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Hey Stacy, I was wondering, is 21 too old to teach some of the stuff in your videos?

“Hey Stacy, I was wondering, is 21 too old to teach some of the stuff in your videos? As I have a 21 year-old I’d love to do more work with. Thanks.” -Lydia S.

One of my refrigerator magnets.

One of my refrigerator magnets.

I was asked this question years ago by a young girl around the age of 13. She owned a  20+ year old horse. I told her that how much she accomplish would depend on her persistence and consistency and some on her horses willingness. She watched my demos at the expo and before it was over she bought my Bridleless riding DVD.

Several months later I received an email from her.  She sent me a link to a video where she was riding her horse bridleless! The horse was clearly a 4H type horse so her pattern looked more like a horsemanship pattern and her ‘rollbacks’ were simple pivots…but it was AWESOME! One young persistent girl and one older horse. I wish I still had that video link but all of this happened back in 2006 and the computer it was on died. I didn’t have anything backed up so it took all the info with it 😦

I can’t say exactly how far the stuff will take you…but I will tell you that it IS VERY POSSIBLE!

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2015 in Members Question, Training

 

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Are horses usually easy or hard to get started in mounted shooting?

Western Horse and Gun CoverI took up mounted shooting as my hobby and like most hobbies, I wish I had more time to dedicate to it. The sport is a combination of speed, control and finesse which are also traits that I look for in my reining horses. In the past two blog posts I have shown videos of Newt as he was introduced to mounted shooting (I will include them below also). Newt was pretty quiet about the shooting but that wasn’t the case with Popcorn, my main shooting partner.

When I took Popcorn to the mounted shooting shows (Step #1 in both videos) he was very reactive. He didn’t do anything dangerous but he would flinch each time a gun went off….all day long. He would start with a worried look too. The look would go away but the flinching stayed. I stayed persistent for several months and although Popcorn never did anything wrong he also didn’t relax. I considered giving up on him and even gave him the winter completely off. In the spring I was at an expo and talked with a pro who said that if I really wanted to do it I should keep trying. She advised me that she had seen horses eventually relax and become top competitors. Popcorn will be with me forever so I figured I would keep playing around with it. I am glad I did. After taking my time with him for two years we eventually moved from Level 1 to Level 4 (there are 6 levels) together while bringing home several belt buckles as well as being the Midwest Regional Express Cowgirl in 2013.

Not all horses are as easy as Newt was in these videos but many are. I wish I had thought to make videos of Popcorn and his journey but I didn’t. I do have a video of one of our runs once we got going. Mounted shooting clubs offer numerous divisions and levels making it a great sport to get started in to both improve your horsemanship and make some new friends along the way. I have enjoyed it as a hobby…maybe you will too.

P.S.- Tomorrow I participate in a Mounted Shooting Clinic with the MSA at the Road to the Horse!

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2015 in Training, Video

 

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I doubt my horses always see me as loving.

I have no doubt that I love my horses. I wish for them to be happy but to also reach their full potential. I desire this for them because it makes them more valuable in society which offers them the safety of a good home. I may not always be there to protect them but the training they carry with them will be.

But I doubt they always see me as loving. I’m sure at times they consider my ways ‘hard and steep’ as the verse below says. Though I can clearly see the plans I have for my horses, they cannot. They have to choose if they will believe me.

Some choose to follow me easily and others are a life long project. When God looks at me I wonder which he thinks I am?

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“When love beckons to you, follow him,

Though his ways are hard and steep.

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,

Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.

And when he speaks to you believe him.

Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. ”

-Kahlil Gibran

Can you see the heart their heads make?

Can you see the heart their heads make?

 

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2015 in Life

 

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My horse is tossing her head when I ask her to slow down or stop. What can I do?

“Hi Stacy! I have been following your blog for almost a year now and I love the knowlegde you share. I have a coming on 4 Year old filly who recently has gone to tossing her head lately when being ask to slow down or stop. Sometimes I almost feel hard on her mouth when she goes to jerking the reins when tossing her head as I am already applying some pressure. What could I do to stop this behavior? I wouldn’t like her to turn this into a habit everything I ask her to slow down or stop.”-Heather J.

As I haven’t seen you or your horse I am going to tell you some of the more common reason I have seen for this behavior. You can then determine if any, or a combination of any, fit your situation.

The first thing is the disclaimer on physical causes specifically teeth. Horse under the age of five are shedding baby teeth and all kinds of crazy things can be going on in their mouths. I have written several blogs about this topics so I won’t go into great detail here.

  • Inconsistant hands: Developing great hands as a rider involves the ability to move smooth and fluid. My mom told me to pretend I had ‘a little birdie’ perched on my hand and I didn’t want it to fly away. If that image doesn’t work then try imaging your hands carrying water. When the weather isn’t freezing cold try actually carrying water, or try my Egg & Spoon game anytime.  When your mare pulls you can also imagine your arms are rubber bands, they will give some (like a band stretching) but they smoothy return to their original position…which should also be where your mare finds a reward.
  • Straight and stiff: Horses are less likely to pull and toss their heads when they are bending. When I am training, as you saw in the Jac series, I teach a strong foundation of bending and counter bending. This is important because straightness and softness is more difficult to train. I didn’t say impossible, it is the end goal, but it is more difficult. Go back and watch the progression of Jac as he learns to counter bend and answer the question: Does my mare counter bend as well as Jac did at the end? Practice, practice, practice.
  • Stopping power: The stop shouldn’t be coming from only your hands at this point. If it is then you are likely using your hands for too much and your legs for too little. As a horse begins to understand the riders ‘body cues’ (such as leg cues and the rider shifting weight, etc) they shouldn’t need to be stopped 100% by the reins. It is possible to teach a horse to back up from leg cues. As you do this your horse will not require as much of a rein cue. Check out the video below to see how important the leg cues are in the stop.

The methods I teach on my Basic Body Control DVD as well as in pieces of the Jac series will show you methods for holding your reins during the bending and counter bending that are incredibly helpful for retraining your hands while still training your horse. Work your downward transitions on the four leaf clover pattern (shown in both places listed above) because you are more likely to have success there.

Also remember that training, and riding, a horse is like learning to dance together. It takes time and practice to become a strong team. Consistency in the number of days per week that you ride as well as the methods will also play a part in determining the outcome.

Video example of the importance of legs and stopping:

Video that shows Stacy and Jac still working on counter bending:

 
 

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In the round pen my horse just runs…how do I get her to pay attention to my cues?

“Hi Stacy! I have a question about engaging a young horse when working in the round pen. I notice that even in the first video with Jac, you were able to keep his attention and he responded nicely to you. I have a 20 month old filly that I just started with. When in the round pen she is so consumed with running in a circle that she does not respond to any cues. How do I get her to start paying attention to my cues?”-Christy

I love using the round pen as a training tool and there are situations where it is an essential first step but for many horses it is a better second step.  When I competed in the Road to the Horse and was working with a three year old that had never been haltered, the round pen was essential. It gave me the ability to control a horse that was big, strong and not trained at all.

In my years of ‘normal’ horse training at home I have used the round pen in a slightly different way, which is what you see in the Jac video below. This video is Episode 13 and if you look in the description you will see that I had worked Jac over the period of several weeks a total of almost six hours doing groundwork training on a long line. The advantage of having the young, halter-broke, horse online for several sessions is that I can ‘help’ them find the correct answer. In your case you are describing a horse that is running circles around you in the round pen. If you were to put her on a long line, even if you were still in the pen, you could give her the cue and then help her find the correct answer by applying pressure to the line. As she is already accustom to giving to pressure because she is halter broke she is likely to find the answer quickly. This is the method that you see me use in the Jac series if you watch all thirteen episodes up to this point.

One of the big reasons that I like ‘helping’ the horses by using the line is because I don’t have to work the horse as physically hard. Your horse is still young and although you could use only the round pen to get through this, you will likely find yourself working her physically harder than if you ‘helped’ her find the answers on-line first. If you go back and watch Jac in Episode 3 when he was dragging me around this behavior often translates into a horse that is willing to bang into the round pen, something I like to avoid. This is another reason why I like using the line to help them find the answer.

You can also do a blend of working her in the round pen with the line on. I once had a young lady come to me with her horse that kept jumping out of her round pen at home. I had her do two weeks of on-line ground training before going back to the round pen. When the horse seemed confident in the cues on-line she went back to the round pen and the mare didn’t try jumping. Although it was extreme, the mare had been doing what she thought she needed to do to survive. The on-line training helped her to see other options and stopped her from the dangerous attempts to jump the pen.

At some point I do like to test the horses in a round pen but especially with the young ones I enjoy the process of first showing them the answers on-line.

 

 

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My horse is a hard keeper. He is a very picky eater and won’t eat his feed. Help!

“I have an 8 yr old that is such a hard keeper. I’ve tried everything and nothing works, he is a very picky eater and doesn’t like to eat his feed. I am currently feeding him blue bonnet feed and he is on uguard, someone please help.”-Kaitlyn J.

A horse that won’t ‘eat like a horse’ is a concern. When I was in college and a horse showed symptoms of illness such as a fever, or snotty nose one of the strongest indicators of the degree of the illness, and the first question the vet would ask, was ‘is he still eating’? A horse with a lack of appetite has a strong correlation with not feeling well. For this reason horsemen and vets usually look for physical causes first.

Physical causes can include problems with the horses teeth, ulcers or other digestive pain. Even if the horse has had it teeth floated yearly I would still encourage you to get a second opinion. A friend of mine bought a five year old mare from a professional who assured them the mare was up to date on her dental work. When our equine dentist took a look he found that, yes, work had been done…but the previous ‘dental professional’ had mistakenly left fragments of a wolf tooth during an extraction. As a result the mares mouth had never healed properly. He was able to repair the damage and the mare had a remarkable improvement in her overall attitude. I encourage second opinions.Lack of appetite in a horse can be caused by stress,%0Aulcers, dental needs, or other digestive pain

Ulcers and other digestive issues can be a nightmare to detect. This is an area where getting your vet involved is a must. In the past, vets would recommend ‘scoping’ a horse to look for ulcers but many now say that it is possible to have ulcers in areas of the digestive tract where the cameras can’t reach. Because of this I have heard vets recommend treating the horse for ulcers and using the improvement, or lack of improvement, as part of the diagnoses. This is something that you should discuss with your vet because they will have the most accurate and up to date information and can tell you which treatment is right for your horse.

Mental stress can also manifest itself with physical symptoms. If a horse has changed living situations, had a buddy die or leave, or anything that they see as stress they may change their eating habits. Try looking at your horses situation through his eyes to find a hidden cause of stress. I have seen horses lower their stress levels after receiving ground work training which then improved their mental health even during general life.

I feed a low volume ration balancer because I have also found that some horses don’t want to eat large volumes of concentrate. The one I use is made by Buckeye Nutrition and it is called Gro N Win. I like it because it meets all of the horses vitamin and mineral requirements while feeding a low volume. Depending on my horses weight, age and use I am feeding between one pound to 2.5 pounds of this ration balancer per day. I have looked at other feeds and to receive the same nutrients the same horse would need to eat 8-10 pounds per day. I have had horses that have shown improved interest in grain when there was less of it to consume and I like knowing they are getting everything they need.

This last one may seem counter-productive but exercise often improves a horses appetite. Yesterday we took our horses for a long trail ride and last night they ate half-again their normal amount of the free choice hay they have hanging in hay bags. A few months ago when I took Al, the Thoroughbred, from New Vocations for a short time one of the things I observed before leaving their facility was that he had a habit of not finishing his grain. I questioned them and they said that he tended to eat more on the days he was worked. After a few days of adjusting to life with me Al’s appetite steadily increased and leaving grain behind was a thing of the past. He even adjusted to the fat supplement that I gradually added.

There are other ways to improve a horses appetite that may be unique to each horse. I once had a horse that would leave grain behind but if turned out in a group to eat they took it as a challenge and finished everything. Other horses find group feeding stressful and will eat less under pressure. With our current travel I have noticed that the horses prefer to eat the new hay…always the new hay. If we are carrying one type and start to switch over to another batch they pick out the new first. It doesn’t matter if the ‘new’ is a 1st cutting or second cutting or if the ‘new’ is a step up or a step down from what they have been eating…the only thing that stays the same is that it is new. This leads me to think that maybe they are enjoying the changes, like trying a new restaurant can be refreshing. When I think about it though I have seen horses in a pasture go around and pick one type of grass…all the clover first, then the timothy so maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise.

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2015 in Life, Members Question

 

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Being on the road is hard for the horse, how do you keep your horse sane? What are some of your tips while traveling?

“Being on the road is hard for the horse and rider, how do you keep your horse sane?  What are some of your tips while traveling?  And how do you get over the speed bumps along the way?” -Melissa F.

While it is true that being on the road can be hard on the horse and handler there are a number of things that can be done to make the experience much more enjoyable. Three things to keep in mind are: make it safe, make it comfortable and make it normal.

Just like anything else in life, travel is something that can be practiced and learned. The more you travel the more experience you have and the more well equipped you are on your next trip. Our kids were born into a family that traveled and it was normal to drive 16 hours to visit family or 18 hours to go to a horse show. Because our kids traveled so much they didn’t start asking ‘are we there yet’ until four or five hours into the trip and they consider three hours or less to be a ‘short’ trip…it is all in perspective.

Our horses have also been conditioned to think this way. The lessons that I teach during groundwork have physical and emotional elements and much of this carries over to the trailer. It is normal for me to haul an extra horse or two along to the vets or when picking up or dropping off another horse with no intention of ‘doing’ anything with that horse. They are just along for the ride. This way they can experience loading, unloading, balancing, standing, eating and drinking on the trailer. The horses also learn to relax because nothing is expected of them, there is no big show or high pressure events they are attending. We do enough of this that our horses seem to view a trailer ride much like a dog views a ride to the bank. I have even loaded horses in the trailer and driven them to the grocery store…just for more hauling experience!

We always make sure that the truck and trailer are safe and comfortable. We adjust the windows and vents for fresh air, although not too much if it is cold. We put bedding down to prevent slipping making sure that it is not dusty and we give them hay. We also drop the windows when we stop to allow them to learn to stick their heads out which makes watering easier.

We are also very aware that our driving habits need to be different when we haul. Sudden or quick turns throw horses off balance quicker than accelerating does and braking is an entire subject of its own.

Many people worry if their truck will have enough power to pull their trailer while not considering if it will properly STOP the trailer. Having brakes that are adjusted properly is a subject that major horse magazines bring up yearly because it makes a huge difference in both safety and comfort. Brakes that grab and jerk when you touch the pedal make it more work for the horse to simply maintain his balance.

Research says that a horse riding in a trailer uses the same energy to balance as a horse walking. This means if you haul for four hours it is physically similar to them walking for four hours. I use this as a gauge to decide what a horse can handle; a fit five year old will be different than an unfit twenty year old.

In general I think that people aim for keeping horses safe and comfortable but if there is an area they fall short in it is making hauling ‘normal.’ This might be for the lack of a trailer or the lack of time…but either way you need to be honest that this is what the issue is and not expect the horse to haul like one that is frequently hauled. In these cases you can also make some changes like doing extra work the week before hauling or hauling a calm buddy with your horse. Do things that will help keep them safe, comfortable and as normal as possible and always make the best decision for the horse.

 

 
 

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