Using a round pen- an Alternative Horsemanship perspective

I find 95% of folks misuse a round pen, whether under the guise of "exercising" or teaching conditioned responses, an example being the lesser of two evils is to turn, face the human, and be caught rather than made to run; which is a bullying tactic. The problem with teaching conditioned responses and patterns is the day you change the routine, the horse does not know how to react because his responses have been obedient versus thoughtful. Sometimes, this creates him throwing a tantrum or seemingly becoming a fire breathing dragon instead of the horse you're used to. 

Dangerous Horse Behavior: Food Aggression

Question: My 3-year-old gelding has developed a habit of dipping his neck down, then shaking his head at me at feeding time. He didn't do this over summer, of the two youngsters he was the most respectful. I assume his attitude says he is more important than I am, and wonder how to correct him. He is second to the mare in herd status, she is just 4 but very dominant over him, but accepts me as the lead mare. Why has my lovely Chinook taken such a turn? Had him since he was a baby, and the only difference is, its Alaska and its winter so I don't spend as much time with them.

Learning to Believe the Horse's Communication

A client's mule from a few years ago...
30+ years ago when I started out with horses I never would have thought my journey would evolve as it has... The variety of disciplines and animals I've worked with was not exactly intentional, but rather part of my evolving journey. The more exposure I had to unfamiliar experiences, the more I wanted to learn.

Whether it was 3 Day Eventing, jumpers, Dressage, racehorses, driving, ranch roping, moving cattle, cutting, reined cow horse, packing in the mountains, colt starting, Horsemanship, or rehabilitating dangerous horses, each area had something to add to my foundation of understanding. Over the years my experiences ranged in working with a variety of breeds such as Thoroughbreds, ponies, Warmbloods, Arabians, Heavy and Light Drafts, Chilean Criollos, east Asian horses, gaited horses, Mustangs, Mules, and many others.

Practice Listening to the Horse

We could gain a lot more out of our relationships if we practiced listening and hearing more, especially when comes to interacting with the horse.

Trail Riding with your Horse: All the right Ingredients

One of the greatest challenges I have is getting folks to switch from reactive to proactive behavior with their horse. Although for a majority of people riding is supposed to be a fun outlet or escape from other aspects of their life, it isn't always the romanticized experience that initially inspires most folks to start riding in the first place. But it can quickly become an emotionally frustrating experience when the human has intentions that may not yet be appropriate for their own abilities or that of their horse. 

The Follow Through with the Horse

I was recently asked a great follow up question and thought I'd share my response here. Paraphrasing here, I was asked what happens if you try to be aware and support your horse 99% of the time, but "miss" the 1 % when a horse's behavior catches you off guard. Is it just horses being horses or? So I thought I'd share my answer in today's post.

Preparing the Horse for Realistic Unknowns

If you have the opportunity to spend time with your horse, there are plenty of ways to learn to notice any unintentionally conditioned behaviors in them.

Why Horsemanship matters in Everyday Scenarios

Why "it" matters...
Yesterday in preparation for embracing truly remote isolation for the next few months, I had to pick up three different horses (all currently at private, remote desert locations) and bring them to a fourth private farm to meet the vet.

I haven't taught in person in the last month, and these horses will be making the 1,400-mile journey north through country most folks in the USA have never even been to. Do you know what it is like to drive for 300 miles on one road and only pass a few other vehicles? My rig is self-sustained, including with enough fuel so that we never have to engage with another human to make the entire trip! We will summer in isolation in the heart of the rocky mountains.

Horse Training Approach: What do you do with horses?

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 many of my clients 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.

Mindfulness in our Horsemanship

As with most things, there is a learning curve in the progression and improvement of Horsemanship. It involves recognizing, understanding and then grasping concepts and building the skillset not only in the mechanics of the "hands-on" communication but also learning how to achieve quality interaction with the horse. 

Desensitizing the Horse vs Supporting the Horse

I don't try to desensitize or de-spook a horse. Instead the more the horse is mentally available and engaged in a Conversation with the human, the less overwhelming the world can be.