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.



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. is the home website for Dr. Mike.

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 (

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

By: Dr. Mike Guerini (

One of the great aspects of social media is how many ideas and thoughts get shared.  We are now able to chat with people all around the globe and find how similar in thought many people are …. even if the thoughts might just be wrong.

Some of the comments I have read recently that I think are just wrong include the following:

1) I trained my horse to make a flying lead change.

2) I trained my horse to pick up its feet.

3) I trained my horse to walk, trot and canter (lope).

4) I trained my horse to back up.

These are only a few of the comments from people about how they “trained” their horse.  This actually got me thinking about how much the person actual “trained” the horse.  Three definitions I found in the dictionary for the word “training” include 1)   the education, instruction, or discipline of a person or thing, and 2) the process of bringing a person, etc., to an agreed standard of proficiency, and 3) The action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior.

Now step away from the reading for a moment and think about a horse or horses in the pasture that have never been handled.  Have you seen a horse such as this make a flying lead change all on its own in the pasture (I have), have you seen a horse pick up its feet in the pasture (I have), have you seen a horse back, walk, trot and lope along (I have).

So in reality we have seen a horse do all the things we claim that we train them to do.  Wow — quite arrogant of us people to claim we trained a horse to do something that its own natural talent allows it to do just as easily as it breathes. 

Well as I thought about this I realized I need to change some things in my life and my thought process.  I do not train horses.  I do not want to train horses. I do not want to be known as a horse trainer.   I want to coach myself to work with my horses to achieve success.  I want to coach others to work with their horses to achieve success.  I want to choreograph the dance that is inside each horse and rider. 

I shared this with a friend who asked me what the difference was between being a coach and a trainer.  Well since I am a coach — I sure need to define what that means.  A coach is 100% committed to the outcome of the student’s results.  The coach is prepared with a philosophy and a series of principles that guide the process.  With a coach you have a person who brings everything he or she has to the meeting or time together and finds solutions and enhances the communication and helps those connections grow.  The trainer is a person that works around a set schedule and current commitment to a program.  A trainer provides a service that works for the participant and brings them closer to their goals but may or may not achieve the level of success that is possible.  The trainer is often a person who brings a level of accountability to the process. Trainers set lesson times at 45 minutes and sets horse “training times” based on a wall chart.  Sure those all work — but in my opinion they limit the potential of the horse or rider.

The strongest differentiator between the two is more one of faith and desire than actual training principles.  A coach and the person or animal he/she is coaching meet on an equal level with the desire for a specific outcome.  With a trainer — the goals may be set by both participants but it is the heart of the trainer that helps push the person towards the goals.  Life situations creep into the final outcome between a trainer and a horse or rider – big project at work, family vacation, nagging injury – all legitimate reasons for taking it easy in a training program and the trainer actually helps you validate your excuse.  These excuses do not work when you have a coach.

Definitions of training have words like “Action,” “Process,” “Standard,” and “Discipline.” Coaching is like a marriage between souls – a coach will absorb every new technique and implement all tactics to make the horse or rider better.  Coaches spend hours outside of the “lesson times” to make himself better or improve what he knows.  I watch my horses in the pens.  From day 1 of life to now — wow have they improved their athletic abilities — I must come to this partnership with the same dedication to improving as my horse brings.

My horses have taught me that I should not be a trainer.  Since I get up each day that I am home and feed them, clean stalls, work with them and spend time with them — my horses are coaching me to be better in many things.  They are not training me….the horse brings what she knows and I arrive wanting to achieve success so we coach each other.

So I am a horsemanship coach and a horse coach … not a trainer.  There is nothing wrong with being a trainer and for people to want a trainer.  For some people that is what will help them achieve their goals.  For me — I want to achieve that marriage of souls so that my horse and I and people I have the privilege of coaching and their horses all do so much more than they ever thought possible.

 I want to choreograph the dance that is inside each horse and rider. I want to coach myself and my horses to achieve so much more.  I want to ride…I want to live….I want to listen to the horse coach with four legs who asks me to listen so that we can find this partnership that leads to magic.  It has taken years but now I understand what my horse started sharing with me years ago.

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 (

Rider Physical Issues – Does it matter — YES

By: Dr. Mike Guerini (

Over the past month I have been able to work with a few people who have some physical limitations.  Looking at these folks you would not see anything unusual…but the horse tells all.  One lady has a weak right leg, another lady has a hip issue that takes away from her flexibility and ability to sit straight, and another lady has a shoulder issue.  I also recently spoke to a friend of mine who has scoliosis.  All of these ladies love to ride — in fact, they ride daily.  But some were getting frustrated with how things were going with the horse or with their rides.

We took a step back in a few of these cases and figured out the problem.  The lady with the weak right leg was having lots of trouble picking up the left lead for cantering.  The lady with the hip issue was actually sitting on both her seat bones as she should — but this was making her crooked in the saddle and the horse was not smooth during the flying lead changes.  The lady with the shoulder issue was actually bracing that arm and not having any flexibility or rein give and take and the horse was starting to push its nose towards the bad arm.

These ladies and I worked together to come up with some solutions that I will share here with you all.  Then I will share some ideas about preparing to ride.

1) The lady with the weak right leg who had issues with her horse picking up the left lead.  Well that right leg has limited feeling (from an old back injury and subsequent surgery) and the lady never knew if she was giving the horse enough aide to help push the haunches to the left (away from the right leg) to help with the left lead canter departure.  In this case, we solved the problem by having the lady begin to use a bumper spur just on that leg.  The horse felt that added “aide” and immediately the problem is solved and we have left lead departures.  As we continue to work we are going to see if we can take that bumper spur away and have the horse begin to understand the weak leg aide from the rider.  Solution came in the form of changing a piece of equipment.

2) The lady with the hip issue. — Well she actually was sitting crooked.  So we are working on a solution here to help her develop a new balance point so that she stays upright yet flexible for moving with the horse.  This lady was always off-balance — more towards the left and it impacted the rollbacks, cow turns and lead changes of the horse.  In fact, the horse would tell us it was a problem during flying lead changes since we would see a tail swish and sometimes a kickout of a rear leg.  Now — we focus on having a “spotter” work with the rider to help her find the balanced point where she is not leaning.  Amazingly — lead changes are 10X better, horse is more balanced and lighter on the front end.

3) The lady with the shoulder issue — well again we are using a “spotter” to tell her when she is pulling and I have also helped the rider learn to read the signs the horse is giving her.  When she braces with the arm with the bad shoulder…we noticed that the horse traveled with its head higher and with the nose tilted in the direction of the bad arm.

So as you can see — some issues are solved with a piece of equipment being changed, some are solved with the help of a “spotter” and others are solved by listening to the horse.  When things are going poorly — the horse lets you know and you must take a breath and read the signs.

Preparation of the rider is just as important as preparing the horse for a ride. For people with or without physical limitations it is very important to prepare for the ride.  Get limber and stretch before you ride.  Relax and warm up your muscles. 

I have found a variety of exercises that help me increase my flexibility and allow me to be more limber in the saddle and I share them here.  Now one important note — if you have any question — make sure you consult with your doctor about what and how you should prepare to rider…always seek appropriate medical advice. I personally use Yoga and Tai-Chi to help me prepare for riding and there are numerous resources out there to help you as a rider utilize these techniques. Some of the exercises I use to make sure I am limber and ready to deliver my aides with the lightest amount of effort and with proper balance and feel by me.

Stretches shoulder, middle back, arms, hands, fingers, wrist

1) Interlace fingers and turn palms out, 2) Extend arms in front at shoulder height, and 3) Hold 10 to 20 seconds, relax, and repeat.

Relaxes hamstrings, stretches calves, Achilles, and ankles

1) Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, 2) Keep heels flat, toes pointed straight ahead, 3) Assume bent knee position (quarter squat), and 4) Hold 30 sec.

Stretches calf (Leg lunge)

1) Place right foot in front of you, leg bent, left leg straight behind you, 2) Slowly move hips forward until you feel stretch in calf of  left leg, 3) Keep left heel flat and toes pointed straight ahead, 4) Hold easy stretch 10 to 20 seconds, 5) Do not bounce, 6) Repeat on other side, and 7) Do not hold breath.

Stretches middle back

1) Stand with hands on hips, 2) Gently twist torso at waist until stretch is felt, 3) Hold 10 to 15 sec, 4) Repeat on other side, and 5) Keep knees slightly flexed.

I hope this helps you and that next time you get ready to ride…you take a few minutes to warm-up your own body before you get on your horse.  Your personal warm-up routine can help you be a better rider.

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 Nine Biggest Killers of Good Horsemanship

By: Dr. Mike Guerini (

These past few weeks have found me on the road teaching clinics, coaching at shows, giving a few lessons, and attending a horse expo.  While on the road and at home I am continually reminding myself of things that can lead to success and failure with your horsemanship.  As I had a chance to take a break today and reflect on the past month I realized I had developed yet another list of things that can hamper our success with horses.

Here is a list of the NINE Biggest Killers of Good Horsemanship

1) Being Distracted.  Your phone or email or texting or concern about something not directly related to your horse and riding can cause you to have bad riding posture, allow your horse to misbehave or lead you to pattern errors.

2) Being Hungry or Thirsty.  If you are hungry (or thirsty) — you are focused on needing something to eat or drink and you then lose patience.  Maybe your blood sugar begins to drop and you feel faint.  If this is happening, you are risking good horsemanship as well as putting your horse’s safety in jeopardy.

3) Lack of Emotional Control.  If you get anxious, worried, angry, distressed or upset quickly — your horse is a mood sponge and feels all these emotions and most likely will act up or try to get away from your emotional state.  The horse does not understand what is bothering you — only that you are no fun to be around.

4) Life Stresses.  If your life has many stresses…this can keep you from riding well or practicing good horsemanship.

5) Micromanaging. If you try and micromanage everything your horse is doing…you will run into some problems with your horsemanship.

6) Being to Hot or to Cold. Extremes of temperature keep you from thinking straight and this can have a negative effect on your horsemanship.

7) Feeling the need for Speed.  In good horsemanship –faster is not better.  Wait a minute all of my friends who ride in the timed events shout at me.  Yes, I understand fast wins…but in the beginning, correct horsemanship, proper training takes time.  Spend the right amount of time early on and you will get the speed you need later — once you and the horse are on the same page.

8) Lack of Support.  All to often I find people who have a horse (or more than one) and the rest of the family is not involved with the horses.  Your horsemanship will suffer if the other family members or friends are constantly trying to pull you away from your focus on the horses.

9) Making it all to complicated.  Keep it simple my friends.  Less is more.  If you want a spin, start with a quarter turn on the haunches.  If you want to jump 4′ 8″, start with 6″ first.  Begin with simple and build on your success.

Make sure to practice good horsemanship, be safe, and watch for these nine items that can take away from your success.

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 (

Heat Stroke and Cooling your horse

By: Dr. Mike Guerini (

This past weekend I was at the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento California.  On Saturday I was working with a team of excellent horsewomen (Sher, Alison, Linda, and Karen) demonstrating Western Dressage.  The temperature reached 108 F and of course we kept our demonstration short since we were focused on keeping the horse from being overheated.

As we unsaddled and worked on cooling the horses out we discussed some of the important lessons around cooling and bathing horses as well as dealing with the heat.

1) Never leave the water sitting on the skin as you are bathing or cooling your horse.  We saw a few people dousing their horses with water and then not slicking that water off.  Sure water can help cool but if it is left on the skin, it serves as an insulator and keeps that heat on the horse.  You can actually overheat a horse who is soaking in water when the temperatures outside are hot to extremely hot.  Water is a pretty good insulator and has the capacity to retain heat so get the water off and that thin layer left on the horse will evaporate and help in the cooling.

Spray your horse with cool water — beginning with his legs first — to help lower his body temperature. Scrape excess water off quickly because it soon rises to the temperature of the over-heated horse.

2) Make sure stalls are well ventilated with cross breezes (air can move in and out of the stall) or make sure your horse can move out of the stall on his/her own free will.

3) Keep your horse from standing in the direct sunlight on these extremely hot days.

4) Another reminder is that if you use cool/cold water, do not apply this directly to large muscles that have just finished a rigorous workout.  Lukewarm water is better.  A sudden burst of cold water on large muscles can shock those muscles and cause the horse either stress, pain or injury.

5) If you suspect heat stress with your horse — call your veterinarian immediately.  Always consult your veterinarian for any medical emergencies.

Some signs of Heat Stroke include

  • Temperature above 104 degrees F. (A normal temperature is 99-100.8 degrees F.)
  • Rapid heart and pulse rates that do not recover within 10 or 15 minutes after exercise.
  • Rapid breathing that does not slow down after exercise.
  • Less sweat than expected.
  • Hot skin (might progress to cold if skin circulation shuts down).
  • Signs of dehydration, including loss of skin elasticity, sunken eyes, tacky membranes and cessation of urination.

You can learn more about some of the professionals Dr. Mike worked with this past weekend by clicking on the name here — Sher Bell Boatman

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 (

5 People in your Circle of Horsemanship

By: Dr. Mike Guerini (

We all have some people in our life who we count on to help us along the journey.  We sometimes call these people our “posse”, “BFF’s”, “Village”, “inner circle”, “confidants”, or “our team”.  Well in Horsemanship it is really no different.  We flourish and excel when we have people who help us, engage us, support us, and keep us in line.  So the other day I was reflecting on the people I consider to be part of my Circle of Horsemanship and I identified 5 who are critical to me.

1)  Veterinarian.  In this category I actually have a few veterinarians I rely on.  They all know each other and some specialize in legs, others in reproduction and some in holistic health of the horse.  I am fortunate to be friends with a veterinarian who has mentored me for over 20 years.  For me it is important to have a good veterinarian (or in my case a few) that I rely on and receive good medical advice from when it comes to the health of my horses.

2)  Farrier.  For over 20 years I had the same farrier.  He was always on time, explained what he was doing, and kept my horse’s feet in top shape.  When my old farrier passed away I was lucky enough to find my new farrier and he is always on time, works with me and the horses and once again does a great job.  I feel fortunate and blessed to have found two great farriers in my life.  Almost nothing is more important that my horse having balanced and well taken care of hooves.

3)  Coach/Trainer.  Without a coach or trainer to watch me ride, work on new ideas with me, and to be my second set of eyes I know I would not have made it this far in my riding career.  My coach is not always a professional horseman or horsewoman, but most of the time I do have a coach who is a professional.  My coach helps me better myself, offers advice on training issues, and those who I select to be my coach/trainer are always looking out for the best interest of my horses.

4)  The Friend Who Helps you No matter What.  I think the country singer Tracy Lawrence was thinking of my friend when he sang the song — Find Out Who Your Friends Are.  This is the person who you can call in the middle of the night to come rescue you and your horse from the side of the road when your truck breaks down.  This person drops everything to help you build fence, haul hay, go check out a new horse, or do anything you need…without expecting anything in return.  Let us face it — owning horses can be a tough job some days and we all need a little extra help.

5) The Cheerleader.  In my Circle of Horsemanship I have a friend who roots me on, encourages me, and listens.  This friend does not ride, might actually be a bit afraid of horses but as soon as I start talking horse, this friend sits down and listens.  I wondered if I was the only one to have this type of friend until a few weeks ago when a lady stopped by for a riding lesson.  She brought along a friend who just wanted to see the world of horse lessons and cheer her friend on to success.

You might have more than 5 in your Circle of Horsemanship.  We could add people like Hay person, Chiropractor, Equine Massage Therapist, Parents, Spouses, Significant others, Fellow Horse people, or Hauling/Show buddy.

Who else might you add to your Circle of Horsemanship?  Is it more than 5?  Take a few minutes to thank those people who are in your Circle of Horsemanship.

Right now I give a big shout out to all of you who are in my Circle of Horsemanship.  Thanks friends.

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 (

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

By Dr. Mike Guerini (

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

Early Detection of Equine Lameness

By Dr. Mike Guerini (

Recently I have found myself working with people who have some lame horses and this got me thinking about how we detect lameness.  Concurrently, I have been reading books by Natalie Keller Reinert and MaryAnn Myers, both of whom write horse racing fiction.  Now wait a minute you ask — how does horse racing fiction help with detecting Equine Lameness.  Well — the fiction has some great stories about life around the racetrack and these well written works relay real life details of what race track trainers do each and every day — they study the horse for any and all weaknesses. After some great conversations with LaurenMichele Mcgarry of Red Horse Equine Arts I decided to pen this article — with some homemade ideas about how we can detect lameness.

Before I begin let me please remind all of you that when you have any question about the health of your horse, you need to consult equine health care professionals.  These professionals can be either a veterinarian, farrier, chiropractor, acupuncture specialist, or other professional.

So what is my point here?  We as horse owners, riders, trainers, breeders, and enthusiasts have the opportunity for early detection of a minor injury or “catch in the horse’s get along.”  Of course we all know what “dead lame” or “three-legged lame” means — time to call the veterinarian.  But what do we do to monitor our horse each and every day — well we follow some of what they do on the racetrack — we study our horses.

1) Learn the length of your horses stride.  If you have a pretty good idea (within an inch or two) of the normal length of your horse’s stride at the walk…and that changes — you may be seeing some early signs of a problem.

2) Study the footfalls of your horse.  Know how your horse places his/her foot on the ground.  Is it straight, is there a slight twist, does the foot roll, etc?  There are many things to look for and each horse is unique — so time to study the footfalls of your horse.

3) Know the movements of the joints. Is the pastern motion fluid, are the hocks fluid, is there and hesitation in the movement of the joints?  By learning the motion of the joints of your horse, you can see when changes are happening….then you can look for issues.

4) Watch how your horse stands around.  If he/she is normally quiet and then you start to see him/her fidget (and it is not flies or insects or being in heat), he/she may be uncomfortable standing on all four hooves or one in particular. Does your horse try to stand up or down hill — maybe he/she is trying to remove pressure from a part of the body.

5) Is the rhythm of the gait changing?  Rhythm is movement of strong and weak elements.  Does your horse seem to have more weak or strong elements than normal — it may be a sign of something changing.

6) Do you feel heat or swelling?  Rub down those legs and know how they normally feel.  Any slight change in temp or size might be an indicator of something changing or a lameness issue developing.

7) Do you notice stumbling or tripping?  This might be a sign that the horse has an issue.  Many times we sum these up as a bad riding day, clumsy horse, or a lazy horse.  These might be an early sign of a problem.

8) Is there an attitude change?  Without any other causes do you notice your horse getting grumpy or unwilling?  These might be the first signs of a skeletal-muscle issue developing in your horse.

Quite a few of these we can do while on the back of a horse during our ride.  Use fence posts to mark distance being covered and when you ask for a gait, if it takes longer, your horse might not be striding correctly.  Feel the legs move beneath you and understand your horse’s normal movement — so that you can detect that “hitch” that may be an early warning sign.

My point is not to scare you or get you to be overly worried about every little movement your horse makes.  What I hope that you will think about after reading this article is how you can become more in tune with your horse and detect issues when they are minor.  When we use rest, hydrotherapy, corrective trimming, massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic along with input from our veterinarian early on to deal with these issues when they are still minor and this might just save money and frustration later on.

Please share your thoughts and I welcome you sharing this article.

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 (