Breaking Their Will to Fight, Not Their Will

Most people hear the term “breaking” in reference to horse training and immediately jump to the conclusion that it is cruel or hostile.  This simply is not the case.  Breaking refers to the the tactics utilized in order to evoke submission from one’s horse.  Submission can come in two forms, however – submission from fear, or from respect.  horse_4The submission from fear is what gives breaking such a negative connotation; but, a horse broken from fear is not an enjoyable horse to have – for this fear permeates ever aspect of the horses relationship to its owner.  Certainly, the horse will obey, but it will live in constant terror. This is the kind of training that is frowned upon.

To most horse owners, breaking out of fear is crude and outdated.  Because we know so much more about horses now, we can teach them to submit out of respect.  This respect, like the fear, will seep into all aspects of the relationship, not simply just riding.  Bertrand-Cauchy-the-horse-001Thus, no matter what one is doing with the horse, the animal will respect and trust him or her without question.

This video displays a group working on breaking a set of young horses.  As you can see, they work with the ropes at a distance, allowing the animal to get the hang of the rope before they associate it with the trainer.  When the horses fight it out, eventually they begin to relax.  At this point, the trainer is allowed to approach the animal, offering a release of tension on the rope.  The release of tension is associated with the approach of the trainer, indicating to the horse that the trainer is in a sense rescuing them from the discomfort – a big step in developing trust.  When the horse is settled enough with this, the saddle is put in place.


The fact that someone can get a saddle on the horse does not indicate that they should just jump right on and ride it.  Rather, the horse is allowed to run in a circle, getting used to the feel of the equipment.  Breaking a horse cannot be a rushed process, for hastiness will usually result in fearful submission.  The animal cannot take everything we throw at it all at once.  However, small steps at introducing the expected concepts will show the animal that it does not need to fear the process.  The key is to develop trust in each step.  Only then will the horse respect you and only then will you see it fully broken in and ready for riding.

Here’s a good summary of the steps to breaking your horse!

Breaking does not have to be brutal.  The technique can be constantly modified in order to evoke the proper response without the pain or fear of either party.



Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Training, teaching not destroying.

breaking horse cartoon“Is that horse broken?”

If someone asked me that, my response would be; “No, as you can see, he is in one piece and works quite well.” In reality he or she is probably meaning to ask “is that horse trained?” or “is that horse started?” I do not plan on ever “breaking” one of my horses. I love horses! Why on earth would I break one?

When man first attempted to domesticate horses, the task proved to me much different than what we were used to. Dogs, cats and other previously domesticated animals were programmed hunters and carnivores, like ourselves. Their innate desire to hunt, kill, and then bed down in some secluded shelter was something we could understand. Horses on the other hand would much rather run than fight, and the concept of being shut in some cave with one way out while they slept was not really preferable.  So, when the task came to attempt to coerce these animals into doing out bidding, nature continued to take its natural course.

The traditional method of “breaking” a horse is archaic. The method itself plays off of the horse breakingnatural predator-prey roles that humans and horses naturally fall into. It establishes the human as something to be feared. The method often involving harmful restraints and traumatic practices is simply cruel and the assumption that it is still acceptable is foolish. No animal works well with fear as the driving force.  Training and gaining the trust of your animal may require slightly more time than slapping a saddle on top of them and forcing them to obey. However,  trust and communication makes the foundation for the horse’s education so much more sound that in the end they become a more dependable, predictable and happy animal.

parelliFor someone looking to train their horse, there are further specific methods you can consult. The Parelli Method to natural horse training is world famous for its effective nature and positive results. The Parelli method centers around communicating effectively with your horse while gaining its trust so that it is willing to perform the task at hand.

join upSimilarly, the Join-Up program by Monty Roberts is also effective as a start to training. Join-Up is a method meat to imitate the practices found in a heard that establishes leadership. Unlike dogs, horses do not really seek to be the leader, they often feel less stressed if they can trust someone else to lead and protect. What Join-Up does is allows you as the owner to communicate with your horse and establish yourself as the leader.


Whatever your choice of technique, if it isn’t broken, don’t break it, train it.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Communication or Dumbestication

Interactions between horse and man began as far back as 30,000 B.C., in which evidence is found in the crude cave paintings of the Paleolithic time period.  horses2However, these paintings seemed to imply that horses were nothing more than meat, and that domestication may not have come onto the scene for another tens of thousands of years.  After all, with the ages came the revelation that horses could be of much more use to man than merely as a meat source – especially since horses enabled the speed and stance to expound upon hunting practices.  Theories suggest that domestication truly occurred around 2000 B.C.; yet, others suggest 4500 B.C.  When the subject is analyzed from a mitochondrial DNA standpoint, the evidence would seem to imply that domestication occurred in more than one location, at more than one time.  This in itself makes historical placement difficult.

Yet, that is not the only aspect of equine domestication that is difficult to pinpoint.  The first animal to be domesticated, as far as records can tell, is the dog; this process was estimated to have occurred 9 to 12,000 years ago.  As time has proven, the dog is a highly integrated member of society – the bond is inextricable.  But what about horses?  At the absolute most, horses were used 9,000 years ago as well – though most theories would suggest only 4,000 years ago.  imagesWhat exactly constitutes this time span?  Prior to horses, man really only knew how to domesticate that which they understood – carnivores.  Wolves and other pre-historic dogs were predators, seeking to track and kill – just as we were.  But, horses are not predators.  They are flight animals, having no aggressive tendencies, having no desire to hunt or kill or eat meat of any form!  They did not seek out man and had no intention to do so.  Our lack of understanding of herbivores, combined with the fact that these were the first animals domesticated for a purpose other than “fast food” led to a much more troublesome process.  It is unclear how the first encounter with man and horse came about – at least where man was not trying to slay its find.  Yet, now, like the dog, horses depend on us as we do them.

Horses held so much potential, but the question became, how do we join up with these majestic animals?  How do we convince an animal that wants to run from us, that they can work with us?  So, although it is unclear how this was done in the past, there are definable tactics today.  Most notably, the domestication of horses is separated by the terms training and breaking.  The methods are vastly different, but do have mutual key components:

  • Safety – Horses are notably bigger, stronger, and faster than us – regardless of whether or not they know it.  The goal is to keep both the horse and the humans safe throughout the process. 
  • Communication – Because of the safety issue, common ground must be established to give commands that will evoke the desired response.  Confusing the horse will get you nowhere, so consistent directives must be given.
  • Collaboration – If we want the animal to work with us, we must work with it.  Working with horses must be mutual, for we cannot attempt to simply force a 1100 pound animal to do what we want.

However, training and breaking are definitely different approaches, leading to yet another hot controversy within the industry.  jerry_tindell_horse training1

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Attack of the Clones!

Cloning is often a topic of ethical debate, especially when involved with the Judeo-Christian religious concepts of creation.  Because God is creator, man does not have the right.  Even if equine cloning is nothing more than the preservation of DNA that gets re-implanted for birth, the fear of some groups is that even if equine cloning does not seem as drastic as some other versions of the procedure, if you give scientists an inch, they can take it a mile.  However, for the most part, people do not concern themselves with this perspective, as long as the cloning does not occur with humans.  The real issues are found within the industry itself.

In 2012, the Féderation Equestre Internationale (FEI) lifted the ban on the use of cloned horses in the Olympics.  This means that if a champion horse wins by a landslide, the owner can make indefinite copies of the horse in order to keep winning – that is, if the price is right.  Financial matters alone can make the entire concept of cloning completely unfair.  At ViaGen Headquarters, the gene banking of single horse alone would cost $1600 with an additional $150 each year; now although this is feasible to some, this is simply the preservation of the horse’s DNA.  olympic-horse-jumping-2When it comes time to actually clone the animal, the cost is approximately $150,000 – the price of a house!  Now, what happens when there is a champion horse that wins massive amounts of money for its owner, allowing the owner to fund the cloning of that animal.  The process continues again, and the funds keep coming.  This cycle keeps the winners on top and blocks out the potential for up-and-coming talent.

The prospect of cloning also detracts from the effort and skill that breeders have put into their work.  ABCCA-logoFinding precision bloodlines and eliminating negative genes takes a long time and a lot of calculated work; perhaps, some might say that the process is too long – too outdated.  However, the equine industry is bathed in tradition, retaining its ways and enforcing a great deal of respect for this artistry.


When a truly spectacular animal emerges from a breeding organization, they know that it is the careful decision making and care that went into the horse that enabled this.  Cloning, however, will eventually eliminate the need for such precision.  Why else would many breeding organizations and registries still have a ban on cloning?


Furthermore, there is a crucial difference involving the “nature vs. nurture” debate.  The fact that one is able to genetically recreate a “perfect” horse does not imply that the horse will respond to the competition world the way the former horse did.  In fact, even if one is simply trying to recreate their diseased best friend, the animal does not have the memories of the former.  It is not the same and will never be the same.  A horse can be as athletically predisposed as possible from a genetic standpoint, but unless it is trained to wield its strengths, it is nothing but a normal horse.

Cloning of horses may not be the extreme violation of principles that human cloning represents, but it is not without its flaws.  The introduction of cloned horses into competition events makes the fairness of the industry rather questionable.  The prospect simply does not lend itself to a level playing field of equal opportunities.  It becomes an issue of who can buy their way to the top, rather than who worked to get there.  Besides, much of what makes these animals so exciting is that they are all so different; why detract from the future possibilities by trying to copy the past.  akhal_teke_horse_breed3

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Clones- Harmless Harbingers of the Future of Horses!

horse clone darkThe concept of cloning has been controversial since before it even was a possibility. This controversial nature remains intact even through it is in use within the equine industry. The science itself is a wonderful way to compensate for the sometimes tricky task of breeding your mare. Bloodlines of horses have been hundreds of years in the making and even when you think that you finally have the best combination, there is still never a way to know for sure. Cloning enables horsemen to ensure that their foal will be of the best genetic make up for his or her vocation.

old horse therapy

kid horse therapy

Horses contain the potential to be such beneficial tools in society. Guide and therapy horses have the potential to make great strides in the lives of disadvantaged and disable persons. However, the issue is that in such a sensitive situation as this a dependable and predictable animal is absolutely necessary. With cloning technology, we can better ensure that this animal is the best possibly suited for the job it will be performing. On top of this assurance, we also have the ability to replicate this perfect mix. This way, we can help a better number of people all over the world,

In the competitive realms of the equine world such as Thoroughbred racing, cloning is racecompletely looked down upon and prohibited by The Jockey Club. They will not so much acknowledge the animals let alone let them race. What they do not understand is the fact that the horse is an artificially bred identical twin, not the same horse mass produced. We know that a horse’s personality and performance can be greatly influenced by how it is trained, what type of environment it has been exposed to and what individual experiences it has.  In order to mass produce a perfect copy of the same animal the clones would have to be exposed to the exact same upbringing as the original. It is quite obvious that this is impossible. This said, this idea that cloning would take away the competitive nature of the sport is absurd. Now, this fact is beginning to be realized by some in the sporting division. It has been decided that cloned horses may be used in the 2016 Olympics and hopefully this supportive trend will make its way to other events and organizations.

viagenCompanies such as ViaGen are making their way through the industry by providing a service to those who desire their horse cloned or their DNA banked. As of now most of their customers are professionals seeking to create the best horse for some sort of sport. Occasionally however, they have customers simply desiring to have something             similar to what they once loved. 

Cloned horses hold such a huge potential for breeding of horses for specific uses. The possibilities here are really endless. With some responsible regulations, cloning can be a wonderfully useful tool to help the equine industry remain active for many years.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Cloning tends to stirrup the emotions. Cloning tends to stirrup the emotions.

halflinger clone


Cloning had always been a subject of science-fiction novels, that is, until 1996 when Dolly the sheep, the world’s very first clone was born. When it was realized that this was possible with a sheep, more and more organizations began to experiment with other animals. All over the world, the science was being refined and practiced; the possibilities seemed endless. It was not long until the equine industry jumped on the bandwagon as well.mule clone

In 2002 at the Laboratory of Reproductive Technology  located in Cremona, Italy, 841 embryos were harvested from Prometea, a Halflinger mare. Of the 841, 14 were implanted and only one was a successful birth- by Prometea herself.  Shortly after, this process was replicated with mules at the Northwest Equine Laboratory at the University of Idaho, a remarkable feat considering the sterility of mules. One of the most prominent research facilities to join the trend was Texas A&M University. They quickly joined forces with horse cloneViaGen, a private company with whom they still work closely. Their first major accomplishment and a landmark in the industry’s involvement with this science was the cloning of Cutting Triple Crown Winner, Smart Little Lena. Not only one, but five Lena clones were successfully foaled.

While this new technology seemed to hold promise for the industry, the enthusiasm was not entirely widespread. Many breed organizations that pride themselves on superbclone funny breeding and pure bloodlines prohibited the cloning of their horses. These organizations include The Appaloosa Horse ClubLipizzan Federation, The Friesian Horse SocietyWorld Arabian Horse OrganizationAmerican Morgan Horse Association, and ironically enough the American Haflinger Registry; a organization for the breed that made equine cloning a reality. Though there are undeniable benefits to the ability to replicate on demand a perfect pool of genes, the controversy became an issue of fairness in many realms of the equine world. Cloning may be able to create the twin your pony never had, but as it is with all siblings, they can often disagree…

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Barefoot, naturally the right choice.

So, previously, we described a bit about why and how the shoes of horses came to be. Recently, there is a school of thought developing that says to take them off! Why?mustangs

Well, first off, let’s consider the mustangs, wild and free horses that really never had anyone there to provide them with iron protection, and deal with the complications of throwing a shoe or anything else. Not to mention that they were not running safe and soft pastures. In many of the areas where mustangs originated they were frequently exposed to rocky, rough and hard terrain. Somehow they survived. Theory states that this is a simple survival of the fittest adaptation. Those horses that were equipped with sound feet survive, and the ones that were not probably did not get a chance to pass on their genes. Now, let’s consider the original reason shoes were developed. The issue was that we humans were taking the horse and using it on hard and unnatural paved surfaces at speeds, road horsesand volumes of use that the animal simply did not have time to adapt to. If allowed proper time, there is great chance that the better horses would have been able to acclimate to their new usage.  So, while at that time there may have been call for shoes, we now all realize that the vast majority of horses are companion animals. Pastured and ridden lightly a few times a week. This is hardly enough to constitute nailing foreign objects to their feet. Additionally, now that they are not as much a part of our everyday life, we have the time to give them to adapt to a barefoot life. The luster of shoes really is in the speed. They enable a horse to do the work the owner is asking quickly and without conditioning.

barefoot trimmingNow, choosing to barefoot your horse does not mean that farrier visits are a thing of the past. Barefoot horses do require visits from a trained barefoot trimming farrier every four to six weeks. The farrier will trim or grind the hoof (much like cutting a fingernail.) This stimulates the natural and healthy wear that a horse would experience on the aforementioned rough terrain of the wild.

If the correct care is taken, a barefoot horse has the potential to be much happier and healthier than one with shoes. Simply, the trimming of a hoof is much less painful and stressful than the instillation of a shoe. The man-made imperfection so common to shoes is virtually avoided when the shoes are pulled. Shoes are known to cause circulatory issues. When the hoof assumes the rhythm of a step, with each up and down motion the hoof walls flex and relax. This allows blood and nutrients to be pumped into the foot. When the nails are placed into the foot, the horse is forced into the closed position and unable to flex. This starves the foot of essential nutrients and circulation that prevents lameness. A horse shoe can also hinder the natural ability of the hoof to absorb shock. The iron shoe is obviously solid and completely resistance to any significant shock absorption.  Finally, another issue with shoes is the problem with a tendency to deform.

Overgrown Barefoot Hoof

Overgrown Barefoot Hoof

The shape of the shoe can force the hoof

Overgrown Shod Hoof

Overgrown Shod Hoof

to grow into a cylindrical shape, constrict the soft frog in the middle and cause the alignment between the coffin bone and sole to become incorrect.

The barefoot style does not only benefit the horse, but the owner also gets some nice kickbacks out of the deal.  For one, never again do you have to worry about canceling a ride due to your horse throwing a shoe. After the initial healing process when the shoes are removed, your horse should be up and ready to go for any ride. While this is regional, more often than not the trimming prices are less than those to shoe your horse. So, in really, barefoot should really be a lifestyle considered by all recreational riders. With veterinarian and farrier approval, your horse may very well be a candidate for this change. For more information this site ( has some wonderful information for owners considering this option.  Also the books soundThe Sound Hoof: Horse Health from the Ground Up by Lisa Simmons Lancaster, PhD, DVM andsoul The Soul of a Horse by Joe Camp are wonderful reads to get a better idea about what is involved in barefoot horsemanship and the natural method in general.

Posted in Uncategorized | 306 Comments

Not Shod? Must Be Flawed!

There are many movements in society that can catch like wildfire.  Some of these changes are positive.

Some are not.

Long ago, when horses ran wild through the plains of North America, having their feet covered was not an issue.  The soft earth and cool grass enabled them to run and graze comfortably.  Times,  however, have changed.  The domestication of the horse implies more than just a involvement of horses into human lives; it means they respond in accordance with our plans.

Unlike leisure roaming in the wild, horses have adapted to fit a variety of tasks, drastically shaping our society.  However, we cannot simply expect that when we pulled the horse out of the wild, it would come without its downfalls.

The soft earth turned to packed stone and eventually cement and blacktop.  Before the use of automobiles, horses were the primary mode of transportation.  However, they had not been previously exposed to the kind of environment that we would continually introduce them to.  roman-relief-chariot-race-grangerEven before roads, when the Romans held their famous chariot races, the increased amount of running and exfoliation from the sand and dirt was beginning to wear away at their feet.  The weakened hooves lead to swelling and lameness, halting any progress.  In order to maintain their productivity in society, something had to be done.  The hipposandals and older forms of horseshoes emerged to protect the horse against the conditions we thrust upon them.  Now perhaps if we had never exposed the horses to comparably harsh conditions, the barefoot concept would be ideal.

It can definitively be stated that horse shoeing was done for our benefit; we wanted the horses to shape to our lifestyle, so we modified them.  One can easily argue to fallacy in this. However, we cannot change the past.  The real issue is, what’s done is done.  The use of shoes over all of these years has caused a dependency upon them.  Removing the shoes now could only cause problems.

Without the metal to aid in the impact of hard roads, hooves are susceptible to splintering, puncture wounds, or just wearing away.  iStock_000002793701Medium-e1347443022205Certainly, these problems can occur with the hooves in place, but the likelihood is much less.  In theory, transitioning back to the natural way of things does not seem so bad.  After all, most horses do not spend the time on the road that they used to.  Technological developments have shifted the horse from the necessary beast of burden to a recreational companion.  However, people neglect to realize the variability in the barefoot movement.

For some horses, the transition comes easy.  But what happens to the horse that is genetically predisposed to have week hooves.  Remove their support structure and they can barely function!  For instance, Navicular disease, otherwise known as “chronic heel pain” can manifest itself in a variety of ways.

navicular vs normal

   Most times, the horse will not want to work and will often “point” the sore foot when standing on hard ground.  The video displays a proper diagnosis of the disease as well as recommended treatment.  Ironically enough, the veterinarian recommends a shoe with a wedge, propping the heel into a more upright position.  Without the shoe, the problem will only progress, since it is a chronic condition.  Imagine trying to barefoot a horse like this.


Farriers make the point of stating that methods are not as archaic as they used to be.  The more they learn about horses, the better their methods become to shape the shoe for optimal performance and comfort.  They believe that what they are doing is best for the horses, and with the limited evidence of barefoot being a better decision, who can blame them?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Flying-Changes in Farriers and Feet?

Though the actual origin of the horseshoe is unknown, the practice of protecting and enhancing the horse’s feet has been around since they were first domesticated by mankind.      Beginning in ancient Asia, horsemen began to see the impact of removing the horses from their habitat. Generally in the wild, a horse grazes in soft, natural terrain- only running when it became necessary.  However, once taken in by people, much more stress was placed on the feet of these animals, for the work expected of them far exceeded their former wild lives.  To remedy the issue of increased lameness, horsemen of ancient Asia began to cover the horses’ hooves with leather “booties,” which aided in preventing further injury or degradation. hipposandalThis concept was further developed by the Ancient Romans, who covered the hooves with leather and metal “hipposandals,”which fastened over the hooves, much like that of a human sandal. This was necessary to compensate for the increasing abrasiveness of the paved roads.  hipposandal2The horses were exceedingly valuable to Roman society, which in turn meant long hours on the hot, dry roads, resulting in brittle, weak, and cracking hooves.  In more northern regions of Europe, it was the opposite climate that still gave way to soundness issues, for the cold, wet climate led to overly-softened hooves.

Though the strict invention of the modern horseshoe is not known, the development continued on to a bronze, lightweight shoe with a scalloped appearance. scallop It was fastened to the bottom of the hoof through the use of six nails.  The idea quickly spread – the process being refined the more it became known to horsemen.  The use of six nails was increased to  eight to accommodate for the heavier (due to the iron composition), non-scalloped version closer to that of which we see today.

Now that the more modern form had been developed, its widespread use began to ensue. Around about the 13th or 14th moderncentury, mass production of ready-made horseshoes began.  The shoes had a larger, wider shape to accommodate for larger horses.  The production boomed all throughout the Industrial Revolution and the mid-19th and 20th centuries, but this slowed with the invention of automobiles.  Now, the process continues.  The difference is the fact that there are now horseshoes crafted not only to fit the specific horse, but the intended use of that horse.  Whether it be hauling, racing, or casual riding, there is a shoe that fits.

Though the purpose of the horseshoe was to take care of the horses by providing them with superficial strength, a new movement has come about that suggests that perhaps we are indeed doing the opposite.  This “Au Natural” barefoot movement stands on the basis barefootthat a horse is genetically adapted for impact, and if allowed, will one day be able to be strong enough without the aid of these metal counterparts.  By simply removing the shoes, the horses will be too weak to handle the force; however, if the process is gradual, the idea is that they will far surpass the strength of the shoes themselves.  Still, the actual outcome is unknown, leading to a fast array of opinions with no solidified solution.


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments