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Equine Psychology Mini Series: Horses As Herd Animals | Part 3


Horse Herd Behavior

There are animals that can be found traveling and living on their own like leopards and bears. Then there are the animals that like to travel in groups, such as wolves, cattle, lions, horses.

There are different names for groups of animals depending on the species. A group of wolves would be a pack, a group of lions a pride, while a group of cattle or horses would be considered a herd.

Horses are herd animals meaning they are gregarious, they like the company of other horses, and they are grazers. Horses like to socialize with each other and develop relationships. They may not vocalize much but horses are constantly communicating with each other through body language, a topic I will be covering in an upcoming blog post. 

Being In A Herd Means Safety

When a horse is in a herd they are safer than if they are on their own. There are more eyes, ears and noses, to alert the herd of any potential dangers. Together they make it harder for a predator to catch one of them, whereas alone a horse would become a much easier target.

If you have worked with horses for some time you may have noticed that many times horses get antsy when they leave their other horse buddies.

You might be going on a trail ride without the other horses and your horse stops or calls back to them. Maybe your horse might try to turn around and go back to the barn. You may also notice that your horse acts more spooky or on edge than when you ride in the arena near other horses.

You can also see this behavior with some horses when you put them in a stall, especially if they are the only ones in the barn. They may pace, weave, paw, or whinny incessantly.

These are just some examples of horses getting anxiety when separated from “their herd.” They are not being ridiculous. They are not being bad. They are not crazy. 

It is normal for a horse to be like this. Remember I said being in a herd means safety and being alone could mean becoming a snack for a pack of wolves. 

So once you take a horse away from what they consider their herd they are alert to the fact that they are more vulnerable to threats, so they are more focused on any potential dangers.

Horses Don’t Like To Be On Their Own

You may think, well not all horses are like this. Maybe you work with horses that don’t mind being on their own. Ultimately horses don’t like to be on their own, even horses that seem okay.

There are several factors for why a horse may seem calm, content or okay with being on their own. Here’s a list of some of the reasons a horse may be okay.

  • They have a sense of trust and safety toward the rider or handler.
  • They are trained to accept being away from other horses.
  • They have a higher tolerance level. There is a spectrum of sensitivity within horses. Some are more reactive and sensitive than others.

Now even if a horse seems comfortable on their own, for the horse’s wellbeing they should never live on their own. They not only need that feeling of safety but companionship as well. 

If you do have a horse that panics when alone or taken away from their pasture buddies, just realize, your horse is fearful, and needs kindness, patience, reassurance and training to overcome the problem.

In the last blog post part 2, I mentioned that horses cannot learn through fear. They become too focused on fear to focus on anything else, learning included. 

So don’t lose your temper when your horse acts like this and feel like you need to give them a lesson, instead come up with a gradual training plan to build trust, and confidence to overcome the separation anxiety.

Horses Have Relationships & Hierarchy In The Herd

I said above horses need companionship. A herd is like a family and they look out for each other, hang out with each other and just enjoy each other’s company.

Horses also have a hierarchy in the herd. It is dynamic and changing, but typically between two horses one horse will be higher on the pecking order. 

Making the horse’s feet move is the name of the game. A horse that controls another horse’s movement is the horse in charge. There is typically a lead mare that is head of the herd and a stallion that protects the herd. Other than young colts there usually one 1 stallion in a herd. Young bachelor stallions often form what’s called a band, another name for a herd but with all stallions.

This compulsion for horses to be in a herd is instinct and in the next blog post I will be covering instincts of the horse.

In the next post coming out Oct 22nd we will be going over horses as herd animals. If you want to be emailed the post sign up for the email list.

If you have any questions about horses as prey animals, email me at [email protected] and if it is helpful to others it may be featured in this post.

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Cheers,

Kacey

Equine Psychology Mini Series: Horses As Prey Animals | Part 2


Out in the wild as an animal you either hunt or get hunted. Those who hunt are the predators and those who are hunted are the prey. Horses are considered prey animals. They are among the hunted out in the wild.

Prey animals like horses are always on their guard because they have to be, in order to survive in the wild. If a predator comes their way their best bet is to run as fast as they can, to out run them and get away. Although this is not always an option, if the horse gets cornered, trapped, or is trying to protect another horse that can’t get away such as a young foal, or another injured horse.

Prey animals will try to fight if they have no other choice. Although with horses some may be more apt to be aggressive and turn to fighting more quickly than other horses. Such as some aggressive stallions or mares trying to protect their foals or herd.

There are 3 main characteristics of a horse that distinguish them as a prey animal.

  1. They smell like the food they eat which is hay and grass.
  2. Their eyes are located on the sides of their head. This gives them good peripheral or lateral vision, which helps them see when a predator is trying to sneak up on them. However they don’t have good depth perception.
  3. They have a high awareness and sense of everything going on around them. They are perceptive to people, changes, things and potential dangers.

A humans we contrast the horse as predators.

  1. We smell like the food we eat which includes meat, unless you are vegetarian or vegan.
  2. Our eyes are on the front of our heads which says predator to a horse. We can focus on an object well and have good depth perception. But we don’t have good lateral vision.
  3. Humans are often not good with being perceptive, to things, changes, people or dangers like a horse is.

So when you work with and ride horses you need to see from the horse’s perspective. You are a predator and the horse is the prey. A horse thinks differently than a predator. A predator has a direct line of thinking, this is what we are going to do, whether it is a lion focusing on the kill or a human with a halter going to catch a horse in the field.

However, the horse’s mind is constantly going and changing trying to figure out where they need to go to flee and get away. When dealing with a human especially when untrained or green, they may think about whether to trust and stay or run away to stay safe.

Seeing as horses are prey animals one thing you must realize is that they do not learn through punishment. This is because when you punish a prey animal they become afraid of you. Horses cannot learn when they are frightened. When a horse is afraid they get consumed by fear and can’t think of anything else. Just to be clear I am not talking about negative reinforcement. I am talking about beating the horse, yelling at the horse or punishing them by scaring them in some way.

Horses see us as predators so when we do this we are confirming to them that we cannot be trusted.

You need to prove to horses that you are not a predator, so that they can develop trust. Once a horse trusts you and no longer sees you as danger or a threat then they will put you in a pecking order. Where do you fit, high or low on the authority and respect scale. When the horse trusts you, you need to make sure you maintain or build respect. This involves moving the horses feet. If you can move the horses feet you can gain respect, without having to punish the horse.

So when working and riding horses keep in mind your prey predator relationship, and how your behavior may influence the horse.

In the next post coming out Oct 15th we will be going over horses as herd animals. If you want to be emailed the post sign up for the email list.

If you have any questions about horses as prey animals, email me at [email protected] and if it is helpful to others it may be featured in this post.

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Cheers,

Kacey

Equine Psychology Mini Series: Understanding Horse Behavior Before You Work With Horses | Part 1 Intro


It is very beneficial and I think it is important that BEFORE you start working with, riding or training horses you understand the horse’s basic psychology. Then you will have a better idea of what it’s like being a horse and why they do what they do. 

Though I am just going to be covering the basics and you probably won’t remember everything, the information you utilize from this will help you become; 

  • more aware and safer working around horses, 
  • communicate more clearly with horses,
  • have a higher level of empathy for the horses you work with. 

You will have a better understanding of the horse’s perspective and actions.

It takes years of study and working with horses to get the horse sense of an experienced Horseperson. This is also called being Horse Savvy. So this short series is just the beginning of your journey with horses.

If you have been working with horses and or riding for a while, it is still useful for you to read over this insight into the mind and behavior of horses. 

Maybe you haven’t actually learned much about horse psychology or maybe you could use a review. This will only improve your interactions with the horses you ride and work with, and help you have more empathy because you will better understand or be reminded of why your horse may be acting a certain way. 

Sometimes horses are mistaken for having bad behavior when really it’s just the horse reacting, trying to communicate something, or doing what they think is the easiest thing to do, to solve their problem.

So in this series I am going to cover several topics regarding the psychology and behavior of horses. 

  1. Horses As A Prey Animal
  2. Horses As A Herd Animal
  3. Horses’ Natural Instincts
  4. Horse Communication & Body Language

Although this is not typically a prerequisite to riding lessons or working with horses, I really think it’s worth taking the time to learn, because you are working with a living breathing animal, not a bike, vehicle or machine.

This animal has a mind of their own, feelings, likes and dislikes. And at the very least you should know the basics of how a horse behaves and some of the whys. They are not big puppies contrary to what some people think of how they act. 

They have their own unique set of instincts and traits. 

Now that you have an idea of the importance of knowing the mind of a horse before you start working with and riding them, in the next post I will first be going over horses as a prey animal. What a prey animal is and traits horses have that make them a prey animal.

I will try to give the basic information you need in the following posts and try to keep them short and sweet and to the point.

If you have further questions about the topics send me an email to [email protected]. I may add your questions to the post, if they would be of help to others.

The following posts of this series will be published one at a time each upcoming Friday. Next post on Oct 8th. Stay tuned. Sign up for the email list to get emailed the blogs latest posts.

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Cheers,

Kacey

The Best Beginner Riding Helmet 2021 | Find Out Why


If you are just starting out horseback riding you want to find the proper equipment but I am sure you want to stick to a budget in most circumstances. You want to find the best beginner riding helmet for your money, but where do you start?

You start here. I am going to share with you what I think is the best helmet for beginner horseback riders. And what I used to recommend to my lesson students, who didn’t have loads of extra cash to drop on a $200 riding helmet. I say used to recommend because I have not been teaching lessons since I had my son, who is now almost 3 years old.

I recommend this horseback riding helmet based on 3 things:

  • My experience with the helmet
  • The safety rating
  • The price

The helmet I recommend as the best beginner riding helmet is Ovation Protégé Riding Helmet which ranges in price from $49.99-$59.99 depending on the color, style and size. This helmet is not only stylish, offer’s great protection and is at an affordable price point compared to many other riding helmets but it is also a comfortable helmet.

By the way the Ovation Protégé Helmet Matte version is number 4 on the Amazon’s Best Seller List for horseback riding helmets.

In this post I am going to go over a few things about this helmet.

  • I am going to compare the price of it to other horseback riding helmets.
  • Go over the different styles.
  • The safety standard and why I think it has great protection.
  • The things that make this helmet comfortable.
  • Links to reviews about this helmet from around the web.

If you find this post helpful and you decide you want to buy the helmet. I would really appreciate if you bought it through my affiliate link. I will get a small commission from your purchase but you won’t get charged any extra money. It helps support my blog and to keep it going. Thank you so much!

Get The Helmet Here

Comparing The Price Of The Ovation Protégé Helmet

So you can see the prices below. It is not the cheapest but not the most expensive schooling helmet either. There are more expensive riding helmets than these but I chose helmets that were in a similar category.

One thing you will notice is the cheapest helmets under $40 have foam exposed at toward the bottom of the helmet and the helmets above this price point have a shell covering the whole outside of the helmet.

I feel you have more protection when the shell covers the whole helmet. However those helmets were still tested and approved with the SEI/ASTM horse riding standard. But that doesn’t mean that all the helmets are equally safe and equally comfortable.

So take a look at some samples of prices helmets are going for below. I put average prices. They can vary a couple dollars depending where you look and whether you find the helmet on sale somewhere.

Ovation Protégé Helmet $49.99-$59.99

Ovation Deluxe Schooler Helmet $65.95

Troxel Liberty Horseback Riding Helmet $55.85

TuffRider Starter Riding Helmet $59.99

TIPPERARY Sportage Helmets $89.99

Troxel Dakota Riding Helmet $64.95

Troxel Sport Horseback Riding Helmet $34.99

IRH INTERNATIONAL RIDING HELMETS Equi-Lite Helmet $39.99

Different Styles Of The Ovation Protégé Helmet

The helmets overall structure is the same. The different styles of the Ovation Protégé Helmet I am talking about is the ABS shell that is on the helmet. Not only do these helmets come in different colors, but they also come in different finishes.

The color options range wide. You can get the helmet in the following colors:

  • Amethyst
  • Brown
  • Bubble Gum
  • Denim
  • Graphite Green
  • Navy
  • White
  • Black Matte
  • Brown Matte
  • Gray Matte
  • Blue
  • Fuchsia
  • Purple
  • Red
  • Teal

So above you can see the different color options.

Then there are the different finishes on the shell which includes the following:

  • Normal Gloss
  • Matte
  • Metallic

So you have a handful of choices to find the helmet color that fits your style, whether you like more conservative colors or more colorful vibrant colors.

Ovation Protégé Helmet Safety Standards

This helmet has the normal safety standards every riding helmet must meet. But there is a couple things I like about this helmet which provides you with a little extra protection.

  1. I like that the helmet comes with a fitting dial. You can turn the dial and it tightens the fit of the helmet on your head. This provides you with a better fit. The fit of a riding helmet is important so the helmet stays in the proper place and actually protects your head in the event of a fall. If your helmet is too big or small it won’t stay in the proper position when you fall.
  2. I like that similar to the Tipperary helmet this helmet drops down low in the back. Tipperary may be lower in the back than this helmet, but this helmet is lower in the back than most helmets. I think it provides more protection because of this feature.

Comfort Points Of The Ovation Protégé Helmet

This helmet has some benefits in the overall comfort department. Here is a list of the different comfort points of the Ovation Protégé Helmet.

  1. The dial system. Not only is it comfortable to have a helmet that fits properly and easily, but the dial system provides space you can put your pony tail through. If you have a lot of hair it can be hard to get it shoved under the helmet. Also when you do wear a pony tail or bun, it is coming out of the bottom of the helmet and it pushes you helmet forward. This feature makes it less of a problem and more comfortable.
  2. The helmet is lightweight. The protection quality is there yet the helmet doesn’t feel like a bowling ball on your head. Heavy helmets can be really distracting when riding and makes learning to balance just a little bit harder. I like a helmet that interferes the least amount as possible.
  3. This helmet has a lot of mesh and ventilation. There is nothing more gross than a hot sweaty helmet, especially when it is still wet when you put it on from your last ride. Not only that but many helmets can contribute to you getting over heated in the summer. This is a great helmet for all year round but especially in the summer.
  4. Lastly It is nice that you can take the inner mesh cap out to wash it. It can get gross in the helmet and it is much more comfortable when you can ride in a clean helmet.

Links To Reviews From Around The Web

From Amazon

From Dover Saddlery

From Stateline Tack

From Adams Horse Supply

From Equus Now

From Farm House Tack

Are You Ready To Get The Ovation Protégé Helmet

So there you have it. Why I think the Ovation Protégé Helmet is the best beginner riding helmet. I am not saying it is the top helmet out there. But when you are getting started riding you just want a basic safe helmet, that will not make you feel uncomfortable while riding, and a little style doesn’t hurt.

So if you are ready, click one of the links below and get your helmet. I appreciate your support, of Sparkles Rainbows and Unicorns.

Get The Helmet Here

Cheers,

Kacey

Fix Your Opening Rein Riding Problem


The opening rein is a great training tool and can be slightly more effective than other rein aids with tight turns, young horses and lesson ponies, just due to being more clear to the horse. That is if you are using the aid correctly.

In the last two blog posts I’ve covered what an open rein is, why it’s useful and how to do it. Then I went over the 2 common problems rider encounter when using the open rein.

Stop here and read the two short posts right below before moving on, so you have the whole picture.

Post 1: Open Rein Meaning: What Is An Opening Rein & How Do You Do It?

Post 2: 2 Common Problems Riders Encounter Using An Opening Rein Aid

In this post I am going over how to fix the open rein problems I discussed earlier in the second blog post above.

So let’s go over how to fix problems using an opening rein.

Fixing Your Issues Using An Open Rein

The goal is that you want to be able to open the rein with minimal to no disturbance of your riding position, upper arm and elbow position, while giving the horse a clear rein aid.

Start off by carrying your elbows and hands in the correct basic position with your thumbs on top. Their should be a straight line from elbow to hand to bit.

When you go to use the open rein just turn your inside wrist over so that you’re fingernails are facing up towards the sky and your thumb is pointing towards the center of your circle or turn. You don’t have to move or twist your forearm sideways although if you do it will emphasize the aid.

Think about keeping the same contact and be aware that this simple turn of the wrist will cause you to open your inside rein by about the width of your hand.

Your horse can feel this in his mouth and because it is a subtle, gentle and calm aid your horse is very likely to listen and follow through.

Just because you know what to do now doesn’t mean that you will get it right away. Practice this and focus on being smooth, and steady.

I hope this short series was a help to you. Stay tuned for more riding tips.

Cheers,

Kacey

2 Common Problems Riders Encounter Using An Opening Rein Aid


As we know from my last blog post an open or opening rein can be really useful because it is fairly clear to the horse what you are asking them.

Which is why it’s great for using with young and green horses. When using two opening reins it can help straighten the young inexperienced horse as well.

If you haven’t read the last blog post here it is: Open Rein Meaning: What Is An Opening Rein & How Do You Do It?

Go read that post real quick, and come back. It is a short read.

For the open rein to be effective you need to be doing it correctly and there are two common faults or problems that riders encounter when using an opening rein.

In this post I’ll go over what the two problems are. Then you can evaluate your own riding and decide whether you think you may have one of these problems when you use the open rein.

The 2 Common Problems When Using An Opening Rein

  1. The rider is pulling the horse around which is against classic riding principles and can cause several problems. 
  2. The rider’s arm moves forward, losing contact with the horse’s mouth hence losing much of the effect that the rider is trying to get with the open rein.

So now let’s go a little deeper into these two problems to see why they really are a problem.

The Consequences Of These Opening Rein Faults

Problem 1: Pulling The Horse Around

Starting with the first problem again about pulling the horse around a turn.

First off this causes a shift of the inside seat bone to go backwards and sometimes the inside leg to slide forward.

This is incorrect, you want your inside seat bone to go forwards around the turn. And for your inside leg to stay under you by the girth. This is what happens to your riding position when you have this fault.

But what happens to the horse?

Often yes the horse will bend his neck but will usually fall out through the outside shoulder which you don’t want.

The only way to stop the horse from falling out through the outside shoulder is by compensating and applying your sideways blocking aids which would be your outside leg and outside rein.

This is awkward and uncomfortable way of turning your horse.

Problem 2: Losing the Contact

Now on to the second problem of your arm coming forward and losing the contact.

This usually comes from wanting to be gentle to the horse and you are attempting to indicate to the horse that you want to turn but also keep the forward movement.

This is pretty much harmless just ineffective and useless.

The horse might turn a little bit but you will have to use more of your seat, leg and outside rein aids to compensate and to communicate to the horse to make the turn or circle.

Wrapping Up

Now that you know the two common problems or faults associated with using the open rein, which problem do you face more?

Or have you not had any issues with using the opening rein?

If you have one of these two problems and they are something you have been dealing with, then stay tuned for the next blog post.

Because I’ll be going over how to handle these two riding faults. So you can ride with the open rein correctly and become a more effective rider.

Cheers,

Kacey