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CHERRY HILL'S HORSEKEEPING NEWSLETTER

May 2006

Becoming An Effective Rider
How To Think
Like A Horse
Horse Health Care by Cherry Hill
Horse Handling and Grooming by Cherry Hill
Your Horse Barn DVD
How to Think Like A Horse by Cherry Hill

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Ask Cherry
Fear of Loping
Won't Urinate
Won't Tie
and More

You sure ask some good questions !

I'm devoting this entire issue to a wide variety of Ask Cherry Q&A.
I wish I could answer them all. If I haven't answered you personally or in this newsletter, I do apologize.
There isn't enough time in the day !
Each month over 28,000 unique visitors come to our website read over 250,000 pages and from that,
we receive hundreds of Ask Cherry questions each month.
If you still have a question, keep trying and be sure to follow the guidelines on our website at
http://www.horsekeeping.com/e-mail.htm

horse behavior and training articles, book, and videos

Fear of Loping

Dear Cherry,

My name is Kelsey. I'm 16 years old and I have been learning to ride for about 6-9 months now and have yet to go any further than a jog on my 4-year-old quarter horse. My first riding instructor said she could no longer teach me no more because I'm, according to her, "Way behind the rest of the students and wont go any further". I know I have a fear of loping because my first bad experience with a horse was when she spooked and started loping. I fell off but was being dragged by the stirrup till I grabbed a hold of the paddock fencing and was free. My horse spooked recently and went into a lope and I had to get off and didn't have the courage to get back on him. Today I started loping on a lunge line but I was so scared I needed to take an adivan in able to calm down. When I tried to lope for the 3rd time my foot came out of my stirrup and I was scared I was going to fall so my new teacher had to quickly act to make him stop. I want more than anything to lope, but this fear keeps holding me back from actually wanting to do it and do have to courage to do so. I'm scared I'll never be able to lope on my horse and will be stuck in novice class events forever and will always be considered a nervous and novice rider when all my peers have learned how to lope in less than 6-9 months. Is there anything I can do to help get rid of this fear and be able to actually run with my horse and lope like my peers without having to rely on drugs to calm me down to do so?

Thanks for your time Cherry
!
Kelsey

Hi Kelsey,

Well, if you were here, I'd say, just hop on behind me and we'd go loping off. That way you wouldn't have to be in control of the horse, you could hold onto me around the waist, and just soak in the feeling of the rhythm of the lope. After a few minutes, you'd be thinking, "Wow, this feels wonderful" and you'd relax and soon become addicted to loping ! On a well trained, smooth gaited horse, the lope is wonderful rolling gait with a soothing, rocking motion to it. You'll love it once you find a steady horse and can relax. Relaxation is the key because if you are tense, you probably are making the horse tense....and worrying your instructor.

But you should know that MANY people are afraid to lope, so don't feel like the Lone Ranger ! It is because the lope is such a free, rolling motion, and that the horse's feet come off the ground, that you might feel like you are floating and have lost control for a second in each stride. AND if the horse is not absolutely steady and well trained, you might not feel as confident.

So, if you know someone with a kind, gentle horse with smooth gaits, and the rider is very experienced and the horse has been ridden "double" (two riders), ask if you can hop on behind. If that is not an option, then I would suggest to continue to pursue longe lessons because that is a great way to allow you to focus on your balance and rhythm without needing to control the horse.

How do you feel about heights in general? Do you have the same fear when your ride a bike or motorcycle? How about skiing? Sometimes you can overcome one fear by facing another.

Best of luck and please let me know how you make out.

Cherry Hill

for more information on riding see Becoming an Effective Rider

horse behavior and training articles, book, and videos

Urination

Dear Cherry,

I have a wonderful 4 year old Morgan gelding who wont urinate when we are at a show. He drinks plenty and poops, but wont urinate. By the end of the day he is uncomfortable and irritable. Our classes at the end of the day are a waste. Please help.

Santoro


Hello Santoro,

You don't say whether your horse has a stall at the show or not. If he has access to a deeply bedded stall, he would most likely urinate. If you are hauling to day shows and just keep him tied to a trailer, you need to find a place that has deep grass or deep footing where he can urinate without it splashing back. It would be best if it is not a busy place, but more of a private place. Here is an excerpt from my new book "How to Think Like a Horse":

"Although horses (and some ponies) can defect on the move only needing to raise their tails, urinating is a more ritualistic procedure. It begins with choosing a place to urinate that won't splash back as horses don't like to splatter their hind legs. The stance is different for male and female horses. With mares, the head is low, back arched, hind legs are extended back and spread apart, and the tail is raised. Males horses stretch out, separating the forelegs from the hind legs more than the mare which makes their back flat or a bit hollow. Since horses urinate about every 4-6 hours, when you are on a long trail ride or your horse is on a long trailer trip, be sure to allow him opportunity to relieve himself. If you are mounted and your horse starts to assume the stance, raise up off his back. When traveling, if the trailer is not bedded, the horse may not urinate on board so will need to be unloaded periodically to urinate in the grass.
Caution: If your normally good horse seems unusually antsy while being groomed or shod, it could be that he needs to urinate but doesn't want to splash on the barn floor. In this case, discipline obviously won't solve the problem. Instead, turning the horse into a paddock or freshly bedded stall for a few minutes should do the trick.
Urination can be much more frequent with a mare in heat - she will often squirt tiny amounts often. And horses learn to urinate by signals. My mare Aria almost always urinates in her gravel pen when she sees me heading to the barn at feeding time. Then she enters her matted feeding area for a relaxed bout of chewing her grass hay.
Almost any horse will urinate in a freshly bedded stall. It is thought they want to scent it and make it seem like home. That's why when race track officials need a urine sample from winners of a recently run race, the horses are put in stalls with deep straw bedding and they can't resist giving a sample!"

Cherry Hill

For more information on horse mangement see: How To Think Like A Horse

horse behavior and training articles, book, and videos

Tying Problems

Dear Cherry,
I have a 22 year old Thoroughbred/appy mix. I have owned her for 5 years now and she is great except for one problem. You cannot tie her up. If you tie her up she flips out and breaks whatever is keeping her there. She was a barrel racer since she was 5 or 6 and once while tied she was charged by a bull ever since then per the last owner she won't let you tie her. I can still saddle her but you have to walk her in circles and constantly tell her to whoa. If at any time though she feels like you are going to try tying her up she jerks her head or sometimes she rears. People have told me different methods to use but most seem harsh, such as putting a lariat around her mid section where the girth would go, then lace the rope up between her front legs and through the halter where the lead rope connects. Then I was told to tie her up and that she will learn to quit pulling back cause the lariat will tighten around her lungs. They said she should learn to step forward and the rope will quit putting pressure on. I am afraid to try something like this, cause I don't want to cause any further problems. But I would like to be able to tie her up when we go for rides. She won't usually wonder far because of my other horse. Can you give me any suggestions what I can do to get my mare to be able to tie again?

Lindsey from Missouri

Hi Lindsey,

First of you are wise to not attempt to use a "wither rope" (which is what you describe in your letter) unless you are experienced with that method because, yes, things could get worse ! With that said, I will say that I have used that method over the years and it can work. So can a lot of other remedial lessons. There are basically two approaches. One is to tie the horse hard and fast to extremely strong and unbreakable facilities with unbreakable halter and lead rope and let the horse fight it out to learn that he/she can't break equipment or facilities and get free. The other approach is to give the horse a bit of slack, so to speak, when he panics to show him there is nothing to fear and gradually build up his tolerance for the restraint of tying over time. With long time confirmed pullers this will take a lot of time, consistency, and even so, it might not work. The way you would provide the horse "slack" is by using either unbreakable inner tubes to tie the horse to (you can read about this in the articles on my website) or using the Aussie Tie Ring. I was recently interviewed for an article about tying for one of the national horse magazines and here are some of my Reponses that appeared in that article:

Cherry Hill — award-winning horse book author, trainer, instructor and former judge of Livermore, Colorado, notes that tying problems are specifically linked to a horse’s “lack of confidence due to inadequate exposure to the sights, sounds and things in the tying environment, lack of lessons in restraint, restriction, and pressure on the poll, [or] from the owner using poor equipment and not having a strong, safe place to tie.” In addition, she says, the horse may not have learned to halt on command, to ground tie or to stand quietly on a long line. Nervousness and anxiety may also play roles.
The solution to correcting these problems lies in retraining your horse so that he understands being tied is not a threat to his safety and is not something to fear in and of itself. In short, it’s your job to help your horse build the confidence he needs to stand quietly and calmly whenever and wherever he’s tied.

Tying rehabilitation starts at square one, as if the horse has had no tying or even in-hand training, says Hill. That means teaching your horse essential ground skills. Most importantly, notes Hill this includes:

  • Giving to pressure. When a horse pulls back while tied, he creates pressure on his poll and nose. His natural reaction is to keep pulling back in an effort to escape that pressure. You need to retrain his thinking so that he learns to move forward to release that pressure.Use a simple exercise with properly fitted nylon or poly rope halter. Halter must fit so that the crownpiece sits on the poll. On a 10-15 foot line, stand facing the horse and exert light, steady pressure toward your body, asking the horse to yield and take one step forward. As soon as the horse starts to comply, begin to yield. Your success in teaching a horse to yield to poll pressure lies in your ability to quickly recognize that the horse is trying and immediately yielding.
  • Stopping at “whoa.” because whoa teaches obedience and patience and the stopping of movement, all essentials for calm, relaxed tying.
  • Standing still in scary situations. A tied horse often pulls back or fidgets when he’s startled or anxious about something going on around him. To help him create confidence, Hill recommends sacking him out. Begin with objects he can see, working from all sides of his body. Then move on to objects actually touching him. Ultimately, he should learn to stand quietly or “spook in place,” a skill that will come in handy not only for tying, but for many in-hand and under-saddle situations.

Don’t use a breakaway halter or panic snap, says Hill. She prefers high-quality nylon or poly rope halters, plus lead ropes that have no hardware. Avoid weak or poorly made equipment that could break if the horse does pull back. “The idea is that once you have done all of the homework, you do not want the horse to break free,” she explains.

Don’t tie to twine loops. Once a standard safety measure in many barns, twine breakaway loops are not a sound teaching tool, says Hill. The problem is that the twine loops breakaway under even moderate pressure, landing you in the same situation as above, where the horse learns that pulling back leads to freedom.

Hill recommends using quick release knots, instead. Another option, says Hill, is to use the Aussie Tie Ring. Endorsed by natural horsemanship clinician Clinton Anderson, this gadget allows the tie rope to slip through the ring to a certain degree when a horse pulls, thus releasing pressure and forestalling panic without giving the horse total freedom.

Do think twice about stretchy ties. Hill advises against bungee-style ties. “I like the idea of the ‘give,’” she says, “but I don't like the idea of the snap back forward.” Instead, she prefers tying a regular lead rope to a loop of stiff rubber tubing (like an inner tube from a truck tire).

“It is strong enough that it doesn’t break, yet it gives just enough to get the horse to stop panicking and listen to the go forward cue [and] step forward,” says Barney. “When the horse steps forward, the pulling pressure is then released. The horse learns that by pulling back, the ties don’t break, and that there is reward/release in standing in the proper spot.” And, unlike bungee ties, the stiffer rubber material doesn’t present the danger of a “boing” affect when the horse does step forward, notes Hill.

Do tie your horse to a safe, sturdy object, ideally a hitching post that’s designed for tying horses and won’t break, says Hill. Again, you don’t want your horse breaking free. But you also don’t want him to have a scary experience while tied. “I've seen people tie to the most bizarre things, like door handles, bikes, panels, BBQ grills,” says Hill. “Just imagine how terrified a horse would be if he pulls off a handle and it hits him in the head or if a BBQ grill chases him.”

Don’t tie too low. Tying low lets your horse get good leverage if he does start to pull, says Hill. “Always tie the horse at the height of his withers or higher,” she advises. “And tie the rope so that it is a comfortable, safe length for the horse. If it is too long, he will get in trouble; too short, and it will be uncomfortable.”

Do think about your horse’s comfort. “The more comfortable the horse is, the less anxious he will be,” says Hill. So if it’s hot, work in the shade. If it’s fly season, use bug spray. And keep to areas with safe, comfortable footing, such as rubber mats, rather than slick concrete. Consider psychological comfort, too: During tying rehab, work in an area familiar to your horse, where he can see other horses.

Tying Tips

When you’re ready to start, Hill suggests first tying the horse “either using a long rope run through a tie ring, holding the end of the rope so you can give the horse a bit of slack if he panics, or using an Aussie Tie Ring or inner tube.” In other words, make sure the horse has a safe way to find relief from pressure if he does pull back.

And if he does pull, don’t interfere. Wait calmly, stay out of reach of the horse’s body, and give him time to figure things out for himself. If he doesn’t step forward and relax soon, give him your “go forward” cue. Only if that fails and it seems that his panic may escalate should you step in and release the tie yourself. If you must do this, be extremely careful, because your horse won’t be watching out for your safety.

Only when your horse is consistently standing quietly while tied should you move on to more advanced lessons. This can include gradually lengthening the amount of time the horse is left tied and tying in environments with more activity, more distractions, horses closer by and so on. You can also move on to cross-tying after your horse has mastered straight tying. Hill suggests ground tying the horse in the cross-tie area first, so that he can get accustomed to the sights and sounds of that spot before you add the cross-ties.

The Question of Assistance

Throughout the training process, says Hill, “Take your time. Be thorough.” And if you don’t have the skill, confidence or patience for this task, don’t hesitate to enlist professional assistance.

“Teaching a horse and especially re-schooling a horse to tie can be quite emotional for both the horse and the owner,” says Barney, who strongly recommends the use of a professional trainer. “There is no question that we all have the best of intentions when starting a training lesson with our horses.” But when an owner runs into problems, it’s too easy to relax expectations — and that’s when holes develop in your horse’s training.

An alternative to sending your horse to a trainer is to enroll your horse in a suitable clinic. Just realize, says Hill, that clinicians often don’t teach tying skills at these events. But they can help your horse learn the essential ground skills that create a sound foundation for safe tying.

Don’t skimp when it comes to expending time, energy and even money to create a horse who stands quietly, calmly and, most of all, safely while tied.

In the Interim

Obviously, you won’t be able to retrain your horse to tie quietly overnight. So what do you do while he’s learning? Basically, you’re left literally holding the rope or asking a knowledgeable friend or assistant to do the honors in any situation where you’d normally tie up, such as for grooming, bathing or a farrier appointment.

Another in-between step that Hill considers a must-have skill for a horse is ground-tying. “It is the beginning of developing communication and control with your horse and comes in handy everywhere from the barn to the back country,” she says.

Cherry Hill

for more information on ground training see: How to Think Like a Horse,  101 Longeing & Long Lining Exercises,
Longeing and Long Lining the English and Western Horse

horse behavior and training articles, book, and videos

Swelling

Hi Cherry,

My horse had a puncture wound in the summer. Initially they figured the bump was caused by an infection. Two months later I convinced a vet to x-ray it because the bump did not go away with medication. Turned out he had a fracture in his cannon bone and was on stall rest for 2 months. I had his two back legs wrapped with polos for a total of 8 months until last weekend because every time I unwrapped his fractured leg the bump would return in the exact same area. We poulticed it and it 'popped'; however, every time it's unwrapped the bump returns and his leg swells. Should I leave the wrap off in hopes the swelling will go down or should I keep it wrapped?

Cass

Hi Cass,

First of all, how lucky for your horse that you were persistent and had the site x-rayed. This type of question is one I don't really like to answer for two reasons. First, I am not a veterinarian and I encourage you to get this kind of advice from your veterinarian. And although you do give a good overview of what happened, it would be difficult for anyone to give good advice without seeing the horse and knowing the detailed case history and the nature of the persistent swelling. Please contact your veterinarian for long term aftercare recommendations.

Best of luck to you and your horse.Cherry Hill

For more information on lameness see: Practical Guide to Lameness

  2006 Cherry Hill 

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