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The older horse

- December 31st, 2020

By Sheryl Lynde | Horsetrader columnist

In December’s article I pointed out the human tendency to shy away from situations of uncertain outcomes. In his book “Think like a Rocket Scientist,” author Ozan Varol states “our obsession with uncertainty leads us astray; all progress takes place in uncertain conditions.”

When we place the horse in unfamiliar situations, holes in their training are uncovered. We are able to focus our efforts on their areas of weaknesses. Similarly, human character flaws are also revealed when the heat is on. It is when we are tested that opportunities present themselves to get better, be better, go deeper.

The journey

- November 30th, 2020

By Sheryl Lynde | Horsetrader columnist

Our nature is to live our lives in some semblance of stability. We find comfort in order, routine, and consistency.

Yet, in reality, everything about life changes. We look for a step-by-step formula to get from A to B, preferably by way of a straight line. But we spend too much time trying to control our lives and not enough time trying to understand it. I think it’s the space in-between the letters A to B is where your life unfolds, where you learn, where you grow. Just as in music, it’s the silence between the notes that creates the melody.

The ‘barn-sour’ horse

- October 30th, 2020

By Sheryl Lynde | Horsetrader columnist

The underlying issue regarding a barn-sour or buddy-sour horse is that his attention is not on you. Some horses have more of a herd instinct than others. There is safety in the herd; it’s in their DNA. You may think that you have a strong bond with your horse because you feed him twice a day — and you may — but, he is in that stall or pasture 24/7 next to, or with, his barn companions.

The stronger bond will be with his companions, depending on your leadership skills and how often you ride.

Effective ground work

- September 28th, 2020

By Sheryl Lynde | Horsetrader columnist

The purpose of ground work is to establish yourself as the leader in the relationship between you and your horse. Not all horses are looking for a leader, but all horses instinctively will follow a good one. It’s in their DNA.

There is order in the hierarchy of the herd. If you have studied herd behavior, you may have noticed that the dominant horse moves the horses that are below him in the direction and at the speed he chooses. You won’t see a dominant horse backing up for a horse that is subordinate to him unless he is being challenged for his role as leader of the herd. In this case, the once-dominant horse submits to the challenger, and a new leader emerges. Whoever directs the feet is in a higher position than the one being directed.

I’ve watched as some owners lead their horses. Their horse falls behind them, nudging them forward, occasionally pushing with their nose. The owner may have the lead rope in their hands, but they are being herded. Leadership belongs to their horse. When the owner stops, the horse crowds into their space. Instead of backing the horse out of their space, the owner unconsciously takes a few steps back. Backing the human is further confirmation of the horse’s dominance.

These examples may seem innocuous, but it’s the onset of disrespectful behavior in its infancy. If not corrected, it will increase in severity.

Whenever I have had a “problem” horse come to me for an issue to be resolved — like bucking, rearing or spooking — my first inquiry is about their ground work regimen. Many reply that they are consistent about their groundwork and that all is well on the ground — there is a mutual trust between them. But in the saddle, it falls apart. At this point I am suspect. Respect and trust are not mutually exclusive. Similar to human behavior, you can’t respect someone you don’t trust, and you can’t trust someone you don’t respect.

When I ask the owner to show me their ground work, more times than not the ground work is not effective. The word effective means obtaining a desired result. If the horse is fearful, then your result would be a recognizable change in his level of fear — less reactive and able to make good decisions. If the horse is disrespectful, then with each session you would see a change in his ground manners while being led, as well as an increased willingness to focus his attention on you under saddle. If the ground work is effective, you should always see a noticeable change. Some days it may be one percent, some days 75 percent, but you will always see a change.

In order to be effective, you must understand why you are doing what you are doing. If an owner tells me they do ground work regularly yet their horse lacks manners on the ground or bucks while under saddle, then the ground work has not been effective. The actions of the horse are speak so loudly that I can’t hear a word the owner is saying.

The purpose of ground work is to establish your role as leader — not aggressively, but firmly. I’m not interested in working the lungs as much as I am focused on working the horse’s mind. I do so by moving the horse’s feet in the direction I have instructed them to go. This means when I send the horse to my right, he needs to go to my right. If he tries to change direction or cut through the middle of the round pen, or turn and face me prior to being asked, I need to correct all of these diversionary tactics and continue to send the horse to my right. My cues need to be very obvious to anyone watching. If I can’t understand what the person is asking, the horse can’t either. I want to have control of all the body parts as well and am able to move them independently. If while turning to the inside he stops at an angle, I want to be able to either move his shoulder or his hip to correct his angle. I rarely allow the horse to complete a circle without asking for a transition, either a change in speed or direction. I want to direct his feet. As long as I am in the round pen or holding onto the lead rope, any bucking, rearing or other unwanted behavior will be corrected immediately.

I am the teacher, and as long as I am in the classroom, training will ensue. This is not recess or turn-out time. Be aware of your cues. Make them clear and black-and-white.

Your horse is a reflection of your instruction. Be the teacher your student needs.

–Sheryl

The power of ‘why’

- August 28th, 2020

By Sheryl Lynde | Horsetrader columnist

I always want to know why a horse does what he does. If he bucks…why? If he rears…why? Is he fearful…why?

This question kept me up at night as I thought about a troubled horse or colt that had come to me for help.

When Smokey arrived, he was a wreck waiting to happen. He was three at the time and had 30 days of prior training. He had a level of fear that was going to get someone hurt. I led him into the round pen to give him room and time to settle, but as I walked out he spooked and fell to the ground.

Bringing home a new horse

- August 2nd, 2020

By Sheryl Lynde | Horsetrader columnist

Years ago, I purchased my first mare, Missy. We got along really well as I tested her out at her previous owner’s place. However when I brought her home, she became aggressive.

As I entered her pen the next day, she pinned her ears, bared her teeth and charged me. This was such a departure from her behavior while at the owner’s place. I never felt that I had been misled – I just thought the behavior was due to the change in her environment. I needed to establish my authority, not necessarily for disciplinary action, but in order to create a familiar hierarchy that made sense to her and restored order.

Weighing in

- June 30th, 2020

By Sheryl Lynde | Horsetrader columnist

I am a student of the horse. Life is a constant pursuit of truth, and we get to it by asking one question at a time. Everyone has opinions and they are entitled to those opinions. But opinions are a compilation of personal perceptions, preferences and biases developed over a lifetime of experiences and are frequently very different from facts.

Two tales of match-making

- June 2nd, 2020

By Sheryl Lynde | Horsetrader columnist

A round the start of my career, a gentleman brought me a pony to train for his 12-year old granddaughter. He had purchased him with the intention to ride together on the weekends in his local equestrian community. Riding in equestrian communities can be challenging with street traffic, dogs charging fences and other unforeseen obstacles.

Human Horse Connection

- May 5th, 2020

By Sheryl Lynde | Horsetrader columnist

A couple of colts came to me to start and sell. However, they needed more time. Although they had progressed, the full extent of their potential had yet to be realized. I could feel it.

Just like us, some colts take longer to bloom. Additionally, I didn’t feel that the prospective buyers were a good match. Someone was going to get hurt and both the human and the colt’s confidence would be undermined. So I bought them. Neither colt was easy. I’ve put an additional three years of training on one, and the other has had an additional year. To see their natural ability and confidence develop gives me tremendous satisfaction in knowing that they have a chance for a secured future. This is my purpose.

Human-horse connections

- April 1st, 2020

By Sheryl Lynde | Horsetrader columnist

Anything of value we treat with the utmost care. Well, I’m about to tell you a story that has tremendous value, to the American Mustang and to our veterans who have served our country…and to our society as a whole.

My only hope is that I give the story the justice it deserves. (I will do my best.)

This is not a tragedy, it is a story of resilience, purpose and connection — a human-horse connection.