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