Note from Julie: October 2015

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Dear friends,

We’ve just returned from an incredible 4-day ranch-riding clinic at the C Lazy U Ranch and soon I am headed to Spanaway, Washington, for my last 2-day horsemanship clinic of the year, then I get to go back to C Lazy U for the riding and yoga retreat (treat is the operative word!). Soon we will be releasing my 2016 clinic schedule, but you can always check my website for details on my full clinic and expo schedule.

I am also excited to be going to Amarillo, Texas, in October for the CHA International Conference and to visit the AQHA Hall of Fame; to Springfield MA, in November for Equine Affaire; then on to Las Vegas with the good folks from Cosequin for the equine vet tech conference, held in conjunction with the AAEP conference and the National Finals Rodeo (this is the time of year that Sin City becomes Cowboy Central).

We’ll be doing our fall TV shoot at the Grove River Ranch in Georgia the first week of November. I’m excited to head south to my old neck of the woods! This is a gorgeous facility and a place where you can trailer in to stay at their cabin, fish and ride!

The fall is always busy for me but I still manage to get some good riding time on my horses. Dually, my number one horse (and the most high-maintenance horse we own) is fully recovered from his near fatal bout with Colitis in the spring. In fact, he’s gotten a little cocky and full of himself—a good sign that he is feeling better but also a sign that we need to get back to more structured training. It’s back to school time for Dually!

Eddie’s Pick is my junior horse and he would love to step  into the number one spot. He comes off the renowned 6666 Ranch, by their World Champion stallion, Sixes Pick. Eddie, a handsome reflection of his daddy, is one of the most eager-to-please and hardworking horses I have ever ridden. Now, as a 6 year old, he has matured physically and mentally (especially the latter) and is becoming a good working partner for me. I don’t know that he could ever fully replace Dually—those are some BIG shoes to fill—but he is sure giving Dually a run for his money!

Although I was sad to say goodbye to summer, I love the fall and getting back on the road and working with horses, and their humans, is very rewarding for me. I enjoy getting to know all the horses I meet, even the naughty ones. Maybe especially the naughty ones—helping horses and their humans get along better is a fun challenge to embrace. I hope to see you on the road this fall and together we will talk horses!

 

Enjoy the ride,

Julie

 

Tips For Saving Fuel While Transporting Your Horse

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During the summertime life gets busy. Many of us haul our horses to various shows, clinics, and competitions during this season, and the rising temperatures and gas prices don’t make horse hauling any easier. Find out some tips to make horse travel that much easier for you and your equine friend next time you hit the road.

http://myhorse.com/blogs/horse-travel/trailering/tips-for-saving-fuel-while-transporting-your-horse/

 

My Horse Is Tossing And Shaking His Head

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Common Complaints
My horse is fussy with his head.

Help keep your horse from shaking his mane with these anti-head tossing tips from Julie Goodnight.

When you ride, does your horse fuss with his head, throwing his nose up in the air and tossing his mane? Does he root down on the reins, jerking you out of the saddle? Does he shake his head, grind his teeth and snarl his lips whenever you pick up the reins? Or worse, does he take off with you when you ask him to stop, running through the bridle no matter how much you pull?

If you’re nodding your head, knowing the scenario describes you and your horse, it’s time to make a change. Here, we’ll discuss why your horse may act out this annoying and dangerous behavior then give you steps to take to help your horse to accept your hands and find relief on his mouth. Soon you’ll have a steady horse that’s happy and responsive to your aids.
The Reason
Tossing and shaking the head, rooting the reins, grinding teeth and snarling lips while being ridden are all indications that a horse has a great deal of anxiety about the bit and pressure put on it. Unless he tosses and shakes his head when you are not riding or when he is not bridled, it’s safe to assume that there is an external cause for his anxiety—either the bit or your hands.
Examining your horse’s mouth will reveal if there are wolf teeth present—these are nasty little shark-like teeth that can be razor sharp and may interfere with the bit and/or cut your horse’s lips; they should be pulled when your horse is young.
Also look in his mouth for evidence of scarring on the tongue and in the corners of his mouth. This could indicate previous abuse with a bit or evidence of an accident (like running off with the reins loose or getting a rein caught on something). The scars may be hyper-sensitive to the bit and could be the root of the problem.
Once you rule out physical issues, we have to look to training problems and how much quality education your horse has over the years. Has your horse ever been taught how to respond properly to pressure on the bit? Does he know how to give softly both laterally and vertically when he feels the lightest pressure? This has to be systematically taught to a horse—preferably before he is ever ridden. Sadly, this stage of training is frequently skipped and many horses, young and old are hopelessly confused about how to find the release.
If your horse never learned how to properly respond to the bit, he has been searching for a way to get a release of pressure and has mistakenly learned that the only way to get it’s to throw his head, root the reins or whatever antic works. If he can’t get a release by any means, he’ll digress into more fractious behavior or just shut down mentally and run through the pressure.
Many horses know perfectly well how to respond properly to pressure on the bit, but have become anxious and fractious because the rider has uneducated or unrelenting hands. Either the release on his mouth comes at inappropriate times or never comes at all, no matter how your horse performs. Your horse is working for the release; if it never comes, he loses his incentive to respond.
The bit can be a huge factor in creating or relieving anxiety for a horse. Many riders switch to a harsher bit because they want more control over their horse. If the cause of the problems is related to anxiety over the bit, going to a harsher bit will only make matters worse. Typically going to a milder bit will give better results.
Amazingly, most horses tolerate un-giving, uneducated and harsh hands from the rider—they cannot perform to their potential, but they take it—day in and day out. Other horses are too sensitive or too volatile to handle it and exhibit undesirable behavior ranging from head tossing to bucking, rearing or worse.
Whether your horse shows a minor amount of irritation and resistance from pressure on the bit or devolves into a head-tossing fit, there are some actions you can take to fix this common complaint.

The Solution
First, you have to rule out physical issues that may be causing your horse pain, unrelated to the rider’s hands. Have a vet thoroughly examine his mouth for teeth problems and/or scarring. If you find physical issues, they must be resolved or consideration given to alternative bridles, like the Bitless bridle, side pull or a mild hackamore.
If your horse shows no sign of physical problems, we have to look to his training and the rider’s hands. Either or both can be causing your problems. Your horse may need to go back to basics and learn the proper response to pressure on the bit. You’ll have to teach him to give laterally (to the side) and vertically (tucking his chin and flexing at the poll, with his face approaching vertical).
To teach him to give laterally, it’s best to start from the ground with your horse saddled and in a snaffle bridle. Slide your hand down one rein toward the bit about 1/3 of the distance from the pommel to his mouth (the other rein should be totally slack). Then slowly lift your hand up to the pommel of the saddle and lock your fist on the saddle so that he cannot pull on your arm and find a little release.
Wait until your horse bends his nose back toward your hand and voluntarily puts slack in the rein—then give him a big release and rub him on the neck and ask again. Work repeatedly on one side before switching to the other. When your horse gives softly as you slowly pick up the rein, bending his nose around before the pull comes on his mouth, he knows how to give laterally to pressure on one rein and you are ready to try it mounted (begin standing still).
Once your horse learns to give laterally on both sides, he can learn to give vertically by tucking his chin and breaking at the poll when he feels pressure on both reins. A trainer with skilled hands can teach this to your horse while mounted, but it’s best taught from the ground with the use of an elbow pull bitting rig. For information on how to use this bitting device, see the article on my website, http://www.juliegoodnight.com/questionsNew.php?id=63 .
Most trained horses that have been confused by the rider’s hands and are acting out their frustration with problem behavior, will respond immediately to a rider with good hands. If your horse has been confused and ridden in a counter-productive way for some time, he may need time with the elbow-pull bitting rig to rehabilitate his training and recondition his muscles.
The critical factor for this type of horse is to retrain the rider to use her hands effectively and ride more often on a loose rein. Riders must learn to have giving hands that move rhythmically with your horse and adjust automatically with his head position. Until the rider is balanced with an independent seat and hands, she should ride on a loose rein.
By addressing the needs of your horse, teaching him the proper response to bit pressure and educating the rider, it will relieve your horse’s anxiety about the bit so he can happily perform his job. For a wealth of information on the skills and knowledge needed to gain complete authority over your horse and cue him correctly visit www.juliegoodnight.com.

Nurturing The Try In Your Horse

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I have lived with and worked with horses for more than half a century. And the older I get, the more appreciation I have for horses and their willingness, generosity and ability to forgive. It never ceases to amaze me how they tolerate some of the crazy things we humans do and how they will keep on trying to please.

Over the decades, I have learned that horses thrive on structure, consistency, praise and discipline. They crave leadership and authority and they feel safe and content in its presence. Leadership is very black and white to a horse and he knows it when he sees it. There is no faking leadership to a horse.

In domestic herds, groups of horses that are forced together, sometimes there are unqualified horses in the alpha role and the other horses know it—they agree to the terms, but do not have respect or admiration for the stand-in. Being a bully does not make you a leader and although a more subordinate horse will defer to the space of a more aggressive herdmate, he does not respect the bully as his leader and certainly does not like him.

A true herd leader is not a bully, but is willing to dish out discipline when it is needed. The true leader of the herd is responsible for the herd’s safety and for insuring that all the herdmates are good citizens of the herd—sometimes that means disciplining an unruly horse.

Horses recognize true leadership—fairness, courage, authority, confidence, intelligence, honesty, responsibility. When horses find a true leader, they have the highest respect and deference for and come to worship the ground their leader walks on. They trust and want to be with their leader and are always on the lookout for ways to please—to stay in the good graces of the one in charge.

To me, this is the ideal relationship to have with a horse and it makes me a much better and stronger person to live up to the ideals of my horse. When your horse thinks of you as the supreme leader, he will go anywhere with you, trusting you to look out for his well-being, having faith in your decisions and knowing you have his best interest in mind. He will work hard to please you and will get his feelings hurt if he thinks you are unhappy with him. But that attitude comes at a price—you have to earn it– and it is easily lost if you fall down on the job.

Once your horse recognizes the qualities of a true leader in you, it means that he trusts you to be fair, consistent and protect him from anything that could hurt him. That trust can be lost in an instant by asking the horse to do something that causes him to get hurt or frightened. This is an important obligation of the leader and should never be overlooked.

Horses are herd animals and as such, are instinctively drawn to the herd; but membership into any herd is not a guarantee. In the domestic setting, a new horse introduced an existing herd will automatically be shunned and treated harshly, as if to say, “We do not want you—go away!” Once the new horse shows a certain amount of contrition and a willingness to respect the hierarchy of the herd, he will be allowed provisional membership. But he is treading on thin ice and knows that if he is not on his best behavior, he could be once again banished from the herd.

Acceptance into a herd means that you are willing to abide by the rules of the herd and be a good citizen to the herd. Horses are very good at learning and following rules and as long as rules are clearly defined and consistently enforced, horses will follow the rules religiously.

There are many important lessons for us to learn from life in the horse herd. To be accepted as the leader, you have to establish authority right away and not worry about being liked—that will come later. You have to take charge, establish the rules and demonstrate your willingness to enforce them. Then your horse will come to accept your authority, feel safe in your presence and be eager to please you.

You cannot bribe or pamper your horse into thinking of you as a leader. That is not within his frame of reference. If you start out your relationship by begging him to be your friend, you automatically put yourself in the subordinate position. Horses crave authority, not pandering.

If you are the leader in your herd of two—you and your horse—then it is up to you to set and enforce the rules. Always. You lead—he follows. If your leadership skills are inadequate, your horse will step into the leadership role and start making all the decisions, like where you both go and how fast you get there. In that case, sooner or later, your horse will make a decision you don’t agree with.

It is a hard thing for some people to accept, but horses thrive off both praise and discipline; he gets a lot more of the latter in the herd. Praise is only meaningful to the horse if he has earned it and if he thinks of you as his leader and someone he wants to please. And without discipline, rules have no meaning and the horse will not make an effort to please you. If there are no rules, there is no leadership.

Discipline and praise go together and the horse needs both. If you constantly shower praise on a horse, without him making any effort to earn it, why should he keep trying to please you?

Your horse needs to know when you are pleased with him and know when you are not. Often just a stern word is all it takes, especially when the horse has an attitude of wanting to please you. But just like a child, the horse needs structure and rules to follow and ramifications to be meted out if he disobeys a rule. Otherwise, you end up with a very unpleasant animal—whether it is two-legged or four.

All of my horses, selected by me largely for their temperaments, fall into the category of very willing and eager to please. That does not mean that they are always perfect, never make mistakes or never misbehave. Since humans have been breeding horses more for pleasure and recreation than for beasts of burden for nearly a century, as a rule, horses are much better tempered than they used to be.

But this eager and willing attitude can turn into the likes of a tantrumming toddler in the presence of inadequate leadership. Recognizing when a horse is trying his best, when he is goofing off and when he is blatantly breaking the rules, is the first step in nurturing the “try” in your horse.

When I issue a directive to a horse, it is not his actual response or performance that matters—it is the effort he makes to do the right thing. If he tries, he gets rewarded and praised. If he doesn’t, he gets scolded and put immediately back to work. He doesn’t have to be brilliant, but he does have to make an effort.

Although praise is a great motivator for horses and scolding is a great dissuader, the best motivator of all for horses is comfort. When my horse puts out a good effort in response to something I have asked him to do, I always acknowledge it by whispering sweet-nothings to him, rubbing him on the withers and leaving him alone for a moment to let him rest and think about how good it feels to be a good horse. When he cheats me or doesn’t try hard enough, I put him immediately back to work. When he makes an exceptional effort, I might just stop what I am doing and immediately put him away.

Equine behaviorists have long known that safety and comfort are the greatest motivating factors of a horse’s behavior. Often people are surprised to learn that it is not food, as it is with dogs. Horses can find the food on their own—they don’t need a leader for that.

Horses only feel safe in the presence of a strong and committed leader who is fair, in-control and makes all the important decisions. Horses are comfortable when they are allowed to take it easy and have the satisfaction of feeling appreciated. Pampering, indulgence and a lack of rules and structure can turn a good horse bad in a matter of hours.

If you watch for and acknowledge the try in your horse—his effort to do the right thing or to please you– and recognize and reprimand when he is disobedient or distracted, he will work hard to stay on your good side and he will feel safe and content to be with you and to do your bidding.

All the money in the world cannot buy this kind of respect and devotion from a horse—you have to earn it by being a strong leader and recognizing your horse’s effort, be it good or bad. This is a tall order—that’s why horses make us better people.

Enjoy the ride,
Julie