FROM HORSE AND RIDER - UK. JAN. 2016
My 16-year-old gelding seems to be getting stiff. Are there any exercises or polework patterns that I can do on the lunge to help increase his suppleness? Sam Ranken
Jo Winfield answers:
Lungeing is an excellent form of non-ridden exercise and allows the lunger to watch how the horse is moving. This may be the only time you get to see your horse's natural way of going. Ideally, it should be done on a weekly basis and it can replace ridden work. Time spent lungeing properly is more effort than a steady walk out hacking, so it can be a valuable part of a fitness programme, too.
A useful lungeing exercise is to place four single poles just inside a 20-metre circle, so they divide the circle into quarters - your horse should be able to do a 15-metre circle over the middle of the poles. Ideally, use striped poles, as it is easier for you to see exactly where your horse is stepping. Start by lungeing on a large circle so that your horse trots around the outside of the poles without going over them. Then decrease the circle so he trots over the poles on a 17-metre circle, 15-metre circle and a 12-metre circle. This will not only improve your horse's suppleness, but your accuracy at lungeing, too.
As well as lungeing, a good ridden exercise is to stay in an area of the school that measures about 20x20m, bring your horse onto a circle in one corner, then start to decrease the circle to about 10m for 1-3 complete circles. As your horse is on the smaller circle, he has to work harder to maintain his balance, hence the need to only stay on this size for a few circles. Then he can be encouraged to move out of the corner onto a bigger 15-18m circle before repeating the exercise in the next corner. Your horse's suppleness will develop as he has to flex to the various circle sizes - remember to repeat it on both reins.
DID YOU KNOW?
horse is harder
work for him
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Ride and feed
How long should I wait after feeding my horse before I ride him? Abby Molyneux
A Clare Barfoot answers:
This will depend on the type of feed, the size of the meal and the intensity of the work you'll be doing. If the meal is small - for example, 500 grammes for a 500kg horse - and is mainly fibre-based, such as a chop or chaff, then it is possible to ride straightaway, especially if you're only going for a gentle hack. On the flip side, if the meal is 2kg of compound feed or straight cereals, it is advisable to wait for at least one hour or up to two hours if fast work is involved.
There is one thing to bear in mind, though - if you are going to be doing fast work, it is preferable to feed either long or chopped fibre before exercise to reduce the risk of gastric splashing, which is where the acidic stomach contents splash up onto the unprotected upper part of the stomach where it can contribute to the development of gastric ulcers.
DID YOU KNOW?
volume of the gastrointestinal tract of an average-sized 500kg horse is 200 litres. The stomach only accounts for 8-15 litres
Feeding before you ride can sometimes be beneficial. For example, if your, horse tends to be sluggish, feeding a high-energy feed and letting him digest it before riding can give him a boost.
• When travelling several horses together, be careful not to over rug because their body heat can generate a lot of warmth in the lorry.
• If you're travelling horses in a trailer, the heaviest horse should be in the right-hand side of the trailer behind the driver, to keep it balanced. [Left side if in North America]
• Since 2009, it has been a legal requirement that whenever you travel your horse in a vehicle, you must take his passport with you regardless of the distance or destination. The only exemption is travelling your horse for emergency veterinary treatment. [This is Britain and Europe…..only crossing the border USA/Canada do you need the correct paper-work - Keith Hunt]
My horse chews his leadrope and I'm forever having to buy new ones. Why does he do this? Lyn Ferguson
Anna Saillet answers:
The simple answer to this question is, it depends! There are many different reasons why a horse may chew on his leadrope and the answer often lies in what context this behaviour happens. Young horses will often demonstrate investigatory and playful chewing behaviour, and even some adult horses seem to enjoy playing orally with different objects. This can be a normal behaviour and by providing a variety of objects for your horse to play with, you can help to satisfy this natural behavioural need.
Chewing can also be a displacement behaviour - this may be due to the horse being stressed or anxious about the situation he is in or when he is feeling conflicted about performing a particular behaviour. For example, perhaps he begins to chew his leadrope each time the owner approaches with his tack, because he's anxious about being ridden. Try to keep a record of the times and situations when his chewing behaviour becomes more frequent, so that you can become aware of any patterns or triggers for the behaviour.
The chewing may also be a learnt behaviour - perhaps in the past your horse has learned that he gains attention from you when he chews the rope, so the behaviour has been reinforced by your response to it. Remember that if your horse is seeking attention, even negative attention is still attention, so telling him off may be unintentionally reinforcing the behaviour.
Always avoid punishing your horse for this behaviour because some horses chew more when they become anxious or stressed, so punishment could make the behaviour worse. Instead, try to distract him, then encourage a different, more appropriate behaviour. It is also important to rule out oral pain or discomfort as a cause of this behaviour, so ask your vet to check for any dental problems that your horse may be experiencing.
Remember that spending long periods of time tied up without anything to stimulate him can be difficult for your horse. Provide a haynet for him when you are grooming or tacking up, so that he has something to do while you are busy.
When I try to catch my mare, another mare in her field always gets between us, trying to stop me catching her by herding her away. Why is she doing this and how can I stop her? Ashley Cartwright
Natalie Waran answers:
This is an interesting response and it mirrors the sorts of behaviour you see in herds of horses living in their natural state. Sadly, there aren't any wild horses left, but there are free-living feral groups (once domesticated but now free-roaming and breeding) living in many parts of the world, including Japanese Misaki horses, the Sable Island horses in the USA and, of course, New Forest ponies. We've learned a great deal from the work that behaviourists have done in observing the behaviour of these different herds.
The first thing that you need to think about is your interpretation of the mare's behaviour towards your horse. This mare isn't trying to stop you from catching her - this would imply that she was able to predict your intention, which is something we don't believe horses do that well - rather it is likely that the 'herding' mare is controlling the actions of your horse because that's their relationship.
Horse social behaviour is complex. Mares generally have a social order based on a variety of factors, including age, experience and reproductive state. For example, mares coming into oestrus will often try to dominate interactions with geldings in their group, pushing other horses away and soliciting the attention of the often confused, chosen gelding.
It could be that the pushy mare has developed a close relationship with your mare, so she is preventing her from interacting with you (or any other horses). She may also have learned that when you appear, this means that her field-mate is taken away, motivating her to try to prevent her field mate from leaving. It may also be that you are associated with food or something positive, so the pushy mare is trying to prevent your mare from having preferential access to you.
There are a whole range of possible explanations and these are the sorts of questions behaviourists will ask, then try to find out the answers to, through structured studies involving some manipulations to test responses to different possible explanations. It would be interesting to test some of these possibilities with your situation, so that you can better understand the underlying causes of the behaviour. For example, does it occur more when one or other of the mares is in season? Is there any reward that you can see for the behaviour? What is their relationship like in other situations? These sorts of questions will help you to unravel the mysteries of the secret thoughts of horses.
WHILE THE ANSWER TO THE ABOVE QUESTION IS GOOD, FOR THE VARIOUS REASONS GIVEN, IT DOES NOT GIVE YOU AN EASY ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM. AND WHILE THE TWO MARES ARE TOGETHER, THERE MAY NOT BE AN EASY ANSWER, ESPECIALLY IF YOUR ALONE, WITH NO OTHER HUMAN TO HELP YOU. TWO PEOPLE WOULD HAVE A MUCH EASY CHANCE CATCHING YOUR HORSE, ONE HOLDING THE INTERFERING MARE, WHILE YOU CATCH YOUR MARE - Keith Hunt
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