Tell Me How You Really Feel – the Clinton Anderson Controversy Continues

I continue to receive messages from folks asking what I think about the statements Clinton Anderson made recently: “Now the women who are watching this, you know, I make fun of these tree-hugging idiots that ride in a bitless bridle, and you know, they trail ride, and and, they’re close to nature. They hear what I just said and they say “that’s barbaric”, they’ve never trained a stud horse in their friggin’ life. And I wish they would, cause they’d get killed and that would get rid of most of these people who bug the shit out of me. Okay? So they’ve never trained a stud horse in their life. They’ve never trained one. Their, their whole idea of accomplishment is the horse stands still at the mounting block. Like “oh my god, he stood still so I get three mounting blocks, one on top of the other and climb up with my fat ass up there and get on.” Clinton Anderson

I may not align with Clinton’s style, his character and opinions, but some of his techniques are useful when applied with gentleness and compassion…………… For some people they need to feel in control by using intimidation through force and pain, but then there’s YOU and me. We have discovered horses are willingly cooperative when given the opportunity to learn under gentle patience, guidance, and compassionate herd leadership!

The world is changing with a compassionate sensibility, and for some it is very uncomfortable since it does not align with their “old guard dominance” programming. Things are being said out of fear which often expresses itself in the likeness of anger, rage and arrogance. This expression from Clinton only resolves me to look beyond the man and embrace the source of his comments with compassion.  Missy

Let me know how I can be of support to you in any way.  Email me or call toll free (888) 406-7689 visit


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Gentle Horse Training – Remember Your Manners

Horse Body Check

There’s a fundamental paradigm shift within the horse industry to tone down the forceful methods of horse training and incorporate gentler methods in recognition of the horse’s sentient nature.   As the pendulum swings from the use of force, pain and devices to non-device gentler methods, professionals such as farriers and veterinarians are struggling with ill-mannered horses due to what they refer to as the “pet mentality” some horse owners have embraced.   As I’ve written before there’s nothing wrong with your horse being your pet, but as horse owners we have a responsibility to train our horses to respect people and be a SAFER pet for all those who handle and/or visit our horses.

Using gentle horse training methods incorporates time, patience and positive reinforcement without the use of food, but it does not relinquish herd leadership that horses are genetically required to have at all times.   You can learn how to train your horse to have good manners using gentle methods by watching FREE my Training the Whole Horse® video series below:

As an internationally recognized Gentle Horse Trainer and member of the Association of Professional Humane Educators, Missy pioneered the WHOLE horse training methods on the foundation of DO NO HARM.  Missy is the producer of the famed, “free for viewing” Training the Whole Horse® and Starting Under Saddle video series plus founder of HorseMAREship™,  and DO NO HARM Productions plus creator of the All-In-One Bitless Bridle.  For more information visit Missy Wryn’s website at or call toll free (888) 406-7689


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I Will Not Be Swayed – JOIN the GENTLE Horse MOVEMENT

Missy Wryn Gentle Horse Trainer

Missy Wryn Gentle Horse Trainer

I will not be swayed from my position that GENTLE and BITLESS horse training methods make for a SAFER more responsive horse, and a relationship you’ve always dreamed of between you and your horse. To the status quo horse industry that uses force, pain and fear I say “WAKE UP the change is HERE! Understand there’s no cosmic or woo woo about the effectiveness of GENTLE horse training. We stand united and will no longer tolerate the inhumane abuses”.

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Wendy and Paige w-Missy and Paco web

“I am afraid my wife won’t come home one day from the barn.  I just want her to get rid of that dangerous horse”, Wendy’s husband said to me as he pulled me aside.  “I’ll do everything I can to help” I replied trying to reassure him.  Wendy first contacted me explaining that her horse had become violent for no apparent reason.  She explained that she’s been checked out by veterinarians and trainers, but no one can figure out what’s wrong.  Wendy went on to explain that every time she visited Paige, her six year old Paint mare, Paige would charge, rear-up with striking hooves and gnashing teeth chasing Wendy out of the paddock and arena.  Wendy was broken hearted over this unexplained change in her mare – she had rescued Paige at the tender age of 6 months old from an auction and they had been best friends and riding companions for the last 5+ years, enjoying trail rides and various styles of riding.  But suddenly, without explanation Paige had become dangerous whenever Wendy tried to work with her.   What happened?

I have a lengthy intake form for every new horse that comes into my barn which consists of questions ranging from medications, feed and supplements, to recent vaccines and injuries old and new.  As Wendy and I sat at my dining room table going through the intake form nothing out of the ordinary was coming up.  There were no injuries, no recent vaccines or medical issues and no changes in feed or supplements.  Paige’s overall physical health was good, so I asked her “were there any changes in Paige’s lifestyle before her behavior changed”?  “Yes” Wendy said, “I moved her to a new barn which she was struggling fitting into the herd and then a herd mate died three weeks later”.   I asked “did Paige seem to be sad or depressed”?  “Yes she was” Wendy went on “and then I left for three months to take care of my mom in Hawaii who was dying of cancer.  When I came back Paige had changed and I don’t understand why”.

I put my pen down, leaned back in my chair and gently said “I’m so sorry you lost your mother, but you need to apologize to Paige.  You abandoned her in her time of grief where she didn’t fit in except with one horse that was now gone.  I need you to go out to the barn, put your left hand on her forehead and your right hand on her neck and tell her you are sorry that you abandoned her.  Explain to her what happened and that you had no choice at the time, but that you now understand her anger and that you are going to make it right with her.  Use your words since the vibration from your words will tell Paige everything she needs to know.  Once you do this I can undo the habitual behavior she has wrapped herself in”.  Wendy and I walked out to the barn where I stopped at the door and left Wendy to her task.  Wendy did just as I told her without question, we hugged goodbye as I said “I’ll call you soon”.

In dealing with a charging horse I knew I best practice first short circuiting Paige’s brain by twirling a lead-rope in one hand and shaking a flag in the other.  Horse’s see independently out of each eye feeding their brain information separately which has helped them survive in the wild for thousands of years.  If Paige charges me violently it is my intention to short circuit her brain by overloading her with two conflicting images, then gaining control of her feet all within seconds!  I stood in my living room practicing twirling and shaking until I had it down – it was like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time, but my life depended on me getting it right!

The next morning I set out to do a Wholistic Joining with Paige, lead-rope in one hand and a training stick with a flag in the other – not my usual tools for a Wholistic Joining……  I opened the stall door and Paige came out meandering about the arena checking out the various buckets and gates familiarizing herself with her new surroundings.  I kept a watchful eye as she pranced about and shied at times from the scary wheelbarrow and horse eating tractor gate.   I took a deep breath releasing it slowly as it was now time to start moving her feet launching into a Wholistic Joining.   The very moment I approached her to move her feet she came charging at me rearing and striking with an open mouth, teeth bared.  I stood my ground waving the flag and twirling the lead-rope hoping this worked – to my relief she stopped in her tracks and in a split second I growled loudly and ran towards her shaking the flag and twirling the rope.  She turned and ran off as I chased her a few steps moving her feet, then turned and walked off keeping her in my peripheral vision.  She turned and looked at me, then came charging again only to be stunned with two images she couldn’t process, the twirling lead-rope and shaking flag.  Paige stopped abruptly at which I growled gruffly running towards her chasing her off again, then I turned and walked off.  Paige stopped running, turned around and looked at me puzzled, then dropped her head in submission, licking her lips (a sign of thought) – in that moment I knew she understood I was her herd leader.  I approached her gently, my eyes cast down, countenance soft as she buried her head in my chest with relief as if to say “finally I have a herd leader”.  I stroked her neck and praised her – explained what had happened to her and how sorry Wendy was all the while comforting her in her grief.  Paige blew a big sigh and signaled that she was done terrorizing and was ready to be a part of the herd again following me at liberty around the arena.

Wendy and Paige were reunited without incident and came back to my barn two years later to participate in a clinic together.  It was a deeply touching sight as Wendy and Paige rode with no reins through a labyrinth and bridge crossing now bonded as ONE.

Wendy & Paige Crossing the Bridge with No Reins

Wendy & Paige Crossing the Bridge with No Reins

Let me know how I can be of support to you in any way.  Contact or call 888-406-7689.  Wishing you a great day!  Missy

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A Star Reborn Part 3

The change in Star was amazing after his chiropractic adjustment!  His eyes softened along with his countenance and attitude.  I had not realized he’d been subtly trying to tell me he was in pain.  For instance, after his chiropractic adjustment he stood quietly for saddling with no fuss or fidgeting.  I thought the fussing was a training issue for which I continually corrected him, but all the fidgeting and fuss went away along with the raised head and hollowed back after the adjustment.  Star was ready for the next step to carrying me as a rider.

Every time I ride any horse, even my “been there done that” school horses, I run each horse through my Five Fundamentals.  This re-establishes my leadership and flushes out any issues I want to address on the ground before I get in the saddle.  Star had been learning my Five Fundamentals all along with his ground training and now it was time to translate what he’s learned under saddle.  As I snapped on my reins to the All-In-One Bitless bridle I flexed his head on his near side with my left hand drawing his nose towards the girth resting my hand on the saddle.  I held the rein until he nodded his nose and softened then I instantly released “good boy”.

Typically it only takes about 10 minutes to run a horse through the Five Fundamentals and Star was no exception as I completed each step.  Now it was time for our first ride.  From Star’s near side I tipped his nose slightly to the left, grabbed rein and mane with my left hand and the cantle with my right and stood up in the stirrup.  I held myself there watching for any reaction, but Star was calm and confident with the exception of a step to balance himself.GHT#19   Slowly I swung my leg over and gently lowered myself on his back.  His eyes widened a bit so I took a deep relaxing breath and stroked his neck, and he sighed.  I cooed over him drawing his nose towards the girth (partial one-rein-stop) while leaning down to rub his forehead.  This was a reminder that nose to the girth is the safe and loving place we go when we are in trouble.  I had established his one-rein-stop on the ground as the safe and loving place before I mounted GHT#16 and now I’m reminding him that the one-rein-stop under saddle is still the same safe and loving place we go when we are in trouble.

GH TIP #16 – Upon mounting it is important to gently pull the horse’s nose towards the girth (the safe and loving place) and reach down to love him up.  This helps the horse understand you are the same leader in the saddle as you were on the ground.  This is the beginning of the one-rein-stop in the saddle, your horse’s emergency handbrake.

After rubbing Star’s head I slowly leaned back holding the rein resting my hand on my thigh waiting for him to nod his nose towards his girth and soften before I would release the rein.  He wasn’t sure at first what I was asking so he started to disengage his hindquarters moving in a circle.  I patiently stroked his neck with my right hand saying “whoa, whoa” in a soothing voice keeping my legs off him, and not releasing his nose: do not release the nose until the feet have stopped moving (GH TIP #13 Part 2).  Soon his feet stopped moving and I waited holding his nose until he nodded and softened. I instantly released the rein saying “good boy, good boy” while I stroked his neck.  I then gently pulled his nose to the right, held the rein with my left hand, reached down with my right hand and loved him up on his forehead reminding him this was the safe and loving place on this side too.  When I sat back, he instantly nodded his nose and I immediately released the rein praising him for the right answer.

I continued flexing Star in a partial one-rein-stop (nose towards the girth) from one side to the other as he learned to nod his nose and soften.  If Star was going to get silly I needed to be able to shut him down using his emergency handbrake, the one-rein-stop.  Now it was time to add the final step to the one-rein-stop; disengagement of the hindquarters.  I began by flexing Star’s nose towards the girth, then I added heel pressure just behind the girth, as I had done on the ground with my thumb to move his back feet.  Star immediately responded by disengaging his hindquarters (inside hind foot crosses in front of outside hind foot), but he tried to pull his nose out of the flex.  I held on to his nose firmly with the rein while releasing all foot pressure and stroked his neck to help him relax.  Once he stopped moving his feet I praised him, but held his nose until he softened and nodded then I opened my hand instantly releasing the pressure, “good boy” I said.   At times Star moved his back feet before I asked him so I made it my idea by adding my heel pressure; remember he who moves the other’s feet first is in control (GH TIP #1 Part 1).  Soon Star was flexing and disengaging softly in a relaxed frame of mind and body GHT#17.

GH TIP #17 – When working with your horse it is not important that you get perfection the first day when teaching something new.  What is important is to keep your horse engaged in learning without getting frustrated.  If you are getting frustrated then you need to quit.  If your horse is getting frustrated take a step or two back in what you are training and find a starting point that he can be successful at and then end the session.  Always end on a good note as described in NH TIP #9 Part 1.  Once I feel comfortable that the horse understands the basic concept of what I’m teaching I will quickly move on to another learning experience.  Often times at the end of a session I will come back to a prior concept I was teaching and do a little refinement so long as the horse’s mood is still willing and he’s not feeling overwhelmed.

I now know the emergency handbrake is working for Star, phew….  It’s time to move his feet forward under saddle.  I squeezed gently with both legs while leaning forward imposing a forward motion in my body language.  Star instantly moved forward so I released my pressure by removing my legs and relaxing my body saying “good boy”.  He immediately stopped at the “good boy” so I squeezed again and he instantly moved off the leg pressure.  As a high energy Arab, Star was going to be fairly easy to teach walk, trot and canter.

Star’s forward motion was excellent, but he struggled balancing me at first, even when mounting.  It is not natural for horses to carry humans so there is a time of adjustment working out the balance when teaching them under saddle – you have to give your horse time to learn to balance you in each gait, walk, trot and canter.  Some horses learn very quickly, but Star struggled for a better part of a week.  He sometimes staggered a moment when I mounted shifting his weight to balance me and I’m less than 140 pounds.  (I note my weight because I believe it is important to be fair to your horse and ride the appropriate horse to your body weight).

There is a huge difference between a horse that wants to move around when you are mounting and one that has a balancing issue.  To help a horse with a balancing problem, before I mount I will position his feet squarely and then I flex his head slightly so the horse can reposition if needed; sometimes a horse will move the outside front leg to adjust his balance, that’s ok.  Always work on mounting from both sides helping your horse to improve his balance. Remember your horse has two brains what you train on one side of the horse you must train on the other side (GH TIP #14 Part 2).  Mounting and dismounting is the most vulnerable position we can be in as riders.  If your horse moves when mounting and it’s not a balancing issue you must fix this immediately for your own safety.GHT#18

GH TIP #18 – Keep in mind all the discipline described in this tip is done in an All-In-One BITLESS bridle so there is no bit in the mouth!  Mounting Issues: If you horse is moving around when mounting and you know it is not a balancing issue; you need to rule out pain before you apply any discipline.  Sometimes horses are trying to tell us they are in pain when we mount so seek professional help for your horse if you are in doubt.  If pain issues have been eliminated you need to make the right thing easy and the wrong thing uncomfortable (GH TIP #9 Part 1).  Here’s how: Did you check saddle fit and desensitize with the saddle? If not, check out the saddle fit and always desensitize first to eliminate any saddle issues. GHT#19

Using the process of elimination I’m going to breakdown my mounting into steps to flush out the specific action that triggers my horse to move.  The first step is to flex his head as if I’m going to mount, but not lift my foot for the stirrup.  If the horse moves I will repeatedly make short jerks on the rein upwards backing him up making the ssshhh sound.  I will do this for about 3 seconds, stop and stare at the horse until he drops his head in submission and licks or chews as described in GH TIP #11 Part 2 (he who moves the other’s feet first is in control).  If the horse didn’t move when I flexed his head I then lift my foot as if to put it in the stirrup.  If he tries to move away I make short jerks on the rein in an upward motion and make the ssshhh sound backing him up making the wrong thing uncomfortable.  After I’ve disciplined for movement when I picked up my foot that tells me I need to desensitize my horse for that.  I will march around my horse lifting my knees high using nurturing techniques until he settles down and stops moving.  Once I have desensitized my horse to my leg lifts I am ready to try mounting again, but this time my foot will make contact with the stirrup.  I have flexed his head, praised him for standing quietly, and now I have rein and mane, praised him for standing, I’ve lifted my foot, praised him, and have now made contact in the stirrup.  If the horse starts moving his feet I immediately release my foot from the stirrup, take the rein that is in my left hand and repeat the short jerking motion upwards while making the ssshhh sound backing him back-up making the wrong thing uncomfortable.  I try it again, praising for each benchmark and now toe to the stirrup, but if he moves his feet I immediately repeat making it more uncomfortable by jerking upwards on the rein backing him up further while making the ssshhh sound.  You can see a pattern of consistency in my discipline. Typically it only takes a few discipline moments and the horse “gets it”, but if not I stick with the consistent discipline and praise for each benchmark.  You must remain consistent upping the pressure for each infraction, but don’t get mad or frustrated; be patient and giving with praise for the slightest try and smallest change; it will work.  By now I have my foot in the stirrup and I’m praising my horse and stroking his neck because he is standing quietly.  As I begin to stand up in the stirrup I continue to praise him if he’s still standing quietly, but if he starts to move I immediately drop out of the stirrup, jerk the rein driving him back making the ssshhh sound.  Rarely have I had any further problems once I’m standing in the stirrup; by then the horse has “got it” and found it to be pleasurable standing quietly.  Break the problem down into baby steps and praise your horse for doing it right and make it uncomfortable when he does it wrong.  If you use a mounting block the same techniques apply, but make sure you have desensitized your horse to the block if it scares him.

GH TIP #19 – Saddle Desensitizing: I include saddle desensitizing every time before I ride.   For instance I like to flap the stirrup leather closest to the saddle not hitting the horse and repeat both sides.  I start by tipping the horses head towards me slightly with the lead rope while I stand at a 45 degree angle at his shoulder.  I have the lead rope in my hand that is now on his neck to nurture him.  I begin by lifting the stirrup and slapping the upper portion against the saddle and saddle pad.  If the horse tries to move away I am able to pull on his nose towards me which disengages his hindquarters so he can’t run off.  I then stroke his neck and nurture him, but continue slapping at a reduced noise level until he stops moving his feet.  Once I have a starting point I can increase the slapping noise until it no longer bothers him.  I do this on both sides of the horse.  Then I will use the end of my lead rope to tap the saddle rhythmically.  I repeat holding the lead rope tipping his nose towards me standing at a 45 degree angle at the shoulder in case he gets frightened by the slapping sound against the saddle.  This position gives me safer control if he was to try and get away.  You’d be surprised how many horses get spooked by the slapping sound.  Repeat as you did with the stirrup finding a starting point if your horse gets frightened and work up to the horse not caring about the slapping.  Make sure you do not slap the horse, just the saddle.

Time and patience with Star resolved his balancing issues and soon he was walking, trotting, and cantering athletically carrying me in the saddle.  We had our moments of sticky feet, but I simply flexed him, disengaged his hindquarters and bumped his outside shoulder pushing him through a turn on the haunch.  It works beautifully every time a horse gets stuck.  Soon we were on the trail where he amazed me with his confidence and trust.  By our second trail ride it was just the two of us where Star could explore the woods yet listened to my every cue from running up a hill to a complete stop the moment I asked; I was so very proud of him.  All this was accomplished in less than three months since his arrival.

Star whinnied to everyone as he departed with his owner to head home.  A twinkle in his eye, Star was no longer a jaded angry ex-stallion, but a regal confident partner trusting in the human herd.  My throat tightened and tears swelled as I waved goodbye.

Let me know if I can be of support to you in your journey of gentle horsemanship.  Email or call toll free (888) 406-7689.  Learn more by visiting my website

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A Star Reborn Part 2

Missy Wryn, horse whisperer, environmental portrait with horses in background

Gentle Horse Trainer Missy Wryn

Now that Star can back-up with the slightest jiggle of the lead rope (read A Star Reborn Part 1) it is time to begin desensitizing him, teaching him to lunge with changing direction and perform a one-rein-stop on the ground which will translate under saddle as his emergency handbrake.   As part of his confidence building I’m going to incorporate plastic bags, tarps, and saddle blankets, along with taking him on confidence trail walks in-hand.  However what I wasn’t prepared for was Stars lashing out at something I learned was a threat to him………


I began Stars desensitizing by rubbing him all over with my hands gently while increasing my motion and intensity.  When he raised his head out of concern I simply asked him to drop his head with the slightest pressure on the shank of the leadrope (where the mind is the body follows), and stroked his neck to nurture him through his fear.  As Star became more relaxed about my rubbing him all over I began jumping up and down so he could see me above his head.  To my surprise he pinned his ears and lashed out at me with snapping teeth.  Whoa I didn’t expect that and had never experienced a horse get violent over this particular process.  I immediately realized Star felt threatened so for him his response was to warn me by snapping at me.  However as his lead mare he found out that his behavior was an inappropriate response toward his herd leader.  Therefore I quickly reprimanded him with short firm yanks on the shank backing him up while making the ssshhh GHT#10 sound and kicking dirt at him.  Kicking dirt is what a lead mare will do which is humiliating on the receiving end.  I even let out a growl of disapproval and my eyes fixed on his eyes creating pressure.  The backing up lasted only 3 seconds, but I continued staring at him until his head dropped in submission.   Though Star dropped his head, he didn’t work his mouth (licking or chewing)  so I walked up to him and rubbed his head with forgiveness then gently stuck my fingers in his mouth feathering his tongue to get his mouth working GHT#11.

After the explosive biting episode I heightened my mindfulness of Star’s pinny ear behavior, reduced my jumping up and down to small short hops, then worked up to the previous level of jumping up and down which he never lashed out again trying to bite.  However Star did continue to pin his ears and raise his head as I resumed the jumping up and down, so I made the right thing easy and the wrong thing uncomfortable by making the ssshhh sound which was all it took for him to learn that his behavior was unacceptable by the lead mare (me).  Star quickly learned I was not a threat and became desensitized to the jumping and seeing me above his head.

GH Tip #10 – SSSHHH.  I prefer to use the ssshhh sound instead of “NO”.  The ssshhh sound is quick and startling enough to get the horse’s attention.  “NO” tends to be used with a deep voice, but the ssshhh is a real attention grabber.  I only reprimand when a horse behaves disrespectfully or dangerously.  The level of the reprimand must fit the behavior.  For instance if a horse tries to rub on me without my permission knocking me off my feet I’ll ssshhh and back them up a few steps controlling his feet, making the wrong thing uncomfortable.  If a horse tries to bite me I will attempt to make contact with the back of my hand under the horse’s chin then make the ssshhh sound several times while backing up the horse vigorously kicking dirt at him.  When a horse learns the ssshhh sound often that is all it takes for him to realize he’s crossing the line with me and will stop the behavior.

 GH Tip #11 – Chewing his thoughts.  When training a horse and he’s had an “ah ha” moment the horse will likely work his mouth for which I will pause so the horse can chew on his thoughts.  When the mouth is working the horse is licking his brain or chewing his thoughts as the saying goes.  If a horse just “got it”, but doesn’t work his mouth I will gently stick my fingers in the horse’s mouth and feather his tongue to get him chewing.  This assists in accelerating the thinking part of his brain chewing his thoughts.

Desensitizing is foundational to building confidence and trust in your horse.  If we limit what we do with and around our horses to keep them from being afraid or spooking, that leaves us with very little we can do with our horses and encourages dangerous behavior.  I want to be able to go anywhere and do anything with my horse as my companion so that means my horse has to gain confidence and trust in me and my leadership.  Through desensitizing horses become more confident and trusting in their herd leader and themselves.


To teach Star to lunge I stood in front of him with a training stick in my right hand and leadrope in the left (a training stick is simply an extension of my hand – if my arm was 6 feet long I’d use it the same way).  I raised my left hand to the side with the leadrope resting in the well of my thumb and index finger, pointed to the left with my index finger and tipped my head in the direction I wanted Star to go.  He just stood there looking at me “what?”  I tugged at the leadrope in the left direction and clucked.  “What?” was the expression on his face.  I started to walk towards him making short quick jerks on the leadrope to the left, but Star began to back-up not understanding me.  As I continued walking towards him I raised the stick in my right hand and tapped him on his left shoulder.  He continued to back-up so I tapped him again and he took a step to the left away from the pressure of the stick, “good boy” I exclaimed immediately dropping all pressure (dropping my eye contact, lowering both hands and turning my shoulder to him) then walked up and stroked his neck.  He looked at me like “what did I do?”  I got back in position in front him, asked again to lunge by raising my left hand, pointing and tipping my head to the left, but again no response.  I gave a short quick tug on the lead rope to the left in the direction I wanted him to go, but he started backing up again.  I simply I raised the training stick and walked towards his shoulder, immediately Star took a step to the left without me touching him with the stick, “good boy, good boy” I said releasing all pressure and stroking his neck.  By the third time I asked Star to lunge his “ah ha” moment kicked-in understanding my body language with just raising my hand and pointing without tugging on the lead rope or using the training stick – Star “got it”!

As a high energy Arab, Star was off lunging in circles carrying his tail high floating around me.  He shied into me at first as he lunged around noticing the “horse eating” wheelbarrow and muck buckets, so I stopped Star and walked him to each of the scary things to help him overcome his fear.  I stroked his neck and allowed him to view each item with me standing on one side and then the other of his eyes (remember what you do on one side you must do on the other).  After spending time desensitizing and nurturing Star through his fears we resumed lunging, however he still shied at times so I used the training stick to tap him on the shoulder reminding him of my personal space (remember if you can touch the horse with the stick he’s in your space).GHT #12   Soon Star understood to stay out of my personal space while overcoming his fears.

GH Tip #12 – Safety with a training stick & string.  When using the training stick to tap a horse out of your space or energize him, tug lightly on the leadrope to bump the horse’s nose towards you in order to keep the horse’s hind feet away from you if they choose to kick out.  A horse may still kick out, but when you bring their nose towards you it causes their hind end to swing away from you.  Before I tap a horse with my training stick I make sure I have contact with the horse’s nose by taking out excess slack in the lead rope.  I want to be able to pull the horse’s nose towards me in case the horse likes to “talk” with his back feet.

Star is ready for a one-rein-stop on the ground (the emergency handbrake).  To teach him this I want to take him to the safe and loving place I established earlier when I brought his nose to the girth and bonded with him.  As Star circled around me I dropped the training stick on the ground and drew the lead rope through my hand as I walked towards his girth.  When approaching Star he continued circling around me fearfully worried about my approach.  Calmly I walked closer and closer to him not making eye contact and relaxing my posture while talking in a soothing voice.  When I got to his side he continued to move around me as I rested my left hand on his back pulling his nose to his girth lightly.  I stroked him gently with my right hand saying “hoe, hoe”, without releasing his nose until his feet stopped moving and he gave me a nod towards his girth. GHT #13

 GH Tip #13 – One-rein-stop.  When flexing a horse laterally for a one-rein-stop (pulling the nose towards the girth area), do not release the flex until the horse’s feet have stopped moving and he nods his nose towards his girth (gives to the pressure – creates slack in the leadrope).  Release the leadrope or rein immediately (I drop it like a hot potato) when the horse nods.  Remember to release the pressure for the slightest try, the smallest change.

With eyes wide Star finally stopped moving his feet under my gentle encouragement as I held the lead rope flexing his nose to his girth.  He leaned on the halter for a moment and then starting bobbing his head upwards trying to get away from the pressure, but I could not release him until he nodded his nose towards his girth.  As Star was trying to figure out what I’m asking he started moving his feet, so I simply moved with him not releasing his nose.  I can not release him for the wrong answer so in a soothing voice while stroking his neck and kneading his withers with my right hand I asked him to “hoe hoe”.  He finally stopped moving his feet, paused for a moment and then gave a quick nod towards his girth.  I instantly opened my left hand releasing the leadrope and said “good boy, good boy, that’s what I wanted”.  A few more one-rein-stops on the ground in both directions GHT #14 and Star was ready for some desensitizing.

 GH Tip #14– Your horse has two brains.  What you train on one side of the horse you must train on the other side.  Because horses have eyes on the side of their heads they see independently with each eye.  As a prey animal this allows them to be on alert from any direction.  This also creates an independent brain for each side of the horse.  Therefore you must train consistently on both sides of your horse which bridges the two brains so the horse can “think” first instead of the instinctual “react” creating a safer horse.  If a horse spooks and flinches in place he’s “thinking” instead of fleeing – that’s what we want.

Each day I worked with Star I began with bonding, and then groundwork consisting of lunging, one-rein-stops, change of direction, flexing and disengaging of the hind quarters GHT #15.  By the end of his first week he was able to walk with a tarp completely over him covering his eyes, he carried the saddle on his back and allowed me to lay on him and stand in the stirrup on both sides.

GH TIP #15 – Disengaging the hindquarters is like pushing the clutch in on a car: all power goes out of the forward motion.  Horses are impulsion animals pushing from their hind legs.  To disengage the hindquarters you want the inside foot to cross in front of the outside foot which takes all the power out of the forward motion.  A horse cannot buck, rear, or bolt when the hindquarters disengage.  As you do a one-rein-stop on the ground the horse begins to circle around and you’ll notice the inside foot crosses in front of the outside foot.  When flexing a horse laterally, press your knuckle or thumb into the side of the horse where your heel would be in the saddle and keep pressing until the horse moves off the pressure.  Wait for the inside foot to cross in front of the outside foot and then rub the spot where your pressure was until the horse stops moving his feet.  Do not release the flex until the feet have stopped moving however.  Disengaging the hind quarters is a “complete” one-rein-stop.  A horse can run sideways with their nose to their girth, but once you disengage the hindquarters the horse can no longer buck, bolt, or rear.  Get this good on the ground with just the slightest pressure and then practice in the saddle.

I began noticing Star would throw his head and pin his ears every time I would step into the stirrup.  At first I thought it was his stallionesque attitude, but I realized I’d better check for pain issues in the withers, shoulders, back and hips before I start riding.  If he’s in pain no amount of training would keep his head down and change his attitude.  I wanted Star to be a willing partner and not bracing himself to cope with pain.

To check for pain I ran my thumb down his neck, over his shoulders and withers, down his back and tail area watching for muscle spasms and body language “ducking under my thumb from pain”.  Sure enough he pinned his ears and had muscle spasms at the shoulder on both sides, and hollowed his back under mild thumb pressure.  I picked up his front foot slightly to stretch and he came off the ground from shoulder pain.  That told me he needed the horse chiropractor before I start riding for sure.

By the time the chiropractor arrived the following week, I had noticed Star’s belly beginning to bloat.  Since the chiropractor is also a licensed equine veterinarian I asked him about the bloating and he chuckled “he’s pregnant”.  “Well that’s pretty funny, but really what is going on”?  He suggested I get a fecal sample to see where Star’s worm count was and de-worm if the count is higher then ten.  He also checked Star’s ulcer pressure point and found him to be very sensitive.  The chiropractor gave me a homeopathic remedy to treat Star for ulcers along with suggestions on appropriate feed for ulcer conditions.

As the doc began his examination he found Star’s poll, atlas, C2, C5, TMJ, T1, shoulder, elbow, floating rib, sacrum and tail needed adjustments.  After Stars adjustments his eyes softened, mouth relaxed and for the first time I saw in his eyes he was content and happy.  I followed up with a fecal sample and his count was 125!! He was overloaded with worms.  The veterinarian made a recommendation on the type of wormer to use based on the fecal sample.

I highly advise getting a fecal sample before arbitrarily poisoning your horse with wormer.  For my personal horses I use Diatomaceous Earth (DE) to worm, but in the limited time of training I will use a worming paste and follow up with healthy doses of probiotics to balance the horse’s gut (check out Horse Keeping eBook).

Trying to paste Star was a challenge as he lifted me off the ground when I attempted to insert the syringe on his near side (left side).  So I proceeded to approach from the off side (right side) pushing a little of the paste that was apple flavored onto the end of the syringe and giving him a taste.  He liked the flavor and in an instant I had pushed the plunger dosing him fully before he knew what happened.  Three weeks later I followed up with another fecal sample and his count was negative – hooray.

After a couple days of rest from the chiropractic adjustments Star will be ready to ride…………..

Let me know how I can be of support to you – visit, email or call 888-406-7689

Posted in Bitless Bridle Riding, Gentle Horse Training, Horse, horse games, Horse Rescue, Horse Sanctuary, Horse Scoop, Horse Training, horse whisperer, HorseMAREship, horses, Humane Horse Training, Natural Horsemanship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Complications of a Rescue Horse

Benny 4-11-04 10 days after rescue web

Only donkeys would accept Benny

It was an honor and privilege to be the featured speaker at New Options Equine Rescue’s first big fund raiser.  Out of the many stories of rescue horses I’ve had in training over the years I couldn’t deny the most egregious story of my very own rescue horse Benny.   You see Benny was locked in a stall for two years that we know of and by the time he was rescued his front left hoof had grown out to a curl and had to be hack-sawed off.  Benny had fecal matter from topline to hoof which could not be brushed or combed since his flesh was raw underneath his coat.  He was born with contracted flexor tendons that went untreated so his hind feet were club-feet liken to stumps which resulted in his right hip sticking up and forward out of alignment.  If that wasn’t enough Benny was suffering from the condition known as Stringhalt resulting in him kicking himself in the chest and falling down due to the spasms.

Benny's hoof after hack saw web

Benny’s hoof hack-saw off

When I showed up to retrieve Benny from his foster pasture (I would be his fifth home in six months) I found him frantically pacing a fence crying and hollering, sweating and shaking due to the removal of a pasture mate just three days prior – he was all alone and had not eaten during those 3 days.  As I approached Benny I noticed he was like a bobble-head toy, all head with a tiny skeletal body, he was a gastly sight.  The foster home owner offered me a shot gun to catch Benny with which I shot him a scoffing look and said I got this.   It only took a few minutes to catch Benny using my Wholistic Joining technique and I hurriedly got him in the trailer in between his Stringhalt spasms.  I was careful not to tie him, but to let him loose in the trailer as he repeatedly collapsed with the spasms at every stop light and stop sign on our way home.

10 days after rescue April 2004

10 days after rescue April 2004

Months of detoxification, barefoot rehabilitation, dental and chiropractic care, along with intense nutritional support brought Benny to a physically healthful state with the Stringhalt cured, but training was a complicated challenge” Missy says.  “I used every method from natural horsemanship to traditional training, but I could not get Benny to connect with me, to understand herd language.  Any form of reprimand or discipline for dangerous behavior such as biting, rearing and space invasion (pushing me around, knocking into me) only made his behavior more dangerous.  Most of the trainers I consulted advised me to hit him, show him whose boss by means of violence and force or simply have him euthanized. Euthanized – because he doesn’t conform to the ideals, the template for a domestic horse he should be euthanized?  I couldn’t heed that advice!  Maybe my expectations were too high for Benny, but I was not going to give up. I felt challenged to communicate with him in a way that would make him a safer horse, thereby allowing me to provide him a quality of life all living creatures deserve.  So how was I going to do this?

One year after rescue!

May 2005 one year after rescue!

I was deeply perplexed when I became inspired to experiment by playing with Benny instead of training him.  To dance, to chase, to play with him from fetch the jolly ball to a game I call I’m a gonna gitcha.  When I set Benny free in the arena I began to play making sure I had a smile on my face and a cheerful countenance then I’d run up to him, touch him on the shoulder and run away.  He saw this as a game of tag and came after me all excited with a sparkle in his eye.  I called out oh no Benny’s gonna get me, oh no, while waving my arms then suddenly I would turn around and say BOO.  It was hysterical as he’d spring into the air, then spin around and run and now I was chasing him I’m gonna gitcha Benny.  He was happy and goofy prancing around, chasing me, and then I’d turn around and chase him.  I soon added music to our play time which turned into dancing that he absolutely loves.

As I described to the audience at the New Options Equine fund raiser; think about a forest and all the various styles of trees.  When in the forest some trees have bent branches which we recognize they are simply reaching for sun due to circumstances of being shaded – we notice blemishes on the trees due to insects, missing limbs due to snow and wind – we notice trees fallen, but new growth coming from stumps.  We don’t judge the trees to be inferior with their imperfections; the imperfections are actually perfection when you consider their circumstance.  So is Benny, perfect for his circumstance and every rescue horse perfect in their imperfection.  With the epidemic of horse homelessness the need is great so consider supporting your local horse rescues and sanctuaries and remember there is great learning in PLAY”.

Let me know if I can be of support to you in any way – send me an email or visit my website or call toll free 888-406-7689

Posted in Benny the Autistic Horse, Bitless Bridle Riding, Gentle Horse Training, Horse, horse games, Horse Rescue, Horse Sanctuary, Horse Scoop, Horse Training, horse whisperer, HorseMAREship, horses, Humane Horse Training, Natural Horsemanship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment