Lunging for Respect stage 1

I talked over with Shelbi on when to meet her down at the stables so I could watch her train Sugar and maybe work with Ruby as well.  I met up with her and watched her back Sugar up into the round pen. Sugar is actually better at backing than Ruby is. I watched her round pen Sugar while she talked to me on what she's doing or answering any questions I had. I noticed Sugar had a lot more energy with everything, too much in fact. She was more on the overweighted side and got winded faster than Ruby would have, especially since she kept speeding at every little pressure Shelbi put on her. Ruby needs a lot more pressure more often than not. We basically need a horse in between so we're working on evening them out. 

Shelbi then saddled Sugar (after a few other exercises like desensitizing and yielding) and took her to the big arena. I went to go get Ruby so we could both work them in the same arena and Shelbi could help me. When I went out to get Ruby from her paddock, she was much better to catch than the day before. 

Yesterday I worked with her and had some really bad moments and some really good ones. That day I worked with a couple of the exercises and so far I was satisfied until I got to the "lunging for respect." I pointed for her to turn and move in a circle around me but that's when the trouble started. First she just stood there so I added pressure to her front end to move off. She still stood so I added more until she started backing, and then she decided to rear up and suddenly she came forward at me a few steps to test/challenge me. 

That's when I made my greatest mistake. What I should have done was come back at her more fiercely and make her go the way she was supposed to go, but what I did was I lost the fight by moving back. I moved back because she frightened me when she get's nasty. That was the wrong move on my part so now the next time I ask her, she'll try it again most likely worse than before because she's succeeded on been able to back me up. I was unsure about trying again because I knew I was doing something wrong at the time so I did some more of the other exercises I knew how to do and ended at a good stopping point. 

Today Shelbi gave me the answer to my problem. I told her what happened yesterday so she had me do it again. But first she had me back her up with the different methods. I noticed when backing Ruby to the arena that she tried to move to the side and pass me. She unfortunately succeeded in that once but I did NOT want her to win me over again! The only good things that comes out of Ruby winning is that she's making me that much more determined not to let her win the next time. I backed her more in the arena and not once did I lose to her. After that and some yielding, we did the lunging for respect! Shelbi had me point in the air and swing my stick to set her off. She had a similar attitude the day before and reared and challenged me but just as I expected, she did it a little more. Shelbi had me 'get in there!' and I whacked her on the neck until she turned and obeyed with a swish of her tail. 

Mistakes and problems I made during Lunging for Respect stage 1: 

  • Point in the Air: The first mistake I'll mention is pointing in the air. When I ask Ruby to turn and move, I'm supposed to point high in the air the direction I want her to go. I don't point high enough and I don't keep my hand pointing. I need it dramatically high so she doesn't get confused on what I want her to do. I also need to keep it there until she gets away from me the distance I need. I keep putting my hand down way too soon, partly because I'm clumsy with the rope and keep forgetting to keep it there, and partly because I have a nasty rope burn and just get's worse so when that rope is supposed to be pulling through my hand it burns and opens my skin again so I drop my hand. I just need gloves and I'll be set.
  •  Adding pressure: Not a big problem but I don't put enough pressure or get after her. Although I do let Ruby get away with little problems, that can lead to bigger ones. It's not that I'm babying her, it's more that I don't know I'm letting her sneak away with the wrong behavior. Or I don't 'get after her' when she does something wrong. 
  • Body Language: This one is probably my worst problem. I think while working horses I'm more on the timid side. When I yield Ruby to a stop she would walk into my space. Shelbi noticed I would back out and even that is letting her win. So she had me work on my body language to be confident. My body language was hesitant and Ruby could read that so she took advantage of me. Shelbi wanted me to be confident and not frightened when Ruby got nasty. So I changed from a timid deer to 'you better not!' leader. After just working that day I got much better and stood my ground when I was supposed to instead of backing up and made Ruby back instead. That way we both stay safe~

At the end I felt much better and felt like I got a lot accomplished, both with myself and with Ruby. It turned into a lesson from Shelbi even though Shelbi was working Sugar at the same time. I took longer, so she watched us with Sugar resting. She worked Sugar on lunging as well. She kept Sugar turning and working hard next to us and then she lunged further away from us (and the gate) and slowed the work and let her rest over there. It helps resolve something called "buddy sour." Buddy sour means that the horses constantly want to be together because they feel safer and rested. But we don't want that, we want them to be parted easily when we take them out. We want the horses to want to be with us and feel safe around us like we're their herd. So Shelbi is teaching Sugar that being near Ruby means work. The same exercise can be used for "barn sour" which is the same thing but the horse feels and wants to be near home so the rider has a hard time bringing the horse away from home. You work them where they want to go and rest them where they don't want to go. Basically they need to be balanced out so that they only want to go where we want them to go. 


The other day I had another lesson with Shelbi. It's been overcast, windy and rainy for awhile and I haven't gotten lessons or had enough time working Ruby on my own. That day was windy but thankfully didn't rain during the whole lesson. I can tell she had energy and usually if I was on my own I'll admit I probably wouldn't risk taking her out or at least not to work on. She gets really frisky and I don't have enough knowledge on what to do when she does that, especially when we start the training.  She starts getting in my space. 

Notes from my fist lesson with Shelbi

Lesson learned 

Halter: Halter knots on the nose goes on the beginning soft part on her nose. Higher up when the horse is tied. Too low it can stop her nostril breathing and panic her. 

Yielding the hindquarters: Her anchor foot needs to stay still and planted. Drilling in while the other three feet move around. Nearest front foot.

Backing: Ruby knows how to back so I can take it a step further. She needs pay attention and give me two eyes. Yank on the rope when she's getting distracted. And hurry her feet because she needs to get out of her lazy steps back and respect me. 

Too firm?: If someone thinks I'm too firm with the horse, think of it this way; I may work with her about 2 or 3 hours a day (most likely not every day) and the rest of the 24 hours the horse does whatever she wants.

Rhythm: I need good rhythm in almost every exercise. Not too slow to where the horse is thinking she got away with disobeying, and not too fast where I'm freaking the horse out and basically whipping her. It needs to be quick like I'm going to get it done but not too fast. I also need to work on my aiming and awkwardness of being a beginner.

Good habit: Backing Ruby all the way to the arena is a good habit to get into. And if she can lead without getting sticky feet after she's done really well with backing, then give her that as a reward. 


Yielding the forequarters: First time doing this exercise. Hold the stick straight in front of the horse's neck, stand in the middle of the horse's neck, hands on either side of the stick. Handle end at the neck with the other end at the horse's face so I can rub the horse between the eye and ears at a stop. Since I'm new and not very good, Ruby will test me a lot. She'll try to get out of it and make out like I'm doing it wrong (even if I'm doing it right). Don't have the horse step in front. If a little tap/whack her on the nose, if a lot make her back up. Going too back, follow and force her to turn. If really bad make her back up and keep doing so, so she no longer wants to back.

Round penning/lunging: This time we tried Ruby more on making tighter turns. She didn't turn so well or gave me two eyes quick enough. What to do: If Ruby doesn't give me two eyes when I'm asked her to face me, keep walking until she does. If she doesn't and I hit the fence, I have two options; go along the fence to her and try to force her to turn. Or drive her forward and hard and then ask again. (option 2) If she does it again do the same thing and ask again till she faces me. 

Backing methods:

  • Tap The Air
  • Wiggle, Wave, Walk and Whack
  • Marching
  • Steady Pressure

Ambassador Shelbi

Last year in September I went to Nevada where Ruby was going through a 6 week fundamental training with one of Clinton Anderson's ambassadors, Sarah. I got a lesson with Sarah where she showed me what she did with Ruby those 6 weeks and mostly to help me with the training myself. It was only for one day and although it was amazing I needed more help. Mrs. Davis felt the same. 

Sarah was going to come around April and teach a group of us at our EQ center. That was sadly put off because most of the other equestrian people in the group that we recruited were going to be too busy. And then I got surprised when I heard Shelbi was coming! Shelbi is another ambassador, I got to meet her January 22 and we all (Shelbi, Mrs. Davis, my mom and I) planned out private lessons. I'll get a private lesson which I think is better for me since she'll be only be focusing on me and I'll learn more that way than just watching. I get more than one or two lessons and I think Shelbi is really good at teaching. I need to save my money for each lesson and I want to get as many lessons as I can before she leaves because I don't know when I'll get professional help like that again. 

Shelbi talks a lot and I like how she explains things to make it as easy as possible to understand. When I have a question I seem to make a simple question turn into a really confusing one so I like how especially Shelbi can answer my questions before I ask them out loud.

I've already had my first and second lesson on the 24th and 25th of January. One of my first notes I took in my head was about the training halter. I knew a little why the two knots on the noseband were there on Clinton's halter but never thought they had to be put in any place in particular. I always tied the halter on more tightly than loosely so the two knots on the noseband were higher on her face. This was okay if I was tying her to a post but Shelbi showed me that I have to have it lower down when i'm training her. She had me feel down her face on her bone and just were it got soft on her nose was where the two knots were supposed to be. They're pressure points, which means I can add more pressure on that so she doesn't want to pull against it. But I don't want the knots too low to where they're clogging her breathing and she freaks out, especially if she's winded. 

During my second lesson I did yielding the hindquarters. Shelbi had me do it to show her how I'd usually do it alone with Ruby. When I did it in front of her I was so focused on getting her feet to cross that I forgot to have her 'anchor foot' stay still. Her 'anchor foot' is the forefoot nearest to me. 'Yielding the hindquarters' is getting her hindquarters to move away from me while we're turning in a circle. Her hind feet are supposed to cross while they go around and her forefeet turn as well but the one nearest to me. So basically all her feet move in a circle while her anchor foot stays in one spot and 'drills' around. Anyway, I kind of forgot to keep that anchor foot still so Shelbi showed me a trick to keep it that way. Every time she started to move that foot I'm to jerk on the rope to make it a tighter turn. 

I also learned a new exercise. I did yielding the forequarters for the first time. Even though it's in the Fundamentals videos, I haven't actually tried it. I don't think I've watched it yet either. It's different from the hindquarters. I stand in front right in the middle of her neck and hold the stick horizontally parallel in front of her neck. When yielding the hindquarters I add pressure by tapping the air. For the forequarters I do it similarly but since I'm holding it with two hands horizontally I move it back and forth like tapping the air. Ruby moves her forefeet around and I think I'm not doing too badly for a first try. Shelbi said she will test me a lot. It's a higher chance Ruby will pretend not to know how to do it than it is me thinking I'm doing something wrong (what she wants me to think so I give up). 

Emergency Care

I've learned that If you own horses long enough, sooner or later you'll have a medical emergency. There are several things horses are known in their behavior that will end with a problem on the owner's hands. One is their instinctive flight-or-fight response. This makes it important to have the horse on his 'thinking side' of the brain. And I'm still learning to train Ruby and Sugar with this. 

Another is a horse's dominance hierarchy, the need to establish the pecking order within a herd. This has already proven a problem between Ruby and Sugar. Between the two, Sugar is in command of the pecking order. And she seems to love bossing Ruby around. Ruby's recent injury when she was trapped in the shelter and Sugar kicked her because Ruby wouldn't come out. Sugar was the one blocking the entrance and making it impossible for Ruby to get out. But another problem with the pecking order horses have, is that they fight over the order.

Recognizing if there's something wrong like a cut or bleeding is an obvious problem to see. But if it's something in the inside like colic and other illness that may be harder to find. 

Normal health for a horse is good to know and check up on. Here are some ways to check that I have been learning recently. 

  • Pulse rate: 30-42 beats per minute.
  • Respiratory rate: 12-20 breathes per minute.
  • Rectal temperature: 99.5-101.5F.
  • Capillary refill: two seconds or less. (time it takes for the color in the gum to return after pressing and releasing the finger)

There are so many types of emergencies a horse can have. From heat stroke, snake bites, foaling difficulties to injured outwardly like cuts or even sharp objects stuck in a hoof, as well as colic and other illnesses. 

Catching the horse and trying to keep him/her as calm as possible (as well as yourself) is the best action to take. The horse needs to be in a safe place to where he/she doesn't injury himself/herself more. It's also important to have another person hold the horse while the other checks or does anything to the injury. When I watched the vet give Ruby a shot in the rump, he had his assistant hold Ruby (staying one side) while he also was standing on the same side. He gave the shot on the other side of her rump so if she happened to strike out the person holding the horse could steer her and she would kick the other way and not hit him. Horses will kick out towards the hurting place, that's why he gave the shot on the opposite side so she would kick away from him. 

West Nile Virus (WNV)

West Nile Virus, WNV, is a disease mosquitoes transmit in horses. The virus is transmitted when a mosquito makes a meal of blood taken from infected bird and then feeds on a horse. Mosquito infects the bird with the virus, then the mosquito feeds on the infected bird, and then feeds on and infects the horse. If horses recover, they do so in about a week. Horses show signs of disease 3-15 days after being infected.

Horses are not the only ones who can get it; birds, llamas, goats, sheep, dogs, bears, various reptiles and humans as well as more species. The strains of WNV are capable of causing disease in certain domestic and exotic species of birds. Crows and blue jays especially, in which the infection was usually fatal. 

WNV infection in mammals does not come in big amounts of the virus in the bloodstream, as it does in birds. There is a very small amount of virus in the blood of a infected horse. Mosquitoes are unable to transmit the virus from horse to horse or from horse to human. There are some clinical signs that a horse may show; stumbling, toe dragging, twitching muscles in the neck/shoulder area and more. Aged horses tend to get the disease worse. It's more common for horses (and humans) to get WNV in warmer weather. 

Laminitis (Founder)

This time I'll be writing about Laminitis. I remember in the past a horse named Peppy got Laminitis. I learned a little of what it was from Peppy's owner but I didn't quite remember all she said about it. That was years ago but now I know more about it.

Laminitis happens in the feet. Although it's in the feet, what causes it is more often elsewhere in a horse's body. Overfeeding is a common cause to Laminitis, but thankfully is easier to control. 

Laminitis is a injury to what's called the sensitive and insensitive laminae (lamina, you can find it in the picture below) causing inflammation and could harm the important bond between these support structures of the foot. These Laminae parts secure the coffin bone (picture below) to the hoof wall. 

Inflammation can permanently weaken the laminae, and if severe can separate the bone and hoof wall, and penetrate the sole. 

I'll name a few of the causes (not all of them);
  • Overload of food (such as excess grain, fruit or snacks) or changes of diet. 
  • What's called "grass founder", is a type of Laminitis which a horse can get if sudden access to excessive amount of lush forage before the horse's system has time to adapt.  
  • High fever or illness
  • Severe Colic 
  • Bedding that contains black walnut shavings
  • Various foot deceases

Some of the signs horses may show as well:

  • Lameness, especially when a horse is turning in circles
  • Heat in the feet
  • Reluctant or hesitant gait (what's called 'walking on eggshells')


Today (Feb 27) the horses got new shoes. This time on all their feet instead of just the forefeet. 

Gail and I came early to work the horses before they got their feet done. We backed them all the way to the arena and did desensitizing, lunging for respect stage 1 and 2, yielding the hindquarters and forequarters. 

Ruby was very testy that morning! She tried arguing with me right away, and I knew I would have to be more stern. 

Here's what happens: I ask Ruby to back up. She stands there so I ask her again. Ruby took a few steps back (but very lazy ones). So I keep increasing the pressure until she speeds up. When she gets to the bend in the path, I start turning her. This is where she always gets fussy. She's already doing lazy steps and only speeds up when I increase the pressure. 


In my last post about Ruby's injury I mentioned the vet had given me a couple of brochures on different illnesses and cares. I decided to write about one of them. The first one I picked was Colic.

Colic is a pain a horse has in his/her abdomen (belly). Colic is the number one killer of horses, although most cases are mild and can be treated medically simple. 

I was most interested in recognizing when a horse has Colic. There's a long list of different behaviors but I'll just write a few instead of all of them. 

  • Pawing
  • Kicking or biting at the belly
  • Turning towards the flank
  • Leaving food or being completely disinterested in food
  • Repeatedly rolling with grunting sounds
  • Rapid breathing and/or flared nostrils

These are just a few from the list, there are actually a lot of behaviors a horse can go though to show his/her discomfort. 

There are a few easy ways to check on the horse as well. In my last post about Ruby, I talked about checking the gum in the horse's mouth. By pressing a finger down on the gum (releasing) and then seeing how long until it turns back to it's normal color again (normal: 1-2 seconds). Another thing to check is if the gum is moist, tacky, or dry. And just checking the color of the gum (white, pale pink, dark pink, red, or bluish-purple).

Check the respiratory rate (breaths per minute), measured by watching the rise and fall of the flank with each breath. Checking the pulse and heart rate (beats per minute), measured over the heart (just behind or above the left elbow) or over an artery (at the sides of the fetlock or on the underside of the lower jaw).