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.
Posted in Colt Starting, English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Western training answers
Tagged April Reeves, backing up, consistency, herd, horse training, lesson, rhythmic pressure, show ring, trainer
“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.
Posted in General riding answers, Horse Industry Business, Personally Speaking
Tagged Alberta, April Reeves, Down Transitions, Equine Industry, Exercise rider, Horse Trainer, Horsemanship, Training, Training Barn
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).
Posted in English Riding answers, General riding answers, Hunter/Jumper
Tagged April Reeves, Arena, bearing rein, circles, diagonals, fence, foundation training, inside leg, longitudinal stretching, straight horse, trainer
“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”.
Posted in Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Natural Horsemanship
Tagged aids, Alternative Horse Therapies, Animal Communicator, Emotional Horse, Equine Behavior & Problems, Groundwork, Horseman's Park Alberta, rope halter, roundpen
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.
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.
Posted in English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Western training answers
Tagged April Reeves, bridle, Energy Work, Engage, Frame, Horseman's Park Alberta, Transitions, Up Transition, Whisper
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted in English Riding answers, General riding answers, Hunter/Jumper, Natural Horsemanship, Western training answers
Tagged Agility, Body Worker, Equi-Bow, Equine, Guelph, Guliz Unlu, Horse, parelli, Training, Vanessa Bee
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.
Posted in English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Western training answers
Tagged April Reeves, Bit, bitting, Bridling, Cowboy, Filly, Horse Trainer, horse training, Lope
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.
Question: I have an 8 year old jumping pony. She is 14.2 hands. She seems to be picky on her jumps. She has the one plank that is red and white and she refuses it all the time. When I mount her she may sometimes take off or start rearing with me. After a jump she may sometimes take off but after that she calms down a little. She is scared at almost everything. Once at a show a man started fanning himself with his hat and she whipped around and then continued the next jump. She needs to learn to be a lot calmer but how? Help me.
Answer from April Reeves: This is such an important question and if you read my past posts you will see I say the same thing over and over again. Let’s review this, as we keep coming back to it, time and time again.
Why do horses lose their nerves? Why do they get edgy and do things we don’t want them to do? I want you to really think about this question, because if you can’t answer it, you can’t train or ride your horse past where you are now, and it’s likely you will get worse. The question poses a problem, and within every problem lies the answer. Now – start thinking…
What did you come up with? See if it matches anything I’m about to say.
Posted in English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Hunter/Jumper
Tagged April Reeves, behavior, english riding, Equine Behavior & Problems, foundation training, horse forward, horse training, jumping, spooky horse
Question: My horse keeps throwing her shoulder and I was wondering if there was some thing I can do to prevent it and because she does this it makes it hard to get her to turn easily without trying to go the other way.
Answer from April Reeves: Getting the shoulder from dropping is a task that requires a great deal of sensitivity and timing. I will walk you through it and you can take it as you feel comfortable.
As with any gait problems we’ll start at the walk:
Question: My horse is a bit “hot” so I lunge him before to take the edge off. Some say I have to, and some say I will only get a hotter horse as she gets fitter. What is your take on this? I read about your sending exercise. How does this differ from lunging? I keep getting mixed answers but no real advice as to why you would choose one technique over another.
Answer from April Reeves: Oddly enough, a well-mannered hot horse comes down to good ground manners, not time on a lunge line. I often see some of the hottest horses that are still safe because they have been taught the skills to know how to channel the “heat”. Ground manners are everything.
I do not lunge a horse that is quiet, as I don’t need to and like to have the energy in the saddle, not burned out around a circle.
If the horse is hot or not joined with me in the work, then that horse is put to work until his lungs catch up with his brain. They all have a “breaking point” where they finally exhale and chew. Then you can go to work and learn something.
Question: I have recently bought a used english saddle for my Quarter Pony. I don’t know much about saddles and fitting them, but I have figured out that the saddle is pinching my pony’s withers. I’ve only used it two times, and I really don’t want to go sell it and then try to find a new one. The saddle fits me and my pony well, besides the pinching of the withers. I have found out that it pinches her, because when I was riding her the other day, both times she dropped down and rolled while I was riding her. I jumped off her back and got out of the way, so I’m perfectly fine, but I’m just worried about my pony’s care. The first time she did that, I thought she was just tired and she didn’t want to work anymore, so I didn’t think anything about it. But the second time she did it, I started to wonder. So I tried to stick my hand under the side of her saddle, by her withers, and it was really hard to get my hand under there. So now I know it’s pinching her.
So my main question is, is there something I could put in between the saddle blanket and the saddle so it will raise the saddle up a bit? Or do I have to get a brand new saddle? If I need to get a new one, could you please give me some tips on how to know if it’s fitting right or not? I get confused on the many different theories and I’m just hopping that yours will be easy to understand and helpful.
Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to help out a stranger. I’m so thankful for your help.
Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: Your pony may be dropping and rolling from 2 other causes other than the saddle: 1. Wanting to roll and 2. Colic. Horses and ponies don’t usually roll from a pinched saddle. It comes out by displays of pinned ears and aggressive behavior while saddling, or the unwillingness to move forward. A pinched wither is a serious problem, and your horse or pony will show some serious signs. Having said that, she may prove me wrong. I’m just going over other reasons for the rolling.
Posted in English Riding answers, General riding answers, saddle fitting
Tagged colic, English saddle, English saddle fitting, Gel pad, Horse rolling, pony, Saddle blanket, saddle fitting, Saddle pinching
Question: I have a NSH in training that will primarily be a “show horse”, but I have always believed in a horse appropriate level of easy trail riding or anything out of the arena occasionally to prevent horse boredom and getting arena sour. The worry is the show shoes or even just because the horses’ lack of experience outside of an arena.Would Hoof Boots (i.e. Easy Boots ,etc.) be the right thing to use? Or are they only meant to be used for barefoot horses? Thanks!
Answer from April Reeves: Some of the easy boots can be worn over shoes, but it does void the warranty if the boot is damaged. They do fit however.
My thought to you is: are you considering them because you don’t want to risk losing a shoe? It’s a problem with gaited and motion horses.
Question: Hello April, I’m a horse girl and I always love being at the barn. I am working at my barn doing everything from helping the kids, dealing with the horses and doing all those fun barn chores :) I am hoping you could give me a few tips on the areas I would like to improve on.
I am 14 and I have been riding for about 5 yrs now. I have been told I have a riders body, which does make me proud, but I don’t have what you might call farmers muscles. I am very slim and about 5’3, so when I have to bring in the stronger more difficult horses or do hard barn chores, it can get a little difficult for my little arms.
I usually hay the horses, so I have to pull off the flakes and get them into the wheelbarrows. My huge problem is trying to rip the hay if the horses on need a half flake. I try folding the hay this way and that and putting all my weight on it but I still end up getting more hay on the floor and myself than in the stall. Do you know any techniques of tearing the hay or anything that might help ?
Also do you have any tips on keeping control over the larger more spirited horses? I am usually pretty confident while bringing in, but if I have the big ones and they are being difficult or they don’t want to stop, I’m pretty sure they will drag me with them.
Thank you for your time! I hope I can have less days of hay problems! :)
Answer from April Reeves: While you may not feel like this right now, the toughest girls are your size. It’s just a matter of time and more hay lifting and you’ll be the fittest, strongest girl in your area! The other really great thing about being strong when you’re young – muscle has memory, and when you get older you can get it back fairly quickly. Once you have it you don’t lose it.
Question: I recently bought a 2 and a half year old gelding. His mother was Percheron and his father was a Belgian/1/4 horse cross. He is a big boy and his feet are humongous and very heavy. I can usually get him to lift his front ones but he still has issues with his balance, that just needs some work. My problem is his back feet, they are too heavy for me to lift. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you.
Answer from April Reeves: I’m going to give you 2 tricks I use to pick up feet. The first one is to pinch their chestnuts. This is irritating and almost every horse will lift that leg up very quickly, so be warned. Make sure you always catch the foot, and hold onto it especially if he puts up a struggle. If you drop the hoof it may hurt him, with will discourage him even more to pick up a foot. When you start to pinch don’t quit and start again. Keep it up until he responds.
The other trick is to put your fingers on both sides of his leg and as you move your hand down his leg, when you get just below the knee or hock, start to press in quite hard into the middle just behind the cannon bone. This forces blood down into the hoof quite quickly and becomes uncomfortable. They usually lift their leg with this technique. Once the horse gets this, they usually lift just by the feel of your hand start to slide down the leg.
Question: I got my horse very soft but for some reason I am having trouble teaching her to yield her shoulder. She knows how to move her back in and out of saddle. Here’s what I’ve been doing so please tell me what’s going wrong. I always start training out of saddle before I expect it to happen in saddle so I have been standing on the ground putting pressure on her shoulder trying to get her to yield her front legs but all she keeps doing is moving her back legs in a circle like I was pushing on her hindquarters but I’m not. I don’t know what to do – please help? Shes a very fast learner so I know I have to be doing it wrong.
Answer from April Reeves: Let’s start by looking at ‘pressure’. Rule #1: never push on a horse. Laying your hand on a horse and using any pressure will result in the horse pushing against you, unless the horse has been taught specifically to move away, in which case you only have to ‘touch’ the horse. I don’t know exactly what you meant by ‘putting pressure on her shoulder’ so I added this in.
Question: Hello, I have been training horses since I was 12. I’m no expert by any means and have lots to learn.
But as of right now I am currently working with a 3 year old quarter horse. She is the most nervous insecure horse I have ever worked with. Her previous owner told me they had started her under the saddle already and she had accepted it, which I found through further training was a lie. I have been constantly working with her since October and am hardly moving forward. I started right from scratch with basic halter training. Now, I have ridden her only because I was pushed into it by her owner. I stopped because I felt she was not ready, every time I sack her out its like its all new to her. I have used many objects such as a bag on a whip, a cowboy hat, a blanket, just a plain stick, and she still flips each time I bring out an object. Even if it was an object she has previously seen! She is having major difficulties with switching eye to eye. And frankly I am running out of ideas. I’m not sure if I should just move on and ride her in hopes I can work it out of her on her back.
Answer from April Reeves: I have run across a mare like this. You may have to back off from using objects to desensitize her as it makes them worse.
Where this problem originated was back in her history somewhere. Owners never tell you the whole story. It’s up to you to assume the worst and work from there. People can really ruin a young horse.
This mare will take a great deal of consistent gentle handling. Get rid of bags on the end of whips and other cool toys that work on other horses. With this mare, you will be doing basic work. But it’s not the work you are doing, it is HOW you will carry out this work.
Posted in English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Natural Horsemanship, Western training answers
Tagged break horse, colt starting, Equine Behavior & Problems, foundation training, Groundwork, horse training, Natural Horsemanship, problem horse, spooky horse, western training, young horse
Training Mules & Donkeys Looks at Athletic Conditioning
Is Your Equine Getting the Right Workout?
By Helen T. Hertz
Photos courtesy of Meredith Hodges
At a recent training clinic hosted at Meredith Hodges’ Lucky Three Ranch in Loveland, Colo., Meredith and her good friend Joanne Lang, an animal massage therapist and rehabilitation expert, held a special session on athletic conditioning. Their subjects were two of Meredith’s molly mules, April and Vicki. April was born at Lucky Three and has enjoyed the benefit of Meredith’s training and maintenance program her whole life. Her superior physical conditioning and steady temperament are evidence of her meticulous upbringing.
Vicki was also born at the ranch but, at a young age, was sold. For several years she was left alone in a pasture, neglected to the point that her halter had actually begun to grow into her face. About two years ago Vicki was purchased and brought back to Lucky Three.
Question: I have a welsh section a driving pony, he’s 12yrs and I have owned him for 18months. I was a novice driver and he was a very experienced pony, his previous owner drove him out alone without any problems. I believe I have spoiled him by being too soft, due to this he has no respect for me and I believe he has a learned behavioral problem of rearing now. When I ask him to stand and wait at a junction, I ask him with soft hands but he’s very quick and goes up, very scary. I have had him physically checked and there are no problems. Please can you offer any advice. Thanks, kind regards. Debbie
Answer from April Reeves: Hi Debbie, I have seen this a lot. It’s a common habit a driving horse/pony can get into. Depending on how long it’s been going on – will determine how long it will take to change it.
Start back at ground driving. Begin to drive him as you normally would in a cart, but stand to the side, not behind him. Walk him around for a bit to get use to being back on the ground again, and when you are comfortable and handling everything well, ask him to halt, with you standing to the side (enough to avoid being kicked).
This is an article I have on Horseman’s U.com, but it remains one of the most popular articles so I thought I’d post it here.
Learning to ride without a saddle has multiple benefits
Bareback riding (without the saddle) was always something kids did. You grabbed your pony from the field, hopped on and away you went.
Today we barely function without saddles. While saddles help us look pretty or be more functional, bareback riding has many benefits for both posture AND confidence.
Bareback riding allows you to feel the true movement of the horse, and sends the rider information that is imperative for higher training. It is this very idea that correlates to English saddles having as little leather between the horse and rider as possible, especially in dressage saddles, where the flaps are thin and flexible.
Adiva Murphy and Pal
A SPECIAL POST BY ADIVA MURPHY – FOUR PART QUESTION
Question: So when they try to knock into you what is the next step? I haven’t quite figured out how to work the stick yet but I have been using my lunge line.
Answer: Get familiar with that stick – it is your new best friend. I used to stumble along with the rope for years because I felt it was too much to handle having a stick in my hand, but once you realize you use it like a longer arm….it is FANTASTIC!
Question: We recently bought a 3-year-old horse for our daughter. I know it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do but the horse was very quiet and we were assured that he had no problems. He does seem quiet most of the time but every now and then when your not expecting it he will blow up. It’s not a bolt but more of a jumping straight in the air and then striking out. I think he is simply trying to avoid work, but I am worried that someone will get hurt. I am trying to decide if selling this horse now would be my best decision as with a more experienced person I’m sure he will be great, I just want something safe for my daughter (she is 14 and has 6 years experience riding). We are an experienced horse family but if this is likely to progress into a continuous problem I don’t know if we want to deal with it. Thanks for any advice.
Answer from April Reeves: This is one of my favorite questions as I deal with this every day. First, buying a young horse for a young girl who has had time in the saddle does not bother me. This horse does not sound aggressive enough to do any real damage, and in fact may become one of her better ‘teachers’. But the learning curve begins here, as there are differences between a horse below 7 and a horse above 7 that we will discover in this answer.
Posted in English Riding answers, Equine Behavior & Problems, General riding answers, Natural Horsemanship, Western training answers
Tagged behavior, collection, foundation training, gait, green horse, green rider, Groundwork, horse training, thoroughbred, young horse