interact with your horse during grooming says much about your level of competence and confidence as a horseman.  A groom who takes charge of the horse and the surroundings creates a safe enviroment for herself, her horse, and bystanders.  Someone who is nervous, disorganized, or allows the horse to be in charge is setting herself up for mishaps at the least, or even serious accidents.


Whether you’re grooming in cross-ties, at a hitching rail, or in a stall or paddock, make sure you have adequate room to move around your horse.  The last place you want to be is trapped between a 1000 lb animal and a wall, with no room to get out of the way.  Keep your grooming tools and tack organized and out the way, so neither you nor your horse accidentally step or trip on them.

Your Dress

Long hair should be tied back, and loose jewellry tucked away.  You should be wearing practical clothing and boots or shoes with a smooth firm upper.  Never wear flip-flops or sandals around a horse!  A front hoof concentrates about 300 lbs onto the rim of hard hoof, sometimes with an iron shoe.  If you work around horses I guarantee that at some point one will inadvertently step on your foot.  If you’re wearing boots, it will hurt, and you may temporarily lose a toenail; if you’re wearing sandals, it will crush bones.

Your Horse’s Dress

Always put a halter on your horse, even if you are grooming in the stall or paddock.  The halter is a signal to your horse that she’s on the clock.  No matter how placid and friendly the horse, if you don’t have a halter on and she decides to wander away, you’ve lost authority, and she no longer feels she needs to listen to you.


If you tie your horse to a post or rail, use a quick release knot tied to a loop of twine that will break if your horse suddenly pulls back.  It is much easier to catch a horse that has simply broken the weak link of a piece of string, than one that has broken its halter or pulled down a fence, frightening and possibly injuring himself and others in the process.

Cross-ties also need to be attached to a loop of twine rather than directly to the wall, and should have quick-release buckles that attach to each side of the nosepiece of the halter.  If a horse pulls backward in cross-ties that don’t break away he can flip over and seriously hurt himself.

My favourite method  is ground-tying.  A ground-tied horse is one who has been taught to stand with his lead-rope simply dropped in front of him on the ground.  It is not difficult to teach a horse to ground-tie, but it takes time and the patience to calmly move a horse back into position every time he takes a step out of place while you are working with him. However, its well worth the effort, as you know that, no matter where you go, you have a safe place to ‘tie’ your horse.

Your Demeanor

A good groom moves calmly and efficiently around the horse.  Keep one hand on your horse as you move to reassure him and let him know where you are.  Talking in a soft voice will do this as well.  When you move behind the horse stay as close as possible to him, keeping your arm over his rump as you switch sides.  If he kicks, he won’t get much momentum, and he’ll likely only nudge you or hit your lower legs.

Don’t allow yourself to be distracted.  Horses almost always give warning signs before they kick or bite (more on that next week), and if your focus is on your horse you will notice these before they happen.  Most people who are kicked or bitten had their attention elsewhere when it happened.  Focussing on your horse also allows you to detect his moods, what he likes and doesn’t like during grooming, and what calms him or makes him more fidgety.

Your Horse’s Demeanor

Ideally your horse will stand placidly, not moving her feet at all, except when you pick them out.  In reality most horses fidget or shift to various extents while tied.  Your job is to be calm and insistent.  If your horse continually swings his haunches around, you need to continually push them back into place.  If she decides she’s held her hoof up long enough and puts it down before you’re done picking it out, you need to firmly prevent her from doing so (most horses will give up pulling their feet away if you calmly hold the hoof at the toe and lift when they pull).

A horse that steps into your space, whether intentionally or distractedly, is dangerous. By unemotionally moving your horse back out of your space whenever he does that, you set safe boundaries and let him know you are in control of the situation.  Be persistent.  Horses like to know someone else is the boss.  It makes them feel safe, and when they feel safe they relax and stand still.  You’ll know your horse is relaxed when he lowers his head, yawns, chews or lets his eyelids and ears droop.  Congratulations!  Your horse trusts you, and your job of grooming him is now that much easier.


The relationship you build with your horse during your grooming sessions goes far beyond the cross-ties.  A horse that trusts you and acknowledges your leadership is easier to catch in the field, easier to tack up, easier for the vet and farrier to work with, and easier to ride.  A horse that doesn’t yet trust you will be more prone to spook or balk in new situations, or refuse fences in the arena.  A relaxed horse can also stretch through his back, release his jaw, and give you his poll under saddle, making him capable of engagement, throughness, collection, and all those other higher level qualties we look for in a mount.

next week: warning signs


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The Jog

This post was originally published on Academie Duello’s blog in May 2013, and is part of a series detailing the requirements for the Blue Spur, or second rank of the Mounted Combat program.

Horsemanship Level 2: Leading at the Trot

At level 1 we asked that you demonstrate how to safely lead your horse for the simple purpose of moving him about from stall, to cross-ties, to arena.  You can review this here. For level 2 you will also need to demonstrate leading at the trot.

4. Lead in hand, walk & trot.

The most common reason for needing to lead your horse at the trot is to detect lameness and gait faults.  This might be done for the vet during an exam or at an event as a soundness check and is either known as trot-up or ‘the jog’.  In-hand classes at shows also ask for the horse to be trotted to show off his obedience and the quality of his gaits.

When trotting for a soundness exam the same safety rules apply as when leading at the walk: have the excess lead-rope folded, not looped, in your left hand; use your right hand to lead the horse; and jog beside your horse’s left shoulder so he doesn’t step on you or move into your space.  For the trot you will want a slightly looser lead than at the walk to allow for his larger movement.  This will also keep you at a safer distance.

Most horses will trot if you start to jog beside them.  If your horse doesn’t immediately move into a trot, use a verbal command, or a cluck.  You can carry a long whip in your left hand and tap his quarters behind you if he is particularly reluctant.

The Trot-up

The jog or trot-up is a formal display of soundness done at national and international calibre horseshows.  In three day eventing the horse is jogged before judges and vets on the first and last day of the event.  The horse is immaculately groomed and shown in a snaffle bridle.  It is also a chance to show off the rider’s style, and these days some riders do the jog in Ascot hats and high heels.

For the formal jog, start as you would for a regular trot, with the excess reins folded in your left hand, and your right hand holding both reins 6-12 inches below the bit.  As your horse starts to trot, drop your right hand and and place it behind your back, holding the reins and whip in your left.  This allows your horse to move freely and demonstrates that you aren’t dragging or holding him back.

The larger your horse, the more you’ll have to move to get him to show off.  Take long, springy, rhythmic strides which will encourage him to do the same.

next week: grooming

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Happy NaNoing to all my writer friends.  If you are churning out a novel this month, may your words flow freely, your plots be mathematically precise, and your characters grow and change in marvellous and unexpected ways.

And don’t forget to use that leftover candy as fuel!

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A day in the Life

This post was originally published on Academie Duello’s blog in May 2013, and is part of a series detailing the requirements for the Blue Spur, or second rank of the Mounted Combat program.

Horsemanship Level 2: Routines of the Horse

There are many different equine lifestyles for the domestic horse, from grazing loose on the range 24/7, to kept in a barn with a variety of supplemental feeds, and everything in between.  At level 2 we don’t expect you to be able to descibe all the various horsekeeping options:  you simply need to know the routine of your own horse (or the horse you typically ride).

3. Know the routine of own horse:  feeding, grooming, exercise.

Your horse’s feeding and exercise regime is dependant on her stabling situation.  A horse that is kept on pasture requires very little, if any, supplemental feed, will get sufficient exercise to regulate energy and maintain base condition, but will still require grooming to check for injuries and keep the coat and hooves healthy.  A horse that spends most of his time in the stall or paddock will require hay and possibly grain, will need to be exercised daily, but may be easier to groom.  Whatever your horse’s routine is, be prepared to explain how it relates to the stabling situation.

Here are the questions you’ll need to be able to answer:


  • How does your horse get fresh clean water?  Bucket, automatic waterer, trough, stream?
  • What is the source of your horse’s forage?  Grass, hay, or a combination?
  • How many times a day is your horse fed hay?  How much?
  • What type of hay is fed?  Local meadow hay, alfalfa, timothy, hay cubes?
  • What types of concentrates, if any, does your horse get?  Oats, pelleted feeds, beet pulp, cob, etc?  How much?
  • How does your horse get salt? Block in stall or paddock, granulated, or as part of complete feed?
  • Are there any other supplements such as oil, joint or hoof supplements, daily medications etc? How are they fed?
  • Does the feed situation change seasonally?

Feed charts in the stable often given rations by volume, such as ‘1 scoop of pellets’ or ‘2 flakes of hay’.  However, it’s better to be able to answer these questions in terms of weight, such as ‘1200g complete pellets’ or ‘3 lbs hay’.  If you don’t have access to a scale, your barn manager can probably tell you the actual feed weights.


  • How often is your horse groomed and when?
  • When is your horse given a complete grooming, and when is he just quartered or set fair?
  • How does the grooming routine differ in winter, spring and summer?

A complete grooming is often done after a ride, when the pores are open and scurf in the coat rises to the surface.  Quartering is a quick grooming, usually done before a ride, to check for injuries, clean out the hooves, and make sure the saddle, girth and bridle areas are clean.  Setting fair is often done when a horse comes in from the field, or first thing in the morning, and is a quick check for injuries, the adjustment of any clothing, like rainsheets or flymasks, and the removal of any burrs or other pieces of the countryside stuck in manes and tails.


  • Does your horse get daily turnout?  For how long, and in what size of field or paddock?
  • If your horse does not get turnout, how does he get daily exercise?  Longeing, free longeing, riding, hand-walking?
  • How often is your horse ridden?
  • How many rides a week are schooling in the arena, and how many hacking out on the trails?
  • How often does is your horse entered in shows or competitions?
  • How does your horse’s exercise vary between seasons?

Exercise has a huge effect on horses’ mental states.  A horse that is kept in a stall or small paddock will often have too much energy, which makes him ‘hot’ or difficult to handle.  If your horse has variable turnout, you will probably notice she is much calmer when she is getting regular turnout than she is when she is kept in the stall or paddock.

If you use a school horse and aren’t aware of all his other activities check with the horse’s owner or the barn manager to find out what his daily schedule is.

next: leading at walk and trot

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Special on Pulp Literature Issue 16 till Hallowe’en

The Autumn issue of Pulp Literature is spectacularly spooky this year.  It contains no fewer than two ghosts and one ghost town, three very different end-of-life experiences, ghouls in coffee shops, unidentified monsters in the subway, and of course, the latest excerpt of Allaigna’s Song: Aria.  All at a scarily low price of $2.99 on until Hallowe’en!

Pulp Literature Issue 16, Autumn 2017

With authors like kc dyer, Brandon Crilly, Rina Piccolo, Patrick Bollivar, Susan Pieters, Oak Morse, FJ Bergman, Mel Anastasiou, Leah Komar, Greg Brown, and Glenn Pape, this is an issue you don’t want to miss!

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Come and say hello at the SiWC Author Signing!

I’ll be signing copies of Allaigna’s Song: Overture (as well as Pulp Literature issue) at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference Author Signing, this Saturday, October 21st, from 5:30 – 7:00pm.

The event is free to attend, and you can meet authors like Jack Whyte, Diana Gabaldon, CC Humphreys, Susanna Kearsley, JJ Lee, kc dyer, and many more.  Books will be available on site, so it’s a perfect opportunity to get a head start on holiday shopping!

SiWC Author Signing
Saturday 21 October, 5:30 – 7:00pm
Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel
15269 104th Avenue, Surrey, BC

See you there!

Jack Whyte dispensing advice at a previous SiWC signing. Photo by Sandra Vander Schaaf

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Next Allaigna Instalment Out Soon

Verses 6 & 7 of Allaigna’s Song: Aria will be release soon in Pulp Literature Issue 16, Autumn 2017.  Here’s a snippet …

Verse 6:
The Bard’s Bail

The sun was unseasonably bright and cheerful, I thought, given my mood.

I couldn’t fathom what had possessed my self-appointed squire, Raddick — despite the eagle and a half worth of small coins I’d given him to complete his shopping errands — to attempt instead to steal a leg of cured mutton hanging from a butcher’s stall.  I learned the reason later:  it was his pressing sense of obligation to me, wanting to save me a few coins and lessen the burden he made on my purse.

Of course he was already in the stocks by the time I’d spotted the commotion across the market square and pressed my laden way through the crowd.  All of his purchases and his purse had been confiscated by the guard, and, after I bought Raddick’s freedom, I had further negotiating to do to release his possessions.  They were lighter by at least a third than they ought to be, but I had no way of proving it.

I loaded him up with my shopping as well, and sent him, shamefaced from my scolding, back to where Dog camped a league outside town.  The reason we had separated in the first place was so I could buy new underclothes, and that task was still unfinished.

I set off, head down, grumbling at the inconvenience and cost of being liege to even one dim lad.  I had only made fifty disgruntled paces when a large firm hand settled itself on my shoulder.

“Hold up a bit there, lad.”

I came to a slow stop and gave an even slower quarter turn of the head, just enough to see my interlocutor.  It was one of the city watch:  not the thick-jawed clerk or the hoary veteran I’d dealt with for Raddick’s release, but the one who’d been sitting at the back of the guardroom, whetting and oiling his sword.

Some rusty instinct began screaming at me to run, but I didn’t pull back from the hand, which I felt would only tighten if I did.  I simply stood, knees bent, weight on my toes to see how this new development would hinder me.

He walked to cross in front of me, that enormous hand never letting go of my shoulder as if in some strange madrigal.  He held me at arm’s length, studying both me and a sheet of parchment in his other hand.

“Nalen, is it?” he asked.  It was the name I’d used to sign Raddick’s release; but it was also the name, so foolishly close to my own, that I’d given at Doniver’s camp.  He must have felt the involuntary quiver that ran through me, for his grip tightened.  “Ye’ll need to come back to the guardhouse wi’ me,” he said, not unkindly.

My feet were glued to the cobbles, resisting the gentle pull on my shoulder.

“Naught to fear, lad,” he encouraged.  “A simple misunderstanding.  Ye’ll not be punished.”

Fear warred with curiosity.  What could that parchment say, and what did it reveal about me?  With practice borne of many sibling battles, I dropped down out of his grasp and twisted up again, snatching the parchment from his other hand as I hurtled off across the public square.  The curiosity had hurt me, though.  The twisting motion I’d used to reach the parchment had sent a twinge of pain through my knee, not to mention costing me a heartbeat of time.  Sometimes I still wonder what difference that fraction of a second might have made.

As it was, I only just missed escaping down an alley as a drover backed his oxen into it.  I tried anyway, hitting the cobbles with my already sore knee, and scrabbling like a lizard between the cart’s moving wheels.  I was almost home free when that large muscled hand clamped down on me again, this time on my ankle, and pulled me out like a load of washing against the washboard cobbles, not nearly so gentle this time around.

“I said, lad,” he puffed, once he’d pulled me upright by the collar.  “Yer master don’t plan to punish ye.  But make me run like that again and I might do it for him.”

Pre-order your copy and save $2

Pulp Literature Issue 16, Autumn 2017Pre-orders of Issue 16 are $2 off until September 1st, so shotty your copy before midnight.

It’s a fabulous issue, with cover art by Akem, a feature story from kc dyer, short fiction from Erin Kirsh, FJ Bergmann, Susan Pieters, Brandon Crilly, and Patrick Bollivar, Magpie Award-winning poets Oak Morse, Leah Komar, and Glenn Pape, a brand new Stella novella from Mel Anastasiou, and a whimsical new cartoon that I just adore from Rina Piccolo.  Find it here

Compostela: Tesseracts TwentyAnd if you’d like to get your copy signed, join us on September 18th at the Cottage Bistro on Main Street.  I’ll be there, along with kc, Erin, Akem, Sue, and Patrick, plus several authors from Edge Publishing’s Compostela: Tesseracts Twenty, edited by Spider Robinson and James Alan Gardner.  Authors include Roxanne Gregory, Rhea Rose, Linda DeMeulmeester, Cat Girczyc, and Guy Immega. It’s a joint Edge/Pulp Lit launch, and as usual there will be plenty of good food, good beer, and good cheer!

Save your place at the Pulp Literature Autumn Launch by RSVPing below. See you there …


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Tonight’s the Night: Allaigna’s Song Launches!

Allaignas SongIt’s been a long time coming … I started writing Allaigna’s Song: Overture (well, just Allaigna really, because I didn’t have a title and I didn’t know there were going to be three books) over a decade ago.  It went through about 13 drafts before I started serializing it in Pulp Literature and since then its been edited, copy-edited, proofread, and generally tinkered with many more times.

So yeah, this is it — the day I release it to the world in its final form.  Set in paper, if not in stone.  No more changes.

Which means its time to party!

The launch is being held at Steamworks Brewing Co. in Gastown, beginning at 6pm.  Come hungry because the food is great … as is the beer!  We’ll eat and drink first, socialize a bit, and then have some readings from several Pulp Lit authors including Issue 15’s Brenda Carre, and our poetry editor Daniel Cowper.  Then there will be signings and DOOR PRIZES!  Be sure to print your free RSVP ticket to enter.

I hope you’ll come out and celebrate with me tonight.  I’m looking forward to that first beer immensely, and the second one even more.

Pulp Literature Summer Launch
Monday 10 July, 6 – 9pm
Steamworks Brewing Co. 375 Water St, Vancouver
Free to attend, but please RSVP

Eventbrite - Pulp Literature Summer Launch

Pulp Literature Issue 15 and Allaignas Song

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On the Mark(ings)

This post was originally published on Academie Duello’s blog in April 2013, and is part of a series detailing the requirements for the Blue Spur, or second rank of the Mounted Combat program.

Horsemanship Level 2: Identification

Part II: Points, Colours and Markings

Last week we looked at breeds and types, which is the most general way of identifying horses.  This week we’ll narrow down and look at more specific identification.


Your horse’s anatomy forms an important part of his identification and is helpful in communicating with others.  You might have to tell the vet over the phone that your horse has a cut on his near hind gaskin, just above the hock; or you might  make a note on his identity sheet that he has a few white hairs behind his poll on the off side.  For Level 1 we asked that you know 20 simple points of the horse.  For Level 2 you’ll need to know them all, including the external parts of the hoof.  They can be found on the frontispiece of your Manual of Horsemanship, and by searching ‘equine anatomy’ online.  To test yourself, take a few quizzes, like this one:

Colours & Markings

For Level 2 we don’t expect you to know any more coat colours than necessary for Level 1, but we do want you to add markings into the mix.  Markings are white areas on the legs and face, black spots within those areas, and black areas on a non-black horse, known as points (not to be confused with anatomical points, above).

Face Markings

Star, strip & snip

A blaze & white lip

Star: a patch of white on the brow which does not extend down the face.

Strip or Stripe: a thin line of white running down the nose, which may or may not be connected to a star.

Blaze: a wide swath of white running the length of the face, approximately as wide as the nasal bones.

Snip: a small white patch on the muzzle

White lip: a patch of white on the lower lip, sometimes from a blaze that continues all the way down the muzzle

Bald face: white that covers the front of the face past the width of the eyes.

Leg Markings

In general leg markings are called socks, but they are further defined by their height.

Coronet: a band of white hairs just above the hoof

White heel: white on the bulbs of the heel only

Half-pastern: white which does not reach the fetlock

Sock: white which is at least as high as the fetlock, but does not reach the knee or hock

Half-cannon: a sock which goes approximately half way up the cannon.

Stocking: a sock that reaches at least in part past the knee or hock.

Unlike human hosiery, horse’s socks have irregular tops, so what may appear to be a half-cannon on the inner surface of the leg, may actually be a stocking on the outside.

Ermine Spots: black spots on white leg markings.

This Selle Francais stallion has a sock and stocking on his forelegs, and half-cannons on the hind. You can see his black legs above the socks, as well as his black mane, tail, ears and muzzle.

Colour Points

These are the black areas which help define horses like bays and buckskins, and are often present on young greys as well.  The five colour points are: tips of ears, muzzle, mane, tail, and legs.  Not all bays and buckskins will show black in the muzzle and ears, but mane, tail and legs will always have black.  Some horses will also show a dark dorsal stripe, which is a continuation of the tail colour, running along the spine.

Defining markings is never cut and dried, and what is a sock to one person is a half-cannon to another.

Colours are also slightly vague with variations like rose grey, strawberry roan silver black, seal brown, etc.  However, I find the genetics of coat colour fascinating.  This is not a requirement for any of our Horsemanship levels, but if you are interested in learning more about coat colours and genes you can play with this fun colour calculator:

 Next week: routines of the horse

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A review in the hand is worth …

What does an author need as much as whiskey, solitude, and a spouse with a steady income?


In today’s market, books live and die based on the eyeballs that chance across them online, and the more reviews a book has — good, bad, or indifferent — the more eyeballs will bounce that way. Eyeballs translate to sales, and sales translate to more whiskey, which translates to more books.  It’s a win-win situation for reader and author alike.

If you’ve read and liked a book, do the author a favour and leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads.  Even if you don’t have time for a written review, a simple star rating is a huge help.  You’re also doing fellow readers a favour by letting them know where to find their next great read.

The Favour

So here’s the favour I’m asking.  If you’re one of the many people who have been reading Allaigna’s Song as its been serialized in Pulp Literature I would be extraordinarily grateful if you could leave a review on Goodreads.  It can be a 1-star, 5-star, or anything in between.  (Be honest!  You won’t hurt my feelings.  Honestly!)

The book launches July 10th, and having early reviews will really help it get up and running fast.

And while you’re there, take a minute or two to review some books by other authors.  We all thank you for it!


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