Ground Work & Handling

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Keys to an effective horse training session. I’ve trained a lot of horses. After nailing up my sign as a “professional horse trainer” several decades ago, I learned quickly that overhead is high in the horse business so you’d better make some hay if you’re going to pay your bills. Consequently, I rode many horses each day, breaking young ones and tuning up show horses.

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If you have ever owned a horse that had difficulties loading you know how determined a horse can be to not get in the trailer. It is easy to accuse the horse of being stubborn or obstinate, or we can make excuses for them, especially if they have ever been hurt or scared in a trailer. Unfortunately, sympathy will get you about as far as being frustrated will — basically nowhere.

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Why do we have them? What keeps us practicing them? As I write this article, I find it ironic that I am laid up on the couch with a lower back injury, brought on by the age-old tradition of lifting, hauling, and generally doing way too much when my body wasn’t up to the task. From my recovery position, it seems fitting to attempt to grapple with the rather sticky topic of traditions, and why we often feel so compelled to stick to them. I’ve touched on this a little in my past articles, but today I want to really dig in and unpack why and how traditions become traditions and what keeps us practicing them, sometimes long past their best before date.

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Moving Well by Breathing Well - At some point, most riders aboard a horse that is breathing heavily will draw a conclusion about its fitness. Respiration, though, can be a fickle fitness marker. And it might sometimes tell you more about a horse’s mental state, physical tension, or plain old natural aptitude than his current fitness. Respiratory rates are always telling us something important. The key is figuring out what the message is.

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Why is it so important for equestrians to become educated about learning theory and its practical application? Knowingly or not, in each single encounter with horses we use learning theory tools from our training toolbox. Sometimes equestrians pick the wrong tools from the toolbox, or do not know how to use the selected tool correctly and, due to this, horses may suffer and may display behaviour considered to be naughty, unwilling, difficult, or even dangerous.

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The disappointing news of fitness is that we cannot keep repeating the same thing to get results. After a while, we need to modify exercises in order to keep gaining conditioning adaptations from them. Otherwise, the body becomes so efficient and habituated at performing movements that it recruits fewer muscle fibres to do them and operates with less involvement from the nervous system. Movements become robotic, a state in which no conditioning gains occur.

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In this debut episode, Jec Ballou interviews Jim Masterson, founder of the Masterson Method. Learn more about how body work can invigorate your horse's performance and well-being. Also in this episode, an Exercise of the Week.

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