Me and BootZ

Bay Area Equestrian

Last edited January 27, 2008

Me and Pickle Felt Lake
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Owner / Trainer / Clinician
ICP Candidate
Gilroy, Ca
408 888 8703

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Close Calls / Lessons Learned

Horses are large animals, and just because of their size they are potentially dangerous.  Add to their size, their inherent nature, a flight animal that survives in nature by escaping quickly, and add in a human prey animal and you have a perfect formula for accidents.  This is why safety around and riding horses must be a priority.  Most horses don't try to hurt you, but they often do accidentally hurt you. 

The more I am around them, and it has been many years and many horses, I am always reminded that horses are horses and they will act as such.  This section of the web site is to recall actual things that have happened that I know about and to tell you the lessons I learned.


Horses that Pull Back -  (Pulling back) 

Any horse will pull back given the right or wrong circumstance.  Recently, we had three horses tied to the four-horse trailer.  All with quick release safety knots and all with "cowboy" rope halters with rope snaps.  A friend was standing between two of the three horses while three of us were grooming and tacking up.  The horse I had (in training) spooked at something and pulled back.  She hit the end of her rope and came bounding forward, just about nailing the friend.  I said " get out of the way Paul".  Which is always were you want to be if you think you might get hurt, OUT OF THE WAY.  Well, it started a chain reaction, horse #2, my husband's horse also pulled back and came bounding forward.  In that instance, my husband looked at horse #3, who had also pulled back and come forward to stand, so he thought she was being good and standing still. Then, chain reaction #2, horse #!, pulls back and comes forward even closer to smashing the friend.  "Get out of the way" I say loudly and emphatically.  He seems oblivious and he has 11 horses of his own, go figure?

Horse #2 pulls back and gets out of his halter, Horse # 3 pulls back again, and lunges forward to hit my husband knocking him to the ground.  As she came forward, her right hoof caught him just below the knee, slid down his shin and landed on his big and second toe. OUCH and lucky.  He could have gotten stepped on while he was down. 

Horse number 1, pulls back again and breaks the snap on her halter. Horse #2 get corralled in the parking lot.  Husband gets up and assess the damage. Luckily badly bruised and maybe a toe nail will come off. Horse #3 is still standing tied.

Lesson learned -- when ANYTHING like that happens...GET OUT OF THE WAY, and if friends want to visit when we are tacking up, they can stand away from the horses and trailer. 

Needless to say, the two horses that broke tack and got away had lessons in standing tied.  If you have a horses that pulls, you must do constant maintenance to work on them giving to pressure.

Spurs and Whips -

 I used to be a purist.  I never wore spurs and I never rode with a whip.  I used to think that they were unnecessary.  Although I still believe they are unnecessary, they can always greatly decrease the time it takes to find things out about a horse and possible improve  training IF AND ONLY IF THEY ARE USED CORRECTLY.

In  2000,  I was bucked-off twice; the first buck-offs in six years. 

Buck off #1

My opinion of spurs changed after I attended a Clinton Anderson clinic.  At that time, he required them for his clinic.  I am not mistaken that my skill is not as refined as a trainer such as Clinton, but my skills are pretty good and my timing is pretty good.  I saw him use spurs and get incredible results.  He has an uncanny knowledge for knowing just how far he can push a horse, or just how much pressure he can put on a horse.  He has a very, very good read on temperament.  When he sees a horse that he thinks will blow, he tells the owner "you're stealing rides."  What he means is, "You are going to get hurt because that horse doesn't respect you enough or isn't broke enough for what ever you  are doing".  He doesn't ride a horse like that in a clinic, he does ground work and refers the  horse to daily training with a trainer he knows.

After he had me use spurs with my horse, which is well broke and advanced in his training, and after I saw how quick Clinton got results with spurs, I made a mistake.  I thought I could speed up training on any horse by using spurs.  In fact, most of the nice tucked heads on western pleasure and western reining horses are achieved with the use of spurs.

Well, you can't use spurs or whips to speed up training.  Although less time might be the end result of a spur or a whip, you should only use them to improve the horse's response.  Any time you attempt to speed up training, you are likely "stealing" rides.

The first buck- off was a quarter horse off-the- rack that had several ranch brands.  I heard he had bucked off a few "dude" riders and I figured they weren't good riders. 

Lesson learned #1, Don't assume.

He was spooky and I began working to desensitize him to plastic and ropes.  Since I had learned how to use spurs to get the horse to drop and tuck his head, I began to do this TOO SOON in his training.

He was a little too fresh one day, in the round pen.  He began to canter off  with his head down and tucked.  When I pulled him around to slow him up, using one rein and one spur, he decided I asked too much and he started grunting and bucking.  I could not get his head up or get it around.  His head was so down that when he bucked I thought his withers was going to hit into the round pen panels.  He was bucking so hard, that while I was able to stay on, my seat came about 12 inches out of the saddle.  I rode it for a little while, but it was too much and forceful. I did a complete summersault  over his head and over the 5 foot round pen fence.  I saw the  fence as I was in the air and put my hands out to protect myself when I was twisting. I  landed, flat on my back with my feet out in front of me.

Close call #1  Luckily the  ground on the outside of the round pen was soft.  I had the wind knocked out of me, I was shaking.  When I took body inventory, I found that the back of my hand had hit the fence in the air, and I thought that was all that was hurt.

I threw off the spurs and got back on.  He tried again to buck but I was able to pull him around, and ride him until he behaved. After that, I went back to doing ground work with that horse and worked to find his bucking trigger when I wasn't riding him.  He stayed for 30 more days.  He bucked once in the round pen when I was working him on the ground, and learned a lesson that if he blew up and bucked he was going to work very, very hard, until he wished I would say "whoa".

Later body inventory showed black and blue thighs where the saddle horn was hitting me when he bucked. I had stolen a ride.

I never trusted that horse again.  I later rode him with a very short spur, he spooked at a large truck that backfired as it drove by.  I instinctively commanded "Whoa".  And he froze in place.  In retrospect, I believe I moved too fast on a horse that was not desensitized to legs, spurs, reins, ropes, touching, etc.  

Take your time, don't feel pressured to get too much done too fast.  If a horse is improving, be satisfied and enjoy the process.  Don't rush training a problem horse.  

What is a problem horse?  It is a horse with a learned behavior problem.  It has learned to behave in unsafe or unnatural ways to avoid things like: What we ask it to do, Scary objects, etc. 

Buck off #2

This was a young thoroughbred, not known for their general bucking ability.  We must always remember with a young horse, if it is afraid it will do what nature has taught it.  So, in training, we gradually apply scary stimulus and let the horse get over it and learn to be calm.  Also, young horses need to work hard enough that they learn to conserve their energy when you ride them, and not give you more than what you ask for. 

This horse had me fooled, I though he was a kid's horse.  I had mylar pompoms on his head, i could carry pom poms when I rode him. I had tied jackets, and helmets on the saddle, I had ponied him.  He was coming along very well.  I had been riding him for about two weeks.  No explosive episodes in the round pen or under saddle.  

One brisk morning, after a few light days of work because my footing was slippery, I went to get up on him after some very light lunging.  When I went to get on  him, his head went up in anxiety.  He had been so easy, I figured I would just work the anxiety out of him.  Well, when i swung my leg over, he twisted and i accidentally spurred him when I settle into the saddle.  He tried to bolt.  I grabbed his head and pulled it to the left.  He grabbed it and got his head away from me, stuck it between his knees and started bucking and grunting.  I rode it out a little bit, and then went off.  I rolled to make sure he didn't land on me with his feet as he still had his head down bucking and grunting.  I could see his feet - all 4 of them - about 2 feet off the ground as he bucked.  

Close call #2, I got out of the way with minimal injury.  I checked out body inventory and my knee hurt.  It worked though, so as soon as he stopped bucking, I took off my jacket and helmet and tied it up on the saddle and lunged him.  He was frightened by the  black wind breaker jacket and the noise it made.  And nature had taught this horse to use bucking as his primary flight option when he was thwarted.

He quickly settled down and adjusted to the jacket.  I got on  and gave him a ride.  Then I thought about my close call.  I should have not gotten on, or swung my leg over him when his head went up in anxiety, BEFORE HE BUCKED.  I should have gotten off and worked to figure out what scared him and worked to desensitize him from the ground.  I do think it was the jacket.

Regardless, I was fooled somewhat by his disposition that, although he was sometimes frightened of things he overcame it very quickly and never bucked like he did that day.  Of course, we checked out his back, he was fine.  I worked to get him to buck in the round pen, not while riding him under saddle and  I could not get him to buck.  I even tightened down the back cinch, he would not buck.  I thought about it, and I decided to send him out to a trainer that I trusted for a second opinion.  

I sent him up to Dana Roulet, a woman I met through Clinton Anderson.  She has also done the John Lyons Cert. program.  I have great respect for Dana.  When Dana got him, she put him in a paddock for about two weeks and let him get good and hot.  She said, "I like to make the mistake that a client might make when they take a horse home".  After he sat up two weeks, she pulled him out and saddled him up.  Put him in the round pen.  He bucked so hard, he broke the back cinch on her western saddle.  So, she understood why she had him. 

She almost gave up on him, as she felt as long as he was fearful of things, he might look at bucking as an option.  His owner didn't want to sell him. So, she kept trying to get him to "think through" scary situations instead of just trying to escape. Finally, she had the help of a Dale Warring.  He happens to be an equine dentist, but is also quite a trainer.  He suggested using a technique that they used in Australia.  It is a version of ponying a horse, where you dally the young horse to the older well trained ranch horse.  First without a rider, later with a rider, then you bump and  touch the dalleyed horse  all over the head and neck and body from the dally horse.  If the dallied horse tries to bolt, it can't because the ranch horse holds it.  The theory is also that the other horse has a psychological effect of giving the young horse enough security that it doesn't need to escape as much as if it were alone. Not being able to escape, and the touching all over are supposed to desensitize the horse so that it is not fearful

After a couple days of intensive dally work, they felt like they finally got this horse through his escape-option of bucking.

The horse came back to me, I first ponyed it with Pickle, and it acted like it would jump out of its skin when I bumped my legs on his right side.  I said, "Sorry .....boot camp for you" I wasn't going to ride him and have him buck again, as long as he was skittish he might buck.  That was my feeling.  

Lesson learned #2- Take the time it takes, no matter how long it takes 

We went back to a lot of basics, a lot of ground work and longeing.  Anytime i thought that horse was going to buck as an escape option, I got off and worked it on the ground until it relaxed.  Some times he had to work very, very hard before he realized that it was easier to stand, and think and relax than to try to run or buck in fear.. 

I rode that horse for a year, after the initial bucking incident, between 3 and 5 days a week.  I never trusted that horse.  Finally, after he made a very relaxed kick up at the spur for a canter lead, finally did I feel like, although he might feel that I was asking too much of him, he wasn't going to buck about it.   He stopped being afraid, after about 6 months of riding and intensive work whenever he became afraid.

This horse bucked from fear, not from anger.  He is doing fine now.  Sometimes I say now I trust him. But, a horse is a horse is a horse, and it takes constant work to maintain them. This horse was bought as a bargain by his owner, but after all the training required to make him a decent, safe riding horse, the horse was not a bargain.  

Herd Behavior in Pasture 

I have about 10 horses at any one time in my pasture.  Each time a new horse comes, it lives in a paddock next to the pasture horses. I integrate it into the herd a little at a time.  I turn the new horse out when the dominant horses are working.  I turn the new horse out several times, in different combinations of the herd, so the new horse gets a chance to figure out where it fits in the herd.  The new horse gets a chance to work out its pecking order a little bit at a time.  Eventually, after several turnout times, I let it in with the whole herd and I observe.  As long as things don't get too wild, I leave the horse out a while.  Each time I turn the horse out for longer time and observe.  Things quiet down as the horse finds out it's place in the herd. 

Herd order is survival in nature.  It is the boss animals that have all the herd memory and knowledge that can lead the herd to water, lead the horses away from danger, lead the horses to familiar and alert the herd to unfamiliar.  Herd order in domestic animals  is not crucial to survival, but it provides a sense of security that is primal. Because of this importance of the herd, how an animal behaves in the herd will also determine how it behaves toward you.  You or I are a member of the horse's herd.  If we are seen as dominant, then the horse will be more respectful of our space, if we are seen as submissive, they will expect us to yield to their space and act pushy and agressive toward us.

When horses are in turn out, among each other, and you are present in their pasture, you will be treated just as other horses are treated.  You will be yielded to when you ask it and you will be expected to move if you are not respected.  When you are idly in the herd, not demanding every herd members attention, you will be treated like one of the herd. 

Observe the horses in a herd.  The dominant horse can always make submissive horses move, but it does not always do so.  As a matter of fact, a submissive horse who is being chased by the second boss horse, will bump and squeeze past the first boss horse who is idly near by.  The first boss might bite it in the process, or it may just tolerate the submissive horse's flight from the more dominant second boss.  In either case, a horse's size and power are somewhat similar, so that any horse can generally sustain a bang, bump, shove or bite from another horse with little injury.  

Consider your or my size in relation to the horses size.  Consider that, although we may be considered  the boss dominant horse when we have our horses attention, when we are merely standing idle in their pasture as a second boss is aggressing against a less dominant horse, it is natural that the less dominant horse would get by us in anyway that it would escape past a fellow herd mate.

In it's flight from the aggressor horse, any horse might bump us, kick us, run over us, because at that moment, we are merely the idle herd mate.

A tale in be continued as I have time..

Close Call #3  
      Getting Trampled in the Herd

Each night at feeding time, it is very clear to see which horses are dominant.  The dominant horses attack their fellow herd mates who do not heed the mighty rule of feeding.  The dominant horse gets food first, there is no such thing as a sharing horse when it is hungry. 

 I have a series of paddocks adjacent to the pasture where the horses live.  Each night, the horses go into the paddocks to get their sweet feed ration (cookies and candy for ponies). After they get their cookie, they go back into pasture to eat all the hay that they want or can.  Since new horses come and go, the herd order changes.  Since not all horses eat the same amount of cookie or eat cookie at the same speed, I lock up different horses based on their diet needs.

One cold windy evening, I was locking up my mare who is almost at the bottom of the pecking order.  There were two other horses out who were dominant to her.  I was standing at the gate to her paddock, getting ready to open it.  The wind was making the horses act wild and silly in addition to their normal feeding frenzy behavior.  All three horses ran past me and around the run-in shelter in the pasture.  The wind was blowing so loudly I didn't hear what was happening.  I turned away long enough to unfasten the pin on the paddock gate.  The next thing I realized I was flying through the air, being hurled toward the ground by a big knocking shove from behind.  Before I had a chance to realize what hit me, I was on the ground and my mare was running over the top of me, stepping on me as she went over from behind..  

Accidents generally give us an adrenaline rush.  I knew I was hurt, but didn't know how bad.  I got up, I was shaky, It  hurt to walk, but I was also mad and pumping adrenaline.  I had gotten extremely lucky.  Her hoof had ripped my pants pock as her hoof slid off of my upper thigh, and pinched and bruised the skin between my thighs.  He foot landed square on hip socket and my butt cheek.  Had her hoof landed just 2 inches  higher up she would have gotten my spine or my sacrum.  I was sore and bruised and lucky, lucky, lucky.....

Lesson Learned #3
      Never turn your back on the herd

In the instant that I turned away, My Mare who was coming for her food, was aggressed upon by a nasty little gelding I had in training.  Although she is big, 17.2 hands, she is very fearful and has some vision problem in her right eye.  I don't think she realized I was standing in front of her as she is not that rude, ever.  She hit me with such force that she must have been trying to escape from a more dominant horse, and it was so windy I didn't hear her coming.  Horses move with incredible speed and force.  

It is easy to become complacent with our pets, but horses are still big, strong and dangerous.  Don't turn your back during feeding time or when you are walking idly in the pasture.  Our horses don't realize how small and fragile we are, so we must look out for ourselves, no matter how we think our animals respect or like us.

Full Cheek Snaffles

Full cheek snaffles are very nice training tools.  They provide pull-through, that is when you apply pressure on the rein the fullmer on the opposite side of the horses face pushes his nose in the direction that you pulled.  I like to use them on young horses.  They are also great for bending a very resistant horse who will open his mouth to resist the rein.  The fulmer on the bit keeps the bit in the mouth no matter how much a horse pulls its head around. I have had three close calls with full cheek snaffles that have made me decied to only use big hunting D's. 

The bit in the helmet, glug...glug...

I had a horse in training who learned from an early age that he was a person, or that people where horses.  He constantly got close to anyone who he could touch with his face.  He didn't bit necessairly, just was always too close.  He was the kind of horse that you could not ask a non-horseperson to hold becuase as soon as you walked away, he would start nudging and pushing on them with his head. 

I spend alot of time, and every aware moment keeping that horse out of myspace. 
One day, walking to the arena, I had him following behind instead of up beside me.  Someone I knew drove by, and I waved with my hand. In that instant, he had snuck up so close behind me, that when my hand went up his head when up and the fulmer, the straight metal bar on the side of the bit, tucked up inside the back of my helmet harness. 

He jumped backwards, with my head and neck stuck on the bit.  Luckily, I work very hard to have these horses give to pressure and not to be afraid of me.  He didn't  jump far or hard and luckily the harness on the helmet broke out of the back of the helmet.  It was a Troxel Gold.  I had a bruise under my jaw, but I got lucky. 

The bit in the gate handle

Ok, I admit it.  I can be a little lazy.  I teach all my horses to open the gait like a trail horse, so I don't have to get off.  Going into the big roping arena, there is a small powder river cattle gate.  It has a latch mechanism with an upright piece of pipe that slides a bar into the upright post.  My big 17 hand thoroughbred had just helped me close the gate, and turned a little early and faced the gate.  I don't know how he did it, i guess he nudged the handle, but the fulmer got caught in the gate mechanism.  I got so lucky.  It didn't stay stuck, it came out quickly, but it was bent.  He stayed calm, I think he didn't realize what happened, and then it was quickly over. I keep that bit as a reminder. 

I never use full cheek snaffles anymore.

Having a horse come to you in the Round Pen

This is a story I always tell people who watch me when I'm starting horses.  I am writing this in response to a post that was on Bay Area Topic Board, by a poster who's log in is nvshrsangel.  She made a post, which I didn't see because it is the policy of the board to edit posts that violate certain rules of etiquette, business and controversy. I did see a later post about a horse I had here in training, and she referred to that horse as my failure.  The horse's name was Zepher.  Zepher was not my failure, he came with many problems and he left with many problems, maybe a few less prblems, but he had many.  I only had him stay here 2 weeks, I worked with him about 10 times.

It has been some time now, but as I recall, he was 5. His owner bought him sight un seen from a farm in oregon where he had lived in pasture until she got him.  He was halter broke, to some extent, but he was afraid of the halter and lead rope when I first went to catch him.  She had had some issues with him blowing up when her baseball cap fell off when she was grooming him.  But, she didn't know any thing about his past.

I start new horses in the round pen.  I use the methods of John Lyons, Clinton Anderson and the like.  I had followed John Lyons before I met Clinton.  Clinton is more refined in his methods.  Either way, the first time I saw round pen work it was very clear to me from my psychology background that it was what is called conditioning or conditioned response work.  So, having done that in school and studied and performed experiments in conditioning in college, it wasn't hard to apply it to horses.  I just never thought of it until I saw it used by John back in the 80's.

One of the common conditioned responses is to teach the horse to come to you.  You can teach it to come to you at different speeds, walking, trotting, etc.  One of the simplest cues that trainers use is stepping backwards.  If you step backwards at the right time, the horse is drawn to follow you.  The "following" behavior of horses has a specific name.  I can't think of it in the moment, but Robert Miller DVM had a great video, Understanding Horse Behavior, and he cites the name.  Horses, from birth, are "pre-programmed to follow", and we humans take advantage of that. Add the stress of having a horse expend energy in the round pen, and the release of pressure of stepping backwards, ALL AT THE CORRECT time and the HORSE STEPS TOWARDS YOU.  With time and practice, you can refine this and get the horse to trot up to you.

In my round pen work, I customarily taught the horse to come to me.  When I would back up, take a few steps backwards, the horses would stop working out on the rail and come in to be petted.  In the round pen, Zepher had been taught that lesson as part of all the roundpen lessons he  had.

I think he had been here about 2 weeks, I hadn't ridden him yet, because he was afraid of everything.  I had done round pen work, and desensitizing. His owner was coming to watch me work him, and I said depending on the type of day we had, I might get on him for the first time.  So, she was here watching.  

I worked him in the round pen, under-saddle, walk, trot and canter, then I started doing some desensitizing lessons.  That is, if the horse if afraid of something, you GRADUALLY, get closer and closer to his body with the scary thing.  If you think he might move his feet, you move the scary thing away and start over.  You repeat this over and over again, with the goal of having the horse, stand quiet and still and relax.  You want the horse to learn that the scary thing wasn't so scary after all.  

Since I was eventually going to ride this horse, I was desensitizing him to my helmet.  Horses are quite afraid of helmets sometimes.  So, I had started on his left side, moving the helmet closer to him, then over the saddle, back by his rump, etc.  He was quiet, he seemed relaxed and he sighed.  So I stopped with desensitizing his left side, and stepped to his right side. 

I was moving the helmet up and down beside his shoulder and withers.  I turned away for a second.  I think I looked at or said something to his owner who was at the fence.  In that instance, he exploded.  All four feet off the ground, bucking. I was between him and the fence.  I ran around to get into the middle of the round pen.  When I got to the left side of him, I started to run backwards. 

When I staggered backwards, he started to buck toward me.  I swung my arms indicating that he should move away from me, and he bucked out towards the rail of the round pen.  I stepped backwards again to be farther away from him. He bucked toward me again. I again flailed my arms at him, to drive him away. He angled away from me. I tried to step backwards again to get away from him. 

My legs are not as long as a horses, I can not move backwards very fast.  Horses have long legs, and when bucking move forward very fast and with great force.  In my third try to get away from him, he hit me squarely with his chest and left shoulder and sent me to the ground. He continued  bucking right over the top of me, and then around the pen. 

I got up as soon as he had bucked over the top of me.  My adrenaline was pumping. I just got out of the pen as quickly as I could. He owner ran to me, "are you alright, are you alright". 

I seemed to be okay, I went back in and sent him around in the pen until he was moving where I asked him to and not bucking anymore. Then he stood tied until it was time to take off the saddle and be put away. 

Luckily, he had only stepped on  or kicked my arm.  I got very lucky.  I don't think the horse was trying to hit me or hurt me.  He was bucking blind.  If he had wanted to hit me, kick me or hurt me, he would have done it straight away.  Horses don't wait when they want to get you, they are very fast and accurate. Watch them in pasture.  They know right where their hind feet are and right where that 2in top rail is on the fence. The can kick up and hit that top rail in an instant. If he wanted to hurt me, he would have done it really quickly and he would not have missed.  He was just panicked.  I also think, that each time I stepped backwards, he was drawn to me. Because each time I asked him to move away he did.  Horses are incredibly perceptive and learn to read body language.  I really believe that horse was just following the body language I had used with him during the round pen sessions. "Oh, when she backs up, I go see her".  I have never taught a horse to come to me in the round pen since.  Now, I always teach them to stop and wait, and I walk up to them.

His owner and I both were in shock, and wondered what had set him off.  I remember later that day, when I took him to the barn to take the saddle off of him, I was afraid. It was the first time in my life, and I was 49 then, that I was afraid of a horse on the ground.  I called the owner the next day and told her that I didn't think I should work with him anymore.  I didn't want to get hurt, and I think horses pick up a vibe when you are fearful.  So, I encouraged her to find someone else. 

Thinking backwards, I guess the helmet spooked him, and he forgot the saddle was on him. When he spooked, my guess is the saddle bumped him and KABOOM.  But, I will never know.  When things go wrong, it all happens very, very quickly.   His owner was watching she had no idea what happened, it happened to me, I had no idea what happened.   

His owner said she was sending the horse to a mustang trainer in Nevada.  I tried calling the owner several times to see how things had worked out for that horse and hadn't heard back from her.  I don't feel like that horse was "my failure".  I feel like I got incredibly lucky that he didn't kill me.  I believe it is important to be honest about one's abilities.  Could I have continued to work with that horse? Sure. But for what purpose?  Was there something to prove? No.  Did I want to continue working with that horse? No. It wasn't worth the emotional energy, or the amount of time it would have taken for me to do so. And, like I said. That is the first horse that I felt fear being near in my barn.  What good would that kind of fear do for the horse? None.  I did the right thing by getting out of the loop as soon as I realized the extent of the problems he had. 

I had worked alot of horses before that horse, and I've worked alot after. He is the only horse that has ever hurt me doing ground work.  He is one of three or four horses I've seen that "bucked blind". All horses will give a buck or two, especially their first time or two under saddle, but it is the rare horse that "bucks blindly out of control" when they get upset.

So, I would like to know what ever happened to Zepher.  He was a nice looking horse.  He needed someone with alot of experience with fearful, unpredictable horses.  I hope they found someone for him.

The big breakthroughs....what happened?

I guess you know that horses don't talk. I mean literally "talk". If they did "talk" then the question is would we trust what they told us? I would.- if I knew them.

This was a super training week, where I had two really great break-throughs with some horses. Bootz's breakthrough was a serendipitous one, and I think I know exactly what did it. With Streak, i am not sure.

He fell on top of me

My arena is all weather and a significant investment. All total there must be at leat 15 thousand dollars worth of labor, sand and rubber in it. If I do not keep it maintained, I risk ruining it.

The base is the hardened, compacted surface below the footing. My footing is sand and rubber. Sand degrades and every so often I need to add a truck load or two of sand.

Recently I added some sand. I called some local people who sell sand, gravel and also horse feed and equipment. I do business with these people regularly so I believe they are a trusted known people.

When I bought the sand, I opted for a lower grade, less expensive sand. Less expense usually means more dust. The most important thing for sand in an arena is to be "sub angular", not round like sea sand. Sub angular sand provides more traction for the horses feet and is easier on their bones and ligaments.

When the sand arrived, it was very wet. This has been a very dry time and I was surprised that the sand was so wet. I have added other loads of sand, and I just thought that I'd have less dust spreading it.

We spread the sand, with a box scraper behind the tractor and a 4"drag harrow followed by a 2"pipe. The box scraper moves large amounts of sand. The drag harrow keeps the top 4" soft, and the 2" pipe puts a level finish on the surface. It looked wonderful.

The next day, i was working a young horse. He was cantering to the left, but on his right lead. He is very green and the goal with him was just to have him stay in a canter at a reasonable pace, and to stop when asked.

The horse stumbled, or so I thought, but he didn't stumble, his feet literally didn't get underneath him turning to the left and he fell sideways on top of me.

I felt my leg be smashed, and as he began to roll up on me, I was shocked thinking that it was actually happening. Horses trip often, but rarely fall. Often I ride english, but when I'm working or starting a young horse I often use a western saddle. In a western saddle, the rider's leg, my leg, is more wrapped around the horse and hangs lower. So, when he fell, instead of being tossed off sideways, my leg was trapped under him and the rest of my body slapped the ground sideways like a fly-swatter.

I broke a rib or two and have a partially collapsed lung, which is just a waya to say, some of the air in my lungs ended up between my ribs and lung. It is very painful.

After I was able to walk outside again, in a few days, I went and checked the arena. The sand was so wet, and had so much clay, that it made big hard lumps in my base, but they were smoothed over by the harrow. I believe this is what caused the horse to fall. I have since tried to harrow the hard lumps, we even tried to scrape them with the tractor, and they are so hard it isn't working.

Tomorrow I have the man who made my arena coming. He thinks he has a tool that will rip the lumps and return my base to "flat".

The lesson is...get multiple opinions...get samples...everyone makes mistakes and one mistake can get someone seriously injurred.


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Horse Training Lessons Learned/ Close Calls

Copyright 2001,-2008 Christine Amber

Site Description
Equestrian is a small, personal  horse training barn and riding club in Gilroy, Ca. (South San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley) where owner/trainer Christine Amber trains horses and riders. Equestrian Training's focus is teaching about, caring for, riding , keeping and owning horses as well as developing safe, strong, and sensible riding skills.  You can take  private riding lessons in English or Western Riding. You can join the riding club which emphasizes horses as a lifestyle that encompasses exercise, recreation, fun and a significant time commitment of three rides or group lesson a week.   Equestrian Training's horse training focuses on foundations that develop safety, relationship, willingness, obedience and balance in an athletic horse.