We've all had those days when riding your horse feels more akin to driving a truck than having a "conversation" through the reins. No matter how hard you tug, your horse has other ideas.

Well, the next time that happens, instead of cussing out your horse, imagine what it would be like if you were steering with your mouth.

That's how German Paralympic dressage rider Bettina Eistel does it.

Eistel, 47, was born without arms. But that doesn't stop her from bridling and saddling her own horse, using her feet and her teeth. She can even hose her horse down with her feet.

"I learned to use my toes as a child," Eistel said, "like other children learned to use their hands."

Eistel and her horse, Fabuleux 5, won a bronze medal in individual freestyle dressage at the Paralympics in Hong Kong in September.



If you're looking for something horse-related to do today, you can watch high-level amateur riding at the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury. The school is hosting the U.S. Eventing Association's Area 1 beginner/novice championship horse trials this weekend.

The trials are composed of dressage, cross country and stadium jumping contests; 165 adult and youth riders will compete from throughout New England and New York. The event is held on the school's equestrian fields adjacent to Bushy Hill Road.



Many thoroughbreds, when their racing careers are over, face a brutal end in a slaughterhouse. Some horses are lucky enough to get purchased by loving owners, but too many are sold for slaughter. The issue has long divided those involved in the racing industry.

Suffolk Downs, in Massachusetts, is taking a stand against the practice. The racetrack has adopted a policy that holds trainers accountable if their horses are sold for slaughter. Any trainer found to have sold a horse for slaughter will have his stalls at the racetrack revoked and will be denied stalls in the future.

The move has attracted lots of attention in the racing world. Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito recently raced one of his horses at Suffolk Downs, partly because of the track's stance.

"It's a big issue in our industry," Zito told the Associated Press. "That's one of the reasons we like the people up there."

"If a horse goes from [Suffolk Downs] to the slaughterhouse, that's completely unacceptable," said Sam Elliott, the track's vice president for racing. "That trainer won't be here. I don't think that's anybody we'd want to have around."

Besides being an equestrian, Bonnie Phillips is The Courant's city/suburban editor. Her horse is named Annie.