No Way; That’s Not My Tarp!

November 29, 2013

Confidence Building ClinicIf you go to enough of these trail obstacles challenges, you start to notice a recurring theme. Over and over you hear riders saying, “I can’t figure it out. He’s never afraid of the tarp! We cross a tarp all the time.” You always hear it right after the horse looks at the nice blue tarp identical to the one used at home.

The tarp you see here at the Bad Girls Trail Riding Confidence Clinic is actually our tarp. When we started across on one of the horses we brought for demonstration purposes, he stopped and looked at it like he had never seen it before. It was his tarp! LOL! It wasn’t any trouble convincing him to cross it, just funny how the very tarp he probably crossed 15 times before without blinking was something new. It always makes you laugh, whether it’s your horse or someone else’s.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from everyone at horsesfortrail! We are grateful to God for this wonderful country, our family, our health, our lives, and our horses. This is truly a remarkable time and place to live. Enjoy the day and we hope the holiday is good for you and yours!

It Is Impossible To Expose A Horse To Every Potential Situation

November 26, 2013

Confidence Building ClinicA valuable lesson for new horse owners is the understanding that no horse has been exposed to every possible situation. Often, beginning riders have heard the term “bomb proof“. For our definition see the post  June 15, 2012. There is no such thing as a completely “bomb proof” horse the way most new riders want to use the term. All horses have fears and no horse is without something that will scare it. The question is always “What”?

At the confidence building clinic we have been blogging about, emphasis was made to the attendees about our views on desensitizing horses. Our views differ from many in the horse business. While we feel it is important to expose a horse to as many different events, situations, and scenarios you can dream up, the more important task is creating a willingness in the horse to de-escalate from an event.

We use the phrase “back to calm” to describe leaving the state of excitement and returning to a state of calm and quiet. A horse that is taught to go to calm in seconds or moments is far safer and easier to handle than one that takes 30 minutes to an hour. Our horses are taught when the rider drops his hands to the horse’s neck to “go to calm”. It is practiced constantly during training and during trail riding. If something unexpected happens, the rider pulls the reins for whoa and then immediately drops his hands to the neck, i.e., the cue for “go to calm”.  The horse is expected to settle at once into a quiet state, although still possibly tense. He should stand and wait for the rider to make the next decision. In this way, it is not the horse that decides what to do, but the rider. If done properly. it allows the rider to make the decision from the saddle instead of the ground and with a eye towards the safest action to be taken.

Here in the photo, the small swimming pool was filled with empty plastic water and drink bottles. The purpose was to ask the horse to step into the pool with noise and funny feeling underneath. Although the rider was to walk the horse across, the first test of the obstacle was to see if the horse would stand quietly in the situation, one probably never encountered before. It is a creative way to work on teaching a horse to go to calm. If the horse jumps or quickly steps out, you pull the reins, say whoa, and rest the hands on his neck. Once calm, you try again. In our perspective, it’s better than “turn and bolt”!

There’s More To Mounting Than Just Height

November 23, 2013

DocWe get telephones calls from folks interested in knowing how many hands a particular horse may be. In some cases, they just say, tell me about the horses you have that are less than ??? hands tall. You can bet these calls don’t come from college basketball scholarship recipients. Hey, trust us, we understand the issues faced by those who are “vertically challenged”. There may be some tall ancestors somewhere back there, but the genes in our family haven’t shown any recent activity.

It might be worth knowing that height alone isn’t what makes a horse easy or hard to mount. There are actually a couple of factors you don’t want to overlook. Width is nearly as important as height. When you stop to analyze it, a person with shorter legs, standing in one stirrup, and attempting to put their other leg over the horse, finds it much easier on a narrower horse than a wider one. Although height plays a part, it is easier in many cases to climb on a taller, narrow horse than a horse than may be a bit shorter, but wider.  Doc, the AQHA quarter horse shown here, is 14.2 hands tall. Doc is slender in his build and a lot simpler to mount than some 14 hand horses we have that are broader in the chest and rib cage. Doc is also comfortable for folks with shorter legs as he doesn’t tend to spread them as wide sitting in the saddle.

Height is taken from the withers to the ground. Some horses have higher withers that make them measure taller than another one that looks the same size when you put your foot in the stirrup. In other words, the center of the back of two horses can be identical, but they may measure two different heights because one has higher withers.

Without discounting the fact that a shorter horse is easier to climb up, enough can’t be said about having a horse trained to stand still while you mount. Tall or short, a horse that is walking around while you try to get aboard makes it difficult. Doc stands completely still and let’s you take your time getting up and settled as a properly trained trail horse should do.

If you are looking for a horse sized right for you, don’t miss out on what may be the perfect choice just because of the numbers on the measuring stick.

Pink Pig, Never Saw One Before

November 19, 2013

Confidence Building ClinicWe like a horse that investigates new things and checks them out. A horse should be expected to do his job and that includes paying attention to where he is going and the surrounding environment. When a horse sees something strange for the first time, the natural inclination before proceeding may be to push his nose towards it. When he does, give him a minute to inspect the situation. Don’t rush him as he considers and thinks about the next step. Otherwise, you leave him with an uncomfortable feeling similar to what you might feel in a dark alley with someone telling you to hurry over what you can’t even see.

Here, one of the riders at the Bad Girls confidence building clinic demonstrates exactly what to do. She lets the horse takes his time and sniff the big, stuffed, bright pink pig. Excellent horsemanship.

Car Wash Obstacle Can Be A Challenge

November 16, 2013

Confidence Building ClinicOklahoma trail horses, like trail horses everywhere, don’t typically see a lot of car wash obstacles on the trail. The Bad Girls Confidence Building Clinic posed this new challenge to the attendees and their horses. It’s a fun obstacle and one that teaches the horse to trust the rider. At the clinic, it was used to teach some less experienced riders the importance of riding with purpose, confidence, and towards a point beyond the challenge immediately in front of the horse.

Over and over, the new riders were coached not to look down at the horse’s head if he stopped as he approached the streamers. It is a natural human reaction to look down to see what the horse is going to do when he stops. But, just the opposite of what is needed to make the horse feel comfortable with the new and strange contraption he is being asked to walk under. When the rider looks down, the horse senses indecision and reluctance in the rider that only makes the obstacle seem even more concerning. After all, the rider is now focused on the same concern the horse has.

The participants were taught to look straight ahead and fix their gaze on a point far in advance of the car wash such as the wall at the end of the arena. They were then encouraged to ride forward with a sense of purpose and the belief the horse would walk under without hesitation. Many were pleasantly surprised to learn how much confidence they could inspire in their horse and themselves. The car wash is great team building exercise for you and your horse.

We applaud the Bad Girls for putting on the clinic and working to make their members better horsemen!


Bad Girls Confidence Building Clinic Was A Great Success

November 14, 2013

The Bad Girls Trail Riding Club held a rider confidence clinic to assist members and their spouses in gaining confidence in their horse handling and riding skills  this past Saturday, November 9, 2013. We were invited to observe and offer assistance during the clinic. It was wonderful to see the eyes of some of the new riders as they conquered some of the skill building obstacles set up in the arena. The riders were brought into the arena in groups of five at a time so individual guidance and tips could be offered to them. There was also a question and answer session after the lunch break for those attending to ask follow-up questions for how to improve. It was a wonderful day and we look forward to the next opportunity to attend one of these events. Take a look at some of the video taken during the day.

Helmet Requirements; What Comes Around Goes Around!

November 12, 2013

There always seems to be some group or other watching out for you and your “best interest”. Laws, regulations, standards, and  conduct becomes governed by someone else’s good idea and decision to protect you. It’s not that safety is a bad idea. We talk about horse safety all the time. The problem is society is infringing in areas formerly considered individual rights. The general public seems to just nod and say, “Well, it sounds reasonable to me” or “We have to protect the children” and accept the latest, greatest safety requirement. The last decade the horse industry has been bombarded with the notion that everyone should wear a helmet.

Our caution to all the do gooders encouraging the use of helmets or to those refusing to take a stand allowing individuals the right to make a few choices in life is, beware! The old adage of what comes around, goes around may come back and bite you. We see more and more blog posts, articles, and industry groups calling for helmets at equine events. Once it becomes an entrenched requirement, it will then move to individual riders. Think not, seat belts and bicycle helmet laws are everywhere. Mandatory requirements for their use subject to fines and penalties.

We issue the warning because horseback riding comes with certain risks, it’s always there. No one ever has complete control over a 1,000 -1,200 lb. animal. So no matter what you legislate, there will still be injuries. As long as there are injuries, there will be more people in the future wanting solve the problem. For example, we know a lot of experienced riders who will say a western saddle is safer than an English saddle. You sit lower in western tack and also have a saddle horn to grab. Safety advocates may one day decide your saddle is no longer safe and require you to stop using your preferred choice of equipment.

Just for grins, and tongue-in-cheek, may be we should prohibit bareback riding. After all, some may assert that no saddle is really dangerous. Since we generally ride western, may be we should promote regulation of all equipment that doesn’t have a saddle horn and stirrups that allow your legs to extend. Maybe we should just ban horseback riding altogether. No riding, no accidents, no injuries and we are all safe!

Wake up America! Every time you go along with the crowd and the current fad that takes away someone’s else’s rights in the name of protecting them, you move one step closer to the front of the line. Before you go jumping on the safety bandwagon, give it a little more thought. It’s still a free country, but things are changing fast. With the Federal government entering heavily into healthcare (regardless of whether you are for it or against it), the reality is the government will say it has a financial stake in everything you do that affects your health. If injuries from certain types of activities increase medical care costs, the easy solution is to ban it.

Think it can’t happen! If you told my grandfather, just two generations back from me, that he couldn’t wear a cowboy hat while riding a horse, he would died three years earlier from not being able to stop laughing.  From a cowboy’s perspective, it would have sounded so incredible that only a fool or a prankster would have said it.  Even as a child riding all the time in Oklahoma, the thought someone would wear a helmet never entered my mind, much less that a bunch of people worried for my well-being might try to make me.

A person’s individual decision as to equipment, dress, and safety should be left to them. End of story!

The Old Cowboys Were Great Teachers

November 9, 2013

We were fortunate to have grown up around some of the old cowboys. They were great teachers and possessed a wealth of knowledge about horses, livestock, and ranching. Cowboys passed their knowledge to the next generation and to their horses by word, action, and letting the student try, fail, and learn from the attempt. They were slow to tell someone else how to do something, but willing to say, “Are you sure about that?” if they thought you were about to make a serious mistake that would get someone hurt or injure the livestock. Watchful for danger, but careful not to micro-manage.

Horses and young cowboys were allowed to make lots of mistakes and then given soft comments and instructions about alternative ways to do it better next time. Sometimes no comment was needed, the horse or cowboy protegé learned from his own mistake. Often, after observing failure, the cowboy simply went to work without saying a word right beside the less-experienced and just did the job. Without saying a word, he demonstrated how to properly do the job so the next time the student would have the skills to do it right.

The wisdom to know when to speak up to prevent a “wreck” and when to let the horse or “newby” as we would say, learn from his own doing provided the perfect learning environment. The concept came to mind a week or so back. We were riding and one of the young horses stumbled by stepping in a small hole. With a laugh and a smile, the horse was told, “better pay attention, it’s your job to watch the trail when we ride”.  Some will say the horse didn’t understand the comment. I think he did. Not necessarily the words, but the body language that politely said, I am sitting here balanced and relaxed. It’s your job to keep your feet underneath you so I can ride.

Cowboys were truly spectacular teachers with horses and people. Knowing when to talk, react, or just watch marks the difference between a pro and an amateur. The pro sees what is coming before it happens and has been there before. It doesn’t worry him because he will take action before he let’s a “wreck” happen. The inexperienced inappropriately react to the situation or try to cover their lack of understanding with a lot of words. Sure wish some of those old cowboys were still around!

If you don’t know much about horses and find someone always trying to convince you they know a lot, observe what they do. Watch to see if their horse acts the way you would like your horse to act. Just like the old cowboys, a knowledgable horseman doesn’t have to tell you how to do it, he can show you.

True Horsemen Are Polite, Respectful, and Civil

November 6, 2013

One of the things you observe in a true horseman is politeness, both to people and horses. Respect is given to both the horse he rides and the people around him. There is a spirit of decency and civility that is displayed in his humility. If you watch a “genuine” horseman, the horse responds and gives 110% from desire, not fear. The horse does his very best because he wants to do it, not because he has to do it. The ability to motivate and inspire the horse to get the job done comes naturally to some and is learned by others. It is always there in a horseman who “knows his stuff”!

We all need to use these same virtues in our social media, comments, and internet discussions. Name calling and disrespectful attitudes are damaging and unproductive. None of us know everything and all of us can learn from someone else. Just like a “real” horseman training a horse, you should have a fixed set of beliefs and expectations for the horse. Pressure or force is used sparingly and only as needed to move the horse and teach him what he needs to do. A horseman knows the appropriate limits and makes sure to use as little force as necessary.

We live in a great country where we all have the right to speak our thoughts, but we need to do so like a horseman. We need to be polite, respectful of the opinions of others, and use kindness in our comments and speech. It doesn’t mean we can’t have sharp disagreement or contrary opinions that are discussed and aired. Open debate and polite arguments allow all of us to learn and become even better skilled in riding, training, working with our horses. Let’s be sure when we disagree with someone to use our comments carefully and try to educate others with as little force or pressure as needed. Patience is a virtue and every horseman needs it. And let’s never forget that all of us continue to learn every day and just because someone else hasn’t learned what we know doesn’t make them a bad person. They, like us, just tend a little more time and teaching.

Horse Sense; No One Owns It

November 4, 2013

Horse Sense posted a blog recently we liked. The writer was trying to explain how “horse sense” is acquired from others who teach us, listening, and paying attention to your horse. It appeared to be posted in response to a comment someone made, but was said kindly. The main point is no one can lay claim to a body of knowledge that has passed down over many generations. Horsemen have debated and discussed proper training techniques for as long as horses have been ridden. No one knows it all and certainly no one can take credit for having come up with it.  Knowledge of horses and good horsemanship is acquired over a lifetime and never in a vacuum. We all learn from others who know more than we do.

The Best Horse For A New Rider is . . . . ?

November 1, 2013

What is the best for horse for a new or beginning rider? It’s a good question and deserves a good answer. As far as we are concerned, the best horse for a new rider is a well-broke horse that knows his job. A horse that gets the job done regardless of the circumstances or the experience of the individual on his back. A horse patient enough to put up with silly mistakes and not take advantage of the inexperience or lack of skill. There is no special breed or type or size. It’s more about disposition, training, and attitude than breed, age, or anything else.

Common sense tells you a horse with a long work history may have more to offer, but just like people some of these horses learned bad habits or developed a disdain for those who don’t know what they are doing. Some breeds tend to be hotter and less willing to accept mistakes. While we like the American quarterhorse, some lines aren’t as suited for beginners, especially those with racing blood lines.

In short, the best horse for someone learning to ride is the horse that will allow them to develop confidence, have fun, and enjoy riding. The only downside is once hooked, it becomes a lifetime addiction.!