Friday, 11 April 2014

Hooking On / Joining Up – Part One

The terms “Hooking on” or “Joining Up” are the first terms I heard horseman clinicians use.  I understood it to be an event when a horse first approached or willingly follow a human.  After watching and practicing the various techniques used by a lot of different horsemen I have come to believe that this not an event but rather a process.  Indeed it is one of the most important processes in building a relationship between horse and human.  The following comments are not intended to criticize the concepts or techniques of clinician horsemen; they are my own observations and thoughts about this and are offered to give a bit of a different perspective on the topic.

This was the young ladies first close encounter with a horse.  I gave her simple instructions about leading; don`t look at the horse, don`t pull on the lead rope and walk forward with purpose and focus on the spot you are going to.   She followed the instructions carefully and she was completely relaxed.  Kai has been through the hook on process and understands these human behaviours.

During many of the clinics and training DVD`s I have watched, this process is given relatively little attention.  Especially in colt starting competitions “hooking on” is usually the first and briefest portion of the event.
The following are the phases of what I see as the full process:
·       Curiosity
·       Facing up
·       Approaching
·       Following
·       Touching
·       Bonding
This process continues throughout your partnership with your horse.  It grows and expands with time and is held together with confidence and trust.  Like any partnership it can be broken if you damage that trust.

Following blogs will expand on each of these phases.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Hazards of Round Pens

Now that Spring is here our horses will be returning to more strenuous activities in paddocks, round pens and corrals.  There are a few things that should be considered to try and keep our partners safe during this more active period.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

During the past year I have read about a number of tragic accidents in which horses have died in accidents involving their encounters with round pens.  These accidents usually involved the horse getting their legs or hoofs trapped in the fence.

The following few pictures illustrate how this can happen and suggest some precautionary measures that you can take to keep your horses safe.  These may be things that experienced horsemen already know of, but, they had certainly not come to my attention in the last 8 years.

This picture shows a round pen that was originally intended for use with cattle.  It is 5 ft high and is constructed with square tubing.  The gates have been modified to accommodate horses.  The square bars are a bit of a problem because although the edges of the bars are not sharp they can be pretty harsh if a horse gets his leg between the bars. 

The really big problem is the connection point between the panels.  The curved top bar and the large gap between the panels makes it very easy for a horse get his foot and leg trapped in the opening.  This can lead to catastrophic injury and death. 

 In order to eliminate the problem a filler panel should be installed to fill this gap.  I have found that it is simple to cut two pieces of wood in the correct shape and bolt them together to fill the  gap.
In one very sad case a horse rolling beside a fence like this, got his foot caught in the gap. 

  Unfortunately the owner was away for a period of time and the horse died.

Round pens that are specifically designed for equine activities generally use round tubing.

The connection points of the panels are configured to minimize the  gap .  They are also are not rounded toward the gap.  Still if the gap is too wide a filler should be   installed to make it safe.

Another thing I avoid is having one horse in the round pen and another outside the pen in the open paddock.   Especially with geldings who will start to play over the fence.  If they start rearing they can easily get hung up in the panels and get hurt.  If the horses are in the paddock I keep the round pen closed up.