Horsemanship — 4 Part Harmony for De-spooking

Horsemanship — 4 Part Harmony for De-spooking

1 part emotional control + 1 part trust + 1 part wisdom/understanding + 1 part “time”

The above equation is an easy way of remembering everything we need for helping our horse get over fear of something. We do not need special equipment.

First we need emotional control. It is NEVER NEVER NEVER the horse’s fault therefore we cannot get mad at the horse. Most horses when confronted with a “spooky” object will have a raised emotional level and be excited. We as the rider need to accept that this will happen and then we proceed with the training and never blame the horse. Never blame the breed, sex, or age of the horse. We stay calm and we stay focused on achieving our objective—to de-sensitize our horse to the “spooky” object.

Secondly, we need to establish a relationship of trust with our horse. If our horse has trust in us then de-spooking will be much easier to accomplish. I said easier — not simple and with no work. How do we develop trust? We work with our horse and teach our horse to look to us as the leader.

The third part is wisdom and understanding. We as the rider need to develop a knowledge base and learn how to de-spook a horse, how to interpret a horse’s actions, how to plan a series of activities and exercises that will help us “de-spook” our horse. We need to understand that a horse is a fight or flight animal and >90% will choose to run away if given the opportunity. Understand this and work with your horse. Have the understanding and wisdom that 1 day of work will not solve all your problems and give you a perfectly de-spooked horse. We also need ot understand that horse vision is not like human vision. Horse’s do not see the same way so we need to better understand how a horse sees objects.

Finally, but most importantly, this process takes time. If you want that horse that does not run away from new objects then you need to spend the time to work with your horse. How long will it take—this depends on each rider and each horse because both are unique. Some may be de-spooked in 5 minutes; others might need 5 months.

If we work on not getting agitated and maintain our emotions, then we can develop a trusting relationship with our horse. Add in some wisdom and understanding and lots of time and you are on the road to success.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and author of multiple books and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).  This is reprinted from Dr. Mike’s Horsemanship “On The Trail Guide” available for free at www.dunmovinranch.com.

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Leadership in Horsemanship — Part IV Safety

Leadership in Horsemanship — Part IV Safety

By Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)

In this four part series, I will be exploring my Leadership in Horsemanship philosophy. The four components to my leadership philosophy include: 1) Honesty, 2) Wholeness, 3) Creativity, and 4) Safety.

Although last in the discussion, safety is likely the most important component of Leadership for Horsemanship. Think back to a time, possibly in college or high school, where somebody asked you to be part of something wild and crazy and it turned out to be unsafe. If we are honest with ourselves, we need to admit that when someone puts us in an unsafe situation we begin to trust him or her less and less. In fact, we may distance ourselves from someone who is not safe.

Now let us think about safety in terms of our horsemanship and being a leader. If you never practice safety with your horse and your horse continually gets into predicaments/hurt/scared because of your lack of safety — it is very probable that your horse will not look to you for leadership.

Today while I was touching base with a fellow horsemanship coach (Kristina Mundy), she said something that is spot on accurate. Kristina said “…owners must be dedicated to the good of their horse…” and I would add that the good of the horse means the safety of the horse.

So let us ask a series of questions to evaluate how safe we are with our horses:

1) Do we check our tack each time to make sure it is ready for the ride?

2) Do we scout the trail or get info from someone who has ridden the same path?

3) Do we use proper equipment for protection of our horse (leg wraps, shoes/proper trims, etc.)

4) Do we ride with a helmet?

5) Do we pay attention and ride actively so that we see potential issues before they can hurt us?

6) Do we ride with safe people?

7) Is our hauling equipment (trailer, truck, etc) safe to operate?

8) Do we check our horse out for 1 to 2 minutes of groundwork before riding?

9) Do we wear appropriate clothing and footwear when working with horses?

Therefore, when we speak of safety there is an underlying debate out there. Some folks say — I have ridden for years and never needed to pay attention to any of those things. Others are concerned about the relationship and protection of their horses so they consider each one of the above questions. Those that consider safety first are sometimes silently laughed at by those who have “ridden a long time and never been hurt.”

Two final points about safety as part of Leadership for Horsemanship.

1) If you practice safety first, then you significantly decrease the chance of you and your horse getting hurt. If you are not hurt, then you should be mentally and physically able to help your horse. If you get hurt — who is going to help your horse? I sure would want a leader who can help me if I get into a bad spot…and I am certain your horse wants a leader who can keep him/her safe.

Now it is this second point that I know has the biggest area of disagreement but I want to make sure I say a few words here.

2) Children under the age of 18 should wear a helmet while riding. Why under the age of 18 — because after that you are an adult and can make your own choices. If we want to see the next generation of great equestrians — we need to help them be safe. There should be no need for laws…this should be common sense. (Note: my equine liability insurance requires that all students under the age of 18 wear a helmet while I am teaching)

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cite some interesting statistics relating to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and horseback riding with respect to children. Click here for information — http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6039a1.htm

In a nutshell — CDC the above link will share with you the following information:

During 2001–2009, an estimated 2,651,581 children aged ≤19 years were treated annually for sports and recreation–related injuries. Approximately 6.5%, or 173,285 of these injuries, were TBIs. Overall, the activities associated with the greatest estimated number of TBI-related Emergency Department (ED) visits were bicycling, football, playground activities, basketball, and soccer. Activities for which TBI accounted for >10% of the injury ED visits for that activity included horseback riding (15.3%) [this is ~2900 kids per year], ice skating (11.4%), golfing (11.0%), all-terrain vehicle riding (10.6%), and tobogganing/sledding (10.2%). One more link with information worth reading is found here  — http://www.biak.us/brain-injury-and-horses.

I encourage all of you with children to have them wear helmets and I urge all of us to speak to our delegates from the different breed associations, rodeo events, 4H, FFA and other horsemanship activities to find ways to encourage children to wear helmets.

In summary — practice being safe. To be that leader that your horse wants, you need to be healthy and able to help your horse. If you become injured — who is going to take care of your horse partner?

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and author of multiple books and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

Leadership in Horsemanship — Part III Creativity

Leadership in Horsemanship — Part III Creativity

By Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)

In this four part series, I will be exploring my Leadership in Horsemanship philosophy. The four components to my leadership philosophy include: 1) Honesty, 2) Wholeness, 3) Creativity and 4) Safety.

We are half way through the four components of leadership so it is appropriate to recap.  Part I is Honesty.  In honesty we need to analyze what we can and cannot do at any given time.  Sometimes we are not ready for the challenge presented by a horse — but we can learn and get ready.  We also need to be straightforward in our dealings with the horses we are working with.  Part II described an analysis of the Whole situation — Wholeness.  In Wholeness we need to understand how our actions and those of the horse create reactions.

Part III deals with Creativity in leadership.  Every good leader will admit that he/she do not always have the answer.  A leader is someone who gather information and adapts to changes.  So you ask — how does Creativity apply to leadership with horses.

Well as leaders of horses we need to adapt our methods and approaches to work with each and every horse.  Horses are unique and as long as we use principles such as “Pressure and Release”, “Foundation training activities” and understand the “Prey vs. Predator” relationship, we should be able to find/create new ways to work with each and every horse.

While we all know that repetition and consistency help in training, we also need to make sure we are creative and keeping the horse thinking and responding to our aides and signals rather than anticipating what we want.

Here are some examples of how we can employ creativity in our horsemanship leadership:

1) Learn new methods from other people

2) Adapt/change an old method to work safely in the current situation

3) Use different exercises to help teach your horse a specific task

4) Use cross-training when teaching your horse

5) Attend a clinic being taught for a different discipline

6) Take a lesson with a new instructor

7) Ride a new horse that can teach you

Overall, Creativity in Leadership for Horsemanship focuses on the human person learning multiple ways to teach a horse something.  There may be 10 safe ways to teach a horse something new — we should be creative (not boring) and learn how to apply those ten different ways.

One of the ways I continually work to be creative is that I get to work with other trainers and I also attend (as a participant) clinics taught by others.  What I want to emphasize here is that for you to be the leader for your horse and to develop strong teamwork and success — you need to develop a relationship that is full of new experiences.  Teach your horse something new, but expose them to many different, creative and new ways that you may ask them to perform.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and author of multiple books and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

Leadership in Horsemanship — Part II Wholeness

Leadership in Horsemanship — Part II Wholeness

By Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)

In this four part series, I will be exploring my Leadership in Horsemanship philosophy. The four components to my leadership philosophy include: 1) Honesty, 2) Wholeness, 3) Creativity and 4) Safety.

Part II continues with some ideas around the concept of Wholeness. Webster’s Online Dictionary defines Wholeness as “An undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting.” That certainly seems to be a mouthful but as I read that definition it struck me that it defines what we are all seeking with horses. How cool!

I fixated on the words “nothing wanting” and have contemplated how this fits in with leadership and it struck me that one of the keys of Leadership in Horsemanship is being able to put together a complete package that includes, horse, and rider working as a team.

In Wholeness, we seek to understand how everything fits together. The best way I could represent this concept is in the form of a figure with many of the components that make up the complete package of horse and rider. I may be missing some components and I always encourage you to share your ideas and comment.

Click on the figure to enlarge.

One of many things worth noting in this diagram is that I shaded those items that the horse brings. Notice how the horse brings five items whereas the human brings so many more. The sum of all these items makes the complete/whole package a success.

Conclusion of Part II

As we take into account the honesty portion and now add wholeness, we see how much of the equation for leadership in horses relies on the human component. To work on our leadership, we need to constantly evaluate where we are with each of the human components and assess our horse on his/her part of this matrix.

Share your thoughts and ideas on this write up. Next up, Part III — Creativity in leadership.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

Leadership in Horsemanship — Part I Honesty

Leadership in Horsemanship — Part I Honesty

By Dr. Mike Guerini   (www.dunmovinranch.com)

In this four part series, I will be exploring my Leadership in Horsemanship philosophy. The four components to my leadership philosophy include: 1) Honesty, 2) Wholeness, 3) Creativity and 4) Safety.

Part I is a discussion about the Honesty component. Honesty as part of our Leadership in Horsemanship can be thought of from two perspectives. First — are we honest with our own self and secondly — are we honest with our horse.

Honesty with self

Being honest with ourselves is important in setting and achieving goals. Honesty is part of our moral character and refers to positive, virtuous attributes including integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness.

As we work to be the leader for our horse(s), we need to look at ourselves and perform an assessment of our physical, emotional and mental capabilities. We also need to assess our financial and time constraints. Finally, we need to honestly assess our abilities as riders and trainers.

We need to honestly determine how much our body can physically handle of the care and maintenance of our horses. This is very difficult because as we age, get ill, or have an injury we are forced to re-evaluate how much we can accomplish. We never want to admit physical weaknesses but in reality, our physical limitations can hurt our horses and that is why we need to be Honest about our physical abilities.

We need to honestly evaluate our emotional and mental abilities. Do we have the ability to give our horses the sense of confidence that comes from inside of us? Are we emotionally and mentally able to take care of the animal?

Now wait a minute you are saying — there are many stories where horses help people gain confidence and I immediately agree with you. Horses can be great inspiration for gaining confidence — if we have the right horse.  Nevertheless, the important part is to understand what our role is in that process and the type of horse that can help us achieve greater confidence. We need to honestly assess if the good-natured horse can help us achieve that goal as opposed to the six month old that might run us over.

The financial and time constraints are actually the easiest to assess. Do we have the money (with a 3 to 6 month reserve) to take care of our horses now and in an emergency and do we have the time to feed and care for them each day (or pay a boarding facility to do that part) and do we have the time to spend with them.

True Horsemen and Horsewomen constantly assess their abilities as riders and trainers. These people can tell you what they can and cannot do. By knowing and acknowledging what you can and cannot do at this moment in time, it will better help you develop your goals — something that is part of Wholeness. Therefore, for each person, this self-assessment is so important because it helps us with Part II — Wholeness. However, before we get to part II, we need to think about our honesty with horses.

Honesty with the horse

Honesty with horses comes down to the concept of “straightforwardness.” Are we direct and truthful with our horses?

Let me share with you two examples of working with horses and then choose the  one that exhibits honesty.

Example #1 — John goes out to the barn. He has his earphones in, talking on his phone. His horse walks into the stall and John ignores the horse as he gets his saddle out and collects his spurs all the while talking on the phone. The horse walks out of the stall. John gets the halter, walks out to the pen and calls the horse to him. The horse walks over to John and the halter is put on. John is still talking on his cell phone and walks to the stall. John ties the horse up and then pushes his butt over with a shove. The horse is saddled; John gets on and rides, while still talking on his cell phone. The horse is twitching his ears trying to understand what John wants (John is to busy talking to be reading any of the horse’s body language). John tells his phone companion that the horse is pissy and that he is going to hang up now since this horse needs to lope some circles to get respect.

Example #2 — Judy goes out to the barn. She has her earphones in, talking on the phone. As she gets to the barn, she hangs up from the call and puts her cell phone away. Her horse walks into the stall and Judy says hi and then gets his saddle out and collects her spurs. Judy gets the halter and the horse easily puts his head into the halter and Judy finishes the haltering and ties the horse up. Judy gives the horse a pre-signal and aide to move his butt over and the horse immediately complies. The horse is saddled; Judy walks him out a few steps and asks the horse to give to pressure. Judy mounts and goes out for a good ride.

Both stories end in a ride on the horse — but example #2 is a person who is honest with the horse. Judy gives clear direction and is straightforward with her intent. She has come to the barn and is engaged and active about riding her horse. Example #1 is full of misdirection, confusion and lies because John is trying to ride and talk on the phone and not giving pre-signals or clear guidance to the horse.

Which of the two riders would you want to accept as your leader?

Conclusion of Part I

Be honest with yourself and what you can actually do and treat your horse with directness (straightforwardness) and you will find that your horse is more willing to accept you as his/her leader.

Share your thoughts and ideas.  Next up, Part II — Wholeness in leadership.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com.  Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).