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What if horses were given choice? Would they choose to engage in all the activities of training, to let us ride them? Is it even possible to provide this kind of choice, and if so, could friendship and relationship be enough for the horse to want to work with us?

These are the questions that Andrea Wady set out to answer in her work with her own horses.

The question culminated in a trek across the country Andrea calls home, Costa Rica, to make a movie called Taming Wild Pura Vida. Andrea trekked with friend and mentor Elsa Sinclair and two rescue horses, with the mission to see if on the trek, these damaged horses could be rehabilitated.

I traveled to meet Andrea, work with her and her horses, and learn about how she thinks about training and horsemanship.

A quote that Andrea shared with me from her friend, trainer Elsa Sinclair, was that it is important to first build “depth of friendship” before “width of skill”.

In this interview, you will hear Andrea discuss how she creates this friendship through looking for shared interests with the horse and ways to provide value to them.

How to Develop a Friendship with Your Horse: An Interview with Andrea Wady - YouTube

Learn More Andrea from her website here: www.puravidaequus.com

*Please note that the movie featuring the Costa Rica trek is still in editing phases. I am looking forward to watching it as well and will keep you updated on it’s availability.

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The first horse is a dream fulfilled. Perhaps as a child you longed for a pony of your own but it was never a reality. But now, years later, you have a horse to call your own. Maybe you’ve just started looking for your special horse and are eagerly awaiting the day you bring them home.

Whether you are brand new to horse ownership or even making the transition to a different horse, bringing a new horse home is scary. How will they settle in, what’s the best way to get to know them, can you ride right away or should you wait?

In today’s video, I will share several simple tips for helping your new horse get settled, knowing when you should start riding, and building a positive relationship with them right from the start!

If you want to learn more about the process of purchasing a horse, from where to look to pre-purchase exams, you can Click Here to download a Free Copy of my book.

You Have a New Horse, Now What? - YouTube
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The sitting trot is a difficult gait for many to learn. It is not a gait you can muscle through, in fact the more you try to hold yourself in the saddle by gripping tighter the more you will end up bouncing.

The more you bounce on the horse’s back the more they will tighten their back for protection, in effect shortening their stride and making the gait even more difficult and uncomfortable to ride.

To ride the sitting trot well requires a few key skills of alignment and movement. In this video I’ll show you what those skills are, and more importantly, a simple exercise for practicing this gait that will help you learn without the bouncing.

One Exercise to Improve Your Sitting Trot - YouTube
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For some people, there is a once in a lifetime horse. The horse that will always have a very special place in your heart, they teach you a lesson you will never forget, or open a door that would never have opened if not for their presence.

Last week, while riding and studying at the Centro Equestre da Leziria Grande in Vila Franca de Xira, Portugal, I learned the story of a special horse who not only changed the life of his rider, but also of generations of equestrians.

The Centro Equestre is an equestrian oasis, with white stables accented in red, yellow, and blue with clay tile roofs and brilliant green plants.

The riding center sits nestled into the outskirts of Villa Franca de Xiria, a town North of Lisbon and people travel from all over the world to learn the traditional style of Portuguese riding and training under Mestre Luis Valenca. But it may not have even been possible if not for a special golden stallion.

Luis Valenca began his education with horses at age 3, when he would accompany his godfather, Fernando Ralao, to a riding hall in Lisbon, where Fernando trained carriage and riding horses.

Senor Luis continued his training and classical educational in horses, working with Mestre Menezes, a master who had worked in the era and method of Baucher. Senor Luis also worked for years under the tutelage of and as an assistant to famed Portuguese horseman Nuno Oliveira.

He would ride horses by day and then change and wait tables at night, because as Senor Luis says “Sometimes you have to experience hard times in life to better appreciate the good times.”

However, one day in 1971 a palomino stallion was brought to Senor Luis for training. The horse was a Lusitano crossbred called Sultao, and after Sultao appeared the career of Mestre Luis began to change as though the horse as “like a star to light the way.”

Senor Luis worked with Sultao every day and taught him all of the classical exercises for performance. However, since Sultao was a palomino, he was considered to a feminine color and needed a female rider, so Luis’ eldest daughter, Luisa, at the time only 11 years old, performed with Sultao, riding bareback and thrilling crowds with their performance of even the most challenging exercises, cantering in place, cantering backwards, levade, passage.

They toured all over Europe, but at an event in Paris, an offer was made that gained much media attention for Mestre Luis and the budding Centro Equestre.

A Nigerian couple offered one million Francs for Sultao, but Luis refused because “money is not everything in life.” However word of the incredible sum of money that had been offered for the golden stallion spread and newspapers from all over came to see Sultao.

As word of the horse spread, people began to travel from all over to see the famous horse and to learn the methods of Senor Luis.

The publicity from Sultao built the Centro Equestre into what it is today, a place where tradition continues, with classical paintings and gold adornments on the walls, flowers, plants and palm trees lining the stalls, and generations of equestrians learning the classical method of training the horse.  

Sultao continued to perform until age 27. He lived out his life at the center, passing at 31, but his essence lives on, in the pictures on the buildings around the center, and in the museum room, dedicated to Sultao’s life and contributions to the career of Senor Luis, the Centro Equestre da Leziria Grande, the spirit of the Iberian horse, and improvement of riders around the world.

On the last day of my stay and riding at the school, I asked Senor Luis about Sultao, about what made him special. He began to laugh and said “ahh, see he was very special, it has been over 10 years and still you know about Sultao!”

With passion, he relates the story from the beginning of his training with the stallion, to the performances in the shows with his daughter, and the competition dressage riders he allowed to ride Sultao – Isabel Werth, Anky V. Grunsven, and Nicole Uphoff. He tells of how the opportunities with Sultao brought the people and circumstances into his life to build and finance the center.

Regardless of any argument on training method, it is clear that the essence of Senor Luis is one of reverence for horses. He loves the horse, he is at the center every day, mostly sitting quietly watching the training and offering words of wisdom as the working riders and handlers pass by.

I found this quote from Senor Luis, “You know, you don’t ride primarily with your assistants (aids), but with your heart. Do you have your heart with you, training is quite simple. All you do is that simple. From here (with hand on his heart) to your body and thoughts.”

In the days following my week of study at the center, I realized that my biggest takeaway was not one of technique, for example, how to train the Spanish walk or how to vibrate the reins to supple the bend, but instead it was of the passion for the art of training that Senor Luis so strongly emulated.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Is there a special horse that has affected your life? Tell us the story!

See you in the comments!

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Most of us equestrians find that our love of animals extends beyond horses, many of the riders I know also have dogs and would love to be able to safely bring their dog to the barn.

Horses and dogs can seem natural companions, but both pose a danger to the other – especially when scared or nervous.

The good news is that many dogs can be taught to feel comfortable around horses. It’s vital to be proactive about your pet’s safety though. Here are six tips for keeping a dog safe around horses, written by Richard Cross, editor of The Dog Clinic.

Before we get to the tips, always be over-cautious with dogs around horses. Never let a dog loose in paddocks or riding arenas, as even an accidental kick can cause serious injury or death. I also recommend hiring a trainer to help with socialization, introductions and obedience.

1. Understand Your Dog’s Ancestry

It might not seem like a chihuahua has much in common with a wolf, but domestic dogs still share traits with their wild ancestor. The instincts to chase and hunt, for example, are strong in many breeds.

A dog is unlikely to see a horse as actual prey – it’s more likely to be scared of its size and strange body language. But the instinct to chase can override fear, which is why a nervous dog might sprint after a horse that starts to run. Younger dogs might also want to play, but the lack of a common body language means the horse won’t understand.

Similarly, horses have an instinctive fear of wolves – and their best defence is to bolt. If the dog gets too close, a horse may also kick. This can cause severe damage – not to mention putting a rider in danger.

While we want our animals to get along, it’s clear that neither the horse or dog are “misbehaving.” They are both acting according to their natural instincts. If you want your dog to be safe around horses, it’s your responsibility to teach him.

2. Socialising Your Dog With Horses is Essential

It’s vital for your dog to feel comfortable around horses – and vice versa. This is called socialisation, and should happen before you properly introduce your two animals.

Socialization is most effective for puppies. This is why trainers recommend exposing a dog to as many situations as possible during the formative early weeks. You canstill teach an adult dog to feel comfortable around horses though – it just might take a bit longer.

The best way to socialise a dog with horses is to create positive associations. You always want to stay below your pet’s fear threshold, and gradually increase the intensity at a pace he feels comfortable with.

  1. Start by taking your dog to place he can see a horse in the distance. There should be a fence so the horse can’t come over to investigate, and always keep your dog on a leash.
  2. Don’t make a fuss about the horse, but wait for your dog to see it naturally. When he does, treat him and play a game with a toy. Repeat this whenever he looks up at the horse.
  3. Come back to the same spot several days in a row to practice.
  4. Once the dog is comfortable with a horse at your current distance, move a bit closer and repeat the same process. If your dog shows signs of anxiety or stress, you’ve pushed him too far, and should move a bit further away.
  5. Gradually decrease the distance until your dog is happy to be near a horse.

The goal is to create positive feelings withoutcausing stress. When your dog can be near a horse without reacting, you’re ready to make the introduction.

This is also a good time to mention that some dogs may never be comfortable around horses. If your dog reacts aggressively or is just highly energetic, you may want to consider whether it’s fair on both the horse and dog to force them together.

On a related note, always keep your dog on a leash around horses during this phase. You might think your pet has perfect recall, but the chasing instinct can kick in if he sees a horse running.

3. Know Canine Body Language Cues

I mentioned in the previous section that you should stay below your dog’s fear threshold. To do this, it’s important to recognise body language that indicates fear or defensiveness. 

The most obvious indicators are flattened ears, cowering and tucking the tail between the legs. Barking and growling are also clear signals that the dog isn’t happy.

There are more subtle signs to watch for though. Lip licking, panting, dilated pupils, yawning, looking away from the horse and pacing can all indicate a dog isn’t happy with the situation.

If you notice these signals, stay calm and create some more distance between your dog and the horse.

4. Introduce Your Horse and Dog (Gradually)

The key to a successful introduction is to take it slowly. You can’t force a dog and horse to relax around each other, so the process should be gradual.

Start by giving your dog time to sniff the barn without the horse being present. Walk him around on a leash, so he can get used to the new smells and sounds. You might even want to provide your horse’s saddle blanket to sniff.

You can then put your horse in a paddock, but make sure he’s not tethered so he can move away. Approach with your dog on a leash, giving praise and treats and watching for signs of stress or anxiety. If your dog barks, growls or just looks scared, back off to a point where he feels calm.

Over time, you’ll be able to move closer to the horse before your dog shows signs of anxiety. This can take weeks, but it’s important not to rush the process. Once your dog is happy with the horse in the paddock environment, you can practice in other situations, including the barn or on a trail.

5. Stay Safe When Out Riding

Before you can even consider riding with a dog, he needs to respond to obedience commands in all situations. If another dog, rider, cyclist or hiker comes around the corner, you need to knowyour dog will listen to what you say.

Crucially, he needs to respond to sit, stay, leave and down at a distance, so you can put him in a waiting position without needing to dismount. Many people are surprised their dog can’t do this, as dogs usually run to their owner before responding.

Once your dog knows all the basic commands, and responds to them even with distractions, start practicing with your horse nearby. It’s often useful to get a friend to ride your horse while you train your dog.

You also need to teach your pet to walk at a safe distance from the horse, but without moving too far ahead or behind. Some dogs do this naturally, but more energetic dogs may need additional training.

Never leash your dog when riding though. It’s too easy for the leash to get tangled, which could force the dog under your horse’s legs or pull you from the saddle.

6. Crate Your Dog in Tricky Situations

No matter how much training you do with your dog and horse, animals aren’t always predictable – at least to our human eyes. It’s important to take precautionary steps to keep both safe.

A good example is crating your dog if there are other horses nearby – especially ones that aren’t accustomed to dogs. One of my friend’s dogs had its leg shattered by a strange horse that took a dislike to him. While the dog had spent time with most of the horses kept there, and had visited daily for years, this new horse saw him as a threat.

Crating your dog is also a good idea when you’re grooming a horse, or any other situation when you can’t keep a close eye on him. It’s easy for a dog to wander behind a horse unnoticed, only to be stepped on or kicked by accident. Even a soft-sided crate, which are relatively cheap and portable, can be enough to keep your pet confined for a short period.

Summary

Horses and dogs don’t make natural companions, but they can often be taught to tolerate each other. The key is to gradually introduce your dog to horses, so he becomes comfortable without associating horses with stress.

It’s important to remember that dogs and horses don’t always behave as we expect though. Even if your dog has been around horses for years, problems can still occur, which is why you need to be vigilante and avoid potentially dangerous situations.

There are also some dogs that simply aren’t suitable around horses. Energetic dogs or those that are aggressive to horses may never be trustworthy – even with professional training. Does your dog spend time with your horse? How did you introduce them? Let me know in the comments section below – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

About The Author:

Richard Cross is a writer, dog lover and father who is currently living in the UK. He’s editor of The Dog Clinic – a website dedicated to helping dog parents build a stronger bond with their pet. Click Here to Access Richard’s Blog.

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“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” 
― Albert Einstein

We all want to grow as equestrians, we want to get better, in our skills, in managing our internal state, for the benefit of ourselves and our horses.

But to grow, we need to change, and that’s hard.

To not be growing and improving however, is worse than staying the same, if we adhere to the basic laws of the universe, anything that is not growing is contracting. What this means in terms of our skills as a rider, is you will never stay exactly the same, you will either be improving or you’ll be slipping, even if ever so slightly.

New Years is right around the corner, it is a time for reflection, evaluation, and change. A time for new ideas and new directions.

To think about what you want and what will get you there.

The key to making this process effective is to ask yourself the right questions, and to be willing to change not just what you do but what you think.

Starting January 1, I’d like to help you ask these right questions through a Free Goal Setting Workshop tailored just for us riders.

You can sign up for the workshop here.

But today, I sit down with Jenna Knudsen, who has focused her life on helping riders not only reach their goals, but expand their vision of what is possible.

Jenna is not a riding coach, but a life coach, just for equestrians. In my interview with Jenna I ask her questions such as what is the biggest mistake people make when setting goals and what patterns has she noticed with equestrians?

Watch the video below and then be sure to sign up for our Free Goal Setting Workshop beginning January 1!

What are the Most Common Mistakes Riders Make When Setting Goals? - With Jenna Knudsen - YouTube

Learn more about Jenna and the Equestrian Planner at https://www.jennaknudsen.com/

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Beyond the colorful lights, the trees, the ornaments and the cookies, the holidays are a time to reflect on what matters most – family, friends, the many blessings in our lives, and of course, the horses we spend time with.

Through my life horses have given me so much, from companionship and confidence as a child, to countless fond memories of exhilarating trail rides or quiet moments in a stall, to new friends and experiences, but probably most importantly, the skills of being present, mindful, and connected.

We wanted to do something special for the holidays, to highlight what brings us all together as riders, what is most important about being with horses. So we went around our community and asked, what have horses given you?

I think you’ll see some of yourself in each of these answers.

Click play below to watch the video and Merry Christmas!

Holiday Special: What Brings Us All Together - YouTube
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How do you make the most of the time you have to spend with your horse?

I’d like you to take a moment and think about your answer… when you are with your horse or practicing your riding, what makes you feel as if it was time well spent?

Time is our most valuable resource, we can’t get it back and we can’t create more. In today’s world, we all lead busy lives, and it can be difficult to slow down and be completely present in a moment.

But this is exactly what’s required to connect to our horse and make the most of our time together, whether that is riding, groundwork, or just being in the barn.

In last week’s video, we discussed how to focus on the quality of your time instead of the quantity of that time, because, as much as we’d like to, we can’t create more hours in the day.

Also in the last video, I shared a simple exercise you can use to start your ride to connect with yourself, your senses, and your horse.

Today, I’m going to give you an exercise to find this feeling before your ride even begins. You can use this as you bring your horse in from the field, as you walk with them to the arena, or for a few minutes as you prepare for your ride.

This exercise is simple, but can be more challenging than it appears!

Give it a try and I look forward to hearing how it goes!

How Do You Make the Most Out of the Time with Your Horse? - YouTube
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Troubleshooting: This exercise requires catching the rhythm of your horse’s steps but also asking your horse to keep their rhythm. It’s not unlike riding in that we initiate movement and then go with that movement. If you find that your horse goes too slowly make sure they clearly understand your request to walk faster and that you are not inadvertently stopping your own forward movement in attempt to catch the rhythm of their strides.

Bonus Tip: Once you’ve tried them separately, See if you can combine last week’s exercise of breathing in sync with your horse’s steps with this week’s groundwork exercise!

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There is one thing we could all use more of – time!

Especially when it comes to what we really enjoy, being with our horse and riding, it can seem as if we never have enough time to spend.

You may long to ride five days a week, but right now, all you can fit in is a one hour lesson. Or perhaps you envision spending hours with your horse, grooming them, doing groundwork, then going for a long ride, but in reality, you’re rushing in and out of the barn in 30 min.

We can’t create more hours in the day, and there are often other priorities in life that make taking more time for riding a non-option. However, we can change what we do with the time we have.

There is a factor more important than just the amount of time spent – the quality of that time.

In today’s video, I’ll share what I believe creates quality time and give you one simple exercise that you can use to start any ride that will allow you to get the very most out of the time you have.

One Simple Warm Up Exercise to Improve Quality Time with Your Horse - YouTube
If you struggle with anxiety around riding, the exercise I shared in the video above can be very calming as well. If you want to do even more to build your confidence as a rider, Click Here to learn about my Calm & Confident Rider program.

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When training a horse, it is important to look at the big picture. There are many factors that influence behavior and in many cases, the resolution of a problem may require more than just “training”.

This is where an equine behavior consultant can play an important role.

I sat down with behavior consultant Sharon Madera at her farm in Ocala, Florida, to discuss several of her most difficult cases.

In this interview, we talked about food aggression, head shy horses, the benefits of positive reinforcement and working at liberty, and the role of a behavior consultant.

Here’s the “at a glance” list of what we cover in this interview:

5:15 What is the role of an Equine Behavior Consultant?

10:32 Changing the behavior of an aggressive horse

13:13 Helping a rescue horse who was head and ear shy

15:10 Benefits of working at liberty

16:50 The beauty of Iberian horses

"The Broader View of Training" Interview with an Equine Behavior Consultant - YouTube
 

Learn More about Sharon’s work here: http://equilightenment.com/

See examples of horses in training at CRK Training here: http://www.crktrainingjournals.com/

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