An Australian Spring Blog

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The world is currently a very different place to what it was earlier in the year, and we are all adapting to current situations. I have not seen a spring in Australia for over 20 years due to global travel schedules.

In October, I am to be a part of an online horse fair, details have been posted on my social media. There are also other planned events of this nature as well.

Presently we have a yard full of horses in for starting, with some horses coming in for Foundation Training as well. There is also a home course coming up at the end of the month and a course in Brisbane in October. I have added a horsemanship article below, that I trust all find useful.

My Horse Won’t Go; (This is almost as common as my horse won’t stop.)

Fear, may be one of the reasons your horse does not want to go, often when a horse gets scared the natural reaction or response is for a horse to want to run. This is not always the case, some horses will get to where instead of running they will stand still. If their feet do come unstuck then those horses may get to bucking or running.

Having the feet freed up on the ground and noticing how freely your horse moves out on the ground is preparation for riding. Noticing how well your horse leads, does he drag on the end of the halter? How light on the end of the halter is your horse in their overall ground work? These are all good questions to ask yourself.

Both in the saddle and on the ground, keeping both the hind and forequarters freed up is important to how well your horse moves forward. Notice your horse’s flexion or his arc balance on the circle. Looking at the overall picture is part of being able to read your horse. As your eyes become more educated you will see a different picture.

Some exercises I do on the ground, using my stirrup, I create energy to get my horse to move forward and bend around my stirrup drifting the hind quarters to the outside. This way I am helping my horse to move forward off my inside leg when I am riding. I will also pick up my lead rope and bend my horse’s head around, lifting on the lead to move the hindquarters or my horse’s inside leg. If I can get that inside hind leg stepping forward then I am initiating forward movement from the hind end. I do this in the saddle as well.

When I am moving the hind or fore quarters I look to see what the quality of the yields are; is my horse escaping or yielding, is there a nice tempo and rhythm to the movement. If my hind and forequarter movements are good, then how does my horse back up and come forward out of the backup.

In the saddle I am going to be really trying to develop that connection down to the feet, as I have been on the ground. I am going to be trying to feel the whole horse. If my horse is not responsive to my legs or seat then I hang in there to get some level of improvement.

Short Serpentines, is an exercise that I learnt from Buck Brannaman and I have found really beneficial in having my horse’s move forward. It is not just getting your horse to move forward, but not having them run off. You can go from one to the other in a heart beat.

The exercises above, both on the ground and ridden I would have working for me before riding outside. The environment is also going to influence your horse to go forward. With horses that are shut down in an arena environment, hacking out or riding those horses outside is going to help them to move more freely. Giving your horse a job to do is also going to help as well.

While the title of this article was, My horse won’t go; the above is also going to help you in so many other ways. There are many ways to help your horse go forward more freely, from some of the exercises above, or to where and how we ride our horses.

A Blog Update for August

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I missed July’s blog, so thought that I had better get in early for August. Since my last blog we have continued to update the horse facilities here on my families cattle property. The toilet and shower are now completed and we have added an arena cover over the 60 foot round pen. ( ABC Sheds of Young in New South Wales did an excellent job. ) This should make a big difference for when summer arrives and for the home courses.
In July we also had our first home course since February and hope to have another in October. As always it is great to see the progress that everyone makes with their horses.
I have added a horsemanship article below, that many may find interesting, happy reading.
Arena Cover in the background with large round pen in front and stables to the side

Over the last few months I have been home starting horses and having horsemanship conversations over the internet. A question that recently came up, was what do you do when your horse goes rigid or hollows through the back and feels like they are about to buck etc. When a horse goes into flight mode it is a common tendency for this to happen. Equally it is also a common tendency for riders to pull on the reins. Pulling on both reins is unlikely to help and more than likely work against you. So using one rein is often the better option. If the horse is already rigid through the back you may find that you are still unable to get to the hindquarters. In this case putting the horse on a small circle and using your leg to try to establish flexion through the ribcage and then you may find that your horse starts too soften in your hand. This is of course is knowing what happens before what happens, happens. ( Getting ahead of the bucking or running off. )

Continuing on from this, when you first start with the young horse, riders are wanting their horses soft and relaxed. Lightness is another topic and a good friend, Mike Bridges speaks of this in his book ” The Art of Making A Californian Style Vaquero Bridle Horse. ” In his book Mike speaks of many things and you are going to have to read his book to find that out.

When riders start with young horses and are wanting to progress and add speed, ” it can be easy to come undone” and loose that softness. This may have more to do with balance. As the horse becomes more balanced not only do they become more emotionally stable, you also going to have lightness to signal. As was said to me a long time ago are you working on the start or the finish. Perhaps if we begin with the end in mind that gives more understanding to our horses and our horsemanship progress.

Building A Foundation

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To say this year has been different to past years would be an understatement. As a result it has caused many of us to change our plans and the way we go about everyday life.

Later in the year I am going to be participating in an online event that will be to my knowledge one of the first. As this event gets closer I will let you know more.

Also I am sorry to say that Tina and I have had to cancel this years U.K. schedule due to Covid -19. In organising the U.K. schedule there is quite a lot of work to be done before hand and with the uncertainty of the months ahead and travel restrictions, quarantine and everyones health we felt that we were unable to go ahead. We are very grateful and thankful for everyones support and understanding and we look forward to next year.

In the next few weeks I hope to have completed a cover over my round pen. Over the years I have spent a lot of time in the sun, rain & snow. To have a cover to work under is going to be an amazing environment. I have also included a horsemanship article below, happy reading.

The horse above was a stud horse called “Boy Boy”, that I rode for a few months for Andrew Seville from the U.K. polo world. While I cannot swing a polo mallet like a polo player, if you can swing a rope and ride with a flag then you can swing a polo mallet.

Building a foundation for your horse go on from, sets the future. From when you have that green unstarted horse to that green started horse. Having that horse to where he is solid physically, mentally and emotionally is gold. It takes time and we have to do our homework to get the results.

The foundation is not about cantering and galloping circles all over the place. More times than not it is about going slow and walking and trotting circles. Hence the saying slow and right beats fast and wrong. By going slow and keeping your horse in balance it gives your horse more time to understand and helps settle your horse mentally and emotionally.

If you have a horse that is sensitive taking time to make sure your horse trailer loads well, ties up, that you can pick their feet up, ride them with a flag or even bareback builds that foundation for the future. It puts money in the bank that you can draw on at a later date if needed.

By going slower you will also be putting less stress on your horse physically so that you will still have a horse to ride when they are at later stage of life. What I have said above is not a do this in this order, but perhaps helps all when we are confronted with adversity to see the opportunity to build on the foundation.

Have Your Horse Pick You Up From The Fence.

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Winter has arrived here in the southern hemisphere and recently we have been fortunate to have a little more rain as well here on my families cattle property in central Queensland.

While travel restrictions have prevented travels domestically, I have been able to put in more infrastructure here at home , with a more up to date ablutions block for home courses. All going well, more improvements will be in place by the end of July.

Currently I have been fortunate to have strong young horse bookings, with horses ranging from all breeds and ages. Over the years many ask why start young horses and while there may be a number of reasons. The main one is to continually improve your horsemanship. When you see a horse started well, it is like art. It is smooth with the human able to fit the situation and the horse. There maybe moments where things do not go as smoothly as you would like. You learn through your own experiences and the experiences of others and keep setting it up and over time you will have more to offer the horse.

An image from a young horse course many years ago in Central Queensland.

With current restrictions, many have not been able to ride, or been “grounded.” I have been asked if I could write an article that might be helpful to those that have been grounded.

An exercise that would help many, is to get your horse to learn to pick you up off the fence. In my travels, where riders use mounting blocks to mount their horses, it is often a struggle for riders and horses. I have seen where horses are lead to the mounting block and then riders are about to put their foot into the stirrup and the horse moves away. The rider then leads the horse back to the mounting block only to again be faced with the same situation.

If your horse can see the block as a place of security or comfort and the rider has their ground work to a place where they can position the horse and direct the feet from the fence, they would have so much more working for them when they did get in the saddle. For a young unstarted horse , this gives them the benefit of seeing you above them without you having to be in the saddle. You may still have to use your flag and your horse may not be comfortable with you on the fence to start with, hang in their. It might take awhile to get your horse to where you can rub them with your foot, flag etc. It is worth waiting for and can really help your horse to be more comfortable with you in the saddle.

The image above was from Australia’s Legacy of Legends a few years ago, and is of Buck Brannaman helping me with a young horse to pick me up off the fence.