Lunge work with Horses – Three roads to explore.

Lunge work with Horses – Three roads to explore.

by Dr. Mike Guerini

Say the words “lunge a horse” to a group of horse people and then ask what that means to each person and you will likely receive a wide variety of responses. Cherry Hill Horsemanship books define lunge work as “generally thought of as a means to either train a young horse or warm up an experienced horse before a ride, the benefits of and uses for longeing (lungeing) are so varied that it should be a part of the training and exercise program of all horses.” (LINK HERE). The responses vary based on the experience of the horseman/woman and his/her goals.

 

For example, an acquaintance of mine who shows AQHA halter horses sees lunge work as exercise for muscle building and developing tone and to keep her horse in condition. She practices her lunge work with a timer and works eight minutes each direction. This is what she knows and she bases the success of her lunge work on her ability to achieve her goals in halter competition.

 

Another friend of mine sees lunge work as a way to gain respect and submission of the horse. This person continues to develop more finesse with his body position and subtle aids while doing the round pen version of the lunge work. This friend is very interested in liberty training and sees the round pen as a tool to help develop the necessary connection for liberty work.

 

Another person I know shares the idea that lunge work is to get the horse to settle down and pay attention to the handler/rider. The lunge work can be used to take off some excess energy.

 

By these three examples – you can see each person has a different purpose in mind for lunge work. For the 10 or so years I have known each of these folks … there have been no significant changes in the way they lunge.

 

Over the course of the last 5 years, my understanding AND use of lunge work has evolved. This review will briefly explore three types of lunge work. There is the round pen lunge work favored by many of the Natural Horsemanship (NH) practitioners, lunge line work on a halter, and in-hand directed lunge work with a cavesson.

 

Round Pen Lunge work:

This is often used in early colt starting or working with a problem horse that is unable to be caught (they can be moved into a round pen) or a horse that is unsafe. There are many goals with this type of lunge work and I list some of them here:

  • “turn and face” or yield the hindquarters and teach respect
  • Teaching the gaits (walk, trot/jog, canter/lope)
  • Teaching horse to pay attention to handler and then connect or join with the handler
  • Stamina development, exercise, take off excess energy

 

I have successfully used this method of lunge work at times when needed. When using this method, we look for body language or signs from the horse that help us know he/she is paying attention and ready to accept our leadership. There is a benefit for this work so long as the handler understands the purpose, has a goal, and does not use this as a form of punishment.

 

Scientific investigations of Round Pen work:

For a more detailed analysis of this work, I recommend you read work by Henshall and McGreevy (Click HERE) to begin your studies and if you are interested, contact me and I shall direct you to other resources.

 

Cautions for Round Pen work:

If our body language is not correct, we can confuse the horse. We can overwork the horse in one direction and develop lameness. We can allow the horse to develop improper biomechanics (as exemplified when the horse is looking outside the pen at times and becomes counterbent)…or we can enhance improper biomechanics by being unable to influence small changes. Pressure and Release works — pressure motivates and the release is what trains the horse. We must be cautious when using flags and other such devices that we do not overdo the pressure or push to far that the release does not allow “training” to occur. There is a great deal of science on this topic of pressure and release/fear based training – and this will be discussed on another day.

 

Benefits for Round Pen work:

  • Teaching the gaits (walk, trot/jog, canter/lope) and aids
  • Teaching horse to give attention to handler and then connect or join with the handler
  • Establishing leadership by the human and the requisite obedience by the horse
  • Development of stamina (if done with interval training and not overwork of one side of the horse)

 

Lunge line work on a halter:

This is often used for a sending exercise and go forward work (possibly over/through a trail obstacle or near a “scary” object). This can also be used to “burn off excess energy,” and it is necessary for lunge line classes. Lunge work on a halter can also be used with an unruly horse to establish human leadership or to keep a horse moving its feet when you do not have a round pen in the local vicinity.

 

Much of what we do and think about lunge work on a halter is very similar to our lunge work in a round pen.

 

I have successfully used this method of lunge work for teaching horses to go through/over a trail obstacle, load in a trailer, learn to lead…and many other applications. When using this method, we must be certain to keep our horse and ourselves safe.

 

Scientific investigations of Lunge line work on a halter:

From my review, it does not appear that a detailed scientific analysis has been conducted for this type of work on a lunge line.

 

Cautions for Lunge line work on a halter:

We can overwork the horse in one direction and develop lameness. We can allow the horse to develop improper biomechanics (as exemplified when the horse is looking outside the pen at times and becomes counterbent)…or we can enhance improper biomechanics by being unable to influence small changes. We can also pull from the underside of the horse’s head and cause incorrect rotation of the cervical vertebrae if we pull to hard, to often, or with constant pressure. We can have a snap on the halter that some use to get the attention of the horse and that can be out of alignment with equine welfare standards if the snap hits the horse.

 

Benefits for Lunge line work on a halter:

  • Go forward over/through trail work
  • Proper training for lunge line classes
  • Trailer loading
  • Stamina development
  • Gain attention

 

In-hand directed lunge work with a cavesson:

As a relative newcomer to the use of a cavesson or serrata…only discovering it in the past 2 years as I have learned from the works of Manolo Mendez, Jillian Kreinbring, Gerd Heuschmann, DVM, Klaus Schoneich … to name but a few….and I promise my journey of learning shall continue along this path.

 

This is a must read article (HERE) and this DVD (HERE) is a must for all who are interested in developing a deeper understanding of biomechanics of the horse.

 

Here are some online resources to read with respect to the lunge cavesson/serrata use and biomechanics (HERE) (HERE) (HERE) — these are but a few resources.

 

Personally, for me, the cavesson or serrata are tools to be used when the handler wants to focus on developing proper biomechanics. We can and should use the cavesson or serrata when we are interested in helping repair, rehabilitate, or develop the posture and shape of the horse so that we promote proper biomechanics for the health and welfare of the horse. The cavesson or serrata can enable the handler to give more focused guidance to the horse. This is also an excellent tool to use with long line work.

 

Scientific investigations of In-hand directed lunge work with a cavesson:

Peer reviewed articles were not found for this area of work although I can say that experts such as Dr. Kerry Ridgeway supported the use of the cavesson/serrata…but there needs to be scientific study of this in the future.

 

Cautions for In-hand directed lunge work with a cavesson:

Not all cavesson/serrata are created equal. Some are clunky and heavy and some are ill fitting. In truth, work of this type must include scholarship/study of learned professionals. Manolo Mendez is one such professional that I urge everyone to listen to with respect to the cavesson/serrata. Personally, the Micklem Multibridle with a single center ring is my favored cavesson at this time for lunge work and one I travel with to every clinic and lesson. I also encourage all folks who use a cavesson to connect it to the lunge line through the use of a leather tie/buckle or cowboy snap….a metal clip can be

 

Benefits for In-hand directed lunge work with a cavesson:

  • Develop engagement
  • Work with horse to develop proper bend (through shoulder-in)
  • Work to develop proper tracking up and straightness/carriage
  • Work to develop forward/down/open stretch of the horse across its topline
  • Shoulder-In on the ground
  • Everything you can do with a normal halter/lunge line as well

 

Summary of best application for each when used properly:

Round Pen –  developing leadership and obedience early on in training, some use for stamina

Lunge line – go forward, work through obstacles or help with habituation, stamina

In-hand cavesson – biomechanics and refinement of posture development and rehabilitation of the horse and all other activities assigned to lunge on the halter.

 

This small write up here is meant to give you more “food for thought” so that you can choose the most appropriate tool(s) for working with your horse(s) that promote welfare and proper development. I have included multiple links for you to watch/read and encourage you to open dialogues with other equestrians as to the benefits of the lunge work you are using. If you cannot answer how the lunge work you are using benefits the welfare, safety, and learning of the horse — it may be time to rethink and refine your practices.

 

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a scientist, equestrian, and coach from California. Dr. Mike teaches in the Gilroy/San Jose California area, Stockton California area, and teaches private clinics in a few locations across the United States. www.dunmovinranch.com is the home website for Dr. Mike.

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10 Stormy Weather Horseman and Horsewoman Activities

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

Winter is here for another six weeks…or so the little groundhog told us the other day. Some of us might have covered arenas and be able to continue riding, others will tough out the cold weather and get in a ride or two, but some of us just might want to take on some stormy weather projects.

Here are 10 things you can do on a bad weather day:

1)      Update all your vaccination, worming, shoeing, and veterinary records. We all know there is a pile of paperwork on the desk. We would rather be riding so a bad weather day is a great time to take care of the paperwork.

2)      Deep Clean your tack. Clean your saddle; check all your straps, buckles, cinch and anything that can wear out. Make a list of things that need to be purchased for replacement or back up. This is something you should do at least monthly but the wintertime and a bad weather day is a perfect time to clean your tack.

3)      Check your feed and grain inventory. Take stock of how much you are feeding. This is a great time to update your feed and horse health and care budget for the year.

4)      Examine your veterinary supplies. You know you have been meaning to check how many leg wraps, powders, or bandages you have on hand. A bad weather day is a great time to figure out what you need to order. VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Check all your medications, wormers, and supplements and make sure they are in date. Properly discard anything that is out of date.

5)      Inspect blankets and turnouts. That stormy day is a great time to patch blankets, check the straps on your summer turnout sheets, and make sure you have blankets, sheets, and turnouts ready to use.

6)      Clean your barn. If the weather is not so cold, a bad weather day is a great time to thoroughly remove any cobwebs, sweep out the tack room, dust of the shelves in your cabinets and check all your stalls for loose screws or nails. We all try to do this regularly but a bad weather day is a great time to spend a few extra minutes on this maintenance.

7)      Thoroughly groom your horse. Sometimes we get into a hurry and do not comb the tail out completely or we miss a spot on a back leg that needs a bit more brushing. A bad weather day is a great time to give your horse a deep grooming as you listen to the rainfall or wind blow or the little noise that snow makes when it falls.

8)      Clean out your horse trailer. Pull that trailer into the barn or in a sheltered spot and take the time to go through the tack room and your human living quarters. Get rid of those jeans that are five years old and do not fit you anymore, throw out that old jar can of food with the missing label — you know you are never going to eat it. Restock your trailer and make your second home a bit more inviting. Trust me the Cheeto under the couch pad are no longer edible.

9)      Take some time to review last year’s videos of you riding. A bad weather day is a great time to kick back and watch your riding progression over the last year. Take some notes and then schedule an appointment with your Coach/trainer/mentor about something you realized or want to work on improving. We are always in a rush to ride…a bad weather day when we might not be able to ride is a great time to review, reflect, and make plans to improve.

10)   Watch a really good movie about horses. Yep—this is the best part. Start up a movie that feeds your inner child. Maybe it is time to watch that movie that helped you fall in love with riding or horses. Give yourself some happy time and reward for taking care of those other nine items on this list. Maybe it is time to watch Seabiscuit, Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, The Man from Snowy River, National Velvet, Hildalgo, Flicka…you get the idea. Pamper yourself just a bit.

May you all be safe, warm, and happy as we wrap up the last six weeks of winter 2014. As always, I look forward to your additions and sharing this blog.

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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).

Preparing for a Horsemanship Clinic – what to do before and what to pack (works for horse shows also)

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

No matter if you have been to one or 50 Horsemanship clinics, there is always a check list of items we need to take, some we want to take, and sadly a few we forget to take.  Over the years I have worked to compile lists of what I need at horsemanship clinics and by extension, horse shows.  Some of these are well thought out lists and some come from experience…you know the been there had that happen and won’t be without again (hint — a clean set of clothes).

This year I have had a few people ask how to prepare and so I want to share with you my thoughts and as always, I look forward to your additions.

First let us discuss the early preparation of what to do before a Horsemanship clinic

1) Sign up for the clinic

2) Check out some of the information about the clinician and how he/she structures the clinic.  This is the gathering of information so you know what to expect at the clinic.  Read one of the clinicians books or blogs or website articles.

3) Get your horse prepared for the clinic by making sure he/she is vaccinated, coggins paperwork is in order (if necessary), health certificate is in order (if necessary), farrier is on the right schedule for the horse to have great feet at the clinic, ride or ground work your horse so that he/she is physically prepared,

4) Get yourself physically ready (riding might be enough or you may want to add a few more exercise or stretching routines leading up to the clinic).

5) If you need a hotel or place to stay … make those arrangements early.

6) Call the facility hosting the clinic if you need overnighting of your horse and arrange for accommodations (find out if you need to bring bedding, buckets, etc).  I always recommend that you bring your own hay and feed from home for a clinic.

7) A few days before the clinic, make sure your truck (vehicle you pull your trailer with) is in proper working order.  Oil is in good shape, tires are good, windshield wipers work, vehicle is clean and has room for all your stuff.

8) A few days before the clinic, make sure your trailer is in proper working order.  Check the tires (wear and inflation), make sure the back of the trailer is cleaned out of left over manure, make sure your tack room is organized and ready for more items and make sure the doors all work and the trailer lights are fully functional when hooked to your vehicle.  (Note — nothing worse than driving down the road with no trailer lights.  A few years back I came upon a trailer being pulled down the road with no trailer lights.  People had a hard time seeing the trailer and so the poor guy was on the receiving end of rude gestures, much honking, and one person made the guy stamp on his brakes by trying to cut him off.  Once I was able to get up to him, I tucked in behind him and followed him for many miles.  After 25 minutes or so he waved me on up alongside him and yelled a big thanks and took the next free way exit.)

Now let us get into what we need to pack — I break this into three categories including what I need for the horse, what I need for me, and what I need for emergencies.

For the horse I need to pack — Tack (saddle, bridles, etc), leg protection, a blanket or fly sheet (and one extra) if you normally use these on your horse, hay, grain (normal ration with maybe some extra salt to promote drinking), water buckets, brushes, curry combs, hoof pick, water (in some cases it is best to pack water from home), fly mask, extra cinch, extra saddle pad, extra reins, extra halters, insect repellant (fly or mosquito spray), manure fork/rake, and of course his/her favorite treats.

For the person I pack — clothes (boots, jeans, long sleeve shirts), snacks, food, water (and other liquid non-adult beverages), sunscreen, hat/helmet, CASH (you never know when you want to purchase something at the clinic and they do not take checks), toiletries, medications, comfortable shoes and riding shoes, cell phone charger/extra battery, camera, pen and paper (for writing down notes on things you learn), lip gloss (for those windy/dry days), a chair, extra socks (for when yours get wet from sweating), and a list of where you are staying, directions on how to get to the clinic and all other registration details.

What I need for emergencies — Horse first aid kit (whatever you would normally have at your barn for treating your horse until the veterinarian can get there), human first aid kit (some small band aids, wound cream, pain reliever, brace, etc), an extra pair of clothes in your trailer (I have literally ridden and worked so hard I was soaked to the skin and a dry pair of clothes felt great), spare tires (for truck and trailer), small pieces of leather (great for putting tack back together, duct tape, bailing twine (or wire), and any medicines that you might use only occasionally for yourself (allergy meds/prescriptions, insulin, pain killers, etc).

Share what else you would add to these lists — and thank you for taking a few minutes to read what I have shared with you here.

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. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

Making sure your Horse Trailer is ready for hauling

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

Spring (yes, it is coming) is a great time to check out your horse trailer and make sure it is ready for hauling.  Many of us use or rely on our horse trailer being ready year round but we do need to stop and think about a trailer check-up.

Here are some important ideas we need to check out on our trailer…at least once a year.  Sometimes it is best to check on these before we haul…each and every time.

1) Make sure the lights work.  Not just the turn signals but also the running lights and especially the brake lights.  Make sure when you hook up your vehicle the lights all function correctly.

2) Grease the ball that you use to connect to your trailer (either gooseneck or bumper pull hitch.  You do not want to over-grease and leave gobs/messes to stain your jeans or pants…but just a little grease helps the metal on metal of the ball to the coupler have reduced friction and make for easier hook-up and turning.

3) Check your tires.  Make sure they are properly inflated (good to do before each haul) and have good tread.  Look for cuts or wearing that might cause a blow-out or loss of tread.  One of the least enjoyable aspects of hauling horses comes with being stopped on the side of the road and trying to do repairs — it is not safe.

4) Clean up that tack room.  Make sure you can easily use and access everything you need in your tack room.  To much clutter can cause damage to your saddles, tack, and possibly you if you fall in the “mess.”

5) Check the trailer floorboards and mats.  Makes sure the flooring is sturdy and not rotting, make sure the mats are in good shape and provide safe footing for your horse.  To properly check the floor boards it is best to pull out the mats and give the boards a good visual inspection.  In some trailers, boards are not in place…so check out the flooring and make sure it is sturdy.

6) Check that your tie straps are in good shape.  Not everyone uses tie straps or breakaway or quick release ties…but if you do, make sure the quick releases work and that the ties are not worn out.

7) Check your emergency medical kit (both human and horse).  Each trailer should have an emergency medical kit for you (the human) and for the horse.  Check to make sure these are stocked with what you might need until you can get additional help.

8) Visually inspect he trailer for rust or other sigs of damage or corrosion.  Let’s face it friends…we spend lots of money on horse trailers and so we need to take the time to protect the investment and stop rust, corrosion, or any damage from spreading.  In many cases we will have a horse trailer for 20+ years, longer than we might have the truck that pulls the trailer.

I hope some of these ideas will be good reminders for how best to care for your horse trailer and keep you and your horse safe when hauling.

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. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

Keeping your bit in good shape — your horse will thank you!

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

When I teach lessons or riding clinics I like to take a few minutes to discuss with people how to care for the bit they are using with their horse.  It is important that you regularly inspect the bit for dings or abrasions and clean some of the feed or grime off the bit.

Cleaning your bit — 

Scrubbing with plain hot water usually gets most of the grime off. If you need a little more power, add a splash of white vinegar in the wash water. Soak the bit if there is a lot of really gummed on grime. Scrub the bit, being sure to get inside any joints. I recommend that water and elbow grease are your best options for cleaning a bit.  I do not like to put any chemicals on bits since that could get into my horse’s mouth.

After you have cleaned the bit thoroughly, dry it off with a cotton terry cloth.  always you something soft when drying or wiping off your bit (I will explain why in just a few more sentences).  If you have a sweet iron bit, do not try to remove the ‘rust’. This is considered part of the seasoning that makes horses salivate with the sweet iron bits.  Just wash it and scrub off the grime.

Checking your bit for abrasions and dings –

Take a few minutes before each ride to rub your fingers all over the bit.  Feel the bit for rough spots, dings, abrasions or anything that comes into contact with your fingers that you think feels rough.  Look the bit over and see if you find teeth marks or small holes and ridges on the bit.  Anything that takes away from the bit feeling smooth can be a sign of wear and the need to either fix your bit or get a new one.

Why am I concerned about these dings or rough spots?  Well when you put the bit into the horse’s mouth, all of these rough spots come into contact with the mouth and tongue of the horse.  These rough spots can cause cuts or sores on the horse’s mouth or tongue.  If the bit is hurting your horse, this will lead to problems when riding.  Any hurt from the bit will cause the horse to try and get away from the bit.

My rule of thumb is that when I clean my bits, if I find any abrasions or dings that are rough on my hands…I replace the bit.

Copper bits (either entirely copper or large parts of the bit being copper) are the most prone to getting dings and abrasions.  If you use a copper bit (and they can be really good for promoting saliva and good taste as well), be especially careful with checking your bit for dings and abrasions.

As with all pieces of tack, if you have any questions or are concerned it is not right for you or your horse, consult a professional trainer, rider, groom, or someone you trust to help you make sure your tack is in good shape, good for your horse, and safe to use.

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. 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.