Ross' Soap Box
I went to the feed store last week. Ever since we moved to this area the blokes in the feed store look at us strangely. At first I didn’t understand why, but Michele explained to me it is because they never have in stock what we want and they have to order it in.
They have a big book of available feeds and when I go into the store they have to search their big book for the horse food I want and find out where they can get it. They are very obliging about it, but I think it must frustrate them a lot. Their usual line of horse feed is the bare bone stock pony pellets and a few Mitavite products.
Last week the fellow in the stored asked me why I wanted a particular feed I requested. I explained about the horse I had in mind and the reasons why I wanted this food for him. The fellow commented that I’m the first person that has ever come into the store that actually understand why they were buying the feed they bought. He said just about everybody buys a feed because their friend recommended it or it was the cheapest or they saw an ad for it in a magazine. He reckoned nobody really knew the reasons for feeding their horse one type of feed over another.
When I thought about it, I realized he was right. I know lots of people who buy horse feed based on how their friend's horse looks or performed or it’s the horse feed that some celebrity rider is promoting. I even know somebody who feeds their horse a certain pellet that their horse doesn’t even like to eat, because they are sponsored by the manufacturer.
I think part of the problem is that there is hardly any really good nutritional science available when it comes to horses. Most of the studies and feed trials are pretty poor and inconclusive. It’s very difficult to obtain good and repeatable data on horse nutrition because the logistics of designing a good research study are so complex. Most studies are performed on a handful of horses (from 3 to 15) because of the cost and the large facilities required. Add to that, most groups used in clinical studies are not very homogenous. Instead of having 10 horses that are all very similar in breed, size, age, health, gender, reproductive status etc. most studies have a hodge-podge of animals that have been bought from the local horse auction. They basically take any horse they can afford to buy. So in one research group you could have a Shetland and an Arab; a pregnant mare and a gelding; a 2 year old and a 20 year old. And there have been very few longitudinal studies where the same horses have been studied over a long period of time.
There has been a lot of published research on horse nutrition and dietary requirements. And despite the relatively poor experimental protocols there are some consistencies between studies. It is the agreement between studies that allow us to define trends with which to base some understanding of what to feed our horses.
The trouble is that the average horse owner does not have access to the data or doesn’t understand it and leaves it to either the feed companies or their friends or their local celebrity rider to tell them what to feed their horse. It’s pretty much hit and miss for most of us. We mostly rely on how our horse looks (weight and condition, shine on coat etc), the cost and whether or not he likes to eat it. We leave it up to the feed companies to make sure their food provides our horse with all the essential ingredients to make him healthy and we use our horse's appearance as the guide to tell us whether they are right or wrong. We don’t really have much choice because there is not enough good information that is easily accessible for us to know what he needs.
Even if a horse is grazing 24hrs a day, it's difficult to know if the pasture is meeting all his nutritional requirements. Australia has generally such poor soil that most pasture is mineral deficient in something that a horse should have in his diet. Around here there is a general consensus that if the pasture is good enough for the cattle and sheep, then it's good enough for the horses. But of course this is not necessarily true. Nevertheless, it does account for why the local feed store only stocks very basic hard feed for horses.
Very interesting blog entry on relationships between owner and horses. So very true.
Today decided to test mine in a big way. Let the mare and pony out of yards to gallop away which upset horse as usual. But instead of immediately leaving with him and dealing with his herd thoughts, interrupted them with a handful of feed, settled him down in yard and then went on another training session. We are having a very large shed constructed on our farm. Took horse to shed and he faced all at once diesel motors powering scissor lifts, shifting tin sheets, angle grinding, banging, workman up ladders, loud radio music and drilling. The noise was very loud and I thought this will be interesting with a very sensitive reactive horse. Much as I didn’t want to over face him, I hadn’t anticipated that all the scary noisy stuff would happen all at once! Well what to do then, work through it and convince horse he will live!
While all the noise was going, I kept his feet still for periods and did some head lowering head exercises even at the height of noisy scary things happening. Then I led him on a loose lead short distances just to keep him from feeling trapped and went to different areas of building site or did some back ups or hind quarter yields. A couple of times he wanted to spook understandably but he still listened and I just gently repositioned him. He was most definitely terrified inside but overrode his instinct to flee. I think he was quite amazing not to lose it. When I led him, or turned him around in different directions, I would not allow rushing or barging. He was really placing a lot of trust in me and that is a very sacred thing. I tried not to mamby pamby him too much, but gave him a bit of a scratch on his forehead for comfort sometimes. If he looks away to the distance and I can see him losing a connection with me, before his imagination takes over, I turn his head toward me and lower it gently with my hands and get his eye contact. It seems to help keep him with me when things are really troubling him. At times, with all the noise to him it must of seemed like all hell breaking loose, but through that he managed to find comfort with me and listen. I was very proud of him.
After a few minutes, when I thought he had put in a good tolerating effort, I walked away calmly and took him to another completely different environment for a trail walk. On this walk his head just dropped down and he was quite relaxed though still looking around.
Yesterday, I got him to walk on the float, inside without any difficulty three times with quiet calm departs. I only wanted him to walk up ramp and get his head inside but he came right in. I placed no pressure on the lead to either get him to come inside or back out. This was a horse that some months ago with a professional trainer had got so upset about getting on a float that he shut down and threw himself on ground repeatedly. I was very ignorant in those days and now I would never ever allow someone to do that to my horse again. Another trainer got him on after ground work but still with a lot of tension in horse. I had centre divider pushed aside completely and will work on having him walk in fully, then remaining and out. Next phase will be centre divider in place, in and back out till I can shut the bum bar. One day I hope to fix the problem I initially created and then compounded with other trainers and have him okay in float again.
I am really enjoying your book. You put a lot of effort into helping us all out there, so I hope you find these progress updates interesting and how your teachings are being applied in the real world!
Kind regards Maryanne
Well done, Maryanne. It sounds like you did everything right to help your horse through the shed work. Taking him somewhere quiet afterward was a good idea too. I think you are definitely doing really well, But the challenge is more likely to come when you try to achieve the same results when riding him. It's often a lot easier for a horse to be with us when we are standing next to him. But that connection is far more easily broken for most horses when we get on their back. I'm not suggesting to get to riding him through trouble spots now. Take the time to get him feeling better through the ground work because it will be a great benefit when you start riding him.
I'm glad you are enjoying the book. I'm still tossing up whether or not to publish a second book because I have another 50 or 60 Walt and Amos stories on my hard disk.
A friend sometimes tells me to quit asking her opinion if I don't really want to hear it. I don't quit asking, and fairly often I don't like what she has to say.
That said, would you mind to comment on rider talent and athleticism? One of the things I struggle with is my hands. I've been working at this for many years now. I still don't have good hands. They are too soft, or grabby. My head knows this, so why do my hands not comply?
I wouldn't be surprised or heartbroken if you told me I probably am not going to be a NFL linebacker.
I know riders need to be fairly athletic and fit, although I have some fairly stout friends who do just fine.
I realize this is a difficult question. Does talent in a given area of horsemanship reach a plateau?
I'm going on the assumption I can get better at this. But there are days that linebacker position with the Pittsbrugh Steelers seems more achieveable. At the end of the day this is a sport in many espects. Are some folks just not particularly talented at it?
Christina. a.k.a. "ham-fisted neanderthal"
In my opinion, there are people who are naturally more adept at some things than others. They find developing the skills to be good at something easier than other people. I think of my wife Michele who has been riding and training or a lot less time than me and who came to it much later in life (in her late 20's), yet she shows so much more talent than people who have been riding and training for 30 years. She sits better than I do on a horse. I sometimes wonder how amazing Michele would be if a really good trainer had started working with Michele when she was a kid. So in answer to your question, I do think we all have limitations to our potential.
HOWEVER, I think that for most of us the limitations are not genetic. I believe we fall short of how good we could be because of limitations of commitment, time, good coaching, opportunity, finances etc. It's my view that most of us could be better than we are except that factors other than natural ability get in the way.
For example, in regard to your hands either being too soft or too grabby. I wonder (and I'm only guessing) if this is because of tension you carry when you ride. If this were true (and it may not be true, so please don't take my view as worth anything) then the limitations of how good or bad your hands are when riding is an emotional limitation and not an athletic one. It's not that you could not have good riding hands, its just that you have may tension issues. But this is an assumption that I'm only pulling out of the air and I have no reason to suppose that tension is the problem.
If you ever see Lee Smith ride you'll see that being a good rider is not dependent on being the ideal physical build. She is a very large woman who sits and rides a horse better than most. She has worked hard to ensure that her size does not limit her ability. I think Lee is an example that some of us should look to. At nearly every clinic I hear at least one person say the problem is they are too large or they are too old or they are too short or they too stiff etc. We have had clients with disabilities like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis who do a good job with their horses and their riding.
While I do believe we all have natural limitations to how good we can ever be, most of never reach those limitations because we allow other stuff to get in the way.
It was a beautiful 18C today, which is not bad for winter. If this is the kind of winter we had been getting when we lived in Victoria we may never have left.
I have been running around with the tractor in the horse trailer today. Our tractor is sick and I haven’t had much luck finding anybody who can diagnose the problem. Today, I took it all the way to Moree and I think I found the guy who can fix it. He seems to have picked up what others didn’t, so I’m hoping he’ll have it back to work in a few days.
The Relationship With Our Horses
I want to continue on for a little more about the video clip I posted a couple of days ago. As I pointed out, the owner of the horse seemed quite stoked that her horse was less anxious when she re-appeared. You could interpret that it was an indication that her horse was happy to see her.
Over the years very many people have told me that they want their horse to like them. There are whole schools of training whose primary mission statement talks about having a horse comfortable in the human company.
I’m not criticising these ideals. We all want to get along better with our horses. We all want our horses to want to be around us. But what I see so often in people who espouse these ideals are those who do whatever it takes to keep a horse’s life comfortable in the presence of people. Most times this means not asking anything of a horse that might cause it some anxiety. In order to keep the peace and have a horse feel that being around is a good idea, people often ask very little from a horse.
There is no great trick to having a happy horse if you never put it under pressure. I have seen people who don’t put pressure on a horse and are so happy that their horse is cuddly and smoochy. But that all changes when the day comes that an owner needs to put pressure on a horse. Suddenly the horses become worried, frightened and sometimes dangerous.
For me, having a good relationship with a horse is not about a horse being happy to see me or hang out with me – although, that’s part of it. But that alone is useless. A good relationship with a horse stems from being able to direct a change of thought without causing worry to a horse.
If I can’t ask for a change of thought without causing anxiety and bad feelings, then there is much more work to do. It doesn’t matter how much your horse likes being around you when the birds are singing and the sun is shining, if those feelings dissipate when you start trying to direct his thoughts.
I’ve had people bring a horse to a clinic and ask for help. They story often goes ”…he is really kind and loves to be around people, but he is just a little pushy sometimes.”
Yes, he loves to be around people because he owns the owner. Often these horses are very dismissive of people, but they are quiet and not bothered by people. Many times people cuddle their horse and sort of ask him to lead forward and sort of ask him to go into a float and sort of ask him to pick up his feet. And the horse sort of does it albeit in his own time and when he gets around to it. But the owners are happy and believe the quietness of the horse is a testament to their brilliant training.
This is not a horse that has a good relationship with its owners. This is a horse that doesn’t care and has little interest in the world of humans. Sometimes horses like this need a big wake up call. They need a reason to believe the human is important and they need to participate in what is going on between them and their owner. Often there can be a lot of activity and dust flying in the round yard. A horse may need such a big wake up call to bring down the barrier it has set up between itself and the owners that there is a lot of leaping and sweating going on before it makes a change. This is inevitably quite distressing to the owner that has pampered her pony and worked hard to avoid upsetting it.
But a good relationship with our horses is not measured by how much they hang around us when we sit under a tree in their paddock. It is measured by how they feel when they are asked to commit to doing something. It’s when you ask a horse to do something they would not normally choose to do themselves, that you can tell how good is your relationship with your horse.
A friend once said to me “ A friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move the body.”
I’ve just watched the latest video that you posted, I have to say that if that was Sally in that yard carrying on like that I would be really concerned about her and disappointed with myself for leaving her in that state. If I’ve learnt anything from you and Michele, it’s to look at how the horse is feeling and I wouldn’t be happy with that horses state of not ‘okayness’. I agree with you that it’s a worry that the trainer or owner in the clip is quite proud of where the horse is in their relationship, seemingly oblivious of how the horse is on the inside.
Hi Ross I watched that Parelli clip. I can't believe how much someone's ego gets in the way of a horse just being allowed to just be a horse. It's got look at me, look at me, arent I so clever with my horse, it just wants me in it's life!
And on a related subject, this was sent to me by Katie.
How's everything going up there?
I found this interesting video on face book that some of my friend were saying ''omg look at this horse! '' ''i want it'' ''it's so perfect'' - i found it quite funny and thought of you because, i examined the video and thought- yes it can jump big for a little pony, but it doesn't seem very happy, especially in the video clips at the start. I thought you might be interest to watch and was interested in your response! :)
hope all is going well up there!
The winter solstice is behind us now. I’m looking forward to the longer days.
A Horse's Sense of Security
I would like you to watch this video. I find that it bothers me quite a lot.
It’s clear from the blurb in the first 5 sec of the clip that the owner has uploaded the clip to YouTube so that everyone could see how relieved her horse appears to be when she returns after leaving him alone. The inference is that the horse finds more safety and security with the owner than with nearby horses or on it’s own. One is left to think that there is something special and wonderful about the relationship between the horse and the owner. The fact that the clip is on the official Parelli YouTube channel suggest that the Parelli people also think it is a good example of bonding between the horse and human.
So what is it that bothers me (apart from the fact that by the behaviour of the horse I suspect the horse has been trained with hand treats)?
It bothers me that the bow we are expected to draw is that the owners has done such a great job training her horse that he becomes anxious and upset when she leaves and only becomes happy again when she re-appears. It bothers me that the owner (and perhaps the Parelli organization) think this is a good thing.
In my opinion, it would be a good thing if the horse were happy to see his owner, but an even better thing if he was okay when she left. It’s great that a horse feels okay to see you. But he should not turn into a blithering mess when you depart. I’d like my horses to have a sense of security from the confidence they find in themselves and not be depended on me or other horses to provide that sense.
It takes time and work to do that and I congratulate the owner for helping her horse feel okay around her. But her job is only half done. If what we see in the video clip is as good as it gets, then she has probably done her horse no favours. In order to do the best she can by her horse, the owner needs to continue her work to teach her horse to have self-confidence rather than rely on a security blanket like a person or another horse or it’s home paddock or a friendly goat.
It’s a task that can take weeks or the rest of the horse’s life – it all depends. But like everything else we do with horses, it’s a continuing journey with no end. The impression left by the video is that the owner is very proud of what she has achieved and does not recognize the job is not yet finished.
Finding it hard to ride down here at the moment due to the wet paddocks, it’s going to be a long season at this rate. I’ve been lucky enough to have met a seasoned trail riding friend who has been willing to take sally and I out on the trail, an excellent experience for us. It was interesting to note that the difference in sally’s behaviour when she was out with the experienced trail riding horse as compared to Knocka and Bonnie, a friends horse (also new at going out on the trail). Sally was quite content to follow along with the experienced horse but when it was the others she showed a real reluctance to go forward, if nothing else it’s made my legs stronger, but a lack of confidence in Sally. I hope that I am helping her to feel better each time we go out, but I wonder if there is more I should be doing for her. She did make some amazing headway in crossing the flooded track, it took me about 5 minutes to talk her into it but eventually she walked into the big black puddle and it didn’t suck her into oblivion and she survived. By the 4th or 5th big black puddle I didn’t even need to use legs on her to get her to go through them, just pointed her in that direction and she willing went. The next ride a few weeks later we had to do it all again but it wasn’t nearly as big a deal.
Kangaroos have become a problem, they have really freaked her out and she didn’t want to move in their direction at all, even after they had left. The reluctance to move got to the point that I decided to get off and lead her, she walked quite freely alongside me, obviously still looking at the spot where she had seen these dangerous creatures. We were able to remount a little way down the track and she got much better when we were able to head inland away from the sighting.
I want to know how I can get Sally to have the confidence in me whilst riding her as she does when leading her, I was able to offer her much better deal when on the ground but in the saddle she forgot I was even there, it didn’t seem to matter what I did, or where I asked her to step, she wasn’t interested, I couldn’t get through to her.
I’m assuming that as time goes by and we do this type of riding more and more that she will get used to things just through repeated exposure but I would like to make it as less traumatic for her as possible, and as safe for us as I can. Is there more or something different that I should be doing?
I think part of your issue stems from a lack of experience on Sally's part, particularly regarding scary things like kangaroos. It's not uncommon that when you first start taking a horse to new places with new experiences that the scary things are so scary that they overwhelm a horse. This can be so overwhelming that there is no room in a horse's mind to even consider be attentive to the rider - the scary things are just too scary. In such cases you need to be aware of these things and try to avoid overwhelming your horse. For example, keep at a distance where your horse does not feel paralyzed by her fear that she can't listen to you. Or you might dismount and help her feel better from the ground. I know it's difficult to practice with kangaroos, but there is no problem with getting off your horse and helping her.
With practice Sally should feel less traumatized by the scary things and feel confident enough that she could listen to you. Basically, you push towards the limits of her comfort zone, but not to the edge or over. If you overwhelm her she just won't be able to listen to you no matter how hard you work at it.
The same is true with her lack of forward response to your legs. She lacks confidence and becomes mentally stuck at home. You legs have little meaning because in her mind she is thinking of ways to go home where there is comfort and safety. Ride her out more and take her to different places. This problem is rarely helped by riding with other horses because she can become very dependent on the other horse, which is something you don't want. You want Sally to become confident in you and herself, not other horses.
I'd be surprised if she doesn't improve after you've been out a lot more.
Dear Mr. Ross,
I am an avid blog reader of yours from Boca Raton, Fl. USA. I am attending my first Harry Whitney clinic next week thanks to your encouragement and am very much looking forward to it.
That being said I am interested in the message that you wrote on 6/19. You state that if the horse is heavy on the bridle you fix it and go on. If non-responsive to you legs you fix it and go on, etc. My question is HOW do you fix these things???
Being from a working western background (reining, reined cow horse, cutting, etc.) I have seen some pretty "interesting" ways to fix these problems. I just would like to know how you "Fix" things.
For example I have a mare that is a cast off western pleasure horse that I am trying to point toward reining. She lopes some beautiful large fast circles but when I ask for a slow down to a small slow circle she is having difficulty catching on. I generally will "pull" them into the ground (asking for a stop with the reins and not whoa) and back them up. I feel that just makes her brace up. So when you talk about "fixing" things would you mind being a little more specific???
It's nice to meet a regular reader. I hope you enjoy Harry's clinic.
I deliberately avoided being specific regarding how to fix those things. The reason being is that I didn't want the piece I wrote to be a manual for people to follow religiously. Most people who have been around me a bit will know that I have often said that the answer to every training problem is "it depends." The same is true for how to fix it when a horse is lazy off the leg or heavy on the reins. Any advice I might offer regarding these issues maybe totally useless or worse if you were to try it on your horse. A horse's needs changes from second to second, so anything you might do to address a non-response to the rider's legs or leaning on the reins may need to change just as quickly. I don't know you or your horse and I can only make guesses about how I might address these problems with you both.
For example, the horse I described in the Blog is quite an easy going bloke and has a high tolerance for discomfort. So when he is slow off my leg, I might bump him pretty firmly with them after initially asking very politely. But my mare, Six is very sensitive. If she is late off my leg, it is going to be because her attention has been captured by something important. For her I'm not going to firm up with my leg because that might make her over-reactive to them and put a flee in her rather than a forward. In Six's case I might touch one rein to draw her thought back to me or I might cluck or I might ask for a canter from a deep seat - anything that gets her to check in again. In the case of the horse on my Story page (if you've been following those stories), he was afraid of the feel of the rider's legs. It scared him so much that he would defend himself against it. I needed to use something completely different to get him forward and at the same time teach him to respond to the leg and not go on the attack against it.
I know I haven't answered your question in the way you probably hoped I would. But I hope you see the problem of being too specific with answers without seeing you or your horse firsthand. The internet is full of trainer's blogs and Q&A forums where people will tell you exactly what they think you should do. No doubt some of the advice is good and some is terrible, but sometimes it's impossible for people looking for answers to sift through it all to know which is which. It's my hope that more often than not I offer ideas to think about rather than "how to" methods. I believe that people can only become good with horses through understanding and not through being told by a third party. Once you understand the "why" of a problem, you can invent your own "how". You won't need me or any other idiot to tell you how to fix a problem.
Thanks for you question and I hope I have not put you off continuing to be an avid reader.
I’m sorry it’s been a few days since my last entry. I lost my reading glasses a few days ago and was only able to get a replacement pair yesterday. I can’t read or write anything on the computer without my readers. Anyway, I did find my old pair of glasses in the driveway; half buried in the sand with a bent frame and cracked lenses. I guess they fell out of my pocket and then were run over. I hate being so dependent on glasses. I’ve only had them a couple of years and I’m still not use to picking them up whenever I go somewhere.
Training A Horse To Be Off The Forehand – Part II
There are many approaches a person can take for teaching a horse to carry himself correctly and lighten his forehand. Choosing an approach will depend on your horse and your own experience. If you are unsure about how to go about this you should find a good instructor. There is so much feel required on the part of the rider that there is no substitute for experience and first class instruction.
I think for someone who is learning the process themselves, feeling when a horse becomes lighter on his forehand can be quite elusive. Some horses can really exaggerate the feeling, but most don’t when they are starting out and the changes that you might at first be rewarding can be difficult to feel. One thing that can really help is to ride a horse that I already well educated in this. Once you have experienced the feel of a horse that can carry itself properly, you can use it as a benchmark for what you are looking to feel in other horses.
As I have already said there is more than one way to train a horse to come off his forehand. I can’t possible cover all the things you might consider with even one approach, let alone several. So let me outline briefly how I have worked through this is my own horse Riley.
Riley is an ex-racehorse. He only had 4 race starts, but it was enough to ensure he was very heavy in front. He leaned on my hand and bore down towards the ground at the walk and trot. His trot was extremely unbalanced and when his feet hit the ground there was a jolting through his whole body. It was a difficult trot to ride. I’ve ridden pacers that were easier to ride than Riley’s trot.
The elements that go into teaching a horse to come off his forehand and carry himself more from behind at several fold. In Riley’s case, balance and rhythm were the first important issues. Before I could even being to ask him to lift his forehand, he had to learn to carry his walk and trot with an even rhythm both within the gait and also in the transitions. I didn’t mind if he was long in his frame and down in the front end, as long as he learned to keep his rhythm and was smooth in his transitions.
In order to achieve this I spent considerable time asking Riley to keep changing his rhythm and transitions. If you ask a horse to maintain anything for too long, he will make a mistake – he will lose rhythm and balance if you just ride around and around trying to keep the balance you have. But by asking for changes to his rhythm (speed it up or slow it down) and making transitions between the gaits you are teaching a horse to stay focused on your aids. He will learn to maintain the rhythm and be smoother through the transitions because his mind is engaged on your aids.
But let me be clear here. In every change I ask for from Riley I wanted him to be on the aids. That means I needed him to give appropriate effort into his response to my legs and my reins. If he was slow to respond to my legs, I fixed it so he wasn’t the next time. If he leaned on my hand in a down ward transition, I fixed it so he wouldn’t do it the next time. I set the bar of what was an appropriate effort I expected from Riley when I spoke to him. The bar was set high enough to push him outside his comfort zone, but not so high that he would ever feel he couldn’t win and might as well stop searching. I was vigilant that Riley always worked toward the level the bar was set. I never let one transition or change of rhythm pass by without interruption if it was not good enough. But when it was a response that I felt was good enough, I made sure he knew he had done well.
Soon after the work began I also introduced the notion of being straight. I wanted Riley to maintain a rhythm and not be crooked. This meant lots of riding lines. In my mind every step that Riley took was on a line ahead of us. I could visualize the line he was going to travel whether it was on the track or a circle or a half circle or a diagonal or between some trees or through a gate etc. Every step was to be on the line in my mind. When it wasn’t, I interrupted Riley and put him back on the line.
This is where shoulder-in really helped. Asking Riley to ride a line in a lateral movement like shoulder-in really helped him become more straight and softer in his topline. It took awhile, but Riley learned to bend like a pretzel when asked and this changed everything with regard to his straightness. But again, I made sure that with every response he gave me he made an effort at being soft and responsive. The exercises themselves were meaningless without them being executed with softness and responsiveness.
Now we had established the basics of balance, rhythm and response to the reins and leg – the essential building blocks for what was to come. If you try to teach a horse proper carriage without these fundamentals in place, you will never achieve anything more than an impersonation of correct carriage. This may be okay for a while, but as the horse becomes more advanced with higher levels of collection and hindquarter engagement required, everything will come tumbling down in a big mess. A horse will either physically break down or emotionally break down. One thing for sure is that he will never achieve his full potential.
Having got all the basics well established in Riley, I began to ask more from the reins and seat. At a halt I would ask him to get ready to walk off, but use the reins to block him walking forward. He had done enough with the reins to know how to back up and lift his back, so when I used the reins to say “don’t walk forward, just soften”, he would lift his back at the halt. For this to happen, he needed to raise the base of the neck and shift some weight from his forehand to his hindquarters. At first it was almost unnoticeable. But it was there and I released for that. In the beginning I would only ask him to hold that posture for a split second before releasing. I would do a few of these and then let him walk on a loose rein. In time I would ask Riley to hold the posture for 2 sec, 4 sec, 10 sec.
When this got pretty good, I would ask him from a halt to soften and shift his weight and then take a step or two forward. If he crashed immediately back onto his forehand, I would stop him and start again. I wouldn’t let him walk out of the halt to fall instantly on his forehand. I would interrupt it and re-establish the softness again. I would keep working at this level until he could take few steps at a walk and maintain the proper posture. At each good response, I would allow him to walk freely on a loose rein before trying again.
The next step was to ask him to soften and lift his forehand while he was walking. This was done by walking him on a long rein and then shortening the rein and asking him to soften and lift is forehand. At first I had to stop him several times and get him to elevate in front and then walk because he couldn’t walk and then raise his withers. But in time, he figured out that he could maintain the walk and get off his forehand at the same time.
As Riley got stronger and more reliable, I asked him to hold it longer and also to carry it in a circle or a volte and in a shoulder-in etc. During this time he was developing strength in his body. Slowly he was building the muscle strength to offer more and carry it longer. It’s important that you don’t rush the process because a horse can get very muscle sore from this type of work if they are not strong enough.
I hope you can see how I then carried this work into the trot. The pattern was the same as for working at the walk. But anytime, Riley struggled we would go back to the walk and something he already knew and had confidence in doing.
I believe it is important that you work at the walk before the trot because any imperfections in his balance will show up stronger in the trot than the walk – and even stronger in the canter. When you start the trot work you might find your horse will go back to extending his neck and falling on his forehand again to help him maintain his balance. This shows a weakness in the basics and you need to go back to fixing it before moving forward.
Of course, training correct carriage in the canter comes after establishing it at the trot. But the process is pretty much the same. If it falls apart go back to re-establishing it at the trot or walk again. But I can’t emphasize enough that at every stage softness is the key to progress. Don’t even think of going further if you have not got softness in your horse because the softness is the wind vane of your horse’s mind. It tells you whether or not he is emotionally okay.
I know I have given only a very brief and rough outline to how a person might teach a horse to get off his forehand. There is no end to it. And please don’t use my description of how I have been working with Riley as a manual for how you should train your horse. It’s just a guide and to start you off with some things to think about. If you have any questions or experience with other approaches that might help people, I’d be happy to hear from you.
Hi Ross Just saw your recent blog, regarding the possibility of Harry Whitney coming to Aus again next year. I would love to attend one of his Victorian clinics if this comes about, so count me in! You gave me one groundwork lesson a few months ago, before moving to NSW - don't know if you'll remember us, but my horse is an overly anxious chestnut thoroughbred called Cooper, and you very correctly diagnosed him as having a real problem with people and me as being far too worried about upsetting him. I have since been muddling along as best I can, cursing you and Michele for moving away just when I discovered you, but reading your blogs regularly for inspiration. It would be great to have a Harry Whitney clinic to look forward to. Hope you are unaffected by the flooding up there and enjoying your new environs. You're not missing anything down here, believe me, it's wet and dreary. Best wishes Allaana
I do remember visiting your property and working with you and Cooper. I think you even sent me a progress report a few months ago. I hope you are continuing to do well with Cooper.
Harry will be coming to Vic in the New Year and I'll add your name to people who are interested in attending. In addition, if it holds any interest for you, I will be coming to Vic in Oct for a few clinics. I hope to put dates and venues on the Schedule page of this site soon, so keep a look out for those.
We avoided the flooding, but we did get a good drop of rain. Our spring fed creek turned into a torrent overnight which was spectacular to watch. But we are lucky in that it is almost impossible for us to be exposed to floods. The nice thing about here as opposed to where we were in west Gippsland, is that a day after we get a good soaking rain you can go outside and not have to fight the mud. I haven't worn gumboots since we arrived here.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the blog and you find it helpful in your work with Cooper.
I was just reading your blog and I thought I had better let you know that I would be definitely interested in attending if Harry were to come down for a clinic! I would also be interested in attending yours and Michele's clinic if you come down later in the year.
Hope the nasty weather clears up for you guys. :-)
Thanks Aimee. I will be announcing dates for clinics that I will be doing soon. Unfortunately, in all probability Michele won't be coming to Vic for clinics because of her work commitments and we don't have a housesitter for the animals. So you'll just have to put up with me.
I'm slowly getting organized for Harry's clinics and looks like being in early Feb. But again I'll announce details when they get finalized.
I hope you all is well with you.
Hi Ross – re: the falling off video
Wish I had that blue, soft mattress - the last time I rode Toby and fell off….. I did it all wrong – as it was an embankment I went hip first, shoulder 2nd, head last – I now know to go shoulder 1st, hip last – I’ll try that next time, it’s looks much easier ……but I still would like to land on that mattress rather than the hard, wet dirt!!! Maybe I could cut one down to size and tie it on to my back each time I ride!
I have to be honest in saying that I wonder about a person's riding abilities if they have had so much practice at falling off they become good at it.
I took your advice to first try tackling the back up problem by getting more assertive with the reins. And, I think I had a degree of success. The first few backups were dreadful, and I felt as if I was trying to haul a tractor backwards. After a few attempts where I tried desperately to feel the right moment to ease off the pressure, I noticed that Jazmyn’s walk was becoming quite rushy. Each attempt to slow the walk down resulted in her pushing hard against the reins, and I would then have to back her up again. I didn’t seem to be having a lot of success with either slowing the walk or improving the backup so I did a few hind quarter yields and stepping across with the front feet and then tried the backup again, but this time I hauled her back like there was no tomorrow, and finally felt her really put some effort into it. Aha, progress, I thought. I walked her forward a short distance, halted and asked nicely for a backup. She absolutely freed up and went back with no resistance at all, she walked calmly forward out of the backup and halted so sweetly. That’s where I left it for today. I actually felt quite pleased with both of us. One thing I did notice though was that, after I dismounted, she had an attack of the yawns. That bothered me a bit as I seem to recall that yawning is not necessarily a good thing. What do you think? Will I be able to sell a horse that yawns?
Well done, Jenny. I'm glad you stuck with it enough to make a change. Now you have to make sure you don't let it slip backwards again. In fact, I expect you to work at making Jaz's rein back even better. I want to you to pay particular attention to the fact that her forward walk also improved with her backing up. Why do you think? It's because all that effort into resisting the rein back and all those ill feelings that went along with that, was suddenly let go. She threw it away. The trouble that was causing the poor backing was the same trouble that was giving issue with the walk. When she let go of one she also let go of the other. That's where her yawns came in. I didn't see them, but the picture you paint is one of a horse yawning as a consequence of letting go of her anxiety. It's terrific to hear. I'm very glad for you.
Hi Ross and Michele I see that you are having horrible weather, I hope it doesn't last for you. But like you said it's filling up the tanks so it is good for something. I have a question for you on a behavioral issue I have noticed between Prince and Nicky and wondering what your thoughts maybe.
Prince is quite domineering with Nicky when I am around patting her. He tends to wave his head around as if telling her to come with him and when she doesn't pay him any attention he will nip her on the bum which makes her move or run to which he then follows and they run around like mad. Nicky then runs towards me which looks like she is seeking savior and stands beside me hoping that he will go away. I notice he also behaves this way if I am not in the paddock and wants to go somewhere and needs her to come with him.
My question is, do I separate them as it looks annoying to me and I figure it must drive her mad but then I think if it peeved her that much would she not give him a decent kick. She fires out some little kicks but they seem very polite to me and he just pretends like they don't exist. Is she just to polite for her own good? Irena
It sounds to me like you are seeing nothing more than simple dominance games between the horses. I don't see a need to separate them unless somebody is getting hassled and hurt. If two or more horses are together, there are always dominance games. It's the nature of the animal and it's how they operate - no two horses are ever on an equal footing and one always has to display their dominance with some sort of game. I believe that horses will always choose to have a paddock mate rather than be on their own - even if that mate bosses them around. As I say, unless Nicky is getting badly chased around or is in danger of getting hurt, I'd leave them alone.
It’s been horrible weather here. The windy and rain has persisted for nearly 2 days and doesn’t look like letting up for another day or two. We are going through a lot of firewood. But our water tank is full and the horses are feeling enough to frolic in the rain.
Training A Horse To Be Off The Forehand - Part I
I was asked by somebody to offer some thoughts on this subject. It’s a tough matter to talk about because words cannot convey the feel and meaning of what is necessary to teach a horse to lift in front and come off his forehand.
But first, I guess I need to explain what is “off the forehand”. Normally horses carry approximately 60-65% of their total weight on their front legs when just standing around or walking. But this can increase with increasing speed. When a horse is green, he will often carry even more weight on his forelegs than 65% during the canter. He actually bears down in front. This is because a green horse will use his neck for balance. The faster he goes the more he tends to stretch his neck out, which in turn shifts the horse’s centre of gravity forward. A galloping horse at the racetrack is an extreme example of this. With this shift of the centre of gravity, the front end of the horse bears more pounding force than during the slow work. So in theory, the more extended gaits cause a horse to be heavier on his forehand.
But the opposite is true too. That is, the more collected gaits have the effect of lightening the forehand. As a horse shortens his frame during collection, the base of the neck is raised and the hindquarters are lowered. The net effect is to shift the centre of gravity towards the rear and the horse’s forehand becomes less weight bearing.
Secondly, lifting a horse off the forehand means his hindquarters are more engaged. This prepares him for the work. When done correctly, every new movement starts with a preparation of the hindquarters. If the hindquarters are not engaged the movement will be sluggish and heavy – the horse feels like he is moving in sludge.
If a horse is on his forehand, he will feel heavier on the reins than if he is not. This is because the base of the neck is lowered and the neck pushed down and forward into the rider’s hand. His balance is dependent on this posture for bearing down in the forehand. This is why horses that carry themselves on the forehand can be so very heavy in the rider’s hand.
Some breeds are more prone to being on the forehand than others simply because of their conformation. They tend to have low set necks and shoulders. Most of the draft breeds are in this category as well as Quarter Horses and primitive breeds like Przewalski horses. Other breeds are naturally built to carry themselves off their forehand such as Iberian horses.
Next time, I’ll talk a bit about how I sometimes go about teaching a horse to be lighter on their forehand.
Before I start talking too much, thanks again for your blog and your thoughts. It makes me think a lot.
It's a lot more comfortable to ignore abuse. I live in a town that advertise's itself as the "Saddlebred Capital of the World". And it might be. I find that a blemish on our city, not a blessing.
A walk through the barns will find horses trussed up like pigs for the roaster, with their heads tied high in the corner. Many stalls are kept covered and the horses in the dark so that when they are in the ring they look startled. Well they don't just "look" startled and frightened, they ARE startled and frightened. Talcum powder is thrown in their face to frighten them. And I think most people know that what is done to their feet in the name of "movement" is an abomination.
Yet the annual horse"show" is one of the social highlights of the year. People come from all over the country. The treatment is accepted as normal. Many people are touted as great horseman. And when you meet some of these people, they are kind, caring genteel folks. If their child or dog was treated in this fashion they would be horrified. But this is how Saddlebreds are trained and shown so it's ok.
Needless to say, I don't attend the shows, and I just can't develop friendships with saddlebred owners. They are lovely horses by the way. A friend of mine once said that these folks are lucky the horses are so kind. A mustang would savage it's trainer if tortured in this manner.
Nevertheles, when I started to watch your video, I thought, well Ross is being a tic hard on these folks, they have just taught the horse to rear for movies. But the more I watched, the harder it got to watch. When they set the horse and rider ablaze, I turned it off. I didn't have the stomach to watch.
So what is the answer? How do you convince someone that their kind, fine-boned young horse probably shouldn't be ridden in a bit with 10 inch shanks and a bicycle chaiin for a mouthpeice. They've always done it that way. The only thing I know is to not support the industry.
On a more cheerful note., I had a good lameness vet examine Tort, and he's been diagnosed with weak stifles, which has sored his back and explains the resistance to canter. She is treating him with six weeks of estrogen, bute and lots of slow hill work. She recommended a physical therapist, and although I agree with you there is not that much benefit, if she told me to tie a pink ribbon around his left ear, I'd probably do it if it won't hurt and might help. The PT recommended a couple of days of ground work after his treatment and walking and trotting him over ground poles.
Tort is doing well, last night I set up some poles on the ground and asked Tort to trot through which was difficult as I didn't have them spaced properly. As I often make mistakes rather than stop him, I asked him to go again. The plucky little guy said ok, well it's hard to trot through here, so I will just jump the lot of them. He sailed over a 9 foot spread from a trot like Pegasus.
Probably not what the PT had in mind for slow work. But I think Tort is feeling better. And yet another example of how a horse will try and make the best out of the situation. At least Tort does. And I appreciate it.
I think we all like to think of ourselves as caring and compassionate towards our horses. But we are taught from an early age that the bottom line is that no matter what else, horses must be obedient and submissive - otherwise they are not safe. That's why the tack shops are full of gadgets and strange bits designed to impose that obedience and submission on a horse. Even if we are concerned with how a horse feels about these things, we are not taught the skills to recognize worry and anxiety in horses. So unless we find ourselves face down in the dirt, it's easy for us to ignore things such as crookedness or resistance to one rein or lack of forwardness or chewing the bit or rope walking etc as anything but an issue of obedience and submission. The horse world is full of exercises to solve any problem - every trainer has a bag full of them - because we are taught to only see the outward physical symptom as needing a physical solution (eg a training exercise or a rider with lower hands, etc) or a different item of gear (eg. a different bit or a pessoa or a pair of hobbles).
I was on a horse forum where a video was being discussed of a horse being ridden bitless and doing high level dressage exercises. There was widespread agreement that this was a wonderful example of dressage training - and without a bit! I mentioned that the horse looked pretty stressed to me as indicated by the way it played with it's mouth (even though it was without a bit) and the neck swinging from side to side every time the rider asked the horse to shorten it's frame. However, the dressage riders on the forum dismissed my concerns. One person even said that a busy mouth was common among stallions and concluded it was a gender based issue, not a training one. Another person said that it was impossible for a horse to perform GP movements and not show this type of behaviour and that overall the horse was very relaxed.
I see those people as needing to justify the behaviour on the video because otherwise it challenges their way of training their own horses. But if they were taught from the start about seeing the emotional and psychological aspects of horses and their role in training, then not only would it be obvious to everyone that the horse was full of worry, but it would also be unacceptable. But with the training people receive nowadays, they don't recognize the signs of stress in a horse unless it results in drama.
I don't know how to change that. I don't know what more can be done than what is being done by good horse people all over the world. Even the message of great horse people like Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt is twisted by many devoted followers to suit their own needs or level of understanding.
Okay, I need to get off this soap box - it's too depressing.
Thanks for your thoughts.
Here, here Ross (and Michele).
Couldn’t agree with you more. Vaughan and I often ponder over how evolved (or not) the human race is!
Thanks Michelle. For sanity sake it probably pays not to dwell on it too much.
I think I may have broken Jaz's 'reverse' button. It doesn't make any difference if I ask her nicely, or not so nicely, to back up, she just does not want to oblige. When I ask nicely she gives me nothing, so I have to firm up and then she really sets her head to fight the reins and the best she can manage is a half hearted attempt to move her feet back a fraction. She is not much better at backing up on the ground. You have told me in the past that her back up is not good, but now it is practically non existent. I feel that most other things are coming along quite well. Her trot/canter transistions have improved out of sight, and her displays of pissiness at being asked to canter are much less. Do you have any suggestions, or should I just sell her now before everything else falls apart too?
You probably won't be able to sell a horse that can't back up, so you might have to shoot her!
Okay joking aside, I don't know what to tell you. I can only guess that you are falling short of doing enough to clear the back up in her mind. I assume that she is not suffering from locking stifles, which can make it difficult to step back. And if that's the case then you need to do more with the reins or the lead rope to get a change.
Alternatively, you could try adding an aid to the back up. Start with it on the ground. First ask her to take a step back with the lead rope and if she shows a heaviness and reluctance, use a very noisy flag to whack the ground a metre or more in front of her feet. Whack strongly and constantly until she rocks back and takes a step or two. Whack the ground with as much energy and as much repetition as you have to to get her go back with some real life. Repeat the process over and over until there is no need to use the flag. The repeat the process on the ground with the bridle. Use the reins to ask Jaz to back up and follow it with the flag is she is late or slovenly about it. When this is going well, it's time to get in the saddle and try it.
You should find a big improvement in the saddle immediately. But if not, get a friend to support the saddle work with the flag in the same way you used it on the ground. Use the reins to request Jaz to back up and if she isn't coming to the party, your friend whacks the ground in front of her with the flag just like you did during the ground work.
I hope that helps. Let me know how you get along. But first try getting more assertive with the reins. Jaz was never brilliant with the backing, but she was never as bad as you report. So somewhere along the line you've allowed her to learn not to make an effort when backing up.
I want you all to watch this video clip and then go outside, saddle your tallest horse and practice, practice and practice.
The Ethics of Animal Exploitation
It’s not like me to bring up politics on this site. I believe that people come here to read about horse stuff and not political debate. But something in the past 2 weeks has made news in Australia that is all about politics, but also all about horses too.
For my overseas readers (which is about 70% of you) I can explain that a couple of weeks ago there was a documentary aired on the public network television concerning the treatment of Australian cattle exported live for slaughter in Indonesia. There has been a lot of concern about live export of sheep and cattle from Australia for several years. Mainly the protest revolved around the treatment of the animals on the ships bound for the Middle East. But in the program shown on television, there were graphic images of horrible treatment of the cattle at the slaughterhouses in Indonesia. The public outcry was immediate and resounding and the Australian government has temporarily banned the live export of cattle to Indonesia until the Indonesians show an improvement in the standard of animal handling and slaughter.
But there is always a backlash. The backlash comes from people who are concerned with any detrimental effect the ban will have on the livelihood of cattle farmers in Australia. There is the usual posturing back and forth by both politicians and interest groups.
You might wonder what has this got to do with horses?
Michele and I were talking in the car today about the matter of the live export of cattle and I think she made an excellent observation – which I can’t quote, but here is my version of the point she was trying to make.
If a bull chases a person out of a paddock or a steer kicks a person during branding, there is nothing wrong with that. An animal has no choice. It can only do what it is genetically wired to do. It can’t decide right from wrong. It can’t choose not to kick a person because it realizes it is wrong to do so. If the moment takes hold of the animal, it must kick – it can’t choose to do otherwise based on a moral or ethical judgement.
But humans are different. We have the ability to make such choices. We can decide right from wrong and can make moral judgements. And if we choose not to make those choices, then we are not any better than the animals. In fact, we are worse because we have the choice.
What is the point of having a moral compass and not use it? Everybody I know or whom I have heard on talk back radio or TV (including people in the cattle export business) is agreed that the way the Indonesians are treating the cattle is horrendous. Nobody seems to be okay with it. Yet some people would prefer that nothing be done because of the effect a ban might have on the income of farmers. These are people who have a moral compass and choice not to use it, in my view.
It is no different in the horse industry. People know rolkur (hyperflexion) is not in the interest of horses. They know that jabbing a reining horse in the mouth with a curb bit or whipping a showjumper over the head is morally unethical. They know throwing a horse to the ground to make it submit is abuse. They know soring a horse’s legs to make it step higher is abhorrent. We all know these things are wrong – every horse person knows they are horrible things to do to horses. Yet, some people choose to do these things. The ones that do, find lots of ways to justify their actions. There are no shortage of excuses for the things we do to horses – or any animal.
What is the point of the gift of being so highly evolved, that we choose to ignore that gift when it comes to the animals that we exploit? Perhaps the problem is that we are not evolved enough. Maybe the problem is that we have not yet evolved to the point where we must act on our moral compass. A horse or a cow has to act according to their nature – they have no choice. But the nature of humans is to give them choices to act or not on their moral compass. Maybe one day we will evolve to the point that we no longer have a choice. When we know something is wrong, we must act accordingly to correct the wrong. Then we will be on an equal footing to the cow or the horse.
Here is an example where I believe people have turned off their moral compass in the training of horses. I can’t imagine that a horse lover could train horses in this way and not be aware of the exploitative abuse of the animals.
I forgot to mention. A while back you wondered if I was a bit reluctant to upset my horse. You were probably right. I am learning to understand his behaviours and how I may have affected those behaviours. In the earlier days with this horse, my whole energy levels around him were wrong so add any other pressures and this led to more unwanted behaviours or tension.
If I see unwanted behaviours now, I try to figure out what went wrong and how I could be better next time as a trainer. Sometimes this may take time and isn’t resolved on the spot. It’s okay to live and fight another day and horses are so forgiving. However, I am always thinking first that if I caused a problem, then it would be unjust to come down on horse like a ton of bricks and make things worse. This is probably where the reluctance you spoke of originates. Friday was a real lesson for me in addressing horse’s strongest objection with firmness and gentleness. But for such a challenge, it was still a surprise to me what horse told me about where he thought I was in the hierarchy. I am glad I was able to achieve a positive outcome. It was an incident that I will not forget in the relationship between horse and I.
There are so many people out there looking for trainers to fix all their horse problems, but this can never be the complete solution. If you are to ride the horse, then you must up-skill yourself and deal with those problems. I started by taking a good look at myself. I have often heard of money spent on trainers, horse getting better, goes home and nightmare starts again with owner. This path ends up a money merry go around. If I felt I could not try or it was just not working despite my best efforts, then it’s time to say goodbye to horse. We’re not there yet.
Your e-mails remind me of the Ray Hunt anecdote from many years ago.
Clinic spectator: "Ray, how did you get such good judgement with a horse?"
Spectator: "How did you get so much experience?"
RH: "Poor judgement."
I think most us are the same (especially those of us who do it for a living). We learn by our mistakes if we remain open enough to observe, analyze and question every time with interact with our horses.
Thanks for your e-mail.
I have spent the last 2 days digging a trench by hand for running a water pipe from the well to the a new paddock so we could move the horses to fresh pasture and not have to cart water to them. I still have another 2 days of digging to do to complete the job, but it’s finished enough to ensure the horses will not interfere with the pipe and they have good water. I needed a rest today because my shoulders were about to abandon the cause in protest. I’ll be back at it tomorrow. Eventually, we have about 1.5km of pipe to roll out. But I think I’ll get a bloke with a pipe layer for that job.
It was very funny watching the horses move to their new paddock today. They ran the perimeter about 4 times. The paddock is around 30 acres at a guess. They were so hot and sweaty by the time they ran out of steam that LJ and Birch both went right into the dam up to their bellies. They pawed over and over again and Birch even lay down in the water. I wish I had the camera for a photo. What was so interesting to me is that to my knowledge neither LJ nor Birch has ever had access to a dam before. They would not know about large bodies of water. Yet, they went into the water like they had done it every day. The other horses watched on as if LJ and Birch had lost their marbles. It was very interesting.
At the prompting of Julie and Peter Cowles I have been talking to Harry about coming to Australia again. He is prepared to set aside time to visit in January/February next year.
At this stage we are pretty sure of being able to hold a couple of clinics in NSW, a couple in Victoria and one in SA.
Dates, venues or prices are not yet set, but I am asking for expressions of interest from people who would like to participate.
You can either contact me or
In NSW: Julie Cowles firstname.lastname@example.org
In Geelong: Marie Walters email@example.com
In SA: Debbie Turk firstname.lastname@example.org
When we have a better idea of the numbers, we will confirm the dates, venues and prices and I will put it all up on this site.
It’s important that you don’t wait to get around to letting us know if you’d like to come because we will have to make a decision soon whether or not it is financially viable for Harry’s visit.
Hey you guys!
Enjoying the bush? Have you been on some really nice long rides? ... Id like to see more photos! Have you found some new clients yet? Not as cool as Victorians? Ohh didnt think so... =p
I have a lesson with Manolo Mendez in a few weeks, excited and nervous.
I will have to send you a video of how Danny is going, get your opinion!
Its frustrating at times when other people make comments like 'why arent you jumping him yet?' ..... Because we are still learning to trot with co-ordination, let alone canter or jump, though having him just over 12 months now people are expecting more - Im not, Im over the moon with where he is at the moment with his walk to trot transitions getting smoother in the arena and in the middle of a paddock... Hes' pretty awesome =)
Prince is also going really well too, though I have a question.. It is really simple and I feel like I should know the answer to it.. Last rally we had a dressage lesson and Prince was working really nicely, soft on my hands and nice and round, but the instructor kept telling me to shorten my reins... They werent flopping around or anything and he was moving really flowy and forward - he felt really good.. But she kept saying it and I couldnt think of anything to say to her, even if I did ask "why?", what do I say back to her answer? This sounds really stupid but if you truly disagree with an instructor how do you tell them you think they're wrong about your horse when it comes to shortening reins?
Looking forward to a clinic!!!
I haven't done as much riding as I'd like because Riley is lame and Six is still recovering from rain scald - plus there is always something that needs my attention more urgently than riding my horses. Just running to town for something takes up a minimum of 11/2hrs.
It's a tricky situation when an instructor tells you to do something and you don't want to do it. I think if it is a private lesson situation (like we have had), then I think you should definitely talk about it with the instructor and explain your thoughts and listen to their thoughts. But when it is a club rally with lots of people in the class and an instructor you didn't choose, I think you have a choice. You can either question the instructor or ignore the instructor. What I wouldn't do is go against your feelings about your horse's best interest just to be nice to the instructor. If you don't want to discuss the matter with them, then when they tell you to shorten your reins just smile, nod and say "okay", but not do it. After they have yelled at you to shorten your reins 6 or 7 times and you have politely said "okay", they will just think you are one of the slow learners and leave you alone. It's guaranteed to lead them to hard drugs after each lesson with you. Just look at the photo of me after a lesson with you.
I'll be making announcements soon about clinics for later in the year, so keep an eye on the blog.
Yes!!!! I am loving just looking at the picture of Harry riding a horse in Tom Moate's book!!! Can't wait to see the real thing. Opened Tom's book to the middle (as is my way) and am already learning stuff -- first thing is that bit about picking up a rein lightly to make sure the horse is with you.
I have been apologizing to Silk all weekend for that tight throat latch. How could I NOT have seen that on the ground let alone in the photograph? Yesterday, I was trying the little rawhide ties on the old reconfigured Dr. Cook's and discovered that, once they are tied, the throat latch has become too tight and must be loosened. Further proof that one has to be paying attention ALL the time!!!! Doh!
I raised the noseband on the Champion Turf, which required punching another hole. I had already punched one extra hole and will soon be cutting off the excess. With my hole punching, I have to keep this side-pull but am now worried that the rings above the triangle fall directly on top of the cheek bones. Looking back at your cute little horse, they may be falling at his cheek bones as well. Won't that be painful if my novice self picks up a rein with anything but the lightest touch? Or even just with the natural movement of the headstall?
I'll try to get another picture to send today.
And, of course, don't feel that you have to answer my every e-mail. I know you're going to be very busy hugging Michelle these next few days!!!! :-) Welcome back to her!
Kate, I have never found the check rings to be a problem and I doubt you will either. I often have had to add holes to the cheek straps of the sidepull because they seem to have been designed with Clydie heads in mind. It's strange that the sidepulls are made so long, as if for a very large head, yet the brow bands are so short, as if for a pony.
I forgot to mention about a fix for the short browband. A client of ours bought a Champion Turf sidepull and found the browband too small for her horse. Her solution was to remove the browband and replace it with 1" (25cm) wide brown elastic. From a distance it looked like leather, yet it seemed really comfortable for her horse. Anyway, that's just a thought if you want to have a browband.
Not horsey but this made me laugh. I hope it does you too
Michele comes home tomorrow. Is she ever in for a huge hug! We are hardly ever apart and after several years of living and working side by side it is a difficult adjustment to make when she is away
I was trimming Riley today and when I started to use the hoof pick on the last foot and scraped down beside his frog, blood started running from the tip of the frog. It was so peculiar. It looked like arterial blood. He was not tender and I didn’t notice puss from an abscess. I finished trimming the hoof and then cleaned it with an iodine wash, followed by a bandage and a hoof boot to keep it clean. He is locked up in a yard tonight and I’ll see how it looks tomorrow. I can only think that he had torn his frog and by using the hoof pick I had opened up the wound.
Stirrups and Their Length
Stirrups are usually an item of tack that few people give much thought about. They go to the shop and buy a pair without much thought to what they should buy. Most people choose either a type of safety stirrup or a stylish show stirrup. Western folk decide on style such as ox-bow or Visalis or Monel etc. It really is a personal choice.
Generally, I like a stirrup that has a medium weight and plenty of width on the floor for my foot. Most English stirrups don’t meet that standard, but I have spent most of my riding career riding in them. I did ride in a $800 pair of Italian jumping stirrups not so long ago and found them too light more my comfort. I still prefer my ox-bows.
I have had to ride in many different saddles during clinics and it seems really common to me that many people have stirrups that are too narrow for their feet. Often the stirrups have enough room to only just barely accommodate the width of the rider’s foot. There should be at least ½ inch gap either side of the foot – that’s a minimum in my view and I’d prefer an inch (25mm). It’s too easy to have a foot caught in a stirrup if there is not enough width – that’s highly dangerous. You always want to be able to make a quick escape from the stirrup if a horse rears or falls or something.
But more important than the style is the adjustment of stirrup length. It’s my experience that most people ride with shorter stirrups than they should. I think this comes from people’s early experience of having trouble keeping their feet in the stirrups. When we learn to ride most of us grip the horse with our legs, which has the effect of lifting our legs higher. In order to accommodate this our stirrups length is shortened. Over time we get use to riding with shorter stirrups even though we no longer need them in order to keep our feet in the stirrups.
The correct length of stirrup depends on several factors. It’s not just the length of a rider’s legs that needs to be considered. The saddle and shape of the seat as well as the horse needs to be taken into account.
A stirrup length that is short will tend to encourage a rider to sit more on their buttocks rather than their seat bones. But this might be quite appropriate if you are riding a very downhill built horse or have a saddle that sits very low over the wither.
Alternatively, stirrups that are quite long will tend to force a rider more onto their crotch. This can be a pain in more than one-way. But it may be a better choice when riding horses built uphill or in a saddle that tilts the rider backwards or even when riding “airs above the ground” movements like levade.
When I was learning to ride I was always taught that when my feet were out of the stirrups and hanging relaxed, the stirrup should hang just beneath my anklebone. If I was jumping, the stirrup should hang just above my anklebone. But I later found out that was not always right for me. It changed especially from saddle to saddle. In my own saddle I rarely change the stirrup length – except in extreme cases of oddly built horses. But when riding in different saddles, the stirrup length that is best for me constantly changes. For example, the length of stirrup I use in my saddle is about 1½ hole longer than I do in Michele’s saddle (the twist in her saddle is much wider). When I have ridden in Harry’s saddles my stirrup length is different every time I get in a different saddle because he has saddles from several different makers with several different seats.
When I adjust the length of the stirrup the thing I am looking for is how balanced I feel in the saddle. I sit as straight and relaxed as I can in the saddle with the horse standing pretty square. Then I try to imagine if somebody suddenly whipped the horse out from underneath me how would I land? Would I land on my two feet or would I fall forward on my face or perhaps fall backwards and hit the dirt on my backside? If I don’t feel I will land balanced on my feet, and then I start adjusting the length of the stirrups until I do.
If you have any questions please write and ask, but I hope this gives you reason to examine your stirrups and their length more closely. Don’t take them for granted.
Ok, I'll give it a whirl.
1)The woman talking and the woman riding didn't match that much to me. I focused on th woman riding. She is committing a sin of mine, in that she is picking up the reins often without meaning. The horse is kind of wallowing around. He's not getting clear direction, but he's guessing pretty well.
2) She finally gives him a clear signal with her left (I think, I'm a tic dyslexd) foot. Not the reins which is what the lady was focusing on. Ahhh, then he knows what she is asking and he steps around. The "hot" rein backed it up, but the clarity came from her foot.
Just wanted to tell you what I saw with the grey in the reining video. Of course I know nothing of reining. Jab jab jab with spurs, so to me he was responding to the spurs not so much the neck rein. Why are they necessary if the horse knows his job and will respond to pressure. The lady speaker then 'grabbed' his head like a predator to flex laterally, stood too close and blocked his movement, so the horse braced and took step back instead. He was looking the other way and didn't want to give her his head. Ears in the unhappy position.
Can't really assess the speakers skill but judging by the way she acted, I think she would achieve responses by force rather than softness from the horse, quite common. In fact I don't think she even considers the horse, just the rider.
You are right that there is a conflict between what the clinician is saying and what the rider is doing. The clinician is talking about the horse yielding away from the outside rein, but the rider is using her outside leg aid in conjunction to the neck rein. So it is impossible to know if the horse is really yielding to the outside rein or the outside leg or both. The rider should use no leg aid to reinforce the clinicians point about the response to the reins.
But that's not the biggest sin in my view. The clinician committed the biggest sin. At 36sec, the clinician puts her hand over the bridge of the horse's nose and asks him to yield to his left (towards her). Notice where he is focused. Notice at 37sec where the horse is looking - still off to his right. At 38sec the horse steps back to avoid yielding his thought to his left. The clinician has gotten in the way of his thought being to his right, so he backs away in order to get around the pressure (clinician's hand) that is trying to get him to yield his thought to his left. At the 39sec mark the clinician releases the pressure without getting a change of thought from the horse and the horse immediately swings his head to his right - confirmation that he never yielded to his left (if he had yielded, his neck would have stayed slightly flexed to the left for a second or two). The clinician asked the horse to do something, but released the pressure before the horse made a change. This would just reinforce the resistance in the horse. Never ask for something unless you get a change of thought. One of my oldest Ross-isms is "the only change worth having is a change of thought - everything else is wallpaper."
Congratulations on your move. The place looks gorgeous, and I was so happy to read that the horses are enjoying their new quietude. I've counted myself lucky to have my three be the only horses at my friends barn. Loved "The Wow Effect" . . . until you got to Hempfling. "Oh No!" I said, "Oh no he didn't!" I get your point but from my (admittedly very distant) standpoint, Hempfling is a giant cut above the others. Have you looked at his new book -- The Horse Seeks Me? I'm just up to the lunging section so I may start disagreeing at any time but, so far, I love everything he says. He is really pleading with the reader to actually pay attention to the horse! I may be eating my words as I learn more but, for now, I'm standin' by my man!
Okay -- So, I was so happy when you directed us to General Feed to get the side-pull. I had been e-mailing and calling Champion for some months with no success. Your readers should know that General Feed's website totally doesn't work but it does offer their phone number. If they call, someone will be really really nice to them and the side-pull will come in the mail right away (and they're working on their website).
But here's the question(s). Unless I'm missing something, once you remove the brow band from the side-pull, there is nothing to hold the throat latch. Am i missing something? In the first picture, I borrowed a bigger brow band from another bridle. Still, the cheek pieces came too close to the eyes, so I tied them to the throat latch with those little rawhide strings. How tight do you make the noseband? it is loose here, but the bridle moves around way too much. Do you tighten it so that just two fingers fit under it? Do you think it should fall higher or lower on the nose?
The second picture of Silk Cloud taken on the same day but in the cool of the evening is to show you that he doesn't always look as old and miserable as he does in the side-pull picture. He's 20 and suffering from COPD (though much better this year with herbs)
The third picture Of my young friend aboard Nutkin is to show you what I had been using. I reconfigured a Dr. Cook's Bitless. When I met Marlis, she showed me that the release was not quick enough in the Dr. Cook's with the reins running over the poll. Carol Iverson at the Dr. Cook site was wonderful. When I told her what I was doing, she had throat latches made for my three Dr. Cook's. They've worked well. Much softer nose band than on the Champion Turf. But, still the same problem of the cheek pieces coming close to the eyes.
What do you think? Can the Champion Turf be saved?
Okay -- have to run back to the barn to meet the vet. ( I am SO close to getting the review of your book up on Amazon. Did I mention that I am quite time-challenged?)
Sending every good wish for success in your new digs! Kate
I'm sorry about the trouble getting a sidepull from General Feeds in Santa Cruz. I hope they get their web site functional soon. Michele and I have often thought about importing the sidepull we use to sell to clients because people are often asking where they get them in Australia. But we decided that we didn't want to be one of the trainers that has gear to sell to clients.
Anyway, with regard to fitting them to a horse, I've searched our photo archive and found the photo I have attached. It was a horse Michele was starting for somebody and getting on for the first time. Please excuse the rope halter under the sidepull. You can she has removed the browband and the throat latch. The throat latch was then buckled through the rings adjacent to the jowl to prevent the cheek straps being drawn near the eyes. This works really well.
I think your picture shows the noseband a fraction low and I would take it up a hole. The noseband can be quite loose. For me, if I can't get 3 fingers under the chin strap I will loosen the noseband. I have found that the noseband is stiff enough to maintain it's position over the bridge of the nose even when it is really loose. If you use a softer, more pliable noseband it will shift more readily causing more problems with the cheek straps impinging on the eyes. I also feel your throat latch in the photo is too snug. I would loosen it by a couple of holes from the look of the photo. The throat latch should be loose enough that if the horse curls under with his neck, it should not be tight around the gullet.
I can't easily see what you have done with the Dr Cook bridle. I agree with Marlis that bridles with the cross under straps do not release adequately. I still have never been able to get an answer why they design them that way. But if you think your modification gives a good and accurate release of the reins and does not encourage the horse to twist at the poll, it is probably fine.
I’ve started ground work with warmblood. He's herd bound, out of work for a long while as you know and started to get a bit anxious leaving his mates. I can feel it from his anxiety/tension and reactivity rather that anything else. My objective was not to ask too much but to see how responsive he was leading around paddock and how he responded to my energy. Did some work with my hands on his head at stand still to see how I could flex or lower him. He is really good to put head down and lateral flex but I couldn't get him to follow my feel and push his head up as yet.
Generally leading on soft loopy rein and in position I want. On occasions, in first half of session he did try to get in front of me while leading. I spun the lead around in front and he went back but it worried him more and he got more tense. So when he didn't listen to slight pressure or even a tug on lead to slow down and get back, I did something else, changed direction and circled him around me once then straight on and back to a loopy lead and forward which was only necessary a couple of times and seemed to work. He spooked quite badly at a wallaby making a ruckus through a wire fence and pulled back but I held on without too much effort and remained quite calm and again walked on with a loopy lead like nothing happened. He was also getting into my space a bit and I just gently push him out with an open hand and continue on. He is a very sensitive reactive boy. By the mid way of the session, he was completely relaxed, would trot when I walked forward with more energy and drop back immediately to walk when I slowed, all on loopy rein with no pressure at all. If I took tiny slow steps down a steep hill, he did too. If I stopped dead, he did too. It seems he takes a bit of time to get in the zone but when he tried he was outstanding. I did give him a gentle good boy and I'm sure his chest puffed out in pride and I could feel how hard he was trying. His backing was loopy lead and cued by my facing back and just pointing my finger back and waggling it. I can easily turn his hindquarters with point and waggle of my finger.
I think he will need a consistent, regular work routine and in areas away from his herd on ground before I attempt to ride him, can't now anyway while his leg still recovers. Think I need to really address his anxiety and over reactiveness and build his confidence. I think over reactiveness is just symptomatic of the tension he is holding inside even if he is seemingly relaxed.
Any thoughts on what I've described or what you do when horse attempts to overshoot you on lead, crowd you or does not listen to pressure to slow. I would say that 95 percent of time he does not do this and has lovely manners, but if he is not in the zone or becomes anxious he stops listening. I want 100 percent response to slow or stop, relax and listen. I want to shut down the tension before he gets over reactive.
Out of interest, he hasn't been on a float for nearly 12 months after a few issues with anxiety about getting on float. I stuffed up badly due to inexperience by thinking he was okay to get on, tied him up before bum bar done up. Big pull back, head hit on top (no injury) and trouble thereon. I have come along way in my knowledge since those dark old days. So yesterday I thought I'd ask him to just put his front feet on ramp and see how he felt. Well I didn't even have to try, he walked on ramp without hesitating twice so I left it at that and backed him off. I will try to get rid of his anxiety with float by working in this way and trying to undo his worries inside float.
I know I have made a lot of positive changes to this boy, but I am working hard to fix problems I know I had a hand in creating. I'm not afraid to make mistakes anymore or have a try. I don't assume that the seemingly 'professional' horseman have all the answers either. Thankyou for the wonderful blog entries. Other blogs seem to say, 'I have all the answers, use my system it is the best', whereas your approach is try, experiment, understand principles and question.
It sounds like you are doing great with the WB and his ground handling. One thing that comes across in your e-mail (which may not be happening in real life) is the impression that you are being very careful about not upsetting your horse. I don't want to give the impression that worrying your horse is the done thing, but sometimes when we are dealing with a very nervous, tense horse we go out of our way to make sure he has no reason to worry. We try too hard to avoid the scary stuff. In my view, a horse needs to learn to have faith that he will survive. But he can only do that if he is confronted with things that alert his sense of self preservation and then overcomes them. Try not to creep around him or be too careful to avoid trouble. If trouble strikes work through it to come out the other side feeling better. Don't back off from the trouble - work through it. The caveat is that you should back off the trouble if you think it is going to be so big that you can't help him recover. In that case, retreat to fight another day.
You have to use your best judgement to know how much is too much and what to do about it. But the only way he can become reliably settled with every day stresses that will come his way is to experience them and know he will live. That does not mean desensitizing him either. It means keeping him focused and listening to you in the face of a worry - not dulling him out to scary things. But we need to be respectful that his worries are genuine and should not be punished for acting on them.
When he crowds you or runs through the lead rope, the best thing you can do is stop it and put him back where you wanted him. Be consistent. If he runs past you, shut him down in his tracks to interrupt his idea and then quietly put him back in the right place. If he crowds you, drive his shoulder away from you and put him back where you wanted him. Sometimes, you will need to be quite firm and other times a gentle reminder is all that is needed. But you have to do enough to get a change. Don't beg him to slow down or to move off you - ask, then tell. The stronger his idea the firmer you need to be and the softer his idea the gentler you can be. But above all be consistent in reminding him where you require him to be when on the lead rope.
I'm very pleased that you have made big inroads to the floating problem. But you have reinforced something I have always said and that is most floating loading problems are leading problems. Get the leading good enough and the float loading won't be a problem. Michele and I have never given our own horses floating or tying up lessons, yet they are really good at both because they lead well enough - maybe not perfect, but well enough.
Keep up the excellent work.
I CAME 2ND AT TOORIDAN! wwwwooo! couldnt and still cant explain how happy i was that day, all i could do was smile. only 6 points away from 1st and 3 of those points were time pentals for showjumping because we were a bit slow haha. cross country clear and dressage got a score of 15. yes i have seen the photos on your blog. haha no problems, already had a couple comments on it (people i know have told me) i stillcant gwet over how well he did. everyones saying i should move up to grade 4. eh see how that goes :) no more shows coming up i dont think but thats alright. well not really i love competing him and getting him out there haha. ill update you if anything else BIG goes on :)! oh p.s. i need a holiday soon, your new house is looking like a great place to stay from Hannah
Well done, Hannah. I'm very excited for you. I'm glad you are doing so well and are enjoying Biskit. I hope you will always have fun with him even during the times you are not winning. As you go up the grades the competition gets fiercer and success will be much harder to find - but it should still be fun. You are doing well and I'm very proud of your success.
p.s. you can only visit if you bring your fencing pliers and gloves
pps please pay more attention during English class and learn to punctuate and use a spell checker.
This is for all you guys who thought dressage training was hard
It has been showering on and off today, so I haven’t got much work done outside. Michele is away in Sydney with her parents who fly back to Chicago tomorrow. Since she left on Monday, our dog Snazzy has been following me like a shadow. Last night I woke to a ruckus on the front veranda. There was a wallaby stomping around. I had never known one to be so bold to come that close to the house. At first I thought he might be sick and disorientated. But when he heard me he took off like a Melbourne Cup winner. Snazzy bravely hid behind me in total support – she had my back!
The subject of whether to use a noseband or not on a horse has always been controversial. It’s almost impossible to buy an English bridle off the rack without a noseband already fitted. Yet, it is equally almost impossible to find a western bridle with one.
I think there are 3 reasons for using a noseband.
Many people feel that a noseband enhances the appearance of a horse and provides symmetry to the head.
Keeping the Mouth of the Horse Closed
Horses sometimes chew the bit excessively and gape their mouths when the reins are applied. This can lead to issues such as avoiding the contact or putting the tongue over the top of the bit. One method used to prevent this behaviour is to use a tightened noseband to force the mouth to stay closed.
Keeping the Bit in Place
Many riders like the position of the bit to be relatively high in the horse’s mouth. But sometimes a horse will allow the bit to drop low. By fitting a proper noseband, the bit is held high in the corners of the mouth irrespective of how much the horse plays with it and opens his mouth.
There are many types of noseband that can be bought. But the 3 basic types are a cavesson, drop and Hanoverian – with some variations on each of these.
This was invented by the British military and designed to support the jaw of the horse. It was found that during the heat of battles many horses were yanked so hard by the reins that sometimes their jaw was dislocated. The cavesson noseband was designed to support the jaw and minimize the risk of it being dislocated.
Nowadays, the cavesson noseband serves no practical function that I know of. It is purely decorative. It should never been fitted tightly and hinder the horse from opening its mouth.
The drop noseband is fitted between the muzzle and the bit – see the photo. Its purpose is to help keep the bit in place and to keep the mouth closed. It is usually tightened snugly, but not so tight as to interfere with the horse’s breathing.
When I was a kid, drop nosebands were on almost every horse. However, these days they are hardly seen and have been replaced by the Hanoverian noseband. Some dressage trainers still prefer the drop noseband because they are more effective than the Hanoverian in keeping the bit in the proper place.
These have replaced the drop noseband in popularity and almost every English bridle is sold with one. They are a bit of a hybrid noseband because they have a part that is similar to the cavesson and a part that is similar to the drop (click on the photos). As such they serve both purposes in the one unit.
Other common variations on these nosebands are figure eight nosebands and crank nosebands. Again they are designed for the same purposes as the drop noseband and which one you choose comes down to personal preferences – a little like choosing a bit.
Click on the images to enlarge
My Thoughts on Nosebands
I don’t use them. I don’t use them when I am breaking a horse in or when I’m re-training a horse or even on my own horses.
Using a noseband in order to keep your horse’s mouth closed and to prevent him from dropping the bit in the mouth is a “bandaid”, not a solution. Horses do these things because of the way they feel about the bit or the reins or the rider. Forcing their mouth to stay closed does nothing towards changing those feelings. I have often used the analogy of somebody with an itch. I can stop you scratching the itch by tying up your hands, but you are still going to want to scratch it.
If you don’t use a noseband, then at least even the most unaware rider is going to notice their horse is chewing a lot or gaping his mouth a lot. That might lead to them to realizing there is a problem that needs addressing rather than hiding with a noseband.
If fashion is your reason for a noseband, then I have no problem with using a cavesson noseband on a horse provided it is pretty loose. It does nothing to interfere with the horse. It also means that you can ride a dressage test and not be prejudiced against for not having a noseband.
Hi there Ross,
I hope that you are well. I’m really enjoying reading your blog as always. I found it amusing on your last blog (29th May) that you spoke about all the jobs you had to do before Michelle got home...and then went straight into talking about whips! Great segue :o)
I watched the video that you posted – to me that horse looked stressed and tense. I don’t know a great deal about reining, and I didn’t understand at the start why he was ‘jabbing’ up and pulling on the reins and then kicking (to go forward?) with spurs. The horse just seemed to be chewing away on the bit, and then yanked in the mouth, which didn’t look very pleasant at all. Later in the video the horses chin is pulled onto his chest, and to me the whole thing just felt so wrong and made me feel quite sorry for the horse. I didn’t think that horse was happy at all...and given that this rider is perhaps up there with the ‘best’ in his sport, I would have thought he’d be riding quite softly. To me it seemed like he was being a bit of a bully to his horse – there certainly wasn’t much of a partnership. That’s what I saw anyway.
What was the purpose of all that ‘jabbing’ with the reins? Sorry – but I don’t understand what he was trying to achieve there. He was obviously trying to achieve something by doing it.
On another note – I just thought that I’d let you know that I didn’t end up selling my Sahra. I just couldn’t do it – I like her too darned much! She really hasn’t done a thing wrong – I can think of many things I’ve done wrong though! I’ve had her at an agistment around the corner, in a shared paddock with five other horses, and I was having a great time riding her in the arena there until she got a ripper abscess which saw her back to my parents property recovering. Today Irena, Charlotte and I walked Sahra back to the agistment again – Irena has been brilliant helping me with Sahra, and today she was able to help with getting Sahra to listen more to me, which was fantastic, and much appreciated as you can imagine!
Given that you are missing the mud, I thought I would attach a picture of our mini pony “Squirt” so you could see exactly what you are (not) missing with regard to mud – be assured, Squirt is actually a white pony...not “mud brown” as you would think looking at this picture!
A big hello to Michele!
Thanks for the photo and not letting me forget about muddy horses in winter.
I'm glad you are getting help with Sahra from Irena and that it is going well. I think you need that ongoing support for awhile until you get a real feel of established between you and your horse.
I'm not very knowledgeable with regard to reining. But I have seen trainers bump the reins upwards before to get a horse to keep his head down. In the video it looks like he is using it to not only maintain roundness, but also it seems to me he bumps when the horse loses lateral flexion. Of course, the sawing of the reins in the backup (towards the end of the clip) is atrocious and he should have been kicked out of the competition by the stewards then and there.
Thanks for your input.
Hi Ross – hope you and Michele are going well.
I couldn’t resist emailing you about that reining video you posted with Craig Schmersal. I don’t know the 1st thing about reining, but I think when watching that and tears start to well in my eyes due to the discomfort I felt for that horse, then it can’t have been a good display of reining. Then when the words came up toward the end with the quotes, I knew I was right. What was all that pulling/tugging on the reins trying to achieve with that poor horse? Also, what process is used/how does a horse get taught to be ridden with his neck curled like that? How would that horse’s neck be when he is free in the paddock – does it go back to ‘normal’? That was awful.
While I am at it, I have a question about rugging. I know your thoughts regarding rugging horses and I am quite happy not to rug them and have them nice and woolly over winter – however, the other day I went out to check on the 4 horses and 3 were fine. The other one, Vaughans thoroughbred, Bill, was standing shaking uncontrollably – both front and back legs. It had been raining but the temperature was about 13 degrees. I have seen him do this before but on a far worse day with rain, wind etc. I rugged him. Just wondering if there are some horses that just don’t do well in cold weather? He is only approx. 10 years old and in a paddock full of grass. For a thoroughbred his is in quite good nick – not as fat as the others, but not thin at all. The only other thing I wonder is that I had wormed him the day before and for a few days he seemed a bit unwell – so I am also wondering if that had something to do with it. I would like your view on whether you think some horses don’t cope as well as others in the cold.
Thanks for your thoughts on the video clip. The bumping of the reins is a strange one. I've seen it before when riders try to keep a horse rounded and not leaning on the bit. I also think in the video he was using to maintain a later bend on the neck because it seemed sometimes the horse would lean on the inside rein and then the fellow would jerk the inside rein - but I can't be sure. I'd like to hear the fellow interviewed about the clip.
I think you have heard me say before that I don't believe there are many hard and fast rules with horses. If you find Vaughan's horse shivering in the cold, wet and wind then either bring him to a shelter or rug him. A horse can get cold if he is wet and there is a wind even if the temperature is mild. If you believe the horse is genuinely suffering the cold, don't worry about anything I said about rugs - just rug him. It is true that a normal healthy horse is very comfortable in temperatures between 2 &5 deg C. But if the horse is in poor condition or is wet or the wind is blowing or just arrived from Fiji into a Melbourne winter etc, the rules change. The thing about not rugging a horse is a general rule, not a golden rule.
Thanks for you comments on the whip. I was all ready to argue with you. To tell you that I don't really use the crop, I just tap him to let him know I am serious.
Hmm... I don't nag with the crop, I will only use it when I mean forward, and forward now. Hmm...
I'm using that tool with clarity and meaning. Well heck. I've got nothing to argue about. If I use my leg that way odds are Tort will be just as responsive.
I have a friend who often tells me what a cross it is to bear that she is right ALL the time. In this particular case Im afraid I could be hearing the same from you.
I watched the reining video you posted. I have mixed feelings about it. I don't know the rider from Adam, and what I know about reining is not much, although I've been to a few competitions. I saw Lyle Lovett ride in a reining competition while I was at Rolex. He did a good job, although he'd better keep up his singing career as well.
The video appears to be Neanderthal horsemanship at it's finest. No, I don't believe I'd ask that gentleman to climb up on my horse.
What I saw looked a lot like what I saw in the warmup ring for WEG dressage. Demand, demand, demand, with little or no releif when what he is asking for is given. And asking like she is 900 lbs of meat. Not a creature with a thinking brain.
That said.... We saw a portion of the warmup. That guy is competing in a very high$$$$$ sport. He is successful, and his owners employ him because his horses win. The horse is sacrifieced for the championship. He is focused entirely on winning. He has a lot of company, in many disciplines. But if he did that on every horse he rode, every time, I can't beleive he'd be all that successful.
One of the ladies that is circulating that video competed at the national levels in dressage, and raises and trains Arabians. I've been in a few Arabian barns. Maybe hers is very different. But talk about fodder for videos!!!! Not nice places to be. Now... to be successful in dresssage at the National level, at some point, she has put her horse second to winning. Sorry but I don't believe otherwse. A friend of mine once said that watching a good dressage horse being traiinded is a bit like sausage. It tastes great but you reallly don't want to watch anyone making it.
So, yes that's not pretty to watch. However, I also think all of us would not like our Neanderthal moments posted on the web. I still have the video of my Neaderthal moment on poor Tort running in my head. I sure wouldn't want anyone to see that.
What are your thoughts on the video?
I'm glad my explanation of using a whip clear up some stuff for you and I was able to avoid fisticuffs.
My thoughts on the video are pretty much the same as everybody else. I see the training in the clip as abusive and unnecessary and am perplexed why the stewards did not disqualify him or at least fine him.
I don't know a lot about reining, but I think you are right that this type of abuse happens in all disciplines from dressage to endurance to polo to ploughing. I think it is inevitable when people put the job ahead of the horse. It almost makes a person despair at the pointlessness of trying to teach good horsemanship. But I think it is a good thing if we can all expose abuse and exploitation of horses when we see it. I have been criticized in the past many times and accused of being unprofessional by naming and shaming training and trainers on this site and on some forums. I've even had threats of legal action against me by a trainer and a barefoot trimmer. It's a hard line to walk. But I believe it is the right thing to do - nevertheless, others would disagree.
Since you guys are doing so well with the videos, here’s one that is a bit more tricky. What is it about this video that gives tell tale signs about the training of the horse and the skill of the woman presenting? There are no right or wrong answers here, so don't be shy in giving your thoughts. If you let me know that you don't want your response posted, I'm happy to leave it out. You can look up her other videos and you’ll see similar issues.