Each year, during our camps at the James Creek Ranch, a consistent question comes up during our lessons out in the pastures.
With all that beautiful, lush grass, it can be difficult to keep our horses attention on us and away from the feast in front of them!
There are many times that I allow my horses to graze. I often enjoy spending quality time with them, hanging out while they eat grass. There are other times when I want them to stay focused on me. Here is a short video showing how I teach my horses a cue to tell them to stop eating grass and connect back to me. The important thing is that I want it to be my horses idea to refrain from the grass rather then my job to hold them off it. By trying to hold the horse and prevent them from eating, the horse will respond by rooting the rope and bracing against us in order to get to the grass. If we allow this to happen, this brace and disrespect will trickle in to many other areas, including riding. Like with many issues, it is important how we deal with each behaviour so that the respect and communication remains at a high level.
Hope you enjoy this video and get one more idea for your tool box!
Stay Inspired by Horses
I am very excited to be heading back to Road to The Horse in Lexington, Kentucky in March 2014!
Starting colts is very physically demanding, and when you are doing it in front of thousands of people, over only 3 days… well, lets just say you don’t want to go into it fresh off the couch!
Staying fit has always been important to me, but I am making an extra effort in preparation for Road to the Horse.
A student, and good friend of mine, Lynn McTaggart was recently up at the James Creek Ranch during the “Purpose Camp”. Lynn, at 68 years young, is a grandmother now, and an inspiration to us all! She ranks in the top 20 in the world in her category in the Cross Fit Training program, and is also the oldest in her category!
Even with a long day in the saddle during the camp, Lynn still managed to get in a workout each day. I was thrilled to have Lynn take me through a short workout, giving me some great exercises that are helpful for all riders! I really encourage riders to find ways to stay fit and strong – It really helps with posture, balance and becoming an active rider for our horses. Try these exercises at home! (Well, maybe not the first one)
Take care and Stay Inspired by Horses!
Last fall a production team, hired by Servus TV (a network owned by Red Bull energy drinks) came out to film a documentary about Jonathan! They followed us all over and captured some amazing footage of Jonathan and his horses. The documentary has aired across Europe, and we are now able to watch it online by following the link below. Who knows, maybe some of you will find yourself or someone you know in there somewhere!
Throughout the Filming, our photographer Robin Duncan captured some great Photos! Here are some shots from behind the scenes!
Willing to go to great lengths to get the shot!
A big thank you to Fred for being our Pilot!
Jonathan, Weston and Mason with our awesome film crew!
The film crew had a great time up at the ranch, soaking up that last bit of summer!
We had camera’s everywhere!
Quincy was a star for this shot!
We just got home after 2 great weeks of camps at the James Creek Ranch. The ranch offers so many great opportunities for lessons! I wanted to share with you a lesson that I demonstrated with this big Irish Sport Horse, “Fergus.”
When I play with horses on the ground I like to look at every trot or canter and imagine that I am riding and I think “would that be a nice trot or canter to ride?” If it isn’t, then I start exercises that help my horse become more balanced and rhythmic. With Fergus, I would ask him to trot slowly on a circle. I wanted him to go slowly so he didn’t get rough and start running away from me. My goal was to have him stretch his body long, take a breath out and relax. I wanted to imagine I could have a nice comfy sitting trot if I was on him.
This choppy trot would not be nice to ride!
When he became braced and short in his stride, I walked towards his rib cage and asked him to move out diagonally sideways from the circle. This bending exercise can cause a horse to soften and stretch if you release at the right time. Timing is key!
Here I am asking Fergus to move sideways off the circle.
Ask your horse to move sideways and watch for how tight the lead is, where the horse looks, and if all his body parts are moving equally. I kept asking Fergus until I could see his eye and ear soften and look towards me, and the lead came slack. It was at that moment I would release and let him go back to the circle. Each time I did this he would stretch out and lengthen his movement and take a big breath out.
At first when I did this, the stretch was very little, which can be expected when you first try this with your horse. As you ask for this many times, you will notice your horse finding the stretch easier and will be able to hold it for longer.
After some nice sideways, Fergus stretched down and relaxed. This looks nicer to ride!
Take every opportunity to teach your horse to be a better riding horse even when you are on the ground. Developing healthy bio mechanics will help keep your horse strong and healthy for years to come!
Hope this helps!
Stay Inspired by horses!
We just wrapped up a Course One Clinic in Victoria, BC. What a great group of people and horses we had in this course!
One of the topics we talked about this weekend was trailer safety and trailer loading. I am very passionate about educating my students about safety surrounding the horse trailer, as there are just so many things that can go wrong and I hear too many stories about people getting hurt in and around horse trailers.
We started out by looking at a couple trailers, and did a thorough check of the mechanics. I encourage everyone to have a professional look at their trailers on a regular basis to check for damage or wear. I also talked about all the swinging parts in a trailer, and discussed the dangers of getting caught in the swing radius of these doors, dividers and windows. I talked about the reasons that horses don’t like trailers, and how we can create the trailer to be a place of comfort for the horse. After a great discussion, the students brought their horses in and I was able to help them to load their horses safely, and help a few horses who were fearful around the trailer.
Here are some little reminders to take with you next time you are traveling with your horse:
- Do a thorough mechanical check every time you hook up.
- Be aware of the swing radius of the dividers and the doors, and avoid being in those areas. When loading or unloading, if a horse gets in a rush or anything goes wrong, then you can get seriously injured if a divider or a door swings and hits you or traps you.
- Be aware of the kick zones. When loading or unloading, doing up bum bars, closing doors and lifting ramps, be very careful to stay out of any area that you could be kicked.
- Before tying, make sure the divider, door or bum bar are holding your horse inside so they don’t try to back out and get stuck. The reason for tying is to keep the horse’s head in the proper position at the front of the trailer. When unloading, have your horse untied before opening the divider or removing the bum bar. Often you can tie and untie through a window. Don’t get trapped inside with your horse trying to get them tied or untied!
- Prepare your horse for a successful ride in the trailer by loading them inside on days that you don’t need to travel. I will often block up my trailer so that it is safe to load a horse inside, and I will have them eat their breakfast inside while the chores are being done. Don’t load a horse into a trailer that is not hooked up to a vehicle, unless you know how to block it properly to insure it won’t tip!
- If your horse does not like to load, build up the communication and the confidence away from the trailer, sending them through all sorts of obstacles and having them rest in some tight places.
Trailer safety is often a topic I cover at Course One Clinics across the country. Take a look at our schedule or events
, and come out to spectate at a clinic in your area!
Be Safe and Stay Inspired by Horses!
Easily moving a horse’s shoulders is one of the most common things people struggle with. I want my horses to be really free and supple to move their shoulders, both on the ground and while riding. They might be sticky and dull for 3 reasons:
1. Horses assert their dominance using that bony thick mass to push people and other horses around.
2. For some horses it’s not easy to articulate their body that way because they tend not to do it with any repetition on their own.
3. There is more weight on the front feet with the head hanging out over the shoulders.
On the Ground: Put one hand on the nose and the other where the cinch or your leg would go when you ride. Rub first and don’t let your horse leave without waiting for you. This way anticipation doesn’t take over. Then ask for a step over while making sure the horse pivots on the hindquarters. In the beginning, start with only a quarter turn at a time. For 7 sessions, move the shoulders every chance you get for lasting results.
In this case, we are on the left side, so we would want the horse to step crossing the left front over top of the right front while keeping the hindquarters very still. Build this up to where you can do a 360 degree turn, asking the horse to balance on their hindquarters. To get the balance right you may need to ask your horse to take a small step backwards first.
While mounted, it is also important to ask many times and only a step or two at first. Here I am asking Cam from walking forward in to the turn on the haunches.This way he keeps some forward momentum and steps his front left over his right. He balances back very easily and will step behind so I tend to walk him forward in to the turn on the haunch.
Perfecting this will help with an endless list! Like setting you up for correct leads, lead departures, nice canter, spins and even flying lead changes.
Stay Inspired by Horses!