City Limits Ranch


view:  full / summary

Is it a riding lesson?????

Posted on May 18, 2012 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (1)

  A teenager came out a couple of weeks ago  to the Friday afternoon program, but she didn't want to get out of the car.  I had a nice chat with her counselor and showed the adult around the property.  The counselor explained that there had been a possibility that the girl could have riding lessons with an instructor at a local English riding/Hunter/Jumper lesson barn and that she  was disappointed? upset? that she might be coming to our place instead.  One big difference is that our program is non-profit and free to the participants while the English barn gives riding lessons and is a business. 

   Our program is in Natural Horsemanship.  We are not a "riding lesson" program.  The children and adults learn to train and ride horses and care for them in a humane, safe and effective manner.  The kids, adults  and horses have a lot of fun and play with each other.  People come here because  horsemanship is their dream.  Riding is  a very important part of horsemanship but riding does not come first.  Relationships with horses and other people come first. Once a child or adult becomes skilled in horsemanship, they can ride for many hours and  even ride several different horses each time they come out. They do ride (if they want to) the first time they come out and each time they come out, but they do not ride until chores are done and other horsemanship goals accomplished. 

  Responsibility to the facility, the horses and the other participants is more important than the individual student getting to do what they want. We expect our participants to participate fully in all aspects of horse care.  From the moment they arrive here to the moment they leave they are caring for the horses and the facility as if they were their own.  If the farrier is here, they are holding horses for the farrier.  If we are deworming or vaccinating, they are assisting with that.  If a smaller child is visiting us, the older children help the small child catch the pony and groom him.  Then they lead the pony and assist the child to have a positive experience. 

  Each person contributes according to their ability and participates at the skill level they have.  No one is asked to do more than they can, or to do anything unsafe, but each person needs to want to give back to the program to keep it going.  People who ride here get dirty.  Sometimes really dirty.  Don't want to get dirty?  this is not the program for you. 

  The other program has a nice barn and a beautifully maintained facility.  The horses are kept in stall. The facility, tack and horses are kept very clean and tidy by the employees.  I would think that their students are not expected to clean stalls,  tack up other student's horses, untack etc.  Also I believe that their program goal is showing and that the trainer's barn barn is a show barn.  The methods used to communicate with horses  and the style of riding at that barn are as different from what we do as the difference between figure skating  and skateboarding.

  Some of our people do show, but Natural Horsemanship is not about showing.  Our non-profit  program will not prepare someone for showing in English Hunter/Jumper or Western Pleasure but it won't prevent someone from going to a show barn and being able to learn any style of riding they choose in the future. 

  No one should ever be persuaded to enter into a horsemanship experience.  Horsemanship is hard work and involves risk.  All participants should be encouraged and supported but never persuaded or coerced. 

  You can learn more about Natural Horsemanship at . 

Horses in Training

Posted on April 20, 2012 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Took Splash and Triscuit back to Deb's on Sunday.  Triscuit  was invited by Deb and Splash was along for the ride.  I was hoping to leave him, but that was up to Deb.  She invited him to stay at the last minute, for which I was very grateful.

Janey brought Angie for Deb to play with.  Angie is a 3 3/4 yr old Andalusian X mare with a redhead attitude.  Angie went from 0 to 60 in 1 sec and did 17 pesades, a croupade or two and attempted a courbette between the barn and the arena. However she shaped up nicely once she got rid of some of her Andalusian energy.  Deb did some really nice sideways and lead changes.  I tried to video but ran out of batteries are the wrong moment.

Left Splash and Triscuit there and Deb called Dink yesterday to tell her how happy she was with Splash. Now there's a change!! (She's always happy with Triscuit.) 

Apparently we have been doing a good job.

The first perfect day of the season

Posted on April 7, 2012 at 9:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Great times today with all the Pony Girls.

Emily came from Saratoga.   We had Faith, Isabella, Bridget, Julia, Paulina, Emily and Isea riding.  Becca showed up and rode Triscuit who is fully rehabbed from her recent ligament injury.  Dezi was remarkably quiet and willing.  We even brought Dixie into the arena for the first time this season and she did very well.

We rode almost all the horses (Tonks was left out . . . and Woodrow is lame :(

AND put Rocket in the cart for only the second time. What a trooper he is.

Isea rode Splash and he was very calm and left brain today.

Arena was perfect - thanks Dink for tractoring it this morning and Penny for watering. All in all, a wonderful day. Now with my feet up and a small glass of pink vino, just happy about the day.

The Equine Mind: Top 10 Things to Know

Posted on April 2, 2012 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (6)

The Equine Mind: Top 10 Things to Know by: Erica Larson, News Editor • March 24 2012 • Article # 19734  from The Horse online magazine

"Why does he do that?" "What is she so scared of … there's nothing there!" Most—if not all—horse owners have been there and asked those questions. Even though we don't always understand equine behavior, there's got to be a reason behind it, right? Absolutely. Horses’ behaviors date back to equine evolution, and horse owners greatly benefit from an understanding what goes on in a horse's brain, according to one veterinarian. At the 2012 Western Veterinary Conference, held Feb. 19-23 in Las Vegas, Nev., Robert Miller, DVM, a former equine practitioner from Thousand Oaks, Calif., relayed the top 10 things horse owners, caretakers, and riders should understand about how the equine mind functions.

"There are 10 genetically predetermined behavioral qualities unique to the horse that have been established by natural selection over the 50 million-year period during which the horse evolved," Miller began. "Failure to understand these qualities makes it impossible to have optimum communication with horses."

Flight—"We tend to attribute the flightiness of a horse as stupidity," Miller said, but when horses spook and run from things, it's simply their innate instincts kicking in. He explained that unlike the majority of prey animals that depend on horns, tusks, or antlers for defense, the only mechanism horses are armed with—their "life-saving" behavior—is the ability to run. The following nine qualities, Miller said, stem from the horse's flight response.

  Perception—"The horse is the most perceptive of all domestic animals," Miller said, adding that this quality allowed for the quick detection and escape from predators in the wild. He gave examples using the five senses: Smell—Miller said horses have an "excellent" sense of smell. Hearing—"The horse's range of hearing is far beyond that of a human ear," he said. Additionally, he noted, the ears swivel, giving the horse the ability to pinpoint where sounds originate. This was critical for survival in the wild. Touch—"A horse's sense of touch is extremely delicate," Miller said, which is why an ill-placed saddle pad or a single fly can cause extreme irritation. "The sense we have in our fingertips is what the horse has all over his body." Taste—Ever tried to sneak Bute or a new supplement into a horse's feed, only to have him turn up his nose? Horses have a very tactful sense of taste. When grazing in the wild, it's important for horses to differentiate between good grass and moldy forage. Sight—The sense that varies most from ours is the horse's eyesight. While horses’ depth perception isn't particularly strong, other factors enable them to "see things we're not even aware of," Miller said. The horse's laterally placed eyes allow for nearly 360⁰ vision, a crucial survival mechanism for the wild equid. Additionally, Miller noted the horse has superb night vision and sees in muted, pastel colors during the day. The equine focusing system is also different from humans, he said. When a human eye transitions from focusing on close-up objects to far away objects, it takes one and a half to two seconds to adjust (Miller encouraged attendees to try it—look at something close up and then look at something far away, and try to focus on how long it takes the eyes to focus). Horses, on the other hand, make the transition seamlessly. This is because different parts of the eye have different focusing capabilities. Horses use the top portion of their eyes to see up close, which is why they often lower their heads when investigating something. The lower portion of the eye sees far away, which is why the animal will raise his head when looking at something in the distance; when the horse holds his head up high, he's considered to be in the flight position.

  Reaction Time—Miller said horses might have the fastest reaction time of any domestic animal, which likely results from evolving with flight as their main defense mechanism. To illustrate the concept, Miller showed video clips of Portuguese bull fighting and cutting horses working cattle, in which attendees could clearly visualize that although the bovines made the first move, the horse always countered and arrived at the destination first. While a fast reaction time is quite useful for escaping predators, it can also be dangerous for humans working around horses. "It's important that we, who make our living with horses, expect their reaction time," Miller stressed. "If (a horse) really wants to strike or kick you, you can't get out of the way fast enough."

  Desensitization—Although it's equine nature to be flighty and sometimes timid, Miller said that horses appear to be desensitized faster than any other domestic animal. "If an animal depends on flight to stay alive, and if they couldn't rapidly desensitize to things that aren't really frightening or dangerous, they'd never stop running," he explained. As long as the horse learns the frightening stimulus doesn't actually hurt them, the majority will become desensitized, he said.

  Learning—Miller believes "the horse is the fastest learner of all domestic animals—including children. If you stay alive by running away, you better learn fast."

  Memory—The horse's memory is infallible, Miller said. One of the best memories in the animal kingdom, he noted, horses are second only to the elephant in this department.

  Dominance—Equine dominance is not based on brute strength, Miller explained, which is why humans can become dominant figures in a horse's mind. He related an example of a horse herd in which an older mare is typically the boss. While these mares generally aren't in poor physical condition, they're certainly not the strongest herd member physically.

  Movement Control—What horses do look for in a dominant figure is movement control. Matriarch mares, for instance, assert their dominance by either forcing or inhibiting movement, Miller said, which allows a human to step in as a dominant figure. Miller suggested a quick way for a veterinarian to assert dominance over a horse for safer examinations and treatments: Before treatment, walk the horse in a few small circles. This forces movement and asserts dominance.

  Body Language—Unlike humans, who can express their feelings through words, horses rely on body language, Miller said. "If we are to be competent horse handlers we must be able to understand and mimic the body language of the horse," he explained.

  Precocial Birth—Horses are born in a precocial state, meaning that shortly after birth they possess the ability to move, eat, flee, and follow, and all of their senses and neurologic functions are mature, Miller said. What does this mean for a human? Aside from providing enjoyment in watching a young foal gallop and buck excitedly around a pasture, it tells us that the horse's critical learning period takes place shortly after parturition. Thus, Miller recommends socializing and imprinting foals in the very early stages of life. Of course, every horse is different and should be treated as an individual. That said, having a basic understanding of why a horse functions the way he does provides equestrians with the knowledge needed to forge a strong relationship with the animal and also stay safe when working around him.

What is Natural Horsemanship and a few thoughts on the use of spurs

Posted on March 30, 2012 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

   Natural horsemanship is many different things.  There are trainers, writers, teachers, learners and doers. The common basis is the understanding of the ethology (science of the study of animal behavior) and intrinsic nature of the horse and using that understanding to communicate with the horse and keep the training and husbandry compatible with what evolution has designed him to need for well-being. Natural horsemanship teaches us to keep horses in herds and allow them to roam and graze in the company of other horses instead of locking them in a stall 23 hours a day.

   One of the things we do in natural horsemanship is imprint training of the newborn foal. Dr. Robert Miller (a veterinarian who is now in his 80's ) found out that if he took a baby foal at birth even before the foal stood up, and desensitized the foal to every type of handling and experience, that foal would always remember and accept humans and their activities as part of his natural world.  The foal must also be sensitized to respond to handling appropriately submissively and to yield to pressure.

   In 2009 I attended the  University of Montana - Western in Dillon, Montana for a month to take a course in equine behavior and the development of natural horsemanship in their Department of Natural Horsemanship. We learned about the evolution of the horse from Hyracotherium ( a small forest creature previously called Eohippus "the Dawn Horse") 50 million years ago to the present. We also learned about Xenophon who was a Greek general. In 360 BC he wrote a book on horsemanship and in it he mentioned many of the principles we use today in natural horsemanship. We studied the history of natural horsemanship and the lives and ideas of many of the great teachers such as Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt, Pat Parelli etc.

   I have been studying natural horsemanship since about 1990. It can be used in many riding disciplines and does not exclude any specific piece of equipment. We usually ride our horses in a rope halter (no bit) or in a simple snaffle bit. One of the principles of natural horsemanship is to "do as little as possible, but as much as necessary."  For. a specific sport or discipline, appropriate and traditional equipment may be used.

    Natural horsemanship is a special thing, because anyone can learn it and be safer and more successful with horses. One of the most amazing people I have seen is a German woman in a wheelchair, who trains her Fresian horse at liberty. At City Limits Ranch we use natural horsemanship principles  to help children make a connection with animals and with other people, learn responsibility and tolerance, and have a fun and very empowering experience. Some of the children come from difficult home situations and training the horses can help them to feel strong and smart.  Horses are also used by many organizations for the disabled and for EAGALA (equine assisted growth and learning association.)

    What about someone riding with spurs? Many natural horsemanship trainers do use spurs, never to punish or hurt the horse, but to apply a very specific and exact touch of communication. The pressure is immediately removed when the horse responds. If someone is hurting the horse or drawing blood or using force and pain, that is not natural horsemanship.

   I do not use spurs, nor do the kids.  This is not because I think spurs are bad, it is because they (and I)  do not have the skill to  apply the spur only correctly and never accidently touch the spur to the horse in error. I think it is better to just avoid any possibility of wrong use.