Natural Horsemanship (NH) — Onward and Forward – Moving beyond NH to continue to improve horse and rider.

Natural Horsemanship (NH) — Onward and Forward – Moving beyond NH to continue to improve horse and rider.

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

Since the early 1980’s, Natural Horsemanship (NH) has seen rapid growth in popularity – particularly among western riders. The techniques vary but are known for focusing on ground work, getting respect, developing a better relationship with the horse, and of course the rope halter has become famously associated with this way of working with horses.

Having apprenticed with a natural horsemanship trainer and having used many of the ideas in my training/coaching, I am very familiar and happy with what I have learned and still continue to use in many situations. For me, Natural Horsemanship methods are a good base for many riders/owners and enthusiasts.

In this blog, I share some thoughts on the good aspects of NH, some of the not so good aspects, and then I offer suggestions on areas needing more focus that currently are not always considered from the NH offerings.

What it has done – the good
1) Ground manners for horses have improved.
2) Many people spend more time working with their horses because they have acquired information that has helped boost confidence or skill of the handler/rider.
3) There has been an increase in rider ability to do homework directed by a trainer and this has opened up more competition and riding options for horse/rider.
4) In most situations, the welfare of the horse has improved … but there are a few “natural methods” that are not welfare-based.
5) There are a number of other good things including getting more people to talk about horse training and building more horse friendly communities — to name just a few.

What it has done – the not so good
1) Developed a quasi-scientific narrative of the ethology of horse behavior. We think we know what a horse behavior means because somebody said something about that behavior – but we really do not have concrete proof gathered by scientific observational methods for all the ideas we espouse.
2) Allowed some folks to think that if they have the “right” halter or pad or saddle or flag (on a stick – sometimes it has a string and not a flag) or “right” type of reins/bit/spurs – folks can branch out and train horses for friends and family or start colts.
3) Celebrated two and three day colt starting ideology. Yes – the colt can be started in this period of time but the key is that it is just a start. These events are a little too commercial and a little too unrealistic and a little too romanticized. I say this because I have met people along my journey who decided that after going to a few of these colt starting events, watching some DVD’s, watching YouTube videos, and attending a few clinics – they can train the excitable or flighty or troubled or green horse. Seeing the after effects of the rider with broken bones or broken confidence or the horse that has been injured is not a good thing.

We should (and MUST for the welfare and protection and development) of the horse (and rider) realize that Natural Horsemanship is one step on our journey to becoming horsewomen/men – we must continue to learn and improve and include other ideas and philosophies into our horsemanship toolkit.

Here are just a few areas I suggest need more attention because we do not often encounter these topics in the Natural Horsemanship circles and discussions.
1) Asymmetry/Laterality/Straightness – There has been a great expansion into understanding the sidedness of a horse (left or right), where horses may have asymmetrical features, and a reminder (from classical horsemanship) that straightness is a key to longevity and proper movement. Understanding these issues can improve the performance and longevity of the horse. This is most especially important for further refining the use of the round pen that has strong ties to NH….we need to make certain that our work in the round pen (and riding) is done right for the progressive development of the horse and with a focus on improving its Asymmetry/Laterality/Straightness.
2) BALANCE — Learn more about balance of the horse and balance of the rider. How the rider sits (straight or leaning) … how the rider uses her/his seat bones … all affect the balance of the horse. An imbalanced rider can put the horse out of balance and create situations that may lead to physical issues of the horse. Without balance … we have lameness, injury, and loss of longevity. There are also the ideas of mental and emotional balance that come into play especially for the rider and in some cases most certainly for the horse. We need to focus on seat and leg and understanding how the horse shifts its weight for balance and we need to discuss how the rider weight shifts can affect hose balance. We need to understand the physics of the head and neck in relation to balance of the balance parts for the horse. Additionally, the Classical Training scale speaks to relaxation as a key level of the training pyramid and most assuredly, in relaxation…the mind, body, and emotions can come into balance.
3) POSTURE — Increase our understanding and abilities to help horses (and riders) develop correct postures. First, we have to understand anatomy… bones and muscles and fascia … and then we need to understand a little more about form and function (how things look and how they work). Again back to the round pen use – we need to make sure that we are promoting good posture by the horse working in the round pen (simply running a horse continually in a counterbent form with the head up and the back hollowed out is not correct for posture). Further on about posture … we need to understand what pulling the head around by the reins while we are standing still (and then also while we are moving) may be doing to injure the neck of the horse.
4) Saddle/Tack Fit. Saddle Fit, bit shape, bit size, bit type, pad type, pad/saddle length, leg wraps … we need to stop and ask for evidenced based answers for how to select what is right for the horse. Just because a well-known NH person sells a saddle or bit or pad … does not mean it is right or the right fit for your horse. There are some really good NH people out there that do saddle fit correctly (I have seen them measure the saddle/tree to fit the horse) … and many know a great deal about bits … and in almost 95% of these situations where I have seen good happen in the area of saddle/tack fit – the horse is fitted directly for these pieces of tack (meaning that the saddle or bit is not bought at an expo or online – it is purchased with good guidance by the maker/seller).

I am not suggesting to anyone that we throw Natural Horsemanship methods away or that they are wrong….I AM suggesting that we need to take the next steps and focus on how we can further the conversation and do more (do better) for the horse.

There are a number of individuals and organizations that can help horse and rider gain more knowledge for the betterment of the horse. I know that my list here will not be complete … but I offer a number of people and organizations that I go to for further information to continue to advance my learning. Organizations – International Society for Equitation Science, riderfitness.com, Equinology, 4DimensionDressage International – to name just a few. People – Manolo Mendez, Thomas Ritter, Deb Bennett, Marijke de Jong, teachings of Sally Swift and Mark Russell — again this is a short list and there are so many more who are willing to educate for the benefit of the horse.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and you are most welcome to share this blog if you wish.
—————–
Dr. Mike Guerini is a scientist, author, and horsemanship Coach in Gilroy California. Mike is focused on balanced horsemanship that takes into account the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being of the horse. Mike is also the co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T. You can learn more about Dr. Mike at http://www.dunmovinranch.com.

Lameness – Thoughts on how can you be better prepared to help your Veterinarian diagnose and treat your horse

Lameness – Thoughts on how can you be better prepared to help your Veterinarian diagnose and treat your horse

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

Lameness can be defined in many ways. One of my favorite definitions comes from a course I took that was taught by Dr. Carrie Schlachter (DVM) who defined lameness as – “a loss of balanced and fluid motion through a variety of movements, any alteration in a horse’s gait which creates asymmetrical movement, any change in performance level or pattern, any weakness that alters the normal performance level of a horse.”

In a lameness examination, the veterinarian will often proceed through these five steps:

  • Learn the history of the horse and the complaint about what is wrong with the movement.
    1. In this — it is important to be able to explain when you last felt or saw what is normal for the horse. Owners and Riders and Trainers often disagree on when normal was last seen so it is important to get input from everyone.
  • Perform a visual and physical examination – often referred to as a static exam.
    1. Touch and sight to see where the horse may have bumps, bruises, asymmetry, etc.
  • Perform a movement exam
    1. Visual and/or with diagnostic tools that are on the horse to measure the movement.
  • Further examination components to identify the diagnosis
    1. Can include nerve blocking and imaging (ultrasound, radiology, MRI, CT scan, nuclear scintigraphy)
  • Development of a treatment plan (which in some cases may also include a veterinarian recommended rehab plan)

Note: — As owners, trainers, and coaches …we can all be challenged at times with determining what leg is responsible for the lameness. One way to identify the responsible leg in the front end of the horse — is to remember, “down on the sound,” which is a way to remember that the horse’s head goes down when the sound leg is on the ground.

Those of us who see a horse each and every day can be regarded as experts on how a horse moves normally … but when things are not normal … we are often challenged to explain what the abnormality is in the movement of the horse. As we ride, we may feel something not right – again – it is the rider that understands the feel but it is sometimes difficult to explain what is off in the feeling of how the horse is moving.

Being prepared to explain what is normal for your horse:

This can be a challenge because not all of us use the same words to explain what we see or feel. Also, when anxiety creeps in when we have a lame horse … it can be difficult to remember everything we have felt or seen with this horse in the past days or weeks.

So how do we overcome this challenge of explaining normal – video can save the day. You can record (high quality video camera or your cell phone) and easily show your veterinarian what is normal. Many veterinarians are willing to look at a quick video (please have these videos easy to find and share) to help him/her see what your horse looks like normally.

With a focused protocol (such as this one recommended here) we can have a library (on our phone) of how our horse(s) moves normally. In all of these guidelines — make sure that you keep the entire horse in the view screen

  • Video horse at Walk and Trot in a straight line filmed from behind (coming and going).
    1. 1 walk line of about 100 feet coming and going.
    2. 3 Trot lines of about 100 feet coming and going.
  • Video horse at Walk and Trot in a straight line filmed from the side.
    1. 1 walk line of about 100 feet.
    2. 3 Trot lines of about 100 feet.
  • Video horse at Walk and Trot in a circle (film from inside or from outside the circle … just be consistent on position from where you film and make sure to capture the whole horse). These circles can be 10 to 30 feet in diameter.
    1. 1 circle at walk to the left.
    2. 3 Trot circles to the left.
    3. 1 circle at walk to the right.
    4. 3 trot circles to the right.
  • Capture the above straight lines and circles on both hard ground (packed dirt is okay) and on soft ground.
  • The above can be done in-hand (on the halter) and it is also a great idea to do these same videos with the normal rider on the back.
    1. When lameness is seen with the rider and not (or not as easily) with the horse moving in hand … there can be rider/tack related issues that are creating or enhancing the lameness.
      1. Some of these rider/tack issues can include saddle fit, rider balance, rein contact (rein lameness) …and maybe a few other issues that also need to be corrected while the horse is treated/in rehab.

The above protocol for capturing video is really helpful to use when you want to explain normal. You can capture video yearly, semi-annually, or quarterly (or more often if you wish).

For the suggestion of recording this video with the rider – this focused protocol is better than capturing video of a horse in a class/test at a show because at the show you do not have total control of the distance traveled, number of circles ridden or the aspect from which to video.

Other benefits of these videos include:  being able to see rider changes in position or balance, see rider changes in rein contact, and evaluate the progressive development of your horse in hand verses under saddle.

I know this blog gives you some guidance on how to be better prepared for a possible lameness in your horse.  You are welcome to share this blog post and thank you for reading.

—————–

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

 

 

My Way or The Highway Horsemanship

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—————-

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

Horse Riding Basics — 4 Critical Items (often overlooked) that we need to Learn (and Review often) before we ever ride

Horse Riding Basics — 4 Critical Items (often overlooked) that we need to Learn (and Review often) before we ever ride

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

When we set off to learn to ride a horse…there is so much to learn many people are often overwhelmed. Enthusiastic beginners and those returning to riding after many years out of the saddle want to get to the riding part as quickly as possible. Instructors teach basic grooming, saddling, how to mount, how to go forward and how to stop a horse — often in just one or a few lessons. These are all critical items to learn for sure. Once in the saddle we hear about different speeds (and how to get them and control them) and we also hear a great deal about equitation (heel hip shoulder alignment).

Quite often when I meet riders on their journey I note four major deficiencies in what I call basic understanding and needs before riding. While those of us who instruct and love horses want to see people in the saddle and enjoying our sport — it is important that these four basics are learned or understood before any rider ever legs up onto the back of the horse.

#1 — Balance — this is critical for success in the saddle. Riders need to understand that balance is tied to the rider seat and that the rider must have balanced seat bones in order to ride successfully. Along with balance…riders need to know how breathing helps their balance. Riders should be able to sit and practice changing their balance through their seat and to learn how their position related to shoulders and hips and legs all contribute to balance.  So before we ever get on a horse — we need to focus on balance and this will truly make the equitation part easier.  Suggestions — work on balance on a trampoline or shifting weight from foot to foot, jumping rope, Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi….any number of exercises focused on balance are critical for your success as a rider.

#2 — Independent Use of Aids (legs and hands and seat) — The welfare of the horse is protected when riders learn to use their legs and seat and hands independently (and this should be learned before we ever leg up on a horse).  New and returning riders often pull and kick at the same time…this is confusing for the horse and depending on the level of simultaneous pull and kick — it may be downright abusive. Suggestions — work on ball toss and ball kicks or swimming with an independent scissors kick …. work on exercises that have you use a hand and leg independently for two tasks.  Successful riders work on these exercises before and after rides and new learners should have a degree of mastery of the use of independent aids before getting on the horse.

#3 — Understanding Rhythm — We need to know that the horse walk has a 4 beat rhythm, trot is a two beat rhythm, canter/lope is a 3 beat rhythm and gallop is once again a 4 beat rhythm.  We can discuss this  — but we also need to diagram what happens in each of these rhythms.  We need to take lunge lessons (rider on horse being lunged) to help develop an understanding of rhythm.  We need to watch the horses in pasture/pen/paddock and see how they move and think about how that feels for your body. …there are also some great videos out there on the dynamics of movement.   Suggestions — Take time for lunge lessons and observation of your horse in movement without a rider. Watch a video on the dynamics of movement.

#4 — Ground Work — All riders need to spend time working with a horse from the ground up.  Learn how the horse body bends, moves, how the feet move and what type of reach the horse has in leg extension.  Understand how we can influence movement through our aids, through pressure and release….and understand this movement so that you know when you execute a Turn on the Forehand (for example) — you know that the hind end will travel in a larger circle around the front end that is traveling in a small circle (and let me remind you there is a great deal more detail to the Turn on the Forehand beyond what I have shared here). Suggestions — watch videos, take lessons focused only on ground work, draw out how a horse moves in each of the movements from the ground that you will want to do in a saddle.

We most likely can identify other areas of deficiency in riding … but these are most often overlooked by the enthusiastic new rider.  Do your horse a favor .. for the welfare of the horse make certain that you take time to include these four items in your learning and ride preparation.

Thank you for reading this blog and please feel free to share.

———————

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

————————

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).

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.

————————

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).

6 Winter Horse Care MUST DO’s

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

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

4 Holiday Horsecare Reminders

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

Tis the season for traveling and holidays and many people are left to entrust the care of their horses to a neighbor, family friend, or pet sitter.  Here are five tips that can help us have a good plan in place for the care of our animals. To all who are traveling and visiting family this year — be safe and enjoy those precious moments.

1) Make the feeding and care of your animals as easy as possible. If you feed grain or supplements, have them all pre-measured and easily ready to be fed. If you can, have the hay set out and ready to be fed easily. Make sure the tire on the manure cart is pumped up and that the tools are easy to get ahold of for cleaning (nothing worse than being asked to clean stalls and the tires are flat and you first have to fix equipment before you can even be helpful).  This also means having enough feed available. I took care of some horses once and when I arrived there was a note about going to the feed store and getting grain and moving hay out of the big barn…these things do happen but I urge you to make sure the person feeding does not have to do extra work.

2) Let your veterinarian know you will be out-of-town and who is taking care of your animals. I cannot tell you how many times when I worked for veterinarians people would call and have an emergency with an animal they were taking care of for a friend.  The veterinarian is put into a bad situation because he/she does not know the owner is away or who has permission to feed or even how to easily get ahold of you should something go wrong.  Keep your veterinarian in the loop and he/she can help your animals faster and with your input.

3) Have a back-up person ready to feed in the event of an emergency with your primary feeder. What if something happens to the person feeding for you — do you have somebody on speed dial that you can call who will make sure your horses are cared for in this situation.  These are your horses and you are responsible for their care — make sure you have a back-up plan in place.  Your primary feeder/caregiver may get hurt, have a family emergency, or become very sick…all things that you need to be able to adapt to and solve…sometimes 100’s of miles away.

4) Keep open lines of communication.  Whether it be a call, text, or email….ask the person who is caring for your horse(s) to give you a daily update.  For me, leaving my horses behind when I travel can be tough.  I want to make sure I know they are okay. This may mean that you need to leave a secondary contact number (either the hotel or home where you are staying). Cell phones are great…but sometimes they fail. If you get into an area where your cell phone is not receiving a signal, get ahold of your feeder and let them know how to reach you by alternate means.

Safe travels my friends!!!  If you have some additions, please feel free to comment so we help everyone make the best choices for their horses during this holiday season.

————————

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).

Using Photos to evaluate your Horse and Riding

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

With the advent of social media we see numerous photos of people riding horses.  People share photos on Facebook or Twitter and many times ask for comments.  Sometimes photos are shared and comments are given, even when not asked for, but that is another story.  Quite often people will send me an email with a photo of a horse and rider and ask me to evaluate if I can help the person with his/her horse.  That is really hard to do with a single photo.

So let us talk about the one picture is worth 1000 words idea when it comes to evaluating your Horse or Riding.  The phrase ” Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” was first used in 1911 ….. but I digress since we are in 2013.  We all would agree that it would take many many words to describe everything we see in most photographs.  But there are some MAJOR problems with using a single photograph for commentary on your horse or riding.

Here are some of the issues with using only 1 photo and getting feedback about your horse or riding.

1) Most riding photos are shot with exposures of 1/30 second to 1/60 s.  Quite a few factors go into determining the exact amount of time but this ranges from  0.03 seconds to 0.016 seconds.  So we are looking and evaluating something that is happening in less than 1 second.  How much do you normally accomplish in a second?

2) The photo is taken but there is a lack of details.  We may only see 1/2 of what the rider is doing (if this is a side on photo) and we do not know what the rider was feeling at that moment in time….and let us face it most of us cannot remember our exact feelings at the time the photo was taken (unless we are flying off the saddle).

3) The angle of the photographer with respect to the horse may cause us to think the rider or horse is leaning or off-balance.

4) When taking a confirmation shot of a horse…the light and the time of day can really alter how a horse looks.

Above are just some of the issues that occur with using a single picture for an evaluation of the horse or rider.  As always I like to offer some of my suggestions for how you can use photos to get evaluations of your horse and riding.  Here are some suggestions and I look forward to your additions.

1) Always show at least 10 to 20 photos (use a photo album as a best way to share the photos if you are using Facebook). Take the photos as a random sampling and make the album.  We need to realize we all want to ride perfectly but there are times when our leg might be out of position and using more photos shows that to be the anomaly rather than the norm.  If it is the norm that you have a leg out of position then more photos will show that as an issue you need to correct.

2) Make sure you include photos taken from the side, rear, and front … and when I say side, rear, and front I mean directly on, not at an angle or close to being in front or behind.  These three positions help evaluate for straightness/correct posture, where you are looking, what the horse’s feet are doing, how the horse and rider work together, and where your legs and hands are located.  I know nobody likes our backside photographed but there is a lot of information we can learn from watching the horse and rider move away from us.

3) Make sure you add a short narrative to the pictures you post.  Give the viewer an idea on what was happening when the photos were taken.  Were you riding a pattern, are you working on an issue in the photo … details are necessary for helping the picture get the right information in words from the person commenting.  Evaluating a photo of a first ride on a 3-year-old horse is way different from evaluating the 100th ride on that same 3-year-old.

So next time you want that picture to equal 1000 words — give more details and share more photos and we all might be able to provide better advice, guidance, and coaching.  For those who want to jump in and say video is the answer — check back for my next blog where I discuss the world of horse videos….you might be surprised on what I have to say.

HYDROT CD advert 1312013 v2

————————

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).

The Horse No Longer Needed

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

We live in a very consumer driven society.  Buy what you need, use it until it no longer suits your purpose, and then dispose of the item.  People do this with cars, clothes, cell phones (get your newest iPhone today since your old one most likely is not “good enough”), and any number of other items.

Sadly…and most painfully I all to often see this with horses.  There is the horse that was not good enough for dressage, not good enough for cowhorse, not good enough for a rope horse, and not good enough for a trail horse.  Maybe the horse was the wrong color…maybe it was to tall, not athletic enough, maybe it just did not respond to the owner in the best possible way.  You have heard the stories…and I hope if you are reading my blog you have never disposed of a horse just because it was not perfect.

Two ladies that I met this past year have stories well worth sharing.  Both ladies have really nice horses.  One has a bit of an issue relating to soundness and the lady wrote me a great message when she shared this issue with me.  She said “My horse has some lameness issue and it has me concerned.  He may not make it as that Western Dressage Horse that I had planned on having but my goal is to help him get back to being sound enough that we can go down the trail together.”  WOW — here is a lady that really gets it — the relationship with the horse is more important than a goal she set for competition or in her mind….she took the time to adjust and work with the horse.  I actually think she just might make it back to the Western Dressage Arena since she has the right attitude and the horse she owns has some magic inside of him — how do I know — his eyes show it to all you look.

The second lady has an Off The Track Thoroughbred.  Her Dressage coach met the horse once and termed him “fractious” and told her that she would have to get another horse since this one was no good.  Well this second lady has taken her time and made a success of this horse.  She has walk, trot, jog, canter, passage, side passing, backing, haunch turns, rollbacks, turns on the forehand…and any number of other accomplishments.  A few weeks back I met up with her and we had a session and I asked her to work on making her circles more of a consistent size.  She stopped and said to me — “You are right and I will work on it but can I tell you I am just so happy to have achieved such a level of connection with my horse that we are working at the walk, trot, jog, canter, and all those other moves.  For two years I kept hearing that this horse was worthless….but I am so proud of him now…I am so glad I did not give up.”

In both of these examples these ladies could have easily given up and found another horse..it is so easy to do this in our consumer driven society…and perfectly acceptable in many barns across the country.

“The Horse No Longer Needed” is better referred to as “The Horse that No Longer Makes ME Shine”.

Horses require effort and time and patience.  Horses need to be heard.  If you stop and listen the horse might just be able to help you realize his or her full potential.  Sure — the horse may not be what you dreamed he/she would be, maybe he/she will not win each time in the event of your choice — but maybe if you take a risk and follow the horse — the journey will be more rewarding.

There are so many ways to evaluate what a horse can do…take the time to evaluate, then build the foundation for success and take the journey with your four-legged partner — you might be glad you did.  Many years ago I read a work by Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken” and the last lines do remind me of the journey with each horse — it is unique and the journey is the reward.

Although I am not as skilled as Robert Frost — my life is full of horses and I share with you a Poem that I wrote to celebrate those of you who take the time to get to know the potential of your horse.

My New Owner

I was born in the very early light of day,

To a home with horses and asses that bray,

But little did I know I would not stay.

One day I was traded for some feed,

To a man who did not have much speed,

Yet I walked away with him on my lead.

After a few months with him,

I started to get a bit slim,

And then I hurt my hind limb.

The veterinarian said I was likely no good,

He would do for me what he could,

All of a sudden I felt lost where I stood.

Next day a girl came to my field,

She watched me with her eyes peeled,

Then proclaimed that she could get me healed.

The man who got me back when,

Had some papers and a ball point pen,

The girl signed with the word Madeleine.

Down the road we walked,

All along this girl talked,

Til we reached a barn she unlocked.

Day after day I was tended,

Rubbed with things that were blended,

With the goal of being mended.

At last my leg was improved,

The veterinarian even approved,

He smiled and said he was disproved.

Today I am very glad,

With this New Owner that I have,

Cause I know things will never be bad.

————————

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).