Easier said than done right. It’s not an easy find really. A few things come into play for most people that are looking for the right trainer to train their most prized possession. Find out if anyone can train their horse and get them to behave in a certain way? I ask what are some of the things owners like to find in their chosen trainer and list them.
Should you try to train your own horse?
How long does it actually take and can a good rider train a horse – Not necessarily.
If I could tell people just one thing about a relationship between you, your horse and your trainer…
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FROM GO TO WHOA
This easy to read book will help you train your own horse at home. Lot's of lessons and tips right through from Weanlings to Senior horses.
How to quick-fix a horse’s bad habits in the show pen
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!
Sometimes it’s approach is head on, sometimes it’s from the side – either way…
Teaching your horse (any age) obstacles for trail is best done by breaking it down into segments and practicing one obstacle at a time.
How to manoeuvre through the Rope Gate:
Walk up to the gate so you are parallel to it, passing the hinge side of the gate first.
Woah your horse’s shoulder by the latch side of the gate, with the hinge side by the horse’s tail.
Your lead should be coiled in your left hand when you set your horse’s shoulder at the latch of the gate, your right hand holding the lead nearer your horses head and unlatch the gate with the left hand as you turn your body to face your horse (your left hand is now closer to the gate). Transfer your coiled lead to your right hand, open the gate with your hand and begin to back your horse.
Don’t let go of the rope or the cows could get out!
Back up until you and your horse clears the latch gate or pole.
Make a tiny U-turn through the gate.
Woah when you are through the gate and parallel to it.
Back up several steps, until your horse’s shoulder is by the latch side of the gate.
Latch the gate with the hand closer to the gate.
Approach – If you were to approach the gate head on it’s a simple matter of just walking toward the center of the gate, turn a few strides off either to your left or right depending on what the judge has requested on the pattern and set your horse up for the opening of the gate.
Whoa – When you are there, stand quietly for a couple of minutes making sure you horse is relaxed and not fidgeting. If they are fidgety,
I think the worst thing you can do once you hunt down that curb/shank bit that your horse loves and works well in is to use it on him day in, day out. When you do find that “favourite” bit the best thing you can do is to keep it for those special occasions like showday.
Lot’s of riders’ do this and it is “common sense” to them to say “Beauty! My horse loves this new bit, I can relax now and stop worrying!” Down the track though, I get calls and questions all the time wondering why their favourite bit is not working anymore. You can liken it to using the same spurs day in day out, after a time the horse starts to become dull to the feel of the spurs you use every day.
I travelled to this lovely lady the other day to give her a riding lesson. She was so nice. She had been working with her horse at home for quite a few years, she was a lovely rider, had a handy horse and do you know she had never competed at a show? As we were going through the lesson, I asked her why she had not shown as yet, her answer was sad to me, “fear” was her answer. Not fear of getting bucked off or fear of having a crash on the way but fear of looking silly if she mucked up! That was indeed sad to hear especially when her dream was to show one day. The only thing stopping her was fear of mucking up.
It’s not a “given” that if you own a horse you must show it, however, when you want to get out and show but you can’t due to fear of mucking up or letting nerves get the better of you that’s kind of sad. After all, it’s meant to be fun, it’s a hobby and don’t people take up hobbies because they’re fun to do?
It’s been a long time since my last blog post, I think I have been working too hard on enjoying this beautiful country that I call my backyard since travelling around Australia.
I’ve got to say, you must put this on your bucket list even if you don’t live in Australia, it is a stunning country.
Since I’m travelling in Far North Queensland for the last seven months (May – November 2018), winter and the beginning of Spring so far, I find myself thinking how tough the riders and their horses must be as far as coping with the hot weather.
I think I’m acclimatising to the warmer weather up here that the locals probably would say it’s still rather cool. It was just the other day my husband and I were crossing an “assisted” school crossing, him with no shirt on just a pair of shorts and thongs, me in a singlet, shorts and thongs. We got to the middle of the road when the first heavily clothed lollipop (stop/go sign traffic controller) lady yells to the second just as heavily clothed lollipop lady… “tourists!” I mean, it was like 25c.
Anyway, being up here in the much warmer climate than from where I’m from has got me thinking…how do the horses and riders cope?
One thing about the Internet is that it brings people together from many different areas and climates. Riders down South are shivering in front of the fire through the winter months while they procrastinate going outside to work their horse if it would only stop raining! Riders as high up as F.N.Q., Central Australia, Darwin etc. Are wiping the sweat off their brows, swiping flies and loping circles in the dust.
Heat, humidity, bugs… I love summer!
Summer brings with it heat (and in many places, humidity), mosquitoes and other flying nasties, and ground baked to the consistency of concrete.
Riders north of the borders have to contend with extreme heat and humidity so high that the sweat pours off them before they even get on board their horses. Of course, riding in the evening means sharing the space with millions of mosquitoes or worse, sand flies (midges), so it is essential to keep a good stock of fly and mosquito repellent, both for yourself and your horse.
Water is a life saver
The one thing that will keep your horse comfortable and safe in the summer is water. As horses sweat, they lose that water from their system and if they are not able to replace it they can quickly become dehydrated.
Always make sure that your horse has plenty of clean, fresh water available to drink especially when you’re at a show or clinic.
Electrolytes are important too
Another way to combat dehydration is to add electrolytes to your horse’s diet. This is best done by making a mineral block available at all times. You can also add electrolytes in his water, giving him two buckets of water (one with and one without electrolytes), making sure that he has a choice. Some electrolytes can be sprinkled on the feed.
The Pinch Test
Teach yourself how to do the “pinch test” to check your horse for dehydration. Pinch up a small area of skin on the neck and time how long it takes to return to normal.
Check your horse on a cool day when you know he is not stressed to give you a baseline to work from. Then, when you have been working him, you will be able to monitor him against that baseline, if it takes the skin noticeablly longer to return to normal, he is becoming dehydrated.
Learn your horse’s vital signs
It is a good idea to take your horse’s vital signs and note them down somewhere. When he is rested and cool, take his temparature, pulse and respiration.
Generally, horses’ temperaturewill be from 100 to 101 degrees Farenheit ( 37 – 38 Celsius). A rise over 38c -102f is abnormal and a temperature of over 40c -104f is serious and you should call your vet.
The horse’s pulse at rest will be from 36 to 42 beats per minute. That rate will increase considerably following stress, but should return to normal within 10 to 15 minutes if the horse is rested, provided he is fit.
Respiration should be around 8 to 15 breaths per minute at rest.
Armed with these vital signs you should be able to easily tell when your horse is stressed by the heat and humidity.
Travelling Or shipping your horse
I remember one year arriving at one of our long distance shows, one of the trainers arrived with their horses, unloaded them and put them in their stables. It was quite a hot day, the horses had travelled a good 10 hours.
Within an hour one had colicked and another had tied up or in layman’s terms, muscle cramping.
I believe in giving horses electrolytes before during and after travelling to ensure they are well hydrated and holding on to prescious minerals for the journey.
I would drop down their windows and offer water with added electrolytes in it. It’s a good idea to get you’re horses accustomed to drinking electrolyte fueled water well in advance of hitting the road, nothing worse than them refusing to drink because of a foreign taste in the water.
I don’t recommend letting them guzzle it down until it’s all gone either otherwise you too might have a colicky horse on your hands. Best to stop often and let them sip, have a bit of a stand still (good time to clean the poo out of the float while they have a spell).
Don’t kill em with kindness
Another thing I would definitely recommend is when you do arrive, before you put them in a yard or stable with a fat bag of lush hay and a big drink of water is to take them for a walk around for five or ten minutes, moving around NOT stopping every three strides for a bite of grass.
Once that’s done and you’re happy with how they look in their demeanour, their bright, alert, looking around and are not tucked up in the flank or have patchy sweat in weird, random places then you can put them in their stable or yard…
Wait! Don’t take that headstall off just yet. I would suggest you tie them up safely in the stable for say 15 to 20 minutes naked, you don’t want sheets etc on them just yet and tie them in a fashion that they can’t dive their heads down to eat their bedding. This whole exercise is a precautionary measure on your behalf to help ensure your horse doesn’t colic or anything drastic by:
Walking them on arrival will stretch their legs while they nut out where they are and that all is well with them;
Overheating with sheets and rugs on, you can really go over them with your eye and your hands making sure they arrived safe and well;
Rolling, it’s not a good idea to allow your horse to roll immediately after arriving he may colic through excessive rolling;
colic through gulping down too much water at once and quickly;
eating their bedding as many do when they arrive.
“If you can’t stand the heat…
What’s that saying…
“If you can’t stand the heat, Get out of the kitchen?”
Not this time. Stay in the kitchen and get as acclimatised as you can!
I normally would avoid riding during the heat of the day in the summer, both for my comfort and for the comfort of the horse, however, training up for a show that you both will be competing in over the hot summer months, it’s not a bad idea to gradually build up your riding time to include a bit of riding in the middle of the day.
Many’s a time I have been to a show where it’s been really hot, even hotter indoors than it is out and competitors have dropped their bundle because they have not acclimatised themselves or their horse to riding in the middle of the day, they have always trained either early morning or early evening for their comfort…big mistake come show day.
It’s not like you order your class to be held in the cool of the early morning or the cool of the evening. Granted, some classes will be held at those times but you can back it in, you will more than likely be waiting around for a trail class in the middle of the day while the sun is beating down relentlessly. So be smart and acclimatise both you and your horse to cope with the heat of the day.
Hard ground makes for hard ride
Another summer hazard is ground baked so hard that it resembles concrete. Hard ground is hard on horse’s legs. Concussion injuries are more prevalent in summer, as horses are trained sometimes on sun baked hard ground.
All weather surfaces, such as sand, bark chips or other proprietary arena surfaces can alleviate this problem.
If you don’t have or can’t afford an all weather surface for your arena, you can compromise by using wood shavings from your horse’s stable (remove the droppings first) and lay a track around the rail of your arena to create a riding track that will be comfortable to work on.
This solution may also help out in winter when you are dealing with ankle deep mud.
Remember to do this…
keep your horse and yourself hydrated with water not sugary drinks for you the rider, they will dehydrate you quicker than you can say “I’m going home it’s too hot”.
Be wise with your riding times, it’s oftentimes better to make the decision to ride more often in the one day and for short periods of time rather than a hard hot hour;
loosen that girth if you’re riding again. If you have plenty of time before your next ride or your class, hose your horse down, now you don’t need to throughly wet him down all over if your class is coming up and you want to keep him clean and respectable looking. Hose between his front and back legs and down his legs, this is where, the same as on yourself – have you ever noticed you can cool yourself down by running cool water over your wrists? You can do the same with horse just don’t whizz through it, leave the hose run down his legs and over his chest and any sweaty areas. As long as you do the vital pulse areas you will help in his cool down.
Training a horse to side pass is beneficial for multiple reasons, whether it be improving groundwork, being able to open a gate while seated, or preparing for yearling/two year old led trail class. Fortunately the process of teaching a horse to side pass includes training a turn on the haunch and on the forehand, two other useful groundwork and riding techniques. Follow these steps, and you’ll improve not only your riding but your horse’s response and performance.
Test your horse’s ability to move away from pressure. The natural instinct of your horse should be to move away from where pressure is applied – the same instinct humans have. Test this reaction in your horse by bumping them with an open palm near the girth where you would bump them with your calf. They should move away from your hand, possibly already in a side pass.
Continue bumping your horse near the girth with added pressure if they do not respond to you. As soon as they take a step away, release pressure and reward them.
Practice this until your horse needs only a single bump, or no bump at all (just pushing energy with your hand towards their girth), in order to move away from you.
Train a turn on the haunch. Put your horse on a lead rope, and if necessary grab a crop. Stand so that your body is positioned slightly behind the barrel of your horse’s body, and gesture with your arm or crop towards their shoulder. If they do not respond to this, then apply pressure on their shoulder. The goal is to get them to move away from your pressure by rotating their body around their back legs.
If your horse turns away or simply walks in the opposite direction rather than crossing their front legs in a turn, grab the lead rope and hold them straight ahead.
As soon as your horse crosses their front legs in a turn on the haunch, release pressure and reward them for doing what you asked.
Continue practicing a turn on the haunch on the ground, your horse will respond to the same cues when riding.
Train a turn on the forehand. Similar to a turn on the haunch, a turn on the forehand is done when your horse rotates their entire body around their front legs by crossing their back legs. Accomplish this by standing near the shoulder (to block shoulder/forward movement) and gesturing towards the haunch with your crop or open hands. If they don’t respond without pressure, add a bit by pushing against the haunch with your open hands, or tapping them with the crop.
Don’t remove pressure if your horse simply backs away or turns to the side. Straighten them out if necessary, but continue bumping with pressure until they take at least one step by crossing their legs.
As soon as your horse achieves a single step in a turn on the forehand, release pressure and reward them for following your cues.
Practice this over and over until your horse requires a minimal amount of pressure to accomplish a turn on the forehand.
Combine your groundwork to accomplish a grounded side pass.Stand next to your horse near the barrel of their body, using a crop if necessary. Bump the girth of the horse to tell them to move away; if they don’t move how you want, give them the cues for a turn on the haunch and a turn on the forehand. Continue working back and forth between your cues until your horse clues in and does at least a single successful step in a side pass.
Reward your horse and release pressure as soon as they take even a single step in the form of a side pass.
Continue doing this until they don’t need to be cued for a turn on the forehand and a turn on the haunch in order to recreate a side pass. Eventually they should only need to be bumped on their side near the girth.
This event can have a bit of controversy to it as in most events. But with the lunge-line class, some people I’ve spoken with about it say it actually ruins prospects so I thought it an important topic to cover.If done properly, it can accomplish many things that people want in a good riding horse later on down the track. It can also be a good evaluation tool to help you observe your horse’s potential (or lack of) in the show pen by being able to see if he has a natural way of moving with a level top line, showing himself to be responsive to the handlers subtle cues. There is nothing better than watching a young lunge liner perform in his class with next to no visible cues from the handler.
Yes, some people claim that competing in lunge line will create problems in a yearling’s future training. This can come about by a handlers lack of knowledge, letting the youngster travel around dropping his shoulder or allowing him to travel on the forehand or overworking them which can put wear and tear on a young horse’s legs. Knowledge is power that’s for sure!
Slow and Steady
It is important to note that a young horse doesn’t stop growing until around the age of 5 1/2 In general, the process of growth plates becoming bone happens from the bottom of the animal up. Most bones have fused by the time a horse reaches age 4, but the pelvis keeps growing until a horse is about 5 and some plates of the vertebral column do not fuse until a horse is 5 ½ or older. You don’t have to wait until all of your horse’s growth plates have fused to start working them but you should be careful that the process is slow and steady so you don’t risk injuring the horses joints.
Over training a young horse will set you up for failure. An over trained youngster can start to resent his training very quickly and will develop life-long bad habits such as ear pinning, dropping shoulders, being on the forehand, if not corrected and left to continue.
Once something is taught, whether it be good or bad, it is a long, hard process to re-train it out of their brain. Judges know immediately if the horse has their ears pinned back and they are dropping shoulders or travelling on the forehand that the youngster has been over trained.
When starting a young lunge line prospect, training is done slowly and calmly. If starting a youngster before his yearling year begins you should keep your training to short training periods of basic repetitive manoeuvre’s.
Do not rush your training. I like to start them at the walk initially, giving them the time to get used to the routine and become accustomed to his training area. This then builds very gradually adding the jog, then a lope over time to teach the yearling about balance and proper carriage on the lunge line.
Not everyone can afford a full-time trainer or they are situated in remote area’s that doesn’t warrant travelling endless hours to visit a trainer or to travel to clinics. That is why I have developed my program Remote Horse & Rider Training. It’s very affordable and allows handlers/riders to be at home on their property putting to practice what they have learned from me. I’m with you all they way giving you the knowledge that you need to get the best out of both yourself and your horse.
This program is tried and tested to work very well…
Once a client has joined up with me they are privvy to lot’s of knowledgeable information, tips and even the odd trick.