Sign-up for our newsletter to receive news, updates and more from Nanette Levin!

equine issues

Do you really care about horses?

Perhaps I’ve been living in the country too long to understand some of what goes on in the real world. That’s OK with me. People gossip, yes (everyone knows everyone), but they also extend themselves to neighbors in need with genuine caring, concern and grace. Community members jump up to chip in because they can. It’s done without belittling the receiver. Reciprocity isn’t a concern. All recognize they may be in need some day, but mostly, do it because it feels good to be kind.

novice riders are great learners
Reaching out to novices can be rewarding in more ways than you imagined.

People puzzle me. Those boasting a moral compass with animal interactions can be so cruel with humans. These are usually the same folks who claim to have the only right answer as it pertains to the horse. Actually I imagine their genius extends far beyond the equine realm. Pity the people who have to live with them.

The older I get, it seems, the less I know. Usually, I enjoy the idea of exploring new learning experiences with others, but lately I’ve grown wary of most touting horse advocacy rank. It boggles the mind that some believe bullying forth to enlighten those they purport to support is a good way to sway opinion.

Most good leaders are humble

When I reflect on my best teaches over the decades with equines, they’ve been humble. Most have been quiet, thoughtful leaders changing the world one horse or one human at a time. Have I trained with Olympians and other celebrities? Yes. Are these the people who have made the most significant contributions to my understanding, skill and quality of life? Definitely not.

Memorable influencers are wise and mature – having a deep inner compass that produces followers and fans not because they say they’re great, but because they show they care.

Some of my most treasured mentors achieved incredible credentials and acclaim – something you usually discovered long after connecting with them because they didn’t broadcast qualifications, but rather looked at every day anew based on results. Others drew from hands-on experience and the people who helped them along the way. Both types of professionals (a term I no longer take for granted, nor use lightly) have made a huge difference in my perspectives and accomplishments over the years.

Is there an answer the industry can agree on?

I don’t know what the answer is anymore with horses. When I was young I did. I knew it all. Now I just have more questions. I do wonder about the ironic nature of people’s behavior. It’s scary to watch what’s going on in the horse industry, but hard to be heard over the battle cries of the camp crusaders. It seems most would rather fight than do good as the number of people willing or able to personally support horses continues to wane. We’re already seeing the fallout from this with horses being discarded in growing numbers.

Novice riders have a huge need that’s not being met

Twenty-three years ago I founded Fulcrum Communications at a time when the small business moniker was uttered with disdain by the rest of the industry. Business owner clients are eager learners, smart adapters and willing and happy to pay a fair price for services – provided the investment offers results.

I see a similar phenomenon with novice riders today. Sure, there are products available, but few seasoned horse people willing to reach out to help them get pointed in the right direction where they live. These riders will shape the future experiences of the horses across the world and influence industry movement tomorrow – for good or bad.

Influencing the horse market requires understanding people too

I shake my head when I see people responding to forums, groups, blogs and other online venues where only words are exchanged with absolute conviction on how to handle a horse they haven’t seen in a situation they haven’t witnessed. This approach doesn’t increase credibility, it undermines it. Perhaps some of the time spent attacking others (it’s sad this happens so often when novices ask for help) could be spent helping those in need close to home? I witnessed how the world changes one person at a time as we collaborated to change perceptions and rule making for small businesses in the 80s and 90s. Believe me, it’s a lot more rewarding and effective when you choose to contribute to the world with positive energy.

Reaching out to one local novice not only changes her life, but the experiences of every horse she touches. Plus, the joy you get from the appreciation expressed – not only in words and timely payment, but also through eager application of new approaches – is priceless.

Help your equine business and the industry

Most of the novices I meet are amazing. They love their horses and are willing to invest what they can once they realize they’ve hit a wall. These are rarely wealthy people, but are smart and humble enough to know when they need help. They relish knowledge provided in a way they can process and apply.

If you’re looking for a market that wants your help, consider how you can customize what you offer to reach these riders. You’ll not only help your local community, but also provide a service that helps the horse industry evolve with sound perspective you can share and teach.

This ready market tends to be active social media participants, even if they’re just lurkers. Be careful about joining a frenzy that’s caustic. You’re likely to not only loose prospects ready to consider client status, but also industry leaders no longer willing to be referral agents for you. Nobody likes a bully. There’s a big difference between passion and arrogance. Lean toward the former and you’ll likely grow your business. Take the latter position and you’ll deserve the business failure you achieve.

If you really care about horses, consider reaching out to novices in ways they can understand, afford and appreciate. The gratefulness they show provides a super example for more seasoned equestrians to emulate. You’ll be amazed how much you can learn from these special people.

Maybe the answer is as simple as that.

Horse wishes for the holidays

  1. My two front teeth back
  2. Horses that view shelter as their pristine palace and don’t hold it in then deposit with pride the moment they enter their stall or shed
  3. A sawdust pitchfork that doesn’t break on the first stall a horse care farm hand tackles (the same one that held a year prior to ‘his touch’)
  4. Time for mud to dry and be leveled before the next deep freeze
  5. Snow drifts that are satisfied with a height below chest level
  6. A winter without 30-40 mph hour gusts and 20 mph sustained winds sweeping across the pastures
  7. Fence posts that don’t wait until the ground is frozen solid to crack in two
  8. Ice-free ground for routes to pastures, barns and training areas (please repel ice from training areas as well)
  9. Hydrants that don’t crap out the moment it’s too difficult to dig through the ground for a fix
  10. A young horse training trick to teach Leah that has her cleaning out her hoof before she crashes it through the water trough
  11. Gloves you can work and ride in that actually keep your hands warm
  12. Boots that repel water and snow moisture that don’t have your feet numb after ten minutes of standing
  13. The secret to keeping warm while holding horses for the farrier
  14. Sunny days that don’t turn snow to ice
  15. A tractor that starts when it’s cold and needed to lend a hand
  16. Double-ended snaps that don’t require bare-hand warmth to function as designed
  17. Uninterrupted electricity throughout the winter to power the well
  18. More training clients who are happy to include the horse in the conversation when it comes to activities and results
  19. No more than 100 inches of snow
  20. Hoses that don’t freeze
  21. Furry coats that repel rather than absorb dirt
  22. An early, temperate and long spring

Of course, this is a greedy list for one, but bet I there are more than twenty-one people who are wishing for the same as winter attacks (sans the Leah request, of course). How about we each ask for one and suggest Santa share the gifts with all? What do you all think? Have more to add? It shouldn’t be hard to find additional supporters to spread the spirit if you want to add to the list. Yep, this is a bit of horse humor, but imagine the answers may be among readers of his blog.Please offer your deepest desire in the comments below as it relates to horses and we’ll see if we can’t build some Santa support (and will probably get some good advice from the readers with ideas to help make our wishes come true).

Many of you have been asking for this (particularly overseas, although we do have distributors in the UK and EU), and I’ve been remiss in not announcing this earlier – sorry. The Turning Challenging Horses Into Willing Partners book is available as a Kindle edition for $9.95. It’s a great Christmas gift for the horse lover in your life if you’re a last-minute shopper.

How’s fighting with your horse working for you?

“Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.” -William Butler Yeats, writer, Nobel laureate (1865-1939)

Few seem to have mastered the activity of standing your ground without being combative when it comes to horses. Of course, being insistent isn’t even always appropriate, depending on the nature of the horse you’re working with, but fighting with him will rarely get you the results you seek (unless your goal is an angry, untrusting or frightened horse).

So often what we do affects how our horse reacts. Have you argued with yourself lately to explore what you’re doing to create your ‘problem horse’?

This Yeats quote applies to horse/human relationships in so many ways – perhaps moreso than it’s intended direct at people to people. Rhetoric isn’t just about language, as critical as that is when it comes to reaching horses on their terms – it’s about arrogance (look a little deeper into the definition and you’ll find bombast – a synonym for bluster). Ah – and what a glorious moment it is when we look inside ourselves to discover the communications breakdown with our equine friend and alter our approach to make poetry in motion with the resulting partnership.

My horse needs to respect me

Respect is a two-way street (uhg – did I just use and idiom?). Sure, you can create a subservient horse that succumbs to your direction by demanding respect, but you won’t get one that appreciates and trusts you (no matter how many cookies you give him to show your love). Nor will you build a relationship that results in a partnership that includes a thinking horse that will do more than you imagine to accommodate and protect you.

If you’re really looking for an equine experience that comes from mutual respect, listening to what your horse is trying to tell you is key. That doesn’t mean you always answer with ‘yes,’ but you do need to acknowledge his input. If you merely stick to your training plan for the day without considering his concerns or issues, sooner or later a fight will happen. Sadly, even if you think you won, you didn’t. Your horse will remember and his attitude will suffer.

How do I read my horse?

As you look inside yourself for the answers, one of the most critical discoveries will be new insight into reading your horse. If you don’t know why he’s objecting to what you’re asking, you can’t offer an effective solution.

Equine Pain?

Is he in pain? No amount of discipline will assuage physical discomfort, so before you decide your horse is acting up, make sure he’s not acting out because he hurts. Get him well (or change your tack to fit him, riding style to accommodate him or career demands to adress his aging body).

Is your horse testing you?

Does she view you as an unworthy guide? If your horse is a confident, strong-willed and dominate mare, she won’t respond well if you sublimate every time she challenges you. The best course of action with this type of horse is to stand your ground – but pick your battles very carefully. It’s not about getting nasty – that’s the worst thing you can do with this personality. Merely continue asking no matter how intimidating they get until they agree. There’s a big difference between asking and demanding. Don’t make the mistake of choosing the latter with these girls. Either they’ll wear you out past resolve or you’ll rob them of the spirit that makes them so special.

Do you have an equine lacking confidence?

If you’re dealing with a horse that’s afraid or doesn’t trust you, insisting they buck up isn’t going to get you very far in your confident partnership quest. Here’s where the calm insistence doesn’t work. Instead, you need to be unflappable and patient encouraging them to face their fear with your quiet, clear and unreactive response to easy to accomplish requests customized to your equine’s penchants and offered in a way that encourages him to do what he’s comfortable with at his own speed.

Bad start?

It’s sad, but so many horses get their brain’s scrambled by people who usually have good intensions, but lack the knowledge to understand what they’re doing to the horse’s mind. These critters can take a lot of time to reach, but most can come around. In these cases, usually you need to figure out where things went wrong and go back to a time during the schooling trauma prior to that point and rebuild. Groundwork is the best way to start with such equines. What you build in terms of trust, understanding and rapport can transform the horse’s attitude in a way that translates to subsequent under saddle work. The benefit of starting on the ground is it makes it easier for both of you to see how each is trying to communicate.

Get personal with your horse

There are so many other reasons equines may act out when you ask for their cooperation, but each will respond best if you offer a customized approach that includes your horse in the conversation. Interestingly, the more you get in touch with your issues, the easier it is to see what your horse is trying to tell you. Quarrel with yourself and you might find the debate results in a better relationship with your horse. Think about it.

 

Do you have a story to share where self-discovery has resolved issues you’re having with your horse? Please share in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is the cause bandwagon really helping horses?

With the proliferation of social media and instant global networking, it seems every day there’s another opinion-driven outcry concerning what others shouldn’t be doing with horses. Unfortunately, most who support a pitch crafted to incite rarely take the time to understand the issues. This tends to be the case with any politically motivated activity (and regrettably, often those also designated to serve and appointed or elected to decide the fate of others), but it’s grabbing hold of the equine industry with a vengeance and should be cause for pause. Sadly, many fixated on the rallying cry don’t even have contact with horses, or in many cases, the equine industry.

There are usually at least three sides to a story – the opposing arguments (count that as two) and the truth.

Look before you leap

Any time a niche industry invites government regulation or assistance (read uneducated interference), there are negative ramifications that most don’t envision. Costs escalate. Who considers compliance demands, added operational difficulties, deep pocket influencers with their own agenda and the huge hit to efficiency in supporting client desires when they scream for intervention? Certainly not the masses who have no horse in the race, so to speak.

Over time, the rules put in place are completely counter-productive to the aim of the action. Just take a look at what’s going on with farming in US as an example of subsidies gone very wrong. Purported to help sustain the family farmer, federal and state policies are literally levelling generational, privately-owned farms (and our agricultural heritage and resources), while supporting corporate facilities and/or the city slicker with a savvy CPA.

It is always amazing to see a politician call a press conference to boast about how generous he’s been in securing money for us. It’s our money he’s spending so liberally – without our consent!

The horse industry and horse lovers have specific interests and issues that cannot be effectively addressed by legislation governed by a body of people who may only know a horse “as seen on TV.”

What cause did you join today?

Did you ask the government to take action concerning the BML mustangs? How’s that going for you?

Are you screaming to have the government intervene to keep the band of horses running free in Florida? Have you considered what happens to these horses when they are injured or sick? How about the fact that these are domesticated animals that may have actually enjoyed the job they were doing?

What about the multitude of Human Society hysterics over the cruel practice of hunting, carriage driving in NYC, leaving horses free (so they can starve to death) and, now it seems, allowing horses to be domesticated (they already are – we’re no longer dealing with an animal that is equipped or genetically programmed to return to an unfettered life and most seem to want to work with kind humans).

Are you lobbying the government to divert funds to maintain horse access to public land? Careful what you wish for here as it may come back to bite you.

Are you scrutinizing and reporting your neighbor’s apparent abuse while you toss your horse over to a boarding barn that “takes care of him” while you’re too busy to engage him in an interesting activity and/or give him attention? Have you considered how that behavior may be hurting your horse?

Have you bothered to take the time to learn about the cause you are supporting by seeking out contrary opinions and making a decision based on knowledge vs. hype?

Bring the heart strings home

Before you leap into the fray demanding that others consider the horse, try listening to yours. If you pay attention, they’ll tell you what they want, and it’s rarely what you suspect. Most horses, when given a chance to be understood, will jump at the chance to get engaged in a job they enjoy. If you’ve picked the wrong career for him or are not effective at striving for communications both ways, care for him enough to let him shine with a better match and go get a made horse already prepared and willing to do what you want (or an instructor, or trainer who can help you reach your mount).

Have you really looked at your horse lately? Is he bored? Overweight? Underweight? Frustrated? Difficult? Dull-coated? Cranky? Ill? Consider allocating some of the time you spend pushing causes that other’s propose closer to home by getting to know your horse better and listening to what he’s trying to tell you.

If you’re still intent on spending majority time arguing other people’s causes, at least get educated. Before you trumpet a message to the masses to get their equine house in order, take the time to research contrary opinions and the possible outcomes of your call for mandates.

It’s troubling that so much time and effort is devoted toward bandwagon efforts to control  the horse industry when so many horses are being neglected or misunderstood at the homes of those who are quick to condemn but slow to see.  Go hug your horse tonight and maybe you’ll learn more from that simple act about what horses really need from you than you ever imagined.