HORSE TRAINER CORNER: Ask a local trainer....
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Author:  Border Patrol [ Jan 15, 2008 7:59 pm ]
Post subject:  HORSE TRAINER CORNER: Ask a local trainer....

Any question regarding horses; from how to properly clean a stall to which girth won't chaff, to how to halter break a foal or ride a finished horse. Ask about tack fitting, feed, behavior modification, trailer-loading or starting a young horse. Ground work, under saddle, English, Western, buying, selling, leasing, the list is endless.

Tanya Buck has agreed to answer questions regarding the training, beahviour, your progress with riding, concerns while on the trail, showing, anything pertaining to horse training and learning.

All trainers are welcome to answer any question, so feel free to jump right in!

So ask your questions and Happy Trails to each of you!

~Border Patrol
Pinecam Moderator

Author:  critterville [ Jan 18, 2008 9:57 am ]
Post subject: 

What are your suggestions on stopping a grass snatcher? When riding trails my horse is very well behaved until we get to those glorious meadows of beautiful green munchies. It's as if he's just found heaven and can barely contain himself. Suddenly he forgets I'm there and is consumed by the need to feed. Thanks!

Author:  DavisRanch [ Jan 18, 2008 2:01 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi and thanks for the question. I was feeling left out! :)

The need to feed is strong as you know, and a horse soon figures out that if he just snatches at the grass and gets it, the pay-off he was after is fulfilled. The reward, the payoff reiterates and trains the horse to do the behaviour that got him the desired result. This sounds like an ongoing problem and is now a matter of retraining yourself and your horse. Although the horse is 'misbehaving', it is now an ingrained experience for him that began with the positive reinforcement of chewing good green grass on the trail.

A couple of things can be done--one is for you to take a more proactive role and stay mentally present and 'aware' so that you can stop the behaviour before it escalates to the undesired result you currently have. Since this is more of a retraining situation, your role is critical. You must teach him what you want in a way that he'll understand and accept.

Horses ask two or three times before actually snatching. Sometimes the 'ask' is condensed to a microsecond because he's learned that he doesn't need to ask, so your keen awareness is essential. The horse will look at the grass he wants--with his ears, his eyes and his nose. The order is usually ears, eyes, nose. However, ears and eyes may be switched with some animals.

If you can train yourself to watch for the first signal and stop it then, you will begin to curb the undesired behaviour. Pay very close attention and keep your conversation with you and your horse a priority--don't ride and chatter with a friend until you are able to keep your and your horse's focus on the ride and not the food.

One 'trick' to do this is to remember to ride your horse every single step of the way. Give him a job and keep his ears tipped back to you in that asking stance that tells you he is waiting for your next cue. Work on some lateral moves as you trail-ride asking for a half-pass or a zig-zag without the the lateral motion. Vary your gait from walk to trot to walk at intermittent intervals. Keep the ride interesting and his mind working so that he is not thinking of eating. (I know, I know...good luck with that!)

If he snatches, you snatch back. I don't know what kind of bridle you ride in, but unless it's a curb, you would only pull on one rein, not both, and at the same time, give a squeeze with your calves. Soon, he will realize that the payoff for trying is not worth the reprimand.

Sometimes, if it's so bad that you find he always wins, a quick-fix-cheating method coupled with your attentiveness will make all the difference. Simply take some baling twine and tie it to your bit and back to your saddle--either to the horn or to the D-rings (especially if and English saddle). Make the legth just so he is able to turn freely, but not reach down for the grass. This metod is temporary. You will let him correct himself by hitting the end of the line that is tied at a specific length, then, when you notice he quits reaching, you would take the reins again--maybe go ahead and leave the strings on at first. This also works with kids that aren't strong enough to hold the horse. Or, you can buy a gizmo that does this very thing if you prefer not to have orange strings alongside your reins.

Good luck with this and if you have any question, holler. Thanks again fot the question!
Tanya Buck

Author:  Tanze [ Jan 18, 2008 2:54 pm ]
Post subject:  question

Here is a question for you.

Author:  critterville [ Jan 18, 2008 3:05 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks Tanya, keeping him busy sounds like a good plan. I'll let you know how he does - that is when we can all see the grass again :D

Author:  blazonabi [ Jan 18, 2008 6:36 pm ]
Post subject:  grass snatching

Here is one other idea for the grazing question. Horses are made to graze for 16-18 hours per day. It is a biggy for them. Their needs are safety, comfort, play and food, in that order, however. The good news is that your horse feels safe and comfortable with you so is interested in trying to graze. So, what I do is teach a cue to stop grazing. I first teach it on the ground. We walk a ways and then I allow the horse to stop and graze. I give them a minute, and then start to rub them on their withers, shoulder area. Then after a minute or so,if their head does not come up, I pat them softly and then getting a little stronger. The last phase up is a quick flick of the lead rope. As soon as their head comes up, we walk off, we might do a few things like move haunches, shoulders, sideways, etc. and then we stop again and I allow the horse to stop and graze again for a minute or so. I then offer the cue to stop, phasing up until the head comes up. Once I get the cue so that if I rub the head comes up, I am ready to ride and use the same cue and phasing. Now, when I go for a ride, my horses do not try to stop and graze unless I allow it and they stop when I give the cue. It takes some time, but it is worth the effort. This way you work with their instincts, but show them that you are a good leader and will allow them time for their idea(food) after they do your idea(a little work). It helps create a better partnership.

Author:  DavisRanch [ Jan 18, 2008 6:38 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thanks for the question, Tanze.

First, be sure he is physically ok and that the saddle fits so that when you mount, he has no pain. Check withers and back especially.

Sometimes the thing to do is the opposite of what you think you should. Since that is clear as mud, I'll explain.

I used to train a lot of OTTB's and you're right, they are used to being mounted by someone throwing a small person onto their backs! The easiest way I've found and what I'd suggest to you is to first stand near your horse as though you are going to mount, but without the thought of mounting. This may be done with just a halter on or even at liberty. Does he respond by moving? YOu don't need a mounting block or a saddle for this, just find his trigger point. Is it when he is being mounted , is it the block or is it someone at his side?

No matter what the answer is to the above question, the fix is pretty much the same. There is nothing harder to do than "Make" a horse stand still, so I've found the easiest answer to be to make him WANT to stand still. How? Just like you'd do it with a young child. Reverse psychology.

Tell him to move, but make it movement in a specific manner. You can lunge him, then do this exercise, or just do it cold. Sometimes running them around a bit helps the brain want to stop is all I'm saying.

At first it really doesn't matter if he's tacked up or not--not even a bridle is needed, but at least have a halter on. Make it as easy as possible for him to understand that you want him to stand and that you are not getting on him. Bend his head toward you--which is a safety measure anyway, and will make it easier for you to stop him should he want to move. As his head is turned toward you, lift your leg. Either leg--he won't know or care about the difference. If he moves, quickly ask him to do a lateral motion--move his hinquarters away and toward you, back him up, move him forward. At this stage you don't have a mounting block so toward you will work very well too. Repeat this part of the exercise until he will stand.

Remember to vary the movement you ask for, and stop to offer him the chance to stand. You are trying to help him understand that standing is what you want and that it is a good thing. Don't forget the goal and don't make him move for very long. You may lunge him though--at a fast trot or even a canter/lope and then go back to the standing lesson.

When you can do this from his near and far side, (left and right sides) then you are ready for the mounting block. By now, theere should be no problem, but if there is, remember to keep reminding him to do what he did when the block was not present.

Like anything we teach our horses, there is never just one answer. This is the easiest one so I start with it first. If it doesn't work, we get more creative, not angry or frustrated (hopefully!) and we try a different avenue. This method may take as long as a week to cement, but it lasts a lifetime. Always praise him for standing and at first, this may only be for 3 seconds. That's ok. Build slowly and he'll accept all his lessons easier.

Let me know if you need other options and I'll go from there.

Author:  blazonabi [ Jan 18, 2008 6:44 pm ]
Post subject:  mountint block question

Here is an idea for the mounting block question. It sounds like he is a little unconfident and unsure of the mounting block. TB tend to be a little skeptical sometimes. First, make sure that he is not afraid of the mounting block. Play a desensitizing game with him approach and retreat until he is sure it won't kill him. Then if he wants to move his feet when you step up on it, get down and let him. Move his haunches, move his shoulders, move him sideways and back him from you with you standing still. Then try again. Lot's of times, if you make standing still his idea, he will do it. But, if you try to make him stand still, it won't happen. Finally, when you get on, stand still. Maybe flex left and right, but don't be in a hurry to go. You want him to think that you will be standing for a while before you walk off. Good Luck.

Author:  Ingrid and Joe [ Jan 18, 2008 7:32 pm ]
Post subject: 

If you use grazing reins on the trail, please disconnect them when going over uneven terrain, through water or muddy conditions or any conditions where your horse needs more balance. Your horse will be hitting the end of the line just for staying in balance. I would prefer anyone use the one rein up and move on method. If you need spurs to achieve this use them, but use only short nub spurs sometimes called humane spurs. For the same reason never ride with a tie down on the trail.

Author:  DavisRanch [ Jan 18, 2008 10:40 pm ]
Post subject: 

blazonabi, while teaching a horse a stop grazing cue is a fine idea, I don't like the idea of teaching him to raise his head because I've touched his withers or shoulder.

A horse is a fear-based prey animal that reacts to danger by raising his head. Therfore teaching a horse to raise his head by touching him can be a dangerous cue to teach, IMO. Once the head is up, it is natural for the horse to look for danger.

If anyone else rides the horse and he gets frightened, the usual reaction is to reassure the horse by...touching him on the shoulders or withers. If that is his cue to raise his head and he is already afraid, his head is already up. If he has indeed learned that cue, then he will raise his head even more, thereby increasing the feeling of fear.

For this reason, I don't think it's a fabulous idea.
Better to teach him to graze on command, rather to not graze on command in this manner. That way he gets rewarded with grazing when the rider suggests that idea and not reprimianded and taught to raise his head for not having done anything to deserve a reprimand.

Better to have the relationship be based on a Leader-based platform that horses naturally understand and respond to, than on a partnership where the horse feels he has a say and until the handler says "no", it is his, the horse's call. I'd much rather have grazing be offered by me on my terms and stopped by me before it begins. I don't want my horses to eat (get his prize) and then I teach him to raise his head for doing something I allowed--which then looks like punishment to him.

All that said, like anything with horses and training, there is no One Right Way. What works is what any handler should do, so while I would never teach any horse a No Grazing Cue for the reasons I've stated and others I haven't, if it works, use it! :)

Author:  DavisRanch [ Jan 18, 2008 10:41 pm ]
Post subject: 

Grazing reins are definitely a risk and thank you for pointing that out, I and J! I'd use them temporarily and remove over seriously rough terrain where they could hinder the horse's use of his head and neck for balance.
Thank you again for bringing that to light!

Author:  Ingrid and Joe [ Jan 19, 2008 10:12 am ]
Post subject: 

Here is a little added bit to mounting your horse. Once you are successful at getting him to stand for you while mounting, have him stand there and wait for you to tell him to move on. I have youngsters or anxious horses stand until they physically relax then ask them to walk on. If they fidget and want to go use your one rein stop by turning them in a circle until they stop. Keep your body very relaxed and no leg pressure. Release the milisecond the horse stops and have him stand again. You may have to do this over and over, but don't give up. If the horse has walked off immediatly after the rider gets on for a long time it will be tougher to get through to him that you just want him to relax and stand still. Eventually he will be calm and wait for you to ask for forward movement.

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