Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Subtle Prompt, Not a Full Leg Whomp

People have a lot of problems riding slower horses.


The biggest problem is that they are USING TOO MUCH LEG! Unlike riding the feisty thoroughbreds where you need to have all leg, all the time to give them a squeeze of reassurance, these more deliberate, unhurried athletes require a lot more leg CONTROL!

That's right, control not strength!

You can't kick a leisurely horse forward - and often they will actually slow down at the audacity. They want specific cues, at specific times; a subtle prompt instead of a full leg whomp. They don't want to be nagged, they don't want to be over cued, they want a timely and purposeful communication.

What this means is that they need you to be able to hold your leg to them with a gentle contact. This means you need to have stabilize your leg holding it in AND out at the same time. You can't just death grip onto these slower horses and call it good!

You also need to be able to manipulate different parts of your legs to cue different things, understanding how to get support from your upper thigh, yields from your calf, and momentum from your heel - AND USE THEM INDEPENDENTLY! Keep in mind that often:

  • heels mean go,
  • kicks mean sass, or a mental shut down!
  • calves mean leg yields, but not go!

You'll also find that people who "toe out" in their riding tend to be better at riding slower horses. This is because their heels are the point of contact and they don't have the full leg contact that can feel nagging to horses.

 Am I saying to ride with your knees out like a frog and your toes pointed out like a ballerina? NO! I'm saying that you need more control of your leg so you know if you're putting pressure on the calf (leg yield, support) or on your heels (go button!).

It is no surprise that often these steady horses are more fond of being ridden with spurs - and I mean properly with spurs not prodding them with them! Leg flexibility of riders is just one of the reasons these horses tend to do better being ridden with spurs (even just bumper spurs) because they are heel extenders for when you just can't get your leg to bend quite around that way. But more specifically, spurs can localize cues more specifically than an entire blunt foot.

PROBLEM #2: MISREPRESENTATION OF SLOWER HORSES The main obstacle to get over with slower moving horses is changing vocabulary.

Descriptive but not accurate vocabulary: Slow, Lazy, Plodding, Sluggish these words are more appropriate for describing day to day changes in a horse's behavior, not the overall speed of a horse.

More accurate vocabulary for non-forward horses: unhurried, deliberate, leisurely, unrushed, steady, measured, relaxed, cool-headed

Once you change your vocabulary you realize that you can more easily appreciate the horse's personality and understand how to work with them! I mean, who doesn't want to work with a relaxed and deliberate companion?!


Often these more deliberate companions are also more in tune with a rider's balance and seat. They make the best bridle-less companions as a result because they will respond to the slightest adjustment of your weight.

Thinking that speed comes only from legs is a huge problem for many of these horses. If you're kicking with all your might but your seat is dead and heavy, they will more likely listen to the breaks in your bottom than the momentum in your heels!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Horse Blaming and Shaming

Time to review the horse blaming and shaming lesson! The best horse in the world is the horse between our legs.
Riders always tend to put shift blame towards horses. Please do not blame horses but instead remark on the failure to communicate - a two way channel. None of us would ever blame our peers, our co-workers, our teammates in sports, our spouses and boyfriends the way I hear people casually blaming horses.
Horses do not fail. Humans fail horse. 

Failure from a horse is almost always the riders fault for not setting the horse up for success. With chunked goals and good communication any horse is a winner. But with selfish expectations or badly timed cues, lack of finesse or brazenness a frustrated horse can become a scapegoat. Horses need to tell when riders are doing it wrong, their honesty is a teaching tool.
Even when it is not the rider's fault it is still human error for not preparing the horse previously through schooling and conditioning, therefore causing the horse stress and frustration. Through less blame and more focus on physical and mental development (even within one session) a horse will relax and be a better teammate.
We need to take ownership of our horses that we ride on. Syntax, sentence structure and spin can make or break a horse's reputation FOREVER.
If anyone in our community has repeated problems with a particular horse please post it in our private group for discussion or alert me or Jennifer Marosek VanDusen. We look forward to remedying the relationships through lessons (or therapy!) and schooling.

Spooking: Is it the horse's fault?

Did the horse spook, or were you already making the horse nervous placing it on edge and making it susceptible to surprises?

Something important to think about is the cause and root of a horse's behavior. Often it seems that people put the blame on the horse by defining it as the horse's weaknesses instead of realizing that it is in fact their own weaknesses causing the problem. 
A team is only as good as its weakest link. Be careful how you think of horse's behavior. 

I've even seen the most beginner-level and consistent horses spook when someone is overly neurotic, passive, continually wavering, indecisive, meek or otherwise not very good at human-ing.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Set Up a Practice

There are many jobs that recognize the need for continual updates to your skill sets in an ever improving quest for personal development. 
For instance you PRACTICE medicine and you PRACTICE law. You definitely want your doctor to be on top of the latest drugs and methods, and I would hope my lawyer knows of new updates to laws. 
What would it be like if we approached every career like this? With the linguistic use of "practice?"
And more so, what if we recognized that we also must "practice" happiness. And love. And kindness.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dentist Day: Merlin's Mouth

Merlin's mouth was a hot mess with sharp points and ulcers in the cheeks, not to mention ramps and accentuated transverse ridges. And this photo doesn't even show how needle sharp his canines were or the diagonal bite of his incisors!!

This was probably Merlin's first proper appointment EVER. We purchased him early last fall and at 7 years of age we think the only attention that he ever received previously was to have his wolf teeth removed.

Merlin and Nym tied for worst teeth of the day with Panda coming in a close second.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Entrepreneurial Lessons

Things I have learned as an entrepreneur:

1) it is entirely possible to run a business off of an iPhone. 

2) you should always have more ideas than money, more money than time, and more time than regret. If you don't, something has to change. 

3) good business owners aren't usually experts, but they know how to surround themselves with genius and mobilize specialists. And experts don't usually make good business owners. 

4) businesses fail without a community to support it. It takes a village of ambassadors. And that village can exist both in real life and online via social media. 

5) if you can't track multiple pots on the stove you shouldn't be in the kitchen. It's imperative to manage multiple ideas concurrently. 

6) the customer is not always right. It's your job to help them realize what they actually want and align it with what they need. 

7) people prefer to be laughed at than lectured or yelled at when being taught. Eventually if you do your job right they will start laughing with you. 

8) bad clients aren't bad, they are just more confused than other clients (meaning you failed at #6). 

9) you don't have to like everyone. But you better appreciate them because even if they aren't important to you personally, they are important to someone else and therefore they ARE an important person. 

10) you don't have to love what you do, but you have to believe in what you are doing. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

↑ Average Weights = ↓ Opportunity for Equine Industry

For our barn, the equation is clear:

Increasing Weights of Trail Riders + Aging Horses = Epic Problem for the Barn 

This year we no longer have two of our 220#-240# riding horses on the string. Two that used to carry more are also aging and we need to preserve them as long as possible, so I need to reduce their weight limit. This leaves us with only two horses than can carry a 250# rider currently and 3 that can carry 200#. 

Now, 5 horses that can carry a heavier rider sounds good right?

Well, the number of ride requests coming in for riders over 200# has seemingly doubled this year. Particularly men are rarely under 200#. 

While most people come in pairs, with only 5 horses we are greatly limited in the number of larger groups we can take out if they are heavier persons. Already we have had to book extra rides on our schedule because we couldn't pair riders into one group because too many people required our largest horses. 

This not only adds additional hours of work to our schedule, but additional hours of work to those two heavy weight horses. 

Do we need more draft and draftX horses? Yes. But does it make me happy that someday I may need to end up owning a complete barn of them? No. I love my little paints and handy little foundation stock horses. I thoroughly enjoy the thoroughbreds. And while I do like riding our drafts, that's not the only breed I want to offer. 

The rising weights of the American public is having a serious effect in the shift of this riding industry.