What's New: Training

  • Compassionate Training – A Historical Example

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    HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017! Let’s go forward loving and learning together with our equine companions! When kindness is used in training, greatness can happen. That is the story of Beautiful Jim Key. The sickly colt was adopted by “Dr” William Key, a freed slave and self-taught veterinarian. Using his veterinary skills and training with no force, the colt grew into a healthy adult with some special abilities – he could read, write, spell, do math, tell time, sort mail, cite Bible passages, use a telephone and cash register. Together, they were seen by an estimated 10 million Americans and hailed as the “Marvel of the Twentieth Century”. Dr Key died at the age of 76, being universally praised for his service to humanity and Beautiful Jim followed three years later at the age of 23. As TIME magazine declared, “This wonderful horse has upset all theories that animals have only instinct, and do not think and reason.”

  • All Turnouts Must End

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    The Lucky Three mules willingly come off the grass pasture at any time of the day that they are beckoned. This is the result of routine management, humane training practices and an ample reward system. Not one equine here is herd-bound as we have become as good friends with them as their equine buddies!

  • Prey or Predators?

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    Are equines prey or predators? Although some trainers base their methods on the idea that equines should be approached as “prey,” this blog post by Sara Annon explains that the answer may not be that simple.

    An excerpt:

    The real lesson in this is that the predator/prey model of horsemanship is inaccurate. Rodents are prey animals. Horses are herd animals.  Their enemy is the weather (click here  and here). Horses die from hypothermia in winter, drought in summer, and starvation when grazing is scarce. Weakened animals are picked off by the occasional courageous wolf pack or lion. I say courageous because it only takes one quick smack with a hoof to break bones, and for a predator that is a death sentence.

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  • The Elbow Pull

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    The “Elbow Pull” is a self-correcting restraint that encourages the equine to use his entire body to go forward in a relaxed and correct postural frame. It promotes the stretching and strengthening of the topline and results in the hind legs coming well under to support the body and to keep the hind quarters (motor) providing active impulsion. In the “before” pictures, the equines are simply moving their front and back legs underneath the torso, but the torso is not really moving due to inactivity in the rib cage muscle groups. In the “after” pictures, you see that the equine posture has dramatically changed and now produces an active and “rippling” effect throughout the rib cage muscle groups (which can be seen in the moving videos). This is the basic difference between a really good dressage prospect and one that might be passed over.

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  • TMD Equine University Graduation Clinic 2016

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    ADMISSIONS EXTENDED UNTIL JULY 31.

    Click here to apply!

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    TMD Equine University is an online school founded by Meredith Hodges and certified by the State of Colorado. Students engage in a full year of study in this two-semester program. The comprehensive equine study covers everything involved in the safe and enjoyable management and training of your equine.

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    Our museum display affords students lessons in anatomy and its relationship to motion.

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  • Donkeys: The “Sinking” Reflex

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    WN-DonkeySinking-001Donkeys have a lot of behaviors that owners might find strange. One of these is dropping their spine, or “sinking,” when you put a hand on their back. Not all donkeys will do this, but many of them will, especially when they are young and or haven’t been handled routinely. I’ve personally had experience with donkeys sinking to the point that they’ll go down to the floor on their knees and bellies. You may also commonly recognize this behavior in cats and dogs.

    In order to understand what’s happening, it is important to understand the intervertebral equine anatomy. “Intervertebral” refers to the opening between two jointed vertebrae for the passage of nerves to and from the spinal cord. When a foal is first born, their bones and cartilage are soft and flexible, and their nerves in these areas are hypersensitive —especially over the spine.

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  • Regular Maintenance for your Equine

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    Equines need routine and consistency in their maintenance and training program to keep stress levels low and to promote healthy bodies.

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  • The Marvels of the Equine Vacuum

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    The equine vacuum cleaner is not only a way to dry clean your equine, but it can also be used as a muscle therapy tool and to promote good circulation. Of course, the first thing to do is to gently introduce the equine to the vacuum cleaner.

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  • Side Passing the “T”: Look, no hands!

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    WN-SidePassT-01Ciji Free Side Pass T 6-15-15 074Side passing is an advanced lateral move that should be prefaced with extensive leading training, first on the flat ground. Your equine will be ready to move to obstacles when you can throw the lead rope over his neck and he will obediently follow at your shoulder.

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  • Hard to Catch Mules: Before and After

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    Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 10.14.46 AMIt’s always great to hear from people who have used our training materials successfully with their equines, so we loved getting an email recently from Becky of Becky’s Homestead, showing off a video of her formerly hard-to-catch mules, Emma and Charlie. Using Meredith’s methods, the mules now come to the gate and exit quietly, and turn to Becky to await further instructions—no chasing required.

    Becky writes: “I love your method because you don’t have to be a tough, roping cowboy to train your problem mule. I also really like that you say people need to train their own mule so they develop a relationship. I have seen it countless times, where someone sends their horse or mule out to a trainer and the animal is perfect for the rough, tough cowboy or cowgirl trainer—then it goes home to the middle-aged woman and acts the same old way. Bottom line, there is no short cut to developing a good relationship with your animal.”

    One of the keys to Becky’s success was that she did not try to modify or rush the exercises, and did them exactly as laid out in the training program. Although it can be tempting to quickly move to more advanced lessons, like riding, your equine needs to build those skills—and muscles—on the solid foundation provided by beginning training. And as Becky experienced, these methods can produce amazing results!

    Check out our web store for training products for horses and mules, and donkeys too.

  • What About Muzzles?

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    WN-Muzzles-01PastureYears ago, I believed that all I needed to have an equine was a halter, bridle and saddle, a water bucket and a patch of grass with a fence around it. I didn’t even think about shelter until much later when I finally decided that a garage would do. I now know that there is a lot of responsibility in taking care of equines and that it is an ongoing learning experience. Like most of us, I was a little lazy and wanted shortcut ways to deal with my equines so I could get right to the pleasure of riding. After many heart wrenching experience, I discovered that I did not have to be overwhelmed with management and training responsibilities, just more organized and practical. Finding simple, logical and appropriate answers to management and training questions became my mission.

    Mules and donkeys, contrary to popular belief, are sensitive to colic and founder when left on pasture. They can develop fat rolls and patches all over their bodies when allowed to graze freely. This eventually will become a very expensive and potentially devastating condition if left unattended. Muzzles have been developed to keep equines from grazing too voraciously and hopefully, this can prevent the incidence of colic and founder, but I can’t help but think that there will be a certain amount of frustration involved when using such short cut devices that can manifest itself in other areas of interaction with your equine. The animal will take to the muzzle because there is a reward of grazing to follow, but to be prevented from fully enjoying their grazing has to be frustrating at times.

    Beyond the incidence of possible frustration is the simple threat of them getting the muzzle caught on something with no one around to help them if they do get caught on anything. One of my strictest safety rules is to never leave a halter on an unsupervised animal for the same reason. I have seen too many animals maimed, paralyzed and even killed by leaving anything around their neck and head.

    The muzzle encircles the delicate muzzle of the equine where the skin is very thin and sensitive. The lips can become scabby and sores can develop on the tongue.

    A muzzle can chafe and burn these sensitive areas with prolonged use and create a very sore mouth. Again, if they do get sore, using a bit can become painful and cause resistance in training.

    WN-Muzzles-02RunningIt is easier to employ simple management practices to keep your equine healthy and happy. Your equine should be kept in a smaller area for evening feedings, overnight and for morning feedings. This has several benefits: 1) Each animal can be checked every day for any injuries or anomalies, 2) He will not have to fight for his food, he can sleep uninterrupted and be more calm and fresh each day, 3) You will then be able to turn him out at specific times for grazing during the day and he will willingly come back from the pasture each night. This way you can monitor his grazing intake so he will not be able to overgraze and colic, or founder, 4) the smaller area affords you a confined space for beginning training so there is no need to chase him, or be interrupted by other animals.

    If you feed only grass hay in the mornings and feed his oats mix in the evenings with grass hay, you can monitor his pasture time easily. In the spring when the grass is growing and very rich, you can begin to turn him out an hour before feeding time and he will happily come back in to get his evening oats. Then add an additional hour each week to slowly accustom his digestive tract to the new grass until you have worked him up to a maximum grazing time of five hours. This will generally produce a healthy, happy animal of any age that can maintain his ideal weight and body condition.

    WN-Muzzles-03FenceWhen you feed only grass hay in the mornings, he will look forward to his lessons with you and be waiting at the gate, knowing there are oats rewards to be earned. What your animal is eating can have a direct impact on his response to training. Many feeds can cause hypertension in Longears (and horses, too!) and an inability to focus for any length of time. Mules and donkeys require a lot less feed than horses because they are half donkey and donkeys are desert animals. Too much feed or the wrong kind of feed and you run the risk of colic, or founder.

    WN-Muzzles-04InjectionWe feed an oats mix to our average sized mules of 1-2 cups of crimped oats, 1 oz. of Sho Glo vitamins (by Manna Pro) and 1 oz. Mazola corn oil (for hooves, coat and digestive tract regularity). The oats must be broken open in some way (crimped, steamed, rolled, etc.) as equines cannot digest whole oats. We feed this once a day in the evenings, grass hay twice a day and we monitor weight gain with the hay and pasture intake. Miniatures get one fourth as much of the oats mix and grass hay, and draft animals will need twice as much. Do not alter or modify this with other products in any way for the best results.

    Also, make sure they have access to a trace mineral salt block for their salt and mineral needs. We worm our equines with Ivermectin in January, March, May, July and September and then break the cycle with Strongid in November. We vaccinate in the spring and fall. Consult your veterinarian for the types of vaccines you will need for your area. You should never feed Longears (donkeys, or mules) any pre-mixed sweet feeds, or products high in alfalfa. This is actually a very easy and inexpensive way to manage the feeding and grazing of your equines without the worry of muzzles. It’s just a matter of getting into this healthy routine.

  • One Size Fits All? Not for Equines

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    An article in the U.K.’s Daily Mail reports that one-third of recreational riders are too obese for their equines, putting the animals at risk for health problems including lameness and back pain, citing a study from the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.

    This is a big issue for equine health, as an equine expected to carry a rider that is too heavy for him can cause both physical and behavioral problems. Rules like “the rider’s weight should be 10% of the equine’s” are often used as a general guideline, but are by no means absolute–there are many other factors to consider. Below, Meredith offers her advice in how to choose the correct equine for the rider.

    The maximum weight a horse or mule can carry will depend on a lot of variables. Mules and donkeys can carry proportionately more weight than a horse of the same size, because of the unique muscle structure of the animal. However, you do need to be careful about making broad generalizations. Obviously, an equine that has not been conditioned properly will not be able to efficiently carry as much weight as one who has been conditioned properly, so it is all relative to the situation. Also, the rider with better balance and riding ability is going to be easier for the equine to carry than one who is not balanced regardless of the difference in actual weight. The size of the equine and the proportion of the equine to the rider will also affect balance and carrying ability.

    The amount of weight an equine can comfortably carry or pull depends on many things, beginning with the animal’s overall fitness. If he is fit, he will be able to carry more than those who are not, but conformational abnormalities will also have an effect. If he has any deviations in his bone structure (i.e. crooked legs), it can compromise how he moves and put undue stress on certain areas depending on the defect. The easiest way to test for weight tolerance is to watch the way the animal moves. If he is halted and seems to be have difficulty moving, the weight is obviously too heavy. If he is unable to trot, or is resistant to trotting, the weight is too heavy. This would be the same in harness. If he cannot move freely, the load is too heavy. So, it’s not just a matter of how old he is, but rather how he is conformed and how fit he is at any given stage of training and the weight and ability of the rider that will dictate how much he can carry, or pull. Be careful about generalizations, because there are always hidden variables to be considered.

    For instance, it is commonly believed that an equine should be able to carry 10% of his weight. But if a 2000 lb. animal is carrying the 200 pounds over a back that has not been physically developed correctly, it could be very difficult for him. If he possesses more strength over his topline and through the croup, then he may actually be able to carry more than 10% of his body weight. Any additional weight (as with saddle bags) also needs to be considered. If he is weak over the topline and in his back, then he shouldn’t be carrying even a 150 lb. person, much less anything behind the saddle. The weight does need to be placed and balanced over the bearing areas and the shoulder and hips do need to be kept clear for optimum movement. Anchoring the saddle with a crupper is always a good idea to keep loads from shifting and placement and security of the foundation tack to which you secure all these things needs to be assessed as well. When you add weight to the saddle, check to see if the girth you are using is adequate to keep the saddle in place without rubbing sores on your animal’s body.