"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.


My horse won't lead!!!

Question:

Hi I picked up two horses last week in bad health. The mare is awesome and very well behaved but the gelding has a bad problem. He is fine to catch but when I go to lead him anywhere he is either very pushy pulley or won't move.  At first I thought it might have been due to the state I got him in. He is very under weight but I can put his food out and he will still stop and not move.  The mare I got from the same place in the same condition. She is fine she will walk when asked stop when asked.  I am not sure of his age but was wondering if there is anything I can do to help this horse trust me.  When I try to pat him or give him a brush he strikes at me.  I don't want anything bad to happen to him; he is a beautiful horse he's just been mistreated and is lacking trust in people.  If you could please advise on anything it would be great- thanks for your time.

Answer:
First you will need to establish clear communication when using the lead rope from the ground. When you do something it must MEAN something. 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.



The gelding's defensiveness towards you is his way of showing his lack of trust and insecurities. You will not be able to force yourself upon him. If right now patting and grooming him doesn't make him feel warm and fuzzy about life, then leave him alone. You first need him to just want to be near you without fear or worry.


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 of an action can create a positive change in how your horse 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 him you are using a lead rope, so this a physical way of influencing him,) he needs to understand your energy and literally match that, if you want to move out in a big walk, he needs to too, or if you would like to "creep" along, he needs to make that adjustment to remain "with you." When you stop he needs to respect your personal space and stop immediately, rather than to "fall" into a stop.


Your horse needs to understand when his thoughts 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. 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 how they use their lead rope and a clarity of communication in how they use their rope, the horse will get just as "big" on the rope as if they are loose.


You should be able to ask your horse to think, look and then step in the 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" him (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 he feels that you are listening and helping him when he is having a problem the more he will turn to you rather than coming up with his own way of avoiding 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 have the tools to help your horse address what you are asking.


For example let's say that you are presenting 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 him to stop, back up, step forward and so on is there a delay in his response, does he step into your personal space, and is he 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 he believes he can "get it" (it being whatever you are asking of him) right, the more he will try when you present new things.


By the time you present the gate, grooming, standing tied, etc., you will have enough tools in 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 he crosses the gate. First he has to be looking at this "line." In most cases if he is worried or insecure about the gate he'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. He will not cross the gate with a "warm fuzzy feeling" until he decides to literally look at the gate.


Once he looks at the "line" you want him to walk on, you increase your energy (probably using the excess of your lead rope - but NOT driving him 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 he is on the gate you want to feel that you could stop his movement or pick a specific place that you would like to have go.


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

Eventing Radio Episode 122 by Bit of Britain – New Zealand’s Golden Boys

Eventing Radio Episode 122 by Bit of Britain – New Zealand’s Golden Boys

Headshy Horse

Question
I have a 19 year old thoroughbred x who has become head shy since Ive got him which was about 4 months ago, originally it was just his bridle he didn't like but now he wont let me halter him either.

I have had his teeth checked etc by a vet and all OK, just wondered if you could give me any advice as every time I go to halter or bridle him he now puts his nose to the ground and swings his head around to the side out of my reach, it was actually easier when he threw his head up as I could hold his head down.

I would be really grateful of any help you could give me.
Thanks
Lyndsey

Answer:
Thanks for writing. There could always be a million reasons why a horse "suddenly" starts to behave in a certain manner. I would guess he did not start this over night, but perhaps he showed more subtle mannerisms or resistance when you attempted to touch his head in the past, and so you may have not noticed.

Instead of being distracted by his head tossing (which is a symptom and not the issue itself) you may have to investigate and "break down" the big picture to understand why your horse is doing what he is. Head tossing is typically a mixed sign of frustration and a bit of a aggressiveness. The aggressive behavior masks the insecurity he is currently feeling (if he is more offensive rather than defensive he may be able to protect himself better.)

 Because I have not seen you and your horse interact, I can only offer you some thoughts and perhaps an alternative perspective in viewing your horse's behavior. The seemingly drastic "sudden change" in your horse's behavior is a common occurrence between horses and humans. Many times we create a relationship with our horse that is so attentive it can be on the verge of overbearing in a horse's mind. The horse may appear calm and quiet and interested on the outside but may be stressed internally with feelings of doubt, fear, worry or insecurity.

 Were you ever able to work your horse at liberty or was he only worked while restrained with a halter and lead rope or while being ridden? If you were able to work him both loose and while on the lead, was there a difference in his stress levels, attitude, willingness, availability in his mind and how much "try" did he offer you?

 How much interaction and what kind of relationship do you have with your horse? Horses are wonderfully adaptable creatures and can rather quickly "get used to" or learn to "tolerate" situations without acting aggressively or in an ill behaved manner despite their internal feelings. Their true feelings about situations do not surface until they are "allowed" an opportunity and freedom to communicate with a person. You'll need to create scenarios where your horse wants to participate rather than tolerating you. At 19 he's pretty confirmed in his opinions about people. You will have to learn how to present scenarios in a new and interesting way that will renew his curiosity and encourage him to trust you.

 Right now may be the only opportunity that your horse has to convey to you (by remaining physically distant) that he may not be feeling as warm and fuzzy inside about his relationship or interaction with people. Most people do not notice a horse attempting to tell them that he is having a mental or emotional problem until the horse does something so physically obvious, disruptive or unmanageable that the person cannot ignore the behavior.

 I suggest each day that you work with him, you approach him as having a "blank slate" education, experience and history wise. This may feel disheartening to you after all the "progress" he made with his training. In my mind, I would rather have a horse that can convey his honest feelings regarding his attitude towards me and work with him towards making him "feel good," rather than force him to tolerate whatever it is that I'm asking of him, with no regard as to how he feels about it until the day he can no longer "deal" with me and acts out dangerously, reactively, or aggressively.

So how to proceed from here? Ask 20 people and you will get 20 different answers. I would say you would need to get you and your horse into a "safe" place such as a round pen (even if it's a bit ugly to catch him to get him there) and then start with a clean slate. Assume he knows nothing (do not worry, his "training" will not be lost or forgotten) but with the guidance of someone who can help you and your horse work together, you will need to start talking "with" your horse rather than "at" him. 

You'll need to revisit the basics in areas such as pressure: spatial, physical and vocal. With the guidance of  someone who can help point out his body language so that you will begin to become aware and understand that there is a reason why your horse does every single thing he does.  You will have to learn how to take what he is offering and be able to clearly communicate so that you can influence a change in his future behavior, rather than correcting him "after the fact."  In a calm, quiet and clear manner, your goal should be to be able to influence your horse emotionally and mentally, which in turn will affect his outward behavior and attitude towards you.  Once he learns to respect, trust and try- symptoms such as "head shyness" will dissipate on their own. 


Good Luck,
Sam

Age to Start a Horse

Question:
I have a 16 month old Paint that I have bonded with very well she accepted the bridle and now saddle, but at what age can I actually get on her back? Thank You Terrie



Answer:
Hello and thanks for writing. Horses tend to look big and strong at a young age but it takes a LONG time before they mentally, emotionally and physically mature. Each horse should be assessed as an individual in where their maturity is and when they are ready to ride. Also keep in mind that the initial foundation of the first few rides is only the beginning of a continuously ongoing long term project in educating the horse.


In too many situations a person will "steal" the first few rides on their young horse. Then you hear stories that the next time they went to get on "all of a sudden" the horse starts to act up. People tend to get distracted by the physical goal of getting on the young horse the first few times, rather than addressing where the horse's brain is, offering quality clear communication and building confidence and trust in the young horse.

Your horse's physical actions are a direct reflection of her mental and emotional state. Part of the horse's maturity process is waiting for her to mentally grow up. Your horse needs to be mentally and emotionally available AND participative so that when you teach her to accept a rider the sessions seem "boring." You want the experience to be a positive one so that she has those "warm and fuzzy" feelings towards you and wants to participate the next time you want to work with her.

There is a LOT of preparation that should go into educating your horse before you ever think about getting on her for the first time. A few things to consider  and evaluate include: having her stand quietly while you "fuss" around her, being respectful and clear how to yield to physical and spatial pressure, being able to accept your weight in one stirrup as you simulate the beginning of mounting, etc. She'll need to be desensitized to movement not only where the saddle would sit, but also around her head, sides, barrel, legs, etc. She'll need to understand how to respond to the aids you present from the ground which should be similar to the ones used to communicate when you ride her.

You need to think of getting on her for the first few times separate from what you might term "riding her." The first few sessions you may just get on and off a few times, walk and turn a bit and then put her up for the day. A successful ride should be "BORING." No stress, no worry, etc. from either you OR the horse.   Always end the session on a positive note. As your horse gets more comfortable and balanced with you sitting on her, she'll tell you when she's ready to learn more.

There is no "common" age for most horse's knees to be closed- it varies according to their particular breed and individual growth. With the horse's well being prioritized, nowadays it is common for them to be ridden lightly a few times, then turned back to pasture until they mentally and physically mature.

For me personally, I'd rather take my time when starting horses by working with the horse and offering what they can benefit from, rather then using a "standardized training program."  My goal is for LONG TERM  quality and rewarding experiences with the horse.  Rather than force a lot of them early on, with the risk of them becoming overwhelmed and frustrated emotionally which can cause them to break down physically later, I look to create small doses of quality that will help build the horse's confidence which encourages his curiosity and desire to participate with a positive attitude in future training.

Good Luck,
Sam

BLM Burros for Adoption- Letter from Activist in Yuma

I'm writing you is because there are 3 other special lady burros (these 3 and the other 3 at Chino are all part of the original herd I got involved with) still here in the desert around the Imperial Dam north of town, and if BLM ever does another roundup out here then I would really like to know of a place where they would be welcomed. All these ladies are just so special to me that I hope to be able to find a home for them, and also one where I can visit and continue to have them in my life. When we spoke before you asked that I send you information about them, so I'm sending some pictures as well. I have no idea the age of any of them, but I've been involved with them at least 10 years, so they're at least that age. They all seem extremely healthy and all these girls are used to being around people.

 
This lady is my No. 1 favorite (along with Emma at the sanctuary) Jordan and she's such a mellow lady, loves to be hugged, brushed, and the people contact. Here she is with her current baby girl Tilly.
















Below is a better picture of Jordan with a previous little girl.
This lady is a favorite too, named Jenny, and she is the most beautiful lady out here. She also has a teardrop birthmark under he left eye. Here she is with last year's little girl. She has another spittin' image little girl this year.
This lady is the third favorite, Lizzie. I'm thinking she could be older than the first two ladies, and is painfully shy. I've brushed her in the past but I don't know how I ever got it done cause she is so darn shy and won't let you touch her (I keep trying), altho she is friendly and is used to people.
My greatest hope is to someday be able to reunite these 6 girls, as they are all gal-pals and traveled together in the desert here before BLM did their darn roundup in December 2003 and unfortunately snagged the 3 ladies I adopted (Emma, Princess and Betty).


If you would know anyone at all Jennifer who would be available to give them a home if and when BLM does another roundup, I sure would like to know of them. I've learned so much about burros just by being around them and watching their ways, and I've grown extremely fond of them. Two years ago I discovered the dominant male dead at the water's edge of Senator Lake and, much to my horror, he had been shot. For a dominant male, he was one heck of a sweet guy and I had just seen him 2 nights before.


Lana F (please click the link to email)

What is a horse worth? Potential Buyer Perspective

Topic_Info: buying a horse Website_Info: Through google
Location: Michigan
Date: March 16, 2011


Question:

I am going to purchase a 9 year old APHA registered sorrel tobiano paint mare. she is trained (not professionally trained) in western specializing in trail and pleasure, also English pleasure and dressage and has also been jumped 2'3". She has never been shown. No health problems what-so-ever. Perfectly sound. No kick, bite, rear, spook, or buck. How much is she worth?

Answer:

Hi there. My answer is based on factors to consider when pricing a horse from a potential buyer's perspective. There tend to be two common types of buying- rational and emotional. There are people who will justify a price depending on several different factors- some rationally based and some emotionally motivated.



The most obvious way to price a horse is to base it on the horse's "proven" background (show record, breeding, racing, etc.)



The next could be based on the horse's blue sky potential (the future possibility of what the horse might do someday in the arena, breeding, etc.)



You'll have to also HONESTLY decide what YOUR goal for buying the horse is. Is the horse currently at an education/training level that is appropriate for your abilities and intentions or will you have to invest money is training, show exposure, etc. to get the horse up to par for your needs/ability. If all you want is a trail horse, but are looking at one with a lot of show experience, there is no "real" value to you- other than for future potential re-sale value.



Physical soundness of the horse can greatly affect the price. Again depending on your goals will affect the soundness of the horse. Are you basing soundness on the horse's physical history, x-rays (if so how in depth), etc.? Even if a horse has something show up on an x-ray, it might not matter or affect your goals for the horse. The appearance of a potential physical issue can affect price.



Also to consider is if you are buying the horse from a private party or from a "show barn" type facility. The private party will usually always offer a lower sale price than a barn that perhaps bases their prices depending on the reputation of other sale horses from their barn or has a high turnover of horses. There are certain barns that specialize in "sales prep" and solely focus on tuning up a horse for the sale market, rather than having a long history associated with the horse.



The current economy (or lack of) is a huge factor in today's horse market. Horses have depreciated due to our current financial crises and the now flooded horse market that has been affected by both the removal of slaughter laws and the "quick sale" or "free" horses offered by owners who no longer can afford to keep their horses.



Next is location, location, location. Horses that used to be worth $5000 are now advertised at $1500. The problem is, even if the sale price has been dropped, you need to watch what horses have been actually SOLD. You can have the same horse listed for sale in New England, Florida and Arizona and get three very different "values." If you take some time and look at local horse publications and skim the classifieds section you'll start to get an idea of how much horses are being offered at according to their age, experience, education, etc.



Then there's the emotional side of buying a horse. Many people wind up owning a horse because they "fell in love" with the horse or the idea of the horse they are trying out. This isn't always a practical decision with many people winding up with "too much horse" because they were "hopeful" the horse would eventually become something suitable for their needs, goals, etc. Someone who is emotionally basing their desires can usually justify spending more money on a horse than someone rationally deciding.



So you'll need to evaluate your priorities, goals, and current ability to decide what value you can put to this particular horse you are trying out and then decide FOR your needs what you can justify. Remember, as the buyer, you can ALWAYS walk away, and there are ALWAYS more horses out there.


The owner typically is emotionally basing their price on their horse- they're past efforts, training, showing, initial buying price, etc. and that is how they come up with the value they are offering their horse for sale. Even if you offer the owner a price that is rejected, leave your contact info and in many cases they'll contact you and sell the horse at a price closer to what you have the horse valued at in your mind.


Good Luck,
Sam

Anti Social Horse

Question

Hi Samantha,
I hope you have some helpful advice! I've read books, talked to many, observed, studied, watched RFD TV, DVDs, attended a clinic, etc., yet can't find an answer anywhere to what seems to be a unique problem ... HELP!

I bought an orphaned 3 day old Palomino filly in 2/05. I cared for her and loved her like a Momma, feeding her mares match around the clock until she was old enough to be introduced to solid food. From there I taught her ground manners, and worked our way up to breaking her myself. I've been riding her for the past 2 years, Western pleasure and on Trail Rides. My now,

four and a half year old filly is a smart, willing, good partner for me, particularly considering she's still young - - however she is extremely territorial on trail rides and very anti-social to all other horses. If any other horses come near us, along side of us or behind us on a trail ride, (reasonable distances), then my horse pins her ears back, acts extremely territorial, agitated, and anti-social to the other horses.

My horse has jolted as though in fear, and acts nervous when horses come up from behind, or even beside us. She's not relaxed in any normal horse traffic on rides, and has also kicked another horse once.

At first I thought she might be acting like this due to fear of the other horses on rides. I thought this as a possibility because she was the only foal on our ranch without a Mare the spring she was born and ultimately pastured with our brood mares and their foals. This placed her as the low man on the totem pole in the peck-in order, thus I've regretted since the possibility that this may have been a factor in her social skills and development with horses. Also keeping in mind she spent great amounts of time with me as a foal vs horses as well. Maybe her early years retarded her social skills with other horses, or maybe it's her fear of the other horses that might be playing itself out.

I'm not certain, as I'm not a horse psychologist. I've also thought of the possibility that she was being overly protective of ME, her "Momma-rider". To my amazement, my Farrier suggested the same concept in his thinking.

Now what???
How do I break her anti-social, mad, pinned back ears, overly territorial, protective attitude and negative behavior to other horses on rides? I would like to enjoy the rides, and not have to be concerned about a potentially dangerous situation?!

Any advice, suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated!
Seeking Happy Trails,
Claudia

Answer:
The first concept I'd like to introduce is that your horse's actions are a reflection of her mental and emotional status. Most horses that have a hard time interacting with others, whether a person is around them or not, has to do with their own insecurities. Although your horse may respect and accept you as the "leader" of her herd, she still has worries that have not been addressed. There are two parts to your question- the first is what is she insecure about?  The second is even if she is feeling insecure she needs to learn how to deal with her concerns in a "reasonable" manner.


The reasoning behind her worries are probably a combination of issues. She probably is a bit anti social because of how she was raised, but it's pretty hard to "take the horse out of the horse." You may have to try different horses with her to find an "accepting" or less threatening buddy horse that she can interact with.

Also, even if she's been a "quiet ride," there is still a lack of trust towards you when other horses are present. You would like that your horse asks "What can I do?" rather than having the "Why should I?" attitude when working with her.  If she's worried she should feel confident to ask you for help. Instead her nasty attitude and aggressive actions are a reflection of emotional and mental frustration and she is using them as an "outlet."
The first thought that comes to mind is that perhaps when life appears to you as "good" for your horse, it may still be lacking a "warm and fuzzy" or confidence building experience.

You mentioned that she normally rides out nicely. Not knowing how you work with your horse I'd ask if there is any possibility of a patternized or routine behavior you and/or she have together when going for a ride. If the location is a familiar spot you ride at do you always mount and dismount in the same place, do you always head down the same trails, if you are riding with another horse do you ever present "unexpected" questions to your horse?

People and horses easily fall into comfortable riding behaviors especially on a trail ride where most people are looking to "let down and relax." Our horses may appear to be well behaved and having fun until we change what they are used to, and then we "suddenly" find a problem in our partnership.

Even if your horse has never displayed extreme signs of stress, frustration and worry that she showed when you uncountered other horses on the trail ride, does not mean that she may not be carrying those feelings around with her all of the time.

The first thing I do translate from what you have described is that when she does reach his "melt down" point she is unable to emotionally, physically or mentally deal with a scenario- and she is not turning to you to ask for help. The second, is that perhaps there are times when you believe your horse is okay and perhaps she is not.

This in turn means that there needs to be a re-established level of clear communication between the two of you so that no matter however minor or major an issue may arise, when your horse has a problem, she should ask you how you would like her to deal with it rather than to make decisions on her own, such as what she showed on the trail.

The other horses passing you on the trail, whether it is geldings or mares in heat, are irrelevant. Whenever we work or ride our horses their brains ought to be with us at all times (which is an attention demanding task on both of our and the horse's level of participation.) You may have to take a step back and assess the quality of the relationship between you and your horse- starting on a "good day" with simple tasks. Below are a few things you might consider:

How sensitive and available is your horse to address and listen to your aids with you do as little as possible and him offering you as much as possible without any stress?

Can you interrupt your horse as he is doing something you asked and "suddenly" present something else? Is she willing to let go of what she thought you wanted to try the new task?

How is her confidence with a scenario that has never been presented to him before? Does she turn to you to help him or does he "take over" trying to figure out the task at hand?

Many people say "Move the horse's feet in order to influence the brain." I actually present the opposite theory, "Influence the horse's mind to get a physical and emotional change." It does not matter what physical task you ask of your horse whether you are doing circles, serpentines, figure eights, backing, transitions, etc. The point of the task is to ask for the mental availability, participation and then commitment with her physical movement.

Let's say you are presenting a circle. The horse should be able to tell the difference when you are asking her to first LOOK towards where you might want him to turn. (So many horses go through the motions of movement without ever thinking or looking about where they are going.) Then if you ask her to step towards a specific direction, the front leg closest to where you would like her to step should move first- and only ONE step at a time. (This is important because it means she has shifted her brain and then her physical balance to prepare to "follow" her thought towards the designated direction.)

Next there should be a softness and intention in her step and a bend in her body if she feels "good" and is committed to where she is moving. (If not it will feeling like you are sitting on a board and you will feel her "leaking" out the shoulder opposite from the direction you would like her to move.) If there is a "drag" in her step she is not thinking about moving forward. This is common in horses that are insecure because they become so worried about understanding or anticipating what the rider might ask of them wrong, that they offer two extremes- they would rather not try anything rather than make a wrong movement and get reprimanded for it at all OR they try everything they can come up with that might be the "correct" answer.

The quality of a physical pattern you present to your horse should be the foremost priority. You may only get three steps of a quality circle until there is clarity between you and your horse and availability in her brain to hear what you are asking of her. If at home or in a "safe" scenario there is any holes in your communication or her mental try, whenever you add stress, such as the above mentioned trail ride, you will only get even less of her to "hear" and address what you are asking of her.

Get the basics as quality as possible so that whatever scenario presents itself along the way you will be able to address it in small quality steps (mentally and physically) with a horse who has the confidence and trust to believe that what you are asking of her will make her feel better. Horses typically "take over" as a self preservation mechanism, not because they are trying to cause havoc and stress to their rider.


Good Luck,
Sam

Separation Anxiety

Question

I have a 6 year old Arabian mare. I also own her mother. the 6 year old has never been broken or separated from her mom. Her mom has been broken and has no problem being separated. How do I get the 6 year old to settle down so I can work with her, when I pull her away from her mom or restrain her in the pasture where her mom is- she gets very anxious, stopping, snorting, rearing. She will not stand still for brushing or general grooming. I am not sure what to do to get her to settle down. We bought both horses for riding, and do not want to have to get rid of the 6 year old but if we cannot ride her I am not sure I can justify keeping her She is a very friendly nice mannered horse except when trying to work with her she comes, eats out of our hands, lets us pet her just not work with her I am desperate for help. Please help me.  PS I cannot afford to send her to a trainer 


Answer:
It sounds like a basic lack of clarity in communication, understanding and confidence with your six year old that is causing these scenarios to happen. Certainly because your horse is young (they take quite a while to mentally and emotionally mature even if physically they look "grown up") there will be a constant asking from them towards you "Do you really mean it?" This is not done in a challenging way, but is rather their way of trying to discover the boundaries of what behavior will "work" and what will be unacceptable. Many times when horses appear "sweet" and want to be near us physically we are interpreting this as affection and care. In a lot of cases it is actually the horse that feels she is "dominating" the person in the situation, even if they do not seem dominant or aggressive towards the particular person that they are near.



Your horse's physical actions are a reflection of her mental and emotional status. It sounds like when you interact her she may be physically next to you, but is still mentally with the other horse. There could be a few different things going on at the same time but it may look to you as if it is one big scenario. Below are a few ideas to think about when addressing your horses.

A.) Lack of respect towards you and/or any other human.

B.) Lack of understanding of personal space and awareness towards people.

C.) Lack of emotional and mental availability to ask a person, "What would you like?" They are rather filling in the answer themselves with what they think is right.

D.) Lack of "try" to understand when working with a person (such as being caught, led, tied, groomed, tacked, etc.) that they need to focus on the person rather than "everything else" going on in life.

E.) When they experience insecurity they need to feel or find leadership from the person who is working with them. If the young Paint was asking your husband for "help" and you did not realize it, your horse begins to show signs of stress and agitation.


Keep in mind that most times when a horse's behavior becomes apparent or "big" there were usually many warning signs of frustration, insecurity, worry, fear, or otherwise ahead of the "dramatic" behavior. Especially when working with young horses, every moment, every step, every thought matters. It is a lot of "work" for a person to be aware constantly of both what they are doing and offering their horse and how their horse is receiving and interpreting this information. You will have to address some of the issues I mentioned above separately and independently before trying to attain the "whole" picture.


You will need to be able to start to offer your the horse the opportunity to gain and build confidence. This can be done in many "small" and "simple" ways. Ideally to have a safe place such as a round pen, where she can be loose in a small area you can help her learn how to narrow down her options without having to manhandle her.


She will need to learn how to present herself to be caught, how to walk respectfully on the lead rope, how to stand quietly anywhere whether she is tied or not while you groom and saddle her, etc. All of this ground work is SO important because it sets the tone and attitude for the ride. If she is showing anxiety while you are working with her from the ground, you are getting a preview of how the upcoming ride will be. By learning how to communicate clearly to help her address what is worrying her, and then helping her learn how to "let it go," you are creating a trusting relationship which will then blend into your aids when you help her from the saddle. If you let the "basics" go from the start, every time you ride her you'll only be "hopeful" in surviving the ride. To me, horses are too strong and fast to be hopeful. I want to know that I have the tools necessary to work WITH them to sort out a situation.

My outlook is that I treat horses emotions and mental stability similar to that of humans. The more I get a horse or person to trust me, the more confidence they gain and the increased "try" they will have when addressing whatever I may present. Their respect will increase as they find that the "risks" they are willing to take in "trying" new things or actions help them wind up in a better place mentally, emotionally and physically.


Think of your time with your horse as the same balance she would find if she were in a herd. There is only one leader in the herd. So you have the option that either your horse or you can "lead." If your horse leads, her priority will be the other horse. Then her priority will be sticking by or finding the horse. But, if you give your horse clear scenarios presented in a "safe" setting such as a round pen, where she can start to learn what behaviors will work and those that will not when he interacts with you, she will start to mentally learn how to "learn" and "try" to address what you are asking of her.


IF you can get your horse to slow down and "think" her way through something (whether it be how slow she steps, stepping in a specific spot, teaching her to stand and wait, etc.,) her body will stay far more relaxed and compliant. But, if you physically try to dominate the horse and push or force her through something you will never change how she feels about what you have asked her to do, and so each time you present the same scenario she will become increasingly resistant. Rather if you change how she feels about what you are presenting, then she will be able to address it and move in with that ideal "warm fuzzy" feeling.


If you try to use force to get your horse to comply, which you may be able to do for a while, over time it will take more and more artificial equipment (open any magazine or go to any tack store and you'll see thousands of "short cut" aids) to get your horse to do what you would like. Although she may not act "huge" or dangerous, there will be an internal resistance and frustration inside of her that will increase every time you interact with her. Finally it may be a month or years later, she will reach the day when she can no longer be "forced" to do what you have asked and will "all of a sudden" freak out or act up.

It will take much more patience, effort, availability and time from you in the beginning to build a quality foundation with your horse, but it will affect her entire outlook of life with humans. Instead of having the teenager perspective of "Why should I?" which is how most horses operate, with trust and respect your horse will offer you a "What would you like me to do?" attitude which will be safer and more rewarding for both of you.
The last part is to evaluate if you have the time, ability and mental clarity to help your horse. If you cannot offer 100% when you work with her, you cannot expect her to participate fully.


Good Luck,
Sam

Ask the Trainer: Rearing

Topic_Info: rearing

Website_Info: came across it when looking up info on rearing
Location: Livermore falls, Maine
Date: March 14, 2011
Question:
My horse had been rearing a lot. The footing in my field isn't that good, she had been fine all summer then got her shoes off, the ground got hard, and then she started. Then when the first snow came she was fine for a month or so, then when the snow got hard, uneven, and high she started again. Do you think she is doing this because of the footing? It's very aggravating and I try to bring her head to my knee and make her go forward but I can't she's too powerful. I have been doing groundwork with her for now until she gets her shoes back on, and the snow is gone. I'm hoping she will be better.

Answer:
If all possibilities of pain have been ruled out (such as sore feet- have a farrier or vet use a hoof tester to see if she is experiencing any soreness while barefoot) in all the cases of aggressive behavior that I have dealt with, such as rearing, the footing would not be a big enough issue to cause the dramatic behavior you are experiencing.


The horse's brain is what needs to be addressed. A horse's physical action is a direct result of their mental and emotional state. When they feel good on the inside, they are relaxed and compliant on the outside. When they are stressed, worried, insecure, etc. on the inside, they display unwanted and often dangerous behavior.


Something somewhere in her experience with people has caused a level of resistance within her brain that perhaps when it was first displayed probably appeared in a rather mild manner. As her "pleas" for help went either ignored or unnoticed, she had to start acting "bigger" until she got your attention and was finally addressed. By the time she is "consistently rearing" she is pretty convinced that people are NOT there to help her, and therefore she must make decisions to "protect" herself without considering the rider.

The rearing is a symptom; it is not the issue itself. You're going to need to step back and assess the quality and clarity of communication you currently have with your horse. You're going to need to address when you start being "hopeful" - these moments cause you to "survive the ride" rather than "taking your horse for the ride." This creates neither the horse nor you making decisions that result in a positive experience. Then both of you come away from the ride with less confidence which then sets a pattern in expecting a lack in quality in the next ride.
Horses are herd animals. There's only one leader in the herd, if you are not clear within your own mind of what you want, how and what aids you use and with what energy level, there is no way your horse will be clear on what is being asked of her.
Too many times a horse has tried multiple options when they are bothered, fearful, insecure, etc., but are ignored by their rider, until the horse finally displays drastic behavior. People tend to wait until their horse is behaving unreasonably to attempt to address the horse, and by then, it's too late, the horse already has mentally checked out, emotionally melted down and physical become unreasonable or dangerous.

Rather than consistently reaching this dramatic point in a ride by acting like a passenger, you'll need to first establish clear communication tools and then learn how to watch for the signs of when your horse starts telling you that she is feeling bothered about life so that you can then INFLUENCE what happens rather than attempt to survive it. You're going to have to offer your horse a clean slate and assume nothing.

BELIEVE your horse. Whether you're attempting to catch her, tack her up, mount, or hack out- if there is any level of stress, agitation, worry or fear- hard to catch, fussy when tied, fidgeting when mounting, tail swishing when you apply your leg, grinding teeth, "grabbing" or leaning on the bit, slow to respond to an aid, etc., you'll need to put your initial intentions or goals for the ride aside to address the current concerns your horse is having. Even if you don't think "it’s a big deal" or if your horse has "done this a million times before," pay attention to her concerns. If you don't respect and address her worries- however insignificant they may seem to you, and you continue to "force" her to "just deal with it" (it being whatever is bothering her,) you're creating a ticking bomb. It will not be a matter of "if" but rather "when" she explodes mentally and then physically- such as with her current rearing.

By focusing on your horse's brain when she is having a problem and helping her learn how to mentally work through her concerns, she will physically respond in a reasonable and safe manner. She'll learn to trust you when you use your aids with clear communication because they will mean something to her. This is the beginning of teaching a horse how to learn how to "try." When she has concerns or if she is having a problem rather than naturally responding defensively be being "reactive" which causes a dramatic result and only instills more fear in both horse and rider, we'd like the horse to pause (mentally and physically) and ask, "What would you like?" to its rider.
Obviously this is not a quick fix solution. But the rearing is not going to go away on its own. Don't be hopeful. Even if you were strong enough to "manhandle" your horse into giving you her head and she quit rearing, her current mental and emotional stress would then manifest itself into another form of dangerous behavior. Take the time to address the issue, and the dangerous symptom, in this case the rearing, will disappear on its own.
Good Luck,
Sam

Clinics: Thoughts on participating & auditing- Getting the Most for your Money

Clinics:  When to, why should you and with whom?

When To Clinic
When training with same person for a long period of time.
As a tune-up if you ride by yourself.
To polish-off finishing touches before a competition.
To gain new solutions for issues and problem areas.

Why Should You
New ideas and training methods
Different perspective about issues
To avoid pitfalls of oversights by a too familiar instructor
To hear things said a different way
To get another opinion
Potential exposure for horse in new location

With Whom
Suggestions from trainer
After Auditing a previous clinic with the same clinician
Articles in Magazines & Internet

Clinician’s TrainingFind out the background of the clinician: Not just in their own accomplishments but their experience as a quality level instructor

Rating a Clinician
Do they treat riders individually?
Are they quick to make statements?
Are they open minded?
Do they listen to the rider?
Does their teaching style accommodate the level and experience of both horse and rider?
Do they teach using detailed and clear explanations?
Do they want to “fix” the problem by getting on the horse immediately?

Getting the Most out of a Clinic-Personally
Dress in light colors (all black is hard to see).
Do not use new or different tack on the day of the clinic.
Do clean your tack and horse ahead of time.
Find out if you should be warmed up before your session.

Do not make excuses…
Get plenty of sleep the night before.
If driving to a location get clear directions ahead of time.

Getting the Most out of a Clinic: Hints
If you can- bring a mega-phone or some hearing device in the case you cannot hear the clinician.
It is a waste to spend the money and to not hear half of what is being said.
Wear a watch.
Be on time.
Don’t forget your checkbook and pay all fees BEFORE your first session.
Watch other people’s sessions if possible.  You can learn by watching other people. It can be easier to watch someone who is having the same issues as you and see how they fix them, as opposed to when you are in the saddle and are trying to address multiple issues as you are learning from the clinician.

Getting the Most of a Clinic- Videotaping
Videotape your ride- make sure the video can clearly record the clinician’s voice.
Bring a friend to film.
Have the person filming “figure out” the camera before the clinic and the type of taping you like.
Bring extra batteries and film.
Bring tripod.

Getting the Most out of a Clinic: Afterwards
Write down the main issues addressed in your session, how they were addressed, and any other key points.
Watch your video a few days later to see with a “clear” mind your ride and the clinician’s instruction.

Pre-cautionsBe aware that one clinic lacking in quality and respectful instruction can easily digress a rider and horse rather than helping them progress.
To have a positive experience you should remember that it is okay to not agree with everything being said.
Take what you want and leave what you don’t like.
Just because an issue seems to be fixed in the clinic does not make it permanently resolved.

It is Your Right to Say No
JUST BECAUSE A CLINICIAN…
MAY BE WELL KNOWN
HAS A LOT OF RESPECT WITHIN THE EQUINE COMMUNITY
IS OF INTERNATIONAL CALIBRE
IS LIKED BY YOUR TRAINER, FRIENDS, ETC.
DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE INSTRUCTOR WILL BE RIGHT FOR YOU.

Remember
You should always feel safe, comfortable and positive with what is being asked of you.
IF AT ANY TIME YOU FEEL OVERWHELMED OR UNCOMFORTABLE-STOP IMMEDIATELY.
Trust your instincts- don’t do something you do not want to do- speak up.
Most people who have had bad experiences is because they did not stop when they knew they should have.

Potential Positive Experiences to Gain
New ideas and techniques to improve you and/or your horse
New exercises
Possible changes in tack and equipment
A reality check
Goal re-evaluation
Improved self-esteem
Problem awareness, explanation and clarity

Have fun!!!