Amy Skinner on Freeloading, II

Amy Skinner

Editor’s Note: Amy Skinner is a regular guest columnist and has been a horse gal since age six. She works with owner/operator Jim Thomas as a trainer at Bar T Horsemanship where she rides and teaches English and Western. She also maintains Essence Horsemanship. Skinner has studied at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain, with Buck Brannaman, Leslie Desmond, Brent Graef, and many others.
Meet Skinner and Thomas at the Best Horse Practices Summit!

Here, Skinner shares some notes on horses and riders. Read Part I of Freeloading

Skinner writes:

When people bring me a horse and go right to name calling right away, my heart sinks. I regularly hear people regularly call their horses:

  • lazy
  • stubborn
  • uncoordinated/clumsy
  • unathletic
  • moody

When I hear these things, though, what I really hear is that rider’s own personality flaws.  They may be telling me that:

  • they are ignorant to the horse’s real nature
  • they tend to humanize their horse
  • or, that their ego gets in the way of finding the best ways to work with their horse.

I like to give riders the benefit of the doubt and consider that they are on a journey of learning. They are frustrated because the horse won’t cooperate in some way and they don’t understand why and don’t have the tools to work through the problem. Consequently, they resort to name calling.

Folks hear me talk about ego, conflict, and nod in agreement, as if those faults applied to other riders, not them. But we all struggle with our egos.

For example: My ego makes me crave recognition for my work, and I have to be careful that I don’t let it get in the way. I don’t want to satisfy my ego at the expense of the horse, by pushing it in a direction they’re not ready for just to look like a better trainer.

I have to be careful not to attach my self-worth to a student or feel that their riding ability is a reflection of my own.

We all have our struggles. Having an ego isn’t a bad thing, but we need to be aware of it so that it doesn’t interfere in our horsemanship.

Let’s assume that if you’re reading this article, you’re seeking real horsemanship and not wanting to achieve “success” at the horse’s expense.  If we really want to figure out why we run into problems with our horses, we need to change the labels we put on them and maybe change the habit of labeling altogether.

  • ‘Lazy’ could really mean the horse is unresponsive.
  • A ‘stubborn’ horse could just be confused.
  • A ‘clumsy’ horse is off balance.
  • A ‘moody’ horse could be frustrated.

When we consider these behaviors, we first need to look at ourselves.  If the horse is unresponsive, how have we taught him to ignore our cues and messages?  How can we help him understand that our aids have meaning? How can we nurture when and how he responds to them?

Often, the rider doesn’t realize her hands and legs create so much noise for the horse. Then, when they really want their leg to mean something, the horse has tuned it out, the same way that we do at a restaurant with background chatter.

Or, the horse could have been dulled down by other riders. Now, you need to help him understand that what you ask has meaning, and that you’d like him to respond to lighter cues.

Either way, it’s human error.  It’s our responsibility to make things clear and easy for the horse to grasp so he doesn’t get frustrated or tuned out.  It’s our responsibility to help him be balanced.

Horses want to get along.  They want nothing more than to find peace and know what their role in our lives is.  If we want to be fair, decent horsemen and women, then we need to drop the name-calling and start looking at ourselves.

Read Part I of Freeloading

Equine Affaire Art Sends the (Wrong) Message

We’re big fans of the Equine Affaire. We’ve attended the annual version in Massachusetts (there’s one in Ohio, too) for years and have even had a booth there.

So it was with a big “Oh, no!” that we saw the organization’s logo art for this year. It shows a horse grazing in a pasture with its halter on.

Say all you will about so-called “field safe” halters. The consensus here is that any halter left on a horse at liberty is a bad one.

Just ask the guys of Unbranded, who left a halter on one of their mustangs and then woke up to a severely injured horse. (It likely happened when the horse went to scratch his chin, as shown in the illustration below.

Just ask Julie Goodnight, who wrote about it on her social media page:

It’s a scene that irritates me every time I see it: 

horses turned out with halters on…I am not sure whether this is done out of ignorance, laziness or simple incompetence, but I am sure it is not a good idea.

In my opinion, there’s no good reason to turn a horse loose in a halter and leaving a halter on 24/7 is very poor horsemanship. It is uncomfortable, potentially dangerous to the animal and it will not resolve any training issues that the horse might have. Turned loose in a halter, the horse may potentially snag the halter on something and be stuck. Maybe he’ll panic and break free, maybe he’ll throw himself on the ground and struggle; either way the potential for hurting himself is huge.

Besides, how would you like to have that thing on your head all the time? Maybe some people think because we leave collars on dogs, it is ok to leave halters on horses, but a dog does not have the same capacity for panic and destruction that horses have.

Julie Goodnight

Often I hear people say they leave a halter on because their horse is difficult to catch. But guess what? That’s not fixing the problem—it’s avoiding it. Training and good handling will fix a hard-to-catch horse. Leaving a halter on 24/7 will not. I’ve worked with many wild, unhandled or traumatized horses and the temptation to leave a halter on is great. But until the horse is desensitized to your approach, your touch and the halter going on and off, your problem is not solved.

Thanks, Julie.

We visited with the Equine Affaire’s Executive Producer Coagi Long. She said of the watercolor, “It’s a piece of art and is not necessarily meant to be instructional by any means.” During the process for selecting the painting, the fact that the horse was wearing a halter was not addressed. But, Long said, “it’s something we could address in future.”

Thanks, Coagi, we hope you do!

Curious about other practices that we’ve given Thumbs Down?

Read about Cross Ties

Read Amy Skinner’s take on Cross Ties

Read more about Haltering

Summiteers: Come Early for the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Coming to the Best Horse Practices Summit?

Come a few days early to check out the Durango Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

This year’s focus is “Laughing Stock” and, as words suggest, is all about humor. Check it out here.

The Durango Cowboy Gathering Parade, one of the largest motorless parades in the country and the largest in Colorado, will take place on Saturday, October 7th at 10:00 a.m.

We heard from Parade Coordinator, Pam Jacobs. She writes:

The fun-filled morning starts with a hardy chuckwagon breakfast at 5th and Main which benefits the Gathering and its youth programs. Local music groups perform up and down Main Street beginning at 9:30. The parade kicks off with an old fashioned gunfight in front of the historic Strater Hotel.

This parade does its best to celebrate the lifestyles of rural people and to focus on various organizations in the community, giving anyone who is interested a chance to get their “cowboy on” by participating in the event. Wagons, carriages, horses, mules, miniature donkeys, llamas, dogs, buckaroos on stick horses, fashionable ladies and gentlemen dressed in period costume, and even a genuine performing Texas longhorn are all part of what has become a popular Durango tradition for the past 29 years.

We hope to see you there!

Interested in riding in the parade? Contact Angela.fountain at co.laplata.us or at 970 382 6465 

For more information, contact Pam Jacobs, Parade Coordinator at collegeplanningservices at hotmail.com or call (512) 517-5619.

Historic Host Hotel Opens Rooms to Summit

This just in!

The historic Strater Hotel, host to the Best Horse Practices Summit, has made available a limited number of rooms for attendees of the Best Horse Practices Summit. We’re thrilled to offer this option for attendees during what is a very busy fall season for the Strater.

Interested parties must book directly by calling (800) 247 4431 and ask for the Best Horse Practices Summit (BHPS) special, available October 8-11.

Discounted price for a single without breakfast, $159.

Discounted price for queen and twin (for two or three guests), $182.

Check out the Lodging page here.

Register for the Summit here. 

See you in Durango!

The Summit will be held at the Strater Hotel and nearby fairgrounds

Bring Your Spouse to the Summit!

Are you passionate about riding and horses, but your partner isn’t?

Steering committee members have fielded requests for “May I bring a non-horse-y spouse?” and have answered the call.

Beginning this week and for a limited time, those registering for the Best Horse Practices Summit may click on the option “My Spouse Will Join Me For Meals.”

We have reserved 20 spots at the Strater Hotel for those partners not interested in the presentations but who would nonetheless like enjoy Durango, the visit, and the Strater’s fine dining.

The cost to those spouses is $120 and payable upon registration, Sunday, October 8, at the Strater Hotel.

Head to the Summit Registration page here. 

 

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