First and foremost, I think it is important to look out for the safety and wellbeing of my students and equines.
~ Set the student and horse up for success. Success in not measured in how long you stay in the saddle but by how confident the horse feels before you dismount.
~Leave a horse and student in a better state of mind at the end of a session. Anyone can make a horse move but what frame of mind are you leaving the horse in?
~ Not give in to the impulsive desires of others. I work methodically. If the horse and rider are not safe, confident, and ready for the next step, we do not take it.
~Tell people the truth even though it is not always what they want to hear but rather what they need to hear in order to connect with their horse.
~It is one thing to be firm in the necessary time and place and quite another to be a bully.
~ Tie downs and anything that artificially ‘corrects’ your horse for you are never the answer. True communication, feel and timing are the correct answer. True beauty lies in fluidity and joy, not forced movement. Yes, it takes more time to train this way so expect to enjoy the journey instead of ‘thrilling’ on speedy results.
~I will forever be a student striving to improve myself in the hopes of helping others.
Safety, Trust, Confidence, and a Better State of Mind ~ therein lies the key for both horse and rider.
Rachel and Pilgrim in the river cica 2015
Unless in an emergency: it's NOT about getting the horse into a trailer. The real goal is getting a horse to understand there's no reason to fear getting into the trailer. The horse is rarely the issue. It's the human that is creating the issue. Humans tend to want the horse to have a magical "ah-ha" moment within 30 minutes, and even preferably sooner, after starting a new conversation on a sore subject. In addition are most likely with a new trainer. This means this new conversation tends to take place after many disastrous trailer loadings with a new human who is getting to know the horse.
Goal oriented humans forget to recognize the survival instinct in a horse. If each load is about pressure to load vs working through the reason the horse doesn't feel good about loading, why WOULD a horse want to get in?
Instead, making a good experience and building up the confidence in a horse will allow the horse to feel good about loading. How long will it take for a horse to believe getting in is no longer a raw deal? It depends on the horse's poor past experiences and the human relationship built after the previous trailer loading experiences creating ill feelings within the horse to begin with.
Putting the goal before the horse never has lasting positive results.
Just like horse that won't get into the water- It's not about fighting the horse to get in the trailer. It's about building the willingness to get in.
Education is about giving the horse time to consider the fact it's okay to get in and be ok when in! Building the confidence- is dependent on what kind of teacher the human is to the horse.
Bottom line: the lasting, or lack of lasting, result is based on whether the human interacting with the horse has a helpful supportive mindset or a pressure/ goal-focused mindset. Building confidence for the horse's sake will bring about a lasting goal of a horse willingly getting into the trailer.
First, get the horse to want to be with the human mentally (aka willingly, with okayness, paying attention to the person.) vs thinking anywhere else but what the person is presenting.
Second, listen to your horse, are they busy considering the person they are working with or busy considering everything else? How is the human presenting the consideration to the horse? (The consideration being something a person is helping the equine feel better about.) The goal is to get the horse willing to try what the human is asking.
I have been a part of the Horse Sense family for almost 10 years now and in those years, I have had a lot of ups and downs. I started volunteering 3+ times a week when I turned 13 and found myself constantly frustrated that while I cleaned 2+ stalls, filled hay nets, and did a lot of misc. work, I was not always afforded the time riding as I thought I deserved. I am considered one of the original “teens” in the program and always measured my progress against those who had YEARS of experience over me, yet they were the same age as me.
As I continued in the program, I constantly felt disappointed, less than, and overall crumby about my skill level. At the time there just were not enough horses in the program available to become “mine”, and all the horses that were available were WAY beyond my skill level. I was always so frustrated that I was “never good enough” and often took that frustration out on Kristin Praly.
After 4-5 years within the program, I did get “my own” horse Venus through the program, and ~1 year after working with Venus, I was afforded the opportunity to cross the river for a trail ride. If you know Venus, you know she is a mare that has an opinion that commands to be heard. Venus, at the time, was very good at testing people’s boundaries by backing into things so that she could get out of doing something she did not want to do. I had practiced with Kristin several times on how to keep asking her to move forward, and not allowing her to scare me off her. Once I had gotten her into the river, I thought the hard part was over… boy was I wrong. Venus is extremely experienced with trail rides, but every day and every rider presents new scenarios.
My plan to make it through Henry Cowell Park to Observation Deck, didn't happen that day. From the backwoods, to just barely crossing the river, I dealt with backing into trees, bucking, attempts to roll, spooking, other horses freaking out, a bee sting, and bolting. Kristin helped me in what could have been a very scary moment. I was able to calm my horse and collect her thoughts. I put into practice all the small things I had been taught through the years that felt meaningless at the time. I was able to relax my horse and come home safe.
Some thoughts I had immediately following this trail ride was, “Wow, I now see why Kristin had told me I was not ready.” It's a hard pill to swallow when you’re told you’re not ready, but after seeing how much patience, skill and practice I needed to barely go on a trail ride, I finally understood. While in the moment I felt incredibly hurt to be told I was not ready, I now see that it was for my safety as well as the safety of the horses.
While many programs give into what the rider (customer) wants and desires, Horse Sense is different. In our program our horses will always come first. Sometimes that means if the horse is not in the right state of mind or training, we do not push to accomplish something that is afforded at the detriment of the horse.
In the same way, we protect our riders by not allowing them to take on more than they can handle. Although people never want to hear it, something a rider must accept is that it is not about you and your desires. Our egos are so good at getting in our way. Your desires cannot come at the detriment of our beloved horses and while we as riders/learners cannot always see past our desires, Kristin Praly can, and that’s why you need to trust when she says, “Not yet.”
I promise all the mundane lessons add up to something so much greater. Every single day presents new challenges when riding, and you must be prepared in just about any way to handle the scenarios thrown your direction. It may sound silly; but to me, my horse is my best friend. It was drilled into me that I must clean my stall and complete my chores before ever considering riding, because if I have my horse’s back, they’ll have mine. To this day I cannot even consider riding before completing my chores and honestly, I take pride in the pre-care I put into my horse before riding.
I am now 23 years old and looking back, I wish I could tell myself that it gets better, and that all the work does pay off with time. My foundation I laid down with my horse is the backbone for everything I have ever accomplished with her. So, when you are feeling frustrated, stuck, and upset, try to remember to be kind to yourself, the horse and Kristin. While Kristin’s methods may not always be “orthodox”, they work.
If you were to ask Kristin or me about our relationship through the years, we would both answer along the lines that it is one of the most difficult relationships we’ve been in, yet the most rewarding. We chose to put the work into it.
In the same fashion, you need to choose to put the work and patience into your relationship with your horse before asking them to do something that either you, or they, are not ready for.
In due course Savannah and Venus made it to Observation Deck!
- Horse Sense Education and Advocacy
Got a great question the other day about trailering. The client was wondering if the trailer is always supposed to be hooked up.
Short answer is YES no matter the size, even the really really big trailers. YES.
Why? Short answer again: Because it’s always safer and definitely FEELS safer to the horse.
Do an experiment: Hook up your trailer, without the e-brake on, and load just yourself, no horse this time. You’ll see and feel the trailer move as you're getting on.
For a horse, it can be confusing and disconcerting and a little kind of scary that the trailer 'box' moves. It’s an Earthquake box! Why would they want to get in that?
Now put the e-brake on. The box doesn’t move nearly as much- maybe a tiny bit if at all. The same goes for big trailers. Big and small trailers are ALL designed to roll and move easily while being pulled behind trucks; therefore, unless hooked up to a bigger mass with an e-brake on, that trailer isn't going to feel grounded and safe to load on in comparison to one hooked up to a truck with the e-brake on.
Now, unhook your trailer and feel the movement- take that movement times the body weight of the horse in comparison to your body weight and amplify that uncertain rolly polly movement feeling by the larger body weight.
Take that bigger feeling amplified and multiply by a horse’s nature to feel claustrophobic and kick in some prey mentality all while trying to listen to the human wanting said horse in an earthquake box to begin with, and Viola! You've got a horse that is doubting the whole process and their human's leadership skills that are supposed to keep the horse from harm's way.
First time trailer loading: The horse gives you benefit of the doubt and gives the 'ol college try and actually gets in the trailer- only to find it unstable and moving underneath them and doesn't necessarily like that earth moving feeling.
Second time trailer loading: Now, you've got your work cut out for you. A horse, like a human will try anything once, but ask then to try it twice after it doesn't feel good the first time?
Bottom Line: You’re going to want to hook up that trailer for trailer training
Set yourself up for success as best you can the first time.
Peace and Happy new year everyone – May you have many training epiphanies this year. -Kristin Praly Horse Sense Education and Advocacy.
Kristin explains how saddles can protect your horse's back or wreck your horse's back.
One of THE MOST IMPORTANT money you will spend for your horse in the saddle you ride in. You want to allow your horse to operate underneath you without pain. You want your horse to have longevity of life and be able to ride for many years to come.
Take time to understand how the right saddle fir works for you and the wrong saddle fit can be detrimental to the health of your horse's ligaments, back and even digestion.
The horse cannot carry your weight if the saddle hurts.
Kristin can map your horse's body both for saddle fitting and for physical therapy help.