Your horse is confused…Open the door!

Opening the door.

“Open the door” ? Make sure the horse has an exit somewhere. When the reins are drawn in tighter for the riders security it closes all doors on the horse, he has nowhere to go and it can make him uneasy and panicky especially if he is being cued with the riders legs to move on, it confuses the horse and in turn can make him fear your cues each time you ask for a lope transition. If he begins to fear your cues, you get a horse that rushes the transition, head up, back hollowed and if anxiety affects them bad enough his ears will pin back, his muzzle gets that narrowed, closed look. Your horse takes on a “Gurn” Irish word for grumpy, sour gutted look! You definitely don’t want that!

Here is an exercise to help you understand how to open the door.

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Tis the season for Lice

I received a question the other night – “How do you get rid of Lice?”

Strangely, I was putting this weeks article together…about lice in our horses, how funny.

So anyway here it is…

I usually find that nearing the end of winter into spring is when I find lice appearing on horses. Believe me, it doesn’t matter how well cared for a horse is, they still get lice…some worse than others.

Lice are tiny parasitic insects that live in the hair coat of horses. Lice are species-specific, meaning that bird lice generally won’t live on people or dogs, horse lice don’t typically infect people. You’re not likely to get lice from your horse or pass them on to your cat. Lice infestations can be but are not necessarily an indication of poor care and/or poor nutrition. They can be common in stables like training stables and racing stables, where close quarters and shared equipment make the spread of lice easy. They can also be found on our horses that are turned out for the winter in the paddock, they don’t have to be stabled to pick up lice and they simply love dwelling on a hairy, rug covered horse, lice are not partial to sunlight, the darker and hairier the better for them.

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Three Speeds to the walk

We all know the usual gaits of the horse when showing, they being the walk, jog, lope in the Western pen. Riders may be asked to show their horse with a lengthened stride at all three gaits. Then there is the trot, canter and gallop or hand gallop when showing in English.

As with any gait, cadence is key. A walk has four distinct beats, whether it has an extended stride or a normal step. Keeping that cadence in mind is essential to maintain a true gait. A correct walk should be free-flowing, ground-covering, four-beat walk, with no hesitation or interruption of forward movement. The horse’s topline should be level, his expression bright, and his ears up. He should look as if he’s going places. Incorrect would be like this: The horse’s stride is shortened he will not be rhythmic, won’t have a forward-moving appearance with four-beat cadence. He may have pauses in his stride, he may be travelling with a dropped head and be behind the vertical in the face. When a horse is behind the vertical it won’t say “relaxed and graceful”; it will say “hesitant and intimidated.”

The Walk

What speed the walk?

  • The walk is a natural, flat-footed, four-beat gait.
  • The horse should be alert and move straight with a stride of reasonable length in relation to its body.

One thing I like to teach the horse is 3 speeds of walk. The reason why I like to do this and you don’t really give it much thought when you are at home training your horse do you? It’s kind of teach the jog and the lope more-so than teaching the walk. Some riders don’t bother much with finessing the walk on their horses, after all a walk is a walk right – there can’t be too much to it – right?

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Conformation – The forelimb.

Be it for showing under saddle, racing, reining, or riding for pleasure, a horse needs to be put together properly; but does a horse need to be put together perfectly?

Which limb defects matter and which don’t?

Since horses’ domestication, humans have been scrutinizing equine legs in an attempt to judge which horse will perform best in a given situation. Be it for any discipline, a horse needs to be put together properly; but does a horse need to be put together perfectly? Given that some poorly conformed horses surprise us and go on to be champions begs the question: Is conformation really all that important?

What is Conformation

Conformation simply refers to the physical appearance or ‘outline’ of a horse.”

Conformation is more or less defined by the horse’s bones, muscles, associated soft tissues, and how they all fit together. If all horses were created equal and used for the same purpose, then judging conformation would be easy. Alas, this is not the case. Every classification of horse (i.e., draft, light, or pony) has a different “normal” conformation and its own set of conformation traits defined by the breed and type of work the horse is intended to do. For example, sport, stock, hunter, pleasure, race, and show horses are all types of light horses, and each has its own accepted standard of conformation.

Conformation assessment involves a fine eye, patience, and a bit of luck. The horse is usually examined with four key functional components in mind: the head and neck; the forelimbs; the barrel and the hind limbs. Ideally, the forelimbs are evaluated from the front and sides.

Forelimb Conformation

A horse’s forelimbs should match and bear weight equally. Both toes are expected to point forward, and when the horse stands square the feet should stand as wide as the limbs are at their origin (i.e., the chest). If a straight line is drawn from the point of the shoulder, it should course perfectly down the front of the limb to the middle of the foot.

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The Walk To Lope Transition.

Question: I need help with my lope transitions, my horse seems to anticipate the lope is coming and when I do ask for the transition into the lope from the walk he pig-roots or tends to jump into the lope or trots before he takes the lope transition. Can you help me get a clean lope transition?

Answer: Absolutely. A smooth, seamless walk-to-lope transition is, as we know called for in the show pen, however, many riders only seem to work on the jog-to-lope transition.

A horse that can easily strike off without throwing his head up and lunging into the gait, or breaking first into a jog is setting the actual lope that follows the clean transition up for a much nicer, more correct, cadenced lope the whole way around the pen, that will give you those “Kodak” moments that you should be striving for.

Your own position and use of the aids is what will help make the difference between a collected, relaxed departure, and a rushed, anxious one, whether you’re teaching a young two year old or retraining a senior horse. If you do it right, lope departures can feel and look super sweet. But do it wrong and you can throw your horse off balance, frustrate and confuse him — and end up with a horse that equates loping with anxiety and trying to get a perfect lope transition on an anxious horse is near on an impossibility.

Here is what I do…

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Equine Health, Five Tips For A Healthy Horse

If you own a horse, you are probably aware of the time and money needed to properly care for this amazing creature. Since horses have a longer life than do most animals, keeping them healthy can be somewhat of a challenge. Still, there are several things you can do to help ensure your horse stays healthy. Below are five tips that will help you get started down the right path.

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Master the sitting trot

Riding a good sitting trot involves staying in the saddle and moving with your horse.  No bouncing and no daylight between your backside and your horses back. I believe not enough time is invested in mastering the sitting trot. It is probably one of the most difficult things to learn when you first begin riding. I believe the sitting trot would be more important in mastering before learning how to post. A lot of the time most riders are left to their own devices, in trying to stay in the saddle and not bounce around.

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Strengthening your horse’s hind end

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Many horses that have soundness challenges or general “hind end weakness” I see it alot during lessons and training. The majority of these horses are in the prime years of their life. At 10-15 years old, they still have many good years ahead if we can assist them in developing better balance and strength. Conformation issues can slow some horses down, but many are able to live comfortably and carry a rider if some time is spent focussing on building up their bodies.

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Old habits die hard!

How to quick-fix a horse’s bad habits in the show pen

Anticipation

I am always on about repetition when training your horses. This is the quickest way to instill into your horse something you want to teach them – repetition! Until repetition of a certain kind backfires on you.

Nothing worse is there, you’re in the class, the announcer calls for a jog, however, it’s out of sequence to what your horse is used to, he hears the mic “assumes” it’s time to lope, suddenly your whole world collapses at your feet, your pulling the reins, he’s lifting his head and trying to lope off, did the judge see it? Most likely, yes.

This is only one scenario that could lose you a place in the lineup.

Horses are incredibly smart animals. They learn to listen to the announcer for transitions instead of to their rider’s cues. They can become anxious and want to move up into what they think is coming next!

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Draw Reins – Part Two

Last time, I spoke about the usefulness of draw reins and the problems that can occur when you overuse them. I love to use them, as I mentioned in my blog “Draw Reins part one” when I am going to train the lope transition.

Why?

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