Ground tie – Importance and How to teach your horse

Ground tie – Importance and How to teach your horse

by Dr. Mike Guerini, Ph.D. (www.dunmovinranch.com)

Does your horse know how to Ground Tie? Have you ever had the need to ground tie your horse?

Imagine yourself coming up at the end of a trail ride or needing to close the gate at the arena.  You are standing next to your horse and HOPE he stays put.  But alas, in those 3 seconds it took you to reach for and open the gate, your horse has pulled up a full mouth of luscious grass, stepped on (and broke) your new rein, jumped backwards with a head tossing flair, and trotted off towards the barn, road or somewhere you cannot quite get to quickly enough.

Before you begin, make sure you take away the common problems that keep you from succeeding in this ground tie training.  Remove the flies (fly spray works), find a bare patch of dirt for the first few training sessions (green grass is awfully distracting), and get away from any other distractions.

1. Connect with your horse.  Take time to do some ground work.  Practice walk, whoa, turn on the forehand, side pass, turn on the haunches, and backing….doing this with you on both sides of your horse.  Make sure you have solid ground work and that your horse is paying attention to you and will immediately respond to your ground work cues/aids/commands. If you need to spend a few days reinforcing your ground work and ground manners — please do so — it will save you time in the long run.

2. Reinforce the importance of the word “Whoa”. Take a few minutes and make sure every time you stop your horse when you are walking him on a lead line, you verbally say “whoa” and pull down on the lead line ever so slightly, then let the lead line go slack.

3. Once you are sure that the connection to your horse is strong and the ground work is solid, begin testing and strengthening that connection.  Open and close gates and doors and trailers and move bags and boxes while you have the lead shank in your hand.  Reinforce that your horse is to pay attention to you when you are performing any action you might do when you ground tie your horse (another example is getting a saddle out of the tack room).  In all of these actions, ask your horse to stand still — while you are still holding the end of the lead line.

4. As you get ready to begin the actual ground tie training.  Make sure that you trust your horse.  Begin the training by telling the horse “whoa,” pull down slightly on the lead line and then drop the lead line (so it goes slack) and walk away a few steps.  Be confident that your horse will stand where you left him.  Do not wait around once you say ‘whoa” and drop the lead line…make sure you walk away a few steps.  You must establish that you want the horse to stay and so you must give the horse a chance to make the mistake so that you can correct the mistake and take the opportunity to train your horse to do the correct thing.

5. After you have dropped the lead line and walked a few steps, just as soon as your horse moves, immediately turn around and establish the connection to your horse (pick up the lead line) and back your horse with a purpose and authority (note: this is not being mean, simply being firm to correct the wrong behavior).

I normally begin this training with an ~ 15 to 20 foot lead line.  What this lets me do is to drop the part closest to the horse while still letting me have ahold of the tail (end) of the lead line.  The cue for this command to ground tie for me is two-fold — I say the word “whoa”, then I pull down slightly on the lead line and drop it on the ground. 

It will take a few training sessions with your horse to get this command firm and listened to by your horse. 

Remember — make sure your ground work with your horse is very good, you are prepared and firm in your commands, and you use cues/aids that your horse easily can understand.

Some horses benefit from having this training start in a stall or small paddock.

We may all have some different ways of teaching to ground tie and I welcome you to share this blog and comment on additional ways you teach this important cue.

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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 to the Equine Hydro-T (http://www.hydrot.com/).

Western Dressage Circles – How they benefit you and your horse in other Horse Show Events

Western Dressage Circles – How they benefit you and your horse in other Horse Show Events

by Dr. Mike Guerini, Ph.D. (www.dunmovinranch.com)

A few weeks back I wrote a blog on Western Dressage (WD) called “Western Dressage and the One Trick Pony.”  In that blog I commented on the need for Western Dressage to reach beyond the normal WD test and educate/reward/encourage/empower/celebrate how people can use WD to build a better horse that is able to excel in many different areas.

This blog begins the journey of sharing with you all how I think WD can help us build better horses that can compete in multiple events.  There are many key elements in WD, many of them come from lessons learned from Classical Horsemanship, and used in Classical and Competitive Dressage.

The first topic of discussion is the Circle. The circle comes in 20m, 15m, and 10m sizes.  There are also half circles that can be included in this category for now.  Okay, first lesson – the sizes in a measurement we use in our daily life.

20m = 65.62 feet diameter circle

15m = 49.21 feet diameter circle

10m = 32.81 feet diameter circle

Second lesson — The key to learning how to ride a perfectly sized and shaped circle is to look TWO POINTS AHEAD and “connect the dots.”

We need to realize that riding the perfectly shaped and sized circle helps the horse’s physical development (circles help develop lateral flexibility and engagement of the inside hind leg). On the mental side of things, riding accurate circles helps develop obedience.

What does the Circle in WD teach us as a rider and horse team that we can use in other horse show classes?

ARENA LOCATION/PRESENCE – This is all about knowing where you are in the horse show class. Are you near the rail, in the center, how far to the end of the arena – all this comes because you know where you are located with your horse at any time.

When you ride the 20m circle, and do it with the correct size and geometry, you learn to view the surrounding area where you are riding with much more clarity.  Centered Riding by Sally Swift has taught us to have soft eyes. With soft eyes, we are aware of our horse and the rest of the riding area with greater ease.  When we focus on a point, and our eyes are not soft, we get fixated and lose the ability to plan our ride and prepare for the next maneuver. When we do not know where we are in the arena and how to navigate the area, we are forced to make big changes that disrupt our horse and our rhythm.  Guess who always looks when we make those big changes – that is the exact moment in time the judge looks at us.

In which Horse show classes is arena location/presence important?  ALL OF THEM!  I need to know where I am so that I prepare for the next trail obstacle, I need to know where the other riders are located, I need to know where center is for reining, I need to know where the end (or side) of the arena is when I want to turn a cow.  We need to have nicely controlled circles for running barrels as well. For those who ride equitation – this is critical for you to know where you are in the arena — presentation matters.

Good quality Circles help us to achieve success by planning, preparing, and making small changes as needed.

BALANCE – This is about having your horse able to work out in space and not lean on the rail.  When we ride a 20m circle (or 15m or 10m), there is at least some part of the circle that does not have a rail to hold up our horse.  Horses and riders get to leaning on a rail and they rely on that for balance. An un-balanced horse and rider that depends on the arena fence/wall for success is one that is not as athletic as possible. With a well-balanced horse, the circle geometry is perfectly round.

In which Horse show classes is balance important?  ALL OF THEM!  Again – each class benefits when we ride a balanced horse that can show his/her athleticism. Ride the perfect 20m, 15m, or 10m circle without an arena fence and you will learn how to ride softly and with more feel. Reining (and reined cowhorse) especially benefit from balanced and well-rounded circles.

Once again — Good quality Circles help us to achieve success by planning, preparing, and making small changes as needed. When we ride these perfectly shaped and sized circles, we have our horse mentally and physically balanced and ready for whatever comes next. A horse that is balanced is responsive to the aids – it is NOT leaning on one leg or one rein.

FLEXIBILITY (Bending and Straightness) – One of the goals of riding a round 20m circle is to create flexibility. Flexibility refers to your ability to bend laterally through his side. The bend through your horse’s side should be equal from the poll to the tail. With a flexible horse you are developing one that is ambidextrous (that is he/she can bend just as easily on the right as on the left). Correctly ridden circles also teach the basic/beginning elements of engagement (bending of the joints of the hind legs) and circles also develop straightness. By definition, a straight horse is straight on lines and bent along the arc of a circle.

In which Horse show classes is Flexibility (Bending and Straightness) important?  ALL OF THEM!  A flexible horse is an athletic horse.  In my time I have had some horses come in for training that the rider described to me in these words “My horse is great.  She goes really straight but we are having trouble getting around the corner.”  I mentioned that likely half the time in any horse show class the horse was needing to be bent (turns, arena corners, etc). A few of these riders have looked at me and said they had never thought about that.

For every horse show class we will ever compete in we will need a horse that is flexible and can answer our call for action. Riding a perfect 20m circle will help you develop a horse that is ready to answer your request and help the two of you look good in the show arena.

RHYTHM – Rhythm of the gait of the horse is so important in WD circles. We want to establish a rhythm, timing, cadence to the gait and hold that the same throughout the circle.

In which Horse show classes is rhythm (timing & cadence) important?  ALL OF THEM!  IF we are in western pleasure, ranch versatility, reining, or trail, we need to maintain an even rhythm of the gait. We want our horse traveling at a gait that has consistency because when the horse is consistent, the presentation looks better, but more importantly, the horse is ready/prepared for the pre-signal and aid you will apply to make those changes necessary to show smoothness.  In Equitation classes, we want to have a nice rhythm because that is pleasing to the eye and accentuates your rider form and smoothness with the horse.

So far I have mostly concentrated on the benefit to the horse.  HOW ABOUT THE RIDER AND THE BENEFIT FROM RIDING THESE CIRCLES? Well the rider benefits greatly from learning those perfect circles. The rider improves his/her arena location knowledge as I said earlier.  But the rider also improves the use of his/her seat and legs, and balance and softness of the hands when riding these circles. By riding these perfect circles, he/she learns how to make small changes and it is these small changes that tell the horse you are competent and trusting.  Any time we make abrupt and physically reactive changes we tell the horse that we are not very trustworthy.  Soft and small changes keep that trust and harmony in your ride.

There are also a few life lessons in learning how to ride the perfect circle.  I still work each ride to make that perfect circle.  Some days I succeed and other days I  break a few circles….but each time I get better and the life lesson is that with patience, planning, calmness, and time – I  can be a better rider…better person…better equestrian and along the way I get the benefit of learning these lessons with a horse!

Hopefully this has expanded your awareness of why and how these circles in WD can help you build your all around horse and develop a better foundation of training. You do not need to ever take a WD test, although there is a great benefit and feedback that comes from taking one of these tests (you get a score and written remarks), but if you ride in a western saddle and you do not take the time to see how well you can ride that perfect circle – you are missing out on a learning opportunity for you and your horse and you might be keeping yourself out of the winners place in your western show events.

The circles we learn and ride in Western Dressage (tests, clinics, lessons, etc.) – or in the Cowboy Dressage world – help us to build a better western horse.

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 (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 to the Equine Hydro-T (http://www.hydrot.com/).

Western Dressage and the One Trick Pony

Western Dressage and the One Trick Pony

by Dr.Mike Guerini, Ph.D

(www.dunmovinranch.com)

Last year about this time I published a blog sharing my thoughts on the future of Western Dressage (WD). You can read that blog posting HERE. Well another year has passed and there are some pretty exciting things still happening.

 

  1. Train the Trainer programs are being taught around the United States and in Canada by Western Dressage Association of America.
  2. Cowboy Dressage (CD) has huge shows, particularly in California with over 400 entries on a weekend.
  3. North American Western Dressage is a leader in Western Dressage and Cowboy Dressage Virtual Shows.
  4. Judges training seminars are being held for both Western Dressage and Cowboy Dressage.

 

We have a great deal to be excited about and the future continues to look promising for Western and Cowboy Dressage Competition….and that is what has me a bit worried.  The future looks really good for discipline specific competition — Now I am a bit worried about us all developing a One Trick Pony.  That is to say we are focused only on showing our Western Horse in CD or WD and reporting those results.

 

Now I will stand up and say that neither WD nor CD is a trick.  Both teach so many skills.  You may think I am using the term “One Trick Pony” a bit harshly but I sure want to get everyone’s attention and make sure we advance this conversation.

 

When I first heard about the Western Dressage Organization being formed in 2011 I was pretty darn excited.  The chance to have very open discussions and educational opportunities in discussing Dressage and how it applies to developing a high quality horse ridden in a Western Saddle — EXCITING. Sure, Western Dressage specific tests are a good thing but at this time there is very limited conversation on how Riders and Trainers and Coaches are using Western (and Cowboy) Dressage to build a better Western Horse that has longevity (long term soundness of body and mind).

 

Many of the CD and WD clinics are specific for how to prepare to ride a test.  I would say that if we work on the foundation basics necessary for developing a good working horse, apply the Training Scale and Dressage Principles from Classical Horsemanship – we can ride a CD or WD dressage test without any significant problems. Sure the memorization of the test or following the direction of the reader might be tough — but we certainly do not need to school on the test – we should be building our horses to succeed in a test by focusing on our foundation work.  What we learn in these clinics is how to navigate the dressage court (and trust me I have made my share of mistakes there both as a rider and reader so I benefit from a few of these lessons).

 

We want to push ourselves to be more than riding drones in a test…we want to be adaptive.  Think about issues within our educational system here in the US where many students are taught just what they need to know to pass a standardized test. Since I spent many years in school to gain my Doctorate, I can speak with some authority that the real world needs us to be able to analyze, adapt, and figure our way out of situations with our foundation skill and knowledge sets – there was never a class I took or research experiment I conducted that gave me the answers for everything.  We need to remember that learning the foundation principles are our goal and that we need to celebrate and ride with those abilities each day.

 

How do we continue on this pathway of success with CD and WD and make sure we are not developing just a One Trick Pony?

1. We need to discuss, share, educate, and celebrate how development of a proper bend, circle size control, collection, extension — can benefit other western disciplines.

Here is an example of how to apply this suggestion. Reining and Cowhorse competitions have a pattern that requires a circle, most often a large fast and small slow. This is a great opportunity to develop a Reiner or Cowhorse that lasts longer in the show world by guiding our training and coaching using Dressage, and more specifically how WD and CD can help make this a success.

For this I am planning on sharing each month (maybe more often) how a particular aspect of a CD or WD test is also used in other western performance disciplines or can be useful in helping us develop a better performance horse. Likely I will start sharing this on my FB page and website but if you are interested in getting notified or helping me build this resource – let me know by dropping me an email to michael@dunmovinranch.com.

2. Further develop the systems to celebrate the rider/horse combinations that are excelling in WD/CD AND other Western Performance activities.

I am quite pleased to see one of my mentors leading this charge. Charles Wilhelm has developed the Ultimate Super Horse Challenge (Click HERE for more info) and it includes Cowboy Dressage in the competitions…along with some other pretty darn nifty things necessary to develop the best horse and rider team.  I encourage people to participate int he Ultimate Super Horse Challenge either as a rider or spectator.  For the leaders of WD and CD – this is your chance to step up and reach beyond what you are already doing and develop reward systems and competitions that showcase how fabulous CD and WD are for building the ALL AROUND HORSE. Working Equitation does this to some extent…but I bet the leaders of WD and CD can do more.

3. We need people to speak up and share how the horse they took a CD/WD test on last Saturday is in competition for reining on Sunday, or on a trail ride on Tuesday, or teaching the grandkids a lesson or two about riding, or taking on a new challenge with the human partner. Share how your horse is not just a One Trick Pony.

4. We need to promote freestyle work even more. Each horse and rider is unique and Freestyle riding tests can sure demonstrate how riders and horses can be creative and showcase their teamwork.

5. We need to make a challenge test that is set up day of show. Be creative and set it up to challenge horse and rider to be a team that has skills they can draw upon to adapt and succeed. There are many smart people in CD and WD who can take parts of different tests and bring them together into a challenge that you do not get time to practice before the actual test. In my opinion this is the goal of developing an All Around horse and rider.  This is where success in CD and WD, the competition part, will show the success of horse and rider as a team.

 

Like I said a year ago — Western Dressage, like Classical Dressage, IS about GOOD HORSEMANSHIP. This year I will add that with Good Horsemanship we develop and nurture horses that can do many different things.

 

In full disclosure I am a Lifetime Founding Pioneer of the WDAA, Professional member of NAWD, and friend to Cowboy Dressage.  I like what these organizations are doing and look forward to them doing even more.  Each organization has said they have a role in education of the western rider – more education is needed for all of us to become the All Around Rider and develop our All Around Horse.

Push yourself as a rider and lead/ride/train your horse safely compassionately while you develop a great Horse partner.

 

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).

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).

 

Sensible & Sensitive Horsemanship – Dr. Mike’s Horsemanship Guides

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

frontcover.300

 

Available on Amazon.com (Click HERE)

Or for a personalized copy of this paperback at $20 (shipping and handling included), email Michael@dunmovinranch.com and we will get your order processed.

This is a combined work containing Dr. Mike’s Horsemanship Ground Steps to Success, Dr. Mike’s Horsemanship Responsive Riding, Dr. Mike’s Horsemanship Riding Exercises, Dr. Mike’s Horsemanship Horse Owner’s Modern Keys for Success. Together this collection takes horse and rider from ground work to build a strong foundation to riding with softness and focus. Dr. Mike’s Horsemanship Ground Steps to Success Horsemanship lessons that teaches you the basic foundations of ground work that will help you build a stronger relationship with your horse. Inside you will find improved ways of working with your horse so that you can succeed in every equestrian discipline. This book covers the essentials of ground work that can be translated into the saddle. This electronic book includes: 1) Preparation for Ground work and Riding 2) Understanding your Horse’s body language 3) Pre-signal and preparatory commands, and 4) Ground Steps to Success (walk, whoa, disengage hips, back, go forward cue and other movements). Dr. Mike’s Horsemanship Responsive Riding In this book Dr. Mike provides numerous training exercises so that riders will gain a better feel of the horse. Each exercise is well described and shares with you the benefit of performing the exercise. The book includes multiple warm-up exercises for getting better directional control and the proper use of your legs when riding. Advanced exercises are included for enhanced responsiveness. The basics of dressage and proper biomechanics are presented to help you improve your body language and pre-signal communications with your horse. Dr. Mike’s Horsemanship Riding Exercises This book includes 12 easy to follow riding exercises complete with written instructions and diagrams. Great for warm-ups and giving you and your horse some new challenges. These exercises incorporate Classical and Western Dressage Elements. Dr. Mike’s Horsemanship Horse Owner’s Modern Keys for Success. A collection of Essays from many years of successful horsemanship. This book focuses on ideas to help new horse owners build a strong foundation of thoughts and ideas for success in owning, riding, and training horses.

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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).

5 Ways to get more out of your Riding Lessons and Clinics

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

Have you been taking lessons for a few months and do not seem to be making progress? Do you wonder if you lack the ability? Have you thought about buying another horse that seems better? Do you think your trainer is boring to listen to?

As riders we often give over control of our learning process to the instructor. Sometimes we say “Fix my riding problems” or “Get my horse to respond better to me.” We need to take control of our learning.

Let me repeat what I just wrote – WE NEED TO TAKE CONTROL OF OUR LEARNING. Now I am not saying argue with your trainer every minute of the lesson…that never turns out well. What I am saying is that if you want to improve as a rider – come prepared to learn.

1) Have goals… Monthly and quarterly goals. Share with your instructor the goals you want to achieve. He or she can then work to craft a learning plan with you that will help you achieve those goals. A good conversation with your instructor is the key to building a good learning environment. But remember – a good conversation needs both you and the instructor to listen and hear what each of you is saying.

2) Do your homework between lessons. I remember back to the days when I was learning to play the piano and guitar. Mr. O’Brien would give me homework and I would practice…the day before the next lesson. With a twinkle in his eye, Mr. O’Brien would ask me how often I had practiced. As a 12 year-old I tried the “I practiced lots” answer. He knew and the one and only time I tried that – I knew that I was dancing a line between truth and a lie.Instructors know immediately if you have practiced. So be honest to yourself and your horse and if you have made a commitment to learning – do your homework. If you have not done your homework – let your Instructor know. Good instructors can help you get motivated in your homework and learning – because good instructors are also good coaches, cheerleaders, motivators, and mentors who want to see you and your horse succeed.

3) Eat before the lesson…even just a snack. In the last-minute dash to get your horse loaded and to the lesson or get ready for the instructor to show up you decide to skip breakfast or lunch (or both). You will have a big dinner after your lesson or the clinic. BAD IDEA. When you are hungry you will not learn as well. (Note: the large fancy coffee drink before a lesson will give you that sugar high stamina…but not the energy you need to learn). Have some fruit or nuts or something that your stomach can work on during the lesson.One of the instructors I ride and co-teach with each year is Connie Sparks in Montana. Connie feeds the herd of horses and youth before each clinic. Eggs and French toast is often on the menu – you know why – because Connie is a good instructor who knows the value of getting food into young (and old) bodies so that learning can happen.

4) Keep a journal and lesson log. Write down your thoughts after each lesson or clinic. When you take the time to keep track of your progress it is much easier for you to see your successes. In the journal or lesson log you can write questions regarding your homework…then it helps you connect to doing your homework and know what you want to ask your trainer at the next lesson.

5) Recap after the lesson to make sure you know your homework. Sit down after the lesson or clinic and talk with your instructor. Plan so that you have five minutes of talk time to recap what you learned and what you need to do before the next lesson. In all of my clinics, after each day, we have a chat session. I always ask people “What did you learn that you will take home?” This is to help them recall things from the clinic or the lesson that they found particularly important for their improvement.

Taking a lesson or going to a clinic is all about learning so that you and your horse can improve as a team. Make sure that you are prepared to learn by following these five suggestions.  Feel free to comment on this post with additional suggestions as to how people can improve their learning at clinics and lessons.

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).

Semi-Pro Horsemanship – Would this work?

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

A semi-professional athlete is one who is paid to play and is not an amateur, but for whom sport is not a full-time occupation, generally because the level of pay is too low to make a reasonable living based solely upon that source, making the athlete not a full professional athlete. Likewise the term semi-professional can be applied to an artist such as a photographer or musician who derives some income from their artistic endeavors but who must nevertheless take a day job in order to survive.

Why do I bring up this topic?  The National Collegiate Athletic Association is once again under scrutiny regarding how much it and colleges might be making and how little student athletes receive in the way of money to live on while in college.  So there is talk about whether or not the student athletes are semi-professionals.

Well this got me to thinking about the world of horse showing, specifically in the western world but this applies to other disciplines as well. How many of you know weekend warriors who are awesome representatives of good showmanship and good horsemanship? These folks work a full 40 hour week, pack up late on Friday night and drive all night to the show. They show all day Saturday and Sunday and then head home to start the next week of work as an accountant, technician, pet groomer, grocery store clerk, etc.. Many of these folks are adult amateurs and let me tell you they sure can ride and they do one heck of a great job training.

Are these weekend warriors better than some professional trainers? In some cases yes and in other cases no.  Do these weekend warriors have something to offer?  YES THEY DO.  The issue comes down to money and if you make anything, you are most often considered a professional. (Note: rules vary but overall any compensation gets you out of having amateur status).

What could a semi-pro do? Would he/she take away from the professionals?

In many cases, a semi-pro could provide quality riding lessons to local youth and amateurs who need someone to give them help. It is not always easy to fit into a professional’s schedule and in most cases, you need to go where the professional works.

Here is an example to think about.  The 15 year old who has a horse at home and needs some lessons for safer and better riding may not have the luxury of hooking up to a trailer (because he/she cannot drive legally yet) and take the horse to the professional. But 1/4 mile away might live a person who could give a great lesson and help this youth out. I have seen this situation and found that the person who lives 1/4 mile away does not help out because he/she does not carry insurance because he/she cannot afford the insurance without getting paid for lessons.  Or the person does not give a free lesson because  they are still worried somebody might think they are getting paid. So this talented teacher does not get to share and the person needing help…does not get the necessary help and the desire to get better or stay in horses goes away because the positive role model is not easily accessible.

Would the semi-pro in the example I just shared take away from the professionals.  No–because the professionals are not in a position to help a youth like I just described because the youth cannot get to the pro’s barn.  (Yes– I hear you saying where there is a will there is a way…not always folks…not always is the way economically feasible).

I can give other examples but let us for argument sake agree that some amateurs (who could choose to be semi-pro’s) have lots to offer in the way of riding and training and they could help people who do not have easy access to professionals.

Would a semi-professional horsemanship level ever work?

I believe this could work. I have read a few arguments as to why it would not work (see this reference for one source of arguments) and yet…my mind says it is time to think outside the box. People need to quit worrying about all the ways this would create more work. Let us make it simple/easy to develop a semi-professional level in the horse world. Basically we need to figure out how to distinguish a semi-pro from a professional and a semi-pro from an amateur.

Amateur verses Semi-pro verses Professional

1) Semi-pro cannot make more than $10,000 per year in training or riding lessons. The level can be below the poverty line so that we know they could not live on what they make. The burden of proof is on the semi-pro to show that he/she is not making more than $10K per year.  Get an accountant/CPA to review your records and sign a letter certifying this information. Most accountants/CPA’s are not going to risk a lie and lose their license for someone wanting to be considered a semi-pro. Burden of proof is on the semi-pro and cost is on him/her.

2) Amateur can ride all levels .  Much like it works now.

3) Semi-pro cannot ride in amateur but they can ride in the pro level.

4) Semi-pro classes are created (opening another level of classes that can be entered and the possibility of more show revenue)

The big question is how to differentiate the amateur from the semi-pro.  People are already worried about how to make sure an amateur is not making money. Can someone lie and cheat and collect money and still ride as an amateur? YES and likely this happens today. So how would it be different….well just maybe some of these folks with good horsemanship and showmanship information who would like to be semi-pro’s would be willing to step up and share what they now, be compensated for their time, and show as a semi-pro.  I know some amateurs who would make excellent semi-pro’s and finally be able to realize a dream of helping a few people and not worrying about their amateur status.

I know some of you are shaking your head at me and wondering if I fell off a horse recently and really hit my head hard. Some may be asking -why are you bringing this up?

Each day I hear more people talk about not having access to a local lesson provider. Horse show organizations complain that less people are showing. Breeders are saying less people are buying horses.  The world of horses seems to be shrinking.  Maybe it is time we look at the entire system and find ways of making horses and horse showing more accessible.  Semi-pro’s can be excellent ambassadors of the sport and create more opportunities for the casual enthusiast to have access to a riding lesson and a horse.  Then through the magic of horses we will see the casual enthusiast get hooked and buy a horse, go to the shows, and we will see the horse world grow.

What are 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).

Questions you MUST ask yourself about your warm-up routine before competing.

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

Over the past year as I have coached people at horse shows and watched many riders as they warm up their horses I have wondered — what are they doing. In some cases people lope for an hour to get the horse “warmed up AND worn down” as they say. Others do only discipline specific activities like practicing a sliding stop or a roll back or a lead change. Some wander around and do some walk, trot and lope (canter) work and then sit watching everyone else. Have you ever watched professional athletes prepare for a game. They have a plan, a routine, a focus…I consider that horse riders competing are athletes and so I offer these 8 questions (there may be more) that you should be asking yourself and answering to improve your success.

1) Do you have a plan for your warm-up? (Answer — YES)

2) Does your warm-up plan have contingencies based on the surface or weather?  (Answer — YES)

3) Are you warming up the horse and rider or only the horse?  (Answer — Both Horse and Rider, separately and together)

4) Similarly, are you practicing good sports psychology to prepare yourself for the warm-up and competition? (Answer — YES)

5) Is the social aspect of the show getting in the way of your warm-up routine? (Answer — NO — NEVER 🙂 )

6) What do you do between the warm-up and actual class or your personal run? (Answer — keep the horse limber and supple and ready to go, never letting the horse stand and wait)

7) Does your warm up get you and your horse relaxed, in a rhythm ,and working on the connection needed to win? (Answer — YES)

8) Does your trainer warm up your horse and allow you to skip that part of the day? (Answer — I always ride my horse as part of the warm up)

If you have answered differently than the suggested answer for each question then it is important that you sit down with your trainer/coach/mentor and make sure you improve your warm up plant to better prepare for competition.

As always I look forward to your comments and please share this post.

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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).

Ground Work Benefits for Horsemanship — Demystified

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

We have all seen people working their horses doing “ground work”. Many have sticks, dressage whips, or other implements in their hands. Along with this tool comes a halter and special leadshank in some cases. Often, “doing ground work” is synonymous with natural horsemanship practices and has been called “that fancy stuff.” Well I will step forward and say — I firmly believe in ground work and know it can help you no matter your riding style or ability….because most importantly it can help the horse.

Sometimes folks think Ground work is not useful…or just not right for them…or their horse does not need this work because it is broke…or it takes to long to do…or it takes planning…or it is confusing…you get the idea.

For the purpose of this blog I will place ground work into two categories: 1) Lunge line work and 2) In-Hand/Haltered Ground Work. Certainly driving horses with long lines from the ground is a form of ground work that I have practiced and think is an excellent addition to training programs for riding and driving but I will just speak to Lunge work and In-Hand/Haltered work in this write up.

Lunge work can be done at the end of a long line or in a round pen (with freedom). In any case, this has been a long practiced activity when starting horses. Here we are seeking walk, trot, canter from the horse, a halt/whoa, and turns either towards or away from the handler. Certainly more can be done and additions include backing on the rail, stopping on the rail…etc.

In-Hand/Haltered Ground work involves having the horse either haltered or with a bridle (very loose term used her for bridle to include bitless, snaffle, curb, bosal, etc) and the handler working with the horse in close proximity. The key elements to accomplish here are walk, whoa/halt, back, side pass, disengage hip (Turn on Forehand), and a haunch turn (Turn on the Haunches). We can add in Haunches left and right, Shoulders left and right and quite a few other elements…but suffice it to say these Big 6 (walk, whoa/halt, back, side pass, disengage hip and a haunch turn) are the keys to successful use of In-Hand/Haltered Ground Work. As an important note to add- when doing ground work or lunge line work…make sure you work both sides of the horse equally.

In each of the below examples, I present in parenthesis, how much of this type of work I do either on the Lunge Line or In-Hand/Haltered.

Here are Eight ways that Ground Work can Help the Horse and Rider/Handler:

1) Early life lessons for the colt to learn to lead and give respect. This is accomplished with haltered ground work and for the most part we want to have that young colt walk, whoa/halt, back, side pass, disengage hip and do a haunch turn. This type of ground work is one that we all do if we are ever involved with a young horse. This is especially important for safety of horse and handler and much needed for the veterinarian/farrier visits. Some of you right now might be saying to me — Mike…say it isn’t so…I have been telling people I do not practice ground work but you have just defined working with baby horses as involving Ground Work…sorry my friends, it is so.  (In-Hand/Haltered – 100%)

2) Colt Starting/Re-training for Riding. This includes in-hand/haltered ground work and Lunge work.  Here we are working the horse to achieve respect, stamina (walk, trot, canter), and to begin to develop athletic skills that are coordinated with rider aides. Lunge work gets us stamina and respect and in-hand/haltered ground work gets us a strong foundation for success in the saddle by teaching the horse aides we will use in the saddle while we are still on the ground and achieving respect. This helps the rider get an idea of how the horse will respond before we get in that saddle…and as I get older I like to have a bit of early information on what I might anticipate. (In-Hand/Haltered – 60%; Lunge Line – 40%)

3) Assessing & Improving Biomechanics.  Here we can learn how the horse moves its legs and feet. How the joints are flexed. The assessment can take less than 60 seconds and can find issues.  Recently I had a friend show up with her reining horse. I watched him move on the ground and commented about how he flexed his rear leg. My friend told me he was always sticky that way and that it had been there for as long as she could recall and that her National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) trainer had not commented much about this.  In 15 minutes, we had the horse improving its ability to move the hind leg and even more exciting — the horse ran some better patterns the following week during practice and the NRHA trainer was glad to see the improvement and asked what happened. Ground work happened and it helped improve the horse and this will likely keep the rider and horse safer because when the horse moves fluidly, there is less risk for injury or stumbles.  (In-Hand/Haltered – 90%; Lunge Line – 10%)

4) Warm-up.  For the older horse (and older rider), a bit of movement on the ground before getting in the saddle can help limber up the legs and get the circulation moving better. This does not need to take a long time, 2 to 10 minutes is all you might need.  This can either benefit from in-hand/haltered or lunge line ground work.  (In-Hand/Haltered – 70%; Lunge Line – 30%)

5) Halter Horse Muscle/Tone Building.  Un-ridden horse being shown in halter needs good muscle development. Lunge work is great for building up those muscles. Add in a little in-hand/haltered ground work for those necessary pivots and the benefit of having a respectful horse and ground work is helping you here. (In-Hand/Haltered – 15%; Lunge Line – 85%)

6) Teaching Adults and Youth.  Starting people can take as much time as starting a young horse. People need to learn how to move a horse and how the horse responds. As a kid I jumped in the saddle or rode bareback without ever thinking of ground work. I had no fear and went with the horse for the thrill of riding. But today I am finding more people aged 50+ who are excited to come into the world of horses for the first time in their lives. They are stepping forward to acheive a life-long goal. Many want to take things slowly and learn from the ground up so here, in-hand/haltered as well as lunge work are great for helping them build confidence, gain experience, and most importantly learn safety.  (In-Hand/Haltered – 80%; Lunge Line – 20%)

I would like to stress that anyone who considers him or herself a horse trainer, coach, educator, or mentor about horses and likes to share should make sure they have some ground work tools to use since sometimes it is safer for a horse when people begin their education on the ground.

I am especially pleased to be able to direct you to the Cowboy Dressage Youth: Amateur Partnership On the Ground program (Click HERE) as a great example of youth education starting including work with horses from the Ground Up. Thanks to the Cowboy Dressage team for including this in their program.

7) Rehabilitation from Injury.  Many of us have had a horse get a leg injury that required stall rest.  As that horse comes back from injury it needs to get range of motion, circulation, flexibility and muscle tone to build back up.  This is almost always done with hand walking and needs in-hand ground work.  I have worked for a few veterinarians and been involved in rehab work and I can say with 100% certainty, a horse that responds to ground work and has a strong foundation in ground work generally has an easier time during the rehabilitation process…because the horse is better prepared to be worked with on the ground.(In-Hand/Haltered – 90%; Lunge Line – 10%)

8) Pre-Ride Check.  Sixty (60) seconds is all this takes.  Check the horse range of mobility of joints, listen to and watch the footfalls, and know if you have an issue before you get on. Many of the old timers I have ridden with do this simply by being quiet as they walk the horse to the saddling location and listen to the horse and feel it move behind/beside them.  They know by the skip of a hoof if there might be an issue or if the horse needs more riding work on one side or another.  Some of the barns of old timers I have been in have a great rule … no radio and no cell phone. They require…no strike that…demand that you put your attention on that horse and not be distracted. The old timers did this without lunge work…simple walking along and making a turn or two and stopping is all they needed but sometimes they would do just a bit more.  This pre-ride check lets you measure up the physical, mental, and emotional state of the horse. (In-Hand/Haltered – 90%; Lunge Line – 10%)

Thanks to everyone for reading and I look forward to your thoughts on what I have shared with you regarding my ideas and philosophy on the use and benefits of Ground Work in Horsemanship.

Special Thanks to Lauren Michele Mcgarry for speaking with me about this Blog.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at 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).