Below are the Tips from the past few weeks. Have an idea for a tip or just need advice? Send us your suggestions via email from the link on the "Contact Us" page. I may post your question, and the answer, on this site to help others but will not use your name.
Coming soon - video tips of the week...stay tuned!
Tip of the Week
Slow ride...take it easy!
Most recreational horse owners don't ride their horses year round like we do, so this time of year especially, be cautious. Your horse is coming off of a long winter rest. More than likely, they are out of shape both physically and mentally and pushing them too hard too fast can be a recipe for bad things! Don't make the mistake of assuming that you can just hop on and pick right up where you left off last year.
Be safe, be cautious and assume that your horse forgot everything he has ever known until he demonstrates otherwise. Start by thoroughly grooming him. Make sure you can still put your hands everywhere you could last year. Ensure that there are not any sore spots or winter war wounds from his pasture mates. Hook up your halter and lead and do some basic ground work exercises to make sure he still understands left, right, go, stop, back-up etc. Feed out some more rope and push him to a trot, then to a lope. Most horses will have a "spring buck" in them that is best to get out of the way while you are not in the saddle. When all looks "normal", throw on the saddle. Make sure your tack is in good condition and that it still fits properly. Adjust the girth to accommodate his winter hay belly if necessary :)
Your first ride of the year should be slow; take it easy. Don't ask for too much. Your horse needs to be re-conditioned and allowed to get back into shape. Pushing them too hard for too long early in the season can lead to sore muscles and potentially a lame horse for part of the riding season. Build it up gradually and you both will be much happier.
Take it off!
Many horse owners, maybe even you, leave a halter on their horse at all times for one reason or another. Many people do it because...well, they just do. Most people leave it on because their horse is hard to catch. If your horse is easy to catch, then take off the halter and leave it off until it is needed. If your horse is hard to catch, then, well call a trainer (I know a good one). Just kidding! I will offer a tip on hard to catch horses in the near future, so check back often.
Why is a halter bad; well there are several reasons. One, most people use the wide web style halters which break easy, rub the hair off of your horse / irritate their skin, and get hung up on stuff around the barn and pasture which can cause a major accident. Also, continuous use of a halter will cause the horse to lose sensitivity to the area the halter contacts making training and communication with the horse just a little harder. Finally, the halter will begin to leave a permanant dent in the horses nasal area. We have all seen the dent on one horse or another from wearing a halter that is too tight or wearing one for too long. Not only does this look bad, it also restricts their ability to breath. Horses only breath through their nose - they cannot breath throughtheir mouth like you and I. Restricting their airway in any manner no matter how small is just not a good idea.
If you still insist on having a halter on your horse, at least use an inexpensive rope halter (break-away). We offer these for sale here on our site and they are great. They are strong enough to tie a horse, weak enough to break away if they get stuck on something, and super lightweight to not irritate hair, or restrict breathing.
Back to the basics!
By far the majority of the horses I deal with on a daily basis are “in charge” of their owner. The horses generally are spoiled, over-fed, over weight, under worked, disrespectful, stubborn animals; and their owners (my customers) don’t understand why their horse does what it does. Other than a few horses, and I mean a few, the problem stems from a lack of ground work, or in some cases, the lack of proper ground work. I’m not complaining, this is how I make a living!
Horses are herd animals, and in every heard, there is a leader and the other members of the herd fall somewhere between second in command and the very bottom of the pecking order. Like it or not, you are part of the herd. To have a great relationship with your horse, you must be “the boss” – anything less is guaranteeing problems, some minor or even potentially deadly. No, this does not mean go hit your horse and teach them a lesson, but you might have to give ‘em a smack to get their attention in the early stages of regaining control. Just watch how horses interact with each other in the pasture – the boss is not running around kicking and biting the other horses – they use body language to send warnings or signals to the others. If their body language does not get the message across, then they do whatever necessary to get their point across. A swishing tail usually means you are getting too close. Pinned back ears means back off / stay away. Pinned back ears and their neck stretched out with their head low means “here I come, and I’m serious”! You must take control so that your horses respect your body language and authority in the same manner, and if not, just like a horse - do what you have to so that they get your message. Remember to be as easy as possible, but as firm as necessary!
So how do you take control, assert you leadership and claim your rightful rank as “boss”? Simple – whoever moves first loses. Make your horse move their feet. Have a round pen? If yes, they are helpful - but not necessary. You can use a lead-rope and make them move their hip, back up, go forward, pivot, stop, go, go fast, change directions, turn left, turn right – get the idea? But you have to make them do it and don’t take no for an answer – yes you may have to swat them to get their attention.
How do you know when they have accepted you as their leader? Here is a test. When you are around your horse, and via your body language, positioning and posture, they know you are working rather than tacking or grooming – you should be able to walk through them as if they were not there. When you have it right, they will move to get out of your way.
Get back to the basics! Problems are fixed on the ground – not in the saddle. There are no shortcuts, so do it right.
You’ve created a monster!
While at the county fair for the past week, I observed so many contesting horses that were so worked up, the kids could barely get them through the gate into the arena. They would rely on mom or dad or other kids to help force their horse into the arena so they could run their event. Time after time I heard comments like “I don’t understand what has gotten into the horse”. So what has gotten into the horse? Easy – too much repetition. If each time you get on your horse, go through the gate and start kicking and whipping the horse to run as fast as they can – you are creating a monster! Horses are smart, they learn quickly through repetition the same way we learned our “ABC’s” as kids. If you repeat the same thing over and over, that is what they come to expect and learn. So how do you fix it? Simple. For every time you run the pattern, you should walk it or trot it at least five times. Walk it the wrong way, walk it the right way, walk around it, lead them through it, back them through it – keep the horse guessing and by doing so they will wait for your cues. The horse needs to see the arena as just another part of the world that they live in. Sometimes we walk, sometimes we run, sometimes we stop, sometimes we go, sometimes we back up but we always wait for the cue from the rider!
Don’t rush it!
So you just bought your new horse and brought it home…so what do you do now? First, if there are other horses, keep them apart for a few days until the new horse has a chance to get acquainted with the new sights, sounds and smells. Let them take time to learn the fence line and where the water is located. Most all horses will be nervous with their new surroundings and will act completely different than they did at their previous home – this is normal, so don’t rush your first ride you may be asking for trouble! Spend time grooming and talking to your new horse, even work them a little on the lead line so they know you are in charge. Tie them where they will be tied during tacking for an hour or so a few days in a row to teach them this is where we hold still and be patient. After all of the horses seem like they no longer care about one another, it is probably safe to introduce them to each other. Let them out in your largest safest area and let nature take its course. There will more than likely be some snorting, kicking and biting – but there is not much you can do about it. Take the family out to dinner and when you come back, the new pecking order will be established. Let a day or so go by without any drama, then go ahead and saddle up and enjoy your new horse.
Buying your next horse
I often hear people discussing their ideal “next” horse and what is most important to them. Words like color, breed or breeding, size, conformation, eye color etc dominate most descriptions of what people are looking for in a new horse. The fact is most of us use our horses for recreational purposes and are not spending more than a couple thousand dollars on them nor competing at the professional level. To me, the number one priority is “safe”. I have been around some crazy horses in my years as a trainer and in most cases with enough time and money; you can end up with a quiet, safe and reliable mount. But why put yourself or a family member on something crazy just because it is pretty and the right size and color? There is no bad color for a good horse! Next on the list of importance is soundness – you aren’t going to spend much time riding a lame horse right? Have a Vet check done prior to your purchase, make sure you are not buying a hay burner, money pit or pasture ornament. Third on my list is “what are you going to do with them”? You don’t want to buy a “hot / nervous” Barrel Racing horse to use as a trail horse or a draft horse to race in the Kentucky Derby. Make sure that the horse is suited for the intended use. Last but not least on the list of importance - way down at the bottom, are size, breed and color. Also, watch out for some commonly used misleading words from the people selling the horse. Below are some of those commonly used words and the REAL translation.
Dead Broke / Bomb Proof = old lazy horse (this is good for beginners)
Easy Keeper = Fat, gains weight easily
Prospect = a sales pitch to make you think maybe the horse can learn a particular discipline
Green Broke = had a saddle on once, but owner didn’t have the courage to get on to see what would happen next
Train your way = we were going to do something with the horse, but never did
Sometimes bucks = BUCKS!
A little nervous = tick-tock, tick-tock... BOOM!
Needs experienced rider = maybe all of the above!
I always advise clients to ride a horse a couple of times on different days before you commit to buying it. Make an unexpected visit and request to ride the horse; if that is a problem with the seller, then maybe they are hiding something. Finally, take someone with you that will help you make a good, intelligent decision, like your trainer or a friend with horse experience. Ideally, someone that will tell you the truth, and not just what you want to hear.
Just sit down!
Craig Cameron popularized the saying "if you've got feet, then you don't have seat", but what does that mean? One of the most important parts to becoming a good rider is having a good seat. A good seat means that you are able to stay properly centered and balanced on your horse while riding. The stirrups are used strictly for mounting your horse and for balance when necessary; as a general rule, you should not have much, if any weight, on your feet while riding. So, "if you've got feet, then you don't have seat" means that if you have weight in your stirrups from your feet, you are taking weight out of your seat which can quickly get you out of sync with your horse and make for a very bumpy ride. If you find yourself bouncing along, just lift your feet up to get the weight where you need it, in your seat - and enjoy the ride!
Below are tips from more than a month ago. If you would like any (or all) tips sent to you, just send us a message via email telling us which tip(s) you would like sent, and we will gladly send a copy via email.
- Get Out Of My Face!
- Hold on, wait for me!
- Nice to meet you! The "horsey handshake".
- Backing Up. Would you like your horse to back up faster?
Our "hand tied" Training Halters are made of 1/4" Double Braid Poly Rope and are a great training aid. All halters sold here are made by Double B Horsemanship. Each halter is constructed with one continuous piece of rope and feature a Fiadore knot and has no hardware to break.
$15.00 each. Fits average horse. Custom sizes available.
Black w/green & red tracers
Blue w/green & red tracers
Green w/black and red tracers
Red w/black & white tracers
Yellow w/blue & red tracers
Training Stick -- $25.00 each
Our Training Stick is 48" long with a 60" lash and a leather popper on the end.
Each stick includes the rope which can be removed for different training exercises.
The 48" Fiberglass stick is super tough and is slightly tapered for fantastic balance. The golf style grip is easy on your hands. Don't let our price fool you, this is a high quality Training Stick and will last for years under normal conditions. Compare similar sticks being sold all over the internet for twice as much as ours.
We always have a variety of colors available. Orange is shown in the photos, but we typically have white as well - these seem to be the two most popular colors.