Friday, March 26, 2010

How to create a frame

I see this question a lot: how do I get my horse to round it's back, lower its head, and work from behind? Actually, a great deal of the time people forget to ask the latter ("and work from behind"), not realising that it is not about the head but rather about the hind - that the head will follow the hind naturally and that the head really does not have to be 'played' with.

To start off, I highly recommend the following for your own further research into collection - how it is achieved, why it is achieved, and the involved biomechanics of the horse:

Sustainable Dressage - this blog contains a wealth of information I have yet to fully tap into thanks to the absolute overwhelming multitude of information presented!

Tug of War: Classical Versus "Modern" Dressage by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann - it is extremely enlightening and reveals a great deal of knowledge of collection via understanding the biomechanics of the horse. This is a vital part of any horseman's library.

Progressive School Exercises for Dressage & Jumping by Islay Auty BA, FBHS - this is just another of those simple books that contains a great deal of progressive exercises, but it is encompassed of exactly the types of exercises and patters that I use and recommend when teaching the horse collection.

In my opinion, I believe the comprehension of 'correct' collection (developing one's eye), the biomechanics of the horse, and how to achieve 'natural' collection are of the utmost importance to any rider/trainer/horse owner, regardless of the discipline. Regardless of discipline, it pays to teach our horses to use themselves efficiently. Firstly, such benefits a horse in relation to their soundness. Horses are not made to carry the weight of a rider and teaching them to carry themselves in an efficient and correct manner ensures they may carry the weight of a rider with little or no detriment to them physically. Second, teaching a horse to use itself in a correct and efficient manner better enables them to succeed in their chosen discipline. The cow horse, cutter, or reiner, benefit from collection in that they are balanced. With their weight shifted off of their front and onto the haunches, they may better be able to - with a freer front end - thrust forward into a gallop and slide into a stop or change direction rapidly. The jumper with its weight shifted onto its hind will have better propulsion over jumps, better scope, and better form.

The method(s) many riders are taught neglects taking into account the whole horse, the bigger picture, and instead focuses on individual physical aspects. Particularly, riders will almost obsessively focus on the head and on teaching it to drop, often via use of a martingale or draw reins or by bumping or see-sawing on the horse's mouth. There are many variations to this but ultimately a false frame is created whereby the horse is not fully engaged from behind. In lieu of the aforementioned, the rider needs to focus on the HAUNCHES. As the haunches are developed and the horse increasingly engages, the back rounds and lifts, the front end lightens, the horse raises its neck from its base, and the head drops into place according to the horse's level of training and strength.

The focus in developing true and correct collection in the horse should be on encouraging the horse to carry himself efficiently, by his own means - classically. This means patterns and exercises where the hands are light and guiding and the legs are quiet, that essentially 'enlighten' the horse as to what to do, but do not directly tell or force the horse into a particular frame. In this fashion, they only 'frame-up' as per their current training level and strength and their frame is one that includes relaxation. Furthermore, their frame is 'correct' and efficient. In such a way, the horse will simply 'come together' naturally, with guidance and refinement from the rider: the horse will start tracking up and loading bent hocks, tipping his pelvis. He will commence lifting his back, and his head will come down and he will reach forward to actively seek the bit. The rider's seat should be balanced and independent with no pushing so hard that the rider is leaned way back (as is often seen) and there should be no pulling back or holding of the horse's mouth. The hand closes as appropriate, and opens as appropriate, without moving. In such a way, the energy may be channeled and recycled through the horse - without actually creating or damming the flow through aids; the flow is already established by the horse and is simply guided through their body.

This is also where the Dressage Training Scale is vital, regardless of your discipline. Dressage is a foundation and regardless of your discipline, a strong foundation is a strong foundation - dressage offers that possibility for a strong foundation that will enable success in any direction later. The Training Scale is as follows:
1. Rhythm
2. Suppleness
3. Contact
4. Impulsion
5. Straightness
6. Collection
It is a progressive 'ladder' that is designed to be applied in that specific order, albeit each step will feed into and build off other steps. Place those six building blocks into a pyramid with collection at the top and rhythm at the bottom, you can begin to see how it is progressive and how each 'block' builds upon another. Keep in mind too that to have rhythm and suppleness, one requires relaxation. Thus one of the first goals in developing the horse should be to develop relaxation.

Relaxation is required for rhythm - the tense horse will be constantly increasing and decreasing its rhythm and tempo. To achieve such rhythm and relaxation, the horse must be both mentally and emotionally relaxed, which will then automatically reflect in a physical sense (barring any physical issues).

Once rhythm is established, we also find suppleness - the looseness and flexibility of the horse. Suppleness is comprised of both lateral and longitudinal components: lateral being sideways and bend along a circle (such as in the ribs), and longitudinal being along the horse's length from jaw to tail.

With suppleness achieved, the horse begins to seek contact. Where before the horse is expected to accept contact (ie, not evade the rider's hands), the horse who increasingly engages from behind and is relaxed and supple will start to actually seek the bit and chew it from the rider's hands with further progression of the training scale. This also requires a very forward thinking horse, hence the importance of developing and encouraging forward in the horse from the very start.

With contact we can begin to refine what we have and establish further impulsion, where the horse steps under himself further (engages) and sends power through the hind end to the rider's hand and to his front end (which lifts). Impulsion appears as a forward moving horse who is loose and supple; the hocks are engaged and bent (loaded) as well as far-reaching beneath the horse's barrel. This is achieved through willingness on the horse's part and not through constant nagging on the part of the rider. Impulsion should be thought of as THRUST. With thrust, the horse will increasingly seek the rider's hand - contact.

With the requirements of 1-4, straightness is mostly achieved naturally and ultimately is when the hind hoof steps in the line of the fore hoof (in collection though the hind may step slightly to the inside, but not to the outside, which would indicate the horse is traveling with its hindquarters in on the circle = crookedness). Straightness is achieved when the horse is supple and conditioned equally laterally (both sides are equally loose and strong).

With all preceding five building blocks established, we naturally achieve our golden goal of collection - it is not made or forced, but rather is the ultimate and simple result of the building blocks of the pyramid. The horse reaches further under but by engaging the hocks actually takes shorter steps and compresses its frame. The pelvis tilts and the croup drops, and the forehand lightens so that the horse appears to be traveling 'uphill'. Since collection is not made, the rider should ultimately be able to, on a fully and 'correctly' collected horse, be able to drop all communication with the horse (legs and hands), and the horse still finish the movement. This test is the result of the horse initiating collection and carrying itself; the rider is not creating the collection nor are they carrying the horse themselves. In such a manner, the rider may then further encourage and guide the horse to the highest level of collection.

The following exercises and patterns may be used in the context of the training scale to help develop the horse toward collection:

To achieve rhythm we first of all want the horse forward-moving, relaxed, and loose in its movements. This is partially achieved through the rider maintaining rhythm themselves (ride to music, to a metronome, or simply relax your body and ensure you create an example of rhythm the horse can then follow), in their riding. This means that at the trot, the rider posts in a rhythmic manner and allows the horse to move forward; if you have trouble keeping out of the horse's mouth, ride on the buckle - if you do not feel safe riding on the buckle, you've got work to do! Initially, you can have an instructor/equine-savvy bystander also longe you and your horse if you have trouble riding your horse on a loose rein; as such the individual on the ground can have control yet you can allow your horse the opportunity to relax and develop rhythm. In my experiences rhythm is often best achieved working along straight lines as opposed to circles, yet circles tend to relax the horse because horses move in circular patterns when stressed (check out Temple Grandin's work); this is where figure-8's along the long side of the entire arena can help because they include both long straight lines and some circular lines (plus, it is a specific, distinct pattern, which is also comforting to the horse according to its instincts). Rhythm is established through mental and emotional relaxation in the horse, which will result in physical relaxation and thus rhythm. I develop mental and emotional relaxation in the horse on the ground first, developing respect and trust, and teaching the horse to be calmer, braver, smarter in general. Under-saddle, patterns and exercises in general are calming to the horse, as are patterns and exercises that are circular in nature (as previously mentioned). Relaxation and thus rhythm are established through a general mindset and method on part of the rider, which might require a professional to help. Above all, it is established with soft, light aids, and patience and good leadership on part of the rider. The rider must remember to have very elastic elbows and a following hand.

This is obviously develope-able only when relaxation and rhythm are achieved. The next step then is to develop suppleness Travers, shoulder-in, side-pass, half-pass, leg yield, bends along a straight line (ie. come down the long centre-line and have your horse bend without leaving said line, using the least possible amount of leg and especially hands), circles, figure-8's, serpentines, spiraling in and out on a circle at the w/t/c - all great exercises to encourage and increase bi-lateral suppleness. The exercises should be done with light riding and should be refined to the point of little interference and guidance by the rider, where the horse is soft, accepting, and supple. The exercise book I mentioned at the start of this blog has some fabulous exercises to create suppleness, and an instructor usually has a number of exercises and patterns up their sleeve! Jane Savoie has a plus/minus poll-suppling exercise I will iterate at a later date: I highly suggest reading her books and purchasing some of her educational material and using the suppling exercises she describes.

The horse must be soft and supple and accepting of contact - meaning they are responsive to the rider's hands and are light, soft, and relaxed. With development and progression through the training scale, the horse will start to seek contact - he will push into your hands with a soft mouth and chew the reins into a lengthened frame if you allow him the lengthened rein. It is not up to the rider to establish 'on the bit', but rather the horse, when they are ready; if the rider progressively schools through the Training Scale, they will find the horse will not only grow to accept contact, but it will also actively pick up the bit in its mouth.

The primary exercise I use to develop forward and to start to introduce impulsion is the point-to-point exercise; I find it works brilliant with horses who are inclined to shorten and elevate rather than lengthen and move forward, as well as for those horses who would normally be classified as 'lazy'. This exercise was taught to me by Jonathan Field, who is a fantastic horseman. Another method of specifically developing a desire in the horse to move forward is to just move the horse out long and forward - drop contact and allow the horse to move forward in an extended trot (slight push with your legs, but [important!] do not nag the horse, or by posting higher in the trot) and/or gallop. You may also use jumps or hacking out to encourage forward. Giving a horse a job to do whereby he is naturally inclined to be forward can be greatly beneficial. Establish that forward thinking. To be clear, forward is different from impulsion, but one requires forward so as to develop impulsion. Forward is the horse moving out forward willingly and freely, in front of the rider's leg. The horse should stride out with momentum and energy. Impulsion requires the horse to THRUST from behind. To land with a bent hock and push forward with its haunches engaged as opposed to strung out behind him. A specific exercise that may be used to develop impulsion is one I learned from Mette Rosencrantz while watching her conduct a clinic last year: start out on a 20m circle, set up with 4 pairs of cones dispersed evenly along the circle. Start out by trotting half the circle and walking the other half the circle, sharpening the transitions, then progress the exercise to trotting through one set of cones (the horse has to go through the pairs of cones, no going around them!), and walking through the next, and so forth. Lastly, Rosencrantz had the riders trot the 20m circle, slowing through each second set of cones, then, once rider and horse had a good grasp of that, slowing through each set of cones. The horse was already forward-moving and the rider did not pull back to achieve downward transitions and a slowing in pace. They simply relaxed into their seat, tensed their abs, and closed their hands. When asking for an upwards transition or to increase the pace, they were asked not to use leg but to open their hands and to pick up their energy. The rider should not have to use leg because the horse should already be forward thinking. With the latter part of the exercise, the horse was asked to slow to a near-walk, without actually walking, then to pick up an upbeat trot. In such a way, the horse was naturally balanced onto its hindquarters and would gather and compress itself, without losing forward momentum. Once the exercise was completed successfully on the 20m circle, it was then completed on a 10m circle, which you will find much more difficult! The key in developing thrust from behind is developing strength in the haunches (ground poles, jumps, hills, trot work all especially target this) and transitions transitions transitions.

Is achieved through achievement and development of the prior building blocks of the training scale and can also be further refined through exercises such as the shoulder-in. An instructor can provide one with additional exercises to work on that will further develop straightness in the horse and to be a person's eyes on the ground (particularly as you develop the feel for when your horse is straight versus crooked)!

The goal and ultimate result of achieving the first 5 components of the Dressage Training Scale. Once the prior components, and thus collection, is/are achieved, all that is left is to refine and further shape what you have, to continue along a continuum of increased collection.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How to make money training horses

Yes, possible as well...when done in a smart, business-sense fashion. I'll describe a couple of criteria/scenarios where it can work, and where it will not work. While I do not believe that someone can earn a sufficient income training to fully substitute say a high 5-figure or low 6-figure career, I think someone can easily earn a supplemental income training horses, if done in a specific, market-savvy way. Not only is this obviously beneficial to you, but you are usually also providing a second chance to a horse that deserves it but might not otherwise get it - the horse that just needs a little help up to find a good home. In my experiences indicate that most people do not understand how to train, so if you have the talent and expertise, use it, because there is a niche for you.

Own your own facility
Or train at one that allows you discounts (etc) for training horses there (or better yet, who pays you to be there and allows you to bring in your own horses for a reduced fee). You'll probably need arenas (or at least open space, preferably fenced), round pen, barns, paddocks/pastures, and good footing!

Client horses do not make you money
Usually, and especially if you have to board them out! You'll make very little and though you'll think you can count on say $2,000 a month profit for four horses...something always comes up. You'll spend more in fuel, you'll have to get some additional or new pieces of equipment, etc, and by the time you're finished, you really were not paid much, if anything, for your time. If you're a BNT who can charge a thousand or more for showing and training at your own facilities, well maybe you are making some money then. Usually though all that happens is you end up working your fingers to the bone without much to show for it. On the other hand, client horses are an excellent way to get your name out there (WOM is invaluable) and to gain further experience. Just be prepared to always be professional and to have a thick skin.

Have an eagle eye
For the deals out there. The gems for sale people do not realise they have, the horses going for cheap or auction who only need a little special touch to turn their luck around, the horses who are going for cheap because their owners have no interest/opportunity to turn them around for a higher dollar (ie. racehorses off the track often go for meat price but could be flipped for anywhere from $1,000-$7,000, even in this market), for the 'problem horses', etc. Keep one eye on the market and watch for the exceptional deals out there to buy, (re-)train, and sell later. If you've got the property, buy low in the fall/winter and sell high in the spring/summer. Put some show experience on your project and make it versatile (ie. trail rides, rides both english and western), in addition to furthering it in its particular discipline. We purchased a Thoroughbred off the track for meat price whom we could definitely have sold high immediately afterwards - his original owners and breeders just didn't want to put the time into him. He has fantastic dressage movement, also has hunter potential, and is, as a coming-six-year-old now, packing around beginnger/intermediate riders (including an 11yo girl). He packs well in the mountains and could be shown easily. I know of one individual who would regularly pick up lovely registered Quarter Horses and turn around and sell them, at times without touching them, for much more than she had paid - sometimes double or triple what she had paid, without even investing any money into them at times. I also know of several barns that buy horses off the track cheap and re-sell them as hunter/jumpers for much more than they put into them. I have been offered horses I knew I could easily have flipped had I had the time and money at the time. One was a 5yo imported Dutch Warmblood gelding. The owner was having difficulties with him and offered him to me for a mere $5,000. This was back when the market was good, too. He was well over 16hh and was an absolutely gorgeous dark bay with beautiful movement and plenty of athleticism. He was not a true problem horse, he was simply too much horse for his middle-aged, fearful owner - she needed and wanted something quieter. She had the money to spend and did not mind practically giving away a horse for a fraction of his true worth (once he was tweaked further). Another example is our Paint horse, Cody. I originally took him with the intent to flip; he was given to me when his owner ultimately decided he was too much for her. He had been abused in the past and was extremely fearful and distrustful of humans. In the end though, he ended up too good to sell so he is with us to stay, but a solid palomino Paint with good looks, a willing attitude, and an incredible saddle horse - he is priceless (I have already had offers on him, actually). We recently purchased a Hano-bred jumper filly (coming 3 this summer) and were able to get a good deal on her - her owner passed on the good deal they originally got on her. I have the feeling she will be worth more come this summer as she fills out, and I know with absolute certainty (by researching what is comparable out there) that she will be worth double what we paid once I start her under-saddle. Of course we do not plan on selling her, however she would have been a good investment to flip as well. The deals are out there, you just have to know what to look for and to have the eye for a good horse.

Choose wisely
If you choose project horses to train, you need a good eye, experience, and/or a mentor to back you up. Choose horses you would want yourself. Choose good minds and temperaments, athleticism, good conformation, and a horse suitable to its chosen discipline (yes, even according to the latest fads such as colour and movement/body type). The friend I spoke of who flipped Quarter Horses always chose horses she was drawn to - beautiful, solid buckskins, palominos, etc. I swear those horses always sold within minutes. They were never on the market long. Choose what others are drawn to and what you would love to have standing in your own barn.

Be prepared
If you work with project horses, fair warning: do be prepared to have to keep the horse longer than you anticipate. Sometimes shit happens and the horse does not sell for whatever reason. Budget to figure out where you stand, what you can spend, and what is your lowest selling price. Keep a close watch on your finances and the market. Also, make sure you have the experience to flip horses for a profit and always be prepared to take the horse's best interests into account. Apprentice if you can, observe/work with/learn from other trainers in your area first, then take on some client horses, preferably with help first. Take on the young unstarted horses first, then move on to problem horses if you have got the expertise and the touch.

Most people are looking for show horses they can eventually compete on, so the more competition you've got under your belt, the more potential buyers will trust you, and the more competitions your sale horse has got under its girth, the more valuable he becomes. Even old broodmares. Horse & Rider featured an article last year on a broodmare whose owners tried to sell a few years back. The mare did not sell immediately so they decided to try her out under-saddle. She turned out to be exceptional under-saddle, so they started showing her. She won multiple national championships and the mare worth only a few thousand to start (and not selling) was now worth something in the 5 digits. It pays to compete and by competing you not only get your name out there, but you also get your sale prospect's name out there.

Give your horses the edge
Teach them everything you possibly can, from standing under tarps to trail riding in the mountains, a reining/dressage foundation, jumping (if applicable), clipping, bathing, shoeing, showing, etc. Make them amateur and youth-friendly. Most people buying horses want a versatile horse they can compete on but also enjoy out on the trails, who is not spooky, and who has a lot of experience under its belt. They want more bang for their buck. Make your horse stand out with additional experiences and training.

Learn how to efficiently and effectively market and sell your horse. Learn what sells and what does not.

In short, there is money in training horses - if you do it the smart way. Most of the time this is not by taking on client horses (though doing so is still important), but rather by taking on projects with the intent to sell. The key is to have an eye for good projects, horses who have a low purchase price but who will have a high marketability later - horses who allow for the least amount of risk possible. Start out small as you learn the ropes!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

How to make money breeding horses

Disclaimer: this is just my opinion, based on what I have observed and discussed with successful breeders. This blog is written with the intention of maybe enlightening a few, particularly those who are struggling to breed - maybe here are a couple tips that might help you tweak your program, from I have learnt thus far.

Ok, first off, yes. It is possible to make money at breeding, contrary to what some naysayers will tell you (don't believe me, just go talk to some of the successful breeders out there and you will find ones making money who worked their way up from the bottom). I am not saying that breeding horses will ever fully provide you a proper income, particularly if you have a family, but they can certainly pay for themselves, your ranch, and earn you a little profit. Are you ever really making enough money to cover all your time? Probably not. However we donate our time to such endeavors not because we want to be rich, but because we can make enough money and because we love the lifestyle and being around our horses. I do not have enough fingers to count the farms out there who obviously are making money at breeding horses, including friends of ours. The key is to do it intelligently and according to the market. This usually means you are breeding high-end, in-demand horses such as (but not restricted to) Warmbloods, Sportponies, racehorses (as per the current market), and western performance horses (ie, cutting and reining). Racehorse breeders who are making money though are ones who are already established, who put in great investments over the years, and who are raising the great horses - I definitely do not recommend the average person go into horseracing intending to make money because you most likely will not. The successful ones are out there, but as I said, they already had the start-up money and are well established in the industry so the gambling risk is lower. As it pertains to breeding Warmbloods, while I am not knocking the Clyde/TB, Perch/TB, etc 'Warmblood' or 'Sporthorse' crosses (love them, actually), most individuals are not going to make money raising these horses - it becomes instead an expensive hobby. To make money, you really have to cater to what the high-end market demands. Figure out a niche and what the high-end market demands, and you've got it made. So on that note, here is the criteria I have drawn up, that is necessary for one to create a profitable business:

1. You have your own property and facilities
Facilities that include, as the bare essentials, good fencing, paddocks, shelters, and preferably, a barn. Sufficient grazing pasture and hayfields is a plus that will greatly increase your profit margin and that could make the difference, dependent upon your area and local hay costs, between making money and not. On a related note, the ones who are paying for these $50,000 or even $10,000 and $20,000 horses are coming to your place expecting a place appearing 'worthy' of raising a $50K horse, regardless of whether or not your place is just as suitable to raising such a horse as a multi-million dollar facility. If you have just the bare essentials, consider boarding your sale horses out locally at a nice facility that creates a good impression. Good fencing, shelters and barns that are in good condition, etc, are a must.

2. Breed only the best to the best
With the goal of creating a foal better than its parents. You might not have the dollars to invest in a 50K or 20K mare to start, however you can start small and 'breed up'. Start with what you can afford but invest in the best quality possible - well-conformed mares suited to the discipline you intend to breed for (ie, Thoroughbreds to breed to Warmblood stallions). You can also choose older mares who can be purchased at a deal at the end of their breeding career, but who still have a few years left to produce a few premium foals for you - choose broodmares who consistently produce high quality foals. Choose stallions who are in vogue but also who have the bloodlines that count and who have proven to pass on their abilities, who have progeny successful in their respective disciplines and who test well in their registries. Keep back the best and breed those to the best. Don't be afraid to cull a mare if she proves she cannot successfully produce high quality progeny - do NOT settle and accept less! Eventually your goal is to obtain fillies with breeding at the top of the game, whether initially bred by you or not. By 'breeding up', you ultimately create a decent broodmare band for yourself and you create horses who will sell for a decent dollar and thus afford you the ability to go out and buy the quality mares who are worth top-dollar. Pay attention to current trends and what is winning in the rings. Talk to BIG successful breeders to gain wisdom as to what bloodlines mix best, which are the most successful competitively, etc.

3. Make your horses stand out
This includes picking the best bloodlines carefully, the bloodlines others are going for and maybe cannot get. Watch the up-and-comers and get foals out of them before others do (this takes a good eye and a lot of knowledge!). I know breeders who put in orders on quality semen of top-of-the-line stallions who have recently died, just prior to said semen becoming unavailable. They pay attention to the market, much like a stockbroker would, and buy what is 'in' and purchase semen that will increase in value quickly. They either sell the banked semen later or breed their mares later for a foal out of "So and So" who is now deceased, whose foals are in demand.

4. Compete
The best way (maybe the only way, at least when you are first starting) to make a profit is to do this yourself rather than paying others to do it. Compete your horses - your mares, your progeny, everything. Get your own name out there, your farm's name, and your mares' names and those of their foals. Take your mares and foals to the top of their discipline, if possible. This means winning multiple Championships, Grand Prix, etc.

5. Breed for amateurs
While your foals might have what it takes to make it to the top, most of your purchasers are amateurs and that means breeding good, amateur-friendly minds. You or I might be capable of dealing with the difficult, challenging horses, but if you want amateurs - which make up the majority of your market - to purchase your horses, they have to have solid, easy-to-train-and-ride minds and temperaments a.k.a. rideability. They need to have solid basics, which means your foals are handled throughout their time with you. For your babies 0-2 years of age they should be used to being clipped, bathed, shod, trailered, stalled, asked to stand in cross-ties, blanketed, tacked-up, touched all over, etc. They should be well-behaved, mannerly, respectful, quiet being longed, used to weight across their back (2 and 3 year olds), free-jumped (if applicable and age-appropriate), and should lead and tie well. They should also be registered and tested/inspected in an appropriate registry, accustomed to the show atmosphere, etc. Make them stand apart or at least on par with other high-quality babies their age.

6. Look for the deals
Like quality proven broodmares who can no longer be ridden and who are going for a decent price, quality mares who are being sold cheap because their owners do not realise what they have, quality mares who are being dispersed because their owner went under, 'problem horses' who have great temperaments underneath but have simply been mis-handled or mis-managed. Foals in-utero or on the ground or weanlings that are going for a more affordable price (say, 5-10K) but whose value will increase exponentially later.

7. Gather the knowledge
You need to have knowledge of the industry(ies), have a good eye for horses (and for the potential in horses), and know your bloodlines. You need to know your business inside and out. This is not a business for the faint of heart, the inexperienced, or the non-equestrian. Do your research, do your time in the industry, and consult with the successful and wise.

8. Buy only the best
Buy the best you can afford and work your way up. It costs just as much to feed and train 'crappy' and non-marketable mares as it does the quality ones, so feed and train up the quality ones who are going to earn your money back.

9. Do not try to use your own stallions
As a whole, and not at first. Eventually you might produce something of exceptional quality, but your best bet really is to sell it to someone who is going to make use of that quality and make a name for you (or do so yourself). Unless you are going to take that stallion to the Grand Prix or Olympic ring, there will always be another stallion better than him. Furthermore, there is no absolute guarantee your stud will pass on his talent. Instead, breed to the stallions who are proven, have top-notch bloodlines, and who have strong competition records. If you are going to compete a stallion and he does decently well, you can of course still be successful (and save some breeding fees), however your room for error and your profit margin will be smaller unless you have absolutely outstanding mares and your stallion somehow really stands out. You want to breed to stallions that complement your mares specifically, which will likely require outside stallions. If you are going to stand your own stud, make sure he is outstanding!! As in, he possesses all the aforementioned qualities and can command a high stud fee because he is in demand.

10. Be prepared
This includes being prepared to put in a financial investment and being okay with not seeing your return for awhile (it will take many years for the average person to build up a quality self-sustaining herd that actually turns a profit), as well as surrounding yourself with the appropriate mentors, contacts, and people who will and can help you - people who are successful themselves. It pays to be personable and to be a sponge open to learning! Research your market - watch advertisements of horses bred and sold within the market you intend to target. Take note of not only what is offered for sale, but what sells - take note of what type of horse sells and at what price. Budget your costs to raise your foals and plan accordingly - choose your focus according to what is successful in the current market.

As in any business, the best way to make any money is to do all the work yourself - the breeding, the training, the raising, the marketing, the competing. When you consider all the time you put into it you really probably do not make enough to cover all your time however most people do not expect to be paid to do their hobbies anyway! If you can make enough money to pay for your farm and live comfortably, you are doing a great job. Another thing to consider is professionalism: it's a small world, so it pays to always stay professional and be honest, and to make a good impression on those you meet.

A couple of successful examples I wanted to provide:
Some family friends of ours worked their way up from the bottom. She competes all her horses and currently has horses who sell in the high 5 figures, including foals who sell in-utero and on the ground for $10,000-$20,000. She started with Thoroughbred mares and gradually bred into the Warmbloods. She now has some of the top foals at inspection in Western Canada and some outstanding foals who are bred to the hilt and worth their weight in gold. These horses pay for their ranch and for the purchase of the next broodmares.

Another friend currently breeds sportponies. She stands her own quality pony stud who is not only accomplished himself, but is also very marketable (ie. in colour, temperament, type, etc) and breeds him to quality Thoroughbred and Warmblood mares for sportponies that sell for 5 figures across North America.

If you think about it, if you purchase, just for example, a mare for $10,000 who throws a $10,000-$20,000 foal next year, she has paid for herself by year one. By year two she has paid all her upkeep expenses and possibly has also caught up on her foaling and vet expenses. By year three or four, she is potentially earning the profit to help build your herd. By the time you have built up a quality, established herd, you are turning mostly profit. Be prepared for it to take a lot of years though, this is not a business that turns a quick profit, but rather an investment with long-term profit goals and benefits.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Poor Training

This is the last in the series influenced by Cathy's FHOTD, but I thought I'd highlight on a couple things she said; actually not to personally 'attack' or even 'out' Cathy herself, but just to highlight piss-poor training practices that I see quite often, Cathy and her blog aside.

Fugly says: February 22, 2010 at 10:46 am
"I’m also not opposed to tying around in moderation. 15, 20 minutes, fine. Not hours and certainly not days. Then you stop teaching anything and just create soreness and anger."

Her reason, as quoted and explained to a poster who commented on the statement above:

"It teaches them to give to either side without a fight and makes it easier to do the same thing from the saddle. They learn to simply give their nose to relieve the pressure and then do so willingly for the rider. I don’t see anything wrong with it. My trainer does it with halter, not even a bit."

I am strongly opposed to tying around, for two primary reasons:

It is not just one little training technique either, but rather is the result of a mindset, the same mindset who will also be forcing the horse overall and where the horse's dignity and respect for the horse in the overall method is not taken into consideration (usually). As I have said before: why should the horse do what we want? He doesn't know we pay his bills. This is a partnership that involves give and take and honestly, I feel the best way to work with a horse is to have them want to work for you. In such a way they will try their heart out for you and their best interests are served. Since it is a part-ner-ship, the horse has a say as well. Horses can enjoy our company and they can certainly enjoy riding - yes they can even enjoy working in the arena and using themselves athletically. At the very least, if we can pay the horse some respect, they will start to choose to do as we ask and what we wish, even if it is not something they are overly excited about, because they respect us and appreciate our company and working with us.

Tying around is about force, and can be a quite dangerous technique, even for 15-20 minutes (plus, 15-20 minutes is a long time to have your neck held in one place for an extensive period of time!! Try holding your own neck in one extreme position for just one minute and you will find it quite difficult). First off, you've got the horses who have never been taught to think through a situation carefully and/or who do not do so naturally on their own. Push them into such a situation and they will fight, because you are effectively taking away their mode of escape and thus causing claustrophobia in the horse. Imagine someone restricting you from running away should the need arise, and furthermore, restricting your view of your surroundings. You are a prey animal and, from your perspective, could be preyed upon at any moment - so you fight. Of course many horses will quit after a moment or two of struggle, particularly 'quieter' breeds such as Quarter Horses. However you take the risk of a horse not calming down and flipping itself. If the horse struggles to an extreme and gets up (ie. into a half-rear or such), it cannot free its head to re-balance and thus will flip over completely. Secondly, you also have the horses who have previous 'emotional baggage' and where tying their heads around would just be too much pressure - and you might not know until you have already tied their head.

To negate the above associated physical risks to the horse (nevermind the mental and emotional force one is inflicting upon the horse, who is supposed to be your partner) is...well, not all that honest. I have seen the mental and emotional damage such training methods incurred on horses, ruining otherwise good horses. Last year I was prepared to purchase an Argentine Warmblood mare who, unbeknownst to me at the time, had had her head tied around when she was first started. Naturally being a bit resistant anyway, this mare did fight - and flipped over backwards. Onto a panel of the roundpen she was in. She now has permanent scar tissue over her spine and cannot use her back nearly as effectively as a horse without the same injury. Not to mention that she is extremely sour and difficult to work with. Such a gorgeous mare, with a ton of potential (her brother is an Olympic prospect and she had what we thought to be similar jumping caliber) and excellent bloodlines...effectively ruined. I can honestly say with absolute certainty that a few of my own horses and horses I have trained in the past would have reacted the same way with potentially similar consequences had their heads been tied around. It is just too risky and not worth it to your horse, particularly when their are other methods of teaching the horse to give to pressure:
A) Teach your horse to give to pressure in general. Move his hindquarters and front end around, teach him to sidepass off of pressure on the ground, to lower and raise his head, to lift his feet to pressure, to back to pressure, whatever you can think of. Get your horse light and responsive so that his first response to a feather light touch in the right area (in combination with intent in your body language, you should be able to otherwise simply touch your horse wherever without it moving off) is to relax and move away from the pressure, rather than to fight it.
B) Teach your horse to give to pressure on his halter/bridle on the ground first. You can simply stand at his shoulder and ask for little bits of give, asking increasingly more of him until he is (eventually) flexing his nose to his girth area without a fuss, relaxedly, and to a light touch. By standing at his shoulder, you can easily follow his movements. If he moves too quick, back up and ask a little less of him to make sure he understands the basic concept of giving to the pressure. In addition, you can also always carefully loop the leadrope over the horn (half a loop or one loop only so that it comes loose) and carefully ask the horse to give to the pressure, from a few steps back/away from the horse. Without actually tying the horse's head though, there is room for error and you can always release your hold (hold, never pull, that way the horse can be the one to relieve the pressure). Later in the saddle, do the same thing. Personally I do do a bit of this on the ground, however I just find it easier to do most in the saddle as part of one of the very first things I teach the horse. I teach them the Porcupine game on the ground but usually ask them to flex their head in the saddle - I teach this prior to even teaching them to move out, that way I have an emergency stop should I ever need it.

So in short, there are better ways that do not involve forcing your horse.

Onto the next topic, I felt this poster said it best in response to something Cathy said:
February 22, 2010 at 2:02 pm
"First, a comment about the blog. It is NOT OK to “crank them in a circle and boot them after they’ve tried to buck you off”! Horses do what they do for a reason, they react to things. Find out the reason: pain from saddle fit, the bit, feet hurt on landing, body sore or just badly ridden causing fear or pain. Or the anticipation of pain from all the above, especially TB’s. Or any number of reasons, but to say “they tried to buck you off” is taking it personal as if the horse is doing it TO you, like a blame the horse thing when the horse is bucking in response to pain or other stressor. However in the few instances where the horse is really trying to unload you. I’d be looking for reasons for that too, like the horse is truly not broke and in that case shouldn’t be in a show ring anyway. It’s too easy to blame the horse.
In response to your question, I would submit a written letter..."

I really liked the response because I had not considered before (for whatever reason!) that when we punish a horse for bucking, we are taking it personally (imo). The horse is not doing it 'to' us but is rather simply responding. I just thought it was a brilliant way of putting it. Like I always say, a horse who is exhibiting a vice (such as bucking, rearing, biting, kicking, whatever it may be), is simply communicating in the only way it knows how. They cannot articulate their feelings in english so are left to body language. When their 'whispering' does not work, they are forced to increase the 'volume' of their 'speak' until we listen, which can include 'shouting' (ie. bucking, rearing, etc). It is not something to take personally - just listen up and respond!

fhotd says: February 22, 2010 at 2:08 pm
"If you read this blog, you know perfectly well that I always tell people to look for a pain source FIRST. However, some horses DO buck TO BE NAUGHTY. This is a fact. You will never convince me otherwise. In those cases, it is appropriate to make them chase their tail and give them a good you-were-naughty-and-you-know-it boot in the ribs. This is not a punishment that should break the skin or traumatize the animal in any way, shape or form. You do it briefly, immediately and then you move on."

Horses do not just buck to be naughty, plain and simple. They might buck because they do not want you up there or because they are not comfortable with humans in general being up there, but a) they would have provided other signals first and b) they are not doing it 'just because'. There is always a reason, though it may not always be physical pain. They could most certainly be doing it because they are retaliating and are feeling 'rebellious', however it's not a simple 'he's naughty' move: if he's feeling that way towards you or your riding, figure out why and fix it (which often means 'fixing' yourself as the rider, or your approach)*. This is why I say you can work out every issue, including bucking, on the ground first (provided it is not a pain issue, of course). It is not okay to simply boot the horse around in response to a buck. If the horse bucks, it is doing so for a reason - figure out the reason, correct it, and problem solved. Sometimes it means earning the horse's respect, earning their trust, or working more in partnership with them, but booting your partner on a small circle is just plain disrespectful to him.
* I realise I made it seem like the horse is making a personal response toward you, however the fact of the matter is the horse is not doing it on a personal level, though they could be responding to what you are doing, personally. When we take it personally it leads to an aggressive response in lieu of an assertive one, which is detrimental to our response to, and relationship with, that horse.

My Thoroughbred Link was a classic case of what other horsepeople would have considered 'naughty behaviour', which included bucking. On the track, he kicked out at other riders (the people in the saddle specifically, not the horses!) while galloping, and often kicked at people on the ground while walking down the shedrow and on the hotwalker. I do not think it was because he absolutely hated people or anything (though it is true he didn't trust them) - no one actually abused him or beat him by any stretch of the imagination, but he was frustrated and was venting at what he saw as the source of his problems: the people who held him back on the track, the people who made him wear a lip chain (I could always see him visibly relax when it was removed, and I'd always get a relieved or 'happier' 'feel' from him when the lip chain was removed), the people who kept placing him in his stall for 23/7, and the people who punished him (as per 'normal' horsemanship) when he was acting up out of frustration, fear, or excitement. People were a constant factor, to him, whenever he experienced things that made him unhappy. When I first started riding him at home, he did buck - often. He buck, he spun, he leapt, he reared, he did it all. Never once did I boot him or punish him in any other way, shape, or form. Actually, I even stopped riding him altogether for a period (oh, the horror, haha), primarily because I felt he was too dangerous - it was not worth the risk to me. We worked everything out on the ground. There, I found he had a severe distrust of humans (again, not because he was beat or anything, just because he was handled similarly to how Cathy advocates and it, combined with the general track life, clashed with his type of temperament). One night I was doing a figure-8 pattern with him on-line on the ground, and as he passed me, he nailed me good in the leg. He had given me all the signs that he was nervous having to go between me and the barrel in that direction, but I had thought it was ok and pushed him. So, on one of the turns he finally kicked me (quite hard!) - he was acting offensively defensive ('I'll get you before you get me' mentality). Immediately, he spun around and backed up to the end of the line, eyes huge, nostrils flared, entire body tense - he knew he'd 'done wrong' and expected me to come after him. Instead, I cursed under my breath, gathered myself (and boy I was mad! Somehow pain just has a way of doing that, lol), took a deep breath until I was calm, and continued on as if nothing had happened. Immediately I noticed a change in his demeanor, like he released some of that tension and relaxed just a little. I wasn't going to come after him, even if provoked, and he knew it and could trust me a little. A horse has to trust you and has to know that whatever happens, he will be ok. He needs to know that he can have utmost faith in you, that even if the two of you were attacked by a cougar and he had to 'disobey' your initial request so as to get away, that you would not be angry and punish him but that you instead would help him out. He needs to know that you will work in partnership with him, that you will not interfere or hinder him, but that you will help him think clearly and provide a safe and relaxed environment for him. You need to be assertive, but never aggressive, and usually punishment like 'booting the horse around' comes with aggressiveness, emotion behind it, and thus you create an unstable energy (rather than a strong leadership energy) and inspire fear and disrespect in the horse by taking the behaviour personally. I will point out in the above case that gradually Link's behaviours have disappeared with time. I would never ever anticipate his kicking me on the ground again, even if pressured, and he very rarely explodes under-saddle at this point (and if he does, he is now quickly recoverable and his reactions are not strong and frustrated). I anticipate everything will dissipate given time, just as they continue to decrease to this day. I've used the story and example of Link a number of times now, but I feel it's just your classic case and example of how not booting a horse around and otherwise punishing it, can work.

Another gem from Cathy's comment section a short while back (not from fugly though):
February 22, 2010 at 8:46 am
"Anyway, most stock horse trainers you see “jerking, yanking, spurring” are trying to get their horse to perform in a certain manner. They’re trying to get the horse rounded up (via draw reins), lifted in the front (via high port bits), hip moved over or rounded in the back (via constant spur contact in one side or the other), etc. Once the horse has learned what is expected of him, that kind of training is used very infrequently unless the horse “falls apart” and needs tuned back up for a show. What I see happening that’s abusive is uneducated people emulating the spur work, the high port bits, the draw reins, and the rein work but they have no idea what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and when to stop. Almost all top trainers use the method of releasing the method of discomfort when the horse is performing correctly.
I attend and compete at the highest level of stock horse competitions, plus get my young horses accustomed to show traffic at open shows, and I can tell you in all honesty that this is one of the biggest problems we have in front of us. The gap between the successfull, popular trainers and the do-it-yourself amateurs/up-and-coming trainer/youth rider has widened to an almost unsurmountable canyon."

I just wanted to post this as a scary thought - this person claims to compete at the highest level of stock horse competitions!! This is what some at the highest level looks like! The thought sends shivers up my spine. What this person is doing is not creating a frame - any frame created through a high port bit, draw reins, and rein and spur work (I don't care how 'gently' it's done), is a false frame. I absolutely guarantee you the horse will be croup high, that you will see unparallel cannon bones at the trot, that the horse will be strung out, that the back will be tense and hollow, that the horse will not be working from behind, and that the horse's best interests are ultimately not being served. Spurs are for extending the heel, not for 'pushing' the horse into a frame or lifting the belly up, draw reins are almost only ever going to create a false headset (with exceptions), and high port bits are meant only for the most intimate communicate between horse and rider - not to elevate the front (because they don't). Know how you can accomplish the elevated front, a horse working from behind, and the correct 'headset'? Patterns. Exercises. Gently and progressively moulding what the horse gives you. Spurs, draw reins, high ported bits - incorrect and not required and used in the fashion this poster describes - downright abusive. Know why there is an 'insurmountable canyon' between amateurs and these types of pro's? They (amateurs) are emulating how you're doing it, they're just not as 'smooth' at it as you - and neither of you are correct! Amateurs might be worse at 'disguising' what you do though, it is not that you (pro's riding in such a fashion) are doing it correctly!! The pro's who are not riding like this are the real ones to watch and the ones who are doing it properly. Even if there is a gap between amateurs emulating those pro's (those doing it correctly) and the pro's themselves, you will not see the type of treatment and abuse we are seeing among the amateurs who are emulating the pro's who are "jerking, yanking, spurring”, because their 'idols' are not "jerking, yanking, spurring" either.

Cathy's response to a different comment (the OP's comment being the one in the >><<, within fugly's response): fugly says February 22, 2010 at 10:48 am ">>Turns out, I asked about him from the previous abuser what was up with him not liking to be cinched up? He told me he never rode with a tight cinch, he would keep it loose and just yank it tight while riding.<< If you mean tightening the girth after you’re up, we do that all the time. Most horses bloat to some extent and nobody wants to eat dirt. That said, a horse should never be cranky about cinching if you do it slowly and give them walk breaks in between pulls. That horse probably has/had a rib out. Call the chiro.

Firstly, to Cathy's credit, she is right on the latter half of her response, that a horse shouldn't be cranky about cinching and that it should be done slowly and amongst walk breaks. Something else I wanted to put out there to think about/consider (to elaborate): if your horse is bloating up on you, you might be doing something wrong (usually, I have found in my experiences, thanks to my own mistakes and what I have been taught - hellooo little black pony!!). If most of your horses are bloating up on you (so much that you are in danger of eating dirt), you are almost definitely doing something wrong!! Bloating often points to a discomfort on the part of the horse, whether mentally and emotionally or physically. It can signal ulcers or it can signal a horse uncomfortable with your approach under-saddle or with being under-saddle and having a rider, in general. Start doing your girth up in stages, and start working with your horse in such a way that he actually enjoys working with you and is not going to bloat up. Secondly, if you eat dirt anytime your girth is loose, I have to point out that your seat is possibly not all that independent and evenly-balanced. I have ridden (at a gallop) with a loose and flapping cinch before (no, not on purpose of course, my mistake, haha) without eating dirt - because I had a solid, independent seat (of course I fixed it asap), and I have seen professionals do it to demonstrate their point. I am not advocating for riding with a loose cinch or girth of course, but I am just pointing out that a loose cinch, especially one caused by a horse bloating, should not be enough to (usually) cause you to eat dirt; of course it will for some, but then perhaps it is a sign of what you can work on (although sometimes shit just happens though, I understand that!). I actually very very rarely have to do up a girth after mounting; I do the girth/cinch up prior to leaving the barn, once or twice during groundwork, then I check it before mounting. The girth will loosen, however your horse should not actually be bloating (you should not see your horse's stomach inflate when you touch the cinch/girth), and certainly not enough to cause your saddle to slip so bad you eat dirt. Lastly, your cinch/girth does not have to be suffocating tight, just snug enough not to create rubs and to prevent slippage. In my experiences most people cinch up their horses way too tight.

Lastly, I just wanted to more openly publish the following conversation between Cathy and a reader of her blog, because I found it interesting, and a good point(s) by the blog reader:

February 22, 2010 at 2:37 pm
"I know you are not a fan of the foundation quarter horse shows, but you might find a lot of what you are discussing here has been addressed with them. Many of the members my FQHR affiliate has are coming out of AQHA or other breed shows because these issues. ‘Horse Care’ is the FIRST section of the rulebook and it says:
“It is expected that each Foundation Quarter Horse shall be treated humanely with kindness and respect at all times. This Registry will make an earnest effort to educate and encourage breeders, owners and exhibitors for the benefit and well being of these great horses. It is the desire of this Registry that these horses have the opportunity to display their great natural ability not hindered by drugs, surgical alterations or inhumane treatment. Our position is to hold to the highest standard of integrity in treatment and care of the horse.”
I have personally know of cases were people have been removed from the club for treatment of their horses and none of those cases were even close to what was described here and in the video!
They also address HYPP (although FQHR does banish the entire Impressive line rather than basing this condition on testing). I’d like to see a HERDA rule coming out since that one is more likely to affect our type of cow pony. They also do not allow performance points on horses under the age of three years old. Not that we don’t have our own problems but I think if you looked into some of these clubs you might find more pros than cons. I know they don’t encourage the “turnout” that you would like (although I have never seen anyone DQ’d for grooming).
A friend of mine emailed me in horror when she read your comment a few months (?) back where you stated that foundation shows were “un-shows”. She emailed me because I am involved with FQHR shows and she had attended several shows with me… so she was shocked that you commented against them (she’s a regular reader , I’m not). Personally I thought that the term “un-show” was awesome! That does describe a lot of what we stand for… I also thought it was HILARIOUS that you made the comment that “rules forbid things like clipping or nice tack or show clothes, so basically I don’t know what they are showing off”… since if you take away all of those things all that is really left is the HORSE and that is what I think should be the most important thing at a horse show! Just my opinion!"

fhotd says: February 22, 2010 at 3:50 pm
"I know…but I gotta tell you, I HATE that shaggy look. HATE IT. HATE IT. HATE IT.
To me, that’s just not a show. To me, a show is like a beauty pageant…showing up in a flannel shirt and not shaving your pits would take too much away from it. You can be pretty and not abused – really, you can!
My other gripe about foundation shows is the lack of equitation/horsemanship classes. I have a huge problem with that, because riding ability counts and I don’t like the idea of the inference that it is so meaningless that we won’t even have a class that judges the rider."

Foundation Quarter Horse says: February 22, 2010 at 4:33 pm
"I guess to each his own on grooming styles… I shave ears (although not as close as if showing AQHA halter) simply because I think it’s a good thing for them to get used to. I also clip jaw line and muzzle, just because. No one has said anything about that to me. Clipping done but not as extensive as YOU might like!
I love, love, LOVE the long manes… I have evened out a filly that rubbed some off but that’s about it. I like the hippie mane look over the short trimmed or pulled manes. And by no means does that mean that they don’t take just as much grooming time! I think they take more on most of my horses to keep them clean, conditioned and braided so they keep growing and look nice.
I’m an officer this year in our club and we are planning equitation clinics in addition to working cowhorse, reining and handy ranch horse. We don’t offer classes at the shows but we do try to get our members to focus on this aspect. Most of our membership are very good riders, you need a pretty solid seat to stay with some of the cutters that compete with us!
Beauty pagents aside, our main focus is on versatility. So we want to see horse and rider combos that can do it all! That is after all what the ORIGINAL Quarter Horse was all about!"

I think that looking at AQHA shows as a beauty pageant is what has got us into the trouble we are in - stallions and mares in their teens with multiple halter championships under their belt yet who have never been ridden. The very same horses whose musculature and skeletal conformation just does not hold up under-saddle: big double-layer muscles with stick legs and miniscule feet. WP horses being tied with their heads up, for hours, so that they will carry their heads lower in tomorrow's class, all in the name of 'fashion'. These shouldn't be beauty pageants. I am not saying not to groom your horse, but honestly, these horses should be useable and I think more emphasis needs to be placed on a horse's physical abilities, athleticism, conformation, and temperament, than the way they are groomed, the glitter on their tack, and whether or not they can appear and move according to today's fashion fad. This is not a runway, these animals are meant to be used and thus should be judged as such. In regards to the grooming, horses have those whiskers and hairs for a reason - hence the reason they grow them in the first place. When we clip out their ears, remove all eye and nose hairs, etc etc, we strip them of nature's protection, navigation system, etc. For what? For us? Because we like it? Yes, I do clip jawlines (not to the bone though, I use scissors just to trim it up and make an even line), whiskers (not short though, just so they are even and maybe not 8'' long, lol), and feathers for a show or to make a good impression at times, but that is the extent of my grooming. To each their own of course as to what look they prefer, and I certainly realise that show horses should look groomed and presentable, however perhaps it is time to look at things a little differently and to remove our personal appearance likes from the equation - make it more about the horse.

I think that is sufficient fodder to consider for the day!!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

When horses (don't) attack

Ok last but not least, I wanted to comment on the following that Cathy posted a recent blog about:

[sorry, I had initially embedded the wrong video however when I linked back on youtube to the correct video, to obtain its embedding code, it had already been removed by its poster. Sorry to any who missed it, it was a pretty neat video!!]

Here is Cathy's blog. Now I am not saying that the parent should not have been more careful. Heck, the very first time I saw the horse turn its hind end towards the child, I held my breath in fear, hoping someone would rush in and save the day. However that is really neither here nor there. We are not there to judge the situation.

First off, yes, of course the horse intended to knock over the 4yo. It is not even a question of whether it was a stumble or an intended knock. But it was not a 'horse attack', it was simply a horse being dominant over a kid who was annoying it, much as it would a foal who was acting disrespectful. If the parent did not want their kid bowled over by the horse, they should have reprimanded the child before the horse felt it had to. However that is besides the point. People and parents make mistakes (and perhaps the parent misjudged the horse's body language, though that thought makes me nervous) and in this case both parent and child were (apparently) lucky.

Just going over the video quickly, I wanted to point out:
0:13 the horse turns its hind end towards the kid once, warning it
0:15 the horse pins its ears at the child, steps towards it, and gestures to it with its head, to scat
0:20 that doesn't work, so it turns its hind end towards the kid again...and walks away, removing itself from the situation
0:31 child runs after the horse, so horse again turns its hind end in, and trots away
0:38 finally the horse has had enough; the child follows it again, so it sideswipes her (and even then, the horse moves slow enough and lays back its ears to the kid during its initial move, that had the child bopped out of the way immediately, as the horse indicated, the horse clearly would have stopped itself)
That poor horse gave not one, two, or even three warnings, it actually gave the child (and by extension, camera-man) FIVE warnings that it wanted the kid to respect its space and back off. Just putting it out there. I do think that whoever was watching this could and should have halted the incident before it even occured, however like I said, 'accidents' happen, common sense is not always all that common, and some people just cannot read equine body language.

I actually take issue with two individuals on this video though, hence my reason for posting:

First, I take issue with the poster of this vid with its kind captions. Mr.Poster, you are yet another media source who is so thankfully spreading the word of 'attack horses', sort of like 'attack of the clones' or something of the sort. This horse did not attack and you are just another who is spreading the word that horses, and animals in general, are dangerous and not to be trusted, that they are unpredictable. Thanks to videos such as this one, I am then yet another equestrian burdened with exasperatedly explaining to the next non-horsey individual that *sigh* no, horses are not dangerous attack animals (seriously). This is mis-reading, mis-interpreting, and mis-representing animal behaviour. If you are going to make a bold statement such as 'horse attacks four year-old', please then at least have the sense of mind and respect to investigate and speak with professionals beforehand, to properly represent this animal's behaviour. You claim to be a doctor, for heaven's sake, please do your research and be careful with your videos. Videos such as this grossly mislead the public in regards to animal behaviour and are yet another shovelful of sand creating a rift between animals and people, which only leads to poor consequences for the animals (which ultimately affects us as well). If it is clearly a joke, fine, post away, but when a video seriously asks such questions, I just personally feel it is misleading and harmful.

My second bone to pick is with Cathy Atkinson.
"I doubt it registered on him that the small, noisy thing was a human."
You are joking, correct? Are you now telling people that horses cannot tell the difference between a small, yappy dog (complete with a wagging tail, very different movements, and different body language), and a small human? Please forgive me, but I have to side against you on this one and say that horses are not that dim. I can tell you for a fact that a) horses in general can tell you the difference between a dog and a human child, and b) this horse was aware of the difference. My brother and I used to play with our horse herd growing up all the time and I can tell you they knew the difference. At one time I went missing (yes, this is the classic story all mothers who have horses seem to have, lol). My mother went to find me and alas, finally did. Between the hind legs of my dad's Quarter Horse x Arabian (and she threw to the Arabian side) mare. Playing with her tail. That mare loved all babies, from human children she carefully packed around, to foals she stole off of other mares. Actually, she still takes care of young human children - she is 30 this year and is still team-penning with a friend's young kids. You cannot tell me she did not know I was not a human, as opposed to a dog. Not only do I think she would have made the connection due to the interaction between my own mother and I, but she drove off any dogs, coyotes, or other such animals, yet cared carefully for my brother and I. My own horses regularly drive off dogs. Not only have they learnt to drive off pesky coyotes, but they also have learnt to drive off the Sheltie that annoyingly circles and nips at them at one of the places I board at. Yet they would never chase off a human child the way they would a dog or coyote the instant they recognise the animal - head snaking down, teeth out, ears back. Animals just are not that dense.

In addition, the horse did not 'smoosh' the child, it knocked the child over. Very carefully, in my opinion. Several times, that horse could have (and I thought it would) double-barrel kicked the child. It could have bit the child. Or run over it with its front legs. Even stomped the child into the sand. But it didn't. Instead, it strategically hit the child with its barrel. Moving purposefully sideways. This is just my opinion, but I have never seen a horse take out a dog, coyote, or any other such predator in such a fashion. It is the type of maneuver I could imagine a mare using to knock down a cocky foal who was bugging its elders. Or, a child. A maneuver that is not likely to cause irreversible harm, but a maneuver that is likely to get the message across to the youngster, human or equine alike. A horse would never expose its barrel to a predator with teeth (such as a dog), who could rip its belly open. It would do so to something it felt was harmless and simply needed a lesson in respect. That horse was simply doing what the human parents should have done - teaching the 4yo some respect (and it toted the child around the next day??! What a saint!!).

Now, my other bone to pick with Cathy is in her black-and-white statement that 4yo's should never be allowed in the pasture with horses. While I strongly advise parents to have careful supervision over their children, a) kids will get into trouble at times and you cannot have your eye on them 24/7 (though of course you can do your best to prevent situations such as this and this is a bit of an exception with someone filming the whole thing), and b) we cannot bubble wrap our kids. I learned a lot of innate horse behaviour by playing with our horses and our entire herd (save for one colt, haha, but we learned pretty quick to be careful around him!) was very careful and safe with us kids. Now while I do not recommend doing what my brother and I did at our age (obviously mom and dad were busy with their eyes elsewhere at certain, rare, times), however we lived to tell the tale and learned a lot in the process. I do not think that the situation is a blind, 'never allow kids in the pasture', but instead it should be:
1. Teach your child to respect animals, including the horses, and teach them animal behaviour (as much as you can given their age)
2. Set boundaries for your kids and supervise as much as is possible (Cathy, have you ever even babysat any rugrats? Those things are everywhere! You are going to miss some things...of course this situation is a little different though, but still).
3. Allowing your kids to interact with the horses, in pasture included, in my mind, is ok, provided the herd is comprised of 'safe' animals and your child is supervised and accompanied.
There is much more to this one and I know I'll want to bubble wrap my kids one day too. But we can't. Shit happens, and most horses are ok with kids, even in a pasture setting; it simply depends upon the scenario. It's not simple black and white. I can actually recall my mom chastising me from a distance as I walked in amongst our herd of cattle (regularly). I cannot recall why she did not walk in and scoop me up herself, though I seem to recall it likely having something to do with a fear of spooking the cattle over me or accidentally goading a cow to charge in the wrong situation. Anyways, even supervised, you cannot control everything your child does. My mom was within speaking distance but of course I did not listen and would walk right in amongst the cows and pet them all. I can recall this one yellow and white cow in particular whom I always loved to pet - out in the pens and pasture. Those cows were quiet, safe, and always took care of me. Of course it did help that my parents never kept any nutcases or dangerous cows around (and I did listen when instructed if told to stay away from someone obviously dangerous, I remember instances such as that), but still. I do not think that the answer is to bubble wrap our kids and lock them away from everything. Instead, educate them and do what you can, but they should also have experiences. I just don't buy the 'horses are all dangerous, keep them away from our kids!' theory. Sorry.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wonder Rider

This time the FSOTD blog post was in regards to a girl who can (gasp!) ride!! Yeah. It sort of inadvertently happens when you are around horses a long time and have ridden a lot, Cathy. You sorta learn to ride along the way. I will refrain from remarking on Cathy's own riding habits despite alleged years in the saddle, but honestly!!! What the girl is doing is certainly nothing special, for a young lithe rider who has spent years in the saddle. Check out the video Breathe.

Such riding should not usually be necessary however - for the most part. The 8yo Paint I trained last year had bucked off his owner as a 4yo and had not been ridden since. When I first worked with him on the ground it was obvious, just as with the first horse in the video Breathe, that he was going to buck if I got on him (exact same displays of behaviour). He was fearful, reactive, and dangerous (and studly, to boot!). When I did saddle him my first week with him, he immediately humped up and acted like he was about to explode. And the first time or two I worked with him on the ground with a saddle on his back, he did explode, in much the same way as that first bay in the video. SO I DID NOT GET ON. I worked with him on the ground, had a few tense moments here and there in the saddle later, and eventually (over 60 days) produced a horse who was henceforth ridden on a daily basis by his owners on their ranch. One of our Thoroughbreds (my main guy, Link), whom I acquired late 2008, was extremely explosive under-saddle when I first got him. So much so, that I quit riding him for several months until I could sort out his myriad of issues on the ground first. He would just explode under-saddle (and on the ground, of course) and there was absolutely no stopping him. Now however, he is going great and is currently working towards showing Training Level dressage this year. We worked from the ground up though and thus I never had to invite his head nailing my nose into my brain, because by the time we got to the saddle work, he was ready for it.

I am not saying this girl is wrong in getting on (to each their own and she is not abusing the horses, plus we only see short clips of her actual time with each horse so cannot propose to know the full story), but the method she is using really does invite possible injury and it does escalate the situation, which can result in a terrible experience for the horse and/or a horse/rider injury or even death. Just for me personally, it is not worth it. I can and will ride through a buck or two, or even more if necessary (and my main Thoroughbred does have panic attacks every so often still yet that I usually ride through), however if the horse is going to full-blown explode such as did some of the horses in the video, and (seemingly) often - I can and will work it out on the ground first, because it works and is safer. The bay horse at the beginning of the video is clearly upset, reactive, dangerous, and not focusing on the individual longeing. Safe to mount? Nope. If he is not paying attention to the person on the ground, there is no way in hell he is going to pay attention to a person on his back. Work with the horse until they are safe, relaxed, and focused on the ground, then mount up. I know many proclaim it impossible to work through an under-saddle problem with a horse without riding it, but that simply just is not true. The reasons for problems under-saddle: tension, fear, disrespect, are all root causes that can be resolved on the ground. The loose, supple, relaxed, trusting, respectful, happy horse is going to remain so under-saddle (to an extent).

I just kept thinking throughout watching the video: sure the young woman has a nice velcro seat, but she is on the horses' mouths quite a bit (though she is actually decent in that respect, and I do not blame her with the bolter in that particular scenario), is using spurs (such as with the grey Arabian) to push already fearful and reactive horses forward (which carries the high risk of increasing the horse's fear response because you are increasing the pressure), is seemingly always carrying a whip (which she uses for punishment, though granted it is simply a dressage whip and she only taps lightly)...and man, that's just a lot of horses that buck under her!!!! Why do they all want her off? I love the challenge and associated rewards of working with the tough problem horses too, but they don't all buck by the time we progress to under-saddle work! In fact when they do, I know I have pushed them too much (which sometimes is necessary with a horse in training, unfortunately, just due to the logistics of time constraints, but not to that extent). There is the bay at the dressage show - if he was such a problem horse (who nearly flipped over backwards), what is he doing at a show? Was he really ready yet? Is that correct training and riding to be applauded? Or is it a mistake on her (the trainer's) part, or even ill training? Granted it is rather difficult to judge from my seat at my desk.

The 'after' clips do show improved horses and so I have to applaud that. I personally don't like every detail (some of the nosebands, tense tails/backs, riders' loud legs, possible hand-dominated headsets [??], etc), however I am being a bit picky because the overall picture is one where the horse is obviously much happier and more compliant than initially. Also, I appreciate this girl's philosophies. Like I said, overall she is creating useful horses out of former problem horses and is trying to educate people along the way, so I am not trying to sound overly down on her (sorry!). Her methods simply differ from my own and those I admire, and that is ok because she appears to still be doing good by the horses (which I respect, because it is what is ultimately what is important). I just thought Cathy could have featured something even better I guess; the rider in question is a good rider, but not beyond what I would expect of someone experienced with horses and who is training problem horses is all. Furthermore, I do not think that what she (the rider, that is) is doing on those horses (as an experienced rider who knows how to get out of sticky situations and how far to/not to push a horse) is recommended for the average rider, as Cathy obviously believes (heck, Cathy tells beginners to take note in her blog!). Cathy also points this out as being better than what Linda Parelli was doing - how so if they ultimately produce the same (and in my opinion, Linda's methods can produce better, but that's just my biased opinion)? I can personally attest to the Parelli method turning out horses with similar and better behaviours of the 'after' vids of the horses in question in the video, because I have done so myself, using Parelli methods (including on horses formerly deemed 'untrainable' who later turned out to be fantastic dressage/jumping/youth prospects) - and often without the 'chaos' in between. And this LACK of pissy behaviours Cathy speaks of? The horses were definitely going much better in the 'after' vids, however I did see some pissy behaviours afterward.

Here is an excellent 'after' for a problem-horse. Gaston is a former stud and was quite dangerous at one time. Parelli Natural Horsemanship, btw.

Here is a video of another problem horse, Quincy, trained by Jonathan Field (the instructor I initially learned Parelli from):

I can assure you none of the above riders used spurs or whips and they did not 'ride out the buck' (etc). Also, they have successfully dealt with many a problem horse since! What they do, I would (and do) definitely recommend to beginners.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fugly Shit of the Day: Part II

I just recently quickly perused the comment section of Cathy's post I blogged about the other day concerning Linda Parelli - most was just repetitive BS and whining, and no, I did not read all 550+ comments (I do not wish to garbage quite that much time), however I did pay particular attention to Cathy's comments. See, I was never aware of Cathy's existence until maybe a year ago or so when one of her little sheep snarked at me on a forum and quoted Cathy - if Cathy said it, it must be right!! Since then, I admit I have not really devoted a whole lot of time 'researching' Cathy or her past, so I wanted to read her some of her recent comments to gauge what she really knows about horses. The following are my recent findings and a follow-up of Fugly Shit of the Day. I just think people should realize how little she actually knows in terms of horses so they may make an informed decision. Here are a few of Cathy's comments:

(the first part of the following is Fugly quoting a previous poster)
fugly says: March 10, 2010 at 8:33 pm
"“My gelding spent the first 6 months or so I had him spooking into me and he knocked me over 3 times. The third time (last June) I finally got my nerve up and convinced him I was going to kill him (which consisted of backing him up and screaming at him). You know what? He has spooked in place or away from me since that day.”
Amazing how that works, isn’t it? Someone realized YOU were more scary than the silly thing he was spooking at.
Congratulations. You understand horses better than Linda Parelli, already!"

Honestly? Our solution to a fearful horse spooking is to make it more scared of you and your reaction to its fear, than of the object it is afraid of? To quote John Lyons:
"It's unreasonable to ask a horse not to be afraid. That's like my telling you to go into a bad area of town for a walk at two in the morning, and not be frightened."
So if it is unreasonable to ask a horse to not be afraid, by extension, is it not unreasonable to reprimand a horse for being afraid? Why would you want a relationship in which your horse is afraid of being afraid, because it is afraid of your reaction? A horse cannot help being afraid and some horses are more prone to being alert and reactive than others - some require stronger leadership and stronger trust in their rider to follow said leadership without spooking. The solution is simple: gain your horse's trust (not just in you, but in your leadership), guarantee to your horse that you have it's back, and it will follow you wherever you ask. Do you honestly want a horse who is tense and anxious because it is afraid of you? Excuse me while I vomit. I have seen and ridden those horses, and they are an emotional mess because they're constantly trying to read and anticipate you, because they are afraid of your reaction and of doing something wrong. Horses are not spooking at 'silly things' for the fun of it, they are acting like prey animals. They have very different worries than us and they have very different perceptions, thinking, and even vision, than us. Our job is to teach them to think and to follow our leadership, to act less reactive and more relaxed. Not to scare them into submissiveness.

Cathy, for someone who purports to know so much about horse training and horse behaviour, I am ashamed for you and am dismayed at your lack of actual knowledge. I suppose I should not be overly surprised, when your 'training' looks like this though:

That was no 'surprise jump', any idiot could see that was minutes away from happening, simply by watching the first 5 seconds of the video where the horse was observed to be frantic, anxious, and tense. She was looking for an escape route, and found it. Want to know why Pat and other NH trainers have such low-fenced roundpens? So they remember to never push a horse past its threshold, to encourage themselves to create draw and relaxation in the horse. This was not a wild horse, Cathy, this is a poor QH filly that was pushed too far.

I see Cathy removed the video of her unable to effectively get even a green filly trotting under-saddle. It's not for no reason that she is unable to train the supposedly very quiet VLC stallion of hers. I just wish she would then admit her limitations (because that's ok! we all have them!!) and quit criticizing everyone else and methods she obviously does not understand nor know anything about. Cathy, if you do not know enough about training to train your own docile animals, please refrain from 'educating' the public in regards to how to train. That's all - I'm not asking for much!!!!

Here are some more goodies (*sigh*):
fugly says: March 10, 2010 at 8:31 pm
"I have sung on young OTTB’s to distract them from spooky stuff, particularly during the first rides out in the open. But an Appy is just going to laugh at you and walk your knee into the nearest tree.
And I am a huge devotee of the old fashioned butt rope for recalcitrant trailer-loaders. I’ll be damned if I’m going to screw around for 45 minutes when all it takes is 2 people and a butt rope and the horse is in the trailer in 30 seconds flat."

I just for once want to see Cathy do that to my Thoroughbred Link. When we first purchased him he wasn't the greatest loader and had you just put a butt rope on him and tried to shove him in (btdt - the barn owner bullied his way into doing so), he would have balked HUGE. He not only panicked and flew backwards, fighting, but he also double-barrel kicked at any people behind him. Now, of course, he loads fine, but the point is not to simply shove the horse in in 30s and slam the door shut! The point is for the horse to be comfortable enough with your leadership and have sufficient respect in you to do as you ask, and for the horse to be relaxed in the trailer and want to go in there. Otherwise you get the horse in there by force and have to deal with something throwing a wreck in there. I realise there are exceptions where you just have to get the horse in or there seem to be no other options in very rare cases - but those cases are not hugely common; most of the time you can work with a horse beforehand until they are comfortable loading. However with a horse who is usually ok with loading and whom I have worked with before (though obviously not enough, if he is balking at the trailer), I am going to take that 45min instead of 30s. 1,200lbs is a lot of weight and is not always physically possible to shove in in 30s anyways, not without risk to the horse. Why is Cathy's answer always force and fear?? I am asking honestly.

fugly says: March 9, 2010 at 6:39 pm
"Then the first thing I would have picked up is a longe whip…before I took the lead.
I’ve dealt with chargers. They are not hard to fix. Once or twice, bam, and they realize that on top of you is not a good place to be. You have to watch them like a hawk, because some will wait for a moment of inattention and then take another dive at you. But all in all, I could have fixed this with one or two good whacks with a whip – at the CHEST as he dove at me – NEVER at the face – and the horse would not have been confused, and it would have been over a lot faster.
This is a good example of “picking at” a horse. Instead of making a simple point, once, and making it clear what behavior was not acceptable, it’s a thousand annoying little pinpricks to the horse."

Honestly, I actually was thinking a carrot stick (or similar) would have perhaps helped Linda communicate better with the horse in question as well. However, what she did worked, and I cannot say for certain that a stick would have been more effective anyway. This horse was not a 'charger' per se, he was not doing what he did out of aggressiveness, he was simply bowling over humans in disregard, because he had other concerns on his mind and had very little respect for his handlers. I think what Linda did was much better than hitting the horse in punishment, because judging from the state the horse was in as Linda worked with it, it would have had to have been some pretty hard hits!! What Linda did took a little longer, however it was effective in earning the horse's respect and it was a long-term solution by engaging the horse's mind (she'd never have to hit the horse, as Cathy advises, or work so hard again). I actually did not see Linda hit the horse directly in zone 1 (the nose area), which is a very sensitive area - had she hit the horse there, it probably would have caused an adverse reaction. Instead, she smacked the horse loudly on the sturdy jaw and on the neck (most people I see pat their horses as hard, or harder, than Linda did! In praise!), to get its attention. You don't see the horse panic, jerk its head suddenly, or act fearful towards Linda or headshy afterwards. So obviously she did not traumatize the animal. In addition, she was not 'picking at', or 'nagging', the horse, she was correcting him whenever he made a wrong move (which, at first, was often). You certainly never see an annoyed horse, and you see a very responsive and respectful horse at the end of the session.

fugly says: March 10, 2010 at 1:32 pm
"I agree – there’s nothing NEW about it. 30 years ago, we knew we had to be the alpha or we were gonna have hoofy-prints on our backs.
It’s all marketing, packaging and unfortunately, it’s laced with a seriously deep thread of bullshit.
What it comes down to for me is this: There was absolutely nothing wrong with traditional horsemanship and traditional training. It did not need to be fixed or improved upon. Were there some jerks that needed to stop training? Sure. They still exist. Only now some of them use Natural Horsemanship, as can be seen in this video.
My main problem with NH is this: It has a culture which discourages people from improving their riding skills. You hardly ever (yes, I know, a few people do it – Chris Cox, I think) hear a NH’er say “ma’am, the horse is fine – you need to improve your seat and develop a stronger leg.” Instead, they tell you that playing this game or that game will develop some kind of magical “bond” with your horse. Do you know what an actual bond comes from? RESPECT. Horses, much like women, walk all over you if they perceive you to be a wimp. They do not love you for it. They may love carrots but they don’t go “wow, this person is so nice to me, I won’t run back to the barn with her any more!” That’s just not how the equine mind works and selling that idea is misleading tomfoolery. Your horse needs to think “wow, I’d like to go back to the barn but I know I can’t, ’cause the last time I tried I just got hauled in a circle and made to chase my tail and really, it wasn’t much fun and I didn’t wind up back at the barn any sooner.” And you can’t BE that confident rider who simply pulls the barn sour horse in a circle and sends it on in the direction YOU want to go unless you’re a good, solid competent rider.
Which takes lessons…and work without stirrups…and that hurts…and makes you sweat…and boy, you have to get off the couch and away from the DVD player and maybe, gasp, get a bit more fit to do it.
Lots of people aren’t interested in buying the truth!"

Pat does not claim to have created something new and gives full credit to his teachers, equine and human alike, both at his conferences and in his books. He also says himself that what he teaches is nothing new (and lists off where and how the methods he teach have been used in the past). Plain and simple. He knows what he is doing is not new, but he knows it is not mainstream (and it isn't, I had heard of Dorrance, Hunt, etc prior to Parelli, however I had never actually seen their techniques nor did anyone in my areas ever use them; I had no idea what they were about). Many people I encounter still know nothing about NH (and similar) techniques; probably a good 90 percent of the riders at any of the barns I have boarded at use very traditional techniques - techniques that are usually as bad as and worse than those Cathy advocates for (though I am going to say that some of the techniques are soft and gentle, yet assertive - ones that I greatly admire and respect). You are right, Cathy, that Parelli is perhaps over-marketed, however that does not take away from the method itself. No, one cannot learns solely from DVD's, however they can still learn from them! DVD's and books can lead to experimentation, correction, adaptation, and learning in one's methods and personally, I see nothing wrong with that. Pat and Linda are not advocating that individuals replace hands-on learning and instruction with DVD's, they are simply presenting a method that includes materials to help the rider. While you (Cathy) might feel that there is no reason to ever improve one's method, I stand by Pat's philosophy: "Good, better, best, never let it rest." Strive to be better and constantly improve yourself and your relationship(s) with your horse(s) - and constantly improve your horses! Furthermore, if Cathy honestly knew anything about Parelli, she would realize they do in fact focus on the rider. In fact, it's all about the rider - there are no problem horses, only problem riders. Which is why they do not focus on the horse, but rather upon teaching the human, which includes proper equitation, among other important skills. Lastly, respect is paramount in PNH - the idea is to create a partnership that balances trust and respect and that is based on love, language and equal doses. Pat and Linda recognize that one cannot have a partnership that does not include respect and have developed a program that revolves around earning both trust and respect (just take a look at the 7 games!). Even the carrot stick obtained its name for that reason: it is not supposed to be a carrot (a bribe or 'wimp', not assertive enough), but neither is it supposed to be a stick (aggressive and punishing) - the way the person works with the horse is supposed to be a reflection thereof, always assertive yet never aggressive and never bribing yet friendly. I never have to boot my horses in a circle, but they also enjoy being with me and follow my leadership, so I don't have to struggle with them wanting to go back to the barn, either :) And I don't know about you Cathy, but I never walk all over a man, 'wimp' or not. I have more respect and decency than that.

For the record, I am all for good horsemanship, whatever be its name or technique, so long as it is always in the best interests of the horse. I am also not always in agreement with everything Parelli: I have my own concerns and I certainly do not like the intense marketing. On the other hand, it is a method that works and that gets the word out there. Hell, I even admit to have grossly mis-interpreted and mis-used the method for awhile! Yes, I was one of those years ago (lol!). I made a lot of mistakes. But I learnt. We are not born in perfection nor with 100 percent knowledge of anything. I learnt through reading, through watching DVD's, through playing with my horses, and through whatever instruction or clinics I could afford.

LMAO while I do not 100 percent side with what this commenter said, I loved how they said it...particularly at the end:
redroanpony says: March 10, 2010 at 1:51 pm
"I disagree, but I think I’m going to disagree with pretty much everybody here on this one. I mean, there are things the Parellis do that I think are just ineffective and/or stupid, and I don’t think this was a great example of the kind of work they do. I did watch it again, and here’s what I saw: the horse doesn’t respond to pressure. At all. Linda asks him to back, and he ignores the pressure or moves into it. He is nervous and unable to stop moving his feet. Linda asks him to back and stop moving his feet. He doesn’t. When he moves, she tries to put him back again and get him to stop moving. When she’s hitting him on the butt with the rope, she’s trying to get him to yield his hindquarters, not move forward, which is why she’s checking with the lead line. She doesn’t do either very well. She is NOT lunging this horse or in any way asking him to lunge, so I’m not sure why everybody is jumping on her “lunging” technique, but whatever.
Did Linda do a good job with it? No. She should’ve stopped very early on and gotten her hands on a carrot stick, because she needed the stick to be more effective in her communication, and it would’ve led to her being much less emphatic and repetitive with the rope. (Or maybe she should’ve just stopped and called Pat. ) She also needed the stick to be more clear when asking him to yield his head, because she’s not tall enough and he’s too tall for her to properly do what she’s trying to do. When I first watched this, I do recall wondering whether that was her first time working with a half-blind horse, because she didn’t seem entirely certain on how to account for his blindness.
But did she scar the horse for life? No. Did she make him headshy? No. I’ve used that same technique — much more gracefully, mind you — to teach countless horses to yield their forequarters. It’s part of teaching them to lead and to yield to you, and it’s no more than a tap on the cheek… even with the hardest cases, a good bump with the heel of the hand is more than enough. And what I’m seeing here isn’t Linda beating the horse in the face. She’s ineffective, but that doesn’t exactly make her a monster.
At the end of the video, there actually *is* a change: the horse is able to stand. He’s not exhausted, and I wouldn’t say he’s “frozen” at all. He appears less nervous than he began and doesn’t feel the need to constantly move his feet. He actually puts his head down of his own accord. When she asks him to back or yield he’s doing it instead of completely ignoring the pressure. It’s not huge progress, but it is progress.
I’m sure my fellow commenters will now write me off as a moron, but I see nothing worse here than a trainer letting a situation get a bit out of control, which happens to everybody now and again. I can’t really believe the amount of histrionics in these comments; you’d think everybody else just watched a video of Linda gutting a horse and eating its heart. And I thought NH people were hysterical about what *they* consider to constitute “abuse”…"

fugly says: March 9, 2010 at 4:03 pm
"Every single natural horsemanship trained horse I have ever worked with REFUSES to stop on the circle on the longe. They ALL spin toward you, if not dart in and try to run you over. I have never seen an exception to this, and many other people here will tell you they have had the same experience.
And the whole basis of all this NH crap is the idea that you can do it yourself without hiring a trainer – that somehow going to clinics and watching videos will be enough. That is the foundation of the entire Cult of Natural Horsemanship. I don’t NEED a trainer, I’m the only one who can “bond” with my horse, and if my horse “bonds” with me, he won’t do bad things to me.
That spinning sound is my eyes rolling around in my head."

I am not surprised Cathy cannot accurately communicate with a horse enough to tell it to stop on the circle and not turn and face (and what's the problem with the horse turning and facing anyway??). See the above video, though too bad some will miss out on seeing the ones of her riding she had posted on youtube in the past. I will say this: all my horses who are Parelli trained will stop on the circle should you ask. The point of the turning and facing though is this: it is not about facing you, it is about the horse disengaging their hind end, which robs their hindquarters, their engine, of driving power (since their hind legs are crossed as they disengage), and thus forces them to stop. It is also an act of respect and trust (if you cross your legs, you cannot effectively run from a predator, so we are in effect also asking the horse to relax and trust us to ensure their safety, plus we are driving their hind end away, much as a herd leader would do in dominance). Teaching them to stop in such a way makes it easy to then relax the tense or reactive horse on the ground in the future, by having them disengage. The maneuver is also taken into the saddle to either halt or calm a horse. Should you wish the horse to not face you, simply ask the horse to stop. Without asking them to disengage. And if a horse is darting in and trying to run you over, you have not been clear in your direction and/or have not been sufficiently assertive, and/or the horse has not learned to be respectful and thus is lacking in its training, Parelli or not. Pat has never told anyone using his methods to train or re-train a horse using his methods without hands-on education - in fact I have personally heard him say the exact opposite, that training is an advanced skill and requires intense one-on-one learning with a professional. His intent with his program is to help riders improve their communication (and thus partnerships) with their horses, to better themselves and tweak their way of doing things with horses, or to even look at things from another perspective, approach things differently, and change how they do things. His intent is to teach riders better horsemanship and he definitely recommends as much hands-on learning as possible. In the event someone cannot do as much hands-on instruction with a trainer as they would like though, is it not better for them to have the appropriate materials to help them, as opposed to stumbling along blindly by themselves? It's not about bonding with the horse at all, it is much more than that. Cathy, you seriously sound like some of the traditional riders I talk to sometimes, who claim they already have a bond with their horse and thus do not require anything more.

Show me "Parelli-ruined" horses, or "NH'ers mishandling horses", and I'll show the same, or more, "traditionally-trained" ruined horses or "traditional trainers and riders ruining horses". I own several such horses myself and see it every day at some of the barns I ride in. It's about the people using the technique rather than the technique itself, in this case. Piss-poor training, bad techniques, bad riding, bad horsemanship - happens across the board, no matter the method (for the most part) or discipline.

Okay, I can't help it, I thought the following conversation was just absolutely hysterical (video embedded below):
kmathews says: March 10, 2010 at 12:55 am
"Now this is a horse that has been trained well and NOT by any Parelli fanatic
Just goes to show you, you don’t need to be whacking a horse in the face or jerking his halter and whatever else those idiots do to train their horses."

shadowsrider says: March 10, 2010 at 1:49 pm
"I don’t really care about the tricks he does, or how he trained the horse, but I would kill to have his seat!!"
rollkursucks says: March 10, 2010 at 5:58 pm
"OMG that halfpass at 1:15 looks so cool, I really wish the video would have shown it going for more than like two seconds! Passage at the end was cute too. Didn’t like all the laying down and crawling around at the beginning– to me, that’s just begging to get your spine broken, but just my personal opinion. I’ve seen the horse agility videos before and thought they were cute. Not my cup of tea, but something I would respect as long as people train it the right way and the horses enjoy it."

Snicker snicker. Most fellow PNH'ers can understand the reason for the snicker. The sheep failed to notice the carrot stick being used. Honza Blaha's site here. Honza credits Pat Parelli's methods as the reason for the turnaround in his Gaston, who was previously very dangerous. Gaston was Honza's first horse of his own, I believe out of a Czech mustang and by a Czech warmblood stallion. The horse grew increasingly dangerous, to the point where Honza's mother and sister (who were caring for Gaston while Honza was living away at school) could no longer even leave the house for fear of the young stallion. Honza eventually took Gaston to Parelli and spent two years studying under Pat, turning Gaston into a superhorse (after gelding him!). I cannot find the story but recall reading it on the Parelli site and watching Honza on youtube tell the story himself. I love watching those two! And, if you want to see sporthorses and serious competition horses (show jumpers in particular) being raised and trained Parelli, Honza is your man too. My goodness, I just find it amusing that the sheep are admiring the very technique they are criticising. If you want to see similar trainers, check out Jonathan Field (former Parelli instructor with whom I have attended clinics with my boys) and Mike and Red Sun (and his other horses of course), on youtube. Then get back to me and tell me that type of partnership is not useful at the competitive level!

Last point was in regards to the Yo-Yo game specifically: some seem to be misunderstanding its purpose and are criticizing the fact that the horse's head goes up and their back hollows during the game. Yes this occurs when initially teaching the game, however it is not the goal as the game progresses over time. Over time the horse backs with a lowered head, at the lowest phase of 'ask' possible (preferably, an assertive body posture and a glare, with maybe a slightly wiggling finger - no ropes!). Parelli has discussed over and over the importance of the contents of the dressage Training Scale as well as the importance of teaching the horse in such a way that they carry themselves efficiently and develop correctly. Hence programs such as "Hill Therapy" and such - working your horse over hills to develop topline.