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Kim Baker Horse Guru Blog

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Perfect Horse Models?

I was looking through a horse magazine the other day when I came across an ad for a hay feeder that promotes free choice. It's a really cool feeder actually, as it protects the hay bale while the horse still has access to eat. But what I noticed about the ad was the horse. This was the most manicured horse eating hay that I have ever seen. Even the forelock was perfectly placed.

Has our human society for the perfect hair, skin, and body crept into the horse world?

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I just read an article by a top horseman in a top horse magazine. I follow this horseman a lot, and I like his style; he's even been on my radio show once before. In his latest article I read, I actually disagreed with him on one point: accepting ear pinning while being saddled. To me that is a clear sign from the horse that he is in pain, or has experienced pain in the past, but time has not resolved the issue or there is still enough pain to warrant the ear pinning.

His point in the article was to be patient with a horse that is a "grump". This particular horse pins his ears when you walk into his stall and when you saddle him.

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1. Be Prepared
Know where you're going and what is required to transport your horse to that destination. This includes necessary paperwork to travel across country. Research online or call the location and find out what is required. Then speak with your vet about getting the necessary paperwork in order before you leave. Note: some requirements are time sensitive. Be sure to consider those timing sensitivities in your preparations. If you don't have your paperwork in order, it could mean extra time being stuck at border crossings for your horse in a hot trailer.

2. Directions and Maps
Have the correct directions to your destination. Look up the appropriate route on-line and buy a road map for the area to keep in your vehicle in case you need to detour while in route due to construction or weather issues. Confirm any overnight stays before you leave. Not being prepared could mean extra hours in a hot trailer for your horse.

3. Go Early
Avoid traveling during the hottest part of the day. The hottest part of the day varies depending on what part of the country/world you are in. Do your research before hand and know everything you can about your journey and your final destination. Most professional transporters get up early and are on the road during the cooler parts of the day, and allow the horses to unload and rest during the hottest parts of the day.

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How to cinch the front

1. Ensure your cinch is unhooked and hanging where you can reach it.
2. From the left side of your horse, hook the left stirrup over the horn.
3. Untie your latigo and reach under your horse's belly and grab the cinch.
4. Insert the latigo into the cinch's dee ring, from the back side. Meaning the latigo will stay close to your horse's belly and the end will come towards you.

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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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A study conducted by the Mammal Vocal Communication and Cognition unit of the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom has found young horses under the age of three are not able to understand when a human is paying attention to them.  Adult horses, however are able to use head movement and open or closed eyes to understand when a human is paying attention to them. The results of this study suggest the ability for horses to read and understand human body language is a skill that develops over time and with experience.

We've seen and/or heard what happens when a foal is raised by a human and doesn't understand horse body language...

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Understanding when your horse needs additional assistance from you in an effort to stay warm will help keep your horse healthy and happy this winter. Each horse will have a different set of requirements based on his age, hair coat, body weight, and it will vary depending on the outside conditions (moisture and wind).

"Critical Temperature" is a term used to describe when your horse needs to produce extra body heat to maintain his core body temperature...

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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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In Parts 1 and 2, we discussed the horse as your employee.  We also talked about suitability to perform the job at hand, horse behavior as a result of pain, how all of it adds up to potential risk and liability for you, and how to survey your horse to find some answers.

What do the results of the survey mean to you and your horse?  The results are going to be very specific to each individual horse and situation, but we'll evaluate the following example to gain a better understanding of what the results are telling us.  Background information: 15 year old gelding used for trail riding two to three times a week.  Rider has noticed some behavior changes in the horse over the last two months.  Sample survey was completed as follows: 

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In Part 1, we discussed the horse as your employee.  We also talked about suitability to perform the job at hand, horse behavior as a result of pain, and how all of it adds up to potential risk and liability for you.

What can we do to reduce our risk and liability?  Simple.  Ask the horse how s/he feels about her/his job with an employee engagement survey.  Determine the key performance indicators (goals) for the horse in his/her job,  then develop a set of questions.  Start out with at least five and no more than ten questions, where the horse can be rated on a scale from one to five.  Work with the horse to complete the survey.

What are your key performance indicators?  What are the most important aspects of the horse's job?  These will vary based on the type of riding you do with your horse.  With these specific factors in mind you can develop specific questions to ask your horse(s). 

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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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Have you ever considered your horse as your employee?  Perhaps this seems degrading to the horse, but your horse does perform a specific job for you and therefore it makes sense to get his/her feedback on how the job is going for him/her.  Even if you are a recreational rider, your horse is performing a job for you.

Let's look at this from the corporate perspective then apply it to the horse world.  You are the boss of a small company or a manager of a division of a large company.  You have a job opening.  You write up the job description and post to the community.  You receive applications and resumes.  You interview the candidates.  You hire the best candidate for the job.  Six months later it's time for the employee's performance review.  The employee is evaluated on certain criteria on a scale from one to five.  The employee learns what s/he is doing well and areas for improvement.  Now if you're a good employer then you also care about how satisfied your employee is in his/her job.  You provide employee satisfaction surveys to find out what you're doing right and your areas of improvement.  This allows for a great two way communication system to ensure both employer and employee are happy.  Happy and content employees make for good productivity, which makes for good profit margins.  It all comes down in the end to the almighty dollar and reducing your risk and liability.  With an unhappy employee, the employer is at greater risk and liable.

So how does all this apply to the horse world? 

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Colic is a scary thing that happens to horses, and the sooner you catch it the better off your horse will be.  Gas colic is when gas builds up anywhere in the horse's gastrointestinal tract.  Causing factors can be stress, inadequate access to roughage, or rich pasture grass, poor parasite management, and other unknown factors.

Having experienced gas colic several times with horses and consulted with several veterinarians and holistic practitioners on the topic, I found the following treatments to be successful in alleviating the horse's pain and allowing the gas to pass.

1. Hook up your horse trailer and take your horse for a ride on a bumpy dirt road.

2. Energy healing - any modality works by focusing on the gas pocket and visualizing its movement out of the system.

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When you live in snake country, you and your animals are at risk for snake bites.  So how do you treat a snake bite?  There are many articles, stories, snake bite kits, and unfortunately fallacies out there.  This article will help you understand the right thing to do if you, your horse or dog is bitten by a snake.

Frances Fitzgerald Cleveland lives in snake country just southwest of the Denver metro area in Colorado.  She and her husband, along with her two horses have experienced rattlesnake bites first hand.  Frances is also the founder of Frogworks,  natural healing with plants and essential oils for you and your animals.  This article will also include some natural ways to assist in healing from a snake bite.

To understand exactly what happens to a person and animal during a snake bite, I will share with you France's husband's experience.  John was working out in the field when he stepped on a rattlesnake.  Unfortunately since John stepped on the snake, there was no warning before the snake attacked and bit him, injecting John with a full dose of venom.  Most snakes do not want anything to do with humans, but when startled or feel threatened they will defend themselves, as in the case with John. 

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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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