Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Where my horses live

My horses live outside year round.  They have an open run in shelter where we provide bedding and feeding spaces but they are free to come and go as they please.  They have a 3 acre paddock divided into 2 sections, upper and lower.  There are trees and lots of irregular terrain.  There is a watering station about 200 feet away from the shelter.

When we got our horses, we had very little idea of what was required.  We did have some observations however.  We found that most run-in shelters for horses were made too small, so we made ours bigger 24 ft. long by 14 ft. front to back(for 2 horses).   The shelter is 10 ft high at the front and 8 ft high at the back.  The front faces to the south and is open.

This is to take advantage of the sun in the colder months.  Our horses are large and the size of the shelter gives them plenty of room to move around and to stretch out when they sleep.  They have no problem sharing the space.  I believe that this is important to maintaining low stress levels and a healthier environment.  All of the trees that are shown at the front of the shelter are now gone as a result of a single ice storm.

The most difficult problem occurs in the winter months when there is a build up ice. This is the most dangerous situation for horses and humans.  To help with the problem the horses are fitted with special shoes that have ice grippers and pads that prevent the build up of packed snow in the horses hooves.  During icy conditions we also spread waste bedding on the pathway from the shelter to the watering station .  Over the past 12 years we have only had 6 really serious icing events.

The next requirement was a hay storage building and tack room.  For the first few years we made do with just a temporary metal and plastic garage.  After it was destroyed by wind for the second time we decided to build a permanent structure.  The following pictures show the project beginning, middle and end.  It has been worth the effort.

For anyone thinking about having horses you really need to consider what you will need, I didn’t so I hope this will help to prepare you.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Road to the Horse 2017 - The Year of the Cow Girl

This year’s event featured four female horse trainers competing for the colt starting championship.  It was outstanding.

There have been female competitors in 2 previous years but this was the first time that it was exclusively female.  The horses that they were presented with were, in my opinion, exceptionally challenging.  The result was a remarkable opportunity to observe horses with very strong personalities and trainers with a unique range of styles. 

I have already watched the DVD program three times and it is a challenge to see everything that is going on.

This year one of the competitors was a professional show jumper with tack and methods never before seen at RTTH.  When I first heard about this all kinds of questions went through my fuzzy old head.  As I should have known, horsemanship is horsemanship no matter how you dress it up.

Just to add another dimension to the event, one of these ladies dislocated her shoulder near the end of the first round pen session.  For most people, this would have been the end but, not so.  After a few minutes to put the shoulder back in this lady resumed the session and then went on to complete the event.  That is the picture of determination and strength.

For students of horses and horsemanship this an event you should not miss.  It is an educational opportunity that is truly priceless.  You will see some of the best examples of building trust in horses with high levels of sensitivity (skepticism and fear).  For me personally it reinforced it reinforced the importance of using my voice to communicate with and build trust with a horse.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

More about Feel,Connection, Trust and Partnership

Jutta and Cody

The concept of feel is one of the hardest to grasp in dealing with horsemanship.  Almost every clinician refers to feel.  They often combine it with  terms like timing, lightness, connection, trust  etc.

When I first became acquainted with horses I had no idea what I was getting into.  I relied on what other horse owners told me assuming they had experience and advice which would work for me.  WHAT A MISTAKE.  When I learned the advice didn`t work I went looking and found clinicians, their books and dvd`s.  The terms FEEL AND TIMING kept being used and it took me at least 4 years to understand what they were talking about.

This  is a quote from Ray Hunt.
“You want your body and his body to become one.
This is our goal.
It takes some physical pressure naturally, to start with, but you keep doing less and less physical and more and more mental. Pretty soon, it’s just a feel following a feel, whether it comes today, tomorrow or next year.
So one little thing falls into line, into place.
I wish it would all fall into place right now for you, but it doesn’t because it has to become a way of life.
It’s a way you think.
It’s a way you live.
You can’t make any of this happen, but you can let it happen by working at it.” - Ray Hunt.

It is those last three lines that have so much meaning.

In this picture you can see the development of focus, energy, intent and feel of the horse and rider coming together.
It is import to understand the fundamentals of horse behavior and I thank Dr. Robert Miller for everything he has provided to the horse world.  This understanding has to be combined with developing your own self awareness.  If you aren`t aware of your own state of mind you will never establish effective communication with your horse. 
You need to practice three things, patience, observation and humility. You are not superior to the horse but you can be a partner to the horse. Understanding one horse does not mean you understand all horses. You must be willing to learn from the horse and to shape what the horse teaches you to develop communication, productive behaviour and an effective partnership. There must be connection between the horse and human based on trust and respect.

I learned that it can take a long time to earn the level of trust needed to build that partnership.  It is also important to know that you have to strengthen that partnership every time you are with your horse.   The partnership takes years to build and it can be damaged in minutes.  When you have that partnership, trust and confidence in each other anything is possible.

There are many things to learn in the equestrian sports and there are dozens of competent professional clinicians and trainers you can work with.  To be a horseman, however, is a commitment to way of life that incorporates the concept of partnership and it is a vital part of any program you will undertake.

A special thank you to my friend from Louisiana who generously provided the photographs.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Making Adjustments

Clinicians each have their own methods for developing communication, trust and respect with horses which ultimately leads to a desired partnership and a required performance level.   These methods are probably best demonstrated in the starting process.

Like humans, horses are individuals with different temperaments, characteristics and quirks so it is unlikely that any one consistent method will work with every horse.  It is reasonable to expect then that clinicians make adjustments to their methods to adapt to the needs of the horse they are working with.

In the 2015 Road to the Horse Competition three skilled clinicians were each challenged to start two three year old untouched colts.  This gives students of the horse an exceptional opportunity to observe how different horses respond or react to a variety of training techniques.  It  also shows how the clinicians adapt their methods to respond to the needs of the different horses.

The great advantage of DVD programs is that you can review segments to observe all of the subtle differences in the behaviour of the horses and you can see how the horseman adjust his methods to meet the needs of the horse.   As in all real time events the adjustments of the horseman are not always successful and they must make adjustments on the fly.  

For me this program is an absolute treasure of information that I could not possibly obtain any other way.  Without a doubt this is probably the best program Road to the Horse has presented and I have watched every one of them many times.

Monday, 16 November 2015

More About Hooking On/Joining Up

During the last several months I have not done much writing but I have spent a lot of time watching DVDs about horsemanship.  One of the topics I was interested in was Join Up.

I watched a DVD program by Monty Roberts, who is probably the originator of the term Join Up and another by Bryan Neubert, called Wild Horse Handling.

The Monty Roberts program is an excellent demonstration with a couple of different horses.  He thoroughly explains and shows the process he follows, pointing out the key responses of the horse.  I have read a number of articles about Monty`s method and have heard a number of other horseman describe it.  There is nothing like seeing Monty do this and explain it in his own words.  The beauty of DVD`s is that you can watch it again and again to see the subtle changes in the horse and observe the details of the horseman's timing and techniques.

The Bryan Neubert program is not exactly about hooking on.  It is a 2 hour DVD in which he starts a wild mustang.  It is a really pure example of natural horse behavior and the skills of an experienced horseman.  This is a program that I would highly recommend to anyone who really wants to observe horse behavior and see the results of using methods that connect to the nature of the horse to achieve communication leading to desired responses and behavior.  I have spent countless hours watching this program and I learn something new every time.  A key part of the process is getting the horse to hook on to the human.

For both of these programs it is very helpful if you have a foundation in understanding horse behaviour as explained by Dr. Robert Miller in his program,  Understanding Horses.  This is my  main reference for everything in establishing a bond with a horse.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

More About To Come

I apologize to those of you who have followed this blog. 

My father once told me don`t get old and don`t get sick.  Unfortunately over the last couple of years both have caught up to me.  Age has slowed me down but I have acquired a rare neuro muscular disease which has made it almost impossible to walk and so I have been neglecting other things like this publication.  I have however been studying more horse programs and will be sharing my views with you very soon. 

Stay tuned.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Hooking On / Joining Up – Part Three and Beyond

Every time you go to the paddock to be with your horse you need to be consistent in your attitude, expression and methods.  As you progress the process will become more and more subtle but you must never forget the steps you are going through.

Once your horse is caught you will probably proceed to groundwork and then to in saddle exercises.  Personally I prefer ground exercises that translate to the in saddle work.  Here again there are a great number of instructional DVD`s by experienced horsemen for ground work programs.  You should examine as many of these as you can, to find the one that is the best fit for you.

The objective of this phase of the process is to establish clear communications between the human and the horse.  The length of time that this takes is dependent on the experience level of the human and the horse.  For someone embarking on this path for the first time you should be prepared to spend several months before you get to a level of trust, confidence and understanding at which a firm bond begins to form between human and horse.  The path to a true partnership really never ends.  It must always be in your mind with a view to continuing to improve the strength of the bond. 

How do you know when there is a bond developing between you and your horse?  The signals will come from the horse.

  • ·       The horse will meet you at the gate.
  • ·       The horse approaches you with ears forward and head lowered.
  • ·       The horse will offer to do things for you, picking up a glove you dropped, putting his foot on a ball, bowing, holding the lead rope in his mouth, etc.
  • ·       When the horse sees you near the paddock he/she whinnies at you.
  • ·       When you approach your horse when he/she is lying down they stay and allow you to approach and stroke them.
  • ·       The horse will want you to carress and rub their head and ears.
  • ·       When you are with your horse he/she will be fully relaxed.

The horse begins to see you as a part of the herd, in particular a leader of the herd.  This is a position of trust which you must learn to accept and honor.  Maintaining this relationship with your horse never ends and the rewards just keep growing for both of you.