Category Archives: Education

On Bits

I am supposed to be writing a book (The Big Book of Miniature Horses, coming Fall 2017!) but I’ve been mulling bits a lot lately, and that doesn’t fit in the book so – here it goes.

Rocky has never been comfortable with a bit. He has worn different types of bits, adjusted every which way, and he just never seems to get completely okay with it like most horses do. Right now he’s as good as he’s ever been, with a mullen bit adjusted quite far up in his mouth.

A few months ago I bought him a sidepull noseband, so that I could work with him without using the bit to see if that would make him more comfortable. A sidepull is just a noseband with a ring on each side for the rein, very similar to working off the side rings of a halter. He has been working beautifully with it on the long lines, but with the clinic coming up I continued working from the bit in front of the cart.

Since the clinic I’ve been driving him from the sidepull, and while I was sure he would work well in it as he is so light and responsive on the long lines, but I didn’t anticipate the greater degree of relaxation and suppleness that he immediately demonstrated. I do still have him carrying the bit, as with any sort of competitive driving I want to do with him he will have to be driven with a bit, but I have to wonder if he would be even better without the bit entirely.

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Rocky loves his side pull noseband.

 

 

I have another horse, Sonic, who is being put back in harness after a couple years off. He is very uncomfortable with the bit, a new issue that I expect is the result of a dental problem. I have the vet booked for my fall old folks teeth day this week and he’ll be on the list (even though he’s not old), but in the meantime I’ve been working him off the halter instead and he is going beautifully. If it works out that I want to hook him before his teeth are fixed, then I will feel comfortable driving him off the halter.

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Sonic was so happy the first time I worked him without the uncomfortable bit in his mouth.

There was a time, not that many years ago, when I was pretty skeptical about the idea of driving a horse without a bit. I think I even remember saying, “It isn’t like a riding horse, when you have your legs and seat to control your horse. Your hands are all you have, so you need to have a bit.”

What I didn’t properly understand then, is that we aren’t “controlling” the horse with the bit at all – at least, not if we are trying to do right by our horse and have a confident partner. Instead, we are communicating with them through the bit, and if they properly understand the language of communication that we’ve taught them, using it through a metal bit or a bitless bridle or a sidepull or a halter, makes no difference other than the preference of our horse.

If you have a horse that won’t stop, don’t get a stronger bit. Instead, refine your communication. Go back to the ground, make sure they understand the cues and response. Make sure you are consistent on your end, always using the cues in the same order, giving your horse the warning and time they need to respond in balance and comfort.

I definitely don’t think bits are inherently bad. I think that a person with harsh hands will be hard on the horse regardless of what tack is involved. Most horses find a bit an excellent, clear method of communication. But some horses are simply not comfortable with a bit, and I think it’s great to be able to explore other methods, especially if the alternative is to tie their mouth shut with a tight noseband and make the situation more painful for them.

You’re not controlling the horse through the bit, you’re communicating through their brain.

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Online Workshop – Starting Your Miniature Horse In Harness – September 2016

As requested, I am repeating my popular Online Workshop on Starting Your Miniature Horse In Harness in September 2016!

What will you learn?

Learn how your horse learns, and how to explain things in terms your horse understands.

Learn how to work with your horse’s natural instincts, instead of against them.

Learn how to listen to what your horse is telling you, and be confident about when they are ready to progress.

Learn how to make teaching your horse to drive a safe, fun and rewarding experience.

Learn a building block approach, each step building on the next to progressively teach the skills your horse needs to become a confident driving horse.

How does it work?

There are four webinars – each will be broadcast live. You’ll see my slides and photos and hear my voice describing the content to you. It’s interactive – you can ask questions anytime via a chat box and your keyboard.

For additional and video content, you’ll be added to a private Facebook group. I’ll share video clips to further illustrate the information shared in the webinars, you can ask questions and share your own photos and videos, and we’ll all have some great educational discussions.

Can’t make it to a live webinar? That’s no problem, as the recording will be available to you soon after it is broadcast so you can watch it whenever is convenient, and as many times as you would like. Have a question? Just head over to the Facebook group and ask away!

Not on Facebook? It’s free and easy to join, and with the simple interface for sharing and discussion, Facebook is the best venue I have found. Our group settings will be set to “secret” which means no one but those in the group will see anything you post, or even know you are a member.

Praise for Starting Your Miniature Horse In Harness:

“This workshop gave participants the whys as well as the how-tos so you had a good understanding of what the purpose was of each step.”

“Really enjoyed the sessions – nice blend of factual information, personal experience, good visuals, good supplemental video clips.”

“My husband and I watched all the webinars and found them full of knowledge. Explaining how to understand your horse was a big part … some people just don’t get that part but it is a really important part. Great job Kendra.”

Webinars will take place on September 1st, 8th, 15th, and 22nd, and will be at 6PM Mountain Time (Calgary, Alberta). You can find the time in your area with this Time Zone Calculator. But remember, even if you’re not available during the live broadcast, you can watch the recording any time and will have access to the Facebook group for all your questions.

The cost of this workshop is $110 CDN, and payment can be made via Paypal through the button below or via e-transfer to circlejminiatures@gmail.com – be sure to include the email you’d like to use to register, as you will be sent content and an invitation to the private Facebook group.

 

Thinking About Breeding Your Miniature Horse?

You’ve seen the photos and videos on Facebook and Pinterest. You saw that foal at the fair last summer and it was SO CUTE. Really, why wouldn’t you breed your mare?

Before you start hunting for a local stallion or shopping for a colt to add to your herd, maybe it’s time to ask a few questions of yourself.

Why do you want to breed your mare? Continue reading

Starting Your Miniature Horse In Harness

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Register by filling out the form here, and pay via paypal here (or contact Kendra if you’d rather pay via another method).

FAQ

I wasn’t able to access your previous webinars – will I be able to participate?

Yes! While you probably still won’t be able to participate in the live webinar presentation, I will be uploading the recording to Vimeo (accessible on any device) within 24 hours. And you will have full access to the facebook group for any questions or discussion that arise from each week’s presentation.

How long are the webinars?

Each webinar is scheduled to be approximately 1 hour long, but we might go a bit over with questions. Maybe plan on an hour and a half to be safe.

What if I miss one of the weekly webinars?

No worries, you can catch up! The recording will be available within 24 hours and you’ll be able to view the presentation and ask any questions and participate in the discussion in the facebook group.

I’m not on Facebook – do I have to be to participate?

I’m afraid so – but Facebook is free and straightforward to use, with simple sharing of videos, photos and discussion, making it the best venue option for our uses. You can sign up for Facebook in just a few moments and you don’t need to put in any private information beyond your email address. The group will be “secret” – a privacy level that means it is invisible to anyone who isn’t a member personally added by myself.

Do I need to have a horse being started in harness?

Not at all! You can learn valuable skills to help your current driving horse, learn how to fill in potential holes in their training, and of course, get a solid base of knowledge for the next time you ARE starting a horse in harness.

Will I have a driving horse by the end of the month?

Depending on your horse and your previous training experience, the time you can dedicate to the project …. Probably not. 😉 But you will have a good map to show you the way so you can continue to make progress on your horse’s schedule.

More questions? Let me know! circlejminiatures@gmail.com

 

 

 

Solving Rocky – Part 2 … and Priscilla, episode one!

So I think Rocky is just so stiff to the right that it’s really hard for him to balance himself on the circle to the right, especially on the little bit of a sidehill I’ve worked him on the last couple sessions. Today, once we’d discussed that being dramatic or distracted was not an appropriate way to deal with a difficult task, he started to make a real effort, but needed a lot of help from me.

Help from me means supporting him on the outside rein so he doesn’t fall in on the circle, and a lot of persistent half halting on the inside rein to help him remember to try and bend to the inside. And then remembering to back off and leave him alone when he makes a good effort, which can be the hardest bit for me. 😉 Continue reading

Parasite Control

For years, the standard practice for parasite control in horses was routine deworming with a rotation of the product used.

This is no longer the case. Today, due to serious concerns about resistance to the limited products available, veterinarians recommend routine fecal egg counts (FEC) instead to allow for targeted deworming.  Continue reading