- Health- Horse needs to be thriving to have an interest in his work. Consistent vet care, a knowledgeable farrier, De worming schedule ( preventing ticks as well as parasites) turn out and quality hay are obviously beneficial. Do not over grain your horse as this leads to stored energy making it impossible for your horse to focus, this is dangerous.
- Tack -I see so many saddles that are placed too far forward. This can hinder the horses shoulders causing discomfort and stumbling. Quite often in an evaluation of horses behavior, it is due to a poor fitting saddle. It becomes easy to believe that a saddle is a saddle and the horse can wear it…Horses have to be comfortable if we expect them to perform well.
- Goals- Setting long term goals are great but placing a high expectation on our horses can cause frustration and disappointment. It’s a good idea to not only set your big picture goal but a daily goal as well. This leads to reassurance for both you and your horse and keeps things in an achievable perspective.
- Focus- Your horse needs to have obedience. Some people do not accept that word with partnership but working with a 1200 lb animal, you need to know there is an understanding of respect and safety between horse and rider.
- Purpose- What is the honest purpose for what you are trying to achieve. Make sure you are seeking help from a knowledgeable instructor that can explain the reason for what you are asking from your horse. ( example: placement of the horses head )
- Consistency- This means stay consistent in your communication with your horse. Consistency in aids leads to a great partnership. Consistent repetitive exercises actually raise tolerance level producing weaker response from boredom.
- Subtleness- subtle aids ( not jabbing with spurs, yanking reins, etc. ) The most effective riders are the ones that can control horse with slight body nuances.
- Influence- The horse lives in the moment, he does not know what your future goals are. His main desire is survival and will protect himself from pain or seek absolute comfort. We want to tap into that comfort, not create heightened defense mechanisms.
- Balance-Horses are not born understanding how to carry a rider. Imagine giving someone a shoulder ride or piggy back ride that was flopping all over the place. You would try to accommodate the balance the best you could. Horses attempt to carry unbalanced riders but this usually leads to muscle imbalance, and resentment. Riders should have an understanding of how to properly balance the horse as well. A balanced light horse is a horse that is easy to sit upon and control in perfect harmony.
- Safety- Do not take your horse or yourself out of comfort zone if you are insecure. This type of desensitizing training only re assures the horses insecurities if he has not been properly prepared mentally and physically. Get to genuinely know your horse and how he reacts to situations at his comfort. I have endured quite a bit of alarming situations with horses. I develop trust and confidence with them in a less distracting area before expecting a horse to protect me in an unexpected situation. Some before and after pics with these training methods
I met this cute horse around six years ago. He was very well taken care of but had some behavior problems. Would not stand tied for grooming, tacking up, bucked at canter, just all around unhappy horse and owner. When you have spent your entire life learning about and being around horses, you still don’t know everything but you do know how to identify behavior. This horse was not comfortable with anything anyone wanted to do with him. I was asked to evaluate him. I start with observing whole horse, then feet, then movement, etc. ( any evaluation for behavior needs to first have the vet check all health aspects ) I personally felt his shoes were too small for his large hooves, we changed that. Next comes saddle fitting. The bars of her western saddle were too tight and definitely caused pinching. Quarter horses tend to be built with a low wither and wide shoulders. There are special saddles designed for Quarter horses, “Quarter horse bar ” Nice wide fit.
Thankfully, she had a saddle with a wider bar. Next comes bit fitting and then lunging to watch the horses gaits. Then if owner is not fearful, I ask to see them ride. She was a beginner wearing extra large western spurs, she used a curb bit which she held a tight contact like a snaffle. The horse reared and bucked, he looked like a rocking horse. He seemed super confused, most horses are kind and could really harm you if they wanted to. I rode him and oh my goodness, turns out whoever had trained and rode this horse did an amazing job. I was beyond impressed at how I only needed my weight to turn and barely any rein to stop, he was so sensitive, so impressive. She had acquired a wonderful horse but just needed some lessons to correctly communicate with him. Money was a problem for her but we worked out a plan as money was a problem for me as well. She was doing well, I am very particular on creating balance in rider and horse. She was wooed by a trainer that offered free lessons and low priced training. I was so heart broke, especially when I had to watch him being rushed on the lunge line with his head forced into tight side reins. This horse learned to submit, he was not going to fight. When horses are worked with the same daily routine, head forced in, rushed forward, they begin to develop protective muscles to compensate the abnormality of movement. Correct training develops muscles that enhance elasticity, stamina, and strength. When pushing an athlete, they are no longer developing muscle but are actually turning the muscle off, this is called muscle fatigue. At first, the workout seems great but then muscle fiber becomes inefficient. When the horse is flexed correctly and trained at their natural cadence, muscles can work more efficiently.Interval training is important for both mind and body. The horse needs a recovery from the same routine, muscle fiber begins to break down and needs to recover and rebuild.
I came into contact with this horse again as the owner was selling him. He had become slightly lame on his left hind and still showed signs of unhappy behavior. I took him and began his motion therapy. The incorrect muscling he had developed in his daily routines of improper methods had created an inverted rotation of the vertebrae. You could feel him throw your weight left and could not bend right. Simple gymnastic exercises were necessary to create proper function. Re educating a horse requires knowledge. The muscle memory likes to stay dysfunctional but is continually developed with proper workouts. He is a wonderful trail horse and enjoys his work.
” Wellness is not soundness ” – Jean Luc Cornille
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
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 her 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 by allowing them to be unaware of where you are petting, works well for desensitizing. 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 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 to tolerate 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 , horses 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 starting 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.
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 exercises of Dressage. Go Tucker! 1/2 Andalusian 1/2 Quarter Horse ( Azteca )
Knowledge is an important part of learning to ride. We can learn about our horses mind’s and how to empower them. We can learn about our horses ” natural ” habitat and believe we are creating a natural environment in our training methods. The best rider’s and trainers are the one’s mastering the horses physique, creating a functional athlete. Studying how they need to be prepared both mentally and physically for the demands of a rider. This goes for any type of riding as it takes a properly functioning horse to create balance. This type of knowledge requires a sincere dedication of learning and understanding how the horse moves bio mechanically and how we can offer the best comfort and ease mentally as well as physically. To rehabilitate a horses mind and muscles that has been allowed to move dysfunctionally takes both skill and patience. We as riders need to understand that it is a slow, concentrated process to get to the finished picture. If we are trying to start with the finished picture of what we think the horse should be, we are missing out on being more than just a passenger on our horses back. Having a knowledge of how we can negatively affect or positively influence the horses movement and balance places us in a unique relationship of unity and intuition. I will dedicate this blog to rider’s in particular refusing to deepen their knowledge and allowing their horses to be forever enslaved to fitting into a system.