How to Handle Horses That Kick or Charge at You Because They Do Not Want You In Their Stall.

Walking into a stall and having a thousand pound horse charge at you with teeth bared and ears flat back on their neck really is no fun. Actually, it is quite scary.

Usually horses that exhibit bad stall manners are performance horses. Performance horses are in the stalls most of the day and night and if they are out of the stall, they are under the stress to perform whether they feel like it or not. Horses that are out in a field all day and night can exhibit this same behavior and that is a territory or a dominance issue, but it is rare.

Probably, the first part of this problem is figuring out why this particular horse is behaving in this manner. Is the horse unhappy because it despises being in a stall all day? Or maybe needs contact with other horses? Are they claustrophobic and just really want to get out of the stall and because they cannot, they become very angry? Is there a territorial factor; meaning that this is their space and they really do not want anyone in there bugging them? Or maybe they hate their job and they know that when you enter the stall, it means they have to go to work?

Another type of horse that may be difficult in a stall is a mare that has just had a foal. Even if the mare knows you and knows that you would never harm her baby, some of them become so aggressive that it may take a day or two to get to the foal. Broodmares do not play around so patience may be your best virtue when dealing with foaling mares, and, especially mares having their first foal.

I have seen many horsemen take a carrot or apple into the stall, or a hand full of feed in order to coax a bad behaving horse. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. I have seen the horse take the offering quickly and spin around and kick at that person. I have never been one to give an offering. They do not deserve a treat and I think you are rewarding bad behavior. Remember one thing, horses are curious and usually submit very easily. If you have a horse that is almost impossible to catch in the stall, here are my suggestions – if you have the time. First, I would be spending time around that horse’s stall. If someone comes over to speak with you, speak with them in front of that horse’s stall. Grab a chair and read the newspaper sitting outside of the stall just far enough for them to barely put their nose on you. If you sit outside of their stall long enough, their curiosity level will get the best of them. You are now starting to spend time with that particular individual. The game here is trust. Hang out with your horse and make no demands on them. As you become friends, perhaps the horse will start to put their head out of the stall and allow you to speak with them and pet them, and eventually you will be able put the halter on them and THEN you give them a carrot or apple or some form of treat. So now they will associate being haltered as a positive event. Study your horse’s behavior patterns and decide whether your horse is serious or just bluffing. Sometimes being very direct, walking into the stall with authority and as soon as this individual starts to move away from you, move quickly enough to subtly challenge their movements making sure that they do not get the upper hand of the situation. However, always use caution with bad mannered horses and respect their body language. Knowing when to approach, at what persistence level and knowing when to back off is crucial.

Another approach for an extremely difficult horse is to take a lunging whip. This is only to be used to move the horse into a certain position, not to be used as a punishing tool. Let’s say the horse is standing on the left side of the stall with their head facing the opposite corner. Use the whip to motion the horse to move forward, clucking to the horse to encourage the forward motion. Ask the horse to move to the right side of the stall facing you. Ask the horse to whoa and give praise. Move back from the front of the stall speaking to the horse. Approach the horse with whip in right hand, motioning that horse to move to their right, keeping movement behind the horse to bring them full circle and ask them to stop at the same spot. This sounds easy and it is if you give the individual a chance to understand and respond. The object here is, first and foremost, to get the horse’s attention. Secondly, to respond to commands, using the whip only for encouragement behind them, to go forward and stop in a specified area each time.

Once the horse is facing you and you have their attention and are speaking with the horse, you now can try to approach the horse. Having the horse facing you gives you the advantage. If you approach a horse that is facing you, you are clear of the hind legs and if the horse becomes aggressive you can quickly back up out of harms way as the door to the stall is near.  If the individual does not behave, use a very stern voice of disapproval and start again with the exercise. Part of conquering this situation is not to show fear. Weakness will open the door for the aggressor. These particular individuals may need to live in a leather halter until they learn to submit and be caught easily. Patience and persistence usually will get the job done. If you can figure out why a horse is behaving this way, you may find another solution to suit that horse or can solve the problem much sooner with less effort.

Do not get discouraged; there is a solution for every problem and if you study a bad behaving horse long enough, the answer and method of operation will come to you. Getting to the source of the problem will relieve the symptoms.

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PREPARING FOR AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOUR BLACKSMITH

Just as most horsemen are very busy with details and chores associated with having horses, blacksmiths experience the same hectic schedule. Part of their job involves a considerable amount of time traveling from client to client. This will usually put them on a tight schedule. Having a professional and friendly relationship with your blacksmith is important as well as making sure that everything runs smoothly during that appointment.
Knowing the day and time for the appointment with your blacksmith, you should have everything in order. Horses should be brought in, preferably standing and waiting in a stall or in paddocks that have a very close proximity to the area where the blacksmith will be working. Giving your horse a bath right before your blacksmith arrives may not be a good idea but getting most of the dirt and/or mud off of the horse with a good brushing is a good idea. Pick out your horses’ feet and clean off any excess mud around the outside of the hoof and ankle if necessary. Take a good look at each foot as you are picking and cleaning them, keeping in mind any concerns that you may want to ask questions about or discuss a particular issue with your blacksmith.
Be sure to keep your blacksmith aware of your type of discipline, how much schooling and showing is taking place on a daily basis as this will set the precedence for the type of shoeing that is necessary. If your horse has some bad habits that involve issues with the shoes, he should be aware so he can shoe accordingly to accommodate the problem. Of course, if there is a minimal amount of riding, shoes may not even be necessary. Blacksmiths are open to questions and usually have a great story that goes along with some of the answers.
If the weather is warm enough for flies to be out and about, make sure your horses have been sprayed with fly spray and have a strong fan blowing on the horse that is being shod or trimmed. Having a fly deterrent in the hand of the horse holder is very helpful in keeping your horse quiet. This could be a rub rag, held on one corner and hanging down and can be gently tossled onto the horses’ legs or back or wherever the flies are landing. Another good fly chaser is a long stick with a horses tail attached.
Having quick and easy access to each horse is important in helping things run smoothly. Waiting until the blacksmith pulls up to your barn and going all the way out into the field to catch your horse while the blacksmith is waiting is not a good idea. This may put him behind schedule. After your horse has been shod or trimmed, put that horse back into their stall or paddock and get the next horse out to the blacksmith. If he wants to take a break, he will let you know. Usually they are there to do their job and are anxious to move onto the next horse quickly. Be respectful of his time frame and make things as easy as possible for him as this will most likely insure an increase in his desire to return. There will be times that your blacksmith will have to return because of a twisted or lost shoe and his quick response may be imperative, so, if he knows that when he makes a stop at your barn, that you will be there, be organized and his time there will be short and sweet and be off to his next appointment, he will not mind and will be prompt.
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Determining the Fitness Level of Your Horse by Appearance & Touch, and Recognizing Sweat Patterns.

Horses have five hundred muscles throughout their body in three separate layers. Add that to an average of one thousand pounds per horse and you are considering a major undertaking in trying to bring this massive creature to a certain level of fitness. Ligaments, tendons and muscles are connected and are attached to bone. All of them make up a symphony of parts that must be fine tuned as one. This means that we cannot focus on just the muscle but all of its counterparts. A healthy muscle attached to fragile bone or ligaments and tendons attached to malnourished or overworked depleted muscle is not going to get your horse to the athletic level that you desire. Having said that, nutrition is the very first consideration in helping your horse in becoming fit. Secondary to nutrition is of course, exercise. Having your horse properly shod will make a major difference in your horses’ performance and then making sure your horse is being schooled over the correct type of terrain. Your basic show horses are usually schooled and shown in a large ring with shallow sandy soil. Eventing horses are shown in the ring but also jump cross country and usually are traveling on uneven grass, not to mention the fine tuned dressage moves that are specific and demanding, asking your horse to perform very difficult maneuvers. Racing horses are traveling over a much deeper but softer track in order to minimize the amount of return trauma sent back through the body after hitting the ground at tremendous speeds. Why am I mentioning shoeing and terrain? Like all other things with horses, the demands that we put upon our horses must be fitted with the actual type of ground that they travel on. You cannot train a race horse successfully for a long period of time on shallow hard dirt. Nor can you train a dressage horse on a deep race track without causing problems along the way. So, matching the correct surface that your horse travels over during their rigors is extremely important in helping them to reach the fitness level desired as well as helping them to stay sound. Different disciplines should be matched with the proper terrain to that discipline in order to achieve the maximum quality results.

The very first part of determining your horse’s level of fitness is by sight. Stand in front of your horse looking straight down both sides of the horse. You should not see a bulging stomach. You should see a nicely rounded shoulder and not a pointy shoulder. Go to the side of your horse and stand back and get a good view of the whole horse. Taking into consideration the confirmation faults of your horse, first look at your horse in sections and then as a whole. Start with the throat latch that should look defined with no extra fat in that area, moving onto the crest of the neck looking for extra fat. Now look at the center of the neck. It should be full but not too full, showing some definition of the muscles. Take into consideration of whether you are looking at a filly or a mare, a colt or a gelding or an older horse that is perhaps beyond his or her prime. As you start to look at the shoulder, there should not be too much of an indentation where the neck meets the shoulder, there should be a smooth connection that does not look depleted. The shoulder should have muscular definition, looking full and strong. Look at your horses’ withers. This is more difficult with some horses such a Quarter Horses of whom usually have a smaller undefined wither. There should not be too much fat over the withers nor should you have withers that are too bony and distinct. Moving onto the sides of your horse, you should see ribs that have a smooth appearance and no ribs showing. When your horse moves, it is ok to see a hint of the rib, but not ribs that are very defined. Now look at the horses’ flanks. They should not be hollowed out and should also be smooth as the hips of the horse should be rounded the same as the point of the shoulder. Look at the horses’ back. Is should show some muscle on either side of the spine and the spine should not be sticking up in a point nor should it be too flat from too much fat on the body. Moving onto the croup or rump, again, you should not see any bones sticking up or out. The muscles from the back should smooth out over the hips down to the tail. Look at the size of the stifles and gaskin muscles as well as the gluteal muscles which are on either side of the tail. These three different muscle groups should show fullness, strength and definition.

The next step of understanding your horses’ fitness level is by feel. Run your hands down your horses’ neck using slight pressure. It should feel firm and full, meaning that if you push on the neck with your hand, it should not be flabby and jiggly; the same with the shoulder and the rest of the body. If your horse is fairly fit, all of their muscles should have close to the same fullness, definition of muscles and respond in the same way to your touch. Usually, a horse’s muscles on their rump will be a little fuller, stronger and not be as yielding to a push of the hand. You should be able to feel their strength as you run your hand over their body. Usually a fit horse will exude a brighter shinier coat, a more brilliant color and perhaps dapples all over their body and not just at shedding time.

And of course, you will for sure know and understand your horses’ fitness level when on their back. This takes understanding of your animal and their usual behavior patterns. Most of the time, a fit horse will not sweat as quickly as an unfit horse and they will sweat in a different way. An unfit horse will sweat up. This means that they usually will start to sweat on the underside of their body first, then to the chest and sides, up to the neck and head and rump. Also an unfit horse will sweat very large beads of sweat on their head and rump. On their neck will be a slimy type of sweat; the type of sweat that you notice from a very nervous horse. A fit horse will usually start to sweat in the center of their neck and under the saddle first. The sweat will start to spread throughout the neck and on the chest and then to the withers. A fit horse has a tendency to have an even sweat and will not sweat profusely unless driven far beyond their means. The next thing to know about a fit horse is their breathing. A rider should always be listening when they are on a horse’s back. A fit horse will not make noise when breathing unless they have a particular problem that you should be aware of. There should be no roaring or their nostrils should not be flaring too much nor should they be taking short breaths. A fit horse should be light on their feet unless their confirmation is very poor and they cannot help but hit the ground hard. Even if this is the case, the fitness level should help to improve the horse that is a poor mover. As your horses’ fitness level improves, the ride should become more comfortable and smoother.

Bringing a horse to a high level of fitness takes a long time because you should always start a horse out going easy and increase the time and demands as they will let you know when it is ok to step up the demands. Patience will play a very large part in this process. Pushing too hard, too fast is asking for trouble with muscle soreness and inevitable joint issues. If your horse starts to lather down, this is a big red flag. Either you are pushing your horse too hard or they are experiencing pain. There should never be lather on your horse; a good strong sweat but not lather. Have a training schedule in mind and try to stick to it and remember that you cannot get a horse fit by riding them once or twice a week for ten or fifteen minutes. You must have a safe and consistent plan, riding every day or at least five or six days a week. So my suggestion is to be kind but be stern and before you know it, you will have a fit horse that will enjoy their job and look like a picture of health.

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Thrush & Canker:Common Problems with Horses Feet.The Causes and Care Needed to Reduce Reoccurrences.

There is an old saying: “Horses have five hearts”. The frog in a horses’ foot is like another pump or heart in their body. There is a lot of circulation in the frog and if the horse has been properly shod or trimmed and the frog has correct contact with the ground, with every step, pressure from the ground will push on the frog like a pump and force blood flow through the foot and back up through the leg. This pumping action is essential for better health of the horse especially when enduring the rigors of carrying a human being and during flight. Inside of the horses’ foot is called the laminae, which has limited circulation the same as a horses’ tendon and these pumps are necessary for a healthy foot and leg. Thrush is one of the enemies. It is a bacterial infection with a foul odor and is black and gooey.

What are the causes of Thrush? Each horse is different as far susceptibility. Dirty stalls are usually the biggest offender and/or dirty and wet paddocks. When the stalls have a lot of manure and urine in them and the horse is standing in it, there is too much moisture kept in the foot and the bacteria is in heaven. When horses are in a stall all or most of the day, it is imperative that the stalls are cleaned thoroughly every day and that the manure is taken out as often as possible as well as the urine. Re-bedding the stalls daily with fresh shavings or straw is a must as well. Here are the reasons why. As thrush starts to develop, the bacteria are eating away the frog and stifles new growth. The frog will slough off the old flesh and underneath will be a good healthy supple frog if it is not infected with thrush. If thrush is not attacked and killed, it will continue to eat away the frog, there will be much less circulation and pumping of blood through the foot and leg and thrush will develop into canker and usually lameness will occur at some point. This can become serious and will be painful for your horse.

There are several thrush medications available on the market today. If you purchase this medication it must be used on a daily basis until the thrush is completely gone and then a weekly regiment must be followed. I am not saying that these medications do not work but I am still an old believer in good old iodine or bleach water. When I was a professional groom, about every other day I would have a bucket of soapy iodine water with a stiff brush in it, sitting out on the wash rack. After I bathed my horses and scraped them off, I would pick up their feet, pick them out and scrub the bottom of their feet with the strong soapy iodine water. This was used as a preventive measure against thrush. If I had a horse come into the barn with thrush, then this soapy water would be used every day until the thrush was gone. After the horse was brought into the stall and his or her feet had dried out, usually the last part of my grooming ritual was to put which ever thrush medicine I had decided to use, on both sides of the frog and anywhere else necessary. If you have a horse that is severely affected, take small pieces of cotton, using your hoof pick, force the cotton into the crevices that have been eaten away by thrush. When you apply the thrush medicine, it will penetrate the cotton and your horse will have a much longer lasting treatment and usually the thrush will be cured in a shorter amount of time. If you are going to use bleach water, about one third bleach to two thirds water, put in perhaps an empty dish detergent bottle. This type of bottle will help make it easier to make sure that you get it into the crevice of the frog.

If your horse has developed canker, you can ask your blacksmith to burn the foot out which means they take what looks like a blue stone, put some on the horses’ frog, pour turpentine over the stones and it will kill the bacteria. This is not something you should try to do, as you could burn yourself. Once the frog has been burned, your job is to keep on working on the foot to keep the thrush away and allow the frog to grow back healthy. Just as most other things with horses, one wrong thing is going to affect several other things in their body, meaning if your horses’ feet are bothering them and they are walking different, this of course is going to be compensated somewhere else in the body. Throughout the articles I have written about horses, I have not been able to impress upon horseman enough on how very important it is to make sure that your horses’ feet are a priority in horse care. Horses carry around hundreds or even thousands of pounds on these small little feet in comparison to the rest of their body. A very good blacksmith will insure a good foot up under your horse. A good groom insures the continuation of this healthy foot and in turn a healthier horse. Picking out your horses’ feet is a daily chore to be carried out more than once a day, but, if you are adamant about it, your horse will comply quickly and be very willing to accommodate you. By the way, there is another saying from the old timers, “No feet, No horse”.

Leave a comment if  this article was helpful.  Questions are always welcome.  Bev

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How To Determine Whether Your Horse is Starting to Experience Joint or Muscle Pain.

In a perfect world, the horses that we so dearly love and enjoy riding, would feel exactly the same every day that we sit on their backs. But, because of the rigors of schooling, jumping, showing, roping, reigning, cutting or eventing or even racing, horses are going to have one or several problems arise at some point. There is that occasional “Iron Horse” that can train very hard, never miss a show and have very little time off, sometimes for years, and will never have any issues at all. These horses do exist, but they are very rare and are cherished. Just because your horse starts to show signs of stress let’s say in their joint or joints, this does not mean that it is the end of the world. There are many remedies that can be used internally and externally to help your horse cope with these issues or eliminate them. Horsemanship is more than just feeding and riding your horse. It is important that ALL of your horses’ needs are met on a daily basis, not just when it is convenient for you. I have missed many appointments over the years due to the fact that my horse was not acting just right and I wanted to hang around, to watch, look and listen. If my instincts were correct, I wanted to be there to take action immediately and hopefully nip whatever was going on in the bud.

My first suggestion to horse owners is, take a REALLY good look at each and every horse, every day and sometimes more than once a day. If you take those extra few moments to study your horses every day, your mind’s eye will have a picture implanted into it of what each and every horse is supposed to look like including all the little quirks. As soon as you study your horse on a particular day, starting with the eyes, the face, how they hold their ears, how they stand or graze, how they walk and so on and if there is something different on that day, you will pick it up immediately. You will have a certain feeling inside of you that something is not right because your mind’s eye is sending you that message. So, if you can feel or see that your horse is not acting the same on a particular day, or for several days and when you are schooling your horse and they just do not feel right, then here are my suggestions. Look at your horses’ legs, neck and shoulder muscles, their back, stifles, rump, hocks, ankles and feet and compare both sides of the horse. Look under their tale making sure there have been no loose bowel movements. Look into their eyes. The eyes have a story to tell, every day.  Start looking for clues, did they not finish their feed, not grazing or did not finish eating their hay. Pain or discomfort can cause a horse to go off of their feed. Run your hands over their neck and shoulders, down their legs, stopping at the knees, feeling for heat, lumps, fillings or changes. Feel the front of the knees and on the side of the knee closest to the other leg. Heat behind the knee on the inside facing the other leg, can sometimes be a prelude to high suspensory problems. Run your hand down the tendon and feel the shin. Next move onto the horses’ ankles, feel them front and back, run your fingers down feeling behind the pastern checking for heat, any bulges or filling or cracked heels. Finally, turn facing the same way the horse is facing, and place your whole hand on top of the horses’ hoof. If the hoof seems maybe a tad bit warm, check the other foot and compare the temperature of both feet. Run your hand down yours horses’ back looking for tenderness, looking for vertebrae that may be out of place. Run your hand over their rump and down to their hocks, feeling both inside and outside of the hock. Continue down the tendon, run your hand down the shin, feel the ankle and pastern as well as their feet. Pick up their feet and look to see if they have a stone or anything else stuck in their feet or if they are starting to develop thrush of which you will smell a foul odor. Take your thumbs and put a little pressure on the bulbs of their heels to see if they will flinch.

Watch your horse as they walk; they should have a flowing movement throughout their whole body. If they are sore somewhere, they will have what the Old Timers would say, “A hitch in their get up”. This means that there will be interrupted motion. Look for the head bob .Let’s say your horse is a little off on the left front. Every time he or she walks and that left front hits the ground, your horses’ head will go up. Usually, the more pain, the more pronounced the head bob. When horses are slightly off, it is much harder to see it as you watch. The real telltale is when you get on their backs and they just do not have that flow. The more fit a horse is, the more difficult it is to determine the origin of the soreness as it will be easier for them to compensate as they are stronger.

Here are some other things to consider if you think your horse is becoming sore. Has your horse just been shod or had their feet trimmed. It is possible that the blacksmith took a little too much foot off and your horse may feel the effects of this for a week or so. Has there been excessive running out in the field if your horse is turned out. If your horse has just been shod, feel around each and every nail hole to make sure that the horse does not have a hot nail which means that he or she has been “quicked”. Have you had the vet give your horse any shots in the last few days? Sometimes a horse will have a reaction to particular shots and they can become sometimes very sore, even muscle sore all over.

If you are finding let’s say filling in the ankles, but there is no heat, then the ankles are trying to tell you that you are asking too much from your horse and you need to back off or perhaps your horses’ hocks are bothering them behind and he or she is compensating and putting too much pressure on their front end. I could go on and on and on about the maybe’s. There are many, many joint products with glucosamine and chondroitin for your horse that are over the counter remedies. These will take a few weeks of mixing in their feed in order for you to see the results and some of them work very well, or you can start your horse on an Adequan series that you get from the vet. There are also many machines such as electro-magnetic machines, lasers, ultra sound, bio-scan and micro-current just to name a few and super charged blankets for the body all of which I love and probably have owned or used. When you find filling in a joint, that is a warning, unless of course it is from a cut or bruising. If you have filling in a joint and start to have heat, then you are going into the realm of damaging that joint if you continue the same training. There are sweats, liniments and poultices to help your horse get through these stresses. If your horse is becoming muscle sore, massage therapy is a good alternative as well as feed supplements. If your horse is a performance horse, just understand that very sore tight muscles can cause problems to develop in the lower joints as they are all connected in a certain way. Changing your training schedule is sometimes necessary in order to help your horse get through these flair ups. Just be kind, be aware and be quick to respond to changes in your horses’ body and you will learn in time how to tackle these issues. My best advice is, pay attention to detail.

If this article is helpful, please leave a comment.  Have a question?  Just ask me.  Have a topic of interest you want me to talk about?  Just tell me!  I would love to hear from you.  Bev

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The Dangers of Schooling Your Newly Broke Horse, Too Much, Too Hard, Too Fast.

For most horsemen who have just taken on the endeavor of breaking a young horse, it is an exciting experience. Having said that, know that it is very easy to over indulge in the schooling process that is at hand. After your horse has accepted the fact that their new job is to allow humans to put a bridle on them and place a saddle on their backs in order to ride them, the rest of the journey involves the everyday schooling of this young individual. The rules are still the same, try to make it short and sweet. Now as your horse becomes more fit, then the lessons can go on longer. As their fitness level increases, your horse may not mind spending more time being schooled; they may even start to enjoy the time spent in pleasing you.

The error you do not want to make is to put too much pressure on this young horse. Here are some of the reasons why. First, two year old horses are still very much in the developmental stages. They have not reached their true height yet, there muscles are still developing and their bones will not start to harden until age four. These young horses have ligaments and tendons that are attached to immature bones. They can only handle so much pressure at this age. Most breeds are not considered an adult until they reach the age of five years. Because of this, if you spend too much time on your horses’ back and you are asking them to perform difficult tasks; you can start a chain of physical problems. Some of them are of course, muscle soreness beyond the normal, they can start to get filling and pressure in their ankles which is telling you that the joint is not handling the work load very well. The filling in the ankle or even their knees is synovial fluid which is sent to these joints from their brain trying to heal these areas. If they keep pounding the ground with you on their backs without giving them time off, the problem will develop into other problems. Young horses’ knees are what is called open, which basically means that the joint is immature and needs more time to close in order to give the horse more support. You can find out if your horses’ knees are still open past the age of three by using x-rays. Another thing that cannot be in your horses’ favor is OCD lesions usually related to the stifle muscle. These are gaps in the growth plates on their legs. Again, this is an immature issue.

Keep in mind that when a horse starts to have a joint or muscle issue in one area, there soon will be another area that is going to be affected by this if you keep up the same strenuous regiment of schooling. If your horses’ ankles, for instance, are starting to show signs of stress and you do not lighten the work load, then this horse is going to try and compensate and put pressure on other areas of the body trying to relieve the pain. He or she by moving differently in compensation perhaps will lean more on their hind quarters and cause their stifles to become sore or their hocks start to bother them. Or they may change the movement in their shoulders which in turn could change the way they hit the ground and their feet will start to become sore or their knees will take the blunt of the pressure. If you are seeing changes in your newly broke horse in their joints or they are moving different, then you will need to make changes and adjust to correct the problem. Some horses can start the schooling process even if it is vigorous and never have one problem. Other horses can be training fairly lightly and seem to constantly be coming up with issues. It is your job to keep a close eye on your horse daily. Before you mount your horse, look down at the knees and ankles; look at the hocks and stifles. Reach down and put your hand on the front of your horses’ feet. If you feel a difference or see something, a little swelling or anything that looks different than the day before, then maybe you can change up your training plan for that day and if necessary for a few days after. Maybe just go for a trail ride and forget hacking your horse for that day and see if there is a difference the next day.

When you are teaching your horse to walk, trot or jog, canter or lope on command, to stop when asked, to pick up a lead at a half of a seconds notice, change things up and try to keep it interesting. Boredom can set in and that may at some point turn into resistance. Training horses is about being patient and being smart. Put yourself in their shoes, try to see life and schooling through their eyes and ask yourself if YOU would really enjoy the training program that you have designed for them. Be kind, be stern and beware of small things as they can turn into big things. Well-schooled horses are a great pleasure to ride and a joy to be around. Having fun is what it is all about.  Don’t forget about days off, they deserve it as much as we do.

Please leave a comment if this article was helpful and feel free to ask me any questions.  Bev

 

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Teaching Young Horses To Go “FORWARD” Is Monumental For Success In The Breaking Process.

Now that your youngster has learned to accept you on their back, doing figure eights at a walk and accepting the bit when asked to stop is a good beginning. This next step can be hard if you do not have a lead horse to help your baby understand that they not only need to go forward, but at a faster pace. Most young horses are not that willing to jog with you on their back. This is a new experience and a new feeling for them. Their whole life they have been able to run, jump, buck and play whenever THEY felt like it, not when someone asked or told them to. Usually you can get them to go a few strides but they will automatically go back down to a walk. Some of them will do this many, many, many times, because they do not want to do it or they are just not sure what it is that you are asking of them. This is where another horse in front of them comes in very handy. If your baby is in the shed row by themselves or in a paddock by themselves and you are trying to get them to jog and they are not liking it, as soon as they see another horse, especially if it is a friend of theirs, they usually are very happy to follow. Part of this is because their attention is on the other horse and not on you. So if their buddy jogs, well then, that’s ok with me, I just want to be with another horse instead of being out in this paddock by myself. At this stage of the breaking process, try to travel the road to least resistance.

If you have a young horse that is being stubborn and just refuses to go forward, or even puts their head up in the air and tries to run off, then you may want to bring your lead horse next to your baby and see if that helps. Try to converse with the other person and stay very relaxed. If your youngster still is resistant, have the person on the other horse take a rope shank and snap it onto the babies’ halter that is under the bridle. Take another five or ten minutes to try and help your baby to understand that you very much would like for them to move forward at a faster pace alongside the other horse. If they still are not giving you the results you want, just continue doing the best you can, staying calm, until the time is up and untack. The next day, make sure you have that same horse with your baby, snap the shank on again and repeat the same lesson. If you are not getting the results you should be getting, you may need to use another horse, which will be on the right side of the baby. Usually this is not necessary, I am just explaining in case you come upon this problem. If you feel it is necessary, you may need to use a riding crop, another name, a persuasion stick or whip.  Personally, I have never used spurs on a young horse, I prefer a riding whip. This is not to be used to beat a horse up. It is to be used strategically at the right moment. If you are going to use a whip, make it count. When I was learning to break yearlings, you were allowed to use a stick, but if you just gave them a love tap, it was taken away. If you are going to use this valuable tool, you need to crack the horse on the rump, really mean it and leave it alone. If you are very stern they will get the message. Just be prepared at all times, when you are turning your stick on a youngster and are using it with conviction, be prepared for anything. Some babies will heed to your demands and that may be the one and only time that you will have to use this drastic measure. On the other hand, if you have a defiant baby that is in the attitude mode, you may be going for a rough ride. Some horses when you turn the stick on them will turn inside out because they have never had anything sting their butt like that before. The best case scenario is to have someone at their head, preferably on another horse or someone at their head on the ground.

Now your youngster has the idea that you really want them to go forward at a jog and keep going at a jog. Forward, forward, forward. You as the rider must keep this on your mind constantly when you are on your young horses back. As you are thinking forward, all of your body language will convey this to your horse and they will pick up on it and have a better understanding of what it is you are asking for. Once they have accepted the forward concept, half of the battle has been won. Now, take what you have taught them, work on the jogging until they are very good at responding to your commands. I cannot tell you exactly how many days or weeks but make sure they are good at jogging and paying attention to you on their back before you move on to the next step. Remember; keep it short, sweet and to the point. As the days progress, and your horse is becoming a little fit to the task and really is not minding it at all then you can move up to cantering or loping depending on your discipline. Always end on a positive note with your horse and lots of praise. They do not know the words that you are saying but they certainly understand the tone and excitement in your voice and the kindness in your heart. Again, I will be back shortly with more tips on making the breaking process an easy one.

Please let me know how you feel about this or any other article by leaving a comment.  I would love to hear from you! Bev

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Breaking Horses Is Easy If You Speak Their Language And Listen To What They Have To Say.

Now the journey has begun. You have a baby that has learned to  accept the bit, go forward while being driven, accept strange things touching their sides and rump, learning small amounts of voice commands and accepting a  saddle on their backs not to mention that annoying girth that really does not  feel all that great. The next step is to get on their back. Probably most  horses, if they accept human beings as their friend, will be fairly open to  allowing you to climb aboard. For the few that really do not think that it is a good idea, your expertise will be necessary to help them to understand that this will be a part of their life and if they object a little, that is fine, but do not get carried away.

Again, make sure your stall has a considerable amount of bedding in it. Take your filly or colt into the stall with halter and shank attached.Put your horse facing the same way as every other day. Put on the bridle except now you will have reins attached to the bit. Put your saddle onto the horse and tighten a little, walk your baby around the stall once or twice. This is where you definitely need a good horseman at the head of your horse. After a few turns, tighten your girth up more and maybe one more turn. Stand your horse in the usual spot, horse holder on the left side in between the horse’s head and the rider who is standing facing the saddle on the horse’s back. Have the rider gather the reins; the horse holder is going to give the rider a lift up over the horse’s back but only gently laying across the saddle. This is called bellying them. If the horse is ok, while the horse holder is still holding onto the rider’s left leg with his or her right hand, they need to keep a good hold onto the baby’s head and ask the horse to go forward moving around in the stall. If the horse misbehaves, the rider can slide off and you can walk the horse around the stall one or two times and try again. Some babies will get a hump in their back which means they are getting ready to start bucking, so move the baby several turns one way, then several turns the opposite way if the rider feels comfortable with you letting go of their leg. Now have the rider slide off, pat the horse and talk to the horse directly and maybe get back up one or two more times depending on how your horse is reacting. When you feel that you have accomplished your lesson for the day, untack and give your horse big words of approval and you are done. Turn your baby back out or give them a nice flake of hay. Remember to keep it short, sweet and to the point. Make sure that you have their attention at every step. This way your input will make an impact as long as you do not make the lessons too long and boring. Small amounts of learning each day will have big rewards in the end result. Knowing the difference makes the difference.

The next day follow the same procedure and if your horse seems unaffected by all of this, let the rider come back down and go back up slowly but this time sit on the horses back. Take a few spins around the stall, both ways. If your horse is very quiet, and does not have a hump in their back, if the rider feels confident, take the shank off and let the horse holder leave the stall and close the door. Now it is up to the rider to keep the baby going forward and help them to understand that rider up means going forward. Now the driving that you did will come into play. Do some easy figure eights in the stall. About five minutes of that is plenty. So, if the horse decides to cut a buck, there is not very far to go and the rider can stay in control. Ok, five minutes are up, horse holder back in the stall, snap on shank, take the tack off, big pat and maybe even a hug and perhaps some excited words for the student.

Repeat this the next day, if the horse is responsive, have the horse holder lead the baby out of the stall with the rider on, just be careful  and go slow. Depending on whether you have a shed row which I think is the best for young horses or a paddock, the first day you should keep the horse holder at the horse’s head. The next day if the rider feels comfortable, then turn the baby loose after a few turns around the shed or in the paddock. This is when having more than one horse being broken is greatly to your advantage. There will be a leader and the others will follow as a general rule. Well, I have gotten you to the paddock with rider on your horse’s back. I will be back shortly to continue with the next step in breaking and educating your horse.

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The Concept Behind Breaking Horses Is About Doing It Right; You Only Get One Shot.

Yes, you only break a horse once. However, I have heard people say that they re-break a horse, but I don’t buy it. From the first day you start the breaking process, you are making indelible markings on your animal; physically, mentally, and emotionally. I could understand re-schooling but if they are broken in a way that they have developed bad habits from the experience, it can take a very, very long time to get that out of their heads. So, take your time, be patient and get it right the first time and life will be much easier for you and your horse down the road. Alright, enough of that, let’s get down to business.

Please keep in mind that everyone does things differently, especially when it comes to horses. My methods are the ways that I have found to be best for me and my horses. You can take what I have to say and use it as a guideline, but follow your instincts as they are usually right. Just as each horse is different, each person is different as well. Use it to your advantage.

Break each horse as an individual because they are. The very first thing in starting is introduction. You are going to introduce a bit into the horse’s mouth for the first time. Naturally, they are not going to like it. So, take an old bridle, take the reins off of the bit and I prefer a rubber D bit. This is a D bit but has had the part that goes into the horse’s mouth covered in usually a black rubbery type coating. I don’t really like the bits that are covered in a hard plastic. If they can kind of chew on the bit I think it is more interesting and less intimidating. Have a halter and shank on your horse and gently put the bit into the horses’ mouth. It is wise to have someone there with you to help. I never suggest that anyone start to break a horse by themselves. You are entering into the unknown. Once you have the bit in their mouth, adjust the bridle correctly, not hanging too far down; maybe just one little wrinkle on the side of their mouth. Take an old saddle blanket, show it to the horse and let them look at it and smell it, and gently slide it onto their back. Take it off and put it back on over and over again for about 5 minutes. Now that you have finished that, take the shank off and leave the horse in the stall for about ten minutes or so with the bridle still on. Stand there and watch them to make sure they don’t do something silly. If your horse is not reacting very much, snap the shank on after the ten minutes and take your horse for a short walk. Take them back into the stall, take the bridle off and pat them on the neck or wherever you usually do and talk to them in a voice of approval. You are done for that day.

Day two and three: repeat the same process, if your horse is not reacting at all, take your horse for a longer walk. NO grazing or eating anything when the bit is in their mouth. Ok, back in the stall, bridle off, big words of approval, you are done. The next day, make sure your stall has plenty of fresh bedding in it. I always used an old, light English type of saddle; less weight, less intimidation. Put the bridle on, put the saddle blanket on. Have your helper hold your horses head standing in front of the horse. Pat your horse while talking to them, show them the saddle, let them get a good look and a good sniff then slowly put the saddle on their back. Wait a minute or so, walk your horse around in the stall a few times. If their eyes are not popping out of their head, show your horse the girth and then walk to the other side of the horse. Always make sure that the person holding the horse has the horse standing in the middle of the stall, facing the same direction every day. Put the girth on, leave it hang and go to the left side of the horse. Talking, talking, talking, bring your girth up and just barely tighten it. Take the horse for another walk or you can tighten the girth just enough to keep it on, leave the stall, let the horse holder unsnap and leave the stall and watch your horse. Some babies are going to blow up, start bucking and making a few noises. Some are going to just stand there and not really care. For the ones that are bucking, give them about ten minutes or so before you go in to take off the tack. For the ones that are just standing there, walk them around the stall a few times, talking, talking, talking to them. Big words of approval, lots of stroking and pats on the neck, take the tack off slowly while the horse holder stands before the horse. You are done.

Day four: follow day three, once the tack is on and your horse is not bucking anymore if that be the case, then a good ten minute walk with a slightly tight girth. Back in the stall, tell your horse what a great job they are doing and you are done.

Day five: repeat day four except, instead of walking, attach a set of side reins to the bit and to the girth. Put enough tension on them just so your horse has to bring his or her head down a little and nose in, to be comfortable. Leave the stall, watch for a few minutes. If your horse is not fussing about the side reigns, then take them for a ten minute or so walk. If they are fussing a lot, you may have to repeat this step. Getting used to a little pressure on their mouths is very important. Some horses’ mouths are very sensitive and you must give them time to adjust or even go to a simple straight rubber bit which does not have any steel in it.

Day six: On this day you will put on the bridle but instead of a saddle you will put a surfsingle on them. You will also need a set of driving reigns which are extremely long reign used when horses pull carts or wagons. This is so you can bring them outside either in a shedrow or paddock and attach driving reins to the bit, through the surfsingle and you behind the horse. Now it is important to have someone at your horses’ head at all times. You should have reigns that are long enough that you can be within a safe distance behind the horse and leather reigns are the best in my opinion. They should be soft and supple in your hands. What you are doing is getting them first, used to having something touching them on their sides at the same time having someone behind them This also is a very important step in teaching them how to turn, again getting used to the pressure on their mouths. Have the lead person start and stop a few times. Chirping means forward, whoa means stop. Have them turn the horse around as you are giving signals through their mouth and using the reins just as you would use your legs to turn them. Take your time. If your horse is getting excited, then just walk straight and save the turns for the next day. Follow the untacking and approval procedure. Take the reins off of the horse before you walk them back into the stall using the usual approval words and gestures. Maybe even a nice carrot or apple would be a very good idea.

Day Seven: Repeat everything from day six for a few days until you can unsnap the horses’ head and they know how to go forward, turn, turn around just with you guiding them from behind and stop. Remember, give or take a total of about ten to fifteen minutes. Keep it fun and with a treat at the end of the session is helpful.

Within a week to ten days depending on how quiet and accepting your horse is, you have your horse accepting a bridle and saddle, long lining, knowing how to go forward, turn, turn around and stop. Not bad. Good job. Keep talking to your horse while you are going through these motions. It makes a difference. Well, that is it for now. I’ll be back real soon and happy training.

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First Steps In Breaking Your Horse. Kindness, Patience and Seeing Them for the Children They Are.

Yes, they are children. They are horse children. They had a mother and a father and we estimate that horses develop about four years to our one year of life. So, this means that starting the breaking process of a two year old is about the same as dealing with an eight year old child. Now that you have that information, don’t forget it and base your actions towards your horse always keeping this in mind. People have a tendency to feel that because a horse is big and strong, that they are mature. NOT. Some young horses will try to play games with you and out smart you on a minute to minute basis. Young horses are quick to temper or quick to respond in a negative way. If your young horse has been handled from birth and has grown to be a very quiet individual, things can change the minute you try to get on their back. Long ago, I had a young two year old Appendix horse. Every day of his life he walked up and down the same path starting when he was at his mothers’ side. Well, now that I was on his back, you would have thought that he had never seen that road before. Jumping, spooking and snorting at every little thing possible. This is not to say that your sweet, quiet colt or filly will not be accepting of you on their back. I am just saying that you can never be one hundred percent sure.

Different breeds of horses usually have horseman that follow different procedures for breaking their young. Draft horses are not even considered for breaking until about three or four years of age, because of their size and slow development. The thoroughbred racing industry starts to break their horses at 18 months of age. This is because of them being so high strung and difficult to break. After about two or three months of breaking, they should be turned out for a few months and allowed to grow. Usually quarter horses are broken at 2 years. So you would know what the procedure is for your breed of horse and I would suggest that you follow their lead. Of course it does not matter what breed it is, if they have been handled from birth, your job is going to be much easier and probably the learning process will take less time. Remember that what you are about to do with your horse is something new to him or her at each step. Make sure that your young horse understands each step before you move onto the next. Trust is a big player in the process of breaking a horse. If they trust you on the ground, then they will probably trust you to get on their backs. Teaching them how to go forward and then helping them to wrap their brains around that concept is a major milestone. Once they really understand that, then the rest should come easily and quickly. Also, if you can break horses with at least two or more at a time, this will speed up the learning process. Lets say you are breaking four babies together. Out of those four, one of them is going to pick up this concept much quicker than the other three and they will more than likely follow his or her lead.

Keeping your lessons short, sweet and to the point is key. Remember, we are dealing with eight year old minds. Their attention span is probably within a ten to fifteen minute period. You will be surprised at the amount they can learn in those few minutes but you must do this on an almost daily basis. Once you lose their attention, and you continue to push, you will take the risk of taking out instead of putting in. Each and every day should be about positive input. If you make this a pleasant experience with your patience and understanding, then there should be no reason that they will object to experience this for yet another day and a day after that. Actually, if they think it is fun, well then, lets have at it. Yahoo! This is just a prelude into the art of breaking a horse properly. I cannot explain it to you in just one article. So the next part of this journey is soon to come.

 

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