Thursday, December 30, 2010

Should I Just Let Her Go?


Hi Mitzi, I have an 8 year old tennessee walker/saddle bred mare, I am 53, I love natural horsemanship methods and tape everything on RFD about horse training. I have rode since I was 12. My question is what are some good exercises to get a horse to rate. My mare I have owned for 4 years now and still have the same problem, when walking she will always try to trot, when troting every 3 to 4 strides I have to rate her back always, when we canter some days she will rate other days she will not and she is off to the races. I have always had this problem with her she is a very forward horse. I have a bitless bridle and she went well in it but forget trot or canter. I ride in a mullen mouth myler combo bit. I have read that you should just let them run and stop when they slow down on there own. we have cantered 40 minutes straight before and she still wanted to canter more, I would ask her to walk and she would try to canter some more. she is a very athletic horse, I am also athletic but do have some back issue's I have taken lessons with a certified jumping coach thinking it would help using up that energy, I have taken lessons with a saddlebred trainer, and a very good western trainer, we still have the same issue's but have made some small progress. everyone I have worked with has said she is a really smart horse..and to be honest she likes to go against the grain. I ride 5 to 6 days a week, she is turned out with other horses all day. I am at the barn working with her every day. our ground work is very good. same problem in the saddle though. any thoughts would be appreciated.

Hello Lynn,

First of all, letting her canter when you cannot stop her is NOT the answer. That just reinforces in her that it is all right to go faster than you would like.

You say that her ground work is good. I need to know what type of ground work you do. I would like you to ride her in an enclosed area. YOu need to go back to the basics. You need to continue riding her in the Bitless if she seems ok with that, and start basic work such as just a walk and then halt using HALF HALTS.. Do not ever constantly pull.

Half halts come from your body and just a little hand. They teach her through her central nervous system that your aids for slowing down mean that she rebalances from her haunches so that she CAN physically slow down.

You need to have the patience to do slow work first. Walk, halt, stand. Stroke her...(horses really do not like hard pats) tell her "good girl". Practice circles...then a trot and a walk.

Do basic dressage with her. Dressage is for ALL horses.
YOUR position is very important.. read CENTERED RIDING by Sally Swift.
My web site has some articles that may

Feel free to write back.
Thank You,

Mitzi Summers

Monday, December 27, 2010

Balky Horses

Hi! I have a 5 year old mare that I am training and we are having some problems. She is super balky, so if I ask her to do more than walk, she stops dead and pins her ears. I have to kick kick kick to get her to go, and alot of times that results on getting bucked off. She has no back soreness issues and she is completely healthy. She is not moddy on the ground or anything, just being ridden. This has slowed down her training from w/t/c and small cross rails to w/t work. Any suggestions on how to fix this?

Hello Abby,

I need a little more information to give you an informed decision.
5 years old is still pretty much of a baby. What has been her training before? Did this problem happen gradually or "overnight".

How do you know it is not physical and that her saddle fits really well? Have you had a chiropractor or horse massage person look at her? How expert is the saddle fitter? What do you have in her mouth? What kind of bit? Is her mouth all ulcers or spurs on the bars of her mouth?

Let me know these things,and we will continue from there. You have to be as positive as possible that there is not a pain reason for a horse's behavior before starting the reschooing program.

Thank You,

Mitzi Summers

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Training my Standardberd to Canter

Hi Mitzi! My name is Lucy and I wanted to now how to train my standardbred to canter. I have had him for two months and we are walking trotting jumping and mounting great, but the when I try canter him an the lunge he will do about 4 steps and freak out and the last person to try canter him on back hot thrown off and refused to get back on. Please help me! Many thanks, Lucy

Hello Lucy,

This may involve a bit of work. You did not let me know whether your Standardbred was a pacer or trotter. Pacers, especially free-legged ones, are often more difficult to teach to canter.

It is often not just a physical challenge to your horse, but a mental one in his former training, if your horse was taught that if it broke into the canter that that was incorrect behavior.They are usually pulled back fairly abruptly, and since they are wearing a bit and usually an overcheck bit, this can result in pain and discomfort, which definitely stays in the memory of the horse.

Balance is also one of the main issues. Even horses that canter easily may buck if they are having trouble with their balance, i.e.uneven, slick or deep footing,the rider being off balance, or the saddle slipping to one side.I think you should work your horse on the ground as well as your riding exercises. When someone calls me with a problem about their horse's canter, one of my first questions is how well their horses canter on the lunge line. If they answer that he cannot canter well on the lunge, I suggest that this be their first objective. If a horse cannot balance itself on a large circle without the weight of a rider,then it will not be able to canter with the weight of a rider.

My website,, has directives about teaching your horse to lunge correctly. If that is not enough, get back to me and I will guide you through it. Know that lungeing is an art and a learned skill-it does not consist of chasing your horse about with a whip. They will become more balanced and stronger and should remain calm throughout the experience. The gaited horses and standardbreds which I have trained to canter I also taught to "double lunge". The line behind their haunches on the outside of their bodies help them engage their haunches and become better balanced. It also serves to balance the horse much better as the handler can successfully give the horse half halts. Lungeing and double lungeing should never be done with the line attached to the bit. This is not humane. Attach the line to a halter or lungeing cavesson.

In riding, you should work on circles, serpentines and transitions, right now at walk, halt and trot.This will help the horse become more balanced, supple and stronger. Then she will be in a position to better be able to develop her canter. Also, if you have not yet developed an independent seat, you may have to also work on your riding so that you can help your horse through this delicate phrase.

Mitzi Summers

Monday, December 20, 2010

Horse Hops in the Canter

she just started this - while at the canter she will hop with her front legs ever so often - she is more likely to do this on her right lead only - is it a sign of discomfort? This mare has had a bucking issue and now that is under control now this - we are thinking its just attitude again , Is there a way to stop her from doing this ?

Hello Jodi,

I would need to know a lot more information in order to give you an informed opinion.
I need to know her age and her past experiences and training.
I need to know your level of riding and working with horses.

You mentioned that she had had a bucking issue. This is often a sign of discomfort, lack of balance, saddle fit or bit problems, inexperience on the part of the rider, uneven ground, etc.

This is not meant to "put down" your expertise. I have been working with horses for many, many years and I still have so much to learn and I still take lessons.

Yes, hopping on her front legs mainly on the right lead may be a sign of discomfort or weakness. Do you lunge her? Correct lungeing can do wonders to strengthen a horse and look for problems. This means the horse is calm and responsive on the lunge line, not dashing about as you see some people do.

Write more details and I will be happy to try to pinpoint the problem for you.

Mitzi Summers

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Scared Horse

My horse is scared of just about everything! Water,weeds,going in the woods,going up hills even if small.Im not talking alittle scared i mean terrified to the point if you try and make her she comes up on her back legs to the point she almost flips over on you. She is a very sweet gentle horse in the pasture,and if you keep her on dirt roads she never acts up,as long as you can go around any water,and don't come up on things in the road, i guess the best way to put it is the only thing that doesn't scare her is grass,dirt,and rocks!! Do you think there is any hope?? Cause i'm about ready to give up and to be honest i'm starting to get scared of her.

Hello Christy,

I need a little more background information.

1. How long have you had her?
2. How old is she?
3. Who had her before you and what were her experiences with them?
4. What is your experience with horses?
5.has she been like this ever since you got her? Was she ever better?
6.Has she been checked out by a vet? Especially her vision?

There are desentization techniques that I think will be useful for your mare, but I need to have more information. Please contact me directly at

Thank You,

Mitzi Summers

Monday, December 13, 2010


I have a black Arabian/APHA cross mare. She is about 16.3 hands tall and has excellent movement. The first time my vet saw her, she thought that she was a warmblood. She is extremely high spirited and a little bit hard to control while in the saddle, but she has great ground manners. She has not been trained in dressage. I bred her to a 17.1 hand imported purebred Friesian stallion who is excelling at the expos. I do not know much about dressage, but my vet said that the foal might be a good dressage prospect. Do think that the foal would excel in this discipline? Also what are some basic dressage movements/terms or do you know of a good website to explain the basics of dressage?
Thank you,

Hello Courtney,

Without seeing your mare and the stallion, my reply is a still a definite YES! Actually, with the correct training, all horses benefit from Dressage and should be able to do above Training Level tests.

As you explore dressage, you may find that there are some people who are doing short cuts so that they can show their horses earlier. Dressage is an art and a discipline and takes time, but it will enable your horse to be a pleasure to ride and it will enable him to probably stay sound and happy into old age.

The U.S.D.F. web site has a lot of information. I would also recommend your reading the book MY HORSES,MY TEACHERS by Alois Podjasky. He was the former Director of the Spanish Riding School and has a wonderful attitude about training and horses.

Draw reins, severe bist, spurring, none of these are part of good dressage.

Your foal sounds wonderful!!!

My regular email is, and my web site is
You are welcome to contact me with any questions.

Thank You,

Mitzi Summers

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Horse Behavior in Stall

My horse is increasingly becoming more and more aggressive to people who walk by his stall. I have watched him gradually become more mean. He started by just pinning his ears. Now I have seen him try to aggressively try to bite people.

Do you know what might be causing this and what can be done to curb it?

He is ridden an hour 6 days a week and is out of the box 4hours a day with one day off. (Left alone) after I put him back in his stall I pour cut up apples and carrots in his food bin (no hand feeding)

please advise me.

Thank you

Hi Kathryn,

A couple of ideas and questions... Is there any way that your horse could be allowed to be outside much longer? As you know, being outside to just walk and graze and use their "seeking “mechanism, is the natural condition or horses.

Also, how are the riding sessions going? Does the horse find the sessions unstresssful? Does he go back to his stall relaxed and positive after the riding session?

Do you board him or keep him at home? If you board him, has the help changed who take care of cleaning his stall? It sounds as if this was not a problem and is not becoming one. You need to look for variables in his environment.

Does his tack fit well when he is ridden? Does he show aggression every time you are near his stall, or just when it is riding time? Have any horses changed in the vicinity of his stall? Are the same horses his stall "neighbors?”.

You can write back here or to my email address at,

Thank You,

Mitzi Summers

Monday, December 6, 2010

Riding Lessons (10 year old girl)


I’m not sure where to begin. My daughter is 10 years old and just learning how to ride her horse in 4H western pleasure. A couple years ago I got a horse (Blue who is a 6 year old gelding), who was not broke to do anything but get on and ride. So with the 4H season upon us, I sent him to a trainer to work on cues and some behavior issues. The trainer can ride him and get quick responses, but when my daughter gets on, she cannot flex him, collect him, nor maintain control. He flips his head, pulls the reins out of her hands and basically goes where he wants (with or without a bit) - She is required to ride in an O-Ring Snaffle Bit with Split reins. I was told it may be the saddle, so invested in a new saddle. I was told she pulls to hard, so we’ve paid special attention to hand placement and mostly ride with just a halter and reins. She is getting really frustrated and I don’t know what to tell her. I don’t know why he keeps pulling the reins out of her hands. I’ve read that perhaps she needs to spend time out of the saddle, ground work, flexing etc., I agree, but have also read she needs to just play with him? If that’s true, what would she do, or any other suggestions you may have?

Hello Shaun,
I hope we can stay in touch so I can keep advising you if you like. is my regular e-mail.
First of all, a 6 year old without a lot of prior CORRECT schooling, is still a bit of a baby. Almost all of the things that he does incorrectly are because he does not understand and are trainer/rider induced. I am not blaming anyone...none of us is perfect.

You need to find an instructor with a SOLID background of training-instruction. There are many people out there who have learned "natural horsemanship" and maybe for only five years or need an advisor who has been there and done that and does everything in a calm, concise manner for horse and also your daughter.
She should not be getting frustrated, This is supposed to be a magical time and FUN! for your daughter. Also do not let the prospect of showing cause you to rush or push either your horse or your daughter too fast. There is plenty of time for that.
I think that she is riding some with halter or even a Bitless Bridle, although outdated show rules will not let her show without a bit.
The horse pulls, or "roots" because he is uncomfortable with contact. Never try to correct this by pulling back. Your daughter needs to be taught to keep a passive hand and use a big squeeze with her leg to correct this. The leg tells the horse not to pull, but to go forward.

Mitzi Summers

Thursday, December 2, 2010

2 Year Old Standardbred Stallion

Hi I have just been asked to help a farmer in my area with a 2 year old colt that he has. The farmer bought the colts mother almost 3 years ago after being raced for 3 and she was pregnant, since giving birth to the colt he has never left her side and there is no room for a proper separation. They both stay in the same big stall because there is no other place to put him.

I have worked for a few hours with the mare and she has no problems being apart and remembers at least her ground training, but he seems to get a little bit panicked when she is being lead away and when he sees her through the window but if he can’t see her he is fine. During my time at the farm the owner tried to lead him out, at this point he was only hanging onto the halter for some reason decided not to use a lead rope. The colt started to get really strong with him rearing up and pulling back and quickly got loose, and it seems that the owner has had a lot of problems with this horse going up.

Due to the colts lack of training and young age he still thinks its fun to play and nip, the owner has tried no corrective training. My real question is for the rearing is it safe to use a stud chain to keep him in control and on the ground, he is not a small horse and I have all ready seen him almost hit the owner in the head. I do not take the problem with rearing lightly and understand that it is extremely dangerous and I would like to try to correct it right away but I have never had a horse with this problem before. I have also heard that as a corrective measure for biting is to immediately bop him under the chin, to teach him something will happen when he bites but not make him head shy. Both horses have not been let out in a field for a year, and I am working on getting a safe place so we can let them out to run around and graze.

The last time the owner let the horses out the colt picked up a small sheep and played with it until the sheep was killed. Working with the colt so far he does not look frightened or angry just playful and disobedient I am looking for some suggestions on how to fix some of his vices and stop him from rearing before someone gets hurt.

This whole scenario is dangerous and is not set up for safety or reasonable success. The owner needs to immediately have a veterinarian come and geld the stallion. They have to be separated and allowed to be in a field.

You cannot safely work with this animal if he is a stallion and still with his dam. He will breed her if he has not already...that he killed a sheep is inexcusable. It is NOT the horse's is the owners.....these horses are being kept in an unsuitable situation. It is nice for you to try to help but you can get hurt.

There is no reason for this animal to remain a stallion. If the owner cannot afford to have him gelded then he should not have these horses. I am sorry to sound negative....but I do not want you, or the horses, to get hurt.

Mitzi Summers

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rescued Yearling Arab Filly


I recently rescued a severely emaciated yearling filly from a bad situation. she has had next to no handling, and is quite fearful of people. I have been working with her daily, and building her trust. She will now stand calmly while haltered, stands calmly while being groomed, allows me to handle her hooves, and comes right up to me when i approach her stall. However, we are still having a problem with leading. As long as she wants to go, she follows without fault. but the second she no longer wants to come along (ex, being put back into a stall after grazing, walking past the wash stall, entering a new building) she stops dead, and will not yield to pressure. She will continue to back up, until she has her butt pressed against something. We have tried leading with a butt rope, having someone 'clap' behind her, tapping her with the lead rope, clicking, clucking, you name it! I'm totally out of ideas on how to teach her to lead nicely. Any ideas on what I can do? Normally I would take her into the round pen and work through the issue and win her trust, but she is very frail, and i'm afraid to push her too hard.

Hello Mollie,

This problem could probably best be handled by teaching your filly the "second position leading technique" or The Dingo, that Linda Tellington Jones advocates.

First be certain that she is not afraid of a whip. You will use a dressage whip for this. Show it to her and stoke her with it. She must accept it. Then stand at her left shoulder facing toward her barrel in back. You will have the lead rope in your left hand and the whip in your right. You will take the whip and STROKE (not hit) her twice on the back and then "Tap-Tap" the whip on top of her croup and at the same time pull a bit on the lead rope.

When you "tap" her on the top of her croup you will say "walk on". If she does not understand she may need the two strokes and then a slightly shorter Tap tap on her croup and then the "walk on".

When she goes forward you will say good and go a few steps and then face your toes toward her toes and say "whoa".

Keep repeating this. It is like a dance. She will associate the two strokes the the two taps with going forward. Pretty soon you will be able to lead her facing forward, but if she is not sure you just give her a soft tap on her barrel.

Again, you are not to make her afraid of the whip. You may want to get Linda's book on T.E.A.M. techniques for this. She also has a DVD on basic leading.

My email is and my web site is if you would like to contact me directly. I have never known this to fail..... but of course timing and technique are important and that takes a while to learn.

Mitzi Summers

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Riding Bareback vs. "Treeless" Saddles

Hi. Is riding a horse with a treeless saddle the same, better, or worse for the HORSE? Obviously a saddle is safer for the rider, but just from what the horse is physically experiencing, is bareback the least irritating way to have a person on their backs? Thanks!

It would help to know what you want to do with your horse. I presume pleasure and trail riding.
If the saddle fits the horse, it is all right to use a saddle with your horse. There are excellent saddle fitting books about, one by Joyce Harmon. Beware of having a saddle fitter come if he sells his own brand of saddles. Some of them MAY just want you to buy their brand.

I have not had a lot of luck with treeless saddles. As you know, there is a reason why a saddle has a tree-it distributes the weight of the rider equally, and keeps the weight off of the horse's spine.

I have found some treeless saddles to actually hurt the horse's back by pressing on the spine. In my opinion, the special pad that they sell with this saddle does not help.

Beware also of nationally famous clinicians who sell their own brand of saddle and claim it is better than any saddle ever made. People have been making saddles for 2,000 years. This type of selling is only a gimmick.

Bareback is all right if you are a really balanced rider and do not have to stay on by gripping, but be aware that your stability is less. Bareback pads with stirrups are very dangerous.

Mitzi Summers

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ottb Bit Training

I have a 6 year old ottb(off-the-track-thoroughbred). When we rescued him, he hadn’t been ridden in a year. He had only been raced 6 times. I love this horse! He is the most loyal fun loving horse I have ever had! He loves to be ridden and loves people. He just lights up when he sees me coming with my helmet and bridle (yes, he actually likes the bit!) I ride him in a plain sweet iron snaffle with copper inlays. He loves to be ridden. He is so sweet under saddle and tries so hard to please. He is calm and eager in his work. Nothing like the stereotypes I’ve heard of ottbs.

My problem however is that he was trained just like a race horse. 2 speeds walk and run. Absolutely no heed of leg or seat (he has come along great with that though), and a hard heavy, unresponsive mouth. I try to ride natural. Doing plenty of flexing at a stop and working on one rein stops at a walk but for the life of me I cannot get him to drop his head and give in to the bit. He likes the bit and I refuse to use anything harsher than a snaffle. He flexes fine but I don’t know how to ask him to give to the bit instead of matching me pound-for-pound when I ask him to give. This is not about head set for show. Just so I can make him safe when I ask him to stop and so he will drop his head a little so he can see where he is going on the trails. I would like to show him but that is not and never will be a priority. I’m just trying to further his education and make him safer. But I don’t know how to ask him to drop to the bit. He just seems to take it and run."

Hello Allie,
Unfortunately, if you plan to show your horse you will have to use a bit. However, in the interim, I would suggest that you try a Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle to accustom your horse to weight and leg aids and you will not be forced to pull on him with a bit in his mouth. This would only make matters worse.

He may well have mouth ulcers and other damage to his mouth. At the very least, he will have to heal. None of this, of course, is his fault, but the fault of people who put money and ego first before the feelings of an animal.

I would get him lunging quietly first. Correct lunging is VERY positive for a horse, usually much better than round penning. Also be careful of the one-rein stop business. This method for some reason has really caught on, mostly in natural horsemanship, but it is really overused. It should only be used in an emergency situation.

You need to start from the beginning with this horse. He is indeed fortunate to have you as his new owner.

Mitzi Summers

Thursday, November 18, 2010

DutchWwarmblood X mare - Bucking Problem

We have an almost 6year old DtchXcanadian sport mare -We got her in Nov 09 and she walk-trot-canter - just started over small X's. She started bucking in a canter on the right lead about two weeks after we got her, not getting better - we have had her ovaries scoped - she been treated for possible ulcers, we had a chiropractor out to adjust her - massage therapist saw nothing as well - a communicator told us its her back - our saddle hurt her - which is true and we have a custom saddle coming , until then we ride with Gel pads and even bare back she bucks - We just found out that she was put in 30 day training every year for her first five years starting at 2 not what we where originally told - could she just be really confused ? Its frustrating its like she goes great for a ride and the next day its buck fest, we lunge her now with my daughter on her and when she is about to buck we crack the whip and it seems to help, just want to see some progress with her , Not able to even show a beginner class. Our coach is starting to ride her. HELP!

You are certainly doing the right thing for this problem, i.e. consulting a Veterinarian, a Chiropractor, a massage therapist, etc. It is indeed unfortunate that this horse was ridden at the age of 2. This well may have started this behavior.

Even though you ride her bareback she occasionally bucks. I do not know if this is at a particular gait or not. Often the canter or going in a tight circle will cause the horse more discomfort through the back or a loss of balance and they will buck.

It may well be that she is responding to fear and pain MEMORY. Dr. Temple Grandin has an excellent chapter in her book on this. If so, even though she is ridden bareback, she is expecting to encounter discomfort, anxiety or pain. You may need to do just easy walking until the new saddle comes. Even then it sounds as if you have to go through a period of behavior modification.

When I lunge my horses and need to send them forward...( and sending her FORWARD through a buck is probably correct), I do not snap the whip. My horses accept the end of the whip like my leg...not afraid of it, but the touch means increase your impulsion. Try not to SNAP the whip if possible.

Also, what do you have in her mouth? If you read the research of Dr. Robert Cook and his Bitless Bridle, many vices such as bucking can occur because the horse is in pain from a bit. (even a simple snaffle). Has she been checked for mouth ulcers, etc?

My email is, and my web site is I would really like to know what progress you make with your mare.

Mitzi Summers

Monday, November 15, 2010

Stop Horses from Nipping/Biting

Hi there!

I was wondering if you could help me out. I have a year old orphan Kiger Mustang colt who, for the most part, has come a long way in his training, and has decent manners, but he is SO ridiculously mouthy. I realize that a lot of colts, especially orphans, can be very nippy, but I can't figure out a way to get him to stop this behavior... I have tried many training tips including pulling whiskers, and popping him with the butt-end of a crop, but to no avail. He has never been allowed to get away with nipping, but he continues to do it like he cannot help himself. Sometimes when he is disciplined for biting me, he will get frustrated and start biting himself... Any tips on how to curb his oral fixation?? Thanks!

First of all, is your colt gelded? If not , that should be immediately arranged. The problem is a bit more involved as you mentioned that he sometimes bites himself when you correct him. This may lead to self-mutilation which is sometimes seen, especially in stallions.

There are several approaches. First I hope that he is outside as much as possible. The ideal would be out all of the time with access to a run-in shed. I think you should do "mouth-work" with him. Linda Tellington Jones mentions this in her T.E.A.M. books. If you feel all right to do this, massage the outside of your horse's mouth, and also the inside. Going INTO his mouth and his space instead of his going into your space often changes their attitude. I suggest that you find someone to show you how to do this, however. You need to hold onto the halter with one hand and use your body correctly so that you horse cannot bite you.

If you prefer, just stroke the outside of his mouth with the bottom of your fingers. The purpose is to be assertive without being cruel. I do not know how long you had him or how he was orphaned, but I am guessing that he has been greatly traumatized in the past. Maybe he was not socialized with other horses if he was orphaned.

Also start teaching him a lot of ground work. You can start long lining him and lunging him slowly. Again, I will be glad to help you with any of this. The Team leading exercises will also be of help. ...keep him busy and occupied.

I will be glad to give you detailed instruction if you email me at or my web

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why Would Horses Kill Their Own?

My cousins horses are all geldings and have been together for around 4yrs in the same pasture. I happen to witness the 4yr old and 12 yr old beating up the 20yr old. One would grab his neck while the other kick him. BY time I ran to get my cousin to help they had fractured the shoulder of the horse and he had to be put down. It was the worst thing I have seen. The horse they killed was a wonderful horse. I have horses of my own for many years and have never seen this kind of aggression. What would cause this?

Cheryl, I will confess that I am not sure about the answer to this.....I am doing some research into the question to give you a better reply. One person I asked expressed disbelief about the whole incident, but at a barn where I teach the same type of thing happened though I did not witness it.

There was an aged horse in the pasture-they had been turned out for a while together, and suddenly one of the younger geldings attacked this horse so brutally that the horse had to be euthanized.

The only answer that the owners came up with sounds implausible to me, but it was that horses can sense when a horse is nearing its own death, by age or a condition that we may not even yet know about. For some reason this results in them attacking the old or ill horse. This certainly sounds “unhorse-like", but these guys definitely had enough apace and room, etc.

I will continue to research this, and if you find out anything, please email me at

Thank you.

Mitzi summers

Monday, November 8, 2010


I have a mare that I have not ridden outside of the pen because every time I take her out she acts up. The other day she reared up on me and then bucked and trough me off. She makes me nervous because I don’t know what she will do next. How can I stop her bad behavior when I’m on her?

You need to do quite a bit of ground work with your mare before you ride her again. She is simply not ready, even if you have ridden her a bit.

I really need much more information from you before I give you more definite answers. How old is she? How long have you owned her? What experiences has she had before you? Is she in any physical pain? Horses have reasons for everything that they do. She at least needs to learn to be lunged correctly. If you are not familiar with correct lunging techniques you need to learn them. It is really a skill and an art. It is designed not to tire the horse. but to teach the horse a basic discipline in all three gaits, to learn what your body language and voice mean, and to lower the animal's energy...NOT by chasing it around and making it tired, but by establishing "submission" in a good sense.

Then once lunging is easy and almost boring to her, you will have an experienced ground person lunge you on the mare. Then she has two people telling her the same thing. You need to go back several steps. In the end, it will save you time and trouble and you need to be safe and fair to the horse.

I could give you more definite,

Mitzi Summers

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Challenged by a Stud Colt

QUESTION: I have a problem.
My yesterday-recently-gelded 2 yr old stud colt, Zues, tried to challenge me today. I just got him 4 days ago. I went to give him hay, and he started bucking and came around in front of me and started half rearing and striking out with front legs with his ears part way back. I, unfortunately, made the mistake of backing up. I didn't have anything with me, no riding crop or lead rope, and was a little surprised that he did this. (Not too surprised, considering he was a colt and the previous owner did not teach him any ground manners) I yelled at him, but I don't think he cared. Obviously, I know he doesn't respect me, otherwise he wouldn't have done this.

My question is: what do I do if he does this again, and what can I do specifically to make sure it won't happen again and to get him respecting me? I only have a small borrowed round pen, and it's not available because I have my 8 month old stud colt in there. I haven't had a chance to start working with him, at my peril it turns out, but I’m going out to work with him tonight.

If you could respond before I go out, that would be so great. :)
Thank you!


ANSWER: Hello Michelle,

First of all, if he was recently gelded, he will still have stallion behavior for quite a while. You need to set yourself up for success before working with him. You have to have an enclosure of some sort- a round pen or a ring.
It is serious if he is going into your space and acting aggressively. You could easily get hurt. If you are not experienced in training young horses, you need to get professional help-no question about it. Now finding the right person may be difficult. There are many ways to get a young horse to be "submissive" without being cruel. Chasing him around a round pen until he is exhausted, scaring him, or throwing him are actual things that abusive trainers will do. Usually they are fearful people, and the only way they can "master" a horse is by overdoing the submissive-dominant theme.
I find double -lunging, correct in-hand work, and, probably with this horse, CORRECT round penning are what you need to do. If you want to email me at, I can give you more specific instructions. Do not get into a dangerous situation with this horse because of ego, i.e., you do not want to seem afraid. You SHOULD be cautious with a horse that acts like this. Please let me know what you decide. This may well be a horse that you do not need to own.

Mitzi Summers

Monday, November 1, 2010

How do you break in a 8year old almost wild stallion?

There are four 8 year old stallions in the field next to our house 2 are wild 2 were broken in ages ago. I've been going out to see them a lot but I don't know how to break them in. They don't have any rugs or field shelters but if you could reply and help me I'd be pleased.

I have many questions to your question to help me understand your situation. Are they your horses? Why are they still stallions? Why are you deciding to work with them now?
If they are not yours, and they have no shelters, it sounds like a Humane Society has to be called in. They sound as if they have been neglected. You should not even attempt doing anything until they have all been gelded. Stallions running loose like that, in a herd, are too volatile until you have them gelded and then wait a couple of months for the testosterone to go out of their systems.
If you are not an experienced horse trainer, do not attempt working with them. If you have the resources to pay for a trainer, you need to do this judiciously. There are good trainers around who would not be abusive to these horses who know nothing, and there are "trainers" who would be most abusive.
You also HAVE to have correct facilities. The horses need shelters, and at the very least, a training ring. My email is, and my web site If you tell me more about your situation, I would be glad to try to help you out further.

Mitzi Summers

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Mare is a Nightmare!

My 16'2 thoroughbred mare has started to become over protective of my 10'2 pony. She is fine with the bigger horses in the field but as soon my little one goes to see another of the smaller ponies she goes mad rounding her up away from them,( the two smaller ponies are a similar hight and color and also mares) It’s as if she thinks she is her mum. My tb goes mad if my pony is left in the field without her or she is taken out of her sight but she is more than happy to leave my pony if it is in its stable. Could it be possible she thinks my pony is her foal? and what is the best way to stop this behavior before injuries happen. She does not display this behavior towards humans or the other horses just the 2 other ponies.

Do you have any way to stable these animals separately? The mare obviously has developed an intense attachment to your pony. I have worked with horses like this, using ground work techniques, some I have developed, some of Tellington's T.E.A.M. methods, and have been successful in getting such an animal to pay attention to me when I am working with her (all methods are non-abusive) but it is a problem to correct her behavior when she is just out in the field with your horses.
Your horses may work it all out......your other horses will learn to stay away, but there still could be harm done to them by the mare if they get in her way. If this behavior happened gradually, could you possibly ask a friend to stable either your mare or the pony away from you for a while? The pecking order could change a bit while one of the pair is gone.
There could be a hormonal change going on with your mare to make her more aggressive than she used to be. If you send me your email, I could forward a research article on agression in horses that I just read.

Mitzi Summers

Monday, October 25, 2010

Breaking & Training, Horse Behavior Issues

Hi. I have a question about a horse of mine that I hope you can answer. I am currently riding a 5 year old thoroughbred/quarterhorse/arabian cross mare and for the most part I enjoy riding her. But every time I bring her to a new place ( we travel a bit going to gymkhanas and barrel racing) she acts up and starts to get excited. She gets very pushy, rude, and I have barely any control over her. The last time I went somewhere with her was about one week ago, and I couldn't do anything with her. I want her to learn how to stand still while I am mounted, but all she does is move like crazy. She refuses to be still, and won't listen to anything I tell her to do. Do you have any ideas on how to fix this? Thank you for your time.

I hope you accept my opinion and consider that it is the best thing for your mare at this moment even though it may interfere with your immediate plans for showing. You should consider it as it sounds as if your mare is just going to get worse and worse and you would have trouble showing her anyway.

Gymkhanas and barrel racing can be overexciting and stimulating to a horse. She is plainly showing you that she is "losing it" when you take her to these events. She is not a happy horse-she is a fearful horse. Horses are basically timid, and their reaction to fear and anxiety is flight or fright. Her level of negative energy is so great that she cannot concentrate on your directions.

My suggestion is to cease all training for games AT THIS TIME. Go back to the basics and gentle ground work like T.E.A.M. She does NOT need round penning.....she needs to start to get a bonding with you again...not to be chased around. After she is soft and listening to you in her ground work, start riding her again thinking of the basics....large circles and transitions, etc. When this is going well, take her in a trailer to a pleasure type horse show and if she is quiet, just ride a bit in the warm up not show. She needs many pleasant experiences to negate the fear memory that has happened to her. Read the chapter on horses in Dr. Temple Grandin's book HOW ANIMALS MAKE US HUMAN.

Your horse is pretty much a baby at five...her breeding includes horses bred to be fairly sensitive and intelligent. Gaming may not be the correct agenda for her and if it is not you need to accept that. Obviously you care about her or you would not write in.

You may contact me for more information at or

Even gaming should be done and trained so that a horse accepts it willingly. I have clients who can walk their horses on a loose rein, ride their run, and walk out again on a loose rein. This is a correctly trained gymkhana horse. It is not a pleasure to watch a horse jumping out of his skin run a barrel pattern.

Mitzi Summers

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Help With Behavioral Horse Training

Please help - I am at a cross roads--have a trainer who believes in order to get young horse on the bit you need to slide bit thru horses mouth--to me it's sawing and appalling. What I am trying to do on my own is to ride the horse up with my inside leg and arresting the energy with my outside rein-in other words fixing the outside rein and at the same time asking or squeezing the inside rein for a bend and in such a way bring her on the bit--any better suggestions? She tends to hurry and would toss her head in the air and get hold of the bit, trying to take control. She also runs away from me when I try to catch her which just tells me she is not enjoying her riding at all. I have only been riding for the last 5 years on a old school master who died a few months ago at the ripe old age of 33 yrs. So I don't have a lot of experience and we live far away from good trainers. I love my new chestnut and she has a wonderful temperament and I don't what to spoil her with the wrong training techniques. Pls help

Hello Yolanda,

I am so happy that you wrote in. You are quite right in your estimation that it is very wrong to slide the bit through the horse's mouth. This is quite abusive.
Remember that you can do much of your initial and even more advanced training without using a bit. The Bitless Bridle is very useful in many circumstances. If a horse is in pain, they run from the pain... this is why people have to be so careful with bits. I was lunged for many, many months doing exercises on a horse without stirrups or reins so I would have an independent seat and hopefully never hurt a horse's mouth as it appears that trainer is doing on purpose.

First you need to, ride "connected" with your horse. Make sure that your horse happily goes forward into contact. The image you should have while riding your horse on contact is that from your shoulders to the horse's mouth runs a garden hose, and the water ALWAYS goes forward, toward the horse's mouth. Your hands belong to him, not the other way around.

When a horse is ready mentally, physically and physiologically to, "go on the bit", it comes from your seat and legs. Your hands should be passive. I do not squeeze or do anything like that with my hands. My LEGS ask the horse to go forward- when he accepts the contact it will feel as if he is reaching for the bit or noseband (if it is Bitless). Then through half halts your horse will start to , (to simplify the movement), engage her haunches, rotate through her sacro-lumbar joint, soften at the poll, and give you her head or, with a bit, her mouth. It is a gift when they do this.

Do not let anyone hurry this process for you. Many, many horses have come to harm by forcing them to acquiesce in this matter. Take it slow. If she raises her head to escape the contact, simply softly raise your hands (think of the forward water) to keep a straight line. I know you are thinking of inside leg to outside rein, but have her accepting contact and work on her bending either direction before you get hung up on this.

I would be glad to help you further.

Mitzi Summers

Monday, October 18, 2010

Can You Determine A Horse's Height?

I have a 2 year old horse that will be 3 on July 20 and I got her when she just turned two and she was 13.2 hands tall, I got her March of 2009. I just measured her the other day 2-20-2010 and she has only grown an inch making her 13.3 hands. I gave her all the hay/grass salt minerals, vaccines since I have had her so she’s very healthy. but I already have a horse that is 13.3 hands and was hoping she would be bigger. Her mother a registered quarter horse is 15.00 hands tall and her dad which is a Tennessee/cross is 14.2 hands tall, (so she's a crossbred horse) both of her parents are well built horses that are why I thought she would get bigger. my question is when do horses mature and do you think there are any ways I will be able to tell haw tall she will be when matured?

Hello Lesli, horses mature at different times according to their heredity, feed, care, and general condition. Just think of the Thoroughbred race horse. It is often quite tall at an early age. You see them at race tracks, often dwarfing their handlers and, especially, jockeys. This is perhaps unfortunate for the breed in general, as often they are ANATOMICALLY not mature. The breakdown rate is horrific.

Warmbloods and Draft breed tend to mature at a much later age in height and bone. Often people do not start the training and serious riding of a Warmblood breed (Hanovarian, Holsteiner)until they are four and sometimes five.

That said, the height of the immediate dam and sire are not always the determining factors. Genetic influence in physical traits goes back many generations. You have certainly been doing the right thing with feed and care of your horse. Quarter horses are sometimes ridden long before they have developed sufficient strength and height. Your horse is not yet three. I would think there would definitely be more growth. Are her withers higher than her croup or vice versa? This is a sign that the horse is still growing. They often look a bit unbalanced-either wither high or croup high.

There is a method people used for young horses to try to determine height....they would take a string and measure to the horse's knee, and then from the knee to the floor, and this was supposed to determine the height. I have seen it result in too high, too low, and just right as an estimate!

I will do some research and send you more information. In the meantime, you are correct in what you are doing. Do not rush your horse in her training. Groundwork is all you want to do now. That would not include small circles at speed (longeing in a small diameter circle at more than a trot), or round penning at this time if it results in tight turns or cantering.

Good luck.

Mitzi Summers

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I have a problem with my horse...

My horse has a problem. When I go out to ride her, she does perfectly fine; until I make her go in this one little area. I practice barrels in my horse pen. She does the barrels just fine, but the problem is trying to make her do the barrels. I have this telephone pole in the pen so I use the pole and the wire as kind of an alley way, and she won't go through it to practice the pattern. She backs up, goes the other way, throws her head, and even rears up. My thought was that her mouth hurts, she needs her teeth floated, or maybe because she just doesn't want to do what she needs to. Please help! Thanks!

Hello Laney,

Two things may be going on here: One would be that she does have some physical (pain) issue going on. Horses teeth need to be checked at least once a year, so if it has been longer then that you should have that done anyway.

Gymnkana horses are often subjected (by way of the event itself) to tight turns and stops which cause them physical and mental distress. You could definitely try a Bitless Bridle on her, but she may also be telling you in the only way that she can, that going through the alley way you created to run the barrels obviously means that she is going to be made to "run the barrels".

She may well be getting soured about the whole business. You have to make sure that she is indeed physically and mentally the right horse for gaming. You have to be sure that she is not sore in her back, legs, mouth, etc. Not wanting to be subjected to something she finds hurtful or frightening does not make her a bad horse. How often do you run your pattern? Most gamers need to only run the pattern every once in a while. The flexibility and speed come from training done in an arena that has nothing to do with a barrel pattern.You need to reschool her, as hunter riders need to do if their horse becomes nappy about jumping.

Start just leading her through the alley and into the barrel pattern area and just stroke her and give her a treat and then lead her out. Start walking her on her back with low energy on your part into the arena, and back out again. Start just walking the pattern, and only run it occasionally when she is accepting it again. There are many patterns that will help your horse gain speed and suppleness without running the pattern, and I would be glad to share them with you.

It is not fun to force a horse to do something. Do not listen to people that will tell you she is stubborn or stupid, lazy, etc.and to MAKE her do it. Beware of negatively labeling animals. You are the is your job to find the source of her problem and deal with it in a humane way.

Thanks for writing in.

Mitzi Summers

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Many, many years ago, (and no one really needs to know at this point HOW many,) I made the trip to England to attend The Northern School of Equitation in Ormskirk. I was quite young, but never hesitated or felt nervous about going. I had known ‘forever” that I wanted to teach riding to people, not just riding, but the whole gamut of instruction, i.e. empathy for the horse, stable management, training, etc. At that time, attending a Horsemaster school in England and obtaining my B.H.S.A.I. first, and then my B.H.S.I. Certificate (British Horse Society Assistant and Instructor’s Certificate), seemed the obvious answer.
I first found out about this option from two sources-a book published in England entitled CAREERS WITH HORSES, and a Walt Disney movie, THE HORSEMASTERS. Annette Funicello (remember, she was a Mouseketeer? Boy, am I dating myself!) played an American who attends Porlock Vale Riding Academy in England. Of course she meets her true love, Danny, and overcomes her fear of jumping by riding a horse named Corky. Obviously I have not lost all of my long term memory for trivia yet.
I still remember how she overcame that fear. Her riding instructor, who was tough but of course really had a heart of gold and was beautiful and fell in love with one of the students, told Annette to “throw her heart over the fence and her horse would follow.” It worked and of course the whole movie ended quite happily with everyone passing and two marriages in the works. Unfortunately, since then I tried that on a nappy horse and not only my heart but my whole body minus the horse went over the fence.
I applied to Porlock Vale and was accepted, but then decided to attend Northern when I discovered that the owner was one of the few people who had Fellowship of the Horse credentials. This would be the equivalent of a PHD. in Everything Equine.
So off I went, eighteen years old. I had been accepted as a Working Student as my finances were severely limited. I booked steerage passage on the Queen Elizabeth (yes THE Queen Elizabeth) and sailed off. Seven days later I was met by my digs mate Jenny and her parents. “Digs” were your lodging. Like many words, “lift” for elevator and “bonnet” for car trunk, it was one of the new words I was learning.
We stopped on the way to the stable for some of the items that were requirements to bring. I already had my black riding coat. I also needed a white string tie, white blouse, V necked sweater ( so your tie would show) a tweed riding coat, a heavy lambs oil sweater, a hot water bottle and a heavy shiny black duster (rain coat) that reached all the way to the floor with a huge black hat like you see fishermen wear in old movies. Muck boots (Wellies) were last on the list, along with a hot water bottle “cozy”. This was a knitted sleeve to go over your hot water bottle.
Thus properly prepared, we proceeded to our “digs. We would share a house with a family who lived a block away from the stable. In exchange for our rent we would get 3 meals a day, and the right to pay two shillings to heat up bath water twice a week (!) This was September, mind you, and we would be there through an English winter. There was no central heating. The only source of heat was in the “family room”, where we would gather round an hour in the evening and watch the telly and defrost our feet. Now I understood why I was required to buy a hot water bottle. It was for my feet at bedtime. By December we were going to bed fully clothed, with coats, scarves and socks. Warm comforters were not included in the rent.

Well, it was immediately clear that I had joined the British calvary and was at Boot Camp. I was the only American and was promptly named the “colonist”. Even though I am of English descent, they have not forgotten the American Revolution. As a working student, I was one of a group of slaves-no other word for it.
I was given four horses, and human royalty could not be better treated. We first fed…the regimen…WATER-HAY-OATS. Water buckets were scrubbed twice daily, hay shook out and put in hay nets (which we later were required to learn to make) and weighed. Each horse has a separate feed chart, and each horse received an EXACT amount of hay. Then came the OATS regimen, which was much more than that. The horses received boiled linseed oil, maize, (corn) horse nuts, and rolled oats. Some received bran mashes, brewer’s yeast, and a mash made partly from ingredients from a local beer brewery. These were carefully measured, and often were plentiful enough to fill a large bucket.
We met Ann, the HEAD GIRL. She was the Drill Sargeant. She looked like your average football linebacker, and had a disposition to match. The first thing she did was to randomly weigh some of the hay nets. One girls was a bit off…not quite heavy enough. We got our first example of a true tongue lashing.
We then mucked out. They bedded with straw and it was plentiful. The horses were all in big box stalls-at least 14’ by 14’. We learned how to bank the stalls for the daytime. This meant putting a lot of straw alongside the walls so the horse could not be hurt if he rolled. We were taught how to get down on our knees and braid the straw that was by the edge of the door. This was so that when you led the horse out he would not dislodge the straw into the aisle. This was all done in riding jodhpurs, white shirt, white narrow string tie, V necked sweater and Wellies. We wore hair nets and were allowed to wear a scarf if it was cold.
As mentioned earlier, straw was plentiful because the local mushroom growers would come with a huge truck and cart the manure pile (the midden) away and bring many, many bales of straw to the stable in return. They would only do this, however, maybe every 3 weeks or so, and as the stalls were kept so scrupulously clean it soon became as tall as the stable roof. It actually was not unpleasant as there was so much straw in the straw-manure ratio that it had the fragrance of a hay field.
But it had to be NEAT! So the job of the working students was to make it
pleasing to the eye in a geometric way….this process was called “squaring the midden”. We would pitch the straw toward the top of the heap, and then climb to the top gradually, shaping it into a square. This was done on a daily basis. Woe to us if it was not done correctly.
The penalties for not performing a given task well enough varied. Every night most of the horses feet were thoroughly picked out, scrubbed, and then filled with a clay mixture so that their soles stayed healthy. Most of the school horses had limited turn out. One evening after night chores the Head Girl Ann checked out my horse’s feet and felt that they were not properly done. My punishment was to redo all of the horse’s feet in the stable. I got home at 11 that night.
Of course I did not make the best first impression anyway. My second day there I was told to bring Linesman to the riding school all ready for a lesson that was being taught by one of the staff. Postman, who was a bay horse and was owned by a boarder and was known as a very hot, hard to handle animal, was stabled right next to the calm, wonderful Linesman who was also a bay. They did not have their names on their stalls. So I, of course, brought the wrong horse to the lesson. Thank goodness I did not have the student mount before the instructor appeared.
So now I was known as the scatter-brained colonist, and I think they decided it was just as well that England was shed of taking care of that American Wilderness filled with misfits. My second transgression, (and I am NOT kidding) happened in December. It was very cold and damp, and I was wisping one of my horses. The daily grooming of each horse was very systematic and involved hay wisps, stable rubbers, water brushes, body brushes and sponges, besides your regular grooming utensils. It was very involved and rightly so.
A wisp was hand made of straw and twisted into a shape slightly bigger than your hand. (I almost failed wisp braiding). Almost at the end of the grooming process it was dampened and used vigorously on the horse’s muscles to promote circulation and to massage the horse. You use your whole body when wisping-it is quite strenuous. The Head Girl looked in at me when I was wisping Swagman, one of my charges. (You can see how they named their horses…they had great names).It was cold out and I had my sweater on. (V-necked of course). She really yelled at me. Apparently if I was really doing a good job I would be so warm that I would have had to take my sweater off. My punishment was to sweep the two acre concrete yard (well…sight exaggeration but it felt that big) by myself.
Forget all of the books you have read about how to teach someone how to canter. They will talk about the value of lungeing; in Centered Riding we teach people how to move their bodies in balance and how to absorb the movement of the horse. Poppycock! (you really do not want to know what that means.) All you need is ten working pupil slaves to lead the horses at a canter with the students on them! It makes things much easier. You can teach 10 people to canter all at the same time.
Here again I was not a star student. I was, of course, given the biggest horse because I am 6 feet tall. For some reason they thought that made me competent to be able to run with a horse. I am probably more fit now than I was then, being a lazy American teenager. Once I was leading Ragman (who was 17.1 h.h.) at his collected canter, which meant I was flat out running. I tripped over his leg and fell flat. All of the other led horses avoided trampling me to death as the student went careening around the ring screaming at the top of her lungs. Everyone survived, but guess who squared the midden all by herself later that day.
The final disgrace was again leading Lineman, who was only 16.3. I was exhausted and did not know if I could keep it up when the instructor suddenly had everyone halt. Something was wrong with one of the horses! One of them had strangely developed a bad case of roaring or the heaves overnight! What a terrible gasping sound filled the arena! Then, of course, suddenly everyone focused on me, bent over double, sounding as if I would die any minute. Since it was only a Working Student and not a horse, we soon continued.
Those are only a few of my wonderful experiences as a student for the BHS exams in England. One might wonder why we put up with some of that treatment…why we stayed. We stayed because we were subjected to some of the best knowledge ever in how to keep a horse healthy and happy. We learned everything- saddle fit, stable management, what types of bricks should be used for horse flooring (Dutch, Blue Stafford, and Adamantine Clinkers). I memorized that and it was on the written test. How many of you Americans know that!
We learned how to care for tack. It was cleaned every time it was used. We learned how to deal with a sick horse. And you learned to ride! Some of the most difficult cross country courses I have ridden I rode over there. Most of all, you learned the correct, meticulous care of a horse. If he needed extra care, you stayed with him until he was well, foregoing your own comfort and welfare. That was stamped into each of us. And the most important to me, in spite of the funny stories, is that I learned the methodology of teaching someone to ride, and imparting to them the wonderful world of horses.
Mitzi Summers

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Critique from One of my Students

A Critique from One of my Students - I found this touching so I thought I'd share...

Dear Mitzi,

This is a small critique of my riding lessons on Turesday.

I have to say what my wife has been hearing from me. And that is the theory you teach me is more valuable that the pratical riding.

I say this, for example, last Tuesday by you stressing the hind legs of the hourse with my legs and body mesage inables me to communicate with him in "lenthening and controlling his stride. What this whole process does is to build my confidence and relaxing while sitting astrede the hourse.

In additon, when you take note of the physical condition of Lim this sends a message to me of both love and concern for the animal as well as establising mutual awareness and understanding beteen horse and rider.

But more important to me is that my personal life with young infants in interpreting their ways of communication has improred greatly as a result of you teaching hourse theory that inhances a communcating bond between hourse and rider.

Yours truly,


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Horse Who Does Not Behave

I have a problem with a 15 year old horse. Whenever he is in his box and he sees a person near him , he flattens his ears and tries to bite, but when a person stands about 2 meters away from him, he looks normal and sometimes kicks his stall door as if he wanted to get out. And when he is groomed or saddled he flattens his ears and tries to bite and sometimes starts walking around in his box.

It is as if he doesn't want to have anything to do with training or people. When people saddle him and have one leg in the stirrup he starts walking and wont stop until they have somehow mounted him and made him stop. Also when riding, he often doesn't turn where the person riding wanted him to turn and rarely stops when they need him to stop. He just keeps going in the direction he chooses and at the pace he chooses, no matter what they do.It seems like soft commands don't work on that horse. And when they try to ride him at gallop in the field away from the stalls, he doesn't gallop but trots, and when he has had enough, he stops suddenly and makes a turn on his back legs and starts galloping at full speed towards the stables, and they can barely turn him enough so that he wouldn't run over other people or hit the fences, even when the rider changes his seat position.The horse doesn't obey the reins at all, and completely ignores any leg commands. And while he is galloping towards the stables he makes sudden stops and turns, so people often loose their stirrups.

They rarely use a whip on him, because he starts acting up. He doesn't start running around crazily because just because he is scared, he just wants to stop the training. While he is running he sometimes starts wheezing but still doesn't stop.
Sometimes at the beginning of the lesson he acts normally, but that's only until he has to move faster. The lessons are not longer than 1.5 hours, and the riders who ride him have been horse back riding for 3 years or more.

Please help. S

Hello S,

This poor horse has some problems, obviously. Thank you for caring enough to write in. Since he is 15, I am assuming that at some point he had had fairly correct training.You do not say how long you have had him, or if this behavior happened gradually.

It is behavioral problems, obviously, and he is laying back his ears and does not want anything to do with people because even with the best intentions, people have caused him discomfort and pain. He is a prey animal, and flight or fight are his only defenses and we have taken away flight most of the time.

Have a veterinarian come and maybe also a chiropractor and determine if he is in pain.Is his back sore? Does the saddle fit? How are his teeth? Are you using a bit? Maybe you should switch to a Bitless bridle. No galloping and no whips! You need to re-school him and it has to start from the ground. Work in an enclosed area. Study the methods of Linda Tellington Jones. Be careful of "natural horsemanship" trainers. As this movement has gained in popularity, so have the number of people who say they do it well and actually approach horses in a cookie-cutter manner...same methods for every horse.

Three years riding experience is not enough time to deal with a troubled horse like this. Read Dr. Temple Grandin's chapters on horses in her books. Go to his stall and do not expect anything from him. Keep your energy low and accepting. Offer him treats. He needs some time just to have people come to him and stroke him and grass feed him on a line and feed him treats and not ask anything else from him until it is determined if he is in pain. Think about when you have intense pain..even a bad toothache. That is all you can think about.

Be careful of people who put labels on horses, i.e. stupid, mean, etc. It is YOUR responsibility or the responsibility of the trainer to find out how to HELP him... not force him.

I again recommend the T.E.A.M. method, starting with leading exercises. Check out my web site, I have some articles, and feel free to write again. Think of this as an opportunity to learn and to help out a horse.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Question on Trainers and Perspective Attitudes to Training

Q. Hi! I'm glad I can write to a "forum" like this and get ideas about questions that I have. I've had horses off and on in my life when I could manage it. My husband's job takes us around a lot, so when I need help with my horses it has been with different trainers. I know if you get ten horse people in the room there are ten different opinions, but I do question attitudes. I have had trainers who seem to give a lot of "credit" to my horses, find reasons for behavior, and I have had some who tell me that they need to know I am dominant and everything I want they need to do. What is the balance between these theories?

A. Thank you for your question, Teresa. Actually, you can find quite a bit of continuity among horse owners and trainers if they have studied horse behavior not only from first hand experience, but by reading some of the excellent texts that have been published. Two books that you should read are INSIDE YOUR HORSE'S MIND, by Lesley Skipper, and MY HORSES, MY TEACHERS, by Alois Podhajsky. Both portray an educated and realistic view.

There is a middle ground when working with horses, and I have seen both extremes. Rewarding your horse whatever he does can lead to undesirable behavior. Forcing your horse to do something he does not understand or cannot physically do at the time is also quite incorrect and, unfortunately, not all that uncommon. Most cases of insubordination in horses are caused by not understanding the command, being afraid or uncertain of the rider, or not being able to physically or mentally carry out the exercise.I will give you two examples. I also will be happy to email you about your specific questions.

A foal is being taught ground manners. For the first time his owner wants him to pick up his feet. He refuses to pick his leg up, and when the owner forces him, he rears and backs up. The owner gets angry, thinks the foal is being bad or stupid, and proceeds to hit him.

Same scenario. The owner understands that a horse's legs are its primary means of survival. To allow a person to take away a leg is a big deal. It is very frightening, and entirely against a horse's nature. This owner strokes the leg and reassures the baby. He may spend 30 minutes playing with the leg and getting it off the ground for a second....five seconds, until the foal develops trust.

This is why your choice of a farrier, especially for your young horses, is so important. Not only must she be skilled and knowledgeable about their feet, but be willing to put in extra time to allow the horse to get accustomed to having its leg taken away from it for longer periods of time.

Horses always have a reason for their behavior. They have no ulterior motives as humans can have. "What you see is what you get". It is up to us to determine the whys. Sometimes it is just not a good enough reason, and obedience has to be expected then and there.

So Teresa, just put yourself as much as you can into your horse's place. It is a fascinating process. Not wanting to go through puddles becomes easily understandable, for example. For all the horse knows he is putting his feet into deep water . It takes a great deal of courage and trust of his owner for a horse to put his feet into a place where he could get hurt. That is what training is all about....the development of trust and understanding in your horse.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Starting My Horse Under Saddle

Hello Mitzi,

I am a bit confused about how to start my new horse under saddle. Every time I pick up a magazine or go to a Equine Convention it seems that every trainer says something else. I see everything from groundwork and a gradual introduction to getting on the horse and riding him around in a couple of hours. I just wondered what your thoughts were.

Thanks. Linda, NY


Thank you for writing. I can understand your confusion. It is true that if you ask ten trainers a question you may get ten different answers, but generally if the trainer is working from an established method that has been time-tested, it should not be too different in theory.

One question for you is what kind of a horse do you want at the end of the training? Do you want a partner that trusts you, respects and listens to you, but maintains that "essence of horse" that makes us admire the species in the first place? Or do you want a horse whose spirit has been broken and is a subservient, depressed entity who has unquestioning obedience but is not a "horse" anymore?

You can probably guess from my description of the two horses which one I would rather have. There is not enough space for a detailed answer but I will give you some quidelines. First of all, does what the trainer is doing make sense to you and,more importantly, make sense to the horse? Horses are marvelously intuitive animals with an amazing memory which can work for you or against you.

I would say there are two main methods which are accessible to you. One would be GOOD "Natural Horsemanship". This would involve ground work which can be very positive or can be abusive. Round penning is an example. I use round penning to some degree occasionally, but it can be overdone so that the handler is looking for obedience from the horse because it has been deliberately frightened, chased until it is exhausted, and then submissively accepts the trainer. Good ground work and round penning should create an understanding between human and horse, so that the horse can relate to the handler. This carries on into the saddle work.

I believe that the training should be gradual, as it has been practiced for thousands of years. The violent round penning, working a horse all day, and then getting on him, in my opinion is more about the ego of the trainer than the welfare of the horse. This type of handling was necessary in the American West when literally there were hundreds and hundreds of horses that had to be worked with. When horses were used for the wars and for our calvary, these methods were used as there was just no time for gradual training. This is no longer true. We have the time.

If you want to relate it to you, if you were learning a sport, say basketball, would it be taught to you in a day of constant work, physical and metal, and then you were "thrown into the game" in one day? Of course not, but that is exactly what "one or two day" training does to the horse. Not only is this prey animal expected to understand and accept everything introduced to it, but then it is ridden a long time before it has developed the muscle and stamina to carry a rider. It is an abusive practice, geared for the person wanting a bit of a thrill, and the ego of dominating an animal larger than himself.

The tried and true method of taking many weeks or months to start a young horse is the best solution. You both learn to trust each other, and the horse truly understands and accepts his job. If I am told that a person successfully "broke" a horse in a day, I am not impressed, I am saddened. I have had too many horses brought to me months or years after this was done...all in need of retraining, or physically and mentally broken down.

There are many good books and many good trainers out there. Take your time on selecting what method to follow.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Whisper Wind CR Instructors Update

I am currently in Rome, NY giving a Centered Riding Instructor's Update which lasts for four days. The horses we are using are wonderful-,for example, several Fresians owned by Sus Chandler, an Andalusian and a Thoroughbred owned by Val Mcclosky, the stable owner, and the rest all horses with solid training. This helps greatly in a CR Clinic-when the students become more balanced, the horses are able to demonstrate a quick response.

All of the instructors attending are solid in their knowledge of Centered Riding techniques, but also carry a wealth of knowledge of just simply being out in the horse world for a long time and riding and teaching and learning. We had a spirited discussion on many techniques of using half halts correctly, which voluntarily carried on long after the clinic day was technically over.

I will share mnay of our discoveries when I can get online tonight....meanwhile, I have to leave to teach!

Monday, March 29, 2010

second part of lesson with Spencer on the comment page

Friday, March 26, 2010

Patti's horse friends

Today was my firat day working with a new client's horses, Spencer and Teddy. Patti called and requested lessons for several reasons, the main reason was that she wanted to be certain that she was headed in the right direction with her horses. She wanted specific goals to work on that would improve both her and her horses.
She has had Spencer longer. Teddy is a chestnut that Patti has only has a very short time. We started with Spencer. He is a lovely bay with a large, kind eye. He has been shown on the "A" circuit, probably in hunter classes.Today was very cold and windy. Spencer was remarkably calm in Patti's indoor ring. This was really the first time threy were in her lovely box stalls. The pasture (which had a great run-in shed) was being torn up, so she had them in her indoor ring for a few days.
We brushed Spencer and put splint boots on his front legs. Patti is going to buy hind splint boots for him; I believe in protecting a horse's legs when lungeing.I watched Patti starting to lunge, but therre were a few things I wanted her to do differently, so I took over. I explained that she wanted him to stand for her as she moved to the center of the circle, and not have him just start moving-that it was a safety consideration as well as a calming move to have him wait for her. Patti used the halter, which was fine. I do not believe in lungeing from the bit.
Patti did not have a lunge whip. I had brought one with me. I explained that it was just an extension of your arm, not meant to be snapped or to frighten or hit the horse, and that most of the time it weas carried behind your back.I then worked Spencer for quite a while at the walk. He acted as if he thought he was supposed to trot right away, so I demonstrated to Patti how to ask him to stay in the walk by the use of your body and voice, also slightly bringing him closer to me very gently. I exlained the use of the ground person's "soft eye" and use of low energy with this horse.
Spencer is a very generous horse on the ground, but it was eveident that he was tense and a bit "high", with the cold weather and wind and being in his stall. He very quickly learned my voice commands and tone, and started to lower his head because of relaxation of his body, and to chew and "mellow". We worked on down transitions, and I demonstrated to Patti the use of "an..d....walk" using "a..nn..dd" on down transitions as a type of half halt. Spencer soon picked up on this.
I lunged him both ways; he was stiffer going to the right. He was not too supple laterally (very common, something to work on), and had a tendency to travel with a hollow back and his head up. Patti and I talked about using our energy correctly to keep him calm and listening. I talked abut the importance of deciding what was a correct response from the horse....that with Spencer, little mistakes were "no big deal", that a horse does not learn if he is tense or frightened.

..more on this lesson will follow.....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Open CR Clionic in Maine

I have just completed the first day of an Open Centered Clinic at Hearts n'Horses in
Buxton, Maine. We have 11 riders plus auditors, and were able to ride outside today.
We had very interesting horses, all responding better to their riders as they incorporated techniques exploreed in the clinic. We have one more day to go......all of us wishing it could be longer.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hi Mitzi

I am glad you want to discuss this as I am doing so much research and it would be great to have someone to bounce ideas off right now.

I horse Peanut is a 14.3h 12 y o half breed trotter with some welsh and TB in there somewhere too. He was owned by gypsies for the first 4 years of his life. He was broken ot drive at the age of 18 mths ouch! and raced down the roads but those gypsies, it is barbaric really, but that is their way. Then my friend bought him cheep and backed him, but alwasy had issues with him, he proved to be very good at XC but dressage is a no go, he cant get his head around the idea of balance and rhythm. ANyway 3 years ago I aquired him on loan as my friend had had enough, he was proving very difficult with all sorts of vices bucking rearing cribing etc. Anyway, he had always proved to be strong and leans on the bit, gets his tongue over the bit, rushes and spooky. Well, I tried every bit under the sun but the stronger the bit the stronger he would go, the stronger the bit although he wouldnt lean on it, he would still rush and go hollow especially on canter depart. I even tried a myler combination bit, yes he was ok in that one but something didnt seem right to me. Anyway, then I thought if there is no bit in his mouth then how can he argue with it? SO I tried a bitless. Well, he didnt know what to do with himself. I will always be a sharp little horse, spooky and jolly to hack on, if you know what I mean. But the greatest difference I found was the trot canter transition. He stayed through his back and even took the contact forward down and out, he usually tends to go overbent and high in the neck so it feels like you dont have anything from the withers forward.
I have to try it again but I believe I wont be going back to bits.
I will try to get a video of him on youtube soon as I have some videos already of him with bits it would be interesting to get one of him going bitless too as a comparison.

Anyway that is all for me to start with and I would be very interested in your opinions of bitless riding.

Many Thanks,


HI Lydia,
Great letter. I would love to compare notes with you. I agree with the "on the bit" being a misnomer. I have ridden (as have you) a horse that is soft and through his back with a relaxed poll and even chews and licks his mouth without a bit. I travel all over working with different horses and so-called difficult ones, and so many of the "resistances" are caused by bits and of course rider's hands.

I will give you an example. In Holland I had a Tinker-type horse in a clinic who would just overbend (ridden in a snaffle) and bulge to the inside and take his rider and owner into the center of the ring. She had always had trouble and was not able to canter her. I worked with the owner on half halts and indirect rein, but the horse would just tuck his head into his chest.

I got on the horse,and was able to use half halts more successfully, and I was careful to not put pressure on the reins, but the horse just felt so resistant and just was so used to tucking. I wanted to lift the horse up, and teach her that she could lighten her forehand, but I certainly did not want to use a bit to do it! That would be abusive to the horse's mouth. I had one of Dr. Cook's Bitless bridles with me, and put it on her. I LOVE the way the horses initially react when you first put one on! They show this positive they woke up a bit. With the Bitless, I just lifted my hand up in a vertical direction and gently pulled her head up...kind of suggesting she could travel differently. She understood almost immediately and by the end of the lesson the owner could keep her on the track.

The next day just before her lesson, she rode her horse for a short time in the woods. I brought my digital camera with me, as I had promised Dr. Cook I would take some "before and after" pictures with the Bitless. I hated doing it, but I told the rider we would put a bit in her horse's mouth to get the "before" picture. She did not do as well as with the Bitless, but it had already shown her that she could travel differently so we could not get a good before picture. She was already so much better and understanding.It was amazing! Her rider was even able to canter her. Her owner does not show at the moment, so her horse is lucky and can stay in Dr. Cook's bridle.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Question on "Misbehaved" Horse

Hi. I have a question about a horse of mine that I hope you can answer. I am
currently riding a 5 year old thoroughbred/quarter horse/arabian cross mare and for the most part I enjoy riding her. But every time I bring her to a new place ( we travel a bit going to gymkhanas and barrel racing) she acts up and starts to get excited. She gets very pushy, rude, and I have barely any control over her. The last time I went somewhere with her was about one week ago, and I couldn't do anything with her. I want her to learn how to stand still while I am mounted, but all she does is move like crazy. She refuses to be still, and won't listen to anything I tell her to do. Do you have any ideas on how to fix this?

Thank you for your time,

I hope you accept my opinion and consider that it is the best thing for your
mare at this moment - even though it may interfere with your immediate plans for showing. You should consider it as it sounds as if your mare is just going to get worse and worse and you would have trouble showing her anyway.

Gymkhanas and barrel racing can be OVER-exciting and stimulating to a horse. She is plainly showing you that she is "losing it" when you take her to these
events. She is not a happy horse-she is a fearful horse. Horses are basically
timid, and their reaction to fear and anxiety is flight or fright. Her level of negative energy is so great that she cannot concentrate on your directions.

My suggestion is to cease all training for games AT THIS TIME. Go back to the
basics and gentle ground work like T.E.A.M. She does NOT need round
penning.....she needs to start to get a bonding with you again...not to be chased around. After she is soft and listening to you in her ground work, start riding her again thinking of the basics....large circles and transitions, etc.

When this is going well, take her in a trailer to a pleasure type horse show and if she is quiet, just ride a bit in the warm up not show. She needs many pleasant experiences to negate the fear memory that has happened to her. Read the chapter on horses in Dr. Temple Grandin's book HOW ANIMALS MAKE US HUMAN.

Your horse is pretty much a baby at five...her breeding includes horses bred to be fairly sensitive and intelligent. Gaming may not be the correct agenda for her and if it is not you need to accept that. Obviously you care about her or you would not write in.

You may contact me for more information at or

Even gaming should be done and trained so that a horse accepts it willingly. I have clients who can walk their horses on a loose rein, ride their run, and walk out again on a loose rein. This is a correctly trained gymkhana horse. It is not a pleasure to watch a horse jumping out of his skin run a barrel pattern.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I just finished teaching the Centered Riding Instructor's Update at Thorncroft Equestrian Center in Malvern, Pa. I will write in more detail about some of the wonderful things that happened during the clinic, but I need to thank the owners and staff of Thorncroft for all of their assistance during the clinic.
Thorncroft's wonderful horses were appreciated by all of the participants. Many, many breakthroughs occurred-it was so much fun.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Teaching at Thorncroft

Thoncroft Equestrian Center in Malvery, Pa., is truly an inspiring place.
By accessing their website or googling them, it is possible to view an impressive film about the place.

I am currently giving a Centered Riding Instructor's Update Clinic at Thorncroft. . I have ten CR instructors attending, with the requisite number of student riders and some auditors.

I had found before starting this clinic that I felt a bit tired from all of the driving that I have been doing, but as soon as I started teaching this clinic, all of the positive energy that I get from teaching returned.

I taught the instructors in two different sessions after a morning of introductions and groundwork. Then it was the Instructor's turn to teach. They teach in pairs-switching the principle instructor every other day.

For the most part the body work was very good, and all of the instructors have developed a good teaching "eye" that enables them to recognize what each individual student needs.

It was a long day. A few of the participants acttually drive 2 and a half hours each day one way, so that they can go home and care for their horses at home.. True dedication!

Monday, March 1, 2010

HI everyone!!

It has been an interesting trip for me on my way back to the great Northeast. My first stop was a farm in Tennessee where they raise, train, and sell Spotted Gaited horses. They have 150 of them and they are all well taken care of and very nice looking horses. The owner and his ancestors have had this huge farm for over 100 years.

I rode one of the stallions. Very tractable and just a lot of fun to work with. He was very soft, and it was relaly fun to ride the various gaits.
I am going back and we are trading knowledge........they want me helping them and I want to learn more about their gaited horses.

My clinic at Planeview Farm was great and I was impressed with Cristy Brown's knowledge of ground work, and all of the hard work she has put into building her farm.
Her clients were all wonderful students. They loved the Centered Riding exercises . It was a very cold, windy day but everyone hung in there and we did not stop talking and trading stories until almost 9 pm. I stayed with a lovely woman named Kay and her Foster dogs. She was a wonderful hostess.

Now I am in Maryland and Karen Brown, a CR Instructor, has been introducing me to neighborhood barns and I am getting to know her great mustangs. Karen has done all of the work herself.
More adventures tomorrow and the next week, and I will write about them.
I am giving a 4 day Centered Riding Update at Thorncroft this week. Jane at Abington Hills is looking after Hope, my wonder dog, for me.Once things settle a bit, I will be able to be there more often for lessons and training.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Question on Agression

Q. I have 9 month old Morab. I just bought him. He is pretty good with all of the handling that I do with him except for eating. He is very aggressive about his food. When I put the grain in his stall, he puts his ears back and crowds me out of the way.
I have been unsure what to do so I just leave quickly. If I then go near him at all while he is eating, he lifts up his hind legs and looks really nasty. I am not sure what to do. Will be grow out of it? Should I just leave him alone and let him eat in peace?
Helen L. Scranton, Pa.
A. Hello Helen, and thank you for writing.
I do not think you can let this behavior continue, but if you are a bit nervous around your horse when he threatens you, please get a knowledgeable horse person to help you.Your horse is definitely being aggressive, and you do need to reestablish his respect for you, even if now it is just exhibited when he is eating. This problem is not all that uncommon. If the horse is just a bit grumpy when eating, often nothing has to be done. Indeed, you can just let them be for the brief period of time involved when they are eating their grain.
Your horse, however, is actively threatening you. This behavior could escalate. You just have to change the pattern that he has established. I have been successful by reacting immediately when the horse threatens me. When you go into his stall carry a lead rope with you. If you go into the stall to give him the grain and he threatens you, or if he is aggressive right after he is grained, immediately go boldly into his "space" and put the lead rope on him. With definite "energy" lead him out of the stall. Walk him around and find room to work on asking him to lead forward, back up, and disengage his haunches,making him move away from your body as you invade his space.
You will have an assertive energy level, but you must never lose your temper. Your response has to be matched exactly to his actions. You want him to respect you and listen to you, but not to be actively afraid. When he is listening to you, lead him back into the stall and hold the lead rope while he eats. As long as he does not threaten you again, just leave him alone. If he threatens you again, just repeat the procedure.
Be certain that you attach a lead rope before you correct your horse. If you yell or threaten your horse in his stall without having control of his head he could wheel and kick or charge you. Please let me know if you keep having any trouble. There are good training techniques to use with young horses such as Tellington-Jones T.E.A.M. methods or some Natural Horsemanship techniques. Just make sure that the methods make sense to your horse and are non-abusive.
Mitzi Summers

Friday, January 22, 2010


We horse people are tough, and, we might as well face it, a bit daft. Whether you want to think of our passion for all things horsey as a sport, inter-species communication, or a chance to show up the stable next door with your ribbons, we all suffer gladly for our passion.

First of all, there is the ratio of actually riding/driving our horses vs. caring for the horse so that some day we can actually do something with them. This is especially true of horse owners who live in the Northeast, Midwest, Northwest, Central Plains, and anywhere besides Orlando, Florida. Oh, yes, I know. Every fall, when the temperature starts to drop you probably make a resolution that no matter HOW cold it gets and how much snow you have to confront, you will ride at least five times a week. With me, before access to indoor rings, that lasted maybe until after Christmas, when too many frostbitten toes resulted in hibernation- excepting the hours spent caring for my now indolent and carefree equines.

In the past twenty years, there has been a resurgence of “natural horsemanship”. I say a resurgence because this is what most horse people have been doing since forever, they just did not have a label for it. The main tenet of natural horsemanship seems to be gaining the respect of our equine charges, becoming the “boss” mare or the “boss” stallion, or whatever herd member we are trying to emulate. I think most of our horses get together and decide exactly how much of us they have to put up with so that they do not disturb the natural order the things, which to them is to be waited upon hand and foot until the rare occasion occurs when they actually have to do a little something to earn their keep.

Every day humans spend all kinds of money at health spas and fancy hotels to be waited upon in the manner their horse is accustomed to every single day. Consider the average horse care, especially in the winter time. After napping and generally standing cozily about in his clean bedded stall for the night, blanketed over his winter coat if his owner was feeling cold herself the night before, the horse is awakened by the sound of a thud. His owner has again succumbed to the patch of ice that has stubbornly refused to yield to sand and salt. Nothing can get in the way of horse care, however, and heaven forbid that the REGULAR SCHEDULE that the horse needs for his well-being be modified. The owner drags herself up from her fall and proceeds to start the ministrations her friend requires...

First of all is the “Ritual of the Roughage“, the serving of nutritional and fresh hay. The hay has ended up costing more than the price per unit of caviar this winter because a) the summer was too wet, or b) the summer was too dry. It of course has to be shaken up to get the occasional mote of dust out of it so that the horse is not forced to inhale it. The owner, of course, suffers from hay fever and must take allergens even in the winter so that her adorable equine does not suffer. In England as a working student in a riding school, (that is a whole other tale), the phrase “water, hay, oats”, and that order therein, was forced into our little brain-washed minds. Mr. Horse has, however, long ago established that his anxiety about not eating in the past 2 hours has to be immediately sated by being given his hay first.

Now his heated water bucket must be rinsed out and scrubbed, immediately imbuing his owner, who is not the most coordinated person in the world, with wet jeans, sleeves and face. Fresh water is now transported to the spotless receptacle by means of carrying several buckets from a cleverly contrived trough. The hose has frozen solid long ago. In Upstate New York , it will become useful again about the first of May.

Time for the “oats” part of the morning scenario. We scoff at this simplistic explanation of the “ritual of “hay, water, oats. The grain now given to our equine supervisor has been subjected to more taste, nutrition, and quality checks than the food we give to our children. We have established the ratio of protein acceptable , and then added to the whole concoction with supplements. We have a supplement for his tail, hooves, right ear, intestinal tract, and temperament. It has become so time- consuming and confusing that a marketing genius came up with shipping us all of this in premade packets that only cost us three times more than they would have in bulk. We also may serve our horse a hot breakfast consisting of beet pulp or a bran mash. In England we working students also had to boil linseed oil and add horse nuts, maize, and brewer’s yeast to the mix. Only when your horse is contently consuming his breakfast can we stagger to our kitchen for a hot cup of coffee and instant oatmeal mix. What WE eat is of no consequence compared to our horse‘s diet.

The next obeisance required is the cleaning of our horse’s sleeping quarters. I have , after years of observation, come to the conclusion that any behavioral problems that any horse has stems from this activity. I will reiterate this statement as it has not been exposed in all of the thousands of horse manuals printed…..the key to our relationship with our horses and the “submission…herd boss” thing is tied to the ritual of “The Cleaning of the Poop”.

How can we expect a horse to take our supposed superiority seriously when every day they see us succumb to this ritual? They observe the time and the sacred implements that we cherish to accomplish this task. They observe that we have made a ritual of the possession of his leavings-- wheel barrels, manure forks, manure forks with elevated sides, tractors, shovels, etc., that are dedicated to this purpose.

They watch while we carefully shift out the unwanted material, the clean shavings or straw, so as not to dilute the desired end (yes, a pun here) product. Then we cart it away and store it for later use. Maybe it is spread usefully on a field, maybe someone lucky enough comes to collect it. Either way, it is obviously a prized possession. The horses at the British Horse Society approved riding school were privy to the building of a shrine dedicated to their excrement. It was called the midden. It often became as tall as a second story building. So much straw was used for bedding, and the horses were bedded so deep, that it always managed to smell fairly fragrant-straw, with a slight essence of horse.

The midden was periodically carted away by mushroom growers who greatly prized its contents. (and don’t you think those English horses knew it). In the meantime, the Monument to Manure had to be kept attractive. Every day we had to don our knee high muck boots and “square the midden”. This was accomplished by climbing up the sides and with heavy metal pitch forks evening and straightening the sides until it was square. As a result of this enterprise, every horse that I knew over there had a superiority complex.

So, in conclusion, we horse enthusiasts are justified in feeling that we have long ago passed the test for toughness. The Iron Man Competition contestants have nothing over us. No matter what the weather we make certain that our horses come first. No amount of sleet, rain, or snow can keep us from our appointed rounds. Indeed, this fall I was driving with my assistant to work with several mustangs just shipped in, It was a cold, dreary, muddy, rainy day, and we were working outside in large mud-filled round pens and I could not WAIT to get started. We passed a golf course, and I could not help remarking to my passenger how silly those people were, to be outside playing golf in this weather. One look from her brought me back to the irony of THAT remark. ….but we would not have it any other way.
Mitzi Summers