Wednesday, September 29, 2010
These two funnel shaped appendages can move in unison or independently. It takes 10 muscles to move them and be moved 180 degrees to locate a sound more accurately.
The direction the ears point help us see what direction they are looking in. This is useful for herd animals when a herd mates body might be blocking a sound or object of interest. There is no difference between the hearing of an adult mare or gelding but older horses often lose some degree of hearing and become unable to hear higher frequency noises, just like people.
They are used to listen for predators so they can make a speedy getaway.
They are also used to display emotion, speak to humans and other horses weather or not we see what they are saying.
One of the most important pieces of information about a horses ears moving is how much he hears. When there is a noise close to the horse suddenly he can move his ears and pinpoint where the noise came from within 25 degrees.
Compared to humans and other predators horses have poor abilities to pinpoint sounds. Humans and dogs have the amazing ability to locate a sound within a degree of where it came from.
Horses may not be able to tell where exactly a noise is coming from but they can hear faint noises up to 4400 meters away and are far better at telling the difference between two noises with similar volume and hear sounds of higher frequency. They are also able to protect their ears from very loud noises by lying them flat. This is seen when two stallions are fighting, not only to display anger and fear but to protect their ears from the loud squeals of their opponent.
Humans prime type of communication is speech. As predators speaking a totally different language than a horse we are unknowingly doing a good thing by talking to our horses. Unlike the signals we send through vision and touch our voice is constant, therefor a more reliable source a horse can use in recognition.Think about it this way: A horse that knows the word WOAH means to stop all actions if trained properly will do so without any pressure on the reins whatsoever when you say that word.
A horse taught to halt with only the reins may require a different degree of pressure every time you pull the reins to stop and get the desired result. It may be because the rider is off balance one time or a completely different rider the next trying to give the same cues. They are just not as consistent as the word coming out of your mouth.
However, just because you use the word WOAH does not mean the horse will respond and stop. It is the tone of voice you use that a horse distinguishes rather than a spoken word. A good example of this is again the WOAH command. In this example the horse in question knows the word WOAH means to park all fours and stand still. Something scares the horse and the owner is yelling frantically WOAHWOAHWOAHWOAHWOAHWOAH!! when normally the horse responds and stops to a long and low "wooooooooahhhhhh" Of course the horse is going to resume having a meltdown over whatever scared it. The difference in the two tones of the same words are like a chicken clucking and a duck quacking.
Try it out. Try using a command the horse knows, like woah and whatever tone you use and substituting it for a word that sounds alike, like slow. The horse responds the same, why? you used the same tone you would for the original command.
I have an interesting scenario with Indigo. A few springs ago we had an incident with a dozen motorcycles driving by and honking when I was riding Indigo down the road. They were right next to us and that was the most scared I have ever seen Indigo to this day. That was also the only time she took off at a full out gallop before I could think about reacting and stopping her; barreling across the neighbors freshly plowed field like a cannonball. Previously to this incident she could have cared less about motorcycles. After this incident my dad could go blasting past us on his motorcycle without even so much as a flick of an ear just to make sure she was desensitized. If another motorcycle went by after him she would lose her marbles. Why? Well just like dogs horses can differentiate the tone and sound of an engine from others. My dad pulls in all the time on his motorcycle and she began to associate the sound of his bike with him and our motorcycle desensitization sessions. Same with the neighbors dirtbike and four wheelers. They hit a certain RPM and the pitch is higher and guess what, Indigo loses her marbles even if she can't see them. They drive by at a lower RPM and shes totally fine. When I am riding her I can hear that pitch I know she is going to react to and she does, right on key...eerr pitch.
So what tones in your commands does your horse respond to? What sounds are really bothersome. Can you see a connection between some things your horse spooks at and the tone/pitch it makes?
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
So when I agreed to do an art trade with Heart of a cowgirl for one of her beautiful bracelets I didn't know what I was going to end up with in the department of what she was asking me to make her horse hair into and what it would be worth in return.
After a summer of crazy I usually halt all my horse hair commissions and start up again in the fall. It slipped my mind to get this piece done earlier I was so crazy busy. I sent the horse hair of a beloved passed equine back to it's owner and shortly thereafter recieved the most beautiful silver horsey bracelet pictured above.
I mean it was very hard to choose. Come browse with me at her Heart of a cowgirl etsy shop
I just love the turquoise and copper together in this bracelet
Or how about the stunning Desert daisyI love the turquoise around the yellow center it seems so bright and cheery.
You certainly can't pass over a set of dainty carnelian horse shoe earrings.
I love the way the silver is rustic, not perfect. Beautiful.
Finally I settled upon the piece called Cowgirl creed. I oohed and ahhed over it for a long time and awaited it's arrival with much anticipation. It's so much more beautiful in person.
And shiny. I do love shiny things. Shiny, shiny, shiny.
The three little words inscribed on it's focal point mean so much in the eyes of a horse lover.
"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace- John Lennon"
I work to live peacefully with my friends, family and most of all horses. I try my best embrace others differences and agree to disagree.
Humans are the ultimate predator, eyes on the front of our head, ears that can pinpoint a sound within a degree, quick reflexes and opposable thumbs to grip things and use as weapons.
Horses are the ultimate prey animals. Evolving from many toes to only one, able to see 360 degrees around them with a turn of their head, ready to flee at the snap of a twig and living in a herd to increase their chances of spotting a predator before it spots them.
It is truely amazing that the two extremes can live in peace and work together.
Love. Because all you need is love.
"Love is the answer, and you know that for sure; Love is a flower, you've got to let it grow- John Lennon"
I believe that if more people loved themselves they would love something else. Doing things out of love hardly seems like a chore.
I go out each and every day to take care of horses no matter how I am feeling, no matter the weather, no matter the time of day because I love them. I take care of others horses with the same care mine would receive because I know someone hired me because they love their horses for whatever reason. Most of all I love myself because you must learn to love yourself before you can love another.
"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality- John Lennon"
What does dreaming have to do with horses and peace and love? A lot I say. It completes the three. A dream. I dream of a future with horses as most of you reading this blog does. It may be your own horses or you are just one of the many non-horsey people jumping on the bitless bandwagon, encouraging the rest of us to do things in the horse industry everyone 5 years ago was "dangerous".
I want to live in peace with my horses, I love my horses and the people I meet and hope to be loved as well. I dream about a future with horses that they are treated with more kindness and more is put into their training rather than taking shortcuts and putting bigger, harsher bits in their mouthes. I dream of peace, love and horses.
I never want to take it off.
On second thought I don't think it would live through the barn every day. Somehow peace, love and horse poo just doesn't have the same ring to it.
So, what is your peace, love and horses? What do they mean to you?
Monday, September 27, 2010
It's giving me that tickling feeling.
Something isn't quite right with Indigo today.Maybe it's the cooler weather?
I know I sure wish summer stuck around all year.
Or maybe something she ate.
She kept rubbing her nose on things. Suspicious...
Sunday, September 26, 2010
S is for... Silly faces. My twin nephews always have faces ready for the camera, even at weddings.
S is for...Snail. We actually got rain the other day so I found this guy coming out of hiding probably on his way to slowly destroy a plant in the garden.
S is for...Snip (and snot). I love Mr.Pony's little muzzle with his teeny pink snip right dead center between his little nostrils. He has a thing for sniffing my hair when my head is near him. It tickles when all those long whiskers touch my ears.
S is for...Snake. Most mornings after I am done feeding horses at different barns but before I eat breakfast I drive down the road to the harbor to see whats going on. I found this water snake minding it's own business between some rocks.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
I mean things that some horse owners let the horses they handle get away with, time and time again. Things at the time don't seem like a big deal until the horse hurts you or another person. I think we tend to forget sometimes that horses are still 1000+ pound animals, ready to flee at a seconds notice just like nature intended, but never quite evolved out of no matter how much training we put into them.
I work at many different barns. I handle, ride and drive many different horses. I see many different bad behaviors. Some are mild for example like a horse trying to crowd you when you feed grain and others are downright nasty like a horse trying to take your face off when you feed grain. Some horse owners correct bad behaviour, others avoid it which can cause problems. They might avoid gnashing teeth and hooves every feeding but I don't want to have to dodge a 1000 pound animal, I want the 1000 pound animal to respect me and my personal bubble. Problems can go from one extreme to the next. I always appreciate a horse owner that addresses the problems that arise with a horse then I don't have to go out of the way to teach a horse to respect my space on my own time just to keep myself safe.
100% of problems on the ground come from a horse not respecting you or being afraid of you. Most haven't been taught where your personal hula hoop is or are fearful because they have been given confusing signals in the past or no one taught them. Few are truely devious and know your boundaries and know your signals but try to test you every-single-day.
I have been thinking about ground work lately. Some horse owners let their horses get away with murder when it comes to manners. Some things I find inexcusable. If they don't catch up with you now, they will later for sure. I am not talking the rearing, bucking, striking manners, I am talking things horse owners consider small until they get someone hurt.
For instance a year and a bit ago I got my nose broken. It was completely on the left side of my face. I re-broke it and kept on working only to my mothers horror when I came home that afternoon with a bloody self doctored face. I suffer this summer with the worst allergies I could imagine due to a ruptured sinus cavity. The reasoning? The horses owner did not want to deal with leading her three horses out to the paddock each morning. They acted up and were excited to go out so she just opened the stall doors and let them gallop out. Fast forward she moved from her private barn to one I work at. I went to turn out said horses, opened the first ones stall door to put the halter on and WHAM! Horse face to my nose. My nose lost. Long story short the owner avoided leading her horses when they were being difficult. I noticed this when she trailered them to that farm she had the hardest time with each of them just getting them to the barn because they did not respect her space or commands to walk beside her. In the end my face suffered.
Another one is rubbing after riding. Specifically on the rider/handler but solid objects too. We pay enough for tack why should we let them scratch on things and ruin tack? This was one that happened to a girl I would see at a barn when I was taking care of one horse. She would let her horse rub on her after every ride like it's own personal scratching post. She switched his bit from a d-ring to a full cheek snaffle because he would gape his mouth and the bit would slide through and she didn't want to use a flash. Flash forward post ride and the horse rubbed, catching her armpit with the full cheek and tearing a ligament in it. I remember her coming to me and asking me if her armpit was cut open because it really hurt bad. If you look at it from the point of view of you being able to dictate where you want the horse to be, on the ground and on their back, just like an alpha mare in a herd. You would NEVER see a horse rubbing on the alpha mare because the alpha mare would lay the boots down. Why should you be your horses own personal scratching post? Small human VS 1000+ pound horse, horse is going to win unless you take action to let it be known it's NOT ok to be rubbed on. I do however like to scratch an itchy horses face without them rubbing on me of course. Indigo appreciates a good face scritching after being worked and has never offered to rub on me because she respects my space. Mr. Pony is indifferent though and does not care about being itchy.
Lippy/nipping. A lot of people are opposed to feeding treats by hand. I say it is mostly a) when you give treats. For instance Indigo knows tricks and mr.pony does targets. They only get treats when they have completed a trick or task I have asked of. This way they know the hand that feeds does not open on any random occasion thus they do not look for the hand until they have completed something I have asked of. b) Petting a horse on the muzzle. If you touch a horses muzzle most of the time they will retort with either turning their heads away hopefully or lipping at you. A lot of young horses and especially stallions are naturally going to be more lippy. It's important at a young age horses learn biting is not going to be tolerated. A horse that has gotten used to biting or lipping can be a big problem when it gets older. My friends old gelding used to be leased by an old lady. The old lady would let him bite and lip (and even rub after riding). I was holding him for her one day to mount and he reached over and bit me really hard on the inside of my elbow. All I can say is **** THAT HURT!! It left a nasty black bruise and throbbed for a couple hours after it happened. We both learned the hard way when the next day she went to reach her hand out and he bit her on the palm expecting treats, giving her a HUGE blood blister that burst a minute later trailing blood from one end of the barn to the other. I discovered the blood trail to my shock minutes after she left for home to find a bandage. I promptly checked every horse to see what one maimed itself and was completely puzzled as the BO was until she showed up the next day with a bandaged hand. Lesson learned she put treats in his bucket from then on.
When it comes to ground manners I don't think they speak enough for all aspects of training. Horses are visual body language communicators. If they do not respect us on the ground and we let them shove us around it will translate into ridden work eventually.
What are some things you consider a horse getting away with murder? Any your horses do that you want to correct or things you have dealt with and fixed or watched other people try and deal with? What do you consider the worst in your books?
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Canada of course!
My homeland. I have sung "O' Canada" so many times and heard it every single morning in school it makes my ears want to bleed.
Of course the advantages of living almost on the Canadian/American border is I can take a trip to the ol' US of A and get an American flag picture too. Driving down I75 is not beneficial for picture taking I have found. Neither is rain. Both of which we encountered on the way to the Michigan renaissance festival
Flags a certainly a difficult subject. I think I got more duds than acceptable, distinguishable flag photo's.
For more flag photo's check out Sunday stills
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
If you have a bit to bitless story you would like to have featured on the bitless horse blog please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
I am one of those horse crazy girls that can’t remember when I first started to love horses. I think it is something that has always been with me and since none of the rest of my family cares at all about horses I’m the crazy one. I was lucky enough to have a pony when I was seven (even if he was nuts), lessons when I was around nine and I got my first horse when I was 12 years old. I felt like it was soooooo long between lessons and that horse but looking back I can see how lucky I was.
My first horse was named Bucky and although the previous owner assured us that his name was based on his color and not any particular bad habit, he actually fit his name in both ways. He was a terror, I swear that horse knew every bad and dangerous habit in the book. He would rear, back into trees and rear, roll on you, charge people in his pasture, he was impossible to catch, he bolted and he LOVED to buck. I loved him. I was also scared of him but he was my first horse so I stuck it out and dealt with his crazy behavior because it was that or not ride. As I said before none of my family or friends knew anything about horses so I was on my own when it came to riding, training and all care. I did a great job for a twelve year old but because of his scary behavior I didn’t ride him as much as I would have liked. Enter Jackson. My mom had this idea that if we could get a well behaved horse that Bucky could follow all would be well. It worked, of course, but it sounds funny to me now. Jackson was everything that Bucky was not and I was very jealous of my sister but mostly I was just happy that I could actually ride.
The person that we got Jackson from was a hippy, horse whisperer. She invited us to bring both Bucky and Jackson to her farm and that we could keep them there for the cost of hay. Her place was rough but functional and she ran a daycare/riding lesson type thing where dozens of young girls would hang out after school. I started taking riding lessons, but more importantly riding with her daughter. We became fast friends and this is where my story takes a turn. The daughter was a gutsy rider that could stick on any horse but she was rough. Often unfairly rough to horses that were confused or scared. I was impressed by her and so I learned to be rough, especially when I was scared, to force a horse through my fear rather than dealing with my own problems. It worked quite well and I became a better and better, while rougher and rougher rider.
It was around this time that I decided I couldn’t live without jumping and Bucky, who used to race barrels, couldn’t jump at all. By this time I had completely retrained him and he was incredibly well behaved. I loved him and didn’t want to give him up but I finally decided and ended up trading him for a different horse named Loki. Loki was great, well behaved, a good jumper and everything that Bucky hadn’t been. The problem that I very quickly discovered was that he hated me. I don’t blame him now, I never really got to know him, never made any effort to love him and because this was when I was at my most serious, and roughest, he put up with a lot from me. I will always be grateful to him for introducing me to Dressage.
Eventually I ended up going to college and he got pushed into the background. My love for horses didn’t leave but I just didn’t have enough time to do anything with him and when I got home and went out to see him he would walk in the opposite direction. I dreamed of a horse that would actually like me but I didn’t do anything about it because I didn’t have the time. Finally around my last year in college I started working to sell him. After about a year I found the perfect person for him and sold him. I didn’t think I’d get a horse right away but I couldn’t help but look and about three months later I found Sora.
I was determined from the beginning that things would be different with Sora. Loki had been incredibly heavy so I worked to make sure Sora was light. I also was careful to keep my roughness away from her. I had by this time realized how hard on my horse’s I had been and vowed not to ever treat Sora that way. I started out with a variety of different natural methods and she did really well. I didn’t plan on doing anything really different than the traditional methods but I did want to give her a good base to work on. I got her used to the saddle, she never even minded it, the bit etc. I was riding her nicely, mainly with the halter but I knew I wanted to be able to ride her with a bit because I wanted to be able to compete in dressage with her. After I had her for about a year I ran into the bitless horse blog and thought “wow, that would be so nice but it can’t work for me because I’d never be able to compete that way.” I think I basically told Sydney, the blog’s author, exactly that and she pushed me, even mailing me the link to Interdressage. I still thought that it wasn’t for me but I did a search for bitless dressage. That one little search ended up changing my life in a huge way because I found the Art of Natural Dressage Forum. The Art of Natural Dressage, or AND, is not completely bitless, it is simply respects the horse’s decision and if your horse doesn’t want a bit you don’t ride with one. I was extremely impressed because many of the people didn’t even use bridles and although I thought “that will never be me” I wanted to learn more.
I joined the forum and started learning and having my mind changed. I discovered that horses are far smarter than I ever gave them credit for and that with the right work they can even want to be ridden which is something I NEVER thought could happen before. Most importantly I completely changed the way I worked with Sora. I started using food rewards and giving her a choice about whether to do behaviors or not and even whether she wanted to work with me at all. I started teaching her what I would have considered “stupid tricks” before and now realized were incredible behaviors that each had something they could teach a horse, or a specific muscular group they could strengthen. I learned that Sora is incredibly food motivated and should be a member of MENSA as she learns new behaviors in minutes or even seconds sometimes.
I also started to teach her to be ridden bridles. I never would have thought I would write that sentence last year but I am proud to write it now. I use a Cordeo, or neck rope, and at this point I can stop Sora with it as well as turn and back her. Eventually I’ll be able to collect her and do even the most difficult of maneuvers with the lightest touch on her neck. She’ll stop even through a shy with less than one ounce of pressure on the base of her neck, treats are very useful here. I would never consider this dangerous because when she wants me off her back she doesn’t have to buck or bolt, she simply has to back up on her own and I happily dismount. Along with that it is completely up to her if I even climb on her back. All I do is stand on the mounting block while she’s at liberty and if she feels like it she lines herself up to the block and lets me mount. She’s been teaching me how she wants me to ask her to move forward and how to balance myself correctly. She is a picky and exacting teacher but she’s only four and I’m not ready to move even to trot work until she’s five or six (when a horse’s body is fully mature) so I’m not in any hurry.
The most important thing I have discovered is the strength of allowing the horse to teach. After all they know how to do this all, it is the rider that is moving in a different way and learning a different language. By allowing the horse to teach us how to work with, and train, them we not only learn better and faster but in a way that is palatable and even enjoyable for our horse.
The horse I have now is completely different that the horse I started out with. Sora had been abused before I got her and was tense and nervous around people. She was almost impossible to catch and would shy at anything. She now can have a superbike revving next to her while I’m picking out her hooves, at complete liberty not even wearing a halter, and not even flick an ear. (and yes, this has happened as my dad is an avid motorcycle person with a Ducati lol)
Going forward I know I will NEVER use a bit and hopefully will ride almost exclusively in just a neck rope. You see, as soon as reins are in my hand and I get nervous I still react the way I was taught by the friend. I am working on myself but with a Cordeo that is not a problem and since I must trust Sora I relax and ride the way I always wanted to, like I’m part of the horse.
As Sydney says, bitless (and perhaps bridless) is for every horse but not for every rider. Feel free to visit my blog to follow my and Sora’s progress. I could certainly use a cheering section =)
Monday, September 13, 2010
I can't begin to explain what happens to this sleepy little hick town the week the fair starts being built. It starts the Monday before labor day weekend. Carter shows drive up with all sorts of carnival rides and booths. I drive through town in the morning that would usually consist of half a dozen cars parked on the side of the road. Suddenly theres people walking and talking to each other and pointing in the direction of the agricultural grounds. Greasy food, carnies, a handful of cattle and poultry, a bunch of tractors and a parade make this town alive for one week a year. One week a year I can't find a place to park right in front of a store, one week a year I see people I haven't seen since last year, one week a year I wait until the Friday of labor day weekend for the driving show.
I can't explain it, it's an exciting show. Right next to the midway on a baseball diamond enclosed in a snow fence ring we drive horses round and round and round in circles for some pieces of fabric with a placing on it. Oh and money, the fair winnings are pretty good.
Indigo was good too and bitless as usual. Of course when we get there it starts raining. Not hard just strait down. I was harnessing up and a friend comes by with a BIG yellow umbrella. I told him to come stand over me as I harnessed. He was worried it was going to bother Indigo but nope, like usual she didn't even bat a lash.
So I started driving. Where we warm up is grass and it got kind of dicey. Rain plus grass equals a possible disaster when a horse takes a turn and slips when pulling a carriage. The day before the show I drove Indigo. She has been so good driving I didn't expect any different from her, but she was in heat and being a royal pain in the you-know what, even going as far as spooking and trying to give a half hearted buck. No go girl. She got her spotted white butt worked for nearly 2 hours until her attitude was adjusted. When I first started to warm her up she gave me a head toss and a hop and I thought "oooh no not today!". A few more head tosses and hops and she realized I was gonna work her like I did the day before if she didn't smarten up, and she did smarten up just in time for the rain to stop to enter our first class, ladies drive.
We took second out of 16. Let me tell you that was a scary class, we were pretty much horse nose to the cart in front of you all the way around the ring. I don't know how there wasn't an accident. Indigo handled herself wonderfully with all the excitement, the rides they were doing safety tests on, flags and commotion of spectators gathering around the ring. Rewind a few years, just a month and a bit after I first got Indigo and brought her to this show to do a 4-H demonstration and she was a monster, screaming, dancing around and making a complete dramatic scene and fool of me as someone held her and she kicked out and hopped around like a yearling being separated from it's mama for the first time. Shes come a long way.
A long way indeed because a couple classes after my first one lil' red cowgirl took the lines for the little britches drive.
Silly me I made the mistake of holding the whip.
I use my whip a lot when driving, not to encourage my horse to go but to have it properly bend in turns by touching the horses sides, shoulders, hips etc and discourage the horse from dropping a shoulder or leaning on the shaves for turns. My whip is not particularly well balanced so it is a little hard for lil' red cowgirl to hold and drive at the same time.
The judge commented on how she would have placed first if she had been holding the whip, not me. That is when lil' red cowgirl looked at me with a smile, her second place ribbon and said "Thats ok, it's about having fun!" atta girl.
Then on to the pleasure class before the lunch break.
Unfortunately lunch break means little to me in regards of the "lunch" or "break" words. We had a costume and lead line class to enter.
Arrr, pirate lil'red and Indigo.
I tied and clipped the pirate hat to her bridle with my number clip. She only tried to shake it off once. We pretty much literally stole it from a little boy (lil'red cowgirls little brother) who bawled for the whole 10 - 15 minutes wile this class went on until the hat was returned.
Of course the judge could not make a decision so every entry got a first place ribbon and a five dollar bill.
We practiced four squares and lil'red cowgirl had it down pat, even when I joked around and tried to trick her by jumping back and fourth over the "Imaginary" lines on the horse that indicate where you are supposed to cross over to the other side of the horse so the judge has an unobstructed view of your horses body.
It paid off with a first place ribbon. Good job!
In showmanship it came down to conformation. The top five had our pattern down perfect. We ended up with a fifth.
What a good girl Indigo. Until next weekend for the Cottam show...
All images in this post by Robin, check out her blog for other images of the 156th Harrow fair.