The internet has given us access to so much more riding, training, and horse care knowledge than ever before (thank you, internet). But what if you had a direct line of access to top trainers? To ask them about your specific goals, problems, and horse?
That's exactly what's happening over in the Equestrian Masterclass community this month. For the month of June, we've run a pilot program to test out this direct access and it has been met with resounding enthusiasm, as you can imagine. Currently, Masterclass instructors Tik Maynard, Dr. Jenny Susser and Max Corcoran are answering questions through our Facebook community.
Here's a peek inside:
A Question for Tik Maynard:
Q: I have a 6-year-old OTTB mare as my new eventing/jumping prospect. Recently she started throwing her head around when asked to go into the trot and sometimes going into the canter. How do I teach her to stop doing this? Once she is going she is fine but just during the transition she throws a fit. Thanks for your advice in advance.
A: When I get a horse like this I usually back up to see where it has started. So step one, does she do it when she is in the field? Does she do it on a lunge line? Does she do it at liberty in a round pen? Does she only do it when she is feeling "fresh" or does she still do it when she is looking more relaxed and is thinking forward?
In some cases, for example if she is doing it in all the cases above, there might be something physical going on, in which case you may want to talk to a vet.
If you find it is only happening under saddle there could also be a physical reason: saddle, bridle, bit etc.
But what I suspect if we get that far (and this is also the most common reason) is that the horse is being asked to go forwards BUT only this fast.
I see this often in young horses where someone asks the horse to canter, but right away with their hands say, "..but not too quickly" or "...and stay on the bit."
IF IT IS SAFE I recommend lengthening the reins and riding more forwards into the canter. If it feels unsafe to do this, try the same thing on a lunge line. Repeat the trot -canter transitions until they are smooth, relaxed, and forwards.
I think it was Carl Hester that said transitions "should be as smooth as pouring cream." I like that. If they are not smooth, don't try to keep your horse on the bit. Just have a contact similar to a good hunter rider.
Lastly, with young horses I pay the most attention to "energy" rather than gait. For example, can you bring your horse's energy up and down easily? If you are walking and you bring it up at some point they will "break" into the trot. Also if you relax you can bring their energy down and have them "break" back into walk. After I can bring their energy up and down easily, the second thing I think about is speed, and the third is gait.
A Question for Dr. Jenny Susser:
Q: I'm a huge reader and I am always on the lookout for recommendations from professionals for books you think every rider should read. Whether it's riding, horse care, sports psychology or anything else horse-related. Most recently I have loved Tik's book and Tonya Johnston's "Inside Your Ride".
A: My reading list is not as prolific in the horse-related category with the exception of "Evidence-Based Horsemanship" by Dr. Stephen Peters & Martin Black. It has an incredibly edible overview of the neuropsychology of the horse compared to the human, giving great insight into how our equine companions can and can NOT think.
It should be required reading for anyone with a horse.
Outside of the horse world, I have a few all-time favorites. Anything by Malcolm Gladwell, Brene Brown, or David R. Hawkins, MD, PhD. "The Untethered Soul," by Michael Singer, "Illusions," by Richard Bach, and "The Big Leap," by Gaye Hendricks.
A Question for Max Corcoran:
Q: I have a new hunter sales horse who is a big time kick ride and also has VERY thin hair/skin. I have a pretty still leg but I have to have my spur on throughout a round to keep the pace, and he’s ending up with spur rubs. I switched to roller ball spurs and I put Bit Butter on the rubs before I ride (it’s my solution for everything lol) but do you have any tips or suggestions for a) preventing spur rubs and healing them quickly & getting the hair grown back?
A: There are some horses that are really hard to manage with that. This time of year when horses are starting to shed a little bit of their winter coats, you get some spur marks and sometimes it's not even from your spurs.
So one of the big things to look at is your boot or your half chaps and make sure that the seams are nice and smooth as well because that sometimes can rub and cause the hair to be pulled out of there. Also make sure it's clean because even if it's dirty you can actually pull some of the hairs off of it too, and make sure you have the right spurs.
Obviously people always say keep your leg quiet, but even if you have the tightest, quietest leg this can always still happen. The other thing you can do is use a belly band. Equifit makes an excellent belly band that goes around and underneath your saddle.
You can also leave a square patch when you’re clipping and that can be very effective. As far as getting the hair to grow back, a laser is always helpful if you have access to one. The other thing you can do is use olive oil based creams or sprays that help keep it moisturized and help promote some hair growth. If you do buy a product that does promote hair growth, just make sure it is legal for FEI and USEF.
A Question for Tik Maynard:
Q: I just imported a 5 year old gelding and he is pretty headstrong. If I don’t use a lead with a chain over his nose he overpowers me in a second. He also gets impatient really quickly on the cross ties and will paw aggressively and even rear up every once in a while to peek over the side walls to check out who’s next to him. He’s been here less than a week, so I know he’s still adjusting, but (as a 5’2” woman) I think he also knows he can overpower me on the ground in a heartbeat. Any techniques for dealing with spirited youngsters?
A: Even if you are small there are lots of tricks and tips to get your horse on your side. That said my first piece of advice is to get some help from somebody who has a lot of experience with spirited youngsters. I know people that have been hurt and killed by horses, and working with young, or scared, or aggressive horses is something I take very seriously.
Here are a couple other tips:
If he is in a stall or small paddock let him get some exercise BEFORE you cross tie him. Maybe lunging or groundwork.
Carry a stick, and be prepared to use it to protect your space. I try to never be defensive or aggressive towards my horses, but I also protect my space.
Imagine a fan, it doesn't come towards you or retreat away, but if you put your finger in it, it's going to get struck. This is much harder than it sounds. It takes being aware and present. It takes reading your horse and being able to predict his behavior before it happens.
Last, give him some time, a lot of horses will settle in given a bit more time.