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Taking on the training issues, Part II

“With each ride, we increase time in the saddle and speed. Good training takes time. As long as I get one percent improvement with each ride, in 100 days, I will have 100 percent improvement.”

By Sheryl Lynde / Horsetrader columnist - February 18th, 2016 - Trainer Tips

Trainer TipsLast issue, I introduced Bella, a 7-year-old Thoroughbred that came to me from Horse Nation, a horse rescue operated by Dr. Carole Harris in Huntington Beach. Bella was extremely fearful and exhibited dangerous behavior, like rearing and bolting when led.

Regardless of Bella’s past, we didn’t train around her issues. Instead, we met them head-on, and she progressed more quickly than anticipated. I used the appropriate pressure — if her resistance was a level 5, then my pressure was a level 6 — and I released only when she showed signs of being calm. She has been saddled, ponied, bridled and ground driven and, at the end of each lesson, she is calm. Her behavioral symptoms have subsided, and she is handling her emotions successfully. Now, it is time to ride.

She has been saddled several times, but I’ve noticed that she is exceptionally irritable while being cinched. Whether I would go slow or get it done quickly, her behavior has not improved, and I get ear-pinning and biting attempts. Here is something that I keep in the back of my mind: It could be ulcers.

We are in the round pen, and Bella is saddled with a smooth snaffle in her mouth, split reins looped around her neck. I pick up one rein and soften her face to her shoulder, as I put my toe in the stirrup and jump up and down. As soon as she softens her eye, I release my foot and just let her walk a couple of steps to release any stress. Then I repeat – but this time, as I put weight in the stirrup, my toe touches her girth area and she rears and tries to bolt.

This brings up an important tip that will keep you safe:  As you attempt your first ride — or any ride, for that matter — place only your toe in the stirrup. This will enable you to release your foot quickly and prevent you from getting hung up or dragged if your horse spooks or bucks while mounting.

Back on Bella, I am able to release my foot quickly, and since I still have a hold of one rein, I am able to stay with her on the ground, disengage her hips, and immediately try again. I always make sure I have her nose softened to her shoulder by shortening the rein in my left hand as I rest it on her neck. My right hand is on the back of the cantle as I set my toe in the stirrup and jump up and down. As soon as I feel she is calm, I step down and walk her out a few steps. I repeat the process, but this time I throw my leg over her and sit for a second, then dismount and again, moving her feet a few steps. I repeat the entire procedure on the other side. I want to be able to get on and off from each side and have her calm.

With this accomplished, I put her on the patience pole and let her soak in the lesson while I put a call into my vet, Chris Huth of Temeku Equine. Bella is the perfect candidate for an Ulcer. Sixty-six percent of all horses have ulcers and ulcers can develop in as little as five days. Horses produce 16 gallons of stomach acid to digest their food, and without readily available forage, the acid begins to eat at the stomach lining. Bella was found abandoned and underweight. Changes in routine, limited turnouts or grazing, lay-ups due to injury, training, and competition can also be contributing factors. Common behaviors such as cinchy, cranky, change in attitude, picking at their food or recurrent colic can be indicators.

After discussing Bella’s story with Chris, he agreed, and offered to scope Bella. We trailered her to his facility where she was scoped – and yes, she did have ulcers.

It is important to be able to rule out pain when you have a training block. Bella had shown incredible improvement in all of her training sessions except while being cinched. She was given medication and after a week, I noticed a change in her demeanor. She was calmer and noticeably less reactive while being touched in her girth area, she no longer tried to bite or rear.  Her eating habits improved, as instead of picking and leaving food uneaten, she fully consumed each meal at the time she was fed.

We now have had four rides on Bella, repeating the abovementioned steps, but with each ride we increase time in the saddle and speed. Good training takes time. As long as I get one percent improvement with each ride, in 100 days, I will have 100 percent improvement.



Horsetrader columnist Sheryl Lynde is a John Lyons Certified Trainer who specializes in foundation training, colt-starting and problem-solving. She is based in Temecula. www.sheryllyndeclinics.com

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