Humanity has come a long way in terms of respect for animals. We now have animal rights written into our government policies and animal groups looking after the interests of those who can’t speak for themselves. I feel we are moving forward towards living in a more compassionate and caring world. But recently I had a glaring reminder of the work still to be done.
I was at an Antiques Fair and came across the piece in the above photo. This brass statue depicts a rearing hors
Lately I've been thinking about health and training. Recently I was working with some horses and noticed one had an enormous bean at the entrance to the urethra. This is caused by smegma build up forming hard lumps or 'beans' in the folds of skin around the urethra entrance. It's normally fairly small and easy to remove during regular sheath cleaning, but this was something else. It was so big the skin had pulled tight over it and I just couldn’t remove it. The farrier commen
Here’s a good question to ask. When I am with my horse am I making it easy for my horse to succeed or difficult? Sometimes I see people making things difficult for their horse, resulting in stress, reduced learning and animal health issues due to raised cortisol levels. This can all be fixed with a slight shift in the way we think. When a horse presents with an issue we basically have three choices; 1. We can accept the issue and proceed anyway. 2. We can try and make the hor
I was recently talking with a lady who understood that animals are sentient and should be treated with respect and kindness. But even though she was clear about how animals should be treated she had trouble getting her head around the idea of riding with a bitless bridle. This got me to thinking about the ‘culture of horse riding’.
In this culture it is a known fact that you cannot control a horse without a bit. It is ok to use force and pain to make a horse do want you wan
I’m sure you’re familiar with this word being used in relation to horses, but what does it mean and how do you get it? A dictionary translation is ‘a relationship in which a person or thing is linked or associated with something else’. We can rewrite this as ‘a relationship in which a person is linked with a horse’. There are two important words here, relationship and linked. A relationship is a two way thing and a linkage is the connection. You cannot make your horse connect
For most of the history of horse domestication, we've tended to have communications between humans and horses that are unidirectional. Humans order, horses obey. But now many people are realising that communication could be a two-way street. Horses do communicate with humans, and more and more people are learning to listen.
If the cognitive abilities of horses are misunderstood their treatment may be inappropriate. Equine welfare is dependent not only on physical comfort bu
Whenever your horse does something that you've asked for it's imperative that you give a reward. This reward lets the horse know that they gave the correct response and 'marks' the spot where the behaviour occured, making it more likely that the horse will offer this response the next time you ask. Most people know how to train a dog. You ask the dog to do something, the dog does it and you give a treat. That’s called positive reinforcement, you reinforce the behaviour with s
When I meet a new horse we often go through what I call ‘the conversation’. This is where we check each other out and decide how we’re going to progress from that point. To someone looking on not a lot is happening but between the horse and myself there’s HEAPS going on. The best way to explain it is by describing an encounter I had a few days ago.
I met a lovely filly for the first time after being called in to assist her new owner. I asked if I could hold her while we sto
Sentience is the ability to perceive one’s environment and experience sensations such as pain, suffering, pleasure or comfort. An animal that is sentient receives internal sensation and information from their environment, and interprets this as an emotion. The sensation may make them feel good, bad, or indifferent. The animal will determine how best to act based on this, and use responses in their body, or a behaviour, in order to fulfil their needs. In 1997 the European Unio
TRAINING/DETRAINING Everything we do with our horses is training them or de-training them. We call it training when the horse ends up doing something ‘better’ than they had previously, and we call it de-training when they end up doing it ‘worse’. Horses don’t know the difference between training sessions and just hanging out. Everything we do when we are around a horse will affect its behaviour in the future, for better or for worse. This is a very important point. When peopl
This heading sounds a bit like a topic for a conference, not the horse paddock. But it’s a very important subject to be aware of when working with horses. A confident human is one who feels solid in the world; they have a good idea of where they are and what’s coming up, within a flexible framework. The same goes for a horse, in order to feel confident they need to understand and accept what is currently happening and be fully prepared for upcoming events. Frequently when I’m
Recently my husband related a story to me of an experience he’d had that day. He was talking with someone when the topic of horses came up and he was explaining what it is I do with them. He started talking about the bits in the mouth and the other person didn’t understand. Eventually it became clear that he thought those pretty metal rings at the side of the horses head were just that, pretty metal rings, for decoration. He had no idea they were holding a metal rod inside th
Here is a great little exercise that will improve your feel for your horse and your riding skills, make your horse suppler, and increase safety when riding. Sounds too good to be true? What I’m talking about is extending your horse out within a gait and contracting it back in. Often when I’m teaching a student they will complain about a horse being too slow or too fast in a gait. A horse creeping along with minimum effort is no fun to ride, but neither is a horse that’s going
I was very fortunate when I changed all my horses from being ridden with a bit to a bitless bridle. Without exception they all took to the bitless bridle without a problem. At the time I just thought that was normal and everyone’s horses would be the same. Since then I’ve learnt a few things. Sometimes when I meet a new horse and their owner wants to try bitless, the horse doesn’t take to it instantly. So I developed a training program to assist the transition to a bitless br
I looked up the definition of this word and came up with – ‘regard with deference, avoid degrading, insulting, injuring or interrupting and treat with consideration’. Respect is a word that is heard often in horse circles, usually when a person is saying a horse doesn’t have enough respect. This is considered a very bad thing and the horse must be taught to show more respect for humans immediately. I usually start feeling quite uncomfortable when I hear people use this word i
The use of food in training horses is a controversial topic. Many ‘horse people’ are against using food treats. With all other species of animal food is used in training, so why not horses? In many European countries food is used extensively in horse training. Circus and trick horses are also trained this way. I started questioning people and found an interesting thing. A lot of people don’t understand basic training theory and don’t know the difference between bribery and
Everyone’s looking for the happy place. This is where life is beautiful, there are no pressures on us and no stress, this is where we can relax and enjoy what the world has to offer. Horses also look for the happy place. When horses are in the happy place they can relax and unwind their muscles, their minds are open to learning, as there is no stress, and they are much more open to their human.Far too frequently when I’m out and about training horses and their humans, I find
I am very fortunate to be able to meet and work with many different types of horses. Every single one of those horses without exception has a brain. Horses are capable of understanding an enormous amount of information and are very good at retaining it. Yet constantly when I watch people work with their horses they are trying to make the horses’ body do things. They want to move that leg over, send the body backwards etc., so they expend an enormous amount of time and energy