Horse Partnership – Does it matter? Three Tips to Improve Your Bond With Your Horse

We have seen those perfect partners. Having a willing horse partner is part of being a successful equestrian.

I often get asked, “why does my horse do that?”
And by “that” it could be pick up the wrong canter lead, step just far enough away from the mounting block, or nudge you with his nose.

My answer is usually, “BECAUSE YOU TRAINED HIM TO!”

Three tips to improve your partnership with your horse.

  1. See your horse daily
    The No. 1 way to establish a close relationship with a horse is to spend time with


    Provide Leadership(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    him. It may mean brushing, riding or just hanging out.

  2. Provide Consistent Leadership
    This goes hand in hand with number 1.
    It doesn’t matter what you are doing, just that you are there and interacting with him in a way that makes him feel secure and in a manner that reinforces you as his leader. This should not be interpreted as being harsh or punishing the horse but rather being in the horse’s presence and interacting with your horse in a way you provide security and show leadership to him. It really doesn’t matter what you are doing. What matters is you are there and make him feel content and secure.
    Horses, for their own safety and livelihood, have an instinctual ability to size up and test people. They will take advantage of people who allow little cracks in the armor to become naughty and spoilt at best and unmanageable at worst.
    Horses always look to the herd leader and test the herd leader to make sure they have the leadership qualities to keep them safe. This is  how horses establish their pecking order. This also happens between horses and people.
    For example, if you let a horse take a few steps as you mount, he is leading and you are following. You would like him to ‘stand’, and he would like to move forward. If you allow a horse step forward without a correction, he has established he is the leader and you are the follower. He has really established a pecking order above you.
  3. Don’t always feed treats
    Horses are driven by their need for food, security and social status. Giving treats in moderation is fine, but go overboard with them and you will create a mouthy equine monster.

    English: Any chance of a carrot? Friendly hors...

    Hand fed horses usually begin to nip and route for treats (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    I personally have a ‘no treat’ rule in my small, private stable. Only because I know hand fed horses usually begin to nip and route for treats rather than accepting a treat for  a ‘job well done’. This searching and rooting can become an ingrained habit and will have to be corrected.


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3 Proven Tips from a Senior Horse Show Judge to Get Noticed In a Good Way and Stay off the ‘Naughty List’

The Naughty List

The ‘naughty list’ is the list the judge keeps tally of naughty outbursts, wrong leads and dropped rails. As a judge, we try not to use horses on the naughty list when placing competitors at a horse show. Sometimes, when there are few people in the class, we often have to use horses which may be on the naughty list.

Things which can put you on the naughty list are:

  •  – Refusal. A refusal, run out or disobedience is an immediate score in the 45 and put on the naughty list.
  •  – Knock down. A knock down is also a low score. Just above a refusal. And this is interesting, most judges record if it is a knockdown from a lazy front hoof or a knockdown from a hind leg.
    Scoring hunters, horse, horse riding, hunter jumper, Laura Kelland-May, Thistle Ridge Skill Builders

    The Best Form Over Fences Should Win The Class

    A hind leg knock down is less severe and in my case, will place over a rail knocked down from a front leg. This is because a horse that hits the jump with a front leg will be in jeopardy of causing a rotational fall, flipping over or other bad accident.
    Usually if a horse hits a rail with a hind leg it is from the rider getting left behind or coming back into the saddle too soon.

  • – Unruly behaviour. This is beyond a wrong lead but actually kicking out, rearing or being nappy at the gate.
  •  – Wrong lead.
  •  – Breaking into the trot –

Three tips to get noticed in a good way:

  1. Have good turn out. You can never go wrong with clean horse, clean equipment and professionally braided horse.
  2. Use the ring wisely. Ths means not getting stuck in the corners, getting cut off or cutting other competitors off in the ring. Know that the judge is noticing you and to show your horse to the best of its ability.
  3. Treat your horse kindly. Saying a kind word and a simple pat to acknowledge a good round is acceptable. This does not mean, however, to exclaim wildly, “GOOD GIRL/BOY while dropping your reins and slapping the horse’s neck. A simple pat and acknowledgement is all that is required.

What’s your tip to get noticed -in a good way- while at the horse show.

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Does Turn Out Matter – Horse Show Turn Out Does the Judge Really Notice?

In a word yes, turnout does matter. Having correctly fitting equipment and being properly dressed proves you belong. You can have a great round of jumps and poor turn out and still be the winner but presenting yourself as the winner even before the class begins gives you a head start for the class.

horse riding, horse training, thistle ridge stables, laura kelland-may, hunter jumper, hunter judge, how to improve my riding position

To your riding success

Although we do not like to say we make snap judgments based on appearance, we do. You can be sitting on the best looking horse, have the best form over fences but if you have poor ‘turn out’, dirty horse, no braids and badly adjusted equipment, you will have to work hard to prove you belong in the competition ring.

Then there is the ‘flip side’. You have seen them as well. People who have all the gear but cannot get to a fence correctly. Believe me, I have seen a lot of this. If you present yourself with a well turned out horse, equipment which is fitted correctly, you better back it up with some nice jumps.


HOrse show, horse riding, horse show turn out, horse care, stable management, hoof care

Have Good Turn Out

I remember judging a horse and rider combination which commanded my attention right from the ingate. I thought, WOW this is going to be great. Beautiful turn out. The rider wore a lovely jacket with complimentary shirt, immaculate tail braided and the horse had sparkling white socks with oiled hooves. The picture presented was excellent. I thought, great, we have a winner. That was the thought going through my mind – we have a winner. Before she even stepped over a fence I had her in mind for the first place round. Unfortunately for her, the winning spot was short lived. What she had in turnout was not matched by her ability. There were chips, popped fences and rails. All in all it was a bad round but beautiful turn out. The moral of this story? If you are going to have excellent turnout, then back it up with a powerhouse performance as well.

Do you practice good turn out. What is the best turnout tip you can give our fellow readers?

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Hot weather hints. Simple tips for hot weather horse care

During these hot hazy days of summer I sometimes refresh my memory of how cold things were in the winter time. Here is a short video of some snowy weather we had and how we persevered during the deep snow.

So – not to worry, the cold weather will be upon us soon enough!


Riding up the bank at Thistle Ridge Skill Builders

Posted by Equestrian Skill Builders on Sunday, December 23, 2012

Extreme Heat Considerations

Summer riding can be fun but when extreme temperatures come your way you have to be diligent to keep your horse from over heating.

Here are some tips for dealing with hot temperatures.

1. Have access to clean fresh water.
If you own and keep horses you are not surprised to learn horses drink 5 – 7 gallons of water per day. When you add sweat loss due to hot weather and riding horses may drink up to 20 gallons per day. Having access to free choice water is important. For horses which drink a lot of water consider putting up 2 drinking buckets.

2. Supplement with electrolytes.
During this time of year I add approximately 1 teaspoon of salt to their grain to make sure they are drinking properly. The salt encourages them to drink (just think how thirsty you are after eating a bag of potato chips). Adding salt or other electrolyte supplement could help them restore any imbalances in their electrolyte levels caused by sweating.

3. Water their grain.
If you are concerned they are not drinking properly or would like to increase their water intake, water their grain. As a rule, I water down the complete pellets I use. This is just another way to get more water into your horse’s system.

4. Be diligent with fly spray.
The heat will foster a whole new crop of insects. Keep your horse comfortable with fly spray. Some people have had some luck feeding garlic and apple cider vinegar. Send me an email if you have had success with this.
I am very cynical regarding fly spray and have yet to find one that works to my satisfaction. I have had some success using natural sprays.
Get your free download of fly spray recipes here

5. Have Shade for Your Horses.
Shade is a simple way to offer relief to your horse. A stand of trees or loafing shed provides a cooling for horses and just a place to get out of the sun.

6. Do not override for the circumstances
Horses are well equipped to handle most situations from frigid temperatures to heat. Heat stress may be a concern during vigorous exercise such as distance riding, sprinting or racing events particularly in hot humid weather. During these times consider your work out and adjust it accordingly.

If you have to ride, show or compete have your items ready to cool your horse down. Hosing down, rinsing with cool water will help your horse to cool down. If you think your horse is becoming over heated, immediately get off your horse and remove the tack and move to a shaded area.

Have a ready supply of cool water to rinse of your horse. Sponge water on your horse and scrape it off. If you do not scrape it off it will act as a barrier and keep the heat in your horse. Sponge, scrape and sponge, scrape to get the cool water onto your horse.

Cooling the muscles off too quickly may cause muscle cramping so periodic walking to assist in the cooling process will help.

For additional information about heat and your horse please visit



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