Natural Horsemanship

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Dragging a Log - Helping horses build their confidence in unique ways can prepare them for the unexpected. At any age or with any discipline, I encourage riders to find ways to challenge themselves and their horses by trying new things and teaching them that they can trust you when they feel worried. I see so many horses that are incredibly sheltered by their owners and, as a result, become so fragile that any little thing causes them too much anxiety.

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Build Your Horse's Confidence - In the previous article Build Your Horse's Confidence Part 1, I demonstrated how to build confidence around a horse’s personal space bubble by dragging a post with my new seven-year-old Canadian Warmblood named Bellagio, or “Geo.”

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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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When you have finally found the perfect horse to take you to the winner’s circle, it’s tough to realize that he or she might be getting old. Many horses are now competing well into their late teens and early twenties, especially in certain disciplines such as dressage or show jumping where it takes many years of training to reach an elite level of competition. However, from a veterinary perspective, horses are considered geriatric as they reach the age of 15 to 20 years, which is when their physiological functions start to decline. The management of these horses becomes crucial to keep them competing at their best.

Head injuries are the most common reason for admission to hospital or death among riders. Sobering statistics reveal the high percentage of equine-related accidents resulting in traumatic brain injury, and helmets have been associated with reducing the risk of traumatic brain injury by as much as 50 percent. Yet many riders still do not wear a helmet.

Recently, I helped a friend whose mare was having problems with the transition to canter. Moving from trot to canter was scary at best – the mare might cut sharply into a turn, panic and rush, or throw in a strong buck. The mare seemed to be saying let’s just stick with the trot!

It had been three months since Laura, a junior rider, had sustained a simple concussion during a fall from her horse. Her parents were becoming increasingly concerned that she was not progressing in her recovery. Laura was having difficulty focusing at school, disrupted sleep patterns, and intermittent headaches. Fearful of creating any further escalation in her symptoms, she had not returned to riding or any activity.

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