Saturday, June 23, 2012


"Ruining what bushes...I'm just taking a shortcut"


Dusty and I have been working on her mounting block skills and I’m happy to report she seems to be “getting it” most of the time.  It’s still not ingrained in her psyche that she has to stand still while I mount every time.  The last time I attempted getting on she definitely received a “C -” on her report card for mounting-block antics.  Dusty eventually let me mount, but when I wouldn’t let her blast off into a trot and made her stand until I politely asked her to move off, she had a temper tantrum.  By this I mean she stood there bobbing and tossing her head up, down and sideways.  She wanted to go and I said; “not yet my dear little one, we’re not quite ready.”  Well, that’s not exactly what I said, but it sounds better in print.

I’ve noticed that her -- or any horse’s behavior, for that matter -- is greatly influenced by my demeanor.  Case in point: If I take the time to relax and approach the mounting block with calm, she responds in kind.  We start with her standing in position while I’m in front and  slightly to her side.  I gently stroke her neck, mane and withers until her head drops down a bit and her eyes actually start to close.  Then I’ll move up a step and repeat and so on until I’m on the top step.  Wiggle the saddle and put pressure on it.  Next, with my foot in the stirrup, I’ll weight it then take it out a few times, still keeping pressure on the saddle seat.  If she doesn’t move or need to be corrected/repositioned, it’s show time and I mount quietly by swinging my leg over and catching the other stirrup. When all this is accomplished, I gently sit and readjust the reins.  All the while talking calmly and telling her what a good girl she is. Dusty loves praise and she definitely hears what I’m saying or is relaxing to the tone of my voice, which is apparent by her turning her ear back in my direction.  (I’m thinking of playing an applause tape on a loop as a fitting tribute to her majesty. I’m sure she would be absolutely preening with a well-deserved accolade to honor her new mounting skills.)  

The hardest part of doing anything with Dusty is getting her to curb her enthusiasm and just be still.  We’re working on that too.

It seems since our behavior influences our horse’s behavior we should take the time to act calmly and move quietly around our horses.  Being a prey animal horses have the innate ability to pick up on our thoughts and inner feelings and react to them. As a matter of fact, when Dusty is being overly enthusiastic, as she was this week, I gently stroked her mane up and down while riding and that is apparently what she needed.  She dropped her head, reached for the bit and slowed down to a relaxed tracking-up, back-swinging walk instead of her “I don’t know where I’m going but I’m making good time walk.”  If I had gotten annoyed and tried to force her into listening to what I wanted we would have gotten into a fight that neither could win.  

Dusty is telling me how she wants to be treated.  And reminding me with her reactions to watch my own behavior and demeanor with her.  If we listen to our horses there are many lessons we can learn from their body language and attitude.  It seems so simple and yet at times we tend to forget we have a living breathing intelligent being under our saddles.  A sensitive feeling being that wants to communicate with us if we will only let them.

Until next time
Quote for Today
In training horses, one trains himself
    - Antoine De Pluvinet


  1. This is the thing that drives me the most nuts when I ride in a group. Invariably, there is a rider who is tense and uptight; yelling and smacking their horse for being ... Tense and uptight. Horses are mirrors. Being tuned in and aware of our own tension is critical. Especially with a high energy horse like Dusty.

  2. That's really well put. And such a simple thing - our own demeanor - but also quite difficult. A reminder also that our horses' time frames are quite different to ours.

  3. AnonymousJune 23, 2012

    They do tell us truly who we are - it's a gift they give us. As you've said, your Dusty is a lot like my Dawn (it's those D mares, I guess!) - very sensitive to the emotional climate. Red's a bit like that too - they're good teachers.

  4. They truly do mirror our moods. When I've a rough day I intentionally slow myself down with my mares. My ride that day will be nothing new or hard - very simple basic stuff already mastered.

  5. “....She wanted to go and I said; “not yet my dear little one, we’re not quite ready.” Well, that’s not exactly what I said, but it sounds better in print.”....You crack me up. :-)

    Your post is timely. I had a slight back strain recently and got on Gem yesterday for the first time in two weeks. Grooming was not an issue – calm and sedate. However, once it was time to get on him, I was excited but nervous because we were going out on the trails. He immediately picked up on my nervousness and he became anxious and wanted to Deep cleansing breaths and relaxing my hands helped get me and him back into the right frame of mind. :-)

  6. You are so perceptive. Of course, I indulge my Tucker by listening too much sometimes, but it's far better than engaging in a battle.

    And always remember to take the time to breathe! That helps too.

  7. Completely correct about our horses showing us ourselves! And when that isn't in the all communication revealing them!

    Adored this and am thinking the applause reel is a great idea. Maybe we could play that, and feed oats or carrots,( or bananas, my stablemates horse loves those) for conditioning. Then have a voice command or remote to cue it up after mounting calmly or in my case,doing anything in the arena calmly.

    Nice work!
    I was riding bitless and bareback saddle yesterday alone. Met up with some folks I've known and ridden with before. The one gal just kept repeating," just look at your mare, you've done so much work and she's so calm"....maybe so , but we were standing still!

    Happy summers beginning -to you and that short cutter!

  8. It must be said I do love your photo of Dusty taking a short cut that got a good reaction. I really enjoyed your post and it made me really think I must take the battles of life and leave them behind as they are impacting on the rding relationship I have with Eve at the moment. HHHHmmmmmmm time to go reflect.
    And it is lovely to have you back

  9. AnonymousJune 24, 2012

    It is appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy.

  10. Dusty is a clever one with those bushes!

    Excellent post. Very true. I love how some horses will change almost instantly if we can change ourselves. They really do give us lessons that apply beyond the saddle.

  11. Love the pix & the caption *lol*

    Fab post, as usual, and a good reminder on keeping an eye on one's behaviour (says she who has a tendency to get grumpy at inanimate objects!)

    I'd always take deep breaths, basically to calm myself, before the start of riding lessons and it always made me smile when after a few of my deep breaths, it felt like Biscuit would take a deep breath as well.

    Like the idea of the applause tape, and I'm sure Dusty would be most appreciative *lol*

  12. So true, so very true- those four-legged emotional barometers!

  13. You described well how our behavior affects our horse's behavior. We have a big responsibility to be calm and confident so our horses will be the same. I attended a clinic yesterday and one of the riders was on a school horse owned by the clinician. As the clinic progressed, the horse spiraled down into a meltdown. The rider wasn't nervous, but she was a bit harsh and quick to dole out discipline in the form of smacks. We were in a pasture. A lot of the horses were tempted to sneak a bite of grass. Misty tried often. I just set my hands so that she runs into her bit, and did it to herself, when she tried to grab an unapproved snack. After a few attempts she stopped trying to dive for the grass. When the other horse tried to sneak a bite, the rider smacked him really hard on the neck with her split reins. So hard, the horse farted and scared himself and scared my horse too. I thought her reaction was harsh and her relationship with that horse went downhill fast after that. The clinician had to switch horses with her. The horse was really in a tizzy, but eventually calmed down as the clinician worked with him.

  14. Glad to see you back with a wonderful and sensitive post. You and Dusty seem to have a sympatico relationship and I believe your comments about understanding what your horse is telling you goes for all in the animal kingdom under our care.

  15. I think standing still while you mount is one of the hardest things for a horse to learn. Or at least for my horses it has been. Jack was a great trail horse but he never learned to stand still while I mounted him from some sort of mounting block. Regardless I still miss him.

  16. Mounting block manners are SO important! Imagine falling off in a field and having to mount from (gasp) the ground... one's horse should stand like a rock for that too! (though admittedly, my toe jabs into the poor ponies right behind the shoulder, I need to do more plyometrics!)

    Love the photo of the shortcut :)

  17. Love the photos in the post below. Ha ha. And mounting has become an issue lately with my QH. He just moves on out... never used to. Each time he moved I took and worked him in a circle and made him do turns. About the fifth time he stopped moving at the mounting block. We will see if that works...


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