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.

Seminole Feed Chart

We've included a copy of Seminole Feed's information chart for reference. You can visit their site at for more information.

Dealing with Natural Disasters

Given the current state of affairs, Here's How Ocala, Ginny and Tim wanted to share some tips for dealing with natural disasters. Click on each image below to enlarge.

November 2018 Horse Tips

The three F's that are the keystone to a quality life for a horse are forage, freedom and friendship. As my partner Tim McGaffic has often said… "at the end of the day horses are prisoners, hopefully with benevolent jailers". Humans tend to lay our humanness onto many aspects of a horse's existence that are counter to the nature of the horse.

One that comes to mind is trimming the whiskers of a horse (despite the damning research that says don't do it) because that's how it was done in the old days. Trimming whiskers is a look for the showring that flies in the face of scientific evidence. What's your stand when under pressure from your trainer or peers to do this? Another common problem is the feeding practice that leave long periods of time without forage. It creates the perfect storm for the epidemic of ulcers we are seeing in horses today.

October 2018 Horse Tips

…listen to the conversation. Has the arena become stupefying because of over training and drilling? Or is it just not his thing? It's important to remember not to try and fit a square peg into a round hole!

I've had several horses of a lifetime of the rare GADA breed. "Go Anywhere Do Anything" Worth their weight in gold the GADA is always well generalized to the environment with lots of experiences that create a well-rounded horse that is a gift to his human.

...a one trick pony with limited worldliness to no fault of their own. As owners we need to keep the big picture and the future in mind when training.

Then depending on their aptitude and individual talent more specific training followed in a sport or discipline. We haven't seen a Shetland pony run in the Kentucky Derby to date. This rule of thumb is something to keep in mind when buying your next horse. Buy a horse that is well suited for the job or task at hand. So much easier on all parties concerned rather than trying to make over a horse for work he's not able to do for any reason.

September 2018 Horse Tips

The bond between horse and rider can become like an old married couple. We forget that no matter how gentle a horse is there is always the potential for "flight". That fact combined with their size and weight can be a recipe for disaster.

We want to have fun but still be safe. Check out a Pony Club Manual for a great refresher course from soup to nuts on safety and protocol.

Recently at a clinic I saw an adult tie a horse to a rail (not a post) in the middle of a group of spectators. Can you imagine if the horse had pulled back and taken the board through the crowd of people in a blind panic? Literally whoa! Never tie a horse to anything he could possible break if he got scared and pulled back.

From the awareness of riders around you, to an accident waiting to happen from a rake laying in the breezeway a good horseman is aware of his surroundings. No daydreaming or cellphones allowed!

August 2018 Horse Tips

"Sometimes our self-consciousness gets in the way of our learning, whether we are teaching or being taught. It is important to be concerned with what we are actually doing and not with the 'impression' we are making. If we have any hope of striving for the Art of Horsemanship we need to be free of this feeling of self-consciousness and lose ourselves in the moment." — JSR

Think about the times you wish you had. Make a promise to you and your horse that you always will from this point forward ask why? No one gets off the hook for this question not your trainer, the vet , the horseshoer, the guy at the feed store or the armchair quarterback! Why? Because the health and wellbeing of you and your horse rely on this one simple word…

Often here in the horse world we get caught up in peer pressure and ego. Pay attention to that voice in the back of your head that's trying to caution you! Yellow light whoa red light. If something doesn't feel quite right… stop and think. You'll be happy you did.

Never be afraid to speak up if the training, the attitude or the pressure is going south. Your horse relies on you to protect him in his innocence. Never ever ever let a clinician, trainer, instructor or others pressure you in the moment into doing something that will your horse… either physically or emotionally. It's ok to walk away Renee!

July 2018 Horse Tips

...the greater success you will have in training and reaching your equestrian goals.

That's the beauty of science. It's something that can be verified, discussed and researched…it's not somebody's version of fake news! Yup use critical thinking skills or as Ray Hunt often said "THINK"

Here's a graphic that cuts to the chase. Perhaps the bigger question is how to apply them to the world of horses. All to often we stop thinking and swallow what the latest guru of the month or a perceived "expert" tell us hook, line and sinker. Sometimes to the detriment of our horses and ourselves.

Never be afraid to ask that question of anyone when it comes to any aspects of your horse's safety and well-being especially when it involves training. It's also important for your own safety and peace of mind as well. If your gut tells you something's not adding up stop everything right then and there until you figure it out. Don't be a cupcake when it comes to looking out for your horse!

June 2018 Horse Tips

This month begins the start of a very important dialogue with all horsemen in all disciplines.
That topic is bridging science with the art of horsemanship.

When we better understand the horse, his ethology and his way of learning it will lead to a more compassionate era of training and welfare for horses. So what's the problem? As traditional horsemen we tend to be set in our ways and cling to what we know to the exclusion of what we don't know or what we don't what to know! Hold your horses and get ready for the ride of exploring science and the horse.

For those new to horses and those who just want to have fun it can be extremely confusing to sort out the good, the bad and the ugly. Often it comes down to marketing expertise and sound bites rather than honest, helpful and accurate information.

It is NOT a method of training but a big picture view of what works in training horses and why... and what doesn't work and why. Which of course can lead to greater knowledge of what to do as a rider, owner and trainer and shines light on harmful yet commonly used "techniques". Remember it's always a great idea to ask one simple question... WHY?

But if we can keep an open mind we all might just learn something that will help horses live a better life. As horse people who profess to "love" our horses let's at least give it a chance. Language is important and having a common language to foster clear communication between not only us but between our horse and ourselves is the bottom line.

May 2018 Horse Tips

This month we'll be talking about the different gaits of the horse.

The reason being that if you know what is going to happen or suppose to be happening you are more likely to affect a change in the horse's feet. Through the use of your principles and learned techniques you can then apply them as your needs dictate. Dealing with obstacles, lead departures, lead changes, posting will all fall into this category to name only a brief few. MEMORIZE!!!

This gait should have a clear even rhythm in the following sequence; left hind, left front right hind, right front. The speed of the average walk is about 4 miles per hour. Remember this when moving cattle. Their average speed is 2.2 miles per hour.

The right front and left hind (known as the right diagonal) rise and fall together. Conversely, the left front and right hind legs rise and fall together (known as the left diagonal) The average speed of this gait is 6-8 miles per hour.

A lope is a relaxed version of the canter with the footfalls being the same. The footfalls are
1) the initiating hind leg (outside hind)
2) The diagonal pair (inside hind outside front leg)
3) leading front leg (inside front leg)
4) Moment of suspension while the legs regroup for a split second.

April 2018 Horse Tips

Last month we talked about evaluating the horse to check out the horse’s readiness to be ridden. This month let’s look at the rider.

Mount and check your breathing. Is it deep and regular or are you holding your breath?
Is there weight on both seat bones or is it difficult to feel one of them?
Are you seat bones in the deepest part of the saddle and not braced back up on the cantle?
Your hips bones are over your seat bones not in front of or behind
Your lower back is relaxed
Your upper body is over your hips, not leaning forward or back
Your shoulder, hip and heel are aligned in a straight line
Your shoulders are back and not rounded forward
Your chest (sternum) feels like it’s being pulled out by a string not collapsed inward
Your shoulders are level and you’re not leaning laterally one way or the other
You can barely see the toe of your boot when you glance down…not your whole foot and none of your lower leg
You have even reins with even contact
You have equal weight in the stirrups

...create your own check list that you can review for yourself while yourre riding.

When you identify one glaring aspect of your self you want to correct move it to the top of your list.

Where am I in the saddle. This will improve your riding immensely if you just think about it as you ride. This is true whether it's a trail ride, gathering cattle or a training session in the arena.

March 2018 Horse Tips

This month we'll explore the Rider's Checklist! Every pilot has a check list for his airplane before he takes off. Like a pilot the rider should have a check list for riding that includes both the horse and rider's readiness to ride! The Rider's Checklist starts with evaluating the horse.

Can you approach him rather clumsily and he isn't afraid?

Does he feel soft on the lead rope? Not all stiff and bracey?

Can you easily flex him laterally and bend his head and neck from side to side?
Can you bend him and then move his hindquarters over with the inside hind stepping up and under?

Can you perform all ground work exercises easily and without resistance?

February 2018 Horse Tips

There are many types of pressures. Pressure causes a horse to search for a way out.

The release is his reward and reinforces his behavior at the moment the release occurs. Timing is everything.

Build trust, remove fear and build understanding in the horse.

- Create a detailed plan
- Prepare yourself according to the plan
- The approach you take will signify intention
- Give the horse every chance to succeed and only ask for what you are reasonably sure you will get
- Ride or work the brace
- Work only one part at a time
- Diagnose resistance
- Lateral flexion is control and you absolutely need it
- Soft and Supple will indicate willingness and understanding
- Soak time for you and your horse
- Create and maintain boundaries at all times for safety

January 2018 Horse Tips

When you stop and give him a rub or a pet we call this soak time. It lets the horse have some time to think about what just took place and let it soak in. So often the horse seems to decide well that wasn't so bad and is much better when you start back up.

You can give your horse this time with a little petting or without and but just let him "soak" for a while.

Each situation is a little bit unique (as they all are) but a little soak and pet time will do wonders for what you are trying to accomplish. In addition, this is a great way to build TRUST!

This should be considered in your training plan. This means that you, being the leader of the team, set the boundary or distance between you two. This bubble needs to be respected by him at all times unless you invite him in. You can move into his space but not he into yours without a proper "ask" on his part and an affirmative response on yours.

The groundwork is the foundation for creating what the boundaries give you which is Response and Respect.

When you ask… you get a response and that response is respectful of you, your space and is done with a good attitude and a willing mind. As the leader you should also bring a good attitude and a willing mind to the dance as well.

Here's How Ocala proudly supports
Tim McGaffic's "The Nature of Natural"

The Nature of Natural is based on the idea that through science and knowledge we can experience a better understanding and alliance between humans and horses. The lack of insight into a horse’s nature can be a great cause of anxiety in horses when they are being trained, as well as a source of frustration for riders and trainers.

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OcalaBred Nutrition & Video Series

The Collective Resource for All Things Equestrian, including a video series on horse health & Nutrition.

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Previous Equine Health Alerts

Horse Owners: Beware Creeping Indigo - Nov 2016

Click the button above to read more about the Creeping Indigo threat in the South Florida area.

Horse Owners: Beware Creeping Indigo - Sept 2015

Click the button above to view a PDF of the newspaper clipping from September 10, 2015 in the Ocala StarBanner.