Whole Horse Equitation

Practical, holistic horsemanship

Mission: To spread a message of holistic and ethical equitation for every horse, regardless of breed or discipline. From nutrition to ethology, to understanding healthy biomechanics, good horsemanship comes from respect and attentive care for the wellbeing of the Whole Horse.

Come join Whole Horse and Bodhi Equus for the first Clicker Club meeting of 2020!!!

We are trying out a weekday evening for those of you who have in the past been unable to make our weekend morning meetings. The $10 class fee includes a clicker and take-home study materials. :)

Thank you to working student Talika Maria Zieglerler for doing a great job of showing how well Oak self-loads, and to Hannah Greindl of Reitschule Schweizer for letting us use her and Farid's lovely photo showing their amazing liberty work!

Hannah and I used to play around with all sorts of clicker and liberty work when we were both working in France together. ❤️ Can't believe this video will be 4 years old this month! 😲

https://www.youtube.com/embed/nPWk_CuE_Ow

Hard to resist kissing a little ass now and again! 🤣😝
Thank you Springhill Equine for having us at your open day!!

Shelbie will be teaching at the beautiful Oaks Equestrian Center in Lake City next month!

Photos from Whole Horse Equitation's post

Just another day at the office: Riding a couple of Belgians over to their new home!!

Thank you very much to our French helpers Laetitia and Thomas!! They built a brand new, lovely run-in for the horses while they were here!! ❤️

Baby's first trail ride!!

Getting to explore the world is a gift we can give to our horses which appeals to their nomadic instinct. 😃
This is part of why taking horses out is so important and it's especially valuable for young greenies.

Exploring the big and sometimes scary world with a rider and more experienced horse friends is a great way for them to gain confidence and trust.

Picking:
-trails you are familiar with,
-the right other horses to ride with,
-the right time your greeny is ready,
-the right time when YOU feel ready to trust your horse,

are all crucial for having successful and happy outings.

Familiar trails means you know what to expect: where the things are which might be the most scary, and you can control how long you want to be out.

The right horses to ride with are those who are calm, cool, and collected on the trails.

The right time is when your horse has developed positive associations with being ridden and you have both had several safe and uneventful riding experiences together. Depending on the horse, the very first trail experience might be best being led from the ground, or being ponied off another more experienced horse.

After hitting the trails has been a success you will be surprised how much more confident, forward and eager your new riding horse had become!

Fantastic read. Never did I experience this more than when I lived in Europe as a working student. "Coercion and its Fallout" by Murray Sidman is a book I recommend to anybody and everybody.

Dominance theory is a belief based on myths around the idea of the "Alpha", and that establishing a hierarchy is the most important aspect of relationships- it is so important that force and violence are justified in its creation and preservation.
As men have predominantly held the most powerful positions for centuries past, this view has come to be associated with men and masculinity.

But, I also learned that women, even those who champion themselves as "feminists", frequently reinforce this belief just as much.

This has caused incredible damage to men and women equally- I do not believe one sex has truly benefited over the other in this injustice of power, as not all the damages are as outwardly visible.
The key is treating men and women with equal respect based upon their individual merits, and not their sex.
As the original author also mentions, nothing is more disappointing than when women perpetuate the imbalance of power by deferring to men over other women who may be even more qualified.

In my own experience, I spoke out about inappropriate, unethical practices, and abusive behavior directed both at horses and people by a male instructor I was working for. Despite learning that I was not the only person to have such experiences with said instructor, I was expected by his colleagues and superiors to keep what I went through to myself because he was "going through a hard time", he was struggling with his mental health and "getting help now". I wondered why myself or his other victims (mostly women) weren't given the same excuses (some of whom were 'excommunicated' from the community quite publicly) but I agreed to stay quiet and even extended an olive branch to the instructor as I absolutely believe in a person's ability to change and that everyone deserves a second chance.

Unfortunately the situation proved to not change. Not feeling ethical about staying silent any longer and leaving other people and horses susceptible to his mistreatment of them, I spoke up again and this time myself along with several others who had bad experiences with this man were deemed as heretics and publicly denounced. A few decided to toe the line and keep their mouth shut after strong intimidation.

Clearly the priority was not any sort of acknowledgement of wrongdoing, but the preservation of both the reputation of the business, and its cash flow. If this is how someone treats other people, how can we expect that they treat horses when no one is watching?

Despite many women in the community clearly rallying behind such ideas as #MeToo and being openly feminist about political issues... mine and the experiences of other women were completely ignored and dismissed. I saw these women cry out for blood for those who chose to continue associating with Harvey Weinstein or Woody Allen, people they didn't know personally but had been told were abusers of women. Yet here these same women were choosing to believe the instructor because of what they thought they were getting of an education was more valuable than the testimonies against him. They never saw his bad behavior to them or their horses, so they didn't believe it... No different than the people who stand behind Weinstein or Allen or those who still today are choosing to stand behind George Morris.

Abusers don't abuse everyone they come into contact with and no matter how much someone changes in the course of their life, the stories of the people who they abused are still valuable.

Abuse is always a possibility lurking in the shadows of relationships based on an unequal power dynamic. Teacher and student. Master and apprentice. Parent and child. Human and animal.

I believe men and women are equally capable of using their power (and their desire for power!) to abuse and discredit others. It took me a long time, but I came to see that being rejected by such people for speaking the truth is the best thing that can happen to you and your horse!!

Thank you to the original author for giving a voice to so many of our experiences in this crazy world we call the horse industry!❤️

Patriarchy
Sexism
Toxic Masculinity

Don’t worry, you’re still on The Evolving Equestrian page.

Tonight, we are going to talk about some non-horse related topics. Because, these non-horse related topics have had and unfortunately, are still having, a detrimental effect on the horse industry.

When we talk about respect and dominance in horse training, we say that it is anthropomorphic, which it is, but it is also something else. Our view of horses and in turn, our training views, have been very much influenced by the patriarchal society that we live in. Patriarchy has subtly taught us that male qualities are central to other qualities. This means that other qualities are subordinate-less important.

With this in mind, it only makes sense that the biggest take away from observing horse behavior would be the misinterpretation that horses need a strong leader, that their respect must be gained, and our dominance established.

That training requires subjugation. A pattern we are all too familiar with in today’s world.

When this is how society runs, how could we expect it not to leak into our world with horses? When we give horses human traits and characteristics, should we be shocked when they mimic the patriarchal tones of our culture?

Why must we model our relationship with our horse and/or our training approach after the “boss” or “dominant” horse?

Why couldn’t it have been after the mare who nurtures her foal?

Or the bonded pair who graze side by side?

Doesn’t peaceful cohabitation make up a much larger portion of horses’ lives than conflict? Yet, training philosophy is largely based off a very, very small percentage of horses’ lives.

Why?

Because the qualities that might be considered more feminine, don’t fit in with what we’ve been conditioned to value in today’s world.

So, it’s easy to understand how this has adversely affected the horse and our relationship with them. But, it’s also adversely affected women in the horse industry. Sexism is very real in the horse industry.

When the idea is being perpetuated that horses must be dominated, who is better fit for that job?

Men.

Men are strong. Men are leaders. Men have power.

Men are more respected than women in the horse industry because their qualities fit better with this patriarchal philosophy of horse training.

I have experienced sexism in this industry myself. My husband’s opinion has often been held in higher regard than mine, despite my experience and knowledge. Sometimes even when we were teaching or saying the same thing, clients sought validation from him over me. It had been communicated on multiple occasions that his instruction or approach was preferred over mine, even when we presented and considered ourselves as equals on the same team.

When I started branching off into the world of positive reinforcement, I created my own page. Followers of my husband’s would message his page, not realizing I was the one who answers the messages, to ask if he believed in, agreed, or practiced what I was doing over on The Evolving Equestrian. Somehow, the information and my experiences that I was sharing had no validity on their own. They had to be backed by his to be accepted.

Because I’m just a silly, little woman.

It is always astounding to me that people would rather go with his take on what I am doing (positive reinforcment), without caring what his knowledge or experience even is with it. He’s a man, so whatever he says must be right. Naturally, people look to men as the authority on all things, whether they should be or if they even are the authority because of this social system of ours.

Even though the majority of horse owners in the US are female, it’s a male dominated industry. Which given what we have established here and the statistics in other workplaces, is again, not shocking.

Men have more influence in the horse industry. When men speak in this industry, people listen. Women have to work three times as hard to be heard. But, we’re used to that. So, we do work harder and we’re starting to speak louder.

Finally, I’m led to talk about toxic masculinity and how it is impeding progress in horse training. The horses and women are not the only ones adversely affected by all this. Men are too.

On top of the patriarchal influence that has shaped our view of horses and causes people to be less open to science-based training, boys are taught all their lives that they have to be tough and hard, so asking them to switch to a more scientific and sympathetic approach is just too difficult.

Treat bags are sissified or girly. Treats are for tree huggers. There is a huge mental block when it comes to embracing positive reinforcement, thanks to toxic masculinity.

Many men would rather keep their whips, sticks, and spurs because those things are masculine. They’ve been taught to reject anything that’s not. And this is retarding their growth as horsemen and holding a large portion of this industry back.

It's not all their fault, it's how they have been groomed. It is on us all, women included, to raise boys to be thinking and compassionate, not try to smash them into a mold of masculinity as the world would have us do.

It’s crazy and sad how society has influenced every facet of our lives. We don’t stop to consider its effects on even the horse industry, but when you look, it’s there.

I'm not afraid to challenge an unhealthy social system that has managed to infiltrate our daily lives, down to the way we interact with our horses. Are you?

Change *is* happening. But not fast enough. Awareness is the first layer of change. We are aware.

news-medical.net

Chronic inflammation removes motivation by reducing dopamine in the brain

****Understand chronic inflammation in horses and how it affects your experience with them!****

This is a well-written article about the connection between chronic inflammation and neurological changes, including depression, in humans. There is ample research available that the same exact thing exists in animals.

If your horse is in chronic pain, he cannot always process your requests normally.
He cannot always engage in a sensible dialogue with you.
He may not always be able to be motivated to perform many physical tasks which otherwise are normal for him.

Chronic pain is not the same as acute pain. Chronic pain results in the development of neurological changes so the being can continue to survive by developing a particular level of stoicism. These chemical changes result in a wide variety of mood shifts and uncharacteristic behaviors: from erratic and impulsive actions to depression and apathy. It does not matter how good your technique is and it does not matter how good your skill level is when you are dealing with a horse's brain that is processing chronic inflammation in the body.

It is very disappointing to me how many "top" riders and "top" horsemen are quick to call horses "difficult" and "dominant" just because no obvious signs of acute pain are present. It's also disappointing to see how many of those same people assume that because their horse isn't lame he isn't experiencing a form of chronic inflammation (such as that which is exceptionally common: arthritis).

These people are not cruel and bad people. In most cases they are simply ignorant of other possibilities and so when faced with a difficult situation they choose to rely strongly on the things they do know, such as technique, rather than choose to experience empathy for the horse in the difficult situation.

In some cases a horse is having what seems like erratic, crazy or dangerous behaviors due to his chronic pain. In other cases, he has become resigned and listless- therefore seen as lazy, unresponsive, or resistant while he suffers in silence.

"Is this horse in pain?" Should be a question that is constantly at the forefront of your mind if you consider yourself an ethical horseman. What's more, it should be your very first thought when you encounter a horse who seems like they
"have a screw loose" or
"spook at nothing" or are insistantly
"lazy" or "stiff".
Most especially when you meet a horse you think is "difficult".

Talk to some humans you know who have chronic pain. It's not something you can always see from the outside. It's something they adapt to so they can keep living their life. The same goes for your horse, he could be suffering with chronic pain and never take a lame step. Plus, without information from you about changes in behavior, your regular vet has no reason to suspect chronic inflammation if all seems well on the outside.

Talk with your vet about behavior issues. Consult specialists in veterinary sports medicine who can see even the subtlest of irregularities beyond obvious lameness. Consider various forms of bodywork as other ways to understand what's physically happening with your horse. Always consider changing aspects of your training and riding and always consider saddle fit. Always consider that you have unknown unknowns and are in need of more, or a different kind of(!), education. Nobody is perfect and nobody knows everything.

We are lucky to live in an age where after you've considered absolutely everything on the list and still have no answers, you can get imaging which will show you inflammation in your horse's body via a nuclear scintigraphy. (Bone scan)

You don't have to have a veterinary degree. You don't have to have X-ray vision. You don't have to be a "Master" rider/trainer/instructor. You just have to believe one simple thing:

*****Horses are worth listening to.*****

If you don't believe this than what you are doing with them is not a dialogue...
you are just another dictator with a monologue.

news-medical.net Why do we feel listless when we are recovering from an illness? The answer is, apparently, that low-grade chronic inflammation interferes with the dopaminergic signaling system in the brain that motivates us to do things.

Training spots available starting in December! 😃 We take young horses for their beginning education under saddle, riding horses who need more experience, and also horses who need rehabilitation or fitness training. Testimonials available and we also are always available for lessons- with our horses or yours. Contact for more information and schedule a visit!

Credit to Meg McGuire photography

About Whole Horse Equitation

Passionate about horses my whole life, I have always dreamed of a genuine partnership where horse and human choose to work together for a mutually beneficial experience. The horse brings incredible joy, appreciation of natural beauty and a sense of freedom to the people who love him. To the horse, man has the capacity to provide him with the healthy fulfillment of his basic needs, a confident peace of mind and the ability to utilize his forces freely and unhindered.

The horse gives his gifts simply by being present, but the human must pursue many avenues of education in order to be a positive partner for the horse.

My avid pursuit of such an education has led me to study in various countries and within many fields including equine nutrition, farriery, classical equitation, ethology, anatomy, biomechanics and energetic work. My own horse and I even traveled to live and work under various teachers in Europe from 2014-2017. Throughout all of my experiences, I came to see that much of the horse world is stuck in a paradigm of control and domination. With many people not only attempting to control and dominate the horse in an effort to use him for the promotion of their ego... but also the continued ways that instructors, trainers, masters, and other professional industry representatives use to control and dominate other humans for their own benefit.

This was not at all what I wanted to reflect in my relationship with horses. Believing that all healthy relationships are about finding an equilibrium which strives to serve and build all involved parties into the best versions of their individual selves (mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually)... I decided to go my own way.

In 2017 I founded Whole Horse Equitation because I wanted to share this philosophy with others who longed for a better relationship with their horse. It doesn't matter if you just want to help your pasture pet feel happier and healthier, or if you and your Thoroughbred want to move up the ranks in competitive jumping: Learning to let go of the desire to control and force, while also learning to listen, trust and respect the needs of your equine partner, will help you both create a unique shared language and fulfilling relationship experience.

This approach is extended all the way into how you educate your horse to use his body in a way that makes him stronger, healthier and keeps him working longer as opposed to working him in a way that progressively leads to his physical deterioration. This is obviously the only approach that also lends itself to restorative care in the forms of physical and mental rehabilitation of horses who have suffered ill treatment, trauma and injury. Luckily, all horses have the ability to recognize when a person's desire is to help and improve upon their well-being and in this case horses "[colts] not only love men-- but come to long for them." (Xenophon)

-Mikaila Herold

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