The Rider – Riding Instructor Relationship

The Rider – Riding Instructor Relationship

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

This is the second in a series of blogs on how we as owners interact with the different professionals that we rely on in the horse world.  Some of these interactions include:

Horse Owner – Horse Trainer

Rider – Riding Instructor

Horse Owner – Clinician

Horse Owner – Veterinarian

Horse Owner – Farrier

Horse Owner – Stable/arena owner/manager

The horse owner – horse trainer relationship was discussed in the last blog.  This time we are looking to the Rider – Riding Instructor relationship and things you can do to help this interaction be a success.  Here are a few items to think about.

Riders 

1) Keep to the schedule

If you have a scheduled riding lesson, be on time or try to cancel at least 24 hours in advance.  Yes, emergencies happen but if the instructor has reserved a spot for you, he/she might be able to fill the spot with another student if you must cancel.

2) Have your tack ready

If you have a piece of tack that you know needs repair or cleaning before the next lesson, take the time to do that before the start of the riding lesson.

3) Have your horse ready

If you are riding your own horse, have your horse tacked up and ready to ride/work with at the designated start time for your lesson.

4) Put your cell phone away (and not in your pant pocket)

In the world, we rely on our phone for many things but during the lesson, we need to pay attention to both the horse and instructor.  Most lessons are an hour at the most and it is reasonable that you can go without a phone for at least 60 minutes.  Most lesson providers understand if there is a pressing issue that may need your attention (sick family member, work issue) but you must ask yourself — can you really be at your best for the lesson and the horse if a pressing issue distracts you.

This is also an issue of safety.  If you are not paying attention, you will have a time when you get hurt.

5) Do your homework and be prepared

If your instructor gave you some homework, try to do that in between lessons or at least be honest and tell him/her that you did not do your homework.  Instructors can help you best if they know what you have been doing.

6) Leave as many distractions at home/car as possible (children, dogs, etc)

For your lesson, it is a good idea if you can minimize the number of distractions during your lesson time.  When you cannot pay full attention to the lesson, you and your horse are not optimally prepared for learning.  Again, there are safety considerations here.  Distractions can keep you from focusing on the task and this leads to a situation where you or the horse can get hurt.

7) Share goals with your instructor

Make sure you take the time to email or communicate with the riding instructor what your goals are and ask him/her to let you know how he/she will help you with your goals.  Every instructor should be able to help you grow as a rider and should push you to excel and you need to accept or discuss with them how much they might be pushing you.  However, make sure the instructor is ready to help you with your goals.

Riding Instructor

1) Keep to the schedule

As an instructor it is important that you remain on schedule, are at the arena at the designated lesson time and that you keep the lesson on track.  Sure, horses and students may take a bit longer but it is bad form for the instructor to not be at the arena for the start time.

2) Put your cell phone away

Pay attention to the student.  This is an issue of safety, liability, and responsibility and if you wish for the student to pay attention to you, then you must give them your attention.

3) Have a plan for the lesson

It is the instructor’s responsibility to have a plan and communicate the lesson plan to the student.  By having a plan, it shows a commitment to the education process.

4) Have your arena prepared

Have a safe and groomed (dirt/sand prepared) area to work with the horse and rider safely.

5) Leave as many distractions at the barn as possible

Just as the rider needs to leave distractions out and away from the arena, the instructor needs to do the same thing.

6) Listen to the student’s goals but push them to improve

The instructor needs to show the student how the lesson is helping him/her get to the goals.  At the same time, push the student to go further, develop more, and challenge him/herself as a rider.

If the rider and riding instructor follow these steps, it leads to a more conducive and safe learning environment.  Build this relationship by communicating, setting goals, and being prepared.

As in all my blogs, these are items for you to consider.  I am sure you can come up with other items of importance in this relationship and I look forward to you sharing your thoughts.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, and co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T 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).

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Horse-Owner/Horse-Trainer Relationship

The Horse Owner – Horse Trainer Relationship

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

This is the first in a series of blogs on how we as owners interact with the different professionals that we rely on in the horse world.  Some of these interactions include:

Horse Owner – Horse Trainer

Rider – Riding Instructor

Horse Owner – Clinician

Horse Owner – Veterinarian

Horse Owner – Farrier

Horse Owner – Stable/arena owner/manager

The horse owner – horse trainer relationship is very important for developing a horse.  As a horse owner I have worked with quite a few trainers in the past to have my horse’s started and developed.  As a trainer, I have the privilege of working with a number of horses in my training program.

At times, I hear fellow trainers express sadness that they have an unhappy client (horse owner) and other times I hear of an owner who is not happy with the trainer.  I lend an ear when people want to talk and along the way, I have learned some important things that I practice as an owner and a trainer.  Here I share some thoughts to help you with this process.

1) Research trainers and find out what they have to offer you as a horse owner. 

When I say research, I mean look them up online, ask for references from the trainer, check out their record in the discipline of your interest, make an appointment and ask to speak with him or her for 15 minutes about training philosophy and ask that you get to see the training arena, feed, and stables.  If you like your horse to have supplements, find out if the facility will give your horse supplements.  Check out some videos he or she might have available.  Find out how much training/riding is done by the trainer verses others on staff.

2) Begin the relationship with communication.

This is equally important for both the trainer and the owner.

As the owner, you will want to share with the trainer what your goals are for the horse.  If you have done your homework as suggested in #1 above, you will know that this trainer and you are compatible.  Be prepared to write these down as part of the contract process.

As the trainer, you want to be clear in sharing your philosophy and how you will develop this horse.  You want to share a plan for the first 30 days that includes you calling or emailing the owner with some updates.  Updates need to be more than “the horse is nice.”  As the trainer, sit down and give some pluses and minuses and an honest evaluation.

Set up a review of the horse’s progress on a routine basis.  For this, I suggest every 30 or 45 days needs a face-to-face meeting or detailed phone conversation.  You may learn that your horse is not suited for a particular discipline…so listen to the trainer.  As an owner, listen to what the trainer is saying about the horse.  We all think our horse’s are amazing, but just like us they have some faults.

3) Begin the relationship with a written contract.

Any owner or trainer who does not want to start the relationship with a written contract is not doing things correctly.  Make sure the contract has a release of liability, terms of payment, what fees will be due for relevant services (veterinarian, farrier, etc), understanding of when the owner can stop by (what are the business hours), how much riding lesson time is included so that the owner learns how to ride the horse (if that is part of the owner’s goals).  Many things go into a written contract and you must remember this is a business arrangement, so start the process off correctly.

4) Have a Veterinarian check your horse before starting training.

Both the trainer and the owner have a stake in making certain the horse going into training is sound.  For young horses, make sure the growth plates in the knees are closed.  For all horses, make sure they are up to date on vaccinations, worming, farrier work, and that the horse is sound (basic flexion tests, radiographs if indicated).  Trainers and owners alike do not like to learn a horse is lame after the first ride.  This is not good for anyone.

5) See and show the horse in action.

As the owner, you need to make sure you take an interest in the progress of the horse.  Take some time to see the horse ridden or shown.  As the trainer, make opportunities available for the owner to see the horse in action. 

I am sure you can come up with other items of importance in the horse-owner/horse-trainer relationship and I look forward to you sharing your thoughts.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, and co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T 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).

 

Canter/Lope Departures — Hips Left and Hips Right

Canter/Lope Departures — Hips Left and Hips Right

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

We all have experienced riding a horse and having issues picking up the correct lead.  Sometimes we ride and ride and ride while asking for the canter or lope and all we get is a really fast/extended trot.  So how do we solve this problem?  We get to work from the ground up to the saddle and following these exercises you will be a success.

To begin with, we need to think about where we will be placing our aides in order to help cue the horse to the proper lead.  We want to use pressure at the flank (Position #3) to direct the hips into position for picking up the correct lead.

These positions are where you will be placing your hand to move the horse’s body as you do your groundwork.  In the beginning of your lessons, using these approximate distances shown in this diagram are good for making sure you are clear in your request for a particular movement.  As you teach your horse and you and the horse become more in tune with one another the distance between position 1 and 3 will become shorter and shorter until the mere movement of a few inches allows your horse to know what you are asking.

Why are these positions so vital and why is touching your horse in these places important when you are doing groundwork?  The answer is simple—where you put your hands when you are doing the groundwork is where you will place your feet when you are riding.  Isn’t it cool that you can prepare your horse for riding by teaching from the ground!

Once we understand the above, we start with ground work.  All of my yearlings begin to learn this and become quite good at moving their hips.

Hip Right from the ground

Lead from the left (near side) at the horse’s shoulder with the horse between you and the rail.  Give yourself about 5 feet of space between the horse and the rail.  Take the lead in your left hand and place your right hand on the horse’s flank at Position #3.  Apply gentle pressure to move the horse’s hips to the right and toward the fence (away from you).  Walk the horse for four or five steps with his hips toward the rail and his head toward the center of the arena.  Release the pressure and allow the horse to walk straight.  Repeat three or four times.

Hip Left from the ground

Walk along the rail with your horse to the inside of the arena.  Place yourself next to the horse’s shoulder between the horse and the rail.  Take the lead in your right hand and place your left hand on the horse’s side at Position #3.  Apply gentle pressure to move the horse’s hips away from the rail and towards the center of the arena.  You may need to gently pull your horse’s head towards you using your right hand (so that the head faces the rail).  Walk the horse for four or five steps with his hip away from the rail and his head towards the rail.  Release pressure and allow the horse to walk out straight.  Repeat three or four times.

SADDLE TIME—

Now it is time to transfer what we are doing on the ground into the saddle.  Please remember that we will do these exercises at the walk, trot, and get them right before we ever ask for a canter departure.

Hip Right

Give yourself about 5 feet of space between the horse and the rail.  Take the reins and ride straight forward.  Then place your left leg on the horse’s left side at the flank (Position #3) and use pressure and release to get the horse to move its hip towards the center of the arena.  Walk the horse for four or five steps with his hips toward the center of the arena and his head towards the rail.  You want the horse’s body to be at a 20 to 45 degree angle to the rail.  Head is about 2 feet away from the rail.  Once the hip is towards the center of the arena and the horse is straight from tail to head, release the pressure and allow the horse to walk straight again.  Repeat this multiple times at the walk and then at the trot.

Hip Left

Give yourself about 5 feet of space between the horse and the rail.  Take the reins and ride straight forward.  Then place your right leg on the horse’s right side at the flank and use pressure and release to get the horse to move its hip towards the center of the arena.  You want the horse’s body to once again be at a 20 to 45 degree angle to the rail.  Head is about 2 feet away from the rail.  Once the hip is towards the center of the arena and the horse is straight from tail to head, release the pressure and allow the horse to walk straight again.  Repeat this multiple times at the walk and then at the trot.

Here is a diagram to help you on your angles.  In each example, there is an arrow right next to the rail.  This is the direction of travel when the horse is moving straight.  A 90-degree angle would have the horse facing directly to the fence.  A 45-degree angle would have the head near the fence and the rear towards the center of the arena.

 CANTER/LOPE DEPARTURE

When you want the correct lead departure, move the hips towards the center of the arena, make sure you keep your inside leg (one towards center of arena) off the horse (allowing the horse to move freely) and then press on the outside flank with the outside leg (bump and press is okay), elevate your body, inhale, smooch or cluck (make noises if your horse knows this from round pen work), rock your hips forward and urge the horse into the correct lead.  Also make sure your shoulder is turned towards the inside of the arena (towards the lead you will be picking up) and that you are giving pressure with your outside seat bone and have a soft inside seat bone.  Make sure you are looking where you want to go and not at the horse or ground or the rail.  Look forward and think forward.

By teaching your horse to move his hips, you are positioning your horse so that he can easily pick up the correct lead.  For a right lead (R), the first leg that steps is the left hind leg, then the left front and right rear step at the same time and finally the right front foot steps.  For a left lead (L), the right hind leg steps first, then the right front and left rear step at the same time and finally the left front foot steps.

I encourage you to ask questions of me or other equine professionals and enthusiasts to understand the importance of moving the hips left and right.  Truely this is the most useful exercise for acheiving canter departures and picking up the correct lead.

This is how we begin to teach the lead.  We are asking the horse to step in the direction of the lead and it helps the horse and rider position correctly. Once the horse understand’s what is being asked of him and the rider is soft and giving aides at the appropriate time, we then can ask for a straight line lead departure.  Yes, the horse is crooked in the beginning but once they learn, we are able to move into straight line lead departures.  With all things on the back of the horse, collection is key to success and we work to maintain collection even through this series of exercises…hence why we start with the walk and trot and teachable moments.

Be sure to check out my clinic schedule and let us work together to bring one of my clinics to your area in 2013.  Visit my website for contact information.  I welcome comments, questions and great discussion on this topic.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician 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).

Barn Lessons from Mom

Had to share this that I created about 10 months ago.  Wisdom from our elders, in this case my mom, can help us with success at the barn.  Sometimes it is the simple things we need to take care of for success.

FIVE THINGS MY MOM TEACHES ABOUT TIME IN THE BARN WITH HORSES

#1 — Do not yell in the barn.

If your horse wanted to be around a braying ass, she would go spend time with the donkey.

#2 — Clean your tack/grooming supplies monthly, at the very least.

Who wants to be brushed with a filthy brush and wear a dirty piece of clothing?

#3 — Never raise your hand to threaten or hit your horse.

You do not like it when someone threatens you; why would you think your horse will accept it any better.

#4 — Quit talking on your cell phone.

You would not like it if someone came to visit you and then spent the entire time on the phone and never chatted with you.

#5 — Spend a few minutes watching your horse in her stall/paddock.

Horses can teach you so many life lessons if you just take the time to pay attention while they teach.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician 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 at www.hydrot.com.

 

Conditioned Response Training — “Pressure and Release”

Conditioned Response Training — “Pressure and Release”

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

Recently I was asked this question by a lady at one of my clinics. “What is “Pressure and Release” and is it something that will make my horse better?” When horse people talk about “Pressure and Release” they are talking about touching a horse in a certain spot then getting a specific response. This is called a conditioned response.

The basic idea behind a conditioned response is that when step A happens, if properly trained, step B will happen next. Horses are sensitive animals. A slight bit of pressure (either in the form of a touch, a yell, a wave of the hand) can be enough to get the horse to move away. We can use this to our advantage by using “Pressure and Release” training. In “Pressure and Release” training I work with my horse so he understands that when I apply pressure to a specific part of his body he responds by moving away from that pressure. As long as the rider uses the smallest amount of pressure and the horse responds correctly this as a good thing. For example, touching a horse on the left shoulder means the horse needs to move his shoulders to the right.

One of the important things to remember while using “Pressure and Release” is that our entire body and the way we ride effects how good of a response we get from our horse. We need to actively guide the horse with our body movements. In the example above where I am moving the shoulders to the right I also need to be looking to the right and using my hands to help guide my horse to the right. I place pressure where I want the horse to move away from and I make sure to guide him with my eyes, upper body and gently with my hands towards the opening (non pressure place). “Pressure and Release” requires that I immediately take away the pressure once my horse begins to respond. Only by riding with my hands, legs and body does the horse understand that a touch on the left shoulder means move shoulders to the right. So you see, “Pressure and Release” is about actively riding and communicating with your horse.

One part of this process that is very important to remember is that we need to give the horse an opening to move towards. The opening is the place where there is no pressure. The horse will recognize this as the place we want him to go because there is nothing blocking his way to get there. Without this opening the horse has nowhere to go and will become frustrated or confused. We as the rider need to make sure that when we ask the horse to do something, we give him clear directions (Pressure), the place to go (Opening), and the reward ( Release).

Lets also remember that “Pressure and Release” works on the Ground as well. We use the same ideas of touch and body language to get the horse to move in a direction we choose when we are doing our ground work. So if we train with the idea of being an active rider and using our hands and legs and body we will succeed with “Pressure and Release”. We can be confident that we can move our horse away from danger because he responds to “Pressure and Release”.

Hopefully you can see the benefit to training with “Pressure and Release” and how using this will make your horse more responsive to you as a rider.

Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician 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 at www.hydrot.com.

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.

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).