Spring Time Horse and Human Assessments

Every spring after a cold, dark winter folks start getting excited at the prospect of the upcoming riding season. For most people in the inland northwest, there is a major decrease in the amount of ride/horse time during the winter months. Below are some ideas to help safely get you back in the saddle!

Equine Health Assessment:  I suggest an evaluation with a vet or trained professional to help you recognize any health issues your horse might have and to create a plan on how to address them. Reevaluate your feed program and make any needed adjustments due to changes in weather, increase in physical work, etc. Keeping a calendar that tracks veterinary work, chiropractic work, farrier care, vaccinations/worming schedule, changes in feed, work/training program, etc. can be a futuristic tool and a historical reference in the case of any future health issues.

Tack Assessment: Horses vary in how they handle the transition from a tough winter to spring and often tack that fit the previous fall, no long fits your horse in the spring. More than 75% of all horses I encounter have ill-fitting tack.  Not only can it cause debilitating physical issues, but it can cause “bad attitudes” towards being caught/tacked/mounted/ridden from anticipation of potential pain when ridden. Evaluate why you are using the gear you are, if it is appropriate, check all stitching, leather, etc. to make sure it is in safe, usable condition. It is also a good time to pull out the saddle soap and glycerin and give an in-depth cleaning to all of your gear.

Mental/Emotional Equine Assessment: Every spring I start receiving daily emails from horse owners wondering what they should be doing with their horses after a long winter off. Often the “horse” that was turned out in the fall seems nothing like the one brought in during the spring time. It might be a good idea to ask for a professional’s opinion to assess the horse’s availability to be worked with. Many folks get hurt by “assuming” or being hopeful when resuming work with their horse in the spring time.

Mental/Emotional Human Assessment: I find a lot of folks are often “lost” in what they want to do with their horse, because of a lack of clarity in their own equine related goals. Take some time and write a list of short and long term goals for yourself (all of which can evolve throughout the riding season.) Then considering the horse you currently have, and ask yourself if those goals are appropriate for your current horse; if so, how will you implement working towards them?  If they aren’t appropriate for your horse, assess if the goals and tasks are more important to you versus the partnership with your current horse and his abilities.  If the goals might over-face your horse, but you want to continue working with the same horse, come up with attainable, alternative options for you and your horse’s current abilities.

Equine’s Physical Condition Assessment: Horses can come off winter with a lot of muscle loss and a bit of a hay belly. Come up with a reasonable conditioning plan (appropriate for your horse’s age, physical/abilities) to slowly help your equine partner get back into shape.  As the horse starts to build muscle, remember to reevaluate saddle fit, as it can change greatly.

Human’s Physical Condition Assessment: Folks focus on the condition of their horse, without giving much regard to their own fitness.  Whether you’re a pleasure or competitive rider, the better your cardio condition, flexibility and physical stamina, the better rider/partner you’ll be for your horse.  Riders often don’t realize a major contributor to the misuse of aids in the saddle is often due to them compensating, gripping, hanging, “holding on”, as a result of muscle exhaustion, inadvertently also miscuing the horse. The better shape you are as a rider, the better partner you will be to your horse.

Human’s Riding Experience Assessment: If your current riding abilities/experience leave you feeling unsure about getting back in the saddle, consult with a professional and take lessons or enroll in a training program.  Whether you’re a novice horse person or have ridden for 30 years, there is always more to learn, refine and finesse.  Sometimes people and horses get “stuck” in patterns and it takes an outside perspective to help break that cycle. Please do your research and remember that just because someone says they are a horse trainer, does not mean they will be a good fit for you and horse. Be sure to audit lessons/training sessions and get references from other current students before signing up to work with a new trainer.

Trailer Safety Assessment: If you’re planning on hauling your horse anywhere, be sure to have a thorough inspection of both your tow vehicle and horse trailer. Check electrical/wiring, tires (including the spare tire), brakes, floorboards, rust, possible wasp nests, etc. always suggest keeping an emergency equine vet kit, human first aid kit, unexpired fire extinguisher, 5 gallon water jug and bucket, electrolytes, spare halter and lead rope, jack/tire iron, and road flares in the trailer.

By taking the initial time to assess each of the above topics will help decrease the “guess work” with your horse, increase you and your horse’s safety and well being, and will lead to the start of a great riding season!
 Have fun,

Supporting vs Challenging the Horse

People often ask "what kind of horse training do you do?" I say I work with people and horses.

In the traditional world of horses, not categorizing yourself meant that you didn't really know a whole lot about anything. Nowadays I find it quite ironic how many students I have that come from "specialized" trainers but are having major issues on fundamental basics with their horses and the specialized trainers are unable to help them through the situations other than forcing the horses into submission through fearful and aggressive tactics.

On any given day I'm working with Colts, rehabilitating the older horse, refining the trained cutting or roping horse, mellowing the endurance horse, improving confidence in the ranch horse, slowing down the jumping horse who rushes at fences, improving the dressage horse's self carriage, and so much more.... And the thing that I keep repeating is, " At the core, all horses are all the same."

First we need to treat, interact, and have partnerships with these animals as Horses, then the specialized focused can come into play.

But there are so many people who are so fixated on accomplishing "stuff" that in the end, whether it's through ego, bragging rights, unintentionally overfaced with goals or otherwise, the human doesn't realize that they are setting up the horse to fail in what they ask of them because they don't have the fundamental Basics nor effective tools to communicate with the horse in order to support him through the scenarios they present.

Nine out of 10 new horses I meet have no concept or good feeling about pressure, whether it's physical or spatial, and are often defensive towards the human. People often want to rush through the motions constantly putting the horse in a position of having to tolerate very stressful scenarios and then afterwards act surprised when the horse no longer can handle it emotionally or physically.

My goal is to teach people how to communicate without relying on the instructor and learn to recognize the horses mental and physical resistance and influence a change in his thoughts and physical Behavior so that the ideal outcome is accomplished without a fight or a tantrum or an emotional meltdown from the horse.

But that takes time, that takes effort, that takes Clarity and intention from the human, and it takes an openness that you may not accomplish what you set out to accomplish in that particular day.

If we spent more time supporting our horses through their troubled moments rather than challenging them through them, in the long run we would accomplish so much more without the drama and stress for either horse or human.

Would you and horse benefit from an individualized Remote Coaching session with Sam?  Click HERE to find out more.