A Few Things to Consider
Horsemanship is simple. There’s just a lot to remember
It’s Up To You. The most important thing you can give to your horse is time. Quality horsemanship requires knowledge, skill, care, understanding and, most importantly, the time it takes to get things right. There are innumerable sources of help and information through books, videos and clinics. There are lots of ways to learn. Then, try to understand how your horse thinks, what motivates him. Develop understanding. Understanding will give patience.
The Horse’s Mind, The Horse’s Body. A horse’s mind is represented by a whole range of emotions and intelligence, memory and senses working together in infinite combinations in constant change. The body is represented by a conformation based on a skeletal framework and muscles in varying degrees of suppleness in bio-mechanical movements and maneuvers, gaits and transitions. Everything in every moment is changing within the horse. Through experience, observation, knowledge and understanding does one become familiar with these.
Understanding and Patience. Learning to just wait for a horse to figure out what you’re asking seems to be the hardest thing for humans to savvy about horses. Everything you need to know to teach a horse is a variation of understanding and patience. Understanding means gaining the many insights about how the horse’s mind and body operate. Patience means setting it up and waiting for the horse to find the answer. It could take 10 minutes or 10 days.
Softness Builds Softness, Hardness Builds Hardness. If you want your horse to be as light as a feather and soft as cotton through the halter rope or reins, offer that lightness to your horse first. Horses are born soft and light. It’s people who take it out of them. If you’re rough through the reins or legs, your horse will match you and be rough back. If your horse is shaking its head, don’t get firmer, get softer.
All A Horse Has To Go On Is Feel. A horse doesn’t really understand your words, why you’re shouting or growling at it, why you’re frustrated, why you’re hitting it, kicking it, or yanking on the lead rope or reins. All he understands is how that feels to him. Offer your horse a good feel and he’ll learn to offer that good feel back to you. Feel is the key to true horsemanship. Your presence, touch and tone of voice all convey feel to your horse.
A Horse’s Emotions. Horses are emotional creatures. Your job is to keep your horse emotionally settled, positive and upbeat. It’s the better way to communicate well with horses. If you hit or punish your horse for doing something wrong or because you lose patience, you’ll destroy his emotional well-being and positive learning frame of mind. That will set him back in his progress. The rule of thumb is “soft as possible but as firm as necessary.” You don’t have to be submissive with a horse that’s trying to take over but you don’t need to be a cruel dictator, either.
Instinct and Learned Behavior. Everything a horse knows is either an instinct or a learned behavior. Instinct comes factory- installed. Learned behaviors are our modifications, whether positive or negative. When a horse is scared, it reverts to instinct to find its way out of trouble. The exception is when it's been taught a behavior it can turn to for safety. Flight is the primary means of defense for horses. It is the most basic, instinctive reaction to fearful exposures. Horses must confront and overcome fears progressively to replace a potentially dangerous instinct with a safe learned behavior. The good news is horses are extremely adaptable and can do this easily. When a young colt first feels pressure on the halter rope, instinct tells it to pull back to get away to save its life. It has to learn that moving forward is the behavior that relieves that pressure.
Confidence and Trust. Nature put insecurity and fear into each horse so it quickly flees from danger to save its life from predators. That is instinct. It comes with every model and it’s there to stay. But horses adapt. They learn to be confident and trusting which allows them to be secure and brave, especially in the human environment. Confidence gives the horse trust and trust lets a horse become gentle. As your horse grows in confidence, it loosens its instinctive dependence on the flight response more and more. The key is patience on the handler’s part. Confidence and trust is hard to get but easy to lose.
Adaptability. As with all prey animals, nature made the horse adaptable in order to overcome its fears. It doesn’t usually happen all at once. It happens progressively. If your horse is afraid of something, like a flag or a bag on a stick, break down a task into smaller pieces. As the horse adapts, it becomes more confident and trusts the handler more. Trust builds confidence and confidence builds gentleness and respect in the horse.
Repetition and Memory. Horses think. Horses remember. Horses sort through past experiences to return to what has worked for them before, whether good or bad. Horses learn best through repetition and memory. Mistakes in the process are fine. Making mistakes is part of the learning/sorting process for horses. Your job is to hang in there until he gets it right by making the right response easier than the wrong response. When he gets it right, that’s the place to quit and go do something else. Teaching is repeating.
Flooding. While horses learn best through repetition and memory, they can also learn something all at once, and often it’s the bad things. Flooding is the term applied to this. If a horse is scared or hurt doing something, it won’t forget it. Memory is deeply rooted in emotion, most often the emotion of fear. If you over-expose the horse to something – or flood it – and it frightens him, he may remember that and try to avoid that in the future. It could make a life-long impression. That could be something we don’t want, such as a fear of loading into a trailer, cinchiness when being saddled or the fear of black hat if one of his handlers in a black hat was cruel to him.
Pressure and Release, Approach and Retreat. A horse will seek the easiest way to conserve its energy. It will take the path of least effort. A key to success in training is to immediately remove a cue or signal – the pressure – the instant you notice the smallest change or the slightest try in the horse. Your horse will sort out in his mind what he just did to cause you to release the pressure, and will begin to return to that each time. The release of pressure is what tells the horse he did something right. It is the release that teaches, not the thing you’re doing. In groundwork, pressure and release take the form of approach and retreat. For instance, if you back up or retreat when your colt looks at you, he’ll think he’s training you to take the pressure off and continue to respond that way. When you finish that day’s session with your horse, always end on a positive note. That, too, is a release. Your horse will learn to begin the next day pretty close to where you left him. This is why teaching the horse correctly is important. The hardest thing to do is re-train a horse out of an unwanted behavior.
Suppleness and Roundness. Teach your horse to become soft and round, physically and mentally. A horse braces to protect itself. A “brace” is a preparation for flight or to defend itself, first mentally then physically, and it happens in an instant. Suppling the horse helps eliminate the braciness and replaces it with softness and roundness. Develop suppleness and roundness by riding your horse in lots of circles of various sizes in both directions until he’ll go on a loose rein.
VERMILLION CLIFFS HORSE MOTEL IS OPEN!
If you are passing through Page, Arizona and need a place for your horses or other livestock we have accommodations including waters, feeders and we will feed for you if you want us to.
We have one brand new 12 ft. by 24 ft. corral just as you enter the grounds where you can stay next to your horses if you have a self contained trailer with sleeping accommodations. The fee is $15 per night per horse. If you have more than two horses we have other corrals that we will rent out on a daily basis up to 40 ft. by 40 ft. with cost adjusted to the situation. If you have other livestock including horses, cattle or sheep (no pigs) we can also accommodate you for overnight or longer stays as we have cattle pens associated with our rodeo grounds operation.
If you do decide to spend some time with us, your daily fee allows you the use of our round pens, 3 wash stations for horses with metal stanchions / concrete floors and the rodeo arena for exercising your horses if we do not have an event booked or are not working the arena floor in preparation for an event. We also have a practice area with barrels set up for barrel racing and two trail areas set up in a similar style to a show trail course. There are two trail areas that have poles for pole bending and two trails with logs, offsets, keyholes and a bridge. If you wish to exercise your horses by riding, we border the edge of the developed portion of Page and there are several square miles of area open for you to ride in with several nearby interesting mesas and canyons to explore.
For Reservations call either NaTisha or Larry prior to or upon arrival in Page.
POLE COURSE AND LOG TRAIL ON WEST SIDE
POLE COURSE ON EAST SIDE WITH OPEN RIDING AREA IN BACKGROUND