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The Value of Consistency in Horse Training

Why your horse isn’t learning as fast as they should

By April Reeves

I have a herd of 10 horses. No matter how long I leave them, I can go out into the 80 acres, catch any one of them (most will come without a halter) and start off exactly where I left their training, regardless of how long that was. How does that happen?

This is the value of consistency. Not the type where you take a lesson then ride the way you always do the next day. No. This is the type where you say to yourself, “Today, I am going to ask at least one new thing and apply it every time I need to in a consistent manner until my horse understands the question.”

We don’t realize how damaging it is to the horse when we change the question. Example: you were taught how to back up your horse, but today, he does not want to back up and it’s been a few months since you asked for it. So you do what you know to get him to back up, but he hesitates and stalls out, so you try another method, same zero results, then you try something else while you get more aggressive and by this time, your horse is hyper anxious and tense and the entire lesson is lost.

You have just asked him more than one question and there is no way you will get any result you will like.  Let’s use the backup as an example.

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Exercising Versus Training

“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.

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Horsemanship Clinic – Nelson Riding Club July 28, 29, 30 – 2017

NelsonRidingClubClinicJul17

Why do Trainers use harder bits? Light or soft: is there a difference?

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”.

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The German Martingale Part 1

The German Martingale Part 2

My Horse Slams Me Against The Wall When I Ride, And Won’t Do Circles Properly.

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).

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Clinic Secrets: The “How” And “Why” of Using Consistent, Quiet Communication

“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.
Thank you!
Peggy

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”.

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How does “energy work” apply when riding horses?

Question: I was watching your lesson last Saturday (I was the one wearing the yellow jacket) and was fascinated by your explanation of energy work. Thank you for letting me watch! My question is, when the lady couldn’t get her horse to move out, can you explain again why that was happening? I missed it, and I’m sure that was the most important part! When are you back at Bowden again? So glad you moved here!

Answer from April Reeves: Hi yellow jacket: yes, I remember you (hard to miss actually!). Feel free to audit any lesson (unless my client asks otherwise).

Energy surrounds all living things every second of our lives. Even rocks have energy levels. Horses are highly tuned to energy. We all know this by the reaction our horses have to our emotions each time we approach them, yet we routinely disregard this and blame our horse for the reactions he/she has to us.

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My horse jumps into the trot: How can I prevent this?

Question: I have a horse that jumps forward into the trot when asked to move from a walk to a trot. Any suggestions on how to make the transition smooth? Thanks

April Reeves:  Hi Kristi! First off, the response from your horse to be “quick” into the up transition is actually a response I ask for, at the beginning. You do want a horse that responds to your cues immediately. I consider that obedience, and once that’s established, you can move on to refine the process.

Next step is to soften how you ask for the up transition. All your methods have to become lighter and softer if you expect the same from the horse, from the use of hands, legs, voice and seat. Get very familiar with what that feels like, because this is how you bring a horse into refinement and a finished bridle horse.

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What Does “Winning” Mean To You?

April and 'Rainy Buck Paige', 1975

Answer from April Reeves: I have always viewed “winning” as a competitive attachment. I realized, after years of showing horses, that winning was a crap shoot that depended on judge’s opinions and politics. I now walk into “competition” as a way to simply see how my horse and I can handle stress. I have found that stress only exists as a function of fear, and so now, showing and winning and competition no longer is a necessity for me, but a chance to go out and have a different kind of “fun” with the horses. What I have found is a whole new world where life is lighter, the word “win” doesn’t need to exist, and the end result is that, oddly enough, my blue ribbon count has soared….
My true “wins” are inside of me, not external of me.

Changes to April Reeves and Horseman’s U.com

Heads up everyone! Horseman’s U.com is coming down for around 3-4 months to be completely rebuilt! New video sections and articles are being developed over the winter, including:

  • Marketing Your Stable and Equine Business
  • Equine locomotion
  • Video and instruction on developing and building an equestrian center: how Horseman’s U, the facility, will be created.

Plus, April Reeves is moving to a new farm: details to come early next year on the location. The property will boast Eventing/cross country courses, including water obstacles, banks, ditches and permanent/non-permanent fences, permanent agility course, 2 roundpens (for ponies and warmbloods), jumping arena (so you don’t have to put the jumps away all the time), large all purpose sand arena (reining/sliding), pathway around perimeter of property, other open sand/grass/mixed rings and practice areas, and the ability to ride all around the entire property in the day! We’ll host week/days/day long intensive workshops and clinics for Western and English/Jumping riders, events, free riding days for trailer-ins,  and much more!

This site will remain the same, as it serves as a valuable resource for those seeking answers. Please continue to send in your questions and April will try to answer them.

If you have any suggestions for what you would like to see/read/watch on Horseman’s U.com please let us know! Hope to see some of you at the new facility next year!

We’re keeping the location a secret for now (simply because we haven’t quite bought it yet), but once we’re in, we’ll have a contest for the ones that can guess the location. Stay tuned for details!

Green Colt, Green Owner: How To Make The Best Of It

Question: I am a 53-year-old woman. I’ve had a love of horses all my life. I had a horse for 5 months when I was 15 but that doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing, in fact just the opposite – I don’t. I recently found an abandoned year-old colt. Every day, twice a day, I go out to his very large pasture and call him by the name he’s used to. He usually always comes running to see me. I’ve only been doing this for 6 days now and I have to admit I’m nervous because he’s never been handled by anyone before and I’m new at all this and he’s new at all this too. I take out apples, carrots, bread and sugar cubes. He wants to eat and eat and I’m not sure but I think he just looks at me like the one that brings him good food but it’s working, I think. If I run along the fence he runs next to me, if I stop he stops, if I turn back he turns back with me. Once he ran ahead and couldn’t see me and came to find me. I’ve been getting into the pasture with him but again I’m really nervous but determined to make friends. He’s nervous too because he throws his head up a lot and makes this sound with his mouth like he’s tired. Today he paws the ground once and I got back in the pasture with him. He puts his ears back some times but then brings them forward too. Yesterday I was able to get a halter on him and I was so excited. It took three tries but I stood to his one side and I got it on. I went out and it’s still on. I don’t know what I’m doing to be honest but I’m hoping what I’m doing is the right things. I can’t walk through the pasture because I live in South Florida and we have a LOT of poisonous snakes and his pasture is really over grown with high grass and shrubs and it’s not safe for me to walk through that. I stand inside the gate how ever and in that very small space is where we have bonded or I hope we’ve bonded somewhat. I spend 2 hours talking to him and getting in and out of the pasture by climbing over the gate. It used to spook him but because I’m doing it so much he’s getting used to it. He’s trying to bully me for food though and maybe this is why I feel uneasy. He knows when I come I have food and he likes that. What can I do that can stop him from raising his head way over mine when I don’t give him the food and what does this mean when he’s doing this? He backs away from me too and I walk after him facing his face. If I turn around and walk away he’ll follow me though. I have gotten to pet him a lot and he almost fell asleep on me today scratching his ears. I don’t want to make mistakes that will get me kicked, or him not trusting me any more. Any suggestions would be appreciated. It has to be me doing some thing to make him raise his head way over mine and I’m short. If I bend down to pull grass, he’ll lower his head like he’s helping me. I don’t know if I’m reading this right either but he stretches out his neck as far as he can get it some times for food like he doesn’t want to come in close but I won’t give him a treat like that I make him come to me. He also wants to bite at my hand like he’s associating my hand for food. Am I making a mistake?

Answer from April Reeves: Rescuing a horse is never a mistake, but he is a colt, he is young and you are green. That is the only mistake. Unfortunately, it’s a big one, if you cannot find someone with really great credentials to help you. They need to be there physically to show you how to work with him. I can help from this end but this type of situation needs a hand that’s not afraid or lacking confidence.

Let’s go over some of the issues you have at the immediate moment.

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Horses and Headshaking: Symptoms and Remedies

Marijke van de Water

A SPECIAL POST BY MARIJKE VAN DE WATER, B.SC., DHMS

Question: I have an 18 year old horse who has been head shaking for several months. He only used to do it when we rode but it is now almost constant. I’ve tried everything from diet changes to medications but have had no success. I am at a loss as to how I can help him.

Answer from Marijke van de Water: Head-shaking syndrome symptoms include flinging and jerking the head – sometimes violently – sneezing, scratching, nose-rubbing and any other activities that seem to give them relief, including blowing the nose, holding the nose under water or sticking their heads into trees or corners. They often become lethargic and/or depressed as the constant discomfort “gets them down”. Many of these horses have been tested with blood work, X-rays, scopes and/or scans but unfortunately most times there are no positive results.
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Can You Lessen The Anxiety Of A Single Horse?

Question: Hey April, question for you, my horse is apparently not so good on his own, without other horses around. Unfortunately I do not have any other horses, so he is going to have to get used to being on his own for now. Do you have suggestions to help make him more comfortable and less agitated if he is going to be so?

Answer from April Reeves: Only thing that will help keep him somewhat sane will be for him to have access to hay 24/7. Horses that are comfortable in knowing their food source never dries up are also content in many other areas of their lives. There is no fix for herd instinct though: you may find he chews up the fields and paddock for some time until he gets use to the idea, at which point he goes crazy (anxiety) again the second he sees or smells another horse. Best thing for you to consider is how to keep him from wanting to get through fences, if he goes to that length to get back to a herd or a buddy.

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The Most Amazing Facebook Horse Site Ever!

I love good writers. I especially love it when they come from the horse world. They express the secret world of horses in a way that opens the window of the equine world so others too can peek in and explore.

I want to open all of you to (in my humble opinion) perhaps the best equine writer I have yet to come across: my client Beatrice Singer and her horse sanctuary “Serendipity Farm”. In the matter of months, this Facebook site has amassed 676 loyal daily friends.

If you enjoy reading about the day to day lives of horse owners, this amazing writer will captivate you in a way I have not read before. Beatrice is learning about horses at a breakneck speed since her desire not long ago to rescue horses and provide them with a home of love and compassion. Her craftsmanship of the “equine language” is poetic and will have you in hysterics or tears (especially in the recent passing of her 9 year old thoroughbred, Jay, that started her “rescue” life). In any case, many go to Facebook for their daily delivery of the writings of Beatrice, the horse “angel”.

No one I know can write from the heart like this, so I leave you with the Facebook link to Serendipity Farms, and I hope you get lost in this emotional and beautiful world as I have done. Beatrice will one day be a world caliber equine writer.

Why am I posting so much about our horse’s feeds?

I’ve had a lot of emails but since I’ve started posting about GM feeds, I have had thousands! Within 3 days of posting the GM Alfalfa issue, I had more emails and responses and downloads of the brochure than all the other posts on this blog! (I have been answering the questions as fast as I can: sorry for the “blanket” response to most but I’m getting overwhelmed with emails). I’m proud of all of you! We care for our horse from the inside out! You are paying attention!

“We care for our horse from the inside out.” April

Since everyone is listening, I will add another important post on feed. This one deals with chemicals. While our horses rarely see pesticides on our hays, it’s important to know where your hay comes from. Growing next to fields that use sprays (especially aerial spraying) means your hay crop will be contaminated.

A few years ago, I watched a farmer spraying a crop of peas. The cloud of insecticide drifted over to a horse facility and landed on 2 ponies and a quarter horse belonging to a friend of mine. In less than 6 months, the quarter horse lost weight and died. The 2 ponies lived, but one is still suffering.

The vets concluded that it could have been from vaccines. While I agree (as I don’t like vaccines), I did watch the insecticide cloud drift for 3 days in a row over to their small field. The other horses were not directly in the drift. The vets dismissed my findings.

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Please Print and Hand Out GMO Flyers To Feed Stores

Hi everyone! Seems as if the Genetically Modified Feed articles I have posted recently far exceed any of the hits to the training posts! I am glad, because it means you care about taking “beautiful care” of your horses on the inside as well as the outside!

I’d like to ask you to download the PDF files of a brochure on GE alfalfa, corn, sugar and soy, as it applies to your horse’s health, and distribute it to every place you can think of:

Feed Stores: bring them a handful and let them know you are not going to buy GM (GE, GMO) alfalfa when it’s harvested and baled at the end of this year.

Distribute it to: Tack stores – Horse organizations – Stables – Breeders – Local clubs – Horse shows and events – Friends – Put it out across the big wide web!

The most pressing issue for me are the 2011 sterility reports on humans. Within a single generation of eating GM foods, we are now seeing a proliferation of men with sterility problems ( http://scholar.google.ca/scholar?q=2011+sterility+and+gmo&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart http://www.google.ca/search?q=2011+sterility+and+gmo&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a). This is the beginning: don’t let it happen to your horses or animals.

A big thank you to everyone that’s taking this seriously. Yes, it will be an inconvenience getting non-GM alfalfa at the end of 2011, but we have time to turn it around with your help! So get these brochures downloaded and printed, and get them to your feed stores first – educate them if you can, but make sure they know you will not be buying this garbage, whose advantages are only for the profit of large corporations.

GE Alfalfa Brochure inside: Horse Industry Brochure Inside

GE Alfalfa Brochure outside:Horse Industry GE-GMO Alfalfa Brochure outside

Caution: the files are large, so if you have trouble printing kilobytes right now, this may be a long process. To start, print the outside PDF first. Then reinsert them into your printer again and print the inside. You may have to fiddle to get it right side up! If your paper jams on the second pass, let the paper sit flat for a day and it will feed better. On the outside sheet you will notice a tiny dot near the photo of the little girl feeding the horse, and another by the two horses discussing the cons of eating GE Alfalfa. Those dots are for you to find the “fold” when you are folding these brochures. This makes it real easy for you to get your brochures looking real nice. You will notice the inside fold is shorter: I planned it that way! I have to say this or else I will get hundreds of emails wondering why this doesn’t work. I have also added photos of the brochure below.

Happy printing and folding, and I’m interested to hear your stories and comments about your GE alfalfa blitz!! And as always, you can email me at: aprilreeves at shaw dot ca


Monsanto buys off Therapeutic Riding Facility

I know I may not be a popular horse person with this, but it’s time we all saw the dragon for what it is. Once again, Monsanto is buying people’s favor, one desperate industry at a time.

A therapeutic riding facility in Henry County, Tennessee, has received $2,500 as part of a program administered by the Monsanto Fund.

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My pony has problems breathing and is extending his legs while walking and trotting. Any ideas?

Question: My pony suddenly started to breathe hard and extends his legs while trotting and walking. Is this normal? What should I do? This is not normal for him.

Answer from April Reeves: This is typical of a horse/pony in the beginning stages of laminitis. It is crucial that you have a vet out immediately. Laminitis comes first before founder, and once your pony passes into the founder stages, it’s not easy to bring a horse/pony back, if ever, once the coffin bone rotates and drops.

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Genetically Engineered Alfalfa and Your Horse

A new product is about to be force fed to your horse that you need to know about: Genetically modified alfalfa.

In Canada and the US, 2011 is the first year for GE alfalfa planting. For those asking why a horse owner should care, I have written the details so that you become educated on this. Feeding horses should be as important as learning how to ride and train.

What is GE Alfalfa? Monsanto has altered (in a lab) the alfalfa plant to be pesticide resistant. That means, every cell in the plant will produce a pesticide strong enough to kill bugs when they bite into it, AND allow farmers to spray pesticides as they need.

Non-GE Alfalfa (what our horses have eaten for decades) does not need to be sprayed. It rarely has weed issues or insect problems. The crop is often grown in-between other crops to bring nitrogen back to the soil. It has no need of modification, as it already is a wonderful plant just as it is!

Now, your horse will be exposed to chemicals two ways: through the cellular level in the plant, and through spraying, a process not necessary in the past. In short, there was no need to modify alfalfa. GE alfalfa was also not intended to be fed long term to any animal.

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How can I train my horse to let me ride him bareback?

Question: I am 13 and riding for all my life, I have a thoroughbred 9-year-old ex-racehorse 15.3hands. He is very brave when I’m out, he doesn’t spook at much!! I have had him for a fair time now, and know his little habits (etc.) But, the thing is I would like to ride him bareback, but he is very scared even when I lean on his back. I would like to train and build him up to let me ride him bareback. He does know and trust me but it’s just this that he doesn’t like it!! PLEASE HELP ME. I need some advice on what to do, how to train him. Please help me, thank you. It will be much appreciated.

Answer from April Reeves: Hi Caragh. This is a common problem for many horses, and it is not because they are afraid, especially since it sounds as if you already ride him. It is likely because he is not use to having a rider in such close contact with the sensitive back muscles, and having you sit on them without a saddle in-between can be very uncomfortable at first.

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Downward Transitions: Why am I not getting them easily?

This was an ongoing email from a young rider in Australia. These are often the most fun!

Question: I have been riding English for about 7 years now. I think I’m a pretty good rider, and I do take lessons in the cooler months. I’m trying to learn about down transitions. I can’t get them and I’m confused from what my coach tells me. I have to keep my legs on and bring my hands back, but my mare just slows down and gets bouncy and doesn’t stop. I don’t understand what the reason for having my legs on the horse to stop is? My coach can’t tell me in a way that I get, and was hoping you could.

Answer from April Reeves: Well Alli you are not going to like my answer much, because it goes against everything your coach is telling you.

First, lets address legs on. If it confuses you, it should. It is the signal for forward and, done correctly, to bring the hindquarters under the horse, and although a lot of teachers believe you should have your legs on for downward transitions, I don’t and here’s why.

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Why All Horse Owners of All Disciplines Should Do Groundwork

After having received and answered questions on this blog for some time now, a recurring theme keeps popping up.

Riders of all disciplines seem to get to a certain level but never seem to be able to get past it. That’s when the questions come forth, and the frustration begins. People intuitively know, even if they don’t consciously know, that they are missing a very integral part of the “equine journey”.

It’s all fine to learn the “mechanics” of riding. We learn how to sit so that we and the horse are more comfortable and safe. We learn how to use our hands and legs to ask the horse how to do a specific task – but we really don’t feel, at a deeper level, what that truly is – to the horse. And so begins our feeling of being “stuck” and asking questions.

We brush our horses, feed them, kiss them goodnight or goodbye, and the second we step away, we move right back into our outer world beyond the horse. But our whole intention, if we search higher, of having a horse in the first place, is to connect very deeply with another spirit. Not another human or animal. Another spirit. And to retain that connection while away from them. This does not mean that you “think” about the horse. It means you bring forward “that” which you carry between you and your horse into all the other aspects of your life. Things like, patience, understanding, grounding, centeredness, unflappable and unshakeable – emotionally and ego free.

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Young filly busts through fences to get to lead mare

Question from New Zealand: I have been working through your site for answers to a lot of questions  :-)  and have found it invaluable as I work with my wild caught mare who is now 7 yrs old.  She was only broken in at 5 and then we just got her home and a couple of months later she broke her foot.  So after a year out with that I’m starting her all over again. She was trained by Trisha Wren who’s methods are similar to your own.

BUT the issue is with her little paddock mate.  A warmblood 3yr old, almost 4yr filly (Pipsqueak) who each time I take Charity away from her gallops and bucks around her paddock.  The last time she wasn’t even out of site but took off around her paddock and chest crashed a gate twice.  The 3rd time she knocked it off it’s hinges.  Very luck for us she didn’t cut herself but it must have bruised. Many times I thought she was going to jump the gate. Now she hasn’t always been like this.
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Guliz Unlu: The Hunter Bump

Question: My question is, my horse has a goose rump but someone called it a hunter bump. It’s very pointy and my horse is sore if I touch it there. Can you work on it and take it down? If so, how?

Answer from Guliz Unlu, Equine Energy Body Worker: Hi Cayley – The lumbar span is the weakest area of the horses back, unlike the spine above or below, which has ribs and pelvis attached, the lumbar span has no other supporting bones. This is an area where much of the riders weight is carried…

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Equine Agility Horsemanship and the Benefits

By April Reeves, with help from Guliz Unlu (see below: one of Canada’s best Equine Energy & Body Workers)

I work in several high-end barns of various English disciplines. My clients are looking for ways to work with their horses without always riding them. Some of those clients want specific training on the ground that transfers to the saddle and aids in the training of eventing, hunter/jumper, dressage and other specific disciplines.

What is Equine Agility Horsemanship?

Agility Horsemanship is working with your horse to improve his/her ability to become obedient, maneuverable, flexible and multi-tasked. The point of the work is to help keep the horse sound in both mind and body, and to set him up properly for his chosen discipline with select groundwork first. The horse learns to move his body in ways he would not come across naturally, but will have to learn once asked under saddle. Many horses get caught up with not understanding or feeling confident about their footfall patterns and lack grace and fluidity with lateral and backward moves. As the horse builds physical abilities, he builds mental as well, creating a versatile, safe and athletic mount that’s eager and happy to learn. It’s important to note that this work can speed up saddle training, and save hours of frustration. It’s also just plain fun.

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Horses and Genetically Modified foods – A recipe for survival or extinction?

I have received a lot of emails about GM feeds, so I compiled a post that describes the basic information you need to know about GM in horse feeds, and the potential issues and dangers around them. I also post any new issues at the bottom of this page.

GMO – Genetically modified organisms are mankind’s way of producing desired effects within a plant/animal that nature either has not done yet, or cannot do. GM plants are created in a lab by scientists, that alter the DNA of the plant by adding a foreign gene into the plant’s DNA (one example was the flounder fish gene in tomatoes). It’s not an exact science, in the aspect that it works first time, every time. It can take years to perfect, adding millions to the cost of the experiment. The most common alteration to the plants horses eat (corn, sugar) is the addition of Bt bacteria, which alters the plant to resist the intense continual spraying of pesticides on the plants without killing them. It also allows any insects that come into contact with that plant to die from trying to eat it.

Think about this for a second, and then continue reading.

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How to handle a horse that won’t accept a bit

Comment from Horse Enthusiast writes: I knew this trainer who had a really angry paint filly- she was vicious when the owner gave her to him for nothing- and he managed to train her enough that she was easy to handle which was a big accomplishment considering if you showed up with a halter she would run you down, but she still pulled back when tied and riding she would blow up really badly on occasion, or at least that was the state she was at when I left…
I don’t know her history or how she’s doing now as I haven’t seen her since spring… Anyway he wasn’t my ideal trainer as  he was the “old” cowboy type and would run the snot out of a bronc horse, no matter what age. (this filly was only three and he was cantering and loping her constantly and working her really hard).

But the trick he used to get this filly to accept the bit, because she was terrible of course, was to turn her out with the bridle. (no reins)

Would you ever even consider this in the most dire situation or would you just give up and go bitless? My big fear at the time was that she would catch the ring of the snaffle on a part of the fence or something and rip her mouth apart in a panic, but luckily she didn’t but she actually became easier to bit and was less resistant to it after a week or so. But still, I think that’s too risky…
Just curious :)

Answer from April Reeves: There are many ways to ask a horse to accept a bit, and although many of those ways end up with a horse that will “take” a bit, the question remains, “Is there a better way?” I have had to work with some of the toughest of bitters, and have barely had as much as a fight or future problem.

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Morgan mare pins ears back and kicks now when being asked to move forward.

Question: I have a four year old Morgan who was doing terrific in her training and then I hurt my back. I couldn’t ride, had her trainer working with her and an experienced rider exercising her. I had just started to get back to walking on her in early August when she started pinning her ears for everyone who got on her back and refusing to move forward. We had her saddles checked by a certified saddle fitter, had the vet come out and check her (she’s also a chiro/accupuncture expert) and we let her rest for over two weeks. I’ve stayed off her; only her trainer works with her but she still will sometimes put her ears back or kick out when she’s asked to move forward into trot. It’s now mid-October–what haven’t we thought of to solve this? She was doing so well all of last year and had moved into learning to canter before this started!

Answer from April Reeves: Hi SallyAnne. This is a common problem but not easily solved at this stage. There may be several things going on here to build this mare up to this point so I will go over them individually.

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