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What Every Horse Should Know by Cherry Hill

“Essential information for any horse owner.”  

Horsemen’s Yankee Pedlar, April 2011

“This book, a follow-up to the successful How to Think Like a Horse, is packed with information that every domestic horse needs to know in order to live a fulfulling life around humans. Regardless of discipline or age, there are certain lessons that we should all teach our horses in order to create a respectful relationship with them and eleiminate fear of people or their surroundings. Hill divides her book into threee sections: “No Fear”, “Leadership and Partnership”, and in-hand under-saddle exercises called “The Work”.

“Hill’s book reminds us that horses aren’t naturally adapted to live in our world, so if we want them to live happily alongside us, it’s our job to teach them how to act appropriately and enjoy domestic lie. Throughout the book there is essential information to better help us understand how our horse perceives our actions, and how we can make him more comfortable with things that he naturally has an aversion to. All of the advice is extremely practical and helps the reader to get inside the horse’s mind, in order to help him become well-adjusted to both humans and every day equipment. Well organized and full of photos and drawings, there is a lot to be learned from Hill’s newest book.”

“BOTTOM LINE: Essential information for any horse owner.”

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Hey Cherry, I have a filly, not sure about her age but we think she is almost a year old, around 10 mnths. Anyways, she has never been properly handled, so she is scared of humans. However, she will come up and sniff me, but if i move even just a finger she jumps back and takes off to the other side of the corral. I have tried just sitting on a stool in the corral with some treats, and when she would come to me i would offer her the treat but she justs runs away again. But, we had gotten another filly at the same time we got her and this other one, Willow, is much more outgoing at will let you scratch her head, so we put the two together hoping that she (autumn) would follow willow’s example, and she has started to not get scared as easily, but we still cant get close to her. I dont know what to do, i ve never had such a shy foal before! PLease help!  Miki

Hi Miki,

If you wait for a fearful foal to approach you, it might never happen. And in the meantime, it reinforces the foal’s fear through repetition. What you need to do is show the foal there is nothing to fear, that a human’s touch can be soothing and pleasurable. Until the foal knows this, it has no reason to approach.

So I like to get such a foal in a safe small enclosure such as a box stall. Then with the help of a capable friend, gradually corner the foal so that one of you can touch the foal and rub it. You want to touch and rub in a place that the foal inherently likes to be touched such as up on the top of the hindquarters, just in front of the tail head, on the neck or withers…….but NOT anywhere on the head, belly or legs to start with. Most foals LOVE to be scratched over the tail head, so that is a great place to start. Once the foal begins to calm down and enjoy the rubbing, gradually back away and “release” the foal. Then approach again. Once you’ve done this a few times, the foal will see there is nothing to fear from you approaching, that something good comes from it.

Repeat this type of approaching and touching several times of day, daily until the foal starts looking to you, turns toward you or starts coming to you.

Although I prefer to handle each foal alone, you could start this whole procedure with the other foal along with her in the stall if you think the other foal would add calmness and not calamity to the situation.

Restriction and the touch of humans are some of the first things every horse should know.

 

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Hello Cherry,

I had an experience last night that I do not want repeated.  I went into the pasture to feed my 3 horses their evening hay  ration and all was well until all of a sudden my 10 yr old QH/Arab mare whom I have owned for 5 years now flew at my 5 yr old daughter striking with her with her front foot on the forehead. The mare had her hay in front of her with no competition around. It came out of the blue with no warning signs.  My daughter was about 4 feet from me waiting patiently for me to finish my task.  My mare acted as if my daughter was one of the herd and she had to put her in her place.  This mare is very aggressive toward other horses (who were on the other side of the fence at the time) during feeding time but she has never shown this behavior towards humans before.  Any suggestions?  Needless to say I am questioning the wisdom of having an unpredictable horse such as this around given that I have 2 children ages 7 and 5 that I would like to experience the wonderful world of horse ownership.  Any suggestions?  My daughter was fortunate not to be hurt just very frightened.

Lee

Hi Lee,

This seems to be, as you suggest, a pecking order move and could also be caused by hormones in the mare’s cycle. So although we try to understand How to Think Like a Horse, it is essential we teach them boundaries of behavior around humans.

There are certain lessons that that every horse should know. If you are capable of conducting ground lessons such as I outline in the articles here on this blog, on my website and in my books, that would be good. I’m talking about respect and personal space lessons.

First in an enclosed area. Then in an enclosed area with feed. Then in a pasture group. Then with feed. It is a progression outlined many times before since these types of things seem to come up often as questions. I’ve hyperlinked some articles within this answer and you can go to my Horse Information Roundup to find a complete list of online articles and related Q&As.

Definitely keep you children safe and only add them to the situation if you feel confident you have established respect and personal space with this mare beforehand.

Best of luck with it.

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My friend has a 5 year old filly.  When he puts her out in the pasture she will stay by the back door unless another horse or even one of the llamas is out.  When he tries to walk her out in the pasture she goes in circles and tires him out by pushing on him to get him to go back to the barn. Daryl

Hi Daryl,

Horses are herd animals so seek comfort and security in numbers. This filly lacks confidence so just for safety sake, she would benefit from a companion animal (llama or another horse) when out on pasture.

To build her confidence, your friend could hold her training and riding sessions out in the pasture, building a strong bond with her out there. It sounds like she needs a thorough ground training review if she whirls or pushes when he tries to lead her. There are many articles on this blog (use the search tool in the right hand column) and my website horsekeeping.com related to behavior and ground training.

 

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Cherry,

My 20 year old niece has 5 horses one being a 4 year old paint. He has become very territorial of his field so much so that he will charge anyone that walks through the field. He has even charged up to the fence if someone is standing near by. How can we work with him to change this behavior?

Cynthia

Hi Cynthia,

The horse (I assume it is a gelding, if not, write me back and I’ll modify my answer) should be brought in from pasture to a separate training area, away from other horses and in a place that is safe to work. A 40-50 foot diameter round pen or 40 x 40 square pen works well for this.

The horse needs to learn basic in-hand and free exercises and the lessons must be repeated until the horse is obedient and submissive to humans. When a horse is dominant over other horses, that’s OK, that’s horse natural behavior. But when a horse acts dominant over humans, it is dangerous and the horse needs to be shown a different, safer way to act around humans.

Distilling things down in a smaller enclosure will help make the positive associations, then you will have a better chance of reminding the horse when you return him to the pasture group.

Some of the lessons he will need to learn are in this In Hand Checklist – a review of things he already knows will be helpful too.

Teaching him to Respect Your Personal Space is essential.

More on Personal Space here.

Here are some more pertinent articles

Grouchy Horse

Pasture Aggression.

I have hundreds of articles on horse care and training on my website. Be sure to search there for your topic of interest.

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Hi Cherry,

I am a very young person and i have a greenbroke arabian i green broke him myself but i cant get the bit in and he  always jerks back and i cant put it on the way i am supposed to cause i am shorter and his head goes up a long ways what do i do to keep his head down so i can bridle him. Maci

Hi Maci,

Did you read this post Head Handling?

Here is another article from my website: Difficult to Bridle.

Once you have read those articles and taught your horse not to fear you touching his head, ears and mouth and you have taught him to open his mouth – all without the bridle being anywhere around………then when you bring out the bridle, it will be easy.

You might also want to read this book.

I suggest using this bridling method – you ask your horse to lower his head, put your right arm between his ears with your right hand holding the headstall. Your left hand presents the bit to the horse’s mouth. This photo shows the first bridling for this horse which went well because he had done all his homework !

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Hi Cherry,

just wondered if you have any ideas how to stop out yearling miniature horse filly to stop bucking and kicking out at us. We own 6 other miniatures and have never had this problem . We have her for 6 months now, and still she does it. We cant stand behind her to brush her tail, nor adjust her rug leg straps etc. She is out on grass with the others and as soon as we go to bring her in, she spins and lashes out with her rear legs. She also hates to be tied and gets very thick and starts pawing the ground etc.
Sara

Hi Sara,

Young fillies of that age are beginning to experience their estrous cycle for the first time. Because of that, some are more explosive, irritable and protective, especially of their hindquarters and activities related to their rear end, such as you say brushing her tail and adjusting her leg straps.

There are many articles related to your questions on my Horse Information Roundup. I will mention a few, but you should go there and search your questions.

Reference article: How to Tell if a Mare is in Heat

A horse like that needs a super thorough handling and sacking out program to show her that touching and activities behind her are nothing to fear. This is a good time to nip this tendency in the bud – otherwise the horse could carry the bad habits for life.

Reference Articles:

Sacking Out

Teaching the Young Horse to Tie

Tying Problems

I recommend you read my latest book, What Every Horse Should Know:

Respect Patience Partnership

No Fear of People or Things

No Fear of Restriction or Restraint.

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Hi Cherry,

I have purchased a new mare (2mths ago) after being out of the saddle for 16yrs.  This mare is 7yrs old & hadn’t been ridden regularly for the last 3yrs, apart from being forward she has shown no signs of being anything but quiet.
Her rushing, is the one issue i’m continuing to have, I know that this is due to the lack of regular handling over the past 3yrs.
Outside of a walk she just wants to take the bit and race…(at a walk I can ride her all day on a loose rein, she listens to my seat and aides, I can change directions and halt with no pressure on the rein or bit, but only at the walk), she fights me in every other gate…her head comes up & she looses her flow, she ignors all aides asking her to “slow” I don’t want to have to fight her at the bit & end up with a dead mouthed horse, I have never had heavy hands with any of my past horses & would like this mare to understand that pressure is gone when she slows & listens to my seat & voice, thing is as soon as she does slow & I release the pressure that brought the response I was after, the fight starts all over again (also I think I might clarify that, I don’t yank or see-saw her mouth, by fight I mean restrain her, I ask for collection & balance I ask for her to listen to my voice and my seat to try slow her pace again but the more I ask for slow the
more cranky she seems to get) I’ve had her teeth done, her back is not sore, I bought a brand new saddle that fits her correctly and I don’t feed her anything, I think if I fed her on top of what she gets just from her paddock she would founder (she is an extremly good doer and is very fat now), she has a salt & mineral lick but thats prettly much it, so no “hot” feed at all!
I am currently doing the only thing I know worked for a race horse I got from the track once, which is… apply a half check as soon as she starts to race, if I get no response I halt and ask for her to back but she refuses to back (she plants herself even when she’s collected and “on” the bit), if I apply slightly more pressure she will then just over collect and put her head on her chest (very frustrating) & I don’t know how to rectify this, I haven’t had this problem before & when I asked for movement last time she refused to back…with just a nudge / sqeeze from my legs she rared up, I in no way want to encourage that so have not pushed for her to back, hence I’m looking for answers.
I include “back” with ground exercises, which she does with no fuss but this hasn’t transfered under saddle, all these exercises that I’ve tried and have worked for me in the past, arn’t working on her, instead she’s getting “piggy” with the flat work and the ground exercises so I break up the routine & do different things with her…her past owners had her graded in both dressage and jumping so I don’t understand why she’s not responsive to me asking her to slow using my seat and half checks.
Due to her past education she is receptive to directional leg aides and that is helping with teaching her basic reining (with the exception to backing she is learning to neck rein ok) to help her move better with the cattle, all of this is at a walk and to use her outside of a walking pace I need her to losen up, slow down &; keep her head from reaching for the clouds, I don’t want to use martin gails or anything like it, I don’t believe she needs them, I just want to relax and calm her & get her responsive outside of a walk, she has such lovely movement when she’s not fighting.
I currently ride her with an egg butt snaffle bit (would you reccomend changing bits?), i’m trying different ground exercises & i’m also trying to lunge her but she doesn’t seem to yet understand my indicators for her to move out…(I don’t have a round yard, just open area and cattle yards) I have tried also to long rein her as an alternative to also get her responsive to my voice, but i’m not very good at not getting tangled, it is a good thing that she wasn’t phased by my inability to keep the long leads from falling down around her hoofs…I know that this is a long explanation, but I wanted to give you as much info as I possibly could…hope you can help & possibly advise me on some alternative exercises to try.
Kind Regards
Beth

Hi Beth,

Most of the elements of my answer and suggestions to you are already in your question. They include going back to ground training, that is in-hand work, free longeing, line longeing, and long lining and making a strong association with the mare that she can move in balance in each gait without rushing.

101 Longeing and Long Lining Exercises

Rushing is a sign that a horse has lost her balance and confidence.

When you have trouble with things when riding, it just shows the basics have never been established, so that means going back and reviewing everything from square one and finding where the holes are. In this mare’s case, I’d imagine if you trotted alongside her in-hand, she’d probably try to zoom ahead of you. If you free longed her, she would probably rush at the trot and canter in poor form and with a too-quick rhythm. And so on. So its no wonder that she would do the same when being ridden.

Doing simple things well with you on the ground will help make a solid connection between you and the mare. All of the exercises you do in-hand and when longeing and ground driving will be a balance act between driving aids and restraining aids, just as you use when riding.

You’ll be surprised at how working on the basics will improve the mare under saddle.

Some of my favorites exercises, whether as ground training exercises or when riding are:

Frequent transitions of all kinds, both upward and downward, between gaits and within gaits. So instead of trotting around and around, you’d only trot a few strides, then maybe walk or maybe extend the trot, or collect the trot, but always be changing things up. The more you develop a give and take with the mare, the more balanced and steady she will become when moving at one gait for an extended period of time.

Walk-Halt-Back-Trot out of the Back and then Walk and repeat

Walk-Trot 4 steps-Walk repeat and vary the number of steps of trot, increasing as long as the horse stays balanced and rhythmic.

Add lateral bending (turning) to any exercise when a horse starts to speed up. Lateral bending, when done correctly, causes a horse’s legs to automatically slow down. So two strides (4 beats) of trot straight, then a full circle and repeat, that sort of thing.

Yes you want to use half halts or checks as you ride and be sure to yield when the horse does soften and slow down.

As far as a bit change, more than likely that is not the problem. You should be able to do whatever you need to do with an egg butt snaffle.

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Hi Cherry,
My 3 year old paint horse tries to  take my 7 year old back to the other horses will I’m leading him and i do not want him to. what should i do.
Emma


Hi Emma,

The behavior you describe can be thought of as Herd Bound, Buddy Bound or Barn Sour or a combination of all 3.

Horses are herd animals and when left on their own, they gang together in twos, threes, bands and herds. That is natural horse behavior.

But when a horse, in this case, the 7 year old you are leading, is being tempted to misbehave by another horse, your 3 year old. Generally it is because one or both horses are insecure and don’t want to be separated from each other. It could also be that they just want to play. But in any case, they need to learn a new set of acceptable behavior when you are leading.

All horses need to develop confidence and good manners so that you can lead them in a variety of tempting and stressful situations. It is the horse you are leading that you should focus on, not the one that is trying to start up the mischief.


If you go to the horse article page on my website www.horsekeeping.com and look under the topic Behavior – you will see a number of articles on Barn Sour behavior which also cover Buddy Bound and Herd Bound.

Reading those will give you some good ideas as to why this behavior occurs and how to prevent and fix it.

Best of luck !

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Hi Cherry,
I have an quarter horse mare that I just bought she is the sweetest thing in the world, she is at the stables where I keep my other horse the owner sold us the other too and perfectly healthy,my quarter I was testing her and noticed that her thighs and back legs are very swollen I know for an fact that she has not been out for one month so due of being in her stall for so long I am pretty sure that is the problem. Also when I made her trot she was limping but her hoofs are very long and broken that will be fixed this week. I will exercise her every day  and i massage her legs, someone said that it never goes away I am not sure about that. It is cold now and the barn is not heated so I do not want to put cold water on her legs can I do cold compresses and the then wipe her dry?
When she walks she does not limp only when she trots what are your suggestions on that?
I just want to know if this stays for the rest of her life or with exercise and taking her out it will go away she is not in pain
Thank you so much
Monika

Hi Monika,

There was a salty and sweet vet that I worked with once that used to look at a horse like yours and say, “All she needs is fresh air and exercise.”

A horse that has not been out of her stall for a month will “stock up” which is a horseman’s way of saying “swell in the legs”. Some horses stock up if they don’t receive daily exercise. All horses should have either free daily exercise (turnout in a large area where they can run and buck and roll) or daily exercise such as longeing or riding.

But before you even think about exercising the horse, she needs hoof care. All horses should have their hooves attended to (trimmed or shod) every 6-8 weeks. When a horse’s hooves have become so long as to begin cracking and breaking off, it is way past due for the horse to have farrier care.

When a horse limps at the trot, that means the horse IS in pain – it hurts to put its weight on that hoof or limb.

So my suggestions are to get the horse hoof care immediately, keep her on a 6-8 week hoof care program per your farrier’s recommendation and exercise her daily.

Then your sweet horse will be comfortable and will last you a lot longer.

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