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A natural horsemanship equestrian center offering riding lessons and training in ground work, jumping, dressage, cross country, endurance, trail, western horsemanship & riding plus much more.  Alternative Horsemanship with Samantha Harvey offers training with a focus on colt starting, refinement and finishing. Horses learn respect at TEC's charm school. Instruction offered by Sam Harvey, whose background includes 3 Day Eventing, Jumpers, Western Horsemanship, Dressage and more.  Sam is also an alumna of The United States Pony Club Youth Congress. Have your young children come join our Pony Pals Program with Jennifer Harvey. We offer facility membership and rentals for use of:  round pens, dressage arenas, conditioning tracks, beginner trails, jumping & gaming arenas and more! Gorgeous, scenic location with easy access on Selle Road in Sandpoint, Idaho available for recreational and recognized shows with overnight camping and overnight corrals, even for overnight travelers. We winter in Yuma, Arizona and offer lessons, training and clinics.  Samantha offers clinics throughout the United States along with Spring and Summer Full Immersion Camp Clinics in ID. 

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Ride the West Radio Interview with Rick Lamb


Training
Aggressive Behavior
Aggressive & Defensive Behavior
Aggressive Behavior - Difficult to Catch
Bad Attitude- Feeding Time
Bad attitude-Herd Bound Behavior
Breed temperament
Clipping
Desensitizing- Plastic Bag
Exercise vs Turn-out
Excessive & excitable horse
Focusing Issues
Groundwork Problems
Loud Noise Phobia
Negative Attitude
Panicked Horse
Pushy Gelding
Re-educating a Horse
SPOOKED! Dealing With Scary Items
Starting a Young Horse
Thought Process
Trust - Don't Touch Me!
Trust Building in a New Horse
 

Riding
Aids for Steering a School Horse
Backing Up

Bolting
Bridge Crossing
Bucking after Jumps
Cantering - How to Ask

Contact
Crossfiring
Flying Lead Changes
Flying Changes: Cow kicking
Green Broke--Defined
Horse for Novice Rider?
Horse Has Only One Speed
Improved Jumping
Improving the Halt
Mounting Issues
Mounting...My Horse Won't Let Me!
Over-reaching at the Lope
Relaxing at the Poll
Runaway Horse
Show Sour
Slowing The Lope
Stopping
Thoroughbred Trail Horse
Trail_Riding:_Horse_Doesn’t_Pay_Attention
Trail Riding: Herd Bound Behavior
Trail Riding: Horse Refuses to Go
Walking...My Tennessee Walking Horse Won't
 

Competition
Show Jumping Faults & Penalties


Equipment
Bits
Bits and Bitless
Bit to Bosal and Horse Sensitivity

Fighting the Bit
How to hang a Harness
Purpose of a Cavesson

Spurs and Correct Usage
Surcingle
Surcingle...Purpose
 

Vices
Anti-Social towards other horses
Bad Attitude- Feeding Time
Excessive & excitable horse
Head Shy Horse
 Horse raising up front legs
Round Pen Resistance
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Trail Grazing
Tied: Pawing & Striking
Pulling Back
Rearing
Unhappy Kicker

Physical Issues
Breathing Issues
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Foundering
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Horse Falls Down
            ³ 3-24-07 Post Script
Lameness

Horse/Stable Management
Adding Horses to Herd
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Worming

Trailering
Trailer Loading Problems
Trailer Unloading

Ask a question here!

******************************************************************************

Topic Info:    Trail Riding: Horse Doesn’t Pay Attention
Website Info:  web
Location:      az
Date:          June 03, 2011

Question:

While trail riding my horse wants to go where he wants to go, and doesn't pay attention where he is going, new rider and new horse.

TEC Answer:
All too often novice riders wind up approaching riding and their horse as if the horse were an inanimate object.  No horse stands in his stall or pasture waiting for the next ride or human interaction.  Many people treat horses like books- when they want to "use them" they do, and then they put them back and ignore them until the next time they want to ride.  Without any clear or consistent communication from you towards your horse, there will be no quality relationship between you and the horse.  You may have to assess if your current horse is appropriate for your abilities and goals.

The horse is very perceptive and if he realizes you don't "have a clue" or you aren't paying attention, why should he address or acknowledge you?  Going for a ride is a people goal.  Horses were meant to eat and breed.  That's it.  So you're going to need to learn to give your horse a reason to want to be with you and to go for a ride.  In your process of doing so, you'll become a horseman rather than a sack of potatoes sitting on your horse at his mercy as to where "he may take you" with the feeling that you are "surviving" the ride.

My philosophy is that a horse's actions are a direct reflection of his mental and emotional state.  If he THINKS about something, he can then physically commit to it.  Right now your horse is displaying signs that his brain is "back at the barn" therefore his body tries to resist moving away from the direction of the barn or tries to "hurry up" to return to it. 

Your goal when you ride is for your horse to offer "What would you like?", rather than displaying his current, "Why should I?" attitude.  Physically trying to "force" a thousand pounds of horse forward is not going to happen.  Crops, spurs, etc. and other "training" devices may temporarily help, but your horse will eventually learn to "tune out" and resist those foreign aids too.

Horses are herd animals, so when they aren't getting "what they need" from people, their brain goes back to the herd- which is back at the barn.  Too many times people get distracted by the unwanted physical behavior the horse is doing, rather than slowing down and assessing where the horse's brain is.  If the horse understands, trusts and respects you, he'll mentally be "with you" and therefore physically participate in a "happy" manner.  

The physical signs of resistance:  "dragging you around," unwanted/excessive movement, calling to his buddies while you ride, etc., are all ways of your horse telling you he is having a problem.  He does not want to feel that emotionally "balled" up inside, but he's reached a point of tuning you out.  Typically horses show small signs of resistance before they reach a point of physically exploding, but they are ignored by the rider who "pushes" them on without recognizing the horse is asking for help and is mentally and emotionally stressed, even if he isn't physically acting out - yet.  The horse starts to learn that his pleas for help will be ignored, so he mentally and then physically "shuts down" and becomes more dramatic and dangerous as his way of preventing a stressful scenario from happening.

You'll need to step back and review the basics to find where the lack of clear communication between you and your horse starts.  I would say as of the moment, your horse is displaying symptoms that show that he is pretty convinced he can "tune you out" and continue with what he'd like to do.  Keep in mind horses don't "just randomly" do things.

After finding a "safe" place such as a round pen and starting while working him from the ground, you're going to need to re-establish clear communication using effective "tools" that you will eventually transfer over to using when you are riding.  You may work at liberty (with your horse loose) and/or you may work with your horse on the lead rope (using the rope as if it were like a rein when you ride.)  When you do something, it must MEAN something to your horse.  If you are hopeful (meaning you ask something and then wait and see if your horse eventually addresses you after he has quietly tuned you out)  when you communicate with him and allow for him to ignore or "take advantage" of you on the ground, the same behavior will continue in the saddle.

You'll need to be able to "break down" asking your horse to first look (literally) at different "things" without moving.  This is asking for a mental commitment.  He'll need to learn that ignoring or tuning you out when you're specific, doesn't work and that he must address you mentally.  Then you'll need him to understand to "mimic" your energy so that as you increase or decrease your energy so should he.  If he can first mentally address, and then physically "softly" move towards what you've presented, you're on the right track for creating a quality ride.

He'll need to understand to change his energy by either a physical aid (such as bumping the stirrup by his side) or a movement from you.  Most people stand still or sit still in the saddle hoping the horse will figure out what speed they want.  Instead, you must "take your horse for the ride" by offering what you want him to do.  I tell people within each gait there should be ten different energy levels.  This should first be established from you working your horse on the ground.  If he's unclear with you on the ground, he will not just "figure it out" when you're in the saddle.

Too many people are unclear in what, where and how they communicate with their horse.  They "challenge" the horse into guessing what they want; reprimanding the horse every time he can't figure it out.  Or they present the same manner of communication repetitiously driving the horse bonkers until he accidentally figures out what the person is asking.  The more the horse has to "guess" at what the person wants, the more they tune out the person's aids or communication. 

The more specific YOU can mentally be in presenting literally one-step-at-a time scenarios, the more your horse can "get it right."  The more he realizes he can be successful when addressing you, the more he'll want participate and offer you.  One quality step will turn into three and then 10 and then eventually a whole circle and then the entire ride.  But it takes clarity and awareness of riding every single step to "help" your horse find the right answer, rather than forcing him to guess.  The more clear your communication is, the more your horse will respect your aids, the less effort it will take from you to get him to happily participate.

Think of it as driving a car:  if all you had when you drove was access to the gas pedal- with no steering or brakes, you probably wouldn't get in the car.  And yet people get on 1000 lb animals with no steering and brakes "hoping" that it will all "work out."  Without the appropriate tools established, understood and respected ahead of time, you're not going to be able to find that "relaxing" and "fun" trail ride in the future.
 

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Topic Info: Unhappy Kicker
Website Info: Google
Location: United Kingdom
Date: May 30, 2011

Question
 
Hello! The mare that I have shared for about 18 months, who is generally mare-ish, has a bad habit of kicking. She was at her worst when stabled over the winter on a lot of concentrate feed (she is a stressy type and poor doer) and would try to kick people standing near her behind, other riders and horses anywhere near her. She is the dominant mare in the field and can be a
bully to our young pony. Now she is much happier as she is turned out 24/7
with company and is at a good weight. She is about 14 with a murky history
and has recently been treated for having a trapped nerve in her back and
stiffness in her hips, though she wasn't in pain. She is generally a lamb
when ridden and you can put your granny on her. However on the ground she is
not safe, and I am becoming increasingly concerned. I am at university but
when home see her most days.

Basically, previously it was just a case of avoiding her back end and
keeping your wits about you when handling her on the ground. But now,
despite her improved lifestyle and mental and physical health, she is nippy
when being tacked up, throws her head up when being bridled, sometimes blows
out when her girth is done up (I do try to be gentle but I'm working on
these things, they aren't the real problem - just adjacent issues). The main
problem is when I go to pick up her hooves. Her owner tells me that, when
walking behind the mare, she just growls at her to 'warn' her not to kick,
which I think ineffective despite its apparent 'success.' Her owner rides
her 1-2 times a week at most when I'm away and seems to not have a kicking
problem. However when I go to pick up the mare's hind hooves, she snatches
her leg up and threatens to kick me: and I mean really kick me. A couple of
times more recently she has actually lashed out so quickly that I wouldn't
have thought possible, but either she seems to have 'missed' (making me
wonder if she really meant it) or I've just managed to not be in the way.
Previously, she would half-heartedly give her hoof a tug or two and hold it
high for a few moments before relaxing slightly, during which I just held on
and waited for her to relax before picking out her hooves and letting her
set her hoof back down with care (I never just drop it). I thought that this
consistence would show her that there is nothing to worry about and
encourage her to relax over time, but apparently not! It has got to the
point where I am now nervous of handling her hooves, where previously I
never was as I always stayed close to her body, wore a hat and never
realized how easily she can get me - but now I know! And my face is directly
in the pathway of her hooves. I now no longer pick up her hind hooves, but I
do handle her legs and hind area to help desensitize her (and me!) but as I
move to her behind I can see her face change and she looks calculating and
tense, but not worried. She seems to have worsened because of my nerves.

I am utterly ashamed of my nervousness but fail to see how I can desensitize
her without actually picking up her hooves and without being nervous (which
at best exacerbates the kicking and at worst causes it). She clearly
doesn't trust me a jot and I need to do a lot of work on our relationship -
any practical tips??

I love her to bits though she is an aloof and quite uncommunicative horse
and will do anything to make her feel more secure. I am an experienced rider
and have ridden and schooled many difficult horses. However such a simple
and common problem is flooring me as I have very limited resources, finances
and - when at uni - time. But this summer I am determined to sort this out.
Aside from the obvious and impossible advice of getting someone out to train
her, what can I myself do to deal with this? I would really appreciate any
advice anyone has to offer. I am convinced that she is simply insecure,
poorly socialized and extremely mistrustful: even after 18 months I don't
feel I really 'get' her.

Sorry for the essay but I'm desperate!! Thank you.

TEC Answer:
Thank you for writing, I'm sorry to say in the last week I've had almost
three identical letters to yours. Your horse is mentally "checking out"
when her stress, panic, worry, fear, insecurity, etc. takes over and that is
when she is showing her aggressive behavior.

Horses don't just randomly one day start acting out dramatically. As she
started showing signs of stress (pulling her foot away, warning about
kicking, etc.) she was already pretty confirmed that people were not going
to "help her." Because her concerns were not addressed in a way that made
her feel better so that her could mentally and emotionally "let go" of the
worry and replace it with confidence, her behavior had to magnify until it
has reached a point where the "problem" can no longer be ignored. But the
"problem" is NOT the kicking or trying to clean her hooves. A horse's
physical actions are a direct reflection of their mental and emotional
state. So the dramatic behavior you are currently experiencing is telling
you just how bad the horse is feeling on the inside. From the description
of how the owner "handled" the mare's kicking, it sounds as though the horse has
been forced to "stuff" her worried, fearful or insecure feelings in the past
and deal with them on her own, which she hasn't been able to do. So at this
point, she's like a ticking a bomb that is now exploding (and physically
acting out) as oppose to retaining the bad feelings.

The scenarios you described such as "bullying" the pony (the most insecure
horses often mask their feelings by taking the offense first) generally
mare-ish (you might have her ovaries checked out- a lot of mares have "girl
problems" that cause excruciating pain and sometimes an imbalance of
hormones can cause super aggressive behavior), throwing her head (trying to
tell you leave her alone), biting (pleading to get out of her personal space
because she's uncomfortable), kicking (since the small signs weren't
respected she's having to get more dramatic), holding her breath when the
girth is done up (does not want to be ridden), and thrashing around in her stall
present that your horse does not know how to make herself feel better, and
she is taking out her frustration on the other horses. The other horses
themselves are not the issue, the difficulty cleaning her feet or her poor ground manners are
not the issue; they are all symptoms of the level of internal stress your
horse is carrying around. She does not have the ability to stop and
"reason" or think her way through scenarios, therefore she needs your help.
The issue itself is not dramatic or unwanted behavior, but rather why her
brain is getting so stressed that she's acting out as she is.

Horses are herd animals and they need a confident leader in you who offers
them clear communication to help them mentally slow down and address any
concerns they have. Naturally they physically react to something, before stopping
and mentally addressing it. For the sake of both our and their safety and in
teaching our horses to be reasonable when they are having a problem, we need
to teach them to stop, address, think and then move.

Right now your horse is mentally unavailable to "hear" you (hence the
aloofness you mentioned) and does not currently ask "What would you like?"
Instead she "takes over" in a situation as a matter of self preservation-
not because she is trying to be "bad." She's pretty convinced that people
are not going to "help her."

If your horse has felt "ignored" by you or other people in her past, she now
makes decisions on her own with no mental availability towards you when she
is having a melt down moment. A horse's physical actions are a direct
reflection of her mental and emotional state. The more "warm and fuzzy" she
feels on the inside, the more she'll look relaxed on the outside. The more
stress she is carrying inside, the more stress you'll see in her physical
behavior that can lead to dangerous behavior.

Your horse does not want to reach a point of "panic," but she's probably
pretty convinced at this point that people are not there to help her through
a stressful scenario from her history of being "told" to just deal with her
concerns on her own. The more dramatic the behavior, the worse the horse is
feeling.

I'd say you're going to have to offer this horse a clean slate and go back
and revisit the basics and assess the quality of clear communication you
have with her (or the areas that may be lacking) so that you can establish
effective "tools" when you work with her. Even at her old age, you can get
her "brain to come around" and teach her to trust you. Assume she knows
nothing so that you can find the "holes" in her training and address those
in order to get her mentally, emotionally and physically feeling better
about life.

Trying to address your horse the moment she is physically exploding is too
late and after the fact. You're going to need to be able to influence her
thoughts, energy within her movement, respect of personal space, etc.
You're going to need to recognize when your horse starts showing the
slightest signs of being stressed and stop and address them. Many times
people "push" a horse through a situation they think is "no big deal" not
realizing even if the horse "goes along" with being forced through it, that
she is still carrying a lot of internal stress that continues to build until
she can no longer handle it. This is where you hear people say "she blew up
all of a sudden." Well no, it wasn't all of a sudden. The stress may have
started a month ago, last week, or this morning, but because it wasn't
addressed in a way that the horse could diffuse and let it go, it had to
come out at some point- like the "needle that broke that camel's back."

You want to be able to influence your horse ahead of time, rather than being
reactive towards what she offers and always reprimanding her for getting
something wrong. People who try to be "nice" or "loving" to their horse
create a "gray area" in communication- the horse operates in the black and
white. She needs to learn where the boundaries are so that she can operate
within them. If you're not consistent, then she'll always have to be
searching for what you want, which will lead her to soon ignoring you. The
more you are clear, specific, and intentional by addressing every step with
her, the better she'll feel about life. The more her confidence will
increase and the dramatic and dangerous behavior will dissipate on its own.

After finding a "safe" place such as a round pen while starting to work her
from the ground, you're going to need to re-establish clear communication
using effective "tools" that you will eventually transfer over to using when
you are riding. You may work at liberty (with your horse loose) and/or you
may work with your horse on the lead rope (using the rope as if it were like
a rein when you ride.) When you do something, it must MEAN something to
your horse. If you are hopeful (meaning you ask something and then wait and
see if your horse eventually addresses you after she has quietly tuned you
out) when you communicate with her and allow for her to ignore or "take
advantage" of you on the ground, the same behavior will continue in the
saddle. The point of ground work is to influence a mental change from a
safe place that will set the "tone" for the upcoming ride. It is not to
physically "wear" your horse out.

There has to be boundaries of what behaviors are acceptable and those that are
not, but your horse has to accept when you tell her "no" as opposed to
getting defensive, dramatic and dangerous about it. So ignore the
"dramatics," try and see through to her brain. As she realizes there is the
beginning of a two way conversation with you as opposed to a dictatorship,
she'll start to be able to accept you telling her a behavior is
unacceptable, and will not get defensive towards you for doing so. She'll
be able to offer more and mentally commit to what you are presenting as
opposed to each session creating more stress for her.

Concepts such as when you do something it must mean something to your horse,
respecting your personal space, being able to "let go" of stress by
addressing the cause, learning to offer multiple efforts towards a scenario
are all going to be long term goals. Your horse cannot change the routine
she has developed without your help; think of it as if you were helping a
young child.

You'll need to be able to "break down" asking your horse to first look
(literally) at different "things" without moving. This is asking for a
mental commitment. She'll need to learn that ignoring or tuning you out
when you're specific, doesn't work and that her must address you mentally.
then you'll need her to understand to "mimic" your energy so that as you
increase or decrease your energy so should he. If her can first mentally
address, and then physically "softly" move towards what you've presented,
you're on the right track for creating a quality ride.

Too many people are unclear in what, where and how they communicate with
their horse. They "challenge" the horse into guessing what they want
reprimanding the horse every time she can't figure it out. Or they present
the same manner of communication repetitiously driving the horse bonkers
until she accidentally figures out what the person is asking. The more the
horse has to "guess" at what the person wants, the more they tune out the
person's aids or communication.

The more specific YOU can mentally be in presenting literally one-step-at-a
time scenarios, the more your horse can "get it right." The more she
realizes she can be successful when addressing you, the more she'll want
participate and offer you. One quality step will turn into three and then
10 and then eventually a whole circle and then the entire ride. But it
takes clarity and awareness every single moment you interact with her in
order to "help" your horse find the right answer, rather than forcing her to
guess. The more clear your communication is, the more your horse will
respect your aids, and the less effort it will take from you to get her to
happily participate.

 Dear Ms Harvey,

I'd just like to say a massive thank you for your detailed and insightful reply - it made me cry. I feel like I've been so deluded by trying to do things 'right' that I've forgotten about Poppy! I will groom and tack her up, often in a rush, before realizing that I haven't even properly looked at her. How inconsiderate is that? No wonder she's learned to tune out to people! She's just learned that whatever she does, no one listens, and she just has to put up with whatever is thrown at her. Everything you have said is right and I think that, in a way, I've known it all along. I have been ignoring my instincts for so long that I've forgotten how - and when - to listen to them and behave accordingly. I love this horse so much and it makes me really unhappy to fully know my part in her unhappiness. I'm worried about having trouble thinking of how practically and physically to apply the attitude, perspective and way of thinking that you are encouraging, despite your very informative reply. Could I possible ask for more of your time, if you could recommend any specific scenarios or exercises I could do? And as they aren't the problem itself and only the symptoms, should I leave her hooves alone for now?
Thank you so much for your time,

Emily

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Topic Info:    How to hang horse harness
Name: Mark
Website Info:  browsing the web
Location:      New Brunswick, Canada
Date:          July 02, 2010

Question:  Can you please tell me the proper way to hang a harness for a draft horse?

TEC Answer:
There is a web page with some suggestions you might want to check at http://www.horseforum.com/horse-tack-equipment/how-hang-harness-draft-horse-59333/ for actual hanging ideas.

But your geographical location can make your harness storage choices for you. If you asked four different people about harness storage they'd give you four different answers.  It all comes down to personal preference.  Up north here, our biggest priority is that our leather goods are kept inside over winter to prevent them from freezing. 

Leather is made of cells, and good conditioning makes leather cells full and flexible. If the cells freeze, they burst the tissues, and leather gets limp and floppy. Keep harness, saddles, leather stuff in a heated tack room over the winter.

Those in the southern states have said how fast mold will grow, so they have dehumidifiers going in insulated tack rooms or closets for leather storage.

You can use harness racks for most storage in the tack room. Good harness racks keep things shaped as they are designed, not creasing or bending parts. In the summer if there is high humidity, the daily use synthetic harness can be kept out in the open so that it is exposed to air circulation which can help remove dampness. You can store it on a pole hung from the rafters. The size of the pole width should be appropriate for the harness saddles and bridles. Supports and spreads out the weight of harness hanging down. This will allow the harness to dry easily, but avoid leaving it in directly exposed to the sun.

Size and diameter of the object you hang bridle or collar on is important, so that you avoid cracking or folds, like what can happen if you hang them on a nail could do. Some people suggest that hose storage hangers have a good size radius for traces, saddles, reins and will help prevent creasing or fold lines.

Unused leather harness can be stored in tack trunks in the tack room. Keep the harnesses spread out and place towels between layers of leather. Be sure not to pile the harnesses too deep to prevent the leather from being crushed from too much weight above. You'll want to leave the buckles unfastened to prevent creasing. Leather straps should be coiled for storage.

Going to shows you can pack items in rolling suitcases or duffle bags. Bridles in bridle bags will help keep the shape of brow bands, blinkers and cavesons from crushing. With carriage harnesses for large horses you need to make sure the bag is heavy enough to carry them. We have also built tie rings to hang harnesses inside the trailer once horses are unloaded.

Harness bags are very popular with people who use a light harness with thin leather strapping, where often there is no breeching where they would be using very light carts.

So there are lots of choices and it all depends on the kind of harness you will use, your regional location and what you plan to use your horse to do in driving activities.

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Topic Info:    Aids for Steering a School Horse
Name: Ann
Website Info:  surfing the web
Location:      Fairport, NY
Date:          June 10, 2010

Question:  I have just recently changed stables where I teach hunt seat.  All of my students have also made this change with me.  This new barn has some older lesson horses who have been allowed to follow closely behind each other.  This I have never allowed and have always had my students ride separately and independently.  These horses know absolutely nothing about steering!  When my students attempt to steer they pull in whatever direction they may wish to go, usually into a corner or into the center of the arena.  I've tried having them ride straight and then apply leg aids along with either a direct or indirect rein but to no avail.  The students are getting frustrated which I am trying hard to avoid.  At this point both the horses and riders need reinforcement!  I'm open to any suggestions you may have.  Thank you very much!

TEC Answer:
As in a lot of situations, the "obvious" issue, isn't the problem, rather is a symptom of the underlying issue.  Most lesson, school, trail and dude ranch horses are what I call "shut down."  That means that mentally they are "unavailable" to hear a rider's aids if there is a change in the routine they are used to.  It sounds like the horses that you are dealing with have the same issues.  A horse can feel a fly land on him, so it's not a matter of if he doesn't feel or understand what your students are asking of them; rather it's an issue of respect.

Remember a horse's physical actions are a reflection of his mental state.  If his brain is shut down, so too will his body- which means you can use severe or harsh aids but you won't get much of a change, and if you do get a change, it will only be short term.

Typically with horses that have to tolerate (and yes, that's what most of them are doing) novice or inexperienced riders, they have an unwillingness to "change" their "patternized" behavior.  They know what they do, how they do it, with whatever level of resistance or tolerance and they don't feel it important to change.  Because their riders are more worried about staying on than "helping" the horse throughout the ride, the horse has to learn how to cope on his own with any issues, worries, concerns, fears, etc. he may have and the safest and easiest way for him to do that is to not change the routine he is familiar with.

Jumping-
Not knowing the history of the horses riding experience and jumping ability I'm going to give you a bit of an over view.  You're going to need to honestly assess the horse’s experience.

There are many horses that tolerate being ridden.  That is until what is being asked of them becomes too stressful and then they start to "all of a sudden" physically act out in resistance or try to "take over" when being ridden.  Many people ride with a "This is what I want" attitude without ever offering clear two-way communication with their horse.  Most people never consider where their horse is mentally and emotionally, instead they attempt to control the horse's physical movements ignoring all the times their horse has asked for help. 

Just as with people, the horse's physical movement is a reflection of his mental and emotional state.  If you put it into people terms and imagined that you were worried or insecure about something being asked of you, your body would be stiff, rigid, uncomfortable, and you probably wouldn't be able to perform whatever was being asked of you as well as if you had been confident and clear.  The same goes for your horse. 

Many times instead of offering our horses quality rides, we wind up riding them with a hopeful attitude, rather than "I am taking you for the ride" clarity.  So what we begin to do is ride in a patternized routine- offering the same "unclear" communication over and over, until eventually our horse sort of figures out what is being asked of him.  Then as soon as we think he understands, we immediately demand more of him.  It may be something minor or major, but our horses come away with the feeling that no matter how much they try, we'll always demand more, so this gives them no reason to continue participating "reasonably."

So you'll need to start focusing on teaching your students how to ride one step at a time, literally, and think about what they offer the horse with their aids, how he responds and if they are any "blank spots" in their communication.  The horse needs to have a black and white understanding of what behaviors work and those that do not.  The faster he realizes he can "get it right" the faster the unwanted behavior will dissipate on its own. 

To take it a step further- the ride really begins when the horse is caught. Do the horses come up and greet you at the gate?  Are they "draggy" or hovering into your personal space on the lead rope? Do they stand quietly as you groom and tack them up?  Do they stand patiently when you mount and dismount?  All of these behaviors displayed before a student gets on will tell you about the quality of the upcoming ride.  It will also help you break down what part of their interaction with him might be causing stress.

You'll need to assess the attitude towards the basics- how clear, sensitive and willing in the basics, in transitions between and within the gaits, how easy is he to send him forward and bring him back when you are trotting or cantering over trot poles.  Does he swish his tail, grind his teeth, have a hard time standing still, try to "rush" the jumps, over jump the fences, etc.  Also in your group lessons you may need to change the horses so that if there is a herd bound behavior among them you can remove that.

If you ignore teaching your novice students to achieve quality when working on the basics you already know how the rest of their ride will go.  You may have to slow down in your teaching goals for your students and not just get focused on the jumping.  Offering flatwork with figure eights, serpentines, students riding in different directions from one another, lots of turns, circles, etc. will keep the horses' brains more participative- rather than brainlessly traveling straight along the rail playing "follow the leader." 

In my mind jumping is flat work with obstacles in the way.  If you don't have quality flat work, good luck with being able to influence the quality of your jumping sessions.

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Question: Improving the Halt
Name: Laurie
Location: Seattle, WA
Date: 10/8/09

Questions:  I've had Skip home from the trainer’s for a few weeks now and I’ve been riding a lot to try and get in sync with him. Some things are great and some not so good. I've been struggling with how to work on a better stop ... Mostly from a walk.  He comes down pretty well from faster gaits with a change in my body but at a walk I have a tough time.  I'm not sure that the trainer worked much on the halt from the walk.   I've asked him a few questions and a few other people have offered input but  I’m a little stumped since skip seems to walk thru me when I slow  body and energy and often it takes quite a bit of rein and I feel like  I'm being heavy handed...or maybe it will take asking him to get off the bit a few times before it gets better - I'm stumped and people keep telling me different things.  You are so good at verbalizing things and have seen the 2 of us and I wondered if you had any suggestions?  If you have time to offer some words of wisdom I'd really appreciate it!
Forever HOPEFUL!  Laurie

TEC Answer:
As far as the halt goes the overall assessment is if you ask him to halt, does he offer to halt by shifting his weight onto his hindquarters to stand square and relaxed, or does he try to push through the bit forcing you to "hold him" to maintain the halt with his weight on the forehand? 

Below are a few ideas to help you break down and assess what is happening so that you can actually address it in pieces:

If you are riding at a fast walk and start to drain your energy through your seat, does your horse ignore you?

If he does ignore you what is his response to if you gently close both hands on the reins? Does he lean on the bit and on you? Ideally he should slow as if his movement was interrupted by you gently applying light pressure on the reins. (Keep our sliding scale of energy applicable to both your hands and seat aids.)

Just like our "hotwire" effect if he offers the "leaning" in response instead of the light ideal response, he must realize IMMEDIATELY that that behavior does not work.

Not looking to create a game of tug of war, you will need to close both hands firmly on the reins (but not pulling backwards- think of it more as not letting your hands continue moving forward) and you will need to apply lower leg pressure. 

By doing closing your hands on the reins you have created a "wall" in front of your horse's nose and by applying lower leg pressure you are asking for movement.  Since there is no "open" place for him to move forwards, your horse will move in reverse (we are NOT asking him to back up even if he is physically moving backwards.) 

You are looking to FEEL the moment that your horse "gives" not just in his jaw and throatlatch area and offers lightness on your reins, but really for him to give in his hocks as this is where the root of all physical resistance is stemming from.  If he truly gives you will actually feel his hind end "sink" downwards on his hocks- this is the shifting of his weight from the forehand (which is making you feel like you're carrying all of his weight for him) to him engaging his hindquarters so that he moves and slows in a balanced and self reliant manner.

So that's the goal.  You'll need to ride where you actually have literally a spot that you can plan out your halt transition to occur.  Pick a spot, then drain your energy in the final three steps and commit to a halt.  If you apply pressure with your hands and reins and he backs at an angle he is trying to avoid giving and changing his balance.  To avoid this use more pressure on the rein on the side of him that he is leaking out on.

Keep awareness within yourself that as you are practicing your halts and have to get "firm" with him, that you don't accidentally find yourself "leveraging" on the reins by allowing your lower leg to slip forwards causing your upper body to lean back and you to be pulling on the reins as oppose to the ideal as "setting" of your hands in place.

If within three or four practice halts you don't feel a big difference you may need to stop and assess even further where the miscommunication or lack of communication may be.  This is one of those exercises that you can mentally over think, causing you to ride "hopefully" rather than with the feeling that you are "taking" your horse.

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Topic Info:    Excessive energy at a show
Name: Kaitlynn
Website Info:  google
Location:      San Diego, CA
Date:          August 20, 2009

Question:  I have a chestnut Thoroughbred gelding who is 12 years old and I am doing the Modified Hunters on him. I have owned him for a year now and we just started feeding him alfalfa because he was looking skinny. Since he is a Thoroughbred, he gets quite high of the alfalfa. So, every morning before my lesson I lunge him and he is pretty good. I practice big releases and nice rhythm. There are times when he gets excited and runs, especially in the show ring. We have tried (during shows) calmer, longing, and my trainer riding him first, but he still runs during the course. How can I prevent this? Is it just because I get tense?

TEC Answer:
Thanks for writing.  The first thing I'd like to present is for you not to get distracted by the symptom, which in this case is his excessive "energy"- but I'm going to refer to it as "fleeing."  I do this because most horses that offer rushed and brainless movement is because of some level of insecurity they are feeling.  So the best way for them to get beyond that mentally stressful spot, is to physically move faster.  So the "fleeing" is the symptom, and not the issue.  What his exact issues are may be a combination of factors that are contributing to your horse's actions in the show arena. 

Lifestyle-
Depending on his lifestyle (if he is always kept in a stall or if he gets turnout, if he lives in a pasture, there may be times that he needs to "blow off steam."  The problem is that when you attempt to lunge a horse to take off a bit of their edge, all that you are really do is trying to physically wear them out, and instead you are not only physically conditioning them to become more fit- which then will force your lunging sessions to become longer to get your horse worn out, but you also usually are missing the issue of what is really causing your horse the need to constantly "flee."

Feed-
Thoroughbreds can be hard keepers, mostly because they extremely emotionally sensitive, the more worry, concern, or possibly even fear they carry, they less they are able to maintain an appropriate weight.  You may have to play with a combination of grass and alfalfa, or grass and weight gainers such as beet pulp, which will not make him seem so "high" due to his feed.  The other thing is to make sure he is current with his dental work, so that he isn't in pain when he is eating.  He also should be on a regular worming schedule.

Jumping-
Not knowing the history of your horse's riding experience and jumping ability I'm going to give you a bit of an over view.  You're going to need to honestly assess your horse's experience, your riding ability, and the level at which you are competing.  One or all three of these may be affecting the lack of trust between you and your horse.

There are many horses that tolerate being ridden.  That is until what is being asked of them becomes too stressful and then they start to "all of a sudden" physically act out in resistance or try to "take over" when being ridden.  Many people ride with a "This is what I want" attitude without ever offering clear two-way communication with their horse.  Most people never consider where their horse is mentally and emotionally, instead they attempt to control the horse's physical movements ignoring all the times their horse has asked for help. 

Just as with people, the horse's physical movement is a reflection of his mental and emotional state.  If you put it into people terms and imagined that you were worried or insecure about something being asked of you, your body would be stiff, rigid, uncomfortable, and you probably wouldn't be able to perform whatever was being asked of you as well as if you had been confident and clear.  The same goes for your horse. 

Many times instead of offering our horses' quality rides, we wind up riding them with a hopeful attitude, rather than "I am taking you for the ride" clarity.  So what we begin to do is ride in a patternized routine- offering the same "unclear" communication over and over, until eventually our horse sort of figures out what is being asked of him.  Then as soon as we think he understands, we immediately demand more of him.  It may be something minor or major, but our horses come away with the feeling that no matter how much they try, we'll always demand more, so this gives them no reason to continue participating "reasonably."

So you'll need to start focusing on one step at a time, literally, and think about what you offer your horse with your aids, how he responds and if they are any "blank spots" in your communication.  Your horse needs to have a black and white understanding of what behaviors work and those that do not.  The faster he realizes he can "get it right" the faster the unwanted behavior will dissipate on its own. 

To take it a step farther- the ride really begins when you catch your horse.  Does he come up and greet you at the gate?  Is he "draggy" or hovering into your personal space on the lead rope? Does he stand quietly as you groom and tack him up?  Does he stand patiently when you mount and dismount?  All of his behaviors displayed before you get on tell you about the upcoming ride.  It will also help you break down what part of your interaction with him might be causing stress.

You'll need to assess his attitude towards the basics- how clear, sensitive and willing is he in his transitions between and within the gaits, how easy is he to send him forward and bring him back when you are trotting or cantering over trot poles.  Does he swish his tail, grind his teeth, have a hard time standing still, try to "rush" the jumps, over jump the fences, etc. 

If you ignore achieving quality when working on the basics you already know how the rest of the ride will go.  So you'll have to offer him a clean slate- work with him as if you don’t "know him."  Slow down in your brain and don't just get focused on the jumping.  In my mind jumping is flat work with obstacles in the way.  If you don't have quality flat work, good luck with being able to influence the quality of your jumping sessions.

Show-
Not knowing his experience he may get worried on the trailer rides, he might be stressed in the warm up arena, spooked by children and dogs running around, doesn't like the P.A. system, etc.  I would say, though, if you can't get him relaxed and clear at home, then not to expect much better at the show.

After you attain clear and quality communication at home, you may practice taking him to a few shows, just to ride in the warm up arena, without the pressure of actually have to perform before the judge.

What I have offered is not the easy quick fix solution- anything of that sort may work for a temporary amount of time, but typically the resistance and fear will show up again in your horse, even if it appears in a different form.  Take the time to create a real relationship with your horse and you'll start to see him turn to you and ask for help when he is worried, rather than him taking over and acting up with excessive or unnecessary movement.  The more effort and clarity you put into working with your horse, the more rewarding your rides will be.

Topic_Info:    Excessive & excitable horse
Name: Kaitlynn
Website_Info:  google
Location:   San Diego, CA
Date:    August 20, 2009

Question:  I have a chestnut Thoroughbred gelding who is 12 years old and I am doing the Modified Hunters on him. I have owned him for a year now and we just started feeding him alfalfa because he was looking skinny. Since he is a Thoroughbred, he gets quite high of the alfalfa. So, every morning before my lesson I lunge him and he is pretty good. I practice big releases and nice rhythm. There are times when he gets excited and runs, especially in the show ring. We have tried (during shows) calmer, lunging, and my trainer riding him first, but he still runs during the course. How can I prevent this? Is it just because I get tense?

TEC Answer:
Thanks for writing.  The first thing I'd like to present is for you not to get distracted by the symptom, which in this case is his excessive "energy"- but I'm going to refer to it as "fleeing."  I do this because most horses that offer rushed and brainless movement is because of some level of insecurity they are feeling.  So the best way for them to get beyond that mentally stressful spot, is to physically move faster.  So the "fleeing" is the symptom, and not the issue.  What his exact issues are may be a combination of factors that are contributing to your horse's actions in the show arena. 

Lifestyle-
Depending on his lifestyle (if he is always kept in a stall or if he gets turnout, if he lives in a pasture, there may be times that he needs to "blow off steam."  The problem is that when you attempt to lunge a horse to take off a bit of their edge, all that you are really do is trying to physically wear them out, and instead you are not only physically conditioning them to become more fit- which then will force your lunging sessions to become longer to get your horse worn out, but you also usually are missing the issue of what is really causing your horse the need to constantly "flee."

Feed-
Thoroughbreds can be hard keepers, mostly because they extremely emotionally sensitive, the more worry, concern, or possibly even fear they carry, they less they are able to maintain an appropriate weight.  You may have to play with a combination of grass and alfalfa, or grass and weight gainers such as beet pulp, which will not make him seem so "high" due to his feed.  The other thing is to make sure he is current with his dental work, so that he isn't in pain when he is eating.  He also should be on a regular worming schedule.

Jumping-
Not knowing the history of your horse's riding experience and jumping ability I'm going to give you a bit of an over view.  You're going to need to honestly assess your horse's experience, your riding ability, and the level at which you are competing.  One or all three of these may be affecting the lack of trust between you and your horse.

There are many horses that tolerate being ridden.  That is until what is being asked of them becomes too stressful and then they start to "all of a sudden" physically act out in resistance or try to "take over" when being ridden.  Many people ride with a "This is what I want" attitude without ever offering clear two-way communication with their horse.  Most people never consider where their horse is mentally and emotionally, instead they attempt to control the horse's physical movements ignoring all the times their horse has asked for help. 

Just as with people, the horse's physical movement is a reflection of his mental and emotional state.  If you put it into people terms and imagined that you were worried or insecure about something being asked of you, your body would be stiff, rigid, uncomfortable, and you probably wouldn't be able to perform whatever was being asked of you as well as if you had been confident and clear.  The same goes for your horse. 

Many times instead of offering our horses' quality rides, we wind up riding them with a hopeful attitude, rather than"I am taking you for the ride" clarity.  So what we begin to do is ride in a patternized routine- offering the same "unclear" communication over and over, until eventually our horse sort of figures out what is being asked of him.  Then as soon as we think he understands, we immediately demand more of him.  It may be something minor or major, but our horses come away with the feeling that no matter how much they try, we'll always demand more, so this gives them no reason to continue participating "reasonably."

So you'll need to start focusing on one step at a time, literally, and think about what you offer your horse with your aids, how he responds and if they are any "blank spots" in your communication.  Your horse needs to have a black and white understanding of what behaviors work and those that do not.  The faster he realizes he can "get it right" the faster the unwanted behavior will dissipate on its own. 

To take it a step farther- the ride really begins when you catch your horse.  Does he come up and greet you at the gate?  Is he "draggy" or hovering into your personal space on the lead rope? Does he stand quietly as you groom and tack him up?  Does he stand patiently when you mount and dismount?  All of his behaviors displayed before you get on tell you about the upcoming ride.  It will also help you break down what part of your interaction with him might be causing stress.

You'll need to assess his attitude towards the basics- how clear, sensitive and willing is he in his transitions between and within the gaits, how easy is he to send him forward and bring him back when you are trotting or cantering over trot poles.  Does he swish his tail, grind his teeth, have a hard time standing still, try to "rush" the jumps, over jump the fences, etc. 

If you ignore achieving quality when working on the basics you already know how the rest of the ride will go.  So you'll have to offer him a clean slate- work with him as if you don’t "know him."  Slow down in your brain and don't just get focused on the jumping.  In my mind jumping is flat work with obstacles in the way.  If you don't have quality flat work, good luck in being able to influence the quality of your jumping sessions.

Show-
Not knowing his experience he may get worried on the trailer rides, he might be stressed in the warm up arena, spooked by children and dogs running around, doesn't like the P.A. system, etc.  I would say thought if you can't get him relaxed and clear at home, then not to expect much better at the show.

After you attain clear and quality communication at home, you may practice taking him to a few shows, just to ride in the warm up arena, without the pressure of actually have to perform before the judge.

What I have offered is not the easy quick fix solution- anything of that sort may work for a temporary time, but typically the resistance and fear will show up again in your horse, even if it appears in a different form.  Take the time to create a real relationship with your horse and you'll start to see him turn to you and ask for help when he is worried, rather than him taking over and acting up with excessive or unnecessary movement.  The more effort and clarity you put into working with your horse, the more rewarding your rides will be.

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Topic_Info: The Lope
Name: Page
Website_Info:  Google
Location:  Oregon
Date: May 03, 2009

Question:  I have an 8 year old Arabian reining stallion that has been in training with several different trainers including a Quarter Horse trainer. He was Top Ten National Champion at US Nationals in 2006 but even then he only seems to have one speed when it comes to the lope (or should I say gallop). He is not out of control I can control him with leg pressure or by placing the inside or outside rein on his neck but it feels like he is constantly going 100 MPH. I just want to be able to slow him down without having to continually hold him back with the reins. If I let him run circles like a race horse, I ride him with an extremely loose rein and he stays collected. As far as his whoa, the minute you say the word you'd better not be standing up in the stirrups. I would love to be able to show him western pleasure but he is just too fast he'd be running laps around all the other horses in the ring. Do you have any tips on getting a nice western pleasure lope?

TEC 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.  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 he knows what is being asked of him, 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 him an alternative idea- liking loping slow.  Think of his 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 and performed well, 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 his lack of willingness to lope at various speeds.  Because he is currently confident that when asked to lope 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 how you are using what aids, when, why and with how much pressure and then break down exactly when your horse mentally "tunes you out."  Remember that a horse can feel a fly land on his skin, if you are creating a lot of "activity" with your aids and not getting a response, your horse is tuning you out. 

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 he 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 his 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 he can "let it go" and try another response. 

The faster you acknowledge that he achieved your "ideal" response, (giving him a break, move on to something else, etc.,) the more confidence he will have to increase his 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 lope, or perhaps you may not have noticed, but I would guess, that asking him to perform various energy levels within the walk, jog/trot, he probably also has a difficult time doing- this only becomes worse the faster he moves, which is why at a lope he feels slightly out of control.   

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. In reining your horse probably has been conditioned to perform the pattern, rather than waiting for specific cues or direction from you.  You need to have his mind available at all times to consider what you are asking, even if in the middle of a pattern. If you can influence his mind, then you can change his outward actions.  The more he realizes you are helping him throughout the ride, rather than fighting to control his speed, the more sensitive he 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 moving, so if your horse is moving too fast, offer him a circle, turn or specific task that will act as something to get his brain to slow down, and tune back in to where he currently is at.  You can slowly make the task more specific, until he offers to slow down... then continue on with your ride as if nothing interrupted you... Soon it'll only take one rein about to offer him a circle, turn, etc.  and he'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 him 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 the other 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 he is not trying to act naughty, rather he is asking for your help. 

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Topic_Info: Over-reaching at the lope
Name: Brian
Website_Info: search
Location: GA
Date: September 06, 2008

Question:  What causes my horse to hit his front foot with the rear while loping?

TEC Answer:
What you are describing is known as over-reaching, this occurs when the toes of the hind foot "grabs" the heel of the front foot. Over-reaching most often happens when a horse is galloping or jumping in deep, muddy footing. It is common for a horse to pull a shoe off when over-reaching. If a horse has a "high over-reach" the hind foot hits the front leg higher up, such as on the pastern or the tendon which can cause the horse to injure himself. Conformation issues such as having a short back and long legs, long toes, moving on the forehand, and fatigue can also contribute to over-reaching.

Bell boots may be used to help protect a horse's heels from over-reaching, especially in deep or muddy footing. Protective boots such as galloping boots, or exercise bandages can also help protect against high over-reaches. Good shoeing can also influence the horse's movement.

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Topic_Info: Adding Horses to Herd
Name: Bob G
Website_Info: Google
Location: Coldspring, Texas
Date: August 29, 2008

Question:  We are about to add 4 horses to our existing herd of two. An 85 yr old lady has 4 horses and was looking for someone to take all four because they grew up together & she didn't want to split them up. Any Recommendations? I thought to put a fence between herds so they can get used to each other gradually. Could use some help to smooth the transition. Ours are 9yrs and 41/2yrs old, hers are 20yrs, 18yrs, 16yrs and 14 yrs old. Two are Arabian geldings with papers. Thanks.

TEC Answer:
 personally think the more socializing horses do, the happier and healthier they are mentally, physically and emotionally. Whenever introducing one herd with another I like to take one leader horse from a herd and one "low man" horse from the other herd and let them get to know each other without the distraction or overconfidence from the rest of their original herds. Once the first two horses get to know each other then I would add another "low man" from either herd. I would keep doing this until eventually you have introduced all horses.

Things to keep in mind before introducing the two herds-

Separating the sexes:

I typically keep my mares and geldings separate so that we don't have any "ego" issues with the geldings when the mares are cycling (which they tend to do at the same time).

Young and older horses:

Generally the older the horse the more confident they are. The young horses are going to be like "little brothers" that are constantly testing the boundaries of where they fit into the herd. Do not be surprised if you see them physically reprimanding the youngsters for a few days until they sort out the pecking order.

Pasture size:

The size of the pasture should be plenty adequate for the number of horses you are planning on having turned out... There will always be one or two horses that typically prefer spending time away from the herd, and you would want to make sure there is plenty of room in their pasture that they can do so without being bothered by the rest of the group.

Fencing:

Depending on the quality and safety of your fencing and how much the horses respect it I would rather not have new horses messing around over the fence trying to meet their new neighbors...

More accidents and injuries have happened with horses kicking or trying to climb over fences when introduced to new horses... Although there are also plenty of horses that show up somewhere new and could care less about their neighbors... Arabians usually are very curious about life and wind up "inspecting" everything and anything new... Remember that even if your horses have been "okay" with mediocre or not horse friendly (such as barbed wire) fencing does not mean that the new horses will be just as okay or safe in it.

Feeding time:

Make sure if you are feeding in the pasture that you space out the piles of feed and always add one more extra pile than the number of horses eating. You don't want to have "warfare" at feeding time because the more confident horses are worried about getting enough feed and are constantly chasing off the less confident or "low man" horses. Battles at feeding time can cause numerous long term issues both physically and emotionally to the insecure horse being chased away.

Change in diet:

Also be sensitive to any sudden changes in diet with the new herd. If they have been kept in stalls all of their life and you suddenly change them to grazing 24/7 if their bodies are sensitive you could have health issues. You mentioned a few of the horses were older, I'd check every body's teeth to make sure they do not need any dental care so that when they transition from their old lifestyle to the new one they at least do not have any physical concerns.

The list can go on on things to keep in mind but above were a few basics.

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Topic_Info:    Re-educating a Horse
Name: Bob
Website_Info:  Google
Location:      Texas
Date:          August 27, 2008

Question:  To start training a horse (older horses that haven't had a whole lot of human contact,) but have had training in the past. What would you work on trust first and then dominance?

TEC Answer:
You've asked the biggest question there is in working with horses... If you asked ten different trainers you would get ten different answers...  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. 

I personally hate using the word "dominance" because it has a negative canatone.  I'd rather you think of your time with your horse as the same balance he would find if he 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, his priority will be food.  Then his priority will be sticking by or finding other horses.  But, if you give your horse clear scenarios presented in a "safe" setting such as a round pen, where he can start to learn what behaviors will work and those that will not when he interacts with you, he will start to mentally learn how to "learn" and "try" to address what you are asking of him.

Remember horses are big and strong animals, but their emotions and mental stability are just as sensitive as it is with people.  Also as with people, your horse's actions are a reflection of his mental and emotional status.  IF you can get your horse to slow down and "think" his way through something, his body will stay far more relaxed and compliant.  But, if you physically try to dominate the horse and push or force him through something you will never change how he feels about what you have asked him to do, and so each time you present the same scenario he will become increasingly resistant.  Rather if you change how he feels about what you are presenting, then he 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 he may not act "huge" or dangerous, there will be an internal resistance and frustration inside of him that will increase every time you interact with him.  Finally it may be a month or years later, he will reach the day when he 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 his 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.

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Topic_Info:    Improved Jumping
Name: Alexandra V
Website_Info:  Google
Location:      Texas
Date:          August 24, 2008

Question:  I have an 8 year old American Quarter Horse that has an amazing jump. I plan on eventually competing with him in eventing, except he has a tendency to be lazy with his feet over poles but is fine over solid objects. Is there anything I can do to make him more careful with his feet?

TEC Answer:
If your horse does not have much experience jumping I'd first offer him some free jumping sessions without the distraction of a rider.  You'll need to be able to support him on the ground with how much energy he has when he moves around loose, and then when he approaches the jumps.  As he begins to sort out his distances on his own, he will gain more confidence as to where and how to take off at the ideal spot.

A few things come to mind with horses with talent but not careful in their jumping.  The first is confidence.  Even though a horse can go through the motions of jumping or may have natural ability does not mean that he really understands how he is supposed to be doing what has been presented.  In a lot of scenarios when a horse is jumping he is still searching for "the right answer" but riders tend to get distracted by if they got over the fence or not, rather than the clarity of their communication with their horse before, during and after the jump.

I would really focus on the quality of your flatwork to improve your jumping.  By spending time clarifying how soft of an aid from you to get how much response from your horse will influence the quality of your horse's take-off, jump and balanced landing.  The more he is focused and in tune with your energy the more confidence he will have when he approaches the jump because you can be more influential in helping him get to the ideal take-off spot.  The better he feels about that, the better quality his jump will be.

This is also a good place to mention your horse's focus.  Surprisingly many horses jump without ever focusing on what they are doing, you most likely will need to fine tune how willing and responsive he is to being receptive to your aids when you ask him to literally look for the next jump.  The more your horse "knows" the plan ahead of time, the less "rushed" he will feel when jumping, and the more confidence he will show in focusing where he is at and preparing for the next jump.

So let's talk about your aids.  When you ride him I would work on a lot of transitions within a gait and between gaits.  The more sensitive he is to move forward with increased energy or decrease it should depend on your energy in the saddle.  Once he is clear and willing to do what you have asked without any fussing, pulling on you, pushing through your aids, tail swishing, grinding his teeth, etc. you would add trot poles.  Once you can ask him to approach with either a longer stride or a shorter stride and he "searches" for his way through the poles without knocking them, then I'd do the same exercises at a canter.

You would asses both you and he to see if you can approach the poles with a very forward canter, or a shortened canter and can he maintain the pace that you have presented.  Then I'd work with a small cross rail (remember the size of the jump you present is not important- you're looking for quality in his jump, not just height.)  I'd set up a few combinations of cross rails and trot poles, again, the idea is that you can send him forward and bring him back even if a jump is presented.

The more balanced he is in his rhythm the more he can engage his hindquarters to use them properly as he takes-off for a jump.  The more he is balance as he leaves the ground, the better his ideal "arc" will be in the air.  The better the arc, the more balanced he will be as he lands, which leaves more time and less work to get organized for the next jump.

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Topic_Info: Breathing issues when worked
Name: denis s
Website_Info: google
Location: ireland
Date: July 31, 2008

Question:  The vet had a horse lunged and when horse was breathing heavily when cantering he detected a noise sounding like a saw cutting wood (SLIGHT SOUND) says it most likely congenital and would effect resale if we bought horse. The horse is 6 yrs and to be used for Eventing and hacking and Pony Club. On a scale of 1 to 10 noise would be at 3.Says 30% of horses have this. This is a prospective purchase any thoughts please.

TEC Answer:
You could ask 10 trainers for their opinion and you would get ten different answers. There are multiple factors involved here so I'll put a few ideas out there. Most horses have vision, feet, breathing and other physical issues because of years of humans interfering with their genetics.

Depending on the work you intend for this horse (competing at Novice or trying to make it to the top) is going to affect the "blue sky potential" you are buying with this horse. If you are buying the horse as a project horse for resale- the less health issues the increased opportunity for resale.

With any horse I buy whether it is for myself or to resell, I always ask myself, if this horse were seriously injured or developed a permanent physical hindrance, would this be the horse that I would want to own for the long term?

The most common breathing problem in horses is called "roaring"- with each breath, air is taken in through the nostrils and passes via the nasal passages to the throat (pharynx), which is a dynamic and muscular tube. From here it passes through a cartilaginous valve, the larynx (voice box), before entering the windpipe (trachea) and lungs. During exercise, the nostrils dilate and the horse extends its head and neck, further opening the pharynx and larynx to take in more air. Anything which interferes with the smooth passage of this increased air flow may result in the horse making an audible noise.

There are several other conditions which may cause a horse to make an abnormal inspiratory noise.

Lymphoid hyperplasia is a term used to describe a condition where lymphoid (immune) tissue lining the pharynx becomes inflamed and nodules form. It is a condition affecting young horses and most cases improves with age.

Cysts (fluid-filled sacs) may form beneath the epiglottis. The epiglottis is a triangular cartilage at the base of the larynx. Its job is to prevent food material from going down ‘the wrong way’ i.e. down the windpipe. If a cyst forms under it, the epiglottis is pushed up and it obstructs the opening of the larynx causing a noise. Large cysts require surgical treatment to remove them.

Infections, tumors etc. in the nostrils or nasal passages may result in the horse making an abnormal noise.

Epiglottic entrapment is a term used to describe a condition where the epiglottis is trapped under an abnormal fold of tissue and cannot move normally treatment consists of cutting the abnormal tissue, for which a surgical procedure is required.

Congenital problems are conditions of the pharynx and larynx which are present from birth. In general terms, these conditions cannot be treated.

I have also found minor breathing issues I have found come from diet. Horses can be allergic to numerous feeds, which cause congestive issues that cause their breathing to sound labored. Change the diet, and the breathing issues disappear.

It all comes down to your own instinct. There are plenty of horses that pass vet checks with flying colors but can go dead lame within weeks. There are other horses that have every ailment possible and live wonderful lives never having an off day.

For me, I look at the mental and emotional status of the horse. If the horse is feeling emotionally and mentally stressed, worried about life, insecure about people, etc. their bodies tend to break down. If they have that "warm and fuzzy" feeling inside them, they seem to be game to take on most things presented to them.

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Topic_Info: Flying Lead Changes
Name: Erin
Website_Info: Google search
Location: Louisiana
Date: June 18, 2008

Question:  How do you stop a horse from running through lead changes? My daughter will have him "on the step" to get over the jumps, but he will go faster to change his leads.

TEC Answer:
There are many ways to go about teaching a horse flying changes. The first issue you should address is the quality of the canter without worrying about the changes. In both directions you should be able to shorten and lengthen the horse's stride (to almost a trot and then to almost a hand gallop) without having the horse get stressed, crooked, lose quality in the canter, etc.

The second consideration is that many people are under the impression the faster the horse's pace is at the canter, the better the chance of getting the flying change. Instead, put it into people terms. If you were learning something new that was physically challenging to you and someone kept rushing you, you probably would not be able to achieve to task with ease or comfort. The same goes for horses. The slower the process of teaching, clarifying and asking for the change, the better your horse will feel about trying it and the more comfortable it will feel to him.

The rushing you have mentioned is a common sign of frustration and defensiveness when a horse does not understand what or how to accomplish what is being asked of him. He is trying to tell you he is having a problem, so most likely you will need to go back and refine the basics before you get to the fun activities like flying changes.

Once your horse is comfortable adjusting his canter stride with a happy and willing attitude, you would then start with simple changes (first canter-trot-canter then canter-walk-canter and finally

canter-halt-canter.) You want to offer these simple changes because it will help the horse literally slow his thought process and then help his body to regain balance to pick up the new lead. If you find that he pulls on the reins, drifts or seems stressed by being "hurried" from one lead to the next, you'll want to work on these simple changes before you ever offer a flying change.

Next you will need to make sure that the rider's aids are clear (not just to the rider but to the horse also) and that they are consistent.

Typically if you start to offer the change on a diagonal (on an angle riding from down one long side of the arena across the middle towards the opposite long side as if you were going to change direction.) Some people like to use a physical aid, such as a ground pole, as the designated spot where they will ask their horse to change leads.

As the horse is cantering on let's say the left lead with a soft left bend in his body, as he approaches the pole he should straighten his body for a step of two, then the rider should ask for a right bend right before arriving at the pole so that the horse is "thinking" towards the right while shortening his canter stride so that his weight will be on his hindquarters (the power end of the body) and then as the horse is going over the pole the rider should ask for the right lead.

If the horse will change leads in the front, but not in his rear, if you can give him a moment continuing on a right turn (not sharp) you may be able to sort out his feet and switch completely to the new lead. Most times for an incomplete change is that the horse is unable to have rebalanced his body to coordinate switching his foot fall pattern.

A few things to keep in mind, if the basics of clear communication is missing, the more difficult it will be to get your horse to try when presenting more difficult tasks, such as flying changes. Another is to not grill the horse over and over with a new "learning" experience...

Address the changes a few times and move on to something else, then later in the session go back and address them again. It takes time for horses to process information and confirm that what they are trying is what the rider is really asking. Also even if the changes do not come out clean or as ideal as you would like, give the horse credit for trying. Once he gains confidence that he is on the right track the changes will come in no time.

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Topic_Info:    Horse for Novice Rider?
Name: Jerry
Website_Info:  search engine
Location:   CA
Date:   June 13, 2008

Question:  My daughter is relatively new to riding (1 year).  We have a 12 year old Arabian Gelding that we bought last year. 

She has been under a trainer during that year but we brought him home back in January.  Since that time he has been a bit ornery.  However, as of late he has been a bit more cooperative with her. 

Yesterday she was thrown by him and she got back up and rode him some more and tried to correct him.

My question is....should I get rid of this horse?  I am not a horse person (my late wife was) and I'm not totally sure what my next step should be.  Any guidance would be appreciated.  Thank you!

TEC Answer:
I'm sorry to hear about your daughter and hope that she is okay.  First and foremost, as with any sport or activity, but certainly one involving thousand pound animals who have their own feelings and ideas about life, there will be a certain amount of risk and danger involved.  Even on the most "reliable" of our horses can we still have freak, unexpected or bizarre accident. 

With horses it is not a matter of "if" but rather a matter of "when" you are going to fall off.  Even the best riders still take a fall here and there.  The real question is if the horse one has or is working with is appropriate for the riders' ability, comfort level and enjoyment.

The horse world is very complicated and can be overwhelming to those who are inexperienced (certainly if you are a parent seeking the best for your child.)  Everyone in the "horse world" also has an opinion- whether you ask for it or not.  For as little as you may think you may or may not know, always trust that little voice in the back of your head.

As for your current situation there are many factors that come to mind, the most obvious is the breed of horse you are working with.  Each horse is an individual and unique and can be an exception to the common "feeling" about certain breeds.  Arabians and Thoroughbreds tend be on the more "hot" side, their sensitivity levels and awareness are far more intense and "clear" which may not always work with a novice rider.  But again, each horse is an individual and it is mostly the experience and personality of the horse that I am looking at when matching up a rider with them.

In the beginning your daughter is going to need to learn decision making, confidence, balance, and coordination.  My ideal for new riders is to have a horse that has the mind set to "offer" to help make the ride go well, rather than challenge the new rider every step of the way.

There are a lot of people who "survive" the ride, but my goal for students is to be stimulated and enjoy the ride without feeling overwhelmed.  Again we all have different comfort levels whether we are the rider, trainer or parent.  So what one person may deem as an "appropriate" horse may not be a shared feeling by someone else.  As I tell everyone I work with I want the ride to be "boring."  If I saw them in an arena with forty other horses I would not want them to stand out.

Why your horse threw your daughter at home could be numerous reasons, change in feed, work schedule, lack of exercise, weather conditions, etc.  If she feels and you agree that she can learn from things that do not work (and understand what and why she was thrown) and can make a change for the better for the future great.  But if you find that her "fun" and confidence is slipping because the horse you have becomes "overwhelming" (even if it is not specifically seen that way) you may want to consider an alternative mount.

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Topic_Info:    Tied: Pawing & Striking
Name: Janet
Website:  Web search
Location:   Elk River, MN
Date:    June 07, 2008

Question:  My 6 year old Paint gelding sometimes paws at the hitching rail and in situations where he is stressed or agitated will paw into the air.  I'm afraid he's going to "get me" one of these times.  How do I stop this?

TEC Answer:
Pawing or signs of impatience are the symptom and not the issue at hand.  As you said when he is stressed or agitated he takes this action.  If you address why or what is causing his stress and change how he feels about whatever is bothering him, then the pawing will disappear without you having to reprimand him for it.

If you can take the time and use some patience you will need to assess and break down his "stress."  You will need to learn how to recognize when it first starts to appear, rather than when it has reached the climax and your horse feels that he "has" to act out.  Then instead of "getting by" or forcing your horse to have to tolerate what is bothering him, you will need to help him address the issue at hand and help him change how he perceives the problem.  

Here are a few examples: If your horse is bothered by leaving his pasture mate, you will need to work on creating a more trusting relationship with your horse so that when you are around him he offers you a mental availability to want to be with you, instead of tolerating being around you.  Or if he is inexperienced with being ridden, although he may not have done anything dramatic with you in the saddle, the ride itself may cause him to be bothered.  In anticipation he may be showing his worry by pawing as he is tacked up because of the association with being tied, saddled and ridden.

You will need to notice if his pawing is what I call "patternized behavior"- does he always paw in the same way, at the same time when you work with him, or is he inconsistent about it?  Most of the time people and horses get stuck in "routines" in how and where we interact with our horses.  They easily learn the routine and become aware of "what is coming next."  If there is anything that bothers them about the routine, they will start to act out ahead of time, rather than wait until the actual problem or concern has occurred.

Remember that when your horse is bothered about something in life he is not happy and he would much prefer to be in a "happy" place- but horses are not always capable of using "reason" the way people do to realize that his pawing is not going to fix what is really bothering him.

Reality wise, to maintain your safety there needs to be black and white boundaries of "what works" and "what does not" as far as when he is taking an action that may be dangerous to you (even if he is not trying to be aggressive towards you.)  The problem is most times people try to correct their horse, but because of their timing (lack of) or the lack of clarity in the manner in which they do so, the horse cannot understand what the person is doing, which then only causes more confusion.  The horse must understand that when a person does something, it means something, but many times people are "hopeful" in the way that they interact with their horse, rather than being clear. 

It does not matter what action you take show the horse that striking out is inappropriate, but it must be like a hotwire- it only "corrects" the horse as the undesired action is occurring, it does not chase the horse or continue to reprimand him for a past action after the fact.

If the horse is clear on the change you are asking of him, he will "let go" immediately of continuing to try and take the same course of action when he is stressed.  Keep in mind though just because you may have stopped the actual pawing, may not mean that you lessened his worry or increased his confidence.

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Topic_Info: Flying Changes: Cow kicking
Name: jon s
Website_Info: yahoo
Location: south florida
Date: June 04, 2008

Question:  My daughter has been working on her Pony's right lead change and he cow kicks when she attempts to get the lead. The left lead is not a problem; the right lead is a mess! Boy is it ugly! What can she do? Any possible health issues with the hocks that we should look into?

TEC Answer:
There are many ways to go about teaching a horse flying changes. The first issue you should address is the quality of the canter without worrying about the changes. In both directions you should be able to shorten and lengthen the horse's stride (to almost a trot and then to almost a hand gallop) without having the horse get stressed, crooked, lose quality in the canter, etc.

The second consideration is that many people are under the impression the faster the horse's pace is at the canter, the better the chance of getting the flying change. Instead, put it into people terms. If you were learning something new that was physically challenging to you and someone kept rushing you, you probably would not be able to achieve to task with ease or comfort. The same goes for horses. The slower the process of teaching, clarifying and asking for the change, the better your horse will feel about trying it and the more comfortable it will feel to him.

The cow kicking you have mentioned is a common sign of frustration and defensiveness when a horse does not understand what or how to accomplish what is being asked of him. He is trying to tell you he is having a problem, so most likely you will need to go back and refine the basics before you get to the fun activities like flying changes.

Once your horse is comfortable adjusting his canter stride with a happy and willing attitude, you would then start with simple changes (first canter-trot-canter then canter-walk-canter and finally canter-halt-canter.) You want to offer these simple changes because it will help the horse literally slow his thought process and then help his body to regain balance to pick up the new lead. If you find that he pulls on the reins, drifts or seems stressed by being "hurried" from one lead to the next, you'll want to work on these simple changes before you ever offer a flying change.

Next you will need to make sure that the rider's aids are clear (not just to the rider but to the horse also) and that they are consistent. Typically if you start to offer the change on a diagonal (on an angle riding from down one long side of the arena across the middle towards the opposite long side as if you were going to change direction.) Some people like to use a physical aid, such as a ground pole, as the designated spot where they will ask their horse to change leads.

As the horse is cantering on let's say the left lead with a soft left bend in his body, as he approaches the pole he should straighten his body for a step of two, then the rider should ask for a right bend right before arriving at the pole so that the horse is "thinking" towards the right while shortening his canter stride so that his weight will be on his hindquarters (the power end of the body) and then as the horse is going over the pole the rider should ask for the right lead.

If the horse will change leads in the front, but not in his rear, if you can give him a moment continuing on a right turn (not sharp) you may be able to sort out his feet and switch completely to the new lead. Most times for an incomplete change is that the horse is unable to have rebalanced his body to coordinate switching his foot fall pattern.

A few things to keep in mind, if the basics of clear communication is missing, the more difficult it will be to get your horse to try when presenting more difficult tasks, such as flying changes. Another is to not grill the horse over and over with a new "learning" experience... Address the changes a few times and move on to something else, then later in the session go back and address them again. It takes time for horses to process information and confirm that what they are trying is what the rider is really asking. Also even if the changes do not come out clean or as ideal as you would like, give the horse credit for trying. Once he gains confidence that he is on the right track the changes will come in no time.

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Topic_Info: Breed temperament
Name: Judie
Website_Info: browsing the internet
Location: New Mexico
Date: May 31, 2008

Question:  I have a 5 year old Arabian-quarter horse mix. She seems very gentle, but is untrained. I know a trainer in the area, but have always used quarter horses. Is the Arabian blood going to make her disposition too "hot" for becoming gentle?

TEC Answer:
First I would like to clarify a few things. To me there is a difference between a "hot" horses (one who has a lot more "go" than "whoa") and a "gentle" horse (one who has a very interested personality that enjoys participating with people.) Next all horses are unique whatever the common thought may be of different breed's and their dispositions. I've seen Thoroughbreds that act like Quarter Horses and Quarter Horses that act like Arabians. Each horse is unique as to who they are in personality, experience, confidence and so forth.

People tend to forget how much we influence the horse that we interact with. The best news is that you have a horse with a "clean slate" or no history of bad or frustrating encounters with humans. The Arabians are known for their sensitivity which can be used in a positive way depending on how they are worked with. They wear their emotions on their sleeve; you will never have to guess if they are bothered, worried, stressed, happy or so on. The mentality of the Quarter Horse typically on the other hand is one who "stuffs" their emotions, or keeps them locked up. So a QH may be standing still "looking" quiet, but may be a wreck emotionally on the inside.

Depending on your goals, experience and time you will have to assess who your Arab cross is and if this is a horse that is realistically suitable for your needs and wants. All young horses are quite the time, emotional and financial investment and will need hours of exposure and positive experiences.

If you will be working with a trainer make sure that you watch them work with several different horse personalities and go with your gut instinct as to if you think they will make a good combination with your horse. Many trainers have "one way" of doing things without ever considering the individual horse. Trainers should always welcome you to watch their sessions and any questions- if you find them resistant in wanting to deal with you as a potential client, you may want to take your business elsewhere.

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Topic_Info:    Fidgeting
Name: Lani
Website_Info:  Google Search
Location:      Australia
Date:          May 25, 2008

Question:  I have a 16 y/o standard bred gelding (ex-racehorse) who is incredibly reluctant to accept a bit or stand still for any extended period of time. He was trained with a bit but his old owner was using a bit-less bridle and he had become accustomed to that, I don't feel comfortable enough with him yet to leave the bit behind, but he really does not like his bit, is there any way I can get him to accept it easier?

Also, he's patient enough to stand still when I'm mounting or dismounting, but if he has to stand still while being ridden, led or brushed he fidgets, turns full circles and paws at the ground, this starts after just a few minutes. Is it simply boredom, or something more? How would I go about teaching him the patience for it?

TEC Answer:
Keep in mind that a horse's physical movement is a reflection of how he feels mentally and emotionally.  If you have an ex-racehorse, the only scenario he has been taught is that movement is good. The faster he moved the better.  This means anytime your horse has any concern, because of his "routine" past patternized behavior, he has learned if he moves fast enough, people will eventually leave him alone. 

Your horse's movement has nothing to do with the equipment you are using (unless something were pinching him and causing him physical discomfort.)  You will need to address working with your horse by offering him a clean slate.  You will need to assume he knows nothing and that you are going to show him what behaviors you will accept and those that you will not. 

In most horses that have been taught that excessive movement is good, their body tends to get ahead of their brain and they literally stop thinking about what they are physically doing.  Then they get lost.  Typically this causes a person to move to correct the horse, then the horse reacts by moving, then the person does so, etc. and the whole scenario is another big miscommunication.

Begging from the ground I would start to make assessments of your horse.  Is he happy to greet you when you catch him?  Does he stay respectfully out of your space as you lead him or does he barge past you?  When being groomed or tacked up, does he stand relaxed and still, or is he constantly fidgeting, fussing, and moving side to side?  Is there a change in his demeanor when you bring out the tack?  Do you wind up working him in the same "routine" (same time of day, ride in the same place, etc.)?

Your focus is going to be on your horse's brain.  He will need to learn that when you do something, it means something.  The more he focuses on you, the more he will be "open" to hearing what you are offering.  This will be the beginning of clear communication.  The more he can clearly understand you, the more he will respect your aids when you ask him to think, move or pause. 

Most people get distracted by the physical movement of the horse.  If you can keep in mind that when you horse is feeling good about life and relaxed, his body will reflect it by standing quietly and relaxed.  The same vice versa- if he is stressed, worried, bothered, insecure, etc. about something, his body will reflect it with lots of movement.

Once your horse's brain is with you he will have to learn how to take (literally) one step at a time.  Especially racehorses, their brains anticipate what is about to happen, so many times you ask for one small response and they give you an over-the-top reaction.  Instead your horse will have to learn to have a sliding scale of energy in his movement (reflective of how much energy you have in your body- whether from the ground or in the saddle.)  The more available your horse is to hear what you are offering, left, right, slow, fast, wait, etc. the more he will be able to physically comply with what you are asking AND feel good about it. 

As I tell many people, just because you can, does not mean that you should.  This means, that although your horse has been ridden or has been exposed to different things in his life, he may have just been tolerating those scenarios all the while they were causing more stress and worry in him.  If you have the patience and time to help your horse create a clear foundation with the basics, symptoms such as fidgeting, will dissipate over time as your horse feels better about life in general without you have to addresses each specific issue.

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Topic_Info:    Trail Riding: Herd Bound Behavior
Name: Linda
Website:  Google search
Location:   Colorado
Date:    April 13, 2008

Question:  My 10 year old gelding generally rides out on trails nicely alone or with another horse.  He does not care if he leads or follows and if the other horse gets ahead, he does not care.  Today, I rode out alone and two horses passed us at a walk on the trail.  The last horse was a mare in season (per owner).  We started down the trail and after about 50 yards he smelled the mare's urine, put his head up with his lip thrust out, then continued down the trail.  I noticed his walk was a bit quicker but he was not jigging just walking a bit quicker.  About 10-15 minutes later another group of horses passed us at a trot.  Both times the other horses passed, I had pulled off of the trail and turned and faced the on coming horses. After the trotting horses passed, my gelding was very excited and wanted to quickly follow.  I could feel him tense up and start prancing.  I did a circle and went down the trail the opposite direction to get his attention back on me.  After about 50 yards, we turned around to proceed back down the trail (again going the same direction as the two groups of horses that passed us).  My gelding started jigging and acting up by screaming for the other horses, running sideways, and rearing about 1 foot off the group.  He was very tense, panicked and wanted to run after the other horses.  I did a few circles but he was screaming and running sideways and trying to rear.  I took a side path that leads to a parking area with horse trailers and other horses.  I thought seeing the other horses would calm him down. When we crested over a little hill he could see the other horses by the trailers. He continued to act up, pawing the ground, snorting, screaming out to the horses, tense and panicked.  This really was a surprise to me as he has never reacted to other horses passing him in the past.  This is our third ride of the year after a long winter and now I worry if this is the start of a new behavior and if I don't handle it right I know the behavior will get worse.  I got  him to ride through the parking lot with the trailers and horses.  As we proceeded down a different path going a different direction and the horses got further away, he calmed back down and I was able to get his attention.  The rest of the ride went fine.  Toward the end of the ride (total of 2 hours) we had to pass another parking lot with trailers and there was one horse there.  He had no reaction when we passed the other horse at a distance of about 100 yards but I worry about the next time a group of horses passes us on the trail, especially at the trot.  Would circles and figure eights be the best way to keep his mind engaged on me.  When should I start doing circles, as soon as they pass before he reacts or when I feel him tense?  Should I practice the circles every time I ride. What if there is no place on the trail to do circles? What else can I do to get his attention? What is the best way to get and keep his mind on me no matter the situation?  Thank you so much for your advice!

TEC Answer:
Thank you for the in depth explanation of the scenario your horse presented on the trail ride.  The first thought that comes to mind is that perhaps when life appears to you as "good" for your gelding it may still be lacking a "warm and fuzzy" or confidence building experience.

You mentioned that he 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 he 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- such as leaving the other horse to do a "job" and then returning, etc. 

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 the extreme signs of stress, frustration and worry that he showed on this particular trail ride, does not mean that he may not be carrying those feelings around with him all of the time.  What caused him on this particular ride to have to express himself, I could not say.  The first thing I do read from all of this is that when he does reach his "melt down" point he is unable to emotionally, physically or mentally deal with a scenario- and he 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 he 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, he should ask you how you would like him to deal with it rather than to make decisions on his own, such as what he displayed with you 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 are an attention demanding task on both of our parts.)  You may have to go back and assess how quality the relationship is 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 he willing to let go of what he thought you wanted to try the new task?

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

You mentioned that you presented circles which can be an aid, but only if the rider do so in a way that the horse understands it is a task that can "help" the scenario, rather than to just be a physical distraction.  Many people say "Control the horse's feet in order to influence the brain."  I actually present the opposite, "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 mental availability and then the follow through with the physical movement.  

Let's say you are presenting a circle.  The horse should be able to tell the difference when you are asking him to first LOOK towards where you might want him to turn.  (So many horses go through the motion of movement without ever thinking or looking about where they are going.)  Then if you ask him to step towards that direction, the front leg closest to where you would like him to step should move first.  (This is important because it means he has shifted his brain and then his physical balance to prepare to "follow" his thought towards the designated direction.)  Next there should be softness in his step and a bend in his body if he feels "good" and is committed as to where his is moving.  (If not it will feeling like you are sitting on a board and you will feel him "leaking" out the shoulder opposite from the direction you would like him to move.)  If there is a "drag" in his step he is not thinking about moving forward.  This is common in horses that are insecure because they become so worried about getting what the rider has asked of them wrong, that they would rather not try anything at all rather than make a wrong movement and get reprimanded for it.

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 his brain to hear what you are asking of him.  If at home or in a "safe" scenario there is any holes in your communication or his mental try, whenever you add stress, such as the above mentioned trail ride, you will only get even less of him to "hear" and address what you are asking of him.

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

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Topic_Info:    Bridge Crossing
Name: Tanner
Website_Info:  internet
Location:      Washington
Date:          March 22, 2008

Question:  There is a little bridge in my arena, and I have tried walking my 8 year old Arabian around it and showing it to him from all sides, and I've tried backing him up and leading him forward, I've walked around on it to try and show him that it isn't scary. But when I try to lead him forward, he refuses to go. Is there any way I can help him overcome his fear and get him to walk on it?

TEC Answer:
First before you present any obstacle to your horse you will need to establish clear communication when using the lead rope from the ground.  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 (bridge, tarp, trailer, puddle, etc.) 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 bridge in your arena. Before you ever get near the bridge 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 bridge into baby steps (where he may only address several parts of crossing the bridge rather than the entire accomplishment of crossing the entire bridge) 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 bridge you will have enough tools in just using your lead rope, if you can ask your horse to walk up to the bridge 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 bridge.  First he has to be looking at this "line."  In most cases if he is worried or insecure about the bridge he'll try and avoid it by looking at everything EXCEPT the bridge.  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 bridge. He will not cross the bridge with a "warm fuzzy feeling" until he decides to literally look at the bridge.  

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 bridge, literally one step at a time.  You do not want your horse to "survive" crossing the bridge, rather you want him to think and feel confident with each step he is taking as he crosses the bridge.  As he is on the bridge 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 bridge from both directions (with plenty of breaks and rests in between) you might ask him to focus on something else and then present the bridge 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.

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Topic_Info: Horse raising up front legs
Name: blonde bmbr
Website_Info: Through Yahoo
Location: Nebraska
Date: April 05, 2008

Question:  Why does a horse raise its front legs in the air at you and paw in the air, is he trying to attack you ?

TEC Answer:
There can be numerous reasons a horse will rear and strike with his front legs; it depends on the scenario and situation presented and when and how he does so.

If he is with a pasture mate and they have been playing, this is a non-aggressive act. Many times you will see young, emotionally immature or horses lacking in socialization that are "trying out" rearing, bucking, bolting, kicking and trying to establish themselves within the hierarchy of the herd. It is a great way for them to mentally, physically and emotionally "let down."

If your horse is rearing in response to something asked of him by a human, it most likely is an act of defensiveness. There are only so many ways a horse can "tell" a person that he is having a problem, and many times when his ways of communicating are "quiet" his actions are ignored until he starts to evolve his way of showing worry, concern, stress, agitation, etc. by taking a course of action that cannot be ignored, such as rearing. Also if he has realized that if he acts "big" and the issue that was bothering him is removed (such as the human causing him to be stressed,) he will learn to act more defensively faster in order to eliminate any opportunity for a human to stress him.

In many cases the horse will show signs of insecurity or worry before he gets to the rearing stage in his actions. You will need to literally slow down how and with what energy, thought, intention and focus you interact with your horse. This will help you to raise your level of awareness in order to break down into stages when your horse first shows signs of being bothered (ears back, tail swishing, agitated physical movement, etc.) In my experience the rearing is "after the fact" of whatever is causing a horse discomfort or frustration, so do not get distracted by his act of rearing, rather try to focus on how many ways and times does he try to tell you his is having a problem and that he is ignored. If you clear up those areas that are lacking clear communication, trust and respect, the rearing will "cure itself" and start to disappear as your horse feels more confident in you.

If you try to address the sole act of rearing, you will only be shutting down your horse's uneasy feelings, as oppose to changing how he feels about what is causing him to rear, and they will soon appear in a new way of him "acting out."

Always keep your safety a priority, you may need to consult a local trainer whose goal it is to help the horse develop confidence when feeling stressed, rather than "stuffing" his emotions until he blows a fuse one day.

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Topic_Info: Round pen resistance
Name: Daniel D.
Website_Info: search engine
Location: Lyons, Ga
Date: April 08, 2008

Question:  I have a 3 y/o quarter horse who does not work well in the round pen. When you put her in the round pen and ask her to move she doesn't. All the articles I have read talk about working the horse in both directions and I have had a trainer come to my house and show me how with my other horse. However, what do you do when the horse will not run the pen so you can establish dominance over that horse? She paws the ground and challenges the fence. If you put pressure on her rear to move she bucks and kicks. A time or two she has charged me and ran me out of the pen. This is the same horse that is the first to meet you at the fence when I walk up. She is not timid or shy but she seems scared of the round pen. You can halter this horse without any problem and lead this horse but with some resistance when leading at times, but overall she is a sweet horse until you try to work her in the round pen. She is very buddy-sour but so is my older horse but she does well once she gets her attention on me in the round pen and off the other horses. I have been kicked once and I do not want to be hurt trying to train my horse.  Her kicks are incredibly powerful, much more powerful than my older horse. How can I safely approach this problem with her and not be trampled or kicked in the process?

TEC 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 working the horse both directions and having the pen be a controlled setting for "dominance." If you ask a million trainers you will get a million different answers, so bear in mind when I work with people and horses, I'm looking for availability of the mind, 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 what you are asking. Instead, a more common train of thought when working with horses is to physical control, direct or micromanage them, in order to get a change in their brain. All I can do is 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 the task, you will never be able to accomplish to task to your full abilities. The same goes for horses.

So I will disagree that the round is a place to create dominance. In my mind, the round pen is a controlled and "safe" setting to work with your horse. As for working both directions, well yes ideally we would like to accomplish that. But you are jumping "ahead" in your desires from your horse. You mentioned that when you ask her to move she 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 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 either bucking, kicking or charging, she is trying her options. If she is resistant to go forward, most likely she is worried about what exactly it is that you want from her. Her way of not "getting IT wrong" ("it" being whatever you are asking) is to not 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.

Either way, her physical actions and resistance are a reflection of her mental and emotional status.

As for haltering and leading her with "some resistance" is the beginning stages of a LOT of resistance. Horses rarely "out of the blue" take drastic measures towards a person. Her resistance in leading if she is a buddy sour mare most likely has to do with the fact that her buddy is somewhere opposite from where you would like to take her. She needs to understand that when you are working with her, her brain needs to be with YOU.

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,) 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 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.

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. The more you are able to see and experience just how little of an action 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.

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.

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Topic_Info:    Trailer Loading Problems
Name: Kate
Website_Info:  Randomly searching the internet.
Location:      Canada
Date:          February 21, 2008

Question:  Hi my name is Kate.  I have a 6 year old gelding that refuses to get into the trailer.  Before I tell you about his problem I'm just going to fill you in on what he used to be like.  Ok so when he was born he was afraid of everything.  It took me at least a month to be able to walk into the fence and pet him.  After that he got better and better but if I ever missed more than a day of visiting him he would be scared of me again.  About when he was 4 he started getting more confidence and I could do whatever I wanted with him.  About at that age I really started working on getting him to load and do other stuff.  For everything we did he would do it willingly because he did not like getting punished but he still would not get into the trailer.  So I finally figured that I would put him in my round pen and put all his feed in the trailer.  After 1 night he would get into the trailer whenever I would ask and do it willingly.  So this past year he has decided that he does not want to get into the trailer no matter what.  At first I thought that he was scared of it because that is what his problem used to be but if you just look at his body language you can tell that he is just being stubborn.  So I really would welcome any tips to loading him as it literally takes me 3 hours to load him.  Thanks again.

TEC Answer:
Hello and thank you for writing.  I know trailer loading can be one of those situations that really challenge patience in both horse and person.  It sounds like you have a generally insecure horse.  Many times horses with insecurities can gain what we interpret as "confidence" in scenarios that are repeated numerous times.  The problem arises when a scenario is slightly changed (i.e. moving the tarp from the normal spot to a new spot,) and then you feel like you are starting all over again with your horse.  

In your particular history of trailer loading it sounds like for your horse to load he had to pick the lesser of two undesirable options.  Motivating a horse by feed, fear, or annoyance will not have a long term affect on the horse.  So I am going to ask you to back up a few steps in your thinking and approach to trailer loading.

First whenever we work with our horses we are searching for a mental availability.  Only once our horse is willing to mentally "try" to address what we are asking of them will they physically accomplish what we would like with the results long lasting.  So you may have to revisit the basics and assess the level of clarity you have between you and your horse.  Ideally through your ability to "send a feel" down a lead rope (if you're working on the ground) you will be able to ask anything of your horse WITHOUT the "need" to drive (with whips, sticks, or other "scary" items) your horse to do what you would like.

When you pick up the lead rope, can you direct your horse's thought in a specific direction or towards a specific object?  Can you intercept your horse's thought if he gets distracted or has too much or too little movement?  Until you have the basics of getting your horse to first just look (literally and without his feet moving) left and right, then follow that look with ONE step, then eventually movement (forwards, backwards, sideways, etc.) without you having to LEAD him, you will not have the necessary tools to use for presenting complicated things such as trailer loading. 

If you do not have clarity in the "aids" you can use from the ground to communicate with your horse, then your horse will become defensive towards you (especially if he is naturally insecure) and then it becomes a "battle of the wills," and yes he may eventually give up after a few hours and do what you would like, but there will be no change in the future when you present the same or similar scenario.

For whatever you may ask of your horse, the communication must be clear, the respect must be present and his mind must be available.  If you do not have these three tools, you will NEVER be able to have the ideal "try" from your horse and you will constantly be presented with a fight every time something that bothers him comes up.

In your case after fine tuning your communication with him you will need to start with small scenarios where your horse can feel that he can be successful when he tries to address what you are asking of him.  This can be anything from how he walks out of his stall, steps over a pole, moves his body out of your away... You can use any "real life" situation and turn it into a fun and confidence building scenario.  Until you have his trust and respect in calm scenarios, I would not present a stressful one.  

This is not your "quick and easy" fix, but the solution presented above can be used in any and everything you will ever ask of your horse.  Every time he realizes that he is acknowledged for trying and can understand what you are asking, he will become increasingly available to address more complicated scenarios.  You will have created the trusting relationship we are all looking to build with our horses.

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Topic_Info: Lameness
Name: Jennifer
Website_Info: google
Location: England
Date: January 30, 2008

Question:  I have a horse who had to be out of work for a couple of months, getting worked every now and again not much though, his time off was not due to an injury. Now coming back to work he appears lame (as if dropping on a front leg) even though he does not appear to be in pain and is happy to gallop in the field and happy to be ridden. It has been getting better each time I ride, could it be something more serious due to lack of work?

TEC Answer:
As with people, when horses are not worked in a consistent manner they lose both their cardiovascular conditioning and muscles fitness. Even if a horse has the freedom to move around a pasture, he will not maintain the same endurance that he would have if he was being worked on a regular basis.

There could be numerous reasons why your horse is showing signs of lameness. I would recommend first ruling out any physical issues whether you consult a veterinarian, chiropractor, masseuse, etc. who would be able to evaluate the ENTIRE horse and not just focus on the "injured" area. Once you get the go ahead that the horse is physically well, I would create a conditioning schedule to slowly build up his endurance to your desired point.

The lame movement you are currently seeing could be a result if he pulled or hurt something in pasture just coincidentally as to when you wanted to start riding again. Remember that even though horses are strong animals, their bodies are also very sensitive. Even if he may not have hurt himself with some long term injury, he could still be sore or show signs of inconsistent movement for a while. (This is no different from when we sleep wrong and wake up with a stiff neck, and then feel the soreness for several days after it initially happened. Plus keep in mind how a stiff neck in a person would affect how they moved their entire body, this is the same with a horse.)

Horses do not use the same line of reason as people, "I am hurt, so I should not move." So do not believe that just because your horse is galloping around the pasture that he is feeling 100% physically.

I do not know the focus or length of work outs you asked of your horse when you started him back up

working. Let's say he's been loose to move freely in a large pasture and then you suddenly put

him to work on a lot of 20 meter trot and canter circles, you would most likely see signs of stiffness in his movement the next day. Again, just because the horse is a large and strong animal does not mean that he should be rushed into demanding training sessions.

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Topic_Info: Bits
Website_Info: Google
Location: United Kingdom
Date: January 25, 2008

Question:  My horse can be stubborn at times, but other times she can be quite forward going. But she just won't listen to the bit. eg. Sometimes she will pull in to the center of the arena and the more I try to steer her onto the track, the more she tries to pull the other way. And I was riding in the field once and I went a walk with her in the opposite direction of my friends on their horses and when we were quite far away she started galloping full speed towards them and I had absolutely no control over her. I tried pulling left, right, and backwards but nothing worked!

So could you please suggest a bit that might help with this problem as soon as possible?

TEC Answer:
Thank you for writing and I am sorry to hear the all too common story of "the bit not stopping the horse." The problem is that the bit does not ever stop your horse, your horse's brain, when it is her idea to stop, is what stops her physical movement. If you have the average size horse and imagine that a small metal device can actually control that horse's movement, then you need to pause for a moment and perhaps reassess the rest of your interaction with your horse.

It sounds like your horse is running out of fear, and because each time she gets bothered she runs, and however you may eventually get her to stop, you most likely will have not addressed nor helped your horse "feel" better about whatever she was initially fearful of that caused her to run. So each time she gets scared, she resorts to what I called "patternized behavior." This behavior is something that horses and people suffer from. Typically under a stress induced scenario, we resort to trying the same option over and over again, rather than changing what or how we are doing something, in order to get a different outcome.

In your particular case, the more your horse believes she has to run, which is instinctive in her prey animal behavior, she will. The more she realizes you as her rider and partner are not aware, supportive or acknowledging when she STARTS to feel fear or bad about a scenario, the more she loses trust and respect for you and has less MENTAL AVAILABILITY in being able to "hear" or respond to your aids (i.e. like pulling on the reins to stop her movement.) Her "tuning you out" is what causes the bit to become ineffective during moments of duress and trauma. The bit itself is not the issue.

You will need to step back and assess where the clarity or lack of between you and horse begins.

Remember the ride begins when you go to catch your horse, not once you are mounted. If there are little "issues" as you are grooming her, tacking her, leading her, or overall handling her, and you ignore any feelings of concern, stress, worry or fear she may be carrying around mentally and emotionally, then by the time you get in the saddle those same feelings are going to affect and influence the quality of the ride you have.

You will probably need to enlist the help of someone who recognizes that the horse's physical movement is a reflection of her emotionally and mental state, the happier she is on the inside, the more willing, soft and fluid she will be physically when you ride her.

If you attempt to "fix" her current running away with a more severe bit, you are only prolonging a problem that will continue to get worse until either one or both of you end up hurt. Your horse is not happy when she is running away, she needs your help, she does not have the ability to 'reason'

through her stress. Your riding has become a game of tug of war, and in any case of a challenge of physical strength in a human vs. horse, the horse will always win.

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Topic_Info: Always Crossfiring
Name: Rachel
Website_Info: google
Location: Oregon
Date: January 14, 2008

Question:  Hi, I have a 10 year old Arabian gelding that wasn't started until I got him recently. He doesn't know where to put his hind feet when he  canters and is always crossfiring. He gets confused with his legs and then cow-hops. What can I do to stop this problem?
Thanks,
Rachel

TEC Answer:
There are many things that can cause a horse to be crossfiring when trying to canter. First you would always want to rule out any possible physical issues that could be interfering with his coordination. Next I am not sure if he crossfires only when mounted or when he is worked from the ground too. I would also ask if the crossfiring happens when he is in a smaller space rather than bigger space- remember circles and small areas are not "natural" for a horse to move within.

You would always want to make sure that your horse has his coordination and balance in both small and large areas (such as being worked in a round pen) before you would ever hope to have him be balanced when ridden.

If his crossfiring only happens when ridden, notice if he is consistent when tracking both directions at the canter. Most likely the direction in which he feels more relaxed moving, will be the direction he is more coordinated in and less likely to crossfire.

Remember by the time you are cantering you should have clear and effective communication with your horse at the walk and trot. If there is any lack of clarity at the two slower gaits, you will need to address those areas first. If you only have a mediocre walk or trot, the faster you ask your horse to move out, the more unclear your communication will become causing more worry and insecurity in a green or inexperienced horse.

The actual act of crossfiring is when the shoulders are cantering on one lead, and the hindquarters are cantering on the other lead. The horse's movement is a reflection of what he is thinking. If your horse is completely committed to the right, he will naturally pick up the right lead in both his front and hind end. The problem with most horses is that while they are being ridden and physically going through the "movements" they are usually mentally somewhere else, whether it be thinking about their buddy in the pasture or that it's feeding time, or watching the mail carrier coming down the road.

You will need to raise your level of awareness in keeping your horse's attention, focus and thought "straight ahead" (even if it's on a circle, he can still think straight,) AS you are about to transition into the canter, this will help him find his correct lead.

Another point is how you ask your horse to canter. Especially with green horses, I like the act of cantering to be fun and "their" idea. This means if we're trotting out in a big field and I'm increasing my energy gradually in the trot until we are totting so "big" (not fast like a sewing machine, but forward, light and intentional movement) that I start to feel the horse "think" about the canter, I just continue forward with my energy in the saddle, and the horse will "roll" softly into the canter.

BUT if I were to find a nice floating trot, relaxed and forward thinking, with my energy in the saddle encouraging the horse to think and move forward, and then because I wanted to canter, I "suddenly" sat (in the "old school" way of asking for the canter) all of my energy would have decreased by me sitting, causing my forward thinking horse to feel me "drag" in the saddle, he would then in turn slow his rhythm to match mine, and then we would have lost all forward thought and movement. If on top of this I then "drove" him with my outside leg attempting to get the canter, he would "fall apart" and even if we made it to the canter, the quality would be lacking.

You will need to spend time just addressing the quality of the trot-canter transition, once that becomes smooth and clear, then too will the canter.

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Topic_Info: Bad Attitude- Feeding Time
Name: Elizabeth
Location: Alaska
Date: December 03, 2007

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 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.

TEC 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 did more subtle mannerisms that you may have not noticed. As for his attitude towards you, take a look at another Ask the Trainer article I have posted about young horse behavior.  Trust

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 challenge. The challenge masks the insecurity he is feeling (if he is more offensive rather than defensive he may be able to protect himself better.)

If he is second man on the totem pole, perhaps he sees you as lower than he, and takes out any frustration he is feeling towards the lead mare on you. If there is any worry as to accessibility to feed he may be impatient at feeding time to get as much as he can before he gets run off by the lead mare. You may ask yourself a few simple questions- any change in diet, feeding times, feeding locations, herd setup (pasture vs. stall) that may be attributing to the change in his behavior.

Many people work with their horses in a challenging manner, "Let's see if they can get this right or tolerate this." Rather than with a "Let me see how I can HELP my horse get this right," type of attitude. The time to address his head shaking, worry and/or anxiety is not when he is feeling it at it's peak (currently at feeding time,) rather to start to communicate and interact with him during a less stressful time. If you have access to a round pen or small and safe area to work with him at liberty (because a lot of times horses "keep in" bad feelings when they are on a line as this is what they have been taught to do.)

When he is loose in the pen does he acknowledge you, seek your help for leadership, look for guidance, show the same aggressive or frustrated signs towards you as at feeding time, etc.? You will need to find a mental availability (do not get distracted by what he is physically doing- this is only a reflection of what he is feeling on the inside) for him to learn to ask you for help when he is having a problem (even if it is during feeding time.) The more he trusts and has confidence in you, the more his aggressive behavior will dissipate. Horses act aggressively because they are feeling BAD on the inside, not because they enjoy acting out towards people.

While at liberty we do not just want your horse physically near you, rather we would like him to feel relaxed (in posture, stance, breathing, thoughts, etc.) and have "warm and fuzzy" feelings in being "with" you mentally rather than physically "tolerating" your presence. There are many ways you can play with him in the pen and you may need to seek the guidance of local trainer who prioritizes working with the horse's brain rather than his movements. Many times when working at liberty people get distracted by setting their sights on having their horse accomplish a specific task, rather than remaining clear and focused on HOW the horse feels when addressing a task. If he is having a problem, the task is no longer important, rather changing how he feels about what he is being asked to do is. If he can start to see you addressing his feelings and worries, he will start to trust you and change how he outwardly is acting towards you and the other horses.

He is also young and just as with people, he is exploring the boundaries of what works and what does not both in how he addresses horses and people. He needs to understand that just because you like or care for you horse, does not mean that he gets to delegate how the two of you interact with one another.

Feedback
I had written to your website regarding my young Chinook and his aggressive behavior. Made some changes in feeding arrangements, and in less than a week,  he was no longer challenging me.  Until I can permanently separate him from the mare, in spring, he now eats shut in his stall, where she cannot get at him or his feed.  I use that time to groom him, handle his feet etc. and he is his old sweet self again.  Such a simple solution,  and it worked wonders.
Elizabeth

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Topic_Info: Horse panicked
Name: Linda A
Website_Info: Internet searching
Location: Fairfax, VA
Date: April 07, 2007

Question:  While I was riding in the ring another horse spooked, unseating his rider. When he got loose he came towards my horse and I, my horse started to panic, hitting me in the face with her head. She had a standing martingale, thank God. What should I have done? I got somebody to grab my horse so I could dismount quickly. I want to know what I should do if it happens again. I am an older rider so not as flexible as I used to be. Please advise.

TEC Answer:
There are several parts in answering your question, the "emotional"

aspect of your scenario and the physical. Typically when a horse is throwing their head, showing an emotional stress, (for whatever reason is stressing them) they will follow with getting "light" on their front end, which could eventually lead to rearing... If in this specific case your horse was panicked because of the loose horse coming towards her- she had two ways of protecting herself. She could both turn and run (which would be the most natural defense,) or she could act outwardly aggressive towards the loose horse by getting "bigger" (rearing) in order to keep the horse away from her. Perhaps because she had the martingale or because you might have grabbed the reins- you might have defused her head tossing from evolving into a rear.

The problem with most riders is that they are unaware of lacking areas with their horse such as: clarity in communication, trust, respect, responsiveness, etc. until an unforeseen or uncontrollable situation arises where the rider suddenly needs their horse to follow their leadership and guidance. When the horse has other ideas, the rider suddenly realizes how much of a "passenger" they have been when working with their mount.

Keep in mind that many times horses cannot find the "right" or ideal answer on their own and look to us for help, but because of whatever stress or distraction the stressful moment causes, the rider's brain vacates for the "out of control" moment. So now the horse has asked for help, the rider is worried about helping the rider and not the horse, and it becomes "the blind leading the blind" scenario.

I do not want people to ride with a constant paranoia of "what might happen," but I highly encourage riders to begin to raise their level of awareness and sensitivity on "good days" so that if an unforeseen event arises (and it's only a matter of "when" it will) the horse can ask the rider "What would you like?" and be mentally available to physically do what their rider asks.

The quality and clarity of your communication will affect how much your horse CHOOSES to "hear" during a stressful time. If you only get 50%awareness from your horse on "most days" then do not expect anything more, and most likely a whole lot less, when there is stress involved.

Physically if a horse is tossing their head or getting light on their front end they will be tight (because their muscles engaged) in their jaw, neck, topline, and back. Most people panic and tend to "hold on" which creates a pulling feel down the reins to the horse's mouth. This only multiplies the horse's panic and so the horse resists even more severely physically which can cause the horse to accidentally loose it's balance (this happens a lot of time when an inexperienced horse/rider combination is using severe equipment such as draw reins) and the horse can actually fall causing both harm to himself and his rider.

During a stressful time, in order to get a physical change, you will need to interrupt their physical resistance by offering a mental alternative, such as a circle, a turn, or forward movement. If your horse is committed to a circle, there will be a softness in his body starting at his jaw and ending at his tail. If he is "relaxed" all four feet will consistently and quietly touch the ground. The time to practice finding the "softness" is every time and all the time that you ride, that way, the day you need it the most as an aid to help your horse relax, it will be "natural' for both of you.

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Topic_Info: Runaway Horse
Name: Hayley
Date: August 18, 2007

Question:  Hi, I have a 10-year-old Arabian mare. When I take her out in the field to do cross country she puts her head straight up and takes off. I've now put a running martingale on but she still takes off and has now started going sideways she loves to jump and is very good at it. Please help me! Thanks

TEC Answer:
Most "run away" horses do so because something is scaring them or making them emotionally uncomfortable and therefore they respond by physically trying to get "away." The only way they can protect themselves is to run. The stronger and more severe equipment you put on your horse will only create more stress and worry in her. It is a quick fix that will force her to contain her frustrated or worried feelings until the day she explodes. The equipment's effectiveness will only delay her lack of controllability for a short period (like putting a band-aid on a wound that requires stitches.) I would say you need to go back and address the basics.

Break her "running away" down into steps. You might ask yourself these questions: When does she start to get strong when you ride? What kind of bit and other equipment do you use on her and why? Does it fit her correctly and is it effective? How soft and responsive is she towards your aids during your flatwork sessions? How effective are your aids?

Does she respond worried if she is distracted, leaving her barn mates, riding in a group, etc.?

My guess is that she probably shows you signs of panic before she actually takes off. If you try to address her bolting while it's happening, you are merely responding to her panicked reaction. You need to be able to recognize her behavior before or even when she STARTS to get panicked and be able to intercept her thoughts of running by offering her a better alternative. Keep in mind she will not listen to your aids unless they are both clear and effective.

Many times horses can jump or accomplish major tasks but have insecure feelings of doing so, until one day those feelings overwhelm them and they act out, in your mare's case, by running away. I'd go back to the basics. Until you and your horse can work together as a team focusing on those, I would not present jumps.

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Topic_Info: Thoroughbred Trail Horse
Name: Brandi C
Website_Info: browsing the web
Location: Chilhowie, Virginia
Date: October 12, 2007

Question:  I have never owned a thoroughbred and I wanted to know if you can ride one on a trail? I was told that she came off the track 4 years ago and I have rode her in a round pen but not outside of the round pen. Can you tell me some stuff about thoroughbred?

TEC Answer:
Every horse is an individual and based on their experiences, education level and interaction with humans can influence how they behave.

Typically thoroughbreds are not thought of as "trail" horses because they are much clearer in communicating how they are feeling. If they are worried, scared, insecure, fearful, etc. their physical behavior is a perfect reflection of what they are emotionally or mentally feeling on the inside. The rider will have absolutely no question in recognizing what they are feeling because the thoroughbred will show you.

Other breeds such as Quarter horses are thought of as being more versatile because they tend to not known to physically react as "big" or dramatic as the more "hot" thoroughbreds. This does not mean that they may be any happier or feeling any better about a situation, they just tend to keep their feelings masked. Keep in mind there are always exceptions to the "rule." I've seen totally laid back thoroughbreds that look and act like a Quarter horses and vice versa.

The problem with any breed horse that has raced is that they have been taught to run no matter what. There are plenty of ex-races horses that with patience, time and training have found other careers after the track. But there are also plenty of ex-race horses that can never get beyond resorting to "running" or getting, "big" when they endure a problem or stress.

Depending on your goals, experience level and finances, it is the person's responsibility to buy an appropriately suited horse. Many of these "worried" ex-racers are bought and sold numerous times because their "price is right" and people end up eventually realizing buying a "cheap" horse has neither saved them money or time, nor does it suit most "average rider" needs.

The problem with the high turnover of a horse is that it is the horse that winds up paying the price for people's bad judgment. Many potential horse buyers are "hopeful" and tend to let their emotions affect their judgment. People also tend to have the "I can help the horse" syndrome, without realizing it could take years to reach the ideal relationship with your horse.

Be a responsible buyer and if you do not have much experience with horses, for both your and the horse's sake, find an experienced, patient horse that can help you learn in a fun and safe way.

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Topic_Info: Desensitizing- Plastic Bag
Name: debi g
Website_Info: put in the subject
Location: internet
Date: October 14, 2007

Question:  I have been riding for 42 years. Have shown many horses. I placed 5th in the Nation in 1985 A system in Appaloosa Trail Sr Amateur Rider. My only reason for sharing that is so you know I am not a beginner at this.  I train with a patient, persistent and a firm but kind hand.

My question is regarding my daughter's Quarter horse gelding and plastic. We can dress him in it, rub him down, throw it over him etc... without a care. We have been doing this for over a year. But each new day is like the movie Ground Hogs Day. He will go over after a couple minutes, but the next day he acts as if he has never seen it before. This does not work in the show ring.

I have tried taking him to different arenas and areas all over the farm.  It always starts out the same way absolute shock and fear. Can you suggest something else? I know he could do very well in trail classes. He will do all object now except this one and if it's at the beginning of the class the class is blown. I would love to hear your advice.  Thank you,

Very Frustrated Trail Horse Mom.

TEC Answer:
Thank you for writing. The behavior you describe in your horse is quite common and I will attempt to offer you some thoughts on why your horse is doing what he is. Because I am unable to see you work with him I will try to explain the "whole" picture and not just addressing his particular issue.

Horses are incredibly adaptable creatures. Take a horse that has never seen a cow, leave him in a pen next to the cows overnight, and the next morning he and the cows will be standing side by side. But if you take that same horse, after that same night, and ask him to move the cows around, the horse might become rather insecure, worried or panicked. So as long as you allow the horse on his terms to address the cows he did, but when you asked something specific, his brain was unavailable to "hear" what you were offering, and so his reaction was worry.

Most people are satisfied if their horse tolerates what the person is offering, but many never "ask" or "hear" how the horse feels about it.

We recognize when our horses are having problems, but rarely do we do anything to influence changing how our horse "feels" about what is being asked of them.

Take the infamous tarp- leave it in one spot, take the worried horse and walk him past the tarp numerous times until he "tolerates" the tarp.

But what happens if you then move that same tarp 20 feet down the path?

You feel like you are starting all over. Why? Because you only asked your horse initially to "deal with" the tarp in one particular spot, and as long as he "survived" getting past it, you left him alone. Instead, why not ask him to change how he feels about the tarp. If he feels better or more secure or confident about the tarp, then it will not matter where you place it nor when, where or how you ask him to address it. So, how would I do to help my horse accomplish this?

First when we come near the tarp and he starts or as SOON as he shows signs of distress, I would ask him to stop and address the tarp.

Horses' natural defense mechanism and instinct is to flee when they are worried. So let's have him actually stop and look at the tarp. (You will be amazed at how many horses are worried about something but never look [literally] at what is bothering them.) Then depending on your background with ground work, you would ask your horse to address the tarp without being "led" you could either do this loose working him at liberty in a round pen (which I prefer) or with a lead rope (but not using it in a "dragging" manner.)

What you would like to assess is if you can you direct his brain, (as oppose to his movement,) to focus on the tarp. When he "tunes in" to the tarp, his curiosity will get the best of him and he will probably display the "suddenly" over confident (and lean in towards it) and then the "suddenly" insecure (wanting to turn and bolt away) behavior. Your goal is to build his confidence the more he addresses his fear. The more reasonable and "try" that he offers, the more you want to make him feel like he had done a great job. The best reward for horses that I have found is to give them a moment to just stand, relax and take it all in. Then they usually take a deep breath and let all of their feelings of stress out in a calm and quiet manner. They can learn that this is a better way to "diffuse" any worry, panic or fear, rather than resorting to their natural "brainless" reaction of running.

As you work with your horse and the tarp you will imagine that you can slow down time, so that nothing "suddenly" occurs. You will be watching for signs from his body that will tell you how he is feeling and what he is thinking.

Where are his ears? (They are indicators as to his thoughts towards the right and left.)

Where are his eyes? (Keep in mind each eye sees independently of one another and we want both eyes focused.)

How is his stance and weight distributed? (Is he standing square or with all four feet heading in four different directions in case he needed to "bolt"?)

How is the tension in his topline? (Is his neck and back shortened like an accordion?)

How are his lips? (Are they pinched and tight, moving like he is mumbling, or relaxed?)

How are his eyes? (Are there worry lines that look like "peaks" on the lid of they eye?)

How is his tail? (Tight, held at an angle, clamped to his hindquarters, or relaxed?)

How is his breathing? (Does he sound consistent, heavy, and tight in his stomach?)

Even if you think it may only be a "slight" concern, I would stop and continue to present my horse focusing on the tarp. You will feel like when you start he is going to consider EVERYTHING but the tarp.

Eventually you will help him narrow down his options until the only thing he focuses in on is the tarp. (This is where you will hear a huge sigh of relief from the horse. Many times they need us to "help" them find the right answer, not challenge them to it.)

Horse can be incredible at the lengths they will go to try and make something "work." The problem is people get greedy, the more a horse offers, the more the people want from the horse. This starts to create anticipation where the horse associates that if he "gives" or "tries" what the person wants, instead of feeling better about his effort, only more will be demanded of him.

But if he recognizes that the person's level of awareness and sensitivity towards his feelings is raised and that there is now a two way communication occurring, his respect, trust and level of try will increase. The more a horse's brain thinks about something and commits to it, the more relaxed his body will be when he actually physically accomplishes or addresses the task at hand.

This manner of working WITH the horse can be applied to any situation once it is clearly established that he needs to mentally try before he physically moves. Everything else will start to "fall into place".

This is when more complex or difficult tasks can be asked of the horse.

There should be no difference in our goal or asking a horse to step into a tire, trailer, water, over a bridge, stand on a bag, chase a cow, jump a fence, or ground tie. If his brain is available to consider and try what you are asking, he will accomplish the task at hand.

My goal in working with a horse is for the long term, rather than instant gratification, so that no matter what, at any time, anywhere, my horse's attitude towards me is "What would you like?" This will make both of us feel confident in our relationship AND avoid the all too common "surviving the ride" syndrome.

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Topic_Info: Bolting
Name: D Bingham
Website_Info:  search engine
Date: September 01, 2007

Question:  I have a 6 yr. old walking horse gelding. I bought him about 3 months ago and was told that he had not been ridden consistently for about 6 months. When I got him home, I was able to mount him (just danced around a little) and rode around our hay fields.  I even took him down the road past a number of cars.  He did shy some.  After about a month of riding almost every evening, I started to get on him and he bolted.  I was half on, finally threw my leg over the saddle, when I realized he would either have to stop or swerve left.  He did both and I knew I would not make it.  I ended up with 6 staples in my head (good reason for a helmet) and pretty sore all over. Two days later I got on him again with my husband holding him. I had him checked by a vet and checked the saddle. I've ridden all my life and did not want a dead headed horse to replace my old walker that died 2 yrs. ago. Cody had been on trail rides last summer or so I've been told.  We sent him to a walking horse stable for more training (very reputable) they said he was a perfect gentleman.  They could get on and off, walk away, come back and remount.  This was in the barn, working alley and in the outside ring. They said he would shy at stuff he would see everyday sometimes, other days he wouldn't.  When I brought him home from the trainer, I got on him using a mounting block, he still danced around some.  Now when riding though the hay field, when I go from one field to another he goes about 3 steps, tries to grab the bit and bolt.  I managed to stop him.  I thought maybe my dog might have scared him; he showed up about that time.  The next time out,  I put the dog up and he tried the same thing in the same spot.  I was ready, I kept a close rein and made him flat walk wherever I wanted him to go. When he did what I wanted I released the pressure, when he would speed up, I tighten up.   I called the owner/trainer I bought him from; he suggested using a walking horse bit (right now I am using what appears to be an Argentinian snaffle) he also remembered that Cody shares the pasture with my daughter's old pony.  He doesn't let him out of his sight.  His past owner said that was the problem, he loves the pony and wants to get back to him. His ground manners are great, he is smart and beautiful and has the smoothest running walk I have ever ridden (at 53, I've ridden plenty of walkers). Do you have any suggestions how to stop the bolt problem and mounting problem?  I want to eventually trail ride him.  I wondered if riding him with a trail experienced horse would help him.  I do not want to sell him but I want something that is not all work to ride. Thanks.

TEC Answer:
#1 Movement, anticipation, anxiety, bolting, stress, etc. are all signs of insecurity, fear and lack of confidence.  #2 The bit does NOT stop your horse, his brain is what stops him from moving forward.  #3 Although enforcing "repetition" (getting on in the same place or riding on the same trail) could for some horses cause their anticipation to lessen, if your horse is worried about your "routine," his level of anticipation will increase causing his behavior during each ride to worsen.  #4 Extremely "herd bound" horses are usually the most insecure.

I have a feeling your horse has quite a bit of concern about "life."  He probably shows this on varying degrees depending on his stress level towards whatever is being asked of him.  I would guess that this dissipated when he learned the "routine" at the trainers was "safe" and therefore could "let down" and relax enough to not reach an elevated level of stress to the point that would cause him to act out dramatically.  Or which is also common, he could have been ridden "strongly" to force him to keep "stuffing" any worry or fear he had inside.  This would only delay until the day he blew a fuse because he could not "stuff" any more anxiety.

Although he has been ridden, you may have to re-focus on the basics such as groundwork.  Everything that you would ask of your horse from the saddle, you should be able to ask of him from the ground.  Although he may be "polite" leading, grooming, tacking, etc. you would be looking to find out how available his mind is to hear what you are offering and how much "try" he has to work with you in addressing whatever you may be asking of him.  If he shows insecurity and running around and lack of ability to focus when you work with him loose in a round pen or other "safe" area, this would be your starting point.  Remember from the moment you head out into the pasture to catch your horse, he should come up to you and present himself to be caught saying, "What would you like?"

If your horse is unable to focus on you when you are on the ground, there is no way his brain will be available to either "hear" or respect what you are offering from the saddle.  He has two options to make it clear to you that he is having a problem--either a.) Bolt or run (which is the most natural way equines can protect themselves) or b.) Not do anything (this way they avoid doing "it" wrong).

I do agree with your thoughts on pressure and release--but that is a bit ahead of some other areas that need to be addressed and cleared up.  I actually work with all horses that come to me to learn how to come up to the mounting block when they are loose and present themselves to be mounted (even if they are small enough to mount up from the ground).  The point of this exercise is that the horse must take responsibility in a.) deciding about you getting on and b.) participating in helping you get on.  When it is BOTH you and your horse's idea to mount up, it removes all of the "I hope we survive this" feeling.

With insecure horses you must clear the "slate" of what they know and offer them a new start in a way that will build confidence and trust.  By focusing on this you will be creating a partnership in working WITH your horse and will be laying the foundation for a "fun" horse to ride.  If you are unsure as to how to address the groundwork you might find a trainer in your area that recognizes the difference between getting a change in the horse's mind rather than just a change in the horse's physical movement.

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Topic Info: Aggressive Behavior - Difficult to Catch
Name: Diane
Website Info: Google
Location: herts uk
Date: March 29, 2007

Question:  My horse turns her back on me and kicks out when I try to get her in from the field; she also comes at me with her ears back, the problem seems to have started when we had a new gelding arrive. The mares are kept separate by a fence; she stands there all day necking with him and seems to be permanently in season, do you have any suggestions other than move yards?

TEC Answer:
First I would address any physical concerns that may be bothering your mare; there might be a physical issue if she is constantly in season.  Mares with problems associated with their ovaries or cycles can become quite aggressive and even stallion-like in their behavior.  You may want to have your veterinarian do a thorough exam to make sure that she is not in any physical discomfort.

If physically she is okay, keep in mind that horses are herd animals.  Many times when a horse is introduced to another and finds a "fulfillment" or security with the other horse (even if there is a fence separating them) they will prioritize their "herd" setting rather than being with a human. Your mare may be feeling insecurity alone and has found fulfillment with the new gelding, or she could be the dominant horse and may feel "in control" by being with the gelding.  Either way, she is finding more reward in being with the other horse than you.

Always prioritize your safety.  Make sure you take care of you no matter the situation.  Then I would suggest you assess the quality of your relationship with your horse in a safe setting, such as a round pen or small-enclosed area.  If you just stand there without directing your mare while she is loose, does she acknowledge or find interest in addressing you?  Does she come over to "say hi?"  Even if she does not physically come over, does she look at you?  I would guess there are areas of your partnership with her that may have been lacking previously and are now being magnified when an alternative, such as the gelding, was introduced.

Her "sudden" aggressive behavior may have appeared differently without the gelding, but with the gelding's existence as more motivation, your mare has finally made it clear that she is having a problem about something in the way that she interacts with you (and most likely all people.)  Aggressive behavior usually masks insecure feelings the horse is experiencing.  Many horses spend years tolerating people but never really feel good about being with them.  Your mare may be one of these.

I would start by working with your horse's mind to help create a trusting and respectful relationship on the ground before you ever ride her.  The quality of the respect and trust you can achieve on the ground will be reflected in the quality of your rides.  You may have to enlist the help of a local trainer who understands the importance of prioritizing working WITH your horse's mind in order to get a physical change in her body (in this case not being aggressive and coming up to you in the pasture and offering to be caught). Ideally you would like to offer her a way to safely and sanely "let out" anxiety, worry, distraction, frustration, worry, etc. so that she can focus on how you will be helping her to feel better about whatever it is that is causing the initial insecurity.

Keep in mind if you were to address her aggressiveness with more aggressiveness from you, by trying to physical force her to contain her frustration, you will be creating a ticking bomb of frustration inside of her until the day she can longer "stuff" her worry and she will explode.

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Topic Info:  Spurs and Correct Usage
Name: Emily
Website Info:  Google
Location:      Ohio
Date: August 24, 2007

Question:  I have been leasing an English trained Quarter Horse, named Bailey, who is five, since February. Bailey has always been somewhat stubborn and will not go forward with out a good kick, and the trot is impossible without a crop.  He was originally spur trained and lately I have been in a conflict with his trainer and owner whether or not to ride him in spurs, because he really only listens to ones with rowlers, which I am very unfound of. Other trainers have been telling me he has a lot of movement and only needs a firm  tap to wake him up. I know he can go; there is no physical reason as he is a joy to run down trail. Thanks for the advice.

TEC Answer:
Many young horses that start out as "quiet" and "safe" become quite "draggy" because they wind up thinking backwards (about what is happening behind them rather than ahead of them).  A lot of times a young horse will accept new things asked of him but might start to become unclear or insecure about some of what has been presented by people.  Because most young horses are not "rodeo rides" from the start, they try to show their worries, fear, doubt, or lack of confidence by moving and responding "slower" than what a person might think is ideal.

"Stubbornness" is a people categorization, not a horse emotion.  Your horse is showing resistance because something is bothering him.  He has two options to make it clear to you that he is having a problem--either a.) Bolt or run (which is the most natural way equines can protect themselves) or b.) Not do anything (this way they avoid doing "it" wrong).

By trying to get your horse to physically move faster you are only putting a band-aid on the symptom (the slow movement). Instead if you addressed what was mentally or emotionally bothering your horse that causes him to be draggy, I have a feeling his "laziness" would decrease at the same rate his confidence increases.

Remember that a horse can feel a fly land on him; he knows you are there and he can feel your aids.  It is just a matter of clear communication and effectiveness between horse and rider.  If the current trainers you are working with are only looking for the "physical" change, I might suggest finding someone who can help you work WITH your horse (which will be a longer but more rewarding process) rather than someone who is forcing your horse to comply. Keep in mind if your horse is only five now, and you have to use severe aids to get him to "go"--what will you have to use two years from now?

Part of the most difficult task in working with horses is to keep "work" interesting so that you encourage the curiosity and "try" in your horse. You might do some self-reflection and see if perhaps you have fallen into a "patternized" routine (always doing the same thing with your horse in the same way from catching to grooming to riding).  This can attribute to a "dull" horse if they always know what will be asked of them ahead of time. Right now the trail ride may be far more interesting and cause your horse to "perk up" because it is stimulating and contains a bit of the "unknown" and change in routine.

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Topic_Info: Contact
Name: Jess
Website Info: Google
Location: Ohio
Date: June 29, 2007

Question:  My horse has a sensitive mouth and a loose rein, but I want a tighter rein. What do I do?

TEC Answer:
The first question would be what is your goal with your rein length?  Is it for show, control, comfort, or?  The second question might be to consider what type of bit you currently use and if it's severity is appropriate for your ability and your horse's sensitivity.  Your horse may need a softer bit or perhaps an alternative such as a hackamore, side pull or bosal. The third idea to consider is if your horse's mouth is physically comfortable.  Because we feed precut hay, cubes or pellets our horses do not wear down their teeth (which continually grow) in a natural manner.  This can cause sharp points and hooks to develop on their molars, which will cause a general discomfort in their mouth.  If this is the case and you add a bit it can be even more painful for a horse who can show their discomfort by shaking their head, grinding their teeth, chewing on the bit, opening their mouth to avoid the bit, locking their jaw around the bit, etc.  Proper dental care and maintenance can help lessen this physical issue. If you can address these three areas of concern, the last is about the emotional affect rather than the physical affect of the bit and rein contact.  If a horse is stressed or agitated, just as with a person, there will be an excessive amount of physical movement, in this case with the bit. Your horse may become concerned or stressed emotionally by you taking up more contact, asking a more difficult maneuver, etc. and therefore respond by showing its worry or insecurity by creating a scenario that makes you think he has a sensitive mouth.  If you can address whatever may be bothering him emotionally, you will alleviate the excessive "mouth action" when you use a bit.

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Topic: Bucking After Jumps
Date: August 22, 2007

Question:  My daughter shares a pony who is perfect in every way... except one. When my daughter tries to jump her (and there only small fences), the pony gets over excited and bucks, please help!!!What can we do?

TEC Answer:
Hello and thanks for writing. Usually horses do not buck because of "excitement." It typically is physical discomfort, fear or worry driven.  Keep in mind the bucking associated with the "jumping" is probably just a symptom of a larger problem.  Most fear in horses is caused by a lack of communication or understanding between them and their rider.  Horses do not just randomly act out.  In your case the pony might have been trying to "tell" your daughter at other times there was a problem but because it was not in a "big enough way" perhaps your daughter did not "hear" the pony's worry or concern.  Many riders are happy with "surviving" the ride rather than seeking continual improvement.  So because the horse did not cause a major problem, the riders think the horses are fine until "All of a sudden..."

Here are a few things to consider and discuss with your daughter: What is the quality of their flatwork? How soft and light does the pony respond to the rider's aids? Does the pony have trouble staying slow--physically and mentally--or does the pony sometimes "rush" when asked to do something?  You mentioned the "excitement" the pony shows--when exactly does this start to occur--as they are warming up to jump, approaching the jump, jumping, afterwards?  Can the pony stand still while mounted--or is it always fussy and moving about?  Does the pony show any physical agitation while ridden (swishing tail, distracted or pinned ears, tightness throughout its body, grinding/chomping/chewing on the bit, etc.)?  What tack does your daughter use and why--is it effective and does it fit correctly?  How much experience does either the pony or your daughter have with jumping? I cannot give you a "simple" solution or answer.  Most people would be quick to critique the horse or pony and might offer stronger aids such as bits, crops, or martingales to help "control" the pony physically.  Keep in mind the physical action is a reflection of the emotional frustration the pony is feeling.  The problem with these "solutions" is that they will only force the pony to physically contain her worry, which will only cause the fear to increase and then it will be only a matter of time before she "explodes" with worry.

What I suggest is to try to break down the big picture into small steps and address and then assess each part.  You might be surprised by being able to answer your own question.  If the flatwork is mediocre, when you add something such as jumping, it will only get worse.  If there is worry or insecurity from either your daughter or the pony, this needs to be addressed as to what is causing it, why and how to decrease those feelings.  If there is a lack of clarity when your daughter uses her aids, she might need to enlist the help of a trainer to guide her so that she can create a rewarding partnership with her pony.  There could be many ways you could address the bucking, as long as you keep in mind that your daughter should be trying to work WITH the pony, rather than force the pony to comply.

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Topic_Info: Exercise vs Turn-out
Name: Beverly
Website_Info: Yahoo search
Location: Woodacre, California
Date: April 14, 2007

Question:  I have a 10-year-old quarter horse boarded at a facility here in California. He is in a hilly 30' x 50' paddock. I try to do a little something with him about 5x/week. I brought him from Montana where he was in pasture. There, I would bring him in, do a little groundwork, saddle him up and ride. Here, he doesn't have a pasture. My question is, is it preferred to let him out in the big arena, gallop around and get his yah-yahs out, or to have him on a lunge-line and do "connecting" exercises with him, and use that method for him to also use some of his exuberance. Our background is natural horsemanship type training. This is my first horse that I've had a few years. Some people at the facility turn their horses out, chase them around, etc. Others never do. I'm not sure what to do. Any suggestions? Thanks so much, in advance, for any assistance.

TEC Answer:
Just as with people, each horse is different from the next whether it be their personality type, physical body type, mental maturity etc.  You will need to assess your own horse and what his mental attitude seems to be based on the change in lifestyle for him.  Keep in mind that you are asking about physical exercise and mental availability.  These are two very different areas to focus on.  Somehow "longing" and "natural horsemanship" managed to get a blurred line between the two.  All of the "circling" people have their horses do is misinterpreted by either the person doing it and/or others watching.  I will clarify MY opinion of the difference between the two.

Longing can be a schooling AID that can teach the horse self-carriage, softness and help with conditioning and toning muscle. The problem with longing is that 99% of the "general public" who longe their horses do it for exercise or for their horse to blow off steam.  Most horses being longed are flying around on an unbalanced circle completely brainless about their physical movement and barely keeping their feet on the ground.  If you are longing to blow off steam, the problem is you are also conditioning and building endurance in your horse.  When it used to take 10 minutes for your horse to "calm" down physically, it will start to take 12, then 14, etc. until next thing you know you have to longe your horse for an hour to "calm" him down.

The next problem with incorrect longing is the conditioning of the horse's muscles when he is using himself incorrectly.  If you have ever watched a horse on the longe whose footprints are making a circle, but whose body is constantly leaking out the outside shoulder, causing the horse's neck to crane towards the inside of their circle, and then imagine adding repetition to this exercise, next thing you will realize is that the horse will start to overdevelop the muscles in his topline that are being used incorrectly. After a "routine" of this longing has been created, by the time the rider gets on they will start to realize how "crooked" their horse has "suddenly" become.

As for Natural Horsemanship there are many different "methods" and ways of working with your horse to achieve a quality trusting and respectful relationship mentally and emotionally in order to experience the physical quality in a ride that we all strive for.  Depending on the clarity and quality of awareness in yourself and that of which you offer your horse- the basic action of "catching" your horse (or having him present himself to be caught) could be your "round pen" session out in his paddock.  Or as you walk to where you would groom him, while he is on the lead, you could offer him a variety of questions that will help you assess where his brain is.  If his brain is all over the place, his body will be too.  If you need to work with him more before he is ready for you to get on, this will be obvious by the level of focus and "try" he has when trying to address you.  Keep in mind your ride starts when you THINK about going for a ride, not when you physically mount up.

The most difficult part of a public boarding facility is that EVERYBODY has (usually unasked for) an opinion on what you should or should not do.  If you can try to ignore their ideas and go with your gut instinct, you will most likely be doing what is "best" for your horses.  Do not be afraid to experiment with offering your horse different ways of mentally and physically "warming up," he will show you what works best for him, if you are listening.

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Topic Info: Pulling Back
Name: Rebecca
Website Info: Just looking
Location: WV
Date: April 06, 2007

Question:  I have a 10 year old Standardbred mare. When I tie her to groom her around the ears, she pulls back. The last time she pulled back she broke the board and took off running. What can I do to get her to stop pulling backwards? Becky

TEC Answer:
This answer will be a bit more comprehensive than just addressing your question.  Do not be distracted by the symptom, in this case pulling back, but focus on what is actually causing the issue.  Horses only have one way that is natural for them to protect themselves and that is to run.  If a horse is tied, gets scared or feels that they need to protect themselves, they will pull back.  Because I have not witnessed your particular situation you might consider a few of these questions to break down the "pulling back" into sections.  The questions are about physical actions that will be a reflection of her mental and emotional attitude.

1) Does your horse greet you at the pasture or stall? Does she present herself to be caught?
2) What is her overall confidence level if she is loose (secure, insecure, flighty, aggressive)?  What is it if she is caught?
3) If you are in close proximity to her whether it be grooming, tacking up, standing and talking to someone else, does she stand quietly relaxed, or is she always looking/moving around seeming concerned?
4) If she has pulled back more than once, how much of her history with past trainers/owners do you know?
5) When exactly does she start to "tell" you that she is thinking about pulling back?  Is it triggered by an action you do causing her to react, or does it appear to happen at "random" times?
6) Has she ever pulled back after a ride or only before?

There are several concerns here.  First, your mare is obviously concerned and has found "pulling back" as a viable solution that has worked in the past.  Second she does not feel she should ask you for "help" when whatever is bothering her arises, and therefore takes matters into her own doing, in this case by pulling back.  Third, some of the basics, such as respect of the lead rope and understanding how to respond positively to pressure (the lead rope being tied is the pressure in this case) have not been made clear. Many people share the philosophy of keep tying her with stronger and stronger equipment until she starts to "give up" when she is about to pull back.  Others feel that if you can create a trusting relationship BEFORE an issue, such as pulling back, arises then by the time she gets worried or thinking about doing so, you can be there to help suggest otherwise.  You may have to enlist the help of a local trainer whose goal would be to work with your horse's mind and emotions in order to get a change in her physical response when she becomes concerned.

Side Story- I once encountered a very insecure horse that would always pin his ears when groomed.  He seemed utterly frustrated and hypersensitive to all brushes that I used.  I kept changing the cleaning items trying to find something he "liked."  One day after a ride I was not paying attention and accidentally used a very hard bristled brush on him and he stood completely relaxed with his head dropped while I groomed him.  Shocked, I started to watch him over the next few weeks.  If I used the hard brush before the ride he would respond by grinding his teeth, swishing his tail, and pinning his ears.  If I used the hard brush after the ride he would totally relax.  It occurred to me the frustration that appeared to be towards the grooming, was actually based on the anticipation of the upcoming ride.  As soon as the ride was over and he did not have to "worry" about what was going to happen, he could relax and enjoy being ridden.  As his confidence in trusting people and being ridden increased, his frustration with being groomed before hand lessened until it completely dissipated.

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Topic Info: Aggressive Behavior
Name: Nancy
Website Info: Search Engine
Location: South Dakota
Date: April 10, 2007

Question:  I have two young geldings, 4 y/o Paint, and a 5 y/o Arab. I board and they have been penned together for about a month. I have done a lot of ground work with the Paint, and just gentling with the Arab (had the Paint first). They are both going to the trainer this week. These two generally get along with each other when I am not nearby. However if I am in the pen, giving one or both of them attention they appear to fight over me. The Arab pushes the Paint away with his whole body or turns and kicks, and the Paint lunges and bites the Arab--ears back--pure aggression. I have corrected them by quickly sending the first aggressor away, and then whomever it may be will stand at a distance, until I invite him back and send the other away. If I remove one from the pen and work or groom him, no matter which one he will be fine with me alone. However if my husband approaches me, the horse will pin his ears and sometimes try to bite as if sending the intruder away in the same manner they do to each other. I had horses when I was younger and none of them behaved this way although, I spend much more time with these horses. I know if I would happen to be in the line of fire this could be dangerous. Also my husband wants very little to do with the horses (he is not a horse person) because he is afraid of them! We want the Paint to bond with him, but he reared and flipped the other day as my husband groomed him, and then the horse ran back to me! What's going on and how do I solve this? Have I created spoiled babies by spending too much time with them?

TEC Answer:
Actually it sounds like a basic lack of clarity in communication and understanding with them is what is causing these scenarios to happen. Certainly because your horses are 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 he is "dominating" the person in the situation, even if they do not seem dominant or aggressive towards the particular person that they are near.

Not knowing the history of your horses, I will guess that both of your horses are trying to be the dominant horse.  When you come out into their pasture, they are probably trying to decide whose herd you will join.  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.  Make sure that you associate each horse separately as they are individuals even if they appear to acting "the same."

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 your husband did not realize it, the Paint probably starting trying his "options" such as getting back to the pasture or other horse by pulling back and flipping over

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.

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Topic Info: Show Sour
Name: L. Sullivan
Website Info: Google search
Location: Ohio
Date:  May 08, 2007

Question:  I have an 8-year-old Quarter/Thoroughbred cross. He is an amazing mover and has been competing very successfully for many years. However, in the last 2 years he has been a real problem in the show pen, blowing all my classes. When the announcer speaks over the PA system he squeals and jumps into the air. He wins the class in the make up pen, but we can't get through the class without him being a royal jerk. I am so frustrated with his behavior; he is wonderful in every other aspect of his life. Not sure what to do with my fancy show horse. I can't show anymore, for fear of getting someone else hurt when he misbehaves. I've tried bending him, keeping his attention, schooling in the class; he just seems to be getting worse. He's so athletic you can't even feel him getting ready to blow, it happens so fast; I need to fix this problem if I can. Thanks for your help!

TEC Answer:
The problem with wonderfully intelligent and athletic horses is that when they are "on" they can be amazing and rewarding rides.  When they are "off" they tend to be REALLY off which can cause them to become very dangerous rather quickly.  Somewhere during your horse's show career he started to have problems--whether it be worry, stress, anxiety, etc.--I cannot tell you what the actual problem is.  I also cannot offer you a clean cut-and-dry answer or quick fix in how to help your horse.  There are many "aids" and "devices" that are "easy" to use to physically control your horse, but they will only be magnifying the emotional stress rather than addressing it.

What I would like to do is perhaps have you stop for a moment and imagine the shows from your horse's perspective.  Shows present many things that could bother your horse whether it be the trailering to the show, the warm up arena with a million other horses showing signs of stress, the actual flurry of "motion" and activity (kids running around, dogs, big scary hats, balloons, P.A. systems, etc.)   In most situations the horse has probably been showing a certain degree of stress or worry, but because he was "manageable" it was ignored and so the horse had to continue to "stuff" that stress inside, until the day he blew up enough for you to recognize there REALLY was a problem.

You mentioned that your horse has competed for "many" years but that he is also only eight years old.  People often forget that it takes much longer for a horse to mentally and emotionally become as mature as they may physically appear.  A lot of "quiet" or "easy going" young horses try to tolerate what people ask of them even if they are worried.  The more that they can "handle" the more people usually expect and demand of them.  The horse may tolerate whatever the people are asking for for years before they finally can no longer deal with the emotional or mental stress of what is being asked of them.  This is when people say, "Out of nowhere he all of a sudden..."

If your horse has been trying to ask for help for a long time, and he has been ignored, it will take a "re-education" for both of you.   You will need to learn about both yourself and your horse.  Horses and people are creatures of habit.  This causes both to get "stuck" in patternized (my invented word) behaviors such as always catching, grooming, tacking, warming up, preparing for a show, etc. in the same manner.  The consistency and patterns give cause for anticipation.  If there is worry or anxiety in your horse, he can start to "know" ahead of time when something he does not like is coming or is going to be asked of him.  You will have to do a lot of self reflection as to what you offer your horse, in other words, what reason do you give your horse to perform well or try for you?

As for learning about your horse, I am not referring to the obvious ways, but rather the small things such as what is his general overall attitude towards life and/or you, what bothers him, what is his level of "try" towards what you are asking, can he ever totally "let down" and relax or does he constantly worry or is concerned about everything else happening, does he focus, etc...  The hardest part about re-educating a horse is that you will have to assume that he knows nothing.  If you come into training sessions with any expectation of "he used to..." you will not be able to see and work with him with the clarity that he needs from you.  You will have to assume nothing and give him a clean slate.

A rewarding and successful partnership between horse and rider comes from clear communication, trust, and respect.  This builds confidence in both horse and rider that allows each to "try" for one another.  It sounds like you will have to enlist the help of a local trainer whose priority is to help your horse feel good about life.  The more your horse feels "warm and fuzzy" about working with people, the more his fears and worries about things such as shows will dissipate.  Remember the stress of the show is symptom, not the actual problem.

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Topic Info:    Cantering How to Ask
Name: Terri
Website Info:  Web surfing
Location:      Michigan
Date:          August 15, 2007

Question:  Hi, I have had a couple trainers work with my quarter horse and me. The first trainer had him cantering from standing still putting my outside leg back and the second trainer has me trotting then pushing him over with my inside leg toward the rail then bringing my outside leg back and kissing. He seems confused with pushing him over with the inside leg...he anticipates immediately when I do that and now wants to canter whenever I push him toward the rail even in trotting exercises. She also tells me to tip his nose inwards. Should I go with the first or second way? Thank you very much

TEC Answer:
Both of your trainers have offered you "common" advice on how to canter. Let me try to address both options.
1.)  Cantering using only outside leg aid:  this can be done ASSUMING that your horse is "straight, balanced, and thinking forward."
2.)  Using inside and outside aids to canter:  the inside leg "pushing" your horse over is to attempt to get him to bend towards the direction you will be cantering (this is called "setting your horse up") and is usually done also using your inside rein simultaneously.   Then when he is bent at his ribcage towards where you'll be cantering you ask for the actual canter with your outside leg.

If you can ride your horse "straight" between your aids, you should be able to ask your horse to think and look towards where you would like to canter. When he has done so, you can ask your horse to canter and it will be a smooth and quiet transition if your horse is clear on understanding what you are communicating to him. There is no "right or wrong" way to ask your horse to canter.  You need to do what is appropriate for you and your horse's ability.  Sometimes if a horse is more stiff or resistant in one direction, you may have to "support" him with stronger and clearer aids to help him find the "right answer"- in this case a specific canter lead.  Remember that if you feel any resistance or lack of clarity from your horse towards your aids at the slower paces, you should clear this up there.  The faster you go, the worse and more confused he may get.  Suppling exercises at the walk and trot such as serpentines, spiraling in and out on a circle, lateral work, etc. can do wonders for your canter work.

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Topic_Info:  How do you define Green broke?
Name:  Lynne
Website_Info:  Web search
Location:  Oregon
Date:  May 05, 2007

Question:  I know someone who is putting a 66 yr 300+lb beginning rider on a horse that I think is green. I am thinking a really calm very broke kind (bigger) horse would be better but they went out and bought a 5yr old 15h horse that was used for breeding, was gelded at 4, rides rough in a bosal, doesn't know how to do the basics. And I consider him a green horse. They think I am nuts! They say he is professionally trained and has more than 30 days 6 weeks and the neighbor kid next-door rode under direction from the "trainer" for a month or so. So he is not green broke. I am thinking that they think green broke refers to 30 days. And I am under the impression that green broke is more like that a horse has been introduced to the concept of riding and cues and is working on an understanding but is not consistent in their responses and maybe not know all of the basics such as maybe proper leads. Can you give me a better definition of what is a green broke horse? I don't really need to ask if this person should be on this horse as I think that is just not a good idea. But it brought up a big discussion as to what is a green broke horse, what is a finished horse, what is a started horse etc.  Thank you!

TEC Answer:
If you asked 10 different trainers or horse people what a green broke, started or finished horse was you would get 12 different answers.  The following is my own opinion from working with numerous horses over the years.

Started- An uneducated horse learning about working with humans in a gentle manner.  Everything from ground manners, personal space, respect, and the availability to "try" is taught in a quiet manner to encourage the horse to find a confidence when introduced to things such as but not limited to:  being caught, lead, groomed, bathed, tacked up, tied (ground, straight, cross,) working in a round pen or any size space, presenting themselves to be mounted, and ridden while maintaining a "warm fuzzy" feeling inside and a light, responsive manner without frustration (swishing tail, pinning ears, pawing, etc.) when addressing what is being asked of them.

Green Broke- A horse that has some of the basics and understands all of the above but has more riding experience in more scenarios such as the trail, arenas, open fields, etc.  The horse understands all the paces but may not know its leads or move in a "straight" manner yet.  This horse when ridden will feel more balanced and fluid through its transitions and gaits.

Finished- Anything presented to the horse (even if the horse has not experienced it before) can be addressed mentally and emotionally in a quite manner so that the rider can help the horse think his way through the scenario in order to achieve the desired result or ride. Remember that in the horse world everyone has an opinion (usually based on their own experiences) but you will take care of yourself and your horse if you stick to listening to that small "voice" in your head when you are in a new or unsure situation.

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Topic Info:  Horse Refuses to Go
Name: Marcia 
Website Info:  Google
Location:      York, SC
Date:          March 20, 2007

Question:  My husband and I were riding two of our trail horses (both paint breeding stock, 11 and 7 years old) at a local riding park.  It is not a new area to them and we've never had this problem before.  The 7 year old mare, which is ordinarily quite easy going and cooperative, refused to go down a trail, even with the older gelding going with no resistance.  After working with her there...turning while disengaging the hindquarters, figure eights always turning toward the trail, etc., my husband took her into an arena nearby.  She worked fine at the end of the arena, away from the gate.  However, when he tried to get her to walk toward the other end, she would balk, turn, back, etc. in order to avoid going any more than half way down the arena.  He checked her thoroughly for any soreness, etc.  Also, if he got off and hand walked her to that end she was fine but would not ride at that end, though she was still fine at the other end.  Any thoughts as to what the problem may have been...and a possible solution?

TEC Answer:
Hello and thanks for writing.  Your scenario is quite common among horses that are "fine until one day."  I have found that each person's definition of "when his or her horse is fine" can differ.  The movement of their horse distracts most people:  he physically walked past a "scary spot," or he walked "totally calm" down the trail, or he "always stands with his head dropped."  We must remember that just because our horse has done something a million times and may have been exposed to all kinds of situations, does not mean that the horse feels good about it.  Horses are incredibly adaptable, but given the option to offer their real opinion or feelings about something sometimes shocks their owners who think they "know" their horse.

I was not there to witness the scenario with your husband's horse.  I do know many people offer the idea "the way to a horse's mind is through his feet."  I prefer to switch that and say, "The way to a horse's feet is through his mind," and therefore the TEC saying, "It's the Thought that Counts."  The mare was not physically unable to walk down the trail or arena.  She was mentally blocked or resistant to going in either place and therefore appeared physically resistant.  Disengaging her hindquarters or asking her to physically change what she is doing will not help her feel better mentally and emotionally about whatever is troubling her.  Was her head in the air listening to something that the gelding couldn't be bothered with?  Were her thoughts in the arena focusing on every step she was taking with your husband or somewhere else? Could she have smelled something in the distance that had meaning to her but not the gelding? 

If the trail and arena is a common ride for the horse, you might consider if you and your horses have become accustomed to "patternized" behavior or riding. On any day, could you at any point during the trail ride offer your horses something totally random such as turning away from her riding buddy and trotting off towards home and then turning around again and passing her buddy?  Could you stop and talk for 10 minutes and does your mare feel happy about it?  Could her buddy leave her and she maintain a warm, fuzzy feeling about remaining solely with her rider?

So how do you influence a resistant horse?  By constantly changing the way in which you ask your horse to think her way through a ride, she will become more available mentally and emotionally.  She will also become more trusting to share with you (and you will be more aware and sensitive) to hear when she first tells you she is having a problem.  Randomly resisting to going forward usually is not random.  How was her mood the day when your husband caught her?  Where was her attention and focus as she was tacked up?  How was she as she left home?  There typically are small signs all along the way that there is "going to be" a problem or stress and the balance between the rider "hearing" the horse trying to warn them and what the rider does to help influence the direction of how the horse can either address or let go of the stress can completely alter the outcome of a situation.

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Topic Info:    Groundwork Problems
Name: Katie
Website Info:  On Horse-talk.com
Location:      Arizona
Date:          March 20, 2007

Charging & Striking
I am a shy rider who has a four year old Appaloosa mare.  She is great when I ride but when I go in her stall or go to take her out, she rears, bites, charges and strikes out.  How can I get her to stop doing this when I am a timid rider?  Should I enlist the help of a trainer or is there something I can do about it myself?

TEC Answer:
Thanks for writing.  If you know you are timid and unknowledgeable of ways to help your horse, I would suggest you find someone to help you and your horse work through her fears, aggressive behavior, anticipation and so on.  If you try to work with your horse lacking the ability and confidence she needs from you as a leader while she is behaving dangerously, things could go very wrong very fast and either or both of you could end up injured.  Keep in mind when you see this dramatic behavior from your horse, she is not acting this way for "fun."  She is trying to tell you how bothered she is about life and is asking for help. 

Here is a copy of something I saw on the internet today:

A good horseman can hear his horse speak to him.  A great horseman can hear his horse whisper.  But a poor horseman won't hear his horse even if it screams at him! 

The next concern is for you to find someone who can be empathetic with your horse.  Not knowing the history of your horse, I would guess she has had a limited background with people.  A lot of young horses are started in a rushed manner where the horse learns to tolerate humans, tack, riding, etc. but the horse never really feels comfortable or confident.  As the horse tries to show quiet signs of frustration such as avoiding being caught, randomly stopping when ridden and overall stress (breathing, body language, movement, chewing on the bit, etc.).  A person who "pushes" a horse through scenarios that are bothering him will eventually find that after the horse has experienced enough of these stressful situations, he will reach a point beyond his "limit" and will start acting bigger and more aggressively until the person notices that their horse is having a problem.

I cannot give you "clean cut" answers as to why your horse is acting the way she is on the ground and then tolerates you riding.  If she has any history of accidents, harsh or severe "training" while on the ground, she may be anticipating what "might be coming next" and trying to protect herself by acting aggressively to avoid having to address another stress inducing situation. I do know of horses with backs that are sore and sensitive to the touch who do not want to be saddled, but after the saddle is on and the girth tightened, their complaining stops and they tolerate going for a trail ride without causing too many "problems."   Because the horse has "given in" and tolerates the trail ride, the owners ignore the signs ahead of the ride when the horse is showing discomfort because the horse eventually seems to go along in an okay manner. A lot of people forget that just because a horse may be physically large and strong does not mean that the horse is mentally and emotionally mature or available to acknowledge, address and accept something offered by a person.

If you can get your horse into a "safe" scenario (such as a round pen) and find a person who looks to encourage a two-way conversation which allows your horse to show her frustrations without "crossing the line" of respect towards the person, she might be able to start to let go of any worry, anxiety or frustration she currently has when she realizes the person will help her emotionally and mentally get to a better place inside.  Remember most horses on their own cannot stop and think their way through a stressful scenario in order to make it work out well.  There will have to be lines drawn that establish the person working with your horse is creating a clear picture of what will work in your horse's behavior and what will not. This idea many times is misinterpreted and people wind up wanting to micromanage every step or move their horse makes (rather than addressing what the horse is thinking and changing his thought) and then cannot wait to critique the horse for all the "wrong" the horse is doing rather than finding a way to help the horse be successful in the situation presented.  After enough critique or reprimands, the horse gives up "trying" to figure out what the person wants from them and "shuts down."  The point of a round pen and a person helping a horse is to create an availability in the horse's mind in quiet moments so that during stressful ones the horse feels the desire to "ask" the person for help rather than "blasting through" or "surviving" a situation.

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Topic Info:    Bits and Bitless
Name: stormlover
Website Info:  research
Location:      Florida panhandle
Date:          March 09, 2007

Question:  I have a five year old Rocky Mountain gaited who has no formal training.  I have been trail riding with him for about three years.  He is a great horse and never tells me no.  Although he has no formal training, I feel that he and I communicate very well.  It is for this reason that I am researching other ways of communication.  I would like to find a way to do away with his bit but I do not want to invest a lot of money into a bosal without knowing exactly how it works or if it will be the best choice for him.  I have also found something called an Indian bosal that looks fairly easy on the horse.  I have worked with him on a Betta bitless bridle and have found that he steers well but does not stop so well.  Any information you could give me that would make my horse's life easier would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks.

TEC Answer:
Thanks for writing.  Everyone has his own preference as to what equipment they find works best for them and their horse.   My suggestion is to first establish clear communication with your horse.  If you do so, your horse ought to be just as available in hearing and accepting your aids whether you ride in a bosal, side pull, hackamore or snaffle.  Most of my horses are ridden in something similar to a side pull bridle that is made of nylon. I have personally found that the side pull allows for clear communication from either rein rather than asking the horse to receive its information from a single pressure source under his chin.

 

I would like to address the "not stopping" issue.  You should be able to get all of the emotional, physical and mental responses from your horse while you are on the ground that you would expect when you are riding.  Your horse will not "randomly" offer good and bad behavior when he is ridden that he does not show signs of while you are not riding.

A few questions you might ask yourself:  how light is he when he stops when you are leading him?  How much physical pressure on the rope does it take to stop him?  If he is distracted by something while you are working with him on the ground and you lift the lead in one direction or the other, does he "let go" of what he is focused on and bring his attention back to you?  From these few scenarios, you will be able to foresee the availability, softness, and lightness in response when you are riding no matter what type of equipment you choose.

If you have any heaviness, delayed response or sluggishness when working with your horse on the ground, you will find it is magnified when you are in the saddle.  The "not stopping" (even if it just takes a few more steps than what you would like until he does top) can be okay on "good days."  But what happens on the day you and he encounter and uncontrollable situation where he gets stressed to the point that he decides he needs to make the decisions to take care of himself?  If there is not clear communication between you an he that your aids mean something and if there is not availability from his mind to hear what you are offering, then a situation could very quickly become dangerous. Many of my horses work well in the side pull but there are those not so far along that I prefer to ride in a KK ultra loose ring snaffle until we develop better communication.  Remember all of the "good" moments are to create the foundation for the moments that could go wrong, but because of a trusting partnership, they can turn out well.

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Topic Info:   Relaxing at the Poll
Name:          Taylour 
Website Info: Google Search
Location:   Coeur D'Alene, ID
Date:   02/20/07

Question:  I have a 13 year old Paint, and I am working in Dressage.  I had a trainer, and we tried almost everything to get her to relax her poll and eventually collect, but nothing worked.  My trainer has given up on her, but I want to keep working with her because I know she can do it.  Her previous training wasn't the best, and I have tried Myler bits and have been very gentle with her.  I have checked her over to make sure nothing was bothering her like her saddle, but everything fits fine.  She is my love, and I don't want to give up on her.  I just want her to be comfortable enough to relax her poll and go on the bit so we can compete in lower level Dressage.  Thank you for your help!

TEC Answer:
Thanks for writing!  Many times people work with horses to try to create an outward appearance of what the person visualizes as the "ideal" look in how their horse bends, engages or uses his body.  Everything physical you see your horse doing with its body is a reflection of what it is feeling on the inside.  The easy fix is to use stronger or more severe training aids to get the "look" a person would like to see in his horse, but over time this creates a resistance in the horse.  The person then needs to use harsher aids to get the same "job" done.

Let me put this into people terms.  Let's say you were stressed from your job.  Every day you woke up with a certain amount of tension in your body day after day because of the consistent stress.  You have a friend who is a masseuse who can see your body is compensating because of the tightness caused by your stress at work.  Your friend could physically work on your body, and you might relax by the end of the massage.  You might have even loosened up in some of your tight spots (your neck, lower back, etc.). But if you went home that evening and started thinking about work and feeling the emotional turmoil caused by your job, how fast do you think your muscles would reflexively tighten up in the areas that had just a few hours before been relaxed?  Now let's imagine instead of your friend giving you a massage, your boss called you in to acknowledge what a great employee you were.   Your boss had noticed your job was quite stressful, and he wanted to discuss how he could lessen your work load to decrease your stress.  In each of the scenarios you could perhaps relax and release some of the emotional tension, which would then relax what you were physically feeling, but one of these ways might offer you a more long term and influential change.

The same goes for when we work with our horses.  We can use different bits, aids, "training devices," etc. to attempt to change the way our horse is physically moving or carrying himself.  I would offer instead for you to work towards influencing your horse's emotional and mental status that will then be reflected in his outward movement.  The act of "relaxing the poll" is one of many behaviors we would like to see in our horses.  

But let's step back to when you first greet your horse.  Was he relaxed then?  Keep in mind there is a difference between a relaxed horse and a tolerant horse.  Horses can "deal" with things for along time that might be disturbing them until one day "out of the blue" they blow up or have a melt down.  First, does he live in a "happy place" or does he struggle to live in a stall or find his rightful place among the other horses?  Does he have plenty of "free time" during each day to move about a large paddock or field?  Is there tension in him before you arrive?  Is he happy and relaxed when greeting you?   If tension has already developed by this point, I would say this is where the outward "resistance" has started.

If he is relaxed from when you first approach him, will he voluntarily come to you from a distance of 20 or even 50 feet?  Do you have to catch him or go to him?  If he's in a stall, will he turn to face you and walk to you, or do you have to go to him?   If he comes on his own willingly, can you notice if there is a certain point during your grooming and tacking up that starts to indicate or initiate discomfort in him?  Does he paw, fuss, breath inconsistently, etc. or do anything but stand quietly?

Example:  A horse came to us with the explanation that he had terribly sensitive skin and the previous owner's instructions were to use only the softest brushes on him and to use them in a light manner.  If you used a curry comb or hard brush, the horse would pin his ears, shake his head, bite at the air, paw and show an overall discomfort.  We quickly noticed that if you groomed him after a ride, he would stand completely relaxed and half asleep no matter the severity of the grooming tool.  His outward physical appearance of anxiety towards grooming was really a reflection of his anticipation of the upcoming ride.  As soon as the ride was over, he could relax mentally and emotionally and therefore stand quietly for his brush down.  We changed how he felt about being ridden and now he stands peacefully for grooming before and after a ride.

Will he ground tie and stand without fussing as you groom and then tack him up?  Does he stay relaxed until you step in the saddle?  Can you start to recognize subtle areas of resistance when you lift your right rein and ask him to think, look and step to the right?  If you ask him to halt, does he offer to halt by shifting his weight onto his hindquarters to stand square and relaxed, or does he try to push through the bit forcing you to "hold him" to maintain the halt with his weight on the forehand?

When riding, all of these little areas influence the quality of your ride when asking more difficult movements. That's why we talk about "back to basics."   If you are having a lack of clarity and communication between you and your horse while doing the "small" tasks, you have not created enough relationship to ask more difficult maneuvers of your horse.  The true quality ride comes from recognizing the almost undetected communication between horse and rider in order to create a two-way conversation to create the ideal fluidity in a ride.

You might need to step back and offer your horse a "clean slate" with no expectations as to what he may have been able to do or had accomplished in the past and revisit some of the "basics" when riding.  As he regains a confidence in you as his partner first with your ground work and then during the ride, his trust will increase which will cause his mental, emotional and physical availability to try what you are asking when you ask for more difficult movements and collection.

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Topic Issues:  Horse Falls Down
Name:          Kerry 
Website Info: Horse Previews magazine
Location:   Spokane, Washington
Date:   02/04/07
Time:   8:01PM

Question:  I purchased a new horse 14.1 hands, Arab/Quarter horse mare, seven years old.  I bought her under weight and liked her kind demeanor, and that she had potential.  She did very well on the trails of steep terrain and April soggy weather conditions.  I had a vet exam and it was all good to go.  After she was settled in and put on some weight, I would go on rides and she would stumble and sometimes she has gone down to her knees on occasion always at a walk only.  This has happened still, even now that her weight is good and her hooves are trimmed.  I stay centered and when she has stumbled she gets up like no big deal.  My husband says it's her two front feet that make her stumble not the rear feet at all.  I wanted her for trail riding but I do not think she is for me.  She has no arena basics and I was wondering if she might improve with some training?  She has a lot of trail great qualities.  I'm short and weigh 174 pounds and think a smaller rider would suit her better.  If she could be evaluated so I can sell her or a free lease that would make me happy.  She needs the right person and I was wondering if you think this is a good option and if a horse like Misty could have a chance to get better?  And do you deal in this type of problem?

TEC Answer:
Thanks for writing!  The first thought that comes to my mind is that horses do not fall down randomly with or without training.  I would say a more thorough in depth investigation regarding any physical issues Misty might have would be the first place to start to understand why she is falling down.  I am not a vet so any thoughts I offer you are from personal experience and should not be taken as a definitive medical answer or solution.

There are many internal physical problems that may not have surfaced in an initial vet check that could cause a horse to fall down.  A common one is something referred to by some vets and chiropractors as "front loading" which means there is a delay when the brain sends messages to the spinal column telling one front leg to accommodate for the shifting weight of the other.  If there is a "delay" in the message when sent from the brain to the horse's leg at the actual time of movement, the front leg that is supposed to accommodate the other will buckle, causing the horse's entire front end to fall to the ground or until they can regain their balance.  In many cases the horse does not realize what has happened and will quietly get back up.  In my experience, the horse will not fall down when out playing on its own; it only falls while being ridden.

This can happen at any time but usually occurs when the horse is in a semi-relaxed state.  You can ask your mare to stand as square as possible (front and rear feet are parallel and even with her head relaxed and not tied), then ask for a front foot as if you were going to clean it.  Rather than holding it at the normal height you would place one hand on her knee and your other hand on her hoof to support her entire foreleg.  You could continue to lift her entire foreleg (parallel to the ground) as if you were folding it up underneath her with a consistent, slow pressure until her foreleg forces her shoulder area closest to you to slightly lift towards the sky.  As this happens she should ideally shift her weight onto her other front leg to maintain balance.  If she cannot and she buckles towards the ground, quickly let go and she will regain her balance.  This is an indication that there is a physical issue.  Be sure to check both front legs.  I would then suggest to contact both a vet and chiropractor to consult them as to your options for Misty.

If she cannot physically support herself, it is your responsibility to decide how much risk you think is appropriate in riding or having someone else ride a horse that may fall down at any given time.

A Post Script to My Horse Keeps Falling Down

3-24-07   We have worked with a chiropractor, Dr. Jay Komerak, who has worked on one of our horse's who has this problem and has gotten the horse's nerves to reintegrate. That means that now when we lift the leg, the horse doesn't fall down but only starts to get a little wobbly.  We are now advised to begin riding the horse a half hour a day at a walk for the 3-4 weeks. After that we can begin trotting. This horse was ridden for the last time during the spring of '05.  Dr. Komerak has worked on him three times:  spring of '06, fall of '06 and this past week in the spring of '07.  We will keep you updated.

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Topic Issues:  Mounting Issues
Name:          Nicki 
Website Info:  Google
Location:   Maryland
Date:   02/04/07
Time:   10:17AM

New Horse will not allow me to Mount
I have 3 horses; my problem is with my new 11 year old Paint gelding.  He did fine when I tried him before I bought him but when I try to mount him at home , it won't happen.  He will literally spin in circles so I can't get near the stirrups.  If I do make it to the stirrups, he will try to spin and back hard, almost rearing at me.  Otherwise he is so sweet, follows me around, tacks up great, leads, ties...  He did have some rain rot on his back before I got him but that appears to be gone now.  I don't know what to do.

TEC Answer:
Thanks for writing! I would look at your horse's defensive/aggressive behavior towards you when you mount as a symptom of a problem rather than the problem itself.  Let us translate his actions into people terms.

We are going to imagine you have a phobia of deep water. Imagine that someone with authority over you has told you that you will climb the high dive board (18 to 30 feet above a pool) and jump off.  So at first trying to be reasonable, you quietly pull the authoritative figures aside and mention you are scared of deep water, to which they shrug their shoulders and say "go do it."  So you then still try to be reasonable, and question yourself and think, "maybe I can," so you start to walk towards the ladder to the board.  But as you get closer your steps get slower and more hesitant as your fears start to increase as you begin to psychologically stress yourself mentally and emotionally.

An outward reflection of this might be nervousness, shaky hands/legs, fast breathing, sweaty palms, and a look of fear on your face coupled with a resistance to moving forward.  The authority figures are speaking with someone else and never notice your discomfort. Finally you pause because you do not think you can climb the ladder in the state you are in.  Now the authorities notice the resistance and start to spatially pressure you by standing too close in your personal space.  This only causes you to panic more but not climb up the ladder.  Then a voice stresses you out by screaming at you.  Finally the pressure is so severe you manage up the first step.  Still, you are not moving fast enough, so they physically pressure you by pushing you up the ladder.  You are now to the point of hyperventilating with so many thoughts rushing through you head that you cannot make a single decision to help yourself.  You are pushed, yelled at and prodded until eventually you are shoved off the end of the diving board and you land in the water in a panic. You barely manage to get of the pool before they tell you that you are going to do it again.

Many people could interpret your "resistance" in numerous ways:  you were being stubborn, you had a fear of heights, you did not respect authority, you were lazy, you were dull because of all the yelling and screaming it took for you to get up the ladder.  But what if no one ever mentions or thought about whether you had a problem with the water itself even if the others enjoy the water.   Instead they are stuck on reasoning why you would not go up the ladder rather than searching for and believing there is a real problem.

Side story here:  A little girl was 8 when her mom took her to a Halloween haunted house but she refused to go in. The mom said, "Well you were only 7 last year and you went in." To which she replied, "Yes, but now I know what it's like!"

Okay, now step back into reality.  I use this over dramatized scenario because this is commonly what happens with horses.  People get stuck on believing the problem is what they are seeing, in your case, mounting, rather than perhaps the real issue at hand which could be any number of issues including:  The actual riding, your horse leaving the herd, unclear aids creating lack of clarity between horse and rider, ill fitting tack, memory of uncomfortable rides while the rain rot was present, etc.  Because I cannot watch you and your horse, I cannot give you a specific reason as to why your horse is not letting you mount but I would be convinced that the issue lies beyond the mounting.  Your horse may have tolerated being physically, spatially and vocally pressured into tolerating a rider, but may now has reached the point of no longer feeling he can tolerate whatever situation is bothering him.  It will be your job through slow trial and error to separate what actually bothers him.  

A great way to do this is working your horse at liberty (this is a one way to "hear" his honest feelings about what you are asking of him).  Click Chicken Soup (which can also be found at the bottom of the Home page on  this site to the right of Stories). Get a little feel of my style of liberty work by following this story. Once your horse comes to you easily and consistently, reward his nose or neck with a rub. When he seems comfortable with this, continue the rubbing toward his withers and eventually his back.  Always remember to work both sides.  After he has that warm and fuzzy feeling again, his reeducation might need to include tacking up to influence his perspective that going riding is an enjoyable experience.  By recreating a horse that wants to be with you when he's at liberty, you will build the foundation of a trusting partnership.

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Topic Info:   Trust
Name:          Maribeth 
Website Info:  from a friend               Feedback
Location:   St. John, Washington
Date:   02/09/07
Time:   12:34AM

Don't Touch Me!
Why has my horse decided this winter that he doesn't want to let me touch him for haltering or grooming?  He and I were best buddies until the weather and daylight changed our riding and togetherness habits.  He acts like I'm a stranger.  I'm hand feeding him right now to get him to let me in his space for a few minutes without a halter on.  As soon as we can wade through the mud, I'll start hand walking him for 30 minutes a day.  Are there other things you could suggest to get him to trust me again?  He is a 5 year old gelding that just got 60 days on him and I rode him through the summer, nearly every day, or was walking around the pasture changing sprinklers, he was like a dog then, following me everywhere I went.

TEC Answer:
Thanks for writing.  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 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 did you have with your horse before his 60 days of training versus after the training?  Horses are wonderfully adaptable creatures and can rather quickly "get used to" or learn to "tolerate" situations without acting aggressively or in an ill 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.  Because of the winter weather situation you are physically limited to how you can access your horse versus how you had been able to work with him in the summer.  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 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 physically obvious, disruptive or unmanageable.

Also take into consideration herd behavior.  Not knowing if your horse is pastured with other horses or not, you and he create a herd when working together.  Although you may not interpret your behavior as stressful to your horse, he may.  It is a natural instinct for a horse to stay with a herd even if the herd does not treat him well.  Have you ever heard of two horses being pastured together and one is overly dominant and continuously beats up on the other more submissive horse?  Yet no matter how much the dominant one provokes and instigates constant agitation in the less secure horse, the submissive horse maintains participation with the abusive horse. Why?  Herd instinct tells them there is safety in numbers and some companionship is better than no companionship.  Would he rather be alone and vulnerable or at least have the safety of another horse?  This may have been the case in him following you around the pasture.  You and he created a "herd" as you worked together.  Even when loose he maintained those feelings and stayed with you.  Many times people interpret "cute pet-like" behavior in horses towards themselves as enjoyment.  As your time became limited to how much interaction you had with him, your relationship had to become more independent of one another, which I will discuss below.

As weather limits your time spent with your horse, you begin to change the "routine" in which you work with him.  You may have worked during the warm weather with your horse on a more consistent schedule.  Horses as with humans can get used to and expect a routine as to when, where and how long they interact with the other.  In many situations a horse is tolerating the human's presence rather than completely trusting it.  Once he begins to realize he has to be less dependent upon your presence (in this case due to weather) and starts to find his own security, confidence and independence in not needing to rely on you, he may outwardly show increasingly more standoffish behavior towards you.

I empathize with you trying to just get near your horse.  Even if he gets near you for hand feeding, his internal doubts will not be lessened and so his trust and respect for you will not be increased.  Because I cannot watch you work with your horse, I suggest each day that you work with him, you approach him as having a blank slate.  This can be disheartening 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 focusing on the basic understanding of pressure:  spatial, physical and vocal.  Under guidance someone can help point out his body language so that you will begin to understand that there is a reason why your horse does every single thing he does.  You can then learn in a calm, quiet and clear manner, how to influence your horse emotionally and mentally, which then influences his outward behavior and attitude towards you.

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Topic Info:    Trailer Unloading
Name: Jessica Conner
Website Info:  Google
Date:          12/25/2006
Time:          07:38 PM

Question:  Hi, I have a four year old Quarter Horse. He loads into the trailer wonderfully. However, I am having a difficult time getting him to unload. We have a four horse front load trailer. When unloading, he is extremely hesitant to back up. He is very muscular and won't budge when I try to use pressure. I have tried applying pressure to the chest and the nose. I do end up getting him out of the trailer, but it takes me a lot of patience and time. Eventually I get him to back up far enough that I am able to turn him around and take him out moving forward. I have never been able to completely back him out of the trailer. My goal is to back him completely out without having to turn him around. I thought that this problem would eventually go away by repetition. I have loaded and unloaded him countless times, but I'm still not seeing much improvement. I know that he is nervous when I ask him to back out. He becomes very tense and uneasy. He backs up great from the ground and from the saddle. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions or advice you may have.

TEC Answer:
Thanks for writing--you have a great question and the scenario you have presented is a common one whether someone is asking their horse to load/unload out of a trailer, cross water, leave a herd of horses and so on.  My goal in working with a horse is to create an emotionally, physically and mentally confident horse whose mind is available to say "yes" to whatever I have offered.  This may take the form of intercepting my horse's thought, stopping a thought, encouraging a thought or directing a thought.  Remember that a horse's body will follow wherever its mind is.  In your case, our goal is that he has an available thought to back all the way out of the trailer while maintaining availability for you to help, stop, or adjust him along the way.   There has to be trust and respect between horse and owner in order for this to happen.  It sounds like you are on the right track by working with your horse in calm manner maintaining patience.  There are several separate areas that I would like to address independently and then put them all together. Keep in mind I may brush upon many topics but am limited to addressing only a few of them to keep this answer from becoming a novel!  Since I am unable to stand and watch your particular scenario I have a few thoughts and questions...

I would like to first focus on your horse's tenseness and uneasiness.  Is he naturally a confident horse who becomes bothered by only the trailer or do other scenarios create the same bothered feelings inside him?  If the feelings occur at other times, then the trailer is not the issue.  Overall availability and clarity in your horse's mind is the issue.  The more available his mind is to you, the more confident he will be to trust whatever you are offering- in this case it would be backing out of the trailer.   If he only shows these signs of stress when in the trailer, my first question would be regarding his history with trailering.  Has your horse ever had an odd, scary, or otherwise uncomfortable time in the trailer?  (Although horses are wonderful at forgiving us, they retain experiences- good and bad- much longer than most of us realize.)  If so, then the trailer itself is an issue, and I would offer a situation where an empty trailer is backed up to an opening in a round pen.  I’d play a game in the round pen to help the horse gain confidence so while he is loose he is able to find his way into and out of the trailer without human direction. 

If the horse is scared of the trailer from a previous experience he will be making emotionally based decisions- your horse has two options of "protecting" himself while in that moment of having to decide whether to back out of the trailer or not.  Have you ever noticed where his thought is when he chooses to avoid backing up?  Is his head careened over his shoulder and his thoughts with the other horses?  Is he unable to find a clear thought and constantly checks out everything around him as he stands “stuck?"   A horse can "flee" (forwards and backwards) which is an instinctive defense tactic he has or he can "shut down."  This is where he mentally closes his mind and accepts whatever is done to him without being emotionally available to participate or feel the severity of the act.  Your horse has come to a point where he cannot come up with the "right" answer (of backing all the way out in this case) and therefore rather than get into more trouble (in his mind) he is avoiding the scenario entirely by not wanting to move.  I would like to deviate here by also asking what is his attitude towards trailer loading?  Does he load in a quiet, thoughtful and decisive manner?  Or does he rush in?  Can you pause him, at any time, while he is in the middle of loading, or does it happen in one long or hurried motion?  Does the fear and uneasiness appear when you approach the trailer; load him, or only when you unload him?  If he is scared or worried about the trailer he maybe showing you signs as he loads, but because he is physically getting in you may not have noticed them.  Can you direct his thought so that he will “self load” (without you leading him)?

Next I'd like to mention that horses and people naturally learn or have tendencies to create or get "stuck" in behavior or routine patterns.  From the first time you offered your horse the choice of turning around in the trailer he has learned that that is an alternative option to backing all the way out.  Because of his possible lack of confidence and past or inexperience he may be unable on his own to "change" his thought to addressing backing all the way out rather than "escaping" by accepting your offer for him to turn around.  This is where I would like to point out that many people get distracted in training sessions by focusing on what a horse is physically doing (or not doing) rather than where both the person and horse are mentally and emotionally. 

I ask the previous questions because your answers can affect how you go about working with your horse to get him to back out of the trailer.  If you find that he is emotionally or mentally insecure about tasks that you ask of him, you would ideally begin to create scenarios (ignoring the trailer issue for the moment) where your horse can successfully complete or do what is asked of him.  The more his mind is available to you, the more he will be able to do for you, the way you would like and when you would like.  The more he is able to do, the more confidence he will gain, in turn creating more availability to try new tasks or take on ones that may have bothered him in the past.  This is where the mutually beneficial positive cycle of a trusting and respectful partnership can start between horse and owner.

Regardless of your answers above, you could always work on the actual act of backing without the trailer first.  You mentioned that your horse backs fine from the ground and saddle.  I would ask what you specifically meant by "fine."  Your horse could yield to pressure and physically back but maintain a certain amount of resistance within him (his head, neck and back would be taut and his steps backwards would be inconsistent and uneven).  He could back as a form of "running away" (in slow motion) where he offers more steps than what you asked for "just to get it right."  If he's not an aggressive horse he may back "quietly" but only as a form of avoiding a confrontation that could arise if he did not back (i.e. the lesser of two evils.)  Also, he may back because he has learned a routine or behavior pattern with you (trying to get it right to avoid getting it wrong.)  And at some point you may begin to realize that he offers you "the right answer," but on his terms rather than yours.  This again would be a place where you would look to create mental and emotional availability in your horse so that he would participate with you in a manner you desire.

So how can you tell if your horse's mind is available to you while he is backing (or doing anything asked of him)?  The easiest way is to see if you can "interrupt" him.  Let's say you have asked him to back by adding physical pressure to his chest and he obliges and starts to take steps backwards- a.) How much physical pressure did it take when you touched him for him to yield? b.) If he begins to yield backwards can you stop, pause or pick which foot he will move next? c.) Can you help him prepare to back without moving a step but rather by shifting his weight from one foot to another in order to maintain balance when he takes his first step back? d.) Before he backs, do you check to see where his thoughts are?  Then could you adjust them right, left or straight and ask him to maintain your desired direction as he backs.

I would approach the act of backing a horse out of the trailer by breaking it down into small attainable steps starting in an arena setting.  Once you have experimented with the ideas I have mentioned you might approach the trailer issue in steps.  First, can you approach the trailer and have your horse maintain a forward, straight, calm thought without having to physically follow through on that thought until you have asked him to. Then you pick which foot you would like him to step into the trailer with (all the while you are making mental notes of his emotional and mental status as you ask more of him.)  Can you then ask him to step back out of the trailer with the same foot?  Then you might walk him completely away from the trailer (to avoid routine and anything he might be “expecting").  That might be all for the day.  Or you might ask him to take a step or two into and out of the trailer with one or two feet pausing at your choice of intervals. Then go do something else, work or ride him, and then maybe at the end of the session you might ask for a foot or two in the trailer again.  You are looking to show him that you are acknowledging his frustration or worry with the trailer and that you are offering a compromise. 

Remember, most people take the “TRY” out of their horse.  People get stuck with a preconceived notion in their mind as to how they want what they want and forget there is a trial and error learning process along the way.  If you are asking your horse in a particular manner, you need to change to create a change in him.  Otherwise you keep asking in the same way and he keeps responding in the same way.  As your horse realizes you are not “forcing” uncomfortable scenarios upon him, he will become more available to “try” a bit more than perhaps in the previous session.  If you can get just a notch more try out of your horse every time you work with him you are on the right track.  Ignore the “goal” of backing out of the trailer.  Use each baby step as a “goal” instead.  His trust will increase as he learns that you have increased your sensitivity in addressing both his and your needs.  It is the little things that will make the difference in the long run as to the quality of your partnership with your horse.  Both you and he will have better and worse days… Start every session with a clean slate--no past thoughts to however well or poorly he has done.  Before you realize it your horse will begin to think of loading and unloading as his idea to get into and back out of the trailer. 

You might also keep a journal--not pages of every moment--but just notes from when you work with him:  what you did, how you did and where and how he was with what you did.  You’ll be surprised at how much you actually notice in his behaviors.  This will help in how you approach him in the future.                                             

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Topic Info:  How To Get My Horse To Stop!
Name: Janae
Website Info:  Went to google and looked it up.     
Date:   12/03/2006
Time:   06:42 AM


Question: 
I have a 5 year old AQHA and she doesn't want to stop when you start to lope.  What can I do about it and is there a bit that I can have more control of her too. Because we also do barrel racing so I need something that will stop her and also something that I can have good control!

TEC Answer:
Generally it is not the bit that will stop your horse.  If a horse is committed to running away with you, it will, and there is not much you will be able to do about.  My advice is to always take care of you first.

As for equipment and its severity, I find that "less is more."  That means the softer the equipment typically the more available and sensitive your horse will stay when you use it.  Remember that a horse feels a fly land on them, so they know if you are putting pressure in their mouth with the bit.  It is a matter of whether the horse has respect for your aids.  If you start to use stronger and stronger equipment typically your horse will learn to "shut down" and ignore the severity of whatever you are using on them. 

In your case I would gather that there is general lack of communication between you and your horse.  This tends to lead to your horse not respecting what you are asking of her, whether it is stop, turn, go and so on.  There are many ways to break down the "not stopping" issue.

First look at yourself, address how you are using what aids, when, why and with how much pressure and then break down exactly when your horse "tunes you out."  You will 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 stopping when you are running your barrel pattern or if it happens at all times. 

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. In barrel racing if your horse has been taught to run as fast as she can, she probably is trying that the entire time through the pattern, rather than waiting for cues or direction from you.  You need to have her mind available at all times to consider what you are asking, even if in the middle of a pattern. If you can influence her mind, then you can change her outward actions.  I would suggest breaking the pattern into steps... Perhaps one barrel at a time, and offer a change of direction, speed, ride to another part of the arena, something different that she wouldn't expect... She'll start to learn that she'll need to wait for directions from you to find out where you're heading to next. 

Remember the more accurate your ride, the faster the time, if you're only going as fast as possible but are all over the arena, you will not have a good score.  I'd practice trotting accurately made up patterns in your mind to get your horse to travel exactly where you plan rather than where she thinks is best.  As her willingness to listen to your aids you could increase you pace to trotting and cantering, then all cantering, then maybe even up to a gallop...

Also, the more she realizes you are helping her through the pattern course, rather than chasing her around it, the more sensitive she will be to listening to your aids. 

Last but not least.  Race horses run their fastest when they are straight... If your horse is running too fast, offer her a circle, slowly make it smaller until she offers to slow down to a trot or jog... then continue on with your pattern as if nothing interrupted you... Soon it'll only take one rein about to offer her a circle 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...

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Topic_Info: Bucking
Name: Brenda
Website_Info: Google
Date: 09/24/2006

Question:  I need a woman's point of view. I have a 3 1/2yr. old Bay filly that is presently with the guys starting her. When I talked to them last, she was still bucking at almost 60 days of riding. Not every day, but enough for concern. Also now tries to break loose when tied. Every man I have talked to says to get rid of her. I have had her since she was 6mos. old. All initial work was done by me. Halter breaking, leading, picking up feet, tying, etc... All work was done with praise as a reward. She did great with me. Not so good with my husband.

I am concerned about what I will have to deal with when she gets home & did I somehow cause this? Any input will be greatly appreciated.

TEC Answer:
First we need to address what are a few possible causes for your horse to buck; typically fear is the most common and then physical pain and then patternized behavior. Because I do not know the thought or intention or actual actions of the person who started your horse there could be a million things missed, skipped or ignored.

Somehow, someway at some point your filly became convinced that human interaction was probably not going to make her feel too good either on the inside emotionally and mentally or on the outside physically. Many times when a person is hired to start a horse there is a time limit for them to work with the horse. This seems to cause certain aspects of the training to be rushed because they are trying to get "everything" done...

Many young horses can naturally be willing, confident and successful if someone is supportive of them "trying" when asked or introduced to something new. But this approach takes much longer and more patience and many times horses are rushed through the motion of accepting something rather than truly acknowledging, addressing and feeling good about whatever has been presented.

There starts to be a build up of worry and lack of confidence in the horse every time something "new" is added for them to tolerate. There is only so long horses can tolerate situations before they emotionally have a melt down. It seems that unless a horse is completely blowing up or dramatically resistant, we humans tend to ignore the hundreds of little ways they try to tell us something is bothering them. Then when they have been pushed to their limit we humans act surprised and wonder where the horse's dramatic behavior came from.

By the time a horse has been pushed to its limit, it is pretty convinced that the human factor is not a good thing. A lot of the time the horse has probably ended "training" sessions with feelings of worry and stress. They then bring residual feelings from the previous session to the next and so on. Soon there is a huge amount of built up tension- like a ticking bomb waiting to blow. So why would the horse continue to put itself into an uncomfortable situation again? The only thing they can do in their defense is to either flee, which is natural being a prey animal, or they can become aggressive by bucking, kicking, rearing, and so on... If the horse tries aggressive or defensive behaviors and ends up "safer" in their mind than when he trusted a human, their behavior tends to become consistently more volatile. The more they realize their behavior keeps humans at bay, the more they will continue with their aggressiveness.

So is it possible to undo this behavior? Well we must address the emotional and mental status to address the physical actions we are seeing from the horse. Remember, the physical behavior is a mirror of what the horse is feeling on the inside. If a horse is calm and quiet and has "warm fuzzy" feelings, typically he'll maintain a calm and happy like demeanor and behavior. If a horse is stressed or worried on the inside, he'll show a antsy, jigging, hurried, etc. behavior.

In my experience when working with a horse like this, one needs to go back and start from the beginning again. Clean slate. Start with catching the horse in the pasture, can she come up to you on her own and feel good? Can you lead her and she be happy and maintain a slackness in the lead rope? Can you touch her body, just with your hand, and can she stand quiet and happy?

If you raise your level of awareness and sensitivity when working with her, she will start to "tell" you what she feels okay about and what she does not. Slowly you will piece together stressful areas for her and areas that she still feels good about. This can help you start to address the real issues and worries at hand.

From here, you want to find ways of increasing her "feel good" moments when you're working with her. The amazing thing about horses is that they can be incredibly forgiving, even if they should not be. The more she associates a positive experience when being worked with, the more she will be available to try harder for you when you are asking something of her. You will look to increase a trusting partnership and mutual respect to encourage positive and confident feelings and behavior and eventually her distrust will lessen greatly.

Keep in mind some horses that have become extremely reactive and aggressive can take a lifetime of working with them to gain their trust, and others are able to let go pretty quickly of past experiences. Remember if you approach her aggressive behavior with equally aggressive behavior when working with her you will only be adding fuel to the fire. In an attempt to undo what your horse has been exposed to will probably be a feeling of three steps forward in progress and then two back. Do not set expectations for her because you are guaranteed to be disappointed. Instead keep in perspective all the times she tries and acknowledges what you are asking and when she wants to please you.

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Topic_Info:    rearing
Name: m harvey
Website_Info:  web browsing
Date:          09/24/2006


Question:  I just got a 2yr. paint geld, has been VERY SPOILT, when he's tied up he will
start to rear to get attention. good to lunge, rug etc, but this rearing is
a real pain, he tried it when my son was leading him and he pulled him over
which frightened him and hasn't done it since. thinking of sidelines on him
when he's tied up, he has to learn it's 4 hooves on ground!

TEC Answer:
I would not suggest any form of physical restraint tied to or on a horse
that defensively rears--it will most likely cause physical harm and
emotional fear rather than solve the rearing.  I would guess that there are
other forms of resistance that the horse shows at other times when you are
working with him, although the most obvious may be the rearing when he is
tied.

I'd start in a safe environment such as a round pen to gain the horse's
trust and respect and reintroduce catching, grooming, tacking while the
horse is loose in the pen.  By the time he feels confident and quiet about
being close to a person when he is loose and the above mentioned interaction
with him causes no worries or concerns, you will most likely find tying him
to do the same tasks will not be a big deal either.

To attempt to physically constrain or restrain a horse may be a quick fix to
the current recognizable symptoms of dangerous behavior, but you will only
be temporarily "controlling" this rather than addressing his worry that is
most likely the cause behind the actions your are seeing.  If the worry and
fear are not addressed the action that currently appears as rearing will
inevitably transfer to and reappear in other intolerable forms of behavior
that will only worsen with time.

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Topic_Info:    Building Trust
Name:   angie
Date:          08/06/2006

Question:  We recently purchased a 6 year old male paint that has basically been pastured all of his life. We spent several weeks going out to spend time with him and work with him in his previous home before bringing him to our home. We were able to work with him and ride him with little or no problem by the time we made the move.  Once we got him home, a neighbor (fellow horse owner) came over and wanted to ride.  He allowed her to ride to the other end of our yard, and I am not sure what happened, but he threw her off.  Since then, he has been awful.  My husband tried to ride him a couple of weeks ago and he took about 2 steps and started bucking, and BUCKED all the way to the end of our property (about 6 acres).  My husband was hurt, but he got back on him (he's been told to always do that) and he started bucking again.  I am very hesitant to have anything to do with him.  What could be the problem and is it fixable???

Thanks for any help you can give.
Angie


TEC Answer:
I am sorry to hear your husband was hurt when riding; many times we do not realize just how big and strong horses are until something goes very wrong. There are many questions that come to mind when trying to help you find an answer for what has happened with the gelding.  Because I could not witness the situation I offer you my general thoughts based on working with similar horses in the past.

Horses generally do not become over reactive and "dramatic" out of the blue. My guess would be even at his home where he used to live there was insecurity, fear and worry inside of him.  Many horses are ridden and worked with everyday that maintain a certain degree of "not feeling good" but who continue to tolerate people working around them or riding them.  Then one day it becomes too much and they let out all of the built up feelings of frustration and worry.  My guess is that there was nothing in particular that the neighbor did to your horse, but perhaps there was not a lack of awareness in her to respect any signs of discomfort or agitation that the horse was showing before she rode.  A combination of new location, new person, and pent up anxiety probably sent your horse off into a bucking flurry.  Because he was consistent in bucking "all the way back" I would say he was fearful and using his natural self-preservation mechanism to run and buck--many times horses go through these dramatic motions without thoughts or consideration; it is as if their brain temporarily shuts down when the fear overwhelms them.

The degree of your horse's confirmation that "life is pretty hard" will affect the amount of time and energy it takes to help you build a trusting and confident partnership and foundation between you and your horse.  I would strongly advise you to find someone in your area who has experience working with insecure and worried horses.  He should have the understanding and patience to help , you, your husband and your horse open the communication channel to find a common ground of understanding in order to create positive "warm fuzzy feelings" inside your horse.

Even if he has tolerated being ridden in the past I would return to ground zero and work on his feelings about people from when and how he greets you in the pasture to how he feels about respecting your personal space to any anxiety that might arise or be associated with saddling and so on.  At this point in time your horse has a confirmed fear, and until you take the time, effort and energy to slowly dissect his understanding and feelings about anything related to people you will not find out what is truly bothering him.

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Topic Info:  Negative Attitude
Name: DJR
Website_Info:  Word of Mouth
Date:          02/23/200

I have a horse that displays a consistent negative attitude. He has come a long way and has mellowed with time and maturity but has never gotten over some of his attitude problems. This horse is a Quarter Horse and is bred Jet Smooth/Joe Reed on the top and Grey Badger/Triple Chick on the bottom. He shows both a willing attitude some days with a outlaw attitude other days. Just wondering how you would deal with a horse like this.

TEC Answer:
Great question--first I'd like to point out that because horses have emotions and thoughts as people do, they also have good and bad days just like we do.  But, if you have a horse that is consistently negative, then there is "something" concerning him.  There can be numerous issues and concerns affecting a horse with a negative attitude so bear with me as I very briefly mention a few of them.  You were a bit vague about his type and level of negativity... Does he get aggravated when you tack him up (tack may be ill fitting)?  Does he get frustrated when you ask something new of him and physically retains a tightness in his neck, back and hindquarters which will usually cause him to travel with his head stiff and up in the air, also what I call the "accordion affect" because his entire body is so scrunched up rather than stretched out and relaxed (he is lacking a "forward thinking" mentality)?  Is he a "comfort zone" horse (meaning does he question anything not part of his "normal" routine)?  Does negativity appear under stressful circumstances (i.e. on the trail with a group of excited horses or by himself if he's worried about being away from the herd)?  Does he "know your routine" so well that he is always "two steps ahead" trying to "hurry up and get it over with" (a horse worried about cantering/loping a certain direction immediately after it was asked in the previous direction will tend to get rushy and "hurry" into the faster gait in the new direction rather then waiting till he's asked) ?

The symptoms you see can be the results of a single or combined reaction to various thoughts, emotions, and insecurities your horse may be feeling which will then cause him to appear to have a negative attitude.  In many instances we are able to clearly recognize our horse has concerns when they appear as "obvious problems" but we tend to miss the little hints here and there that our horses try to convey to us as their levels of frustration, anxiety and discomfort increase.  A few examples:  Did he greet you in his stall/pasture with a happy attitude or from the get go was he negative? Is he happy to meet you but becomes concerned when you start tacking him up because he anticipates the ride to come? Is he happy until you approach the round pen, (arena, trailer, grooming area, trail, etc.,) when you start to notice he becomes what we call "draggy" --thinking about what's behind him rather than in front--that it causes him to literally balk and lose forward momentum, energy, and thought?

If we are working with a horse that is having frustration (and this will be a lesson in patience and awareness for all of us horse people) we need to break down the large task we are asking of our horse into baby steps in order to pin point what and when our horse's attitude changes, and then we can better focus on why it is happening.  Horses are amazingly tolerant animals, which many times works against them, because people assume "I've asked my horse to do this a million times and it was never a problem before."  Take a moment and imagine you are a petite person asked to do a manually laborious task.  Day one you might be full of gumption and energy and proud that just because you are petite person does not mean you can not do a hard day's work.  Day two you might still be enthusiastic even though you are stiff and sore physically.  But a few days beyond that your attitude towards the job might have changed entirely.  Now you're looking to hurry up and get the job done, just thinking about it stresses you out, and you are physically hurting... This scenario is common to the progression many horses go through.  So if someone asked you at the end of this "Are you happy about doing the job?" You'd answer "no."  But that question would not allow them to understand why and how the job changed your attitude so drastically.

So what do we do???  We need to help our horses find a "happy place"--we need to take the time and effort to find out what our horse really likes (other than feeding time) and help our horses go back to that place when he starts to become uncomfortable.  As he realizes that we are "there" for him, and we are attempting to create a bond and trusting partnership, he will allow you to intercept his negative thoughts with alternative ways of handling or reacting to situations presented.  A happy moment can be anything from grooming your horse to taking a trail ride to keeping the routine interesting.  To create these feelings takes time, energy, commitment, creativeness and patience from you to your horse and the results will be amazing!  In the beginning it may help to work with an instructor who is in tune with this philosophy and can give you ideas and guidance.

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Topic_Info:    What's my horse thinking?
Name: J
Website_Info:  Search Engine
Date:          02/01/2006

Question:  Hi there, I purchased a quarter horse appendix about 4 months ago and love him.  He was a rescue horse and feel that he and I have an amazing bond. I grew up with horses and use to show them when I was a kid.  I am now 33 years old and finding that I have more love for them now then before.  I would love to know what my horse is thinking or if he is having a bad day like we all do.  Is there any books out there or do you have any pointers for me on this subject.  He does so many things that I have in fact said to him," what are you thinking?", like he follows me around everywhere, or stares at me with soft eyes, and won't let the other horses near me, he wants my undivided attention.  What does this mean???  I'm excited to hear back from you. sincerely, J

TEC Answer:
Hi thanks for stopping by our site... First, we as humans will never fully understand our horse's mind--many times we attribute human emotions for animal actions--sometimes we're guessing close to home and other times we are not.  I personally don't think any of us, even the most experienced, can ever fully understand horse nature, horse play, or horse behavior.  The best advice in my opinion will be given to you by your horse--but you must have the patience, time, and energy to receive what he is willing to offer.  If you took fifteen minutes out of every day and were able to just watch--not groom, give treats to, ride, etc.--but just watch your horse loose in the pasture--you'd start to learn a lot about his distinct and individual personality and characteristic traits.  You'd start to learn if he was a bold, confident guy or one who would rather have someone else looking out for him. You'd find out if he were curious about life or if he were  more shy and would rather watch from the sidelines... All of the things you'd learn from watching would help educate you for times in the future--when you're riding, handling him on the ground, experiencing the unknown, etc... You could apply his mannerisms he naturally has with the way you ask him to do things, and would most likely have a better understanding ahead of time of how and why he will likely react.

If you approach watching and "speaking" with your horse in a herd manner (which is an instinct even the most domesticated horses still retain) his "words" will most likely start to become clear.

If you look at the nature of the horse you must remember a few things... First--he is a prey animal--which means his only defenses in life are to run or flee.

Second--because he is a prey animal--he always knows that safety lies in the numbers of his herd.

Third--in a herd setting there is only ONE leader.  If you have not established this as your position, then your horse will become the leader. By doing so, he will treat you as a "follower" who he must protect.

Fourth--if your horse has "accepted you" into "his" herd--he will want to do everything in his power to communicate to you that it is safe and smart to be as close to you as possible.

As you start to increase your level of awareness for your horse, his individual needs, his strong and weak points, and can combine it with how you interact with him, you will not believe the strength of the bond and relationship you will create.  Animals are more honest and trusting than human nature allows us to be; remember to not take advantage of it.  One last idea is to keep a journal--not pages and pages--but just a few lines every day. It is a good reference for you and your horse in case you ever hit "bumps" in your communication or if he ever winds up ill... Many times horses will tell us way ahead of time about something- but we miss it!

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Topic_Info:    Focus Problems
Name: Taylor
Website_Info:  google.ca
Date:          07/28/2006

Horse Not Focusing
I have problems keeping my horse Petrie focused on what she is supposed to be doing. She is a quarter horse mare. She gets upset and prances when she is not listening to me.


TEC Answer:
Not knowing the background or training you and your mare have I would guess there is a lack of respect and communication if you find when working with your horse that she does not address you with the attitude of "what can I do for you?"   Many times by working under the guidance of an experienced person in a round pen with your horse you can teach your horse how to "find the right answers" without having to force them upon her.  Allowing your horse to try her options in the pen, is no different than when you ride and she tries her options, even if they may not be the ones you would like.  To offer her an option you would like, your horse must be available emotionally to what you have suggested.

The round pen should be used in a positive manner as a safe and small area so you can allow your horse to try her options in how to address you and with what attitude and emotions.  Increasing an awareness and respect of spatial and physical pressure while working on the ground will lead to a sensitivity on both of your parts as you use pressure and aids with your body when you ride her.  The round pen is a great way to build the foundation of a trusting and respectful relationship so that when you are riding and your horse becomes uncomfortable, fussy, insecure, worried, etc. she can turn to you for help because of the partnership you will have created with the previous ground work-- rather than her making her own decisions when a situation bothers her.

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Topic_Info: My horse won't let me mount!
Name:  Emilie
Website_Info: Google
Date: 08/11/2006

My horse won't let me mount!
Whenever I get off of my quarter horse gelding, Bob, in any place other than the barn area, he won't let me back on! I have tried, to the advice of my trainer, turning him in a tight circle then getting on and backing him into a corner to mount, but nothing works! What should I do?

TEC Answer:
Many times people do not realize how much of a routine we work in whether it is how we operate on our own or when we interact with our horses. Many horses pick up on the pattern(s) we create and get comfortable with it--if anything changes, they do not adapt well because their mind is set on "this is how we always do it."

Have you ever been on the trail horse that knows the trail so well that he knows exactly what tree to turn at, or what rock to start cantering at, or where to "randomly" slam on the brakes because it's the lunch spot? Regular riding horses can learn the same things: when, where and how does my owner catch me, groom me, tack me up, get on, ride me, and dismount.

By "knowing" what is to be asked of the horse, he can begin to be comfortable in the routine (without having to think much as it becomes habitual), and know that he will "get it right" (it being whatever you ask of him) because he is always asked the same thing in the same order at the same time. Many horses who tend to be a few steps ahead of the rider in what they offer tend to be insecure about something. Rather than waiting and being reprimanded for doing something wrong, they offer what they think is best ahead of time to avoid punishment.

I would say start with how you work with your horse on the ground. Catch him and let him go. Then catch him again. Brush him in one location then walk with him somewhere else and continue grooming him. Tack him up somewhere completely opposite from the norm. When you do mount him, don't just ride to where you normally work him. Stop after a few minutes and get off and walk back to the barn. When you mount, stand for a few minutes at the block. When you do get on him, just sit there, and then get back off. It really does not matter what you actually change. What matters is how the change affects him so that he notices and recognizes a difference in you and your behavior and what you ask of him.

As you change your pattern or routine, watch and see how he reacts. I would guess that he might become a bit concerned because you are offering new locations for doing different things, and your horse will have to remain mentally present and consider what you are doing at all times. By him having to renew his constant awareness of what you are asking, you will encourage him to become more available to a change in things like mounting or dismounting in certain areas, times or locations.

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Topic_Info:    Walking...My Tennessee Walking Horse Won't
Name:  Michelle
Website_Info:  Found it when looking for training tips online
Date:          07/25/2006

Question:  My 3yr old Tennessee Walking horse goes into a canter from a walk and does not like doing the fast walk any when I ride him.  Any advice?


TEC Answer:
Generally horses will "rush" into a faster gait when they are worried.  I do not know the amount of training you or your horse has had, but I would guess there is a lack of clear communication and understanding between your commands for a faster speed and your horse's understanding of them. With young horses many times a rider will get an "all or nothing" response when they use leg pressure.  You could address this by slowly introducing exercises such as figure eights, serpentines, and small circles when encouraging your horse to gait.  The continuous turns on the above mentioned patterns would help to "slow" your horse's mind to think about where he is and where he has to turn to next.

Imagine a racehorse, they are at their fastest when they are running straight.  Many people tend to ride "straight" for long distances (whether on a trail or in the arena) and end up in a "tug of war" with their horse when trying to slow them down.  They may not realize that they have not asked their horse to consider where they are currently physically at (many horse's tend to allow their brains to be farther down the trail or on the outside of the arena even if they physically aren't)--an easy way to do this is to ask your horse to turn right or left (even if it is just for a step.) Rather than having to "pull" on your horse to slow him down, the signal from the rein to ask for the turn will "check" the horse's brain to slow down to where his body is.  The natural motion of the turn will encourage him to decide to slow to a pace more comfortable and coordinated for him--and your goal of going slower will be achieved.  Eventually rather than completing an entire circle to slow, perhaps just a step to the left or right will be enough.

Also remember horses can feel flies land on them.  They know you are sitting on them and are sensitive to every move and adjustment you make.  Try to increase your awareness of your position in the saddle (i.e. do you sit on your seat bones, do you tend to lean forward, are you more aggressive on the side of your body you're more coordinated on, etc) and the amount of physical pressure you are using when asking for a response.  Experiment with where and how much pressure (and what part of your leg) you are using when asking for a more forward or energetic pace.  As you increase your energy in your body while in the saddle, he should mimic you and increase his pace, as you lower your energy and relax, he should slow.  As you raise you level of awareness in the saddle, your horse will raise his level of respect for your aids.

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Topic_Info: Backing up
Name:  Pat
Website_Info: searching google
Date: 08/28/2006

Question:  I have a trainer who believes in backing your horse up if its misbehaving and not doing what you ask. Another trainer said this isn't good because you will teach your horse to rear. It has always seemed to work well so I would like your opinion? He says to back a few steps and then ask your horse to go forward. If the horse won't then back up again. He says backing up is much harder for the horse than going forward so eventually the horse gets the message.

TEC Answer:
My first reaction is that asking your horse to back if he is misbehaving is not addressing what is CAUSING your horse to misbehave--it is rather suggesting an alternative behavior to what he is coming up with on his own. That means that your horse may back as you ask him to, but most likely he will maintain feelings such as anger, frustration, insecurity, and worry about whatever caused him to initially misbehave. Whatever is bothering him could be any number of things ranging from a specific object to a movement you asked him to perform.

If it appeared the horse was misbehaving, I would first try to address what is bothering my horse. Then I look to see if I can present that object or movement in a manner that allows him to both accept what I have suggested and also encourages him to feel good about trying to address what has been asked of him. Horses are very quick to decipher if you work with them in a "you will accept this" forceful manner or a "could you think about accepting this" less aggressive manner. The more your horse realizes that you consistently are SUPPORTIVE of his trying (even if he does not totally accomplish what you would like), the more reason he has to try to accept what you ask.

The ideas mentioned above can be achieved whether you are working your horse from the ground or riding him. Generally it is easier to start on the ground and ask something of your horse, get to a place where he feels good and accepts what you are asking, and then mount and ask the same thing of him. Most people do not give enough credit to their horse for the amount of try and effort the horse can have; many times we expect them to resist or reject what we are forcing upon them. If we change our attitude from demanding of them to working with them, our horse can change his attitude from resistance and fear to enthusiastic effort full of try.

As for the actual act of backing up, it is a specific movement, just as shoulder-in, half-pass, walking or a turn on the forehand. Personally I do not using backing as anything more than a movement I ask of my horse. There are cases where people get into patterns with their horses:  every time the horse is "naughty" the person backs them. It does not take long before the horse learns the routine and starts to anticipate backing every time they get into an issue with their rider. The more the horse anticipates this routine, the more it tends to resist going forward at the risk of getting something "wrong." To prevent being "punished" and backed, they start to offer backing as an alternative before it is ever asked of them. There are also the cases where a horse is so tight and uncomfortable inside that they can rear when asked to back, but this would probably also be the case if you asked much else of them. If a horse is that frustrated, it will do whatever it takes to protect itself from those bad feelings including rearing, bucking, and other aggressive and fearful behavior.

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Topic_Info: Spooking
Name:  Sonja
Website_Info: Google
Date: 08/26/2006

SPOOKED! Dealing With Scary Items:

My three year old is really scared of plastic bags so the other day I took him in a round pen and tied a plastic bag to his halter and I ran out. At first he was running lashing out at the bag and after a while he got used to it and was smelling it and didn't really care about it is this a good way to spook proof him from it?


TEC Answer:
I'm sure if you asked this question to five different trainers you would receive five different answers. Some people insist that a horse immediately deals with a scary item, while others encourage the horse to accept it when he is ready--not the person. Some people insist a horse should stand still whenever anything new is introduced while others think quite a bit of movement and running is okay because the horse is "letting out their fear."

In my opinion, if a horse has shown fear of or for something or an object, I suggest you never tie the scary item to the horse. I have witnessed horses whose brains have shut down in the fear mode and have done whatever it took to get away from an object tied to them--including running through fences and causing major injury to themselves.

Some horses may be able to eventually calm down and deal with whatever is tied to them, but personally I would rather not take the risk of how far or hard will they try to run before they stop.

When an item is scary I find the best way to work with the horses is to initiate his curiosity about the item rather than an aggressiveness associated with it. Many times even if something is scary, if the item keeps moving away from the horse (in a controlled environment such as a round pen), his curiosity will overcome his fear and he'll try to inspect the item. When a horse does not have to worry about the item "attacking" him, he will usually become interested in addressing the item pretty quickly.

If your horse understands basic things like looking and addressing you, following and working with you at liberty, then once his curiosity increases you can start to do things like have him follow you around loose while you carry the scary item. The more he accepts it (head relaxed, breathing normal, muscles at ease, consistent pace and freedom of gait as he follows you) then you can start to create more "activity" with the item--all the while NOT coming at the horse so that you are not causing him to become defensive towards it. Soon when he accepts something like the bag flapping up high, down low, dragging on the ground, etc... Let him touch the item with his nose. This will help let him relax with it even more. Every time your horse tries to consider the scary item, move it away and walk off so that you release all spatial pressure the item may be causing him. Then you could start to create motion with the item as you stand in front of him (again I emphasis that if your horses does not respect your personal space this is NOT an appropriate exercise--he needs to understand that if at any point he is scared he has the option to run or move away as long as it is NOT on top of where you are standing). Moving the item would progress to where you could touch the ground with the item and then start to present it towards his shoulder area (usually the least sensitive place on a horse)--all the while not touching him. You will be creating a huge amount of spatial pressure with the item at this point and your horse needs to fully accept the pressure before you can proceed to touching his shoulder and back area with it. This exercise may take you a few hours, days or even weeks. Every horse just like every person has a different level of natural confidence--some will accept new things or changes in routine easily while others struggle with it.

My goal when I work with horses is that they feel good about what is being asked of them. So for me, I look to the horse and read his feelings and sensitivity to let me know how much I can ask of him on any given day, especially when introducing something scary. Always end on a good note--not for you and what you wanted to accomplish--but for your horse. This will create a trusting partnership between the two of you and encourage him to greet you the next day with a positive attitude that says, "What can I do for you?"

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Topic Info: Fear of loud noises
Name:  Katie
Website Info: Google
Date: 08/28/2006

Question:  My three year old Gelding is scared of tarps and plastic bags so I tried putting a tarp in his dry lot where he lives with two other horses that are not scared of it so maybe he will learn to deal with it. What do you think?

TEC Answer:
Placing items such as tarps, balls, tires, cones, etc. in a horse's pasture is a great idea to get them used to the item's presence. The problem is horses very quickly adapt --which means if your horse has other horses to follow--he will most likely put more effort into following the other horses rather than addressing the items you put in the pasture. He will also figure out to live "around" the items without having to directly touch, smell, interact or inspect them.

Placing items in the pasture is a great start, but typically to desensitize your horse to loud noises, you will have to spend one-on-one time with him in a safe environment, such as a round pen, and at your horse's pace introduce scary objects in a manner that he can find as fun and stimulating rather than forceful. You might take a look at the "Spooked--Dealing with Scary Items" advice I wrote on this page - it will give you some ideas on how to pursue desensitizing.

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Topic Info:  cavesson
Name:  Dale
Website Info:  google cavesson
Location:  Leamington, Utah
Date:  March 7, 2007

Question:  What is the purpose of a cavesson when used with or along with the bridle while riding or training?  The trainer who started my filly said that he had used the caveson while starting her, and that I could go back to it if I needed to.  I didn't think to ask him at the time, and now it's too late as he has moved.  I don't like using equipment I don't understand.  Thank you.

TEC Answer:
First I would like to clarify, there is a longeing cavesson and there is a cavesson that is the noseband on some English bridles.  A longeing cavesson is a close fitting headstall with rings on the noseband for differing longe rein attachments.  Some people prefer a cavesson to a halter as the theory is that the cavesson will increase contact between the person on the ground and the horse.

The simplest type of noseband consists of a strap that rests on the horse's crown and has attached to it a strap that encircles the horse's nose. The noseband headpiece should be adjusted so that the noseband sits approximately the width of two fingers below the cheekbone.  When buckled or tightened, two fingers should have room to be inserted between the noseband and the hair on the nose.  

The noseband was originally a leather or rope halter worn beneath the bridle that allowed the rider to remove the bit from the horse's mouth after work and leave a restraining halter on underneath, or to tie the horse by this halter, instead of by the bit, which could result in damage to the horse's mouth if it panicked.

Today most people will give you the three following reasons for using a cavesson.  It is used to give a balanced and traditionally correct appearance to the horse's turnout at shows.

The second and most common use is to keep the horse's mouth closed to prevent a horse from opening it and evading the bit.  The problem with this theory is that you will be addressing the symptom of the horse's mouth being open by physically forcing it shut rather than addressing the emotional and mental resistance from the horse that causes the problem.  A noseband used in this manner will be tightened down so that there is no room for fingers between it and the hair of the nose.  The outward appearance of a gaping jaw, open mouth, chomping on the bit, and fussy tongue are signs that the horse is not accepting mentally and emotionally the bit, rider or aids and these are appearing as a physical resistance from the horse.  Clamping the horse's jaw shut around the metal bit in its mouth will not soften his gaits, increase his responses, influence his impulsion, create quality of movement or clarify communication between rider and horse.  Instead if one focused on where the emotional and mental frustration the horse was showing was coming from and addressed that, the horse's jaw would relax and he would soon be accepting the bit.

The final traditional thought behind the noseband is that it can be used to help stop a horse from pulling against its rider as an attachment for other equipment such as a standing martingale or tie-down.  A mainstream thought is that a stronger noseband can be used in place of a stronger bit, which makes it a popular option for riders that want more control, but do not want to "back their horse off" from use of too severe a bit.  Competitions frequently restrict the severity of a bit.  I would like to ask how many times you have ever noticed a horse's skin jump or twitch when a fly landed on it?  The common thought that the horse needs more severe equipment is again avoiding the true (and more time, thought and energy consuming task) of maintaining sensitivity in a horse by communication in a clear manner that allows the horse to express any frustration, insecurities or worries.  If the rider addresses these and can diffuse or erase them, the horse can maintain a soft and relaxed emotional and mental state, which will be reflected in its relaxed and enjoyable movement throughout each ride.

All nosebands will add some level of pressure to the nose when the reins are applied.  There are multiple types of nosebands that were designed to create various degrees of severity when fitted properly.  Some of these include the following:  flash noseband or Aachen noseband, Hanoverian noseband, figure-eight/Mexican noseband, grackle noseband, drop noseband, crank noseband or Swedish cavesson, Kineton or Puckle, combination or lever noseband and a studded noseband.

A bridle does not necessarily need a noseband such as those used in Western-style riding, flat racing or endurance riding.  Many old paintings will also depict a hunt horse without a noseband because it was considered useless by their riders.

Going a step further, riding with a side pull bridle (something that can be used trail riding so that the horse does not need to wear a halter when tied during the trail ride) removes the bit completely.  Many people are surprised to find out how well their horse does without any metal in his mouth.  The side pull allows clear directional communication to the horse (as opposed to pulling from beneath his chin as in a bosal or hackamore).  The competitive arenas are receiving more interest from parties wishing to compete without a bit if that is their choice.  Someday this may become an option.

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Topic_Info:     Bit to Bosal
Name:  KOCHESE
Website_Info:  BROWSING
Date:          06/28/2006

Bit to Bosal and Horse Sensitivity

I have a 3 year old reg. paint gelding that is already well trained, he seems to have sensitive skin, and I think I should switch to a bosal, so I don't bother his mouth. I was wondering if this would be a difficult process, and if the bosal might indeed wear at his nose.

Also, is the $40 bosal as good as the $250 bosal? Can I use any headstall with it? Do I have to use a fiador?

He also tends to not let me catch him easily, I figured this could be due to the bit, he is mostly white, and tends to get rashes and scabs all over him, he is very sensitive.

TEC Answer:
Before you change equipment you might address other areas of your horse's obvious discomfort first.  If you have ever been sun burned you might have noticed how even the "little things" start to bother you because you are physically sensitive from the sunburn, and therefore became unusually emotionally irritable.  The same goes for horses.

If you know your horse has sensitivity issues, I would address those first. Zinc is great for pink areas around his face, lots of fly spray (try a few brands, some work well with some horses and the same brand may not work as well with other horses.)  Use a fly mask or even a fly blanket if he is super sensitive. Check his teeth to see if he has any hooks or sharp corners (at three years old the horse's mouth is still going through a lot of changes with new teeth pushing through--have a dentist or veterinarian do a thorough floating to discover any mouth issues).  If he is sensitive be aware of the brushes you use, make sure they are clean and soft.  The same would go for any saddle blanket you use, keep it clean and as sweat free as possible.  Many times horses get saddle sores from dirty blankets rubbing and irritating the hair and skin.  Be aware at three years old he is still growing physically and muscularly.  Check your saddle to make sure it fits him correctly and is not creating any pain when you ride him.  Even if you checked your saddle three months ago, check how it fits him again.

Generally horses that do not want to be caught are not worried about the actual catching of them; the events AFTER they have been caught are what tend to bother them.  If initially your horse's worry was because of his physical discomfort then you might have addressed his concern or worries. If you have done everything in your power to make him as physically comfortable as possible and he still does not want to be caught then I would look for help from someone in your area with the knowledge to teach you how to gain your horse's trust and respect and a way to create a partnership between you and your horse.  Remember just because you can get on and ride, doesn't always mean you should.  We usually miss a few steps when working with our horses, try and address those early on.  You have the rest of your horse's life to ride him, make sure right now he's just happy being around you.  Otherwise, his current behavior could lead to many longs years of resisting you.

Any sign of resistance when working with your horse, however small or obvious, will eventually be reflected more loudly when you are in the saddle.  Even if right now your horse is manageable and "goes along eventually" with what you ask of him, I would be hypersensitive to any areas of resistance.  Generally the small issues begin to become bigger and more dramatic issues until eventually you have a horse that has a major problem in an area.  Working with young horses is great because they are so willing to try.  But if you ignore your horse when he is trying to communicate that he is having a problem, eventually he will ignore you and become what we call "shut down."

Creating sensitivity between you and your horse is incredibly important in all areas of working with horses, especially if you are considering riding with a bosal.  If there is not an awareness in you and your body and a clarity in your aids, your commands while using a bosal can very quickly lead to confusion in your young horse.  Usually if there is too much confusion a young horse will shut down and stop trying and become resistant because he will be frustrated by not understanding what you want.  Again I would suggest you turn to local help from someone who can assist you and your horse in the correct fit, quality and proper use of a bosal before trying one.

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Topic_Info:     The Purpose of a Surcingle
Name: Melinda
Website_Info:  search
Date:          05/10/2006

Question:  What is the purpose of a surcingle?  What does it teach the horse and how do you use one.  I've read books on training but none seem to clarify what the purpose of one is.  Also why use a caveson instead of a halter when lunging?

TEC Answer:
When it comes to using equipment, know that if you ask eight different trainers the same question regarding the same piece of equipment, you will get eight different answers.  My answers to your questions are based on "real life" experiences... I am always very cautious and tend to steer most people away from using devices if they have not been shown or helped by someone with experience.  First, you must assess what your horse does naturally (without aids) and then conclude what you would like different. Then you must understand equipment options, proper use and fit, and possible positive and negative consequences of using it.

Before a person ever uses surcingles or other aids on a horse while they are working from the ground, the horse must be introduced to longeing, voice commands, etc.  Many times you will see people longe horses and although the horse is literally circling and has its head towards one direction, most of the momentum in his body is trying to "leak out" the opposite direction. So, yes, this horse may listen to voice commands and may not be "heavy" on the longe (pulling out the person's arms who is longeing him), but by attempting to quietly avoid the circle and drift somewhere else, his body is not relaxed therefore he is not tracking correctly.  If we were to add foreign aids such as a surcingle and side reins, these would only reconfirm in the horse's mind that the way the he is tracking is correct, and the aids will not fix his "crookedness."

The two major uses for longeing a horse without a rider on him are a) exercise and b) schooling a horse so that he can improve his own balance and quality of gate with support from the person working him from the ground. What is the ideal horse like when he longes?  The horse should look (literally) in the direction he is tracking; maintain a relaxed top line (starting at his jaw, then his neck, then his back, then through his hindquarters) while quietly responding to voice commands. He should not become stressed from going in one direction or the other, and then perhaps he may be ready for a surcingle.

Most people do not use a surcingle alone; they generally use other contraptions such as side reins or draw reins.  I will stop right here to state in my opinion LESS IS MORE.  I find that there are many ways to get changes mentally, emotionally and physically in horses without having to use bucket loads of the latest and greatest equipment advertised.  Most equipment you find in magazines to "fix" a problem may only create a temporary quick fix.  They primarily address the symptoms of a problem, rather than the problem itself.  Because of this, people wind up in a vicious cycle of buying more severe equipment because every time they use something on their horse, the "problem" only worsens.

Also remember each horse is an individual, you may have two four year olds you are working with, one naturally confident, and the other naturally cautious.  They could have the same training and exposure, and yet respond completely different to longeing and foreign aids.  Be aware--many injuries happen to horse and person because of accidents from inexperienced people using inappropriate equipment and not recognizing the signs of stress the horse shows before he may "explode."

So what is the "mainstream" purpose of a surcingle?   You will notice that on a surcingle there are multiple "D" rings at various spots.  If the surcingle you are using fits your horse properly, the "D" rings should be in the ideal spot to connect with side reins to introduce or school your horse at different levels of "collection."  Now when the untrained eye looks at a horse trying to decipher the horse's level of  "collection" it tends to drift towards the front end of the horse focusing on the horse's head, neck and front legs.  The problem with this is that are many horses that can "break at the poll" (keep their chin drawn in towards their chest with an over flexed head position) but when watching their hindquarters, there will be very little quality in their gate--usually lacking cadence and rhythm. In the truly collected horse the energy and power comes from the "engagement" of the hindquarters.  Horses who may look collected but are not, tend to be heavy in the rider's hands and heavy on their forehand.

The low level Dressage movements do not separate the truly collected versus the "head cranked in place" as much as upper level movements such as half pass and flying lead changes.  In a jumper course at the lower levels there is a lot more space between small fences allowing the rider to recover and make adjustments; at the upper levels in the tight turns with very demanding fences, a horse must be collected and engaged in order to maintain balance to clear such obstacles.

In many cases people work with young horses that can be very willing to accept new equipment--until something goes wrong.  You will see young horses with overdeveloped muscles that are under the horse's neck, rather than those that run along the horse's top line.  This shows that after enough times, the horse has built up a resistance to the equipment being used and is using the incorrect muscles in his neck to "avoid" or "brace" against the severity of the side or draw reins pulling on him in an unnatural way because he is not tracking and engaged correctly.

By using a longeing cavesson rather than a halter, you will notice that it has multiple "D" rings on it to attach the longe and side reins in several places, again, to affect how the horse will track and carry himself at different levels of collection.

My suggestion to you if you plan to introduce a horse to a surcingle and side reins or other foreign aids is to do it with the help of someone experienced.  If you start to notice that your horse becomes increasingly stressed during your longeing session, lessen the amount of "equipment" you are using until he can accept it happily, otherwise you will be creating a fight.

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Topic_Info:    Surcingle
Name: Rachel natoli
Website_Info:  browsing
Date:          03/02/2006

Question:  I have a well trained but needs a bit more work 3 year old.  I ride him about 3 times a week with a saddle and a Indian bosal. I have started putting a surcingle on him and worked him in the round pen with it just around him, my question is can I use the surcingle with a soft nylon bosal (hackamore). Thanks a bunch. P.S. He does not use a bit, I trained with the bosal.


TEC Answer:

Hi thanks for stopping by the forum... Equipment is always a touchy subject because there are many different types and most people do not have a full understanding of what they are using and why, which then leads to incorrect use causing frustration to both horse and person.  I would need a bit more information to fully address your question.  My first question to you would be what is your personal goal for working your horse in the round pen?  I ask this to better understand what equipment (if any) would be necessary and/or appropriate to aid you.  Second, what is your purpose in using a surcingle?  I ask this because if your horse currently accepts a saddle and rider then I am not sure what your intention is by using only a surcingle. Most people use a surcingle with other foreign aids such as side reins which are many times incorrectly used and have been known to cause major accidents with an inexperienced horse and person working on the ground.  The third part of my question would be why you would like to use the bosal (or any other type of headstall/bridle) while working in the round pen?  And the last question I'd ask is are you working him loose in the pen or on a longe line?

There are many misconceptions about the use of a round pen and its purposes.  Sometimes it can be used as a small and "safe" environment to work a horse at liberty.  Sometimes it can be a place to work an inexperienced horse on a line focusing on ground work and still having the comfort of an enclosed area in case the person needs to "let go" of the horse.  Sometimes it is a confidence building location to begin a ride and address clarity of communication between horse and rider.

On the negative side many times the round pen is used as a punishment rather than a positive location reinforcement aid.  If a horse misbehaves or does not act as expected many times people "chase" their horse around numerous times to "wear" them out.  This can create or add many concerns for the horse and tends to only complicate the true issues at hand.

If you are looking to work your horse without a rider but with some form of "contact" on his back, I find using my regular riding saddle and working him at liberty in a round pen allows him to consider me while I'm on the ground and to consider the equipment I will use when I ride him.  If you'd like to have a bit more of a "feel" of your horse, you can always work him in full tack but with a halter and lead rope (your lead rope being used in the same manner you would use a rein when you ride). You can ask him the same types of questions you'd ask if riding him such as, "Can he look to the left hard enough that eventually his feet will follow?" or "Can he stop and take a step back when you send a 'feel' down the lead rope causing his thoughts to considering yielding backwards to pressure?"

Because you are using a bosal and not looking for your horse to "accept" a bit, I would recommend while working him on the ground to use a halter.  The one warning I will give you is to be very aware that there is a clarity between your hand pressure and your horse's head response.   Because the two reins on a bosal come together below the horse's chin, this can sometimes cause a lack of clarity on a green horse when the rider uses one rein or the other.  If you start to find that your horse "angles" his head as he turns (his chin comes up towards the sky and he will drop one side of his head and his ear towards the ground) then you might want to use a side pull.  On a side pull each rein is clearly attached separately to either side of your horse's head.  This allows absolutely clarity if you are using the left or right rein.  As he becomes more experienced and confirmed in his positive  response to your rein aids, you could then go back to using a bosal.

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Topic_Info:    Clipping
Name: Liza
Website_Info:  Google
Date:          05/01/2006

Question:  I am getting 4 y/o gray paint mare ready for the upcoming show season. She has a great head on her, really looks to please, but she gets a little touchy when I bring the clippers up to her poll and ear area, I have been handling her there for about 2 months now , she just doesn't seem to get the point that nothing will hurt her there. What can I do?

TEC Answer:
It is good that you have taken your time in trying to get your horse to relax when you are working around her head.  A few questions: When you worked with her in the past, does she just tolerate you being in her space around her head or does she actually relax by the time you are done with each session?  Even if she does not move, does she "brace" or get resistant in her neck the next time you come towards her with something to put near her head?  If she does stand "quietly," does her breathing become inconsistent?  Does she hold her bottom lip squinched up?  Are her eyes and ears trying to focus on many different things?

I don't know the steps you have gone through when working with her... but here are a few ideas I like to keep in mind and use.

First, how is she with a halter or when you bridle her?  Can you gently add pressure to her poll and will she drop her head down so that you can put on either item?  Can you use a rub rag and touch or clean out her ears or does that bother her?  If she has any initial concern about activity near her head when you are using quiet and soft items, by the time you use noisy and vibrating items such as clippers, she will have a problem with them.

How is she with clipping overall?  Does she get a bit concerned when you turn the clippers on, or does she react to the vibration of them on less sensitive parts on her body?  When I approach an area of a horse that has concerns about me being there, I try to emphasis that as long as my horse has given me a "try"-- I relieve the "pressure" (this could be spatial, physical, etc) I have added to cause his initial concern... An easy way to do this is to literally walk away-- if you're in a round pen you can leave your horse and then come back.  If he's on a lead, make sure there's slack in it, and then just walk off.  Your horse will begin to have a change in thought when she realizes that as soon as she tries she is rewarded by you allowing her (literally) space.  This will start to influence the amount of "try" she has in her for you when you approach uncomfortable topics.  Until you have established yourself as a "helping" partner-- i.e. not forcing the issue, partner-- your horse will continue to view any business near her head as something to have concern about.

So if you can work near her head and ears, just not with the clippers--forget about the overall goal of clipping... Instead approach the task and your horse with the idea that you are going to ask her to take baby steps in accepting something that you are asking (in this case it is the noise and feel of the clippers in a sensitive part of her body) and you are looking for her to feel confident about saying "yes" to you (i.e. standing quietly and feeling good about it.) Also keep in mind you might have to break up the steps into several or more sessions depending on the level of concern your horse has for what is being asked of her.  Any moment she tries, I'd give her a break and walk away.  As you are doing this look for signs of her chewing, licking her lips, pooping, sighing, blinking her eyes faster than normal.  These are all signs that your horse is relaxing as she is thinking and trying to address what is being asked of her.

First, can you stand near her head and pat her with one hand while you are holding the clippers turned on in the other?  Does she toss her head at you, try to back away, or hold her head up high?  Until she can relax with the noise close to her face, I wouldn't force the issue.  Then once she can emotionally and physically handle the noise, try lifting the hand with the clippers and move it towards and away from her face without her trying to "get away."  If the hand you're holding her with has to hold on tight to keep her near you, she's telling she's not ready to accept the movement of the clippers.  I personally like to allow my horses to take a step if they feel it necessary when in an uncomfortable situation--as long as they bring their attention and body back to the task at hand once they've realized they are not being "forced" to stand in one spot.

Once you can turn on the clippers near her head and slowly move them in front of, below and behind her vision and without having her become stressed or concerned, I would lay them with the handle against her neck (close to her head area) and allow the vibration to be felt.  If this causes her concern, I'd give her a break and walk away... Then come back and repeat until she can relax with the vibration.  Then you can move the clippers while on, in a stroking motion along her neck, slowly working your way towards her facial area.  Eventually, you might see if you can allow the vibrating handle to rest in between her ears, and then you'd move the clippers away again... Once she accepts quietly all of the above steps, clipping her face or ears will not be an issue for her to stress about.

Again the overall goal is that you can ask a question of her and she can answer "yes" by showing you positive effort on her part!  

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Topic_Info:    fighting the bit
Name: bill lewis ont.canada
Website_Info:  surfing
Date:          01/01/2007

Question:  My 5 yr. old quarter horse supposedly has some training. He lets me mount but when I try to steer him he throws his head in the direction I'm pulling & starts prancing around.  I had a vet check his teeth she said there was no problem there. He just doesn't seem to know what I want him to do.

TEC Answer:
Thanks for writing.  You have actually answered your own question.  In your situation I would say the physical act of your horse not "accepting" or fighting the bit is not the issue, rather it is a symptom of a problem.  You are correct in thinking that it does sound like your horse does not understand what he is "supposed to do."  I'm going to cover this topic from a few different perspectives.

I will first talk about your rein aids.  Ideally, as the rider looks ahead to a specific place that they would like to ride to, they need to communicate this to their horse. They can do so by lifting their right or left rein to direct the horse to "follow the rider's thought." The horse should then look, consider and prepare to move towards the rider's desired direction.  When the rider raises his energy in the saddle and adds leg pressure, the horse should move off to where the rein has directed him.  All too commonly in the short "in between" time from using a rein and then asking for forward motion with the rider's seat and legs, many horses get "lost."  By the time the horse moves forward they have completely disregarded the earlier direction that came from the rider using the reins. This can happen in young and more experienced horses.  In some scenarios the more frustrated the rider is, the more severe their aids become.  This causes a horse to learn to become physically "shut down" towards strong aids.  When the horse ignores a rein or leg aid, most people recommend using stronger bits and perhaps spurs or a crop.  Again, people are addressing the basic issue of lack of clarity and confidence in the horse. 

If we translated this into people terms and I started giving you instructions in a foreign language you did not understand, my instructions would not mean anything to you.  But if I got frustrated because I felt you were not "paying attention" and you were "ignoring" what I was telling you--would yelling at you louder in the same foreign language make you understand what I was saying any better?  No, it would not.  Instead I would have to find a way to communicate with you that you would be receptive to and be able to understand.  The more you were able to understand me, the more I could communicate to you.  It is the same when riding horses. 

The more available your horse is to try, understand and learn, the "softer" and more "sensitive" your horse's response will be to your aids.  Below I will discuss some of the major gaps in young horses' training that cause basic things like "no steering" to arise.

I would guess in your horse's case and all too common in many others, the young horse's first exposure to being caught, groomed, tacked, ridden, etc. was done in a rushed setting with the trainer's priority and end goal being to accomplish whatever he or she had promised the horse's owner ahead of time. This creates a time "pressure" upon the trainer when starting/breaking a young horse.  This pressure felt by the trainer inevitably is conveyed to the horse through the manner and methods the trainer uses when working with the horse. 

I'd like to deviate here for a moment to mention there is a difference between "starting" a horse- which is where a person works with a horse to create a positive two way communication channel- versus "breaking" a horse. The latter typically refers to a person forcing a situation upon a horse with no consideration for the horse's mental, emotional and physical state of being.

When first started/broke many youngsters willingly tolerate the sudden large dosage of human interaction and direction.  The more they tolerate, the more that is asked of them.  Usually though, the young horse will eventually get into or be forced into a situation where they no longer feel that they can emotionally, mentally or physically deal with it.  This causes the horse to become overwhelmed and have what I call a "melt down."  Each horse will react and communicate depending on their natural personality. Remember horses are like people and each has an individual way of dealing with stress, positive reassurance, natural confidence, learning and so on.  

Some horses may implode and start to "shut down" or become less tolerant and available to what a human is asking of them- most people categorize them as dull or lazy horses.  Other horses could explode mentally and emotionally which you would then see when they physically "act out" aggressively or dangerously.  You might hear people classify these as stubborn, ill-willed or ornery animals.  What people forget is that the horse is trying to tell us something.  Typically, we ignore what they are attempting to convey if we do not "want" to hear what they are trying to say.  So the horse then has to get "louder" or "bigger" in how they tell us that they are having a problem until we finally do something about it. 

Most people miss the early stages of a horse starting to show signs and tell them that he is troubled by what is being asked of him.   People tend to forget to show an appreciation and respect towards the young horse that is trying or "learning quickly" by continuously demanding more and taking advantage of his natural willingness to try.    Just because a horse is going through the motions of exposure and learning does not mean that he is gaining confidence from his experiences... So he may "quietly" tolerate a situation a few times before he starts to show signs of stress, insecurity or fear. 

When young horses are regarded as "quiet" horses, most people tend to "fast-forward" their training and increase the level of difficulty of what is asked of them.  The first trainer who has access to a horse usually has limited time and access to the horse.  Many times young horses are sent home when a trainer would still like to work with them longer.  There are owners who create this limit due to financial restrictions.  Others have self-imposed time expectations and high demands of their young horse.  These owners are the types who want what I call "the MacDonald service."  Drive up, order it, and know exactly what you are getting when you drive away. The problem with this mentality is that we are dealing with animals that have their own set of feelings, emotions, thoughts, and experiences.   If a person ignores this, it will affect the quality of their horse's mental availability which will in turn affect the quality of their horse's physical performances. 

The problem is if a horse goes through the "typical" hurried starting/breaking routine, the horse will go home with a bit of insecurity.  This emotion might then be further reconfirmed if the horse's owner is inexperienced and cannot successfully help their horse get to a "happy place."  A young horse's level of worry and insecurity about things is based on their lack of understanding; this will only worsen if there is not clear communication between rider/owner and horse.  This causes each future situation to cause more stress on the young horse.  Signs of emotional and internal stress come out on the outside physically in all forms from weaving, cribbing, pawing, oral destruction of items, chewing, inability to "relax" or stand still, constant anxiety, and in your scenario- head tossing.

Another common factor with young horses is that people tend to forget that even if their horse looks physically big and strong, many times on the inside the horse is emotionally and mentally immature and needs the support from a human with the time, patience and understanding to offer the horse exposure to new situations in order to gain the "ideal" maturity and confidence we all would like to experience in our horses in the long run or final picture. 

So at five years old with "some" training- my assessment would be that your horse lacks overall confidence and maturity.  The more he can begin to feel like he can accomplish "little" tasks, the more his confidence, willingness to try and availability to "hear" what you're asking of him will increase. Soon, all the little "issues" and "annoyances" in his current behavior will go away.  I suggest finding a local trainer who prioritizes the horse's mental, emotional and physical well being to further his education and help you and he create a quality partnership in order to build a lasting relationship.

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Topic_Info:    Stall Banging 
Name: Melinda
Website_Info:  web
Date:          12/30/2006

Question:   I have a three year old Arabian and I board him at a stable. At feeding time he bangs his stall wall with his rear end. It sounds like the wall is going to come down.  He is lowest of his pecking order in his pasture and he is put beside the horse that is second in command.  He does it even worse if you put another horse beside him.  How can i get him to stop this or is it because he is young and impatient and he will grow out of it?  Any suggestions?

TEC Answer:
Thank you for writing.  Anxious behavior such as weaving, pawing, chewing, neurosis, stall banging, etc. commonly is a result of stress and frustration.  Whether a horse is in a mentally strenuous training session or is frustrated about having to fend off other horses for his food--these signs of anxiety can appear.  Immaturity is also a factor--if you relate your horse's current emotional and mental maturity to that of a five year old child you might see some similarities that I will mention.

If a child wants something and is ignored, typically he becomes louder or bigger in his attempt to get attention from someone who can help him with what he wants.  The child also has a limited capacity to see alternatives about how he can communicate what he wants.  So once he decides to act in a specific manner, he might continue this behavior until he receives his desired result.  If he does get what he wants, whatever action he made has now become a learned behavior.   In many cases he will quickly associate a specific behavior with a specific result.  This will become a pattern in how he communicates what he might be "asking" or "demanding."  His conclusion will be:  to get what you want, act a certain way, and you will receive whatever "it" may be. 

Now let's relay this back to your horse.  Because I do not know details of his history other than he is low man on the totem pole, I would have to gather between his young age and lack of action to challenge the other horses, he is naturally a bit insecure and lacking confidence.  If he was ever fed in a herd scenario with limited access to feed, I would assume his behavior at feeding time was a “calm” stress.  When in the pasture he probably did not exhibit the current obnoxious or "loud" behavior you currently are seeing, as this might have caused horses higher up the hierarchy to be offended and pick on him.  When he is fed alone in a stall, he may gain a false sense of security by not having to worry about being challenged by other horses, and therefore his behavior may seem more "aggressive" or "forward” in his request to be fed.

People tend not to notice most equine behavior until it becomes an “issue.”  Instead of addressing the initial small signs of distress or worry in your horse and diffusing them, they usually are ignored until they can not be overlooked.  Remember that the initial outward signs of stress may not be the same behavior you are currently witnessing at feeding time.  So how do you work with him?  I'd start by breaking down the "big" problem into attainable baby steps.  This is one of those situations where the more time you have the better.  Here are a few questions you might ask yourself:

A) Is your horse currently at a healthy weight or does he always seem to be on the "light" side? If he's light, I would first make sure there are not any health issues so that he is able to absorb the full nutrition from his feed.  Remember young horses have lots of teeth breaking through, and it may be painful for him to chew his food.  Many vets recommend checking and pulling wolf teeth at early ages.  Have you noticed remaining unprocessed hay (1/4" or longer) in his manure?  This is a sign that he's not chewing and gaining as many nutrients from his feed as possible.  What is the quality and quantity of the hay he is being fed?  Who designed his feeding program?  Sometimes barns limit what is offered to their boarders, and it may not be appropriate for your particular horse.  Is he on a current worming schedule?  There are numerous parasites that can prohibit your horse’s digestive system from attaining nutrition.

B)  What is your horse's actual behavior towards things in general--is he impatient for situations like:  tacking up, standing, mounting, etc. or is it just at feeding time?  If his anxiety is overall, you can start to address the areas mentioned above by literally taking baby steps--such as practicing "standing."  I half jokingly tell clients to take a book out into the pasture to spend time "waiting" with your horse.  In many cases with an impatient animal there is also a lack of emotional maturity (disregarding physical age) which leads to a horse wanting to think fifteen steps ahead of where he may be physically at in the moment.  If you can start to change any routine or pattern in how you interact with your horse it will help start him to learn how to "slow down" and have to consider whatever you "currently" ask rather than acting with constant anticipation.  Do not just catch him and tack him up in the same spot--tack him up somewhere else.  Get on in a different place.  Ride back and forth from the barn to the arena or trailhead a few times without ever going in/on either.  Mount and dismount.  Mount, ride for a while.  Then dismount and mount again.  Every time you offer him the opportunity to "repeat something unnecessarily" think of it as another opportunity to practice for an improved result.  Keep him on his toes...

C) How much trust and respect is there between you and your horse?  The more your horse can trust you, the more available he will be for you to "show him" there is not need to panic about getting fed. If he is worried about feed, I would start to offer feed throughout the day other than just at the "normal" times.  You might catch him, groom him, and play with him in a round pen or turnout... Then offer him a snack of roughage (no treats)... Then I would catch him again and continue on with whatever I wanted to work on with him.  Just as horses are drawn towards patternized behaviors, so are people.  If you start to offer feed at various times and locations other than when and where he currently expects it, he will gradually become less anxious about it.  Soon you would like to see if you can offer him a snack, have him take a few bites and then see if he can offer himself or present himself to you to be caught with feed still leftover.  Ideally you would like to be able to offer him feed while he is loose, and then call him to you and have him able to make a confident decision that he can come and “visit” with you while he still has the option of eating. 

The more your horse is reassured that he does not have to "defend" or "fight" to get fed, the less anxious and obnoxious his behavior will become.  Soon it will dwindle down to perhaps a little pawing and with maturity and reconfirmed positive experiences it will disappear altogether.

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Name:  Nessie
Website_Info: Browsing
Location: Bucks
Date: June 20, 2007

Trail Grazing

I have recently bought a new horse, but have not ridden him yet and have been told that he has a tendency that when out on a hack will try to eat leaves off trees and any grass in sight. He is a 15.2hh heavy weight cob gelding so he is strong. I have been given the chance to use a schooling whip when riding him. Is there any way I can stop him from doing this out on my ride with him? Any help would be appreciated, as my first ride on him will be a Sunday week.

TEC Answer:
Before a horse can try to eat on the trail, he must first think about eating while on the trail.  I would suggest if you kept his mind busy (such as where to walk, the quality of his paces, etc.) he probably would not have time to come up with alternative ideas such as eating.  If you watch his ears (which are indicators as to where his thoughts are) he will tell you way ahead of when he goes to eat.  If when you see him thinking about food, you can intercept his food thoughts by offering something else for him to focus on, he will quit eating. 

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Topic_Info:   Foundering
Full Name:   Bob
Website_Info:  Search
Location:  Michigan
Date:  June 06, 2007

Question:  How much is too much pasture grazing?  I recently purchased a 5-year-old gelding. The previous owner was feeding him a poor hay and grain diet. The previous owner suggested that when I get him home to only allow him to pasture feed for an hour a couple times a day for a week because the grass might be too rich for his diet and he may founder. I looked up foundering on the Internet and the topic refers to laminitis and hoof problems. Could the previous owner be mistaken and be thinking of colic? What's your thought on this and should I limit his outside feeding. By the way, I have been feeding him a good first cutting of grass/alfalfa hay during his stall time.

TEC Answer:
As I am not a nutritional expert I suggest you speak with one or your local vet.  Many university extension offices (find a local one near you) test the grass and hay quality in your area.  They can give you ideas of how rich and nutritious the local feed offered is which can then better help you assess how much of what you should be feeding your horses.  Just as with people, horses all have different metabolisms and each has a unique nutritional requirement.  Certain breeds and types of horses are more prone to founder than others.  Some of their requirements will be based on: how much exercise they get, their body type, their energy levels, their daily lifestyle (pen, pasture, stall, etc.) and so forth.  There should never be a sudden switch in diet for a horse.  You would gradually increase or decrease pastures time of grazing whether you were introducing your horse to it or removing him from it.  The ideal rule with feeding horses is "little and often"- so a grazing situation is ideal but may not work for your horse. Also keep in mind you might need to check his teeth for any sharp points or soreness.  You can feed the most nutritional food there is, but if your horse cannot chew and process the feed, there will be no nutritional value for him.

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Topic Info:  Fractured hock
Name:  kayleigh
Website Info:  Google
Location:  SC
Date:  May 03, 2007

Long Term Care
I have been looking for a pony and recently found a medium pony mare that really fit the bill. I was ready to buy her pending on the vet check. It was discovered that she had previously fractured her hock. The vet told me that there was 3500-dollar surgery that would give her a 50-50 shot at recovering. Is there anything else I could do to prevent surgery and keep her sound for light riding?

TEC Answer:
Every horse's body has different ways of healing.  Just as with people, there are some that walk away from horrendous accidents and never have any remaining injuries.  There are others who do not.  In talking about horses, keep in mind that you are making a commitment to take care of the animal for better or worse.  If you can honestly say that this pony is one that you would care for under any circumstance--and you have the time and budget to address all of her needs, she may work out well for you.  Without having time as a looming stress, you can experiment with how much work she can do.  She may be just fine, or you might find that she becomes sore after a certain type of work.  There are many alternative ways to influence how a horse's body functions such as chiropractors, massage therapists, acupressure, acupuncture, etc.  Many times "time" itself can be the best healer of all.

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Topic Info: Selling Horses
Name: Amanda Van Meter
Website_Info: Google
Location: Ohio
Date: May 31, 2007

Finding Good Homes
I'm selling my horses I've now had for three years, but that I have no time or money for anymore. They mean the world to me, and I want them to go somewhere where they'll get the attention they deserve, which I can't give them right now! I'm really nervous about starting the selling process. Is there any advice you can give me about putting them up for sale? And how to insure that the home they're going to will be perfect!

TEC Answer:
We all fret over where our beloved horses will go and what quality of life they will receive with their new owners.  When a perspective buyer calls you might have a list of "interview" questions ready for the potential buyer.  Think of everything that you feel is important for you to offer to your horses, and then turn these into questions you can ask interested callers.  If you know a particular horse has certain needs or special attention requirements you can ask the buyer their experience, ability, willingness and commitment to address these needs.  The more you encourage the buyer to talk, the more you will learn about them and how they view horse ownership.  Remember to go with your "gut" instinct.  Also remember to ask what they buyer's goal is--you knowing your horse can then decide if a possible match up would be appropriate or not.  Feel free to turn away people you do not feel comfortable with. Good Luck!

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Topic Info:   Worming
Name:          Jordan
Website Info:  ask.com
Location:   Harrisville, NY
Date:   01/22/2007

Question:  When I first started to worm my horse, my mom said she only worms her horses when they show signs because they could become immune to the medicine and there are only very few wormers you could use.  My horse's ribs are showing even though he has a hay belly.  A friend told me it sounds like worms so I wormed him and then again 28 days later.  Would a total of 3-4 times in a row be good for your horse or could you make him sick?  Please help!

TEC Answer:
Hello and thanks for writing.  First and foremost, I am not a veterinarian and I suggest you consult one to have an evaluation of your horse's condition.  I will suggest a few other ideas as to common problems when horses are unable to gain or maintain weight proportionally.

AGE & CONDITION:
I would first take into consideration the age and condition of your horse.  As horses age they tend to become sway back and lose some of their muscling.  In many cases they will begin to carry more weight around their barrel rather than equally throughout their body.  If your horse has not had much exercise for quite awhile, his general tone will be soft.

TEETH:
Next I would ask if your horse is current on his dental work.  Have his teeth been floated in the last six months to a year?  If he has any sharp hooks or points, it may be painful to eat and he may not be fully digesting his feed to get the most nutrients from it.  Some vets don't use a speculum to open the mouth fully.  Be sure you get a dental exam that really permits the vet to see way inside.  Check to see if pieces of hay larger than 1/4" can be found in his manure.  It will mean he's not chewing and digesting it well.

WEATHER:
Weather can also play a role--with cold or extreme weather, horses can drop a lot of weight quickly because their body will be working harder to maintain a warm temperature.  You might need to offer supplements to add the appropriate nutrients to help "bulk" his body up to fight the cold.  Also with cold temperatures make sure your horse has plenty of access to fresh water to keep him from dehydration or an impacted gut.

FEED QUALITY:
You can also look at the quality of the feed you are offering your horse.  Depending on where you are in the country currently, your hay might not be enough to offer your horse a balanced complete diet.  Often, hot blooded horses like Thoroughbreds and Arabs may need a feed with higher protein so alfalfa instead of grass hay could help. Timothy is a grass hay that is higher in calories. Other products like corn oil can add calories to the diet.  Of course, there are plenty of supplements on the market.  It's also possible to get your hay tested for deficiencies through your local university extension office.

COMPETITION:
Be sure if your horse is eating with other horses that he is not so low on the pecking order that the other horses eat his portion.  Always feed at least one more pile of hay than you have horses eating--something like musical feed in reverse!

VOLUME:
Do you weigh his portion of feed?  Don't just throw X number of flakes.  Depending on their activity horses should consume 3% of their body weight each day.  Use a weight tape from the feed store to find his weight.  Multiply that amount by .03.  Depending on his activity, that's how many pounds of feed a day your horse should be eating.  Often horses are fed twice a day but yours may need a lunch too.  It will help prevent him from soiling his feed especially if he's in a stall and walks on it.  Just take the total daily amount and feed it in several meals.

WORMERS:
There are numerous wormers available on the market that offer anything from daily to weekly to long term worming schedules.  Most can be offered in a powder or paste form.  You can open any tack and supplies magazine or look online to view your options.

ROTATION:
A common method to worming is to rotate wormers so that a resistance won't develop.  That just means don't always buy a wormer with the same main ingredient.  The ingredients and which worms they'll kill are on the box.  Aside from the new "add to the feed" wormers, generally it is suggested to worm every eight weeks throughout the year.  This is to insure that if the eggs that are not killed by the first worming develop into larvae, they will be taken care of on the second worming.  You'd think that would be enough, but it seems horses are able to reinfect themselves frequently so an eight week worming schedule is desirable.

WORMS:
The most common types of internal parasites are the following:

Large strongyles (bloodworms): They attack the intestines and can cause damage to blood vessels, the digestive track and other vital organs.  A common outcome is colic.

Small strongyles:  Another type of bloodworm that causes severe damage to the blood vessels and internal organs.  An infected horse may have a pot belly, dull coat, diarrhea, colic or anemia.

Ascarids (roundworms):  These are large worms that live in the small intestine and are commonly found in foals and young horses.  They can cause coughing, inflammation of the lining of the intestine and even cause the rupture of an intestine.

Botflies: The botfly lays its eggs on the hair of the horse's legs, shoulders and chin.  When the horse licks the eggs with his warm tongue, they loosen from the hair and enter the mouth and are swallowed. The eggs hatch and the larvae attach themselves to the lining of the stomach and can cause ulcers.  Eventually the larvae are passed out of the horse's system in the manure. The larvae become flies and fly away to bother the horse on another day.

Pinworms:  These live in the large intestine and irritate the rectum causing a horse to rub his tail.  A gray or yellow discharge is a sign of pinworms.

ACTION:
A few thoughts about keeping your horse parasite free:

Deworm your horse on a regular schedule such as every 8 weeks.

Avoid keeping too many horses in small pastures.  Horses in large pastures are less exposed to worms.

Avoid overgrazing as horses typically will not eat grass near manure (which can be contaminated with parasites) unless the rest of the grass is gone.  Rotate pastures to allow time for the parasites to die.

Pick up as much manure from your pastures as possible.

Keep your hay, feed and water from being contaminated with manure.

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Topic_Info: Slowing The Lope
Location:  Oregon

Question:  I have an 8 year old Arabian reining stallion that has been in training with several different trainers including a Quarter Horse trainer. He was Top Ten National Champion at US Nationals in 2006 but even then he only seems to have one speed when it comes to the lope (or should I say gallop). He is not out of control I can control him with leg pressure or by placing the inside or outside rein on his neck but it feels like he is constantly going 100 MPH. I just want to be able to slow him down without having to continually hold him back with the reins. If I let him run circles like a race horse, I ride him with an extremely loose rein and he stays collected. As far as his whoa, the minute you say the word you'd better not be standing up in the stirrups. I would love to be able to show him western pleasure but he is just too fast he'd be running laps around all the other horses in the ring. Do you have any tips on getting a nice western pleasure lope?

TEC 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.  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 he knows what is being asked of him, 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 him an alternative idea- liking loping slow.  Think of his 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 and performed well, 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 his lack of willingness to lope at various speeds.  Because he is currently confident that when asked to lope 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 how you are using what aids, when, why and with how much pressure and then break down exactly when your horse mentally "tunes you out."  Remember that a horse can feel a fly land on his skin, if you are creating a lot of "activity" with your aids and not getting a response, your horse is tuning you out. 

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 he 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 his 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 he can "let it go" and try another response. 

The faster you acknowledge that he achieved your "ideal" response, (giving him a break, move on to something else, etc.,) the more confidence he will have to increase his 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 lope, or perhaps you may not have noticed, but I would guess, that asking him to perform various energy levels within the walk, jog/trot, he probably also has a difficult time doing- this only becomes worse the faster he moves, which is why at a lope he feels slightly out of control.   

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. In reining your horse probably has been conditioned to perform the pattern, rather than waiting for specific cues or direction from you.  You need to have his mind available at all times to consider what you are asking, even if in the middle of a pattern. If you can influence his mind, then you can change his outward actions.  The more he realizes you are helping him throughout the ride, rather than fighting to control his speed, the more sensitive he 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 moving, so if your horse is moving too fast, offer him a circle, turn or specific task that will act as something to get his brain to slow down, and tune back in to where he currently is at.  You can slowly make the task more specific, until he offers to slow down... then continue on with your ride as if nothing interrupted you... Soon it'll only take one rein about to offer him a circle, turn, etc.  and he'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 him 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 the other 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 he is not trying to act naughty, rather he is asking for your help. 

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Name: Terrie
Subject: Starting a Young Horse

Question:  I have a 16 month old Paint that I have bounded with very well she
accepted the bridle and now saddle, but what age can I actually get on her
back.


TEC 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 are physically mature
enough to ride.  Each horse should be assessed as an individual as to where
their maturity is and when they are ready to ride.  Also keep in mind that
educating a horse is a long term project.   

In too many cases 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 started to act
up.  People tend to get distracted by the physical action of getting on
instead of focusing on where their horse's brain is.    Your horse's
physical actions are a 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
for you to get on. You want the experience to be a positive one so that she
has those "warm and fuzzy" feelings towards you and wants to participate

There is a LOT of preparation that should go into educating your horse
before you get on her for the first time.  A few things to consider include:
  having her stand quietly while you "fuss" around her, being respectful of
pressure, accepting your weight in one stirrup as you "hop" simulating the
beginning of mounting up, etc.  She'll need to be desensitized to movement
above where the saddle would sit, around her head, sides, stomach, etc.
She'll need to understand how to respond to aids you present from the ground
which would be 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 times 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.  Always stop on a positive
note.  As she gets more comfortable and balanced with you sitting on her,
she'll tell you when she's ready to learn more.  The "common" age for most
horses's knees to be closed and to be started is around three years old.
Typically they are ridden a few times, then turned back out until they are
about four years old.  For me personally I'd rather take my time when
starting my horses rather than force a lot of them early on and then have
them become bitter and frustrated from being overwhelmed causing them to
break down mentally and physically later. 

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Name: Lyndsey
Subject: Head Shy Horse

Question: I have a 19 year old thoroughbred x who has become head shy since
I've got him which was about 4 months ago. Originally it was just his bridle
he didn't like, but now he won't let me halter him either. I have had his teeth
checked etc by a vet and all is ok. Just wondered if you could give me any
advice as everytime 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

TEC 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 that
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
challenge. The challenge masks the insecurity he is 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 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 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 wants to participate rather than tolerating you.  At 19 he's pretty
confident in his opinions about people.  You may have to learn how to
present things in a new and interesting way that will 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 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 physically obvious, disruptive or
unmanageable.  I suggest each day that you work with him, you approach him
as having a blank slate.  This can be disheartening 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 focusing on the basic understanding of pressure:
spatial, physical and vocal.  Under guidance someone can help point out his
body language so that you will begin to understand that there is a reason
why your horse does every single thing he does.  You can then learn in a
calm, quiet and clear manner, how to influence your horse emotionally and
mentally, which then influences his outward behavior and attitude towards
you. 

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Name: Claudia
Subject: Anti-Social towards other horses

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 pecking 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 sameconcept 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


TEC 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, and the second is even if she is insecure she needs to
learn how to deal with it 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?"

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 the 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 read from all of this 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 are an attention demanding task on
both of our parts.)  You may have to go back and assess how quality the
relationship is 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 "Control the horse's feet in order to influence the brain."
I actually present the opposite, "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 mental
availability and then the follow through with the 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 motion of movement without
ever thinking or looking about where they are going.)  Then if you ask her
to step towards that direction, the front leg closest to where you would
like him to step should move first.  (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
softness in her step and a bend in her body if she feels "good" and is
committed as to where she is moving.  (If not it will feel 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 getting what the
rider has asked of them wrong, that they would rather not try anything at
all rather than make a wrong movement and get reprimanded for it. 

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
are 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
strong as possible, and then whatever scenario presents itself, you will be able
to address in small steps (figuratively and literally) 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.

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Name: Laura
Subject: Bad attitude-Herd Bound Behavior

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. With the 6 year old how do I get
her 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
Please help me. 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. PS I cannot afford to send her to a
trainer.


TEC 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 with 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 so 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.

f 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.   

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Name: Krystal
Subject: Pushy Gelding

Question: Hi I picked up two horses last week in bad health; one is awesome
very well behaved but the gelding has a bad problem. He is fine to catch but
when I go to lead him anywhere he's 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's
very under weight but I can put his food out and he will still stop and not
move. The mare iI got from the same place in the same condition is fine; she
will walk when asked and 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. I don't want anything bad to
happen to him. He's a beautiful horse; he's just been mistreated and is lacking
trust in people.If you could please advise on anything it would be ace. Thanks
for your time.


TEC 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.

His 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 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
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 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 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.
 

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Topic Info:    Show Jumping Faults
Name: Lily
Website Info:  google
Location:      Banbury, England
Date:  4/9/07

Question:  How many faults (penalty points) do you get for knocking down a fence or a refusal in Show Jumping?

TEC Answer:
Hunters or Jumpers?

People unfamiliar with horse shows may be confused by the difference between show hunter classes and jumper classes.  Hunters are judged subjectively on how they meet an ideal standard or manners, style and way of going.  Jumper classes are scored entirely on a numerical score determined only by whether the horse attempts the obstacle, clears it, and finishes the correct course in the allotted time.

Jumper courses tend to be much more complex and technical than hunter courses because riders and horses are not being judged on style.  Hunters have meticulous turnout and tend toward very quiet, conservative horse tack and rider attire.  Hunter bits, bridles, crops, spurs and martingales are tightly regulated.  Jumpers, while caring for their horses and grooming them well, are not scored on turnout, are allowed a wide range of equipment, and riders may wear less conservative attire, so long as it stays within the bounds of the rules.  However, formal turnout is always preferred, and a neat rider gives a good impression at shows.

Course and Rules - Show Jump Course

Jumper classes are held over a course of show jumping obstacles, including verticals, spreads, double and triple combinations, usually with many turns and changes of direction.  The purpose is to jump cleanly (without faults-penalty points) over a set course within an allotted time. The faults are assessed for exceeding the time allowance.  Jumping faults are incurred for knockdowns and blatant disobediences, such as refusals (when the horse stops before a fence or "runs out").  See "Modern Rules" below.  Horses are allowed a limited number of refusals before being disqualified.  A refusal can also lead to a rider going over the time allowed on course.  Placings are based on the lowest number of points or "faults" accumulated.  Tied entries usually have a jump-off over a raised and shortened course, and the course is timed; if entries are tied for faults accumulated in the jump-off, the fastest time wins.  In most competitions, riders are allowed to walk both the course and the jump-off course before the competition to plan their ride.  The horses are not permitted to see any part of the course prior to their competitive round.

The more professional the competition, such as "A" rated shows in the United States, or the international "Grand Prix" circuit, the more technical the course.  Not only is the height and sometimes width ("spread") of an obstacle increased to present a greater challenge, technical difficulty also increases with tight turns and shorter or unusual distances between fences.  For example, a course designer might set up a line so that there are six and a half strides (the standard measure for a canter stride is 12 feet) between the jumps, requiring the rider to adjust the horse's stride dramatically in order to make the distance.

Unlike show hunter classes, which reward calmness and style, jumper classes require boldness, scope, power, accuracy, and control; speed is also a factor, especially in jump-off courses and speed classes (when time counts even in the first round).  A jumper must jump big, bravely, and fast, but he must also be careful and accurate to avoid knockdowns and must be balanced and rideable in order to rate and turn accurately.  A jumper rider must ride the best line to each fence, saving ground with well-planned turns and lines and must adjust the horse's stride for each fence and distance.   In a jump-off, a rider must balance the need to go as fast as possible and turn as tightly as possible against the horse's ability to jump cleanly.

History of Show Jumping

Show jumping is a relatively new equestrian sport.  Until laws were passed in England during the 18th century, there had been little need for horses to routinely jump fences.  The Enclosures Act brought fencing and boundaries to many parts of the country as common ground was dispersed amongst the wealthy landowners.  This meant that those wishing to pursue fox hunting needed horses which were capable of jumping these obstacles.

In the early shows held in France, there was a parade of competitors who then took off across country for the jumping.  This sport was, however, not popular with spectators as they could not watch the jumping.  Thus, it was not long before fences began to appear in the arena.  They became known as Lepping.  Fifteen years later, Lepping competitions were brought to England and by 1900 most of the more important shows had Lepping classes.  Women, riding side-saddle, had their own classes.

The first major show jumping competition held in England was at Olympia in 1907.  Most of the competitors were members of the military and it became clear at this competition and in the subsequent years that there was no uniformity of rules for  the sport.  Judges marked on their own opinions.  Some marked according to the severity of the obstacle and others marked according to style.  Before 1907, there were no penalties for a refusal and the competitor was sometimes asked to miss the fence to please the spectators.  The first courses were built with little imagination; many consisting of only a straight bar fence and a water jump.  A meeting was arranged in 1923 which led to the formation of the British Show Jumping Association in 1925.  In the United States, a similar need for national rules for jumping and other equestrian activities led to the formation of the American Horse Show Association in 1917, now known as the United States Equestrian Federation.  Show jumping was first added to the Olympic Games in 1912 and has thrived ever since.

Modern Rules

The two most common types of penalties are jumping penalties and time penalties.

  • Jumping Penalties:  Jumping penalties are assessed for refusals and knockdowns, with each refusal or knockdown adding four faults to a competitor's score.
  • Penalties for knockdowns are imposed only when the knockdown changes the height of the jump.  If a horse or rider knocks down a bottom or middle rail while still clearing the height of the obstacle, they receive no penalties.  Penalties at open water occur when the horse touches the water or white tape with any of his feet.  If a rail is set over the middle of the water, faults are not accumulated for landing in the water.
  • Refusals now are penalized four faults, up from three.  Within the last several years, the FEI has decreased the number of refusals which result in elimination from three to two, and this rule has trickled down from the top levels of FEI competition to all levels of horse shows (at least in the United States).
  • A refusal that results in the destruction of the integrity of a jump (running into the fence instead of jumping it, displacing poles, gates, flowers, or large clumps of turf or dirt) will not receive four faults for the knockdown, but instead the four faults for a refusal and an additional penalty while the timer is stopped for the repair or replacement of the jump.  A refusal inside a combination (one- or two-stride) must re-jump the entire combination.
  • Time Penalties:  In the past, a common timing rule was a 1/4 second penalty for each second or fraction of a second over the time allowed.  Since the early 2000s, this rule was changed by the FEI so that each second or fraction of a second over the time allowed would result in 1 time penalty (e.g. with a time allowed of 72 seconds, a time of 73.09 seconds would result in 2 time faults).

This information was found at the USEF Web site, Equestrian Sports, Connemaras and Show Jumping Hall of Fame Inductees

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