Be clear. Be consistent!

This is one of the most common issues I see with anyone who has horses. Make sure no matter what you ask of the horse you use the same cue for the same desired result. Changing cues or mixing them up to get a response is just creating confusion. Once I explain this it will seem simple but you have to be consistent in order to make a change.

While lunging I see 98% of horse owners clicking and kissing at their horse to get it to move around the pen. These same people also complain that their horses need spurs to move under saddle or the horse won’t pick up the trot or lope without extra coaxing.

These issues can all be avoided and fixed from the ground by simply dedicating one cue to one speed desired. For example I click three times to trot from a walk then kiss to canter or lope. this way the horse understands and there’s no miscommunication. Once the horse knows what to expect in the ground they will be more willing to try harder under saddle.

What you’ve created is a grey area and a lack of clear communication between you and your horse. If you click and kiss all the time together the horse doesn’t know weather you want to trot or canter when asked under saddle.

Another huge miscommunication I see that majority of horse owners do is click when asking to back the horse up either on the ground or under saddle. This click is another grey area. You use it to go forward yet use it when backing up. Change to the word “back” for back up and keep click for forward movement.

Keep your cues clear. If the horse is getting confused it’s most likely because you caused it. Step back and think how you can communicate more clearly and simply to your horse.

Ditch the saddle! Your horse is your gym!

Bareback is a great way to improve your seat, your fitness and your balance! It’s great to also be in close contact with your horse.

Without the saddle between you and your horse you can perfect your cues and get the horse listening to your most subtle movements and commands with ease!

Bareback riding is one step closer to riding bridleless! You and your horse are in full contact and communication when bareback.

“But what if I fall off? I have nothing to hold onto!” Is a normal response I get when I mention to ditch the saddle. My reply is simple, if you fall off, you have nothing to get hung up on. We all fall we all get back on and we all learn how to stay on. Yes you’ll be so sore you can hardly move the first week you rode without the saddle but you’ll love it! You’ll love the confidence riding bareback gives you once you are back in the saddle and the strong core you will develop.

“The hardest part of riding is the ground”

Take your riding to the next level and challenge yourself by ditching the saddle!

Confidence is key!

If you’re not confident neither is your horse. Horses feed off each other’s emotional reactions to situations and environments. If one is unsure the look to find a confident herd mate to help them learn about this new thing in life whatever it may be. Horses are curious but they immediately expect the worse. They basically live on a “guilty until proven innocent” way of life. This keeps their guard up so they can react faster and thus, usually saving their lives in the wild. There’s no second chances in the wild. Only the strong survive.

Some wonder why their horses spook more under saddle v.s when they are on the ground. This is because they feel the riders lack of confidence so they think they’ve got to be on the lookout for danger. If you’re confident your horse will be too!

Horses are a mirror of you

Horses are honest, caring, compassionate, understanding, strong, loyal and trusting.

In order to see these traits in your horse you must first prove to them you’re worthy of such attributes. If you notice your horse isn’t trusting you must first show the animal you can be trusted. If your horse isn’t understanding you, you need to first understand them.

It’s never the horses fault. They are just showing you the same respect you show them. Start by clearing your mind when working with your horse. your horse gives you that respect so you should do the same. Just you and your horse exist. They aren’t mentally fogged by stresses of life or responsibilities or money. To them it’s just you. In order to receive what you want you must first prove your worthy.

Horses are honest to a fault. If you don’t earn it you don’t receive it. Once you do receive their highest respect, love, trust and caring you’ll think more like a horse and less like a human. Once you experience true honesty from a horse you will have a hard time understanding humans. Horses show me the honesty I wish to find in humans.

If you’re not the type to be fake in order to keep friends nor is the lead mare. She loves her independence and won’t change because someone may not like her for being opinionated. She did not become a leader by giving in. Horses have leaders and followers just like humans. If you’re not strong enough to stand your ground then you will be kicked to the side so the stronger horse can stand in your place.

The herd leader has a hard job. Always watching out for the others. It’s solely responsible for their safety, health and well being. There are fewer leaders than followers by nature. To be a follower is to be liked and to go with the flow. To be happy following the leader. In every herd there’s ONE leader and the rest follow. If the leader is removed the “sheep” or followers scatter due to loss of direction and safety. We as humans do the same. We are not superior we are filled with ego. Drop your ego and open your mind and you’ll see how your world will change. You’ll be blessed with loyal friends, good animals and honest horses.

Be, yourself, who you want to attract . The law of attraction will not ignore you. It’s a beautiful life when you look in the mirror and don’t see yourself but everything around you instead that makes you who you are. Learn to see and the horse will show you how to feel.

Spring is coming!

City people look to the groundhog yet we in the country turn to our horses.

This time of year, the trees are starting to bud and grow new life. The grass is a bright shade of green and high in sugars as the seed rises to the top of the blade. With this change in environment our horses are rejuvenated after a depressing and wet winter. The sugars in the grass give them heightened energy levels and weight is easier to keep on them if they are on pasture.

“Spring has sprung” is a fitting term with horses. In the spring horses are hyper and like to seemingly defy gravity! While lunging a horse in the spring I say I’m going to go “fly my kite” when referring to working young horses in the spring time. They live to leap, buck and play! It’s nothing malicious it’s just their way to burn off extra energy and sugars.

If the spring horse is worked regularly this time of year you won’t have to deal with the “kite” horse. They need an outlet and muddy pastures inhibit their natural needs to run and play to release the energy as they feel fit.

Think of the spring horse in this way, if you drink an energy drink, you would go crazy if you were stuck on the couch. Same idea applies to the horses this time of year.

Hormones are starting to awaken again as well in our mares come spring. All winter most mares reproductive tract is dormant and we don’t have to deal with their inner “dragon”. Most mares change as they come into heat and most are pretty bratty when they do. Their spring heat is their longest heat or so it seems. An herbal remedy I found that helps mares is comparable to midol for us humans and boy is it helpful! 1/2 cup of Aloe juice (can be purchased at Walmart) a day will help with reproductive pain and level mood swings.

Don’t blame your horse when spring comes and it turns into a hooligan. It’s natural they are just telling you they are ready to get put back to work! So go out, enjoy your horse! Good weather is on its way!

Setting them up to succeed

What people see when they look at a broke horse is just exactly that. Face value. What they don’t see is the hours and months it took the horse to get to be a riding horse.

It all starts on the ground. If your horse can’t do it when asked from the ground don’t expect it to understand it under saddle.

My horses are all started with lunging and learning voice commands. I want them to always have something familiar to fall back on when introducing something new. This is where they will find their confidence and they will be ready for the next step. Having something familiar while being introduced to something new makes sure they keep using the thinking side of their brain. If they have nothing familiar to go back to if they get confused their natural response is to react. A reacting horse is a blind horse. They go completely on natural instinct that is to fight or flight. We try our best to avoid that at all costs while training.

Everyone starts horses different but over the years I’ve developed a sure-fire way that makes horses “good citizens” as I call them. My horses are quiet, not spooky, no vices, trusting and dependable. It takes time to build a strong foundation but a foundation without holes is one you can trust!

I teach voice commands first so I know they have an E-brake if all “goes to hell in a hand bag”. They are animals it can happen. We can train our horses but we can’t train our environment so always be prepared and alert.

I then introduce them to the bareback pad it’s soft and quiet so they don’t get afraid of the new device. After that I tie a jacket on the pad and lunge them with the jacket flapping all over. The following week I use the pad and grain bag, then the saddle alone followed by the saddle and “tutu”. The “tutu” is a string of shavings bags that goes over the horn. This is a big fluffy loud tool that get the horses to something sloppy in the saddle. After the tutu I put the flag on the saddle this gets them used to something above the saddle. By the time I put a leg over my horses almost thank me for not being as obnoxious as the rest of my tools haha!

So take your time, develop a method that works for you. Don’t be afraid to fail. If you don’t try you won’t know. If a method fails then you learn. Failing is never a failure. It teaches us to be better.

Patience, persistence and a sense of humor go a long way!

Be silly

Kids make the best horses because they are fearless and silly. The horses get used to all sorts of shenanigans, in turn, creating a “bombproof” horse. they are full of energy and have all the time in the world to pester, pamper and poke their most adored thing in life, their horse.

If you’ve grown up with horses and been a “barn rat” like many of us were you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Why do we lose this child like way of being with our horses as we age? We get more responsibilities, we go to school, start families, chase careers and so on. Our minds are filled with priorities now. When we were kids we just wanted to have fun and enjoy our time with our horses. That’s still the case but we don’t have the countless hours we did before so we just focus on caring for the horse and making sure the horse is happy. That’s not a problem but try to spend a little time a week being a kid again with your horse. Be silly, run around and play with it in the pasture, laugh, be weird and tons of kisses. This will help keep you young, less stressed and your horse will love it!

Try to never forget the passion you had for horses when you were younger despite being an adult, that same kid is still in you. Bring it out and play!

Let er buck!

This is a controversial subject in the horse world and always will be. Everyone does things differently. Some things work for others that don’t work for the rest. That’s life. “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” is a term that speaks the truth yet a little grotesque for my tastes but it applies here.

Some believe the never let their horse buck and it will tech them not to be allowed to buck when riding. To each their own but these folks are usually the ones that ask me how to get their horse to stop bucking after “Biscuit just started to buck one day and hasn’t stopped”.

My advice is simple. Let them do it, chase them when they do so it makes them work harder and soon you will have a horse that realizes ON IT’S OWN that’s a lot of work. Babies love to buck and play let them! Once they get it out they will be focused. You try to stop them from doing it they will be thinking about it instead of you.

First saddling, yes I let them buck and once they stop I praise them. My methods are built on letting the horse figure it out for himself what works and what doesn’t. I’m there to praise and reward when they are doing a good job and being “good citizens”. My praise is to have the horse stop and stand. This also enforces good breaks and my voice command stop (which is another discussion and something I like to teach at clinics).

Next time your horse wants to cut loose let them! I much rather they get it out before we put a leg over don’t you?

“Setting up to succeed” starts from the ground

Low and slow

We all like the relaxed, natural head carriage. I use the words natural and head carriage instead of “head set” because my horses do it on their own from learning it on the ground to being rewarded when they are being ridden and holding their head naturally low, relaxed and comfortable. I don’t use straps or ties to get them to do it forcefully. It’s all learned from the ground then praised when ridden. It’s a longer process how I achieve it that I explain in person at my clinics. Today I’m just giving you an overview of why I teach this “low and slow” and how it effects the horse in a positive way which promotes calmness and fluidity in movement.

I first start out with lunging normally. The horses are young and want to buck and play in the beginning I don’t hinder that. Let them get it out so they can “find their brain” and be ready to learn. Once they know what to expect when lunging (going in a circle on a line or loose in a round pen) I lunge them until I see signs of relaxation. These signs will be brief so I keep a close eye and when I see what I’m looking for I ask them to stop and stand. this helps them process what they just learned and not feel rushed into the next step.

This is where I see the most mistakes with people who have lunging issues or non relaxed animals. They don’t stop their horse they run ahead of it and make it change directions multiple times while lunging. This, in my opinion, isn’t doing anyone any good. This raises the horses blood pressure, adds anxiety, and doesn’t allow the horse to process or learn. This is also very hard on young horses legs to stop fast and turn repeatedly while lunging. It’s a common mistake that I see every time I visit a boarding stable.

That being said once the horse has been standing patiently I then reverse the horse and ask to change directions and lunge again until I see the relaxed signs then stop and we are done. The time frame all depends on the horse. I’m not a “clock watcher” I end when the horse is ready weather it takes 20 minutes or two hours. I’m on the horses time.

Once a horse is moving naturally relaxed, low head carriage and attention on me I start to incorporate that same carriage while under saddle. This way as a young horse learning to be ridden it will still carry itself relaxed and low. This type of body posture for the horse builds his back up and allows him to carry a rider with ease. He’s using his hips to power himself, his neck, level with his back, for balance and his back is arched and strong under the rider. He will have developed muscles from ground work of learning how to move this way well before being saddled so he’s prepared physically before being ridden.

This is another example of how my methods “set horses up to succeed” from starting always with ground work.

Conditioning

How do people seemingly “sculpt” their horses? Take the AQHA (quarter horse) for example. Same breed but so many variations!

Well most horses are built for their “jobs”. Just like us they adapt and become stronger due to what their daily routine is. A broodmare is going to be very different from a barrel horse due to daily routine and what is demanded of them. Same with reining horses v.s jumpers. Same breed but opposite builds due to their jobs. Horses are bred a certain way in order to be successful in their careers. For instance you wouldn’t ask a reining horse to jump Grand Prix or vice versus.

We condition each horse differently to better prepare them for their busy season which is spring and summer. Competitions, nice weather and colt starting cones with nice weather. Let’s do our best to “set our horses up to succeed”.

In the spring we don’t just expect our “pasture potato” who thinks their new job is to be a glorified, braided lawn mower, to go compete the next day and win. There’s steps and a schedule of customized workouts leading up to success. They are athletes and have to be built up slowly as such. Without conditioning properly you can cause serious injury to the animal.

To start out any horse I like to do a lot of trotting to build up muscle and slowly increase endurance. Trotting is a balanced gait and helps ease the horse into work again. I don’t lope them the first two weeks nor do I ask them to work for a specific time. I watch their bodies and go at their pace. I see veins coming out but no sweat yet, then reverse go the other way same number of laps and by then their chest is sweaty but nothing excessive. We stop then walk out until cool then end our lesson. I work them every other day to help with muscle soreness they get a day in between of rest and pasture turn out to stretch. Each day they get into better condition and the workouts are longer. After three weeks of trotting only I ask for the lope two laps each way. Loping or cantering help develop the horses wind and endurance. The more loping you do the leaner the muscle on the horse. More trotting then you’ll add bulk. I always offer my horses water after cooled off before going in their stalls. This way I can monitor how hydrated they are and if they are very thirsty I’ll add electrolytes in their grain post workout to help replenish their bodies of lost salts from workouts.

“No pain no gain!” Isn’t always true. I like to think more along the lines of “slow and steady wins the race” with this schedule in order to get them to their peak condition in time for summer. Diet is also a major factor just like athletes you’re not going to make progress very well if you don’t eat right or give your body what it needs to succeed. Same with horses. Develop a customized feed plan for each horse, after all they are athletes even if they are trail horses.