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Be Your Horse’s Advocate By Bob Jeffreys & Suzanne Sheppard

Bob Jeffreys & Suzanne Sheppard

Bob Jeffreys & Suzanne Sheppard

Most of you taking the time to read this article love horses. We would also like to think that people who own horses will take care of them in the best way they can.
We try to feed the best grain and/or hay depending on his requirements, work load, condition, etc. We keep his feet shod or trimmed regularly, and make sure his medical shots and vaccinations are up to date. We provide a barn stall or run in shelter for him in case of inclement weather, and try to give him enough time outside of our working, training or showing to be with other horses and just, well, horse around. Job’s done! Right? Well, maybe not completely.
Let’s say you board your horse at a facility other than your own. Are you sure your horse is getting his correct food rations and fed at least twice daily? Do you know if he’s turned out regularly? Is his stall, shed, or pasture mucked out at acceptable intervals? Even if you’re sure that your horse’s worming is up to date (because you do it yourself), are the other boarders horses being wormed regularly? You have the right to get answers to these questions.
What about your farrier? Is he or she nice to your horse while working with them, or are they abrupt, demanding or even punishing? Does he or she just drop the foot to the ground or do they place it back gently? If you have a younger horse, will your farrier try to work more slowly and more underneath the horse to help build confidence, or do they insist on holding that foot way out to the side to make it easier for themselves, but much more uncomfortable for your horse? Once again, you can ask for this type of consideration and most farriers or blacksmiths will accommodate you. If they don’t, find someone else.
I must advise here that it is your responsibility to train your horse to stand quietly for the farrier and to pick up his feet when asked. This is not the farrier’s job! The same principle applies to horses and vets. If the vet needs to treat a cut or a wound and starts to twitch your horse, you can ask him not to do so if you have trained your horse not to rear, kick or otherwise hurt him. Again, this is not the responsibility of the vet to teach your horse and he (the vet) has a right to stay safe when helping your horse.
The area of most concern for me is people who would otherwise treat their horses with the utmost love and kindness become frightened observers when a so called “horse trainer” treats their horse poorly in the name of training. We’re not saying that everything involved in horse training should be hugs and kisses. If a horse bites or kicks maliciously, or bucks or rears, they must be made to understand that these are undesirable behaviors. What we are talking about is the horse that is just about run to death in a round pen, or slapped silly because he won’t stand still for mounting, or who has his ear bent back and pinched to get the bit in his mouth, etc. When you see a “trainer” using any method that you don’t like or don’t understand, ask them why they are doing whatever it is they’re doing. If they won’t answer you or give you some cockamamie answer like “Because that’s the way it’s done!” or “Because I said so!”, then in effect they’re telling you that they have no idea why they’re doing it. You can and should expect a meaningful explanation of why and how a specific training technique is going to change a certain unwanted behavior.
You would certainly expect no less an explanation from your son’s or daughter’s teacher at school. Remember – your horse can’t talk to you and tell you what’s happening in his life. You have a right and also an obligation to be his advocate, his partner and his best friend.

©Two as One, LLC 8/07

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