Horse Tips & Equine Health

Horse Tips from Tim McGaffic & Ginny Elder - The Nature of Natural

Here's How Ocala is proud to partner with Tim McGaffic and Ginny Elder, who will be offering weekly horse tips every Friday.
For more information, please visit their site at www.thenatureofnatural.com.

Knowing how the horse learns and views the world becomes useful for us as teachers. We certainly become more effective and probably more compassionate! Best wishes from Tim McGaffic and Ginny Chase Elder.



December 2016 Horse Tips - All About the Eyes…

 

It takes about 1/3 of a mammal’s brain to see the world consistently. It is a huge part of survival to see the world. When you have the mind the body will follow…but when do you have the mind? Watch your horse’s eyes and time your releases not only with the body but with the eyes. When you really have focus, you have the mind.

In addition, they process that information through a very small prefrontal cortex… without reason… as we know it. Often an involuntary response triggers the horse's behavior especially when it comes to sight. Think about how a windy day but "seem" through a horse's movement sensitive eye!

They cover a lot of area and when an object is on the edge of those fields it triggers a response called the orienting or attention response. It is instantly viewed as novel and all senses are directed to determining what this thing is!

This is an involuntary response that you can start to override or at least decrease with training.


November 2016 Horse Tips

 

Positive reinforcement = adding something like a treat
+R adds a signal to tell the horse his behavior is correct. Soon the horse makes an association between the behavior, the signal (you got it right) and the reward.

Negative reinforcement = removes something
-R is for the most part how horses are trained. Pressure is the motivator; the horse seeks a solution to remove the discomfort. When the pressure is removed that's the reward.

Tom Dorrance once said "First one step, then two or three then four or more" and Ray Hunt said "Reward the smallest change and the slightest try"
The old masters were true behaviorists with solid science on their side. Their sayings were not how to but how to deal with the horses mind a truly natural approach.

Hot Tip: Remember familiar is safe. Novel is potentially dangerous. This simple idea is the root of most horse "perception" problems!

He perceives something to be threatening (novel) and reacts to it with the good old flight response. This can happen in the blink of an eye so teaching your horse about lots of different stuff and how to deal with it is in your best interest!


October 2016 Horse Tips

Last month we explored a horse's instinct and the flight response as described in Tim McGaffic's The Nature of Natural… How a horse learns and what it means to the rider. This month we'll continue looking into the nature of horses.

This is because the flight response is extremely reinforcing. It takes only a few repetitions before this becomes the solution of choice. A conflicted horse will choose the flight response especially if basic learning for solutions has not occurred.
Hot Tip: The flight response is expressed by moving feet. So being able to slow the feet down or even stop them completely is very important. Spend time on downward transitions, stops and backups for this reason.

...hard-wired anti-predator behaviors may appear such as shying, bolting, bucking or rearing.
Hot Tip: Some trainers push the horse through these responses with hope that the horse becomes used to the stimulus that is causing the behavior. More often than not this does not work because the response has already occurred and actually reinforces the flight response as opposed to discouraging it. At this point the flight response becomes a regular feature because it's now been practiced.

Hungry: It will seek food Alone: It will seek company Feels pain or pressure: It seeks to remove the cause Fear: It flees
Hot Tip: Study your horse closely to find out what his trigger points are to different situations. The ever popular flight response varies widely in individuals and breeds.

He perceives something to be threatening (novel) and reacts to it with the good old fashion flight response.
Hot Tip: This reaction can happen in the blink if an eye so teaching your horse about lots of different stuff and how to deal with it is in your best interest!

1)"Make the wrong things difficult and the right things easy." — Ray Hunt
2)"Fix what happened before what happened…. Happened." — Ray Hunt
3)"Never demand more of a horse than that which he is ready to give." — Nuno Oliviera
4)"Feel, timing and balance." — Tom Dorrance
5)"Ask often; be content with little and reward largely." — Nuno Oliviera
6)"The horse only knows self-preservation and he is full of it." — Tom Dorrance


September 2016 Horse Tips

This month's topic addresses a horse's instincts and the flight response with excerpts from Tim McGaffic's "The Nature of Natural: How the Horse Learns, and What it means to the Rider".

The final expression of these instincts are altered by experience which is known as conditioning or learning. Learning is the creation of new pathways in the brain.
Hot Tip: Basic horse instincts are feeding, fighting reproduction, herd instinct, play and flight response.

Mild expressions of the flight response are raising of the head and neck, hollow contracted back, tail swishing, wide eyes, open nostrils, short quick steps, tail clamped or highly raised.
Hot Tip: Mild expressions of the flight response are raising of the head and neck, hollow contracted back, tail swishing, wide eyes, open nostrils, short quick steps, tail clamped or highly raised.

So being able to slow the horse's feet down or even stop them completely is very important.
Hot Tip: Spend plenty of time on downward transitions, stops and backing up to set yourself up for success in maintaining control in tense situations.

If his instincts tell him otherwise the result is usually the flight response which is a natural instinct for the horse.
Hot Tip: Train your horse fundamental learning of solutions. The more often the flight response occurs as a solution the more it will be the solution of choice.



August 2016 Horse Tips

Average vital signs for an adult horse are:
Temperature: 99-101°F
Heart Rate: 28-44 beats per minute
Respiration: 10-24 beats per minute
Hot Tip: When taking a horse's temperature be sure and securely tie a string to the end of the thermometer, be sure and shake down the mercury, use a lubricant to ease the way!

The general rule of thumb for calculating hay is:
1.5-2% of the total body weight = 15-20 lbs of hay for a 1000 lb horse
There are many things that affect how much hay you should be feeding: Bred mares and young horses, breeding stallions, easier keeper or hard keeper, quality and type of hay, cold winter temperatures.
Hot Tip: Your hay should smell fresh and "green" and every time you feed hay check to make sure it's not moldy or dusty. Throw those flakes away as they can make your horse sick!

The average water consumption of a horse is based on:
1 gallon per 100 lbs body weight = 10 gallons for a 1000 horse
Temperatures, level of exercise and humidity can affect their water consumption. In the winter the cold weather slows down their intake and hot weather during the summer may increase it.
Hot Tip: If you wouldn't take a drink out of your water trough don't expect your horse to! That green algae floating around the water trough does not qualify as a smoothie ingredient. Change water frequently and scrub with Clorox and rinse well to prevent algae from growing.

When a horse is worried or scared his brain releases cortisol… the stress hormone… which causes a change in his behavior. A good horseman is aware of the slightest change in his horse's behavior and figures out what is bothering him.
Some signs of stress are:
High head, rolled eye, clamped or swishing tail, defecating, sweating calling out, kicking, pawing, Running (flight) restlessness

Hot Tip: Always practice safety when dealing with horses. By observing what's normal behavior in your horse you can often head off a full blown "situation" by being aware of his trigger points and take steps to prevent potentially dangerous situations through training and good stable management.