Have you ever been in a situation where you are riding your horse and they suddenly become fixated on something other than you? Here is a great exercise for getting their focus back on what you want while retraining them to relax in the spooky situation.
In this video I am working with Sage, who is terrified of the cutting flag! She is so scared of it that if she has seen it move within the last few times she was ridden, you just about can not ride her in there again after that, even if several days have passed.
Here is the exercise I used: Wandering with Purpose
Allow your horse to walk or trot on as loose of a rein as you can safely ride on
Let your horse choose a direction
Make a 90° change of direction (the opposite way your horse was wanting to go)
Drop the rein and let them choose a direction again
If your horse is wanting to get too fast, make your turns more frequently. This exercise does not work well at a lope because of the constant change of direction.
In this video sage was wanting to constantly turn away from the flag. I consistently turned her back towards it 90° and she consistently veered away from it completing a 180° turn instead. Whenever she would try to stop and look at it in a relaxed way I would stop and allow her to do that. For her, to be simply in the arena and relaxed with the flag is a huge step of progress, so I would pause any time I felt her relax.
We also talk about how to get her comfortable “working” the flag. At this point I’m much more interested in how she feels than her position on the flag, what her turn looks like etc. Those things will be easy to clean up once she relaxes enough to respond to my cues.
Today as I was working horses, I had four horses to catch out of our west pasture. Three out of the four horses lead very well so I thought I could get away with it. However, after a fifteen-minute struggle in the mud I finally managed to wrestle them in. The troublemaker? A new gelding named Johnie. He has not learned the program yet on what is expected of him so I thought this would be a great time to share how I get my horses leading better to make my life easier! Enjoy the video!
2019 started out as a very difficult year for our barn. The Strangles outbreak was stressful, exhausting and expensive. We recognize that all of these negatives were a shared experience with our Boarders and that many of you incurred significant vet bills in addition to lost time enjoying your horse.
We have emerged stronger. We believe our new approach to Biosecurity is comprehensive, complete and at a level practiced by the best boarding barns in the country and far superior to most. We continue to work with Dr. Tom Lenz on all aspects of our operations and are pleased to tell you that he will remain part of our team through 2020.
We made significant investments in our facility in 2019.
Heated Ritchie automatic waterers in the stalls.
New fencing to separate boarder only areas
Secure enclosed grain storage room
LED lights in the indoor arena
Quarantine facility off-premise
Daily hands on well-being checks of all of our herd
What to expect for this winter:
We will not be holding any large clinics or shows from December – March. Haul-ins for lessons and classes from owners we know and trust will still take place. The visiting horses will be temp checked at the trailers as is already our protocol.
Unless we have a very mild winter, we will not be taking any new horses into quarantine for admission to our boarding herd from December through the end of February. If you know anyone who wants to become part of our barn, please let them know this. Time is of the essence.
A note from Ashley:
I am so thrilled to have you all with us, after what was for many of us, a challenging year. My lesson and training horse program took a sharp dive after the strangles outbreak and it has been wonderful to watch that grow and re-develop over the summer. My schedule is quite full again and I appreciate each and every one of my clients for coming along side us as we developed new protocols for visiting horses.
October is the month where we sit down as a team at EC and plan out the coming year. I made some time to sit back and think about my goals for 2020. While I do love to compete, I found myself needing to create more of a balance between my competition goals and just enjoying time with my horses. Our 2020 calendar will reflect this. Our motto for next year is Do Less Better. After 3.5 years in business at Equus Curito, we have a good handle on what events work and don’t work for us. What to expect:
MRHA Shows Ashley and a group of students will be competing in all of the Missouri Ranch Horse Shows for 2020. We will be holding clinics, classes and lessons to help you prep.
EC Trail Ride EC will be hosting an off-property overnight trail ride in 2020. Details to follow!
Flint Hills Trips These will be boarder-exclusive trips working cattle in the flint hills. Wonderful food and first-class accommodations.
Women’s Retreat Trail Ride We will offer an overnight trail riding retreat where you bring your own horse! Fellowship, self-discovery, personal development, goal-setting etc! Kim Worlow, our life coach will be leading these retreats and Ashley will be there to support you through the trail rides!
Clinics We will host a very limited number of outside clinicians for 2020.
Summer Camps Our youth summer camp program was a great success this year and we look forward to continuing that for next year.
Fun Shows/Ranch Obstacle Shows We will not host any large events but we will continue to have our small shows for boarders and lesson takers.
Class and Lesson Schedules Ashley and Alexis will continue to be available to you for both private lessons and classes.
Training Horses We have shifted to being primarily a boarding horse facility. However, we will take in a limited number of outside training horses for dedicated owners who wish to further the horse’s knowledge. This could be as few as one training horse per month.
I had to cut out one major thing from the 2020 calendar. UHCA/EXCA racing. While it was not an easy decision, I can’t do it all and I had to find some open space in my calendar for other things. I will still be available to coach those who want to continue to compete in cowboy racing but I will not be attending any races, myself.
If you are interested in joining us either for our overnight camping for 2020 or Missouri Ranch Horse Shows, I would encourage you to participate in the 2020 Goals Meetings November 16th. These meetings are free and will be in small groups talking directly with Ashley about your 2020 goals and we will come up with a plan to get there!
Author Ashley PurdinPosted on Categories Equine Health
I had a recent question from a reader. From DeAnna: “Curious what your thoughts are on vets using hand tools compared to electric tools. I have had different vets float my horses with electric tools as well as floated using hand tools. I have had both good and bad experiences from both, but do you have a preference of one over the other?”
Author Courtney BaldwinPosted on Categories Equine Health
What are the bumps on my horse’s jaw line? Meet Pixie, a young, three-year-old quarter horse. Pixie came to a clinic of mine last week and her owner had been wondering about the cause of the unsightly bumps on her lower jaw that had seemed to pop up over night. These bumps were hard and seemed to be a part of the jawline itself. I explained that these were simply “eruption bumps” from Pixie’s adult premolars erupting and pushing the deciduous baby teeth out. This sparked a discussion about the importance of proper dental care throughout a horse’s lifetime.
Author Ashley PurdinPosted on Categories General, Sedona Updates
I have back-dated this post to be more accurate for the time-frame that it actually happened. This is from April 2019 when Beth Olson was working at EC. She put the first 20 rides on Sedona and did a great job, so I wanted to share with you a few of her rides on Sedona so you all can see what Sedona’s starting process looked like! This is in no way intended to be instructional on how to start a colt. Please work with a competent professional when starting your youngsters.
It seems like everyone has a little different take on starting colts.
When I start colts I prefer to do it with two people in a round pen. I will ride the horse while I have someone roundpen the horse from the ground. This method works well for me because roundpenning is a critical component of the groundwork education I put into my horses in preparing for that first ride. I also usually have access to a second person that can assist me when starting colts.
Beth worked alone for a number of years before working at EC. Her method reflects not having someone to help her with the starting process. Both methods work well, I do feel that hers works slightly faster however because the horses get used to riding in a large area from day 1, instead of needing to transition to an arena several rides in.
The starting process is built around what you have available to you and what you are comfortable with.
When I was first getting started I leased a small stall barn from a lady who would let me ride in her 80 acre hay field. There was no arena, no paddock or any small area that I could ride in. My turnout was all electric fence, so that was not an option. I scraped some money together to buy a roundpen. I set that up in the hayfield and my husband and I would start colts in there. On day three or four we would just open the gate and hope the horses didn’t run off too bad. I had some techniques for making all of this work out in my favor, but I’ll tell you those horses rode out in the open better than anything that I train today. They were just used to it, that was all they knew. In the same respect, Beth’s colt starting method in the arena gets them used to being ridden in a large area right off the bat.
We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this Sedona update! As always feel free to comment below.
Author Ashley PurdinPosted on Categories Training In Motion
After a great morning of riding training horses, I drove down to Hartman Arkansas for a Body Control Clinic. During my drive, I listened to a new podcast called Finding the Feel. (Here is the link if you want to check it out! http://www.findingthefeel.com/) This is a great podcast guys, I highly recommend it if you are into the western performance world at all.
Author Ashley PurdinPosted on Categories General, Sedona Updates
Hey all! Here is another Sedona update!
Have you ever had a session with your horse that didn’t go according to plan?
Here are some strategies you can employ when something unexpected or even dangerous happens with your horse:
Take a breath and evaluate the situation. Don’t just rush in without a plan! In this situation I would have not made things better by running up to Sedona to try and untangle her from the fence. I always wait to see if the horse can get themselves out of trouble before I enter the situation.
Check the horse for injuries. Before you continue the session do a quick check for injuries on your horse to make sure continuing the training session (the most ideal next move from a psychological prospective for the horse).
Turn a negative into a positive. Once I was sure Sedona was ok, I went right back to round penning with the focus of getting her “hooked on” to me. That is to say focused on me before anything else.
Lesson Learned. Sometimes right after a big fit, especially if the horse is unsuccessful in achieving their desired outcome, (in this case Sedona wanting to escape the training session), can be the best opportunity to make an impression on your horse! Sedona was much more receptive to my ideas after fully (and unsuccessfully) exploring hers.
Understand that training a horse from start to finish, or even teaching a horse something new, will not be without its pitfalls and low points. Horses as a general rule tend to not try very hard when they are confused and it is our job as a trainer to teach them how to search for the right answer without feeling the need to escape the situation. Unfortunately Sedona did feel the need to escape but this day, looking back, was a huge turning point in our relationship!
Author Ashley PurdinPosted on Categories General, Sedona Updates
Finally getting around to posting this! This is from back in May with Sedona before her first ride!
Not going to lie, as entertaining as this was for everyone I’m excited that those days are behind us! More updates to come I want to get this current so I can share what she is doing now!
Sedona Bucking 2
Many times in the process of training, I find myself talking the owner down. They will come to the barn to watch me work with their horse and something like what you see in this video might happen. The owner panics. Thinking they have made a horrible mistake either with the selection of the horse or their trainer. So what are we seeing here? Is it a crazy horse? Incompetent trainer? Did something go wrong with the saddling process? Should it have been taken slower?
All of these questions come up and more. Yes, of course, in a perfect world I would love for my horses to never buck. But we have to remember, these are prey animals we are working with here. Their flight or fight instinct is wound tightly through their DNA. Sedona is having to learn to accept a saddle on her back, which if you think about it is not very much unlike having a mountain lion jump on her back and put its claws around her belly. That cinch can be extremely claustrophobic to a horse.
The interesting thing about Sedona’s reactivity to the saddle is she has no reaction whatsoever to the bareback pad. She also had a very limited reaction to flanking see previous blogpost: https://echorse.com/sedona-update-4-flanking/ This leaves only the saddle to be worked on. Generally the bucking was triggered when she would first lope, which is actually the most common time for a green horse to buck. So really nothing could be done to change the saddling process or improve on it up to this point. She was just going to have to learn that when she lopes with the saddle and gets scared that she cant out run it or buck it off. In this video you will see her attempting both.
I set myself up for success this day and immediately after saddling turned her loose in the arena. She bucks so fast that there is no hanging on to her so instead of allowing the habit of ripping the rope out of my hand (which happened a few times already!) I just turned her loose to figure this saddle out. I’m in a nice, safe environment where I’m not worried about her hurting herself. Any training technique that get’s me hurt or the horse hurt is not helpful! So I’m setting this up to keep us both as safe as possible.
I was giving a groundwork lesson yesterday, and was explaining the emotional zones of a horse to a new student. When diving into really understanding the behavior of your horse this is an extremely helpful analogy.
The first emotional zone is the green zone. This is the zone that a horse is in when it is grazing with its buddies out in the pasture. For a young horse that may be the only time it is in the green zone.
For Sedona, she was pretty happy to be haltered and led around the barn and to do my basic grooming and groundwork – all up to the saddling. At the point of putting the saddle on, I would see a change in her behavior. Her emotions or flight or fight instinct would begin to show me subtle cues. Her head would come up. Usually she would move her feet around as I cinched her. These were signs that she was moving out of the green zone into the yellow zone.
The very first part of the yellow zone is where a horse shows you concern. They are unsure. Nothing is unmanageable at this point but they aren’t comfortable like they are in the green zone. This is where you, as the horseman need to start paying attention. Will they settle and return to the green zone or will the escalate?
As the horse moves through the yellow zone you may see various degrees of reaction. From unsure, all the way up to pretty fearful. You may see bucking in this zone. You may see running. You may even see some aggression if the horse feels trapped. What you won’t see in this zone, however, is full fledged flight or fight. And by that I mean the reaction that looks literally like a mountain lion is on their back.
That reaction is saved for the red zone. That is where the horse could literally hurt or even kill itself OR YOU trying to escape or fight the situation. This is the zone we want to avoid in training.
Do we always successfully avoid it? No. I have had three horses go to the red zone during training over my career. Two of which were actually during the saddling process and one was an abuse case. I was fortunate that none of the horses or I got hurt. And I can honestly say none of these times was it intentional that the horse went there. Was it avoidable? I would also say no to that as well. Sometimes with horses things happen fast and it is our job to try to try to bring a good outcome.
The first time Sedona bucked with the saddle, there was a short spot where she was in the red zone. If you watch the video again https://echorse.com/sedona-update-5-3rd-saddling/ you can see she is “bucking blind” and goes straight into the wall. After that she is bucking but can see where she is going again. This is an illustration of red zone. She has lost all sense of her safety and has prioritized the saddle on her back as the most dangerous thing in her life at that moment. Where do you think I was on that list? I wasn’t. I was literally not even on her radar and that would be the time it would be so easy to be ran over because she wasn’t looking at anything else besides that saddle. The good news? Her collision with the wall snapped her out of it, the saddle stayed on and she eventually calmed back down.
What would have happened if she had gotten rid of the saddle? What if I didn’t have it cinched up correctly? Honestly, the stakes were high that day. That kind of thing, if it goes wrong, can wreck a horse for its lifetime. I have seen it. Horses that learn to buck off saddles get really good at bucking off riders. They learn that when they go to the red zone it keeps them safe. So from that day forward, they are programed to go there when they start to feel unsure. This makes for an extremely dangerous situation for the horseman and the horse.
The saddling process is such a critical part of training. I don’t think most people realize how badly it can go in a split second. Sedona is a really talented, smart and athletic horse, but she is reactive and that 3rd saddling was a make or break day for her. So now I would encourage you to play those videos back to back. Really get a good comparison of the 3rd saddling to the video below. Learn the difference between bucking blind and BUCKING.
In this video: is she uncomfortable? Yes. Is she emotional. Yes. Could this be dangerous? Yes. But did she go to the red zone? No. How do I know? The biggest clue is she knows where those arena fences are. She would like to get rid of the saddle but she isn’t willing to hurt herself to do it this time. Progress. Might seem small. But it is there.
I happen to be the owner of this horse, but if I wasn’t I’m sure I would say to the owner: “It’s ok, this is just a phase. She is going to make a good horse, but she is one that needs extra hours to get the right start. Progress may be slow, but I assure you, it is there. I can see it.”
Author Ashley PurdinPosted on Categories Sedona Updates
Do you remember from the last blog I talked about the single most important principle in my training program? It is teaching the horse to manage their emotions!
Definition of an Emotional Horse: A horse that is easily triggered onto adrenaline (fight or flight side of their brain) OR once triggered onto adrenaline, is difficult to calm it down and bring it off adrenaline.
Horses, just like humans, can either think or react. It is our job to not keep the horse in a bubble of comfort its whole life and avoid all of the things they don’t like – but rather to expose our horses to new environments, situations, and things to increase their emotional fitness. When done properly, this process of exposure will expand the horse’s comfort zone and actually trigger the horse to think rather than to react.
Usually the first time a horse learns to manage its emotions is during the starting process. This is why saddling and starting is such a critical point in a horse’s life.
They will either learn how to properly think through and process scary things or they will learn that their fight or flight (emotional response) is the most effective way to survive their interactions with people.
One of the most challenging aspects of becoming a horseman is to remain on the thinking side of OUR brain and not allow our emotions to be triggered when our horses experience an emotional trigger. It is our job, as the leader, to be the counterweight to our horse’s reactions and remain grounded, calm and purposeful.
My goal here in this video and after, was not to catch Sedona and “rescue” her from the situation by removing the saddle. But instead to allow her to fully explore the option of blowing up and trying to get rid of it. The fact that my cinch was good and tight is a critical success point in this session. She wasn’t able to find comfort by reacting emotionally and getting rid of the trigger. Instead the trigger (saddle) stayed consistent through the process of her blowing up and finally coming back to the thinking side of her brain and re-connecting with me.
How do you handle it when your horse experiences an emotional trigger? Do you need more tools and knowledge to manage your emotions and create a calm result with your horse? Ashley works with the public, teaching these critical horsemanship skills to build more confident and competent horse and rider teams.