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May 2015

I was watching a dog programme the other day and it emphasised how different individual animals could be when being trained. Two dogs that present as almost identical problems needed quite different retraining methods, and the trainer adjusted the methods moment by moment based on how each dog reacted.

Unfortunately, the same thing happens with horses. It is easy to use a ‘method’ or to follow a set of instructions, but this may not always be best for that horse at that moment. Therefore, it is very important to learn to ‘read’ the horse and understand why it is reacting as it is. For example, one minute it might be tensing because of stiffness, while a minute later it might be tensing because of something it has seen or heard; the end signs are virtually the same, but the solution can be very different. In the end, it is not what an instructor tells you that is the best training, but what the horse tells you i.e. if you react wrongly to the horse’s tenseness then the tenseness will increase, so the horse has told you to try something else! Of course, many people will happily walk, trot, and canter around without noticing any feedback from their horse, or worrying what to do about it beyond the basics, but I personally believe they are missing out on an important part of the partnership between horse and rider.

Also regarding individual differences in horse’s personalities; we currently have four bay mares on the yard, each of whom react differently when interacting with another horse and asking it to ‘back off’. One kicks with a hindleg, another strikes with a foreleg, the third one squeals, and the fourth turns its hindquarters and double-barrels with both hind feet. Fortunately, none of them perform these behaviours towards humans. They each have their different preferences and personalities, even though they look somewhat similar. That is what makes horses so interesting!

On a more serious note, Professor Pony would like to remind everyone of the horrors that all equines face in war, with the most recent Remembrance Day being for those horses that bravely travelled from Australia and New Zealand (ANZACs) and lost their lives at Gallipoli. This link will take you to a report about how 100 horses got together with their riders to commemorate the more than 2000 horses that lost their lives. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/fonterra/news/article.cfm?c_id=1503785&objectid=11433097

His thoughts also go out to those working horses in Nepal that have been affected by the recent earthquake (and the people of course). Donations to the Brooke please if you want to help the horses, donkeys, and mules involved: https://www.thebrooke.org

That’s all for now – Happy riding in the sunshine!

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