Monday, November 30, 2009

Rolkur, it's not just for dressage anymore!

Today, I am going to address Rolkur. I had never heard of it until a few years ago, and I am not sure what the moron who developed the idea was thinking or if they even were. I do know that trainers and breeders alike want to make their mark on the equine world, but this is the wrong way to go about it. I also know that the practice of Rolkur has trickled over into other disciplines like western pleasure, hunter etc, and that is where I want to take this topic.

Lets start with the practice of Rolkur in Dressage horses.
When I look at the above picture, the one thing that stands out immediately to me, is the fact that the horses hind end is in a totally different county that the front end. The horse exhibits absolutely no freedom of movement in the front end thus there is no extension because all of the horses weight it is on the front end. It also looks to me like the horse has no where when they are looking for the release. These are the obvious things that affect the not so obvious things like mechanics of movement and the horses attitude. What you see above, is not Dressage, but rather it is an abomination!

I always want my horses to have some where to go when they work, in other words, there has to be a release, be it in a dressage horse or a cow horse. I never want to hang on a horse in any way shape or form. To me, that shows that the rider in uncomfortable with what they are doing with the horse.

I have seen this practice in the western industry as well, primarily in the Arabian horse industry. At the Scottsdale Arabian show a few years ago, I saw several trainers riding with their horses trussed up like a Christmas turkey. The horses chins were being pulled to the horses chests and they were being forced forward, and when the trainers stopped their horses, they continued to bump their horses faces to keep their horses heads in that Gawd awful position. If the horse moved a step after he was bumped, they were bumped harder. And this was being done by the BNT's that were there. A lot of it was being caused by the over use and abuse of martingales, side reins and draw reins.

But, it was not just the western horses where I saw this, it was also in the hunter arenas as well.

The difference between a soft horse vs. Rolkur, is that with a soft horse, I can bring his chin to his chest when I need to, not because I have to or I am forcing the issue.

Now, lets talk about the horses attitude. This practice does have a lot of adverse effects on the horses attitude. Remember, you can only hang on a horse for so long before that horse decides that he has had enough. And when the horse has had enough and decides to react to what is going on, there may be no warning what so ever. The horse will do whatever it takes to make himself comfortable in what he is doing and there will be nothing you can do to stop it, and there is no telling what the horse reaction will be.

For those of you that believe in the practice of Rolkur, I recommend that you put a bit in your own mouth, have someone pull your chin to your chest while you try to move forward on your hands and knees. Not only will it be tough for you to move, but it will also be harder for you to breathe and your mouth will be incredibly sore.

You all know that I like my horses quiet and soft as I have mentioned that on many occasions, if a horses chin is being forced to his chest, you will get neither!

And just a note, I am not an Arabian horse trainer, and I do not want any Arab owners thinking that I am picking on them. But other than in the Dressage discipline, I have only seen this practice in the Arabian industry, so that is the example I am using.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What to expect from your trainer...... Part 2

So we have covered some of the basics of what you should expect from a trainer, now it is time to discuss what your trainer has to offer you and what you have to offer the trainer. And also what your trainer can expect from you.

1) Make sure that you have a contract with your trainer that outlines what your goals are and what you see yourself being able to do with your horse. That should always be in writing. I have in the past trained a few horses without the benefit of a contract, and the owners were and I were not totally on the same page. You can always amend a contract as the horse progresses.

2) All fees should be explained at the time that the contract is signed. The owner has the right to understand what all the fees are for and the trainer has the right to expect to be paid on time. Remember, when you are late the horse still gets fed and worked. I can not tell you how many times I have gone more than 2 months with out getting paid by an owner. Do not bargain with your trainer to try to get a better rate, we do not make enough money as it is!

3)If your horse has a bad habit that he has picked up at home tell your trainer, it is nothing to be embarrassed about. Hell, our horses have bad habits, after all they are horses and it is to be expected. I hate when a client sends me a horse that has a habit such as bucking or rearing and when it happens here, they always say the same thing....."He never did that at home".

4) Trainers are not miracle workers, that is to say, do not expect too much to soon. If you are shopping around for a trainer, do not let him/her give you time lines. In this business there are no guarantees. We simply can not guarantee how long your horse will be with us and we simply can not guarantee that your horse will win in the horse show ring. Never tell your trainer that he/she better win because his job depends on it. I had that happen at a show one time and I told the client that they better find a way to get the horse home from the show because I would not tolerate that kind of attitude. Needless to say the horse won all 2 of his classes and places 2nd in the third class and won the championship

5) Let your trainer chose the shows that he/she feels would be best for you and your horse should you chose that you want to show.

6) If your trainer offers lessons as part of your contract, then take them, personally I prefer that a client take a pro-active part in the training of their horses. I want them to be involved, that way when we are at a show or the horse goes home, then the owner can continue to work the horse with some success.

7) Communicate with your trainer if there is something that you do not like, we are not mind readers just like we are not miracle workers.

8) Have realistic ideas of what your horse is capable of......let him show you what his talents are and take it from there. There is nothing that is worse than a horse that develops bad habits because he is miserable in his job.

9) If you are looking to purchase a horse with the help of your trainer, then listen to what they have to say. Do not waste the trainers time by telling your him/her that you want one type of horse and then you go off in a completely different direction and purchase something else. We prefer that you let us help you so we can find a horse that fits you!

Trainers are here to help you, so let them.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What can and should you really expect from your trainer?

I get a lot of inquiries regarding training, and many of the potential clients want to know how long it will take me to train a horse for them, be it for trail or the horse show ring. This will be a series that will be done in a few parts.

When told that I am not sure how long it will take, then some of these clients look else where for a trainer that will tell them what they want to hear. While I realize that some of them want to budget for training, there are others that want me to be train a horse that is going to win for them in a designated amount of time that they seem to think is realistic.

There are several factors that I take into consideration before I take a horse into the barn.

1) The general conditioning of the horse when they arrive. I always tell a client that I can start to train the horse if he is conditioned properly before he shows up. I do understand that some owners do not have a facility that they can work out of so I always offer them a lower conditioning rate for the first month. Also I have to mention here that what I may consider proper conditioning, may not be what the owner considers to be proper. So before the horse is brought into the barn, I will provide the owner with a conditioning schedule, that is providing they have the facilities to work the horse.

2) What kind of behavior does the horse exhibit when he arrives. I personally like to give them a week of light work so that they can start to settle into a general routine. There have been many horses that have come my way that took longer to settle in and exhibited some bad habits that had to be dealt with before we consider putting that horse to serious work.

3) Is the horse a mare, stallion or gelding. We have a saying here, when a stallion comes into the barn on Thursday, his brain will arrive on Monday.(Sometimes his mind just gets lost in the mail!)

4) Am I starting this horse under saddle, if so there again conditioning is important. If the horse is here to be started and is in good condition, then I will be on that horse at the end of the first week after he settles in. If the horse is not conditioned, them there will be a 30 day conditioning period.

5) If the horse is here to be trained to go into the show ring, then a lot depends on the horses mentality when they get here. If they are not mature enough to handle the training required to go into the show ring, then we will take it a lot slower.

I have always been a firm believer in moving at the horses pace and not the owners, and I make this very clear from the beginning. If the horse is not happy then no one is going to be happy.

I have had owners in the past offer to pay me more to achieve their goals, but it is not really up to me how fast we proceed.