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Clair Thunes
Summit Equine Nutrition

Clair Thunes

As an equine nutritionist Dr. Thunes has worked with a wide range of horses from lactating mares to competitive dressage horses, and with a variety of physiological problems including insulin resistance and muscle myopathies, and she is happy to work in conjunction with your veterinarian. Dr. Thunes believes in finding the right balance between the horse\'s diet and needs and the client\'s resources. She works with both individual horses or an entire barn and enjoys working with owners to find the optimal feeding solutions. Services provided include diet evaluation and formulation, hay analysis interpretation, custom supplement formulation and farm visits. Dr. Thunes also offers phone and email consultations. Dr. Thunes can be contacted at 916-248-8987.

Articles by Clair Thunes:




Charles Wilhelm
Ultimate Foundation Trainings

Charles Wilhelm

Charles Wilhelm is internationally known as America’s most respected horse trainer and is the creator of Ultimate Foundation Training, an equine training technique that combines the best of traditional, classical and natural horsemanship into a methodology that is applicable to every riding discipline.

His training facility located in Castro Valley, CA, offers extensive hands-on learning programs for every level of horsemanship, from novice through trainer.  His programs truly reflect his motto “Success Through Knowledge”.

Articles by Charles Wilhelm:

Introduction to De-Spooking and Sacking Out

Training Month IV - Continuing Linework & First Bath

Training Month I - A Good Mind & Haltering

Training Month II - Leading & Picking Up Feet

Training Month III - Basic Linework

The Role of Equipment in Horse Training


Introduction to De-Spooking and Sacking Out

by Charles Wilhelm

Over the course of work we have done with Jaz in the first 5 months, she has become beautifully halter-trained and also very light. She truly understands giving to pressure and that means we can start working on emotional control exercises. The point of emotional control work is that we want our horse to become conditioned to give to pressure no matter what is happening \"externally\". So whether in a parade, on the trail, at the show, or a windy matter what the external stimulus your horse is getting, she/he has learned to give and to respond to your cues. You create this safety and responsiveness by focusing on their emotional elvel during a series of excercies that takes advantage of the mental and physical aspects to desensitize the horse to fear.

It is critical that your horse really understand \"giving\" before you up the ante by asking them to listen and respond when they are afraid. So make sure that your horse is forward, consistent, and light for all the linework; stopping and starting when you ask, as soon as you ask, before you introduce elements of de-spooking.

Let me mention that de-spooking and sacking-out are the same idea. Sacking out is a term that\'s been used for years, since it literally began with using grain bags and other sacks to de-sensitize a horse to external stimuli. De-spooking is a term that has become more common, and it really just encompasses the whole range of emotional control work. 

I typically begin de-spooking work with a tarp. I think many trainers have come to recognize what a great all-around training aid a tarp can be. The goal of the first exercise is to get the horse to stand on the tarp. It\'s important to begin by making it very easy for them, so I always start with the tarp folded up pretty narrow, which the horse perceives as much less of a threat.

I start with the standard change of direction linework that we have discussed in previous articles. the trick is to ask the horse for the stop and to change direction, at the furthest point away from the tarp at first. This will be the most comfortable for them. and make the tarp narrow enough if they are very fearful, they can easily jump over it.

So put your horse on a 12-20 foot lead line and put the tarp on the ground at the far point from you but that so the horse will need to go over or near it when you ask her/him to go in a circle. Cue the horse to go forward and if the horse balks at the tarp, keep cuing until it goes near or over the tarp. Then stop the horse at the farthest point from the tarp. Pause for a minute to reward the horse, then pick up the line and ask the horse to change direction and go over or near the tarp from the other direction.

What typically happens is that the horse will at first balk, or run around the tarp, jump over it, and then finally start going over it, by bolting or hopping over it, then slowing to a more controlled canter, then trot, and then will finally walk over it.

Your job as the trainer will be to recognize progress and reward it. First of all, let the horse select the gait in which to cross the tarp at first. As long as it is going forward, the speed does not matter. Next always, always let the horse stop and sniff the tarp if she/he wants to. Horses should be allowed to smell and paw at the tarp-it will greatly increase their comfort.

You will see signs that the horse\'s emotional level is dropping when you start to notice that the horse is moving more casually, (rather than being frantic), and certainly if you see any signs of licking and chewing. Also as the horse stops jumping or avoiding the tarp and is making more contact when crossing it, you are making good progress.

As you continue the exercise, you will start asking the horse to stop and change direction closer and closer to the tarp each time. So where you begin at the farthest point away, as you see signs the horse is relaxing, you should then ask the horse to stop perhaps 15 degrees closer to the tarp, and then when the horse continues to be relaxed closer to the tarp stop another 15 degrees closer.  The eventual goal is that you asking the horse for the stop and pause closer and closer to the tarp, until the horse is right on top of the tarp, or with any feet touching the tarp while standing. When you have accomplished this, you have completed the exercise successfully.

Now how long this takes will vary tremendously with different horses. Jaz was pretty typical, she did some jumping over it and trying to avoid it at first, but she does have a pretty low emotional level about most things and within 15-20 minutes she was standing fully on the tarp pawing at it. In fact because she did so well, I widened the tarp and did the ext excercise of having her cross a fairly wide expanse of tarp. You would never want to do this unless you are sure the horse is ready, but once she had accepted that tarp she was ready.

Now I have had horses in training that were so terrifed of the tarp that I needed to start the line work 50 feet away from where the tarp was on the ground, and then oh so slowly work them closer and closer to it-and sometimes not all in one day. As always, wait for signs of progress and a lowered emotional state before you move closer to the object, and stay at it until you see that progress.

What is significant progress? Any improvement of 50% or better. So if your horse was high as a kite 50 feet away from the tarp, and you got him to be relaxed working 25 feet closer to the tarp, that is significant progress.

Once you get this excercise down, you can move onto things like dangling and covering them with the tarps, having them drag tarps, putting tarps between their legs, working them around baby carriages, balloons, balls, bicycles, other animals... While you will never desensitize them to everything, the more work you do to change their response to fear from flight or fight mode, to simply \"spooking in place\" at worst, the more safe you and your horse will always be.

So be creative, ask friends for help and start using pressure and release work to expose your baby horse to anything you can think of that they may react to.

Charles Wilhelm



Andalusian Dressage Partners
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