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Guest writers

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


Training Month IV - Continuing Linework & First Bath

by Charles Wilhelm

During this last month, I worked with Jaz for about twelve training sessions or so.  She does of course have regular turnout also, but just a reminder that I am doing this training program by trying to mimic what I believe most of you could do on your own, when not using a trainer. The reality is that most horse owners have jobs, families, other horses, and let's be realistic, free time is often in short supply.

But that's okay-thats just another reason to start your horse young, and to be careful and methodical. There is no rush and it only means the end result is that much better. From talking to clients, I know that most people would be able to work with their horse an average of 3 days a week, sometimes 4. So that is what Jaz is getting, usually 3 days each week.

In the last four weeks I have continued to refine the line work exercises I started with Jaz, and also gave her the first bath. Now in addition to working with her just a few days each week, I also make sure the training sessions are fairly short. This is beneficial for every young horse, even if you do have more time, for a couple of reasons. One, her young bones and ligaments are still growing. Ten to fifteen minutes of light line work or round penning is fine, but you do not want to physically push or stress your young horse. It's just not worth it. Additionally, they are babies and that means their mental limitations need to be respected - in other words their focus. They have very short attention spans indeed. It's just another reason to keep training sessions short and very specific - to help keep you both on track and focused. Now there is nothing wrong with spending more time with your horse when you can, the trick then is to mix up the exercises. Go back and forth between short focused exercises. And I will tell you one hint, ending a training session by working with their feet is usually very beneficial. After training exercises which have been working them physically, mentally and emotionally, they are much more likely to be relaxed for the hoof handling.

So with the line work, I have been looking for significant improvement each session. And that can mean something very different with a young horse than working with an older horse. What I have been looking for with Jaz is small changes that lead to clear improvements from session to session. This includes looking for her to be opening up her stride, stopping better when asked to whoa or halt, becoming softer in the hocks, more relaxed in the neck; all clear indications that she is emotionally relaxing during the work, mentally starting to focus on me, and physically starting to use her body parts more effectively.  We are continuing to do nothing more than the basic change of direction exercise. I ask her to go forward on the line in one direction, make sure she is being consistent and with good energy, then ask for her stop, allow her pause, and then to go forward again in the other direction. In general I have been working her on a 12 foot lead except for a recent training episode that I changed to a 20 foot lead, and I want to share the story with you because it is a very common occurence.

In trying to copy the various conditions that people experience when trying to raise a baby, I am aslo occasionally moving Jaz from her paddock with a shelter, into a straight stall in the main barn. While she is in the paddock most of the time, we sometimes stall her for a couple of days in a row, as this is how many horses live most of the time. As is common with a young horse in a stall, she can sometimes emerge quite fresh, with a lot of energy. This happened last week. She was fine while being groomed and led into the arena but once asked to move out, she exploded with energy. She was charging around on the line, scrambling, bolting, full of vinegar; really leaning on the line. I changed to a 20 foot line to allow her ( and myself) the extra room.  It's just safer all around. Now I did not just let her dash around madly until she expended the energy.  Yes I allowed her to canter and go as fast as she wanted, but she was still asked to stop her feet, pause and change direction every few circles. And I want to tell you, if there is any "magic" in this exercise, that's where it is, in the pause and change of direction. This allowed her to work out some of her energy while still keeping her very focused on me. Within about three minutes or so, she came back down and it was back to business as usual with her. She came off the contact and there was again slack in the line as she moved around me, and she was moving at a forward but relaxed gait, mainly trotting rather than a gallop, and with her nose either straight or bent in toward me a bit. At this point, I swapped back to a twelve foot line, since the shorter line does give you more control. Her attitude had changed completely and she was now riveted on me, focused on what I wanted her to do next.

I mention this because it is so common with a young horse that they will exhibit some serious "yee-haws" at the beginning of line work session. Don't even worry when this happens, it does not mean you are doing anything wrong. Just make sure two things are happening; that you are physically safe and also that you continue to require that the horse focus on you and responds when you ask for something. Just make sure that you are asking for simple things, like a stop, change and another go forward. And allow the horse enough forwardness and impulsion to work out some of that excess energy.

Now the immediate result of this training session with Jaz was that she was quite sweaty, so I decided to give her a first bath. She has been so complacent about new experiences that I was not expecting to need to work with her much. She has already been taught to tie and cross-tie, seen the wash area, so I thought this would be pretty straightforward. I was wrong.

We have a 3 sided, enclosed bathing areaat the ranch, all cement with mats, and a drain in the enter. Well she did not like that drain at all! She was not explosive, but she backed away from it and did not want to be in the wash area after she had seen it.  She was very nervous and it was clear this needed to be a training exercise. So I used the same approach as for trailer loading. I worked her on the line near the wash area where she was comfortable, and moved closer to it as we progressed. I focused on just directing her nose and working on the forward cue. There was not enough room to do the change of direction exercise-but you could if you had the room. In this case we just spent time walking her in and out of the wash area. We kept leading her in and out of it to increase her confidence and familiarity. With Jaz this took about 5 minutes but with other horses it has taken me up to 30 minutes-it really depends on their emotinoal level.

Now teaching a horse to be bathed (meaning to quietly stand and accept water on them) should also be viewed as a training exercise. Some horses take right to water and others are terrified. Jaz was somewhere in between.  She did not panic-nor did she want anything to do with it. So I started the water and pointed the hose at the floor about ten feet away from her hooves. She was still nervous, so I moved it to about twelve feet away. At that distance she relaxed and so I turned the water off as a reward. After a few seconds, I turned the water on about 11 feet away from her, and the instant she relaxed, I turned it off again. We went through this awhile, I never turned the water off until she calmed and stopped moving, even if just very briefly, and I very slowly moved the hose water closer to her front hooves. Eventually she allowed me to put the water on her front hooves, then front legs, then we moved to back hooves and legs, next it was shoulders, tummy, back and then hindquarters. I was consistent in releasing the pressure of the water for her when she calmed down, while also mainting the water contact whenever she was moving around. Eventually she was quiet and accepted the water no matter where I sprayed, and then we ended. I did not work on her face.  She will be taught to be hosed off on her head and face but there was no point in putting that much pressure on her for the first bath. We will cover how to school them for being sprayed on their face and head in upcoming months. This initial bathing session took about forty minutes of pressure and release work with the water, but ended up being a great training session-we really had a good breakthrough by the end.

I should mention that whenever possible, I do teach horses to bath outside first. In the outside, it's easier to allow them to move as they are nervous and then I just stay with them with the hose until they are quiet and release the pressure of the water. But they do not feel the extra pressure that a semi-enclosed area can offer, also it's easier on them and you to be outside in the open.

A few other tips for initial bathing training...start with medium water pressure and ideally with a sprayer which breaks up the water pressure to keep the contact from being to intense initially. Also, tepid or warm water is best if possible. Don't worry about shampoo or such at the beginning, just focus on getting them comfortable with the hose and water. Expect it to take several sessions until they really relax and stand quietly for the water pressure. REMEMBER, if you remove the water while the horse is fidgeting and moving and pawing, you are teaching it to do so. Lastly, if the horse does not tie well or learned to give to pressure, make sure that training happens prior to the bathing session.

Charles Wilhelm


Andalusian Dressage Partners
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