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Western Style Dressage Association of Canada Elaine Ward talks about "Contact"

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   May 14, 2012 20:23
We have had a lot of questions come up about contact. What we have to remember is that we are seeking a lightness of contact. Contact as being defined as imagining you have silk threads in your hands to the reins.
Some people are concerned about the use of curbs at the lower levels. Our rules state that it is highly recommended that the curb not be used but we are also considering the traditions of the Western Style of riding.
Two handed in a snaffle, bosal, or bitless is just fine.
Two handed in a curb is optional. Again when we are trying to produce bend and flexion within our figures, it's much better to use the two hands, again we are NOT promoting pulling in any type of bit. It's much kinder to bend your knuckles to initiate position than to lean your body and pull the reins. A balanced rider will produce a balanced horse.
The bosal is permitted. Whether or not the heel knot will stay down will be relevant to how much the bosal is squeezed together by the Mecate reins. That's just plain physics. If the bosal is loose on the horses face, then it's quite easy to make the heel knot move back. What we are looking for is the willingness of the horse, and the lack of resistance.
I think we should also realize that a plain snaffle can be a razor in the hands of a Monkey.
We do not permit nosebands which can hide a lot of flaws. Whips and artificial appliances are out too.
The horse should display that it is happy and relaxed in their work. That is perhaps the most important goal of Western Style Dressage.

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Spring and Forward Impulsion!

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   March 24, 2012 08:46

 

 

Trick Training Philosophy "Train with Trust and Communication"


Trick training is a great way to foster a fabulous relationship with your horse.  In order to have a great relationship, you have to have great trust, and great communication. 

In order to make trick  training enjoyable and achievable by all, I train with grace, rather than force.

Jackie Johnson

 

Spring is a fantastic time to work on anything that requires forward impulsion!  Horses are fresh, and they already have that forward mindset, so using the energy of your horse to your advantage can allow you to get a start on the training season, and clean up some rusty cues.

 

Activities that you can work on include things like collection, lateral work, walking with purpose, haunches, in, flying changes, piaffe, passage and extended trot.  Many times throughout the year it can be a drain to constantly push your horse forward to try and get the necessary energy out of him.  Using spring freshness to burn some energy off in your favor is a great opportunity for some wonderful training sessions that leave you both feeling like you've accomplished something!

 

Never let spring deter you from riding your horse.  If you go into the ride with the right mindset, you don't have to be intimidated by your horses spring energy level, rather you can use his natural desire to work in your favor, and go forward.

Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com

Memoirs of a Horse Owner by Sam - Spooking

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   March 7, 2012 12:53

Memoirs of a Horse Owner by Sam

 

Horsemanship ....... it is an art, a science, a tradition and a lifelong journey!

 

The articles written for www.Horseownertoday.com  are a collection of my personal memoirs as a horse owner.  They are about my experiences and about my understanding of horsemanship.  They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of www.Horseownertodaycom.com  and in some cases, they do not reflect the opinion of the majority of horse owners today.  They are about my journey toward understanding a horse.

It is interesting to observe how the older horses deal with the youngster in the herd.   I think they make a significant contribution to her upbringing.  The way that they respond to her influences her behavior and shapes her thinking.  Take spooking, for example.  The youngster always finds a monster lurking in the pasture.  It could be a glove on the fence that wasn't there a minute ago or a barrel that has been moved to a new spot along the fence line or the neighbor's dog out sniffing for new droppings.  But whatever it is, she notices it and gets concerned about it.    

 It seems to me that there is a process that goes on in the herd when the baby finds a monster in the pasture.  Her spooky reaction alerts the herd to the dangerous situation.  And while she is dancing around, the older horses stop what they are doing, lift up their heads and take a look at her monster.  It is almost as if they make a decision about what they are looking at.  

On the rare occasion that they decide "yep that is a monster", one of the older ones will head out and deal with it.  That usually means that some old mangey coyote gets chased out of the pasture or that the neighbor's dog has to high tail it for home. 

Often as not, there isn't really a monster in the pasture and it is almost as if the older horses say "oh that's just a ......".  Usually one of them will nonchalantly walk up to her monster and wait beside it until she gathers up enough courage to come in for a closer look.  

Either way the youngster’s concerns are acknowledged and resolved or her comfort is restored. 

Horses are hardwired for fight or flight.  They operate out of the inherent need for self-preservation.  Spooking is about the horse's need for survival.  The youngster hasn't been on earth for very long so sometimes normal everyday things can upset her sense of security.  She relies on the older horses to help her sort through the things that are worrisome to her.   She is willing to trust their judgment. 

The idea that a wiser experienced horse plays a significant role in the training of a younger horse is not new.  Within the traditional vaquero training method, a young horse was trained alongside a wiser more experienced horse.  The vaqueros believed that the older horse helped the youngster to accept new things.  Perhaps their philosophy was based on the belief that communication occurred between the two horses or perhaps their philosophy was based on the younger horse's tendency to follow or mimicking an older horse.  Either way it was how things were done in the vaquero style of training. 

 

Copyright @HorseOwnerToday.com, for reprint permission contact info@horseownertoday.com

   

 

The Zone of Respect

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   March 3, 2012 07:36


 

Trick Training Philosophy "Train with Trust and Communication"
Trick training is a great way to foster a fabulous relationship with your horse.  In order to have a great relationship, you have to have great trust, and great communication.  In order to make trick  training enjoyable and achievable by all, I train with grace, rather than force. Jackie Johnson


Does your horse respect your space? To determine if your horse does, or doesn’t respect your space, ask him to back up without touching him, or his lead rope. Horses who respect you as their leader should willingly back out of your space when you walk towards them and say, "Back!". If you can succeed at this simple exercise, great!!! But what do you do if your horse just stands there and ignores you? When a horse doesn't respect your space, he's actually showing you a very subtle form of disrespect.
 
We are often unaware of when horses are testing their limits, and when a subtle challenge of leadership goes unnoticed, it can quickly turn into a big problem! If your horse doesn't respectfully back out of your space, then a few sharp tugs on the lead rope, and if necessary, a physical touch on the chest help reinforce the fact that they need to give you that zone of respect. Try to avoid getting into a pushing match, rather make your corrections crisp, and meaningful. Ultimately, your goal is to have your horse step out of your space when you step into HIS space. The one who controls their space is the leader in the horse world.

 Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com

Are you creating a raving pocket monster by giving treats as a reward?

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   February 25, 2012 09:11

 

Trick Training Philosophy "Train with Trust and Communication"
Trick training is a great way to foster a fabulous relationship with your horse.  In order to have a great relationship, you have to have great trust, and great communication.  In order to make trick  training enjoyable and achievable by all, I train with grace, rather than force. Jackie Johnson

 

Treats as a form of reward tends to stir up passionate feelings in the horse training industry.  It seems like there are two sides to the debate, either you love using treats as rewards, or you hate it.  As a professional trick trainer, I use treats as rewards to mold my horses behaviors, where I couldn't otherwise evoke that behavior with a physical touch but, I also realise that a horse should act independent of food as a motivating factor. 

The problem with treats actually isn't the treat...it's how the handler/trainer USES the treats that CREATES the problem.  Left to its own devices, a tidbit of food is just an inanimate object, no different than a blade of grass.  When used in conjunction with training, that same tidbit becomes either a reward, or a dreaded bribe.  You can avoid creating problems with treats if you remember one simple thing....horses EARN their treats, they are NOT owed them.  Earning a treat is the same as earning a paycheque.  If you do your job, and do it well, you get your paycheque - or in the horses case, a treat.  If you fail to do your job, or fail to do it well, then you don't get your paycheque treat.  When a treat is earned, it rarely causes a problem.

So, why do some horses turn into raving pocket monsters at the mere mention of treats, and more importantly, what can you do to avoid that? When food is used as a bribe it becomes a problem, simple as that.  Some examples of bribing a horse include; 'befriending' a horse using treats to make it 'like' you, using treats to redirect a horses misbehaviour, and indiscriminately dolling out treats for lackluster effort during training.  The 'fix' for treat monsters is really quite simple!  If you decide to use food as a motivational reward, decide ahead of time what the horse has to do to EARN the treat reward, and then stick to the plan.  Once your equine friend realises that you are no longer dispensing tasty tidbits like a broken candy machine, they will change their work ethic to earn their just reward.

 Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com

Getting Out And About

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   February 24, 2012 07:56

 

Trick Training Philosophy "Train with Trust and Communication"
Trick training is a great way to foster a fabulous relationship with your horse.  In order to have a great relationship, you have to have great trust, and great communication.  In order to make trick  training enjoyable and achievable by all, I train with grace, rather than force. Jackie Johnson


Oh that dreaded time of year.  That time when you haven't been riding much due to the weather, and your horse is feeling frisky and fresh.  Frisky horses that have been cooped up for any length of time can be a challenge to even the most experienced horseman. If riding a horse in this state of energy seems like an unappealing challenge, consider just taking him for a walk on the lead instead!
 
Taking your horse for a pleasure walk on the lead is not something that people generally think of.  When you think spending time with your horse, that time spent generally equates to riding time.  Going for a walk down the lane, or road is an excellent bonding exercise that gives your horse a change of scenery, and exercises his mind.  These walks also allow you to reinforce your role as the leader, and assess whether or not your horse is respecting you - by walking with his head at your shoulder where it belongs.  The walks can also be 'mini-adventures' where you and your horse investigate the things that he identifies as 'spooky'.  You can gain some serious leadership points when you show your horse that the monster he is deathly afraid of is just a silly old rock, or tree, and that kind of trust, and leadership, on the ground becomes trust, and leadership, in the saddle.

 Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com

Rules, Discipline, Reward, Love by Jackie Johnson

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   February 10, 2012 08:56


Trick Training Philosophy "Train with Trust and Communication"
Trick training is a great way to foster a fabulous relationship with your horse.  In order to have a great relationship, you have to have great trust, and great communication.  In order to make trick  training enjoyable and achievable by all, I train with grace, rather than force.

Rules, Discipline, Reward, Love
We all love our horses but do you give your horse the love that YOU want, or the love that he NEEDS.  Left to their own devices, horses live in a complex social structure with clear rules and consistent discipline.  The horses love for routine and structure is what allows us to practice things like dressage, or reining patterns in the arena on a regular basis!  When rules are not in place, and not enforced, horses often start to develop behavioral problems, and spoiling your horse with affection might only make the problem worse!
 
Rules don't have to be difficult, they can be as simple as not allowing your horse to be rude when you're feeding him from a bucket.  How many times have you experienced a horse plunging his nose into a bucket of feed with complete disregard for you?  Here is a simple exercise; throw a handfull of oats into the bottom of a feed bucket and put it on the ground of the barn isle, or in his stall.  Then go catch your horse and bring him to the bucket, ONLY allowing him to eat the oats after you have removed his halter and said 'OK'.  The rule here, is that he is not allowed access to the bucket until YOU say so.  If he tries to ignore the rule, then correct him - Discipline!  Once your horse follows the rules, THEN he can get the oats from the bucket - Reward!  After he has learned to follow your rules, THEN you can lavish him with praise, and affection. 
 
This is a little exercise that can be done on a daily basis to improve the relationship that you have with your horse.  Although creating and establishing rules may be challenging at the start, over time it will become easier, which is a good habit for both you AND your horse.

Training Tips written by Jackie Johnson, www.stunthorse.com for www.HorseOwnerToday.com

Hyperflexion

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   November 18, 2011 09:15

I am addressing this question perhaps more as a dressage trainer and teacher than as a veterinarian, so as such this is not a definitive answer, just my opinion of this issue.

Hyperflexion is a relatively recent and controversial topic in the world of competitive dressage horse training.  Proponents of extreme hyperflexion are few but unfortunately several are famous and successful on the world championship/Olympic stage.  They claim that flexion of the horse's jaw/head far far past the vertical for extended periods of work gives more lift to the back and more elasticity to the movement when ridden up in a more normal position during a test.  There are a large majority of trainers who occasionally during schooling use an overbent longitudinal position  [behind vertical, lower neck] and also lateral positions outside of the classic desired "frame". However these positions are used for seconds only to supple or unlock a resistant jaw or to prevent an evasion in another part of the body.  As soon as possible the horse is returned to a normal vertical frame so that the classic goals of forward through the back and soft in jaw can be achieved with the poll, not the third vertebra  or mid neck the highest point.  

There are extremists on both sides [which can occupy one for hours on youtube] with some riders clearly causing physical and mental distress to the horse. In some instances permanent physical damage to vertebrae and supporting structures can occur and/or long term or permanent psychological damage including a resigned helpless and joyless horse.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, other extremists vehemently state that all horses ridden in a bit are in pain at all times and are being abused.  

Most reasonable horsemen and trainers love and respect horses and appreciate dressage as an art as well as a sport.  They certainly fall between these extremes.  I believe that realistic and fair -minded trainers are aware that at times getting a horse to comply may involve some battles of wills and bodies but we all hope this is as brief a period as possible.  

It is prudent to remember that classical dressage changed very little over the past hundred + years as far as ideals and methods are concerned.  Todays sport horses are bigger, more powerful, athletic and more extreme movers with each generation.  It is tempting to rush these fantastic horses to the FEI levels because they apparently can, but producing a horse that keeps a sound body and mind with joy in his work for his lifetime takes as long as it ever did. When a 'new' technique surfaces, such as extreme hyperflexion, I hope that riders and trainers educate themselves, talk to people they trust and continue to use good judgement in training their horses as individuals.


Dr Lisa Wayman DVM contributor to "Ask a Vet"
-Corman Park Vet Svc
-trainer of  2 Grand Prix horses and mother of 2 young horsewomen


Hands by Conrad Schumacher

posted by Horse Owner Today    |   August 1, 2011 06:51

Steady hands are not the hands which are steady relative to the rider’s body, but the ones which are steady “in the motion of a horse"

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