Natural Horsemanship

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Create a Paddock Paradise - About 15 years ago, I was boarding my mare, Diva, at a private barn in Victoria, BC. The paddocks were very small and flat, with electric fence covering all the boards to prevent chewing, and Diva was on the end of the paddock row beside a forest. It was close to home, which worked for me, but Diva was deeply stressed, making it almost impossible to safely work with her or ride her.

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Who doesn’t love a horse with a laid-back disposition, the unflappable sort, unfazed by snow skidding off the arena roof? The downside of that laid-back horse is that he’s liable to be laid-back about his rider’s aids, too.

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Visiting a Western art museum recently, I was captivated by the Russell and Remington paintings of horses and riders. The harsh realities of cowboy life were portrayed by hard riding and bronco busting. Horses in action — vehicles of transportation and battle — seemed a sharp contrast to horses in our modern Western cultures as companions or partners in sport. Though enchanted by the artistry, I was unsettled by the common denominator in every painting — every rider hauling on the reins; every horse a picture of mouth-gaping tension.

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The speed of horse training differs from horse to horse and from trainer to trainer. As a trainer I am convinced that the slower you train, the faster horses learn. Not only do they learn faster, they learn with confidence.

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One pole? There is still plenty to do - Simple exercises can sometimes be the most effective because riders are apt to practice them more consistently. And when it comes to movement and fitness, consistency matters above all. I often use the following single pole exercises in clinics because they offer an easy way to derive the postural benefits of pole work without the logistics and effort involved in setting up more complex routines. When you are short on time or dealing with poor weather, these exercises offer a convenient way of ensuring you do not miss the calisthenics your horse needs.

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With Scott Phillips of Amazing Horse Country - We often hear the term “dream horse” when riders are asked what they desire. But what do our horses want or need in their “dream human”?

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Tension in horses can lead to all kinds of problems and hinder their ability to learn. Some horses are so tense and stiff that they are incapable of certain maneuvers. This can lead to frustration and anxiety, which in turn leads to increased tension.

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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.

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By incorporating lots of variety into our lives with horses, we create purpose. Purpose gives meaning to the everyday exercises that, if overdone, can make a horse sour. But with variety and purpose, we and our horses can both build confidence and have a lot of fun!

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When I was younger and hardier I was happy enough to ride in all kinds of weather. If truth be told, I have made my living riding and maybe I felt more obligated to ride rather than being happy to ride. Now that I am a bit older I’ve become a fair weather rider - or at least I’m not an extreme weather rider.

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