Horse Behaviour & Psychology

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Where Should You Start? By Jec A. Ballou. When spring finally arrives, the sunny riding season ahead can greet riders with both excitement and anxiety. Where do I start, you might wonder as you calculate how unfit your horse has become from a winter of being off work. How long will it take to ease him back to fitness? What sorts of exercises and timelines should I use? In this article, I’ll answer these questions plus offer a simple schedule in addition to some rules you never want to break.

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I work with a large variety of horses and have worked with thousands of horses and riders in the past eight years. This has given me the opportunity to work with some fairly complicated horses. Although more difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible to train, the complicated ones teach us the most and challenge us to work the horse as an individual.

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Adventures in Brain Power - Adaptability is an essential quality we think of in many contexts, and one synonymous with flexibility, learning, and growth. Yet, do we always overlay this quality on our horses and our training, or even more importantly, on the very thing that allows us to be adaptable in the first place — our nervous system? Have you ever met a horse or human who had a hard time learning or retaining a new skill, exhibited “bad” behaviour when under pressure, was challenged by changes such as moving, new environments, or with their schedule, companion, or training routine? I know I have, and I have also been that human, and had that horse. Often, we get labelled as overly sensitive, flighty, or even slow or challenged learners, but the reality is that each horse and human has a unique nervous system that functions, thrives, and learns in different ways and under different conditions.

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What does it mean for Canadian horse owners? Are you aware that a Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines (CPCHE) was published in Canada in 2013? Did you know that Equine Canada, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), and the Canadian Feed Inspection Agency were among the many partners involved in the development of the CPCHE under the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC), and that they remain part of the team that supports the industry-recognized recommendations and requirements established within the Code for good equine husbandry? Let’s look at what exactly this equine Code entails.

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We’ve all had a horse that was hesitant to go forward with ease and willingness. I want to share the story of one such colt I started recently, and some of the strategies I employed to help him “free up.” These techniques work well for horses of all ages. This article is ultimately about rider self-awareness, timing, and avoiding the overuse of pressure, which unintentionally dulls the horse. Take special note of the tips for success, and the pitfalls many riders face when their horse is dull to their aids.

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My horse is great in the arena, but easily distracted as soon as we go out of the ring. He’s good when he’s by himself, but when there are other horses around, my horse’s mind is not with me. My horse is fine when his herd-mate is nearby, but as soon as we try to separate he loses his mind! Sometimes he’s with me… and other times it’s like I’m not even there. If you can relate to any of these statements, the tips in this article will help you understand your horse – the ultimate tourist – and how to get his attention.

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My parents didn’t have a lot of money for my riding lessons, and I know they must have scrimped and saved for my one-hour sessions. Those lessons were the highlight of my week and they held great power over me to stay out of trouble — with one strike I could hear the parental words that put fear into every kid: “Behave or you will be grounded…” and they always finished the sentence with “…and that means NO RIDING.” I behaved.

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