Common Sense and Horsemanship

Common Sense and Horsemanship

By Dr. Mike Guerini   (from

As I was growing up the Western movies were becoming rare genres.  The classics and some of the newer horse movies were fun to watch especially when the horseman rode his trusty horse over hills, through herds of cattle and even down the side of a cliff.  At night I would lay my head down and think of those rides and wish for a day when I could ride my horse just like the rider in the movie.  My mother asked me what I found so thrilling about the idea of riding my horse down the side of a cliff.  I smiled at her and said—because then I would be a great rider.

Thankfully, for my horses’ sake, I never made that ride…instead I chose to follow the path of learning how to be a great horseman.

As I work with many horses and learn from some of the great horsemen and horsewomen I realize that good horsemanship and common sense go together.  Common sense is doing what is prudent and using good judgment.  Why when we hear someone describe how and where he or she rode a horse this past weekend do we cringe?  As the rider is describing his ride we never envision the great western rides in the movies…we envision wrecks, injuries or at the very least a scrape or two.  We often walk away wondering if this rider has any common sense!

All too often people use the image of riding a horse in a movie as the goal of their training program.  People forget that the horse in the movie has been trained and worked with consistently in order to achieve the result we see on the big screen.

Unfortunately common sense seems to be missing from many riders.  Great riders can sit on a horse and navigate obstacles.  Great riders have excellent balance and good hand and eye coordination.  Great riders feel free and unworried as they ride.  Great riders do not always use common sense when riding.  Great horseman can do everything that a great rider can do AND they use common sense.  They first teach the horse how to work off of leg pressure and respond to a cue.  Great horseman listen to the horse’s body language and then adapt the training program so that they are as compassionate as possible yet remain in control and offer consistent instruction to the horse.

Many people who ride want to make a connection with the horse; they want to build a relationship.  Thank goodness we have many excellent horsemen and women who demonstrate techniques and methods for helping us build this relationship.  Sadly though these learned horsemen and horsewomen cannot teach us common sense.

How do we incorporate common sense into our riding and training programs?  First we need to stop and decide what realistic goals we want to achieve.  Then we need to develop an approach that relies on safety, knowledge and good judgment.  Take the time to make informed decisions, take the time to learn how to ride correctly, take the time to learn about the horse you ride.  As a horse owner we all get to decide if we want to be a great rider or a great horseman.  I hope we can take the time to become great horsemen and horsewomen.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at   Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T at

From the Ground Up—-Maintaining your Horse’s Foundation Training.

From the Ground Up—-Maintaining your Horse’s Foundation Training.

By Dr. Mike Guerini

Over the past 10 years we have heard a great deal about “Foundation Training” programs for horses. Simply put, a foundation-training program is about training our horse physically, mentally and emotionally by using ground work and saddle work. Physically we teach our horse to be able to walk forward, backward, and move hips and shoulders with the least amount of contact by the rider. The mental aspect occurs when we gain our horse’s attention. The emotional part of the training comes when we lessen the impact of the horse’s fight or flight instinct. Foundation training is not a “hurry-up” training program. Similar to construction where a strong foundation is needed before walls are built, we ensure our horse learns lesson 1 before proceeding to lesson 2. How is it that many horses having been trained seem to “forget” lessons they have learned?

The answer is fairly simple: we forget to perform maintenance on our horse.

We all know that maintenance can help us avoid costly repairs and extend the life expectancy of many of the things we own. Our car, for example, performs better with routine care. Homeowners know that preventative maintenance, although it seems expensive and time consuming initially, is far more cost effective than using a crisis management approach of scrambling when something is in need of repair. Just as with our home or car, our horse continually needs maintenance. Without it we find ourselves wondering what went wrong with our horse. We say things like, “My horse used to lope for me,” or “My horse used to load in the trailer,” and “So why won’t he make smooth lead changes now?”

How do we retain our horse’s foundation? We consistently review and then, if necessary, reestablish the previous lessons.

In order to maintain my foundation training I begin each ride by reminding my horse of the basics. I make sure my horse walks forward, backward and moves her hip and shoulders. I do this on the ground and then in the saddle. In less than five minutes I know if my horse’s foundation of knowledge is in good shape for the ride or the lesson I have planned. If not, I go back to a review of the basics until my horses does these things correctly. Why do I go through all of this? Without this check-up my horse sometimes seems ill prepared for a new lesson.

You might think that your horse is fully trained and you are simply riding for fun and are not trying to teach your horse new things. Good for you! Still, you need to perform maintenance to keep you horse well prepared for everything you will ask him to do.

So if you encounter a time where your horse seems to have forgotten something he should know, before you blame your horse, please stop and ask yourself—have I been doing my maintenance? I am sure your horse will appreciate the upkeep.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician from California and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at  Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T at

Hyrotherapy is GOOD for your Horse

This is a Guest Blog from my mentor — Dr. Robert Keene, DVM

“For many years veterinarians, trainers and other equine enthusiasts have used water as a therapy for sore limbs and muscle injuries. After a long day of work, or a vigorous exercise routine, many people take the opportunity to indulge themselves in a few moments of pleasure with a water-jet massage in their home spas or showers. Hydro-therapy spas are wonderful for people but not practical for the horse owner or trainer when you consider cost limitations and design problems. Ideally, a stream in our backyard or training facility would provide an excellent means for relaxing not only the rider but also the equine athlete.
With the advent of the Equine Hydro-T™ the benefits of a human hydro-therapeutic spa, along with the convenience of a backyard stream, are combined into one product. The patented Equine Hydro-T™ attaches to a hose at the barn and directs a pleasant, pulsating hydro-therapeutic massage to the tendons, joints and muscles that have experienced a workout or injury.
Throughout the years in my veterinary practice I recommended using a regular garden hose to help reduce swelling and provide a therapeutic treatment for medical problems associated with injury or strenuous workouts. When describing this therapy to clients I often used a shower massage analogy to explain how this treatment could help their athlete. While driving away I always contemplated the need for a massage unit like those found in most people’s showers or spas. I also was discouraged at the inconsistencies inherent in using a garden hose. The Equine Hydro-T™ answers this need by providing inexpensive, consistent, pulsating hydro-therapy using a convenient handheld instrument. With routine use of the Equine Hydro-T™ your equine athlete will stay on top, whatever the discipline.” Rob Keene, DVM
Check out the Equine Hydro-T at

The 6 C’s of Horsemanship — from

The 6 C’s of Horsemanship:

Building Blocks for Success in Relationship Training

By Dr. Mike Guerini

Many of us benefit from Natural Horsemanship and Foundation Training methods.  We dive into books, watch videos, attend seminars and go to clinics to learn all we can to develop a strong emotional, mental and physical foundation in all of our horses.  These methods use a “building block” approach to help us focus on assembling a good horse that is willing and able to perform. In this approach to training each lesson needs to be learned and firmly in place before we can teach the next lesson.

I believe very few people are born great horsemen and women, the majority of us work all our lives to become better horsemen and women.  As I work to become a better horseman I have had to step back and take a look at my own “building blocks”.  The 6 C’s of Horsemanship are the Building Blocks for Success that I teach at my clinics and use in my own barn.

The 6 C’s of Horsemanship are “building blocks” for having Confidence, keeping Control, maintaining Consistency, riding with Collection, having Compassion and keeping an attitude of Calmness.  Together these ideas help us build a lasting relationship with our horse.

So how do we use the 6 C’s of Horsemanship to gain success in the saddle?

When we ride we want to be confident in our riding skills and our horse.  To gain confidence—we practice, learn from others, go to clinics and we take small steps.  If I wanted to ride on a 5-day trail ride I would first build up my confidence and my horse’s confidence by taking a 1-day ride.  In order for us to gain confidence we need to learn to control our horse and the space around our horse.  To build confidence and establish control we need to practice with —- consistency.  As a rider it is our obligation to be consistent in our training and riding methods.  When we are consistent and have a plan and follow our plan we build confidence in our horse and our abilities. To maintain control we need to keep our bodies and our horse’s body —- collected.  We cannot expect control when our arms are waving all around and our horses are racing through open fields.  Maintaining collection of our body, our speed and the horse’s flexibility helps us to be confident and in control.  As we teach our horse we need to remember to have —- compassion. When I go out on a trail ride I want to enjoy time with my horse and I want to enjoy the scenery and most of all I want this to be full of —-calmness.  As we embark on the day and each time we go to the barn remember—our horse should be just as calm at the end of our ride as he was when he was standing in his stall.

I am certain that the 6 C’s of Horsemanship will be a valuable tool for building knowledge and in turn realizing results as you work with your horses.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician from California and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at  Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T at We teach you the KEYS for success with horses.