What can your horse do for you…

 

 Let’s actually ask, ” What can I do for my horse? ” Horses are majestic animals that are wonderful simply to be with. Horses are gentle and honest; they do not have the ability to manipulate or lie. – psychology today20180718_134818

 

        They are also sensitive animals that immediately empathize with humans who take care of them daily. By reacting to body language and mirroring the moods of their caretakers, horses make the perfect, nonjudgmental “therapist” by non-verbally providing insight into a person’s negative behaviors. Loyal, loving and trustworthy, horses are animals that humans have always bonded with almost effortlessly. – Kauffman’s animal healthIMG_4072 - Edited

       Horses bring so much joy to those that are passionate about riding them and caring for them. They free us from the everyday stresses of the problems in the world. Horses have served purpose in the history of work, travel, cavalry, and ceremonial purposes. The horse has evolved as athlete, partner, and plays key role as therapist for victims as well as  those with physical and mental disabilities. Horses provide so much to so many lives. We need to ask, “ what are we doing for the horse? “

          Have our horses become an instrument that endures pain and confusion at the mercy of our desires for happiness, ribbons, glory and entertainment?

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       Anyone that desires to advocate for the horse needs a thorough understanding of the horses physique and movement. There is a large amount of horses getting ruined mentally and physically by misconceptions of the training methods offered online today. These horses are then given up on, given away, or sold as a “rescue.”  Ending up in the hands of someone that doesn’t know how to re educate them at a mental and physical level. Most owners don’t understand why the horse is still misbehaving, even with the best love and care possible. Where do these discouraged owners go for guidance? The internet! The internet can be a great source of information, we also know it can be a detrimental place of misconception, especially for the horse.

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          Most misconceptions of information may have been intended as helpful, but nothing can replace the knowledge of hands on professional advice.  Are we demanding our horses to perform for us without asking if they are enjoying the ride as well ? Assuming that the horse is “working” and would rather be doing something else is not always true. Horses will attempt to evade a certain exercise, but most horses love to have a purpose. This purpose is rewarding to both horse and rider, if the horse is comfortable and not confused and frustrated.

I would like to describe some of the misconceptions I have seen that can truly ruin the partnership.

  • Meant only for awareness, not insult

 

         Some misconceptions of riders: 

  •    One rein stop – The internet has tons of videos and advice on teaching the horse to “give” with a pretty good pressure or an all out “ yank” to train the horse to stop at any gait
  •    What the horse understands: “ I am on high alert, I can’t relax because my rider may suddenly yank my nose to their knee, expecting me to stop. I do not have time to properly prepare my body for this stop, this creates an unbalanced stop, a discomfort of not being able to coordinate back muscles to allow me to balance the stop”
  • Actual Understanding :This was originally a slight flexion with the inside rein to help horses that brace against the bit and are difficult to stop and slow. It worked well, if you kept the opposite hand planted on the horses neck
  •  Half Halt – This is one of the most misunderstood “ Aid “ of communication to the horse.  The half halt is a specific riding aid given by an equestrian to his horse, in which the driving aids and restraining aids are applied in quick succession. It is sometimes thought of as an “almost halt,” asking the horse to prepare to halt in balance, before pushing it onward to continue in its gait. Wikipedia
  • Misconception :This is usually interpreted as it sounds, drive and pull at the same time.
  • What the horse understands : “I am going to lean on the bit so I can contract my back in an attempt to protect myself from the damages of being rushed forward onto a strong contact on my mouth. I endure my “ work “ but only because I have mentally shut my brain off until it’s time to eat.”
  • Actual Understanding : What needs to be understood is that it is a quiet dialogue of asking your horse to re balance themselves in preparation for anything different..a corner, change of speed, falling on forehand, etc.  It is the communication that works in the moment to help re balance the horse, it may never be the same combination of aids.
  • Disengage the hindquarterThe ability to disengage your horse’s hindquarters—that is, teach him to yield his hindquarters on your cue—is important for control. – Google
  • Misconception : Again this is a huge misconception believing in spinning the horses hind end sideways out of control.
  • What the horse understands: “Any time someone approaches my hindquarter, I need to step over very quickly. Under saddle, I need to protect the unnecessary strain on my stifle by bracing against the pressure of my riders leg. This begins to create an inverted rotation which builds unbalanced muscles of my back. “
  • Actual understanding : This movement should still be called and taught as a turn on the forehand. Each step sideways of the horses hindquarter should be a slow process of allowing the horse to “ pivot “ slowly circling around the front legs. The turn on the forehand teaches the horse to think about the communication to respond to separate movement of all parts of the body.
  • Inside leg to outside reinThe inside leg applies pressure (from below the knee down) to the horse’s side. The horse should step away from the pressure, creating a slight bend through the body.  Outside Rein: The outside rein “fills up” when the horse steps away through the bending from the inside leg. ..
  • That’s a little confusing…
  • Misconception: Hold constant leg pressure along with strong outside rein contact.
  • Horse response:  “Evade the nagging of the constant inside leg pressure by bracing against the leg, use the heavy outside rein contact as a crutch to lean on”.
  • Actual understanding: When inside leg pressure is applied with slight inside rein flexion, the horse should automatically respond by bending around the inside leg. The outside rein contact supports the rhythm as well as the outside shoulder.  As with all communication with the horse, this should not be a constant application of aids as it keeps the horse from learning self carriage.

 

These are just a few examples that I wanted to describe. If you can’t afford the appropriate help, most trainers are willing to help you and your horse out in exchange for your help with the barn. Consider seeking hands on advice before turning to the internet for self help training. This can actually save you from making a bigger mess of you and your horses partnership, that will take longer to fix.

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“I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.”

Mark Twain

Fixing or Enabling the problem?

We love our horses, we want the very best for them, and we are willing to try anything to have a great partnership with them. My same story,  different blog.. I am so passionate about helping horses, almost to a fault. I become very sensitive to the way they are ridden, handled, and cared for. We can’t all be like Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester or Ray Hunt, but we can try for that picture of harmony. When I was learning to ride at the age of nine, my instructor had me read a book that I will never forget.  “Smokey the cow horse ” it is a horse telling his own story of being born in the wild. He tells his survival story of being born on the range, and human experiences of training. I think it planted a seed in me at a young age to always try to view the horses perception of things.  I hope to offer horse owners a deeper level of thinking and education . When our horses portray an unwanted behavior, it is usually that they are attempting to communicate a problem to us. We can create a superficial view that makes us feel better about the problem or we can address the issue straight on. What you believe is helping your horse may actually be enabling the behavior that will only show up in a different form, sooner than later.

Let me give a few examples of what I am referring to, you will find the educational solutions numbered further in the blog:

1.)  Problem:  Horse does not like ears touched.

Simple solution:  I have a special bridle to accommodate and I don’t ever touch the ears.

2.)  Problem:  Horse does not like bits.

Simple solution: I ride with a bit less bridle.

3.)  Problem: My horse pulls back when tied, does not tolerate grooming or tacking up.

Simple solution: I tie with a slip ring or a bungee.

4.) Problem: Horse won’t respond to leg, is lazy and stubborn.

Simple solution: I wear spurs.

5.) Problem: Horse braces and pushes against bit, fights all bit pressure by tossing head.

Simple solution: I use a gadget designed to place head in a ” frame. ”

When viewing this list, it is easy to see why I chose the word superficial for addressing the issues. Now, to gain a deeper level of knowledge regarding behavior, read on..

I continually teach about the horses shutting down emotionally. This shutting down is a protective mode that begins to have an effect on the nervous system which in time  begins to appear physically. Usually it will show up in the muscular system of the body. Muscles may feel tense, tight, trembling to any touch, and hard. A scientific study called the Defense Cascade proves the protective shut down effects on humans as well as mammals.  Shutting down the emotions to endure stresssful situations, shows muscle shut down as well. “ Emotions are played out mentally and physically, it is a defense mechanism. We can’t always compare horses emotions to humans but if we are training with empathy, we can believe our survival instincts are very similar. This is proven with horses used in the healing process of victims of trauma and abuse. It is a connection that creates an  unexplainable bond to both horse and human.IMG_6005 - Edited

 

Here is the link to study more about the Defense cascade   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4495877/

    Some of the signs of emotional shut down are horse is irritable with grooming, tacking up, or when you pet them in a particular area, they react as if they had no idea you were there. Some horses just don’t like to be coddled and that is their character. They are all business..”either ride me or leave me alone ” It is up to us as horse owners to really get to know the character of our horses. Then we can recognize immediately if something isn’t right.

What does this shutting down have to do with behavior?

1.)  If a horse does not want the ears touched, ask your veterinarian to look into the ears. If all is ok, then it will be important for you to slowly apply Ttouch methods to the ears, it is a desensitizing, awareness process that starts at the base of the ear. IMG_5418 Horses that  have had barbaric methods done to them like an ear twitch may have damaged nerves. You need to address this and be able to touch the ears, promoting feeling and awareness.  We don’t want the horse ” shut down ” in any areas of their body. Dr. Monica Aleman, associate professor and internal medicine specialist at the University of California-Davis, is one of the few researchers who focuses on the equine ear. “[Head-shyness] could start with something painful and then become a learned behavior, even when the problem is solved, that behavior could be tricky to get rid of,” Aleman said. “You can begin by touching the horse on the neck and then slowly touching closer and closer to his ears, each time giving him a piece of carrot or a lump of sugar. Then he is likely to be less sensitive about his ears,” Meanwhile, if it’s always a battle to put his bridle on, you can undo the headstall, put it on, and then buckle the cheek strap instead of pulling it over his head.” -Excerpt from paulick report. Accommodate the horse through the process but also address the problem.

2.)   I am not against bit less riding, it is a great testimony of control and partnership. I am against bit less riders claiming bits are harsh and barbaric. Bits are definitely misused in several ways, but so is our understanding of what the consequences are by forcing our horse in a position.”  Force without a bit is still force. Taking the bit out of the mouth of the horse does not make it any friendlier if one replaces it by a bridle which can easily hurt the horse’s nose or other parts of the sensitive face.

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Holding bit less rein until the horse gives to pressure inflicts pain on facial nerves.

 

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You don’t have to know anything about horses to see this is  unnatural. The kinematic abnormality is noticeable with the wrong footsteps

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This horse looks super unhappy with the bit less bridle. The nose and poll pressure can be just as harsh on facial nerves as a bit can be in harsh hands.

Anyone that studies and understands the bio mechanics of the horse knows that the bit is not there to gain harsh power over the horse, it is there to feel the horses body. The bit can tell you where the horse is braced and needs  correct flexion. When used correctly, the bit creates proper flexion throughout the entire body. The horse always appears happier without a bit in it’s mouth because they can carry their body the way they want to.  That’s a good thing right? No it is not, horses were not born understanding how to balance under a rider. This is obtained by a training of different gymnastic exercises to create a correct, light, and balanced horse. The way a knowledgeable trainer  gets them quiet in the mouth is by improving their balance. The better they do with their movement the more they become quiet and content in the mouth.

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This horse easily performs a half pass at the walk with reins in one hand and no bit pressure. He is being trained to self carriage.

” You are therefore losing the precision associated with the bit. The bottom line is the rider. Pulling and tension of the forearms and elbows and shoulders are the cause of eventual discomfort for the horse, not the bit. This is where the hypocrisy of the bit less came from. Instead of learning how to ride and don’t pull on the reins and therefore don’t “Take” contact, riders felt good about themselves removing the bit. Of course, it is worse for the horse. Contact on skin and bone and facial nerve is a lot worse than gentle pressure on the tongue.” _ Jean Luc Cornille

We are all entitled to an opinion but re educating horses that have been improperly trained, abused, or endured trauma is serious business. The best approach is with thorough knowledge and understanding of exactly how the horses physique works, then after creating self carriage and balance in the horse, go bit less, bridle less, whatever gives you and your horse joy! You will want to periodically check in with a simple snaffle to address any improper bending, bracing, etc.

3.)   The horse that pulls back when tied is apprehensive about what will happen, they are trying to communicate something, you need to address the discomfort and then train them to properly stand. Pull-back - EditedThe bungee gives them freedom to pull back, it accomodates the behavior that is very dangerous.  For simple training methods on training to tie, I would suggest reading Mary Twelveponies there are no problem horses, only problem riders.

4.)   Spurs for the unresponsive horse. Horses do not become more responsive with the shouts of spurs and kicking, this actually creates a deadened response after time.  Horses have in the area under your legs a very high tactile perception, by kicking with your heels or even spurs, you overload their perception forcing horses into protective reflex contraction. “Using stimuli developed for gauging human tactile sensitivity, we were surprised to find that horse sensitivity on the part of the horse body which would be in contact with the rider’s leg is greater than what has been found for the adult human calf or even the more sensitive human fingertip. Horses can react to pressures that are too light for the human to feel.” (Saslow, 2002) – Excerpt from Science of Motion Chazot 88

5.)  I have already overly spoken about the use of gadgets to get false results. Once again what we think and believe are solving problems, are actually enabling disastrous results both physically and mentally.Screenshot 2019-03-09 at 8.19.03 PM - Edited

When problems arise, the horse needs to be assessed by a Veterinarian, if all is clear medically, then analyze at a muscular level. Ttouch methods unblock tenseness using gentle yet firm pressure on specific points. In the absence of pain, muscles relax and blood flows more freely. As tension recedes, the body finds balance. Areas of tightness that exist in a horse’s body may be obvious and create abnormal gait movement. Tension in muscles will have an effect on the way the horse functions on an emotional, mental and physical level and can interfere with their ability to be trained and ridden. On the other hand, releasing muscle tension without addressing the root cause can be harmful. Horses and humans use muscle compensations to protect themselves from pain, motion therapy finds the root cause and then re creates proper muscle development. This works like physical therapy.

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” The thoughts we choose to think are the tools we use to paint the canvas of our lives. ”  – Quote by Louise Hay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”

The rehabilitation of this 15 yr. Quarter horse is special to me. I know this horse, I started him as a colt. He was a stud colt and was the easiest horse I had ever trained. He has a great mind, work ethic and due to having solid handling and care, there were no ” monsters ” to undo.

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I became very interested in rehabilitating ” Hunter “, no promises until I could really evaluate his issues. To re educate a horse with motion therapy means I become educated as well. Every horse presents themselves with unique behavior/ lameness that requires a deeper level of thinking. I have to figure out what specific set of Dressage exercises will restore the horse to soundness and address behavior as well.

The story of this horse becomes a little like the chicken or the egg situation in which it is impossible to say which existed first and what initially caused the lameness/ behavior issues. . I cannot “ diagnose “ issues but I can describe what is physically happening, and how I am able to fix the situation. This allows me to put the pieces together and evaluate the probable. It becomes like peeling the layers of an onion to get to the root cause. Then it becomes like putting a puzzle together to figure out what therapeutic approach will work. The problems had been growing and the owner was at a loss of what to do. Head tossing had begun quite some time ago, then the stifle lameness appeared, then bucking, stumbling, left shoulder stiffness and finally, not wanting to be caught. This was very out of character as this horse and his owner have a very special bond. The Veterinarian could not find an actual medical reason for the lameness but they did try injections and stifle strengthening exercises. “Back problems are a major cause of altered gait or performance ” JeanMarie Denoix. Professor, DVM, Phd, Assoc. LA-ECVDI, DACVSMR, Certified in Equine Locomotor Pathology 

Hunter spent a short time training to be a barrel racer. It was possibly around this time he began throwing his head in the air and pushing on the bit.  This becomes not only a frustrating behavior that turns into a tug of war but can also be dangerous. His owner did not know what to do about this behavior so he began riding him in a running martingale (training forks  is the Western term) to gain some control of this head tossing. 

     I am showing the following pictures to educate, this does not mean this was the approach taken with this particular horse. Running martingales are not a bad thing if adjusted properly. They are consistently used on racehorses, not to place the head in a position but to do what they are meant for, a backup device if the horse gets out of control, the leverage on the reins can help slow them down or keep them from grabbing the bit and taking off.

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Awesome pic of exercise rider/ Jockey Danielle Rosier. Notice the running martingale is adjusted loosely so horse has freedom of head and neck.

Misconceptions of using this to train the horse not to toss his head, actually create the opposite effect by keeping the back muscles contracted.

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Here we see not only a running martingale but the reins are also attached to the saddle to keep head down. The misconception that this is a beautiful frame is heartbreaking. You can already see the abnormal kinematic developing.

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One more example so you can understand the absence of empathy.

Evaluating a horse for behavior and lameness is an important part of the therapy. Once again, this only comes after a Veterinarian has cleared the horse of any serious medical condition. This therapy is not a miracle for any bone or ligament repair. I begin with an overall look at the physique of the horse. Muscles are like a map to what is happening.  Hunter showed Atrophy of muscling at lumbar, and had a lot of muscling on the front end ( shoulders ) but none on the hind.

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In this picture, you can notice the overdeveloped bicep muscles ( shoulder ) with lack of hind end and stifle muscles. There is no sign of abnormal muscle development due to force or improper training and riding methods. This makes it very educational to find the root cause.

One of the first things I noticed is he was not shut down mentally. Most horses that endure pain will shut down emotionally. A horse that is shut down will have a very distant, non emotional look in their eye. Some trainers refer to this as a shark eye. They will also react dramatically for no apparent reason.  I began the in hand Decarpentry method. This allows the horse to learn to follow my body nuance without the weight of a rider. It was simple to immediately see the inverted rotation as he was plowing his left shoulder into me in order to avoid bending left. Work in hand shows the incoordination of back muscles when simply asking for walk to jog transition. On the longe,  he absolutely refuses to canter or canter from a slow jog, taking the wrong lead or crossfires. ( front leg on correct lead, hind leg incorrect )

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The General Decarpentry method of longeing. The longe line is placed through a ring attached to saddle or surcingle. This acts as a rein but allows freedom of head and neck movement. The horse has to figure out on his own, proper flexion and coordination.

Again, the resistance is due to isometric hold on back muscles. Speed does contract the back as well as weight on the bit.

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You don’t have to be a professional to see how the muscles need to contract for speed, with or without a rider.

Pushing or placing weight on the bit allows the horse to evade the correct use of back muscles. Proper use of back muscles are needed to properly prepare and coordinate for movements as simple as a transition. Improper function of the thoracolumbar spine causes resistances and discomfort. 

Training began almost immediately, if anyone had been watching, they would have thought I was torturing him. Any slight tap of the whip to get him to bend correctly , He would not only buck but would roar like a wild pig!

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Hunter speaking his mind about change

This is not about the horse being prey and I am the predator. Those training approaches work for wild mustangs. This is him not wanting to change. We can relate as having to change anything about ourselves can be frustrating. It is my job to slowly introduce perseverance. Remember, horses seek comfort. Many problems cannot just be resolved at level of muscles, they also have to be resolved in the mind to guide proper coordination.

Hunter had quite a few muscle abnormalities.

I will go over them and how they are addressed:

1.) Contracted back muscles means there is no longitudinal flexion and no correct lift of back for balance. This is why he pushes on bit and fights all flexion.

2.) The lowering of the head only added to the isometric hold of back muscle and also created weight on forehand. This kept the hind legs from being th eengine and front legs from being able to propel body upwards for balance. He began to use front legs for braking and ” dragging ” himself along. This is where the stumbling started.

3.) The contracted back muscles also kept the trot from being a diagonal movement and he began to compensate by moving laterally. This caused a weakness in the lumbar.

4.) At some point, he became inverted and developed more muscle on the left side of his back which kept him curved to the right. This hindered his right hind leg movement, eventually causing stifle pain. The rotation also kept weight on the front left which eventually showed up as a stiffening of the shoulder.

” Horses can figure out complex compensatory mechanisms ” – Betsy Uhl Veterinarian Pathologist

Once proper mechanism of the thoracolumbar spine is recreated, the problem is practically resolved.

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Focusing on coordination

 

 If the horse has learned to function with the back contracted, he will continue to do so.  It is necessary to re create the back muscles through specific work of the thoracolumbar spine. Collected walk, shoulder fore, shoulder in, half pass, circle bend out, help the coordination of the main back muscles, which is a necessary precondition to resolving the issues.

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The crossing of the hind leg in shoulder in develops correct rotation of thoracolumbar spine, releasing back muscle contraction.

I share these blogs in hopes of educating horse owners to awareness of proper bio mechanics. When our horses become anatomically incorrect, it is up to us as owners to provide comfort to our horses.  Just as we would become aware of our own muscle weakness and alignment. There are many therapies in the way of massage and chiropractic but these only offer temporary relief. The root cause of the abnormality needs to be addressed. “Knowledge is power ” – Sir Frances Bacon 

 

Hunter continues to do well. I would ride this horse anywhere as he is well disciplined. We are so afraid of using words like disciplined or obedient when it comes to horses.

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Hunter taking care of his precious rider

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A horse with a good mind comes from proper riding, training, and care.

A well disciplined horse is not a horse trained with submission. It is a horse that desires to control his behavior in any situation in consideration of their rider. This is not achieved by training with swim noodles and other human toys. This is achieved by the physical and mental focus of the horse as a partner and athlete.

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” Only limitless thinking and dreaming can manifest limitless abilities and success ” –  Quote by Tavi Castro

Title Quote – Ghandi

If you can dream it, You can do it

Horses are an expensive hobby, there is no getting around that. I was very fortunate to have forced my way into the horse world. I was obsessed and I worked hard to learn all I could about Horsemanship skills. I believe it was a privilege that my foundation of learning was always Dressage. I loved any type of riding but the methods always taught to me were strength, balance, and an independent seat. When people ask me what my background with horses is, I am not exactly  sure what they mean..I want to answer, ”stall cleaning.” It was a childhood dream of mine to teach young riders. I was able to have a successful riding school for a few years.I attempted to instill empathy towards horses with my students.

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The lessons were affordable and it was always the same group of kids.I think about this group of kids so much, I never realized the impact each and every one would have on my heart. I guess they feel the same as they have kept in touch either with cards, or facebook.  Healthy Hobbies are so important, not just for kids but adults as well. I would love to have a riding school again as I worry about Horsemanship skills seeming so out of reach financially. I take a few students now, but school horses and facilities are limited. Well, honestly, I am just very particular about how my horses are cared for…

If you are a trainer or instructor and you receive an inquiry from a young rider looking to learn, willing to work in  trade for lessons, please do not ignore. I am not saying you should be charity but to know that you fulfilled the dreams of someone not as fortunate financially, is beyond rewarding.  I had five awesome school horses that could teach confidence in any discipline. Western, Dressage, and Jumping. Of course now there is Western Dressage which all of us “English Cowgirls” had been practicing for years already. Dressage, no matter what type of saddle you are using will always mean education for the horse. Dressage is gymnastic exercises meant to strengthen and supple,while creating a focused demeanor.

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The earliest work on training Dressage horses was written by Xenophon, a Greek Military Commander born around 430 BC.  “Just as a house would be of little use, however beautiful its upper stories, if the underlying foundations were not what they ought to be, so there is little use to be extracted from a horse, and particular a war-horse, if unsound in his feet, however excellent his other points” “Anything forced is not beautiful”  This is advice from a Horseman over 2000 years ago.

 

I  do feel as though Dressage has been exploited as a sport or exhibition, attainable only to the wealthy. People are paying over $ 80,000.00 for a Dressage horse, for their kid to be able to show and, expectedly win.  This keeps those that are like I was, discouraged from believing in their dreams. If you are a parent of a horse lover, but cannot afford for your kids to even touch a horse, they will never stop begging. Passion always finds a way, especially when it comes to horses. There are programs that help underprivileged kids riding and learning. I wish I was one of those programs, but someday…

Then there is the horse owner that does not believe their horse can do Dressage. Maybe they were told they have the “ recipe “ without the ingredients.  Let’s remember Dressage is training that can take a mediocre mover, and turn them into an extraordinary athlete, if done correctly. Carl Hester paid almost $ 4, 500.00 for Valegro, who is now known as the greatest Dressage horse in history and is now worth over $ 3 million. Of course that’s team Hester for you, but pay attention to the little “ secrets “ He gives away.  If Carl had not accepted Charlotte’s persistence on staying at his yard, proving that She would work very hard just to learn whatever She could from Him, there would not be the awe inspiring  ” Team Hester. ” Together, they have brought the Art and beauty back to Dressage.

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 My oldest daughter has loved horses as her hobby since she was young. All three of my Children ( Two are now adults ) know how to ride and handle horses. They have had to work around the barn, and enjoy trail riding with me. My eldest daughter has always loved the thrill of showing, competing, and winning.When she was 7 years old, She really fell in love with a pony I was training to be a trail horse. He was an Arab/ Pinto, usually referred to as a “ stumpy little pony. “  I was a very busy trainer during that time and every time I got on a horse, Lizzie would say “ can I ride Lucky? “ I tried to stall her by saying “ Fine, if you can tack him up yourself,  you can ride him. “ I did not think She could do it by herself as he could be ornery.  She returned 15 minutes later tacked up and ready to ride. I will never forget her persistence. Lizzie wanted to compete at the 4H shows with the pony…I allowed her to do Showmanship to ensure her safety. ( She would only have to lead the pony around ) I was coaching another student that had her own horse at the show. The persistence set in again of Lizzie begging to show the pony under saddle. She had set it up to where she could borrow my student’s saddle, and whatever else was necessary..” fine” I think I was secretly attempting to protect her from that horrible word “ failure. “  Turns out Lizzie would never learn that word, she won everything, always from that day on, with that pony!

I think She was 10 years old when she had her first  “love at first sight “ It was a Belgian/paint cross that was 6 months old. We bought him for a very cheap price, He was the cutest!  Lizzie dreamed of showing him at the 4H shows as well,  he was 3 years old and the best trail horse ever! When He was five years, She began eventing with him and I never worried about them, He always took care of Her.

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Lizzie became very interested in Dressage, she loved the art, beauty, but of course, the competitions. Lizzie had big dreams for “ Mr. Bojangles “ It’s good to have dreams but Lizzie never looked at goals with a realistic approach.

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 When She told me She was going to win “Horse of the year “ I attempted to sugar coat the answer, “ I don’t think you can do that, there are so many fancy, expensive horses out there showing…” Again, I was attempting to protect her from the reality of what money can and can’t buy.  Lizzie never backs down “ Well, I am going to at least try, and you can train us “ She has always had more faith in my training than I have. There we were at every show, up against every fancy horse that had been training year round in elite facilities. We trained in a field. At the shows,  Horses were spooking at her horse, they had never seen a “ painted “ horse before! Others were using his calm demeanor to steady their nervous horses. Test after test, her highest score at Training level was a 70% Riders are so harsh on Judges but they can only Judge what is happening in front of them. If you drill your horse to perform like they should in a test, you will have nothing but a tense, resistant mover in the show ring. Interval, gymnastic training is what will supple your horse. Of course having a combination of Lizzie and Bo was nothing but a partnership of harmony. He loved to show off and knew when it was his time to shine, then there was Lizzie determined as ever to accomplish her goal of winning everything. In 2014, Lizzie and Mr. Bojangles won the United States Dressage Federation Region 5 Championships. They were also Reserve Champion for the local region. Mr. Bojangles was recognized as Grade Horse of the year. Lizzie also won Third place overall Horse  of the year in the Jr./ Young riders. Now when she has goals, I know to admire her for what She will most likely achieve.

After some physical setbacks, Lizzie is making the journey to Her latest goal. She has always wanted to own a nice Warmblood and ride in the upper levels…” We could never afford a Warmblood, you better get a decent career for your goals.” I reminded Her often.  ” Lizzie in her persistence, found a Warmblood for very little money. She was being sold as a broodmare due to her behavior/ lameness issues. ” I know you can fix her ” We bought the mare, assuming She would have a nice foal to fulfill the dream. That foal wasn’t meant to be, so I fixed the Mare using motion therapy, based on Dressage exercises to address muscle imbalance.

Lizzie will be competing Summer 2019 in Prix St George, which is the beginning test at international level. Lizzie is not seeking glory, she has the heart of a warrior, a triumphant attitude, needed to conquer dreams.

“What the mind can conceive and believe, and the heart desire, you can achieve.”  Quote by Norman Vincent Peal

Title quote by Walt Disney

 

 

Empower – Give freedom to…

I love this word and especially when it comes to riding horses. I have read  opinions of horse people discouraging the use of this word as they feel it shows a dominance over horses.  Facebook – “People, mostly women, have been conditioned to believe that riding is “freeing” and “empowering.” It is, of course, a false sense of empowerment because it is based on dominance, which is not empowered. “ Really?! I strongly disagree… The definition of empowerment is this-authority or power given to someone to do something; the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.  Why would empowerment work or not work in the life of horses? The synonyms are even better, here are a few…emancipate, unyoke, unfetter, unshackle, unchain, set free. When a horse has faced harsh training methods, or an emotionally traumatic environment, to give them empowerment with freedom from pain, discomfort and a break from fighting for survival, is beyond rewarding.                                                                                   side-reins-main-picrolkur

You and that horse will experience a bond of closeness that is life changing. 20181228_141140                                                     A human victim of trauma and abuse will be very shut down in their emotions, like a horse. It’s a defense mechanism that allows the mind and spirit to endure situations that seem impossible. For a victim of trauma or abuse, they live with self doubt and never actually feel completely free of their anguish, there is always that voice reminding them of their darkness. Then a horse comes into their life, or they ride one.44602304_358936284842860_1275718661163712512_n The empowerment that comes over that person awakens their emotions. They feel alive, but it can also be a very scary place to take down that wall and feel emotions again. The same for a horse, they need the time it takes for them to overcome their fears. Forcing a horse to accept something they are truly afraid of is a monster in the making   .friesian-tarp                                            Accommodating the horses fears is not a tactful approach either. By this I mean claiming the horse is afraid of people.. in hats, glasses, etc. It is certain sounds, smells, even weather changes that can prompt a memory. I do believe PTSD is triggered in ways we may never understand for horse or human. When faced with danger, your body gets ready to fight, flee, or freeze. Your heart beats faster. Your senses go on high alert. Your brain stops some of its normal functions to deal with the threat. This includes your short-term memory. Human and equine brains are very similar, but with a few key differences: Most of the horse’s brain is used to analyze information it gets from the environment while much of the human brain is used for fine-motor skills and language. ( excerpt from William Simpson brain study)  Once a horse learns a movement, which is usually more quickly than a human, it will not be forgotten. Humans, on the other hand, retain information for only a short amount of time unless the information is reviewed regularly. This is proven with young horses educated with a foundation of trust and comfort, they will always go back to that start ,if reminded. 

If you know me or follow my blog, you understand how passionate I am about helping horses. I had bought a draft cross mare that was rescued from a PMU facility. 20190126_181732                                                                                         PMU – is pregnant mares urine, used as a hormone replacement for Women.
Pregnant mares are often kept in narrow tie stalls for approximately 6 months of the year with a urine collection harness in place. It’s an inhumane life for an animal designed to be in near constant motion. While in theory, they have room to lie down, they cannot turn around or take more than a few steps forwards or backwards. (Excerpt -The fund for animals ) There are some really nice foals that are sold at auctions or through rescues. https://www.equinevoices.org/

The story I am going to share is not a discouraging story but a story of awareness to trauma in horses…

I had previously trained and sold two Gorgeous PMU foals, no issues, no problems. The difference was, they were the offspring of PMU mares, so the only hardship they likely endured was weaning. The draft cross I purchased was not trained to ride, barely tame, perfect project for me. She had obviously come from the facility in Canada very recently as it had turned out she was pregnant and I did not know. As soon as I could get excited, the foal was stillborn. I bonded very closely with this mare20190126_181828.jpg,                                          I trained her and rode her for 6 years, participated in different clinics, and lessons, shebenitascreenshot 2018-02-04 at 9.35.30 am

was my good Mare. I could never really use

Screenshot 2018-02-04 at 9.10.42 AM   “desensitizing ” training with her as it would create more fear and loss of trust with me. Human’s can learn coping strategies, it’s a little different when dealing with horses.  It’s odd that although She never showed any signs of bucking, resistance, or fear when I trained her to ride, I always knew I could never succumb her to certain situations, like trail rides or horse shows. She loved to be ridden and would always come running when I called her. We would ride and train in my field, She never ever attempted to get rid of me. Although there were no signs of pain/behavior issues, my intuition always told me something was missing in this ” partnership. ” Turns out there was a memory she held onto. On one particular day, I had an awesome ride in beautiful weather. I dropped my reins as I always did to show her She was a good girl, I also took my left foot out of my stirrup, lifting slowly to alleviate what felt like a pulled muscle. At that same time, my neighbor’s air compressor let out a loud air noise, and my dog happened to be rustling in the dry weeds like she always did, but timing is everything. Before I knew it, I was catapulted high into the air. I could feel my right foot hung up in the stirrup and I remember thinking ” I might be drug at a high speed so I need to close my eyes.” When I awoke, my horse was standing over me, I jumped up to find that both my hands were backwards, thumbs not where they belong. I had severely broken both my wrists, in what must have been an ultimate handstand landing.  There were some people that had seen the accident and they thought I was dead. They said the horse was completely vertical and I was at least six feet above her. I was traumatized..how was I going to work, care for my youngest daughter, and all the animals I insist on owning. My hands are a miracle, after two surgeries on each wrist.

There was never any ” language” or behavior warnings, there was just something that triggered an over the top fearful reaction. No ego of mine or hers would ever overcome a situation if she was triggered again, it’s not giving up, it’s knowing when the memory runs deep. She lives in a beautiful pasture now.

Horses that have sustained a long period of chronic stress, leaves them emotionally unbalanced. I was fortunate to have received such a great partnership with her. Horses with PTSD cannot differentiate between what’s really happening and what has triggered a memory. When this occurs, the horse becomes hyper-vigilant, distrustful, unreachable. ( Study by Caroline Rider ) When I help a horse that has been traumatized by training methods, environment, etc. It is always helpful if the horse had a good start in training, handling. Foundation is everything, just like with a house. I am not suggesting giving up on traumatized horses, I am giving an example of what damage can occur in a horses mind, and how positive training methods, and good management can empower the horses mind. I have written a separate blog on   The Horses Mind

I would also like to point out a few things:

  1. If your horse is showing signs of unpredictability, changes in behavior, after a vet has cleared any medical conditions, have the horse evaluated by a trainer that specializes in Bio Mechanics. This way, any pain or muscle imbalance, saddle fitting, etc. can be addressed before it becomes a traumatic memory.
  2. “Desensitizing” and ” flooding ” methods do not work in situations of pain or PTSD. Confronting any living being of what they are fearful of until they accept it is just teaching and reassuring the brain to ” shut down “
  3. Placing the horse in a negative situation until they respond with a positive reaction is just plain abuse…chasing in small circles until the horse tires, tying head to saddle until they accept pressure is barbaric, re think your training approaches with empathy of the horse. Lungeing is a skill used for balance and focus purposes, not to mentally and physically wear the horse down. I am not giving the “horses are prey animals ” speech, just asking you to be empathetic with a large but so mentally fragile being.
  4. Watch for early signs of physical pain before it begins to effect emotional stability. Signs can include:                                                                                                                              A: can’t touch ears, pins ears when rider mounts, or is suddenly frightened of the mounting block                                                                                                                             B: not interested in Human interaction,  refuses to be caught, and finally..negative behavior magnifies with every ride.

Please do not take the word empowerment from horses, their stories and the lives they touch or have been touched by similar souls. Empowering Horses and Humans to be better, to feel comfort and to be loved.20181110_115139.jpg

” You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously. ”   

Quote by -Steve Maraboli

 

All We hear is Horsey Ga Ga

” The best thing I try to do for myself is to try to listen to the horse. ” – Tom Dorrance

 

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Photo credit Facebook

Incredible thoughts from an incredible Horseman. This man began an entire ” cult ” with horse whispering. A label He did not like at all ,  He wanted the human to present himself and his request to the horse in a way that the horse could understand and respond to appropriately. This means that the human needs to understand the horse enough to ask only for what the horse is prepared to do. – Excerpt from ”  Beef magazine ”

Using the word ” prepared, ” Tom referred to not only the mental state of the horse, but the physical coordination as well. In relationships, if we are always wondering what the other person is thinking about, this creates anxiety in any situation…Many times I read a horses likes, dislikes of what I am introducing. We can’t just leave it at the horse doesn’t like that. We need to think on a deeper level of the horses physique.

Bucking horses have never been that big of a deal to me.  ( I will be releasing a blog on a buck that was a big deal! ) It is usually a simple answer to why they buck. Discomfort from a tooth, saddle, improperly balanced gait or even a learned reaction that was never addressed. Then there is the bucking that is from extreme physical pain or emotional trauma.

I have had great success with re educating behavior issues. There is one horse I think about quite often now that I have completed a therapy in motion class. A woman had chosen a beautiful Thoroughbred from a rescue. She wasn’t sure of his history with training. She knew she could sit on him but if she asked him to go forward one step, He would violently buck her off. Great, I will start over as if I am starting a colt…

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What a sweetheart he was. Sure enough, no matter if I had saddle or just a bareback pad, he bucked. As I sat in the dirt, I remember watching him and thinking how odd it was that he continued bucking violently although he had successfully got rid of me. We had the veterinarian do a thorough exam, spinal x rays, check for ulcers, etc. There was no medical reason for his behavior. We tried massage, chiropractic. Finally, we both agreed that there was some deep rooted reason He did not want to be ridden.

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I wish I knew then what I know now…kissing spine, where the spinous processes are touching or rubbing against each other.1071_image3     It is sometimes difficult to diagnose as they only move and touch when horse is in motion, x- rays are done at a standstill.

Turner, of Anoka Equine Veterinary Services, in Elk River, Minn. Quotes-                            

“It’s not hard to understand why back pain or anything that interferes with a horse’s back will interfere with its movement,” said Turner. “Any contraction in the (back) muscles causes ventral (toward the abdomen) flexion of the spine, which makes it impossible for the horse to engage its hind end and meet its athletic potential.”

Addressing back muscle imbalance is an important part of ” listening to your horse ” Massage and chiropractic will only have positive results if the horse physique is being re educated in motion. Equine surgeon Bruce Bladon points out that a colleague in Sweden who has operated on a lot of kissing spines cases has more recently had excellent results — without surgery — with horses sent to a rider experienced in equine rehabilitation and re-schooling.

Bone masses are adjusted to control the strains produced by mechanical load and muscular activity. My daughter has a deformed spine. She was fused at the thoracic, leaving the lumbar for mobility. Unfortunately, the mechanical stresses placed on her lumbar caused a vertebrae to completely rotate forward to accommodate the muscular imbalance. No one knew this was happening as she had learned to accept pain. This wreaked havoc on her emotional and physical well being. The focus was not on her back, it had been fused. Everyone focused on the symptom, not the root cause.

Accommodating muscle imbalance with blow up saddle pads, extra padding, or restraints to place the horse in a ” frame ” are only creating more problems. You are ignoring the horses discomfort altogether, when focusing on ” Horses thoughts.”

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. – Quote by Wayne Dyer  

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Forced or willing ….Training behavior

This horse was an ex roping horse. He hadn’t been used in quite some time as he didn’t have an ounce of muscle anywhere. His owner had fell in love with him and insisted on buying him. He was a kind horse but would need some ” refining. ” He was going to be used as a trail horse. When I say ” trail ” I mean honest mountains, forests, and rivers! The first thing I do when I am asked to train a horse or fix a problem one, is evaluate their physique. This horse was a grade horse, but he looked like an appendix ( half Thoroughbred, half Quarter horse ) He had a very high wither and a weak, sunken back. When riding, he would hold his head so high that his neck was in your face. You could feel the ” go ” in him and he did not walk, he pranced, bouncing you like a pogo stick! When horses move like this, it makes it impossible to sense a comfortable harmony. You seem as a mere passenger with no control. If you have ridden a horse like this then you are familiar with their choppy trot, and a slow but almost leaping in place canter, and worst of all, cannot walk straight! Riding this horse down an open road was similar to what it might feel like to ride a drunk horse! So let’s get into learning why this horse is this way, as well as so many others out there!

The horses body moves with a longitudinal flexion. In a relaxed state, they keep their head and neck vertical, moving forward and back with each step.

 

The canter needs longitudinal flexion as well. To improve a canter, you must improve the walk, or vice versa. Whichever that particular horse responds to.  The trot is a gait on it’s own since it does not require longitudinal movement. When tie downs are used incorrectly to force the horse in a frame, the horse needs to come up with creative ideas on how to continue to please his rider. Since their head and neck are constrained, it causes the back muscles to consistently contract. They can’t use the correct neck muscles for balance, they can’t use the front legs to balance so they keep the back in an isometric hold. This causes improper back muscles. I am not a roper, I love watching any rider, if it seems the horse is enjoying their job. It is very easy to tell a happy horse from an uncomfortable horse. Tie downs are needed in some rodeo events to help the horse balance themselves in that quick stop, adjusted properly, they still allow freedom of head and neck.

 

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This horse needs to learn to yield to bit pressure, not brace against

Using a tie down to force the head down is counterproductive..we need to find out why the horse prefers to brace his back with nose in the air. rolkur

The vertebral column is the basis of all body movement. Riding certain movements are either therapeutic or damaging to the horse. yuk tie down

” Relaxation ” is not a release in muscle use but an absence of unnecessary muscle contraction. This horse I was hired to train wanted to get home quick, I felt as though I was a mere passenger at the mercy of a 1200 pound animal. I used exercises like shoulder in down a dirt road to get him to focus on me and relax his mind. This released unnecessary tension in his back, and allowed the longitudinal movement I was looking for. Eventually, the horse will realize it is far more comfortable to carry their rider in a balanced manner. I see many strong, balanced riders sitting on a crooked, unbalanced, improperly coordinated horse. Once you have ridden a balanced, light horse, you are unable to just sit on any horse without desiring to ” fix ” and balance them.

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I was fortunate to learn on balanced horses when I was young

When the muscular system has been allowed to become improper, the nervous system will be affected as well. This is what creates a muscle memory and can be difficult to correct. The horse may be so set on his protective muscling that he refuses to learn a new coordinated way. He will at first seem dissatisfied, resentful, etc. Conformation can also play a part in horses finding balance and lightness difficult.

 

 

My personal horse has a short back, therefore creating the proper lift of his back is difficult for him.

He also struggles with being heavy on the forehand and wanting to lean on the bit. There is no ” quick fix ” for him. It will take the time it takes to help him find suppleness, balance and lightness. This is slowly and carefully achieved with specific gymnastic exercises. These exercises keep him comfortable, correct and happy to be ridden. If he was allowed to travel in a dysfunctional way, pain, tension and resentment would take over. He is bold but not tolerant of certain situations.

The ex roping horse lived a long wonderful life as one of the safest, lightest, most comfortable horses I have had the joy of riding.

“Anything forced is not beautiful”
Quote by― Xenophon, The Art of Horsemanship

 

 

Helping or Hindering…

I recently attended a clinic that I was really looking forward to. I could not wait to learn what the clinician had to teach and how each horse and rider could be improved. My eagerness quickly turned to dismay when a participant could not get her horse to stand still so she could get on. The horse actually bashed her in the head trying to escape entering the Dressage arena.  This was an upper level Dressage horse which means he had a lot of experience in an arena. The rider was also a popular trainer, not attending a problem horse clinic, more an improve your Dressage tests clinic. Finally, the rider was on and then it took 3 or 4 people to lead the horse in. He was not scared, he was resisting…

At what point can we tell the difference between behavior issues or pain issues ?

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Reactions are initiated by physical pain-refusal to go forward, refusal to enter the dressage arena. Muscular pain can be acute with no physical signs or obvious issues. Physical pain can also alter mental processing. The horse will attempt to protect himself with refusal to move forward, continuous spooking, and then most horses just perform as their natural defense mechanisms bring a stoic state of mind.  Humans in pain are easily annoyed and irritable. physical pain changes perceptions and reactions, also influencing your thinking, emotions and reactions as well.- Excerpts by Jean Luc Cornille

 

Horses will choose the path of least resistance, which also means that one of their main goals is comfort. Horses, just like humans will compensate proper body alignment to avoid pain.  Long term muscle compensation leads to improper muscle development, behavior issues, and lameness.

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This saddle leaning left is due to improper back muscles, extra saddle padding fixes rider tilt, not tilting saddle or physique.

When I first re educate horses with abnormal muscle, movement, etc. It may appear as though I am creating more pain, resistance, and unwanted behavior. This does not last long.  Re creating abnormal muscle is like peeling layers of an onion. First may be signs of behavior with no lameness. This is due to re addressing coordination, muscle memory, and thought processing. Then as we look closer, there is abnormal kinematics of movement. Beginning to address the abnormal gait/ limb movement may reveal a slight lameness until root cause is recognized.

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    It is clear to see the abnormal kinematics with this horse. There is no diagonal movement of front and rear legs. The front left is barely leaving the ground as the right hind is stepping forward.

 

 

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This is a great example of proper kinematics at the trot.

This re educating is a form of physical therapy. Anyone that has had to unlearn their protective muscling or improve overall body alignment understands. It is harder to correct and easier to continue in the way our body feels comfortable, ” protected ” although we are in pain.

 

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Proper alignment and balance of horse and rider

It takes more than loving your horse, reading his second by second facial expressions,  desiring awards, and recognition. Horse owners are beginning to remind me of minions lost and seeking a leader to direct them every second of every moment with their horse. Whatever the latest gimmick, is what everyone is willing to try. Take a step back and think about what you want from owning a horse. Create comfort not only in their habitat but also in their daily training. Seek knowledge of how their bio mechanics properly function, not just their body language. Horses and riders should represent beauty. This comes from supple, straight, balanced, and light whether in an arena or relaxed on the trail.

“Thoughts dress differently as knowledge evolves” – Jean Luc Cornille

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One of my favorite trainers-Pedro Torres

 

 

Identify the behavior Part 2

 

I want to share the story of a little paint pony named ” Thunder ”

I received a call from a woman who had purchased a three year old Pony who was not yet trained to ride. She was excited about how calm he was for such a young horse and decided to purchase him. The sellers had agreed to deliver him. She let him settle in his new home but soon found out she could not go near him. He was afraid of everything and everyone. He attempted to kick if you touched him anywhere on his hindquarter or legs. He just wasn’t the same pony she looked at. She had to lock him in a stall so she could attempt to tame him. She did a great job but he still reacted with fear or kicking if she went near his hind end. When I came, he was standing in the stall quivering with fear. He showed major signs of tension like his tail was tucked tight, holding his breath and his eyes were huge. If I tried to approach him over the stall wall, he attempted to jump out of the half door. Hmm..guessing the sellers drugged this pony so he seemed calm when she purchased him. My first thought was he must have been abused. I later realized that he was acting as a horse in the wild would if caught and locked up. Presumably, he must have grown up in a herd and his only human contact memories were traumatic to him. ( haltering, vaccinations, castration, etc. )

The first thing I decided to do is give him treats ( Of course! )

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This would help his mind relax and forget about his fears. Eating ( chewing ) actually has a relaxing effect on the horse, it keeps his mind relaxed and not so focused on ” flight ” While he was loving the treats, I was able to halter, and pet him. Everything I did was very slow, talking to him the whole time. What I was saying didn’t matter, it was the tone of my voice that mattered and remained the same, quiet and comforting.

I used some Ttouch methods with him. These are awareness methods, not massage. These ” touches ” make the horse more aware of their body. In other words, if a horse is nervous or holding emotions, he completely shuts down his mind and body, it is a defense mechanism that humans use as well. Horses become very unpredictable in this state of mind. The Ttouches help the horse become aware of his body mentally and physically. It can also create a bonding and trusting friendship with horses that are tense. I started with a long dressage whip to act as an extension of my arm. This way, I could stand back in a non threatening way but still touch his hindquarter without getting kicked.  If your horse is having odd behavior, I suggest trying Ttouch to see if he is shut down, blocking out emotional stress or pain. Know that there is always a reason for this behavior, based on fear or pain. It doesn’t have to mean the horse was abused, it is almost like a map to areas of tension. If you don’t address the cause, with proper training exercises or tack fitting, you will waste your time with the Ttouch ( after horse has been diagnosed healthy by your vet )  ligament issues, arthritis, etc. can cause pain and rigidity as well.

Signs of tension with eyes and mouth say a lot about the horses emotions but so does the tail! A clamped, rigid tail is a sign of fear or even pain that resulted in shutting down emotionally. You want to address and actually get the horse “aware ” of it’s body. Does your horse unnecessarily spook at things? Does he seem startled when you pet his hindquarter like he didn’t know you were there? This can come from a slight physical pain that can even come from locked back muscles, shoulders, etc. Remember some horses tolerate pain by becoming stoic, emotionally shutting down. It will eventually show up in behavior, lameness or health. The horses self preserved way to stay comfortable, enduring, tolerant. Horses main priority for themselves is comfort, and safety.

” The horse must always feel comfortable in all equestrian activities, this is how we show him our love and respect.” – Miguel Tavora

You will start to know a horse is relaxing by watching his body signs. His eyes will go

from distant or scared to calm and relaxed. ” soft ”

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He will begin to lower his head in a relaxed manner. 20180504_172821.jpg              He will breathe out and begin to gently chew. These relaxed signs can appear but the tail may still be rigid and clamped.

I could now pet him all over but needed to know if he was still going to kick out if I pet his hindquarter. I use a rope or lasso to desensitize that area, just placing slight tension for awareness. Linda Tellington suggests polo wraps  Ttouches as they are gentler. In some cases, the horse is less fearful of approaching with the rope than wrapping him with a polo wrap.  After some hopping and kicking, he settled. He was just scared and kicking out in defense. His ears were not pinned but his tail was clamped. All  “problem ” horses have to be handled differently and that is why no” how to” book can address the situation. I taught the owner the Ttouch so she could work with him 10 to 20 minutes per day. He soon became relaxed and accepting and I was able to start him under saddle. Chasing a horse in a round pen until he ” relaxes ” does not work in cases of pain and emotion, it seems to but is actually creating a stronger mental shutdown.  This is different than acceptance or accustoming to tack and surroundings. I have seen many horses leap right out of a round pen in fear and confusion. Horses like this need routine and consistency of ” awareness “in order to change their defensive nature to a trusting, willing character. This pony was able to change because of his owners willingness to learn, to have faith in what I was doing and allowing the time needed to gain his trust.

 

If you persevere long enough, if you do the right things long enough, the right things will happen.
Quote by: Ian Millar

If I never thanked you, My sweet Mare

 

I was obsessed with horses. When I was a kid, I would stand by the road and wait for this married couple to ride by on their beautiful horses. I did not have my own horse, but we lived in a mountain neighborhood where most people had a horse in their yard. I knew the couple would be coming by every Saturday morning. “ Can I ride your horses? “ I would beg every time…”No” they would kindly answer. Finally, after a few times asking, they let me know it was VERY rude for me to ask. So I moved on, I decided to befriend a girl that rode my bus, she lived at a beautiful horse property. “ Can I ride your horses? “ She said yes but would set it up with her Mom. I was 9 and I was so excited!! Her Mom would be the one to lay the foundation of important knowledge of Horsemanship. I could not wait to climb on that black Welsh pony. You have to “ learn “ to ride and care for the horse and tack, is what she let me know. “ You don’t just ride my horses, you have to LEARN to ride them.” I took lessons and took care of her horses when she was away. Fast forward to a very rebellious teenager. I studied all I could about horses, I did not focus on education ( regretful now ) I searched for every wild, untrained horse I could find, I was fearless. I still needed knowledge though; people didn’t believe I knew how to train at such a young age. I was so impressed with anyone that said they were a trainer. I believed that the word “ Horse Trainer “ meant they were honestly knowledgeable about the practice of educating horses. I did not understand that any individual could label themselves with this title. I called every horse stable in the area to see if any trainers needed help, I wanted to learn to be a trainer. I was hired as an exercise rider for a trainer. She interviewed me by taking me out on a trail ride and was impressed with how I handled the horse. On the third day on the job, she told me to tack up and longe a horse that I would be riding up the mountain with her. This horse was wild, it was bolting out of control and actually slipped and fell. I wasn’t phased by it’s behavior because I was there to learn from a horse trainer! Off we went, the horse I was on had a bosal, a hard noseband used for pressure on the nose, and no bit.

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When we reached the top of the mountain, I turned around to let the trainer know I felt the horse wasn’t listening, and before I knew it, he was bolting out of control. He took off so quickly that I dropped my left rein ( I only ride and teach with connected reins now ) and was crazily headed straight for a cliff. I could not stop this horse so I did what I was always taught…pull the horse round in a tight circle to slow or stop. When I brought my one rein to my thigh, the horse lost his balance and fell on me. Unfortunately, when it fell on me,I was between a good sized rock and the horse. I was unconscious, i’m not sure for how long but when I awoke, the trainer was praying over me. Turns out I had broken my upper back, crushed my lower and was two inches from being paralyzed by a hairline fracture. One week in the hospital and three months in a back brace. I was devastated, ashamed, and contemplated giving up on being a horse trainer forever. I remember my Sister bought me a get well card with horse magazines and told me to never ever give up my dream. I still have the card. It turned out the horse was in training as a “runaway” The trainer had used my fearless character to test ride the horse never warning me to keep an eye on it running for home. Hopefully she learned a little more about safety and horses from that…

I had to ride again, it was like an addiction that I could not ignore.

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Almost 6 months later, I was able to buy a horse for only $ 500.00. She was a beautiful Thoroughbred cross with Mustang/ Morgan. When I went to try her out, she would not move, they had to lead her to the end of the driveway so she would walk back to the barn. I had to have her. I had a secret that only that mare and I knew- I was scared to death that she might bolt off. What they deemed stubborn, I saw as safe. I kept her at a ranch that had 60 acres of trail riding. Off we went, she would take 5 steps and refuse to go any further. Kicking, swatting with a crop did nothing. She wouldn’t turn for home, spook, back up, just froze up in her tracks. The previous owners said she had started doing that recently, but she used to love galloping everywhere they went. She would climb on and run this mare everywhere. Well that was my answer, this horse was so resentful of being ridden that she figured out a way out of it. She was too kind to try and hurt anyone or become aggressive, she just turned sour.

Bam!!, my eagerness to fix horses was coming back! I would take the mare out, go three steps, turn around and come back. Unknowingly, we were helping each other stay in our comfort zone. We were both taking baby steps toward confidence. Each ride brought us both further and further until the desire to refuse just went away. We rode all over, then when I had to live in the city, we continued to ride all over, picking up milk from the gas station was always the best! This Mare ended up being one of the best teachers not only in my life but instructing so many children as well. 20181202_123859.jpg

 

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I will never know completely if she sensed my fear and that made her unsure of going forward or if she became balky from her previous owners. I believe perhaps a combination. I am so thankful I acquired this mare that I named “ Tasha “ after the Welsh pony I learned to ride on. She brought me back to my dream of becoming a horse trainer and helping horses and owners overcome problems.

I wanted to share my story for a few lessons…

  1. Respect the horse as an animal and know they can be unpredictable
  2. Anyone can be labeled a trainer. Be enamored with their knowledge, their empathy for the horse as well as the rider, not just their title.
  3. Respect and understand riders that have fear.
  4. Do not use fearless young riders to accomplish what you are afraid of. Hire a professional. Communicate why you are afraid of the horse, be honest and allow the trainer the time it takes to help you and the horse overcome obstacles.
  5. There is power in prayer
  6. There are questions surrounding the use of terms such as leader, submissive, and obedient. One term we can all agree on in horse and rider is confidence.
  7. Admitting and facing your fears of your horse is not shameful, it’s smart!

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Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.

– Winston Churchill