October 2010


The value of
seeking alternatives to dominance-based training

for your horse?
Try this simple exercise for a
supple back.

The expression
tells all ...


The days are getting shorter ...
What can you do when you can't ride?

Ground exercises that improve balance and self-carriage!

Longeing in Balance
Part 1

Teach Your Horse to Balance From the Ground Up

Preparation for longeing - and other work - in correct posture


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This topic has come up in conversations lately with both horse and dog owners/trainers, so I thought I'd feature an article that has been on my site for quite some time. I re-read it every so often as a sort of check-in and, so far, I still agree with myself!

Beyond the Dominance Paradigm articleWhat would happen if riders changed the way they interact with their horses, choosing to instill willing collaboration instead of demand submission, to acknowledge the horse as a partner in the work instead of requiring him always to acquiesce? What about working toward consent instead of compliance? I believe the benefits would be many: horses who remain sound of mind and body for decades and people who ride with more confidence and less fear while enjoying a deeper connection with these fascinating animals.

I recently read in a training article the statement that horse and rider only achieve partnership when the horse “subrogates their [sic] unthinking instinctive reactions to our calculated requests for compliance.” The article goes on along the conventional line that because horses are flight animals blindly following the herd, the superior intellect of the person means he need only employ training techniques that establish him as dominant herd member and convince the horse to give in.

I consider this view to be overly simplistic, selling short both the horse and the human. Yes, domestic horses do have ancestral roots in wild herds roaming the landscape on one continent or another. But how many of our equine companions today have ever lived in any type of herd situation? Very few. Most grow up and live in paddocks or stalls, generally with fences and walls between them and their neighbors. How many have had to submit to the instruction of a lead mare for survival essentials such as finding food and water? Again, very few. How many ever had the chance to learn horse manners as junior members of a broodmare band? Not many. Most foals interact with far more humans than horses during their early months.
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                                YOGA FOR HORSES

Riders in many disciplines focus a great deal of effort and angst on their horses' toplines, working with the intention of strengthening the horses' backs. But sometimes this happens at the expense of suppleness and otherwise fit horses end up with backs like boards. Muscles are made elastic and strengthened by alternating between contracting them actively and then stretching them passively by contracting the opposing muscles.

So to create supple, elastic and strong backs, we’re going to use a gentle awareness exercise to remind the horse’s barrel that it should move, both to flex and to extend so the muscles on the dorsal and ventral sides get stregthened and stretched. For all you yoga aficionados, think cat/cow.
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I admit it. I do not suffer fools well. And I have no poker face. So if you say something about horses and training that I find horrifying, you’ll probably know that by my expression.

Want to test that out? Just show me the latest, greatest head-setting gadget. Or tell me how much your horse loves the feel of that long-shanked bicycle chain bit in his mouth. Or lament the lack of rowels on your new crystal-encrusted spurs.

I try to stay neutral, I really do. I can nod and smile and say “oh, really.” But you don’t have to know me very well to tell that I’m thinking “How could you?!” “What are you thinking??” “Oh, that poor horse!!”
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