Saturday, February 7, 2009

Look for the "Right Stuff" when buying a horse

Has buying a horse got you confused? If your are looking to compare apples to apples—er, Quarter horses to Quarter horses, I mean—then there are a few things you must consider with each and every horse you look at. Here's the list:

• Temperament. A horse's temperament is extremely important to your overall experience. If you are a beginning rider, temperament is probably the most important factor when it comes to choosing a horse. A horse of good temperament is alert and ready to work, but also calm and willing.

• Manners. Manners are extremely important! They can mean the difference between a horse being easy to live with, and a horse being not-so-easy to live with! When looking at horses for sale and horses for sale, make sure you watch their behavior as they are being caught, handled, and ridden. And keep in mind that just like with us humans, bad habits can be hard to break!

• Soundness. If you are planning on riding your horse, working soundness is key. This means that the horse should not have any lamenesses that prevents the horse from moving correctly and therefore succeeding at its intended purpose. Horses who aren't being ridden need to be checked for soundness depending upon what you are planning on using them for. For example, if you are looking for a broodmare, a breeding unsoundness would prevent the mare from having a foal. However, that same mare may be a great family riding horse!

• Movement. Good riding horses
should move smoothly and in balance, without stiffness, crookedness, or interference. When looking at younger horses, keep in mind that some of a horse's gait is determined by training. If you have questions about a horse's gait, it always helps to get an experienced horse person to look at the horse and give you his opinion. Is the horse's way of going inherent, or is it something that can be improved with a little training? Be sure you watch the horse at all three gaits. If you ride the horse, is the horse comfortable? If you are a beginning rider, comfort is very important!

• Conformation. The way a horse is built will determine how a horse moves. It goes without saying that the horse shouldn't have any glaring conformational faults that affect its way of going. Aside from that, the conformation of the horse should be suitable for the manner in which you intend to use him. If you are not educated when it comes to horse conformation, take someone along who is.

• Health. How healthy is the horse you are looking at? Ask to see the horse's health records, to determine if their is anything long-standing, recurring, or permanent that would have to be dealt with. Temporary health issues can be easier to deal with and you may even get your horse at a discount price as a result. However, do remember that if you intend to buy a horse and then nurse him back to health, there's a good chance you'll have to spend time and money that you wouldn't have spent on a healthier horse.

• Accomplishments. What has your horse done in the past? This may be a very important consideration if you are looking for a horse to show you the ropes; on the other hand, it may not be a consideration at all if you intend to train the horse yourself.

• Size. In the world of horses, size does matter! It is important that your horse fits you. As a general rule of thumb, bigger horses are more desirable because they can accommodate a wider range of riders. If you are looking at a smaller horse make sure your legs can fall in the right position. In other words, your heel should not be below the horse's underline. If you are not certain, ask someone else how you look on the horse.

There sure is a lot to consider when looking at horses for sale and selecting the right horse. However, it's important to know that careful selection will result in years of enjoyment. Take your time!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stopping the Lead Rope Breaker

There are many horses that have found the best way to get out of working, is to sit back and break their rope, halter, bridle, reins, etc. They learn that if the break it, then they will be put back in their stall or out to pasture, while you go hunt down a spare or go buy a new one. How you handle this situation, however, will also be the start of new habits for your horse, either good or bad.

The key to this situation is finding out the core of the problem. Why does your horse rear back when he is tied? Many horses know that this is a way of getting out of work, while other horses may be reacting out of fear. When you tie your horse, you are taking away his ability of flight. Horses are innate fight or flight animals and the majority of them prefer to fly. Many people have used numerous tricks to keep their horses from breaking their equipment. From stronger lead ropes to bungee cords, people have tied their horses up and try to make them “get used to it.” Everything is more frightening to a horse when they are tied up, from sneezes to phone calls, just about anything will set these horses off. They are often usually leery of being tied up from bad experiences as colts or they may have never been taught to yield to pressure or how to tie properly.

Many horses that rear back have never really been halter broke and may have never really learned about responding to pressure properly. Many people will halter their colts and figure the colt is halter broke because they follow them around like puppies. This is not necessarily the case, the first time that colt feels pressure on his head, he is going to have a fit and rear back. You will first want to begin by teaching the horse to respond to light pressure from the halter. You want them to learn to follow a feel. You will begin by applying slight pressure to the halter from the lead rope, the instant the horse reacts you will give him slack. You don’t want to pull strongly on the halter as this will only result in a brace and lean from the horse. You just want the horse to learn to follow a feel and teach him that his reaction does not have to be dramatic.

The key is to teach your horse to be confident, work with him and apply pressure in a variety of ways. You may also want to begin teaching your horse to tie by standing still and not tied to anything at all. If you are afraid the horse is going to wonder off, just loop your lead rope around your fence pole once. This will supply enough pressure to keep him in one place, but if he feels the need to rear back he won’t meet any resistance. This will also keep you from having to buy a new halter.

As your horse gains confidence, you will start exposing him to new situations and activities, but always allow him to feel as if he can come and go as he pleases. This will allow him to approach things that he is curious about without having to commit. Soon, the horse will become used to a lot of new sounds and objects and very few things will excite him or scare him.

Thanks for taking the time to read my rant! I hope you will stop by our growing revamped equine network

Happy Trails and Training