PSSM and your horse –balancing your work/exercise routines (good information for any horses with muscle issues)

PSSM and your horse –balancing your work/exercise routines (good information for any horses with muscle issues)

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

Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (EPSM, PSSM, EPSSM) is an inheritable glycogen storage disease of horses that causes exertional rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of muscle tissue that leads to the release of muscle fiber contents into the blood). It is most commonly associated with heavy horse breeds and the American Quarter Horse. PSSM can be managed with appropriate diet and exercise.

Horses with PSSM show fewer clinical signs if their exercise is slowly increased over time (i.e. they are slowly conditioned). The University of Minnesota Equine Center shares the following information —–

“For chronic cases, prolonged rest after an episode appears to be counterproductive and predisposes PSSM horses to further episodes of muscle pain. With PSSM it is NOT advisable to only resume exercise when serum Creatine Kinase activity is normal. Rather, horses should begin small paddock turn out as soon as reluctance to move has abated. Providing daily turn out with compatible companions can be very beneficial as it enhances energy metabolism in PSSM horses.” The University continues with more generalized information on some possible exercise programs.

All of us equine trainers and coaches and enthusiasts will agree that there is not one fix-all, cure-all, best system to use when we are working with a horse. Add muscle issues into the mix and it further complicates the planning of our work sessions.

We need to approach exercises with horses that exhibit PSSM with an wide spectrum of activities. When I say spectrum, I mean something that has quite a bit of variability in between the two extremes. In this case we can think of the spectrum of exercise from zero exercise (horse left to its own in a stall or paddock) to working a horse for let us say 4 hours at a time. These would be considered as extremes (zero to 4 hours of work).

As I have spent some time reading on PSSM, reviewing veterinary research articles and reading work from exercise physiology people, I have put together some ideas on how people who have horses affected by PSSM might begin to structure the best possible exercise experience for the horse.

While each horse is unique — these exercises and ideas below are provided as thinking points to expand where you and your horse might be. In all things….do what is right for the horse. Also – it is important to do these correctly.

I will break down my suggestions for the exercise process into these categories:

Observations of the Horse:

Hands on touching of the Horse:

Warm-Up of the Horse:

Working through stretching and strength building:

Cool down and recovery time at the end:

 

Observations of the Horse:

One of the skills that all horse owners and trainers need to develop is the ability through visual observation to notice changes in the horse. We start with looking for big changes and then we move towards looking for small changes. This takes time … but it is critical that we can assess on any given day how the horse is feeling. Movement is dynamic….when a horse is not moving….it is not able to keep proper circulation working and this leads to multiple other complications.

Many people who deal with PSSM horses or other horses with injury find that it is difficult to see the improvements or changes for the better. I recommend that people use video and photography to document changes in the horse. Sometimes when we look for changes each day we might miss them…but if we compare the look on days 1, 14 and 24….we are more likely to see the changes. When we can see what is happening…it helps us to know that we are making progress.

Observation is also critical when working the horse. The handler/rider needs to be able to easily monitor heart rate and respiration. Chart the heart rate and respiration for the horse and work so that the increase in a week is no more than 10% to 15% of the maximal output from the week before.

Hands on touching of the Horse:

We need to be familiar with how the horse feels at any point in time. This includes how the horse feels before, during, and after exercise. My number one recommendation for horses that have muscle issues is for the handler to become familiar with the muscle or muscles that are affected. Become familiar by having your hands on these muscles and feel for tightness, looseness, heat, and changes in ability to stretch. Hands on compliments the observations.

Masterson Method and TTouch methods immediately come to mind for me as ways in which horse owners can learn how muscles feel and how to assess their current state.

Warm-Up of the Horse:

Warm up may be 3 to 5 minutes and it very much depends on the capability of the horse. For those that are not being ridden, this will be ground work. For those being ridden, it may include ground work and/or saddle time.

Let us begin with some ground work exercises and where this can help. I strongly advocate for mixing and matching groundwork over the days of the week.

Lunge work: For this we do not want speed. Walk and trot is just fine, canter can happen if the horse feels it is right and gives you signs (such as the horse decides to canter). With Walk and Trot we want to focus on consistent tempo…we do not want to be varying the beats per minute…we want consistent beats per minute. We do not want to work the same direction for any long period of time. Switch directions after every 60 seconds. Be very observant as to signs of stress and signs of muscle fluidity and motion. Work to keep the horse balanced and upright on the lunge.

In-hand (halter or bridle) groundwork:

This can include walk and whoa work. In hand trotting may be appropriate if the handler and horse have a similar tempo. Turn on forehand and Turn on haunches can be done but should be minimized in the early stages of work. As the horse develops more range of motion and functionality, these can be added in. Walking in shallow loop serpentines is a good plan, a few circles each direction is fine (50 to 60 foot diameter circles), and walking over ground poles all can be done. In hand stretch work to include walking in stretchy circles or lines is appropriate.

Riding Warm-up:

This can include walk and whoa work and some trotting. The key here is to have consistent tempo to the gait. Turn on forehand and Turn on haunches can be done but should be minimized in the early stages of work much like I suggested for the Ground work. As the horse develops more range of motion and functionality, these can be added in. Walking in shallow loop serpentines is a good plan, a few circles each direction is fine (50 to 60 foot diameter circles), and walking over ground poles all can be done. Lateral work can be added as the horse advances.

Working through stretching and strength building:

One of the keys in the work plan is to take a properly warmed up horse and focus on exercises that can help gymnasticize the horse.

Here are a series of movements and some guidance as to why you do them. Some of these may be appropriate…but I must urge you to remember that each horse is different and by your observation and touch and re-evaluation through the warm-up period you (and possibly your trainer/coach) will know what is best for the horse.

Stretch work exercises:

Leg yield

Shoulder-in

Stretchy circles or stretchy walk in straight lines

Balance exercises:

Transitions (from walk to trot – doing so every 10 strides (or a count of ten))

Shoulder In

Circles

Figures of 8

Adjustability of the horse range of motion: (this is for horses that are freely moving)

Lengthen and extend the gaits. Slow walk, normal walk, fast walk (speed is tempo = beats per minute)

Engagement and Strengthening of the hind end:

Walking pirouette

Walk over ground poles

Trot over ground poles

Turn on the forehand

Slow spirals

Increasing mobility and Strengthening of the shoulders:

Walk pirouette

Turn on haunches

Shallow loop serpentines (15 to 16’ difference between top and bottom of serpentine)

 

These are only examples and may not be right for you and your horse….

but hopefully they give you some food for thought.

 

Sample Exercise Plan for horse not being ridden

Day of the Week Warm Up   3 to 5 minutes Exercise 5 to 10 minutes Cool down   5 to 10 minutes
Sunday Day off with turnout Day off with turnout Day off with turnout
Monday Walk and Whoa and Trot Work over trot poles & change from walk to trot Walk in Figures of 8 to cool down
Tuesday Walk in stretchy circle and shallow serpentines Walk and trot with horse over ground poles & Lunge 3 to 5 minutes Shallow loop serpentines at the walk to cool down
Wednesday Day off with turnout Day off with turnout Day off with turnout
Thursday Lunge 3 to 5 min Turn on haunches & Slow spirals Walk in Figures of 8 to cool down
Friday Walk and Whoa and Trot in straight lines Go for a long walk down a straight road for 10 minutes. Shallow loop serpentines at the walk to cool down
Saturday Lunge 3 to 5 min Turn on forehand & Walk in stretchy circle and shallow serpentines Walk in Figures of 8 to cool down

 

 

 

Sample Exercise Plan for horse being ridden – low to moderate issues

Day of the Week Warm Up   3 to 5 minutes Exercise 5 to 10 minutes Cool down   5 to 10 minutes
Sunday Day off with turnout Day off with turnout Day off with turnout
Monday Ground work Lunge Walk pirouette & 10 stride transitions

 

Stretchy circles or stretchy walk in straight lines
Tuesday Shallow loop serpentines Lengthen and extend the gaits &

Turn on the forehand

Figures of 8 at walk and trot
Wednesday Day off with turnout Day off with turnout Day off with turnout
Thursday Walk to trot transitions Slow spirals &

Turn on haunches

Shallow loop serpentines at walk
Friday Ground work walk in stretchy circle and shallow serpentines Walk pirouette & Walk and trot over ground poles

 

Figures of 8 at walk and trot
Saturday Figures of 8 at walk and trot Stretchy circles or stretchy walk in straight lines &

10 stride trot to walk transitions

Shallow loop serpentines at walk

 

 

Cool down and recovery time at the end:

The cool down is very key. We need to take horses with PSSM and muscle issues through a process of cooling down that includes making sure all the muscles are loose and that the horse has a range of motion for all major muscle groups. Cool down and recovery time still needs (as you see from above) bending and turning and working to a full range of motion at the walk.

 

The above are just some examples and thoughts that I have put together after reading a great many sources of information.

 

The keys to this article: 1) Keep your work to a reasonable amount of time 15 to 45 minutes … and this depends on the needs and welfare and ability of your horse.

2) Change things up and use a variety of exercises so that you work multiple muscle groups.

3) Observe and touch your horse to better understand how he/she is feeling and where there might be tightness.

 

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a national clinician, supporting member of the International Society of Equitation Science (www.equitationscience.com), author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in Performance based riding, Western Dressage and understanding your horse and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com.  Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (www.coachscorral.com), an online Horsemanship Coaching program.

 

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Equine Welfare – Making a Difference in the Horse World

Equine Welfare – Making a Difference in the Horse World

by Dr. Mike Guerini, www.dunmovinranch.com

Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed video sharing, rule change recommendations and conversations about Equine Welfare – all of which have brought forth heated discussions at times. Certainly Equine Welfare is of the HIGHEST importance for all of us equestrians….but resorting to arguments is not the way to get help to the horse.

I do believe that passion about Equine Welfare is great. Enthusiasm about promoting Equine Welfare is great. So a few hours ago I read a note from a person who asked – what can we do when we see bad things happening to horses. This question had me thinking for a few hours and I wanted to share a few of my thoughts.

  1. Use evidence based knowledge/information in your discussions. Do not simply tell someone that something looks bad therefore it must be wrong.  Have reasons why something you are seeing is wrong. Explain how the issue is affecting the welfare of the horse.  But when you explain…stay calm and focused…when you are calm and focused then people listen. As soon as you yell or call names…people quit listening.
  2. Promote equine welfare education. Get involved in groups and organizations that promote equine welfare.  If the organization you are associated with is simply critical – ask them to develop plans to help improve the welfare of the equine.  The International Society of Equitation Science (http://www.equitationscience.com) is one such organization that promotes equine welfare.
  3. Ask someone to explain why he/she is doing something and how it works to “help” the horse. Sometimes when a person has to explain how something is a good thing … when they are asked politely … they may be at a loss for an answer and hours later, they will still think on what you asked and begin to realize that if they cannot explain the concept clearly….then maybe it is not something they should be doing (This is particularly true of training equipment).  Those voices inside our heads can and do help people redirect moral and ethical compasses.  Cause people to think and you will affect how they act.
  4. Show that there is a better way. Get out and demonstrate and explain how your way….is the correct way to do things and betters the welfare of the horse.  Win with class and with horse welfare as your Battle Cry … and people will begin to follow what you are doing.  Rules and laws are not always the way to affect change…sometimes you have to show people the correct way to bring about change.
  5. Report issues to stewards, barn owners, barn managers, and Association representatives. When I say report…I am encouraging you to make a written/formal complaint.  Walking up to someone and telling them what you saw … well it works for about 30 seconds .. but in the end Give the person in charge specifics and information they can use to go and make the change or to help the horse that is in a bad situation.
  6. Speak to the person directly. Talking behind someone’s back is not a way to influence them or to help the horse.  Look the person in the eye and tell them what you think (see #1 and #3 above).

These are just a few thoughts. I encourage you to promote equine welfare. I encourage all of you to work for the horse and to be his/her advocate.

For my part I am a member of the International Association of Equitation Science because I believe in what the organization is doing to promote evidenced based equine welfare.

Share this blog if you think it might help a horse. Thank you.

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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 www.dunmovinranch.com.  Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (http://www.coachscorral.com/), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program.  Dun Movin Ranch is also home of the Equine Hydro-T (http://www.hydrot.com/).

How does your Horsemanship Measure Up?

How Does your Horsemanship Measure Up?

by Dr. Mike Guerini, Ph.D. (www.dunmovinranch.com)

IMG_1084

2015 is here and it is time to start a new year of horsemanship.  How did you do last year? Did you meet all your goals? Do you recall what your goals were for 2014? How did you measure your progress throughout the year and from ride to ride?

Here are five ideas that will help you keep track of your 2015 Horsemanship successes and measurements.

1) Keep a Journal.   Keep track of your daily rides and look back each month and see where you have been and where you are going.  Here is a great resource from the team at Equine Hydro-T for tracking your horsemanship throughout the year.  Click HERE.

2) Use Video to check your progress.  Take videos at the beginning and end of each month.  Sit down and watch the videos and review your progress.  In addition to your own personal review, submit a video to Coach’s Corral www.coachscorral.com and get a coaching review of your riding.  Once you have learned how to video yourself and work on areas you want to improve upon, check in with me and I promise to share with you some of the options available for Virtual showing.

3) Measure your horse’s stride.  Are you working on extensions or rhythm, balance, timing, and cadence.  Rake off a clean area where you ride then walk, trot and lope and measure the length of stride.  Make sure you know how long a stride is normal for your horse.  Maybe your horse has not stretched out…measure and keep track and see if your current plan is helping your horse improve.

4) Time your circles. Are you working on that perfect 20m circle.  Take a stopwatch and time how long it takes you to ride each 20m circle (helps if a friend does the timing).  A consistently sized and shaped circle where the horse is moving with the same timing — will always have the same time show up on the stopwatch.

5) Chart your show progress.  If you are involved in Dressage, keep track of your scores and look for trends of improvement on certain aspects of your ride.  Pay close attention to the comments section of the tests and see if you are getting dinged for the same errors or problems.  If you are into reining, cowhorse, or trail — take the time to get your score sheets (if available) and review them after each show and each month.

Welcome to 2015 and make sure that you set yourself up for success by measuring how well you and your horse are doing.

Thank you for Reading this blog.  Share this Information!

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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 www.dunmovinranch.com.  Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (http://www.coachscorral.com/), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program.  Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (http://www.hydrot.com/).

Five Rules for Simple (and great) Horsemanship

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

Five Rules for Simple (and great) Horsemanship

We complicate Horsemanship.  There are so many rules and pieces of advice we hear.  Sometimes when we try to follow every bit of advice or rule…we make riding and enjoying our horses so complicated that we forget to actually ride, have fun, and enjoy our time on horseback with our four legged friend.

 

Ride circle JPEG

Here are my five rules for Simple (and great) Horsemanship.

#1 — Be a Healthy Rider. I do not mean have the perfect weight or Body Mass Index….I mean be in good health. Good health means that you can breathe fairly well, you have had a decent amount of rest, and you are eating sufficiently that you have energy and stamina. There are times when our health is not perfect…we might still be able to ride but must ask ourselves this question first — am I in good enough health to take care of my horse and keep him/her safe.For those with health issues that are not going away in the immediate future, therapeutic riding programs can help you have safe riding experiences. Ride with people who are going to be able to keep you safe and most especially — keep the horse safe.

#2 — Ride a Healthy Horse. A horse, just like a person, can have days when it is not feeling well. Those are days that we should give the horse off from work. If we want to spend time with our horse, maybe go for a walk with him/her on the halter and just take in the scenery.

I cringe when I hear people give me a list of medications their horse is taking.  Supplements are one thing …. A pill for the foot problem, another medication for the ear issue, another for the hock that is swollen, and still another for the back soreness….. ENOUGH ALREADY!  Work with your equine wellness professional and help your horse get healthy to ride.

To many times I have seen a horse not quite healthy be ridden and before I know it – there is another issue, then another issue, and then another issue. People scurry around just trying to take care of each added issue.  Stop and get the first issue taken care of and you will be able to ride and not have to worry about another ailment or lameness.

#3 — Have a Riding Plan. I hear quite often people discuss a riding disaster. When they finally stop telling the story, I ask them what their plan was for the ride. Most often I get one of two answers 1) I had no plan, or 2) I planned for a nice ride but my horse looked sideways and I decided right then and there we needed to work.

Okay — the no plan is a problem since the rider has not done mental preparation and I can tell you from experience that the horse knows this and the horse is always working to help us be more honest with ourselves.

The fix it right there and then plan — I know we all need to do this. We just need to have some ideas already in our head as to how we might deal with an issue (I will cover this in a subsequent blog).  Suffice it to say, when we “decide right then and there we need to work on an issue” we most often jump into that training situation without thinking if we have all the tools necessary to complete this training. We also jump in with our emotions and from what I have learned in my life – learning or teaching when I am emotional does not yield good results.

Your plan can be detailed or it can be simple … I like the simple idea and will discuss this soon in another blog.

#4 — Be Safe. Always Always Always think safety first. Protect your health and that of your horse by being safe. Sure — the ride down the mountain in the Snowy River Movie was amazing but not all of us or our horses are prepared for that ride. Think about the road/arena conditions, weather forecast, horse leg protection, rider personal protection. They key here is that if you get hurt – you cannot keep your horse safe. Be a safe rider and this lets you take care of your horse.

#5 — Listen to the Horse. The key to great riding is developing your ability to listen to what your horse is telling you. When we listen to the horse we find that the horse is asking us simple questions…the horse is asking for guidance. The horse understands fight or flight and pressure and release. These are relatively simple concepts and we use them in our training to establish trust and confidence in the horse for the rider. It is only the horses opinion of what I’m doing that has value to me, and that can change in an instant so I must always be listening and answering with quiet aids and guidance.

Horsemanship, riding horses, raising horses, coaching riders, spending time in the barn — these things are what I enjoy doing.  When I keep my life simple (some days it is a struggle) — I find I am happy, my health is good, my horses are healthy and happy, and I experience some of the greatest rides in life.  I have my horses to thank for helping me to understand that simple horsemanship is balanced and rewarding horsemanship.

Thank you for Reading this blog.  Share this Blog and Share your Thoughts!

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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 www.dunmovinranch.com.  Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (www.coachscorral.com), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program.  Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

 

Top 8 Blogs from Dun Movin Ranch in 2013

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

Friends,

As we wrap up 2013 I wanted to take a moment and thank you all for reading my blogs this year.  I shall continue blogging and sharing ideas and thoughts with you all in 2014.  Here is a review of the most popular Blog topics I that people read in 2013.  Click on any of these topics to be taken to the blog write up to refresh your memory.  Please share with your friends.

Heat Stroke and Cooling your Horse

5 Benefits of Riding Bareback

The Geometry of Riding

My horse asked me to not be a trainer anymore – I … ?

The Horse No Longer Needed

Canter/Lope Departures — Hips Left and Hips Right

Cloning Horses – As a person who knows genetics — I am shaking my head

A Horse is not a Machine — Of Course

Have a safe end to 2013 and a great start to 2014.  Ride well, Ride Safe, Ride with Fun!

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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).

Three Life Lessons That Horses Remind Me Of Each Day

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

1) Build a relationship based on being positive and developing respect — and that relationship will last a lifetime.  With horses we are all reminded to reward the try.  Reward the progress.  Reward when it all clicks and the action is correct.  We also learn with horses that if we ask them to respect our space and set boundaries and that we respect what they can do without those boundaries, we can have a mutual agreement of how to behave around each other.

My horses remind me daily to be around people who are positive, associated with people who look for the good in a situation, learn from people who seek good in others.

2) Speak clearly and you will be heard. It is never ever the horse’s fault.  When we ask for a transition and it does not happen it is because the rider failed to communicate and coach the horse with the correct aides and pre-signals.  When we coach using the same aides, apply them they same way each day, and we are clear with our instructions the horse hears/feels and responds.

My horses remind me daily that the language people use is deteriorating.  Abbreviations, made up words in texting, curse and foul words (some four lettered (and there are quite a few here) or other words used to describe people or situations including the words stupid, idiot, etc., or referring to people as body parts), and poor punctuation are dooming us to become a society who misunderstands each other and is continually hurt because of a lack of clear communication.  My horses remind me to speak clearly and I will be heard.

3) Basics are the key to happiness. Horses teach us that we need shelter, food, water, some herd friends, and basic care.  I have never seen a horse in line at the store trying to purchase the latest iPhone.  Horses do not post pictures of their wins on Facebook, the are not on Twitter, and most find the Instagram system hard to use for self-promotion. Horses do not need the latest halter…in fact they seem to walk along nicely in a very pretty halter with jewels and silver and they walk along just as nicely with a piece of bailing twine fashioned into a halter.

My horses remind me each day that if I have the basics in life I can live and love, be loved and appreciated, and when I speak clearly, and look for the positive in life — I might just make it through many of the lessons in life, help someone along the way, and receive a pat on the back for a job well done.

So next time you feel yourself getting caught up in the world, overwhelmed by all the demands, worried about being trendy, lacking friends, and mis-understood — take a few minutes and check in with your horse.  15 minutes might with your horse might make the difference in your day and I am certain it will make the difference in your horse’s day.

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).

How much should you plan your ride?

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

In life some people like to plan things out in detail, others like a general plan, and some like to go “Fly the seat of their pants.”  When you “Fly by the seat of your pants”, you decide a course of action as you go along, using your own initiative and perceptions rather than a pre-determined plan or mechanical aids.

So what works best for horsemanship.  In truth, a plan (at least a general plan) is your best bet.  Sure, when riding horses you must be prepared for changes.  You must be able to move and act in the moment to help you or the horse through an unexpected event.  Here are five reasons riding with a plan really helps.

1) Having a plan can improve the safety for you and your horse.  If you plan to ride in the arena and tell someone so that if you do not return at the right time — they know where to find you.  If you tell someone you are going for a ride wherever the road takes you and you get lost, injured or do not return on time — people that care will be worried and have no easy way of finding you.

2) Having a plan can help you stay out of the rut (fixed boring routine).  When you ride if you plan to do something new today, that you did not do the day before it allows you to track how often you are making sure that the horse is being worked equally.  IF you always warm up and take your circles to the right, you might get into a boring routine and that can actually be damaging for your horse — because you are forgetting to make sure that the muscles on both sides of the horse get worked equally.  Variety helps increase your communication ability with your horse.  It prepares you to be able to get through new things with your horse because you are a team.

3) Having a plan helps you develop new skills.  Let us face it friends…we all have many things on our minds.  Sometimes we forget what we had for breakfast the day before or even that morning.  If you develop riding plans, going so far as to put them to paper or notecards, you are better able to keep track of what you have been learning or what you have been achieving.  As a trainer, I know that I cannot always remember every detail of what I want to teach or what I have learned with a particular student or horse…so I make a plan to make sure I fully challenge and engage each student and horse.

4) Having a plan can help you track your progress.  If you develop a riding plan for the week or month, of course we know it will change, but having some of these things written down will help you see your progress unfolding.  For those days when things did not seem to go well, you can look at your long-term plan and remember just how far you have come along with your horse.

5) Having a plan helps you solve problems.  So many times when we run into problems we are lost for what to do.  We go out the next day and hope it is fixed or we find ways to avoid the problem.  Take the time to plan how you will address the problem you are having and then work with your plan.  Of course there is a need to be flexible but having that plan helps you to be prepared, both in mind and in body to work with your horse to get the two of you past the issue.

Now, please understand that I know horsemanship needs to have the rider/trainer not stay on a path or a plan if it is not working.  Of course you always need to readjust your plan or change it for the situation, horse or issue — but I promise you that having a plan will help you make progress.

As always…I look forward to your comments and additions.

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).