Ground Work & Handling

Build Your Horse’s Confidence with jonathan field, natural horsemanship, exercises with horses, jonathan field dragging a log, horse confidence

Build Your Horse's Confidence - In the previous article Build Your Horse's Confidence Part 1, I demonstrated how to build confidence around a horse’s personal space bubble by dragging a post with my new seven-year-old Canadian Warmblood named Bellagio, or “Geo.”

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You are who your friends are. That adage can apply to horses, too. How we treat them will often be reflected right back at us - for good or bad. Sometimes the difference between a harsh cue and an appropriate one can be subtle. Pressure can be effective, but intensity and timing can make all the difference. The concept of Hold and Wait helps horses and riders remedy incorrect use of pressure. It certainly helped me take my own horsemanship to the next level.

Retraining Thoroughbreds, new careers Thoroughbreds, Barbara Sheridan Equine Guelph, Garry Westergaard, Priscilla Clark Tranquility Farm, thoroughbred career change, Jocelyn Inglehart, Wendy Muir, Jane Avril

Three-year-old Daisy had done relatively well at Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver, BC. She had won her first race that season, and had placed in many others. When she came home that fall, we decided to breed her. She would have some downtime before going off to the stud farm in early spring. But over the winter, I realized our smart, high-strung filly would need some retraining to reinforce basic manners not only for safe handling, but for her future as a pleasure riding horse.

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Simple Exercises and Routines to Reprogram Dysfunctional Movement - As tempting as it is to use our riding skills and training expertise when teaching a horse to carry his body differently or when rehabbing post-layoff, this actually slows the process down. Somehow, many of us equestrians missed this crucial fact during our educations. The horse’s big, fleshy gymnastic muscles that engage as we school him are not the ones where habitual patterns, sometimes called “muscle memories,” are stored. Nor are they the ones responsible for joint and posture stability. In fact, they carry a low supply of nerves and have, therefore, a weak relationship with the horse’s neurosensory system. Working these muscles is not the fastest way to instate new patterns and habits.

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Helping a Worried Horse - I do a wide variety of exercises with my horses to help them become calmer and braver in various situations. My goal is to have them trust what I ask of them, and be okay with it because I am asking. In other words, for me it’s not about the tarp but about Geo’s trust in me to put the tarp on his body. If he trusts me at the heart of it, then tarps, garbage cans, or stumps on a trail won’t bother him.

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Fall fairs, circuit championships, and club awards banquets signal the end of another horse show season. So how did it go? Did your shows, rodeos, or competitive trail rides meet your expectations? For the majority of horse owners, the answer to this question will likely be no. Stuff happens. And so we look toward the next year. But with chilly fall and winter weather looming, we all need some goals to motivate us to get off the couch and out to the arena on those cold nights!

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This is the first of a two-part article about a special horse of mine named Bellagio (barn name Geo), a nine-year-old Warmblood gelding I’ve had for about three years. He is super sensitive and doesn’t have a lot of natural confidence. When he came to me he was very explosive, would react at the slightest thing, and was becoming very dangerous to ride. Over the past few years, I have done a lot of different exercises to help build his confidence with anything that is “out of the norm” for him.

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Riding Vactions in California with Jec Ballou