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Horse Radio Network

Cherry Hill will be one of many equestrian guests on the Holiday Radiothon on Horse Radio Network on November 28.

She will appear at 6 PM Eastern Time  – tune in and hear what she has to say !

 

 

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Cherry Hill: The Horsewoman Behind All Those Great Horse Books

Author Cherry Hill and her mare, Aria. | Photo courtesy of Cherry Hill

Author Cherry Hill and her mare, Aria. | Photo courtesy of Cherry Hill

How does Cherry Hill do it?

If you are a reader of horse books at all, you know the name–she’s been a horse show judge, trainer, breeder and is the author of more than 1,000 articles and 30 books, including What Every Horse Should Know, Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage and 101 Ground Training Exercises for Every Horse & Handler.

Cherry Hill (and Cherry is pronounced “Sherry”) took the time to talk to MyHorse Daily about writing, life on her ranch and the one surprising thing she’s done on horseback.

MyHorse Daily: Where were you born and raised, and how did you get into horses?

Cherry Hill: I was raised in Michigan, and I’ve been into horses all my life. We used to go to Florida every year, and when I was 2 my father made arrangements for my brother and I to get on the back of one of the (Ringling Bros.) Barnum & Bailey horses. I didn’t want to wash my hands for a week.

I didn’t get my own horse until I was in my early 20s–there was not really a place to have one where I grew up–but I rode all through high school. I got a job at a stable and worked for unlimited riding by helping out—I took people out on rides, called being a “pusher” because sometimes the horses didn’t want to go out.

The woman who got me the job was a long-term horsewoman, a bit of a mentor to me. And a lot of times people ask me how to get into horses, and I say, “Find a mentor in your area” Maybe they’re not riding anymore but they have a wealth of experience that is invaluable.

 MyHorse Daily: What did you study in college?

Cherry Hill: I got a degree in Animal Science. When I was going to school, Equine Science wasn’t really off the ground yet. I majored in horses, minored in dairy, at Michigan State and Iowa State.

MyHorse Daily: What have you taught?

Cherry Hill: I’ve taught at a few colleges, most recently Colorado State University. I taught Equine Science—training, stable management, behavior.

MyHorse Daily: Where do you live?

Cherry Hill: In northern Colorado. I live on a ranch with my husband–we have 70 acres. It’s a lovely place. It’s a full-time job. We’re always going. Busy, busy, busy.

MyHorse Daily: Where do you find time to write?

Cherry Hill: Some I’ve written on horseback by speaking into a recorder, so I wrote while I was riding.

Some I’ve written in the heat of summer or dead of winter. It does take time and discipline. People think writing is effortless but it does require discipline.

MyHorse Daily: How do you get ideas?

horsekeeping bookCherry Hill: Mostly it’s what I’m really into at the time. I think if I’m really interested in it, other horse people will be also. For example, my husband and I used to buy, fix up and sell horse property–that gave me the idea for Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage.

Each time I’d do something at home I’d think well, maybe I’ll write about it and save some people some time. Of course training and behavior are always topics people are interested in. I guess write what you love and write what you know and the rest follows. Also, if you’re doing something at the moment, you have the photo opportunity. It will all dovetail together and work.

MyHorse Daily: What kind of horse do you have?

Cherry Hill: Aria is half Quarter Horse and half Trakehner mare that I bred and raised. She’s a real sweet, steady, easygoing kind of girl with comfortable gaits. She’s 15.2, maybe 16. One of the littler ones we have. I call her my chocolate pony, because her disposition is sweet, like a pony. She’s a good girl. More of a western-style horse.

I ride more western now. We are in trail-ride heaven here–we have beautiful places to ride. Western riding is a little more suited to that because of the saddlebags and more comfortable saddle. Although in the arena I prefer to ride dressage.

MyHorse Daily: How many horses do you have now?

Cherry Hill: We just have two horses. Due to the drought and expense of feed we haven’t added to our herd or bred any mares. There’s so many horses to adopt or buy inexpensively. We went from 7 down to 2 just by the fact so many were in their 30s. We will keep those two until we need to replace one. They have a many good years left–Aria is 14 and Sherlock, (her husband) Richard’s horse, is 11.

MyHorse Daily: What about the rest of the pack?

Cherry Hill: We have a Maine Coon cat. She’s a good mouser and great companion. We also have two rottweilers about a year and a half old. Got them at 6 weeks. They’re named Bear and Bandit. Fabulous dogs. They’ve learned about horses and all the other animals and boundaries. They’re really good dogs and our constant companions. I keep saddle blankets on the floor next to my desk for them.

MyHorse Daily: What are you working on now?

Cherry Hill: I’m not working on a book right now–I just had one come out last year and wanted to take a break.

MyHorse Daily:  Which of your books are your favorites?

How to Think Like a HorseCherry Hill:  Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage helped a lot of people. Also, How to Think Like a Horse helps people understand why their horse does what it does.

MyHorse Daily: What’s some of your best advice?

Cherry Hill: Don’t forget the reason you got into it is because you really love the horse. People get sidetracked on competition or property.

Enjoy that experience of interacting with and taking good care of your horse. That’s one of the reasons I quit judging—some of the competition people had forgotten about that, and were interested more in the superficial aspect and achieving goals, sometimes at the expense of the horse.

Another piece: Just do the best job you can taking care of your horse and understanding why they do what they do. Figure out how to keep your horse happy, healthy and safe.

MyHorse Daily: Any advice for folks who are trying to keep horses in their life as they age?

Cherry Hill: I think mostly it’s being aware—everybody’s different—but be aware of what causes you to slow down. You have to be your own doctor, so to speak. Take the responsibility to take care of your own body. So once you find out your weak links-for example, your knees hurt after a long ride—adjust your stirrups or don’t ride so much of a posting trot. Adjust yourself accordingly.

You do just get more stiff as you get old. Horses get arthritis, too. If you’re a real active rider like I’ve been, your body parts are gonna wear out.

MyHorse Daily: Is it worth it?

Cherry Hill: I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s the whole richness of life—doing what you love.

Categories: Horse Care.

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By Amy Herdy

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Hi Cherry,

I am a very inexperienced horse person, but I want to get more involved with horses.  I had my first official training session the other day and everything went really well.  I just have a question about how the horse, a 22 yr old mare, behaved at the end of the ride.  I was leading her back to her regular stall, but had to stop walking for just a second to talk to someone.  She stopped and stood there relaxed for a few seconds, but then out of nowhere she nudged me on the side/arm.  It wasn’t rough enough to put me off balance, but it was sudden enough for me to get a little nervous.  I am wondering what this meant and when/how to react to it.  I keep reading different opinions – some saying it’s affection others saying it’s disrespect.  I doubt it was affection as this horse doesn’t know me.  All I did was tell her “hey, no girl” in a firm voice and she didn’t do it again.
She was so close to me that I couldn’t really see what the rest of her body was doing, legs, rear etc…  Any advice or interpretation?  I want to make sure I did the right thing, and if not what to do next time. Thank you!

Merri

Hi Merri,

The mare was probably testing the waters, checking to see if she could nudge into your space or push you a little bit, so in a way, it is
a form of disrespect…….like if someone interrupted you while you were talking and wanted you to get going…….you reacted perfectly.

If she, or another horse does this again, stand your ground – in other words, don’t move yourself, keep your feet planted and flick your elbow at the horse to tell it to stay in its own space, and you can use a short voice command like “No” or “Go on”. The important thing is to not move yourself or the horse “won”.

If you watch horses interact with each other, they tell other horses to stay out of their space in various ways. They might do it with a nudge or a bite, kick, lunge, strike, body slam….so this mare was using a mild form of pushiness, but pushiness nonetheless.

More articles:

Teach Your Horse Respect for Your Personal Space

Personal Space – Don’t Crowd Me

To read more about horse behavior, refer to How to Think Like a Horse.

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Introduction

What Every Horse Should Know by Cherry Hill

When watching horses, we often say, “…he should know that…..” somewhat like we heard our mothers say as we were growing up, “You should know better.” I guess once we get to a certain age and have learned XYZ, you’d think we’d also know our ABCs. But often that is not the case. Frequently the basic lessons are missing and that is so often true with horses. Basics are the building blocks; they are foundation for everything else that is to come. If there are holes in the foundation, at some point the horse, the person, or the barn could come tumbling down.

Sugar is a sweet gelding that can really turn out a pretty western pleasure picture as long as his stable mate accompanies him to the show and stands ringside. Oh, and Sugar has this silly habit of moving during mounting so needs someone, well, two someones, to hold him while his rider gets aboard. And one more thing – he must routinely be sedated before he loads in a trailer. Then there’s just that one foot that he jerks away from the farrier………Sugar has holes, things he really should know. Things that he should have learned at the beginning. Although he can walk, jog and lope with the best of them, there are important basics missing from his training.

But before we even begin to make a list of what we think a horse should know, let’s celebrate all the splendid things a horse inherently knows. I’ve discussed why horses do what they do in detail in “How to Think Like a Horse”. There I give you a bird’s eye view of a horse’s evolution, physical traits, senses and behaviors. But there is so much more.

Horses bring with them beauty, nobility, grace, curiosity, generosity, honesty, and forgiveness. Horses have amazing physical attributes, keen senses, strong instincts and they are very social animals. Such rich character is a great gift to us.

As we develop our horses with a partnership as a goal, we need to preserve those things that make a horse a horse. In that way, there are no losers. Both human and horse emerge winners. If you work together for safety, effectiveness and unity, it will be a satisfying and successful experience.

I’ve written many step-by-step training books that guide you through specific lessons. Those how-to books can help you master the nuts and bolts of horse training. But this book also focuses on the behind-the-scene goals that are necessary for developing a trainer’s consciousness. Understanding training concepts is helpful for seeing the big picture. As you read you’ll see that certain themes reoccur throughout a horse’s life – from foalhood to the senior years.

Whether you are handling a foal for the first time or asking your riding horse to cross a creek, in the mix there will be measures of fear and trust, willingness and patience, leadership and mutual respect, obedience and confidence, generosity, patience, and harmony. Seeing how all of this works when it comes to handling, working with and riding horses, will help you become a more complete horse trainer. Understand the concepts, master the skills, develop the horse.

This book is devoted to those universal lessons that every horse should know whether a trail horse or reiner, dressage horse or jumper, rodeo horse or ranch horse. In addition, each horse discipline will have its own set of specific skills that the horse will need to learn.

Throughout my life with horses, I’ve been a “be here now” and “back burner” trainer. When I work with a horse, I am in the moment. But afterwards, I take a bit of time to review what happened, where we are, where I’d like to be, and what skills and principles are necessary to get there. Then I put all that on the back burner until the next time I work with the horse. Things have a way of reordering themselves in the subconscious. That works better for me than overanalyzing and becoming too detail oriented while I am working with the horse.

It is my hope that you’ll read this book from cover to cover, reread parts in between training sessions, add something to the pot and put it on your back burner to simmer. Skills are great to master but concepts really bring about those “Ahhhh” moments. You’ll see how each concept can be thought of separately yet they all intertwine to make the whole horse.

Mastery of the concepts will help you design your own custom training program. You can use the subjective and objective goal chapter at the end of the book to help you get started. The checklists there are designed to help you find an entry point for your horse and they will provide you with some ideas of what you need to review or work on next. You’ll be constantly making and revising individual “To-Do” lists for each of your horses.

Horse training is not strictly linear though – at any one time, several things are occurring. In addition, each horse comes with his own set of influences: age, sex, breeding, health, soundness, condition, previous handling, temperament, and attitude. A particular horse might pass certain tests quite easily and need much more time to master others while his full brother might be vice versa.

As you design a program, you will also need to keep in mind your own temperament, experience, talent, timing, physical abilities and goals. To get help with how-to lessons, please refer to the training books listed in the appendix.

Thankfully horses tell us every day what they need to learn. Their voids become quickly apparent because until they are taken care of, they will crop up in all sorts of places. A horse that has never learned to stand still might paw and move around when tied to a hitch rail, move back and forth when the farrier is trying to shoe him, sway side to side and move up and back in a trailer, or starting walking while a rider is mounting. He has missed the basic lessons of Whoa and Patience

That’s why no matter what age a horse is, it is a good idea to start from square one to evaluate what he does and does not know. This is especially important if, when looking for a horse to buy, you test ride a horse and find him to be well suited to your riding needs but really don’t know if he is OK with clipping, bathing, trailering or shoeing. By testing him on the basics, you can see whether his schooling is complete or deficient.

No horse is perfect and no horse performs everything perfectly every time. Horses are living beings, not machines. Each horse comes with natural talents and challenges – some things come easily, others are tough. Our role is to fortify the strong portions of a horse’s nature and help the horse develop and become more confident in the weak areas.

As you look at accomplishing your goals, you will want to keep these things in mind.

1. Break larger things into smaller achievable goals.

2. Do simple exercises well rather than more advanced maneuvers in poor form.

3. Be consistent. (Always be training.)

4. Be patient.

5. Preserve a horse’s curiosity, willingness to learn, good attitude, and spirit.

6. Work for balance and quality of movement.

7. Let results be your measure, not time.

8. Feed a horse according to his age and work requirements.

9. Exercise a horse daily.

10. Give a horse a job, a purpose.

11. Practice regularly.

12. Use reward and yielding to reinforce a horse’s good behavior.


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January 2012
Translated into Czech:

What Every Horse Should Know

NAUCTE SE POROZUMET
RECI KONSKEHO TELA

Cherry Hillova

Publisher: Vydala Euromedia Group


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Dear Cherry,

I have an 8 year old mare standard bred. She is very nippy and can be aggressive. She bit my forehead a couple weeks ago. I had a bruise.
She spooks easily and I need help. She is western. The worst part is when I saddle her. She is sensitive and is cranky. Please help.

Thanks. Denver

Hi Denver,

It sounds like your mare needs to develop respect and confidence. Respect for you and confidence in herself and her surroundings. Biting and spooking are just symptoms of a horse with a lack of respect and confidence.

Have you visited my Horse Information Roundup? There you will find MANY articles related to your questions. Here are just a few

Biting and there are six more article related to Biting under Behavior

Spooking

Sacking Out

In addition, it sounds like you and your horse would benefit from you reading

What Every Horse Should Know.

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Cherry,

My question is about a riding-school horse: in the scenario below, what if anything should I have done differently?

At this school, students ride a different horse every time. Over weeks or months, a student might ride the same horse again. This was the first and only time so far I was assigned to this horse.

When I first entered her pipe-stall, she acted friendly and let me remove her blanket. But when I re-entered the stall with halter and lead rope, she nipped at the air in my direction. She did this every time I slowly moved the halter toward her nose and she became more aggressive.

My job was to catch her, lead her to cross-ties, and tack her up in time for a riding lesson 30 minutes later.

I reasoned that I should not reward her nipping by backing off or going away (to get help!). Instead I growled (yelling or shouting are expressly forbidden in this barn) and let her know she couldn’t get rid of me, by keeping my fingertips on her shoulder, at arm’s length, and following her as she rotated around her stall, away from me. After some 20 nips, she gave up and let me put the halter on her.  After that everything was fine.

What should I have done differently?  Caroline

Hi Caroline,

If the purpose of the lessons at this schools is to test a students ability to deal with various horses, then I would say in general, you did an acceptable job. But if testing was the aim, then you would have received an evaluation and critique from an instructor who was watching. It sounds as though you did not.

If the purpose of the school is to teach students how to interact with various types of horses, then I would say the school failed. With a horse like this, it should have taken one of the instructors just a few minutes to demonstrate the best way to approach, catch and halter this particular horse in her pipe stall. Then you could have done the same. An instructor would have been able to advise you whether the horse was playing a game with you or was truly aggressive, something I can not ascertain from an email.

I am positively impressed with your savvy to not reward her with backing off from her attempts at nipping.

What should you have done differently? Perhaps after catching the horse and haltering her, you could have turned her loose, left her pen and then asked an instructor to watch as you approached, caught and haltered the horse once again.

A lesson begins the moment you begin approaching a horse. A riding school should instruct from that point on, not just when you are in the saddle.

Thanks for the good question.

 

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