Category Archives: Natural Horsemanship

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”.

Continue reading

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”.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Hot horse needs lunging or bad idea?

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.

Continue reading

Arabian gelding has serious anxiety issues

Question: I have a 10 year old arab that I’ve switched from the Arab circuit to eventing. I bought him as a 5 yr old and did Arab shows for a couple years. He’s a gorgeous horse and an amazing mover, but has a really hard time keeping himself under control. He is always a happy horse, with ears pinned forward. My problem with him is when we get to shows he gets so excited that he literally can’t contain himself. He ends up rearing/jumping/bucking nonstop. I’ve had a chiropractor out, a vet out, and he has no issues with back or saddle fitting. If I take him to school at a place, he’s a pretty good boy. He just really feeds off the commotion of the show. Eventing has been better, he loves to jump and does great on cross country and stadium. But dressage is the first phase and he usually rears and leaps through our test. I’ve tried lunging him for an hour before, and he just gets more excited. We generally get there the night before and that hasn’t made a difference either.
If you have any suggestions on how to get him to calm down, please let me know!!!! He has amazing talent, but he is just like a child with ADHD.
Thanks! Stefanie

Answer from April Reeves: Arabians are one of my favorite breeds: they are highly sensitive and intelligent, and learn fast. And they’re just incredibly beautiful as well.

They also can get a little out of control, which always brings me back to groundwork. An Arabian can never have enough groundwork. It’s great for their minds and they catch on to it faster than many breeds.

Continue reading

Watch a newborn foal on Barnmice webcam!

Barnmice has a webcam set up to watch and record the births of 4 mares (mare stare), due any day now. Head over to Barnmice, create an account if you want (not necessary to get hooked on the proceedings) and keep vigil. Most mares foal in the early morning hours, so if anyone gets to see this please let the rest of us (who sleep through all this stuff) know.

Barnmice Live Foal Cam

Pushy 8-month-old Cob needs to learn manners.

Question: Hi, I hope you can help. I have had my little cob for about 9 months, at first he was very bossy and wouldn’t even let me touch his face without trying to bite and ears flat back , he got loads better and now I can stroke and even brush his face, he is great to catch and comes when called , but lately, even when  I go to greet him as he comes over when I get there, he puts his ears flat back and does that trying to send me away thing , he will try to bite if I persist in trying to touch him, unless I can get to scratch him in his fave spot. I spend a lot of time with him , he will not let me pick  his feet up most of the time either, I know his previous owner and I know she would hurt him too , how can I get him to respect and trust me, I am rather nervous of him now but I love him and won’t let him down.

Answer from April Reeves: Hello Carol from the UK! I’m glad you spend a lot of time with this horse. It is the best therapy you can give him, short of a few ground lessons that I will give you that should keep you busy for about half a year.

One thing you didn’t mention was whether he was gelded or not. This would make the world of difference if he wasn’t castrated yet. Once that is done, his whole attitude will change. However, even as a young male he should still show respect and manners, as it will carry forward when he is gelded.

Continue reading

How do I ask my horse to move her shoulder away from me?

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.
Continue reading

Is there hope for a 3-year-old mare with her flighty nature and inability to learn?

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.
Continue reading

My well-trained hunter has suddenly taken to bucking fits and aggressive behavior and is becoming dangerous.

Question: I have a 7 year old Appendix, who is in full show hunter training, and he is a fantastic hunter, but he has one major issue. He is a fairly dominant gelding and when another horse, no matter gender or size, passes him or gets too close (in either direction, although the same direction is worse) he bucks. I don’t mean like a baby or one time buck. It is a full bucking fit around the arena. The last time he bucked, it was because a pony passed him and he took 5 minutes of pure 4 feet of the ground bucking, and a run in with the fence to stop. He did NOT do this when I first bought and showed him. It started in June 2008 and that was 6 full months after I purchased him. My trainer and I have exhausted all of our options, and cannot find an answer as to why this started nor can we find a solution. We also thought it was me for a while, but I have been evaluated by a mental coach and my nerves are not the cause, they are a reaction to his bucking fits. Can you help?

Answer from April Reeves: I need a bit more information. What are the options you have exhausted? That way I won’t need to go over them again. Have you done any groundwork and if so what did you do? This is an easy fix but it will require time and probably someone with a different skill set. I will wait for your reply before suggesting a solution.

Continue reading

My Driving Pony Rears!

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).

Continue reading

Non-Invasive Foal Imprinting

WELCOME TO THE WORLD – a non-invasive and loving approach to imprinting

By Liz Mitten Ryan

De-sensitization and imprinting are found in every trainers tool box. Their importance to our efficient handling of horses is invaluable. From a human perspective our interaction with horses from handling to riding is safer and less stressful. Its value to a trusting partnership though is dependent on how sensitive and considerate we are to the horse. Is our horse enjoying the relationship more as a result or are they simply dead to the stimulus?

My journey with horses has been an adventure of discovery. I am always looking to refine and enhance the connection and communication, to dance with my horse to the rhythm of joy, love and perfect communion. I know that our journey as spiritual beings seeded in matter is universal. Each and every being is an equal and unique fruition of one consciousness in all life.

Continue reading

Benefits of Bareback Riding

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.

Continue reading

Natural Horsemanship – How can I get my horse to move away?

Horseman's Stick

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!

Continue reading

New horse owner wonders if she should sell the horse

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.

Continue reading

How do I tackle a frisky 7-mth-old Paint colt?

Question: Hi there. I’ve been around horses all my life but to be honest, I’ve never actually trained one. I’ve only ridden and taken care of them.

I adopted a Paint Cross colt a Month ago who’s now 7 Months old.  He lives out with my 4 other horses who are all way taller than him.

He’s a sweet little guy who loves attention but he has no emotion.  He’s so calm and cool and thinks he is stronger than anyone.  He walks into me, through me, nibbles me, pushes me with his head and all the rest.  Doesn’t know his space and does everything a colt can at that age.

I know it’s normal so I’ve decided to tackle his problems NOW instead of later on when he will be stronger.

I read you’re not supposed to be violent with them when they are so young but he’s emotionless.  He only responds when I smack him.

Do you think you could give me some basic tips on how to earn his respect?  Am I right using physical force on him when he misbehaves?

I have no intention of training him under saddle alone but I want to at least get his ground manners in check. Thank you, Laura

Answer from April Reeves: Hi Laura. I first want to speak to your comment “I’ve never actually trained one.” I have this theory/understanding that anyone who has been in the presence of a horse has had influence on the ‘training’ of that horse (what he knows of humans). This is because horses ‘soak’ everything a human does. All your movements, signals, voice and body language ‘speak’ to a horse. That non-verbal language translates into what the horse will become. So while you may think you have never trained a horse in all your life, you have actually spent years training horses. Humans believe that training is simply a matter of learning techniques. While this is true to a point (and it’s best to learn good techniques that produce happy results) humans need to understand the horse at a much different level first before entering into a relationship of any kind. Humans must learn to speak their language first.

This is where we will start.

Continue reading

What does a typical day of training look like?

Question: Can you give me an outline of one of your typical rides? I just want some kind of idea of what you do with the horse, what you try to do yourself, and how long you took. Oh, also what you were trying to achieve. Thanks, Mandy.

Answer from April Reeves: I will give you a day in the life of a somewhat green Andalusian that is going very nicely (Mya) and has no real issues. She already has 100 days on her. She is not being worked for anything in particular, just as a pleasure and trail horse. This is just Grade 2 foundation work. I will put links in to find the exercises in case you are not familiar with them. The writing is short, more of a guideline.

Groundwork:

– Follow, stop, back, trot off, stop, back, turn sharp, back… Does the horse respond quickly? Obedient? Politely? Groundwork link

Sending exercise to test if horse is fresh or ready. I will ride right away if the horse feels right. No spooking, must have both eyes on me. I don’t mind the horse having energy. I do mind if the horse is not ‘with me’. 5 minutes or more.

Continue reading

My horse refuses to move forward.

Always teach your horse to move forward obediently

Question: My mare whom I’ve had about 3 yrs, she is 8, was abused, was flipped over because of being backed up aggressively by some asshole trainer, among other things, well when I try to take her down the road, she stops and refuses to go forward when she gets around the corner. I thought it was because she didn’t want to leave my gelding. So we took them both and she still kept stopping. But we did get to the end of the road. So if I take her by herself, she refuses to go forward, she will back up even into shrubs and trees. What should I do?

Answer from April Reeves: I worked on a mare that did exactly the same thing. I’ll explain how I worked with her.

It’s About Moving Forward
First, we addressed the backing up. After taking this mare out for the first time and almost landing in the ditch, we went back home to the outdoor ring and had a lesson on how to move forward the instant I asked. Doing more backing is not the cure for this style of behavior.

Continue reading

My horse keeps needing harsher bits and hackamores. Help!

5-ring-bit

This bit, in the wrong hands, is abuse

Question: Hello I have an 8 yr. old reg. quarter horse and he is the most wonderful, trustworthy horse ever!. But the problem is throughout training  him (since he was 2) I have had problems with his listening to a bit or hackamore. I have everything from a snaffle to a severe curve bit. Same for the hack – I have a hack that has a metal band and a snaffle bit on it and he does listen but I hate it! I feel like it is abuse :(. Im at my wits-end its to the point that I don’t want to ride him sometimes and will pick one of our other horses. I need some new advice if you could help me I would love it. Thank-you

Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: You have good gut instincts, as the harder the bit, the tougher the horse is going to be, and some of the equipment you have is abusive, even in light hands. There are very few harsher bits that have any purpose being near a horse, and they must have some result that is acquired without heavy handling.

Horses that do not respond to tougher bits and equipment are not bad or insensitive. They are a result of improper training.

Problem is, humans resort to harder bits because they don’t want to take the time to train the horse properly. The horse just gets use to the pain and pressure, which causes the bit to stop working, so the human seeks a harder bit, and so the evil process proliferates. Some humans don’t care about the horse’s well being either. This is life.

Whenever you get a tough mouthed horse, lower the harshness on the bit – find the softest one on the market and use it. Why? Horses will fight pain. They will become resistant and irritated, and that always plays out in “bad” behavior (human’s interpretation). The behavior is not bad to the horse: he’s just trying to protect himself. When you take the pain away, you give the horse a chance to work for you. A happy horse free of pain is a horse that will work harder, learn faster and bond with you better.

Continue reading

Building stalls and getting an unbroke horse to move foward

Horse stallsQuestion: I had a question about building stalls, I don’t have a huge barn but its a pretty good size so I wanted to know what would be the smallest but safest size stall to build. I have four horses and we just moved and this barn doesn’t have them already built so we were going to but I just don’t want to make them too small. They would only be stalled at night and turned out in the day.

Also I have a four-year-old gelding who has never really been ridden but we’ve had him since he was born and is just as gentle and respectful as he can be. When we get on him he just stands still. I know he just doesn’t know what ‘giddy up’ means yet but how do I teach him that? What about lunging him –  how do I get him to go in a circle and not backwards? Thanks

Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: In regards to the stalls, the smallest I would put a horse in (under 16 hands high) would be 10 by 10 feet. At 16 hands, 11 by 11 or 12 by 12 (best). A horse must be able to move around in a circle, and when a stall is too small, the horse ends up rotating on his hindquarters. Any repetitive movement to the joints and skeleton will eventually end up in pain and discomfort, leading to an unrideable horse. The horse also is not a cave dweller, so the larger the stall, the better mind you will have on your horse. I’m not an advocate of the tie stall – I think they are cruel. Horses should be able to lie down where they choose and move around.

Continue reading

A ‘cinchy’ mare gets a tune up on manners while saddling.

Grumpy HorseQuestion: I have a problem when I tack up my horse, Thea. Bridling she is fine, placing the saddle on her is fine, but doing up the girth is not. She turns around to bite you so I have to either have someone holding her or I have a long rein one side that I can pull on. After the girth is done up she pulls back and does a mini jump in the air. She doesn’t have a sore back and I’m sure her saddle is ok [vet confirmed], I think its just behavior. How can I resolve it?

Answer: Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: Good for you Mel – you’ve diagnosed the problem correctly. Most people never get there. Just so you know – the solution is easy.

I have rehabbed hundreds of horses with this problem, and I will tell you that the horse never gets to the place where he’s happy to be cinched up. What we are going to do is to alleviate the discomfort for the horse, get the horse to accept the process with obedience, and learn something new about training horses.

Continue reading

My 17 month old colt is turning bad!

Rearing ColtQuestion: Hi, I have a colt 17 mths, I have recently purchased who is sweet and friendly until it comes to feed time, when he becomes very bad tempered. He barges me out of the way with his shoulder with his ears back, and turns his rear to me and kicks out, he has got me once and it hurt. I am now scared of him, which I know is what he wants. If I smack him with the carrot stick it makes him more angry and he reverses to me to kick. If I keep him on a lead short enough so he can’t reach me  I can’t drive him away. I don’t know what to do.

I have rehabbed nervous horses before very successfully but I have never dealt with a dominant confident colt before. He shows these tendencies when I ask him to move away, I think because he has had no education before and doesn’t understand what I am asking.

What should I be expecting of a 17 month old?

Please tell me what I should do. This is usually only round feed time, rest of the time he is sweet and follows me round and is starting to see me as his friend. I have owned him a week. Thanks.

Answer from April Reeves: To start off, what anyone should expect from a 17-month colt is respect and obedience, especially from a colt (uncastrated male) as they have all their hormones and are just about ready to discover them.

Continue reading

My Thoroughbred cross is suddenly behaving badly!

Horse BuckingQuestion: I bought a 4yr old tbx gelding 3 months ago and am concerned by his behavior. He was initially very stubborn to lunge (he would rear and refuse to go out on a circle) but I managed to get him going well within a week or two. He was very friendly and easy to handle on the ground. Then I began to ride him (he was only backed at this point). He has been riding really well and learning quickly. I’ve been careful to praise him a lot and have not had much need to scold him. Then suddenly he changed. I rode him and he refused to go forwards, instead cowkicking and bucking whenever I put my leg on. He’s also started to kick out violently when asked to move over in his stable! Out of the stable, he will move over fine! The only changes I have made are bringing him in overnight and feeding him! please help! Im scared of my 17hh youngster!

Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: I’ll be honest: this is a problem for a professional that is not scared. From here, it will take a very firm hand, and a very brave heart.

Continue reading

Am I on the right track training a dangerous, rearing horse?

Rearing horse won't go forwardQuestion: Hi there like you I have a reputation for riding and re-training horses that are deemed dangerous untrainable or non ridable however I have just bought a lovely ex-racehorse who is terrified of life. He has been completely checked over from head to toe and there is nothing physically wrong with him however he trembles if he sees his tack, rears when being bridled and has progressed to rearing and going over with his current rider. I am bringing him home tomorrow and plan on riding him as he was great when I tried him out. He did try to rear but got a good boot and a slap on the bum with my stick and sent fowards and then he went lovely.

I believe he just needs a firm hand but am concerned for his well-being mentally as his tack terrifies him and his rearing has already broken bones of his previous rider.

It would be great if you could give me your insight as to the possible cause of his fears and how you would rectify the situation.

He will not be sold on as I believe he has had a rough enough life, so I expect him to work, and after an initial tantrum was a well behaved, well balanced horse. Thanks for your time.

Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: When you get a horse like this, unless you dig and ask questions you will never know the history that made the horse what he is today. On the other hand, does it matter?
Continue reading

How can a green rider progress on a green horse with very little help?

Green horse, green riderQuestion: I have a Quarab mare and one main bad habit she has, is that she is herd bound. The people we got her from kept her out in the pasture with 6 other horses all the time and so now she doesn’t like it when I take my miniature horse away. She doesn’t usually care when I separate her from my miniature horse, but she cannot stand me taking my miniature horse away. I have been working with her on it, taking my mini horse away and walking her back and taking her farther and walking back, just so Twinkle (my horse) knows I will bring Sophie (mini horse) back.
We have a fence up and Twinkle is separated from Sophie but they can still talk and see each other. We had to recently put up a hot wire fence as well because Twinkle was leaning on the fence and trying to walk it, getting her legs stuck in the fence, which it is also good because she doesn’t freak out, she waits patiently for us to get her untied. I was wondering if there is any possible way I can get her to stop being herd bound? She is getting better but I still worry about the fence and her getting hurt.

I also have recently started riding her english. I want to be able to do cross-country and show jumping with her and if we work hard enough, possibly learn some dressage techniques. One bad thing, is that the previous owners galloped her a lot, so a lot of times she wants to run, run, run, or she doesn’t listen to my leg commands. If I ask her to trot, she will either burst into a gallop or trot for a second then go faster. I would like for her to be a better horse for English. She can be impatient and doesn’t listen well to “whoa” or only a “walk” or “trot” command. I will be getting a new English bit because the one I have for her does not work, she doesn’t respect it, but I would love for her to be a better well-behaved horse. I wasn’t sure if I could help get her to listen to my commands and whether or not I can train her to only trot when asked.

Is there a way I can train her myself, or is a professional trainer a better idea? We don’t have a lot of money for a professional trainer, but her and I having a great bond through english riding and my dream of jumping to happen.

Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: I first want to address the fence issue. No fence should allow a horse to get tangled. Although your horse is quiet about it right now, it’s a matter of time when that changes, and you lose the horse from serious leg injuries. I have a saying, “that horse never died before”.

Continue reading

When do you transition from the snaffle to a shank bit?

Chumley bit from SpillerQuestion: I’m a little confused about the timing for changing bits. I have been using an O ring snaffle for almost 2 years. My gelding is 5. He knows basic stuff – stop, forward, turns and I can ride him on the road and trails. I may want to show him some day and I know I can’t ride him in a snaffle for western. How do I transition into a harder bit? When do I do that?

Answer from April Reeves: Thanks for the good question. I suspect lots of riders are at this crossroad.

If you never plan to show your horse, I see no real reason to move into any bit with shanks.

Continue reading

Should I use a chain to lead my horse?

Nose Chain on horse halterQuestion: Can I use a chain on my horse? When I lead him, he pulls his head down to eat anything on the ground. It’s killing my arms to try and pull him up all the time. He leads with his head on the ground sniffing for food.

Answer from April Reeves: In my world, a chain is a way of saying “I’m not willing to take the time and learn the proper way, so just give me a quick solution”. The other problem with them, is that once the chain comes off, the horse usually reverts back to old behavior. They know the difference. They’re not stupid.

Continue reading

Using Natural Horsemanship in Hunter/Jumper training

Question: Can you integrate Natural Horsemanship into jumper training? I read your dressage article on blending them, but I have an 8 yr old hunter – Dutch Warmblood – thoroughbred cross mare who continues to spook at fences at shows. She’s not what you would call hot, but has lots of get-up-and-go. What Natural Horsemanship exercises or training can I start on to get my mare less spooky with more even tempo? I have tried all the traditional methods with little to no success. She also tends to walk over me too when I lead her. Thank you April.

Answer from April Reeves: Of course you can integrate NH into your program! In fact, hunter/jumper is one area of traditional training that really gets a boost and solid foundation from NH. All my H/J students go through this basic foundation before advancing into fence work. There is no technique or method in particular that works with hunter/jumpers better than dressage horses: the methods are universal to all disciplines.

Continue reading