The Large Plush Horse and Training Horses with Sweets

You would be hard pressed to find a child that has not asked to have a horse or pony as a pet. With the enormous costs associated with keeping a horse, however, the reality is, the child will likely have to settle for a large plush horse instead. As far as toys go, a child could do much worse than having a large plush horse – some of them are so lifelike in fact, they won’t ever feel like they have missed out on having the real thing.

In 2008, a study was conducted on twelve, two year old quarter horses, to determine whether or not training them when they were fed sweet food, made any difference in the animal. The horses wore pedometers, wristwatch-heart monitors hanging from their saddles, and Ace bandages attached to their left front leg above the knee so as to measure heart rate and the number of steps the horses took while being trained.

The study, conducted by Montana State University, found that horses fed a mix of corn, oats, barley, and molasses (called “sweet grain” or “sweet feed”) disobeyed more and were more fearful as compared to horses fed only hay. Horses that ate the grain mixed food, resisted the saddle more, startled easier, and bucked and ran more while in training. While early training of horses usually lasts just 30 days, trainers are under time constraints to give young horses the foundation they need to go on to more advanced training. As is the case, so as to maximize the time spent training, the study suggests that trainers may want to refrain from feeding horses a diet that will increase their energy.

For the study, horse trainer Wade Black, trained the animals five days a week for a period of three weeks. Half the horses being trained were only given hay to eat which was a mixture of alfalfa and grass. The other horses, were not only given hay daily, but also five pounds of sweet grain. Both groups of horses ate as much hay and drank as much water as they wanted. During the 30 to 40 minute a day training sessions, Black had no idea which horse had eaten grain and which had only eaten hay. Along with the recording of heart rate and the number of steps the horses took, the study also measured get-up-and-go, obedience, and separation anxiety. According to animal nutritionist Jan Bowman, when separated from the herd, the horses that had been eating both grain and hay were more upset than the horses that had been eating only hay. They were also more lively, whinnied more and were less submissive.

As Bowman pointed out “we don’t want to give the impression that you should starve the horses in order to enhance their good behavior – that’s not the point of it. But, you might want to consider withholding [grain] it during the early weeks of training.”

Amongst other things, a large plush horse won’t require training of any kind, nor will there be a ‘worry’ about what kind of food it should or shouldn’t eat. A large plush horse, will however, require as much love and attention you can possibly shower on it for as long as you own it.

large plush horse

large plush horse

Copyright Shelley Vassall, 2010. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.


Shelley Vassall is a writer an collector of the large plush horse

large plush horse

Horse First Aid Pack

Horse supplies run the gamut from grooming products to nutritional supplements. But there is an essential horse supply that you shouldn’t leave your barn, or your saddlebag without. Horse first aid pack might be just the thing that could save your horse’s life. Hollywood had often dramatized the situation wherein the rider shoots his horse because it is injured. Probably, he doesn’t have his first aid pack with him. No good comes from killing a horse over a minor injury if you could put it out of its agony without pulling the trigger. Plus, you know from experience that no matter how thought out or planned an outing might be, there are just some things that go awry. It’s not being paranoid, it is being prepared. Your preparation might help prevent your ride from turning into a Hollywood drama.

The kit must be stored in a container or bag that can keep moisture and dirt out because these encourage the growth of bacteria. You would just aggravate your horse’s infection if you used contaminated bandages. Stores that sell horse supplies carry items such as a plastic zipper bag. Aside from keeping tools, or grooming equipment, these are also good for storing first aid items. Groceries sell plastic food containers in varying sizes. Aside from keeping possible contaminants out, you could also choose one that could fit in your saddlebag. Among the things that you should include in your kit, a disinfectant probably is the most handy in most injuries. From minor scrapes and abrasions to wounds, disinfectants are essential cleansers. Just follow the manufacturers’ instructions especially when using industrial grades as excessive use could dry your horse’s skin. Antiseptic scrubs and swabs become useful for disinfecting wounds in the absence of water. These are excellent substitutes for disinfectants because they clean wounds with the same efficiency, but without the need for water. Ointments or wound powders are also worthy additions to your kit. They can prevent entrance of new bacteria inside the wound and speed up the healing process. However, be sure to use ointments, powders, and creams that have been approved by your vet. A fly repellent applied or sprayed on the wound lowers further infection or contamination risks considerably. Wound dressings come in sterile individual packs and they are good for covering wounds and promoting healing. There should be a supply of bandages in your kit, or at least two with a wide breadth. They are good for stabilizing fractures, splints, and securing pads over bleedings. Speaking of bleedings, cotton wool and gauze are essential for preventing excess bleeding. Salts are good for soaking diseased hooves and feet.

Aside from these medications, there are some supplies which you can buy from equine stores and regular drug stores. Petroleum jellies are good for chafing, minor burns, and skin sores. Thermometer is an investment to add to your horse supplies. Expert riders advise to keep your thermometers clipped to the tail of your horse to avoid loss. Scissors, tweezers, and forceps are tools you shouldn’t forget adding to your first aid pack. Aside from cutting bandages, they are also perfect for removing splinters and stones stuck in horses’ hooves. Lastly, these first aid pack is just for providing your horse help in emergencies before the vet arrives. These are just for preventive measures, meaning they can’t cure your horse. It is still important to call a vet after applying first aid.

For more valuable information on horse supplies please visit

Ride Your Horse to Music and Solve Training Issues!

Ride your HORSE to MUSIC and solve training issues! Whether you are riding a dressage musical freestyle, or just riding your horse to music, there are TIPS you should know before you start. Over the years, you have told me that the most important thing to you is that you want the RIGHT MUSIC for your HORSE and you WANT TO HAVE FUN!!

You’ve also told me that:
* You want help recognizing the rhythm of your horse’s gaits.
* You can’t maintain a rhythm.
* You and your horse are nervous and you need help relaxing.
* You’re tired of seeing “4”s for loss of rhythm on your dressage tests.
* You’re frustrated because there is no harmony between you and your horse.
* You don’t know what the right tempo is for your horse.
* You don’t know the difference between rhythm and tempo.
* You don’t know what type of music to choose.
* You can’t hear the difference between walk, trot, and canter music.
* You can’t identify the tempo (or BPM) of music.
* You are tired of buying so many CDs when they only have one good song for riding.

Here’s how I got started…

I grew up in a musical family so learning to read music and play various instruments was ingrained into me early in life. But most of all, I’ve always loved listening to music. (I always had the radio on in the barn.)

But riding to music became a necessity when I got a high strung Trakehner gelding to re-train. This horse was so incredibly tense, and fearful that simply trotting in one rhythm was IMPOSSIBLE. Anyhow, one day I was trying to trot around the arena, when a perfectly cadenced Scottish bagpipe march came on the radio. That horse picked up a swinging, rhythmic trot all by himself! AND he was breathing in time to the music. (Yes, I even have two witnesses to this!)

I was completely shocked. After that, I became fascinated with how music affects both the horse and rider, and my quest began. As I developed my business creating musical freestyles, I was time and time amazed at how perfect music could improve and enhance the horse’s movement and the rider’s rhythm! When the music fit the horse and rider, both the quality of the gaits and movements improved. The music enhanced both the artistic aspect and the technical side of the ride. Because rhythm was maintained!

I thought this was AMAZING, so I wanted to learn more…

I was stunned by the things I learned such as:

* Studies show that music affects our physiology. Slow music slows the heartbeat and the breathing rate as well as brings down blood pressure. Faster music speeds up these same functions.
* Listening to your favorite music is good for your cardiovascular system. Researchers have shown that joyful music has a healthy effect on blood vessel function.
* Riding to music increases your endurance and feelings of well-being. Studies show that exercising to music improves endurance by 15% and improve the “feeling states” so, people derive much greater pleasure from exercise. (Those cool endorphins!!)
* Many hospitals use music to treat patients with stress-related illnesses to stimulate the brain and relax the body.
* Music affects both sides of your brain, so whether you are a left-brain logical thinker or a right-brain artistic thinker, music helps you ride better.
* Even animals react differently to various types of music. Given a choice, rats will choose calm classical music over hard rock every time.
* Music can also influence brainwaves. Faster beats make you more alert and slower beats help you relax.
* Music creates a long-lasting change in brainwave activity. That means that music can bring lasting benefits to your state of mind, even after you’ve stopped listening.
* Music filters out background noises so that you and your horse can concentrate better.
* Music acts as an INTERNAL metronome to help you maintain a regular rhythm.
* Music puts you in a more positive state of mind, helping to keep depression and anxiety at bay.

The bottom line is… it’s fun to ride to music! Rhythm and relaxation are essential for EVERYONE including dressage riders, trail riders, hunter riders, and western pleasure riders.

Ruth Hogan Poulsen
[email protected]

Foal Training Tips – Horse Training From Birth

Newborn foals capture our hearts and inspire visions of the potential they represent. Whether we love dressage, hunters, jumpers, reining, team penning, trail riding, or any other equestrian sport, foals carry our dreams on their tottering legs.

Thoughts of horse training seem premature as we watch a baby wobble around his dam. Yet this time period is key in a young horse’s development. He is a virtual sponge: his mind explores and absorbs all the information he can take in from the world around him even as he explores the limits-and the potential-of his body.

Any time we interact with horses we are training, for better or for worse. If we approach the first few days of our precious foal’s life as the foundation for an incredible future, we can achieve amazing results.

This is not to say we will be longeing our foal by day 2! I’m recommending a simple shift in thinking that will turn casual time with your newborn into positive training experiences.

Approach every encounter with your newborn foal with the thought that EVERY action you take will enforce two vital horse training fundamentals:

Humans are safe, even fun! Initially foals’ curiosity outweighs their fear. It can take only one scare to lose that precious trust. Move slowly and keep your body language non-threatening. Find their itchy spots and scratch, scratch, scratch. If they are sensitive, find where they enjoy being rubbed. Be a source of enjoyment and fun. Smile! It makes a difference!
Humans lay boundaries that are to be respected. Think of every visit with your foal as a horse training session. Think ahead about how the foal can “win” (remember in horse training, winning means the horse figured out what you wanted.) Set situations up where you are in a position to enforce your boundaries without being rough or abrupt.

For example, many horse owners approach their foals just hoping to touch that cute soft bundle of fur before he bounds away, which teaches the foal that humans can be evaded. Instead, approach casually, in stages. Go up to the mare and scratch her favorite spots. Turn to the foal only after his curiosity is greater than his fear. Give it as long as it takes, eventually he’ll come to investigate you. If his body language tells you he’s thinking of bolting, turn away before he does. If he starts to get pushy, gently back him a few steps to enforce your leadership. Humans are fun, boundaries are enforced.

Training is a lifelong journey for horse and human alike. Learning comes faster and lasts longer when you build on success rather than punish failure. Create horse training success right from the start!

Kirsten Lee produces extraordinary results for horses and riders!

Horse Training – Who’s the Leader, You Or Your Horse?

There is one thing that is absolutely required before you can successfully relate to or train a horse: leadership. As soon as any horse becomes aware of you they will assign you a status: predator, herd mate or no importance at all, like the pet rock of the ’70’s. As herd animals, horses are hard-wired to identify the power structure whenever they are in the company of another horse or human.

In the absence of proof to the contrary, the horse’s default opinion will be that you are a predator, and any big moves on your part will kick in nature’s fight-or-flight response. In the case of horses, unless they are confined, their choice will be to run. The other extreme is the horse who has effectively trained their owner to get out of their way to protect sore toes, to offer cookies whenever their participation is requested, and can communicate very clearly when a saddle or bridle comes out; “No.” Horses become bullies for the same reason children do; there is an absence of appropriate leadership.

Leaders must understand their followers. Horse owners must know how horses think, why they do what they do, and be able to prepare lesson plans that make sense to their horse. For a horse-human relationship to succeed, there must be an established leader. Rarely will relationships work if the horse is in control. There are exceptions, but don’t count on it with the pony out in your pasture.

Leaders must be able to communicate clearly and concisely with their followers. Communication with a horse begins with body language. Over time you can add verbal commands, but in early stages, body language is your only option. Horses learn from the release of pressure. The pressure can be physical or psychic, the pull of a neck rope, or anxiety from your intimidating physical position.

There are only two reasons why your horse doesn’t do what you want – they are either unable or unwilling. As the leader you must determine which is the case and establish the circumstances to make the horse able or make them willing. The folks who tell you how stupid horses are have just confessed that the horse in question got the best of them. Horses are much better people trainers than people are horse trainers.

Everything you ever learned about leadership can be useful when training your horse. You just need to learn how to communicate with the horse. As in every case, effective communication includes being a great listener. All great leaders and great trainers are clear, consistent and fair. Every lesson must offer your horse some benefit.

Leaders and horse trainers learn to use correction to help their followers improve, they do not use punishment that de-motivates or instills fear. There is great responsibility attached to being the leader of a horse-human relationship. Always give the horse the benefit of your doubt. We haven’t yet reached the height of what is possible for the horse-human partnership. However, every successful partnership begins at the beginning, and proceeds with little, orderly steps taken as fast or slow as the horse can master them.

There is no more accurate barometer of your leadership ability as a horse. Horses are direct – they do not dissemble, they “say” what they mean. Horses don’t care what you look like, who your daddy is, or how much money you make. One of the delights of relationship with a horse is that they judge you 100% on your actions. Once you learn to properly lead a horse into confident relationship, you will have mastered skills that will help you succeed in every part of your life.

Don’t make promises to your horse that you can’t keep. Love the process. Building a relationship with your horse is a gift that many only dream of, watching with awe and amazement as a horse and rider appear to move as one body and one spirit on the movie screen or in the show pen. If it was easy everyone could do it. It’s not. But the reward of your horse’s obedience and devotion is more than worth it.

Copyright 2009 Lynn Baber

Lynn Baber is a business coach, speaker, writer and retired equine professional. She shares the lessons learned in thirty-five years at the business table and round pen with her clients and readers. Highly credentialed in issues of leadership, customer relations and most things equine, Lynn has a unique perspective not found elsewhere. Whether the topic is customer service or training stallions, Lynn brings years of experience to presentations and articles. Lynn has a new book scheduled for release in early 2010 and is working on revising “The Art of Being Foolish Proof: the best kept customer service secret” originally published in 1989. Visit Lynn at or

Training a Young Horse in the Round Pen

One of the best ways to get started training a young horse or any horse for that matter is at liberty in the round pen. First-what do we mean by “at liberty”? All that means is that we remove all control and training aids from the horse-so that there’s no halter, bridle, or lead/lunge line. Aside from being inside the round pen, the horse is basically free. A bridle or halter, of course, doesn’t really matter, what’s important here is severing direct control between the handler (you) and the horse.

Why is it that round pen training is so effective when training a young horse?

If done correctly, round pen training allows you to build leadership and trust with your horse in a fundamental way that he naturally understands. And this can be done in an essentially safe environment-something that’s really important to keep in mind. Safety should always be your priority with equines. The less training a horse has, the more control we need to maintain safety. And when training a young horse it turns out a round pen is just what the doctor ordered. When done at liberty, the horse is free to move and work through his fears without feeling panicked or confined-even though in reality the horse is confined, by the virtue of being in a round pen he can move off from a scary stimulus if he chooses to do so. Now nothing is perfect-and there will be occasions when a horse feels panicked in a round pen or even escapes-I’ve seen that happen. But in the vast majority of cases, a round pen will safely confine a horse-while giving him the ability to freely move.

Earlier we mentioned that round pen training is really effective when training a young horse. And in fact its a great tool to use when starting any horse. Let’s see why in more detail.

The first reason is that a round pen produces a setting within which it is pretty easy to establish leadership-a vital step in training a young horse. This is due to the way that horses naturally establish their heirarchy in a herd (wild or otherwise). Every group of horses that lives together has a hierarchical structure and every horse knows his rank. One thing you will see dominant horses doing is making the other horses move around. I once herd a phrase that sums this up: control the feet, control the horse. In the round pen, you mimic this behavior by controlling the movement of your equine in four basic ways:

You tell him when to move
You tell him what direction to move
You tell him how fast to move
You decide when he can come to a stop

Even better-by working at liberty you’re going to be controlling the movement of your horse using energy and body language. So its all going to seem quite natural to the horse-and he will instinctively see you as his trusted leader. Another aspect of working at liberty is that you are also building communications-another vital step in training a young horse successfully. Your communication skills which you start off in the round pen will carry over to riding-by applying pressure to the appropriate spots on the horse. In the round pen, when working at liberty, you learn to apply pressure with energy and body language. This makes the round pen not just valuable to your animal-it makes it a great training school for you too! If you are able to master communication with your horse using only energy and body language-think about how effective you’ll be when riding and using your reins and legs. You will be able to talk to your horse from the saddle light as can be.

As one specific example, if you want your horse to move out while in the round pen focus your energy and body language on his hip area. At first, you will need a tool to help out-but you should have good success without actually touching the horse as time goes on. Suppose you keep a lead rope with you. You can swing the lead rope in the direction of the hip, without actually striking the horse to ask him to move out. But what you should really be thinking about is focusing your gaze on the top of his hip-and directing energy there. Focus your gaze on the spot where you would actually tap the horse with your crop if you were using that method.

If the horse doesn’t respond, and he may not the first few times, then up the volume. Swing the rope more vigorously, and then let it strike the ground. If the horse still doesn’t move, then at this point direct contact may be necessary. But you will find with practice that less direct contact is required.

Don’t be discouraged if you don;t have complete success at first-nobody becomes a horse whisperer in a day. Keep practicing! With time you will find you need less actual contact with your horses to get them to do what you ask. Round pen training is a great place to start training a young horse or a horse you don’t know, to brush up with an old horse or to just work on your own equine communication skills.

David McMahon is a freelance author who is owned by 3 horses. For more information, please visit Gentle natural horsemanship.

Horse Training vs Horse Breaking

Many think they are one and the same and perhaps there are many who use them in conversation meaning them to be one and the same. There is a vast difference between the two terms so vast you can say they are polar opposites of one another. A horse is an animal with a very limited, small brain and it cannot absorb a barrage of commands thrown at him.

Breaking a horse is doing just that: forcing a horse to do whatever you will have him do with whatever means you have at hand that you wish to use to make that happen ..whether it be flogging with a whip or reins kicking with the stirrups yanking on the lunge line. It all results in breaking the spirit of the horse which then becomes and animal that will never be of good use to you or anyone else ever again.

Training a horse calls on using practices completely opposite of the “breaking” technique.

A horse needs to be worked with using unflappable patience. It needs to be ground trained before anyone ever attempts to get on his back. Ground training begins with helping the animal know where he is in relation to you at all times. Then it requires building a trust in it toward you for a horse by nature is a jittery animal and untrained will as likely as not bolt upon any sudden noise or even slight disturbance.

It may take weeks to train every step but once that training sticks, it is there. So take your time and do it well. It is quite like riding a bike: once you learn, you don’t forget. A horse is like that. Once he learns, he won’t forget, and that goes along with any maltreatment set on him. That too is never forgotten.

A horse can only learn in sequence. Teach him one thing. Then once learned, teach him what follows. It takes on a pattern for the horse. Master comes, halter on; out of the stall, bridle on, saddle on. Step by step, depending on what you are going to ask him to do. Every action comes to be learned in a series of steps leading to the culmination of whatever the action is to be. The more patience and time you give your horse to learn these steps: the greater a jewel you will ultimately have in your hands.

Without these two elements- patience and time- you will only wind up with a broken horse, and you will also have broken yourself for you will never have given yourself the opportunity to learn what it really is to build that true bond that is formed between man and horse.

Horse training vs horse breaking- nowhere near remotely the same.

John Grayson- working with horses all his life, still shakes his head sadly whenever he hears of a “broken” horse. Follow along in his blog: Equestrian Corner