Horse owners, what can we all do to keep our beloved steed's from ever ending up on a truck destined for slaughter? How can we insure that our rescues have a fighting chance and do not get so overwhelmed with horses that they cannot survive?
Now before you stop reading please be advised this is not a kill pen / rescue post or a plea for donations in any way! (I am also not stating I have stats and research on the subjects)
The answer is quite simple (But not easy) .... please read on!
We've all seen those success stories of horses pulled from the kill pen or slaughter bound truck that go on to have a wonderful career and live a long fulfilling life. But do you ever wonder why those horses got there? Does your heart ache and your gut tell you that it must be a mistake that they ended up there, that their owner thought they were selling them to a good home... ???
The horses at risk are not necessarily only the untrainable or dangerous, lame or otherwise. They may the horse that the owner just didn't hit it off with and decided to trade up, or get something more suitable. But you know what - many of these well meaning owners actually end up in another similar situation -where they need to analyze why things are not working out, for whatever reason. Who amongst us has not gone through this, and who amongst us wishes, if they knew then what they knew now- I WISH I WOULD HAVE KEPT THAT HORSE!! Right???? Count me in! So, think about the horse that gets passed around - he is not going to go into his next phase being set up for success is he? He may not fare as well with the next owner. He MAY be at risk :(
Only bits and pieces may apply to some or all of you... but I implore you to consider your part. This is where you all need to reach down deep in your soul and recognize that at some point or another you were in a position where you and your horse were STUCK. I think every horse owner has had this happen to some extent, I will admit I have.
I've been working with horses since I got my first pony at six years of age and was training by the time I was 13 helping everybody in the neighborhood with their naughty horse! I was very lucky to have room to bring in horses and work with them and keep the ones I wanted and sometimes sell others. I truly believe I helped them all from their current situation. My lifetime of training horses has seen the threat of the meat market pretty much wipe out my ability to buy somebody's unused/untrained horse for $200, train it and sell it for a bit more. Horse prices went up when I was in my early twenties due to the meat market. I didn't take in as many horses after that because I only had a few hundred dollars at a time to pick up a horse in need, but I've seen the horses I've trained go on to live a life they perhaps would not have had the chance to, had I not gotten them when I did. They would have remained untrained and eventually could have fallen into the wrong hands. Training the difficult ones has been a passion of mine for over 40 years now!!
**The most important thing that we as horse owners can do is make sure our animals are trained to their fullest so they can adapt to new owners successfully.**
As I get older, I have a hard time parting with any horse, I just put their welfare in such high regard and do not want to disrupt their stability. I understand they are bought and sold and have no problem with it. But I have turned so many of them from being unruly, disrespectful, ungraceful beasts into a farm full of pure joy to have each one around. This is my gift and I guess it's time that I tell you about a campaign I am starting from my heart. I guess we'll simply call it “Keep the horse you have”. or maybe Fix whatcha Got? Haha!
So what does this mean to you or someone you know? Again reach down deep and consider the commitment you made when you bought your horse. If you're having trouble with training or just settling your horse into its surroundings, rehabbing from pain issues or perhaps not aware that behavior is a pain issue - or one of hundreds of other hurdles horses can present us with------ YOU ARE NOT ALONE. And I want to help.
In my many years training green horses and as a sports massage therapist and saddle fitter, I have come across so many many horses that are just simply in pain or not set up for success. These two factors are huge .... let me repeat HUGE. They probably are the two main reasons a horse doesn't work out for somebody. If a horse is not comfortable in its surroundings and feels insecure- it may be pacing the fence line, cribbing, distracted, lonely, and almost always spooky. The owner just might never actually be able to get their foot in the door and get their training or enjoyment of their horse started. This can lead very quickly to frustration and lack of motivation to work with the horse. This can then snowball pretty quickly into the horse becoming less and less of a candidate for the person as was intended.
What if there were an intervention, some basic skills taught and utilized, techniques tailored to the horse and rider? Applied with total compassion for looking at what the horse really needs - one could save the relationship and it could flourish beyond your wildest dreams!
We horse owners are a proud bunch and we don't often ask for help due to fear of criticism or embarrassment. This is where we have to suck it up and put all that aside and do what's best for the horse. Utilize your professionals, your mentors, we are there and trust me, we LOVE to be asked for advice :) If you don't know what to look for and all the factors involved with assessing a horse to find out what it's deep root issues are and then formulate a plan to resolve them, you really can't get very far. It could be dangerous for you and the horse.
If the issue is pain: The veterinarian can check for pain from injury, but their assessment does not extend far beyond flexion tests and basic gait analysis unless you really dive in with them. A chiropractor can be a great asset but fixing vertebral misalignment should be complementary and is not a fix. Tight muscles will pull vertebra right back out of alignment and it'll be a never-ending battle if this is where your pain is coming from.
Learning to palpate your horses muscles so that you have a baseline for what they feel like when all is good, or when they are tight is a really great tool to have, as well as learning proper stretches and techniques to stretches (which, when, and how long)
If the issue is tack:
I think every horse owner should know basic saddle fitting, I absolutely feel that just as knowing how to pick your horses feet this is a fundamental requirement. As a saddle fitter many of you know that my main focus has always on teaching you as I work.
If the issue is stress or environment:
Let's not a forget about the horse who's just not comfortable in its surroundings. I've spent the better part of spent the better part of 50 years watching horses and caring for them. I've run many stables where I needed to fit the horses in with herd mates and have studied equine behavior to the degree that I am able to assess what is causing frustration and fear in a horse. You would be surprised at how much a little feng shui in your barnyard can help a situation! (not that I know feng shui.....) Have you known a horse that is always getting hurt?? There are reasons for this that affect their self preservation. Some horses also just need different care, just like people are so different.
I could go on and on, but this is quite long for one article already. I'm going to continue with weekly articles where I draw from my experiences and give examples of the horses I have helped. I hope others will see the value in taking the time to look at the whole horse and the whole picture (including ourselves).
I am Soooooo excited to launch this campaign in Wisconsin and here's what I am offering:
Initial visit to spend one or a few hours with you and your horse to talk about whatever it is that is keeping you from having a connected and enjoyable relationship. From there it's up to you and how you would like to proceed. I'd be happy to continue working with you at your farm or I could draw up a plan for success and support you long-distance with calls and emails and check in weekly or monthly. I will tailor to fit your needs and budget however you like....I will guarantee that you WILL see benefits.
I have taken many, MANY courses and continued education on most aspects of horse training and care, but really believe in the benefits both physically and mentally of working in hand and ground work. No I don't call myself a natural horsemanship trainer I was using some of those techniques long before that buzzword ever came out and I don't believe in lumping my techniques into any type of genre. I’m gentle but effective - working with the capabilities and present state of mind of the horse is at the forefront of everything that happens. I've had horses that were so wound up tight in pain or distracted that the only thing I could do with them was Reiki from a distance. And then I've had horses that were so disrespectful and unfocused that I had to demand respect because that's all they really wanted was a leader.
Knowing which of these two methods is going to work for the horse in front of you take years of hands-on experience and education and I will not put you in a position to do something that is out of your comfort zone. But I also will be upfront and direct about what is needed -and just as I do in saddle fitting if it ain't working I'm not going to tell you it'll be okay no matter how much you spent on it or what kind of breeding your horse - has that is of no consequence - they all get treated as individuals and they all get treated the same.
So, looking for some techniques for yourself??? I’ve worked as a therapeutic riding instructor and Equine facilitated learning instructor. I also am very keen on how energy is affecting your horse (Even if you don’t know it I will be working on ensuring you are present and relaxed as we work together with your horse)
I’ve learned mindfulness and centering techniques that made all the difference with the untouched wild mustangs I have trained. I can help you learn how to use energy to move a horse instead of force, and how to raise and lower your energy to fit the situation.
So being a new year I'm launching this with every fiber of passion in my body and hope that you will reach out and that I can help. If you've read this far then you know in your heart that all you need is a little guidance and your horse could be your best friend and willing companion. It's hard, it really is...........we give SO much to them and our hopes and dreams are dashed on a regular basis just because, well, horses are horses! I will do my very best to structure something that is affordable to you.
Consider keeping the horse you have!!! Keep in mind the cost of the horse and the hassle it takes to drag him out of the pasture and try to present them for sale when you haven't been able to properly work with them due to unforeseen or unknown issues. How’s that gonna go for ya?? After working through these issues if you still want to sell your horse- great - and I can help with that too and everyone will be calmer and safer after we have worked some things out! Either way, you will feel so much better about yourself and have learned so many new tools to help your horsemanship going forward that the value will be everlasting.
What might a tailored program for my horse look like? What will be involved? Well, to be certain there will be homework!! Depending on what is blocking your horse that we can work on first, it may be recommended reading (I have an extensive library or can suggest books and articles for you) or it might be an in hand exercise program that may be concentrated on flexion and exercises and stretches. Or maybe specific patterns and exercises based on body awareness, respect for personal space and manners.
It could be some massage techniques and suggestions for ways to relax and tune in with your horse. It might just be recommendation for a different saddle because it's hurting your horse -that would be an easy one!!
Meaning: If you can't see the forest for the trees, you can't see the whole situation clearly because you're looking too closely at small details, or because you're too closely involved. When helping people with their horses I take extra care to improve the relationship, and at times this is the only real problem. I don’t even like the word “problem”. There are no problem horses, only problem riders. “Buck Brannaman”But lets look closer at that well known quote as well - lets say you are doing everything right, you are riding and working with this horse as you have done successfully with other horses your whole life. But with this one, you are just not making progress. You feel you do not have a connection and struggle to get your horse to respond to your requests. Many, oh so many have sold horses for these very reasons. But the fact is, you take yourself with you, wherever you go. Ok, enough with the quotes!But what guarantees do you have that the next horse you take on will be any different? Whether it be after a winter off, or when you go to attempt something new like showing or trail riding, if you haven’t made an effort to learn how to communicate your requests to this horse IN A WAY THEY WILL UNDERSTAND, you may end up with a real road block in your progress, and in your fun!The reason I emphasize the need for communication is not just to improve a riders style or methods, but to learn to read your horse. Sometimes when we are close - especially those who keep their horses at home, we forget to step back and look at them with fresh eyes.Are you asking something that perhaps they have never done before,or they are not sure what you are asking? Perhaps you need to ask the question in a different way. Is there some pain or stiffness that they are harboring, which could mean a change in attitude?Does ALL your tack fit correctly and is it the best choice for what you are trying to accomplish? Or is it just what you have on hand so you are using it. These are the types of things that I address when working with horses and riders. I have helped so many people to look at things from a different angle, or recognize issues that the owner thought was normal and work through them. Tack and the pressure points it can cause a sensitive horse is an easy fix if you know what to look for. Sport Horse Therapeutic Services covers all the bases. AND THE BEST PART.... Is that I will work with you, teach you how to communicate with your horse, how to palpate his muscles to discover tension or strain, learn stretches and exercises to increase range of motion or strengthen weak areas. Learn how to choose the best saddle for your horses build so that you have the knowledge to keep him comfortable now and in the future. Valuable information is best shared and I strive to be sure owners completely understand and utilize what I teach. EMPOWER YOURSELF! AND FIX THE HORSE YOU HAVE!