Excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners due for release winter, 2010
Defusing fear: Kathy notes she’s been trying to “engage horses’ brains more lately” by doing something as simple as walking over poles, or by rubbing them with a sack full of noisy items. “This makes horses think twice about running when they face a new situation. Of course, the horse’s first desire when they’re scared is to run,” she explains.
Reprimands: “If you do have to correct a horse, do it quickly. You can’t just do it once; you need to educate them until the bad behavior stops. Praise is as important as the reprimand and repetition is key. All my school horses get a big pat on the neck and a carrot after they are ridden. Some just live for that little pat.”
The Voice: “I use my voice a lot. Raising my voice can tell a horse to stop doing something because I have that relationship with them. I have used my voice in the process of correcting them and so now I don’t have to be physical at all. Near or far, they hear me and understand what I am asking because they have experienced my cues with the voice commands. Some of the horses around here seem to know English. Be direct and have key words like ‘Quit!’ and ‘Hey!’ and, of course, ‘Good girl’.”
Competing: “I’ve never been one to get the horse ready and saddled for students at shows or at home. That is part of developing a relationship with a horse, and I think that’s very important. Being around them is clearly how you can get the best out of your horses because they know who you are, and that you care about them.”
Correction: “I’m not opposed to putting a chain over a horse’s nose. My lead ropes are long, so I can use them across the chest to make a point. I’ve been known to use a whip, especially for pawing. If a horse paws at the gate, she gets slapped across the legs for misbehaving. It’s important to discipline a horse at the point of disobedience. For example, if a horse bites you, you need to get them across the muzzle rather than slapping another part of their body. If they’re pawing, use the lead rope or whip across their forearm so they understand where the disobedience is happening.”
Artificial Aids: “I like German martingales because you can allow an amateur to use it, too, and not fear they are going to do something wrong with it. I pretty much ride everything in spurs because I come from a horseshow background where the discipline is to the nth degree. Horses are expected to perform immediately and spurs put a finer tune on these horses. It’s rare to have to actually use the spurs on a horse once he’s been introduced to them. The spurs are always there, though, in case I need them.”
About Kathy O’Neal
Kathy has been the owner of and trainer at Livery Training Stable for thirty years.
In addition, Kathy serves as a judge at area shows and provides clinics for the local community. She continues to ride and has earned several reserve championships at national horse shows in the past five years.
Livery Training Stables specializes in creating all-around horses that can do English (including jumping), as well as Western, trail, and pattern classes. Kathy’s students excel at showmanship, which requires considerable discipline between horse and handler in these in-hand classes.