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Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category

Hi Mrs. Hill,
I have another problem. In October a crazy wind came and blew away all the leaves from the trees. The change in the way the forest looks freaked Dolly out, and she hasn’t been the same ever since. Just recently (like the beginning of this month) I’ll get to this place in the trail that is a telephone line right-of-way. It has two hills that are pretty steep and not the type you’d go cantering up and down. The second I come out of the forest trail and into this right-of-way, Dolly begins to try to gallop off with me. She’s become very agitated there. The first time I figured there was just a moose out there since I had seen three the night before.

But its continued until she actually started to rear and leap and crow hop on me. She’s never reared before and its gotten to the point where its scary. I love her and I’ve put so much work into her, but I can’t figure out a way to get her to stop, trust me, and relax. She’s sending me mixed signals. I’ll ask her to move forward and she’ll throw a tantrum and buck and spin and rear, then when I stop her all she wants to do is paw through the snow and eat. So I know somethings not out there. Do you have any suggestions? I would really appreciate it if you did. Thank you again!
Katie

Hi Katie,

You need to work on this at home first, then on the trail in “safe zones” and finally in those “hot spots”.

First you need to be very aware of your own body language when these things happen. Even if you are alarmed when your horse starts freaking, your body, your seat, legs, back and arms and hands, and most of all, your mind, must be calm, cool and collected.

Then you need to perfect a means of control and give the horse something else to do. You should learn how to do a one rein stop and then once your horse is stopped, ride her in a series of circles and half turns calmly and not in too-tight of a bend until her behavior de-escalates.

You’ve halted her freaking behavior and given her something else to do.

A one rein stop is different from a double which is kind of like a spin, what your horse does when she is frightened. In a double, the horse’s head and neck is turned rather sharply in one direction while his hindquarters are moving in the other direction. It is like a turn on the center.

A one rein stop is just the rein signal. You want the horse to stop, not keep moving.

A one rein stop is best done with a halter, bosal or snaffle bit as you will be using direct rein signals.

To initiate the head and neck bend, reach down the rein close to the horse’s head and take up the slack.

If your horse tends to spin to the right when she freaks, you want to work on this to the left. You’d grab the left rein and hold her into the turn until she stops moving her feet. Then yield – let go of the rein signal. Drive the horse forward with your legs and then do some gymnastics – circles, half turns, serpentines.

Once you’ve mastered the one rein stop at home, you should set your horse up at home to “freak” and have your aids ready. You might have someone carry a strange item toward you or try and ride her past some balloons or an opened umbrella or waving plastic sack.

Once you can control her no matter what happens at home, set up these same situations on a safe part of the trail.

Each time and in each place that you control her and give her something else to do, it will build her confidence and make it easier in the next situation.

Finally, ride to the trouble spot. It should be a piece of cake.

But take the time it takes to perfect it BEFORE you go back to your trouble spot.

Be safe and enjoy your horse.


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Fire Strips

I’m glad we did a thorough ranch beautification last fall once the grass and brush quit growing because dry vegetation makes an excellent fuel source for fire.

So, for safety against fire and to eliminate breeding grounds for flies and mice, we mow at least a 30’ perimeter around all of our buildings. But who would have ever thought fire season would start in February and March?

The fires have been mostly in the Boulder, Colorado area, west of Denver, but this past weekend there was one near Fort Collins which is about 40 miles south of us – too close for comfort.

Take the time – ahead of time – to prepare your property for the eventuality of fire. Refer to Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage for more fire prevention information.

 

Fire strip mowed around metal buildings with metal roofs. Picnic Rock Fire (2004) in the background

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Hi Cherry,

I am soon to be 57 and started the horse thing 3 yrs ago due to I had lived in the city all my life.

I now live in the country with only 1 1/2 acer’s and 2 horse’s.  I work full time and I am a sissy with the extreme cold or heat.

I need incourgement with training.  Whats the least amount of time I need to spend with horse in order to get results and how many months should I look forward to the results. I am looking to get closer to the 2 I have and really get them to trust me so I will feel safer on them.  I have round bin now and am looking at some of the Perrelli DVD’s to learn.   I just got bucketed off my 10 yr old walker last wk on to my head and she has never done that or kicked at me. But we were near home and she heard the other marer and I think she just wanted to go back–I let her put her head down which I no better but just not enough experence.

What can you tell me that would help me.

Thanks, Trish

Hi Trish,

First of all, congratulations on your move to the country to make your dream come true of owning a horse !

As far as how much time? Even professional horse trainers will tell you that it takes a lot of time to get a horse to the point where the horse is confident and solid in his desirable responses.

In fact, a common answer to “How long will it take…..??” is often “Take the time it takes.” In other words, you have to measure your horse handling, training and riding by results rather than a clock or a calendar.

Your horse will tell you each day what you need to work on and when it is time to move on to something new. Start with something simple like catching and haltering. If that goes smoothly, then you can move on to some other ground work or tacking up and riding. But if the catching and haltering has some issues such as avoidance, high headedness, being distracted by other horses, invasion of your personal space or other such things, you need to iron those things out first before you move on.

Specifically in regards to your letter, the horse you were riding was exhibiting barn sour, herd bound, or buddy bound behavior. As you know from landing on your head, you need to work on that first and foremost. There are a number of articles on that topic on my Horse Information Roundup.

In addition, my latest book What Every Horse Should Know discusses the importance of developing Respect, Patience, and Partnership and NO FEAR of People, Things, Restriction or Restraint.

Best of luck,

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Dear Cherry,
We might be getting 2 more horses. They are sound and calm.  We already have two horses male and female they are mean to other horses. Should we put them in their stalls and leave them there for a few days with the new horses?
Emma

Hi Emma,

Not knowing your facilities options and how mean your current horses are, I’ll give you some general advice and ideas.

First of all, many horses appear mean when actually they are just establishing their pecking order – the social order in a herd – who is top horse and who is next and so on. But some horses ARE mean – they are grouchy and aggressive. I don’t know which yours are but will refer to them as the mean horses as you did.

When the new horses arrive, if they are used to living together, you can house them together, such as in a large covered pen while they get used to the sights and sounds of their new home.

Their pen should not have a common fence line or panel line or wall with your current “mean” horses. But they should all be able to see each other.

Let them live this way for as long as it takes for everyone to settle in.

Then depending on your facilities, you can either start housing the horses closer to each other or begin mixing them. I don’t know how safe your fencing is, but if it is tall, strong and safe, you could put the least mean of your horses in a pen next to the two new ones. As long as the new horses’ pen is large enough that they can avoid being next to the mean horse if they want, eventually the 3 horses will work out some sort of agreement. It might takes several days.

Then you could return the first mean horse to his regular pen and bring the other one over to live next to the two new ones.  Once all the horses have had a chance to get used to each other, you could consider adding one of the mean horses to the group of two new horses. Be sure the area you do this in is large enough so that all three horses have enough room so as not to get cornered.

The main thing is to take the time it takes to let the horses get used to each other.

You might find that one of the mean horses isn’t really mean and shows that he prefers to live calmly with the two new horses while the other mean horse truly is mean and needs to be housed alone.

Enjoy the opportunity to observe horse behavior and be safe !

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Hi, Cherry.

We bought an 8 yr old mare in June for our daughter to show in 4-H.  She is a beautiful animal, but has a very dangerous problem.  She shows well in showmanship and pleasure, but when trying to use her for patterned work (i.e. horsemanship or reining) she rears, and will even go over backwards, when asked to lope down the center of the arena.  We have taken her to a local trainer, and he said he can’t “fix” the problem.  She is fine along the rail, but she seems to rebel when it comes to working in the center at a lope.  Can you please advise me as to whether she is a “lost cause”, or is there something I can do to master this issue?
Thanks!     *****Char

Hi Char,

I wouldn’t say your rearing horse is a lost cause, but I would say that a rearing horse is a candidate for the most experienced of horse handlers. Just the phrase “will even go over backwards” strikes the fear in the heart of any instructor or parent. I’m just picturing it happening with your 4-H daughter astride. It simply isn’t worth the risk.

I’m hesitant to give you any advice to help you work on this because I don’t know the severity of the problem nor your abilities and it sounds like the trainer you have access to is at a loss for how to proceed.

What I would do if the horse were here would be to start with square one on ground training to identify the spot where the horse loses confidence and has a hole in her training. Then I would take the time it takes to work the horse through her issues, which would certainly take weeks and more likely months or even years to completely eliminate the horse’s tendency to rear as avoidance. Then once the horse was solidly over her rearing, your daughter would need supervised instruction on riding the horse so as not to undo what had been done.

Therefore, I must defer to the position that since your daughter’s safety is at stake, she should not ride the horse. Nor should you for that matter. For the horse’s sake, if you can find a competent trainer that is accustomed to working with horses with such problems and you are willing to spend the time and money it will take to have the horse rehabilitated, then that is route you should take.

If that is not an option, then retire the mare to pasture and find your daughter a more suitable mount.

You might also want to read Looking for the Root of the Rearing Problem and other articles on my website.

I’m sure that is not what you wanted to hear but all it takes is knowing one person who has been on the bottom of the pile when a horse has flipped over backwards for me to advise you to take extreme caution.

Best of luck and be safe,

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Good Afternoon!

I am a newly developed horse lover and I just wanted to say I read your book “Cherry Hill’s Horsekeeping Almanac”. It was very informative and I enjoyed your insight.  In our Public Library that’s all we had on you and your books.  The horse selection is very old and few on the shelves here.  In the next few years I plan on having a career, or owning a few horses myself.  Thank you so much for writing the book and living the life you wanted.  Your an inspiration to me and all horse lovers a like.  Keep up the great work! Marilyn S.

 

Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanac

 

Hi Marilyn,

Thanks so much for taking the time to write.  I’m so glad my Almanac has helped inspire you to continue to reach for your dream.  I’m happy to share what I have been fortunate to experience and learn about horses and their care and training. The Almanac, which was published in 2007, was a perfect medium to be able to paint the whole year round picture here at Long Tail Ranch.

And thanks also for your encouragement to keep up the work ! The art of writing is applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair and sometimes that keeps us writers out of the saddle more than we like ! But there are several new books in the works – one which I am just finishing up the final touches on and will be out in a few months.

I’ll post information about the new books when they become available or you can visit Chronology of Books and Videos by Cherry Hill – the newest ones are at the top of the left column.

Keep working toward your dream and best of luck to you,

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Hi Cherry,

I rescued two horses- a large Fell pony and a mini. Both had been abused and were starving. I’ve got their weight up, their hooves cared for, shots, worming etc.
But it has been almost 3 months and they are still very hard to halter, to clean their feet ( both have thrush) and to separate them to work with them ( just the simplest ground work in a nearby round pen)! When I have someone else, we can work it out fairly well but usually I am alone. I have few expectations, maybe short rides or a little pulling a cart ( both had some draft experience) – I’m now 65, and even though i had been a horse professional teaching in riding stables, training and judging in dressage,  I’m having an awful time with them. I need encouragement to keep them. It has been very expensive and wonder if others have rescue horse experience. Eileen

HI Eileen,

Just in my email box this morning was an article from The Horse which states that

Each year there are about 100,000 unwanted horses in the United States, too many for the registered equine rescue and sanctuary groups to handle, according to a recent survey by experts at the University of California, Davis. They found that the 236 registered rescue and sanctuary organizations could only help about 13,400 horses a year.

I have no personal experience with rescue horses but wanted to post your note so that if others want to reply, they can do so here.

I do know that retraining any horse can seem like it takes twice as long as it does to train a horse from scratch. Some of my colleagues say ten times as long !

When I taught in college and university equine programs, one of the ways we would get horses for the training and riding classes was through donations. Well, we received some wonderful horses and also some with interesting previous experiences and challenging behaviors. Some took several semesters to sort out and even then, might not be trustworthy with novice riders.

I do encourage you and applaud you for your efforts. It will take time, repetition and very frequent regular handling to alter their suspicious behavior. But it can be done.

Please refer to the many useful articles here on this blog related to ground training, desensitization and more. Here are some examples:

Head Handling

Horse Training – Handling, Gentling, Desensitization, Sacking Out, Flooding

Horse Behavior – Licking and Chewing

Also visit my Horse Information Roundup where I have posted hundreds of free articles related to behavior and training.

Best of luck and let me know if you have specific questions.

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