Tag Archives: breaking

My Horse Is Terrified of the Wormer Paste!

The yard was unusually busy and filled with anxiety when I arrived. Amongst the chatter I managed to glean that not long before lunch one of the livery horses had collapsed and been rushed to the vet school. Her life was hanging in the balance.

The cause was every liveries worst nightmare… an encysted red worm burden. It was so severe she had been given less than a 50% chance of surviving. Even if she did survive she would have permanent damage to her intestine that would mean careful dietary management for the rest of her life.

The horses at the yard, as with many yards, were turned out in groups and the groups never mixed. So any horse not in the group with this mare were most likely going to be unaffected. That didn’t stop many of the liveries going in to an emotional meltdown. My head was spinning and my stomach turned over as I digested the news. This mare shared a field with my youngster!

Regular worm counts as well as wormer for red worms and tape worm are part of my horses worming regimen so, in theory, my youngster should be fine. If only that was enough to stop me worrying.

The whole yard was put on ‘lock down’, grazing was off limits and horses were all stabled. An emergency worming programme was put in place and every horse had to follow this programme over the course of a week. It’s bad enough having to worm a horse a few times a year, I wasn’t about to disagree given the potential risk for my youngster.

My horses started out great with their week-long wormer regimen. They weren’t happy about it, but we were coping. Then around day 3 the yard owner decided that he would ‘help me out’ and he decided to worm my youngster before I arrived at the yard that day. I wasn’t particularly happy about it, but all seemed well.

Day 4 came around and it was time for the wormer. I prepped the tube and opened my youngsters stable door. He had one glance at the wormer tube and reacted as if I had thrown a snake in to the stable with him. This was not his usual reaction and I heaved a sigh as I could only imagine the scene the previous day with the yard owners approach to worming my youngster.

I pot the tube away and calmed my horse. Then went to find the yard owner. As my horses reaction had indicated, the previous days wormer administration had not gone well at all and it seemed that an approach along the lines of ‘pin it down with 4 men and a boy’ was taken. This was devastating news to me. My horse as showing me that a lot of emotional damage had been done in a very short space of time. Damage that was going to take more than one nights training to resolve.

There was nothing else for it. I had to quickly put a training plan together in my head as to how I was going to worm my horse that evening. It had to be done. The risk of not doing it was just too great. My approach was that of microshaping. I looked for the smallest approximation of the behaviour I needed from my horse to make this procedure as emotionally and physically safe as possible.

I wanted to tease apart what aspect(s) of the wormer was an issue so i broke it down in to steps to find what was OK and I could build from there. Starting where things were not OK was not going to lead to better things. I asked if I could open the stable door (no wormer in sight), yes, click and treat. Could I go in to the stable, then touch him, could I build up to touching him around his nose and his then his mouth. As long as he was calm and relaxed with each step of the process it was reinforced a number of times before moving on. At any time if he gave any indication that things were not OK then I took a step back in the training plan.

The next steps involved the wormer itself; could I stay on the other side of the door and simply hold the wormer tube, click for calm behaviour, wormer tube away and treat. We built this up gradually so that I could step in to the stable with the tube in my hand and he stayed calm.

It was surprising how quickly he learned that staying calm and relaxed about the process was preferable to getting anxious. Anxiety could easily have escalated but by approaching the training a small step at a time, by repeating each step and following Karen Pryors 10 Laws of shaping behaviour the end result was being able to worm my horse without force.

After just one nights training the behaviour was definitely not as good as I would have liked it to be, but we had a few more nights to work on that.

Over time I polished the behaviour by asking the horses to voluntarily bring their mouth to the wormer tube, open their lips and place their lips over the tube.

The final bells and whistles to the process was to teach the horse a cue where they knew “this time I plan to give the wormer”. If they were not ready they removed their mouth from the tube. If they are ready their mouth stays over the tube. Giving wormer paste to our horses is a necessary evil for most of us. However, we can give the horses control over the worming process and allow it to be their choice when the paste is given. We can make it a more positive experience for the horses.

The good news is, my horses are still in control over their wormer paste, neither of them were affected by the outbreak and the mare… she survived!

See some of the positive reinforcement wormer training in action; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2y6JIuOxNm0

Find out how clicker training can benefit you and your horse, contact; amanda@smaarthorses.co.uk


Worming and Resistance in Horses

Everyone knows how important it is to worm our horses regularly to make sure they are healthy and happy! This is especially important for those horses that are on pasture 24 hours a day, but is also important for stabled horses.

A few tips for worming horses:


  • Treat all horses grazing together at the same time and with the same product.
  • Take into account the horse’s age and type, local environment and climate.
  • Keep an accurate record of when you worm your horse and the product used.
  • Treat horses that are at grass during the winter, even if only for short periods.Do not overstock the paddocks.
  • When moving horses to new grazing worm them 48 hours before the move to help prevent the spread of parasites.
  • No single worming drug will kill all the horse’s internal parasites
  • Do not administer the drugs more frequently than recommended.


The key to worm control is to break the life cycle of the parasite, through drugs and pasture management.

Killing the four main groups (Large Redworms, Small Redworms, Tapeworms and Bots), will also kill all the other important worms. When you are moving from the warmer months and into autumn and winter, you may notice Bot flies hanging around your horse (mainly their legs). These annoying flies lay small white eggs on your horse in autumn, so using an effective boticide (ivermectin) when you worm at this time of year.

Worm Resistance

If the active ingredient in a worming product is used continuously on a property for a long time, there is an increased likelihood that the worms (especially Small Strongyles) may develop resistance to that family of drug, rendering the products no longer effective. Make sure to rotate wormers every year or so – this means getting a different wormer with a different active ingredient and not just a different brand – make sure you read the label or ask someone (such as your vet or the supplier of the worming paste) which active ingredients are different from the wormer you have been using.

The reason we do this is to ensure the worms within our horses are not building up a resistance to the type of drug in the wormers we are using – this can be a real problem as horses can carry heavy infestations of worms in their gut even though they are wormed on a regular basis, and start to lose condition and become unhealthy.

Ensure that your horse gets the correct dose for his weight. Don’t under-dose as this can lead to resistance in the worm population and the horse not being wormed effectively. This is particularly important to remember when you have a larger horse such as a friesian, as these horses often weight more than the highest dose level on the worming paste – often these pastes only go up to 550kg-500kg, and many friesians are over 650kg, with our heaviest horse weighing in at around 750-800kg!! The ‘mectin’ family of worming product is the most common class of wormer used in Australia currently – wormers such as Equimax (abamectin), Equest (moxidectin) and Equimec (ivermectin) are some examples. The ‘mectins’ are very good wormers, but there are growing concerns that over-use will lead to resistance in the horse industry and cause a loss of it’s effectiveness.

How to Avoid Resistance

Give the correct dose – especially do not under-dose

Use an effective worming product (not a product where resistance has developed, as it may make the problem worse)

Prevent the horse from spitting the paste back out and reducing the dose he gets – put the wormer all the way to the back of the tongue, and make sure to hold the horses head up for around 15 seconds after administering or until you can see that he swallows all of the paste. Rotate wormers (the drug not just the brand) – this can be done yearly.

Maintain good pasture hygiene – rotate paddocks and harrow in the summer months, or pick up manure in paddocks, or clean stables out daily. These measures avoid increasing the worm burden in the paddock/stable and hence also in the horse.

Remembering these simple steps and guidelines will ensure that your horse is happy, fit and healthy, on the inside and outside.

Natasha Althoff
Ebony Park Performance Friesians
where dreams are made reality

Horse Training: Start Right! Safely Mounting a Totally Green Horse for the First Time


Many of the problems humans have with horses stem, in my opinion, from the fact that humans (even the vegetarians) see and react to the world through the eyes of a predator while horses see and react to the world through the eyes of a prey animal.

If you have ever watched predators (even your house cat) you will note they have their eyes on the front rather than the sides of their head and they tend to take a direct route toward where they are going – particularly so if they have locked onto some target. By contrast prey animals spend much of their time grazing or browsing perhaps with some destination in mind but with a lot less direct route involved getting there OR even if they take a direct route it often includes lots of starts and stops to sample tasty food items along the way. So what does that have to do with getting on your green horse safely the very first time? Well if you want to avoid having problems with horses you need to first realize you move like a predator – you home in on your target and take the most direct route between you and that target. So what? Well the horse, being a prey animal, reads your movement as “a predator is coming” and its first line of defense is to put distance between itself and any predatory threat.

Watch a house cat trying to catch a rabbit, bird, or squirrel and you will note that predators with a chosen target (if they start fairly far away) tend to close distance as rapidly as they think they can get away with until they get just outside of the prey animals “flee in panic” zone. At that point they slow way down – and try to disappear into the ground – closing the distance slowly. Then if/when they get close enough they suddenly burst into action to pounce on their prey.

Hmmm, that sorta sounds like the sequence followed when mounting a horse doesn’t it? You close the distance between you and the horse fairly rapidly, once you get close you slow way down, then you suddenly spring upward onto their back.

Do you think maybe by doing that we might be triggering a very natural, instinctive, anti-predator response?

Now if you were a prey animal and you suddenly felt or saw a predator on your back what would you do? Probably anything you could to get it off – like “swallowing your head” and bucking.

From observation and decades of experience combined with a bit of early-on “learning the hard way” I have come to the conclusion that first time mounting has the potential to trip four different anti-predator “triggers.” And while a prey animal rarely reacts to a single anti-predator trigger they do react to two or more anti-predator triggers that get pulled at the same time.

The four anti-predator triggers you have the potential to trip when first mounting a horse are:

  1. rapid upward motion close to prey
  2. pouncing on back
  3. squeezing pressure around barrel (picture a mountain lion trying to hang on)
  4. something higher than horse’s head on back

Generally speaking when people work slow and easy and basically smooze the horse into allowing first saddling – then mount up right away but also real easy – they most generally get away with that first brief easy “smooze your way through it” ride. They have the horse walk around a bit, get off and call it a miracle. Then some other early ride – often the very next ride they let their confidence get the best of them and they push the youngling to trot. The youngster is unbalanced under all that weight on its back (picture yourself carrying a heavy backpack for the first time) and the rider gets slightly bounced out of the saddle and when they touch back down the horse translates it as a “pounce on back” with possibly the girth already giving the “hold on squeeze” and the rider being up above horses head on back — 3 triggers pulled and it only takes two. This is a recipe for a rodeo event – saddle bronc. And it can be, in my opinion, completely avoided if you just “start right.”

I do realize there are MANY ways to get a young horse started. I have seen people succeed in a variety of ways – and so have I. I know that some advocate intentionally allowing a young saddled horse to run free and bucking with just the saddle on to “get it out of them” because they can’t get rid of that saddle. And I do know it can be done myriad ways. I just tend to believe that if my objective is to end up with a horse that NEVER bucks then maybe I should start it out in a way that doesn’t involve the horse ever bucking with a human or even just a saddle on its back.

So can that really be done? Can you start out a completely green horse so that it NEVER bucks with a human on its back? Can a green horse on the very first day of training be taught so solid to “stand statue still when being mounted” that you can grab mane and swing up on it bareback from the near side, then swing off far side, and swing back up from far side – repetitively – with the horse standing perfectly calmly and statue still like this is “nothing new” – like it is an old hand – when actually nobody ever mounted it nor did any prep work toward mounting it until that very day – probably no more than 45 minutes to 1-1/2 hours earlier? — To answer the question at the beginning of this paragraph – yes it can really be done – by “starting right.”

How? By intentionally defusing each of the 4 anti-predator triggers. And yes you can and “optimally” you should do it all in one session. Don’t underestimate the horses ability to learn – prey animals are precocious learners – they learn MUCH quicker and remember longer than predators (including humans) because their very lives can depend upon it. They aren’t going to think like a human (predator) but they are the very best thing on earth at thinking like a horse (prey) – so your job is to teach that horse that even though you are a predator you aren’t going to eat it – to teach it that when you hop on its back there is no reason to be afraid and thus there is absolutely no reason to try and get rid of you by bucking you off.

If you have a good high round pen you can do this with the horse at liberty – but I know that lots of people that want to start a horse under saddle don’t have a good high round pen. So I am going to outline how to “Start Right” assuming you do not have a round pen but you do have a halter broke horse and a 30-35 foot rope. The rope can be put on in the form of a “come along” type rope halter or just clipped or tied to a well fitted halter. The rope is to allow you to keep the horse workably close even if you goof up as you learn to judge the difference between “glued to you” attentiveness and “that’s too scary – I’m out of here” – which is key to making the first part of this work.

So with the 30-35 foot rope attached to your pupil’s halter you step back away from it so that you are basically 25-30 feet away and directly facing its head (horse facing directly toward you – looking at you intently). If you have done well with your halter breaking earlier the horse likely will want to follow you everywhere so getting it to stay put while you move 25-30 feet away will be the first thing you have to accomplish. Sometimes stamping a foot is all it takes or stamping a foot as you take a large step toward it – both of which are “horse talk.” Other times you may need to partially or fully raise hands over head. The idea is to do the least possible to get it to stay put while you put that 25-30 feet between you and the horse pupil by moving yourself 30 feet away. You don’t want them to skitter away scared – that would indicate you over did it – you just want them to stop following you and stay put – ON YOUR COMMAND – with their attention glued on what you are doing. (And that correctly implies that they should also follow you even halterless – ON YOUR COMMAND.)

Once you have the horse standing about 25-30 feet away from you and facing you start lifting your hands up over your head – watching the horse INTENTLY while you do so. The rope should initially be held up off the ground a bit between you and the horse to help lessen odds of stepping over the rope or getting tangle-spooked – until you have got the horse standing “steady still” facing you – very intently watching your every move. At that point I favor keeping the rope in one hand but laying loose on the ground – not taut between me and horse – so as to eliminate movement transmission via the rope to the halter because of your hands moving up and down rapidly as they soon will be. You are starting to defuse the “rapid nearby upward motion” trigger. Putting your hands up over your head then straight back down by your head then rapidly over your head again is done to simulate you jumping up and down – without you wearing your legs out prematurely (because you are going to need them well rested later on.) If the horse is super skittish then move hands up and down slower. If the horse is NOT totally paying attention then (for that horse) you need to speed up how fast you move your hands up and down, see if that is enough, if the horse is still not riveted on you then move closer while you keep doing rapid up and down hand movement – beside your head to full upward arm extension – repeatedly. Now the key is get closer and closer all the time maintaining the correct demeanor in the horse pupil – namely – ears pricked forward, eyes GLUED on you – VERY intent but not leaving – keep it right on that edge of thinking about leaving but NOT even slightly starting to act on it. You keep moving forward as the horse relaxes – gathering up rope as you go – all the while doing the up – down hand motion to simulate jumping. If you goof up and the horse starts to leave then get it turned back around facing you, back off, start over – you keep trying and you will learn how to read the horse and keep that dynamic tension just right. Sooner than you can imagine you will literally be up with the horse’s nose on your chest or belly as you rapidly put your hands to full upward arm extension and back down by your face over and over and over and that horse just stands there like “this is just a normal everyday happening” – “nothing to fret over” – certainly nothing to be afraid of. Good job, good start.

Now you move over to the side of the horse about 20-30 foot back with you facing directly toward the horse’s withers or just behind the withers. And you do the whole rapid full upward arm extension approach all over – with horse standing statue like as you approach from the side. Odds are you will be up by its side with your belly pressing against its barrel MUCH quicker than you got up to its head. And as you extend your hands to full arm extension with your belly pressed against the horses barrel you are now somewhat working on defusing a second trigger – the “something on back higher than head” trigger. Once you have this done thoroughly – meaning you can do super rapid upward arm extensions repetitively with your belly pressing against the horses barrel – then you go over to the other side and repeat it over there.

Now you have largely defused the “rapid nearby upward motion” trigger from the front and both sides – now do the same from directly behind the horse BUT do NOT approach within kicking range – stop outside kicking range – about one and a half horse lengths behind the horse and do NOT approach any closer.

If you read the horse well then the horse should not have moved at all as you did all this work defusing this trigger from front, sides, and rear. Seriously – the horse pupil should stand perfectly still the whole time you work on defusing the four anti-predator triggers – yes -throughout the entire 30-90 minute training session. Think about how many times you have watched a horse, perhaps the very horse you are now training, stand at rest for literally hours at a time – it is NOT too much to ask your horse pupil to stand perfectly still throughout this training session – it is well within their native ability.

Now walk up to the near side (left side) of your horse facing the riders groove (the area of the back where the rider naturally sits on a bareback horse). Set your hands gently atop the horses back – don’t press down with your hands but just start raising up on your toes then back down and work up to jumping up and down with your hands just resting on the horses back. You are now completing the defusing of the “rapid nearby upward motion” trigger and simultaneously starting to defuse the “sudden pounce on back” trigger and again working on the “something on back higher than head” trigger. Your hands are transferring a bit of your jumping motion even though you are trying to “just rest them” on the back. Once the horse gets that “ho-hum, boring” look then start jumping higher and start pushing down with your hands eventually holding yourself up with your hands on horse’s back, your arms full extended, elbows locked. Do the all the way up to elbows locked deal a few times on the near side – then go over on the off side (right side) and start over with hands on back and build up to the same all the way up to elbows locked several times. The horse should NOT move as you do this.

Now you are well on your way to having 3 out of 4 triggers defused. On to the fourth.

Stand on either near or off side – your choice – reach over horses back and squeeze its barrel a bit – repeat this over and over building up to really squeezing for all you are worth – like you are hanging on for dear life. The horse should NOT move as you do this. Move back and forth a bit squeezing different spots on the rib cage. You are working on defusing the “squeezing pressure around barrel” trigger. This is important because you will grab on with your legs – so it is important to thoroughly defuse this trigger. Now go over to the other side and repeat. Yes it is important to do each step from both sides.

Now you work on getting the horse ready for things that happen incidentally when it is being mounted – like getting bumped on the croup with a foot if rider goes off balance OR like a leg dragging over the back when a person mounts bareback from a laying across back position. You do this by simulating those actions with your arm and hand as you stand right tight against the horse by the riders groove. Reach back and move your arm up into the hip like you bumped it mounting bareback then sweep it across the back and croup like you are dragging your leg across – once it is going “ho-hum, boring” about this then you simulate dropping your foot on the croup trick that newbies do or that any of us can do if we get off balance when mounting. Bump a few times until the horse is giving you that “ho-hum, boring” look.

You are now ready to mount up. First time up you go right across the withers – belly down across withers with more weight on the side where your feet are just in case the horse moves (which it should NOT do.) Basically even when you have a horse to a point of high trust-ability you still play it safe and plan for the worst – it is still a horse – and if it gets spooked by something outside your area and moves you want to land feet first not head first, right? Okay you will very rapidly find it is very uncomfortable laying basically with the end of your ribcage hooked on the withers. But the horse is least likely to have issues with you getting on the withers first – so do it that way even though it is uncomfortable. Get down, repeat several times – then go over to the other side and repeat. The horse should stand still the whole time.

Now once you have done the belly down withers mount repeatedly from both near and off sides – go back to the near side and mount belly down on withers one more time, then slide back into the riders groove. This will be a LOT more comfortable for you. Now use your arm that is toward the tail and do the arm sweep across the area you would brush your leg if you were mounting from this position. Get off, then hop back up belly down on riders groove and do the arm brush again. Repeat this a half dozen to a dozen times on the near side then go start at beginning of this step and do the process on the off side. The horse should stand still the whole time.

Go back to near side, belly down mount onto riders groove, swing leg up (but not over) and now actually sweep your leg back and forth – it is heavier than your arm. Now keep your head down but swing your leg over the rest of the way to riding position with your legs just hanging loose – not gripping. Now sit up. You are now fully mounted on the horse. Hop off and repeat several times from near side. Now go over and do it all from the off side just the same way. Each time you mount up fully do it just a wee titch faster. You should be able to jump up belly down, instantly sweep leg over to other side and sit right up. Now dismount opposite side you mounted from – mount from that side – dismount from other side – do this a half dozen to a dozen times. Horse should stand still the whole time.

Okay now you test to be sure you FULLY defused all four triggers by tripping all four in rapid succession. You do this by grabbing mane and swinging up “Indian style” onto your bareback horse pupil. Horse should stand still for this like it has been mounted this way hundreds of times even the very first time you do it – no kidding. Dismount opposite side and grab mane and swing up from that side right away. Do a half dozen to a dozen of these grab mane and swing up mounts, dismount opposite side, swing back up right away. Horse should stand still the whole time.

End the session with plenty of praise given your horse pupil.

Next session – whether the next day or two later or whenever. Repeat this session – start up closer – move up quicker – you should be on the horse within 5 minutes in the second session IF you did the first session thoroughly. And yes the horse should stand still the whole time. That second session is just a “drive the point home” session along with applying wisdom in assessing that the pupil retained what it learned the previous session. If somebody else has done the prep work then not actually mounted the horse I test the thoroughness of their prep work via doing this whole session starting closer (sometimes starting with belly against horse face or barrel) and doing the whole thing MUCH quicker – as a safety assessment practice. If the horse passes muster then I proceed from where they left off. — It is not a bad idea to “drive the point home” two or three sessions after your initial mounting session – whether those sessions are on consecutive days or weeks, or months apart.

I also suggest doing the first several days to two weeks worth of training bareback with a long cotton lead fashioned into a closed loop rein on its halter (yes just halter – no bridle – no bit in its mouth). This will encourage you to work slow and easy rather than rush your horse pupil. Remember that it has to get used to lugging you around – so work it at a “walk and trot only” for a spell while you teach it to turn, stop, back, etc.. All that kindergarten stuff can be done bareback. And introducing the saddle is another topic – for another time.

Training horses always involves some risk of injury (or even death) to the horse, the trainer, any spectators, equipment used, etc. – this risk is totally your own as you will be making your own judgements on what to do. As with any suggestions on any subject you must weigh them out for yourself and proceed accordingly – at your own risk.

Certified Farrier since 1984 – Barefoot Horse Specialist since 1999
Jack Griffes
Lenawee County, Michigan

The Social Structure of the Horse


Over the years I have heard people say that the “Equine Social Structure” places certain horses above others through the use of force. In other words the strongest ones is the one that is in charge. I too was taught to relate to the horse herd structure in that manner, but as my knowledge of as to how the herd was structured, who the real leaders were, how the horse communicated and what was the actual method of communication has developed a different picture of the horse and the relationship created within the herd. As I progressed and studied the horse and its relationship within the herd I discovered that actions of individual horses and the results of those actions had a definite result on the entire herd. The biggest step forward came when I discovered that it was not always the lead horse at the front of the herd. Next I realized that the position that the horse in charge had, did not come from fear or dominance of the other members of the herd, but from respect.

The respect that the lead horse was given came from the confidence that was placed on that particular member of the herd through various tests that had been placed on them. These tests came from other members of the herd and from situations and forces outside of the herd. Respect was granted when the member of the herd, that was being tested, reacted to the situations in a manner that was beneficial to the entire herd. This showed me that there was no fear or dominance factor, but a respect that was earned and cherished, then and only then was the position earned by that herd member and was retained until it was no longer possible for that herd member to accomplish tasks that would relate to and be required of the position that had been granted.

The entire process of positioning within the herd was done in a fashion that showed consistency that did not deviate and it was accomplished in a manner that did not allow for the cutting of corners. There was a traditional structured method for a member of the herd to obtain a specific position within the herd and all of the steps had to be accomplished in their specific order. If the order of accomplishment of the tasks were not consistent or accomplished in the required sequence, the position would not be granted. The position would only be granted when the requirements were met in their proper sequence and the required pattern followed, without deviation, as set down in the social structure of the herd.

I realized that this was the pattern that had to be followed in order to be able to work with the horse and obtain the greatest results. Horses are no different today than they were many decades ago. They need that same structure and guidance within their lives, they long for the structured lifestyle that the herd places upon them; in fact they require it. Most horses are followers, not leaders. It is very rare that you will find a horse that is a leader because in the real world of the horse there are many more followers than there are leaders. Horses do not think like or respond as horses unless they have this required structure within their lives. Our task is to learn how to place that structure within their lives and earn the respect that can be granted to us. Once that we have earned the respect that allows us to be the chosen one, the trusted one, within the mind of the horse, we have begun to reach a point on the road of communication that will lead to a life-long friendship.

Creating a Social Structure That the Horse Will Understand

In order to create a social structure that the horse will accept and understand you will need to have an understanding of what the “Equine Social Structure” is, how it works and why it has to operate in the method that it does.

In the last section we covered the basics of how a position is to be obtained, but what we need to do is go into greater detail as to how all of it ties together. I have found that it is not always the strongest horse that is the leader, just as in people there are leaders that are not always the strongest. The strongest one may be out in front protecting the herd from danger, for that is the position that they have earned, but it does not make them the leader, it makes them the strongest one.

The earning of the trust that is necessary from the beginning is initially accomplished through a state of mind. You need to be able to remove and block out all negative thoughts that might be within or entering your mind. These are thoughts of problems like; money, home, family, work, etc, we could go on for hours. The horse does not have these type of problems because they do not live in the much more complicated world that we do. They have no interest in these types of problems and do not want to hear of them in any way, shape or form. The best thing to do is leave them in the house or in the car when you arrive at the barn. The horse can be your best friend and your sounding board, they will never talk back, have no opinion (so you are always right) and will never tell you of any of the problems that they are having with the other horses. So, it is best to return the favor and keep your problems to yourself.

Once that you learn to block out all of the interference that can come between you and the horse you are ready to go onto the next step.

Learning about social structure of the horse.

The social structure of the horse is a method of self-preservation and caring for one another that has been the same since time began. The basic structure will explain that each member of the herd is equal, that no one horse is more important than the other and that any action of any single member of the herd affects the entire herd. This can be best explained when a mare is ready to foal and the other members gather around her to allow for the birth to happen and at the same time protect her when she is most venerable. This allows for the actions of the entire herd to protect the individual member and it continues on when the foal is born and has a problem that will endanger the outcome of the entire herd. The mother of that foal has to make the decision that is best for the protection of the entire herd. It is a two-way street, all protect one and one protect all, this is the basis of the social structure that you need to become part of. This is a structured environment that we were part of centuries ago it was through our development and advancement that we lost a lot of that ability, but it still exists within all of us, if we are willing to face it. Facing and accepting it will place us in a much better frame of mind to be able to communicate on the same level that the horse communicates on. The same preservation of group and sacrifice of one for the other is your first step in earning the trust and respect that will place you in the right position with your horse. Initially you must realize that you have to give 110% in effort and sometimes even more to get only 75% or less in return. The horse, to see if you are worthy of being allowed into their herd structure is giving you the first and preliminary test, fail this one and you get no more. This step can take time and in many cases I have seen many people give up due to that one point. Doing anything with a horse takes time; it is accomplished in “horse” time and not yours. They do not have a schedule to keep or people to see or even get the kids to school; all they have to do is live. This initial step has to be accomplished the same way, in the same sequence and without deviation each and every time that you do it.

It could be a simple action of grooming or saddling your horse but it has to be the same every time. Each step has to be noted and remembered and placed in that exact sequence. If you are cleaning the feet always start with the same one, then go the second, the third and finally the fourth foot always following the same pattern. Touching actions with the horse are one of the most important actions since it is their main sensory communication method. Any time that you can integrate touching actions with the horse you are allowing them go get to know you on a level that they fully understand and can relate to much faster. Touching allows the horse to start the communication process through analyzing your reaction to the process.

All of this is preparing you for the step that you have to take; which is proving to the horse that you are putting them ahead of yourself and that you value yourself no more than you value them. What they want is an equal playing field and to know that in a pinch you can be counted on, getting to that point of acceptance can take a great amount of time due to the fact that the horse may have tried to trust another human, placed their respect in them only to be disappointed. The time that it takes to get past this first step will vary with each and every horse, some will be fast and some will be slow, it all depends on their life experiences and you.

Let’s say that you have gotten to the point of being accepted into a position of trust with your horse, you have followed all the steps and passed all of the tests that you have been put through. You now feel that the horse is ready to go to another level of training and that you don’t feel that you are capable of doing it, so you start to look around for a trainer to accomplish this for you. You take your time and talk to everyone that you can and you have now settled upon a particular person to work with your horse. It is at this point that most people make a major mistake in the process of relationships with their horse. The horse, in most cases, has been moved to a new place, the horse is unsure and has to readjust to the new surroundings and most importantly the member of the herd that had been chosen to be their leader is no longer around. In the mind of the horse there is complete chaos, the good of the herd has not been preserved, the action of one herd member has affected the entire herd and the trust that had been instilled in that herd member is now lost. To add to this the horse is defensive since there is a change in environment, a handler that may not be willing to take the time to pass the necessary test to earn that trust and many other important points to the horse going through the mind of the horse. That is not to say that the new handler is mean or abusive, they do not understand the social structure of the herd correctly and do not have the knowledge to allow the horse to settle into the process of change. It could also be something that the horse has seen happen to other horses that they feel is not right. Not being able to analyze the situation all they know is that you put them in this position, they trusted you, what is happening is not right and now you cannot be trusted; it is your fault. You have to remember that you earned the position of trust and protection, the one to turn to in time of need and uncertainty, but you are not there when needed.

I have found that the use of an example here has been quite effective and it involves our youngest son when he was about three years old. We had decided that he needed to be with children his own age to help with his social skills and development so we enrolled him in a day care facility. We did all that was right, we checked around, we visited the various places and decided upon one that seemed to be best for our son. From the beginning we had trouble with our son wanting to return to that pre-school after the first couple of days. We talked to the management staff and explained what was happening and we were told that he just needed to give him time to adjust. Well, we found out by sitting down and making ourselves understand our son, in his limited ability to communicate, that he was seeing things that he knew were not right. This affected him to the point that he knew it was wrong and did not want any part of the situation that we had put him in. In addition, we lost his trust and confidence for a period of time until we could prove that we would not put him in a similar position. The loss of the trust and confidence made it much harder for us to earn them a second time.

The initial tests that you will be put through, by the horse, and how you react to them is what will form the foundation of your relationship. This foundation is what supports the additional layers that become the relationship, how long you take in building this foundation, as well as the care that you take, will predetermine how strong that relationship will be.

Once that your initial foundation has been put down it is time to start to progress up the steps and this is accomplished by knowing how the horse’s social structure works. Their social structure works in a way that allows for members to better themselves and progress to a higher position within the herd. That is to say that positions do sometimes change, not always for the good of the individual or even the herd. When a change happens that affects the good of the herd there is always a challenge made to return things to where they should be. Remember that horses are like humans in many respects and do have the ability to dominate and move forward. Care must be taken to choose a horse that has a personality that does mesh with our own. The last thing that a person needs is a horse that is more in control than they are. If this is the situation, then the horse will be the one to control the outcome. What has to be is that you have to be the more in control from the start of the relationship and make sure that you are the one controlling the outcome.

Although this all sounds well and good, there are many people who already have horses, have bonded with them and want nothing more than to have a better relationship then they presently have. There are ways of making that happen, what has to happen is that the owner has to make the first moves and the first changes. Here again we must mention that you have already created a situation that may allow for the horse to be in control of the situation. The horse has accepted things the way they are and are not the one that feels that there is a need to change, you do. Since it is your feeling that things need to change you have to initial change, allowing yourself to start back at the beginning and be prepared to take the first tests that can lead to a position of trust.

Most people and I am sure that you are one of them, have realized that it has been choices that have put you where you are today. And, I am sure that you have also realized that it has been positive, rather than negative choices that have given you a greater feeling of accomplishment in you life. So what you need to accomplish is to take control from and retain the leadership position in the relationship with your horse. But, first we need to understand why the social structure of the horse has to operate in a specific manner.

The social structure of the horse is a specific program that has its guidelines and rigid rules that have to be followed to the letter of the law due to the fact that it has not changed in many generations, it works and it does not need to be fixed. The most important point that has to be realized here is that we are entering into their world and their social structure, they have not chosen to enter into ours. Acquiring a horse in your life is a lifestyle change that will affect your daily life. There is a commitment to the animal that is totally dependent upon the human animal for existence, we must feed it, house it, clean up after it and we are responsible for it health and welfare. In return we expect certain things from the horse in return but our problem is that we do not know how to relay these responsibilities to the horse. In order that the horse be able to return the favor for their well-being there has to be a meeting of the minds. I mean this in the literal form, due to the horse’s ability to use speech is very limited and their ability to understand the language is even less. This is where the understanding and adapting to their social structure is so important. A horse has to be able to trust the person that it has daily contact with, if not there is total mistrust and a defensive wall is built around the horse against that particular person. As I have said before the horse needs for you to make the first move to initiate the relationship. They are a shy and timid animal that in most cases tries to keep to themselves and their accepted herd members. It is also a known fact that horses do not take to change very readily and when change is placed in their life if will take a year or more for that horse to be comfortable with the change that was made. The horse is not only shy and timid; it is also a prey animal. With the mind of a prey animal they feel that each and everything that they see is out to get them, especially any predator animal that comes in close contact with them. Horses need to be reassured on a daily basis that they have made the right decision to start to trust you and continue to build a relationship. If at any time that a horse has been injured or suffered in any way during this the relationship building process through the fault of the horse handler, it will be a much greater task to expand and fortify the relationship once that pain is suffered. Now, if the horse injuries itself by doing the exact opposite of what the horse handler has asked them to do, then what is referred to as a “break through” is then accomplished. The horse will realize that it was due to their own fault that the injury or pain occurred and that the handler was asking them to do what was right. This is a major trust building step made since the horse will start to realize that you will not ask them to do anything that will injure them, you are looking out for their welfare. What has been accomplished is to show that you have placed the welfare of the horse ahead of any other thing that you are attempting to accomplish and the horse will understand that action.

Remembering that you are the person of trust that the horse will turn to for guidance and understanding. Specifically in times of need and fear, one that will project the confidence that will allow them to become calm from your actions and show them that there is nothing to fear, after all you are here. You, through the use of trust and confidence, are guiding the horse through each and every step of the way. This is your project and your commitment, guided by the trust in both yourself and in the horse. Remember that the trust in the horse will allow the horse to place their trust in you and then build a solid relationship through communication skills that you have allowed the horse to teach you. The point of communication is a topic that many people have touched upon, some have been able to explain it but more often it has been a topic of great misunderstanding. The best way that I have to explain it to you is that if you had to move to a different country and had no choice in the matter, say you had to move to a country where you did not understand the language, but also did not have any ability to understand the customs of the country and/or civilization as well. Unless someone who was in that country and also grew up there took an interest in you and decided that it was their mission in life to help you understand what had happened to you and why you got here. That is what we expect of the horse when it enters into our life, we never consider becoming part of their social structure or learning how they communicate. We expect them to become part of our world, but they cannot, they do not have the ability to make that change on their own, we have to come into their world so that they can become part of our world. This is the basic change that has to happen within the mind of the rider and/or handler of the horse, this is continuing to become a horseman.

As I discussed previously about the projection of both confidence and trust we need to go back to a specific point to fully explain what is meant. To do this we must return to the fact that we are constantly confronting the horse’s lack of ability to reason, and through the use of trust and friendship, the horse looks to you for the answer to their problem. The projection of trust is nothing more than showing the horse that there is not a need to fear the unknown; you are there to help them overcome that fear. For it is through the solid feel of confidence that the horse will relinquish its feeling of fear and replace it with the trust and knowing that you are doing what is right for them. This will continue to happen until finally it does become habit within the horse. The trust that is built upon will then continue to grow until the ability of the rider or handler allows them to start thinking as the horse does. Remembering that the rider or handler has the ability to develop the thought pattern of the horse: through their ability to come down to the mental ability of the horse while at the same time realizing that the athletic ability of the horse is much greater than that of the rider or handler. There is an old saying that you will never out muscle a horse and you will never move faster than the horse but you can out maneuver the horse with the use of your brain.

Getting to this point in your development will allow the horse to be able to place much more trust in you and start to be much more relaxed and be reassured that their life is not in danger. When the horse gets to this point in the your relationship they can then release some of the fear and replace it with the beginnings of trust. Once that the trust has been allowed into the relationship it become even much more crucial for you to be aware of anything that could break down the trust and send the horse back to fear and mistrust. Here again we are referring to anything that could cause pain or injury since that is the one true method for not trusting a predator. It does not have to be pain or injury that allows the blood to flow, it could be the misuse of a whip, line, bit, saddle or any other item that you have introduced into their life.

Until next time “Ride for the Brand”.

My work with horses and owners is dedicated to the thousands of horses that I have had the distinct pleasure to meet, learn from and allowed into their lives. That acceptance has given me the insight that is necessary for the understanding of their world and how I had to alter my thoughts and actions to become the same as theirs. These horses started out as my clients, became my friends, then my teachers and finally my mentors. For that I am forever grateful. Learn more about Bob and subscribe to his blog at http://www.BobBurdekin.com

Buying Your First Horse? Here’s A List of Factors To Consider


A lot of people who are planning to buy a horse don’t do enough research. If you own a horse already this may sound a little bit crazy, but way too many people who take horse riding lessons fail to realize that horse ownership isn’t just all fun and games and when they buy their first horse they realize that horse ownership means a lot of work.

Quite a lot of horse owners are miserable, but on the flip side a lot of horse owners are happy and they love horse riding. The fact is that as long as you are clear about what you are getting into then horse ownership will be a pure joy.

The first and probably the single most important thing that you need to become very clear about is to ask yourself why do you want to own a horse in the first place? Are you planning to compete or do you simply want to own a horse for recreational reasons? You see, once you will become very clear about your needs then it will be much easier for you to find the breed that is right for you. For example if you know that you will only ride two or three times per week and you don’t plan to compete then it is perfectly fine for you to look at much older horses which will potentially be much cheaper.

Obviously all horse breeds are fantastic and each one of them has their own advantages and disadvantages. Once you will be clear about your needs it will be easy for you to find the right breed for you. Some horses are have better endurance, others have great strength. Each horse breed is unique in it’s own way.

In addition to this you also need to be very clear about other costs that are going to be involved in horse ownership. You need to think through about things such as where you are going to board the horse? Are you going to board it in your own private stables or are you going to board your horse in a place where other people will look after it? In addition to this you also need to think about other things such as vet bills and supplements. If you want to make sure that your horse is healthy and strong then you are going to have to spend quite a bit of money on high quality feed and veterinarian services that will ensure that your horse is healthy and strong.

If you want to learn more about horse ownership. More specifically if you would like to learn more about things such as natural horse supplements then check out this great site: http://www.bluechipfeed.com

Preparing for Your First Horse Show

Competing in horse shows is a really great way to gauge your skill level and reap rewards for hard work. It can be a really enjoyable event, as well as a great learning experience. Horseshows show you how far you’ve come as well as what areas need to be worked on and improved. At the same time, it can also be a bit nerve wracking, especially if you’re not completely prepared. If you are competing in your first horseshow, you’ll want to make sure you have everything in order. Here is a quick guide to help you start thinking about your first show.

Day or Weekend
What type of horse show are you going to be competing in? If it’s a small, unrated day show, you’ll need to make sure you have a trailer you can take your horse to the show in, and keep tied to while you are not competing. Weekend shows require that you purchase a stall to board your horse in overnight. In addition to purchasing your horse’s stall, you’ll need a stall for a tack room as well as enough bedding to keep the horse comfortable over the weekend.

Grooming Equipment
When you go to a horse show, you’ll need every piece of grooming equipment you own, plus some special show gear. You will want to look your best, which means you’ll need every tool you have to achieve this. For example, you’ll need all your brushes as well as good shampoo and conditioner, show sheen, baby oil (for ears, eyes and muzzle) and hoof paint.

For small day shows, your regular tack should suffice for the show ring. However, for bigger, rated weekend shows, you may need to get special show tack. The tack should be all leather, well oiled and impeccably clean. Remember that the judges look at the entire image, and that includes the tack your horse is wearing. You may also want a few different bits to try out to make sure you have the right one for how your horse performs at the show.

The type of horse show you compete in will determine what your apparel will look like. If you are competing in a hunter/jumper competition, you will need breeches, tall boots, a certified helmet, show shirt and show jacket. For rated competitions, you will want to wear a pair of Tailored Sportsman breeches. They can be a bit expensive, but they are the standard for all big horse shows. As for your show shirts, make sure you have at least one white shirt.

Jeff Matura has been fishing the Midwest including lakes, pond, interior rivers, and the Mississippi River including on the ice for walleye, panfish, sauger, and northern pike for over twenty years.

Visit his latest websites for the best selection and deals on underwater fishing cameras along with vhf marine radios.

Horseback Rider’s Winter Training Tips: Improving Out of the Saddle

Too many horseback riders hang up their boots once the snow flies, resigned to hibernating until spring. Indoor riding arenas are expensive to board at or lease, and even more expensive to build! What’s the committed equestrian to do? The focused horse rider can continue to progress, even if she or he does not have access to a safe winter riding area, or even own a horse! Here are 5 proven, out-of-the-saddle tips that will launch you back into the saddle come spring.

  1. Out of the saddle, into the gym! Physical fitness and flexibility are essential for equestrian success, but many riders fall short of the mark. Jump-start your springtime season by committing to personal fitness goals this winter. Check out several local gyms and join the one where you feel most at home. Try some yoga or Pilates classes for flexibility, balance and control. Treat yourself to a personal trainer to learn the most effective way to use to machines. Pump up your cardio – especially if you enjoy high-intensity equestrian events like polo, three-day eventing, or reining. The dynamic social setting is a refreshing antidote to winter doldrums. The commitment of joining may actually get you working out, especially if you have a gym buddy!
  2. Home is where the horseman’s heart-and health- is! Maybe the thought of working out in public gives you hives, or perhaps the only gym near you is a candidate for the Health Department’s Most Wanted list. Commit to working out at home. Buy, beg or borrow workout videos. Explore something totally new to you (but balance, fitness or flexibility related) such as salsa dancing. Check out your library, Goodwill, eBay, or your best friend’s bookshelf for inexpensive or free DVDs. Hint- if you follow the stay-at-home route, set a schedule and buddy-up with an accountability partner so you’re less likely to sack out on the sofa when you should be tearing up the rug!
  3. Break out the books! Regardless of where your passion lies, someone (likely many someones) have written about it. Take these quiet months to increase your knowledge of horse psychology and behavior, effective training techniques, or even explore different disciplines. The more you read, the more tools you’ll find in your horse training toolbox come springtime.
  4. Audit a clinic. Many horse farms with indoor arenas host clinics with top trainers and riders throughout the winter. For a small fee or even free, you can audit. Remember to bring a chair, notebook and pencil, and more warm clothes than you think you need- indoor riding arenas are the coldest places on earth when you’re not in the saddle!
  5. Explore an expo. Horse expos and equine extravaganzas are becoming more and more prevalent. Take advantage of great instruction, varied demonstrations- and great shopping- at one location. Challenge yourself to learn about a breed or sport you’re not familiar, pick an expert’s brain about a particular problem or veterinary issue, or learn from one of your own equestrian heroes.

Bonus Tip- Give back. You reap what sow, so sow generously! Volunteer for a therapeutic horseback riding program. Teach an unmounted session to the local pony club, 4-H, or the folks at your barn. If you’re not confident in your own skills, volunteer to host someone who is. If even that sounds too imposing, invite your barn buddies over for pizza and a good horse training DVD. Come spring, you’ll all be better horsemen!

Kirsten Lee produces extraordinary results for horses and riders!

Join Kirsten “ringside” as she helps horses and riders achieve their dreams on her real-world training blog, http://www.natural-horse-training-methods.com/ Visit her boarding farm at http://www.wvhorsetrainer.com/

Kirsten’s versatility comes through her holistic approach blending Natural Horsemanship, Classical training principles, and human/ equine psychology and biomechanics. With this powerful and harmonious fusion, Kirsten is able to pinpoint and solve training challenges, tailoring the solution to the individual horse and rider regardless of their experience, discipline or learning style.

A Million Dollar Horse…

Meyerhoff also demonstrates the importance of practicing without stirrups (a bit of an understatement). He has commented on this ride (see text comments) saying

“This was his first Intermediate horse trial. He was more than ready. And I was quite confident he could do it. What I think happened was the horses cantered up the hill then when it was time to take off they then saw what was on the other side which caused a green horse to hesitate and loose their focus. Smooth Rider aka Odin saved us both. The rider in front of us fell and others before had problems. The fence was then removed. He got lots of cookies and kisses when we got home.”