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Claire Hunter’s Quick Tools and Tips

Excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners due for release winter, 2010

Long lining: “Long lining is an amazing tool that I use with every

horse that comes through my program.”

Round pen: “I use a round pen occasionally when I have a horse

come in that has respect issues and needs to learn about ‘my

space, your space’ commands and demands.”

Free Jumping: “I like to teach all young horses to free jump

loose before jumping under saddle. This allows them to figure

out their own balance and stride while jumping, before dealing

with a rider’s weight and balance.”

Turnout and nutrition: “I am a strong believer in lots of turnout

and a very good nutritional program. A happy, well-fed horse is

much more willing to cooperate than a horse that is unhappy,

hungry, or has excess energy.”

Handling: “The people that handle the horses on a daily basis

are incredibly important to the horses’ overall happiness. If

you have staff that are afraid of the horses, or are too aggressive

with them, this can greatly affect their daily behavior, especially

as young, impressionable horses.

“Herd mechanics are key as well. If you have a horse that is

being a bully to humans, if you get them in the right group and

have another alpha that can put him in his place, it can help

with his training and overall confidence. You do have to be

careful with this, as you certainly don’t want any of the horses

to get hurt either.”

About Claire Hunter

Claire Hunter specializes in backing and starting young horses,

and retraining problem horses. After working at other equine

establishments, she recognized there was a need for a service to

bridge the gap between breeders and the show ring. From there,

Braecrest Stables was created.

Claire is an active member of the Toronto North York Hunt

Club, Canadian Equestrian Federation, the Ontario Equestrian

Federation, and the Canadian Sport Horse Association. She

spent two years at Openwood Farm backing and training Thoroughbred racehorses and field hunters prior to starting her own business, where she serves as owner and trainer at Braecrest Stables in Loretto, Ontario, Canada.

Claire was a guest speaker at the Ontario Equestrian Federation

Annual Conference in 2008, with a seminar entitled “You

don’t need to be a superstar to be a success.”

Claire Hunter

Loretto, Ontario

(705) 435-0330

Horse Training tips from Kathy O’Neal’s down home perspective

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.

Livery Training Stables
(505) 688-0221

Robert Fera on stallion training and management

Excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners due for release winter, 2010

Editor’s note: Robert is currently working on the upcoming Horse Sense and Cents™ title, Bringing Up Baby. Look for future blog posts that invite you to view this work in progress and provide input on content direction.

Dominance to the Extreme
“I had one stallion in here for collections that was showing at a very high level and had shown internationally. He showed up with a note saying ‘don’t give eye contact.’ And, I was like, what is this? I thought, well this is out of the ordinary. And it was no guff. As soon as I went in the stall and looked at him straight on, he lunged at the stall grill, teeth bared, with a look that said he wanted to kill me. I tried something; he was nice and calm in his stall and I’d walk by with my head down then with my head up and he’d lunge at the grill again. This is a horse that I have to breed, and I can’t breed if he feels that he is the dominant one. He had to understand that I was going to protect him, and I’m the one that’s going to tell him when to breed and when not to breed. It took about a month to get him slowly used to the fact that I wasn’t going to hurt him; and that I can look at him face-to-face. At first, he’d always want to rush. He wanted to run and he was obviously not really well trained in hand. He was uncontrollable and high strung with a lot of anxiety. It took a long, long time just to get it in his head that I will let you do what you want to do, but you can’t be stupid about it. Relax. Eventually it worked.

“Drugs, like Valium, also help with those kinds of problems. It’s not that you’re sedating these horses, but you are taking the anxiety level down. Then, you can take him off the Valium and he’s already gotten used to you without the anxiety level. The real reason for a lot of problems is, horses get anxious because they think they’re going to get hurt or beat. It almost blows their mind, and they forget everything and get all nervous, and the next thing you know, some people are giving the horse a beating because he’s not doing what you wanted him to do. And, if you don’t register that as a horse handler or even a rider, that anxiety keeps building until one day it explodes and you have an unruly horse. They just go over the top.

“That’s what may have happened with that stallion that I couldn’t look in the eye for the first little bit. With anxiety comes gastrointestinal problems and a variety of lashing out. And that goes back to the young horses. If you stress them out and make them anxious, you’re not achieving anything.

“If we can make stallions content with respect to nutrition, housing, turnout, exercise, and health management, we will get more out of them. With that also comes a respect for the fact that they are a very proud and noble creature.”

About Robert Fera
Robert Fera is the owner and manager of Deerpath Breeding and Development in Puslinch, Ontario, Canada. The facility takes in stallions at stud owned by others, provides collection and training services, troubleshoots nutritional challenges for stallions, mares and foals, and provides a resource for those seeking a safe, watchful, and expert environment for births and early foal imprinting.

With his education and experience in animal health, Robert works with many veterinarians who both refer to and rely on him for experienced stallion management and foal development. He also provides support to breeders and feed dealers as an equine specialist for an animal nutrition company in Cambridge, Ontario.

He is also a published author on such topics as stallion management, foal nutrition, and foal development.

Visit his website at

Horse training seen through the mature eyes of young Kels Bonham

Excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners due for release February, 2010

What Problem?
“I haven’t really considered any of the horses we’ve gotten to be a problem,” Kels explains. “I’ve never had one that’s been vicious, a terrible stopper, or hard to control. I might have had minor issues to address like sourness, or boredom where they do not want to do one particular thing like lead changes, but I don’t think we’ve had one that’s been that bad.

“I’ve learned a lot through making mistakes as far as bringing along a troubled or green horse. You need to be extremely patient. Anytime you try to rush things, something is going to go wrong with the horse’s mental or physical health.

“If a horse is fighting you, it makes sense to step back and work with the horse. It can’t always be your way. If you just fight them, you are not going to get anything accomplished.”

Project Earns Pride
“I was very proud of a horse I had last year named Rebel’s Run. When we got him, he had only done the baby green hunters, so he was jumping very low. I was the only one besides my brother that rode him; and we brought him all the way to the Junior Jumper and did the Medal finals. It was really rewarding to bring one along, and it made me realize how much I like bringing green horses up through the ranks.

“It was a gradual process with Rebel. When we got him, he knew the basics, but he was very green. Every day I made his routine a little more advanced — getting the steering better, learning to be collected, jumping more complicated gymnastics, etc. By the end he was jumping extremely complicated courses with ease.

“The first horse show I did with him was in Thermal, California. We took him out there to do the winter show circuit for six weeks. We started the first couple of weeks introducing him to the show grounds and courses, just not showing. When we did compete, we started in the very low jumpers with Level 1s, and by the end of it, he was doing Level 4. It was amazing how quickly he learned.

“That same year he was fifth at the six-year-old Jumper Championships. He did both Medal Finals that year. The next year, he started doing the High Junior Jumpers. This summer he placed in every Classic that I did with him.”

About Kels Bonham
Kels is a gifted, mature, and insightful young lady. Even though she was competing at levels as a junior that many adults will never reach, she insisted on tacking her own horses at shows and connecting with the horses she rides through time spent on the ground between competitions. Kels has not only shined as a nationally acclaimed equitation rider but has also held her own in Jumper Classics against seasoned and celebrated adults.

While she admits she’s not sure yet what she will do after college, she indicates she’d like to be a professional rider (some might argue she already is). She dreams of having her own small training farm where she starts young horses to bring them up through the ranks, with the ultimate aim of selling them to others.

Old English approach to young horse training

Excerpt featuring John Newborough from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners due for release January, 2010

A bone breaker
Most who have worked professionally with challenging horses have a story to tell about a charge to fix a horse that has hurt someone else who tried.
“A man asked me, would I break a horse for him. He was a very good man. We hunted together. He bred a lot of horses, and I thought, why would he want me to do it? We were very much younger then. We were in our forties. We were quite busy, and I said, ‘I really can’t.’
“The postman used to sit with us and have a cup of coffee on his rounds. He asked if we were breaking any horses and told us that he delivered mail to a lady that specializes in difficult horses. About a week later, he said the lady had an accident. The man who asked me to have the horse said ‘John, I’m in trouble. I sent him away, and he broke the lady’s arm.’ He offered to pay any dowry for me to take the horse. I rang the woman; and she said she was long reining him, and he ran backward and broke her forearm.
“I had a gal working at the farm do the groundwork. He was a pig of a horse. All of his life he’d got away with a lot of things. He’d get topside of the people. If he took exception to things, he would strike and come straight at you rolling like a bull.
“My wife has been riding all her life, and when she started working with him, if he came striking at her or attacking, she’d give him smack on the nose with a longeing whip, and away he’d go. We drove him miles and miles. We did have a few battles, and sometimes he got away. We’d work with him two or three times a day. We got him used to a roll, and he wasn’t too bad with tack. But, he was pretty talented with his heels and would kick like a mule.
“We had one space in a cattle shed with a lot of cattle. It was what we call in this country a cubical house. He was in one stall in a row of seventy-two cattle stalls in this shed. He had the cattle moving constantly around him. He was tied in this stall with a hay net. Every morning, I took the cattle dung out with a tractor and back-mounted scraper. Initially, he would kick at the tractor as I scraped muck out behind him, but he just became used to everything. As I went down with the scraper he’d respond with a bang! bang! I’d hear him kicking every time with the scraper. He became accustomed to it, because he eventually learned we weren’t going to hurt him.
“I had tin with pebbles and a sack full of straw on a rope which hung down from the roof, so he got used to something constantly touching him. As he touched it, it would swing, and ultimately, he came to perfectly accept it. I’d stand up on the stall partitions and lean over him several times a day and rap him with the sack to get him used to it and ready for later lessons.
“We’d probably be about eight weeks with him, but when it came to riding him, he was a Christian. What I put it down to was patience and a lot of hard work.”

About John Newborough
Horses have been a big part of John’s (and his wife Gina’s) life in England, from hunting when he was younger to breeding and a lot of judging now. While the types of horses have varied from Thoroughbreds to Welsh Cobs, ponies, cart, and draft horses, their farm focuses on breeding sport horses now.
011 44 -1526 397153

Jutta Heinsohn’s dressage horse training perspective

Excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners due for release January, 2010

“Even a professional is faced with situations that require trial and error. The difference between a professional and an amateur is normally the arsenal of information, experience, and techniques available to pull from. While many of the techniques are available to learn about in books, there is no substitute for application and practice … trial and error … you’ll try a technique; it doesn’t work, you try another.

“There are many artificial aids and devices available to a horseman or woman today, and I suppose if you are looking for shortcuts, or a faster road to conclusion, there are some that are quite useful. I strongly believe there is no substitution for solid knowledge and natural, or learned, abilities. This includes a balance of timing and strength, an ability to read the horse’s body language, and the insight to respond quickly and appropriately enough to change the horse’s path while always providing
him the opportunity to make the right choice!”

About Jutta Heinsohn
While Jutta’s dressage credentials place her in a highly respected group of trainers in the United States, she’s spent the better part of her life using her expertise to retrain troubled horses,
start young horses, and fix horses that have been damaged or misunderstood by others. Humbled often by the extraordinary reward that bringing a rehabilitated horse back into the competitive arena provides, Jutta continues her efforts on behalf of the horse and the rider who is eager to learn.
Jutta takes a balanced approach to the horse-rider collaboration and their respective needs. She works with individual horses and clients on their goals, striving to reach those aims in a harmonic partnership. This philosophy allows Jutta’s clients — both horse and rider — to advance quickly and happily.
At the end of 2002, Jutta became a United States citizen. Along with the pride associated with this designation, it’s also opened previously closed equine competitive doors that remained elusive in the prior century.

Dennis Auslam’s Western perspective

Excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners due for release January, 2010

Third Trainer proved the charm with Saddlebred
Dennis talks about a long letter he received from a gentleman who had all but given up on his horse and subsequently concluded Dennis was a “gift from God.”
“I had a Saddlebred that the owner had sent to other trainers for what I believe was a period of nine months between the two of them. He’d blow up under saddle and in the harness. He (the owner) had heard about me from the mounted police up in Minneapolis. We had to do a lot of undoing before we could start doing. I had him three months, and I don’t know the trainers, but I do believe that they were pretty whip-happy. This is one issue we discovered that leads to a lot of other areas. This horse had learned to have no trust and a total lack of confidence with the people that worked with him. So, we had to deal with that and get the horse over his concerns. He wasn’t a mean horse. He was a kind horse. But, whenever you got in the saddle or hooked him up in the harness, he couldn’t hold it together. I started him just like I would a two-year-old. I think when they started him, they just got on and went, instead of giving him the basics, putting a good foundation on him. I started in the round pen to try to get some of the cobwebs out of his head. There were times when I didn’t think it was going to work, and that’s why I kept him three months. I knew this was this horse’s last chance. As it ended up, I did take the horse back to the owner’s property after he was finished with the fixing process, and I don’t normally do that. I hauled the horse three hours north of me because I wanted to see the horse in his environment, and see what kind of rider and driver this guy was. I took him out and rode him at this guy’s place and hooked him up in the harness. The horse used to run away with the harness. He’d grab the bit and run, and did the same thing in the saddle, although here he’d rear first, then grab the bit and run,” Dennis explains.
The homestead test for both the horse and the rider demonstrated that what this horse had learned in the last three months could be transferred to the new facility and the intended future rider/driver.
“The horse is doing very well. The owner called me. He had gone on vacation for a couple of weeks. When he came back, the horse was fresh because he hadn’t been worked during this time. The horse held it together on the first day. I think we got him over the hump. The horse was much happier, much more secure. I don’t think that horses like falling apart any more than we want them to. If we don’t give horses confidence, we set ourselves up for failure as well as them,” Dennis asserts.

About Dennis Auslam
Dennis believes a problem horse is a rare find, but people who create them abound. He works with horses, and people, to help all involved gain the self-assurance, understanding, trust, and skills to find a happy connection for both.
Redwood Stables
Dennis & Michelle Auslam
(507) 430-0342 cell

Training Horses with Denny Emerson

Training Horses with Denny Emerson

Excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners due for release January, 2010

Maturity provides insight

“I think this is something that comes with getting older,” Denny admits. “There are two ways of addressing ‘my horse won’t do what I want.’ The mature, quiet, classical horseman will say, ‘this horse won’t do what I want, therefore, I am not asking him in a way he understands, or I’m overfacing him with tasks he’s not emotionally prepared to handle.’ But, the impatient person will say, ‘this horse won’t do what I want, therefore, the horse is being bad and I have permission to get on his case and punish him.’ I am now 67 years old, and I need to figure out a quieter or more consistent way to ask him. If you could get the younger ones (riders) to have that more mature attitude toward the training principles, I think you’d have a lot less trouble with horses. If it doesn’t happen in a week, or two weeks, or three months, then that’s OK. But you don’t start to ratchet up the intensity just because it isn’t happening fast enough.

“One of the things that I really do believe is that there can be a very significant difference between someone who is primarily a competitor and someone who is primarily a trainer. Let’s say you’re going to a particular event in two weeks. Your goal is to win the horse trials. If your horse isn’t going well then there’s a funny psychological switch that says ‘my horse is an impediment to my goal’ and you tend to lose patience with your horse.

“If your primary role is a trainer, the objective is to have the horse go well. The event in two weeks is not the priority,” Denny explains. Instead, he says a trainer’s sights are set on finding the right time and place to ensure the horse is able to shine. Patient tolerance and an understanding of equine needs with a schedule designed for the highest-level performance is the focus. “There’s a very different mindset,” he asserts.

“The best horseman is the person that can do both — to be both is really good. I think it’s better to be a good trainer than to be a good competitor. I’ve known a lot of really good competitors where others say ‘that person can really ride, but God forbid that you be his young horse,’ because he doesn’t have the patience to create a young horse. They’re too much in a hurry and they want what they want when they want it,” he notes.

About Denny Emerson:

Denny is currently at his 48th consecutive year of competing at the Preliminary eventing level or higher. He has been honored with the USEA’s Wofford Cup for lifetime service to eventing, the American Riding Instructor Certification Program (ARICP) Lifetime Achievement Award, and was inducted in 2006 into the USEA Hall of Fame.

In addition to his eventing career, Denny has been involved in numerous other horse sports during his 56 years of competing. He rode in his first one-hundred-mile trail ride at GMHA in 1956. Forty-eight years later, in 2004, Denny won a Tevis Cup buckle in endurance, for completing the 50th Anniversary of the Western States Trail Ride, the most famous and arduous 100-mile endurance race in the world. Denny has compiled 2,250 miles in American Endurance Ride Conference races, and was long listed for the 2005 USA East team for the North American Championships.,

Denny will be hosting a clinic, festival and show weekend at his facility September 5-7, 2009 at his Vermont facilities featuring Irish Draught and Irish sport horses. Auditors are welcome at $15/day.