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October 2013 Tip

October 24th, 2013 by admin

If your horse could talk would he say that he looks forward to spending time with you or would he nicker over to his pasture buddies that you are the most boring person in the world?



Our horses are no different then us, they enjoy having some fun every now and then.  If all you do is get your horse, quickly brush him, throw on the saddle, head to the arena and work on the same thing you were working on 3 weeks ago…chances are your horse is bored.  Now I’m sure that none of you would intentionally want to make your horse dull and tuned out but that is exactly what we do if we never get creative and spice our riding time up.

Taking your horse out on a trail ride is one of the best things you can do for him.  If this is a new challenge, be sure to ride only with others who have calm, seasoned mounts.  You can still train while trail riding by asking your horse to move his shoulder over, side pass into a ditch, go over a downed tree instead of going around it.  Just be creative and your horse won’t even know he is working.  Hum, imagine going to work and not even realizing it! 

Another thing I do if I need to stay indoors is to make a square out of ground poles in the middle of the arena.  I will trot over the corners, through the middle, side pass around the edge or get him to stop inside the square at both the trot and canter without stepping on a pole.  Let your horse “rev it up” a bit as you float your way around the arena.  Play some lively music to keep up the tempo.  If your horse breaks into the canter don’t punish him; just keep him moving right over the poles and don’t allow him to drift too far from the square so he doesn’t think he can just take off around the rail.  Be sure to keep focused on where you are going by turning your head in the direction you want to go and don’t look down as you cross the poles.  Listen to your horse as you go over, are his hoofs clipping the poles or is he picking up his feet and going over smoothly? 

There are so many ways to spice up the time spent in the saddle and remember that your horse will be a more willing partner if he has something to look forward too.  That doesn’t mean that you abandon your serious work, but all work and no play makes for an unhappy relationship.


Groundwork Tip:

I recently went to look at a horse who was advertised as bomb proof and one who would make a great lesson prospect.  The first thing I did was to bend over and try to pick up her feet only to quickly be given an excuse as to why she wasn’t that willing.  I immediately noted a hint of defense in the seller’s voice but moved along with my evaluation.

The next thing I did was try to send her out in a circle on a lung line.  That didn’t go well either and again the seller had an excuse.  I decided to take the mare away from the seller and her friends who were watching so I could give her a fair chance without any comments from the peanut gallery.  I found a flat spot and started doing a little groundwork.  Moving the hip over, backing up, giving to pressure….you know……the simple things that everyone looks for in a horse.  This little mare had a look in her eyes like she was just plain tired but after about 10 minutes she perked up when she realized that I would release the pressure if she gave me even the smallest try at what I was asking.  I did have to tap her hip with my stick and string a few times but she was a fast learner. 

After I felt certain that she wasn’t a killer, I put my saddle on and went for a small ride.  That did not go well either for a horse who was advertised as proficient at all three gaits.  She did like to walk but leg pressure and clucking meant nothing to her.  I turned to the seller and asked if she would mind riding her so I could witness how on earth they got the horse to move beyond a walk.  Her friend “a trainer” got on and nearly beat the poor thing into a very rough trot which she did not post and eventually did get 3 steps at the canter then the mare was done.  I took her back and did a little more ground work with the saddle on just to let her know that all humans were not pressure happy.  She looked at me with those eyes, nearly begging me to take her with me but the owner wanted over $2,000 for her and I was only willing to pay (at the most) $500.00 and that would have been more then she was worth on that day.

So back into my truck I went without the horse who sounded so perfect on the phone.  A few miles down the road I got a text from the seller telling me that I was abusive, a liar, a few other things I won’t write and how could I call myself a trainer because I “hit” their horse with my stick and string?  I didn’t respond because I knew it would fall on deaf ears.

In the horse world there are many different versions of what ground work entails.  The few things I asked this little mare to do are, in my opinion basis and should have been easy for the horse to carry out.  Others may have their own opinion and that is fine. Just beware of ads that make a horse sound too good to be true.  Insist on a video if the horse is a distance away so you don’t waist a trip.  There are some great horses out there for sale and buying a horse does require some trust between you and the seller but it can be done successfully for all parties involved.  Happy horse hunting everyone!