What someone will pay is what a horse is worth
Question: I am in love with this QH palomino mare, but she is unregistered with no ability to get papers. I would still purchase her, but her owner, who is a beginner rider, says she has pro training on her, and that she wants to get the money back from that. Her price is $2600. What determines the price of a horse? In this economy, I can find a registered horse for less than that, with similar training. The owner wants her costs back from the horse. Is this reasonable?
Answer from April Reeves: The price of a horse is whatever someone will pay. Nothing else comes into the equation. I have seen $120,000 horses sold for $5000 and less during hard times. In the past I watched certain Arabian breeders fall when no one bought into their expensive program anymore. If no one buys into your program, you don’t have one.
Horses need to learn balance and lateral flexion for slower gaits
Question: I was wondering if you had any tips for me concerning my horse. I have a very typey and sensible 7 yr old QH mare. I would love to do lower level western pleasure with her! Her jog is amazing, she keeps her head perfect and has a very slow legged, reachy, consistant jog. Her lope is very different. She is very quick, but I can get about 4 slow loose reined strides, then she speeds back up and she’s flying. I believe this has to do with the girl that was riding her before I did. She wasn’t a very experienced or strong rider, and let her just do whatever. Any tips?
Answer from April Reeves: When horses speed up at the canter it’s usually a sign they are moving flat without enough spring and too heavy on the forehand. While you are enjoying a slow jog, it may be one of the causes of your problem as horses often lower their heads and move slowly without any form of collection, engagement or spring. While they are able to move slow at the jog, the canter propels them forward into a more suspended gait, and in order to sustain a canter they have to pick up speed.
Ashley and Viento from "Horse Training Chronicles"
Question: I know you talk a lot about different training techniques but my question to you is what YOU think the most important or valuable thing is or to know when training a horse?
Answer from April Reeves: I’m going to take your word “training” and expand on it first. Training is everything we do with a horse. Everything we do communicates something back to the horse, whether we’re leading them with a tight rope or just standing around in the middle of the ring talking to each other on our horses.
Everything you do is training.
The most important thing I believe, and what I also believe is missing from 90% of the horse owners?
The first ride
Question: I am going to get on my horse for the first time soon. She is 3 and I have been round penning her. She has had a snaffle on for the last 6 times and the saddle. She walks quietly and does not seem to be spooky. Should I get on in the round pen first and what other things should I be aware of?
Answer from April Reeves: You sound a bit hesitant to get on your filly. Here are a few things I would look for if someone asked me to get on a horse for the first time.
Question: I have a 20-year old paso fino gelding who looked like a 3-year old, great muscle-tone, he had the perfect weight, et cetera. We also have a miniature mare who he despised until we brought home a paint draft gelding and a pony stallion. Now, Arthur (the paso fino) won’t leave the mini’s side and is stressing himself out over trying to take care of her and keep her from the stallion. He’s lost weight and the vet said to increase his weight to a bucket and a half (hand-held feeders) of grain plus a cup of oats per feeding twice a day. He’s still not gaining any weight, so we upped his weight to 2 buckets of grain and a cupful of oats. Tomorrow we’ll be getting sweet feed for him to see if it bulks up his diet, but his weight just isn’t improving. Are there any supplements you’d suggest?
Answer from April Reeves: Your gelding was the herd leader of his herd of 2 (he and the mini) but when you brought in two others, his natural instincts went from leader to protector. He’s just doing his job.
In this situation you will have to decide whether to fix the problem (separate Arthur and the mini) or change his diet.
Question: Hello. I just purchased an 11 yr old 16.1 hh TB brood mare who is very skinny and lost her foal to Placenta Previa about 8 days ago. She was a race horse as well. The man I purchased her from said she was abandoned and took her in and only had her for 4 weeks. He said she has been fed hay most all her life.
I don’t want her to colic and I want her to put weight on. I eventually want her to be in the pasture full-time, but don’t know how to wean her into pasture without her getting colic. Right now I feed her a flake of alfalfa hay in the morning, let her out for about 2 hrs in the afternoon to graze, then another flake of hay early evening, then 5 scoops of senior equine with 2 scoops of wheat bran at night. Is this nearly enough??? I would prefer her to graze more than to get more hay, but I am in fear of her getting colic. Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated! Thank you so much.
Answer from April Reeves: Putting weight on your mare is going to be a slow process. Depending upon her history of neglect, many mares never get good weight back. Once a horse is very thin, it’s a tough road to get back the weight, as much of it is muscle, and severe or prolonged starvation and depleted feeds can waste muscle tissue.
Question: I have a filly that is 9 months old. We got her in October of last year and have been working with her. But in the last few months every time we try to get close to her she has her ears pinned back. Its always at different times, it could be when we are feeding her, giving her a treat like apples or carrots, or just trying to brush her. She was fine at first now it seems everytime we are near her, her ears are pinned. Why is that and how can I get her not to pin her ears all the time? It makes me a little on guard, and I can’t really enjoy my time working with her. I have to mention that she is my first baby I’m trying to raise although I’ve grown up around horses, so I’m not totally unknowledgable about horses. I just want to make raising my foal an enjoyable experience even though it is hard work.
Answer from April Reeves: When a horse of any size or age lets you in to their space, you are now a herd member, not a human. It’s now your responsibility to take your place in the herd of 2 (you and your filly). As each human enters her world, she is also gaining herd members.
As with any herd, you will be positioned into the pecking order. This is what your young filly is trying to do with you.
Question: I have a 9 year old Quarter Horse who used to be a great trail horse and good around kids. We moved and had her boarded for about 4 years. We couldn’t go ride her because she was about 7 hours away. Now that we have her in the pasture the kids want to ride her. She hasn’t been ridden for about 3 1/2 years. She is not afraid of the saddle or anyone being on her but when you get on her, she won’t move one step unless someone is leading her. I really don’t want to sell her because the kids love her. What should I do?
Answer from April Reeves: You are merely steps away from having a really good horse again. When that amount of time is lost from riding a horse, they will forget the odd thing. If their training has been solid, they won’t come back with bad habits; just forgotten ones.
Mini horse and mini donkey share space
Question: I have a miniature horse mare and I got her in 2006. She was nice and fit and now she is fat and overweight. She is not pregnant but has been fat for a while now. I am in junior high and I am stuck with school and homework, but I try to get out there and work with her whenever I can. I have cut off grain and made her hay only half a flake now. She seems to MAYBE be losing SOME weight but she is still fat. Is there a way I can get her to lose it? I am thinking of entering her in 4-H and I will be using her in parades and showing, but I need to get her slimmer….
Answer from April Reeves: Because Mini’s are small horses, they fall under the same guidelines for feeding and care that a horse does. They just eat smaller amounts and have less square footage to brush.
Unfortunately, they are not in need of less when it comes to exercise. Because they are small, humans think that Minis are capable of handling very little physical activity. The opposite is true.
Question: Hi. I am just starting to teach my 5 year old QH mare about collection (I know, a little late). She is getting the idea of bending her neck, giving to the bit, softening, and her head carriage, but now I want to start getting her to round up her back and drive from behind….but I do not know how to teach that. Could you give me some training tips? Thanks so much. –Erin
Answer from April Reeves: This is one of my longest and most comprehensive answers yet on the foundation and post foundation work and exercises to get a horse light, round and started in collection. This answer takes the mystery out of the difference between connection and collection. It is about one year’s worth of work and exercises anyone in any discipline can do. Enjoy!
Hello Erin. Let’s start with connection. This is where you are with your horse at the moment. Connection is one of three important parts to foundation training. The first is rhythm and cadence, second is supple, and third is connection. I have a scale (or levels) I work with: a good whoa and go button, then rhythm and cadence, suppleness and connection. These are the basic foundations to any horse’s training, regardless of discipline (English or Western).
Connection is different from collection, as it is the exercises you do to get a horse on the bit. To get collection, the horse must first be good at moving on the bit. You must have connection to get collection.
Question: Mare had a colt 2 days ago and is sour toward her. With coaxing she has let her baby nurse a time or two, but will stop & get irritated. Colt won’t readily take a bottle so we keep trying to get the mare to tolerate her. She is not upset at anyone handling her & doesn’t care to even be with her. The colt gets upset and makes noises at the absence of her mom, but not the other way around. Any way to encourage mare to accept her &/OR good way to get colt to take a bottle? Any good milk substitute you recommend?
Answer from April Reeves: I have run into this problem on occasion. I have never had to separate a mare and foal because of it, nor added milk replacement. You do have a big job ahead of you though.
Some mares experience odd sensations when first letting a foal nurse. They may experience tickling, soreness and irritation. Like some people, some horses are over-sensitive or hypochondriacs. These mares need time to adjust to their new situation.
Question: How is it that horses can stand up and sleep. We are having an argument at our barn. I think it’s an old wives tale, as my horse stands but never seems to fully sleep in this position. We are also arguing about the effects of a light on in the barn all the time. Please, I need your help on this one, as our whole barn is at odds right now! Does sleep affect behavior?
Answer from April Reeves: Horses indeed sleep standing up. They use what’s called “Equine Stay Apparatus”, a system of tendons, ligaments and muscles in the horse’s leg. The lower leg joints lock with assistance from the above and the suspensory apparatus.
These parts work together to keep the horse’s legs in a standing, locked position. While your horse may appear to be awake, he is likely asleep enough to kick out at you if you were to approach him unexpectedly.
Good Front Leg Form Over Fence
Question: I have just had two horses pass a vet check and now I’m more confused than ever as to which one to buy as a potential hunter. They are both geldings, 16.3HH, both 5 years old. The green horse has a good mind, great legs, and is gorgeous, but very, very green! He went over a small grid we set up, but he has very little of any training other than walk trot and halt. He has no papers. The other gelding is also 5 with lots of experience over fences, but he refuses, runs out and seems very sour of the whole thing. He seems hotter than the green horse. When he does jump, he’s amazing. He has Canadian WB papers. What would you do in this situation? How do I choose wisely?
Answer from April Reeves: A few more questions need answering before you bring all the facts in to make your decision.
I would look at the conformation and way of going on both horses. There will be something that will tip you one way or another. My gut instinct is to lean towards the green horse. If he is built properly, and moves long and low (daisy clipper) I would take a few more free jumps with him if the owners will let you.
Question: I have a 14 yr old QH mare who when my daughter and I go on trail rides panics if she is not the lead horse. It is difficult because my daughter likes to ride ahead sometimes but my horse gets real speedy and bouncy trying to catch up with the other horse. If I hold her back it is difficult and i do alot of circles to get her to stay slow. I have also noticed that when we are in the show ring she tries to catch up with the horse in front of us and then when and if we pass she is fine. Is there any way to make her feel more comfortable without being in the lead? I do trail ride her alone a lot also and she is fine. Just when there is another horse in front of her.
Answer from April Reeves: You could work on this problem a number of ways. What I will try to do is set up a training method that you can accomplish.
This is a tough habit to break. Your mare is likely the dominant in this herd of 2 (herd of 4 when humans show up), so she will demand that her role be acknowledged on the trail or arena.
Or she may be suffering separation anxiety (herd bound). If this is the case, you may have a horse that you will never be able to break from this habit entirely. In all honesty, I have worked with these horses and although I can ride them safely, when they go back to the owners it starts up all over again.
Question: Today I took my 4-year-old thoroughbred out on a hack with the girls down the yard, and we had to go over raised metal poles and she just wouldn’t go over them. She was a complete nightmare – we tried everything – she was having none of it! I’m wondering if you have any advice?
Answer from April Reeves: Your mare just hasn’t had enough work doing ‘other’ things. We tend to keep doing the same things over and over again, usually simple riding and arena work, and forget that we need to give our horses continual desensitizing.
Question: I have a 4 year old Belgian/quarter horse cross that insists on going through the fence. We have both field fence and barbed wire fences on our place and he doesn’t care which one he tears up. He just walks up to the fence and starts pushing and walking up the wire until he pushes in over. He is built like a tank and doesn’t mind cutting himself in the process. There is nothing for him to get into on the other side of the fence, all the feed is in bins. He just gets out and stands on the other side. Any advice. We tried popping him in the behind with a bb gun when we see him pushing but it doesn’t seem to phase him.
Answer from April Reeves: Your horse does not see the fence as a barrier, and it’s likely because it’s not strung tight enough. Once a horse feels any give, it’s in their nature to resist it. Remember, horses are nomadic, and have an instinct to walk. Humans put them in unnatural confinement and expect them to act according to OUR rules – which rarely happens.
Question: We have been having some MAJOR PROBLEMS trailering my horse preacher. He is an x-racehorse and hates to load on a trailer. We’ve tried everything people told us to try. He got on there a couple of times but thats all. Tuesday my mom went over there and fed him in the trailer and when we got there a friend (Jason) went into the trailer nervous and scared. When he started to tie him up Preacher went BAZERK and Jason started to freak and get loud with him. I know you’re probably not supposed to get loud. So how can you get him from being non trailer shy and get that horse onto the trailer so I can go to my lessons and shows? He’s a real sweet boy.
Answer from April Reeves: Your problem is serious and difficult to fix unless you are skilled in groundwork. Your friend Jason did not help either. There is no excuse to raise your voice to a horse, and doing so just set you back. I’m always the type of person to tell it truthfully – loading a difficult horse is a dangerous thing to attempt without experience.
Question: We’ve had our 7 year old QH mare for 5 years. I love her, but she is stubborn, grouchy, and very over sensitive to touch. I have to use a soft rubber brush on her, and a brush with very soft bristles. She doesn’t like to be pet or even lightly rubbed for that matter anywhere on her body (though I have to admit, I do it anyways. My thought is if I don’t touch her, she will never get accustomed to it). She tends to threaten more than actually ever do anything about it. She will pretend to bite, or swoosh her head at you with ears flat on her head. When you tack her up, she is soooo grouchy (pretends to bite with ears back.) We’ve had her back checked by the vet, as well as an equine massage therapist. We’re told she is fine. Her tack fits well, but I’ve had that checked as well to see if I’m missing anything, but, nope, it’s fine. She’s very green, and we are not trainers ourselves, we’ve had a trainer come in to work with her, and, they GAVE UP!! She couldn’t get a response from her.
Question: My coach and I have been working on retraining my horse (an Oldenburg/TB cross), for the most part he’s been coming along nicely, but he really LOVES jumping and has the tendency to take the easy out and surge to jumps and fall on the forehand afterward and is hard to pull up. I’m hesitant to go to a harsher bit as I’d rather use mild means and go only as fast in his training than he is ready. We have him in a french-link eggbutt snaffle. Some have suggested a pelham, but I while was browsing the world of bits and equipment I found something called a Kineton noseband. I’ve read so many varied opinions on this piece of equipment that I’m left wondering what to believe. Is this piece of equipment harsh when used properly? (I know that anything including a snaffle can be harsh if used incorrectly). I’m wondering if this type of noseband could be a mild addition to my corrections when he goes to surge onto his forehand and pull?
Answer from April Reeves: Your problem is common, and one that I see in almost any training level. That being said, it does not need to exist, and will take time to work out. I encourage you to take that time for several reasons: 1. It’s a natural evolution on your path to becoming a better horseman, 2. Taking the time will give you a fresh insight into training methods you will use again with another horse 3. Your horse will be the winner here, as you will not have to resort to harsher equipment.
Question: Last year I purchased a 2-year-old quarter horse filly. She is a complete doll but when I was starting her she turned up lame. I was boarding her at a stable with someone that had 30 years + experience with Arabians. I asked that she would be fed a hay mixture with little alfalfa as she was still young and growing. Soon after I went away and was not able to see my filly for a while. I asked one of my friends to go and check on her and spend time with her. Soon after I left, my friend informed me that my filly was receiving pure alfalfa. I had her moved. When I returned I waited a while as my filly grew about so much and her butt was about 2 hands higher than her withers She evened out some and then I started her. Soon after she was stiff in her left hock. I called the vet and I was told by that she had a bone lesion (spur) in her hock, then seeking another opinion another vet told me all she needed was her hock injected and stall rest and she would recover. I am wondering was you think? I stopped working with her while waiting for a slot with the vet to open up and she was fine…. so I lunged her a little and she was fine for about a week and then her hock started to hurt again. I then contacted another vet and they came and looked at her and they too though all she needed was her hocks injected. How long do you think it will take her to recover?
Answer from April Reeves: First, I am so glad you called not one, but two vets. To all who read this, you are a ‘shining’ example of the care and attention a horse needs.
Hock injections can and do work, but there are many questions that need to be answered before anyone injects anything.
Question: I have a mare I have been riding since July. She was out of shape when I started riding her and I built her up by riding just a little bit more each time. In the past couple months she keeps falling on her knees at a walk for no reason. What would cause a horse to do this? It’s very dangerous so I am not riding her any more until I find out what is wrong with her. I don’t know much of her history but I really love this horse. What can I do for her?
Answer from April Reeves: Many things come to mind for this symptom.
Question: Which bran has a better laxative quality – wheat or rice? I was told that rice bran is a better choice for horses. Which has the higher fibre? Can I feed it for additional fibre?
Answer from April Reeves with excerpts from Marijke van de Water: I hate to burst your bubble, but neither wheat nor rice bran is a laxative to the horse. I am curious why you need a laxative product? If your horse is having problems with constipation, adding any bran to the equation will have little to no effect. It’s important to understand the cause of your horse’s problem and solve that first.
While both brans have great fibre content, feeding hay will also get you the fibre your horse needs. There is no need to feed bran for fibre. Bran has many more advantages than just fibre.
I will give you a few excerpts from Marijke van de Water’s book, “Healing Horses Their Way” so that you may make an educated decision on which is the right one for your horse.
Question: My horse dunks his hay every time he takes a bite. It’s very annoying and I wish I could get him out of this habit but I’m not sure how to do this. Do you have any suggestions? His water bucket gets dirty and then he won’t drink from it.
Answer from April Reeves: Your horse is trying to tell you something, but you are not listening. No horse performs an action on his own without value and use.
Question: Hi, I have this dun 11 year old quarter horse gelding who won’t enter an arena. My sister barrel races him, and when we try to get him in the arena for a run in a show, he will refuse to go in. But once he is in, he takes off running, so I don’t think he hates barrel racing. It is getting frustrating because it takes us about 10 minutes to get him in. Last time it took 6 people to push him in. Do you know why he is doing this? Dusty is ridden sometimes in trail riding, cattle herding, and he used to do a lot of riding around for fun. Mostly though he is now just used for barrel racing. He wears most of the time a hackamore.
Answer from April Reeves: Your problem with your gelding is quite typical and fairly easy to fix. Let’s take a look at what causes your horse’s arena fright.
Many non-pro horses used in games and especially barrels are trained to achieve this level of skill set by focusing on this alone. While many owners believe the only way to get a really great barrel horse is to do nothing but barrels, this is not necessary nor the case, and can actually lead to escalating control problems and a dangerous horse that will require a great deal of re-training. It sounds like your horse needs a break from the barrels.
Question: I can’t seem to place well in the hunter classes, even the small ones. When I enter, I try to start slowly and not get too anxious about the whole course. I try to let the judge see that I am not nervous. My horse has a hunter build and movement as I place well in the ‘hunter-under-saddle’ classes. What could I do to improve this?
Answer from April Reeves: Many beginner and intermediate riders in the hunter divisions blow their placings before they get to the first fence.
Question: I was thinking about getting a horse but the person in the next field has got a donkey so I was thinking about my horse making friends with it but I don’t know if it will work?
Answer: from April Reeves: Yes, it’s very likely your horse will create some bond with the donkey, and give your horse the comfort of knowing there is another four-legged acquaintance around. Because they will not be in the same field together, it’s questionable whether they attach themselves to each other to the point where they become herd bound. Only time will tell. You may find it becomes the perfect situation, where the horse is happier but not attached to the point where it becomes a problem.
Question: I cannot get my 4-year old to collect. I bought her a year ago, and she had no idea how to give or collect. I have been working with her and she is getting better, but she just doesn’t round her back up. I have been trying to sell her for over 3 months. I have lately been “lunge-bitting” her (where I put her in a snaffle, and tie one rein tightly to her girth, just so her head must be bent, and lunge her) I was told it helps build up muscles and teaches her to soften, but do you have any other tips to teach her to collect. She also rides in a low-port curb, are there any excercies I could do with the curb for collection?
Answer from April Reeves: There are no quick ways to achieve collection. It is only achieved through time with proper suppling and muscle development, and cannot be achieved mechanically.
Think about the word ‘collect’. It means to gather. Think about this word when you begin to train for collection.
Let’s go through the pros and cons of the exercises you are doing now, and give you something to work on with her that will build her up gradually. Because of the state of the market for horses right now, you may have her for some time.
Question: How do you determine what size of Western saddle to get your horse?
Answer From April Reeves: I will give you enough information to be able to purchase a good saddle that not only fits the horse, but fits you as well.
One thing I like to stress, when looking for a saddle, the cheaper they are the worse they fit. Cheap saddles do not last due to the lack of quality in almost every area: leather, stitching, tree and fleece. They often use plastic (cheap) and staples. Quality saddles use nails and screws, rawhide, fiberglass and flex trees.
Question: I have just purchased a small gentleman’s farm that came with a horse. He is a 12-year-old gelding who has never been trained. From what I know he has had a saddle on in the past, but never has taken riders. He is very friendly, but loves to do what he wants to do. If he does not want me in the pen he is very quick to turn around. Although he has never kicked at me (I move out quick) he seems like he would. I have never owned a horse, let alone trained one. I am not looking to train him on my own but for now I would like to learn how to at least build a trust between us, as-well as have him obey at least a little any help would be greatly appreciated.
Answer from April Reeves: I’m glad you have not been kicked yet, but it is a matter of time. Let me give you some insight into how horses think and behave.
Everything you do with a horse is training. You can train a horse to be good or really bad. Horses do not have a sense of reasoning like a human has, so the horse just goes along with what is in front of him or being offered. They do not know what is right or wrong; that is a human trait only (ego). Horses have distinct herd behaviors such as dominance, leader and follower. The majority of them are followers, and they prefer to be, as horses do not handle stress well and prefer to give it to someone else (horses, humans).
Question: I have a 2yo AQHA show prospect in training in the US (I’m in Canada), what should my expectations be for the first 90 days? She is a well handled, reasonable filly with great ground manners. She has been worked with, saddled previously and even done a little showing in LL (but still sound and sane) with no issues. Any advice?
Answer From April Reeves: Great question, as I have seen some pretty sad horses return from ‘training’. I had the privilege one day to ride an expensive reining colt, returning with 3 months of ‘pro’ work on it. I lost half of my face from this ride.
Good foundation work on a 2 year old should only consist of the following: