Schooling

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One of the biggest sources of tension is anxiety, or more specifically, the horse’s inability to deal with anxiety. Anxiety is a sincere emotion and I know many, many horses that are often overwhelmed by it. Anxiety can stem from a variety of places but where it comes from is less important than helping the horse deal with it.

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My parents didn’t have a lot of money for my riding lessons, and I know they must have scrimped and saved for my one-hour sessions. Those lessons were the highlight of my week and they held great power over me to stay out of trouble — with one strike I could hear the parental words that put fear into every kid: “Behave or you will be grounded…” and they always finished the sentence with “…and that means NO RIDING.” I behaved.

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Several years ago, one of my horses-in-training was Jax, a six-year-old Friesian-Hanoverian cross gelding with a few common issues which caused him to become unreliable to ride. As a result, his owner lost her confidence and thus her enjoyment of riding.

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I recently taught a lesson for new clients who described their horse as being “evergreen,” a term that is fitting for many horses that don’t seem to progress. There are obviously many factors to consider when judging a horse’s progress, or lack thereof, including the amount of time spent working the horse, training methods employed, experience and expectations of the rider, confidence of the rider, and too many others to list.

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The challenge for us is to correctly diagnose what is actually going on so we can truly help the horse overcome their seemingly problem expression. I believe that too many horses are unfairly labeled as problems when really they are just misunderstood and mishandled.

Getting back to work after having time off can be difficult. The holiday is never quite long enough, so it’s nice to be able to ease back into the job. The same is true of horses that have had some time off.

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A turn on the haunches is similar to a western pivot or, when the speed is increased, a spin. It should look like the horse is walking his forehand around his haunches while he keeps his body fairly straight (he will have a slight bend in the direction of travel).

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Are They Good, Bad, or a Bit of Both? Colt starting competitions are wildly popular with audiences, imbuing a sense of wonder at what trainers can do with previously unhandled three-year-old horses (colts) in just a few hours. They’re judged events, where each trainer is paired with an unbroke horse and has just a few hours to start it under saddle. While the trainers work with their horses, they explain their training methods to the audience. On the third and final day of the competition, the trainers show off their horse’s skills over an obstacle course. The young horses are started by top-notch trainers, the spectators are entertained, and the trainers win prizes and kudos for their skills. So, what’s not to like?

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Sadly, ponies get a lot of bad press. Even so, their reputation as being lazy, stubborn, and difficult to train, plus their seemingly inherent displays of poor behaviour, have less to do with their innate nature and more to do with a lack of training.

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Parents of horse-crazy kids and other prospective beginners often feel at a loss as to how to get involved with horses and make the best choices in an industry they know little about. At the same time, the number of participants in the equestrian community has been steadily declining in recent years, and the increase in the average age of those remaining involved points to a strong need to encourage new people to enter the horse industry.

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