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Posts Tagged ‘confidence’

Dear Cherry,

What a wonderful web site and resource center. Your love for equine education is graciously depicted.

I guess I am seeking reassurance about departing my daughters current lesson barn. The program was based on natural horsemanship and the structure and knowledge base and of the owner instructor/ owner had always overridden any weaknesses in the past.

I am a mother of a 12 yr old. Her riding instructor (owner of the lesson horse) became extremely upset with me when I described erratic behavior in my daughter’s horse as “kicking at her.” The instructor/owner was not initially present to observe. The horse was tied at a rail for groom and tack. My daughter was on the right side of the horse. I looked up and saw horse’s head jerking back and forth and then back hooves off of the ground in my daughter’s direction. No one was hurt; but the horse’s behavior concerned me. My daughter described it as a buck. She has ridden for 2 1/2 years. My daughter also said she thought the stationary rope on the rail she was required to use was too short.

Would I have been making an statement as a novice that would have been that inflammatory to the instructor? She kind of went off on me and kept asking me over and over again if it was a kick. I felt I was being bullied into changing my answer, but I saw what I saw and I stuck to my description only to really irritate her. Is there really that much of a difference when a child’s safety is an issue?

Sincerely,

Brenda

Hi Brenda,

Today there are so many wonderful horsemen out there providing lessons that there is no sense feeling like once you have chosen one you are married or are a disciple or bound by any strings, business, legal, personal or otherwise. I used those words not because of anything in your letter but because I have observed these things with other people in their relationships with trainers. And I am hoping my answer will help those people as well as you.

I am so thrilled that there has been a surge of horse activities in many areas which makes the choice of instructors and trainers so much better for people wanting lessons or training. Of course with the surge came good trainers and not-so-good trainers, but generally the good trainers prevail. I hope it is that way in your area – that you have good choices – because once you feel the way your letter depicts, it sounds like a rift, a loss of respect and confidence and it could be time to say good bye and go shopping for a new lesson barn.

How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry HillNow specifically to your letter. YES ! A child’s safety is uppermost in any situation involving horses. Semantics of whether a horse is bucking, kicking, cow kicking or grouching in some other way is immaterial. The fact that hooves toward child is unsafe no matter what you call it. And you as guardian of your daughter have every right to bring the matter to the attention of the instructor/owner of the horse.

Horse people can get (unjustifiably) very defensive of their horses – we call this “barn blind” – “What? MY horse kicked? No way.” – That sort of thing. Perhaps that is what you experienced. Well, take comfort in that it is very common for people to think their horses, dogs, pets can do no wrong………but that doesn’t make their perception or reaction correct or right – and it would be especially ludicrous since the owner wasn’t present when the behavior occurred – that indeed is a blind sort of defensiveness.

Of course, the best thing would have been to have an experienced unbiased eye witness, but since that didn’t happen, it becomes one person’s opinion against another’s. And since you are the novice, it is not hard to see a bit of bullying to get you to change your testimony.

Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry HillI can’t say what the horse was doing and why and if he was tied too short or any of that, but if you feel your child’s safety is at risk and you have lost faith in the owner or the establishment, then by all means, look for a new barn. But knowing what it is like to be a 12 year old girl who loves horses and has had several years of riding, I do hope you are able to find a new place soon !

Best of luck and thanks for your note.
I hope something I said has put your mind at ease.

Cherry Hill horse trainer and author of 30 books and DVDs

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I have a friend with a 10 year old quarter horse mare who has been rearing a lot over the past few months, (she actually started around September last year) It has now gotten so bad that she cannot take her off of the farm. The horse rears when she is asked to move away from the others, or sometimes just as a way to get out of doing things she does not want to. I think that my friend perhaps was trying to go too fast too soon around barrels, and the other games before the fair last year, because I remember her telling me that she did it when she clucked to ask her to go forward, and she was going up right before the start flags. About 3 months ago Maddy started to take a few English lessons at a local riding farm, and said that The mare has been very bad for it ever since. she stopped going to the lessons, and said that Cassie is generally okay at home, but it is dangerous, and shes not sure what to do about it. Do you have any advice? Emily

Dear Emily,

How nice you are trying to help your friend with her horse. I want you to know right away that there are two habits that I think require the assistance of a qualified professional horse trainer – rearing and kicking.  Both of these habits are very dangerous. Your friend should be working with a qualified instructor who can help her diagnose her horse’s problem in person.

Rearing usually gets worse before it gets better.  The big risk, of course, is that when a horse rears, the rider can easily fall off, and often when a horse really gets into rearing, he can fall over backwards which can be deadly.

But let’s talk a little bit about what causes rearing and what you can SAFELY try to eliminate the bad habit.

Rearing is an “avoidance behavior” – the horse is trying to avoid going forward.  This usually occurs when a horse has not learned that when you say go forward, he must go forward, so he is confused and needs progressive training and/or a review of the basics. (See 101 Arena Exercises)

OR it could be a horse that is becoming herd bound or barn sour and does not want to leave a certain area where she can see the barn or her buddies.  The horse is saying “NO”.  This is more of a psychological problem.  The horse needs to develop security and confidence in the rider.

OR it could be a horse that has at one time or another has received a sharp jerk or rough handling when he DID go forward so now he is afraid of the consequences of going forward.  When a horse that tends to rear is switched from a curb bit to a snaffle and the rider is very good with her hands (following the horse’s movement), the horse tends to move OUT (forward) rather than UP (rearing).  It is important that when the leg cue is applied for the horse to go forward, the rider doesn’t also pull on the bit as that would be conflicting signals which would confuse the horse.

You can rule out physical causes by having a veterinarian check the horse’s mouth and back to be sure there are no dental or spinal problems.

You can also review “forward” lessons in in-hand work (walk out and trot out promptly when leading) and longeing, concentrating on the horse working in a long, low frame with lots of extended trot type work, rather than collected work.  Collecting a horse too soon or improperly can lead to rearing.

I invite you to visit my Horse Information Roundup where you will find related articles on herd bound, barn sour, forward movement, all aspects of ground training and riding and more.

 

Good Luck Cherry Hill

101 Arena Exercises by Cherry Hill

101 Arena Exercises by Cherry Hill

Cherry – I am not being facetious here – but when I was a child in “yesteryear” I was an avid fan of The Lone Ranger. His horse, “Silver”, reared when unmounted and also when mounted by The Lone Ranger during the program signoff finale. I wonder why this was allowed during each episode if rearing is a negative trait. Thank you. Barby

Hi Barby !

You ask an interesting and excellent question. I’m answering it as part of the actual post so that I can insert a photo.

Rearing, when taught as a specific exercise, trick, or movement shows high skill and balance on the part of the horse. Not every horse can rear and stand in balance as the Lone Ranger’s horse did. It is especially difficult when carrying the additional weight of that heavy silver saddle and a rider.

So as far as exhibition, it demonstrates that the horse rears on command, stands balanced on two legs instead of four, and returns to the ground in a controlled fashion.

Rearing in exhibition can also be seen in many circuses and is a part of high level dressage training and exhibition as demonstrated by the Lipizzaner horses, most notably those of Vienna.

The exercise whereby a horse stands on his hind legs is a Levade. It is part of classical dressage, specifically the Haute Ecole. The levade is a collected, controlled rear. The horse lifts both front legs from the ground and stands with the hind legs bent in the joints. This pose is held for several seconds.

Classical Dressage, the Levade, a controlled collected rear

Classical Dressage, the Levade, a controlled collected rear

So why is a rear so highly prized in some situations and discouraged in others? It is all about control and intent.

Think about a horse running. Playfully in a pasture with herdmates, it is a good thing. At a race track where speed is the goal, it is a good thing. But a horse running away (which we call bolting) uncontrollably with a frightened rider on board, that’s a bad situation.

Similarly with rearing. If it is a response that is not asked for and uncontrollable, it is a dangerous behavior.

Thanks for asking such an interesting question !

Cherry

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hi cherry,  my name is mayme.  i am 11 yrs old, i have been riding for 3 or 4 yrs. about 3 yrs ago i got a horse for christmas.  one day my sister and i were riding, i started to lope to my sister, but i lost control and fell off.   luckily we were just down the street  and my horse ran home. since then i will lope but im not very comfortable doing it. i’m scared i wont be able stay in control and or be able to stop. i will lope on my sister’s horse but i still dont really like it. it’s not that i dont like my horse it’s just that i dont really trust him. my horse is kind of old if that changes anything he is around 21 yrs old. i hope you can help.            thank you for your time and your suggestions.  have a good day and GOD BLESS!!

Hi Mayme,

This is a common problem but one that is easily overcome. The best solution is to get back on and do more loping ! I know that sounds oversimplified, but really that is the solution. Of course, it should be done in a controlled situation so you can get your rhythm and confidence back. Sometimes just taking a few lessons on a “school horse” will help you figure things out and relax.

But here are some specific tips.

Knowledge is power. So start by reading up on loping and confidence.

Here on this blog, there are two search boxes one just above the book How to Think Like a Horse and the other is in the right hand column about half way down. In either of those boxes, you can type key words to find articles related to your area of interest, such as “loping”.

That search turns up an article Overcoming the Fear of Loping. You can click on the title here and it will take you to that article.

Or you could search “confidence” and it will show you these articles:

Attitude and Confidence

and

Improving Attitude and Confidence

You can do the same sort of search on my website Horsekeeping where I have posted hundreds of articles.

By browsing through articles, you will gather ideas that will be suitable for YOU.

Then when you get back in the saddle, you will KNOW that loping is nothing to fear. All you will need to do is practice it until it becomes as natural as walking. As I mentioned earlier, it would be best if you took a few lessons from a qualified riding instructor to help you develop the skills necessary for loping.

And above all, don’t forget to breathe regularly when you are riding. If you hold your breath, it can make you stiff and pop you right out of the saddle. So breathe in and out……..ahhhhhhhhh…….and enjoy that wonderful lope !

Cherry Hill

 

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

I’m asking this question for my two little PMU girls to get them started on the right tract. They are both 17 months now. They seem to learn quickly and I would prefer them to learn the correct way to behave and accept things being done to them. Thanking you in advance, Mary

Hi Mary,

How  to Think Like A Horse by Cherry HillHere is an excerpt from my book How to Think Like a Horse which should get you started.

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

Habituation One of the very first training principles you use when you work with a horse is habituation. Related terms (listed in order from mild to extreme) are gentling, sacking out/ desensitization and flooding.

Flooding – an intense, overwhelming form of habituation

Habituation introduces a horse to a particular person, procedure or object in order to gain the horse’s acceptance without fear.

Gentling is touching a horse on every part of his body and getting him used to being groomed all over. Although a horse naturally loves to be rubbed on his forehead and neck, he must learn to accept and appreciate grooming elsewhere, especially in his ticklish and sensitive areas.

Sacking out a horse with blankets and slickers is a way of gradually decreasing his apprehensions concerning the sight or sound of an object or of the object touching him. By repeated careful exposure to a certain stimulus, a horse’s response can be diminished. Sacking out is a form systematic desensitization where a mild stimulus is introduced at a low level, rest periods are given, and the stimulus is gradually increased. With sacking out, if your end goal is to shake a noisy sheet of plastic over a horse’s back and hit him with it, you would start with rubbing him with a soft cotton blanket and gradually work up to the plastic over a period of days or weeks.

Flooding is exposure to full intensity stimulus while restraining the animal until the animal stops reacting. With the above example, you would fully restrain the horse and then come at him from all side with sheets of plastic, waving them wildly. Not only does this hold risk of injury to all parties but it is an inhumane and unnecessary means to an end.

I prefer my horses to be sacked out for safety but not totally desensitized, brain dead or robotic. When I am riding in the mountains, I want them to bring their instincts along. If I had removed all reflexes with aggressive flooding, it would be like riding a stuffed horse. I take care of my horses and when we are riding I expect my horses to take care of me, but it would be difficult for them to react to danger if they had been sacked to oblivion.

A beneficial use of desensitization (repeated stimulation to diminish the response) is evident when your veterinarian gives your horse an injection. Often the vet will tap the injection site a few times with the back of his hand to stimulate the initial nerve firing before he inserts the needle. Thus prepared, a horse often doesn’t react to the needle because his skin has been desensitized. A similar deadening occurs when you pick up a fold of skin and hold it for a few seconds before you insert a needle. The area around the site of injection has become dull to pain and the horse barely feels the needle go in.

Best of luck,

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Dear Cherry,

My name is Kelsey. I’m 16 years old and I have been learning to ride for about 6-9 months now and have yet to go any further than a jog on my 4-year-old quarter horse. My first riding instructor said she could no longer teach me no more because I’m, according to her, “Way behind the rest of the students and wont go any further”. I know I have a fear of loping because my first bad experience with a horse was when she spooked and started loping. I fell off but was being dragged by the stirrup till I grabbed a hold of the paddock fencing and was free. My horse spooked recently and went into a lope and I had to get off and didn’t have the courage to get back on him. Today I started loping on a lunge line but I was so scared I needed to take an adivan in able to calm down. When I tried to lope for the 3rd time my foot came out of my stirrup and I was scared I was going to fall so my new teacher had to quickly act to make him stop. I want more than anything to lope, but this fear keeps holding me back from actually wanting to do it and do have to courage to do so. I’m scared I’ll never be able to lope on my horse and will be stuck in novice class events forever and will always be considered a nervous and novice rider when all my peers have learned how to lope in less than 6-9 months. Is there anything I can do to help get rid of this fear and be able to actually run with my horse and lope like my peers without having to rely on drugs to calm me down to do so?

Thanks for your time Cherry!
Kelsey

Hi Kelsey,

Well, if you were here, I’d say, just hop on behind me and we’d go loping off. That way you wouldn’t have to be in control of the horse, you could hold onto me around the waist, and just soak in the feeling of the rhythm of the lope. After a few minutes, you’d be thinking, “Wow, this feels wonderful” and you’d relax and soon become addicted to loping ! On a well trained, smooth gaited horse, the lope is wonderful rolling gait with a soothing, rocking motion to it. You’ll love it once you find a steady horse and can relax. Relaxation is the key because if you are tense, you probably are making the horse tense….and worrying your instructor.

But you should know that MANY people are afraid to lope, so don’t feel like the Lone Ranger ! It is because the lope is such a free, rolling motion, and that the horse’s feet come off the ground, that you might feel like you are floating and have lost control for a second in each stride. AND if the horse is not absolutely steady and well trained, you might not feel as confident.

So, if you know someone with a kind, gentle horse with smooth gaits, and the rider is very experienced and the horse has been ridden “double” (two riders), ask if you can hop on behind. If that is not an option, then I would suggest to continue to pursue longe lessons because that is a great way to allow you to focus on your balance and rhythm without needing to control the horse.

How do you feel about heights in general? Do you have the same fear when your ride a bike or motorcycle? How about skiing? Sometimes you can overcome one fear by facing another.

Best of luck and have a great ride.

Cherry Hill

for more information on riding see Becoming an Effective Rider

Becoming an Effective Rider by Cherry Hill

Becoming an Effective Rider by Cherry Hill

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Mounting a Horse:

How to and Troubleshooting

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

This is Part 1 of a 3 Part article

Mounting

Adapted from Making Not Breaking by Cherry Hill

Making not Breaking, the First Year Under Saddle

Making not Breaking, the First Year Under Saddle

Whether your are mounting a young horse for the first time or an older horse that you have had for some time, do you anticipate mincing and dancing, a fight, an explosive surprise, or do you see things going like clockwork with both you and your horse emerging winners? It is natural to experience anxiety before mounting a young horse for its first ride – that’s just normal horse trainer’s stage fright. A small amount of apprehension will probably make you pay closer attention to safety. Being alert primes your nerves and muscular actions. But too much tension can take the smoothness and confidence out of your moves and that might bring undesirable reactions from your horse. If you have an older horse that is developing bad habits when being mounted, proceed like you would with a young, untrained horse.

The best way to make the first mounting just another day in the string of lessons for your young horse is to precede mounting with the proper ground training. Contrary to what you might think, the vast majority of accidents with young horses are not due to a horse being sneaky or dishonest and pulling out all the stops on mounting day. Most young horses act very honestly and predictably and are merely reflecting their previous handling. Accidents with young horses can usually be traced to the violation by the trainer of one or more very simple, basic safety rules or to the omission of important basic ground training. Even the most experienced, accomplished trainers consistently emphasize the importance of the basics. The importance of groundwork should be taken seriously. The true test of when your young horse is ready to mount is whether you can actually perform the various ground work exercises with your horse that I list in Making Not Breaking or 101 Longeing and Long Lining Exercises. I’ve posted a list of in-hand exercises on this blog that is a starting point. Can you do all of these ground work exercises with your horse?

How  to Think Like A Horse by Cherry HillThe overall goal of the first few rides is to reinforce the horse’s trust in you. He must overcome his inborn fear of having “an animal” on his back. To further a horse’s trust in you, never do anything that will scare or hurt him. You should aim to develop a partnership, one in which you are definitely in charge but not one in which the horse is inhumanely dominated by rough tactics. Earning a horse’s trust and respect simultaneously is the foundation of horse training. A young horse needs to know in very clear terms that you are the boss and that what you request, he must do. But you want willing compliance, not a broken-spirited submission. What you ask of your horse must be based on sound horse training principles and must be consistent.

The Pre-Mounting Warm-Up

Currently, it is not a widespread practice to wear a protective helmet when riding yet it should be. More and more trainers and instructors advise the use of a “hard hat”, especially when riding young horses. Boots with heels are an important safeguard because certain stirrups can allow a non-heeled boot or shoe to slip through them and trap the rider’s foot. If gloves are used, they should be of the type that allow grip and a feel of the reins. A thick or heavy pair of gloves can make for cumbersome movements.

Longeing and Long Lining the Western HorseYou can use in-hand work, longeing, driving, or ponying to take the edge off a young horse prior to its first ride. Whatever method of warm up you choose, it should be very familiar to the young horse. It would make no sense to introduce a new ground training lessons on the day of your first ride.

You can choose to take your first rides using a halter and lead rope, bosal, or snaffle bridle. It is not so important what you use on his head but how you use your body. Although it is good to keep your mind open to different methods for the future, for now choose the method with which you are most comfortable and proficient. The pre-ride warm-up and the first ride should take place in a safe enclosed area. I prefer a 66 foot diameter round pen with sturdy walls and sand footing.

Your  Horse Barn DVDBegin the session as if nothing out of the ordinary is planned. Be sure you do not have time constraints because if you are in a hurry, it will surely affect your work. Be thorough with haltering, leading, tacking up and leading to the round pen. Warm your horse up by leading him in-hand for a few moments to “untrack” him. Check the cinch for appropriate tightness and then ready the horse for longeing, driving, or ponying. The pre-ride warm up should take the edge off the horse but not tire him out. He will need to be alert and have muscle strength and energy left if you expect him to pay attention and actually learn something from the first mounting lesson.

After the warm up, check the cinches (and breast collar if used) once again and be sure they are snug but not uncomfortably tight. Be sure to remove the stirrup hobble rope if you used one for driving. Square the horse up so he will have an easier time maintaining his balance as you mount. If he has one front foot way out to the right, for example, he will likely bring it under his belly with a quick motion when you begin mounting. If one hind leg is far behind, the horse will probably step forward as you begin mounting. Either of these circumstances may make you think he is going to walk off. This might make you lose your concentration or balance or you may instinctively snatch at the reins and start a cycle of errors. Any time you have difficulty in the chain of events, and this goes for the horse’s entire training, stop, go back to where your and your horse were comfortable and performing well and proceed from there.
Watch for more parts to this topic.

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Bad Habits in Horses

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

Horses are some of the kindest, most generous and trainable animal partners you can find.  That’s why when a horse does something “bad”, it’s usually due to poor management or training.  In order to deal with vices and bad habits, we need to understand what causes them.  THEN we can design our horse care and training to PREVENT them.

How to Think Like a Horse by Cherry Hill

How to Think Like a Horse by Cherry Hill

A vice is an abnormal behavior that usually shows up in the barn or stable environment that results from confinement, improper management, or lack of exercise.  A vice can affect a horse’s usefulness, dependability, and health.  Examples are cribbing, weaving, and self-mutilation. (see an upcoming post on Vices)

A bad habit is an undesirable behavior that occurs during training or handling and is usually a result of poor techniques and a lack of understanding of horse behavior.  Examples are rearing, halter pulling, striking and kicking.

Bad Habits in Horses
©  2002 Cherry Hill www.horsekeeping.com

HABIT

DESCRIPTION

CAUSES

TREATMENT

Balking Refusal to go forward often followed by violent temper if rider insists. Fear, heavy hands, stubbornness, extreme fatigue. Curable.
Review forward work with in-hand & longeing.
Turn horse’s head to untrack left or right.
Strong driving aids with no conflicting restraining aids (no pull on bit).
Do not try to force horse forward by pulling – you’ll lose.
Barn Sour
Herd Bound
Balking, rearing, swinging around, screaming and then rushing back to the barn or herd. Separation from buddies or barn (food, comfort). Curable but stubborn cases require professional.
A confident, capable trainer that insists the horse leave the barn (herd) and then positively reinforces the horse’s good behavior so horse develops confidence.
The lessons GO and WHOA must both be reviewed.
Biting Nibbling with lips or grabbing with teeth especially young horses. Greed (treats), playfulness (curiosity) or resentment (irritated or sore). Investigate things with mouth. Often from hand-feeding treats. Curable. Handle lips, muzzle, & nostrils regularly in a business-like way; when horse nips, tug on nose chain, then resume as if nothing happened.
Can also use thumb tack on sleeve; hold wire brush toward lips; use muzzle.
Bolting When Turned Loose Wheels away suddenly before halter is fully removed. Poor handling, anxious to exercise or join other horses. Curable but dangerous as horse often kicks as he wheels away.
Use treats on ground before you remove halter; use rope around the neck.
Bucking Arching the back, lowering the head, kicking with hind or leaping. High spirits, get rid of rider or tack, sensitive or sore back, reaction to legs or spurs. Monitor feed and exercise; proper progressive training; check tack fit.
Can’t Catch Avoids humans with halter and lead. Fear, resentment, disrespect, bad habit. Curable. Take time to properly train, use walk-down method in small area first, progress to larger. Remove other horses from pasture; treats on ground, never punish horse once caught.
Can’t Handle Feet Swaying, leaning, rearing, jerking foot away, kicking, striking. Insufficient or improper training. Horse hasn’t learned to cooperate, balance on 3 legs, take pressure and movement of farrier work. Curable but persistent cases require professional.
Thorough, systematic conditioning and restraint lessons: pick up foot, hold in both flexed & extended positions for several minutes while cleaning, grooming, rubbing leg, coronary band, bulbs etc.
Halter Pulling Rearing or setting back when tied, often until something breaks or horse falls and/or hangs by halter. Rushed, poor halter training, using weak equipment or unsafe facilities so horse gets free by breaking something.
Often horse was tied by bridle reins and broke free.
Can be curable but very dangerous and incurable in some chronic cases which require professional.
Might use stiff bristled broom on the rump or wither rope on advice of professional.
Head Shy Moves head away during grooming, bridling, clipping, vet work. Initially rough handling or insufficient conditioning, painful ears or mouth problems. Curable. First eliminate medical reasons such as ear, tongue, lip or dental problems.
Start from square one with handling; after horse allows touching, then teach him to put head down.
Jigging Short, stilted walk/jog with hollow back and high head. Poor training attempt at collection, horse not trained to aids, too strong bridle aids, sore back. Curable. Check tack fit, use aids properly including use of pressure/release (half halt) to bring horse to walk or use strong driving aids to push horse into active trot.
Kicking Lashing back at a person with one or both hind legs, also “cow kicking” which is lashing out to the side. Initially reflex to touching legs, then fear (defense) of rough handling or to get rid of a threat or unwanted nuisance. Might be curable but serious cases are very dangerous and require professional to use remedial restraint methods.
Unlikely to ever completely cure.
Rearing Standing on hind legs when led or ridden, sometimes falling over backwards. Fear, rough handling, doesn’t think he must go forward or is afraid to go forward into contact with bit; associated with balking; a response to collected work. Can be curable but is a very dangerous habit that might be impossible to cure even by professional.
Check to be sure no mouth or back problems.
Review going forward in-hand with a whip and review longeing.
Running Away;
Bolting
Galloping out of control. Fear, panic, (flight response), lack of training to the aids, overfeeding, under exercise, pain from poor fitting tack. Might be curable but very dangerous as when horse panics, can run into traffic, over cliff, through fence, etc.; remedy is to pull (with pressure and release) the horse into a large circle, gradually decreasing the size.
Shying Spooking at real or imagined sights, sounds, smells, or occurrences. Fear (of object or of trainer’s reaction to horse’s behavior), poor vision, head being forcibly held so horse can’t see, playful habit. Generally curable.
Put horse on aids and guide and control his movement with driving and restraining aids
Striking Taking a swipe at a person with a front leg. Reaction to clipping, first use of chain or twitch, restraint of head, dental work. Curable but very dangerous especially if coupled with rearing as person’s head could be struck.
Review head handling (mouth, nostrils, ears); head down lesson; and thorough body handling and sacking out.
Stumbling Losing balance or catching the toe on the ground and missing a beat or falling. Weakness, lack of coordination, lack of condition, young, lazy, long toe/low heel, delayed breakover of hooves, horse ridden on forehand, poor footing. Curable.
Have hoof balance assessed, check breakover, ride horse with more weight on the hindquarters (collect), conditioning horse properly.
Tail Wringing Switching and/or rotating tail in an irritated or angry fashion. Sore back from poor fitting tack, poorly balanced rider, injury, rushed training. May not be curable once established.
Proper saddle fit, rider lessons, massage and other medical therapy, proper warm-up & progressive, achievable training demands.

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Improving Attitude and Confidence

Whether you’re returning to riding after time off or first learning to ride, get in shape before you get in the saddle. This will minimize injury and maximize enjoyment. When you evaluated your rider readiness in last month’s newsletter, perhaps you found a few areas that could use improvement. Here you’ll find exercises and tips specifically tailored for riders to help with those trouble spots.

STAGES OF RIDER DEVELOPMENT

1 – Evaluate, then make a plan.
2 – Focus on attitude, confidence and enough muscular strength to ride for about one hour.
3 – Work on flexibility to attain a correct riding position and use the aids effectively.
4 – Increase your endurance for longer or more demanding riding.
5 – Improve your timing for advanced riding skills.


ATTITUDE

A good attitude is a combination of motivation, optimism, diligence, patience, and honesty. If you think you need an “attitude adjustment”, start by finding or making adequate time to devote to riding. If you approach riding in a hurry, it’s not only harder to have a good attitude but it’s unsafe and often counter-productive.

Associate with happy, positive, successful people, especially during your horse time. You want to avoid folks with unhealthy egos, those that constantly gossip or bellyache, or those involved in illegal or inhumane activities. Learn about visualization, mental imaging, and goal setting and how they can be used to improve your riding.


CONFIDENCE

Confidence comes from knowledge, training, and experience. It’s no secret that confident body language convinces a horse that you are in charge.Two keys to confidence are:

1. Ride a good horse and

2. Work with a good instructor.

Even before you get to actual riding, spend plenty of time with your horse: grooming, tacking and leading so you become accustomed to each other.

Your Mentor, the Horse

So that you can concentrate on your riding, you need the help of a well-trained, patient, experienced horse. Most good “rehab” or school horses are 8-20 years old geldings but some older mares also exhibit great care and patience. Use a horse with an exemplary temperament, one that is not only patient but willing, cooperative, and alert, yet calm. You want a horse that is physically responsive to the aids and balanced and rhythmic in his gaits. A sensitive, thin-skinned, hot-blooded horse, even though well-trained, might react to accidental bumps of the leg or weight shifts as cues. You are usually better off choosing a duller, more cold-blooded horse that will tolerate the mistakes a rider makes when learning balance and rhythm. Such a horse tends to go on steadily despite awkward rider movements.

Choosing an Instructor

There is no substitute for a good instructor and a poor instructor is worse than none at all. So that you learn correctly and you maintain a good opinion of yourself, your horse, and your work, choose your instructor carefully. An excellent trainer may be good with horses but ill suited to working with people.

Look for an instructor with a keen eye and the ability to give you accurate feedback. You might think of your instructor as an experienced, talking mirror. The best instructor is also an excellent rider, trainer, and observer; someone who knows when things are going well and tells you; someone who sees when things are headed in the wrong direction and can tell you in clear terms how to fix it.

Choose an instructor that is appropriate for your goals and capabilities. Some teachers are excellent with beginning riders but do not have the proficiency to take a rider further. Others do not have the patience to work with any but very advanced riders and horses. An instructor with a famous name may not have the time or interest required to work regularly with a re-entry or novice rider. Look for an instructor nearby so you can take frequent lessons.

Give your instructor’s methods a chance to work. If you are convinced mentally that they will not work, they will not work. Be sure you can hear and understand exactly what your instructor is telling you. Misunderstandings can undermine your self confidence and your trust in your trainer.

Confidence Builder – the Mounting Block

One of the most awkward times in learning to ride is mounting and dismounting. You could teach your horse to sit down for you to mount! But a more practical solution is to use a mounting block. Especially if you are short, stiff, or coming back from an injury, a mounting block puts your foot closer to the stirrup and decreases the distance you have to lift your body weight. Whether you use a milk crate, a bucket or an official mounting block, you will find mounting less stressful to your knees and back. In addition, there will be less scrambling and saddle twisting, which your horse will appreciate. You can mount facing the rear or the front of your horse, whichever works best with your physical limitations. Use a quiet, obedient horse because if he steps sideways just as you are getting on, you could find yourself in a wrenching version of the “splits”!

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This time of year, many people get back to riding after not being able to due to weather or other commitments. A while back, I was asked to write a magazine series for people returning to riding after time off, illness, an accident, pregnancy or other reason. Following is that series. I hope you might find some information that will help you, a student, or a friend.

©  2010 Cherry Hill © Copyright Information

Part One – Attitude and Confidence

Have you been riding your computer or your truck more than your horse? Has an injury or surgery prevented you from riding? Maybe you’ve had a brutal winter or scorching summer and six months zipped past without a ride. If it’s time for you to get back in the saddle, with a little preparation you can make a smooth re-entry to riding.

After riding most of my life and teaching and judging many riders, I’ve seen that certain attributes can help or hinder a rider. Whether you are getting back to riding or taking it up for the first time, you should evaluate your attitude, confidence, relaxation, balance, flexibility, coordination, durability, strength, and fitness. Next month’s newsletter will contain tips on how to improve areas that need work.

ATTITUDE

A good attitude is made of motivation, optimism, diligence, patience, and honesty.

TEST: Answer Yes or No to these five questions:

1. You get up an hour earlier every morning so you have extra time to ride.
2. You see something ahead that might spook your horse. You alter your course to avoid the confrontation.
3. Your horse moves 3 small steps when you are mounting. You “let it go”.
4. You want to smooth out your horse’s lope but after several weeks you don’t see a change. You start looking for another horse.
5. When your instructor/trainer says, “Work with your horse every day to improve your riding”, you say, “I do!”

Yes to #1 shows motivation.
No to #2 shows a positive attitude that you can overcome your horse’s fears.
No to #3 shows diligence to work on small things to make the whole better.
No to #4 means you don’t give up quickly; training takes time.
Yes to #5 either means you are a rare person that can work with your horse every day OR your definition of “work” includes grooming, petting and feeding treats OR you just say “I do” to your instructor to keep from getting a lecture. To improve, you first must make an honest evaluation.

CONFIDENCE

Confidence comes from knowledge, training, and experience.

TEST: Answer Yes or No to these questions:

1. Have you had your horse handling and riding skills evaluated by a professional instructor?
2. Do you take regular lessons?
3. Do you know safe practices for handling and riding horses?
4. Do you work with a well-trained, experienced horse that can “show you the ropes”?
5. Do you know how to stop a runaway horse?

If you answered YES to these five questions, you have set yourself up to be confident.

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