"It's the thought that counts!"

"It's the thought that counts!"
Samantha Harvey & Taylor to Perfect
Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey & The Equestrian Center, LLC Copyright 2017. Articles and/or photographs posted on this site may NOT be reproduced or copied without written permission.


NOTICE: Two Stalls Available in Horse Trailer Heading North

This year we will have two stalls available in our trailer heading north in the spring.  If you have a horse you need shipped part or all of the journey please contact us ASAP. 

Departing: Yuma, AZ
Date: May 8 or 9, 2011

Arriving: Sandpoint, ID
Date: May 10 or 11, 2011

Email for Details

The Basics of Balance: You & Your Horse

Rider:
When the rider has the ability to use all of his aids independently of one another without interfering with the horse.

Horse:
When the horse has the ability to “carry” himself with his hind quarters engaged without “relying” or physically leaning on the rider.

Why is it important?
An unbalanced rider is uncomfortable physically and unclear mentally therefor they are unable to "take" their horse for the ride and are more likely to be "hopeful" that the horse complies.

Being balanced allows you to influence or react quickly, efficiently, and calmly to all situations presented.

Do you have balance?
Start self evaluation while riding on the flat

Exercises:
Ride a straight line- Can you pick a point and ride your horse straight towards it, or do you find yourself physically leaning in the saddle to try to "drag" your horse towards the chosen destination?

Maintain a consistent rhythm- Does your horse constantly change his rhythm within a gait?  Have you noticed if you are offering the desired rhythm with your energy in the saddle or are you "waiting to see" what your horse offers?

Transitions- Abrupt, abrasive, draggy, jumpy, etc. these are all signs that you have not offered your horse clear communication through effective aids that can only be offered when you are riding physically balanced while preparing for a transition whether it is within a gait and decreasing and increasing the energy or from one gait to another.

Adjusting your horse’s stride- How much "work" does it take you to get a change in your horse's step?  What aids do you have to use and how many times do you have to ask before you get the desired results?  If you are incorrectly balanced, you cannot offer light and effective aids to offer clear communication which will cause a resistance in your horse adjusting his stride.

Responsiveness of your horse- How much of a delay is there from when you ask your horse to do something to the time he actually does it?  If you are unbalanced your timing and effectiveness of your aids will cause your horse to not believe that when you do something, it means something, and he must try to participate.

Mental Clarity

Assess yourself before you critique your horse.


When did your ride really start?  Your ride should begin when you THINK about going for a ride.  You need to raise your level of awareness that at everyone moment you are interacting with your horse (starting with when you catch him) you are influencing the "tone", energy and attitude for the upcoming ride.

Distraction, stress, goals, patience, sensitivity, work, family, “real life.”  Leave "reality" at the door.  If you're not 110% available for your horse, there is no way you will be able to offer clear and effective communication with your horse.  If you're not completely "present", then there is no way that your horse will be.

Intention-Purpose-Self Analysis Do not brainlessly go through the motions, even when catching, grooming and tacking up.  Have an initial "plan"- though this will change numerous times throughout the ride.  If you set small goals (even just for every three or four steps of the ride) you will be able to break down what you are offering, what your horse is doing in response, and what changes you'd like to create a better quality ride.

If something is NOT working, try creating a change in you in order to find one in your horse.  Many people think that repetition is the way to teach a horse something.  Put it into people terms.  If someone were trying to teach you something, and you didn't understand, if they kept saying the same thing over and over, louder and louder each time, you STILL would not understand.  They would have to change how or what they were saying to find a way to offer you a better explanation.  The same goes for riding.  Even if you think you're being clear, you need to address each time your horse isn't clear, which may mean diverting from the "original" goal, in order to set the necessary foundation in order to accomplish the end goal. 

Brainlessly offering the same movement over and over until your horse accidentally or finally figures out what is being asked of him, decreases his confidence and willing to try and learn the next time you offer something new.

TEC Full Immersion Camps- Offered 3 times for 3 days in June and July 2011

We have had many requests for "camp weeks" for those individuals who would like to experience more than a one-hour training session with their OWN horse. We will offer a full immersion course with sessions continuous Friday through Sunday focusing on Assessment, Ground Work & Riding. We are restricting this course to a maximum of eight riders. For one price the following will be included: daily unmounted theory discussions, tack/equipment fitting & usage, individual and group instruction and pasture board (grass or alfalfa hay) for your horse. Sessions will begin at 8 a.m. and will end at 5 p.m. Horse arrival is to be on the Thursday night prior to the first day of the course.

Beyond this basic outline the structure and focus of the clinic will depend on the participants and their interests. Our goal is to help both riders and horses to raise their level of awareness, increase their clarity in communication with their horse, to be safe and have fun! Riders of all ages, disciplines and levels are welcome.  For registration info & details: http://www.learnhorses.com/Clinics/tec_registration-non-java.html


2011 Clinic Camp Dates:         
# 1 June 10-12                             
# 2 July 15-17                             
# 3 July 29-31                          

Effective Riding

Using an aid to create clear communication between rider and horse. “Feeling a fly.” Your horse can feel a fly land on them- they can feel every shift, movement and breath you take.  If they are "ignoring" your aids, there is a lack of clarity between what you think you are offering and what your horse is "receiving."

Reason- Assessing what your horse is currently offering you

Purpose-What you would like to change

Energy-Offering an appropriate physical pressure of aid to get desired result

Reward-Acknowledging the “try” from your horse and allowing him a moment of “let down”

The ideal goal is to help our horse and not just critique.

Wanting to be a horse trainer... Q&A

Over the years I've had many people approach me regarding "how do you become a horse trainer?"  Below is a Q& A of the most recent interview...

Hello Sam,


My name is Jerah im 15 years old and I want to be a horse trainer/ breaker when im a older. I want to know which courses and subjects I will need to take. My apologies if im wasting you time but I have a maths assignment called maths in the workplace, where I have to choose a career that I would like to do when I'm older and research it. One of the questions is to interview someone. I would interview the people at my riding school but I wanted to talk to a professional.


1. Q:  What do you do in your job?

A:  First and foremost there are many versions of “what I do” for a living. There are people who work as trainers underneath someone else, there are people who are hired by a facility to offer lessons or training, and then there are independent operators like me who own, run, and work ALL aspects of operating a farm and offering training, lessons and clinics. Depending on what your situation is will affect the lifestyle (hours of work necessary to keep your facility going,) pay (are you having to pay someone else to use their facility,) risk factors (do you have to continue to generate clients or do other people find them for you,) financial planning/income (the cost of running your facility versus having someone responsible for all of the overhead,) etc.

I personally have to take care of every aspect of both running a facility and offering instruction. This includes hours of maintenance on fences, weekly mowing and weed wacking, maintaining pastures and the horse trails in the woods, painting jumps, etc. I have to work in the office answering phones, dealing with clients planning/scheduling lessons and training, online maintenance for the website/blog and emails that help promote my business, keep up the book keeping, paying bills, etc. I also do all of the training, instruction and clinics. I also do all of the feeding and maintaining of both my own horses and those that are in training.

9. Q:  On average, how long are your working hours?

A:  My work schedule is not a 9-5 job. This is a lifestyle that I chose to participate in which means I’m on the “clock” 24/7. There is never a time when I can “disappear” and be done with work. There are pros and cons to working this way. Financially- it’s a lot of work for little pay. All of the hours of maintenance there is no pay for. All of the office work there is no pay for. But in this day and age- finding someone quality to work for you is an ongoing issue for all of us small business owners. You have to look at the cost of hiring someone who will only do a mediocre job that you’ll probably have to “redo” yourself and it’s not worth paying someone else so when it still requires you to do the actual work or fix what someone else wrecked.

AS for working with the horses, I specialize in rehabbing problem horses. People come to me based on my reputation and the quality of instruction and training that I offer. This means I can’t just have someone else handle the horses without having the same mentality as I do when I work with them. I have had many working students over the years but this too is a frustration because you offer a lot of time, energy and effort and then people think they are then “educated” and want to go and work on their own. So you’ve invested your time in someone who then leaves and there is no “return” for you.


The horse industry is not like having a “regular” job. Horses are a “luxury” sport and therefore potential client’s preferences, desires and demands are what affect your job. There are thousands of trainers who offer instruction or training in numerous aspects of the industry whether it’s by breed, discipline, level of riding, etc. Depending on where you are in the world also affects what you do. In the United States, anyone can hang a sign up advertising that they are a trainer. In other parts of the world schooling, testing and structured “levels” must be passed before one can work as a professional. Again, for my answers to you, I will answer based on the fact that I teach here in the US now.

7. Q:  Do you own and compete on your own horses?

A:  I spent years competing, but that is a completely different “world.” When you open the magazines and see the glossy pictures of the world class riders, the only thing those trainers focus on is competing. Even the horses they take in for training are handled, tacked up, warmed up and cooled down by someone else. Riding is an incredibly demanding lifestyle because even if you win a competition, you must continually keep proving that you can win. So there is usually a “team” of people behind the trainer showing a horse. Those trainers do nothing but ride.
For me riding for the recognition of the competitive world was not enough. When I was living and working in Europe I got fed up with the drugging, politics of the industry, abuse of the animals and financial strains that caused trainers to make bad decisions for the well being of the horse. So when I chose to open my own facility, it was with the priority of the horse’s well being in mind. Eight years ago I opened The Equestrian Center, LLC based in northern Idaho which remains open from April through October. Then in the winter I move my operation to Arizona where I teach out of someone else’s facility. In past years I’ve brought approximately ten horses back and forth- all of the horses are “projects” that I re-educate and then sell eventually. But because of the current economy I’ve had to downsize my herd to two horses.

3. Q:  How do you define financial literacy?(mangement of money) Do you think it is an important skill to learn?

A:  Whenever you have no boss or “job security” you must plan ahead for the here and now, for the short term and the long term future, and still leave room for the unknown. Having an initial “strategy” (with backup or alternatives in case things don’t work out as ideally as you hope) and set realistic financial goals as far as what you need to run your business versus what you would like to have must be defined. Assessing the costs required to run your business versus several options of income (based on economical times, popularity of your services, weather, location of your facility, etc.) will all affect how and what you choose to spend money on. The biggest concern with this industry is that no one HAS to have riding lessons or training in their life, it is a luxury. This means you will NEVER have a guarantee that you have earned “x” amount of money until it is in your hand. This in turn affects your decision making in the type of financial “risks” and commitments you may make in business decisions and futuristic planning. Too many people make business based decisions by being “hopeful” that they will earn “x” amount of money and therefore over commit themselves to too much debt and cannot get out of it if the money does not come in as planned.
Currently the horse industry is experiencing the largest depression it’s ever known in the US. Between general economic hardship, the slaughter laws which have completely devalued horses, exorbitant fuel prices and the increase on the demand in hay, people have to choose between their mortgage payment or horse training- guess which wins? Competitions at all levels have had a huge drop in participation which affects trainers, farriers, sponsors, and others whose business are affected by the horse industry.
2. Q:  What maths do you use everyday within your job?

A:  According to your business plan and strategy will affect how you choose to spend money. It costs a lot of money to maintain anything to do with horses and one must have a budget and “plan” for the daily, weekly and monthly maintenance of their situation. Basic math and daily updating of the books will keep you aware of where you are financially which will then affect how you choose to spend money and make financial decisions.

4. Q:  What courses did you need to take in school to get qualifications?

A:  As I said, here in the US anyone can be a trainer, which has caused a lot of problems for unsuspecting horse owners who get involved with inexperienced “trainers.” You’ll open any horse magazine and get the impression that you need to attend an equine related college in order to work in the industry, but the truth of the matter is you need real life quality experience versus theoretical classroom learning. In the past I had hired people who had graduated from so called horse programs from universities throughout the US and have not been impressed. The more hands on, real life, and varied exposure you have in the horse world the better rounded your education will be which will make you a better trainer. Now obviously if you are looking to focus on a certain aspect of the industry you’d want to be a working student or apprentice under someone who is successful in that area of focus or discipline.
Honestly in terms of education from a university, having a business degree would be most helpful, because you will be running a business and you’ll be selling your product, which will be you.
My personal background includes everything from working at race tracks, hunter/jumper barns, Dressage facilities, apprenticing under Gold Medal Olympians in Three Day Eventing, working on ranches with cowboys and focusing on starting colts, etc. I’ve worked with all breeds of horses, all levels riders, all disciplines, etc. The more varied you are in your exposure and experience the more you have to offer the public as a trainer.

5. Q:  What year level of maths did you complete at school?

A:  In University I completed Calculus II. But that sort of math has been irrelevant in my lifestyle. To me it’s not about the difficulty of the math, rather it’s about understanding what the numbers represent and making sure you can create an appropriate “formula” that is realistic for your business.

6. Q:  Do you use calculators in your job? Which ones? (Basic, Scientific or Graphics)

A:  No I was drilled at a time when you had to be fluent in running numbers either in your head or by long hand.

8. Q:  How old do you think people should start working?

A:  The more experience the better. I left home at 13 to train and compete but that was extreme. You can never get enough experience with the horses and you can never learn enough, even for us professionals, this is an ongoing education process- every horse and student has something to teach YOU.


Q:  If you could also write a breif discription of what I willl need to be able to do to become ahorse trainer, that would be great :)
A:  I think I’ve answered this above, but if you need more information let me know.

Spring Preparation for YOU & YOUR horse

Even if you can’t yet feel the change in the weather yet, we all know just around the corner the temperatures will warm up and the beginning signs that another long winter is over will begin to appear…

In the meantime while you may be housebound more than normal why not make the best of it and start mentally preparing for the upcoming “to do” list the weather will initiate once the thaws begin.

Below are some ideas on things to consider. Some of them may not apply depending on whether you keep your horse at home, board him, etc. but they are all things for you to be aware of.

• Safety check on the horse trailer

• Conditioning Plan: Horse and Rider

• Assessment of Feed

• Tack check/cleaning

• Tack Fitting Assessment

• Check Arena/Riding Area Footing

Yuma, AZ Games Day

When: February 26th, 2011
Sign Up: 8:00 Classes Start at: 8:30am

Cost: $1/Class (less than 3 classes) or $10/day

Each Class Winner takes home 1/2 the class entree fees!!!
Where: Burchbrook Farms, 4679 E County 13th ½ St., Yuma

All level riders (English & Western) welcome! Classes will be varied in difficulty, individual and team competition, riding and unmounted. This is a fun filled opportunity to “break up the routine” with your horse! All riders must wear an ASTM approved helmet- we have extras if you need to borrow one!

More Info

THE MISSING LINK: Understanding and Connecting the Actions of your horse

Question: What does trailer loading (problems), spooking, crossing water, jumping a fence, making a turn on a gaming course, asking for a flying lead change, trail riding, herd anxiety and turning a cow back have in common? The horse’s brain.

Question: What does a horse refusing or kicking out when asked to canter or lope, a horse bolting, a horse “leaning” on the bit, a horse become aggressive when worked with from the ground, a horse fidgeting in the cross ties, a horse that won’t stand quietly to be mounted have in common? The horse’s brain.

Question: Okay, okay so you’re getting the idea. The idea for this article came about from the number of people who send a question to my Ask the Trainer page- “horse issues” from around the world including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, etc., are very similar no matter the various backgrounds and experience of the people and horses. As I review question after question, and start composing answers in my head, most days I sound like a broken record with my answers.


There consistently seems to be FOUR missing links with the most common issues or “problems” that people ask for help with:

Lack of Awareness (in both horse and person)
Lack of Understanding of the horse’s actions
Lack of Clear Communication, and therefore
Lack of Mental Availability from the horse


Most “issues” that people write about are not the problem itself, but rather a symptom of the underlining issue. How many times have you heard or maybe said yourself, “MY horse does (or doesn’t)…” or maybe, “It was all going fine and then suddenly…” or how about “My horse is really great but he just has one little problem with...” I could go on and on with these scenarios.


Lack of Awareness: So many times the person does not recognize, put value to or address their horse’s behavior until it gets dramatic enough that it cannot be ignored. The horse is not randomly acting out.  If he does something, you need to believe that it means something!  By then, the horse is pretty confirmed that the person is not there to help them through the scenario.

Lack of Understanding: Have you ever seen the magician move the three cups around with one cup covering a small ball. The object is for you to try and watch and follow the cup shielding the ball. The distraction of the movement tends to confuse the person watching and they usually pick the wrong cup at the end.

The same goes for horses. People tend to watch the “big” and “dramatic” movement instead of watching or noticing the small ways their horse is constantly communicating with them. Then they take the unwanted behavior of the horse as a personal offense and react emotionally instead of rationally by mentally backing up “through time” and trying to break down at what point did the horse start showing signs of the unwanted behavior. This lack of understanding causes the people who write in about their horse’s “issue” to not realize they are only attempting to address the symptom.

Lack of Clear Communication: If you spoke English and were attempting to communicate with someone who spoke Russian who had no understanding of the English language, it wouldn’t matter how many times you repeated yourself, how loudly you spoke or how much you changed your tone of voice- they STILL wouldn’t understand you.


This too often is the case of how people interact with their horse. First their behavior, energy or aids have no meaning to the horse. Then the horse who doesn’t understand appears to “ignore” their aids so they then keep asking in the same way until they get frustrated by the lack of change in their horse. Then they start using “stronger” aids (harsher bit, longer spurs, whips, etc.) and wonder why their horse still isn’t getting “it.” Then they start randomly using the same aids, with increasing severity, doing the same thing and are shocked to find no change in their horse- in fact usually a remission of “forwardness” or “success.”

Lack of Mental Availability: If you’ve ever been asked to do something that you really didn’t want to do, you can remember the feelings of physical resistance inside your body because of the mental stress you were experiencing?


The same goes for horses. When a person has demonstrated they have a lack of awareness towards their horse, then they have a lack of understanding when their horse does something, and then are not clear in how they communicate with the horse, the horse has no alternative but to mentally “shut down.”

AS many of us say, horses don’t have problems until you add people into their lives. Why should a horse demonstrate any level of willingness to “try,” to learn or to trust a person if the above three actions – or lack of – occur? Without the horse mentally participating there will only be “surviving the ride” and “hopeful” experiences- neither of which will make either horse or rider come away with a positive and motivated feeling for the next ride.

So the basic issues, “gaps” in the horse’s training, and lack of general communication between rider and horse ALL stem from the same missing fundamentals. How many times have you witnessed or experienced a “difficult” horse and stopped to actually notice where his brain was?


Have you ever watched a horse not wanting to load into a horse trailer- and noticed his head turned in the total opposite direction from the trailer? How will he ever get into the trailer if he is completely avoiding THINKING about the trailer?

Have you ever tried to turn left and had your horse “leak out” to the right? Notice where his eyes are looking? To the right. He’ll never make a quality and balanced left turn if he isn’t THINKING about turning left.


Have you ever watched a horse working cattle that kept “missing” its turns and therefore allowing the cows to run past? Notice where the horse’s brain is- if there is a lack of confidence, understanding or clarity the horse won’t/can’t do his job well.


Have you ever felt your horse “shift gears” and noticed you were hopeful that he’d slow down- wondering if you needed a more severe bit? Until that horse THINKS about slowing down, he will not, not matter how strong the bit is.

Have you ever been riding in a group and gone to leave the group and have your horse have a complete emotional melt down? Until you horse can THINK about riding down the trail with intention, his brain will be with the group of horses that left and therefore his body will try to follow his brain back to that group.


I’ll close with mentioning another key “tool” missing from most horse/people relationships: QUALITY. Too many times it’s not until “the day you need it” that a persona suddenly and randomly demands quality from their horse- without ever having offered it or asked for it beforehand. Don’t wait until the moment you NEED to get the job done to ask for quality from your horse- it starts with YOU. Every day, every moment you interact with your horse. If you’re not offering it, don’t “hope” for it from your horse.

Finesse- Fine tuning your energy in the saddle

Topic_Info: Trying to get the horse to walk/trot/canter more slowly.

Website_Info: Google
Location: NY
Date: September 05, 2010

Question:
I've been riding a 14 year old mare. She was previously ridden by a person who continuously ran her and ran her shortly after she was broke (she was broken at the age of 10) and I have extreme difficulty getting her to walk slowly. When I'm working on the ground with her/grooming, she is a completely calm horse who seems very relaxed. She stands still even when she's being saddled.


However, when I try to mount her, she gets a bit antsy and starts to walk. If I pull in the left rein to keep her head turned toward me, she still walks in a circle and when I finally get on top of her, she tries to walk as fast as she can. If I slack the reins, she tries to break into a trot. A horse trainer helped me for three days and by "playing with my hands", I got the horse to walk a bit slower, but it took a lot of effort. That was last year. This year, even when I "play with my hands", she either throws her head forward or slows down for a second, and then speeds right back up. (I use a hackamore because her mouth is small, and bits tend to end up cutting her.) When I do get into a trot, it's faster than a normal "trot" should be, and it's the same with a walk; unless I keep a tighter rein on her, she tries to trot faster or get into a canter. When I canter her, she tries to go as fast as she can. I'm not an experienced rider, but I'm slowly starting some natural horsemanship, and when I lunge her on the ground, she walks and trots nicely.
Sorry if this all seems disorganized!


Answer:
Horses can very easily become patternized. This means that once a certain behavior, manner of interacting with them, or certain expectation of a type of performance is established, they begin to "automatically" respond without really mentally considering what their rider is asking of them. (Have you ever been in the shower and been distracted thinking about something else, when you suddenly stop and have to think if you already shampooed your hair or not?) They wind up going through the motions of a ride without ever thinking. The day you ask something "new" or "different" than what they are used to, is the day you start to find "holes" in their training and education.


Your horse's physical actions are a direct reflection of her mental availability. As long as she is "unavailable" to hear your aids, your ride(s) are going to be a constant source of frustration for both of you. For a moment you'll have to forget about your long term goal of a "quiet" canter, and focus on your horse's brain.


My goal when I ride, no matter what horse, no matter what background, no matter what the scenario is, I want my horse to ask "What would you like" This allows me to offer direction, influence their performance, and achieve that ideal quality ride because we are both on the same page.


Horses can easily and quickly establish patternized responses based on past experience and what has been expected of them. Right now I would guess that your horse is pretty sure that she knows what is being asked of her, and instead of being mentally available to understand what you would specifically like (in this case a slow lope)- your horse is mentally unavailable to "hear" your aids, so there is no opportunity for you to offer her an alternative idea- liking cantering slow. Think of her mind set as that equivalent to a teenager that is going through the stage of "knowing it all.


So even though your horse has been ridden for years, you may have to go back to some of the basics and re-evaluate you and your horse. In your case I would gather that there is general lack of clear communication between you and your horse. There are many ways to break down her lack of willingness to canter at various speeds. Because he is currently confident that when asked to canter it must be at a full out speed, that is all he thinks he needs to offer you. You are going to have to be able to influence his brain with alternative ideas, clarify how and what aids you use, and help him start to gain confidence when he mentally addresses you so that he can then offer alternative physical responses, rather than the current conditioned brainless responses.


First look at yourself, you will need to evaluate what aids you are using, how (specifically,) when you are using them, and with what amount of energy (on a scale of 1-10)? This will help you break down exactly at what point does your horse mentally "tune you out." Remember that a horse can feel a fly land on her skin, if you are creating a lot of "activity" with your aids (in this case the see sawing with your hands) and not getting a response, your horse is tuning you out. You’re job is going to have to “tune-up” your horse’s current level of insensitivity towards your aids.


Most people ride as “passengers” waiting to see what their horse is going to do, and then AFTER the fact, tell the horse if the behavior was “right or wrong.” I call this reactive riding. Instead you need to be “taking your horse for the ride”- mentally preparing ahead of time how, what and where you’re going to ask something of her. The more mental clarity you have ahead of time, the more accurately you’ll use your aids to communicate more clearly to your horse what you’re asking of her. She should be a mirror image of your energy in the saddle. But you’re going to have to take a few steps to establish this before you ever get into the saddle and certainly before you’re cantering and wanting to be able to influence her.


Many horses are what I call "shut down" (mentally unavailable) due to boredom and routine rides. It will take a lot of creativity to create interest in your horse so that she will begin to enjoy participating in the ride rather than tolerating the ride. You will also have to establish black and white lines that clarify which of her reactions to your aids and what behaviors will be acceptable and those that are not. The faster you can catch an unwanted response, the faster she can "let it go" and try another response.


The faster you acknowledge that she achieved your "ideal" response, (giving her a break, move on to something else, etc.,) the more confidence she will have to increase her level of mental availability and physical performance. As you increase your own awareness and thought process you will begin to be able to pin point where and when you need to do something different in order to get an alternative response from your horse.


Also you need to become aware if your horse only has a hard time slowing at the canter, or perhaps you may not have noticed, but I would guess, that asking her to perform various energy levels within the walk, trot, she probably also has a difficult time doing- this only becomes worse the faster she moves, which is why at a canter she feels slightly out of control.


To take it a step further back- I'd start with evaluating her ground work and how "light" she is on the lead rope. Does she barge past you at one pace when you're leading her? Does she display a "heaviness" on the lead rope as you go to turn? If you slow or increase your pace on foot, does she acknowledge this or does she ignore you? Everything she "displays" towards you on the ground will only become magnified once you are in the saddle and certainly the faster you ride.


Many times when working on a repeated exercise, horses try to please us by trying to do what is "right" ahead of when we have asked them. Depending on your horse's background, in your horse's case all she knows is to run, so rather than waiting for specific cues or direction from you, she "takes over" and offers what she thinks you want. There is not going to be a quick fix to undo years of established patternized rides by the previous owners. You need to have her mind available at all times to consider what you are asking. If you can influence her mind, then you can change her physical actions. The more she realizes you are helping her throughout the ride, rather than fighting to control her speed, the more sensitive she will be to listening to your aids.


Last but not least. Keep in mind that race horses run their fastest when they are straight... Mentally many horses are way ahead of where there are physically at; so if your horse is moving too fast, offer an “interruption” (such as a circle, a turn or specific task) as an alternative task to focus on, this will act as something to get her brain to slow down, and tune back in to where she currently is at. You can slowly make the task more specific, until she offers to slow down... then continue on with your ride as if nothing interrupted you... Soon it'll only take one rein to offer her a circle, turn, etc. and she'll slow down... Again, check your body language... If your weight is forward, similar to that of a jockey, you are offering your horse to run faster... If you weight is back in the saddle you are offering her to slow down...


With patience and clarity you will start in small steps (literally) to begin creating the opportunity for a two way conversation. This will allow both you and your horse to gain confidence in one another which will then lead to a trusting and fulfilling partnership that will allow you to both enjoy a quality ride. Remember, when your horse shows signs of rushing, nervousness, concern, worry or stress she is not trying to act naughty, rather she is asking for your help.
Good Luck,
Sam

Ask the Trainer: Difficulty Leading Horse & Respect on Ground

Topic_Info: Leading My Horse

Website_Info: searching online
Location: CT
Date: January 27, 2011
Question:


Say that I am taking my horse out of a pasture (through a gate) or leading my horse around. If the situation arises where my horse becomes spooked or just misbehaves, (bucking, kicking out, rearing, and running ahead of me, hard to control) what EXACTLY should I do in that situation? How should I control my horse? Should I turn them in a tight circle or back them up? I am clueless!

Note: I do not own my own horse/ride often, this is a bit of a beginner question, but this happened to me a little bit ago and I was clueless on what to do. Thank you!
Answer:
First you are going to need to offer your horse a "clean slate" and assume she knows nothing. Second you're going to need to raise your level of awareness and sensitivity. The time to influence a horse's brain and then movement is not in the moment when you most want them to stop what they are doing, but rather ahead of time. A horse never randomly does something, so you'll need to become aware of the first signs your horse displays that she is having a problem, AND believe her when she shows them. Something has obviously been missed in your horse has been educated and communicated with and she has resorted to "protecting" herself by taking over and fleeing.

Most people work with horses and are hopeful that the horse will figure out what is being asked of them. Instead you will need to offer black and white clarity towards what behaviors your horse offers that work and those that do not. You will need to establish clear communication when using the lead rope from the ground. When you do something it must MEAN something.


Your horse's defensiveness towards you (her fleeing or bolting) is her way of showing her lack of trust and her insecurities. You will not be able to force yourself upon her. You first need her to just want to be near you without fear or worry before you add any level of "real world."

Right now your horse is "making" the decisions because there is a lack of mental availability towards you. You need to get your horse's brain to slow down and address you, and then she will physically comply. Your goal should be to influence your horse's mental and emotionally availability in order to create a physical change. You will start to see how little an action can create a positive change in how your horse reacts as he begins to trust and respect you will. This will be the beginning of you working WITH your horse, rather than each of you tolerating one another.


Timing, awareness, energy, sensitivity and clarity are all things you will need to establish in order to start seeing positive results with your horse.

There needs to be a clarity of physical communication (because when leading her you are using a lead rope, so this a physical way of influencing her,) she needs to understand your energy and literally match that, if you want to move out in a big walk, she needs to too, or if you would like to "creep" along, she needs to make that adjustment to remain "with you." When you stop she needs to respect your personal space and stop immediately, rather than to "fall" into a stop.
Most times when people catch a horse the horse goes "brainless" on the end of the lead and is literally drug around. The horse may be physically complying but is mentally resistant. The day will come that if there is enough stress presented, if the person working with the horse does not have enough "tools" in when they use their lead rope and clear communication in how they use their rope, the horse will get just as "big" on the rope and as in your case, bolt.

You should be able to ask your horse to first stop and think, then look and then step in a designated direction (left, right, forward, backwards, sideways, etc.) You should be able to do all of this without having to lead your horse or "drive" her (with a whip, stick, etc.) in order to get an attentive, light, mental and physical response.


Remember the goal is for your horse to ask "what would you like?" instead of tolerating being told what to do every step of the way. The more confident she feels that you are listening and helping her when she is having a problem the more she will turn to you rather than coming up with her own way of avoiding (bolting) what you are presenting.
Once you can ask your horse to first look (to address what you are presenting) and then literally take one step at a time towards whatever you have presented you will then begin to establish the necessary tools to help your horse address what you are asking.

For example let's say that you are presenting walking through the gate in your arena. Before you ever get near the gate you need to see how focused (mentally) your horse is on you. If you ask her to stop, back up, step forward and so on is there a delay in her response, does she step into your personal space, and is she walking forward but looking somewhere else? These are all things you will need to address and clarify if there is any delay, lack of understanding or resistance from your horse before you present an obstacle.


Remember that the more you can break down crossing the gate into baby steps the more confidence he will gain in "trying" to address what you are asking. The more she believes she can "get it" (it being whatever you are asking of her) right, the more she will try when you present new things.


By the time you present the gate, grooming, standing tied, etc., you will have enough tools with just using your lead rope, if you can ask your horse to walk up to the gate and stop and address it (smell it, look at, etc.) Then you would imagine that you are presenting an imaginary line that you would like your horse to follow as she crosses the gate. First she has to be looking at this "line." In most cases if she is worried or insecure about the gate she'll try and avoid it by looking at everything EXCEPT the gate. So you'll need to address helping him focus using the aid of your lead rope by being able to establish looking specifically at the gate. She will not cross the gate with a "warm fuzzy feeling" until she decides to literally look at the gate.


Once she looks at the "line" you want her to walk on, you increase your energy (probably using the excess of your lead rope - but NOT driving her or chasing him) across the gate, literally one step at a time. You do not want your horse to "survive" crossing the gate, rather you want him to think and feel confident with each step he is taking as he crosses the gate. As she is on the gate you want to feel that you could stop her movement or pick a specific place that you would like to have her move.


After you successfully help her address and cross the gate from both directions (with plenty of breaks and rests in between) you might ask her to focus on something else and then present the gate again later in the session. The slower you can have her think about what you are asking, the better the quality of her performance will be.

Remember, your safety is a number one priority, if you hear that little voice in the back of your head telling you not to do something, listen to it. Too many horse related accidents occur because people are "hopeful" that it will all work out.
Good Luck,
Sam

Ask the Trainer: Ex Harness Horse- Aggressive mare- on the ground & when ridden

Topic: OUT OF CONTROL MARE
Website GOGGLE SEARCH
Location: PA
Date: February 01, 2011
Question:
I HAVE A 6YO OFF-TRACK HARNESS STB RACER. SHE'S HAD 7 MO UNDER SADDLE TRAINING. SHE USUALLY FREE LUNGES WITH NO PROBLEM. LATELY SHE HAS BEEN COMING AFTER ME. SHE WON'T LISTEN WHEN I TELL HER TO GO OUT, SHE COMES AFTER ME TRYING TO KICK ME. AFTER ITS ALL OVER SHE IS THE MOST LOVING HORSE EVER. LATELY SHE'S ALSO BEEN COW-KICKING WHEN ASKED TO GO TO A TROT. HAD THE VET UP YESTERDAY AND EVERYTHING SEEMS FINE. I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON AND I DON'T WANT TO GIVE UP ON HER BECAUSE OF THESE NEW ISSUES SHES HAVING.
Answer:

Thank you for writing and I am sorry to hear of your situation. First I am glad that you are searching for help. Second, there are so many variables that could affect what you are seeing/experiencing, what your horse is seeing/experiencing and what may actually be happening so my answers will be more to offer you ideas and perspective rather than a "fix it" solution.


First I'd like to address your initial statement of "free longing." For me, the round pen is a place where I'm looking for the mental availability of the horse, rather than accomplishing physical results. If the horse's mind is "open" to "hearing" what you are asking or suggesting, you then will see your horse physically perform as desired.


Instead, a more common train of thought when working with horses is to attempt physically control, direct or micromanage them, in order to get a change in their brain.

To put it into people terms, if you are physically resistant to doing a task because that task causes you emotional or mental stress, until you change how you FEEL about doing the task, you will never be able to accomplish to task to your full abilities. The same goes for horses.


The round is not a place to create dominance. In my mind, the round pen is a controlled and "safe" setting to work with your horse. You mentioned that when you ask your horse to move she charges, bucks and kicks. You need to first get her "thinking" forward, then her body will physically move forward, THEN you can become more specific as to where you would like her to move to. It would be the same as turning your steering wheel in a car as hard as you can, but if you don't have the car engine on and are not using gas, the wheel does you no good. Until she can be soft in how she thinks and moves forward, I would not worry as to which direction she may or may not be going.


As for your horse's actions of bucking, kicking or charging, she is trying her options. If she is resistant to go forward, most likely she is worried, insecure or fearful about what is being asked her. You may think "we've done this a hundred times before" but horses can be very good at either "stuffing their emotions"- not showing their real concern when bothered until one day "all of a sudden..." they offer some sort of dangerous or unwanted behavior. The other thing to keep in mind is your horse may have been "telling you" with small signs of resistance that she was starting to have a problem, worry, concern or fear- and you may have missed or ignored her mild pleas for help until her behavior become obvious enough to finally realize your horse was have a melt down. Her way of not "getting IT wrong" ("it" being whatever you are asking) is to not want to move.


But if you "force" her with enough pressure, her alternative is to eliminate what is causing the pressure and discomfort, in this case, you. So therefore she will charge you, if that gets you literally out of the pen, then the act of charging has accomplished eliminating a source of discomfort. The more that behavior works, the more she will resort to it.

Not knowing your horse's full history, she may really have either bad feelings associated with the round pen, or because of a lack of clarity from a person, find that the pen causes her stress. Typically, ex race horses of any discipline move out of fear and not "because they love to run." If you watch a horse in the wild, they only run when it's life and death. So, depending on how she was started under saddle after her racing career, she may have been taught to "keep it in" (not to move) when she had a problem. This may have made her seem physically compliable, but mentally and emotionally whatever was troubling her, was still troubling her even if she wasn't flamboyant in her movements.

Either way, her physical actions and resistance are a reflection of her mental and emotional status. You need to connect your ground work and your riding. Your ground work should be setting the tone for the upcoming ride. It is a safe "opportunity" for your horse to show you if she is having a problem, and for you to HELP her by addressing her problem, rather than forcing her to deal with it on her own. If you don't address the resistance, insecurity, etc. on the ground, you will then "feel" it when you're in the saddle.

As for the cow kicking at the trot and the "draggy" (backwards thinking or resistance to moving forward) attitude, these are the signs of the beginning stages of a troubled horse who does not feel that their rider is gong to help them feel better about life. Therefore, they'll need to "take care of themselves," thus the defensive behavior such as bucking, kicking out, etc. Horses do not "out of the blue" react drastically towards a person.


There needs to be a clarity of physical communication starting from the moment you catch your horse (because when leading her you are using a lead rope, so this a physical way of influencing her,) that when you do something with the rope, it needs to mean something to your horse. She should be able to think left, right, forward, backwards, sideways, etc. all by how you use your rope. She needs to understand your energy and literally match that, if you want to move out in a big walk, she needs to too, or if you would like to "creep" along, she needs to make that adjustment to remain "with you." When you stop she needs to respect your personal space and stop immediately, rather than to "fall" into a stop.

Your mare needs to understand when her different thoughts of work or if they do not. Most times when people catch a horse the horse goes "brainless" on the end of the lead and is literally drug around. They horse may be physically complying but is mentally resistant. The day will come that if there is enough stress presented, if the person working with the horse does not have enough "tools" in how they use their lead rope and clear communication in how they use their rope, the horse will get just as "big" on the rope as if they are loose.


You might be wondering how come she seems like a "loving" horse afterwards- well I'm sure there are times when your relationship with her does have quality, and so when she feels "warm and fuzzy" towards you on the inside, physically she can let down and appear relaxed on the outside. Your goal should be how find those moments no matter what you ask of your horse.


The more you are able to see and experience just how little of an action by you can create a positive change in how your horse trusts and respects you, will be the beginning of you working WITH your horse, rather than each of you tolerating one another. Timing, awareness, energy, sensitivity and clarity are all things you will need to establish in order to start seeing positive results with your mare.


So it sounds like you may need to seek the help of a trainer who can appreciate and respect working with the horse's brain in order to get a change in mental and emotionally availability. Remember, your safety is a number one priority, if you hear that little voice in the back of your head telling you not to do something, listen to it. Too many horse related accidents occur because people are "hopeful" that it will all work out.
Good Luck,
Sam