Trust and Patience

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Trusting our horses.

The first thing that springs to mind is trusting the horse to keep us safe, trusting the horse to clear a jump, or trusting a horse to do it's job well. But how well do you really trust your horse? Do you trust them to make their own decisions? Do you trust them to think for themselves? 

 

We all love our horses dearly and whatever we do with our horses, whatever discipline we choose, we all have our horses' best interests at heart. 

When training, we systematically break down every aspect of a new movement and encourage our horses in so many different ways; clucks, clicks, whistles, kisses or treats.

I hear so often from people that their horses become "bored" with training or do not "perform" well in certain scenarios and the trainers resign to the fact this must be why their horse isn't learning or progressing.

Horses love routine. They love predictability. Horses do not become bored with training, as repetition is the way they learn; the trainer is the one lacking in patience! People do not like taking steps back and repetitive behaviour for them is the issue. If the horse starts to become unresponsive to training, it is worth taking a moment to think outside the box! 

So the question again, how well do you trust your horse? Do you give your horse credit for their intelligence, for their way of thinking, to work things out? It's very easy to overlook their thought processes. Let me explain...

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Let's liken this to a parent/carer and child. My daughter is 18 months old and she is learning every single day. 

Naturally, as a mother, I want to "spoon feed" her information and guide her the best I can so she can accomplish new things. 

When she tries something new I am on guard and ready to step in and correct her, help her, so she knows how to continue. 

But do I trust her? Do I trust her to figure things out by herself? Is my little independant daughter being given a choice if I am stepping in and making the decision for her on every attempt at something new? Or am I being impatient for her to learn? 

By posing the question to her, for example, to climb onto a step, it would surely help with her mindfulness and decision making to guide her, but ultimately to let her try to figure it out for herself. I have presented a task to her, she decides on how to proceed and the time taken to achieve the results is totally dependant on the individual - my baby girl.

Even more simply, if you are the one learning a new skill. Isn't it frustrating if you are trying to work something out and your teacher doesn't give you time to think? Or if they start repeating louder and more slowly, still, without giving you time? Isn't it patronising? This is likely to make you feel under pressure and less willing to learn more.

So similarly, for a horse to carry out a new task, it cannot be as black and white as "learn, praise, mastered!" in a day. Sometimes it takes time and that is ok. Every horse in an individual, they are all different.

Trust and patience go hand in hand when learning with a horse. Have you ever asked your horse to do something, they haven't understood and you ask again with more gusto, with more steps to your training, perhaps? Or do you trust him to make sense of the task at hand? By "dumbing down" our conversation with our horses, are we really allowing them to think? Are you really listening to them? Too many cues, or repeating louder does not make the lesson more easily understood, but amplifies any anxieties present and adds tension to the situation. Ultimately, the trainer becomes prone to frustration and the horse at best becomes confused and at worst walks away having had a less than positive experience.

Have you ever had a moment with your horse, when they spontaneously moved so beautifully, or had given you their mind, wholly, even just for a moment? How did it make you feel? 

These moments aren't a fluke. A horse has senses and are incredibly receptive to their environment and to us. Your horse makes decisions; sometimes they are without giving us a second thought, sometimes with us in mind.

What I have learnt is quietness and calm are underrated. Too many people are in a rush and do not want to take the time to truly get to know their horse.

Asking softly, listening, being trusting and patient, will all result in more effective learning, a happier horse and a stronger bond between horse and handler. 

Learn to play with your horse, enrich their learning with questions rather than demands and expectations. Learn to understand that they are much more capable than we give them credit for.

If you truly believe horses to be sentient beings, perceptive... how "loud" are your cues currently whilst riding or on the ground? How much movement do you give in the saddle; do you kick or squeeze with your legs? Do you pull or give tension on the reins? Where is your head? How are your hips positioned? Are your legs tense? Or relaxed? How animated are your actions? Are they shouts or gestures? 

I have found that my horse is more and more responsive with the more freedom I give. The softer I am, the less tension, he is more receptive of what I am asking. Practise letting your mind go, feel your body relax and take time.

Become a horse person, not just a horse owner.

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A saddle of a lifetime!

So here it is... a saddle post! 

For years I had thought of saddle fitting, adjusting, re-flocking and buying all incredibly complicated. It needn't be! The saddle buying process is not only stressful, but seems like such a gamble to find not only the correct fit, but something that looks and feels special too.

 

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Sense Equine and our sister company Show Ready have become UK representatives of DP Saddlery. German design and extraordinary craftsmanship, the DP range is made to a high standard. 

One of the reasons we highly recommend these saddles is because they are not mass produced. More often than not, the saddles circulating social media selling pages and in the UK market are not subjected to the same quality assurance. You certainly get what you pay for. When a saddle is made in high numbers it is simply impossible for the same high quality and care to be attained. This can result in uneven work and saddles which are not lined up correctly, which not only affects balance for the rider, but also muscle development and ultimately the health of our horses.

DP saddles are made to order and can be completely customised to your own taste. DP uses an Ultra-Flex tree for many of their models, which is lightweight and allows full movement of the horse. It is one of the most reliable flexible trees on the market today. 

A saddle to fit all? 

Yes! Finally! 

DP Saddlery have introduced a revolutionary way to adjust their saddles yourself! An allen key is used to adjust the saddle as required, by as little or as much as you require. This means your saddle will not only change with your horse as muscles develop or shapes change, but will also cut expensive call out fees for saddle fitting or adjusting. (See video below for ease of adjusting!)

To make the saddle fitting and buying experience even less painful, Sense Equine and Show Ready are offering free saddle fitting advice to ensure you know exactly how to fit your DP saddle correctly and when it will need adjusting (if at all!). These saddles can be made to fit, so are an incredible investment. It is estimated that DP saddles need re-flocking, on average, every 2000 ridden miles. Sense Equine and Show Ready will re-flock your saddle free of charge when the time comes. One time purchase - yearly savings! Yes!!!

So there you have it! 

Our sincere recommendation for a saddle which is made to move and change with your horse. This is a saddle which will last and something special which can be made bespoke to your and your horse. 

If we can make horses more comfortable and save you money, we are happy! 

See the full DP saddle range at www.showreadyshop.com
Baroque, English, Western models are available.

If you are concerned about your current saddle fit please do get in touch and we would be happy to advise. For any further details on our saddles you can PM us or email alex@senseequine.com

Equestrians are linguists

A dear friend made me realise that learning to communicate with your horse is no different to learning a new language.

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There are many ways to learn a new language...some ways are better than others and everyone learns best with their chosen method.

If you don't learn the language correctly, if you skip the basics, miscommunication is imminent! You would not allow yourself to learn just "part" of a verb or only how to speak in the present tense when learning a language, so why scrimp on your learning or teaching as an equestrian? 

Arguably, starting a horse or getting to know a youngster or gaining a new addition to the herd, is one of the most fun times in horse training. This is your moment to get to know one another, to become acquainted and is the true beginning to a thorough and steady education together.

Somewhere along the way, many have forgotten the art of playing. Once you have your basic understanding of how to move your horse, and are able to do it well, you are open to use what you've learnt to practice conversations with your horse. In the beginning, it will not look like much to an outside eye, but you will start to feel your horse and will begin to realise your horse does "talk" to you - they're not just a good listener! The tools you were taught for the basic movements now become your own.

When you have taken the time to slow down, speak softly and practice with your equine partner, you will have the tools to move freely as one and to progress. 

This is where the fun begins! As you play with your "words" and learn to make "sentences" together! 

We are equestrians. We are linguists.

Not your average riding lesson...

Sense Equine is all about having fun and keeping the horse happy and healthy.

It's important to make it clear from the very start that we are different to most other trainers! 


We do not teach you how to ride but we do teach you how to keep your horse fit and healthy - it just so happens that your riding will improve with your new found knowledge and practices! We will give you the tools to become an exceptional horseman. 


This is NOT discipline specific, it is neither dressage training, nor western - not even "natural horsemanship" - this is Foundational training to fit with anything you may do with your horse. 

We compare the training to "building a house". We will talk you through how to "lay the foundations" and show you how to "build something to last". After all, without a solid foundation, any house will fall. The same goes for horse training; without a thorough foundation to the training, the horse and rider will always succumb to issues at some point. (Lameness, behavioural issues, pause in lesson progression)

Allowing yourself to take time and to master each movement completely before moving onto the next stage will ensure you build an incredible bond with your horse, boost confidence in you both and will be the making of a good foundation. This is what we actively encourage and help you to do. Practice, patience and praise go a long, long way. 

An endurance horse learning "straightness" - your Ultimate Bitless Bridle can come in all colours!

An endurance horse learning "straightness" - your Ultimate Bitless Bridle can come in all colours!

In the beginning, we choose to train with a bitless bridle, or with a bridle fitted with a Fulmer snaffle bit so the horse's whole head can move from the cheek, rather than being at risk of twisting around by the mouth. You will learn complete softness and how to move your horse lightly with your hands, opening a whole new line of communication.

We also recommend to many clients to use a bareback pad in the beginning for a variety of reasons; to learn to become more balanced, for greater range of movement with your horse whilst rehabilitating and in some cases, as a saddle replacement. 

We will teach you how to check your tack, how to keep your horse sound and to check for any discomfort after rides/ground work. You will learn about the symmetry of your horse and how to help your horse to become and maintain true balance and straightness. 

In many cases, we can help to prevent common lameness issues through good riding practice and informative reasoning behind each lesson. Sense Equine works alongside some incredible vets, osteopaths, farriers and physios to bring you a wealth of knowledge and good advice to help you and your horse when required. (Recommendations can be made in the UK and USA.) 

Whether you are looking to improve your riding, solve a training issue, start a youngster or just want to have fun and try something new - we really are for everyone! These methods are well suited for rehabilitation purposes and for those interested in keeping their horses healthy for years to come.

Learn the way the Masters intended - become a good horseman!

 

5 easy ways to become a better horseman

Did you know we can teach you everything with 5 basic movements?

Lower the head, disengage the hind end, shoulder over, shoulder in and reverse arc.

Would you believe me if I told you it could be simple, fun and that learning the basics can take no time at all?

Are you looking to improve your riding?
Do you want to be confident and feel safe in the saddle? 
Is a good relationship with your horse important to you? 


If "yes" to the above questions...read on!

Alex's Story: 

It all started when I was backing my haflinger, Thor.

On the ground I was being dragged around. There were days I felt helpless. I felt like I was constantly battling with him to be calm and to be manageable.

When I was finally in the saddle, I struggled with understanding how it was supposed to feel. With so many instructions, learning to be a good horseman seemed complicated!

Think about your legs...mind your hands, your seat is most important...your heels must be down, head up, shoulders back, squeeze here, lift here, stretch here... Yikes! And all of this before a thought about the horse!

 

 

We believe the most important aspect of learning with your horse is to enjoy it. If you aren't having fun and your horse isn't happy, what is the point? 
 


So, here is what we offer:

 

- to show you how to be calm and to relax around your horse

- help to teach your horse to relax and to engage their mind

- to give you the tools to be your horse's guide and to build a good relationship with them

- bring you the foundations to being a good horseman, whatever your level or discipline, in an informed, simple way

- remind you to have fun!

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FREE Lesson: Teach your horse to relax

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Our first lesson is * Relaxation *

Lowering the head helps to take your horse out of the "flight" mindset and also helps to engage their mind.

It is easy to carry out on the ground, in the saddle, in a halter, bridle, bitless or bitted!

Here is a step-by-step picture guide of how to lower the head whilst on the ground and when you're on your horse.

Just a couple of minutes of practising this movement each time you ride will help you to calm your horse.

Did you know that the first way we humans communicate is via our hands?

It's no different when opening a line of communication with your horse 👋🏻 - soft and gentle is key!

 

 

5 tips for building a bond with your horse

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5 simple tips for a better bond with your horse

It's easy to forget to obvious things when you're busy worrying about much more exciting stuff!

But keeping these little gems in mind whilst training, or even just doing odd jobs around the yard, will do wonders for your relationship with your horse.

  1. Praise often - you can never ever ever give too much praise to your horse! Treats, a scratch or verbal encouragement, always let them know they have done well. 
     
  2. Be calm - an anxious mind is no use to a horse and is not a good mindset to be in whilst around these large animals. If you find yourself worrying, try counting back from 10, slowly. You could try singing too - regulate your breathing and relax.
     
  3. Be fair - don't expect too much of your horse. They have a mind of their own, be respectful of this. 
     
  4. Downtime - allow your horse to just be a horse! Giving your horse time and space to just be themselves is not to be overlooked. Everyone needs some downtime; your horse included!
     
  5.  Grooming - mutual grooming takes part in herds to establish social bonds. Not only will this stengthen the bond with your horse but its also great for skin and hair health.

    What is your best piece of advice to those wanting an unbreakable bond with their horse? 

    Comment below and share your wisdom! We'd love to hear from you!

You want natural horsemanship? This isn't for you!

Yes... we have a great relationship with our horses.
Yes... our horses can move with "invisible aids".
Yes... issues which are all too common are "fixed" with our teachings.

But "Natural Horsemanship" is nothing more than a marketing strategy.

If you want to be able to speak to your horse calmly and to become a good horseman, then this is for you. 

If you want to be able to speak to your horse calmly and to become a good horseman, then this is for you. 

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Your journey, your experience, your passion.

I am not writing this to point out the obvious... 

When someone seeks help or advice with their horse/pony it is because they care.
With so many training methods and pieces of advice out there, how on earth do you know what to choose? Which path do you follow? 

I could write a nice piece about choosing any method is a great choice - but I'm not going to! Let's get a little controversial... 

Read More