April Reeves writes for Equine Wellness Magazine
The German Martingale on Youtube
April Reeves Fine Art – Prints Available
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“If we are to call ourselves trainers then we carry the responsibility to move everyone to a higher status in the industry. That is how every industry on this planet survives. You take others up with you.”
Most of the barns I travel to breed horses, and keep a trainer and several exercise riders. I am always struck by the concept of riding just for riding sake: to keep a horse in shape and not deteriorate from 23 hours in a stall and paddock.
Most exercise riders move in a constant state of riding the rail around and around. In my world we call this the loser’s loop, where riders have no goals or desire to achieve anything but exercise. Sometimes, if there are jumps or obstacles in the arena, they will move around them, but otherwise, there is not a shred of training in any of this.
My question is, what is the point? And it is the very reason every horse on my farm has a field to run freely and self-exercise as he needs to.
And every ride has a purpose.
Question: I’m going to see a horse for sale tomorrow. The trainer is using a shank bit because it makes the horse soft. I’m not familiar using them: I’ve always used french link snaffles or some equivalent. Why do trainers move into harder bits?
Response from April Reeves: When I hear of anyone using a shank to get softness I get a multitude of red flags.
The use of a shank bit is not for softness. Softness comes from correct training that utilizes the mind to create that softness. It does not start at the physical head or the body.
Shank, or what I call, “finishing bits” are the graduated step of an obedient horse. They are for horses that have a high level of responsiveness and are usually at the end of their training, not the beginning or middle.
Let’s go over the difference between “light” and “soft”.
Question: In the indoor arena where I ride, my mare keeps slamming me up against the wall. I try to use my outside leg to push her off, but my teacher doesn’t like me coming off the wall.
My mare also doesn’t do circles very well. What can I do?
Answer from April Reeves: Get off the walls! We call it the “loser’s loop”, when people ride up against a wall or fence with no real clue as to why they are doing so. Ride at a minimum of 5 feet (10 if you have room) from any wall. One of my students rides in an indoor arena of 60 feet by 100 feet, and rarely uses the wall (on a continual basis. You do need to get close once in a while when doing certain exercises).
“While love and patience is important, what’s more important are the ways you ask her to step up and do something, and those things must come through to her as patience and love. Those two virtues are nothing without some form of “question”.”
This is a post I said I would never write, but it came to my on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/April-Reeves-Horse-Training-Questions-Answers/192644566518?fref=ts). I save this information for my clinics, mainly because it’s better understood when you SEE it as well. However, this question does merit this information, and I always say, I may not be here tomorrow, so I will say it all today. These are also trade secrets that my clinic participants usually get to hear. Enjoy and I hope you gain from them!
Question: YAY! thank you! I have an 8 yr old mare, mustang cross., her name is HotLipz (she has a flame on her nose) She has a history of abuse and had severe trust issues when I first got her just over 2 years ago. I got her from the feedlot, just hours before she was to be shipped. She has come so far since then in learning to love and trust. She is super sensitive and needs to have a relationship before she will trust, so not just anyone can work with her. She needs lots of Patience and love. I’d like to take it a step further and be able to ride her. She is like 2 different horses. On the ground she is soft and calm and trusting. When someone is sitting in the saddle she can now tolerate it but once things get moving she falls apart. Sometimes big, sometimes not so big, its hard to predict. We have broken it down to the tiniest of steps for her. Rewarding the good behaviors, head down, relaxation, licking chewing breathing, with clicker training and carrots. She seems to make progress then something happens(and we can’t pinpoint what it might be that sets her off, something internal maybe, a click of self preservation?) and she reverts backwards to needing us to start all over again. I have contacted an animal communicator, animal empath, used essestial oils, massage, flower essences, calming supplements etc.. We have actually made a lot of progress together but seem to be stuck with the rider piece. She can walk on a loose lead anywhere with me and not worry, like holding hands with my best friend. We have a very strong connection.
Any suggestions? If you need more info let me know! I have lots of pics on my page: SerendipityFarm and Studio.
Thanks so much for any advice you can offer! I really enjoyed reading your blog and thought maybe there is hope after all. I don’t want to give up on her.
Response from April Reeves: Hi Peggy,
Don’t give up on her. What I think she needs is just a different approach. While love and patience is important, what’s more important are the ways you ask her to step up and do something, and those things must come through to her as patience and love. Those two virtues are nothing without some form of “question”.