My Way or The Highway Horsemanship

By: Mike Guerini, B.S., M.S., Ph.D.


We have all seen it — most especially on social media these days — the ever present “My Way or The Highway” Horsemanship. This philosophy is that there is only one way to train or ride a horse…there is only one clinician or instructor that can help you and your horse.  Join a group of supposedly like minded people (like minded in that they have the best interest of the horse in mind) and if you have an opinion that is different from the larger group — you are quickly put into the role of outcast.

Some of this philosophy has become prevalent because horsemanship, horse training, and coaching is a business and there is only so much market share — so those selling items or training or philosophies must yell louder or be different and in some cases — they must put other ideas down.  We see this within horse associations, horse organizations, disciplines and in many other aspects of our horse world. We even see “arguments” within disciplines as to who has the better way or better team.

There is room for everyone in the barn.  We can make space quite easily by moving a bale of hay into place and listening to what the newcomer or old timer has to offer.  We can listen to the person who speaks of training in Europe or South America.  We can quit labeling someone as “an old cowboy,” “as a charro,” “as a dressage rider,” “as a trail rider,” … I think you get the idea — labels are sure not easy to keep track of and they sure do not help our horses.

We are human and there is a good chance we are going to misunderstand, misinterpret, do something wrong (or even stupid) when it comes to our horses and riding.

I personally enjoy learning from many different people who have many different ideas.  I have developed a criteria in my mind to check when I am listening or watching something that is different from my normal way.  Change is never easy…but we must be open to change for the benefit of our horses — and for me this criteria has helped in my assessments.

I am going to share my criteria here.  This may help some of you…it may help some of your horses…and your comments about what I have written here … may just help me grow and get better…..and that is a good thing to do in 2017.  I shall admit that these criteria are all together important but for ease of reading them I have given them numbers.

#1 — Welfare and Health of the horse must be paramount. I use evidenced based evaluations to review if the welfare and health of the horse is being maintained.  With open eyes I look for signs that the horse is in fight or flight mode or in pain.

#2 — Welfare and Health of the rider is of high importance.  If a method or philosophy puts the rider or handler at risk (beyond the normal risk of working with a 1200 pound animal) — then this is something I am not so keen to follow.

#3 — The horse is never wrong.  Anything or anyone that starts by saying “the stupid/dumb horse did this to me and the horse is just wrong” … well it tells me that emotion gets in the way there and for me — negative emotions are not good for horse training and riding.

#4 — Relaxation is key.  I want the horse to be relaxed. Sure – -during learning there my be some loss of relaxation but it needs to return quickly.  Likewise — I want the rider to be relaxed.  Numerous scientific papers have documented that brains learn better when in relaxation mode.

#5 — Balance is key.  In balance we have the body functioning as it was designed and when things function within design parameters — they last longer, tend not to wear out, and do not break as easily.

#6 — Progression must be measurable (in a good and forward moving way).  One of the greatest sayings is that “the definition of insanity is to do something repeatedly and expect a different result.” A person may be an advocate of a particular method or philosophy but if there is no positive progression in the intended direction — a re-evaluation is warranted.

In all of these assessments I use an evidenced based evaluation approach.  I take the time to think about what I am seeing…rely on past knowledge .. check in with a myriad of resources and resourceful people I know and I might just borrow something and work slowly to see if I can improve it to meet my criteria.

I have been wrong in the past .. will likely be wrong in the future .. but I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from many different people and ideas.

I look forward to your comments and you are welcome to share this blog if it helps you or your horses in any way.


Dr. Mike Guerini is a scientist, author, and horsemanship Coach in Gilroy California.  Mike is focused on balanced horsemanship that takes into account the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being of the horse.  Mike is also the co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T.  You can learn more about Dr. Mike at

Top 8 Blogs from Dun Movin Ranch in 2013

By: Dr. Mike Guerini (


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!


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 Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (

6 Winter Horse Care MUST DO’s

By: Dr. Mike Guerini (

As winter is now in full swing with cold and rain and snow, it is time that we turn our attention to some very important winter health care concerns for horses. Here are five MUST DO’s to make sure your horse stays healthy.

1) Keep your horse’s feet properly trimmed.  A balanced foot packs in less snow and mud.  Sometimes when people are not riding or they are a bit short on funds they push-off the scheduled appointment for the farrier.  Your horse’s feet are critical and need good care all year-long.  This is a winter health care must for your horse.

2) If you blanket, check under the blanket daily. If you blanket your horses, either you or someone you trust must look under the blanket each day to make sure your horse’s skin, hair and body weight are in good shape.

3) If you live in areas that get muddy when it rains — get the mud off the feet and legs. We all know there are some therapeutic benefits to a mud bath (so I have been told) but it is critical that you make sure the mud does not cake on in pounds on your horses feet, tail and legs.  Get that mud off every few days to make sure your horse does not developed cracked skin or bruises from the rough edges of the mud.  This also applies to the snow.  The Equine Hydro-T is great for helping get the mud off your horses feet.

4) Exercise your horse every few days at least. Take your horse for a walk on his halter.  Make sure he keeps his feet moving.  A horse needs to move its feet to make sure it is getting good circulation in the legs.

5) Clean the urine soaked stalls daily.  If your horse tends to stay inside during the winter, high levels of ammonia from the urine can irritate the horses nasal passage and lungs.  Make sure you keep those wet spots cleaned up in the stalls.  Those wood stove pellets make for a great absorbent material (better than shavings) when you need to get that urine moisture out of a stall.

6) Keep the barn ventilated.  You may think keeping everything locked up is great so that it keeps your horse warm.  This is true but you need to make sure to get fresh air in daily if the horses do not have a winter turnout plan.

These are just a few ideas and I am sure you all can add more (and look forward to you doing so). You are the primary caregiver for your horse and it is important to make sure they receive just as much (if not more) care during the winter as compared with your Spring, Summer, and Fall seasons.


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 Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (

Saddle Fitting — some thoughts to help you succeed

By Dr. Mike Guerini (

A few months back I was asked to help a client find the right western saddle for her horse.  This client has ridden with dressage and western saddles for a good portion of her riding career but she decided a few months back to ride most of the time in a western saddle and needed one to call her own.

As we set out on this project, my client shared with me a story about her custom-made dressage saddle. She had her horse fitted for a custom saddle and spent a few thousand dollars on the saddle.  In the end, the saddle never seemed to fit her or the horse very well and of course…there was lots of time and money lost. With some trepidation, this lady was now looking at finding a western saddle that fit her and her horse.

There are individuals certified/trained in saddle fitting.  One organization is the Certified Saddle Fitters, and there are many other organizations, training courses, and certification programs.  Even if you hire a professional, there are some things you need to look for and consider in this saddle fitting process.

1) Every good fitting saddle will leave (after the horse is worked), a uniform sweat pattern wherever the saddle touches the horse.  There should be no sweat on the backbone of the horse.  If the sweat pattern is uneven, a different saddle or pad needs to be used for that horse.

2) A good fitting saddle will not bounce up and down when the horse is lunged without a rider.  There will be some movement (generally in rhythm with the movement of the horse) but if the saddle is bouncing up and down, it is not fit correctly to the horse.  Sometimes you can change the rigging of the saddle to keep it from bouncing up and down on the horse.

3) A good fitting saddle sets over the withers and upper shoulders and does not pinch downward and forward.  Any pinching at the withers can cause pain for your horse.  You should be able to wedge a bit of your hand between the saddle and the horse…if not, you need to look into another saddle.

4) The saddle seat needs to be the right size for the rider.  If the saddle pushes you forward or makes you feel pinched or squeezed, it is not the right fit.  So many people purchase a smaller seat when they need a seat that is 1/2 to 11/2 inches larger.  For Western Saddles we most often fit a Youth in a 12″-13″ seat, Adults range from 14″ to 16″, and extra large adults fit 17″ seats.  You measure a western saddle seat from the base of the horn to the cantle.  Numerous online calculators are available that take your height and weight into account and help you find the right size seat for you.

5) When you can, borrow saddles and try them on your horse.  Find a type of saddle that fits your horse and you.  For this client of mine, we tried on 8 different saddles and found one that fit the horse very well…but needed a larger seat for the rider.  We took that saddle into the local saddle shop (100’s of saddles to choose from) and the owner of the shop was able to find the same shape and style of saddle that fit the horse…and with the right size seat for fitting the rider.

In summary — follow the above five guides and take your time when seeking a saddle.  This is an investment that will impact your safety, comfort and most importantly, the comfort of your horse.

As always I look forward to your comments and additions.  Saddle fitting is a very important part of your riding.

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 Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (

The Rider – Riding Instructor Relationship

The Rider – Riding Instructor Relationship

By Dr. Mike Guerini (

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.


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  Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (

Horse-Owner/Horse-Trainer Relationship

The Horse Owner – Horse Trainer Relationship

By Dr. Mike Guerini (

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 Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (


Hydrotherapy and Your Equine Athlete

by Rob Keene DVM and Michael Guerini, Ph.D. (

For many years veterinarians, trainers and other equine enthusiasts have used water as a therapy for sore limbs and muscle injuries. After a long day of work, or a vigorous exercise routine, many people take the opportunity to indulge themselves in a few moments of pleasure with a water-jet massage in their home spas or showers. Hydrotherapy spas are wonderful for people but not practical for the horse owner or trainer when you consider cost limitations and design problems. Ideally, a stream in our backyard or training facility would provide an excellent means for relaxing not only the rider but also the equine athlete.

Cold hosing is a simple form of hydrotherapy and a new injury can benefit from being cold-hosed for about 20 minutes multiple times a day or as directed by your veterinarian.

Why does hydrotherapy/cold hosing work?

Enzymes and proteins are released when cells are injured by a cut, trauma, or over-exertion and this caused the blood vessel walls in that vicinity to dilate and become more porous. Infection and inflammation fighting cells move to the area and extra fluid goes to the spot and carries oxygen and proteins for tissue repair. Tissue damage also triggers the secretion of hormones that are responsible for much of the pain the horse feels.

Pain, heat, and swelling, the three main symptoms of inflammation occur to varying degrees depending on the region, severity, and type of injury. As we all know, pain helps prevent overuse of the affected area. Heat results from the increased blood flow to the injury site and swelling (or edema) helps immobilize the area. The safest way to begin the healing process is to use the horse’s circulatory system to remove excess fluids not needed for healing. Drugs such as phenylbutazone can reduce swelling and heat but they might mask pain and delay or confuse the diagnostic picture.

The application of cold hydrotherapy triggers three basic reactions. First, it reduces cellular metabolic responses so that less oxygen is necessary since this can trigger hypoxic injury. Cold therapy also decreases the permeability of the blood vessel walls to reduce the amount of fluid accumulation and by cooling the area, it acts as a topical analgesic.

With the advent of the Equine Hydro-T, the benefits of a human hydrotherapeutic spa, along with the convenience of a backyard stream, are combined into one product. The patented Equine Hydro-T attaches to a hose at the barn and directs a pleasant, pulsating hydro-therapeutic massage to the tendons, joints, and muscles that have experienced a workout or injury.

Throughout the years in my veterinary practice, I recommended using a regular garden hose to help reduce swelling and provide a therapeutic treatment for medical problems associated with injury or strenuous workouts. When describing this therapy to clients I often used a shower massage analogy to explain how this treatment could help their athlete. While driving away I always contemplated the need for a massage unit like those found in most people’s showers or spas. I also was discouraged at the inconsistencies inherent in using a garden hose. The Equine Hydro-T answers this need by providing inexpensive, consistent, pulsating hydrotherapy using a convenient handheld instrument that is also a great tool for routine bathing.

The best part of the Equine Hydro-T is that it is also excellent for bathing your horse so it has multiple functions.

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