Equine News: Imprisoned Horse Trainers

  I was searching through some of the news articles on horsetalk.co.nz when I came across this one that I thought was worth sharing with all of you.

  In Nevada, wild horses are brought to a correctional centre where the inmates train them. They train them until they have accepted a saddle and then they are auctioned off.

  On October 19, 13 horses were auctioned off to 75 people. At the end of the day, $18,670 was raised (which is quite a lot considering that each horse's starting bit was $150).

  It's great to see that wild horses that are overpopulating areas in Nevada, California and Oregon are being brought to correctional centres to be trained and auctioned off. Horses have proven time and time again that they are great for therapy. If they can teach these inmates how to work through their problems in a non-violent way, I'm all for this program.

  For those of you who are interested, the next auction will be held on February 22nd.

  If you would like to read the article, you can click here. If you would like to read and learn more about this program, you can view their website here.

  Until next time, happy riding!

Horsemanship: an English or a Western Thing?

  When it comes to horsemanship trainers, it seems to be mostly focused on the Western discipline. Though all horses, whether English or Western disciplined, communicate and react the same, I think it would be nice to have more good, well known English horsemanship trainers to learn from as well. Establishing a strong bond with your horse where he respects you isn't something that can only benefit Western riders and I think some people shy away from their training tips because they are "cowboys" or "cowgirls".

  With that said, I myself follow many Western trainers who focus on horsemanship which I then apply to my English discipline. Two of which are Monty Roberts and Warwick Schiller. I have mentioned these two trainers briefly in the past, but I thought I would share more great points that they talk about that can benefit all riders.

  Though it seems like the join up exercise is a little controversial, I am one who is for it. For those who believe that you are just chasing a horse to the point of exhaustion, you have got the wrong idea. In fact, a mare will do a similar thing to her foal if he is disobeying. All horses feel safer in a herd than they do alone.

  A foal who is not obeying, will be pushed away from the herd by his mother until he learns his lesson and learns who is in charge. They learn pretty quick too. When the mare allows the foal to come back into the group she will turn away from him, creating a draw.

  The reason for driving a horse to canter around so many times in both directions is simple, horses have a tendency to flee before they think. In the wild, they will run for so long to loose the predator. Once they have ran that distance in a ring (about 3 times in each direction in a 60 foot round ring), they start to think and figure out what you are communicating to them. Their urge to flee isn't there any more and they want to come in to the centre with you, where they feel safe and respect you as the leader.

  The best video I have found of Monty Roberts explaining the join up exercise and what signs to look for can be found below. I have done the join up exercise myself and it has worked for me once I followed the steps shown in this video. It isn't something that only an extremely experienced trainer can do. As long as you have understood what horsemanship truly is and want to gain that relationship with your horse, you shouldn't have a problem with this either (but remember, if it doesn't work, it's not the horse's fault, you did something wrong).

Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Dx91mH2voo

  When it comes to follow up or hooking on, as Warwick Schiller calls it, it is just as important as join up. You want to make sure that they are indeed following you and not trying to dominate you by cutting you off and being disrespectful which can happen. Warwick Schiller talks about these things to look for in this short video below as well.

Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1Mp5EfJW9U&feature=c4-overview&list=UU413ZepFqtG6Bhb8Lv7ugFA

  So hopefully all of this has given you something to think about or even given you a fresh look on the join up exercise. Like I said earlier in this post, I wished there were more English trainers teaching us about these things so that less English riders will think of horsemanship as a "Western thing". Then again, it really shouldn't matter whether they wear a cowboy hat or not, as long as it benefits the horse.

  Thank you for reading this week's Pure Horse Sense blog post. I wish you all the best on your horsemanship training to build a better relationship with your horse.

  Until next time, happy riding!

The Intelligence of a Horse

  We all know that horses are intelligent animals, but just how smart are they?

  Here's a gelding that shows  just how intelligent a horse can be if they are given time, patience and understanding. This horse has been featured in many articles, blogs and has been on television. He is even a Guinness Record holder and has been named the world's smartest horse.

  So who is this horse?

  Meet Lukas. He's a thoroughbred gelding that stands at 16.2 hands and is now about 20 years old. He used to be a racehorse for a short time and then was moved to many new homes before he met Karen Murdock.

  Karen is both Lukas' trainer and owner. She trains him at liberty and doesn't own a whip so you know that Lukas is doing everything because he wants to please.

  It is amazing how much this horse knows. He is able to do tricks like rear, catch and kiss. He is also able to know the difference between different shapes, numbers and letters. In fact, Lukas' Guinness World Record is for the most numbers properly identified by a horse in one minute.

  The way he identifies the different numbers, letters or shapes is quite simple. They place a little table in front of Lukas with 5 different objects. Karen then stands opposite him at the table and asks him "where's your two?" and Lukas will then point to it with his nose. Once he has done that correctly, he gets a treat.

  It is wonderful to watch Karen and Lukas interact with each other. It's very calm yet playful.

  Below is a short documentary about Lukas and Karen's journey so far:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=za-CTVlxWmw&list=WLg8Cy5FNB3_DdvcwimXjHtmJp6xjdMnDN

  If you would like to watch more videos about Lukas and Karen, they have their own YouTube channel which you can find by clicking here. They also have their own website which you can go to by clicking here.

  This is truly a beautiful story about second chances.

  So that is it for this week, I hope you are all doing well and enjoying your horses. Thank you for reading and I hope that this story encourages you not to give up on a horse and maybe to try to teach them a few tricks. Who knows, your horse may be the next Guinness Record holder.

  Until next time, happy riding!

The Pressures of Good Communication

  As I have said in last week's post, I will be talking about the concept of pressure and release this week. If you have not read last week's post on lunging, you can also go read that one as well. 

  Pressure and release is the way horses communicate and correct one another. The better we understand the concept and how to use it, the easier and more effective it will be for us to communicate with our equine friends.

  Some people make the mistake that horses only really put pressure on each other when they pin their ears, bite, rear or kick. In reality, they are also putting pressure on each other when they move their tail, stomp their feet or even give each other a look.

  So what does putting pressure on a horse mean? Well, it's a form of communication. Depending on whether you want to interact, train or correct your horse, you will use pressure in different ways. Let's say you want to catch your horse in a paddock and he starts walking away from you, you would use pressure in front of his drive line to prevent him from wandering off. If you are teaching a horse to lower his head, you may want to put pressure on his head until he gives in to the pressure. If your horse is about to bite you, you may want to raise your voice and move your arms to let him know he cannot do that.

  No matter how you use pressure, you also need to understand that release is the most important part. Horses learn what the right answer is when they get release from the pressure. So, when you stop your horse from walking away, release the pressure so he understands you want him to stand still before you approach him. When your horse lowers his head, release the pressure off his head so he knows that this is where you want him to keep his head. When your horse is prevented from biting you, release the pressure so that he knows that he can't get away with that.

  The same methods are used when riding as well. When you want your horse to jump over a fence, you want to squeeze your legs tighter right before the jump and then release the pressure when he takes off. When you want your horse to turn, increase the pressure on him until he has moved to the direction you want him to go to.

  When you give a horse release after the pressure you are showing him what the right answer is and there won't be any miscommunication. It seems pretty obvious, but it's sometimes forgotten. 

  Make sure you stay consistent with what you are asking of your horse to avoid confusion. You don't want to let your horse get away with something one day and not the next because then he will never stop testing you and you won't progress as quickly as you might wish.