Horse Training: Evading the Bit – Why A Stronger Bit Isn’t the Answer

Seen on Facebook:  “Anybody know of a good bit to use on a horse that runs through commands and fights the bit? I need to try a new bit because the horse I’m riding has a hard mouth.

Jumble of bits

When your horse runs through or fights the bit, it’s called evasion.  Common bit evasions include:

  • Chomping, opening or crossing his mouth
  • Running away
  • Leaning on the bit
  • Shaking, throwing or tossing his head
  • Going behind the bit (nose to his chest.)
  • Going above the bit (nose straight up)
  • Tongue hanging out

Unfortunately, moving up to a stronger bit or adding a gadget (eg. draw reins) is a common solution.  While it may work in the short term, it doesn’t address the real source of the problem.

If you want to eliminate the problem and build a better,  more trusting and willing partnership with your horse read on.

Following are 3 causes of bit evasions and how to correct them.

Cause #1 – Dental Problems & Poor Bit Fit

Horses run from pain.  Sharp teeth, ulcers inside his mouth or an injury to his tongue will be aggravated by the bit – even in gentle hands.

The Correction – Have your vet or equine dentist check for sharp or broken teeth, ulcers and even damage to his tongue.    Just like you, your horse should have his teeth checked by a professional at least annually and in some cases every 6 months.

Cause #2 – Poor Bit Fit

If the bit is too wide or sits too low in the mouth, it will move around too much.  If it’s too narrow or sits too high, it will pinch and damage the skin and bars in the mouth.  Bits also cause pain if they are too fat, too thin or don’t leave enough room for the tongue or push up into the palate.

The Correction – Check the size of the bit and how it fits the shape of your horse’s mouth.  It should not stick out on either side of the mouth or pinch the corners of his lips.  It should be about ¼” wider than the measurement from lip to lip (corner to corner).  Find the style of bit that works with the shape and size of your horse’s mouth having enough room for the tongue, not pressing on the palate and fitting easily between the bars.

When fitted correctly, the bit sits quietly across the bars without pulling up the lips or moving up and down.  Remember “a wrinkle not a smile“.  For most horses, this means at least one but no more than two wrinkles in the corners of the lips  However, for some horses there may be no wrinkle at all.  Adjust as necessary to ensure the bit fits comfortably without sliding up and down loosely.  

Cause #3 – Busy or Unsteady Hands

Hands that are busy, unsteady, tense, see-saw,  pull or constantly bump the horse’s mouth cause pain and discomfort.  They are also the sign of a tense and unbalanced rider.

The Correction – Develop an independent seat.  You should never use the reins for support, balance or the primary means for controlling your horse.  Your hands must work independently from your seat so that you can influence your horse without creating tension or resistance.  You will be balanced, able to follow and work with your horses movement – applying your aids at the right time, with the least amount of pressure and without tension.

For your horse to be able to perform at his best and be a confident, trusting and willing partner, he needs to be pain free, balanced and relaxed.   You can help him develop this way of going by being a quiet, balanced and relaxed rider.

Your Turn – What do you do when your horse evades the bit or gets strong?  Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.


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You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you notify me and include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  
 
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Psst … There’s a Secret to Building Your Confidence with Horses (and Riding)

When I tell people that a few years ago I lost my confidence for riding, they usually have 2 reactions.  First, they are surprised to find out how scared I was (shaking in my riding boots scared).  Second, they want to know “If you were so scared, how did you get to be so confident now?”

Desire for successI won’t lie – it took a lot of work and it didn’t happen over night.  But, here’s the secret … the main reason I was able to regain my confidence was because my ‘why’ was stronger than my fear.  If I didn’t regain my confidence, I would have had to give up doing what I love best and find another way to make a living. 

I love teaching other horse lovers how to get the best out of themselves and out of their horses.  I love seeing them develop confidence, improve their skills and build better partnerships with their horses.  I love seeing the positive transformation of the human and the horse – together.

It takes desire, dedication and determination – and a lot of work –  to regain your confidence.  It takes courage to take even baby steps forward when you are ‘shaking in your riding boots scared’.  The more clear you are about WHY you want to be with or ride horses the more motivated you will be to do the work.

What’s your why?  It’s that one specific reason you want to be with or ride horses (or a particular horse).  Your ‘why’ might be so that you can enjoy spending time supporting your horse loving child or partner without feeling stressed or anxious. It might be that you want to be able to enjoy a trail ride in the woods or along the beach with your best friend.  Or maybe it’s because you want to be able to do your best in the show ring.

Whatever your why is bring it to life.  Write about it in your journal, create a collage about it or visualize it.  Be as detailed as you can possibly be using all five senses.  What do you feel?  What do you smell?  What do you hear? What do you see?  What will you gain?  How will your life better?  At least once a day read what you’ve written, look at your collage or run through your visualization like you’re watching a movie.

Keeping your ‘why’ in the forefront of your mind will give you the courage to push through the difficult times.  Those times when you just want to quit because it seems to overwhelming.  Those times when you don’t feel like you’re making any progress.

And, remember to recognize and congratulate yourself for the baby steps you make.  Any forward movement is good – it’s movement in the right direction.

You’ll get there – one (baby) step at a time.  I know you can.  Because I’ve been where you are and I did it.

Your Turn – What is your ‘why’ for wanting to be with or ride horses?  Share your thoughts in the comments below – you might inspire someone else.  

Share this post to spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Enjoy your journey!

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There are lots more practical and in depth tips on improving your Confidence and your Partnership with your horse in my book “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.   NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon.com!

 Interested in organizing a Confident Horsemanship clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you notify me and include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

Click here to grab your FREE REPORT “The 3 Most Important Secrets You Need to Know to Develop Confidence with Horses”

Brought to you by Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship – Putting you and your horse in good hands.   www.AnneGage.com

Confident Rider Tips – 5 Fast & Simple Steps to Being a More Confident Rider (Today!)

Confident Rider Tip - Focus on progress instead of perfection.

How’s your self talk?  You know that constant babble that whirls around inside your head.

Is that voice  – your own voice – your best friend or your worst enemy?  How you talk to yourself affects how you feel and what you do.  When you learn to take control of the ‘thought monster‘ your confidence and your riding will improve.

And you do want to improve your confidence and riding, don’t you? (I thought so.)

Here are 5 steps to help you tame the Thought Monster.

Step 1 – Be aware of your thoughts.  The average person has between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts every day.  Most of these thoughts do not change from one day to the next. And, about 80% of these thoughts are negative! Most of them focus on the past or the future, obsessing about mistakes we have made, planning ahead or worrying, creating fantasy or fiction.  The good news is that when you recognize your thoughts, you can change them.

Step 2 – Write down your thoughts.  When you write down your thoughts, you see exactly what you are thinking about and how often you are thinking about it.  Notice how often you use words like ‘never’, ‘always’, ‘should’ and ‘can’t’.  Also notice how often your thoughts are complaining, whining or judging (yourself or others).   Be careful not to beat yourself up or feel discouraged when you see how many negative thoughts you have.  We all have them.  As Dr. Phil says “you can’t change what  you don’t acknowledge”.

Step 3 – Create a new thought. Take your most frequent negative thoughts and put a positive spin on them.  For example, if your self-talk tells you “I’m such a loser! I’m never going to get these transitions right!”  Remove the judgment and stop beating yourself up.  Try re-framing the thought to a more positive message like “I’m still learning and right now, I’m having a hard time getting these transitions right.  What can I do or who can I ask for help to learn how to do them better?”  This puts the focus on how you can improve and gives your brain a problem to solve.  And your brain likes solving problems.

Step 4 – Become your own cheerleader.  It seems to be human nature to have self destructive, negative thoughts.  And, we are very good at creating negative stories in our heads about future outcomes.  But, you can change your thought patterns so that, instead of focusing on the negative, you can focus on the positive possibilities; instead of being your own worst critic, you become your best support.  Treat yourself with the same compassion and kindness you would give your best friend if she were feeling down.  Avoid saying anything to yourself that you would not want another person to say to you.

Step 5 – Practice. Practice. Practice. – Retraining your brain is no different to physical exercise.  The more you do it, the better results you see.  Just like going to your yoga or exercise class, there will be days when you won’t be motivated to do the work of paying attention to your thoughts or replace them with positive messages.  The more you practice it, the more natural it becomes.  And, you’ll feel a sense of pride for your accomplishment and a sense of control over your life. That creates an incredible boost of confidence!

The Bottom Line – Your brain can only hold one thought at a time.  Give it something positive to focus on or a problem to solve.  You can feel better about yourself and more confident – today!

Your Turn – What are some of the negative thoughts you have about your riding (I’m sure you won’t be the only one with that thought).  Share them in the comments below and I’ll help you re-frame them.  

Share this post to spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Enjoy your journey!

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There are lots more practical and in depth tips on improving your Confidence and your Partnership with your horse in my book “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.   NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon.com!

 Interested in organizing a Confident Horsemanship clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you notify me and include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

Click here to grab your FREE REPORT “The 3 Most Important Secrets You Need to Know to Develop Confidence with Horses”

Brought to you by Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship – Putting you and your horse in good hands.   www.AnneGage.com

Horse Training: Handling Your Horse Safely in Spooky Situations

Keep Calm and Carry On

Keep Calm and Carry On

It’s a bit delayed, but seasonal fall weather has finally arrived where I live in Southern Ontario.  One day it felt like summer and the next day it was definitely fall.  These sudden changes in weather, drops in the barometric pressure and, of course, winds can affect the behaviour of some horses.  Just leading your horse to or from the paddock or barn can be nerve wracking.

There are 3 common mistakes people make when their horses become anxious or spooky.

Mistake #1 – Anticipating that your horse will behave badly and becoming tense as a result.  Of course, we all want to be safe when we are around our horses.  They are, after all, very large, powerful animals that can hurt us without intending to.  But, as a herd animal who is very sensitive to body language, when you get tense, your horse picks up on that and his tension increases.

What to do instead – Recognize that there is the potential for your horse to be anxious and take steps to calm yourself before you take your horse out of the paddock or barn.  Breathing in calm, deep, slow breaths is the best way to calm your flow of adrenaline and release tension from your body.  It also helps you stay mentally in the moment.

Mistake #2 – Holding on tightly to or shortening up on the lead rope or reins.  It’s human nature to want to stop the horse’s movement.  Notice how often you are telling your horse to ‘stop it’ or ‘whoa’.  As a flight animal, feeling that his ability to move away from perceived danger adds to his tension and stress level.

What to do instead – Send your horse away from you and, if you have the room, in a circle around you.  This requires giving him some more rope and that you aren’t holding your lead rope or reins tightly under his chin. Keeping him out of your space means he won’t be running over top of you if he panics.  Sending him away addresses his need to move which helps him feel less stress.

Mistake #3 – Getting in your horse’s ace.  This happens in 2 ways.  The first happens when you jerk or pull on the lead rope or bridle.  The second happens when you turn to face your horse ‘head’ on.  Both reactions also comes from our human nature to stop the horse’s movement.  The horse’s response is to feel more stress as he feels threatened and typically throws his head up resulting in increased adrenaline release.

What to do instead – At the first sign that your horse is stressed, take a steady, supple contact on the lead rope or reins.  With a gentle, rocking downwards pressure ask your horse to lower his head.  If he tries to raise his head, use blocking resistance.  Do not try to pull or force his head down.  If he’s too stressed to lower his head or pushes through your blocking resistance, then put some space between you (see previous point).  Lowering his head helps to bring down the level of adrenaline so that his stress level does not escalate.

If you slow down, breath and calm your mind, then you will be able to stay in the moment and be pro-active rather than reactive.  Your body language will communicate more calmness to your horse and help to decrease his anxiety.

Your Turn

Does the weather affect your horse?  Sharing your experiences or questions is simple.  Just leave a comment or share your thoughts below or through Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Share this post to spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Enjoy your journey!

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For more practical and in depth tips on improving your Confidence and your Partnership with your horse, order my book “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.  Click here to order from Lulu.com.
 
My paperback book is NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon.com!

 

Interested in organizing a Confident Horsemanship clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you notify me and include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

Confident Horsemanship with Anne Gage – Putting you and your horse in good hands.

Horse Training: Stopping Your Horse from Grabbing Grass

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I recently read an article by Julie Goodnight in The Trail Rider magazine in which she gives advice on how to stop a horse from grabbing grass while being ridden.

I took exception to this article right from the 2nd sentence in her reply:

“Snacking on the trail is a rude behavior and may be a sign that he doesn’t accept your authority.”

Far from being rude, “snacking” is a perfectly natural behaviour for a grazing animal.  An animal who is designed to travel long distances to find food and then to eat food whenever he finds it available.   It has very little (if anything at all) to do with the horse accepting “your authority”.

“While some riders allow the behavior and think of it as a horse’s natural instinct to graze constantly, it’s important to think about how horses act when part of a herd—and how they associate food with dominance.” (Julie Goodnight)

In their natural state, horses are grazers.  They DO have a natural instinct to graze constantly.  They DO NOT have a natural instinct to be aggressive and dominant about food – unless food is in short supply.  In the wild, horses travel many miles every day to graze.  They don’t live on lush pastures.  In fact, many wild horses live in areas with very sparse vegetation.  As prey animals, they know that their safety depends upon working collaboratively with their herd mates and that fighting over food is a waste of valuable energy.

“In the herd, horses establish the herd hierarchy by determining who controls food and water. Dominant horses always eat first and will run the subordinate horses away from the food supply until they’ve had their fill.” (Julie Goodnight)

Horses don't waste energy fighting over food when resources are plentiful.

Horses don’t waste energy fighting over food when resources are plentiful.

This behaviour may be seen in domestic herds, but it is created by over crowding and a lack of resources.  When food and water are always available, and the herd hierarchy is well established, this behaviour is not part of the normal herd dynamic.  Bring a special treat into the herd and you will see some pushing and even aggressive behaviour.  But, treats are – well – ‘treats’ because they are not always available.

So, I am disappointed and disturbed by Julie Goodnight’s suggestion that this behaviour is rude, a challenge to the rider’s authority and must be corrected.   Her method of “correction” requires the “domination” of the horse by the rider by whatever amount of pressure is necessary to get the horse to “re-think” his behaviour.

That way of thinking – dominance vs submission – is pretty popular even in so called ‘natural horsemanship’.

I think we can do and be better than that.

For the horse, his behaviour of eating grass that is there on the ground all around him makes sense.   The horse is NOT trying to frustrate and dominate the human who is riding him.  Just the opposite, the horse is an honest, straightforward, and social creature whose nature has been unchanged for tens of thousands of years.

We humans tend to take things personally and interpret the horse’s behaviour from our own self-centered needs and wants to have things done our way – what I want, how I want, when I want.  The horse grabbing grass while being ridden is an inconvenience and a disruption for the rider and so she sees the behaviour as unwanted or ‘bad’ and somethng that must be corrected.

Correcting the horse involves “consequences” (i.e. punishment) of some sort.  For example, the technique suggested by Julie Goodnight in the article:

“No matter what type of pressure you use, the consequences of eating without your authorization need to be harsh enough to overpower your gelding’s urge to eat.”

What happens when we change our perspective so that we see the behaviour as something perfectly natural and normal for the horse?

We train more intelligently and without abuse – that’s what happens.

Here is what I would do to change this behaviour.

First, the rider must be paying attention to the horse and what is in the environment.  When your focus is on your horse, you can feel subtle changes in his movement that signal where his focus is and what he is thinking about doing.  The sooner you notice the horse preparing to reach down for a bite of grass, the more pro-active you can be to prevent him from doing it.

Then, the rider must be ready to prevent the behaviour.  To be effective, the rider must be balanced and supple in the saddle and ride with contact on your reins.  As soon as you feel your horse pull his head down, close your fingers on your reins (to block) pressing your knuckles into his neck if necessary so you don’t get pulled out of your saddle.  At the same time, send him forward from your seat and leg.  A horse who is moving forward from his hindquarters cannot lower his head as easily.

The more consistent you are with your aids, the sooner the horse will give up the behaviour.  If you are re-training a horse who has been allowed to eat while being ridden, be prepared for the horse to look to pull down harder and refuse to move forward.  He will most likely object to this change from being allowed to not being allowed to eat.  It always takes more time to un-train an existing behaviour.  Just think of how difficult it is for any of us to change a habit.

If you enjoy it when your horse has a ‘chew’ while your out for your ride, then teach him a cue that says ‘ok you can eat now’.  I do this by asking my horse to halt and stand quietly for a moment.  Then, I release the reins and gently tap or stroke her shoulder.  When it’s time to move on, I ask her to move forward from my seat and leg taking up my reins again as she lifts her head.

This way, we both enjoy the ride.

YOUR TURN

What are your specific challenges with your horse?  What training methods have you used?  Please  leave a comment or share your thoughts below or through Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Share this post to spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Enjoy your journey! 

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My book is now available on Amazon.com! “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.  Click here to order.

Interested in organizing a Confident Horsemanship clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you notify me and include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

Confident Horsemanship with Anne Gage – Putting you and your horse in good hands.

Confident Rider Tips – 7 Tips to Help Improve Your Riding by Improving Your Mindset

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bw horse rider doorway

What one thing distinguishes good riders from not-so-good riders and fearless riders from fearful riders?  It is their mindset.  You may have seen a less talented rider do better than a very talented rider in a competition, in a lesson or just riding down a trail.  Your mind set either pushes you forward or holds you back.

Here are 7 tips to help you develop a more positive mindset whenever you’re with your horse.

  1. Be here now. Stay present and in the moment by focusing on the cues from your  horse and your body.  When you pay attention to what is happening now in this moment, you become pro-active rather than reactive.  You can prevent things from falling apart – even if it’s only falling apart in your mind.
  2. Stop worrying about the outcome.  Focus on building a solid foundation and taking each step that is needed for you and your horse to be able to perform well whether that’s on the trail or in the show ring.
  3. Let go of what others might think about your performance.  Stop trying to read other peoples’ minds.  People who care about you will support you.  The opinion of anyone who doesn’t care about and support you is not important.  Let it go.
  4. Leave distractions and stresses from your life at the barn door.  You really don’t want to take them along for the ride.  If you really want to, you can pick them up on your way out of the door.  Or you can also just decide to leave them there permanently.
  5. Let go of striving for perfection.  In riding (as in many things in life) there is always room for improvement.  Recognize where improvement is needed without beating up yourself (or your horse).  Refer to #2.
  6. Avoid over thinking or analyzing what you’re doing.  Being too much in your head takes you out of your body.  Riding well requires not only awareness of your own body and your horse’s body, but also being able to make a connection between you.  Think less.  Feel more.
  7. Make it a goal to have fun.  When you take things too seriously or only focus on results, riding stops being fun – for you and your horse.   You aren’t having fun if you are judging how well you did on every transition, turn, movement or jump.  When was the last time you just enjoyed being with your horse?

And you can get Free Instant Access to many more powerful tips about building your confidence, horse training and horsemanship by visiting my Facebook Fan Page

What’s your greatest mindset challenge when it comes to riding or handling your horse?  What ways have you found to improve your mindset?  Leave your answer in the comments. You can also ask me your most important question there as well.

Enjoy your journey.

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My book is now available on Amazon.com! “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.  Click here to order.

Interested in organizing a clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

Let’s spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Share this blog with 3 friends, send a Tweet or post a link on your Facebook page.  The horses thank you.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you notify me and include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship – Putting you and your horse in good hands.

www.annegage.com
www.facebook.com/ConfidentHorsemanshp
Facebook Group – Horseback Riding Solutions with Anne Gage
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Confident Rider Tip #2 – Decreasing Uncertainty Builds Confidence

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Most of us don’t like uncertainty.  Uncertainty makes us nervous – even frightened.  When you work with horses there is often uncertainty involved.  That uncertainty may be because you don’t know how something will turn out.

It may be about not knowing how your horse is going to behave in certain situations.  Will he let you catch him today? Will he spook in that corner of the arena?  Will he spook ‘at nothing’?   Will he be calm on the trail today?  What will he do when we go to the show?

Uncertainty is uncomfortable because it triggers the fight or flight centre of your brain causing fear, anxiety and even temporary mental or physical paralysis.  These reactions worked well for our prehistoric ancestors who had to be wary of dangers that threatened their lives every day.  I can only imagine what it would be like to come face to face with a sabre tooth tiger or a meat eating dinosaur.

But these reactions aren’t so great when they interfere with the pleasure of the activities you want to share with your horse.  You miss out on so many possibilities and amazing experiences.  You lose the magic of true connection and partnership.

You may have looked at other riders who never seem to be afraid and wondered if some people are born with a genetic predisposition that allows their brains to not go to that place.  There may be a very small number of people who do seem to have these genes.  They don’t seem to be triggered into fear as easily as the rest of us.  But that is a tiny, tiny part of the population.  For most of part, people are not born that way.

What most of us (including me) have to do is develop skills and practices that help us to take positive action in the face of uncertainty – despite the fear and anxiety that we feel.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t have it.  We simply learn to manage it.   People who are able to move through their uncertainty are able to take forward action because they turn that uncertainty into curiousity and creative thinking.  They ask better questions and are able to solve problems.

Horses don’t behave randomly.  There is always a reason for what they do.  It may be a learned response that needs to be “un-learned”.  It may be a natural response to a noise we don’t hear or a movement we don’t see.  It may even be a response to a subtle shift in your energy, your position in the saddle or posture on the ground.

When you become curious about your horse’s behaviour, you gain a better understanding of him and of his perception of the world.  You begin to see with certainty what causes his behaviour and then you can take actions to change it.  You can be pro-active instead of reactive.

So how do you become curious and ask better questions?  You start by staying in the moment.  That means you stop creating stories about what is going to happen.  You know that future thinking you do where you predict what is going to happen before it happens.  Things like – “he’s going to spook in that corner and he’ll bolt and then I’ll fall off and break something and end up laid up for weeks. OMG – I won’t be able to work or look after the kids.  …..”   STOP!

But, if you became curious and creative about the same situation your thinking would be more like this – “I know he doesn’t like that corner.  I wonder how I can help him deal with it better?  I could hand walk him around the arena until we both feel calm.  I need to remember to breathe and keep the tension out of my body.  I could lunge him in that corner.  I could ask my coach (or another competent rider) to ride him so I can see how they handle it and if he gets tense with them or maybe it’s my tension affecting him.  Maybe we just have a pattern about getting tense in that corner.  ….”

Did you notice how your body felt as your read those 2 different examples?  If not, read them again and pay attention to any physical reactions.

When you give your brain a problem to solve, that’s what it focuses on.  It can’t focus on 2 thoughts at the same time.  And your brain doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what you are making up.  So, when you focus on asking better questions your brain focuses on finding the answers and it cannot focus on anything else.  And, as you focus on solving the problem, your uncertainty decreases and you are able to take forward moving actions.

The more you do that, the more your confidence increases.

So, start asking better questions. Then share your results in the comments below.

If you want to work with me live and in person to learn more strategies and techniques for increasing your confidence, improving your horse’s behaviour and building a stronger partnership with your horse, visit my website or contact me about hosting a clinic or workshop at your location.

Enjoy your journey.

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My book is now available! “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.  Click here to order.

Interested in organizing a clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

Let’s spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Share this blog with 3 friends, send a Tweet or post a link on your Facebook page.  The horses thank you.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

I would also appreciate it if you’d send me a copy for my media files.

Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship

www.annegage.com
www.facebook.com/ConfidentHorsemanshp
Facebook Group – Horseback Riding Solutions with Anne Gage
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Confident Rider #1 Tip ~ Breathe

The following post is an excerpt from my book ‘Confident Rider Confident Horse’:

“Breathe with Calm Focused Breath

I teach this technique to all of my students – and I use it myself.  When you’re stressed, anxious, or fearful, you breathe with short, shallow breaths, without any rhythm, and often even hold your breath.  This keeps those stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) going through your body.  This is what makes you feel nauseous, shake and sweat.  Your heart pounds and your body tenses.  Your head aches. You go “fetal” – tipping forward in the saddle. None of these symptoms of stress are fun – for you or for your horse.  Horses are incrediblyTip 1 Breath sensitive to the body language and energy of the people around them.  They even mirror your breathing.  This is why your stress and tension can affect how your horse feels.  As soon as you recognize the first symptom of fear, changing your breathing is the fastest way to help you to feel more calm and confident. Try this breathing exercise:

  • Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, your back straight and your chest open.  Let your hands rest gently on your lap.
  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth
  • Put one hand on your belly (at your navel) and the other hand on your chest
  • Focus on your breath
  • Count to 5 slowly as you inhale and feel your belly expand and then your chest lift slightly
  • Hold your breath for a count of 3
  • Exhale slowly for a count of 5.  Feel your chest drop and your belly deflate moving back towards your spine.
  • Your heart may pump a bit more to start with as it adjusts to the new way you are breathing.  It will soon pass and you will feel more calm and relaxed.
  • Repeat several more times – inhaling for a count of 5, holding for 3, exhaling for a count of 5 – feeling the movement your belly out as in inhale and in as you exhale.
  • Practice this new way of breathing as often as you can throughout your day.  Anytime you feel stressed or anxious, take a few slow, CALM FOCUSED BREATHS and notice how quickly you calm down.
  • The more you practice, the more natural it will feel.

This way of breathing allows your mind to slow down and relax. When you are in a relaxed state you’re better able to see things as they really are because you’re not experiencing the cluttered thinking caused by your emotions. With practice, you’ll be able to calm your mind using your calm focused breathing exercise any time. This practice allows you to respond to stressful events with a level head, and you’ll find that your emotions are less in control of you.  The next time you feel anxiety or fear creeping into your mind, remember that you have a choice.  You can react from your emotions and complicate the situation or you can respond in a way that encourages you and your horse to feel more calm and confident. With calm focused breathing, and the relaxation it brings, you’re always only a few short minutes away from the stress relief you crave. Instead of reacting negatively when you feel anxious or afraid, you’ll look for solutions and feel more confident.  The choice is always yours. In the meantime, take a few minutes today to practice your calm focused breath, clear your mind of its worries, and relax. Do the same tomorrow and the next day. Like physical exercise, the benefits of this breathing exercise are accumulative. The more you practice, the more benefits you’ll receive and the better you’ll become at staying calm and building your confidence.”

Adjusting your breathing can also help improve your performance – even when you aren’t feeling nervous.  The authors of the book, Perfect Breathing: Transform Your Life One Breath at a Time, interviewed people who push their bodies to the limits – professional athletes, dancers, fighter pilots, archers, astronauts, etc.   All of them use breathing techniques to focus their minds, keep their emotions under control and to get every ounce of performance from their bodies. 

Try the Calm, Focused Breath exercise and then share your experiences in the comments below.  Also, share any other breathing techniques you have found to be helpful in keeping you focused and calm, and enhancing your performance.

Enjoy the journey.

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My book is now available! “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.  Click here to order.

Interested in organizing a clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

Let’s spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Share this blog with 3 friends, send a Tweet or post a link on your Facebook page.  The horses thank you.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

I would also appreciate it if you’d send me a copy for my media files.

Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship

www.annegage.com
www.facebook.com/ConfidentHorsemanshp
Facebook Group – Horseback Riding Solutions with Anne Gage
www.twitter.com/AnneGage

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Change This One Thing to Improve Your Horse Riding

Take a moment to look at the photo below and imagine that’s you riding your horse.

SONY DSC

What thoughts went through your mind?  Were they mostly positive or negative?  What did you physically feel when you had those thoughts?  Your thoughts affect how you feel not just mentally, but also physically.

The human brain can only hold one thought at a time.  We have an almost constant stream of 20,000 to 60,000 thoughts in a day.  We think at 300 words a minute.  We can’t go any longer than 11 seconds without talking to ourselves.

So, whatever you focus your mind affects the quality of all those thoughts streaming constantly through your mind.

And those thoughts also affect how your horse feels.Your horse is a master of reading even the most subtle body language.  So, even if you don’t recognize that your posture, energy, tension and movements have been affected by your thoughts, your horse picks up on it.

In the scene in the photo, if the rider gets nervous or frightened about the traffic going by, her horse (who might have been ok with cars and bicycles) reacts to her tension and also gets nervous.  With her body tense and her mind focused on the traffic, the rider becomes ineffective as she cannot give clear cues to her horse.  Both horse and rider are in ‘reactive’ mode.  There is no rational thought as the flight instinct kicks in to high gear.

But there is another (a better) option.  The rider can’t stop the flow of thoughts, but she can replace them with more helpful ones.

She can take her focus off the traffic and put it on her horse.  With focused awareness, she knows the vehicle is coming before it is beside her.  She asks her horse to bend away from the car (so if he spooks he will move towards the grass and not into the middle of the road.

With focused awareness, she also knows the cyclists are coming up behind.  She can wave them to pass on the far side, ask them to dismount and walk their bikes by, walk her horse up the driveway just in front of them or even dismount and settle herself and her horse from the ground.

When you focus on a problem, your end up in a negative cycle of thoughts that increases self doubt and decreases your confidence.  When you focus on finding a solution, you recognize there is (or could be) a problem and you look for one thing you can do to improve the situation.  Do that one thing and you will feel better. Then look for another way you can improve the situation.  When you feel better, you can help your horse feel better, too.

You have 20,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day.  Whatever you focus them on is what you will get – positive or negative; problems or solutions; self doubt or confidence.  It’s your choice.

How have your thoughts been affecting your rides?  Share your experiences in the comments below.

Enjoy the journey.

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My book is now available! “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.  Click here to order.

Interested in organizing a clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

Let’s spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Share this blog with 3 friends, send a Tweet or post a link on your Facebook page.  The horses thank you.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

I would also appreciate it if you’d send me a copy for my media files.

Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship

www.annegage.com
www.facebook.com/ConfidentHorsemanshp
Facebook Group – Horseback Riding Solutions with Anne Gage
www.twitter.com/AnneGage

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Have You Labelled Your Horse?

“Horses have as much individuality and character as people. ”                                 ~ C.W. Anderson (1891 – 1971)

Type “horse personality” into Google search and you’ll get 24,700,000 results (in 0.30 seconds).  There’s Parelli’s  ‘Horsenality’  where you define your horse as introverted, extroverted,  left brained or right brained.  There are websites that have tests you can take to determine your horse’s personality type.

Of course, horses are as individual as we are.  Shy, friendly, brave, confident, willing, anxious.  All these terms can be used to describe horses and humans.  But, while it’s important to understand your horse’s personality, it’s just as important not to put a label on your horse or fit him into a neat little box.

Labels limit our thinking and perception.  For example, if you believe your horse won’t do a particular movement or go where you want him to go because he is ‘stubborn’, you won’t look for any other cause for his behaviour.  Instead of understanding that maybe he won’t or can’t do what you are asking because there is something getting in the way, you use more force to get your way.

But, what if:

  • there’s a physical problem that makes it uncomfortable or painful for your horse to do that movement;
  •  he won’t go where you want him to go because you are not asking him in appropriate way or you have set inconsistent (or non existent) boundaries;
  • he won’t go in that corner of the arena or that part of the trail because there is something he hears or sees that you don’t.  Or maybe he feels the tension or hesitation in your body because  you’re not 100% comfortable with going there either.

If you put your horse in a personality box, you won’t look for any other explanation for his behaviour beyond “that’s just the way he is”.  Just like us, horses can be brave in one situation and fearful in another.   That pushy horse may simply be insecure.

Watch horses in a herd and you’ll see how they simply accept each other as they are in the moment.  When the overambitious youngster challenges an older horse, it is dealt with in the moment.  Once he shows signs of submission, the situation is over.  The herd doesn’t label him as a ‘trouble maker’.

As you peel the labels off your horse, do the same for yourself.  We carry labels, too.  Some placed by others and some we put there ourselves.  Labels like ‘not good enough’; ‘victim’; ‘nice’; ‘helper’; ‘clown’; ‘party girl’; ‘over sensitive’; fill n the blank ‘                   ‘.  If a label is boxing you in, it’s within your power to peel it off.

Today, give yourself and your horse a fresh start.  Peel away the labels.   Notice in each moment how your horse feels and how you feel.  If he is not behaving in the way you would like him to, get curious and ask ‘why’.

Look for another reason other than ‘that’s just the way he is’.  Look for another way to ask him.  Let your thinking go free – outside of the limitations of labels.

Share your experience with labels (putting them on or taking them off) in the comments below.

Enjoy the journey.

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My book is now available! “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.  Click here to order.

Interested in organizing a clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

Let’s spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Share this blog with 3 friends, send a Tweet or post a link on your Facebook page.  The horses thank you.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

I would also appreciate it if you’d send me a copy for my media files.

Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship

www.annegage.com
www.facebook.com/ConfidentHorsemanshp
Facebook Group – Horseback Riding Solutions with Anne Gage
www.twitter.com/AnneGage

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