There are many ways into a horse's mind and heart, these are some of my ideas ...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Introducing a New Horse Blog

Welcome to my pages. The entire reason for starting this blog is to help you learn more about your horses and how to relate to them as animals, companions and working horses. I hope to share opinions, training ideas and theories, tell stories and generally improve the life of horses.

I am not a horse whisperer, I am not a Natural Horsemanship proponent - I don't want to make money from you or your horses. I just want to share and I hope you will share in return.

Most of the experience and examples I will be using are methods that have proven successful on my own horses. I have a Thoroughbred mare at the moment. I previously had her Daughter, who won four races, smashing her maiden class record, placed six further times. I also had her son, who died in February this year before he was able to be raced. I raised these two from foals to adult horses.

Flat Strap Halters

My first blog is going to be about halters.

Halters are about the first apparel that a horse learns to wear, usually as a foal. When I first had the colt he was three days old when he was finally going to be allowed out into the big world with other horses. He had to wear his halter. We had handled him since he was born, so he was not afraid of us. We allowed him to smell the halter and feel like what it was before we actually placed it on. Therefore it was no big deal. It was a small flat strap halter, pretty blue colour because he was bay. He went out for that first hour with his mother, got smelled all over by the other horses, smelled everything else and then was bought back in with his mother. She would brook no disobedience when it came to going back into their small yard where the stable was (and more importantly the food shed).

When he was four days old, I attached a light nylon lead to the halter, underneath the chin. I did not put any pressure on it or pull it at all. Just to let him get used to it being there. The next day, I took the lead again, tucked a face cloth under the poll strap and then tied him up to a post with an old bicycle inner tube. He pulled a little, but a brush and scratch and he stepped forward. Immediately he realised that stepping forward took the pressure off the lead and he was comfortable. I immediately removed the lead and let him go back to his mother.

I did the same thing again two days later. He stood there, letting me brush him and scratch him. After a minute I again unclipped the lead from him. He never, ever pulled when tied up and would just stand until we were finished doing whatever to him and he knew we would let him go.

Now my reasons for doing this were twofold. firstly, it enable me to be able to safely handle him while he was tied up as he would always be as a youngster and adult horse. Secondly if he was ever required to have vetinary treatment, he would be handleable and not stressed with the fear of being tied up.

The reason I use flat strap halters are these, firstly, the idea of a halter is to restrain the horse by the head without a bit. Our horses have their halters on 24/7. They never get tangled up because they are used to having them on. It means that my partner who isn't really a horse person can catch them quite easily as I work full time and cannot just drop everything to come catch a runaway. So the flat strap halter is mild on the poll and on the nose as it spreads the pressure as it is applied through the lead.

Secondly, It is quite easy to put face cloths, or some other soft padding under the pressure points at the nose and poll, so that there is little or no pain if needed. This is especially imporant with a young horse or foal. If the truth is known, it is a more humane halter than anything else.

I know that many of the so called natural horsemanship/horse whisperers advocate the use of rope halters. They advocate as well, making them out of very soft cotton rope with a strong clip. But what they don't tell you is that the reason these halters are effective means of control is that they inflict pain on the poll and more so on the nose.

The nose is the most sensitive part of the horses body for control. It is even more sensitive than the mouth where the bit sits on the bars. So in using a halter, most horses will respond to the halter in order to release the pressure on the nose. But a properly trained horse with a flat strap halter would not need this sort of pain inflicted on it.

I have also seen leather covered wire halters, called cable halters that are popular for Arabian show horses. These would have to be much harsher than the rope halters. They are almost an instrument of torture to my way of thinking. When I breed Arabian horses, I think I will be avoiding the in hand show ring. I have heard too many negative stories to think that it would be a good place for my horses. Part of the reason for this is because of the harshness of these halters.

It would do your horse alot of good if you would actually think about what real effects are being done when you use a piece of equipment on it. Now you might have to learn a little about animal physiology and physics to do that, but I think it would be worth it in the long run, especially for your horse.