Friday, March 29, 2013

clinton anderson's "letter of agreement" for horse training

This is on CA's website and must be signed to enter your horse into training with him.  Very interesting reading.


 I have read the Letter of Understanding and I agree and accept the terms and conditions of the Academy Training Horse Program.
Payment Info

Total: $ 500.00 (Deposit ONLY)
Enroll Now
Please thoroughly read the Academy Horse Program contract. After reading the contract in its entirety and checking "I Agree" on all 9 sections of the agreement, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the "I Agree" button to acknowledge your consent with all the terms and conditions of the Academy Horse Program. After agreeing to the contract, you'll continue with the registration process.
To exit without accepting the contract, press the "Cancel Enrollment" button to the right.
Before enrolling your horse in the Academy Horse program, please review the points below to ensure we're all on the same level of understanding about what will and could possibly happen to your horse during his stay at the Downunder Horsemanship Ranch.

Once your horse has been accepted you'll be given a tentative assignment date for a specific six-week training session. Your assigned date is tentative, is not guaranteed, and may be subject to change perhaps even multiple times. We do our very best to avoid rescheduling, but in training horses, Academy students, and other unforeseen circumstances and commitments we may be required to do so. We'll certainly do everything possible to avoid any such inconvenience, and will only do so when truly necessary. Our foremost priority is to ensure your horse receives our full attention throughout his training. We'd rather withstand any potential inconvenience associated with rescheduling than compromise on the quality of training our customers expect and Clinton demands.
 I Agree

Your horse will receive the best care possible.
Downunder Horsemanship will ensure that your horse receives the best care and nutrition possible during his training session. All horses in training will be stabled on the clinic side of the ranch in 25' x 30' runs that are each attached to a two-sided shelter. Runs come equipped with automatic waterers, hay mangers and no-tip feeders. Your horse will be fed free-choice hay, including both alfalfa and grass hay. Starting after the second week of training, or when the horse is doing well mentally - he's not hot or nervous, he will receive grain twice daily. If you feed supplements to your horse, we'll be happy to administer them as long as they are provided. We'll also be happy to put fly masks on and off the horse if you supply one.

In short, your horse will be treated just like Clinton's personal horses - receiving the best care possible. However, it's inevitable, especially when your horse enters the rigorous training schedule and is worked over the obstacle course, that he's going to get a few cuts and scrapes. Or, if your horse has been in the habit of pulling people around, he's probably going to lose some hair on his face from the halter. While cuts and scrapes are superficial injuries that heal quickly, it's important to understand that your horse may be missing some hair when you come to pick him up. The majority of the horses coming in for training will be here on a last-ditch sort of effort, meaning that the horses are deemed problems and have been to other trainers with no success. Look at your horse coming to the ranch like remodeling a house. You can't remodel and have everything looking pretty all at the same time. When you're remodeling, you're tearing wall paper off the walls, dust covers the floor, paint is splattered everywhere, etc. Your house is basically a disaster zone for several weeks. Then right towards the end, everything starts to come together. The contractor puts the finishing touches on and spit shines everything, and you're left with a product you're proud of. Your horse is going to go through a similar process during the first three to four weeks. He's going to lose some weight when he enters training fulltime; he'll rub hair off his body and will have a few bumps and bruises.

It's also common for these horses to develop girth gall - sores from the girth rubbing behind their elbow because they haven't been ridden very much. When colts are started at the ranch, seven out of ten of them on average will develop girth gall. The area behind the horse's elbow is soft and tender like a baby's bottom, so oftentimes when the horse gets girthed up and really worked, they get sore. It's not a major problem, in most cases you can put Vetericyn and Corona on it and it'll heal just fine. In more severe cases, the horse will have to be off work for a week or two to let the sore heal. In both cases, when the horse is back to full health, they very rarely develop girth gall again because the area has toughened up. It's kind of like if you are an office worker and one day you're asked to dig ditches. Your hands would be blistered within an hour from handling the shovel because they're not used to manual labor - they're soft and tender. But after a few weeks of digging ditches, your hands will be covered in calluses and not be bothered by handling the shovel at all because they've toughened up.

We highly recommend that your horse gets shod before his arrival at the ranch. Most of the training will be done outside - on the obstacle course, through the woods, around the ranch, down the road, etc. and most horses' bare feet cannot hold up to so much riding on hard ground. If your horse comes in with bare feet, there is a good chance that he will at some point become sore. At that point, we'll have to put shoes on him anyway, plus he may need time off to recover from the soreness, which will interrupt his training process. If your horse doesn't normally wear shoes, keep in mind that 6 weeks of being shod will not affect the well-being of his feet. You are more than welcome to remove them when he gets back home, and it will help ensure that the training process goes as smoothly as possible. Besides going through all of the Fundamentals exercises on the ground and under saddle, your horse will receive additional training including work over the obstacle course, trail riding and general tasks Clinton expects all horses to be able to do such as hobbling and ground tying. It's common for horses to struggle when first hobbled because it feels unnatural to them. If the horse struggles, he'll lose some hair around his pasterns. After the second week of training, the horses will be taught to ground tie - a great respect and patience building exercise, in which the horses are tied to a tire. Besides patience, ground tying teaches the horse not to panic if he gets his leg over the rope in a safe, controlled setting. If the horse struggles at first, he will get rope burn. Any bumps, bruises or rope burn will be treated promptly and doctored well with Corona. As stated before, your horse will receive the same care Clinton gives to his personal horses. It's far better to teach a horse not to panic now and have him potentially get a little rope burn than it is for him to get his legs caught up in a fence a year down the road and seriously injure himself. Clinton firmly believes that prevention is better than cure and teaches all of his horses on the ranch to hobble and ground tie, including Mindy and Diez, all his Signature Horses and performance horses. If the horse was at the ranch for 12 weeks of training rather than 6 weeks, his hair would be grown back and you'd never be the wiser. The fact is that the horse is only here for 6 weeks and it's not enough time for his hair to grow back.

If you're the kind of owner that wants your horse to learn while not losing a pound of weight and keep an immaculately shiny coat, you're unrealistic. That would be like saying we were going to remodel your house without inconveniencing you - it's not going to happen. Remember, your horse is only in training for 6 weeks. If you're the type of owner who is a worry-wart or gets upset if your horse is missing a bit of hair off his back foot, this program isn't for you.

The reality is most of the horses in for training have existing problems or are coming with baggage. Our commitment is to teach your horse the Fundamentals Level of the Method, bringing out a respectful partner who is safe and enjoyable to be around. It's a given that it's taken him longer than 6 weeks to develop his bad habits, but we're only going to have 6 weeks to turn him around.
 I Agree

The possibility of extended training.
As a horse owner, you know that illness and lameness are a reality when training horses. While we don't foresee your horse becoming lame or getting injured, and will do everything in our power to ensure he doesn't, horses are horses - you can never bet on anything. You can be assured that if your horse does become ill or lame, you will be contacted immediately and the best care possible will be given to him. If we feel veterinary care is required, we'll notify you and see to it that he is treated. In the event of an emergency, you'll always be contacted, but if we can't get in touch with you immediately, we'll go ahead with care. You will be responsible for covering all veterinary expenses.

Each horse will be treated as an individual and progressed at his own rate of learning. With that being said, we can't guarantee how quickly each horse will learn. The majority of horses will be able to complete the Fundamentals within 6 weeks; however, if the horse came with really bad behavior or goes lame and needs time off, it'll take longer to get him to that level.

If the situation arises in which your horse does experience a learning curve or becomes ill or lame and can't be worked, his time on the ranch will be extended by two weeks to ensure that he receives his full training through the Fundamentals Level of the Method. While the training fee won't increase (you'll receive an extra $1,500 worth of training), you will be responsible for paying for his additional board and care, which the clinician training your horse will discuss with you.

Your horse's training could also get extended if there's a clinic at the ranch. Where Academy students are concerned, assisting at clinics takes priority over training horses. Therefore if the Academy students are helping in the clinic, their training horses will not be worked during that time. When that happens, your horse's board will be reduced to $10/day rather than the regular $17/day. This reduction actually costs Downunder Horsemanship money, but we offer it as a gift to offset the horse's time off. Keep in mind that any time missed during the training period will need to be added to the end of the session.

If you're on a strict schedule, where if your horse had to stay on an extra two weeks you couldn't do it, then it's highly recommended not going forward with the program. If Clinton feels it's in the best interest of the horse, and ultimately your satisfaction and safety, to keep the horse an extra two weeks, he'll ask that he does. Our number one concern is to bring out your horse's full potential and make sure you're happy with the results.
 I Agree

The training program is intense.
Horses learn best with consistency and repetition, and your horse will be worked two hours a day, six days a week. So if your horse has been worked very little leading up to his stay at the ranch, or if he hauled in a long distance and is sore from the trip, he may need an extra week or two to get with the program. If your horse isn't used to being worked on a regular basis, don't be surprised if when you come to pick him up he's lost some weight. His nutritional needs will be met with the best quality hay and grain, but if he was overweight, he certainly won't be when he's completed his training. He will however have gained muscle and be physically fit.

In fact, to best ensure horses leave the ranch in good weight, we encourage you to generously feed your horse before bringing him in for training. Due to the program's intensity, it is best if the horse is fleshy and a little fat coming into the program. If you've underfed your horse and he's skinny, he'll have a much harder time gaining weight while in training. Remember, the horses are worked six days a week, for at least two hours a day. While your horse will certainly be fed a high quality forage and grain, he'll burn a lot of calories during training. If the horse comes into the program a little fat, by the end of the 6-week course, he'll have a perfect body condition score and be in good weight.
 I Agree

Seasonal Effects and Transport Illness Exposure.
During Texas' summer months when temperatures reach 100 degrees and higher, it's common for horses to lose their appetites, not eat as much and drop a little bit of weight. Horses are much like human beings in that regard. Typically we don't want to sit down to a three course meal when it's hot outside. We prefer to drink more fluids and eat light meals. Clinton experiences this with his own performance and signature horses that are in intense training during peak summer months, and can count on 1/3 of them consuming less food and losing a little bit of weight. As soon as the weather cools down, the horses' appetites pick right back up and they start gaining weight. It's nothing to worry about, but just something to be aware of.

In addition to consideration of the summer's heat, the weather here during the winter may be quite chilly even bitter cold for brief periods. It is certainly not uncommon for horses to develop a mild cold or runny nose particularly when shipped to us during the cooler months. If this does occur we’ll treat the symptoms with the appropriate medication(s). If improvement doesn’t occur within a few days and certainly if the symptoms worsen, we'll contact you in the event we believe an examination from the veterinarian is warranted. Just as with we humans, horses tend to get runny noses and have cold-like symptoms most often during the winter months, and as a general rule it's of little or no serious consequence. Also, regardless of the season please be aware if your horse is delivered to us via an equine transport company there’s a chance he may be exposed to and/or contract an illness during the trip. Though uncommon this does happen from time to time, and in the few instances where it has occurred our experience has indeed proven the illnesses to be minor, with mild symptoms, the horses have recovered quickly, and had little if any effect on their training.
 I Agree

We'll bring out the best in each horse.
Our goal is to get each horse to perform the Fundamentals Level of the Method to an A-level, and we will make every effort to meet this expectation. However, each horse is an individual. Not all horses are good-minded, having willing attitudes and possess the athletic ability to reach an A-level. If a horse has a sorry attitude and can't move well, he might only get to a B-level, but he'll certainly be improved from when he was brought to us. Just keep in mind we're not magicians - we can't turn a lump of coal into a nugget of gold. We'll give it our best effort, but reality is reality.
 I Agree

Keep up to date on your horse's progress.
Throughout his training, you'll be kept up to date on your horse's progress through the Fundamentals every two weeks by the Academy student training your horse. You'll receive your first phone call two weeks after the horse has been in training, and then four weeks into the horse's training you'll receive another phone call. During this call, the Academy student will indicate whether the horse will be ready to complete the course in 6 weeks or whether he may need additional time to get to the desired level of performance. If additional training is required, you won't be billed for the training, but you will be responsible for the extended board ($17/day). Additional training would be necessary if the horse came to the ranch with extreme training issues, has a bad attitude and/or had time off due to lameness or illness.

Other than the phone calls listed above, you will be contacted if your horse becomes ill or gets injured and veterinary attention is needed now or possibly in the future. That means if the horse is injured beyond a basic cut or scrape, you'll receive a call notifying you.

Because of Clinton's and the ranch staff's rigorous schedules, all phone calls will be by appointment only. Please do not call the Academy student training your horse every other day or stop by the ranch on your own accord.
 I Agree

Your horse's training is between you and Downunder Horsemanship.
We ask that you do not blog about your horse's training at the Downunder Horsemanship Ranch on the NWC site or elsewhere, either positively or negatively. Your horse's training is between you, Clinton and the clinician training your horse. Other people do not know your horse's history, the condition he arrived at the ranch in or his training progress. It's far too easy for someone to take two or three sentences out of context, especially when they don't know the whole story. Then Clinton and his staff are left putting fires out that are caused by simple misunderstandings. Quite frankly, Clinton and his clinicians would rather focus their energies on training your horse rather than dealing with a blog entry that's been misunderstood. We ask that you please keep your horse's training between you, Clinton and the clinician working with your horse. Of course, we can't stop you from blogging online, but we hope that you respect our wishes and understand where we're coming from as a business.
 I Agree

Your lesson day and taking your horse home.
Once your horse has successfully completed his Fundamentals training, you will be invited to the ranch for a day's lesson with the clinician who trained your horse. During this lesson, the clinician will work with you one-on-one, showing you exactly what your horse knows and helping you refine your application of the Method. The date of your lesson and when you'll pick your horse up will be finalized during your horse's fifth or sixth week of training. (Lesson and pick up dates depend on the horse's progress and therefore can't be scheduled until he's completed his fifth or sixth week of training.)

Please note that this lesson day is meant for you and your horse in training. It's not meant to be a social occasion for your friends, or an opportunity for you to bring another horse to the ranch to receive lessons on. Throughout his training, you have been kept up to date on your horse's progress, his strengths, his weaknesses, etc. By the time you arrive at the ranch for your lesson and to take your horse home, you thoroughly understand where he is in his training and what he has gone through. Others who aren't privy to the horse's background can be quick to make judgments or jump to conclusions based on what they see during the private lesson. Rather than spending time answering others' questions or concerns, Clinton would rather the clinician concentrated on helping you learn how to work with your horse. Having one of Clinton's students at your disposal for an entire day is a great learning opportunity, and we want you to take full advantage of it! The clinician will take you and the horse through both the groundwork and riding exercises as well as over the obstacle course and riding outside the arena.
 I Agree

Set yourself up for success with the Fundamentals Kit
It is highly recommended that you own the Fundamentals kit so that you can continue to understand and train your horse after you've gotten him home. Think of the Fundamentals kit as your owner's manual for your horse. It wouldn't be practical to invest $3,500 into your horse's training and spend this much time to get him trained without really understanding what he knows or how to operate him. It is absolutely crucial to your success. In fact, if we have a choice between taking in a horse whose owner has the Fundamentals kit and one who doesn't, we will always take the one that does. Even though you receive an entire day's lesson at the ranch, you won't possibly be able to remember everything the clinician taught you. Being a No Worries Club member is encouraged and you can receive valuable information through the club, but the information from the club alone is nowhere near as thorough as the Fundamentals kit.

If you purchase the Fundamentals kit at the time you sign your horse up for training and he's selected to come to the ranch, you will be offered a one-time 10% discount off the kit, whether you're a club member or not. This is an exclusive bonus Clinton wishes to offer those who believe in the Method and send their horses to the ranch for training, because he believes the Fundamentals kit is absolutely vital to the horses' continued success and the owners' enjoyment.

On behalf of your horse congratulations in your decision to apply for his acceptance in our training program. If accepted, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will put a solid foundation in place on which you can build, and with a willing respectful partner you will have a chance to experience all of the joy the journey toward achieving your horsemanship dreams can bring. We’re very confident you're going to be amazed at the level of softness and control your horse will acquire.

I have read, fully understand, and accept the terms of sending my horse to Downunder Horsemanship for the Academy Horse program to be trained by Clinton's Academy students.
Bottom of Form
  • No Worries Club
  • Clinton Anderson
  • Downunder Horsemanship TV
  • Downunder Horsemanship
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
© 2012 Downunder Horsemanship
Clinton Anderson Clinician Academy

Thursday, March 28, 2013

the REAL clinton anderson

Here's his response today, taken from his own website, to a story that went viral on Facebook after a woman posted a sad post on her Facebook page. Why? Because her horse went to Clinton Anderson's farm in Texas and never came home. He died. And no one seems to know exactly why. He was apparently "low-tied and left to graze." Now he's buried on Clinton's Texas farm.

I shared the story on Facebook because I recently got a Clinton Anderson catalog in the mail and was horrified to see the bull whips (used to crack beside your horse's head for desensitization), bits from hell, and the infamous "Patience Pole" - used to tie your horse after training so he "can process what he just learned."

Then the woman posted on her page that people should stop sharing the story because she'd heard from Clinton and he wanted her to stop the drama. (my paraphrasing)

A lot of people went to the woman's page and pointed fingers, saying it didn't add up, couldn't have happened, etc.

Except Clinton then posted his statement, which I have copied and pasted here. Tell me if you want your horse anywhere near this egomaniac.

by Clinton Anderson 28. March 2013 11:27

First of all, this is nobody's business other than mine and the horse's owner. If people would pay more attention to their own lives, their own horses and their own problems, the world would be a much better place. But there are too many looky-lous and sticky beaks that want to stick their nose in and stir up trouble when there's no trouble to be stirred up.

#1 People need to get a grip on themselves. Animals die. Humans die. It's called life. In fact, there's this bumper sticker that was invented that says "s*** happens." People put it on the back of their bumpers because that's what happens in life. It's called s***  and it happens. Sometimes it's somebody's fault, but a lot of times it's nobody's fault. Again, it's referred to as s*** happens.

#2 It's unfortunate that the horse died. Reality is we don't know how he died because the owner didn't want to get an autopsy. Horses die at my ranch. Yes, it's called life. We have 60 horses on the ranch, we have dogs and we even have cats. In fact, we had a cat fight in the barn last week, and one of them died. Shocking, yes. It's called life. Animals die. Yes, even Clinton Anderson's animals die. It's called life. I know this is shocking to know that as good as I am and as popular as I am and as famous as I am, my animals don't live forever either. Holy s*** , I must be human. For any moron that's getting his panties in a wad because a horse died at Clinton Anderson's ranch, get a life.

#3 It's unfortunate that the owner had to go and start this whole fire because I'm the one that has to go put it out. I've apologized to the owner; it's not my fault the horse died. It's not the owner's fault the horse died either. We don't know how it died. We believe it had something to do with either a brain aneurism or a heart attack because it died extremely quickly and there was no struggling involved. Reality is it was the owner's choice not to get an autopsy - she didn't want to get one.

I apologized to the owner; in fact, I've spoken with her on three separate occasions about this subject. We sent the owner flowers and we refunded all of the owner's money. I did everything I possibly could. In fact, I even offered the owner a Signature Horse free of charge. I went above and beyond to try to help her through the grieving process. A Signature Horse, with all its training, is worth $25,000. She declined the Signature Horse because she said the horse was too small. I had a horse picked out for her that was 14.1 hands high, and she didn't feel like a horse 14.1 hands high was worth having even though it was free and is worth $25,000. Just for the record, the lady is 5'9" and I'm 5'11", Mindy is 14.1. I rode Mindy in front of millions of people for 15 years and never had one email or comment that said I looked too big on Mindy. Just to set the record straight. But she didn't want the Signature Horse - no problem whatsoever. Since she didn't want the Signature Horse, I offered her the opportunity to send another horse to the ranch for the six-week program and we'd train it free of charge. Again, I went above and beyond to take care of a grieving customer.

I bent over backwards to take care of her needs, and now I'm having to fix this kind of bulls***  and I'm tired of it. So reality is if you think your horse is going to live forever, you're an idiot. Do we do everything in our power to take care of animals on the ranch? Yes, we do. The reality is every once in a while it keeps coming back to that bumper sticker "s*** happens." So people, get a life, get out of business that doesn't involve you and start focusing on your horsemanship and your own lives. When people start doing that, they'll have a lot more success with their horses, a lot more fun and a lot less drama. If it sounds like I'm irritated and I'm cranky about this, I am. All we've done is taken an unfortunate situation and turned it into circus and absolute mess. It didn't have to go this direction. This is my statement and this whole subject is done after this.

For anyone who cares, here are Clinton's sponsors. Let them know what you think about a trainer who writes this after a horse dies in his care.

AQHA, ABIequine (arena drag equipment), ADM (Grostrong feed), Behlen Country (farm/ranch equipment) Classic Equine (leg protection) Horse & Rider magazine, Cashel Insurance, Martin Saddles, NRHA, NRCHA, Ritchie (waterers), Safe-guard (dewormer), Smart-pak (supplements) Standlee (hay products), Stephenville Chamber of Commerce, Vetericyn, and Vet-rap

AND AN ADDENDUM 2/7/15:  Someone named Wanda Covington sent a private email, not a very nice one, asking if I "get money for this." 

No, I do not. I was trying to think who in the world might pay me to write about things I see in the horse world and to preserve things big-name "trainers" say and post so that when their publicists advise them to remove the offensive verbiage folks can still google and find their own words. 

The only group I can come up with who might pay me to write this stuff is the horses themselves. 

My take remains the same here. If you live with horses and you want to have a partnership with one or more of them, go elsewhere than CA's "training" to obtain it. I think if you study animal behavior and read the latest research on animals and emotions and the exquisite sensory mechanisms of prey animals and then apply what many call the "golden rule" you will end up in a similar mindset as me. Horses deserve kind, humane treatment. They deserve credit for their intelligence, sensitivity, and the fact that they carry us around on their backs and do our bidding for the most part. They are not there to be "broken" and if we dominate them and treat them like machines that speaks far more about us as people than it does about them. 

CA offers a primitive, dominating, ego-driven method of being with horses that is so behind the times it's an embarrassment. It's past time for him and everyone who uses these methods to evolve and grow. If your relationship with horses has to do with power and control the best thing you can do is take a break, get some therapy, and fix your own issues.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Goddess Turns Thirty

Tomorrow Salina turns 30 years old. She was born in Germany to two Hannoverians, Kurtisane and Salut, and was branded as well as entered into the Main Mare Book as she got older and went to inspections.

She was imported as a brood mare to the U.S. Somewhere along the way she was trained to at least fourth level dressage, lost an eye, and developed arthritis in both knees.

When she was 23 she came to live with us on November Hill. I have said before: I saw her photograph and fell in love with her spirit and personality, and although originally I thought she would be a therapy horse for my clients, in the end she has turned out to be a therapy horse for me.

She can be high-strung, is very opinionated, and has been high maintenance from the beginning. She gave me some of the most advanced rides of my life, taught me about hoof abscesses, senior feeds, arthritic joints, helping horses get up when they can't do it on their own, and is teaching me now about Cushing's disease.

She became, early on, my sister in spirit at the barn. If anything goes on here and I don't know about it, she tells me. She has come to my bedroom window in the night and woken me with her insistent, urgent, whinny. On many occasions I have felt pain in my own body at the site of her aches and pains.

The most important thing and the first thing she taught me was to center myself when asking for anything from a horse.

She is wise and beautiful and we love her.

Happy birthday, Salina! I'll add a birthday portrait tomorrow, but wanted to get this up today.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

first day of spring is officially here

And it has dawned colder, grayer, and much less spring-like than yesterday. So I'm going with the thought that at least here on November Hill, yesterday was the first day of spring.

It was sunny and warm without being hot. I spotted one fly but there are notably no carpenter bees out yet, which makes me wonder what winter weather we might still have in store. The carpenter bees seem pretty savvy about calling it correctly.

I woke up yesterday determined to get in a leisurely groom and ride with Keil Bay no matter what else had to go undone to make it happen. After breakfast tubs I let him eat a little hay in the barnyard while I did a few small barn chores, and then brought him to the barn aisle. He's shedding now, and his winter coat is holding on to all the dust he's packed in by rolling, so I went at him head to tail with four different combinations of brushes and curries. This felt so good to him he licked and chewed and soft-snorted with great satisfaction.

He requested a sheath cleaning and got one. He requested an under the tail cleaning and got one of those too.

He got a face wash with a warm wet cloth and even loved that!

I was happy to see healthy hooves, even with the on/off saturated ground we've endured the past two months.

Since I forgot to bring out his sheepskin saddle pad, we rode with the one dressage pad that happened to be in the tack room (I keep them inside after washing). It was the first dressage pad I bought when Keil Bay came to live with me, and it is as soft as a rag now - no tears or damage but so soft it doesn't stand up at all at the withers. I use it as a cover for his saddle when I'm washing the actual saddle cover.

But I figured it would be a good test of current saddle fit - and of general back comfort on his part.

We had a long ride at the walk with a little spontaneous trot thrown in by Keil once we'd warmed up. For the most part it was wonderful. There were no noticeable issues. The wind gusted a little as we went into the arena, but it was no big deal. Keil was soft, alert, and warmed up into a really beautiful stretching walk. We did changes of direction across the diagonals, a few 20m circles, a few 10m circles, serpentines, and just a little bit of leg yield. Everything felt terrific.

Sometimes when we ride at just the walk the entire time it feels like we're not in the arena but traveling together, on a journey out in the world someplace, alone with the landscape. There were birds singing and squirrels rustling and we watched and listened and walked on and on. The way I imagine it might have been before automobiles, when people traveled on horseback.

The only question being: do we travel well together? And yes, we did. 

I was happy to see that the saddle pad didn't slip at all, and the dust pattern was balanced and even from front to back and side to side.

Most of the ride we were kept company by the handsome chestnut Cody, who stood with his head hanging over the arena fence, his eyes on us the entire time. I considered getting his halter on and letting him pony along with us, but knew he'd get his own ride later in the afternoon. It felt like he intuited that we were indeed "traveling" and wanted to be with us along the way.

It was one of those days, not unusual, where I kept noticing how handsome the Big Bay is, how expressive, how cooperative, how perfect. And on this first day of spring I feel again that I'm the luckiest woman in the world to have this horse as my equine partner.

I sure hope he feels the same about me!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Do horses make fools of us? Or do we do that just fine by ourselves?

I commented on a blog yesterday that horses do what they do. We humans are really good at making fools of ourselves, like in the video shown of a girl hitting her horse with a crop after she fell off over a jump.

I'll state it more strongly here: horses do not make fools of us. They live under the thumb of our care, our idea of horse management, the training we put them through, and the rides we give them. For most horses in the world, they don't get a say in any of the above.

They eat what we feed them, live in the conditions we create, get training based on the "knowledge" of whatever trainer we hire or our own, and endure ride after ride in which we sit on them and expect them to carry us around arenas, over jumps, on trails, without doing any of the instinctual responses they carry in their very DNA.

If we come off over a jump, if we come off during a spook, if we don't win the blue ribbon, if the horse doesn't go forward, if the horse chews something we value, if the horse kicks in a stall door, if the horse develops vices due to being bored our of his mind, or kept in perpetual pain due to untreated injuries/conditions - whatever the horse does or does not do, our response to that is in fact OUR RESPONSIBILITY.

And if we choose to act like fools, then guess what? We are fools.

The horse has nothing to do with it.

There is no excuse for going after a horse with a crop or whip or any other object. NONE.

I've smacked rumps and necks and shoulders with the palm of my hand, and I'm not proud of that. There are better ways to deal with issues, mostly boundary issues, that come up between horses and riders. I've tossed an empty water bucket at the pony's butt when he whirled it at me one time and I'm not proud of that either.

But I have never, ever, nor can I imagine doing it, taken a whip or a crop and gone at a horse with it. If  your anger gets to that point you need to step way back and take a good hard look at your own anger issue, because you do have one.

Pretending this kind of outburst is a one-time thing simply perpetuates the behavior. We who ride horses, live with horses, love the things that our horses allow us to do, like enter shows and win ribbons and trophies, have a responsibility to report the behavior of fools when we see it.

Show the horror you feel. Speak out to the rider. "Stop hitting that horse" is simple and direct, and even if you aren't prepared to intervene further, it lets everyone in the area know that what you are seeing is not okay. Report to the show manager. Nothing is gained by walking past and hoping it's a one-time thing.

The truth about horses is that they teach us about ourselves. They teach many of us that we too have the capacity to act like fools. They teach some that they have deep and underlying issues that need to be addressed with a mental health professional.

If we take responsibility for the times we act like fools, we become better people. And that's a gift our horses give to us. We should treat them like princesses and kings. We should throw the whip away and say THANK YOU. Thank you for helping me learn who I am and who I want to become.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

inching toward spring

It's been crazy busy around here, but as we inch toward spring, with purple crocuses and daffodils and the few remaining maple trees on our farm in full bloom, we're also dealing with more cold, wet weather. It feels like winter has dug in to stay for awhile.

It has been alternating between cold wet days and cold windy days, and neither hold much appeal for me when it comes to riding. Cody has been on again, off again with the abscess, but has had three really sound days in a row so daughter hopped on today and put him back into work.

Foxhunting season ended with a fun Hunter Trial this past weekend. Daughter competed in the same class as last year and was in first place right to the very end, when her mare had a little meltdown and they dropped to fifth for the pink ribbon. It was great fun watching the classes and even tromping back and forth to the Port-A-Potty wasn't too bad.

My son got his first college acceptance this week, so we're all thinking of what this means: in the fall, he will be moving into his first dorm room, and it is going to be so strange not having him here. Meanwhile, though, he's rehearsing Hedda Gabler for an April performance and his Ethics Bowl team is going to the Nationals in April after winning a recent invitational.

All this to say it's been a busy year thus far. I'll be glad when things quiet down a bit and the weather eases up and I can get back into the riding groove with Keil Bay.

In other news, Salina is on a trial of Pergolide (she's not quite on a full dose yet, but I *think* I'm seeing some positive response) and the kittens are scheduled for spaying/neutering next week. I can't believe they're already that grown up!

Redford turned 5 years old a few weeks back and that too blows my mind. We have a whole string of birthdays coming up: Cody and Salina in March, and Keil Bay and Apache in April.

Right now it's hard to imagine full-blown spring. In spite of the flowering, when I look out the window I still see the browns and grays and bare branches of the winter season. And the wood stove is in almost continual use these days.

How is everyone else faring as we edge up to spring? It's not my favorite season but I am actually looking forward to it this year.