Correct vs. incorrect

There is so much controversy on which training methods are correct or which actually have a damaging effect on the horses physical and mental well being.  Some methods effect the horse progressively while some take time to show up in the way of soreness, lameness, behavior and even health. Being a trainer that re educates horses physical and mental state means keeping my own mind educated and sharp.  All training should have one thing in common and that is empathy for the horse. The next common ground all trainers should have is knowledge of how horses function biomechanically.

There are many riders in the world today but few that can create a balanced, straight, cadenced athlete. Less and less riders are investing in educating themselves to know how to correctly prepare a horse for the demands of  tasks they are being directed to. We just buy better horses or believe that if we have been taught to ride and are fearless, we can become a trainer. Horses are incredible teachers but you must think about knowing the theory of why you are doing what you are. It bothers me to watch a rider so ignorantly working a bit so strongly in the horses mouth. Do you have a theory behind why you are pulling your horses head side to side or to it’s chest? There is scientific proof that this has damaging effects on the horse. If a horse is taught correctly to flex at the poll with gentle contact, he will seek that comfort and not resist. This takes time, education, and patience.  On the other hand, a rider that is allowing the horse to move ” naturally ” is also creating physical abnormalities. A horse isn’t born to naturally understand and know how to carry a rider in a correct balanced way of going.  If the horse has not been trained to ” self carriage ” under a rider, it will develop it’s own compensation of balance. You can observe so many horses that do not bend in direction of travel ( not just nose ) , do not have a steady rhythm, fight the bit and all contact.  I am not just referring to arena work. All disciplines of riding, including trail riding, need and require the physical preparations for the horse to be and stay comfortable. The unbalanced, incorrect horse will eventually develop a physical and then behavioral dysfunction.

I have several horses that I maintain on trails and I always need to check in with them on schoolwork. By schoolwork I am not just referring to tarps, swim noodles, etc. I am referring to their physical well-being. I will school them in all three gaits as well as sophisticated gymnastic exercises. These horses have been exposed to bear, moose, elk, coyotes. I must admit I have panicked more than the horse when faced by the bear and moose. I would like to say without insulting any methods that there are no ” games ” to play with the horse to prepare for what you may be faced with. It is a matter of true connection knowing how to steady your horses mind and body with the least amount of effort. I personally think the ” games ” can give a false connection of confidence. I use  Sacking out methods with timid horses but then build their confidence by making them comfortably balanced under a rider. Confident trust means making the horse first physically comfortable, then mentally.

If  you are a rider, you are a trainer. You are either going to make the horse correct or incorrect. If you have a horse that needs help, find a knowledgeable trainer that wants to take the time and patience to create a better athlete. These trainers may not have awards and trophy’s but they have an education of correctness. Trainers taking shortcuts to keep owners happy are detrimental to the horse. I am not referring to trainers that actually spend too much time with groundwork, etc. with no results. Horse owners need to educate themselves so they know what is considered progress and what can actually hinder the horse. Studying biomechanics of the horse is the best training you can provide. Just as horses are not born with a knowledge of how to naturally carry us, we are not born to know how to correctly prepare them for what we ask. If you are reading any blog regarding horses, you obviously were born with a passion for them. Do not allow yourself to become “dumbed down” to the methods that seem to be working to the naked eye.

” Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down and beat you                                                                          with experience”

– Mark Twain

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Mr. Bojangles practicing perfect balance and self carriage, makes him steady anywhere.

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First trail ride in the mountains. Five year old showing impressive calmness and control. Yay Tucker!!

 

 

The horses mind

The horses mind is a place of very protective instincts. They learn at a young age what is good and relaxing and what creates pain. This is why many trainers believe in a gabe pic “response ” type stimulation. This is where the horse responds and the trainer relaxes all aids as a reward. This is an awesome portion of training a horse. I say portion because it only trains the mind to respond. To truly bring out a horses full potential, we must also train them the proper coordination of the muscles. This means balance, lightness, self carriage, etc. all come from proper muscle coordination. When riders accept their horse without proper flexion, bending, cadence, etc. because they are too focused on a ” response ” they miss out on creating an ideal partnership as well as creating a functional athlete.

Response is what we need at the beginning but we eventually have to paint a bigger picture. Horses, like humans, have very strong central pattern generators. This means that they can become very set in their ways of movement, believing they are protecting themselves from pain. Their minds become very set in believing they need to protect themselves from danger. A well educated trainer will work with the horses mind and body to create an ideal trusting partnership. I love re- educating horses. The only way to successfully “fix” lameness or behavioral problems is to focus on changing the horses muscle memory which creates a more relaxed mind. The horses use muscle compensation to protect an area causing pain. Some horses are tolerant of pain created by saddle fitting issues, forced positions, unbalanced riders…other horses are not. The tolerant ones are the ones that will ignore and obey until their physical pain begins to corrupt the sanity of their mind.

I had never quite understood or maybe had never quite studied central pattern generators until I came across one horse in particular. The owners of this Quarter horse had tried everything to fix their bucking horse.  He bucked when saddled ,longed or ridden. They sought help from several vets, trainers, as well as farriers. One vet said his wither was broken, another opinion revealed navicular and ulcers from tight fitting shoes. A final opinion was done at the University where they performed a full body nuclear scan. They determined none of the previous diagnosis were correct. They found three areas of concern in his sacroiliac joint and neck areas. These areas were injected with silicon. As time passed, the horse was losing hair, developing rashes, and showing worse signs of stressful and violent behavior.  I came to see the gelding, it was perfect timing to use my science of motion therapy I had begun studying. He was thin but had tons of free choice hay. He pinned his ears at me when I tried to approached him, he would not let me touch him and then started to bite at his hind legs in anger. It was very odd behavior from the start. His owner loved him and wanted to do whatever possible. No one could explain why the horse behaved so aggressively.  His spine was inverted so badly from muscle compensation ( one side built up higher ) that you felt as though the saddle was slipping left. The owners agreed to let me take him to a facility where I could put him on a strict exercise program of six days per week.  I addressed the muscle memory by using sophisticated movements of Dressage at the walk, then trot, followed by canter work. Focusing on straightness, balance, cadence, correct bending of the spine, and eventually a slight flexion of the poll. The neck cannot be forced in a position, this is how the SI joint became dysfunctional.

The owner would come to ride and no one could believe it was the same horse. He had been in consistent training for two months and the owner was ready to get him home. I was to come once or twice per week to check in, the owner was able to continue the exercises on a consistent schedule. This was when the old behavior quickly returned. Emotionally the horse could not change what he thought was a place that created pain. The owners could not take any more time, money or risk to help this horse overcome and change his mind. They did not realize the training methods they were using on this particular horse was creating physical abnormality.  He ended up at a great home where he does not have the pain association with his surroundings. Horses become very set in their minds. We need to carefully train them both mentally and physically. Understand that whatever we may put on their mind, they may not be willing to let go. ” Only a partnership offering ease and comfort to the horse can encourage their brain to further coordinate their body” – Jean Luc Cornilles words. Please pay careful attention to what is being taught to your horse. Training horses without a sound understanding of how their bodies function is ignorant.

” You don’t make him learn. You set it up to allow him to learn. You have to give him that with dignity.  Once you start giving, you won’t believe how much you get back ” -Ray Hunt

 

 

Colt Starting

 Just like people, all horses are different. Their personality, conformation, and willingness to accept an understanding or fight it all plays into the approach you will use with the colt. By using the term ” colt ” I am referring to a horse that is at least three and has had the proper handling leading up to ” starting them under saddle.”

     This blog will be about a young horse in particular. She is a 4 year old Bashkir Curly Breed. She has been taught to lead, tie, pick up feet, trailer, etc. By previous owner. The first lessons I give with the horse consists of confidence. I am not only speaking of the horses confidence in what I am doing , but also my confidence. I will not tiptoe around the young horse. I will confidently approach and she will learn not to tense up as she learns this is the start of trust. You can see a horse tense their body as a natural defense in a new situation. This is why petting all over ( allowing them to be unaware of where you are petting ) this is a method traced back to Linda Tellington Jones as a Ttouch approach. I can’t believe how many horses I have helped with her method, now to be able to combine a therapy using motion as well is even more rewarding! You can use a rope and saddle pad as well, known as ” sacking out the horse ” I don’t overdo the sacking out process at the beginning, I am trying to create a relaxed atmosphere, not a traumatized, afraid to move scenario. This step makes sure they process the information mentally as well as physically. Do not forget the defense mechanism of the horse ” shutting down ” they are ignoring , not absorbing if mouth is tense, eyes not soft and of course body tense. I have explained in other blogs, horse shuts down mentally becoming unaware of surroundings. It is the same survival technique humans use in domestic violence situations.

     This Mare had good handling experiences and was well taken care of which means she believes the intentions of human handling is positive and unharmful. I would rather work with an untouched colt than one that has been completely ruined. It is fun to see if you can train your own horse but not if you are uneducated with the methods you are trying to impose. Once the horse feels confused or the need to protect himself from these methods, you have created a monster of a mess and it’s hard to know what to do if you have not taken the time to properly educate yourself or the horse. There is no one recipe for training , they are all different and they decide when and how much they can absorb. Sometimes you can ride a young horse and then the next day you have to start over. This foundation is so important as they will always remember it and come back to it. If I am re educating a problem horse, I can always tell within a week if they had a solid start, then I know I can fix them easy. Keeping their minds sound while starting ensures a good relationship through their life. We want horses to know that their job is to take care of us when riding and We want the horse to know We will care and protect them as well.  Just as in any relationship, this builds trust and confidence. Sadly, some horses won’t let go of certain situations that caused them pain, even if it was unintentional. I will post a story next month of one horse in particular…

      What I have learned about these Bashkir Curly’s ( I had never even touched one! ) is they are easy to work with, friendly, and have a strong work ethic. You cannot wear them out, their endurance makes them fabulous athletes! This mare is a gorgeous mover and will be trained using Dressage Principles. Western, English, trail , Jumping – I believe she will excel at anything I teach her. Thanks to my great friend Kirsten for breeding such a fine horse mentally and physically. This mare will be available July- August 2017 to the right home only. Sorry for the distant photos 🙂

 

I will share more info on Decarpentry methods later. I cannot post a colt starting blog without adding this Guy. Absolute love at first sight and again, a sound mind and body. He was also started with the Decarpentry in hand so no kicking and pulling to get him to turn and go. This has created a well balanced light horse who is already practicing the sophisticated excercises of Dressage. Go Tucker! 1/2 Andalusian 1/2 Quarter Horse ( Azteca )14196103_10207125981136055_4061261659132692463_o

Basic Training of the rider

It makes me sad to see how rare it has become to teach a beginner rider or one that needs to overcome bad habits using the longe line. This is a method that can be used in all disciplines of riding. The purpose of teaching with longe line is so the rider can develop correct position in the saddle without having to control the horse or get in the way of correct use of his physique for the demand of the movements. Depending on the rider’s position or tenseness, different exercises are used to establish correct position and develop feel for the horses movement. Keeping our spinal alignment in coordination with our horses, allows them to use proper rotation for turns, lateral bending and longitudinal flexion. For instance, a rider who’s weight is being thrown to the outside, interrupts the correct muscle energy needed for the proper rotation of the spine. When an instructor is able to teach the student correct balance as a foundation, this in turn helps the rider to learn what a balanced horse feels like.

Horses are very sensitive but because of their amazing defense mechanisms, they are able to turn off pain or circumstances that interfere with their comfort. Allowing riders to learn without developing the proper seat, coordination, and balance, it becomes unfair to both horse and rider. It takes knowledge to prepare these horses for correct movement with the weight of a rider, no matter how large or small, it can be harmony or interference.

Horsemanship is a skill as well as an art. Both skill and art become faded when less and less riders are taught the coordination and preparation to correctly maneuver the horses body.

____A horse is a thing of such beauty……none will tire of looking at him as long as he displays himself in his splendor.

-Zenophon, on horsemanship