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Do you become frustrated when your horse sticks his nose up in the air, or pulls his head away when you're trying to bridle him? We've all been there at one point or another. There is an easy resolution to this maddening issue.

1. Teach your horse to lower his head (see my head drop exercise in my Groundwork Essentials Book or DVD).

2. Practice taking a halter on and off to teach your horse to lower his head.

3. Use the same head down cue (pressure over the poll) when you go to bridle your horse.

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Myth #1 - Sending a horse around the round pen will decrease his adrenaline.

This truly depends on what speed you are "sending" the horse around the round pen. Most often "sending" a horse means at a canter or a lope. Tell me, how often do you see horses cantering or loping, especially at mock speed, and their adrenaline comes down? For some horses this can be true, but it requires the right circumstances for this to be true. For most horses, their adrenaline goes up. Especially Arabians and Thoroughbreds who are built for speed, they get more amped up the faster you make then go around the pen.

Myth #2 - Round penning a horse makes him easier to catch.

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I like to start with grooming. Grooming is a great way to get to know a horse and to build trust. Why? Because if you open up all your senses, be present in the moment, turn off your cell phone, not talk to your buddy, and truly focus on the horse, s/he will tell you volumes of information about him/her self.

The horse will tell you where on his body he is ticklish, where he is in pain, where he likes to be scratched, where he is comfortable being touched and most important where he is NOT comfortable being touched.

When you have all of this valuable information, you can use it to gain the horse's trust. You may still be asking, well how do I do that?

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We've all experienced at some point during our riding career when a horse spooks, the horse goes one direction and the rider goes the opposite direction or straight to the ground.  How do we stay with our horse when s/he spooks?  A lot of practice learning to anticipate and flow with your horse's movements will help you stay in the saddle.

Jonathan Field wrote an article in the January 2014 edition of Horse & Rider Magazine called, "Mirror-Ride for More Confidence."  In this article he talked about learning how to feel a horse's subtle movements when s/he is about to change directions.  By practicing with your horse, you learn to teach your body what these subtle movements feel like and how to anticipate your horse's movement and flow with him/her.

One exercise I like to teach my students is to close their eyes..

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The majority of people compete to win, and most winners hate to lose.  However, if you enter the competition ring often enough you don't always come out with a win.  I like to look at competition as a base line for how my horse and I are performing.  In competition you will only get 80 percent of what you and your horse can do at home.  Why is that?  There are many factors such as stress, nerves, away from home, unfamiliar surroundings, funny tasting water, and the list goes on.  By establishing a base line, now you know exactly what you and horse need work on.

What happens if you dwell on a loss? 

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When horses become upset or nervous they raise their heads.  You can teach your horse how to lower her head by creating a de-stress button on the ground and in the saddle.

First you will want to teach your horse how to give to pressure with a head drop exercise.  Stand on one side of your horse between her head and shoulders. Place one hand over the halter at the poll, and your other hand over the halter at the nose band. Apply steady downward pressure until your horse lowers her head, even if it's only half an inch. Your horse will learn the pressure goes away when she gives into the pressure by lowering her head. If she pushes back into your hands, continue to apply steady downward pressure until she relaxes the slightest bit. If your horse is really tall, try to keep your hands on your horse for as long as possible or stay with your hands raised towards her head until she relaxes and lowers her head the slightest bit. Repeat a couple of times, then do the same exercise on the other side of your horse.  Once your horse is really good with this exercise, to the point where you put your hands over the nose and poll and your horse lowers her head automatically (sometimes without even touching your horse), then you can advance the exercise to applying downward pressure from the lead rope.  Apply steady pressure until your horse lowers her head.  Repeat several times on each side of your horse.  This advanced exercise will need to be automatic as well before you can move on to the next stage.

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Desensitize Your Horse - What Does that Really Mean?

If we look at the definition of desensitize and paraphrase, it means to make dull.  The dictionary defines the term as follows:

Definition of DESENSITIZE

1: to make (a sensitized or hypersensitive individual) insensitive or nonreactive to a sensitizing agent

2: to make emotionally insensitive or callous; specifically : to extinguish an emotional response (as of fear, anxiety, or guilt) to stimuli that formerly induced it

de·sen·si·ti·za·tion noun

de·sen·si·tiz·er noun

Medical Definition of DESENSITIZE

: to make less sensitive : reduce sensitivity in <desensitize a nerve with a local anesthetic>: as

a : to make (a sensitized or hypersensitive individual) insensitive or nonreactive to a sensitizing agent 

b : to extinguish an emotional response (as of fear, anxiety, or guilt) to stimuli which formerly induced it : make emotionally insensitive <evidence that violence on television desensitizes children to actual violence—Stephanie Harrington>

The question becomes, do we really want to make our horses insensitive, or emotionally insensitive?  Re-read the last line of part b of the medical definition inside the karats ( < > ).  That is a very powerful statement and I believe a reflection of what we see happening with violence in schools and around the world.  Do we want the same fate for our horses?

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