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Follow Your Horse’s
With Richard Winters
Horses are prey animals. Their number one defense mechanism is their ability to run away. When they’re threatened or unsure of a situation,
their instincts tell them to move their feet. Here are a couple questions that I hope to answer in this article. 1) How can you transform your horse’s fear and apprehension into curiosity? 2) How can you convert that curiosity into con-
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fidence? You, as he leader, need to be able to show your horse how to follow his fear. More often than not, horses are startled and afraid of moving objects. From your horse’s perspective, that moving object is a threat that needs to be avoided. Your horse feels the need to keep his feet moving and keep a safe distance between himself and the threat. What are some threats that your horse might encounter? It could be a big rubber ball, a four-wheeler, a tractor, possibly a bicyclist or even a cow.
Here is a practical game you can play
to help your horse gain more confidence with a scary moving object. Get a big rubber ball (Many horse enthusiasts are using these with their horses.) and have someone on the ground that can control and roll the ball across the arena. Ride your horse toward the ball while it is moving away. Let your horse begin to think that the ball is yielding away from him. Don’t try to overly force your horse up to the ball. Continue to have your assistant roll the ball away as your horse steps closer. Little by little you’ll begin to narrow the distance between your horse and the ball. Now, as your horse feels less threatened you will begin to see his apprehension turn into curios-
ity. It won’t be long before you’ll be able to ride up close to the retreating ball and your horse will reach out and touch it with his nose.
This technique allows you to capitalize on your horse’s curiosity rather than forcing him into a scary situation. Horses are natural followers. This game will build his confidence rather than shatter it.
Is your horse scared of bike riders? You can do the same thing. Have your volunteer cyclist pedal around in the safe open area and begin to play
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follow the leader. Now your horse has the opportunity to digest and comprehend this scary contraption in a positive learning environment.
This is also how all of my cow horses are introduced to cattle in the first two or three sessions. I will put one cow in the arena and allow my horse to follow
it. I won’t try to drive the cow in any specific direction. Rather, I will simply track right in behind the cow and follow wherever it goes. Now, this thing that my horse was afraid of is actually moving away from him. My horse is realizing that the cow is the one that is apprehensive and yielding away. Even horses that initially appear to be petrified of cattle will begin to get curious
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and even confident playing this game.
In each of these scenarios, it is important that you as the leader ride with focus. Look where you want to go. Push your hands forward and guide your horse one rein at a time. Don’t hang and pull on the reins. You and your horse should have your attention on that
“thing” you are following. There should be no whirling around in circles trying to get away. If that is happening, you have forced too much on your horse and you have not ridden with enough focus and direction. When I play this game I imagine there is a string tied from that scary object back to my horse’s nose. No whirling around allowed. My horse and I are going to look where we want to go. That’s what riding with focus is all about.
“Horses are prey animals. It is also important to have your horse properly warmed up before starting any “folTheir number one defense lowing” games. That means you have trotmechanism is their ability to ted and loped your horse sufficiently to have removed the silly behaviors that a fresh horse run away.” can have hidden under the surface. Following a cow around the arena at different speeds can be emotionally charged in itself. You want to make sure that you have properly prepared your horse physically and mentally for the task at hand. Creating scenarios where you can “Follow Your Horse’s Fears” will help your horse be the brave partner you want him to be.
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Training Figure 8 Pattern By Lynn Palm
I’m going to give you an exercise to practice that uses both the turning and bending aids. The pattern for this exercise is what I call a “training figure 8.” It is important to understand the difference between this training pattern, as opposed to what could be called a “show ring” or “competition figure 8” pattern.
The best way I can describe the training figure 8 pattern we will use is that it simulates the form of how the number “8” is written. Doing this pattern, the rider tracks across the diagonal to a half circle. After completing the half circle, she tracks across the opposite diagonal to complete the second half circle, which brings her back to the point where she started. This exercise requires the rider to use her aids from a bending turn to a straight line and a straight line to a bending turn in the opposite direction.
Contrast this to a true show ring or competition figure 8 pattern. When doing a show ring figure 8 pattern, the rider follows a vertical line to a half circle, completes the half circle coming back and returns to the vertical line. She follows the vertical line to the second half circle and completes that in the opposite direction. This pattern is a turn to a straight line, to a turn, back to a straight line. We will not use this pattern.
Let’s get back to our training figure 8 pattern. The horse
must be in proper body position on both the straight lines and turns of the pattern. This puts the horse on his best balance. The key is keeping the horse straight between the rider’s leg and hand aids. The rapport between these aids is critical!
The rider should start the pattern at the walk to get the coordination of aids, and give herself more time to do the figure and feel the horse’s reactions in response to the aids. Once perfected at the walk, the exercise should be practiced at the trot. This figure is also great to advance to canter using a simple change of lead in the middle of the straight line.
In this example, the rider will start by bringing her horse on the pattern’s first half circle to the right. For the horse to bend properly to the right, the rider uses her inside or right leg. She brings her horse to the outside or left rein to keep his shoulder from moving out. Her left leg is slightly behind the girth to keep his hips inward. All her right rein does is to keep the horse’s nose and neck bent slightly in the direct they are moving. Her outside aids, the left leg and left rein, are used as her turning aids. She does not turn using the inside rein!
As he turns, if horse goes too far to the right (falling in), she uses her right leg and open light left rein to bring him to bring him back to the left. Completing the right half circle and coming on to the diagonal straight line, she uses her right leg and light left rein to bring her horse off the bend-
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ing turn on to the straight line. Once on the diagonal, her aids are only used if the horse starts to lose straightness. For example, if he fades to the left, she uses her left leg and right rein to straighten him.
Before she turns on to the next half-circle to the left, she applies the bending aids of left leg to the right rein. She keeps the right rein against the horse’s neck so his shoulder does go out. Her right leg is slightly further back to keep her horse’s hips inward. Her left rein lightly positions the horse’s head and neck in the direction in which they are traveling. If the horse falls in too far to the left, she’ll use her left leg and right rein to correct him. Then she’ll maintain the straightness with her right leg and left rein. If he goes too far to the right, she’ll use her right leg and left rein to correct him.
As she leaves the left half-circle, she straightens her horse using her left leg and right rein. She maintains this straightness by evenly applying her left and right leg and hand aids.
the role of the bending and turning aids. Here is a thumbnail review of the aids sequence used when going from a straight line to a turn and returning to the straight line, as is practiced in the training figure 8 pattern: 1. Start the figure on one of the pattern’s straight lines using even leg aids and rein aids to keep the horse straight. 2. BEFORE the turn, use the bending aids (the inside leg, and open inside rein) supporting the bend with the outside leg and outside indirect rein against the neck. 3. As you get to the turn, use the turning aids (the outside leg and outside indirect rein) to direct the horse through the turn. 4. BEFORE going straight again, use the straightening aids (the inside leg to stop the bending and bring the horse to your outside open rein). 5. As you get back to the point of going on a straight line again, evenly apply both leg aids and rein aids as to keep the horse forward and straight.
The process starts over again before the next turn.
Your Next Step… Over the past several articles, we have discussed in detail
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Do You Have A Question?
Equine Law Topics New Year’s Resolutions for the Equine Industry Planning ahead for a successful 2018? You might define “success” as great progress in your showing, breeding, training, racing, and riding. The fact is, however, that people in the horse industry still rely on handshake deals and incomplete contracts when they buy, sell, lease, board, train, haul, breed, and give instruction to others. With the new year, resolve to protect yourself. Here are a few suggestions.
Be Cautious About Using Standardized Contracts Standardized, “one-size-fits-all” form contracts are quick and inexpensive. People often share them online. However, they run a serious risk of including illegal or unenforceable provisions or failing to comply with unique provisions that the applicable state’s law requires. For example, many of the 48 state equine activity liability acts (as of December 2017) require equine professionals, equine activity sponsors, and possibly others to include special “warning” or other language in certain contracts. These requirements differ from state to state. In a few states, the laws specify that those who fail to comply with these requirements can lose any liability limitation benefits from the law. Also, states differ as to what language can make a liability waiver/release enforceable. (A small number of states will not enforce them.) The same contract language that one state may enforce could fail in another state. Evaluating these state-by-state differences usually requires a review of ever-changing court rulings. For the best protection, retain knowledgeable counsel to help you comply with applicable requirements.
Read and Comply With Applicable Equine Activity Liability Acts
Now is the time to review the equine activity liability laws in effect where you reside or do business. Of the 48 states with some form of an equine activity liability act (as of December 2017, all states except California and Maryland have one) pay special attention to these:
Many of these laws have contract language and sign posting requirements, usually directed at equine professionals and equine activity sponsors. They all differ. Most of these laws list exceptions to the immunities, and these exceptions could provide grounds for a lawsuit. If you allow others to ride or handle your horses or if you allow people to bring horses onto your property, take a look at the “providing an equine horse and failing to make reasonable and prudent efforts” exception, the “faulty tack or equipment” exception, and the “dangerous latent condition of the land” exception, all of which are found in several equine activity liability laws.
Use Written Contracts Some state laws may actually require contracts in certain equine-related transactions. Equine activity liability acts in Arizona and Virginia, for example, have language requiring written contracts and releases, even offering some language, to benefit from immunities. Equine sales statutes in California, Florida, and Kentucky require contracts that include certain language.
Carefully-written contracts can help avoid disputes and save money. In leases, for example, questions sometimes involve: Was the arrangement a sale, a lease? Were promises made regarding the horse’s disposition or training? Who pays the vet bills if the leased horse develops a serious condition during the lease that the lessee did not cause? Does the lessee have recourse against the lessor if the horse injures him or her during the lease? These issues could lead to costly, burdensome, and inconvenient legal disputes. A carefullyworded agreement can help avoid them.
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Remember that Laws Change Laws affecting you may have changed without your knowledge. More recently, equine activity liability laws have been amended in Iowa and Texas (in 2011), Michigan (in 2015), North Carolina (in 2013), and Virginia (in 2008). A useful website that offers links to equine and animal-related laws, and updates them regularly, is www. animallaw.info.
Julie Fershtman is considered to be one of the nation’s leading attorneys in the field of equine law. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and confer-
Conclusion Make 2018 a year of attention to legal matters. Stay safe and protect yourself.
ences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and
This article does not constitute legal advice. When ques-
insurance. For more
tions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a
also visit www. fershtmanlaw. com and www. equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw. info.
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MIHA Regionals Midland, MI 2017
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Curb Anticipation Horses are great at predicting our behavior and learning our habits, and it isn’t generally too hard for them to do so. As predators, we tend to follow the same routine, day in and day out. It doesn’t take long before our horses start to figure out what we’re going to do and where we’re going to do it.
rider leans to the right he’s going to ask for a right turn. So he figures he’ll just turn as soon as he feels the rider shift his weight. In instances like this, it’s important that you are conscious of what your body language is
Anticipation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s one characteristic that makes horses so trainable. If they didn’t anticipate, we wouldn’t be able to train them. The trick is to use the horse’s anticipation in our favor. It’s important to realize that you play a major role in your horse’s tendency to anticipate and can curb his anticipation by implementing the tips below.
When you’re schooling your horse, work on individual maneuvers within the pattern. I rarely take my horses through an entire reining pattern. Instead, I focus on individual maneuvers in each training session. Once each maneuver in a pattern is going well, then you can start combining different maneuvers to practice small portions of a pattern. For example, in a reining pattern you might practice changing leads in the middle of the arena and then cantering down the side to do a sliding stop.
Be Mindful of Yourself Without realizing it, you may be unintentionally giving your horse “pre-cues” to a maneuver. When I was riding Mindy regularly, I had to be very careful of this. Because she was so in tune to me after 13 years of working together, if I even thought ahead to what I was going to ask her to do, she’d start doing it. Unconsciously, my body was giving her a subtle signal. So, I had to learn to not even think about the next maneuver until the exact moment I wanted her to do it. I often see riders unconsciously cueing their horses in clinics when working on pattern exercises. Let’s say the rider is supposed to ride their horse in a straight line before turning him one way or the other. What often happens is the rider will be thinking ahead to the turn they’re about to make and will start to lean in that direction. It doesn’t take long before the horse realizes that when the
If you show your horse in an event with patterns, like reining or dressage, don’t practice the pattern from start to finish during training sessions. Taking your horse through the same patterns over and over is not only boring, but teaches him that the same things happen at the same places in the arena, in the same sequence. Instead of waiting for your cues, your horse will be thinking, “I already know what comes next, we’ve done this a million times” and will take matters into his own hands.
Keep Your Horse Guessing
telling your horse. If your horse can feel a fly land on his body, you can bet he can feel you shifting your weight, no matter how slight, in the saddle. Practice Parts, Not the Whole
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You always want your horse thinking, “What’s next?” If you constantly keep him guessing about what you’ll ask him to do, he’ll be forced to tune into you. That means mixing up your training sessions so you don’t practice the same exercises in the same order. It also means that you’re conscious of being a leader for your horse and not letting him decide what you’re going to do. For example, if you’re riding a straight line toward a fence and your horse starts to turn left before you cue him, turn him right. With repetition, he’ll learn to wait for your cue because every
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time he guesses, he’s always wrong. Always do the opposite of what the horse thinks you’re going to do. Be sure to include variety in your training program. Variety is crucial to not only keeping your horse happy and interested in his job, but will stop him from anticipating you. Don’t just ride your horse in the arena and keep drilling on the same exercises. Train him on the trail. You can practice the same maneuvers – sidepassing, two-tracking, bending, etc., only your horse will be more interested in his job because he’ll be in a new environment. You can even incorporate obstacles into your training program. Don’t just sidepass, instead sidepass over a log. Back around objects. Do hill work. Using obstacles makes your horse use his mind rather than just going through the motions. It gives him a reason to perform the maneuvers you’ve been teaching him and gives him a point to his job. Your greatest tool as a horse trainer is your imagination – use it! Practice Patience If you want your horse to wait for your cues and be patient, you have to practice.
Whatever you practice with your horse is what he gets good at. I literally include periods of waiting into my training sessions. For example, my performance horses often anticipate lead departures. When I feel a horse doing that, I walk them forward on a straight line, push their hip up to set them up for the departure and then instead of kissing and asking them to lope off, I hold the position for a few seconds and then do the complete opposite – take the pressure off and walk the horse in a straight line again. I don’t want my horses getting into the habit of thinking that every time I push their hip up it means we’re going to canter because horses are very smart about knowing what we’re going to do before we do it. Before long, he’ll figure, “Why wait for the kiss? I’ll just canter off as soon as he puts his leg back.” Or, if I’m working on rollbacks and I feel like the horse is rushing through the turns, getting sloppy and not thinking about where he’s placing his feet, instead of stopping and bringing his front end through the turn immediately, I’ll stop him and then flex his head from side to side before asking him to make the turn. I want the horse waiting for
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my cues, not just going through the motions. The more you can get your horse to slow down mentally and think about what he’s doing, the more correct he’ll be. If you’re conscious about building these “waiting periods” into your training sessions, not only will it teach your horse to slow down and pay attention to you, but it’ll stop you from rushing through the maneuvers as well.
Author note: Clinton Anderson is a clinician, horse trainer and competitor. He’s dedicated his life to helping others realize their horsemanship dreams and keeping them inspired to achieve their goals. The Downunder Horsemanship Method gives horse owners the knowledge needed to become skilled horsemen and train their horses to be consistent and willing partners. Discover for yourself how Clinton and the Method can help you achieve your horsemanship dreams at www.downunderhorsemanship.com.
The Way of the Horse
Lots of Manure By Eleanor Blazer
The average 1,000-pound horse produces about 50 pounds of manure a day…and this does not include the bedding. When you consider the horse eats about 25 to 30 pounds of feed a day, the manure production is an amazing feat. (Of course the difference is moisture and body tissue waste.)
on a flat well drained piece of ground. It needs to be easily accessible for both filling and then subsequent removing of the compost.
Moisture, air flow and temperature will need to be managed. Moisture is managed
The dilemma you face is what to do with the manure and soiled bedding? Research invariably turns up “build a compost bin”. I have yet to see a compost bin at any of the stables I have visited during the last 30 years. I’ve seen huge piles of manure – some bigger than houses. My mother has a pile almost as old as I am. Over the years neighbors have removed some of it for their gardens. I once set it on fire – which was not a smart thing to do. It smoldered for weeks. Luckily Mom lives in Ohio and gets lots of rain. So what are some options for getting rid of horse manure? Environmentalists, the Co-operative Extension Service and others highly recommend composting. Composting reduces the total amount of waste that needs to be removed and concentrates the beneficial nutrients. The heat generated by composting kills parasites, bacteria and insect eggs. Fully composted manure will not attract adult flies. Plus composted manure is easy to get rid of…. people love it for their gardens. It can take up to eight months for raw manure to turn in to useable compost. The length of time can vary according to the ambient temperature. But composting takes effort. You can’t just dump the manure in a pile. A composting bin needs to be constructed
The easiest way to get rid of the manure is spreading it on your own land. This requires a tractor, manure spreader, a frontend loader (or a strong back and manure fork) and land. There are some drawbacks to spreading raw manure and bedding on your land. The horses will not eat grass that has manure on it. If there are weed seeds in the hay you will be seeding your pastures or fields with weed seed. It is possible you will be spreading internal parasites to your pastures (a good de-worming program is mandatory). If the manure is mixed with sawdust or wood shavings the grass or crop in the field will be stunted.
Contact your local Co-operative Extension Service for plans and instructions on building and managing a successful composting operation. There is also composting information on the internet.
If you don’t want crops stunted, you must treat the daily amount of manure collected. Treat it as you take it from the stall. You need to add nitrogen in the form of ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate fertilizer at the rate of ½ cup per day to 40 to 50 pounds of manure. Just sprinkle it on the manure mixture after it’s been loaded in the wheelbarrow or spreader. Urea fertilizer will not work because the nitrogen can be lost into the air.
The majority of horse owners just pile the manure in a huge heap behind the barn
Another option to get rid of the manure pile is to pay a farmer or commercial hauler to remove it.
When deciding where to put the manure pile, consider possible contamination of water (ponds, creeks and wells). A 50-foot grass buffer strip is recommended between the pile and water sources.
Do not fill in low areas with manure. It is organic, and when wet will turn into a bog. The bacteria and parasites it contains create unsanitary conditions.
by either covering the pile or adding water. Air flow is managed by turning the pile or inserting pipes. Temperature is managed by either reducing the size of the pile or increasing it.
A manure pile holding area can be helpful. This structure features a concrete floor; berms that offer drainage control and walls that will keep the pile in one spot. The walls also help with the aesthetics of the stable. Once the pile reaches immense proportions (or the neighbors start to complain) it’s time to get rid of the pile.
Make sure you remove manure from your turn-out area, dry-lot or riding arena and preserve the good footing you have provided for your horse. We all want a neat, clean stable for our horses. With proper management manure should not detract from that goal.
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