When things go wrong in the horse show ring. Part 3

WHAT might you expect to go wrong in the show ring? I’ll put on my judge’s hat and share common mistakes. So common, in fact, that every score sheet has a menu of these mishaps and space to record their numerical deductions.
WHY do these things happen? Here, I’ll wear my hat as a specialist in horse behaviour (and generally curious person ). Uncover the source and the symptom begins to fade away. Here are the final 3 common show ring “suddenly moments “ and how to make the best of them!

The science of horse tack and training aids. Part 2

In barn aisles and social media platforms, equestrians debate, disdain and defend the use of training aids.
I’m convinced the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Let’s lift the lid on the tack box, looking objectively at the evidence concerning training aids – how to use them, choose them, and avoid the ways we might abuse them!

The Science of horse tack and training aids. Part 1

Training tack – whips, spurs nosebands and martingales. It’s a divisive topic in the horse industry. Horse show committees, popular clinicians, coaches, competitive and casual riders differ in their views.
In a sport where truth, tradition and emotions often collide, I’ve had to sift through the issues to form my own system as a horse trainer, show judge and riding coach.

Horse training jargon. Clear or confusing?

Mystical, humorous or deliberately elusive – the terms we use in the horse business can leave a rider scratching her head. As a young rider, I was a coach’s worst nightmare – “What do you mean by that?”, I’d ask.
I rarely got a meaningful answer.
No doubt, jargon adds some comic relief to the conversation. Some horse trainer lingo is just – funny!
But, are the terms we use meant to CREATE mystery or to UNCOVER and UNPACK the mysteries of humans working with horses?
Training a non- English- speaking horse partner is complicated enough without including unclear terms which train riders to give unclear signals and horses to be clearly stressed out! If we can’t describe our aids in such a way that someone who’s never ridden could understand, chances are the aid is fuzzy to the horse too!

Are mares more difficult to train than geldings? Equine behaviour study says no.

As a riding coach, I’m occasionally asked if I’ve perceived a “gender bias” in competitive riding, I chuckle – while I wouldn’t say that guys get more breaks than women, or vice versa, I do think “difficult” mares tend to get a bad rap!
Yep, the “As long as it’s not a chestnut mare” syndrome is alive and well.
Yet, I’ve worked with enough grumpy geldings and mild mannered mares to debunk the gender bias in horse training.

Horses behind the bit.

Once a horse learns how to escape the hands of a rider, he’ll tend to hide behind the bit even with a rider of educated hands, avoiding the annoyance before it begins. In equitation science, this is called “avoidance conditioning”. Thankfully, most horse show judges these days aren’t swayed by that horse with his nose tucked in – they’re looking past the head to analyze the balance, rhythm and relaxation of the whole picture.

Our horse’s welfare – who defines “abuse”?

One thing I love about speaking and coaching riders on the science of equine behavior is reviewing all sorts of studies to help sort through the fact and fiction of equine learning and horse welfare. Research ranging from trailering to horse training methods to tack – how what we do with horses, or neglect to do, affects a horse’s stress…

Responding to Pressure – horse and humans. Part 2

We’re always horse training – there’s no neutral. I encourage riders to be mindful of each moment – on the ground or in the saddle, catching those little resistances and using them as horse training yield-to-pressure opportunities …The payoff is my horse is less likely to say “no” when the pressure’s on. Fewer costly wrong leads, added strides, or seconds lost in speed events.
What about humans? 10 months of pandemic pressures have squeezed many of us emotionally, financially, relationally and physically. When I’m feeling squeezed by circumstances, what does it bring out in me?

Horse tack. Nosebands – how tight is too tight?

Standard equipment in English disciplines. Training equipment in western. While nosebands are designed to prevent bit evasion, in the horse business, we’re inclined to default into thinking “If a little is good, more is better! Glad to see that Equestrian Canada has added a 2021 horse show rule addressing nosebands. The question upstream from noseband “restrictions” – are we masking bit evasion without asking WHY the horse might be resisting?