Wednesday, April 9, 2014

No Time for My Horse

Dorothy wrote me with the following questions: "I think I'm like many people out there having a horse and not having very much time to ride her. My children and husband take up almost all of my time and sometimes when I get a chance to ride it's only for an hour or so. The lady who keeps my horse turns her out almost everyday, but aside from bringing her back from the paddock and feeding her 3 or 4 times a week and riding only a couple days a month, I wonder if I am doing her a disservice by keeping her instead of finding her a good home. A good home would have to include an intermediate rider as my mare has some issues, some of time, LOL. She has her own strong will and the short amount of time I can spend with her doesn't seem to be making that big of difference. "

Hi Dorothy, what mare doesn't have issues some of the time? It says a lot about you to consider your horse and her welfare. At least you are cognizant that your mare needs more time than you can give her. I hope she is being kept with other horses, either stalled side by side or in turnout with others as horses are social animals and most of them need contact with other horses for a good mental state. 

I see many horses not only kept singular, but also kept in small pens. I think keeping a horse in a small pen can be mitigated somewhat when the horse is put in turnout at least a couple times a week, plus has more human interaction other than just feeding once or twice a day.

Some people think if they don't have time to ride their horse then all they can do is throw feed. I think that needs to be looked at from a different can you maximize the small amount of time you do have to make your horse better?

I'm convinced that even if you only have 5 minutes to spare, you can do 5 minutes of training or re-enforcement with your horse. Work on having your horse back up and stand still, away from you when you throw feed; get her to drop her head upon voice command or a cue. Work on directing her feet: have her move her front end over; have her move her back end over; have her back up. And these are things you can do with or without out a halter or neckrope.

With a halter leading her to and from the turnout, you can work on her leading up correctly: stopping when you stop; backing up. See how light you can make the cue before she reacts. See how light you can pickup slack in the lead rope before she moves out. Watch for her anticipating and correct her. And when you do stop, watch her to make sure she stays focused on you - giving you both eyes. If she gets distracted just bump her back to two eyes on you.

Under the lead rope you can work on vertical and lateral flexion, and again, moving her front end over or her back end over. Pick her feet up. You can lunge her to and from the turnout working on having her change direction by disengaging her back end and crossing over on her front end. You can get her good at positioning up on the mounting block or the fence so she'll be easier to mount from here.

I'm reading between the lines that your children are not involved with your horse. I know that some children while having a interest in horses when they are young often grow out of it in today's digital world, but getting them involved can at least teach them empathy for animals which is sorely missing in this country today.

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