Thursday, February 24, 2011

Confidence building in the horse...

Last time we discussed the importance of building confidence in the rider.  Today we will look at ways to increase the confidence in your horse.  When your horse gains confidence a willingness to perform increases.  For most working animals including horses and humans there is a desire to please.  We as humans do not like getting punished.  The same applies for horses.  Horses want to get things right.  You hear people comment on their horse's ability to learn or their horse's love for working this is from us noticing an animals eagerness to please.

Start building confidence slowly.  Training a horse is a slow process that takes patience.  You decide what you will be working on during your time with your horse.  Let us use a young colt that has about 30 rides for our example.  We are going to start with working our colt on the ground with a training lead (lead should be longer than 10 feet).  We want to be able to do the same things on the ground with our horse as we want to do on the horse's back.  The colt is saddled and ready to ride even when we will be working on the ground.  We want to be able to move all 4 legs independently of each other.

Start by having your colt step its hind leg through in a tight circle.  Do this on both sides.  It is important to give your colt rewards when even the smallest try is shown.  Resting is the best reward for your colt.  Sometimes the break can be long and other times on a brief count to 10 and back to work.  So now we have the colt stepping through properly and without any refusal.  Next we are going to move the front shoulders.  Have the colt step around with the lead foot moving slightly back and the following foot moving in front of the other.  Once we have the colt moving the front legs we are ready to send him out.

When we work our colt on the ground we want him to work.  A lot of times people will take their colt and send him out on a long line making him trot and canter around with no purpose.  This will eventually wear the colt out.  Giving us the illusion that he is learning something and wants to behave.  Later on you find out that your colt is in great shape and will be able to run circles around you for an hour.  Give the colt work on the line.  Have him start, move to a trot, then back to a walk, and then halt.  Repeat and change directions.  Have the colt take off at a canter in both directions.  Everything that you plan on doing while on his back needs to be done while on the ground.

With the practice on the ground you and your colt will have the confidence that you will be able to do the same things while riding.  Make sure that you have a plan and schedule a time limit.  Young horses do not need long riding sessions.  More important are multiple sessions that are effective.  Have fun and spend some time with your horse.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Confidence for the Rider...

Building confidence as a rider is very important.  Confidence is created when a rider is able to perform on a horse with positive results.  A confident rider is able to train and work with his/her horse more effectively than a rider with little or no confidence.  I will tell some ways to build confidence in yourself and horses.

The first way to build confidence in a rider is to have them perform on a well trained horse (if available).  What this does is creates a mindset that a horse is able to do what is asked with the cues used.  If there is a well trained horse available have the rider practice on that horse.  Act as if the well trained horse is not knowledgeable and is just learning.  Practicing in the same way you will treat your colt this will build confidence in the rider's abilities. 

The second way to build confidence in a rider is to confirm a level of comfort.  Make sure that the rider is comfortable while on the horse.  Check to make sure that the saddle is on the horse correctly and securely.  Once the rider is on make sure the stirrups or irons are at the proper length.  Finally check the rein length is correct.  Having the rider know that everything is comfortable and at the proper length eases his/her mind and lets him/her think about other things.

The third way is to work in an area that is controlled.  A round pen, small arena, or an indoor arena.  This limits the horse's ability to run off.  In a small pen the rider should work the horse on the ground.  This will create a connection between the horse and rider.  Do the same things on the ground as you will be doing while riding.  This will mean using different cues but the horse's actions need to be the same.  The rider on the ground should be able to move the horse in all directions.  This builds confidence in the rider because they see the horse doing the correct tasks.

Finally have someone with you while you are riding and learning new things.  This way you can get feedback on what is going on with the horse and yourself.  If things are not going the way you want then start from the beginning or move back a few steps.  It is not wrong to stop and get off a horse and work them on the ground again if the results are not being seen while on the horse.  Spend some time with horses and have fun.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spring Equipment Check

Some of us do not do much riding during the colder winter months.  Now is the time to take a look at our equipment that has been sitting dormant.  Check out your saddle to make sure the integrity of the leather is sound throughout.  Lift up the flaps and look in the spots you do not normally see.  It is a good practice to bring your saddle into a warm basement, garage, or room that will allow the saddle warm up.  Once the saddle is warm take the time to wipe it down with a leather cleaner or gentle soap and water.  Then make sure it is dry again and apply a leather conditioner. 

Check your bridles.  The bridle is important to keep in good repair.  It would be similar to losing your steering wheel on your car.  If you were not happy or your horse seemed to fight the bit look for a new bit.  Determine how your horse is reacting to the current bit and research which bit may be more comfortable for your horse.  Later on I will discuss what different bits do for you and your horse.

                                       Look at your halters that are routinely used make sure the nylon is not frayed.  Look at the buckles and clips making sure they are not rusted tight and can be easily opened.  Check all your lead ropes making sure there are not rips, tears, and fraying.  Check the clasps on the lead ropes. 

If you do travel with your horse check any equipment that you keep in the trailer.  I have a second set of most things in the trailer.  Buckets, hay bags, and some grooming items are always in the trailer as back up or just to always have along.  It is a good idea to have an extra halter and lead in the trailer at all times. 

Whatever else during your riding season that  is used should be cleaned and checked over.  It will make your riding time increase.  Safety will also be increased because it will stay in good repair.  Have fun and spend time with your horse.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Trail Riding Troubles

The time is right for making plans for your summer getaways.  If you live in Wisconsin there are quite a few places that allow you and horse to enjoy a weekend trail riding and camping.  Other states have these same accommodations available.  My family and I enjoy horseback riding whenever we get a chance.

Every horse should be able to go on  a trail ride,  no matter how you use your horse.  If you have not used your horse on the trails I will give you some help on how to make it more enjoyable.  Some horses act anxious while on the trail.  If you say to yourself, "My horse does not walk while on the trail!" then you need to keep your horse busy on the trail.  I work with a 4 year old warm blood who likes to trot while on a trail ride.  What I do is treat the situation the same as if I am going to ride in the practice ring.  If you have a routine you do before you get on in the practice ring then do that before you trail ride.  What I do is some ground work that loosens up the horse and gets his mind and body thinking about working not playing.  After the warm up, I get on and ride.  If your horse is still wanting to move at speeds faster than desired then give him/her things to think about and do.  When the colt starts to trot turn the colt in one direction and have him/her do a full turn around.  If there is not enough space then just do serpentines.  This should teach your colt to move at the pace you want.

What happens is your horse is used to being worked in the practice or show ring.  We have jobs for our horse in the practice ring but when we trail ride we think we can just pitch the reins and our horse should just walk.  Some of us are lucky and have a horse that will just walk the others need to put in the time to get our horse there and walk.  Just like when in the practice ring it took repetition to get the desired behavior from your horse.  If you have a place that you can trail ride after a workout in the practice pen use it.  When your horse is tired and you need to cool them off a short trail ride around the barns or a field will start giving your horse the repitions to succeed on longer trail rides.

You and your horse will both benefit from a trail or even a weekend trail ride trip.  Your horse will learn how to behave around other horses and in an ever changing environments.  Your horse will know there is more to each time him/her are taken out to ride.  Just like you and I horses will get bored with the same routine.  Trail riding will expand both of your abilities.   Spend time with horse and have fun.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Goal setting for the Riding Season

Goal Setting is the most effective way to prepare yourself for the upcoming riding season.  Each horseman has different goals for themselves and their horse.  What you want to accomplish during the riding season is very important.  Start by looking at what you and your horse have accomplished in the past.  This gives you a starting point for this year.  Ask yourself some questions and answer them to give yourself the basis of this year's goals.  Rank you and your horse's skills this will give you an idea of that what are your strengths and weaknesses.

When setting goals you want to have different stages.  Start with what you want to accomplish in the first month.  Then move to what you want to have accomplished after 3 months and finally what do you want accomplished at the end of your riding season.  Make sure the goals are realistically attainable.  You want to be confident that your horses abilities and your own are at the level to reach your goals.

Tell someone else about the goals you have set.  If you use a trainer talk with them and express what you want accomplished in the upcoming year.  If you work on your own tell someone that can monitor your progress.  Most importantly write them down.  This will give you a visual reminder of what you want to do.  Post the list somewhere you can reference it frequently.  The door to the tack room, above your saddle, or on the horse's stall these places are frequently seen by you.

Make the goals concrete, measurable goals like flying lead change, forehand turns around a cone, or picking up the correct lead.  This will allow you to know what needs to be done.  Then you need to find what steps need to be taken to reach that goal.  Set some goals that can be measured in show performance, if that is what you do, like 1st place in two shows or a jump run without hitting a standard.  Your goals should be to improve your weakest aspects of your riding with your horse or your horse's weakest skills.  For the horsemen that only trail ride set goals like will get my horse out 3 times a week or will cross a bridge or creek smoothly.  Once again make the goals attainable and measurable.  

This will make your riding season rewarding!  Check out the books that I have recommended and the products that will help you accomplish your goals and make life easier at the barn.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Preparing for Spring Colts

This time of year there are some people already starting to watch for their mares to foal.  Others will have be having foals from now until July maybe even August.  It is crucial to know when your mare was exposed to a stallion so you can prepare yourself and mare for the foal.  The gestation period of a mare is roughly 340 days (about 11 months).  The mare can foal early if weather is warm.  This can be as early as 10-14 days.  If the weather is colder the mare may wait 10 days past expected foaling date.

Things to prepare for is contacting your vet and letting the office know when your mare is due.  This will help them with their own preparations.   Find out also from the vet if there is anything that you should have on hand for your mare or the vet.  Have a clean well bedded stall available for your mare or a dry paddock if a stall is not available.  There will be some signs when your mare is getting close to foaling.

1.  Udder becomes prominent and milk vein may be seen 2-6 weeks
2.   Hind quarters and tail area start to change and tail seems to stick up more 7-10 days
3.  Teats fill out and nipples are shining and tight  3-7 days
4.  Wax develops on the nipples  3-5 days
5.  Milk starts leaking from nipples  1 day

Most foaling will take place at night.  Bring your mare in every night or put in foaling pen.  The more your mare can do on her own the better.  Foaling should take about 1-3 hours.  If something seems not right consult with your vet.  A camera is typically installed so monitoring can be done without disturbing the mare.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Preparing for the Weather

Today is a nice day where I am right now but tomorrow and the rest of the week will be much colder.  Prepare yourself and your horses for the week to come.  When I know there will be a cold week, wet week, or a busy week, I prepare the facilities.  When the extreme cold comes make a place for your horse to come into away from blowing winds and snow.  Have your water tanks, buckets, and even heated waters ready to go.  If you water by individual buckets have them thawed out with a bucket heater.  If you use a hose keep it drained well and try to bring it into a warmer place when not in use.  If you use a large water tub make sure it is clean and the heater is working properly.   Covering the tub or just a part of it during the coldest hours which are typically at night will save you some trouble of chipping off ice. 

Feed is important when your horse is cold.  Try to have feed easily accessible for yourself and your horse.  This makes it quick and easy for your chores.  Stock up the barn or fill the outside feeders.  Starting up tractors and skid loaders can be difficult in the cold weather.  I know I do not like running around and doing extra work when it is cold.

A simple shelter that blocks the wind from your horse will make life easier for your horse. A lean to shed or a small stall in a shed or barn that gives your horse a break from the wind or rain will benefit your horse.  If you use blankets make sure the blankets are dry and clean to be the most effective for your horse.  STAY WARM and SPEND SOME TIME WITH YOUR HORSE!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Training Day

  Drove a 7 year old Percheron, Shadow with a simple sled.  Shadow has been a riding horse and now is working on developing his driving abilities.  Challenges with working with such a large horse as Shadow are his size and strength.  To overcome his size I have accustomed Shadow to a variety of stools and steps around him.  His owner continues this training when I am not around which is important on building consistency.  Shadow is used to things being thrown on his back and moved around.   Shadow's strength is also a challenge.  He can go wherever he wants to when he wants to go.  I have to be mindful of the angle at which I stand behind him.  When directly behind the horse it is similar to when riding.  To create a more effective angle I will stand to one side or the other of Shadow's hip. 

Today as you can see in the photos we had Shadow out in a simple sleigh.  He is very anxious to pull and work in the snow.  After one round out in the deep snow Shadow was warmed up and ready to work.  We enjoyed about 35 minutes of driving with 5 minute breaks every 10 minutes.  When finished with our fun Shadow was rested, hand walked and stood in the barn with a cooler on to wick the sweat from him.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Winter Weather Work

Important information for those of you that like to work their horses in the Winter months.  Make sure that the horse has plenty of fresh water available.  This is also a good practice for yourself when working in colder weather.  Make sure after your horse has been done working that you properly cool the horse off by walking it around.  A cooling blanket is a great thing to have around to wick sweat from your horse's skin. 

If you will be turning your horse out in a paddock with a winter blanket then you should make sure the horse is dry before putting the blanket on.  If you do not use a blanket that is fine too and you need to make sure the horse is dry.  The other caution is that if the horse will be returning to an inside stall make sure the horse is breathing normally.  

When following these simple guidelines you can enjoy time on your mount in the winter.  When waiting for your horse to cool off you can clean a few stalls, get the grain buckets ready, or check and water the animals.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Introduction and Welcome!

This Blog will feature my views on horse training.  I currently train horses in Southeastern Wisconsin.  I work with a variety of horses and people.  My goal is to bring people and horses together.  Every person that purchases a horse has a desire to use that horse for something.  I make sure that is done safely and as easily as possible.  There will be explanations of techniques used and answers to questions.

Horse Sales!!!  I will also be posting pictures and giving descriptions of a variety of horses that are available for purchase.  I am willing to work with any person when considering the purchase of a horse.

Adventures!!! I will also be giving accounts of things that occur to me while training.  As many of you may know things happen with horses and I will let you know what happens to me.

Take your Horses and Friends to Wedges Creek in Central Wisconsin!