How to correct your horse’s mistakes

Brevity may be the soul of wit, as Polonius said in Hamlet, but I have yet to manage it.  Still, I’m going to try, since it’s frustratingly difficult to find time to blog these days.

So let’s cut to the chase.

Francis Calcraft Turner's Bachelor's Hall:  Capping on Hounds, oil on canvas, c. 1835.

Francis Calcraft Turner’s Bachelor’s Hall: Capping on Hounds, oil on canvas, c. 1835.

How do you correct your horse’s mistakes?

First, it’s important to ask yourself why your horse is making a mistake.  Is he just learning?  Does a physical problem (lack of fitness, pain, etc.) keep him from being able to do what you’re asking?  Do you expect too much too soon? Is your horse a loser?  A jerk?  Satan?  Or…is it all your fault?

I hate to say it (well, actually that’s not true and as you can see, I’m really having trouble with this brevity thing) but chances are it is all your fault. Don’t despair.  I’m here to help.

My first advice is to stop thinking about your horse making mistakes, don’t blame him or her, and start thinking about how you can help.

When your horse makes a mistake, you’ve ruled out a physical problem and your horse is not a rogue (a term I don’t apply lightly), then your horse’s mistake is one of two things:

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Extra legs

ece0e65d24ad40435cd3ba3be0923da3Sometimes you hear talk of a “fifth leg” for a horse.

On his blog, William Miklem talks about the importance of what he calls the “fifth leg” for an event horse, who needs to be able to balance in order to stay safe. It’s important for a jockey’s hand to sometimes act as a “fifth leg” in order to support a horse who is running on empty and needs to make it across the finish line.  The same is true of a young horse learning to balance downhill across open country.

Ultimately and if possible (which excludes fatigued horses) we want the “fifth leg” to belong exclusively to the horse, although we may use our hands initially as a “fifth leg” crutch to assist the horse in finding its own balance.

All too often, unfortunately, we see the use of the hand as a permanent “fifth leg.”  The only job of that “fifth leg” is to support the rider or hold the horse in compression as a substitute for self carriage.  Just as a tight flash noseband acts as a poor stand-in for a quiet mouth, “contact” (that popular synonym for pulling on the horse’s mouth) acts as a stand-in for a true, feeling and sensitive connection between the rider’s hand and the horse’s mouth.

Riders who always provide their hands as a fifth leg for the horse end up at some point like poor Laurel and Hardy — the “third leg” — in today’s picture. Carrying all the weight of the horse, when the horse should instead be carrying them.  If only their horses were as content as the grey on the piano.

Horses on the menu – a better idea

From the menu at the airport restaurant, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

From the menu at the airport restaurant, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

What an incredible island.  And incredible mangoes.  We’ll never forget swimming with the horses, sitting on their bare backs in our bathing suits, their bodies submerged — and ours half-submerged — under the warm, clear turquoise water.  Thank you Eliza & Henry & Nikki & Blue & Dakota.

Food for thought: the horsemeat in beef scandal

800px-Hamburgers_-_San_MiguelYou’re probably aware that an English supermarket was recently found to be distributing hamburger that contained 29% horse meat.

Retailers in the UK and Ireland initially recalled approximately 10 million pounds of hamburger after three beef processors were discovered distributing hamburger patties containing both pig and horse DNA.

It was DNA testing as part of a quality assurance test that originally revealed the presence of horsemeat in beef products in mid-January.  As of today, nothing definitive has been proven regarding the scandal, but all of Europe’s health ministers are gathering in Brussels to talk about what should be done. As many as 16 EU countries have revealed that beef sold in those countries contains horsemeat.

There is no government-based DNA testing of meat here in the US (although the technology is available here and in use by private companies selling Black Angus beef).  And while it’s unlikely that any of our own beef contains horse, since there are currently no slaughter plants in the US, one has to wonder about the past.

As horsemen, we’ve likely all given our horses bute, at one time or another. Many of us have administered it more times than we can count.  That’s been the big lie within the bigger lie of “100% beef,” certainly abroad and likely here in the US as well.

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Tam O’Shanter

This sculpture portrays the denouement of the poem Tam O’Shanter by Robert Burns.  Tam is mounted on his grey mare Meg and is being chased by a young witch.  We see that the witch has just caught up with Tam and has grabbed his horse from behind…

Photo courtesy of Mary and Angus Hogg.  Thank you!

Photo courtesy of Mary and Angus Hogg. Thank you!

….Now, do thy speedy utmost, Meg,

And win the key-stane o’ the brig;

There at them thou thy tail may toss,

A running stream they dare na cross. [witches and water don’t mix]

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Recipe for a beautiful tail

A beautiful tail at the Lipika Stud Farm in Slovenia

A beautiful tail at the Lipika Stud Farm in Slovenia

Whether your horse has a woeful tail or a gorgeous tail, you can improve it.

With coconut oil.  

It’s the trendy substance right now for healthy cooking.

Some of us have discovered how great it is for skin care, as a hand cream or bath oil.

African-Americans have been it on hair for a long time.  And the rest of us are now catching up.

Whether the hair is in the boudoir or in the barn, the secret of coconut oil is out.

And what is the secret exactly?  It turns out that coconut oil has a unique ability to bind to the protein structure of hair and to seal moisture inside the hair shaft. After a coconut oil treatment, hair feels soft and silky while looking thicker.  Sounds like the recipe for a perfect tail, doesn’t it?

Long before I began cooking with it, I read about using coconut oil on horse’s tails in a thread on the ultimatedressage.com bulletin board.  I tried it.  It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my horses’ tails.  And that’s why I want to share it with you.

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