Don’t Rush Your Horse

I’ve ridden, trained, bred, and competed in the horse world for over 50 years now. I learned the same thing that just about everyone does:

  • that you need the right bit to stop and control your horse.
  • you kick to make the horse go.
  • Spurs are to make them run faster (or spin harder or whatever)
  • Whips are for punishment.

Every bit of it is wrong. Yep, WRONG.

Took me a long time to learn that, but I finally did. Here’s the truth:

  • Your seat stops your horse–you don’t even need a bridle or reins.
  • Your weight and legs direct your horse-bits and reins really are superfluous.
  • Likewise, the way you  use your seat and legs can be the throttle that increases or decreases speed, increases or decreases relaxation or collection.
  • Spurs and whips should be used for signaling only. There are very few instances when punishment is warranted. Why? Because 99% of the time, YOU are the one who missed the signals the horse was giving and was trying to tell you something was off. YOU are the screw up. So if you just want to beat the crap out of somebody, go take yourself out behind the barn.

Now then–about that waiting on your horse stuff. 10790_592824257459405_128563812_n

Let the horse tell you when they are ready for the next step of doing anything. Break everything down into SMALL steps. For example, I have a trailer with a ramp. So to get one to load onto that trailer, I start with just asking one to pass by me and walk ACROSS THE RAMP. Then maybe I’ll feed them with the feed way up high on it so they have to reach for it-maybe even putting a foot on the ramp to get to it. No pressure-just if you want, go after it. Then maybe I’ll load a pasture mate and feed them inside.  Then I ask the newbie to just approach-they don’t have to load, just approach. I’ll let them stand-think about it-back up, then we’ll work for awhile. Repeat. After awhile, they start getting the idea “hey, if I approach the trailer, I get to stand and rest, but if I’m out here, I’m out running around”.

Usually takes about two hours to get one on for the first time. Let them eat, then back off and put them up. Let it soak. Don’t force it. Let the horse ask for another try at it. Let them get comfortable in there. Just grab a cold one and sit in the shade.

How do I know this works? I used this on my CTR horse. That horse would load any time any where-and what’s more, he’d stand in that trailer until I asked him to come off. One time I dropped both the ramp and the butt bar, but got called away before I unloaded him. He was still waiting for me 45 minutes later. He was not tied, but just waiting on me.

Don’t rush your horse.

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A Great Horse Will Do Whatever You Ask, A Great Horseman Will Never Ask

I read some equestrian news yesterday that Sinead Halpin retired one of her top mounts, and she quoted her husband, Tik Maynard, as saying, “A great horse would jump through fire for you if you asked, and a great horseman would never ask.” I can think about this for hours. It might be one of […]

via Never Ask — Patently Bay

I’m sharing this because I love the quote-I love the wisdom in it.  I think you will, too.

 

 

What Horses Can Teach Us-Part Two

cave painting

Watch a mixed group of horses-mares, foals, and, preferably, stallions. Just watch them. Don’t interfere and stay well back.

The myth says that there’s a stallion and he runs the show. The mares do his bidding and he determines where they go and so on. The myth also says that once a stallion gets a herd of his own, it is his for the rest of his life.

Somebody lied to you. And sucker that you are to the mystique of the big bad stallion, you bought in-hook, line, and sinker. It’s not true-not a word of it.

A MARE leads the band-she’s the wise one-and she’ll tell the stallions which mare to breed and when, where the band will graze, when they will go to water, and where safety lies. If said stallion sufficiently gets into her bad side, she’ll run him off and find a new one. By the same token,  if some young brat comes up and picks on her favorite, she’ll go deliver a few good kicks herself.  But SHE runs things-and you know what they say about if Mama ain’t happy?!

The crazy thing is-the bands are not carved in stone. They’ll mix and mingle-then split apart again with different individuals added and subtracted. The young stallions generally are pushed to outside and will band together as young males of all species will do to tussle and rough house. In essence, they’re told to go grow up some more. The fillies are in with the older mares to learn the ways of the herd.

Unlike humans, it is the mares who determine the success of the bands-not the stallions. The stallions may bluster and bully, but they do not control the fate of anything. Now I know you may see the ‘stealing’ of a mare or the ‘snake neck’ driving postures of a stallion, but believe me, if the mares didn’t want to go, they wouldn’t. If you don’t believe me, watch the video on YouTube of the mare defending herself and her newborn against 5 or 6 young stallions. She says ‘no thanks’ and enforces it. The boys come away with nothing.

Contrast this to human cultures. Where women are either in control or at least equal in value to men, the society is peaceful both inside and in its relationships externally. Historically, this has always been true. During the reigns of Queen Elizabeth of England, Queen Isabella of Portugal, and Queen Cleopatra of Eqypt to name but three, their countries flourished, exploration was encouraged, and alliances of all kinds were made. Their vision and courage to seek change and challenge the norms of the day were in direct contrast to the advice of their male advisors. Like the mares, they chose the males in their circles and would drive out the ones who displeased them. They were also unafraid to pitch the males against one another-much like the stallion bands.

A little estrogen in leadership is not a bad thing.

Another observation is that, as most of us willingly admit, women supply most of the organization, planning, labor, communications, supply, and execution of 96% of anything real done in any committee, group, church, non-profit, company, corporation, or government agency anywhere. We simply have been trained not to take the credit for our work-the men usurp that from us. It is high time that stopped. If you don’t do the work, you shouldn’t get the credit. It really is that simple. Perhaps we human mares need to learn to do a few double barrelled hind leg kicks-or at least the threat of them-to teach some of these “p***** grabbing’ men a little respect. Possession of a large credit limit should have nothing what so ever to do with respect for a female’s person. (I’ve never seen a mare yet that inquired about a stallion’s pedigree or barn of residence. I have seen them require being treated with extreme care and deference-to the point that we have joked that one wanted diamonds, champagne, caviar, and a Rolls limo before she would give in!)

 

 

 

What Horses Can Teach Human About Life-Intro

Humans have, over the centuries, learned to become worshippers of the warriors and predator mindset. In doing that, we’ve lost a great deal in being able to know ourselves and those who love us, live with us, and work with us. I find that incredibly sad.cave painting

But-and this is important-horses can bring this back to us. They have always held this wisdom. They use it every day in their interactions with each other, with humans, and with other species. All we have to do-incredibly enough-is open our eyes, ears, and minds to learn.

How is this possible?

Watch how a mare teaches her foal. She’ll nudge the baby towards her udder. But in a couple of weeks, after the baby has learned to nurse and found out that bumping her hard and pulling hard will make the milk come down faster, she’ll object if the baby bites and hurts her. She’ll nip it in the rear quickly-but if the baby does it again, she may deliver a fast cow kick AND a nip to the butt plus a total refusal to allow junior access to the diary bar. There’s no loud “boo-yah”, fist pump, or anything else. It’s quick, quiet, and Junior is just left standing some distance away from mom wondering what the heck just happened. The lesson?  Treat me right or you don’t get what you want-and you get left socially isolated. Not fun-but it is surely effective.

Likewise, as young horses mature, they interact with each other and adult horses learning to find their own place within a herd’s hierarchy. A ear position, the gesture of the head and neck, the whipping of the tail or a tail held high or in a clamped position, rearing, striking, a single or a double hind leg kick-all of these translate to messages that horses use to convey emotions, warnings, and information. They are masters of reading body language. Not just equine body language-but that of their entire environment-which includes that of other animals, both prey and predators (including humans). In fact-they are ‘hard-wired’ for the job then trained by their dams and herd mates into black belt masters. Even the dullest is good at it. We are the dullards. 

 

 

EU Standards, Canadian, Mexican, and Possibly USA Packing Plants

Please note: I do not and never have advocated for equine slaughter. I know that there are those that do and I fully understand the arguments pro and con. I am not going there-not because I can’t argue the points, but because that ground has other people willing, able, and with the time, passion, and patience to do so. I consider it a fight I’m not willing to engage in. Plenty of others fighting those battles-I have other agendas. Just for the record-the first known recorded use of a horse was-dinner. Cave horse hunting

My reason for putting this up is informational in purpose. As my followers know, I volunteer fairly heavily with Stolen Horse International. Some of the horses we locate will be located at sales or headed for these plants. So we do have an interest in what is going on internationally in this realm. It impacts what we do.

For example: the European Union (EU) embargo against the Mexican plants cut their production significantly-and that meant they had to find different customers if they wanted to stay open. They have managed to rebound to some extent, but not all the way. (The embargo there had to do with the cleanliness of the plants, the methods used, as well as residues of drugs in the meat.) We are still shipping ~100,000 animals/year there.

Contrast that to Canada where the EU doesn’t have the same problems with the plant operations, but does with the meat being tainted with drug residues. Hence the order that too, effect on March 1, 2017, that all equines processed there must have resided in Canada for a minimum of 6 months prior. Before this, the USA shippers were shipping ~60,000 animals/year across the northern border. Now, granted, horses can still be processed-just not for the EU. They can still be shipped live to Japan, for example, for the same purpose. No problem there at all.

The USA also has a couple of plants making noises about tooling up to start processing horses here-which has certain groups in loud protests. So far, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not turned loose of funding for inspectors for that purpose, and, until they do, noise is all we’ll get out of those plant owners. With the climate change in Washington, D. C., however, it is anybody’s guess how long the FDA can hold out. Standards of other agencies are being gutted by the new administration wholesale. Will this one go as well? No one knows.

For us, we are watching and waiting to see how this all shakes out. We will move in response to the actions of the KBs and the trucks. We go where the horses and the trail leads us.

Paulick report on Canadian plants

on eating horse meat

horse meat scandalJackBlackBand

 

Breaking vs Training vs Relationship

bronc We’ve all seen the rodeo bronc rider-and we may have ridden a few bucks in our days of riding. I know I have-none as seriously into as a rodeo horse, but definitely intended to deposit my fanny somewhere other than where it was at the time. Only one consistently successful was a Shetland pony mare who, as it happened, foaled the next day. No one had a clue. But she could buck!

Most of us are pretty much of the persuasion (or at least I hope we are) that the old grab a wild one out of the corral, rope him, throw a saddle on him, and climb up with the objective of riding the bucks out of the horse ‘eventually’ is at best ineffective, hard on both man and horse, and makes for a horse that is never totally reliable. Any time you train with force and fear you can never truly trust that the training will hold when you need it the most.

But it was fast-or so they thought at the time. We now know that if you take enough time to start with that it will take less time in the long run. I know for a fact it sure does save a lot of wear and tear on both human and horse.

lunging But if you don’t do it that way, do you do it this way? Do you use all the straps, bits, lines, and gimmicks? Don’t get me wrong-I’ve got a few in my barn. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. What I can tell you now-after 50 years of study, experimentation, and a lot of thought-is this-most of this stuff is pretty damn near useless and is humans trying to find a way to shortcut their way into doing things correctly. Bottom line-if you aren’t getting the result that you want, you aren’t asking the horse the correct question. It is not the horse that is wrong-it’s you. And it nearly knocked me on my fat fanny when I realized that.

dressagesans Which brings me to this-why are we still requiring dressage competitors to use double bridles, spurs, and a dressage whip, when you can get the exact same frame as Xenophon’s horse without a bridle or a saddle? Dressage should be about the communication between horse and rider, shouldn’t it? In its purest form, you should not need anything. What do you see with this horse? Face is vertical, fully collected, round and beautiful sitting trot. Isn’t this what we are really after?

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The Curse of Perfectionism

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First of all, a reminder-these are my opinions and they are based on 50+ years of working with all kinds of horses. However, if you disagree, feel free to keep on going. I know not everybody is going to agree with me. In fact, I’ve spent most of my life out of  step with the rest of the world so it is nothing new to me. But do not attempt to change my viewpoints by charging in and ‘correcting’ me. It simply will not work. I’ll ignore you.

This photo is on top because I see a lot-no, make that TONS-of horses wearing snaffles and flash nose bands. I did it, too, for awhile with a young horse until he made it quite plain that the arrangement pissed him off to no end. (Always pay attention to what your horse is telling you, folks. My riding instructor kept telling me to do this or that, but I listened to HIM. He was shaking his head, pulling on the reins, opening his mouth, not listening, dropping his shoulder, etc. The problem lay in the bridle-it hurt.) So I set about learning about bits, nosebands, hands, and why they are used. It isn’t pretty the majority of the time.

Nose bands were originally nothing more than a way to tie your horse without using the reins in the military/driving days. They had a ring underneath and were always fairly heavy leather worn loosely enough that the horse could chew his ration in a nose bag. Some person somewhere along the line got the ‘brilliant’ idea that they could force a horse’s mouth closed by putting a few more holes in the thing. Why did they want to?

correct-snaffle-bit-horse_s-mouth-1-8-800x800

This is why-if you put something into a mouth and it can be steel, plastic, rubber, leather-you can find ways to create pain. Now I’m NOT saying that you shouldn’t use bits-but you should understand that ALL bits are capable of creating ENORMOUS pain. There is no such thing as a ‘mild’ bit. All that varies is the knowledge and skill of the hands that use it. A thick snaffle in the hands of a fool can be the instrument of extreme torture to a horse. By the same token, there are some people who can get horses to perform world class dressage bridleless. I’ve ridden a finished spade bit horse that could be handled with a feather’s touch on the reins and the nose band was for decoration only.

People want the end-without the work involved to get there. 

Now I’m a perfectionist myself-and I  can get as frustrated as the next person about my horses’ performance as anyone else. So don’t even start down that road with me. You do have the time to work with that horse-you just don’t want to take it. You’d rather take the shortcut of hurting your horse-causing pain-and justifying it to yourself as ‘but everybody else does it’, ‘my trainer recommended it’, ‘my horse wasn’t listening to me’, blah, blah, blah. Go ahead-add any you wish-I’ve heard them all-and they are all EXCUSES FOR POOR HORSEMANSHIP. That’s unacceptable.

The third photo is another type of nose band being marketed. Notice that it is supposedly more ‘humane’ because it avoids the jaw bones covered only with skin. Well, isn’t that nice, folks? But now we have a strap higher on the jaw to help hold the jaw closed and better bracing across the nose bridge. The horse loses even more. (Actually, you do, too.
The thing is pricey.)noseband

 

 

 

 

I didn’t put any Western, endurance, or other disciplines in this-mostly for space reasons. They are just as much at fault as the English branch. If there is a way a human can inflict pain and suffering on a horse, by golly, they’ll find it and do it.

Am I one of those nuts who thinks horses shouldn’t be ridden? Oh, heck, no. I do think that a great many of the gizmos (chambons, draw reins, martingales, gambons, tie downs, etc.) should be recognized for what they are and thrown in the land fills. If you think you need something like that-get a motorcycle or ATV and leave the horse alone. As one person puts it “If you keep getting the wrong answer, then you aren’t asking the right question.”  See the last photo for an example of that-the rider isn’t getting the ‘frame’ that was desired so rollkur was resorted to to achieve it. The wrong question was being asked so the wrong answer was given. The horse is paying the price for the humans’ quest for perfection.

rollkur_flailing