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

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 2017 Horse Tips

Always seeking softness, lateral flexion and a willing mind.

What that means is you will have a direct connection, a fiber optics line if you will, that translates into results in the feet. The yielding to pressure has got to show up in the feet. When you pick up on that and can affect the feet in specific ways that are soft and guided, you are definitely on the right track.

To break this down for you and your horse we divide the body into parts so that you can only work on one part at a time. Remember one of the most important rules… work on one part at a time.

Head and Neck — Zone 1
Shoulders — Zone 2
Body — Zone 3
Hindquarters — Zone 4

Often the horse is divided into the front, middle and rear of the horse. Here we have given the shoulders special significance because so many problems end up being the shoulders. Shoulders that are dropped and planted don’t make for a supple, soft and willing horse.

November 2017 Horse Tips

Last month we talked about "the leading rein is the mental rein of the horse" Cool!

Lateral flexion is how you establish control.

Resistance will signify a desire on the horse’s part NOT to give up control.

"All relationships are about control" Put in that context you are searching for things that indicate you are losing control.

This does not mean mean, coercive or brutal but they have to be effective.

October 2017 Horse Tips

This month we're talking about "Diagnosing resistance" and What to do about it!

The resistance in the horse will always show up here first and you will be able to feel it by the lack of a soft supple feel on the lead rope or rein.

you need to work at getting it out because (for any number of reasons) it represents a less than willing attitude on the horse's part!

It is where you are asking him to focus his mind and then to follow with his body. This is also true of the lead rope.

Many Problems can be worked out, in large part, from the ground.

September 2017 Horse Tips

Last month we talked about the "release" which is everything in training horses. Remember when in doubt release! Here are four systematic steps that break down the "How" in small doable steps!

You prepare yourself to approach in a way and the horse believes you are not a threat but a benevolent leader. The horse only has your approach to judge what your intention… friend or foe??? He'll make a quick decision on what to do… leave or stay, give or resist. How smooth are you with your legs, how you sit how you handle the rope or the reins?

Give the horse every chance to succeed. Break your plan into small steps, approach the horse in a non-threatening manner. Now apply the cue to whatever degree you have decided to get some level of success. The cue will be huge different depending on the horse…green or finished!

The brace is resistance somewhere in the horse… and all horses have some… it's a matter of finding it and asking only small steps to insure success. The fact that a horse has a brace in and of itself means he is resisting the pressure or preparing to resist. So we chip away at it a little bit at a time.

If you are working on the hindquarters only work them until you get your result. Don't try to work all the parts at once as the horse won't know what you're asking for. In other words, only train one thing at a time!

August 2017 Horse Tips

The rules of horse training are based on principals that apply across the board whether you are riding, doing ground work or whatever you are doing. This is very important and will affect how the horse perceives you in different situations and WHY horses trust in some and not in others.

This is the big picture plan… the end result. You take that plan and break it down into as many small parts as you can. Every plan should meet these three criteria:

Will I be safe?
Will my horse be safe?
Will all around me stay safe?

If your plan doesn't say yes to these three questions you need to STOP and develop a plan that does.

Getting ready means you sit or stand a certain way for that cue, you handle the reins or the lead rope the same. You have a method for shortening and lengthening, your feet are in a certain place. You stay consistent and this becomes a cue to the horse to prepare (anticipate) to avoid pressure.

That sequence is how all conditioning occurs. Your horse will pick this up quickly if you are consistent. If you have trouble remember to release.

July 2017 Horse Tips

As you apply pressure whether it's rein pressure, lead rope, spur or sending them away by getting bigger (waving your arms etc)

He might move his feet, throws his head, runs away or whatever. For example, if the horse learns to run away and rid of the pressure, that’s the answer for him. He learns that his response was correct AT LEAST TO HIM, when the pressure is removed: So when you release the pressure that is the reward. Learning to release is the single most important aspect you will ever learn in your horsemanship

Most people apply plenty of pressure but few of us know when to take it away.

It is his reward, or in scientific terms it is his "reinforcement" and it increases the likelihood of the behavior occurring again… both desirable and undesirable to us humans.

June 2017 Horse Tips - The Journey of Trust

Trust is Everything

That is: Their self-preservation is intact and they trust people, the process, or the method of training. If something scares them they probably just don't understand what your intentions are.

Smaller and easier things for the horse to understand and accept. As you do this you will build trust in your horse. He will become less fearful of things and when presented with new challenges will look to YOU, for reassurance. This is the key for all horses.

This can be accomplished by simply rubbing and touching them. The same golden rule will apply: Work at what is good, break it into smaller more understandable pieces that are acceptable to the horse and build upon that until you get to where you want to go.

It is very important and a trainer should never lose a chance to make a deposit in the horse's bank of trust. You may need a withdrawal someday and you'll want the bank to be full.

If you are not prepared you may unintentionally reward or reinforce something you weren't intending to! Timing and awareness in the moment is everything. There is nothing random in horse training! Next month we will talk about the rules of developing a great training plan.

May 2017 Horse Tips


Eventually they will be trained for whatever job or activity his human caretakers have chosen for him and this means yielding to pressure.

The different forms of pressure are many and varied. It's the horse's perception of the stimulus that will determine if it's viewed as a pressure and to what degree. Here are a few. What pressures can you think of?

Fences-stalls-trailers-cross ties-halter-leading-girths-saddles bridles and bits-shoeing-Leg or spur pressure-petting, brushing, rubbing-picking up their feet-presence people, dogs, cows etc. - size of something… and YOUR PRESENCE

The horse learns to live with, even welcome, many stimuli (pressures) that at one time he may have viewed as intolerable.

It takes a lot of observing and thinking to put together the body language cues that a horse may use. Some things to look for are overall tightness in the horse, the horse's expression, his ears, his tail, his rib cage what are his feet doing, his back, his neck, in other words the whole picture.

April 2017 Horse Tips

This month we will be talking about the basic "Principles" of Training a horse, dog or human!
How do we learn? How do we train?

We have talked about learning theory which basically covers how animals learn. Training horses is a process that starts with very small steps that lead to the next and eventually the desired behavior.

You are always teaching the horse something no matter how small or large, good or bad. If you accept that concept, then it is very important to know as much as you can about the horse and how he functions in the world!

Although this sounds easy it is sometimes hard to achieve. The horse’s nature is to push into pressure.

If you understand these they will provide the answer to your problem:
1) Train only one behavior at a time.
2) Aids or cues are signals for change
3) Signals should stop as soon as the horse makes an acceptable response
4) Signals should never be ignored
5) Signals should be distinct
6) A response should be easy for the horse to make
7) Rewards enhance sensitivity to signals only when they immediately follow an acceptable response
8) Undesirable behavior worsens only if it is rewarded
9) Undesirable behavior extinguishes if it is not rewarded
10) The reaction to stimulus will dwindle if the stimulus continues while the reaction occurs

Wild animals seldom learn to yield to pressure such as a rein or leash.

For our purposes, horses must learn to yield to pressure in order to live around human beings and their confinement devices. Whatever job or activity his human caretakers have chosen for him that will mean yielding to pressure.

March 2017 Horse Tips
Beware of the sabretooth chipmunk… Run for your life!


Perception is the process of horse's perceiving something with their senses and being aware of something thus "beware the sabretooth chipmunk".

Leave the scene first then ask questions later! Training can mitigate the flight response but never totally over ride it!


Instinctual response - The most basic instincts of the horse are related to its survival as a prey animal.

Second is the herd instinct, the inborn desire to be with the herd, and fitting in herd hierarch

Third is the horse's acute awareness and sensitivity to their surroundings and that include people and other animals

Orienting response - a behavioral reaction to a changed, new, or abrupt stimulant

Perception response (although all will involve this)

Conflict from poor timing or asking too many things of a horse and often ends up being the flight response as when a horse is conflicted he has little or no reasoning ability to "think" his way through the problem.

February 2017 Horse Tips
Feelings… nothing more than feelings


A horse can feel a single fly that lands on his back. But the good news is you can learn to get better. Your ability to feel affects your ability to release!

A horse that anticipates a rider signals, actually may be responding through feel the signals the rider is unaware they are giving. Remember a horse's entire body is as sensitive as a human fingertip.

This is communicating with your horse and he understands as long as the pressure goes away.

January 2017 Horse Tips
Do You Hear What I Hear? Horses and Hearing


But like all grazing animals they don't accurately pinpoint the sound the way a predator can. What does that mean to you? You will find that the eye and ear on a horse have a connection.
Hot Tip: If the ear points towards something the eye on that side is probably trying to get a visual on it.

Hot Tip: Remember: unknown sound without visual = NOVEL and is potentially dangerous.

That pesky flight response again.