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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.

The Eye is the Window to the Mind

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Here we are at the end of February, with March already upon us. Many of us in Australia have now had rain, to see the country change from dust to mud and green grass will have many smiling. At home it has been a busy year as usual from feeding stock and general stock work to starting horses and a home course. My Australian course schedule starts in March with courses in Brisbane, Qld and Perth, W.A. to a course outside of Sydney, N.S.W. in April. More info can be obtained from the website or email me at: info@davidstuart.com.au I have added a horsemanship article below, I trust all enjoy the read.

The eye is the window to the mind is a sentence that many have heard before. When you put your shingle out at the front gate saying that you start horses or give horsemanship courses to the general public, an array of different horses come through the front gate. Some of those horses are very talented, athletic horses and others not. I heard Buck quoting Ray Hunt one day, about an example where a rider did not have one of those talented athletic horses and Ray said that while you may not be able to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear you can still make a purse.

I thought that this was very true and another reminder, the better our horsemanship is the more that is reflected through the horse.

Many horses will go on to be nice saddle horses regardless, of what we do, as some don’t. Over the years I really noticed some of those talented and athletic horses were not always easy to get along with. What I also learnt was that I wanted those horses to be my friend, as I did not need then working against me. As my presentation improved and I did not bring that self preservation out of the horse, there was less bucking etc and more progress. I am not saying that the horse would not get scared, but by slowing down the horse got more sure of things. As my feel and timing improved the horses would change and you could see their eye soften and their body demeanour soften.

This is very much a road of constant and never ending improvement.

The Start of a New Year

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The New Year is now well under way and I hope that all found time to relax with family and friends over the festive season. I have just recently returned from Buck Brannaman’s course in Tamworth Australia. It is always good to see a class act and is always a learning opportunity and confirms your beliefs as well as creating new ones.

Presently I have horses in for starting on my families property in Qld and at the beginning of February, I have a 2 day horsemanship and cow working course and in March there is a 2 day foundation course in Brisbane Qld and also courses in Western Australia with Jenny Jackson and Horsemanship First. More information is available on the website www.davidstuart.com.au on the course schedule page.

Horsemanship; One of the many things that Buck spoke on, was the blind spot that horses have either directly behind them or in front of them and under their neck. This was a really important area to take of as it can be the result of horses jumping and spooking and riders being unseated when horses they are not confident in their blind spots.

There are a few ways you can help your horse to gain more confidence in the blind spots. One way is in a round pen and getting to where you can drive your horse around and not only draw your horse to you, but drive them away to where you are changing eyes and going through that blind spot behind them. You could do this while the horse is loose or with a longer line like a lariat rope. ( Be careful and do not get kicked ) Even when riding a young or green horse you need to be careful that you do not ambush your horse with an outside leg aid when they are looking the other way.

Again it was mentioned that until your horse is in balance your horse will not be emotionally stable and to not ride your horse out of balance.

While there where a number of lessons to learn during the course, the above I hope will give more understanding as to why your horse may spook or behave in the way that they do.

I look forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones in my travels through out the year.

Back in The U.K.

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I have now been back in the U.K. for a little over a week. It is a different schedule from years past with no horse intakes in the schedule. We have now finished the week long Dudgeley Camp and have just returned from Scotland. The courses have gone really well and the progress that all riders have made has been great to see and we have managed to make hay while the suns shines.

Transitions & Balance Continued: In my last blog I wrote about transitions and balance and perhaps this horsemanship blog might be a continuation. During the week at the venue of Dudgeley in the English county of Shropshire, we rode a lot of transitions from halt to walk to trot, trot to walk to halt to back up. The walk and trot transitions also helped the canter transitions and all horses improved in the quality of their gaits. The transitions were ridden on a circle and on the straight.

I noticed many riders not riding their corners well. To improve this I created a smaller arena and put cones in the corners. Riders had to ride around the cones and ride deeper in the corners. Another benefit to riding corners well is further engagement of the inside hind leg – the weight bearing leg.

In this case I also worked with riders one on one on the smaller arena. Again still riding transitions and riding the corners deeper, the outcome was that horses started getting more on the aids and starting to gain more drive and power in their gaits. Riders also started to ride their horses to the corner and began to ride with more accuracy.

Transitions & Balance

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It has been a while since I have put pen to paper, so now might be a good time to add a few words. At home in Australia I have had horses in for starting, plus stock work and have also had courses as well, it has been a juggling act. In the next few weeks I head out for the U.K. for a shorter visit. I have been travelling to the U.K every year for the last 20 years. This is the first time that I have seen a July in Australia for 20 years. I now know why I have followed the sun.

An image from a recent Western Australia Course.

Updates: The website has a full U.K. course schedule and also an Australian course and young horse schedule. So please check out the appropriate schedules. I have also added articles below for you to download. They are articles that I have written for Horse Deals Australia.

Transitions and Balance: Over the years I am sure I have spoken of transitions and balance and shared my thoughts and experience. So maybe I am adding to those now.

As a generalisation riders mostly feel resistance through the hand and as a result it can be easy to think that you need to be firmer with the hand or get a bigger bit. You often see horses over bent and running through the riders hand or hiding behind the bit, as well as horses above the bit. If you can keep your horse more in balance then you are more likely to avoid the already mentioned. Maintaining your riding position is easier, if your horse is in balance.

As a rider, work on keeping those transitions through the gaits and within the gaits smooth. You will have more success at keeping your horse in balance if the transitions are smooth and not rushed or sluggish. Equally not over riding your horse and pushing the horse out of balance will help with your transitions. Not staying in the gait to long is important, for the horse that may get lost or have a lot of energy. Think approach and retreat.

Where your horse is still running through your hand, bending your horse down the transitions maybe more appropriate. I often use circles to work on my transitions to start with. Bending down and going through the centre of the circle to make the downward transition. When I have smooth transitions up and down through the different gaits, I will ride transitions on the straight.

Many riders become obsessed with longitudinal or vertical flexion of their horse. If the weight is right, the flexion is more likely to be correct. If you put the flexion first your horse may end up over bent or heavy in the hand. The horse below, while not running through the riders hand is not at a stage where she can carry herself with any degree of flexion at a trot. At a walk she was able to carry what Ray Hunt called a soft feel. As she develops and her transitions improve, this will change.

There are many ways to help your horse with balance and transitions is one approach. As I heard spoken sometime ago; “Until your horse is in balance they will not be emotionally stable.”

Do Simple Things Well

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In the southern hemisphere we are going into winter and soon it will be time for me to head for the summer of the northern hemisphere.

The title of this months blog, “Do Simple Things Well”, is very true. Ray Hunt summed it up in three words feel, timing and balance, those words may take a life time to digest and understand. Often riders are looking to progress, but until you can do the simple things well you are not going to advance.

If we pay attention to the little things and do the simple things well our progress tends to happen more organically.

  • How are your horses ground manors.
  • How well does your horse lead.
  • How well does your horse saddle or bridle.
  • How well does your horse trailer load.
  • What is the quality of your lateral flexion.
  • How well does your horse back up.
  • As a rider, do you have an independent seat.

The list above are examples and you can certainly add more to this list. While it is probably human nature to take the path of least resistance, if you do the simple things well then the results take care of themselves.

Projects: Over the last month I have had young horses in for starting, plus I have also been in the process of building a new set of stables. I have been fortunate to have had the help of a couple of friends that are more skilled in this area than myself. All going well they will be in use very soon.

New Stables, still a work in progress

Upcoming Events: My U.K. schedule starts in August for more details please look at https://www.davidstuart.com.au/courses/

In the next few weeks I will also update my Australian and New Zealand course and young horse schedules on the website.

To Develop or Train a Horse

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It has been a couple of months since I last put pen to paper. In deciding what area to cover, the title; To Develop or Train a Horse came about, it is an interesting concept.

Perhaps it starts more with the humans attitude towards the horse. In my courses there is always a little bit of well intended banter and a few stories of one nature or another told. In telling of my own experiences over the now many years or those of my teachers. It is for the purpose of trying to pass on the philosophy behind the message and not just a technique.

This is a young horse that I am starting at present. At first she was a little defensive and with time and understanding, she has become more confident.

To just employ a technique without any empathy for the horse can result in different outcomes for both horse and rider. For example if you are bending your horses head around and you are just pulling on the rein without feel. The horse may bring his or her head around but with a different attitude perhaps the horse gets defensive and scared and braces on your hand or leg, every action represents an attitude.

If your own feel and timing is still a work in progress, it is amazing how much the horse will fill in for us. For those horses that are a little more sensitive or defensive if you give them a little more time and don’t try to make it happen, often they will come through for you.

While the above is not a how to article. The message that I am trying to convey is that horsemanship is much more than a technique. You cannot preach what you do not practice, the horse will know the difference.

Happy New Year

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My course schedule has already begun with a one day horsemanship and cow working course at home in Qld. This weekend there is a 3 day course in the South Island of New Zealand, plus lessons are available on the Monday, more details at https://www.davidstuart.com.au/course/aust-intermediate-2-2016-09-10/

Courses are also coming up in March, at Canberra and Western Australia. Again more details on courses and young hors schedules at: https://www.davidstuart.com.au/courses/

Trailer Loading:  Will get you advice from everywhere and will be a subject that has many stories and will create many more. It is also applicable to everyone with a horse. From a recreational rider to a competition rider. A couple of suggestions:

Do not wait until you are late for the “show”

Be prepared before you go near the trailer

Preparation in this case, means having your ground work in order: How confident is your horse, does your horse follow a feel well, does your horse lead well, can you move your horses hind and forequarters, back your horse up. How is your horse with a flag.

Look at things from the horse”s perspective understand that being confined in a small area is not always going to be in the horses nature.

There are many approaches to loading: Look at whats going to be safe for both you and your horse. Loading a horse up a truck ramp or into the back of a trailer already loaded with horses may require you to load from outside the trailer. Other situations may require you to lead your horse in. Look at what is best for both you and your horse.

I look forward to catching with up with everyone through out the year. Enjoy your horsemanship and horses.