Sunday, July 12, 2009

Picking up Feet

For many, teaching a horse to pick up his feet can be a nerve wracking experience. You have to get close enough to touch their feet and struggle to get them to pick them up, but at the same time, you are concerned about them kicking you. You are nervous, which in turn makes them nervous, which in turn makes them even more likely to kick out.

Being the craven coward that I am, I use a cane with a hook at the end to start this process. It keeps me out of reach of the kicking horse, if he should kick, it keeps me calm, and if the horse should kick at the cane, I wont care. It is a win win situation for all and can be accomplished in a few minutes a day. Generally, I would expect a horse to become very calm and easy going about getting his feet picked up in about 4 or 5 days, if you apply this exercise every day for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Nipping, the cure, Backing

I have received a couple of questions about horses that nip and bite. This is an annoying problem, but it is easy to fix. And the great news is that the fix is also a useful skill that can be used to fix other problems as well. Horses that nip and bite are trying to assert themselves. When they nip and bite each other, they are trying to drive each other away. It is a dominance game and the one who moves his feet back first, is the loser.

So to win this game, establish authority, and also acquire a useful skill for other purposes, fixing the biter is simply a matter of backing the horse up. In this video below, you will see me teaching a horse to back up. He already knows the skill pretty well and so does not need a lot of reinforcement. However, the principles are the same for a horse that has never learned it, and can be applied universally.

The cue to back up in this case is a simple lifting, and shaking of the lead rope. The motivation to back up is more vigorous shaking or tapping the lead rope with a dressage whip. The following are key elements to remember:

1. Leave a lot of slack in the rope so that you can shake it.
2. Raise the rope BEFORE shaking. Shake the rope BEFORE tapping with the whip.
3. If the Horse so much as moves a single foot back, Stop all movement and drop your hand. If you want three steps ask three times.
4. Do not allow your horse to come back to you without an invitation. Make him stand apart from you until you are ready to invite him back.
5. If he is not learning this skill within about 5 minutes, then something is not right and you should contact me for troubleshooting.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Head Shy

This video was made by special request for someone who specifically asked about a Head Shyness problem. The key features of this technique to remember are:

1. Do not hold the horse on a tight lead. Give him some slack to move his head
2. Take an object like the handle of a whip and start low on his neck
3. Do not remove the object until the horse is not flinching and calm
4. If the horse is NOT flinching, and CALM, then immediately REMOVE the object
5. Do this twice a day for about a week. DO NOT expect this to work overnight, and do not wait until you have to clip him or do whatever it is that made you notice he was head shy
6. Although it will not work overnight, the horse should show improvement in about 5 minutes. If not, then email me and we can troubleshoot your technique
7. If the horse starts rearing, striking, biting, or kicking, then stop and email me. Safety is paramount. DO NOT try to prove your persistence in this matter. Violence from the horse may indicate a different problem and that needs to be addressed separately.

Video of Rashid getting over Head Shyness

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jake's First Real Ride

No Fuss, no Dust, no Bucking, no Rearing. BORING ! ! Just the way it ought to be. Worked on Jake some more with bomb proofing. Used plastic bags, ropes, strings, belts, surcingles, all sorts of things. When he was relatively calm, started working on preparing for the mount. Started with hopping up and lying across his back from both sides, then finally moving him to the fence and mounting him. This was done in stages over the course of about an hour and a half. By the time was I as astride, Jake had learned the following:

1. I was not going to hurt him.

2. Steering with the reins.

3. Stopping.

We do not get on the horse until all that is very clear. Now, the one thing that is difficult in this first ride is that Jake does not really understand his forward cues very well. So the rider is using the rein to lead him as she slowly starts acquainting him with the leg.

This is Jakes third ride. I rode him the first couple of times to make sure that he was going to be safe enough for my intern, then she got on him and rode him around. The first two rides were about 5 minutes long each and were as uneventful as this one. Jake was a trooper and we are very proud of him.