Safety and Being a Spoil Sport-This Lady and I Have A Lot In Common

It’s time for the annual reminder that horses are not dirt bikes.

via Safety and Being a Spoil Sport. — Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

One of the reasons that I don’t board horses and almost completely refuse to teach is that I am a “Nazi” for safety for both horse and rider and insist on respect for the horses. Breach any of that and you will have some tart, sometimes cutting remarks made in your direction-with no apologies offered. I won’t apologize for caring about safety-yours or the horse’s. When it comes to respecting the horse, while I will demand that the horse respect my space, I will also demand that YOU respect HIS/HERS. There are no ‘stupid’, ‘dumb’, or anything horses. There are, however, inconsiderate, thick, and downright rock-headed people.

So this other writer’s blog sounded rather familar to me. She might even be on the same wavelength.

There Be Boogers Out Here

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If you’ve been around horses for any appreciable length of time, you’ve dealt with something like this-the unexplainable-known only to the horse-but you’ve still got to cope with it BOOGER leap that they come up with. The height and prior warning can vary tremendously, and what follows can take on many forms-from simply standing and stamping all four feet in place with eyes bugged out to the vertical AND sideways leap combined with a 180 spin and sprint for a minimum of a half mile. (And, before you ask, yes, I’ve managed to ride and survive that maneuver. Do not ask how-I don’t know.)

Having seven horses in my pastures means that when the power company sent two MONSTER boom saw machines in to trim the tree limbs away from the lines, I got to see seven different versions of the ‘Booger’ reaction. (Can’t say that I blame them-those machines were impressive. Dually equipped wheels that are tractor sized front and back with a boom that must reach 80-90 feet, the driver sits in a cab that rotates to follow the boom. To a horse, that big noisy thing WAS a booger!)

We couldn’t decide which was more entertaining-watching the boom saw or the horses’ reaction to the intrusion. I do appreciate them giving those horses a great workout. I do have a couple of untrained mares-and got a glimpse of what I have in store for when I get them under saddle. Let’s just say it should be interesting. I hope they take care of me. I don’t bounce like I used to. Ground has gotten harder. Two more-then I am done training youngsters.

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?

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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

Learning the Right Way

This is something that, in my experience, 99% of people will not take the time to do. Oh, there’ll be those who will SAY they do and some of them will even do to the lengths of hanging out a shingle of being a “certified ___ level trainer of the ____ ” school of thought. I know, I know-there are a boatload of trainers out there and there are almost as many YouTube videos decrying each and every one of them because of ……….

Let me tell you my thoughts. A real professional doesn’t need to bad mouth anybody. They just don’t. It isn’t necessary. You find somebody who is trying to tear somebody down? RUN LIKE HELL. They have issues that you do not want to deal with and one of them is going to be ‘it’s my way or the highway’. They’re control freaks.

Look for somebody who takes lessons and who is humble enough to know that there is still something to learn-in equitation, horsemanship, horsekeeping, psychology, education of horses and people, nutrition, farriery, dentistry, massage therapy, etc.  Make sure that you check to make sure that the lessons have changed over time to reflect advances in knowledge. But also make sure that there is a deep respect for the ways of old that worked.

Just going with the clinician that is popular or the one that your barn favors may or may not be the best idea. I know it can be hard to be the only one who does _____ in a barn that does something else. I’ve been there. Remember this-you can teach them some new stuff-I know I did and started a number of them questioning what they were doing. It’s okay to do that.

Where did I end up? Parelli. I’m not totally on board with everything, but it comes closest to what I want. More later.