I don’t have time to ride…”
Many of us can only dream of spending every day riding our unicorns over the hills and into the sunset, the reality may consist of getting stuck in rush hour traffic on the way home from work, grabbing the kids from school, rummaging through the feed bins at dusk, locating our horses via their reflector rug strips, a quick confirmation that all four legs are attached and rushing home to make dinner and feed the pets.
However, quality over quantity rings true. There are lots of things we can do when spending time with our horses and the good news is that all of it counts!
We can use small amounts of time to create positive experiences that transfer over to our ridden work and also our relationship.
Here are some 10-20 minute ideas on spending quality time with the light of your life, your horse…..
🐴Catching – do you struggle with catching on a regular basis? Does your horse turn away when you put on the halter? Work on simply creating a positive interaction by catching, giving a scratch and releasing or if you have some spare time, give them a groom.
🐴Grooming – horses spend time grooming each other and there are many benefits to a good brush. Grooming allows for a thorough body check and allows you to assess coat and skin condition and identify areas of soreness. Grooming also provides massage to keep muscles soft and supple and provides a chance to provide a positive experience through interaction.
🐴Stretching – learn how to effectively use active and passive stretching techniques to keep your horse feeling his best and get the best out of his work. Carrot stretches are a great incentive!
🐴Postural development – teach postures to promote relaxation and engagement, this work can have an unbelievable impact on ridden training
🐴Teach your horse to walk in a straight line – horses, like people, are naturally asymmetrical and can have conformational or muscular aspects that may attribute to crookedness. Check that your horse can walk towards you, maintaining equal distance in the space between the top of the forelegs as the fetlocks, can you see both sides of the barrel evenly and does the nose come straight towards you?
🐴Teach your horse to shift weight from the forehand to the hinds and maintain spatial boundaries by reversing – make sure your horse keeps his nose directly in front of you, they don’t pivot hips to one side or the other, knees articulate and strides are similar in length. Ask for a small number of strides at a time, at a controlled pace to encourage lifting over the back as opposed to hollowing out.
🐴Yielding - teach your horse to yield to pressure, you can work on yielding from the head and neck, poll, shoulders, hinds or mid-section.
Happy Horsing! 🐴
One objective during the training of horses is to creating an obedient horse who follows direction and is tolerant to many levels of pressure and/or changing environments.
The methods by which we achieve this may affect the longevity or reliability of responses.
By flooding the horse with scarier objects and larger amounts of pressure, we create submission or learned helplessness. This state of mind means the horse checks out to block out the aversive stimulus. They learn that flight or fight is futile, so cease to exhibit a reaction.
This submissive behaviour may last for months or even years and may extend to many different experiences or situations, however, since the horse exhibits limited outward expression, signs or signals during their interactions or work, it is not possible to gauge when or where this tolerance level will be over exerted.
What IS possible is that you may be made very aware of when this threshold has been reached!
Instead of flooding the horse, shutting them down or switching them off from their surroundings and environment, we can teach coping mechanisms and conditioned responses which influence their physiological reactions and in turn, their behaviour and responses to stimuli. By training in this way, we create more versatile responses that extend to a wider scale of pressure levels and a broader set of non-specific stimuli, making a more reliable, safer and happier team-mate.
Pressure comes in many forms, ranging all the way from a clover leaf to a chain saw wielding maniac! Your horse’s temperament, personality and past experiences will determine their tolerance level and there may also be specific triggers.
Some signs your horse may be checked out:
🐴 Immobile ears, often positioned backwards
🐴 Lack of blinking or half blinks
🐴‘Statue’ syndrome, even when the feet are still the horse can show awareness by mobility in the head, neck, ears and facial expressions
🐴 Going to sleep, this is often mistaken as a sign of relaxation but may indicate introverted stress or anxiety
How do we keep our horses checked in?
🐴Teaching coping mechanisms and conditioned responses through redirecting focus, balance, body control and postural training
🐴Teaching our horses to seek direction when unsure
🐴Being tactile and allowing our horses to be tactile
🐴Acknowledging our horse when they are unsure and then providing direction
🐴Allowing expression within safe boundaries
”By teaching our horses to be AWAKE, AWARE and ACKNOWLEDGE, we allow them to RESPOND as opposed to REACT.” - Cadence Horse Training
CADENCE HORSE TRAINING
Striving to maintain an encouraging and inclusive culture among fellow equestrians. We're passionate about all things equine including behaviour, biomechanics, training and horsemanship!