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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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.

 

Competition – Vital Signs – Welfare – Are you doing all you can?

Competition – Vital Signs – Welfare – Are you doing all you can?

by Dr. Mike Guerini, www.dunmovinranch.com

As a former Emergency Medical Technician and a former Veterinary Assistant, I know that monitoring vital signs for both human and horse give me just a little bit of information as to what is going to happen – before it happens. When I coach people at shows, I make it my responsibility for monitoring the vitals of horse and rider. Are you doing the same for yourself and your horse?

This is not about being a worrier – this is not about being paranoid – this IS about welfare of both horse and rider. We have an obligation to those we coach, to our horses, and to ourselves to be keeping track of our health through the day, especially at times of competition, training, traveling — well just about any time we are working as horse or rider.

Temperature, pulse, and respiration (TPR)–are the absolute basics every horse owner or caretaker should know if they want to take the best care of their animals and themselves. These three vital signs are just the bare bones of a physical examination but they can let us know if we are about to have a big problem.

Let us review the HORSE NORMALS:

The normal rectal temperature of a horse is 99.5-101.5°F (37.5-38.6ºC).

The normal heart rate for most horses is 32-36 beats per minute (some a little higher and some a little lower).

The normal respiratory rate for adult horses is 8 to 12 breaths per minute.

Let us review the HUMAN NORMALS:

The normal temperature of a person is 97.8-99.0°F (36.5-37.2ºC).

The normal heart rate for most people is 60 to 100 beats per minute (some a little higher and some a little lower).

The normal respiratory rate for humans is 12 to 16 breaths per minute.

Needed Tools

A digital thermometer, an inexpensive stethoscope, and a watch (or stopwatch) is all you need. If a stethoscope is not handy, the pulse can be taken from the lingual artery, which is on the bottom side of the jaw where it crosses over the bone for the horse. If a stethoscope is available, then listen to the heart on the left side of the horse’s chest, just behind the elbow. Each “lub-dub” of the heart is considered one beat.

For the human, the pulse can The pulse can be found on the side of the neck, on the inside of the elbow, or at the wrist. For most people, it is easiest to take the pulse at the wrist. If you use the lower neck, be sure not to press too hard, and never press on the pulses on both sides of the lower neck at the same time to prevent blocking blood flow to the brain. When taking your pulse: Using the first and second fingertips, press firmly but gently on the arteries until you feel a pulse.

The Powers of Observation

I believe that the beginning of a really good physical examination begins with observation. This applies to veterinarians, horse owners, medical technicians, etc. A great deal can be learned about the rider or horse just by observing posture, attitude, and environment. That rider that seems to be getting panicky or not paying attention — sure fire sign that the rider needs a timeout and some recovery time.

Same thing for a horse — if the horse does not look right … time for a timeout and to check vitals.

Summary

Every equine professional (trainer, coach, instructor) has an absolute obligation to make monitoring of vital signs part of what he or she does in training and competition. Every rider has a supreme responsibility to monitor the health of the horse during any and all rides…and especially during competition. There sure is a great deal of things to do when helping people train, show, learn, or compete —- but the welfare of the horse and the rider needs to come first.

Let us look into 2016 and make sure that we are prepared to monitor vital signs of all those we coach, show, instruct and ride….every horse and rider matters…and if you see a rider or a horse in distress at a show – step up and offer to help.
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Dr. Mike Guerini is a national clinician, 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 (http://www.coachscorral.com/), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program.

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/).

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).

 

Cool Down after Competition – Are you doing it right?

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

You have just finished your class at the horse show. You pat your horse on the neck as a sign of appreciation for the nice job.  Your horse is tired. You are tired. Your mind is running a thousand thoughts through your head about what you could and should have done differently (or if you did not agree with the class placements, you wonder if the judge missed how spectacular you and your horse were in the class).

You loosen the cinch just a bit on your horse and proceed to the barn or trailer to unsaddle and pack up for the day or prep for the next class. Along the way you stop and chat with your friend about the next show…or you celebrate your win with a few high five’s.

Are you making a mistake following the above routine?  — The answer is Probably YES and if you do this all the time – MOST DEFINITELY YES!

Why are you making a mistake is the question you should be asking by now.

Your error comes in thinking you and your horse are finished with that class and there is no immediate homework.  Sorry folks but life is filled with homework and if you do not study what you did and set yourself up for the next success — you will be stuck performing at the same level — or worse, you will see a decline in how you and your horse perform after each show.

A short story here for you all.  A horseperson called me a few months back to describe how her horse was acting up at the shows. She mentioned that the horse was getting more and more anxious at each show and seemed to be anticipating every single minute of the entire show day. This horse was normally calm at home but at the show it was getting hard to deal with. The person wanted to know if I thought the horse was past its prime for showing and needed to be retired.  I asked her to describe her normal horse show routine.  She described what 85% of all show people do after their class – nothing to prepare herself or the horse for the next success.   Since that time we have solved this issue and I want to share with you how we set her and her horse up for success.

How to set you and your horse up for Success at the next show – while still at the current show:

A) Take notes or give yourself a voice memo in your phone as soon as you can after your class/test. Your memory is great for 5 minutes after the class, but 1 hour later and you will not recall how to describe that feel or issue you had in the class. Preparation for the next class/test begins immediately after finishing the current class.

B) Take your horse back to the warm-up arena. You heard me – get back to the warm-up arena (which in my world should also be called the cool down arena). PLEASE NOTE – I am not saying that you go back and lope circles or do a vigorous warm-up. I am also not advocating that you go back and immediately begin working on issues and training your horse.

  1. Re-establish Relaxation and Rhythm with your horse. This is very important. Many show issues and anxious horses come from not having a guided process that gets the horse back into rhythm and relaxation and harmony after the test/class/performance. If you abandon Rhythm and Relaxation after your class/test/performance – you are failing your horse.
  2. At the walk, move your horse to help him/her flex joints to promote circulation and movement. If you want to still be riding your horse and competing when the horse is 15+ years old, then take care of it by using a process to promote recovery. Great athletes always make certain to have a cool down routine that promotes rapid recovery of your body….works for people and most certainly this works for horses.

We all get busy at the show, sometimes (or may times) have multiple horses to show but we need to make sure we take the time to make things right for our horse. Follow these above suggestions and you will be setting yourself up for many future successes in the arena.

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).

Equine Winter Sports that Need to be added to the Olympics. – Some Humor

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

The 2014 Winter Olympics kicked off and I was thinking it would be much more exciting if we added some equine winter sports.  Let’s face it — horse care in the winter is tough but if you think of it as a sport — it gets easier. Everyone who lives in snowy and muddy areas know what I am talking about. So I decided to make a list of Equine Winter Sports that need to get into the Olympics. Since Curling is a winter Olympic sport…we certainly can add some equine related sports. I hope this gives you a chuckle.

1) Skijoring. Of course this is for real and I have seen it practiced in Montana.  The person wears skis and holds tug lines attached to the horse’s harness. Think of this as ground driving on skis…but with some speed. Helmet recommended!

2) Feeding on a sheet of ice. This requires wind-blown ground (ice), and you must be carrying at least 25 pounds of hay in your arms and have a wind of at least 20 miles an hour blowing against you. The hay must be deposited in the feeder and you get penalized for every pound of hay you left between the storage shed and the feeder.

3) Repairing the frozen water trough. So the water trough has iced over and is not working. In 60 seconds or less you must be able to find the hammer and crescent wrench (bonus points if they reside in your jacket pocket), break the ice, remove the tank de-icer, put in a new tank de-icer and not even get your work clothes (those that you need to wear to the office) dirty.

4) The Mud Dance. This is completed with one mud boot sucked off into the deepest bog of mud on the planet, you are hoping along the fence to go open or close that gate. You get ten bonus points when you finally just roll up your pant leg and put your bare foot into the mud.

5) Trenching. This is a real sport for us in muddy areas.  Pooled water not draining out of the turnout pens…with shovel in hand you dig trenches all over the property.  Overhead views of this look like the gophers have gone crazy…bonus points are awarded if you try to make designs with your trenches. Bonus points are given for spelling words or getting this photographed and printed so you can enter the photo at the country fair.

6) Poop sickle removal. Can you a) break poop of the snowy frozen ground without ruining the manure fork, b) get the poop into a wheelbarrow or other transport device, c) get the poop to the manure pile, and d) return to the barn before the next pile of manure freezes to the ground.

I wish you all warm thoughts and look forward to what you add to this list.  I have lived in mud and snow…I have competed in all of these events and consider myself ready for the Olympics. Wait you ask – “did you compete in skijoring,” why yes I did but I forgot the skis and so made do with my feet until those gave out and then my knees and finally I realized it was time to let go of the lead shank.

Stay safe in this winter weather my friends.

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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).