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Three Common Mistakes that Erode your Horse’s Trust

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photo credit: The Whole Picture, LLC

Horses know good leadership when they see it because their lives depend upon it. We probably all agree that the ultimate relationship with a horse is one in which the horse looks up to you, wants to be with you and feels safe and peaceful in your presence. But all the groundwork and relationship building exercises in the world won’t help you develop this relationship unless you present yourself as a competent leader at all times.

In every clinic that I teach, people ask how they can get their horse to trust them more, yet I see them constantly doing things that show their horses that they lack judgment and make poor decisions. It’s funny that horses see this so clearly, but humans—not so much.

Your job as the leader is to watch out for the safety of your followers. Every time you give a horse a reason to question your judgment–because you’ve put him in a situation he perceives as unsafe–you’re chipping away at his faith in you.

Here are three common mistakes I see people making every day with their horses that give the horse good reasons not to trust their judgment and leadership. Watch for these mistakes closely the next time you interact with your horse; make sure that you are the leader your horse deserves.

Putting the Horse on a Collision Course

An obedient riding horse goes in the direction you dictate, at the speed you set, without argument. The problem is that horses are much more spatially aware than humans. Horses worry about the other horses in the arena and they expect the leader to watch ahead and prevent any potential horse-to-horse collision or conflict.

Most people are so consumed with themselves, that they are oblivious to their surroundings, including what the other horses are doing. Your horse always recognizes your lack of awareness, because his safety depends upon it. He sees the hazard even when you don’t.

I often see this when people are longeing or circling in an arena where there are other horses. First of all, let’s be clear on this, longeing a horse in an arena where horses are being ridden is dangerous and should never happen—that’s a pretty basic safety rule. At clinics, when everyone is doing circling work (and no horses are being ridden), people will still put their horses on a collision course with another horse. The horse always sees it; the person seldom does. If you do this, your horse starts doubting your judgment.

I also see this in the arena when all riders have their own agendas. The smart riders (and the good leaders) are looking well ahead. But invariably, there will be riders totally focused down on the horse’s withers, concentrating only on themselves, not even aware of their own horse let alone the other horses in the arena. Being aware of danger in the environment is such a basic job of the leader that it is hard for your horse to think of you that way when you are failing at such a basic task.

Putting the Horse Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Your horse may view any given situation much differently than you and he sees danger where you may not. We, as humans, tend to analyze, rationalize and justify the situation, while to your horse it’s simple—it’s either safe or not. I often see riders and handlers put their horses in very precarious situations, with seemingly no awareness that it was risky for the horse. Perhaps the rider had no awareness of how the horse views the situation. Or perhaps the rider made an executive decision to override instinct and go into an unsafe situation anyway because her logic tells her it’s safe (logic that the horse may not possess).

This happens at my clinics while we are working on teaching the horse to step back with a subtle hand signal. I always catch people backing their horse into a solid fence or worse, another horse. He knows it to be wrong and unsafe. People get so caught up in the exercise of teaching the hand signal, that they lose all awareness of the surroundings and abdicate all responsibility for leadership.

Similar examples from the ground include asking a horse to step into a trailer, then standing right in front of him so he would have to bowl you over in order to comply. He’s pretty sure he’s not supposed to do that. Or asking the horse to trot on the lead line, but remaining right in front of him so there’s nowhere for him to go without running into you. It feels like a trap.

When riding in a group, it’s your job to keep your horse safe. Still, I see riders pass between a horse and the fence. Entrapment! There’s a reason fundamental safety rules exist—and it’s a fundamental rule to never pass between a horse and the rail. Horses can be very opportunistic when it comes to aggressive behavior and many horses will kick, given this opportunity. Your horse knows that as well and he has good reason to question your judgment when he is the one that will likely take the blow.

Asking the Horse to do Something, Then Punishing him When he Does

Horses, by nature, are very willing animals that instinctively seek out approval and acceptance from the herd leader. When you are a fair and consistent leader, your horse will work hard to please you and will feel safe and content in your presence.  When you notice his efforts and praise him for giving of himself, then your relationship kicks to a whole new level. There’s no limit to how hard a horse will try to please you when the right kind of give-and-take relationship exists.

We humans tend to fall down on our leadership in some very gut-wrenching ways to the horse. Often I see riders give a cue to the horse, then inadvertently punish him for responding to the cue. The most common example of this occurs in the canter departure. The rider may lack confidence. The horse is cued to canter, then hit in the mouth with the bit when he does (because his head moves into the bit in that moment). It hurts his mouth and scares him, leaving him with the feeling that he is being punished for doing what was asked.

Sometimes I see riders miscue their horse then admonish him for responding to the cue given. Then the rider wonders why he suddenly stopped responding to that cue. A perfect example is seen frequently when the rider, with two hands on the reins, asks the horse to turn with the inside rein, then starts pulling on the outside rein too, effectively pulling the nose in two directions at the same time. Pulling on two reins to turn puts incredible undue pressure on the horse’s mouth. It appears to him that you asked him to turn, then penalized him with the outside rein when he did. In that moment, the mistake was the rider’s (it’s the leader’s job to be clear in her directives). The horse did exactly what he was told to do then was admonished for trying.

Being a good handler and good rider takes a lot of time and effort and a lot more awareness of the horse. The more we can think from our horse’s point of view, the deeper our level of understanding of his behavior and the more rewarding the relationship with the horse. They are complicated animals, perceiving much more about us than we do about ourselves. That’s what makes horses so therapeutic to our souls.

Seek out help and have others watch you—they’ll catch on faster than you about what cues you may be giving the horse. They’ll see what you can’t. Let your horse guide you. He won’t lie to you; he either thinks of you as the leader or not. If he’s resistant and argumentative, he probably has a good reason. If he trusts you and looks up to you, you’re a good leader.

Enjoy the ride!

—Julie Goodnight

Julie Goodnight takes on topics you want to know more about in her online training library—part of her ever-expanding Horse Master Academy (http://signin.JulieGoodnight.com) now with a free access membership to help you search for many training articles, videos and MP3s!

 For more thoughts from Julie, watch her Horse Master TV show each week on RFD-TV or catch the show online anytime at TV.JulieGoodnight.com and please subscribe to the free YouTube channel at http://YouTube.com/juliegoodnight and find her on Instagram at http://www.Instagram.com/juliegoodnight. Check out her full list of clinics and appearances at: JulieGoodnight.com/calendar

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP)

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by Jolene Green

I’m a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. About ten years ago I was introduced to horses. They changed my life. I quickly realized they could be a powerful force for hope, growth and joy for my client’s lives as well. I searched out and began practicing EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Assoc.), one form of EAP, but there are many, many other forms and  styles. When I tell people I do EAP they always ask, “What is EAP?”  Officially it means Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. As a professional, I practice a formal therapeutic style, but if you own or have the privilege of being a partner with a horse, most likely you have discovered every time you are with a horse, it is therapeutic.

You probably find yourself quoting “there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse” often, especially to your non-horsey friends, but have you ever wondered why?

Fortunately many researchers have asked that question with fascinating results. Dr. Anna Baldwin and Dr. Gehrke (there are others) in independent studies by measuring HRV (heart rate variability)  showed horses “seem to live in a coherent (happy, calm, peaceful) state” unless “scary situations” arise. When your heart is in “coherence” as established by The Institute of HeartMath, you are calm, joyous, in a state of gratitude, peace and well-being. Turns out horses live in that state unless frightened. Even then, as prey animals, when what they perceive as a threat passes, they return to their coherent state within minutes. Horses have VLF or ELF (Very LowFrequency or Extremely Low Frequency) heart electromagnetic waves. People not so much. These very low frequency heart waves are directly related to health and well being. People who don’t have enough of these are more prone to inflammation and PTSD, anxiety and depression.

The human heart puts out an energy field up to 8 to 10 feet, as measured by a magnetometer. A horse’s electromagnetic field is five times larger than the human one and is also stronger than ours. So within 30 seconds of touching a horse his heart will take over your heart and bring it to his level, helping us feel better. “Research shows that people experience many physiological benefits while interacting with horses, including lowered blood pressure and heart rate; increased levels of beta-endorphins (neurotransmitters that serve as pain suppressors); decreased stress levels; reduced feelings of anger, hostility, tension, and anxiety; improved social functioning; and increased feelings of empowerment, trust, patience and self-efficacy.”  (Dr. Maria Katsamanis & Dominique Barbier THE ALCHEMY OF LIGHTNESS)  This is a lot of scientific talk that tells us what we already know: being with our horse/horses makes us feel better.

A returning vet with severe PTSD came to my place, The Barn, after his wife called me saying if things didn’t change she was taking their 3 small children and leaving. She said he was angry, hostile, impatient and scaring their children. He came to 10 one-hour sessions. He never said a word. He just went to the horses (I have 10), pet them, kneeled down by them, stayed with them.  In one of his sessions, he leaned over my horse, Tina, and cried for an hour. Tina didn’t move. She occasionally reached back and touched him on the shoulder. On his last session, he walked over and said “They reminded me to be human. They helped me find my heart again.” He didn’t return. When I called to check in with his wife, she said she had her sweet husband back.

Another man called to make an appointment for his 15 year old daughter. He chose to stay for the session, sittiing in a chair just inside the fence. Tina (my Norwegian Fjord) walked over to the man, put her nose on him and stood that way the entire hour of his daughter’s session. At the end of the hour, I asked him why the horse was with him. He said “She’s comforting me. The reason we’re here is because my wife is an alcoholic. When she drinks, she abuses my daugher. The State told me if I don’t get my wife out of the house, they’ll put my daughter in foster care. I filed for divorce today and I’m broken hearted.”

Our horses are a privilege and a gift. They change our lives and our hearts. And, if you are like me, we never get enough. They are good therapy.

Julie Goodnight

Trust your intuition to avoid injury

By | Food for thought | No Comments

“Try That One More Time.” When it comes to horses, these words are often looked back on with regret. They’re often the words muttered right before something goes terribly wrong. Words matter. Sometimes we need to listen to the words that come out of our mouth and to listen to the voice inside instead.

I strongly believe that most incidents with horses are entirely preventable and if we consider an incident to be an opportunity to learn, not a failure, then we get safer and more effective with horses as times goes on. If you think about incidents as “freak accidents,” you’ve lost the opportunity to learn, grow and improve. There’s always a cause and effect; there’s always an opportunity to learn and grow as a horse person. Recently, I had a message from a rider that was sadly an all-too-familiar refrain. Here’s what the message said:

I had been riding seven months and was posting while trotting and doing 20-meter circles and reverses. We had ridden over an hour. It all clicked that day. I ended with a canter. The trainer wanted me to canter one last time. My intuition said no. I told myself to just do what she said. As we are cantering she (the trainer) is yelling use the crop, use the crop. [The horse] got scared, did a 360 and went into a full run. I hung onto the mane with one hand as she instructed then finally I fell. I couldn’t move. [The trainer] tried to pull me up. I told her not to. She assured me I was ok and the breath was just knocked out of me. I finally was able to get up in searing pain. She had me get back on and post and trot. I did, like a fool. All bent over, I untacked, put him up, drove home two hours. My husband rushed me to the ER. I had broken T-12, crushed L-1, fractured my whole vertebrae and had a concussion. I was told I missed paralysis by 1/8 inch. For three months I couldn’t lift more than the weight of a coffee cup. Riding brought me so much peace and joy –before this incident.

There are quite a few lessons to be learned here. Falling off is part of the sport and can only be entirely avoided by not riding, but while it’s a rough and tumble sport, I do not believe serious injury has to be a part of it. If we learn to not push the limits of our horses and our own abilities, if we learn to pay attention to that inner voice that often warns us when things aren’t quite right and if we let go of archaic and egotistical approaches, the risk goes way down.

Words Matter
I’ve seen many horse wrecks that started with the words, “Let’s try that one more time…” In several decades of work with the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to safe horsemanship instruction, I’ve learned these words to be a red-flag warning. What those words really mean is, “Even though I think we’ve already done this enough, and even though I think there’s a chance we’ve already accomplished what we needed to, let’s get greedy and do it one more time.” When it comes to horses, this kind of approach often backfires.

I’ve learned this important lesson myself over the years and I can think of more than one instance where ‘trying it one more time’ was the worst possible choice and resulted in a wreck and/or an injury to a horse or a rider. When we say things like, “one more time,” or “I’ll try,” or “maybe we should,” there is an unstated concern that something might not go right. When you hear words like that, why not complete the thought and consider why you need to do it again, what good can come of it, why do you think you might not be able to do it and why are you not sure of what the right thing to do is? Maybe just stepping back for a moment and reconsidering isn’t such a bad idea.

When you let words of doubt creep into your vocabulary, like “I’ll try,” it really means you don’t think you can do it. You are doubting yourself and giving yourself an escape. The problem is that horses respond to your level of confidence and determination, be it high or low. When you use words like “if” and “try,” you erode your own confidence and your horse may respond negatively as well—by challenging your authority or losing his own confidence. When you feel the need to use doubtful words like try, if, or maybe, just take a moment to consider why you feel that way. Is this a smart thing to be doing? Are you prepared and qualified to do it? And what good can come of this or what can go wrong? If the answers are affirmative, go for it and drop the ‘try.’ I AM going to do this! If any of the answers are less than affirmative, maybe rethinking or thinking it through, is not a bad idea.

Trust Your Inner Voice
When people are describing bad incidents with their horse, I often hear them say, “I knew I shouldn’t have done it, but my trainer/spouse/friend pushed me, so I did.” Our inner voice of wisdom is important and although it may not always be right, it’s worth at least considering. Far too often in hindsight, it seems clear that had you listened to that inner voice, the wreck may not have happened.

It’s important to hear, respect and consider your inner voice and to take responsibility for your own self—don’t abdicate that responsibility to anyone. Don’t let others pressure you into actions that you don’t feel good about. You know yourself and your horse better than anyone. You know your capabilities and you know where you are emotionally in that moment better than anyone. Yes, sometimes it’s helpful to have someone to gently push you into things you aren’t entirely comfortable with, but no one has the right to pressure and cajole you onto something you are not prepared for.

If you have realistic goals and an objective view of both your and your horse’s capabilities, then you should be confident in your own decisions and not let yourself cave into the pressure of others. Remember, your trainer works for you, not the other way around. Make your expectations and needs known and don’t be afraid to stop, look and listen when you hear that inner voice of warning.

Let Go of Archaic Notions
The idea of getting back on the horse that just bucked you off, is rarely a good idea, in my opinion. Whether you got bucked off or just fell off, chances are you are not in the best frame of mind to get back on that horse. Chances are also good that your horse is not in the best frame of mind either—he’s probably scared or anxious and something led to the problem to begin with. The adrenalin rush that comes from this kind of incident can often mask injuries that you may have sustained and getting back on may make the injuries worse.

When a rider comes off the horse, we’ll call it an “unscheduled dismount,” I prefer that she take a break, sit down and rest, get checked out medically if needed, get control of her emotions, debrief the incident, and only think about getting back on when ready. Maybe that’s today; maybe not. Often, I’ll get up on the horse after an incident, to settle it and let the rider see what’s going on. If the rider feels strongly about getting back on, that’s fine and I will support her as best I can. But no one else has the right to tell you to get back on. Not your husband, not your friend and not your trainer.

Again, take responsibility for yourself and don’t let yourself be pressured by others at times like this. Before getting back on a horse after an incident, think it through. What good will come of this? What would have prevented the incident from happening? Is my horse injured, physically or emotionally? What needs to change with my horse or with my own skills or equipment, to prevent this from happening again? Taking a little break—rather that is for an hour, a day, a week or longer, is not necessarily a bad idea. Think through what happened, how you may have prevented it, and what you would’ve done differently if you could. Armed with this kind of knowledge, you will come back to riding with more confidence and a plan to not let that happen again. Always give yourself time to heal—both physically and emotionally, after any kind of scary incident with a horse.

The sport of riding is a challenging and exhilarating sport that comes with a certain amount of risk that cannot be entirely eliminated. But we don’t need to add to that possibility by doing foolish things and taking unnecessary risks. This is a sport that takes years and decades to master and getting in a hurry and cutting corners rarely pays off. The same thing is true of training horses—generally the slower you go, the better the outcome.

Be patient in developing your skills and your horse’s training. Work with trainers that are supportive of your needs, listen to what you have to say and make good decisions. Learn to trust your inner voice and hear what it has to say. Let your rational mind be the judge of whether or not that inner voice has a point; don’t let someone else make that judgment for you. And finally, when a rider comes off a horse, take the safest and smartest approach—get medical clearance, take a break, debrief the incident and make a smart plan to get back in the saddle safely.

And don’t forget to enjoy the ride!

—Julie Goodnight, Trainer and Clinician

Julie Goodnight takes on topics you want to know more about in her online training library—part of her ever-expanding Horse Master Academy (http://signin.JulieGoodnight.com) now with a free access membership to help you search for many training articles, videos and MP3s!

For more thoughts from Julie, watch her Horse Master TV show each week on RFD-TV or catch the show online anytime at TV.JulieGoodnight.com and please subscribe to the free YouTube channel at http://YouTube.com/juliegoodnight and find her on Instagram at http://www.Instagram.com/juliegoodnight. Check out her full list of clinics and appearances at: JulieGoodnight.com/calendar

The deep connection I share with my horse

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There are hardly words for my connection with Six. It is so deep I don’t have a lot of words for it. It is a feeling inside that only him and I share. I know every single thing he likes and does not like, how to keep him happy without him doing anything besides looking at me. Communication in any relationship is important, but it doesn’t have to be talking. Six and I have our own communication together and we understand each other. His eyes tell his whole story. There is so much expression of love, angry, sadness, discomfort,  and happiness if you are listening. Every horse is so different like people are, some people are happy go lucky, or more on the lazy side. Six is very sensitive and his feelings are hurt very easily. He also does everything with love and meaning. He always gives 100% effort and try in everything he does. As a partner this teaches me to work harder, try hard, dedicate more not only to six but to our team together. Both teammates have to give 100% of their effort to do their best. Six is also very humble and kind, he doesn’t like to be the center of attention, just the center of my attention. He reminds me, even in a packed arena all that matters is him and I.

Every night when I tuck him in I sit in the same corner in his stall. He will always walk over and lean his head on my shoulder for a nightly ear scratch. After his ear scratch he nuzzles my hair for a few minutes before I say goodnight with a kiss on the muzzle. It’s not always about that one win of the barrel race or rodeo its about the deep soul connection with your best friend.

Kara Posch barrel racing

Carrie's barrel horse

Helping my ulcer stricken high anxiety barrel mare

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by Carrie Kapusta-kriel

I ordered Daily Gold a week ago and started using it on my ulcer stricken high anxiety barrel mare. She was on it for approximately four days before I took her to a barrel race. This horse walked in flat-footed and calm both days at the barrel race. She ran so well that I couldn’t keep up. Highly recommend it.

This is a horse that has had anxiety and also ulcer issues for the past two years, she would be in a lathered sweat just to approach the arena gate. She no longer rings her tail while being saddled. A friend of mine made a comment at the barrel race she had to come up to me to see if it was the same horse. That’s how calm this stuff has made my horse.

I am so thankful to have gotten to use this product because I was at my wits end, if you’re having problems getting it to stick to your feed try a little palm oil that’s what I do and my mare is a very picky eater, she cleans it right up!

Carrie barrel racing

Josie the wonder mare

By | Daily Gold, Get Your Horse Back | No Comments

Jose Shady Lady, Josie, is our 22 year old mare. This mare has been used for everything from reining 12-15 years ago, Jr rodeo (barrels and poles), broodmare and now our beloved lesson horse.

Before we started Redmond Daily Gold with her she would drop a lot of weight in the winter time and it would take a long time for her to shed and look nice again. We knew that weight loss sometimes is a side effect of age. We tried supplemented and more feed and didn’t really see much improvement.

We bred her for the last time 3 years ago and I was really worried about how she’d hold her condition over the winter especially pregnant. We started Redmond in the fall while she was pregnant and she kept great weight through the winter. Come spring time she shed out quickly and her coat looked amazing!

She gave us a jet black filly beginning of May 2015. Both Josie and the filly still get Daily Gold every day and both look amazing. I honestly don’t think Josie would have lasted another winter had it not been for Redmond.

Pictured is Josie a few days ago- 22 years young.

Keep my horses drinking on endurance rides

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Elicia Kamberg

I love endurance riding, seeing trails all over the US, going on adventures and hanging out with fun people but I want my horse to enjoy it too. Endurance horses experience stress from traveling and acid builds and bounces in their gut just going down the trail 50-100 miles. All are susceptible to ulcers and many are prone. I use Redmond Daily Gold to keep my horse drinking, their electrolytes balanced and to help keep their tummy calm. When I started feeding a mash with Daily Gold before a trailer ride I saw a improvement in my horses drinking during and after the ride. My horses are my babies and I love finding things that make their lives better.

Crossing stream endurance ride

What I did about my barrel horse’s ulcers

By | Daily Gold, Get Your Horse Back | No Comments

by Marika Skinner, Skinner Performance Horses

In 2015 I sent my main barrel mount away to Arizona for some finishing. While he was away, the stress of a new environment, hard training and not to mention the summer heat in Arizona was too much and he developed a raging case of ulcers. With the ulcers came back pain, behavior issues, weight loss, and a horrible coat. His eyes and coat lost their shine and you could tell he felt as miserable as he looked. After vet visits and diagnosing the ulcers we began treatment but the question came of how to prevent this from happening again? We began our search for a daily preventative. There are a lot of options out there and everyone will point you in a different direction. Most of the products suggested were not something we could have afforded long term. We tried a few with no real results and we came across Daily Gold at our local feed store and we figured we had nothing to lose. After even two weeks we noticed huge differences not only in his physical appearance, but his attitude as well! We had such great results with the one horse we implemented Redmond into our feeding program for every horse we have. We feed it to our babies all the way to our retired geriatrics. We will continue to use Redmond Equine for every horse that comes through our doors!

 

Horse with ulcers

Before using Daily Gold.

Horse after using Daily Gold for ulcers

After being on Daily Gold.

Julie Goodnight: Avoiding Feed-time Frenzy

By | Equine Health | No Comments

(Photo credit to Heidi Melocco, Whole-Picture.com)

Julie Goodnight takes on topics you want to know more about in her online training library—part of her ever-expanding Horse Master Academy (http://signin.JulieGoodnight.com) now with a free access membership to help you search for many training articles, videos and MP3s!

For more thoughts from Julie, watch her Horse Master TV show each week on RFD-TV or catch the show online anytime at TV.JulieGoodnight.com and please subscribe to the free YouTube channel and find her on Instagram. Check out her full list of clinics and appearances at: JulieGoodnight.com/calendar

If you keep your horses at home, you’ve probably already developed a routine that makes your job efficient and keeps the horses happy. But if you are new to this, or are looking for helpful hints to make your horse life easier, I’d like to share with you the ‘tricks of the trade’ that I have learned over the decades.

Feed time can be very stressful for the horses, especially when they are only fed twice a day. Nothing could be more unnatural to the horse, since he is designed to eat small amounts all day long. His digestive system is designed to always be full, so when he is fed two lump-sum meals that he finished within an hour or two, his stomach gets empty and he now has 6-8 hours or more to worry about when his next meal is coming. In addition to digestive and emotional stress, horses may also learn to act aggressively or rudely, which is reinforced as soon as you feed them. So it’s important to do what we can to alleviate the stress, by developing a good feed-time routine. Read More

Girls on horses

Our cost effective ulcer treatment

By | Daily Gold, Get Your Horse Back | No Comments

By Lauren Fischelis, Advanced PATH Intl. Instructor
binafarm.org

I am the Equine Manager at a non-profit therapeutic riding facility in Massachusetts. We have 14 horses in our program and about 90 riders a week. I have recently put all of them on the Redmond’s Daily Gold, having already had previous success with my own personal horse. I have already seen a major difference in all of them. Their coats are so shiny, they are all so relaxed, and their stomachs are doing great, especially our horses with a history of ulcers. Read More