Thursday, 17 August 2017

Tack Traditions

Jim Wofford wrote an insightful piece a while ago in Practical Horseman on the “mindless application of equipment, regardless of whether it is suitable for this horse at this stage of training.” 

What do you think?

He said, “Nosebands are one of my many irritants when coaching.  Almost every horse I see [dressage, eventing] is wearing a flash noseband.  And they are inherently ill-fitting.  These nosebands can interfere with the horse’s normal swallowing mechanism, producing the very resistance they are intended to cure.  Yet when I ask riders whether they have tried other nosebands or even no noseband, they look at me as if I had just stepped down off the ramp of the mother ship.”

I agree with Jim, and routinely ask the riders I teach why they’ve chosen certain tack or training aids.  Often there’s a well-reasoned response.  Other times a shrug -everyone tacks up their horse this way so it must be correct … sigh.

(Jim Woffard is a 3 time U.S. Olympian and World Champion eventer.)

Friday, 11 August 2017

Whales, horses, clicker training

On a Nova Scotia horse judging trip, how cool to detour for some whale watching with my son and his friend!

As horse gals we pondered what it would be like to ride 'em!

We could almost touch them-hmmm...could they have been trained to come so close??

Clicker training has long been used for marine mammals and other animals trained at a distance. And more recently, with horses, especially in liberty work,like Cavalia.

The clicker (marine trainers use a whistle) is a "conditioned reinforcer" (the horse has to be taught to understand it) and used to precisely mark the desired behaviour. Whereas treat delivery can be a little slow to link " that's it!" to a horse's s response, clickers are quicker! And in my opinion, feeding treats to horses opens up a can of worms.

Which, come to think of it would been a tasty treat for the whale :)

Monday, 31 July 2017

Confusing horse training jargon…

Mystical, humorous or deliberately elusive – the terms we use in the horse business can leave a rider scratching her head.  I was a coach’s worst nightmare - “What do you mean by that?” I’d ask . I rarely got a meaningful answer.
When coaching ,I’ll often press a rider to explain a term they’ve used. If they struggle to put it into words, we’ll unpack the idea and isolate the aids step-by-step. 
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Einstein.
Training a non- English speaking horse partner is complicated enough without including vague terms which a prompt riders to give vague signals and horses to be stressed out.  I get a kick out of those light bulb moments – my student grasps the “phonics” of a certain skill and gets results on her own.
So why do we do it? Why do we horse professionals have these weird terms? What are your thoughts?
Here are some of my ideas:
  • ·        Unique terms define my personal brand
  • ·        A little mystery  makes my clients more dependent on me
  • ·        I know how to do it, but struggle to explain it
  • ·        Some horse trainer lingo is just – funny!

So here’s some of the top terms I’m often unscrambling:
Pick up his shoulder. Dropping his shoulder. Drive him into the bridle. Disengage his hip. Engage his hind end. Ride him in front of your leg. And the ever elusive half- halt.
What are your befuddling horse training terms?

Saturday, 29 July 2017

A unique “Horse Show Checklist”!

Heading off to a show this weekend?.
(condensed from hunter judge, Laura Kelland ‘s May17 blog)

DON’T go to the show  if:
§   you aren’t getting excellent rides at home, mentally and physically, both you and your horse.
§   you haven’t taken your horse off-property in many months (go somewhere lower-key first).
§   you haven’t done your “homework”: both you     and your horse are fit, and riding AT LEAST one level (regardless of discipline of riding) higher than what you will be doing at the show.
§   you are struggling with a component that you will need at the show.
§   you absolutely HAVE TO take home the winning ribbon/prize/championship (well, ok, unless you are there to win thousands of dollars or the Olympics).
§   you are unprepared in terms of tack/supplies