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

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

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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).

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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).

Getting past that riding Plateau

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

Riding our horses can be just like the rest of our life. We reach a Plateau or  a period or state of little or no growth or a time where progress ceases. We find this in our relationships and work. So does this happen to everyone?  YES.  You will be glad to know that at some point in our riding careers, we all find a period of time where we need to stop and assess if we are making progress. So I would like to share with you all some of the ways I boost myself and those I coach to get beyond these plateau’s we might encounter.

1) Take a lesson once a month. Find someone in your area and go take a lesson. See what they can offer you. Each riding coach has different experiences and can offer you something new that might just help you elevate your skills to the next level.

2) Take a lesson from a different coach.  Pick another person every few months and go take a lesson with a new coach. I encourage my students to go ride in clinics and with other coaches. Sometimes they bring something back to me that they learned and sometimes just hearing the same type of information but from someone else — it clicks and everything starts to fall in place and you advance as a rider.

3) Ride your horse bareback for a month. Do everything you would normally do but do it bareback and improve your balance, leg strength and communication with your horse. When I mean do everything I mean walk, trot, canter/lope, side pass, leg yields…. you get the idea. Okay….if a month is too much, then try it for a week or a weekend. I am currently on a week-long plan where I must ride at least one horse a day bareback.

4) Feel the footfalls. This is my number go to answer for everyone who tells me they have reached a plateau in their riding. Get on your horse and ride for 15 minutes and call out each footfall…if you miss one, start again. That is the true sign of an advanced rider…knowing where each foot is at any given time. If you work on this, and I do regularly, it reminds me that I have a long way to go with my learning and improving.

5) Go to a 2, 3, or 4 day clinic. So there are no clinics in your local area. Pack up the horse and the truck and trailer and go on that road trip. Drive to the clinic you want to ride in and learn. That entire experience is so enlightening. How good is your relationship with your horse. Can you travel two days and then ride for 4 days and then go back home for two days.  The key is go take that clinic you know will advance your skills. Find that person who can push you beyond where you are currently — you and your horse will be glad you did.

6) Join a local riding club or organization. Find others to ride with on a regular basis. When you ride together you normally pick up some new things along the way and it can help you advance your skills.

7) Cross train yourself. If you are a western rider…go learn to ride English. If you are an English rider, spend a few weeks in a western saddle.

8) Cross train your horse. So your horse is great in cutting.  Then get out and do some Cowboy or Western Dressage. Have a nice jumper, try sorting a few cows.  You get the idea. Step out of your riding comfort zone and try a new discipline.

9) Read and take up new challenges on your own time to advance your riding.  For example, ride every exercise listed in my Responsive Riding book, ride all the exercises in Jec Aristotle Ballou’s 101 Dressage Exercises for Horse & Rider, also ride all the exercises in 101 Arena Exercises for Horse & Rider. There are many books and my library is extensive and I keep trying more and more of the exercises I find.

10) Ride different horses. Sure, we all have our own horse to ride, but find a friend who will let you ride his or her horse. Learn to feel how a different horse works.  This is where we learn so much and advance ourselves. If your family has a few horses…ride all of them and learn what each wants to teach you.

Below I include quite a few of the different organizations with horse activities that might be of interest to some of you.  I like what each of these organizations provide and at least one of them is likely to give you ideas on how to advance your horsemanship and riding beyond this plateau you might be experiencing.

Cowboy Dressage — Click Here

Western Dressage — NAWD or WDAA

American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA) — Click Here 

Charles Wilhelm’s Ultimate Super Horse Challenge — Click Here

United States Team Penning Association — Click Here

Ranch Sorting (Great for Families) — Click Here

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

I see Magic happen with Horses and Riders

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

Last Sunday wrapped up my final horsemanship clinic for 2013.  From here on out it is coaching individuals and their horses as we work our way into the end of the year and start the new year.  I feel so blessed with what I get to observe as a coach at horsemanship clinics. Each year I find myself seeing different things but the past 10 months have had some really special moments that I want to share with you all.

These special moments are magical because I watched the rider and the horse make a connection in one moment that changed their entire relationship for the better.

Here are some of the magical events I saw this year.

1) In Nebraska I watched a young lady trot out on a horse and overcome her fear of falling off.  It was the first time she trotted a horse without falling off and the moment was special because you could see her find some relaxation in the saddle.

2) In California I saw a mother help her 5-year-old daughter lead a horse around. The bond between mother and daughter was wonderful but that horse was something special.  The horse stood 16 hands… and that young lady ran along  (with her mother reaching out to offer a helping hand if needed) and the horse trotted on the end of the lead line.  Magic to see that moment because we all knew that the horse was taking care of that little girl.

3) I saw a lady only 12 months after having some pretty major back surgery take a horse down the fence and turn a cow and score a 73….and there were those who doubted she would ride a cowhorse ever again in competition.

4) Along the way I spoke with a lady who attended a clinic and learned a life lesson.  She told me how her life had been stressful but that at a clinic I coached, her horse taught her to not react and make everything into a fight…again magic and life altering events come with horses.

5) In a two-day clinic in Missouri in June I watched a 15-year-old learn to canter her horse with calmness and control.  Better than that might have been the joy on her mothers face.  At the same clinic I watched many other people safely canter their horses for the very first time in their lives.  All they needed was some confidence, support, and to listen to the horse.

6) In July I found myself in Bozeman Montana and once again — I marveled at a young lady who the year previous cried every time her horse stopped….now she was comfortable in the saddle and getting herself moving towards some jumping work.

7) Back to Missouri in October and I found myself experiencing lots of magic.  A mother watched her 10-year-old daughter work to successfully side pass her horse without quitting.  The look on the mothers face was priceless to see her daughter get past the moment of being stuck. At the same clinic I watched a 10-year-old boy work with his horse and achieve some better harmony.  I met a 15-year-old young lady who had been riding for less than 30 days — and I watched her achieve so much on day one — she reported in the next morning telling all of us how she had gone home to work some horses at home after the first day.

8) Just a few days back I watched a lady and her horse find harmony and a nice slow trot. I also watched the lady learn that she could dance with her horse by learning to control footfalls.

9) In October (in Missouri) I watched a lady and her horse build a relationship in less than 48 hours.  She showed up at the clinic thinking she might want to sell or send her horse off to a good home and by the middle of the second day she had found her rhythm, relaxation, and connection to the horse that had the two of them dancing across the arena.

10) I watched a lady make a connection with her 10-year-old horse after a few folks had told her to “get rid of the horse and get another one”….when that lady rides now — I see magic each time with the smile on her face and the relaxation she and the horse have when in each others company.

These above are just a few of the great and magical things I have seen this year. Not everything is textbook perfect…sometimes magic happens with heels up, body crooked, horse not quite balanced.  Quite a few trainers complain about having to teach people who are “not trying hard enough” or teach people who “do not know enough.” Sometimes these trainers grumble a bit about how hard it is to get someone to listen.

You will hear no grumbling from me.  From where I am sitting I have the most blessed job in the world…I get to work with many horses and riders throughout the year and I get to see magic — that moment where you see that connection happen … that moment where you see the rider smile and the horse relax — makes me realize that HORSEMANSHIP IS FULL OF MAGIC.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

October 2013 Riding Challenge Exercise

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

I thought I would start of October 2013 and share with you one of the Exercises from my Dr. Mike’s Horsemanship Riding Exercises ebook (available for all eReaders and from my website in pdf format).  Of course you can change things up a bit so take a few minutes and work with your horse through this exercise…I look forward to hearing your comments on how you and your horse succeed in complete this task.  Inserted here is a pattern and then the directions.

 exercise

Pattern:

1)Walk to cone #1.

2)Walk ½ way over (1/2 way means front legs of horse are on one side and back legs are on other side of the log (log = ground pole)) log #1 and side pass complete length of log both ways and then return to the center.

3) Trot over log #2 and trot ½ way over log #3.

4) Over log #3, side pass complete distance of the log both directions and then return to center.

5) Walk to cone #2.  Begin figure 8’s using cone #2 and cone #3 as guides. Walk 2 figure 8’s, trot 3 figure 8’s, walk 1 figure 8, then lope two figure 8’s with simple lead changes.

6) Stop at cone #3 and then walk straight to cone #4.

For added work — perform step 7 —

7) Back 4 steps and then spiral down at the walk going right, then spiral back out and change directions and spiral down to the cone again and stop.

Spacing –

1)Cone one #1 to #2 is 20 feet.

2)Logs are spaced 5 feet apart.

3)Cone #2 to #3 is spaced 28 feet apart

4)   Cone #3 to #4 is 10 feet apart.

 Share your thoughts on how this worked out for you and your horse.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

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.

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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at http://www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).

Talking with Horses

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

I am a real chatterbox when I ride.  When riding young horses for the first time I am talking and telling them what we are going to do and that something we just did was not exactly right but that we will give it another try.  I also talk with them when I am in the barn grooming them and I grumble at them when their stalls are a mess and they could have easily gone outside to the paddock to leave me the overnight presents.  I talk to them as I am coming out to the barn and I know they hear me when they look up and walk to the fence.  They also talk with me — they nicker, whinny, grunt, and a few of them have their own noises they make when we are talking.

So it dismays me when I watch people ride or show and never see them utter a word to their horses unless it is a harsh word.  I shake my head at some of the rules that are imposed in a few horse show rings.  Rules are rules and if you want to get those points you follow the rules…but I think there is a cost to horsemanship that comes from taking away the talking with horses.

When we listen to stories or read books depicting the cowboy way of life from the past — we hear of the cowboy talking to his horse.  Likely it was to give him something to do but over time — they became partners and this was another way they got the job accomplished.

Why is talking with the horse something that can help your horsemanship?

1) When you speak you are breathing.  When you breathe it helps you relax.  Now for some riders they can find relaxation very easily but there are others that the longer they ride, the less they breathe and the more stiff their riding becomes…and the horse responds by becoming stiff.  This relaxation is so important for many horses and riders.  I watch the rider over think what he/she is doing…become stiff…and the horse falls out of relaxation and gets stiff…mistakes are made and then the stress level increases.

2) For some people if they take the time to talk to the horse while they are working with him/her on the ground or in the saddle it helps the human talk through the plan.  It helps the human prepare, then execute, then review what just happened.  This is a natural outlet to think things through and sometimes verbalizing helps people review what is happening.

3) While your legs and seat and hands can physically communicate with the horse .. there are times when they seek that verbal help (watch their ears) to help them make certain of what you are asking.  Horses are noble creatures and they are herd animals and they want to join with you in the work (this has been proven and demonstrated by any good horsemen and horsewomen) — so it is natural that they want as much communication as you can give.

4) If you want more proof that noise making communication is important — take a seat near the barn where you have a newborn foal and mother.  You will hear her talking with the baby.  As horses grow they have their own noise making communication that they use.  Isn’t it natural to use one of their forms of communication in your own riding program.

So do you talk with your horses?  Do they respond?  When I talk with them and I hear them make noise back at me — I warm up inside and I know that I am on my way to having a relationship that will last a lifetime.  Share with me your story on talking with horses.

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).