Outside Horse Training

August 31, 2012

We have a different approach to horses than a lot of facilities. We don’t train horses owned by other people. A lot of training operations and even some ranches will take outside horses and charge a monthly fee for teaching and riding your horse. We have no problem with those operations, it is just not what we want to do.

From our perspective, it is far more rewarding to see someone choose one of our horses fully broke and ready for the trails. Trying to fix problems created by years of bad habits and inexperience is hard work and sometimes impossible.

It never fails the person wanting outside training has just bought a horse that isn’t a good  fit. He may be the right color, but everything else is wrong. We see folks from time to time who take rescue horses. An admirable aspiration, but not always fully thought out ahead of time.

Our goal is to provide horses ready for folks to ride and enjoy. We like to see people having a great time and enjoying horse ownership rather than wondering how they ended up in some unpleasant situation.

Don’t Make Every Ride A Training Session

August 25, 2012

If you ever worked at a job where everything went crazy from time to time, you learned to really appreciate just having a normal, regular day every so often. Ever notice the glazed look on an individual who works retail after Christmas. Tired, burned out and really not overly concerned with what you want.

Horses get tired too. Not necessarily physically tired, but psychologically and emotionally worn out. Particularly during periods of extended training horses mentally tire out.  Give your horse a break and just go ride from time to time. Afterall for trail riders in Oklahoma, the ride is what you enjoy! And so does a good trail horse.

Yeah we believe in training and our horses get a lot of it, but we also believe in having some fun along the way and so do our horses! Bet yours likes a little fun too!

Teach Your Horse To Cross Water Easily ( Part 3 )

August 21, 2012

Teaching a horse to cross water is training and sometimes takes patience. As we said in earlier posts, success comes in small changes.

We like circles  when training. It forces the horse in forward motion and keeps the hind quarters moving. Make the feet move and the horse soon starts to understand you are in control. As you approach the water, just keep circling closer and closer until you have the feet wet.

We saw a nice video with a man by the name of David Archer showing a roll back as he approached the water on a green horse. He didn’t really have the right location to do circles. Several things we liked while watching the video were his patience, calm and easy handling of the horse, and clearly communicated expectations to the horse.

Notice how Mr. Archer doesn’t make it a fight with the horse. There isn’t any hollering, yelling, or even any real action taken by him. He keeps encouraging the horse, but doesn’t force him to do anything. Each step is signaled to the horse. You can tell by watching the horse understands what he is being asked to do. He just isn’t ready at first.

Mr. Archer doesn’t get in a rush, notice how he has the attitude that ” I  came to spend the day with you. ” We also need to point out that he doesn’t spend the day and likely wouldn’t. The point is that he doesn’t seem worried if it takes a while for the horse to learn what he has to do.

Last, pay close attention to the end of the lesson. The horse isn’t crossing perfectly, but has made significant improvement by the end of the video. We always say stop on a good note. You can come back another day for follow-up training.


Teaching Your Horse To Cross Water Easily ( Part 2 )

August 18, 2012

First let’s get one thing clear right off the bat. Horses aren’t afraid of water. Yeah, we’ve heard it before.  ” My horse is afraid of water. ” Probably not. We can’t say there isn’t a horse that’s afraid of water, but we haven’t seen many. Horses, like people, don’t arrive in this world with hydrophobia. Of course, we assume you aren’t crossing someplace too dangerous to go or full of quicksand.

Usually the problem is a leadership issue and the  horse wants to establish an area of superiority. It doesn’t mean it is not a real problem, just not one truly related to the water. Some of you are thinking, I don’t care about the psychology, I just want to ride across the creek. We understand. But, to solve the problem, you have to first understand it.

Horses are herd animals and always testing to see if they can move up a notch in the pecking order. You may be the next notch. The way to find out is to test something. Testing something new gives the horse a perceived reason to act differently. After all you will certainly understand being a little wary of something new, right?

So what can you do? We recall a mare with the ” fear ” of water. She hated to get her feet wet and danced around every puddle in the trail. Small creeks were jumped in a single bound, feet dry on the other side. Well as luck would have it, the following Spring after we bought her in January was probably the wettest year in the previous 50 years. It rained constantly and the pasture was one giant pond. You could ride in the water or not ride. I remember laughing over and over for about two weeks as the little mare tried not to get her feet wet every evening when I went to ride. Finally she figured out that her feet got wet no matter how hard she tried and just accepted it.

This year in Oklahoma we are having a drought. The creeks are dry and teaching the same horse would have to take a different approach. So what would we do. First, we would try a couple of long, long rides over a three-day weekend. Preferably one without water to cross until the end of day three and the rides taking 7 or 8 hours each day. Then at the end of day three, we would head straight for the creek and not give the horse a chance to think about. Yep, splash right on in.  We might put  a horse not bothered by the water directly in front to have the follow the leader benefit. Generally after three days of good riding, it’s not a problem.

If it didn’t work, we would work on other leadership exercises to reinforce who it in charge and try again. Personally I like circles. You go right three turns, then left three turns. Do it several times at a fast walk or trot in tight circles so the horse has to work while he is doing it. Then head him towards the water and kick him as you get there. If he refuses to go, put him back in the circles and try again. You have to develop the understanding that you decide where you go and not him.

Still having trouble, we would try something that you don’t want to do without the expertise and good help. We would tie off on a stout horse and lead him into the water and make him stand there. He would learn to  stand there. If you don’t have those tools, consider digging a hole in front of the feed box or his water. Create the situation where he has to walk into the water and the mud to drink or eat. Sounds mean! What if he doesn’t eat? Welcome to mother nature’s training methods. Learn or don’t eat. Are you getting the picture?

We don’t believe in cruelty, but you have to figure out a way for the horse to understand who ( hopefully you ) is going to be the dominant partner. Him or you? Besides, we have never seen a horse that would starve to avoid getting wet. Once he is getting his feet wet, put a halter and lead rope on as he crosses. Pretty soon you’ll be swimming  him across small oceans. If you continue to have problems, you are welcome to call us for other possible solutions.

Teach Your Horse To Cross Water Easily

August 15, 2012
Gailforce — Another old lady rediscovering her inner cowgirl wrote, ” I have finally gotten my horse out on the trails and he’s doing fairly well, but, he won’t cross water.  He hates water.  He doesn’t even want to cross the mud and water that is across the gateway between his pasture and his shelter and manger.

He will leap across a narrow creek or ditch and step around any puddle if he can or bomb full blast across it.  I’ve never tried taking him into an actual river or anything large.  I am trying to get him to relax and slowly go in and just walk through.

Tonight, I spent over an hour at an empty lot with lots of puddles and worked on him going across especially wide ones so he couldn’t easily go around them.  I wore my rubber boots and walked in the shallow puddles and splashed and showed him it was safe.  I had the dog come in and wade around.

It took probably 15 minutes to get him to walk/hop quickly across it.  Then another 10 minutes or so to get him in again and get him to stop in the middle then he leapt out.  Then another 10 minutes to do it again, etc.

I got him in a total of maybe 5 or 6 times.  I worked on him from the ground.  But, although we ended after he stepped in and walked across slowly, I don’t feel he will go in any easier the next time.

Is there some different ideas out there.  How do you go about training a horse to cross water. ”

You can hear the frustration in this poor cowgirl and we will offer a few thoughts. Our next post will offer some suggestions to consider for the horse that is ” afraid of water”. 

Confused Over Training and Untraining

August 12, 2012

You will often hear us say, you are always training or untraining the horse. The horse is learning no matter what you are doing or not doing as the case may be. Training takes place all the time. This confuses some folks. Just a few blog posts back, we suggested keeping training lessons short. So what are you supposed to do, train all the time or not!

We’ll try to clear up any confusion. It is just like raising kids. You are constantly training all the time. Don’t believe us, just forget to watch the clock at bedtime. Before you know it, 9:00p.m. quickly turns to 9:15, then 9:30p.m. You have to maintain the procedure or it will change.

Horses should have manners and know how to act around people. You are constantly training by reinforcing good manners and safe practices or you are untraining what someone else taught them. Easy example, let the horse start to graze as you ride along as he wants. Pretty soon, you will have a horse that some other person can’t ride. It might even be you!

Teaching the horse something new and unfamiliar needs to be done slowly and over time. Reinforcing what he already knows is not learning, it justs training. A horse that knows how to lead doesn’t need to be taught how to do it. But, he may need an ocassional reminder or refresher. If you let the horse get away with things over and over, you are training him to do what he wants.

Oh, don’t forget to remind your kids to brush their teeth as they head off to bed. Good night!

Training Cure

August 8, 2012

Having a problem with  . . . (_____________). Yep, you fill in the blank.  An often overlooked training cure is a long trot. Sound too simple, well try it anyway. Long trots are helpful in a number of ways.

First, it lets the horse burn off any unwanted excitement so he can relax. Second, if you initiate and maintain the trot, it reinforces you are the leader. You’ re the one that makes his feet move. Third, it sets the stage for a meaningful teaching session once he catches his breath. A little conditioning for you and the horse is a good thing as well. Now it should go without saying that you don’t go on long trots until you have whoa working properly.

These long trots solve all kinds of problems. Do you have a horse that wants to eat on the trail, he won’t eat as much trotting as walking. Have a horse that won’t stand still  while you make a quick phone call. He will when he gets tired enough. He will learn to like to stand for a few minutes. Hard to load in the trailer, take him on nice long trot and remind him who says where he goes and when. You’ll be surprised at the results.

As always, our ideas are intended for those people capable of doing them. If you just adopted one of those Federal mustangs, don’t start with the long trot unless you really ride well!!!

Excessive Heat Poses Dangers To Horses

August 5, 2012

Temperatures in and around the Tulsa, Oklahoma area have been over 115 degrees the last week. You need to take extra measures and precautions with horses any time the temperature reaches 100 degrees. We suggest you don’t ride when it is this hot if you are just a pleasure rider. Although we have not suspended training, it has been fairly limited in duration and the horses are not pushed to do a lot.

Usually in August training can be done in the early morning and evenings. One day last week the temperature was still 103 degrees at 8:30p.m. We have been carefully monitoring our horses in training to avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Salt is always free choice and plenty of fresh water available. Heat is hard on livestock and you need to take it seriously. So we do. If you are going to train horses in Oklahoma, you have to do it year round, but you learn to make appropriate adjustments.

Keep Lessons Short, Then Have Some Fun

August 4, 2012

When teaching a horse, keep the lesson short. Think back to when you started learning something new. Who is smarter you or the horse? Did you learn by spending hours at a time? Probably not. Chances are you learned just a little day by day. For those younger folks remember when you first started to drive. For us older ones, think about that new computer program at work.

Back to the first question, who is smarter? You? Then why expect the horse to learn faster than you. Do children learn to walk in an hour? Not most, they try with little or no discernible success at times. As they try and fail, they learn. Your horse is not any different and not as smart. So don’t expect more from the horse than you can do, a really common mistake.

Maybe you have jumped on your horse and spent the next 2 hours training. You likely quit frustrated and the horse agitated. Dont’ do it! Keep your lessons to 10 minutes, ride for another 20 minutes, then do a 5 minute review. Stop training for the day, try to end on a positive effort. But stop!

It doesn’t mean the riding has to end. Just let the horse do what can be accomplished with confidence. Think back to driving in the snow the first time. You could probably drive for hours on dry, pretty day. The snow was tiring and entirely different. Keep lessons short and have FUN! Your horse will appreciate and learn a whole lot faster!

Don’t Win The Training Battle And Lose The War

August 1, 2012

Training is about teaching, not about proving your point. Sometimes we make the mistake of trying so hard to accomplish some specific objective that we lose sight of the end result.

This past weekend is a prime example. We were riding some young horses that have coming along really well. Both neck rein, stop, and really handle nicely. As we rode up to a piece of concrete in a ditch, the first horse didn’t want to walk across the concrete. We circled several times without him actually walking on it.

Not successful, the other horse was ridden up to the concrete. Of course he had already seen the terrible and scary concrete so he refused to walk across it too. Finally, he decided to step onto the concrete and stood while the first horse got used to the idea. Not long after both were standing on the concrete with their front feet.

With the success, it was time to ride back 20 feet and try riding the length of the concrete. No way, he still wasn’t going to cross. Could the horse have been forced across? Absolutely! Did we? No.

Significant progress had already been accomplished.  The horse goes almost everywhere calmly and without issues. He responded to what we wanted, but not to the point we wanted. There is plenty of time later in the week to explore the ” terrible place ” and try again. This time he may just walk across without a second look. Having forced the issue might have made a mountain out of a mole hill.

With training, sometimes you take the small success and build from them. It wasn’t a horse who stubbornly refused to perform, an entirely different scenario. In that situation, you want to make him to it. In this case, he just wasn’t sure about the situation. Not scared, not running away, just uncertain.  A little time and patience will build more confidence and do so in a way that the horse doesn’t become hard to handle.

In short, when training, don’t win the battle and lose the war. You may make the horse do what you want, but at the cost of developing future problems. When training, learn to accept the small successes and build from there. And especially if you have horse that is trying to learn and not acting up.