*public notice!!!! Your horse is not a car*
My very long Owner suggestion of the day:
Read it, yes I know it's wordy, but this is probably one of the most honest suggestion filled posts I've ever made: If you've sent a horse to any trainer, not just me or bought a horse from me or from anyone else, READ THIS:
You picked up your horse, you are back home……now what:
So if you’ve ever bought a new or new to you car or truck, I’d bet money that for the first few days, you spent time pushing buttons and turning knobs, trying to figure out what they do? You tried to turn on the flashers but instead turned on the defogger, you wanted the seat heater on, but instead turned on the radio……So you sat there and kept hitting buttons and turning knobs until you figured out what turned on what, and which switch went to what…..still maybe slightly frustrating at times (when you tush is freezing and you can’t find the seat heater) but it’s a car, you can sit there as long as you need in park, hitting buttons. And if you get really flustered, you even have the luxury of looking things up in the owners manual! Pretty nifty, huh?
Note to the masses, your horse is NOT a CAR!
Read that again!
Shocking I know… your horse has buttons and “knobs” too, doesn’t matter if it’s a show horse or trail horse, ranch horse or reining horse, previous riders and trainers and owners before you have already “installed” buttons on that horse, buttons you have no way of knowing, buttons that maybe have been installed but not used in years. Your horse does NOT come with an owners manual, therefore you must be patient and inquisitive.
I’m going to touch on a few things I see owners getting frustrated with. I send all my horses home with one to two typed pages of what I refer to as “exit” notes, it lists everything from the horses current feed, stabling type, daily schedule, tack used, training drills, my opinion on it’s strengths and weakness, etc. I list everything I can, do I miss things, yep, I am 100% sure I do, but to my knowledge, I am one of the few that atleast tries to set people up with an outline to success, with multiple pages of typed notes. I try....
NO HORSE is perfect and every horse reacts to each rider and handler different.
Just because I can ride it bridleless and get 20 foot slide stops or flying changes and shoulder ins, doesn’t mean that from day one you’ll be able to do the same thing.
Maybe it comes running when I call its’ name across my pasture, but you have to corner it to halter it in a stall and it acts nervous. Maybe you you use an aluminum mounting block and I don’t. Maybe you cinch at the tie rail and I don’t, maybe you sponge bathe their heads and I hose them. Every horse responds, respects and trusts, each handler and rider different.
I can’t transfer the respect and trust the horse has with me, to you. And you can’t transfer it from yourself to me either. You must earn that horses trust and respect. Some horses warm up to people immediately others take, days or weeks or months. I can’t control that. And it has nothing yo do with if you raised it, bought it, started it or not. Horses transfer trust and respect individually.
$1000 a month of training by me, doesn’t equal $1000 a month in lessons for you. And a $50,000 horse that’s a world champion, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a guaranteed world champion with every rider either, not even myself. Be kind and patient, reward the try. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Rider style: we all ride different. Some riders naturally hold their legs off horses, some grip with their knees, some are tense in their seat, unknowingly driving a horse forward, some are soft handed, some hard. Some riders drive horses energy levels up naturally, some have a more calming tendency (my son). Doesn’t make one style right or wrong BUT it does mean that different riders with the same experience can get completely different rides from the exact same horse, without even knowing it. Same can be said for body position, a 120lb rider might have a different ride on a lanky unbalanced colt then a 220lb rider. I can tell you that at 5’6 tall compared to my son being 6’2, his leg pressure placement is 100% different then mine. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t respond but the first time his heels wrap under them he might get much more go, then my squeeze along their rib cage. Horses can feel a fly on them, certainly they notice those things! Give them time to adjust.
Remember 1% improvement a day = 100% improvement in 100 days! Pretty amazing when you think about it.
Feed: One of the biggest influences on your new horse, what’s it been eating and what are you feeding it now? How often and how much? Hay, grain or both. We feed hay up to 3 times a day, grain/pellets fed as a 4th feeding along with turnout on grass pasture. I believe that by feeding roughage 3x a day, my horses are less anxious, more content and happy to work. You can pull any horse I have out from it’s feed and go ride off and it won’t be worried that they missed lunch. So if you take a horse home from here be sure to ask what and how often it’s being fed. If you take a horse on alfalfa hay 3x a day, and go to grass hay once a day, you are likely to have a horse that now has food anxiety, leading to ulcers, aggression and stress.
Stabling Conditions: What kind of pen and stabling is your new horse used to? Box stall? Run? 50 acre pasture? How often is it used to getting out? Taking a horse that’s used to free exercising on 15 acres all day and putting it in a box stall, is setting yourself up for a horse with an abundance of excess energy. Ours get out daily, not only ridden or worked daily but turned out daily as well, allowed to roll, allowed to graze on the pasture, I want them to be a horse. If you get a horse from me, chances are that horse hasn’t sat in a stall more then 24 hours if that, without getting out, since it hit my property. I don’t believe in it, and I believe horses need time to be, well horses, in addition to being trained. So if you take a horse home from my facility and put it in a box stall 5 days a week and plan on only riding it on the weekend, well, Godspeed, lol. It can be done, but I’d highly suggest a lot of round pen work or turnout before you climb on it.
You are now asking the horse to perform at it’s best, in a completely new environment. You want your horse focused when you get on it, you want to relax and enjoy the ride, you can’t do that if you suddenly take a horse that’s ridden and turned out daily and lock it in a 12 x 24 pen for 5 days and expect the same result. You’ll have a horse that’s jumping out of it’s skin. Can the horse adjust to that type of stable situation, probably, but it’s not going to be overnight, and honestly some horses just are not good locked in a stall 5 days a week with no exercise. Your horse is leaving 6000 feet elevation, hay 3x a day, daily riding and turnout, chances are your situation is not the same as mine, it could even be better, but either way it’s different, keep that in mind. Example, it’s been noted that 88% of people when vacationing, do not sleep well the first few nights at a hotel….why? Because it’s a new environment, your senses are heightened and there are new sounds, smells and energy. Your horse is no different, give them the benefit of the doubt, allow time for the horse to adjust.
Environment: if you’ve been to my ranch, it’s quiet. Like deathly quiet. I don’t allow dogs, I don’t board horses, I don’t give public lessons, 80% of my clients are out of state. Crickets….we desensitize the crap out of our horses! But other then a high volume of shippers, brand inspectors, hay trucks, etc, no one’s here. It’s a low energy, low drama, non reactive facility. The most unlike any boarding facility, even private, you’ll find. Going from here to a boarding facility is a huge change for my horses. Give them atleast a week to settle in. I know you want to play Hi Ho Silver and I respect that, but set you and your horse up for success. Grab your horse in hand and go for a walk, introduce it to the new sights, sounds and smells in at its new facility at all hours of the day (watch for scary ground shadows too). Even if you’ve only been gone a few months, something has bound to have been moved, a jump standard, tractor drag, maybe snakes are out, new indoor arena reflection, etc.
Slower is faster!
Ground Manners and Training: This is where I wish I could magically transfer my senses and experiences with your new horse to you. Sadly the amount of respect and trust I have with your new horse, is never going to be the same as you do. BUT you could have even more!!!!! I hope you get more from your new horse, then myself or my staff ever did. But often times that comes at a price, that comes with you spending time on ground work establishing you are the leader, and you should be respected and that the horse can trust you at all times. That’s nothing but time, patience and consistency.
Spend time establishing your new horses ground manners, if you got it from me, it came with a list of them….confirm it stands tied quiet at your new facility, do you have control of it at liberty in the round pen, if you say whoa and step back does it stop? Will it move away from your hand or respect your body language and yield it’s hind quarters? If it won’t on the ground, DO NOT get on it. If you don’t have control of its feet and whoa on the ground, you are not going to have it under saddle. Does it ground tie for you like it did here? Soft in side reins like you saw in my photos? Stand tied patiently at your location? Can you send it over obstacles? If not, do not get on! Set yourself up for success not failure, take an extra week getting to know your “new” horse. This is your partner!
Tack: It sounds simple, but does everything fit? I usually send pics of the bits we use on each horse, sometimes even the saddle even the pad. If you saddle the horse up and it bucks or it fights the bit, check your tack. Does your new horse need a semi or full QH tree? Specific type of saddle pad? Is it used to a snaffle or bit? If you throw one of my horses in a double twisted wire snaffle (of which I don’t even own) and a chain headsetter (which I don’t own either), God Bless you, you could have the ride of your life, I have no control what reaction the horse will have. I just sent a training horse home the other day that needs to be ridden in one of those old fluffy, cotton padded cinches, she is sensitive at her nerve line along her girth and ribs to any others and will get sore. I have $150 cinches here, top of the line, but she rides best in an ugly old $10 padded one. Go figure.
My notes: My horses are fed 3x a day, daily turnout and riding….I spend hours and hours with each horse, I tie them for hours, we groom them, ride them, I know them inside and out. Set your horse and yourself up for success, be patient. I’ll always help, call me, video what they are doing, text me your concerns, I’ll do anything I can to give you my ideas and support. But come back to the source and if it’s not me, reach out to whomever you bought or had your horse trained by first, give them the opportunity to help you before getting frustrated or discouraged or seek Facebook input.
My dream is that your horse is an upgrade for you and me, that your horse exceeds any expectation I ever had, that you have more success, joy and fun with it, than I ever dreamed possible. I want you to be more successful than me, with your horse. That is my goal.
Upgrade your horse, send me your win pics, sell them for a profit, enjoy your through the ears views on them, love them, because a piece of my heart goes with every horse that leaves here.
Sincerely, Jen Bulger
Rocky Mountain Performance Horses