4 Holiday Horsecare Reminders

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

Tis the season for traveling and holidays and many people are left to entrust the care of their horses to a neighbor, family friend, or pet sitter.  Here are five tips that can help us have a good plan in place for the care of our animals. To all who are traveling and visiting family this year — be safe and enjoy those precious moments.

1) Make the feeding and care of your animals as easy as possible. If you feed grain or supplements, have them all pre-measured and easily ready to be fed. If you can, have the hay set out and ready to be fed easily. Make sure the tire on the manure cart is pumped up and that the tools are easy to get ahold of for cleaning (nothing worse than being asked to clean stalls and the tires are flat and you first have to fix equipment before you can even be helpful).  This also means having enough feed available. I took care of some horses once and when I arrived there was a note about going to the feed store and getting grain and moving hay out of the big barn…these things do happen but I urge you to make sure the person feeding does not have to do extra work.

2) Let your veterinarian know you will be out-of-town and who is taking care of your animals. I cannot tell you how many times when I worked for veterinarians people would call and have an emergency with an animal they were taking care of for a friend.  The veterinarian is put into a bad situation because he/she does not know the owner is away or who has permission to feed or even how to easily get ahold of you should something go wrong.  Keep your veterinarian in the loop and he/she can help your animals faster and with your input.

3) Have a back-up person ready to feed in the event of an emergency with your primary feeder. What if something happens to the person feeding for you — do you have somebody on speed dial that you can call who will make sure your horses are cared for in this situation.  These are your horses and you are responsible for their care — make sure you have a back-up plan in place.  Your primary feeder/caregiver may get hurt, have a family emergency, or become very sick…all things that you need to be able to adapt to and solve…sometimes 100’s of miles away.

4) Keep open lines of communication.  Whether it be a call, text, or email….ask the person who is caring for your horse(s) to give you a daily update.  For me, leaving my horses behind when I travel can be tough.  I want to make sure I know they are okay. This may mean that you need to leave a secondary contact number (either the hotel or home where you are staying). Cell phones are great…but sometimes they fail. If you get into an area where your cell phone is not receiving a signal, get ahold of your feeder and let them know how to reach you by alternate means.

Safe travels my friends!!!  If you have some additions, please feel free to comment so we help everyone make the best choices for their horses during this holiday season.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction 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).

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5 Benefits of Riding Bareback

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

Last week I set a goal of riding bareback for seven days straight. I selected one horse for this learning opportunity and I myself asked the question — “What do I need to do to improve my riding?” As a Horsemanship Coach it is really important that I do what I urge others to do when riding. I tell people that they need to ride bareback to help them improve their skills. Two good friends of mine in Missouri (Thanks Keith and Lynne) always reminds me that I must share with people why something is important. So this was my opportunity to refresh my memory as to why riding bareback is important and share this with all of you.

The horse I selected is young but she is a very good teacher.  So here are the five benefits (lessons) I reminded myself about during my week of bareback riding.

1) Feel the Horse and you know when to apply your aides. When I can feel the horse, especially the footfalls, I know the right time to apply the aide or cue.  For example, if the horse is leaning to the right and I want the horse to go left, I first must ask for the adjustment of the horse so that she becomes straight then I can apply an aide asking for the horse to go left. Often times people make the comment “My horse was behind the aide, or My horse was late in the transition”. Both of these comments are wrong.  The rider did not give the aide at the proper time or the rider did not position the horse for success.  Feeling the horse beneath you helps you know when to ask or what to adjust before you ask.

2) Balance comes from my core. My legs can help me sit on the horse but they are not for balance. My hands…ESPECIALLY MY HANDS…when connected to the reins and thus the bit are NOT for balance.  My hips, stomach, chest, shoulders and head are the key parts that keep me balanced. Riding bareback reminded me of the importance of my core. The sad news is I think there is a need for a few more sit-ups in my future to strengthen my core.

3) Soft hands that I keep in front of me are another key to lightness and balance. If I am riding with my core for balance and I keep my hands down low and in front of me, I achieve lightness and soft hands. Lightness and soft hands are what we all want. Sure we want contact and connection be we really want this to be the lightest and softest. Many times we ride around pulling our hands up to our chest or chins…that is not lightness and in fact…most riders doing this are using their hands to keep them balanced (and this is bad..see point 2 above). If your hands get up past your belly button … you are getting them into a bad position.

4) My lower legs (calf area) are best for giving my leg aides. Often riders, myself included at times, rely on our heel for the aide.  We either push or poke with our heel or spur.  When we do this we sometimes mess up our balance or worse yet…have our toes start to point down.  The first aide that we should give and teach the horse to acknowledge is the calf.  Soft aides from our calf help us stay balanced.  After the calf if we need more, then we can use our heel or spur by rotating at the ankle ever so slightly.

5) I can evaluate the training of my horse. When I ride bareback I find that I get much more in tune with my horse. I find those areas where my training is not complete because I can feel the horse move, ask for my aides at the correct time, keep my hands soft and low, use proper leg aides, and stay balanced….when I am doing all these things then I have to look to my training of the horse if I am not getting the response I want. Remember — if the horse is not responding correctly…it is our fault. So first I have to make sure I am doing everything correctly then I can address if my training is correct or not.

I thank you for the opportunity to share this information with all of you.  As always, I look forward to your comments.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction 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).

Getting past that riding Plateau

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

Riding our horses can be just like the rest of our life. We reach a Plateau or  a period or state of little or no growth or a time where progress ceases. We find this in our relationships and work. So does this happen to everyone?  YES.  You will be glad to know that at some point in our riding careers, we all find a period of time where we need to stop and assess if we are making progress. So I would like to share with you all some of the ways I boost myself and those I coach to get beyond these plateau’s we might encounter.

1) Take a lesson once a month. Find someone in your area and go take a lesson. See what they can offer you. Each riding coach has different experiences and can offer you something new that might just help you elevate your skills to the next level.

2) Take a lesson from a different coach.  Pick another person every few months and go take a lesson with a new coach. I encourage my students to go ride in clinics and with other coaches. Sometimes they bring something back to me that they learned and sometimes just hearing the same type of information but from someone else — it clicks and everything starts to fall in place and you advance as a rider.

3) Ride your horse bareback for a month. Do everything you would normally do but do it bareback and improve your balance, leg strength and communication with your horse. When I mean do everything I mean walk, trot, canter/lope, side pass, leg yields…. you get the idea. Okay….if a month is too much, then try it for a week or a weekend. I am currently on a week-long plan where I must ride at least one horse a day bareback.

4) Feel the footfalls. This is my number go to answer for everyone who tells me they have reached a plateau in their riding. Get on your horse and ride for 15 minutes and call out each footfall…if you miss one, start again. That is the true sign of an advanced rider…knowing where each foot is at any given time. If you work on this, and I do regularly, it reminds me that I have a long way to go with my learning and improving.

5) Go to a 2, 3, or 4 day clinic. So there are no clinics in your local area. Pack up the horse and the truck and trailer and go on that road trip. Drive to the clinic you want to ride in and learn. That entire experience is so enlightening. How good is your relationship with your horse. Can you travel two days and then ride for 4 days and then go back home for two days.  The key is go take that clinic you know will advance your skills. Find that person who can push you beyond where you are currently — you and your horse will be glad you did.

6) Join a local riding club or organization. Find others to ride with on a regular basis. When you ride together you normally pick up some new things along the way and it can help you advance your skills.

7) Cross train yourself. If you are a western rider…go learn to ride English. If you are an English rider, spend a few weeks in a western saddle.

8) Cross train your horse. So your horse is great in cutting.  Then get out and do some Cowboy or Western Dressage. Have a nice jumper, try sorting a few cows.  You get the idea. Step out of your riding comfort zone and try a new discipline.

9) Read and take up new challenges on your own time to advance your riding.  For example, ride every exercise listed in my Responsive Riding book, ride all the exercises in Jec Aristotle Ballou’s 101 Dressage Exercises for Horse & Rider, also ride all the exercises in 101 Arena Exercises for Horse & Rider. There are many books and my library is extensive and I keep trying more and more of the exercises I find.

10) Ride different horses. Sure, we all have our own horse to ride, but find a friend who will let you ride his or her horse. Learn to feel how a different horse works.  This is where we learn so much and advance ourselves. If your family has a few horses…ride all of them and learn what each wants to teach you.

Below I include quite a few of the different organizations with horse activities that might be of interest to some of you.  I like what each of these organizations provide and at least one of them is likely to give you ideas on how to advance your horsemanship and riding beyond this plateau you might be experiencing.

Cowboy Dressage — Click Here

Western Dressage — NAWD or WDAA

American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA) — Click Here 

Charles Wilhelm’s Ultimate Super Horse Challenge — Click Here

United States Team Penning Association — Click Here

Ranch Sorting (Great for Families) — Click Here

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction 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).

Journaling your Riding Success

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

One of the most difficult things to do is to realize just how much success we are making as riders. When we start a new horse, begin riding the newest addition to our barn, coach people, or take a new path in our horsemanship we often experience starts and stops. We have these voices in our head, or voices from well-meaning people, who hold us back. As riders we often reflect back on that perfect ride we had a few years ago and compare every ride after that to the one perfect ride. Sometimes we listen to the naysayers and get caught in the negativity and forget just how much we have accomplished with our horse.

We need to stop holding ourselves back by comparing our rides to the past. We need to ride in the here and now. We need to ride and find ways of charting our progress.  Journaling is one of the greatest tools we have for keeping track of our progress as a rider. This also works great for keeping track of how well the horse is progressing along.

So here are five thoughts as to how to use Journaling help you improve your riding.

1) Make notes after each ride. Use a journal or a 3×5 notecards or some book that you can use to keep all your recordings in one place. For those who do not enjoy writing — make a tape recording or quick video of your thoughts about the ride.

2) Speak about those things that you really liked in the ride. Maybe your bending was better, you felt the footfalls, you picked up the canter/lope easier. Journal the successes of the ride.

3) Make note of those things that were not perfect. Maybe the backing did not go well or side passing was not perfect. Make a note and keep that on file. When you make these notes do not beat yourself up…write them down and get them out of the clogged mess of your mind.

4) Share your journal with your coach. Let him or her take five minutes to go through your written journal or listen to your recording or watch your video. It is amazing how much we as coaches can learn from what has happened on the five days before the lesson. We can hear what is working and not working and know immediately how to help you and your horse past that hurdle. As a coach we might also learn something about you and your horse that we did not know and that might just help us make a better connection and be better educators for you.

5) Review your journal once a month. You will be amazed at your progress and what things you have overcome. This is a positive motivator for your continued success. Do not read it every day. Keep writing, recording (video or voice) but only go back once a month so you can take that short walk into the past and see how things have changed for the better over the past 30 days.

I realize you may think you do not have time to Journal. Yes you do. Drink that bottle of water and write five lines of information after your ride. Record as you walk from the barn to your car or house. You have the time and you will realize the results with just a month of keeping track of your rides. Take the time and I promise you that your horse will thank you for paying attention to your collective success and the horse will reward you with even better rides.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction 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).

I see Magic happen with Horses and Riders

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

Last Sunday wrapped up my final horsemanship clinic for 2013.  From here on out it is coaching individuals and their horses as we work our way into the end of the year and start the new year.  I feel so blessed with what I get to observe as a coach at horsemanship clinics. Each year I find myself seeing different things but the past 10 months have had some really special moments that I want to share with you all.

These special moments are magical because I watched the rider and the horse make a connection in one moment that changed their entire relationship for the better.

Here are some of the magical events I saw this year.

1) In Nebraska I watched a young lady trot out on a horse and overcome her fear of falling off.  It was the first time she trotted a horse without falling off and the moment was special because you could see her find some relaxation in the saddle.

2) In California I saw a mother help her 5-year-old daughter lead a horse around. The bond between mother and daughter was wonderful but that horse was something special.  The horse stood 16 hands… and that young lady ran along  (with her mother reaching out to offer a helping hand if needed) and the horse trotted on the end of the lead line.  Magic to see that moment because we all knew that the horse was taking care of that little girl.

3) I saw a lady only 12 months after having some pretty major back surgery take a horse down the fence and turn a cow and score a 73….and there were those who doubted she would ride a cowhorse ever again in competition.

4) Along the way I spoke with a lady who attended a clinic and learned a life lesson.  She told me how her life had been stressful but that at a clinic I coached, her horse taught her to not react and make everything into a fight…again magic and life altering events come with horses.

5) In a two-day clinic in Missouri in June I watched a 15-year-old learn to canter her horse with calmness and control.  Better than that might have been the joy on her mothers face.  At the same clinic I watched many other people safely canter their horses for the very first time in their lives.  All they needed was some confidence, support, and to listen to the horse.

6) In July I found myself in Bozeman Montana and once again — I marveled at a young lady who the year previous cried every time her horse stopped….now she was comfortable in the saddle and getting herself moving towards some jumping work.

7) Back to Missouri in October and I found myself experiencing lots of magic.  A mother watched her 10-year-old daughter work to successfully side pass her horse without quitting.  The look on the mothers face was priceless to see her daughter get past the moment of being stuck. At the same clinic I watched a 10-year-old boy work with his horse and achieve some better harmony.  I met a 15-year-old young lady who had been riding for less than 30 days — and I watched her achieve so much on day one — she reported in the next morning telling all of us how she had gone home to work some horses at home after the first day.

8) Just a few days back I watched a lady and her horse find harmony and a nice slow trot. I also watched the lady learn that she could dance with her horse by learning to control footfalls.

9) In October (in Missouri) I watched a lady and her horse build a relationship in less than 48 hours.  She showed up at the clinic thinking she might want to sell or send her horse off to a good home and by the middle of the second day she had found her rhythm, relaxation, and connection to the horse that had the two of them dancing across the arena.

10) I watched a lady make a connection with her 10-year-old horse after a few folks had told her to “get rid of the horse and get another one”….when that lady rides now — I see magic each time with the smile on her face and the relaxation she and the horse have when in each others company.

These above are just a few of the great and magical things I have seen this year. Not everything is textbook perfect…sometimes magic happens with heels up, body crooked, horse not quite balanced.  Quite a few trainers complain about having to teach people who are “not trying hard enough” or teach people who “do not know enough.” Sometimes these trainers grumble a bit about how hard it is to get someone to listen.

You will hear no grumbling from me.  From where I am sitting I have the most blessed job in the world…I get to work with many horses and riders throughout the year and I get to see magic — that moment where you see that connection happen … that moment where you see the rider smile and the horse relax — makes me realize that HORSEMANSHIP IS FULL OF MAGIC.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction 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).