Author Archives: Linda Fitzpatrick

Buying your first horse. Finding the right match for you.

Here is a scenario: You are established in your career. You are a parent. Your kids are all going to school or in university. You have always loved horses but just had to put that dream of owning one on the backburner for a few years. Now you have decided it is the time to follow your dream. Where do you start?

First off you need to have some great professional advice. Refer to my last article Great Trainers and Horsemen -How can you tell? If you are one of the privileged few to already be working with a great trainer you are off to a good start. A great trainer knows you and will be honest in finding the right match, not just make a sale.

Your skill level and needs.

Be honest with yourself on what you are comfortable with. Do you want to ride in an arena, hit the trails, work cattle or learn dressage? A horse with good experience is essential. Keep in mind that a competition horse who has a trough full of ribbons is not necessarily the right match??for you. Owning a horse is a big responsibility. Large amounts of your time will be spent training, caring and mostly spending positive time with your horse. Make sure this can fit into your lifestyle. This is a relationship that takes time to nurture and develop and is extremely rewarding when done well.

Budget.

Set your range of a purchase price, and keep an open mind – there are many considerations here. The horse with experience and a healthy mind and body will be more costly. The older horse is not to be dismissed as they are some of the greatest teachers and as such, are invaluable. A young horse will be challenging; a support group of educated horse trainers and caretakers is absolutely necessary to take this challenge on. The initial price of the young horse may be less but you will need to budget for training of the horse and yourself for the long haul.

Caretaker.

Who is that going to be? If not you, then this person should have years of experience in caring for horses well. Their understanding of diet, exercise and the herd mentality is absolutely necessary to the health of your new horse. The stable where your trainer works is a good start. If your trainer runs the stable, even better. Trainers and caretakers can be a great team and support to you and your horse. The property your horse will call home should be clean, fencing safe, shelter, ample water,hay quality good, pasture available and healthy herd mates for your horse to call family.

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Viewing the sale horse.

Take your great trainer along with you. They have the experience in knowing if this horse is a potential match for you. They will also know what questions to ask of the seller and give you great feedback. Keep an open mind, listen to comments and conversation, and ask your own questions. This is a great learning experience for you – how to evaluate a horse for purchase – even if you are not the right match for this horse.

Try out period.

When you think you have a potential match, a try out period is essential. This can be in a lease agreement, a commitment to lessons or other contractual agreement. If leasing is not an option the next best thing is taking lessons with your trainer and new horse candidate. Horses have their own personalities as do we. It takes time to develop a relationship and find the right match.

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Purchase.

You have found the right match. Your great trainer is supporting you. Now its time to take the plunge and make an offer. The right partnership is crucial and a fair offer is necessary. Health records and a buyer/seller agreement are the next step to obtain. The seller may want to buy the horse back if you decide to sell in the future. Each agreement can be tailored to both parties. Get advice from a trusted source like your great trainer.  A pre-purchase exam by a vet is helpful information and a good idea for the first time buyer.

Congratulations on finding the right match for you. Now you have your first horse. Dedicate as much time as possible to learning and building a positive relationship with your new friend. The more you know your horse the better you can tell when things are emotionally and physically well – or not – with him. Your great trainer will encourage you to do lots of groundwork and can help you with this. Your life will never be the same. Enjoy!!

Emotional Health and your horse

We all have our own stories of a horse we have just loved and had great times with.

Then there are the stories of horses whose relationships have been challenging.

Some horses are easy to love and others seem to put us in a mindset of negativity.  How can we deal with this?

Lets start with the challenging horse.  It’s always a good idea to seek the assistance of a good professional trainer with this type of horse. This is a tough journey for most and a great support system where you can build on success is essential.DSC00439
In training horses and people over the years I have come to understand relational dynamics to a deeper degree.

The challenger horse is the type that requires clarity with consistency at all times. Emotional health, thought and space are the first things I would look at. Lets focus on emotional health.

The person who has the challenger requires an emotional strength of calmness, stillness and clear direction in space. Just think, if you are in the presence of an individual who is highly stressed you would most likely begin to feel stressed just being with them. You are taking on their negative energy; this is the same with horses. When you are with a highly stressed horse it is critical that you are calm and still emotionally. This is the first place to start. This will take practice and does not come naturally to most of us.

Start in the field or the round pen. It is crucial that you have no agenda. Breathing deeply, bring yourself to be in a moment of calm. You will begin to notice changes in your horse. His head will relax, he will take some deep breaths. This is a good time to leave your horse for a moment. Return again in a calm emotional state. Breathe deeply again letting the stress leave your body and mind. Repeating this will establish some consistency and begin a new basis of how your horse will see and respond to you. Apply your new mindset while you are leading your horse, grooming and make this the new standard.

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Now for the easy to love horse. This horse also requires clarity and consistency. The difference is that if we do not attend to the easy to love horse’s needs through emotional health, thought and space they just fill in the gaps for us. This is no big deal to them since this horse is OK with taking care of us. These are the types of horses that will carry a beginner through their first creek crossing, jump a poorly approached jump with ease and let little girls braid their hair for hours.

This does not mean the easy to love horse will not teach us anything. Actually they will! Becoming emotionally calm and still with this horse and then tuning into their thoughts will be welcomed. For instance, when grooming are they asking for an itchy spot to be rubbed? Is this horse lifting a leg, swishing its tail or getting fidgety when being brushed? You may have touched on a pain issue.

Pay attention to the small signals this horse gives you and they will offer more of themselves to you.

The small things are critically important to all horses, we just need to listen.

Horsemanship for your English Trail Horse

Is your horse only ridden in the arena?  Too valuable to be ridden outside? Only a show horse ? Too spooky to ride outside?

While it is crucial to have your horse gymnastically trained over jumps or dressage, your horse also benefits greatly from real world riding as I like to call it. This may entail working with cows, trails or just riding out on the ‘Back 40’. Great horsemanship entails all of the horse in all environments.

If you answered affirmatively to any of the questions above, you’re not alone. There is a general perception that English riders only ride in the arena. I think we can change this. Buy why ? Lets look at some advantages to training and riding outside the arena – an English trail horse.

Value:

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While I believe all horses are personally valuable to their owner or rider, there is a monetary value on the highly bred types. But your horse does not know how much he is worth in human dollars.

If you have spent a sizeable amount of money on your horse you, may be afraid to take him outside as you think he may hurt himself. If your horse is confident and happy in his work, there is a much lower risk of injury. A tight horse, no matter what his dollar value will be much more prone to injury.

Arena training can transfer to the real world. Is your horse tense in the arena? A focus on training the mind to be relaxed and still, is transferable to all breeds. While a hotter horse may perform with more extravagant movement the relaxed horse will have beautiful flow and self carriage in theirs.

A horse that has a foundation of stretch, rhythm and looseness will outlast and perform his counterparts. This looseness and rhythm is the tell of a still mind.

Your Show Horse

Your horse will encounter countless situations at these shows that are potential spooks. There are tables with cloths, potentially hiding monsters under them, children – very unpredictable at times, dogs, flower pots, people with papers in hand and who knows what else. Your horsemanship skills are put to the test at these show venues.

So your horse may deal with these mini crises but is he dealing with them positively?

Horsemanship in training may entail bringing in the potential spooky situations into the arena. Use things you already have for your training. Got a tarp, sheets or flags? Use your imagination. Put these in the arena and see how your horse reacts. Let him investigate. Be cool. Have positive calming thoughts and breathe. Taking on a worried mindset will not be beneficial for your horse. He needs you to be an energetic positive horse-person.

‘Outside of the Box’ Training

You may have had some positive experiences with spooky things in arena. Now take it outside. Start by hand walking him and stay in the comfort zone. If you sense him near the edge of his comfort zone, stay calm and breathe. Your emotional strength is what your horse draws from. Walk at the edge of this zone until your horse is more relaxed, then return to his comfort zone.

Then repeat. It is crucial you build on the positive mindset. Try not to overwhelm yourselves as this will be detrimental to success. You can recover an overwhelming moment by returning to the edge of the comfort zone and re-establish the calm mind set.

Your horsemanship skills are what the horse is counting on. Listen to what he is telling you with his expressions and posture. If he is tight with big eyes then he needs your help to be calm.

English Trail Horse

Hitting the trail with your English tack and English horse is a ton of fun. When you go out take a friend with you who has an experienced and calm horse. This will help you both be successful. Keep it short and positive the first time out. Horsemanship skills are crucial to observing when your horse is in a still state of mind and returning to the comfort zone in this state of mind.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are very good horsemanship trainers out there who can help you and your horse. Work with one who has experience in helping people and horses. We all need professional support and it is well worth the reward of riding out on the trail.

Your arena horse can benefit tremendously by riding outside of the box. The trail is mentally stimulating and can be physically demanding. Your horse will strengthen his muscles and the variety of terrain will help him become more confident and surefooted. Cross-training is essential for all athletes no matter what level.

Now go out there, feel the wind in your hair and enjoy your horse – he will enjoy the change too.

Linda Fitzpatrick
March 25, 2014