It’s 6 o’clock on Friday and you are headed down to your local boarding facility (where you horse is stalled) for a quick ride. Upon arrival you notice that the facility that was almost a ghost town for most of the week, is now hustling and bustling with riders. You hear: “wrong diagonal”, “more leg”, “heels down” coming from the arena. You are then wondering where you and your horse, “Joe”, are going to ride: In the “heels down auditorium” or out on the driveway?
Boarding and training can be a difficult situation. For many of my clients, one of their biggest excuses (as to why they can’t do certain things with their horses) is because they “board”. It may seem difficult, but compared to actually owning and maintaining a boarding facility or just keeping your horse at your own place, boarding is still the easiest route. A person just needs to put a bit of thought into the situation, (at times a little elbow grease), and a sensible amount of communication skills and realistic goals.
So let’s discuss some simple options that may help you out in your boarding situation:
Option 1 – The first solution is simple, just buy a 2 million dollar ranch out in the middle of the country, and buy a 1 million dollar plane to turn your 2 hr commute into 20 minutes. So for a mere 1.2 million you could be well on your way to fixing your barn crisis (with your $2,000 dollar horse). Or you could look for some other options…
Option 2 – Take advantage of the open arena times. I have traveled all across America and Canada and noticed most barns have one thing in common: there is a lot of open arena at certain times. You might have to go a little later in the day, or maybe a little earlier. The arena does sit empty, you just have to find when.
Option 3 – Maybe you would rather ride with people. But the people at the barn, just aren’t your kind of people. Try a barn “care package” to soften people up. Or just find a barn filled with people like you, and ride there instead. Some areas boast a large number of boarding facilities in a small area so you may just have to shop around. The nicest facility doesn’t always mean the best experience…
Option 4 – Get more creative. Maybe you just need to change things around s little. You just might be surprised with some of the cool things you could do with your horse out behind the barn, on the hillside or near the manure pile. There are usually many natural ditches, banks, and puddles that could keep you and your horse entertained for hours.
Option 5 – Take advantage of “horse vacation spots”. There are many locations like ours, here at Horse Creek Ranch, that would allow you some time to spend with your horse and get away from it all. Not just the hustle and bustle at the barn, but in your daily life as well. A fun and educational horse vacation may just help to get you and your equine friend through the year.
Option 6 - Keep telling your husband that the place in the country would have a “HUGE” garage that would be much better than the one in the city.
Best of luck in all of your boarding adventures. Just remember even with your bad experiences, at least you will end up with some good stories to tell at the end of the day. We hope to see you all out on the road this year, or maybe at your favorite horse vacation spot.
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All too often, a quiet relaxing weekend trail ride can turn into much more than you bargained for. While you have been traveling to and from work, involved in your day to day activities, your horse has been waiting around patiently for a chance to release himself – both mentally and physically. So when you show up for your quiet weekend of trail riding, looking for a break from your week, your horse is often ready to do just the opposite.
If we go into this situation unprepared, we may be setting ourselves up for failure, rather than success. It shouldn’t take you long to establish a feel for what your horse may need before, during, and after a ride. I stress the word “feel”, because what needs to happen is for you to acknowledge the feel, or lack of feel, and to do something about it.
But just what do we do?
First we need to list some of the possible scenarios that we may come across:
Buddy Sour – Wants to be with another horse
Barn Sour – Wants to be back at the barn
Spooking – Needs to be nervous rather than calm
Refusal – Won’t cross an obstacle on the trail
This list may be longer for some, but this should cover the basics. These all seem like different issues, but they could be linked under one category:
The fact that you are with your horse, but your horse doesn’t want to be with you…
Your horse may have been easy to catch, and great to saddle in the cross ties, but that does not mean that you and he are thinking about the same things – working together - instead of you just working to stay on or even just surviving the ride.
The answer often lies simply in the thought. All too often our horses call the shots, and we just follow along. There is often a long drawn out process of talking to the horse – ie “easy, easy, whoa, good boy, good girl, stop that, it’s OK, don’t panic” etc… The words are fine, but what do they really represent or get done? And when is it ever really OK, for your equine partner, to be completely terrified of everything - with you on their back! Is your safety or leadership ability ever a thought during these moments?
So what IS the solution?
The solution lies in the leadership. Rather than going into details for each individual situation, let’s go back in time to one event, in order to create a “picture” for you and hopefully you can pull some ideas from this…
A few months ago I went out and caught up on of my young brood mares. She had been in the brood mare band for about four years and had weaned her last foal just a few months prior. She had grown quite fond of her home environment, and the lack of
human socializing. She certainly wasn’t wild, but you could sure tell that she would rather be back in the pasture once she was caught.
Since she was still young and athletic, I decided it was time to start getting her back in shape. The first day we kept it easy, a little bit of ground work, a light ride, and a short stint at the hitching rail. She was a bit distracted in her groundwork, rode fair, but boy did she go bonkers once she was at the hitching rail.
So right then and there I studied her pattern. With horses it is simple: if it happens once, it WILL happen again. So over the next few days I kept working with her, but kept her sessions short. Everyday she would go into a nervous sweat out on the trail, prancing and pushing back towards home. Once we returned, she would try to paw to China while at the hitching rail. Once she returned to the side of another horse, she was fine. So what was I to do, tell her it was OK and always keep another horse within 20 feet of her, OR, just get her to want to change her thoughts
Yes, number two is correct. I started to work on changing her thoughts. A few days later I felt as if she had regained some of her muscle tone and stamina and decided to put it to use. This time when I went out, I went on a much shorter “trail ride”, about 200 yards, it was enough to bring out the “crazy” thoughts. I immediately caved in and returned to the barn, but this time we loped circles in the arena for 5 minutes. We then returned to our quiet 200 yd trail ride. She once again began to melt down, so we once again returned to the arena for our 5 minutes of loping. After a few trips like this, her brain started to “make a change”, she also stood at the hitching rail much quieter that afternoon. For the rest of the week, we had great trail rides!
So my plan worked. But why? She “told” me what she wanted. So I “caved in” and went where her thoughts were taking her, rather than struggling with her on the trail. But I gave her an option with it – a call to action.
Option 1: If you want to go bonkers, then you get to go home and work – positive discipline.
Option 2: If you want to be patient, then you can go on a trail ride – positive reward.
Steps to Success
The keys here are that it was HER choice. Now you just need to apply these tools to your situation.
Assess the Scenario
Find the Root Issue
Study the Pattern
Create Two Options – one with positive discipline, one with positive reward.
Release for the Right Decision
Best of luck out on the Trails! For more in depth solutions to these issues please refer to my “Horse Psychology DVD” titled – Ultimate Water Crossing.
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What’s Really Best For Our Horses
We all want the best for our horses. We stall them, blanket them, feed them at 6:05 am and 6:05 pm, 365 days a year. We match their blankets to their boots, buy the best feed possible, purchase the best saddle, a $10,000 trailer, and, of course, a $40,000 truck . We provide our horses with the best stall or green grass turnout, but then feel bad if we work them for more than an hour at a time. If horse or rider begins to sweat or panic, we feel like we should take a break. We don’t like to let our herd animals have contact with any other equines (in case they get hurt) and we always have the carrots handy at the end of the day. Basically, some of our horses are 1200lb of bottled up bundles of joy; the problem is they have a prey animal mind.
The above seems pretty normal for most horses in today’s fast-paced society, especially those that live within a few miles of city limits. This brings us back to our topic of equine wellness. Equine wellness comes in many different forms. There are many different supplements, vitamins, pills, medicines, and feeds that can go into the proper care of your equine partner. Therapies, stretches, and adjustments, along with many different exercise programs, training routines, and housing arrangements.
On average I handle 800 horses a year and the majority of problems that I see are from the people that don’t know they are “killing their horses with kindness”. Owners that worry about everything – without the proper research or professional observation – tend to have the most problems: colic, injury, lameness and “sour” horses. * These owners always have the best intentions, but at the end of the day neither they or their horse don’t get what they want or need.
One of the most important tools that you have to achieve the best results for your horse’s wellness, is your horse’s mind. There are many things that go into creating a healthy equine partner, but no matter what you choose, they are best if supplemented with a strong mind.
Over the years I have noticed that some of the hardest horses to handle are the ones that shine like a copper penny but don’t understand their purpose in life. They are simply a big explosion waiting to happen. Some people use the term “over bred, over fed, and under worked”. The over breeding and over feeding might appear to be the issue, but the horse just requires (and craves) more purpose.
Regardless of the look of the horse, the mind is what operates the body. The late Ray Hunt always said: “The mind operates the life in the body, down through the legs, to the feet.” This is something that I always come back to in my teachings. And it is so very true on the topic of equine wellness. The life in the body is the driving force for so many things in the partnership with your horse, and it is the mind which operates this life.
If you raise your horse like a child or a dog – which are both predators (and as a predator yourself, you are completely comfortable with this) – you will miss out on many things that are available for you and your horse. This is not to say that you can’t enjoy a meaningful relationship with your horse. However, just imagine what the outcome would be if you tried to bottle up a child or a dog into a 1,200lb prey animal body. A much better outcome would be to outline what a horse is and then work with your horse within those guidelines.
Now this isn’t to say that you can completely avoid all problems with your horse, just because you have developed a strong mind. However, I have seen a HUGE difference in the number of overall instances of colic, injury, and lameness when the horse has a chance to live as a horse. If they are treated as though they are something other than a large prey animal, they will become stressed and confused. Because of this, will tend to have higher than average incidents of colic, injury, lameness and overall sourness. *
The key is in the purpose.
A purpose driven horse can overcome many other things that may be lacking in their life, so the goal is to take your bundled up prey animal and give them a job. Something with some meaning, something that they would desire to do like opening gates or packing a lunch - even looking for a lost dog . The sky is the limit here - just find something that you can do together, with a beginning and an end. Don’t be afraid to get out there and enjoy your horses. Fire up that $40,000 truck, with the $10,000 trailer, and saddle up your $1,000 horse with your $2,000 saddle – and head out on a short journey. Break up the normal barn routine and go find the joy in your horse. And don’t forget: “It is the mind that operates the life in the body” – and it is you that helps to create the mind.
*For any medical problems you should talk to your vet.
Steve Rother has been one of the most sought after horsemen for gentling wild mustangs in the Northwest. He began his journey with wild mustangs decades ago, in the search to learn the true psychology of horses. Steve was a pioneer of the ’90 days to gentle’ program, long before the Mustang Makeover was created He has gentled many mustangs at public adoptions (under contract with the BLM), riding them in as little as one hour. One of the last Mustangs that Steve put through his program went on to become a National Champion Dressage Horse
This year Steve is coming out of ‘Mustang Retirement’. Rother Horsemanship is accepting 2 horses to be put into training (with Steve) from approx. May 1 until mid Sept. These horses will be going on the road and receiving invaluable training. Steve will use them to help teach at his clinics (in the NW and Canada). In Sept 2013 he will compete on both horses at the Mustang Makeover in Fort Worth, Texas. (After the competition the horse will return to the adoptee.)
Applicants will be responsible for:
adopting a horse at the Burns, OR Adoption on April 29 (the adoptee MUST be present)
arranging transport to Horse Creek Ranch, (near Spokane WA)
paying a monthly fee for training and some traveling expenses
Arranging transport for the horse to Fort Worth Texas for the event.
We are only accepting 2 horses. Interested applicants (Serious inquiries only please) Email: email@example.com.
We can still hear them saying… “Have a great rest this winter” as we were headed home from our last clinic this year. Winter is when things hit an extra gear for Rother Horsemanship. Since we are so busy during the year (either outdoors or driving) we take this time to catch up on the ‘back side’ of the business. We all know that Francesca is so lucky because she ‘just rides all day’ LOL, but with a 14 hour winter work day, we normally only see her attached to a horse for just a couple of those hours. The rest of the time is spent working towards improving things for you. I want to give a special thanks to Francesca for all the HARD work that she puts in on a daily basis to help keep the ball rolling. Looking forward to seeing a day where she actually just ‘rides all day’. Steve
The quest for level 3 continues. This past year we have had a number of people ready to start testing for level 3. We have had some very strong appearances. Rosemary Corn laid out some fantastic liberty, along with Francesca! Yvonne from Canada has been working hard and is submitting her levels testing via video upload on the club. We also have some hopefuls developing in Alaska. Who will be the first to pass level 3? Steve
Winter can be tough. The shorter days and cold weather hold can make riding more challenging. During a trip to one of my mentors recently we re-visted a great training concept. He called it “The Rule of Tens”. When he is preparing his young horses for the demanding shows to come, he sticks to The Rule of Tens. The results are amazing.
The process is simple. He saddles all his horses and then rides each horse for 10 minutes. He continues this for 2 to 3 hrs. After each 10 minute session, the horses go back to rest at the hitching rail for up to 50 minutes, before their next session (of just 10 minutes). If done right, this method can be adapted very well to a single horse (with a shorter time frame). Simply get your horse out as soon as you get to the barn to do your chores. Saddle (you can even do without a saddle if not riding) and do some groundwork. Tie them (in a safe place – could even be the stall) and go do your chores. When you are done with your chores finish with another short session of either groundwork or riding (if you feel your horse is prepared).
Not only will this motivate your horse, it will motivate you. By splitting your training into short increments, you will have more repetitive success. The training that you do today, is actually for tomorrow. In this case, the training that you do in your first 10 minutes is for your second 10 and so on. So get out there and keep making progress this winter, just one small step at a time. - Steve