Book Review

Posted on January 7, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, health, history, riding, training.
Learning Riding Posture

Learning Riding Posture

“Dude! Did You Just Fall Off?” is a delightful kid’s e-book on Amazon’s Kindle that skillfully and humorously attempts to prepare the horse newbie for their first and, hopefully, subsequent encounters.  It boldly asks:  what would you do if you were invited to go horseback riding, had never even been near a horse, but really wanted to go?

Obviously this is not a common invitation for inner-city dwellers, but for the nearly 30% of rural school children, and even higher percentage of suburban students, a recreational weekend just may indeed include a friend’s offer to see their family’s stabled horse. Facing the reality of being near such a big animal and actually sitting on its back can seem adventurous,  but nearly everyone quickly discovers a sudden level of panic once they become face to face with such a large animal.

This is why we picked the “Dude!” book off the shelf of Amazon. This book stands apart from the plethora of previous books by the way it brings horseback riding into your home and helps you practice balance and posture before you even head out to your friend’s barn. The list of straightening and correcting exercises range from simple body adjustments to learning ready-to-use moves while in the saddle. It had such great ideas plus a wallet saving price of only $2.99. Download it to your phone or tablet and refer to it right on the way to the stable. Personally, we found it just as helpful for adults. Enjoy..

Bitless Riding & Driving

Posted on January 3, 2019 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, health, history, riding.

drivingbitlessfig3.jpg

Some Thoughts on the Hackamore
By Gwynn Turnbull Weaver

There are many different ideas floating around the country about the hackamore and how it is to be used. Its very makeup seems to be a mystery to many and its function even more elusive. How such a simple concept became so complex is beyond many dyed in the wool traditionalists but, be that as it may, some information about the hackamore is outlined here.

The snaffle bit came into play late in the game, in vaquero terms – showing up en mass when the British came onto the scene. Until then, the hackamore ushered most new mounts onto the payroll. It is no mystery to most that horses were started later in life in our not so distant past. Genetics, feed and the rigors of ranch life deemed it so. “Older blooded” horses were colder blooded horses – maturing later both mentally and physically. Feed, at least in many arid regions, fluctuated with the seasons and sparse times, along with long outside winters, held growth in check for many colts. It was not uncommon then for horses to grow substantially, well after their fifth or sixth year on earth.

What seems to stump most folks is the reasoning behind schooling the horse with the absence of a bit. Since the use of a bit is the end result down the road and since the horse has, in most modern day cases, already accepted the snaffle bit in its mouth, why then would we “change up” in mid stream and go to the hackamore? The most basic answers can be found straight from the horse’s mouth.

 

The Changing

 

One concept that fostered and continued the advocation of the hackamore was the changing nature of a horse’s mouth; particularly during the years that the teeth doing the changing are the ones directly involved with the bit. This seemed to line up with a horse’s coming four to coming five year old years. The changing of teeth marked the time a horseman did well to keep out of Mother Nature’s way and steer clear of their horse’s potentially sore and sensitive mouth.

Unfortunately, most modern-day trainers ignore the changing of a horse’s teeth. The best of horsemen are sensitive to the horse’s demeanor, ever searching for the subtle hints that indicate and instruct him on his journey. Only the keenest of horsemen, while paying attention to the messages their horse sends to them, understands that the condition of the animal’s mouth is one message he would do well to consider.

The hackamore was the obvious solution; it afforded the horseman the freedom to continue using and advancing his mount through the changing of his teeth. What most horsemen never counted on, however, was the added benefits the change offered them, while working through the differences the hackamore brought to light.

 

Horsemanship Exposed

What most good hands soon learn when using the hackamore is the simple fact that there are maneuvers and exercises that a horse might be “made” to do in a snaffle bit, but the hackamore requires that the horse be “taught” to do them.

The most valuable contribution the hackamore makes in the training process is the deficiencies it reveals in the rider. Few know or understand this principle. When using the hackamore it is essential that the rider set up his maneuvers correctly and fully support the cues he gives his mount. The rider’s body positioning, weight placement, timing and sensitivity must be correct in order for the hackamore horse to translate those cues.

The message the actual hackamore itself can offer is so subtle that the horse will feel for the accompanying cues from the rider’s legs, weight and posture to confirm the message before acting on it. If the rider is out of position or offering inconsistent cues elsewhere, the horse will quickly lose confidence in the hackamore’s cue and become muddled and confused.

This unique characteristic of the hackamore might possibly be its greatest contribution to the equine world. It requires a level of horsemanship and handiness to operate it successfully. A cowboy must know and understand all of the peripheral cues used to position his horse as he should before he can support the hackamore the way it must be supported.

The hackamore is a key phase for this reason. It trains or reinforces the concept in the rider that the horse is to be taught to respond to messages, later called signals, in the final stages of putting a horse in the bridle. It is extremely important that the rider know how to set up, support and deliver his cues consistently with all the tools he has to work with.

 

Equi-Trivia Quiz!

Posted on December 25, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, history, riding.

trivia3

If you pride yourself on horse trivia then take this quiz.

Rate your obsession!  Tally your results then go to the answer page.

Find out: Do you know a little about horses or are you a confirmed addict!

Horse Quiz:

1. Which of these said:   “I’m a stallion, baby! I can whinney!”

A. Eeyore

B. Donkey from Shrek

C. Mr. Ed

2. Made famous by their well known movie trilogies,which character did not use a horse for a quick escape?

A. Marty McFly

B. Frodo

C. Indiana Jones

3. Can you select the toy from the ‘breeds’?

A. Fallabella

B. Breyer

C. Paint

4.   Harry Potter did not ride one of these horse creatures:

A. Unicorn

B. Centaur

C. Thestral

5.   Anna Sewell wrote this book:

A. Black Stallion

B. Starlight

C. Black Beauty

6. Which t.v. star and horse pair is incorrect?

A. Roy Rogers and Trigger

B. Wilbur and Mr Ed

C. Lone Ranger and Tonto

7.  Do you know which of these is not a young horse?

A. Pony

B. Foal

C. Colt

8.  The early ancestor to the modern day horse was called:

A.  Protohippus

B. Equiworkus

C. Eohippus

How did you do? Check your tally results;  click     here

Minimalist Horse Training I

Posted on December 5, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, health, riding, therapy, training.
*Jentry rides her pony round the cones

*Jentry rides her pony round the cones

Minimalist training is exactly what it implies. When circumstances demand our absence from our horse for long periods of time, the moments we spend with him can be highly productive by minimizing and focusing what we try to accomplish with him. Training the horse takes place every time we touch our horse. The horse learns how we prefer him to behave. Minimalist training does not attempt to build muscle on our horse; only daily, vigorous forward riding can do that. But it can produce an obedient, trusting animal in only a minimal amount of time. Well structured, short sessions always produce ample results, and sets the tone for subsequent training sessions.

Whether you have been away from your horse one day or sixty days, it is always best to start an exercise session by either free- lunging your horse, or on the long line before doing anything. This gives you a chance to see how the horse is moving, specifically if he is favoring or limping on a leg or hoof. Even though you were away and and haven’t seen the horse, he could have twisted or stepped on something in his turnout, or paddock time. Once you determine he’s moving fine it’s time to exercise.

If you are able to ride once a week you can actually accomplish a lot with the use of  cones. With just two cones you can address bending, balance, and response time to cues.  Three cones is a luxury where you can set up a spacious triangle, or a straight line, and combine threading and circling to promote bending and re-bending. Cones provide a great short cut to helping your horse learn how to stay on the intended circle; not to change speeds on his own; and to bend both to the right and to the left. As he gets the hang of it at the walk then you can pick up a trot, taking care in keeping him balanced and adjusting his tendency to dip around turns.  Practicing halts, changes of stride from longer to shorter, using transitions between the walk and the trot, these changes keep your horse’s attention by keeping him focused on the work. Remember, you are not developing muscle so much as alertness to cues, and obedience to direction.  If you are able to move to canter work you will find endless options for practicing figure eights, flying changes, and even counter canter.

Ground poles can expand your cone lessons by changing the focus from turning and flexing exercises to lessons on lifting and carrying.  This helps activate your horse’s hind quarters, and subtly addresses ‘dragging toes’, a problem where the horse drags his back feet across the ground which causes stumbling. One of my favorite uses of ground poles is to lay down two parallel poles in three different places in the riding ring, placing a cone at the ends of each group of poles. Then I have the horse step over the center of one set of ground poles, bend right around the end cone, come back and step over the center of the poles again then turn left, (making a figure eight), and as we step back over the center of the ground poles once more then we move into either leg yield/shoulder-in/or half-pass toward the new set of poles where I can repeat my figure eight. None of these activities require extensive muscle strength, but they do address alertness, suppleness in bending, and stepping the hind legs under the horse’s barrel. Remember that minimalist training is for infrequent riding, focusing on building behavior, response, and trust. I have found it fully effective with horses ridden as little as three times a year! Muscle strength and stamina, however, can only be developed through a daily, vigorous riding program.
Next: Minimalist Training II  Scaling it down even further.

*photo from Jennifer Buxton; Braymere Custom Saddlery

Minimalist Horse Training II

Posted on December 4, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, health, riding, therapy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Many riders are fortunate to have an indoor riding facility to help continue their horse’s training through the long frozen months of winter. But many of us struggle to find ways to keep our horses in shape while enduring harsh weather. This means we have to minimize, or scale down the training activities with our horse.  I have discovered that during inactive winter months, changing my goals from muscle development to developing my horse’s obedience and co-operation, has a powerful impact on his behavior and addresses his trust/confidence issues. Minimizing my training this way confirms the simple fundamentals of attitude so that at the end of winter there is less resistance when returning to our strengthening exercises. How can that be?

We keep our horses mentally active by providing a learning atmosphere each time we’re together. For instance, have you ever noticed as you begin to groom, how your horse pushes his nose close to your hair and takes a long smell,or nudges your arm?  The way you respond to him reveals your emotional state. Many years ago my first horse taught me that when he would sniff my hair he was actually nudging me to determine: “How’s your attitude today?”  He knew immediately if I was impatient as I would quickly shove his head away. However, on days that I was cheerful then we’d play a little, and if I was in an academic mood then I would try to teach him a new ground trick. So by responding to the nudging, physical contact of my horse, I was recognizing his attempted ‘conversation’ with me. Every horse will do this, even if they come from abusive or rough backgrounds, because horses communicate with each other through physical contact. It is the pathway to his mind and shows how he learns and how he reacts in different situations. The time you spend grooming your horse, or hand walking him outdoors is the time to use to find special ways to reach out. Grooming is such an excellent way to discover your horse. Every horse is quick to reveal their good and bad ‘zones’.  Notice, as you groom, that he makes faces at spots that need extra scratching or rubbing. These are good ‘zones’.  Sensitive spots or bad zones, are the areas he doesn’t want touched. You can take the time to work with him until these areas can be gently massaged or brushed.

If  you can ride occasionally during the winter months, but have only a very small arena in which to work, you can minimize your activities to focus on objects or behaviors that typically frighten your horse. Is he always afraid of flags,balloons, loud noises? You can create a safe learning environment in which your horse can finally face his fears with your encouragement. Perhaps he is reluctant to walk over tarps, or bridges, or perhaps carrying a flag on the pole has always sent him running the other direction. Use the winter months to creatively tackle these problems at a slow, deliberate pace.  Encourage the horse’s obedience and acceptance of your direction. It shows him how to begin to trust your decisions and how to control his ‘flight’ instincts once he learns these things aren’t harmful. If he is determined to cling to his fears then be creative and start with walking over ground poles placed next to tarps, and hang flags on the wall that catch the breeze as you walk by.  Your goal is to eventually walk over the tarps and bridges, and to carry the flag, but only with his co-operation.  Once the two of you are working as a team and trust one another you will find most of these formidable objects become boring to him and you’ll need to find new challenges for him. In this way, your horse becomes happy about learning and meeting challenges, and he will be mentally ready for the trails once spring arrives.

*Photo from Valley View Ranch,Dallas,Tx

Clipping Your Horse for Winter Riding?

Posted on December 2, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, health, history, military, riding.

If your winter plans include clipping your horse’s coat to reduce drying time in cold temperatures,  then here are some ideas on how to use your most creative ideas to highlight your horse’s best features, (or hide the worst!).These horse owners have used drawing and stenciling techniques to transform their horse’s coats into distinctive works of art.   Happy clipping!

From the Barn Manager Blog:

This one of the New York skyline from Natasha’s Equine Spa

One of my favorites from Horse Care Courses:

From Equine Ink comes the military clip!

and the Zebra-esque look (very clever)

and also our equine giraffe coif

 

So if you thought this winter you were planning to clip something similar to this:

Perhaps now your heart is set to design something more like this:

(From the Literary Horse)

or this!

(From Horse Nation)

Good luck!

 

Twist vs Bend

Posted on November 26, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: breed, riding, therapy, training.

from: Science of Motion. Author Jean Luc Cornille
Question- Chazot looks beautiful in both these pictures, but you said there was a problem with his position. Can you explain what is wrong and how to fix it?

-Question by Helyn

Jean Luc’s response:

Jean Luc Cornille training Chazot

Jean Luc Cornille training Chazot

Well, the problem starts at the first picture. I am asking him to bend the thoracic spine to the left. Chazot is not then optimally ready for such bending. He starts to bend left but does not really bend the thoracic spine. Instead, he is contracting the middle of the neck on the left side. The neck contraction is only the visible part of the iceberg. It is due to the fact that he is not properly coordinating lateral bending and transversal rotation. The neck contraction is barely apparent and the picture still looks good.

Meda by Science of Motion

Media by Science of Motion

The next frame shows the evolution of the wrong vertebral column’s coordination. Chazot could have corrected himself. Instead, he does increases the contraction of the middle of the neck and is now twisting the cervical vertebrae. This torsion is placing his nose to the right and is shifting is thoracic spine to the right. This torsion also disconnects the proper coordination of the main back muscles and Chazot is slightly extending the thoracic spine. His reactions demonstrate that he is not bending the thoracic spine properly. He is in fact combining lateral bending and inverted rotation. The solution is to go back straight on shoulder fore until proper lateral bending of the thoracic spine is recreated and then try again the shoulder in. This reaction exposes one of the major side effects of the outside rein concept. Quite often, acting on the outside rein does turn the horse’s nose toward the outside. This abnormality shifts the thoracic spine to the right and therefore shifts the weight on the outside shoulder. In such case, the outside rein is creating the problem that it is supposed to fix.

Due to the fact that feedback corrections are relatively slow, this series of event is happening too fast to be corrected through the usual process of feedback correction. The two frames are 100 of a second apart. The horse nervous system is using predictions, allowing it to deal with event occurring faster than the speed of normal feedback correction. Prediction means that the horse’s brain predicts the coordination for the upcoming effort. This equine neurological capacity underlines the inefficiency of an equitation based on correction and submission. Instead, clever riding is using the privilege of the human intelligence, which is the capacity to use past experience for better future. Instead of punishing the horse for the error, which is obsolete since the error is already in the past, the rider needs to register the error, analyzes it and use the information to better prepare the horse for the next strides.

See you in a few strides.

Jean Luc

 

Positioning of the Head

Posted on November 1, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, riding, therapy, training.
photo:informedfarmers.com

photo:informedfarmers.com

 

There are so many training and lesson terms referring to the positioning of the horse’s head when it is being ridden that it can become difficult to know which is best when riding. For example: “on the bit/up to the bit/over the bit” are descriptions describing the horse’s head placement from the way the rider is holding the reins. In fact, some instructors will substitute the word ‘rein’ rather than bit:  “on the rein/behind the rein/cue the rein/supple the rein” to indicate the rider’s influence on the horse via the reins held in the hands. With all this obsession on where the horse’s head should be positioned when riding and how the rider affects this positioning, how can a rider know just which position of the head is correct?

I have yet to see a horse out to pasture who didn’t know how to put his head down to eat grass. Yet under saddle the common perception is that the horse will not keep his head forward and low without gadgets and bits. Why can’t we connect the grazing stretch from the pasture to the head carriage of the horse under saddle?

Studies show that the horse’s reaction to rider weight is to push its spine downward toward the ground. He will also lift his neck and head upward toward the sky to accommodate his dropped back.  This means he bends upside down with his head high and his back sagging. Since his back is no longer supporting the rider, the horse will have to hop from his hip and shoulder to trot forward, creating a jolt and bounce to the rider in the saddle. The common method of pulling back on the reins to adjust the high head position of the horse just brings the horse’s head up higher than it was before, creating more bounce.

To fix the head position and produce a pleasant riding horse we need to fix the source of imbalance:  the dropped spinal vertebrae. Once the horse lifts the spinal vertebrae upward then the head and neck automatically reach outward and downward similarly to what we see when they are out grazing. The test of our horsemanship is not in how cleverly we can pull back the horse’s nose but how quickly we can convince the horse to lift its back upward. When his back lifts upward and carries the weight of the rider, rather than ducking down away from it, the horse discovers the relief of reconnecting his back to his tail and head. His balance returns,and his movement becomes smoother and easier to ride. The reins in the rider’s hands become simply a tool to maintain the horse’s posture while guiding it in which way to turn.

Absolute Elevation: The Sister to Rolkur

Posted on October 15, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: health, history, riding, training.

excerpts from an article by Bonnie Walker

versusThe controversy of rollkur within the world of dressage is not a new one. Also called hyperflexion, it is the practice of forcefully pulling a horse’s head into an extreme low, deep and round position. Many have seen photographs of horses being pulled into such a headset, inspiring anti-rollkur websites, publications and Facebook pages. But this is not an article about the evils of rollkur, but rather the less publicly sensational but no less harmful practice of absolute elevation.

No horse is meant to have their head and neck in any extreme position for an extended period of time and there will be repercussions physically if they are forced to do so. Rollkur is an extreme deep and low position, absolute elevation is an extreme high and back position. Since this is an article on absolute elevation, I will discuss mainly this, though you see in the nifty picture I drew, both absolute elevation, rollkur and relative elevation, which is the proper way of doing things.

collectiondiagram4So how does this thing called collection work? Let’s start with your horse’s hindquarters and work our way forward. The idea of “getting the hindleg under” and “lowering the croup” are two concepts that are commonly bandied about in the dressage world. What happens to create and more importantly, sustain, this way of moving is actually a full body experience.

While the sacrum of the horse does not have the ability to rotate, a horse’s lumbosacral joint does. This joint acts to ‘roll’ the horse’s pelvis under themselves, aiding in the compression of the hind legs (aka engagement). It might just be a little (for example in training level to achieve level balance) or it might be more extreme (for example the piaffe). This rotation of the pelvis and compression of the hind leg joints also allows the horse’s center of gravity to draw further back and away from his forehand. These mechanism do not work in a vacuum however and that full body experience we were referring to now must include to the horse’s back and abdominal muscles. Think of them as the platforms that link the horse’s front and back ends. If a horse does not have sufficient muscular strength within his midsection then there is NO WAY we can build a horse with the ability to truly collect.  In addition to supporting our weight, a horse’s midsection also supports and connects the mechanisms of collection in the forehand and hindquarters.  A horse does not have a collar bone as we humans do. Instead they have a muscular “girdle” of sorts that runs near wear the girth lays. When toned, this series of muscles, called the thoracic sling, acts along with the musculature of the neck and chest to elevate the front half of the horse. When these muscles are engaged the front limbs of the horse act to aid in his or her overall balance, pushing upward to maintain the elevated front end and encourage a rotated and engaged hind end. Just as the hind leg must rotate and compress more as collection increases, so must the front end elevate and push upward more to maintain its end of the bargain. All of these body actions to combine to create a phenomenon called “relative elevation”, which is the right and proper way to strength build and collect a horse.
There is no such thing as putting the horse in the headset and then waiting for the muscles to develop afterward. The muscles develop INTO the balance that supports a certain headset. Both extreme headsets (rollkur and absolute elevation) will force the horse to have issues breathing, as that tightly compressed throat latch area can impede airflow.

A swaybacked horse is an extreme example of what happens when the back drops.

A swaybacked horse is an extreme example of what happens when the back drops.

If the head is brought too high, too fast, then the front end does not have the muscular strength to elevate upward, the core musculature is too weak to follow it up and the hind legs cannot maintain the rotation and compression. So, the front end drops, the back sinks and the horse’s pelvis rolls outward instead of under. An array of tendon and joint injuries occur from this, not least of which is a phenomenon called “kissing spine”. This happens when the vertebrae of the spine are compressed together and rub on one another, bone on bone, which is extremely painful.
What you want to get comfortable with is watching how the horse’s body works, and knowing how it should correctly work. If done right, dressage will add to the strength and longevity of a horse. They will become beautiful old geldings and mares. If done incorrectly you will have a ten year old horse than rides like an old man.

About the author: Bonnie Walker,USDF Bronze and Silver Medalist, in San Diego, Ca, rides and shows in dressage. Her profound articles on riding and training are public on her blog DressageDifferent.com

Understanding the Mounted Police Horse

Posted on October 3, 2018 by Jerrilee.
Categories: equipment, history, riding, training.

Providence Mounted Patrol

Providence Mounted Patrol

Thanks to Delfin Vigil for his following article:
Officially founded in San Francisco, California, in 1872 (two years after New York City’s), the mounted patrol unit has been trotting through the city’s streets fighting and preventing crime in three centuries. While in its — ahem — heyday, there were upward of 30 badge-wearing horses, and although at one point every substation in the city had horses, there are only 13 on-duty patrol ponies left at the department’s stables in Golden Gate Park. Although some critics write off the mounted patrol as a chance for police officers to joyride through the park, many don’t realize that the horses are putting their lives at risk.
During one of the initial and largest protests against the current war in Iraq, the mounted patrol unit was brought in to help the first officers on the scene, who were being backed in and surrounded by protesters near Third and Market streets.
“Eleven horses were brought in to save the officers,” remembers Sgt Downs. “We were able to part the sea of protesters without hitting, stepping on or even touching a single person. That’s the beauty of the horse.”
Aggressive dogs are probably the biggest danger to the four-legged officers.
In November 2003, a woman was walking Nettie, a pit bull mix, in Golden Gate Park when she decided to take off the dog’s leash to let it play with other dogs. But instead it went after police horse AAA Andy.
AAA, who is not in the insurance business but was given to the department by the company, was bitten several times in the belly and legs by the dog, which continued to chase him for about a half mile as AAA Andy tried to find his way back to the stables. The officer was thrown to the ground during the frenzy. Another officer had to shoot the dog (who survived) to stop the attack.
AAA Andy went on disability for a couple of months. Within weeks of being back on the job he was in the news again for galloping down the “Spider-Man” burglar who had a record of more than 60 acrobatic burglaries through skylights and ventilation shafts in Sunset District buildings. This time, “Spider-Man,” a.k.a. 27-year-old Kristian Kwon Marine, was on the run after snatching a purse at a cafe on Ninth Avenue and Irving Street. With only a good old-fashioned “he went thataway,” tip, AAA and Officer Kaan Chin chased the burglar down in a field in Golden Gate Park.
“What people don’t always understand is that most of what all police officers do involves crime prevention,” says Kaan, who rode AAA Andy. “But these horses are very capable of fighting crime in heat-of-the-moment ways as well. Once that saddle is put on, their personalities change and they are ready to work.”

equi-works

equi-works