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Posts Tagged ‘horse behavior’

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Photo by Coco Baptist

Wouldn’t it be cool if every horse made a New Year’s Resolution not to shy at silly, innocuous, or invisible things in 2019? Alas, I think we all know that isn’t likely, so best case scenario is we riders resolve to do better by our horses when the shy does happen.

The late Walter Zettl was a highly respected clinician and proponent of classical training principles. “My approach,” he said, “is that of complete sympathy for the horse and devotion to its happiness and well-being…. I attempt to educate riders to make their horses happy, confident, and proud to work for them.”

Here is Zettl’s advice for handling the horse that shies, from his book DRESSAGE IN HARMONY:

Young horses often shy and jump away from new objects or situations or quick movements. Older, more experienced horses may also jump away from new “goblins,” but usually time has accustomed them to weird blankets, shadows, flowers, sunbeams, and so on. One should never forget, however, that the horse evolved as a grazing animal whose main defense against predators is flight. A few months or years of training will never overcome millions of years of evolution.

To cure shying, the horse must be brought to trust his rider and himself. He must trust that the rider will let him run away if something terrible happens, and he must feel balanced and in control of his body. You often see riders trying to force their horses past a “scary” object, and the horse becomes more and more tense, and the rider resorting to more and more force. You can never beat the shying out. What is really happening in the horse’s mind is that he is being trapped near this frightening thing and that his one defense is taken away. Also, he learns to associate a whipping with an object, place, or situation, and we have succeeded in teaching him that this thing is to be feared, and he becomes more and more tense. 

When riding past a frightening place, the rider must become more relaxed, careful, cool, and quiet. When the horse trusts that he can run away, he will accept that he does not need to—yet. The rider must lightly control the horse, but always give the horse the reassurance that flight is possible. The rider must also keep the horse well balanced, so the horse feels that he can jump away. 

dressageinharmonyshying-horseandriderbooks

By positioning the horse with a good bend away from the object (shoulder-in for those horses that understand it), the horse cannot bolt away so easily through the inside shoulder, although he still sees an “escape” through the front. For example: When a horse shies from an object on his right side, he usually bends strongly right to look at the object, plants both front feet, and pushes out through the left shoulder. Keeping the bend left makes this more difficult, making it easier for the rider to keep the horse going straight past the object. Making the horse bend right and pulling him toward the object only makes the horse more frightened because escaping forward takes him toward the hazard. 

dressageinharmpb-horseandriderbooksYou can learn more from Walter Zettl in his book DRESSAGE IN HARMONY, available from the TSB online bookstore where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE for more information or to order.

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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Dare we ask whether the concept of equine hierarchy is indeed the primary means of understanding horses and the foundation upon which all training should be built?

In their new book EQUUS LOST? Francesco De Giorgio and Jose De Giorgio-Schoorl question the role of hierarchy within equine herds and suggest that our dependence upon perceived hierarchies in order to determine our interactions with horses is flawed.

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Photo courtesy of Francesco De Giorgio & Jose De Giorgio-Schoorl

“Due to the vicious circle of hierarchical focus and our anthropocentric views, there are many elements and details of equine behavior that we fail to see,” they write. “In fact, we still miss the essential part of the horse—that is, the horse as he is, a sentient and cognitive being, with his own social preferences.

“The first question horse people asks themselves when they go to see a new herd is likely to be, ‘Who is the dominant horse?’ Yet, by focusing on this aspect, we immediately create a filter and make it impossible to observe the more subtle social behaviors, all the small gestures, and less visible behaviors that nevertheless have an important cohesive function within the herd. These gestures can include: observing each other and being aware of the herd’s dynamics, looking from a distance while foraging, standing in proximity to each other, separating horses that tend to enter into conflict, smelling each other’s noses or flanks to understand certain situations better, and coming to stand close by. Further, horses softly nicker when there is tension between herd members. They are dedicated to all these interactions, which serve to demonstrate understanding and reassurance while reinforcing the role of dialogue within the group.

“We can see the impact of the dominance filter when looking at some of the methods used in groundwork, where a horse is in a round pen and a human is standing in the middle with, or without, a longe line, forcing a horse into movement by gesturing with his arms, believing he is using them as symbols of the leading mare and the pushing stallion. Not only is this not ethical because it doesn’t reflect the complex and sophisticated social herd dynamics, but it also brings people to believe that this is actually how horses create dialogue, causing a huge element for miscommunication in the horse-human relationship.

“Horses do not like conflict. They want to understand social dynamics, watch nuances, and support each other in order to have and preserve a calm environment. They do not busy themselves with ranking but with observing social relationships. In the horse-human relationship, tricks and treats cannot be used to smooth out and reduce tense behavior. They cannot make it disappear or create in its place an emotionally balanced animal. Our desire for obedience, surrender, and specific reactions makes us cover up behavior and doesn’t allow the horse to use his own social skills and inner intentions. Training methods focus on surrender, ignoring the essence of the horse and his social abilities.”

 

 

If you’re ready to consider that there might be better ways to coexist and work with horses, read EQUUS LOST? available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to order now

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small company based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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The Trafalgar Square Books offices are located on a Vermont farm. We recognize ourselves as pretty lucky, seeing as in between meetings and calls with authors we can look out the windows and see both horses and Highland Cattle grazing in the green fields that slope up from the barn where our books and DVDs are warehoused toward the treeline in the distance. There is something about seeing, hearing, and breathing horses throughout each work day that is integral to our mission of publishing books “for the good of the horse.”

A few equine members of the “TSB herd” are boarders, a few are training projects and in active work, and then there are a number of “retirees” that are allowed the freedom to roam, pretty much as they wish, in quiet companionship. The horses begin and end their days close to the barn, with paddocks and run-ins directly below our office windows, so we all form relationships of proximity with them—and we know their habits and rituals. We watch them eat breakfast and wander down to the stream for a drink. We see them play in the snow and nap in the sun. We notice how they relate to their pasturemates, the naughty pony, the cranky geese. We think of them all with affection, even though they are not ours to ride, train, or care for.

This past spring, we experienced a farm event that was profoundly moving; one that brought us all together, inspiring discussion and bringing questions to the fore that we had not yet dealt with directly as a collective group.

One morning, the barn manager arrived early in the morning to do chores and found one of the “old fellas,” a Quarter Horse gelding thought to be near 30 years old, in his pasture, unable to move and clearly in severe pain. The veterinarian was immediately called, and upon her arrival she determined the horse had broken his shoulder somehow during the night—a catastrophic accident without obvious cause. The decision was made to euthanize him without delay.

The gelding had long been turned out with two other pensioners, as had been arranged by a charitable owner. All three retirees had lived together contentedly as a small herd with little human interference for a number of years. As the veterinarian attended to the stricken gelding, one of his pasturemates startled her by coming over and lying down beside them, facing the injured horse, and remaining there as the old Quarter Horse took his last breaths. It was uncharacteristic of the companion to approach his pasturemate in such a fashion, and it was especially unusual, seeing as three people were present during the procedure.

The gelding’s owner wished to come say goodbye before his burial, so his body was not moved right away. Remarkably, the companion by his side remained, and when he did rise, it was only to change position before lying down beside his fallen comrade once again. The third horse in their little herd had also joined them, standing nearby, quietly, for quite some time.

The barn manager took a photograph of the scene, not to be macabre but to share what appears to us, at least by our human interpretation, to be the dead horse’s herd holding vigil over a friend’s body.

 

horse group

 

We are all horse people at Trafalgar Square Books, and as we are learning more about horses as sentient beings and the necessity of ensuring that compassion underlies all that we do with them, this incident moved us all distinctly. We discussed it with each other, and in relation to our own horses, and how the event might affect decisions we make on and around horses in the future. We also shared it with a number of our authors, asking for their thoughts and insight.

“Personally, I feel that we have gone to an extreme with our fear of ‘anthropomorphizing’ human behaviors onto animals,” said Dr. Allen Schoen, who recently co-authored THE COMPASSIONATE EQUESTRIAN with Susan Gordon. “The more we understand the commonality of neuroscience between species, especially mammalian species, the more we can appreciate that animals do grieve in their own way. I have seen this many times personally and have discussed this in my other books Love, Miracles and Animal Healing and Kindred Spirits. We see evidence of this in elephants and many other species. I have seen it in geese, sitting by the side of the road next to their mates who had been killed by a car. I feel it is time that we honor the sentience, the awareness, the consciousness of horses, and their awareness and sensitivity to the death of their companions, as well.”

“Horses use their entire bodies to communicate with each other,” explained Sharon Wilsie, co-author of HORSE SPEAK with Gretchen Vogel. “During the course of a day there are several primary conversations that they may have with each other when out in a herd. One of their favorite conversations is simply called, ‘sharing space.’ To our eyes horses who are sharing space together may seem to be doing nothing more than dozing in the sun or standing around doing nothing. However, once you understand the significance of sharing space you will begin to see the inherent bonding and peacefulness that they are participating in at that moment. When a herd member passes away, sharing space with the departed is the most affectionate and connecting conversation that the living can have, not only with the one who has passed away, but also with each other and inside themselves.

“Although we can only guess at what grief may feel like for a horse it is easy to feel the power of their hearts as they stand guard over the grave of a loved one. Those of us who have been around animals long enough will probably have experienced a horse lingering near the burial site of one who has crossed over that rainbow bridge. Unlike humans who can easily find distraction from our emotional pain, horses live in the present moment and experience the fullness of all of life, including the passing of another that might have been special to them.

“Living in the moment is not always easy for us,” says Sharon. “Perhaps that is why being with horses can feel so healing to our minds, hearts, and souls. Taking a page from their book of life may do us some good in facing what can be a very sad time for us. We, too, can mourn with the dignity, grace, and fullness that horses demonstrate so flawlessly.”

–Rebecca Didier, Senior Editor

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TSBTdaypost

1  It’s okay to stand still, be quiet, and do nothing.

2  Firm can be fair, when the timing is right.

3  A crisp breeze on a fall day is a good reason to run, jump, and reach for the sky.

4  Our closest companions needn’t be beautiful, successful, or brilliant…just present.

5  Forgive. Forgive again. Forgive again.

 

We at TSB are thankful for all that horses teach us and how they enrich our lives in countless ways.

Happy Thanksgiving

 

-The TSB Staff

www.HorseandRiderBooks.com

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If we are lucky, we find a way to construct our lives around the things we love most, and if we’re blessed, we get to do those things for many, many years. Heather Smith Thomas, prolific writer and author of GOOD HORSE, BAD HABITS, illustrates this ideal so well–at 70, she is still at her desk typing in the wee hours before chores need to be done, and in the saddle moving cattle a large part of each day. Hers may not be an “easy” life in comparison to some, but it is one filled with the joys of family, beautiful landscapes, and of course, horses.

As part of the TSB “Horseworld by the Hour” series, Heather shares with us the details of one typically busy, but utterly satisfying, summer day.

 

24hrHST

 

A TYPICAL SUMMER DAY IN IDAHO

5:00 a.m.  At this time of day I am usually at my typewriter, typing a phone interview taped the day before, or creating an article or story about horses or cattle. I write for several horse magazines and a lot of farm and livestock publications, so I am often doing phone interviews with people all over the country, on various topics.

5:30 a.m.  I have an assignment to do an article for The American Farrier’s Journal on the value of apprenticeships and mentoring programs, so I send e-mails to a few of my favorite farriers around the country, to see if I can line up interviews with them on this topic.

6:30 a.m.  If it’s winter, I am still typing at this hour. If it’s early April, I may be heading out to check on the calving cows if I see one in labor (looking out the window with spotlight and binoculars, checking the maternity pen near our house). Right now, however, it’s summer, and daylight enough for me to go out and feed my horses. We have 7 horses. Rubbie (27 year old ¾ Arab mare) and Veggie (28 year old 7/8 Arab gelding) are now retired, as of this year, after putting in many years and miles as ranch horses and then kid horses for my grandchildren. Breezy, a 23-year-old Morgan mare, has been my daughter’s best cowhorse for nearly 20 years. Ed is a 20-something grade mare (part Arab) that has been a good cowhorse and now a mount for my 9-year-old granddaughter. Sprout is an 8-year-old Quarter Horse mare that my daughter rides. Dottie is a 4-year-old Morgan mare that I’m riding and training, and Willow is a 2-year-old Morgan filly just starting in training.

7:00 a.m.  When I get in from chores I grab a roast out of the freezer to put in the slow cooker. The roast is from an old cow named Freddie that we butchered last fall, and the meat will be much more tender if it cooks all day. I also quickly make some Jello—adding a can of fruit and a couple bananas.

7:30 a.m.   A quick breakfast (mixing 3 or 4 different kinds of dry cereal, with a banana on top), then back to typing.

8:00 a.m.  If it’s winter, my husband Lynn and I are out doing morning chores by this hour, and then feeding the cows (me driving the feed truck and him feeding off the hay). Morning chores start later because it’s dark so long, and take longer in winter because we are feeding the horses, feeding the group of heifers in the field below the barn, breaking ice out of the horse’s water tubs and refilling them, breaking ice on the creek for the cows, etc.

8:30 a.m.  At this time of morning I am often hurrying back to the house to do a phone interview. Sometimes I’m doing an interview earlier than this, if I’m talking to someone back East (2 hours ahead of us). I may be talking with a researcher at a university for an article about the latest findings on a horse or cattle disease, or reasons for early pregnancy loss in mares, or ways to collect semen from injured bulls. I might be talking with a farrier (this week I’m doing an article on club foot in horses) or a rancher (I’m writing an article on the benefits of low-stress cattle handling, and another article on various weaning methods for calves). One of the most interesting things about being a freelance writer is the many topics I write about and the things I learn from all the people I talk to.

9:30 a.m.  My daughter and a couple of my grandchildren have driven down to our place from their house on the hill above our hayfield, and are now getting their horses brushed and saddled, to ride with me. Nine-year-old Dani is proud to be able to catch, brush and saddle Ed by herself, and clean out her feet.

10:00 a.m.  We are riding through our hill pasture, checking our cows and calves. We’ve found most of the cows but are missing a bunch of calves. When we get to the top of the pasture, Dani is delighted to find that her favorite cow, Maggie, is babysitting 11 calves while their mamas are on the other side of the mountain, grazing. Dani tells me the ear tag numbers of all the calves so I can mark them off on the list in my little “cow book” that I always carry in my back pocket.

10:30 a.m.  We’ve seen all the cows and calves, to make sure they are all there, and healthy, so we go out through the top gate onto the range to make a loop through that range pasture to see if we can find some stray cows.

11:00 a.m.  Our range neighbors gathered and moved their cattle a few days ago, but missed a dozen pairs. We’ve found them at “Antelope” trough, so we start moving them around the hill toward the pasture where they belong. We let 11-year-old Samantha (riding Breezy) follow the cows on the main trail, and the rest of our horses scramble through the rocks and brush to gather the outlying cattle.

Breezy has only one eye, but manages very nicely in the mountains. She developed a cancerous growth on her left eyeball last fall and we opted to have the eye surgically removed so the cancer wouldn’t spread. Our vet removed the eye in late December and we spent the next weeks changing bandages as it started to heal. We kept it covered and protected from the cold weather for several months, using a fly mask with 2 layers of denim sewn onto that side to cover that part of her face. It was fully healed by this spring, and we started riding her again. We’re hoping that by removing the cancer (a growth that would have metastasized and killed her) she will have several more good years and can continue to be a good horse for Sam.

Breezy knows all the trails in our mountains after checking and chasing cows out there for many years, and has always been an agile cowhorse. In handling Breezy this summer, Sam has become more conscientious in her horse handling and riding, and is learning how to think ahead and be careful to not get close to obstacles on Breezy’s blind side. Watching that pair, you’d never know the mare had only one eye.

 

Heather Smith Thomas began shoeing her own horses when she was 14--here she shoes one of her ranch horses in the seventies.

Heather Smith Thomas began shoeing her own horses when she was 14–here she shoes one of her ranch horses in the seventies.

 

11:30 a.m.  My daughter Andrea trots on ahead as we bring the little herd around the mountain, so she can hurry down the steep slope to open the gate into the middle range pasture. The kids and I bring the herd. This is good experience for the green mare that I’m riding; she hasn’t had much interaction with cattle yet. The grandkids are proud to be able to help hold the herd together, learning how to be good little cowgirls. Dani trots Ed through the tall sagebrush to head some wayward pairs the right direction, and the cattle funnel down the steep trail to the gate—where Andrea keeps them from going on down the canyon and heads them through the gate.

12:00 p.m.  Now we are trotting toward home. On another day we might take a lunch and make a longer loop through the middle range pasture, checking gates, fences and water troughs, but today I need to get home to do a couple more phone interview this afternoon, and the girls want their mom to take them to town to the swimming pool.

12:30 p.m.  We are putting the horses away in their pens, except for Sprout and Ed. We’ll let Sprout “mow” the backyard for a while first, and Ed is grazing the tall grass by my hay shed. Rather than mow the tall grass (that would soon be a fire hazard after it dries out), we’re letting the horses eat it. This serves a double purpose because we are running low on hay and won’t have our new crop baled and stacked until late July. I’m currently letting the two retired horses (Rubbie and Veggie) graze the pens around our calving barn. This is saving hay and is good for the old horses (with their old teeth they do better on green grass than on hay), and utilizes the tall grass around the barn and in the maternity pens. Later, I’ll move these old horses to our ditchbank “pasture” above the house, to let the grass regrow in the barnyard pens—so it will be lush and green when we put our calves in there to wean in October. We wean them there, right next to their mamas in the field below the barn, where they have fenceline contact with their mamas and are not as distressed.

1:00 p.m.  My husband and I have a quick lunch (leftovers from the pot of chili I cooked yesterday). I usually cook a big meal in the evenings so we can have enough left for an instant lunch the next day when everyone is too busy to cook. We can grab lunch whenever it’s convenient—whether it’s 11:30 a.m. (maybe after I finish a phone interview and my husband gets done irrigating, and before he drives to town–12 miles—to get the mail and groceries and tractor parts) or at 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. after I get home from a range ride. If I’m too late getting home, he can help himself to the leftovers!

1:30 p.m.  I lie down for a quick rest. At age 70, I don’t have the endurance I used to, and it’s hard to get everything done unless I take a little break after lunch. Sometimes grandma doesn’t get a nap, however, if I’m out riding range with my daughter or grandkids through most of the day.

2:00 p.m.  Another phone interview, this time talking with a veterinarian in Virginia who has done several years’ research on back problems in horses, looking at better ways to diagnose and treat them.

2:30 p.m.  My oldest granddaughter (Heather Carrie Thomas, age 23) arrives to work with Willow, and I watch out my window while doing the phone interview. I bought Willow as a weaned foal 2 years ago this fall, along with her half-sister Dottie (then 2 years old), to be future horses for Dani and Sam. Andrea and I spent time that fall and winter gentling the two Morgan fillies and leading them a lot. Last summer young Heather started Dottie under saddle for me and then I rode her for 5 months–until it got too icy in December. Now young Heather is working with Willow. She’s done a lot of groundwork with this filly and has started riding her. At my age it’s nice to have a granddaughter help start these young horses!

3:00 p.m.  One more interview, with a family that has a pasture dairy in southern Idaho and sells their milk products (including fresh-made ice cream) through their own farm store.

3:30 p.m.  I talk with my granddaughter Heather about Willow’s progress.

4:00 p.m.  Typing interviews. I usually spend 6 to 10 hours a day at my writing—during whatever time I am not working with the cattle or horses. My writing has become a full-time job that I can do at odd hours. My husband and I had 180 cows for more than 30 years, but during the past dozen years or so, we’ve sold most of our cows to our son and his family to help them get started in ranching. Now my husband and I have just a small herd, and depend more on my writing income than the cattle income.

4:30 p.m.  If it were winter I’d be going out to do chores before dark, but right now I can keep typing.

6:00 p.m.  I peel some potatoes to cook while I’m doing the horse chores.

6:30 p.m.  Evening chores are simple and quick, just feeding the horses in their pens, since I watered them during morning chores.

7:00 p.m.  Supper is roast beef, gravy and potatoes, with Jello and green beans.

7:30 p.m.  My son Michael comes down here from his house on the upper place, to put new shoes on Sprout in the cool of the evening, and I hold her for him to shoe. Sprout is a horse we bought 2 years ago, and when we got her she was very resistant to having her feet handled, let alone shod. After a season of working with her (and my son shoeing her for me), she became much more at ease and better behaved, but I still prefer to have my son shoe her. If Ed or Breezy’s feet get a bit long I may reset their shoes myself because those horses are easy to shoe. I’ve been shoeing my own horses since I was 14, but now it’s kind of nice to let my son do most of the shoeing!

8:30 p.m.  We finish with Sprout and I put iodine on her soles (to toughen them up so she won’t become tenderfooted traveling through the rocks tomorrow when we ride) and put her back in her pen.

9:00 p.m.  To bed, even though it’s still daylight, since I always get up early. Once in a while my husband and I watch a movie in the evenings (we enjoy a good drama, romance, suspense or comedy if it has a good plot and good acting), but tonight it’s too late and we’re too tired.

4:00 a.m.  At my computer again. I like to do a lot of my typing in the early mornings before the day’s activities. There are no interruptions this time of day, and also my brain is MUCH fresher than it is in the late afternoon or evening!

 

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

Heather Smith Thomas’ new book GOOD HORSE, BAD HABITS is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO SHOP NOW

 

And check out all the top riders, trainers, and equine experts we’ve featured in our “Horseworld by the Hour” series:

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

CLINTON ANDERSON

 

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TSB author Heather Smith Thomas and one of her ranch horses: a mare named "Ed"! Heather says that even now in her twenties, Ed is one of her best cow horses.

TSB author Heather Smith Thomas and one of her ranch horses: a mare named “Ed.” Heather says that even now in her twenties, Ed is one of her best cow horses.

 

TSB author Heather Smith Thomas and her husband raise beef cattle and horses on a ranch in the mountains of eastern Idaho. Heather writes regularly for more than 25 farm and livestock magazines and about 30 horse publications. She has sold more than 11,000 stories and articles, and published 20 books, all while keeping the family and ranch in working order. We recently had a chance to catch up with Heather following a busy calving season, and we asked her about her new book GOOD HORSE, BAD HABITS and whether or not she was planning a vacation from her very busy life anytime soon. We loved her reply…read on:

 

TSB: You have published more than 11,000 articles and 20 books on various aspects of horse and cattle management. What makes your newest book, GOOD HORSE, BAD HABITS, a worthwhile addition to that list and to every horseman’s barn or bookshelf?

Heather: There are no “perfect” horses with perfect manners and training. Every good horse can become better. Nearly every “bad” horse can be improved. Horses often develop what we call “bad habits” either through neglect (not taking time to be consistent or to insist on good habits) or mistakes in how we handle them. If we can find ways to improve their behavior we can have a much more satisfying relationship with those horses. A horseman may not encounter every “bad habit,” but if this book can help a person work through even one challenging situation to where it results in a satisfactory outcome (and a better relationship with that horse), it will be worthwhile.

 

TSB: GOOD HORSE, BAD HABITS features over 130 common behavior and training problems. How did you choose which issues to include? What do you think is the most-asked-about issue in the horse world?

Heather: I tried to cover the most common (and some of the less common) problems encountered with horses, whether in the stable, handling on the ground, or under saddle. One of the most asked-about issues I’ve found is the case of a pushy horse that doesn’t respect his handler’s requests or personal space.

 

TSB: One common theme that appears in your book is that of keeping horses as best suits their nature, with plenty of grass/hay and turnout, and opportunity for socialization with other horses. You assert that many problems with which we are faced today are solved when these basic needs of the horse are met. Can you tell us a little about how your ranch horses are kept? Do you find that they are, for the most part, content in their work and less prone to vices because of their management?

Heather: Our ranch horses are kept outdoors in large paddocks or at pasture. They are never indoors, and this simplifies or resolves/avoids some of the management and health issues that arise when horses are confined too much or kept indoors. Yes, I think they are more content in their work because they have more chance to just be “horses” when they are not working. They definitely do not develop “stable vices” because they are never kept in a stall.

 

Click the image above to order the new book from Heather Smith Thomas.

Click the image above to order the new book from Heather Smith Thomas.

 

TSB: You and your husband raise beef cattle on a ranch in Idaho. What is your favorite thing about ranch life? What’s the hardest thing about it? Are you finding that your family is committed to preserving some or all of the ranching life traditions for the children/grandchildren in the years ahead?

Heather: My favorite thing about ranch life is being able to work outdoors with animals, to put their needs first in the daily routine of chores, feeding, etc. My favorite tasks are working with the cattle and being able to use our horses to check cattle, fences, water sources on the range, and move and work cattle. The teamwork we develop with a good horse is very satisfying.

The hardest thing about ranch life, as my husband and I struggled to pay for a ranch, is making a living at it (that’s one reason I’ve done a lot of writing—it’s the equivalent of my “off-farm job,” but I can do it at home in between the outdoor jobs with the cattle and horses). Ranching is a poor way to make a living, but it’s a great life, and a wonderful way to raise children. One reason we still have cows today (after selling most of our cows to our son and his wife a few years back) is because they are a great learning experience for our grandchildren. Our daughter’s children are growing up here on the ranch and enjoying the pleasures of working with cattle and riding horses. We do want to continue to preserve our way of life for our grandchildren.

 

TSB: If you could be sure that readers take away one lesson from GOOD HORSE, BAD HABITS, what would you hope it would be?

Heather: Flexibility. Be open to new ideas; new ways to deal with a difficult challenge. Be open to the horse’s mind and emotions. Be in tune with that horse. If something isn’t working in your relationship, try something different. Find a way to draw out the best response from that horse and avoid/head off problem behavior.

 

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember sitting on a horse.

Heather: Actually it was a Forest Service pack mule, when I was very young. I had accompanied my father to meet a friend of his who was coming down out of the mountains from a fire lookout, with his pack mule, and I got to ride it down to the road, sitting on the empty pack saddle, as the mule was led.

 

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember falling off a horse.

Heather: I was about 14 years old and a couple friends and I were riding our horses at a friend’s ranch. We were riding bareback and switched horses. As we came galloping down across the field, the mare I was riding jumped a ditch and gave a little buck, and I went off over her head—and I was grateful that she was agile and didn’t want to step on me. She jumped over me after I landed in front of her.

 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

Heather: Honesty, along with understanding.

 

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

Heather: Athletic ability/agility (catty enough to work cattle and sure-footed enough to do it in difficult terrain and never fall down) was always number one with me, but as I get older I also appreciate a good mind and a kind, willing attitude.

 

GOOD HORSE, BAD HABITS was a Practical Horseman Magazine Editor's Pick for the month of May.

GOOD HORSE, BAD HABITS was a Practical Horseman Magazine Editor’s Pick for the month of May.

 

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback or with a horse that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

Heather: I’ve done enough wild riding chasing cattle in rugged country that I don’t need to try being a jockey or a steeplechase rider, and I’ve had athletic horses that gave me a taste of dressage along with endurance feats, so I’m really not sure what it would be.

 

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

Heather: The breed is not important as long as it’s a good horse, though my preference might be Anglo-Arab just because my very best cowhorse was a Thoroughbred-Arab cross. Not sure about the book—probably any really good book that I hadn’t read yet. Or maybe the Bible.

 

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

Heather: Milk and leftovers.

 

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Heather: Riding a good horse all day in the mountains checking cattle or moving cattle.

 

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

Heather: Beef roast (home raised), potatoes, and gravy.

 

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?

Heather: I don’t have any ideas about vacations. My husband and I have never taken one. Our work is our pleasure; our vocation is our avocation. Our passion is our family, our cattle, our horses, and working on the land. We feel blessed to be able to do what we love to do, right here at home, without having to go anywhere else.

 

Perhaps if we lived here, we wouldn't want to leave, either. The lower part of Heather's ranch in Idaho.

Perhaps if we lived here, we wouldn’t want to leave, either. The lower part of Heather’s ranch in Idaho.

 

GOOD HORSE, BAD HABITS by Heather Smith Thomas is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FREE CHAPTER

 

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“How the horse responds during training can be influenced not only by its affective state (mood) and arousal (alertness) level, but also by how attached it feels to the trainer,” says the August 2013 article from the International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) Arousal, Attachment, and Affective State. Is the Horse in a Learning Frame of Mind?

Andrew McLean, PhD, Director of the Australian Equine Behaviour Centre (AEBC), and Professor Paul McGreevy of the University of Sydney, Australia, examined the complex combined impact that mood, alertness, and bond with a human can have on a horse’s training. McLean says that because horses possess the largest amygdala of all domestic animals, “… they have a very significant flight response…they are very fearful animals.”

As many of us have now learned from numerous clinicians and trainers, understanding how to temper the horse’s fear is of primary importance to those who wish to form an attachment or “bond” with their horses.

“One way to modify this fear may be in how we touch the horse,” the article says. “Historically, horse training hasn’t involved much touching of the animal, yet horses find security with one another through touch. Recent studies have shown the positive effects of grooming on lowering heart rate. Dr. McLean proposed that such primary positive reinforcement may be another tool in the training toolbox that can be used to overcome fearful insecurity in the horse. Touch may be an important way to develop attachment between human and horse.”

 

Click image for more information about the Tellington Method for Dressage Horses clinic in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Click image for more information about the Tellington Method for Dressage Horses clinic in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

 

Renowned animal behaviorist and horse trainer Linda Tellington-Jones made her name as the founder of the Tellington Method, a three-part training system that centers around her now famous Tellington TTouch. Tellington TTouches are a collection of circles, lifts, and slides done with the rider’s or trainer’s hands and fingertips over various parts of the horse’s body. These TTouches have, over the last 40 years, been proven to enhance trust, release tension, increase flexibility, overcome habitual “holding” patterns that lead to resistance, and aid a horse in recovery from illness or injury. Linda has long maintained what Dr. McLean and Dr. McGreevy have asserted in their recent findings: that how we touch the horse matters in training. And, the right kind of touch can lead to enhanced learning and improved performance.

 

Try this Tellington TTouch:

Llama TTouch: Use the back of your hand, from where the knuckles meet the back of the hand to the fingertips, with the hand softly open (a less threatening way of making contact) to push the horse’s skin in a full circle-and-a-quarter clockwise, or in some cases, to stroke. Apply a very light pressure on the horse’s face, ears, or neck. This TTouch builds confidence in timid horses, soothes, nervous ones, and helps when you are approaching a horse you don’t know for the first time.

 

Linda is the author of numerous books. Her most recent is DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL, which provides innovative ways to improve performance and longevity in dressage horses. Linda is giving a Tellington Method for Dressage clinic at Ashwin Stables in Santa Fe, New Mexico, April 17-19, 2014. For information on how to attend or audit, CLICK HERE.

Linda tells you about her upcoming clinic in the short video below:

 

For more information about Linda’s book DRESSAGE WITH MIND, BODY & SOUL, CLICK HERE.

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