Do you have a tail chewer in your paddocks? Here are two potions for putting a halt to the tail chewer’s habit.
What if the tail problem in your pasture isn’t a matter of rubbing—but is instead caused by a horse that chews tails? (And it’s pretty easy to tell who the culprit is—he’s the one with the long, lovely tail.)
When do horse training methods cross the line from accepted to abusive?
I came across this article, I want to share it with you. It may be hard for some of you to read but I really believe it is worth sharing.
Breaking. It’s what our industry calls training a horse to be ridden, driven, or led with a halter, to accept tack and direction beneath or within it. But some trainers and riders have taken the word quite literally: breaking a horse of undesired habits, breaking his will to resist the confines and pressures of saddle and bridle … even breaking his spirit to flee perceived danger.
You might think a counter canter is simply “loping on the wrong lead,” but that’s not correct. A horse on the incorrect lead isn’t necessarily collected, doesn’t engage his hindquarters, and pulls himself along his path of travel. A horse working on the counter canter keeps his hocks underneath himself, holds his shoulders up and square, and travels rhythmically, just as he would if he were loping on the proper lead for the arc he’s traveling.
There is, for both you and your horse, proper body position when counter cantering. A counter canter is not simply being on the wrong lead going in the wrong direction. You will gain greater body control, achieve more roundness in your horse’s body and improve collection. Done correctly comes at a cost…be prepared to use your body position and your legs to get your horse to lope lifted and rounded whilst loping on the counter canter – you won’t be there just for the ride, you will need to work .
This exercise is excellent for teaching or reminding your horse just exactly who is in charge in your relationship. It’s great for teaching your horse to come to you and to respect you and is an invaluable lesson for those horse’s that won’t let you catch them when they are out in their paddock. Remember though, for a horse that is not easy to catch, it takes a long time of this repetitive training to get him to come around. Even if your horse is super easy to catch I still like to teach them this particular lesson in the round yard because it is fantastic for gaining their respect and showing them who is in charge.
Training and spending time with your horse in a round yard is like a think tank for your horse. The round yard seems to sharpen up your horses focus on you, it gives you lots of opportunities to stop, stand and wait it out knowing you and your horse are in a more confined, safer area. Using a round yard encourages your horse to listen to you more.
I am a true believer that a horse is not intentionally out to get us. I do not believe they are in their stable conjuring up how they will get us back at our next ride. It could be that your horse is in some sort of pain, maybe it’s related to diet, I am also a true believer of diet and the effects it has on inflammation not only in us humans but our animals as well. If only they could talk sometimes. Below may give you a heads up on starch and sugar and also some tips on what you can do if your horse just says NO!
When Behaviour May Be Related to Digestive Health
We all know how it feels to have to perform work when we aren’t feeling our best. Whether it’s from pain, illness, hunger, or other deficiencies we just aren’t capable of our very best – and may even get grumpy about it. Why would our horses be any different?
Starch in Concentrates May Cause Sugar Highs and Lows
Performance horses have higher energy requirements which often lead us to add a grain or other starchy concentrated feeds to their diet. Concentrate meals move through the fore-gut in a matter of hours, where starches and other simpler carbohydrates are broken down in the stomach and small intestine, and absorbed through the wall of the small intestine.
The influx of concentrates into the system in a short amount of time can cause a “sugar high”, followed by the subsequent crash, exactly like when it happens to us. The body produces insulin in response to the influx of sugar, and this insulin then creates the crash. These sugar highs and lows can have a negative impact on a horse’s attitude. Sugar imbalances may cause horses to be high-strung and unpredictable or lazy and lethargic, both of which can be expressed through resistant behaviours.
Feeding Concentrate Meals Hard on the Hindgut
In most stables, concentrates are fed twice a day. Often, this is too large a volume of grain feed for the horse to digest and absorb properly in the fore-gut. That means undigested sugars and starches can reach the hind-gut, where they are fermented by the bacteria there to produce high levels of lactic acid. This can lead to hind-gut acidosis, and a whole array of potential hind-gut health problems, that can leave a horse off its game, to say the least.
Digestive Discomfort Displayed in Resistant Behaviours
Low-grade digestive issues may be much more common in horses than you think. Some horses may be stoic when faced with pain, and others may be in the early stages of digestive distress. As a result, these horses may display their discomfort in their behaviour rather than through the typical clinical, physical symptoms.
A Healthy Horse is a Happy Horse
If you could keep your horse turned out to graze on quality pasture, and you had the ability to rotate pasture from time to time, there would be few demands on the horse’s digestive system. Your horse would most likely get all the nutrition and care it needs. But in the performance world, this is not practical.
A horse whose digestive tract is healthy and functioning properly won’t be in pain (at least not in the gut) and will also be more capable of receiving nutrition and energy properly from his food. Address digestive health and management of possible causes of resistant behaviours, and you may see improvements in your horse’s willingness to perform under saddle.
Or, if you and your veterinarian evaluate your horse’s digestive system and find it healthy, you’ve checked one potential cause off the list and can pursue other reasons for resistance.
In summary, don’t always assume that your horse is just being a stubborn old bugger that is testing you, I truly believe that a horse 99.9% of the time only goes to the trouble is disobeying us because there is something not right health or fitness wise. I observed many clients horses I had in training go from downright “pigs” (so I initially thought) to awesome show horses simply by finding and fixing their health issue, many of them being dentistry related even though the owner had not long had their teeth “done”! Many also gut related, ulcers for example, some, you have to go deeper with and get x-rays done on their feet and joints to help find the problem. There are also many memories of horses I had that had such terrible feet issues.
There usually is a legit reason why they give us a hard time when riding them. Mostly very fixable. The other .1%? Can be man made by perhaps choosing the wrong trainer and they do exist! Or, even the owners, riders that may be allowing their horse to “rule the roost”. Horses pick up bad habits just as easily as good ones, it just takes a matter of a few times him stopping for whatever reason in his head, they stand there, we pat them, tell them he’s/she’s a good boy/girl and not to worry or be frightened. Next thing we know, they begin to play us.
I have had horses come to me, I have had young horses try me out by baulking, even backing without any cues from me to do so. I have had horses of all ages think they’ve had enough for the day and point blank refuse to go forward, even attempted a little lift off the ground threatening to rear if I continued to try and ask for forward.
Some things you can try to unlock your horse
The best way I have found to unlock this baulking habit when they stop and refuse to go forward is to turn their head around to either side, it doesn’t matter which side you choose, just get their head around and with your opposite leg push them over to the direction you have them facing, this gets them off balance and forces them to take a step in that direction, once you get that first step, keep going, if they try to stay grounded, again, pull them around in the opposite direction and repeat, this should get them moving. The wrong thing you could do is just sit there kicking them to move forward, especially once they realise they are in charge. Get them off their line of tracking and change direction, not slightly, but definitely!
If you do have one that wants to leave the ground with his front end, before it turns into an out of control rearing session on you every time he feels like it and if you are brave enough, wait until he lifts his front end and while he’s up there, you need to bump him fairly hard with your legs (don’t use your spurs), if you have spurs on, turn your toes in toward your horse to ensure the sides of your heels are going to land on him, not your spurs or you may find yourself on the ground quick smart. Repeat this thump on his sides two or three times quickly. This move is something most horses don’t expect while they are rearing up on you, it can startle them and it does put them back in line. If you feel you’re not ready for this, have someone like a professional breaker do it for you to get them out of it.
An Old Timer tip
When I was a young teenager, I had a chestnut mare that reared up all the time on me. I was with a group of friends riding our horses down the beach, my mare did a few of her virticle rears, this old guy came sauntering up to me and said “Get a plastic bag, fill it with warm (body temperature) water, leave the top open and just hold it shut, when she goes up on you, you break that plastic bag on the top of her head and smack the top of her head with the flat of your hand enough to make her think you have whopped her one, between her ears, when you open your hand the water will come out everywhere, I guarantee you, she won’t rear again”! After I laughed for a bit, I asked him what he was on about, he told me that she would think that it was blood running down her head and that if I put some effort into the open handed whop she wouldn’t rear again, thinking that I had cracked her skul open and made her bleed. Tell you what, it worked! She stopped rearing.
If you have any questions on this article or just want to leave me a comment you are more than welcome!
Until next time…
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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.
Under normal conditions, a horse’s hooves should maintain a natural moisture balance. However, sometimes they can get extra dry, cracked, and brittle in cold or dry weather. In this case, it’s a good idea to help your horse’s hooves maintain an ideal moisture level by applying hoof oil. You can easily make it at home using a few simple ingredients. Apply homemade hoof oil to protect your horse’s hooves from excessive moisture or prevent them from drying out.
The most important quality that any ridden or halter horse should possess is the ability to be broke and quiet.
2. Soft and Smooth
A soft and smooth horse is one that hits the ground light and soft on all four feet and travels with drive and impulsion from behind with great rhythm.
3. Functionally Correct
A horse that picks up the correct gait and their leads when called for and not deviate from them throughout a class. Breaks of gait (both upward and downward) and wrong leads are evidence that a horse is not very functionally correct and is probably not a pleasure to ride. Horses that travel with their head and neck excessively low (for several strides) are also not functionally correct and should be judged accordingly.
4. Consistency and Quality
The consistency and quality is extremely important. A horse that shows consistency and quality is one who gives the appearance of being a “pleasure” to ride. These horses are expressive, natural, attractive and appear as though they are enjoying their work. They offer an overall pleasing picture when viewed on the rail and simply possess great amounts of eye appeal. The horse that is consistent in it’s quality of movement should be given credit.
Credit should be given to a horse that moves in a balanced, forward moving stride with a great degree of lift and flow. Likewise, a horse that is moving in an excessively slow, unacceptably low head carriage which will cause unbalanced stride should be penalized.
Balance in a moving horse is the ability to keep itself properly positioned while in motion, thus giving an impression of stability in motion. This also relates to stride length. The best way to visualize this is to draw an imaginary line down the center of the horse. A balanced horse at the jog and lope should take the same length of stride forward of the line as they take behind the line. Quite often, horses will be forced to shorten their stride in an attempt to make them move at a slower pace. Most of the time (this can be seen especially at the jog), the horse will then begin to move in an unbalanced stride. Sometimes, these horses will be called lame because they are moving longer with a leg on one side of the body than they are with the other.
6. Lift and Flow
Lift is a period of suspension or an elevated carriage, and flow is to move smoothly, easily and to be fluid.
7. Self Carriage
Self Carriage is a term that includes all three Balance, lift and flow.
Without the components of balance, lift and flow, self-carriage cannot be achieved. Balance and flow cannot be achieved without forward motion and the proper cadence. When a horse lacks forward motion or cadence, balance is sacrificed and flow is lost. This horse is not comfortable.
There is one particular problem, that can happen if the horse lacks forward motion – “low head carriage”, which will put the horse on the forehand.