Tuesday, January 17, 2012


From 'Cesar's Way':

The most important thing to understand about energy is that it is a language of emotion. Of course you never have to tell an animal you're sad, or tired, or excited, or relaxed, because that animal already knows exactly how you're feeling. ... Of course animals can't always comprehend the context of our issues; they can't distinguish whether we're heartbroken over a divorce or losing a job or misplacing a wallet, because those very human situations mean nothing to them. However, such situations create emotions - and those emotions are universal. Sick and sad are sick and sad, no matter what your species.

One of the most important things to remember is that all the animals around you - especially the pets with whom you share your life - are reading your energy every moment of the day.

He is also reading your body language. Dogs use body language as another means of communicating with one another, but it's important to remember that their body language is also a function of the energy they're projecting.

You can learn to interpret your dog's body language by the visual clues he or she gives you, but it's important to remember that different energy can determine the context of a posture.

Horses are no different from dogs in the aforementioned quoted sense - ultimately, we are all animals and as such body language and energy transcends species differentiation. No, your horse does not perceive you as a horse however he does read and understand your energy and your body language on a constant basis - body language that may be perceived as predatory or as a leader and partner. He also uses this same language in his communications with you.
As a sort of sidenote: the fact that your horse may read your energy and your emotions is an important fact to keep in mind because your energy and emotions impact your behaviour and your posture. Emotional discipline is therefore absolutely crucial when handling horses. When you allow the horse to lead you into emotion rather than choosing and controlling your emotion, the horse will assume leadership and you may also negatively impact the relationship between you and your horse (for example, by unintentionally turning assertiveness into aggression as a result of your emotions and energy).

In my opinion the word dominance has received a bad rap; when we think of the word dominance, we think of a horse forced to be a prisoner instead of a partner.

The definition of 'dominant' as per the merriam-webster:
a : commanding, controlling, or prevailing over all others dominant culture>
b : very important, powerful, or successful dominant theme> dominant industry>

The word 'dominant' itself does not actually have a negative connotation without context. Therefore it is how we apply the use of dominance in the context of training that determines whether or not we use dominance in a negative manner or in a manner that is simply effective.
In fact, horses live in herds comprised of a hierarchy whereby there is a leader and members of descending hierarchy, all which includes 'dominance'. This is what we attempt to replicate in training - an effective but fair means of commanding and controlling the horse that remains in the horse's best interests and results in a happy horse.

As dominance impacts a horse's interactions with you: a horse may be exhibiting dominant behaviour or actions without it being an actual challenge to your status in relation to that horse. However every behaviour or action is always done within the context of that horse's social status in relation to you. This means that while your horse infringing on your space or even kicking out toward you as he rockets past you, loose in the arena, might not be a direct challenge to your status as 'alpha', it certainly is done within the context of where he feels he is socially in relation to you (which includes - you guessed it - the use of dominance). It is very important to be aware of your horse's social status in relation to you because this impacts his behaviour toward you and your partnership with him.

Here is a video with some good information:

He who moves his feet least is the 'boss hoss'. The horse who is best able to use calm-assertive behaviour and energy - dominance - to move the feet of the other horses in the herd is the horse the herd will turn to for guidance and leadership. It is important to note that dominance is not restricted to the hay pile but relates to every aspect of the horse's life within the herd.

How this relates to us and our perception of the word dominance: when people hear the word 'dominance' as it relates to horse training they often give it a negative connotation to envision a horse forced into submission. Yet in fact we may handle a horse utilizing dominance and creating submission while earning the horse's respect without force and without fear, without applying a dictatorship. To use dominance to influence a horse does not necessarily constitute forceful techniques that are harsh and offer the horse no choice and no dignity in a relationship. In fact, the horse may be worked with in such a way where he willingly and happily offers submission, where he willingly follows your leadership in a partnership. This is how it works in the herd, where the horse willingly follows the leader he feels best suited to the position.

The horse is acutely aware of his social ranking within the herd and in respect to individual members he works and plays with - including you - and so it is important we are also aware. As such, we may effectively establish boundaries and earn the horse's respect as one part of the whole of the partnership we develop with a horse.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Smart Little Lena clones

The following is an article concerning clones, by Tom Reed of Morningside Stud.

Pink Flamingos or Pink Horses?

What do you think? Would you breed to a clone or purchase a clone or the offspring of a clone? Would you clone a horse yourself if finances were not an issue?

This issue slowly makes its way to the forefront considering many clones are now attaining the age of competition and breeding. Yet we have much to learn yet as it pertains to cloning.

Here's an article concerning Smart Little Lena's clones

An article concerning clones in the NCHA

The clone of Quidam de Revel

Do you think it's cheating to compete the clone of a highly successful horse?

Does the success of a clone - reproductively or competitively - rest solely upon replicated DNA? This is one issue facing scientists, and a seemingly insurmountable one in some regards. As it concerns the developing embryo, one must consider epigenetics, which "refers to functionally relevant modifications to the genome that do not involve a change in the nucleotide sequence", "heritable changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence whose genetic modifications are inheritable". More on epigenetics and evolution here. Neither can we neglect the impact of the behaviour of mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited from the mother's ovum. Proteomes also play a role by changing in response to intra and extra cellular environmental signals. These are only a limited number of factors that can impact the developing foal; we have much to understand and learn yet and some knowledge that potentially will never be realized. Then we also have to contend with the environment in which a foal is raised once born. Human handling (incorrect versus correct, amount of, etc), disposition of the mare, whether or not the foal is raised in a herd environment or not, turnout... the list of factors that may impact the future "success" of a clone are substantial and not to be taken lightly. Further on that we also have the impact of training; how many times have we experienced or seen a trainer able to work with one type of horse but not another? Or a horse who has passed through the hands of several trainers, unsuccessful, before realizing its potential in the hands of one particular trainer? Sometimes the Greats, those horses highly successful in sport, are such in spite of particular handling, or are a direct result of their handling and training.

So is it truly cheating to compete a clone? While a certain edge or advantage is obviously not to be discounted, is it enough to ensure true success? Success that measures that of its original?

What about using clones solely for reproductive purposes? To pass on the genetics of a highly successful gelding? Or a stallion who died too young or who was only able to reproduce a limited number of foals? Or a highly successful mare?

There is much to learn yet but it is time to start considering all these points (if you haven't already) as it pertains to cloning as it increasingly impacts our industry. Should we be tracking clones? Or allowing their registration and competition? While cloning may not impact you directly today, it certainly has impacted our industry and will continue to progressively do so.