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The Women & Horses Newsletter - September 2008

Connecting with Horses Through a Line
by Mary D. Midkiff

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Sharing with others what has worked or hasn't worked is what every horse person appreciates. We are all in this because we love horses and want to see them have a happy and healthy life. If we can help each other out so much the better.

I hope you find some aspects of training, managing and handling horses that I share with you to be helpful to you and your horses. Do everything that you can with your horse "on a line" that you plan to do under saddle when possible. What I mean by on a line is having a smooth rope halter attached to a long soft rope (at least 20 meters or 22 feet long) on your horse. I have tried using nylon, leather and other halters but they do not give me the control or respect from the horse. There is usually too much play in them, they move around all over the head, have metal parts that can damage the face, including the eye, and they don't give the quick sharp response from your hand that you need. (Always wear gloves when working with the line.)

In fact, the horse seems to immediately comprehend what you want with the rope halter and line and they don't fight it. This is much more than lunging, this is a mental and physical exercise. It takes a lot of focus from the horse and an internal sense of where his body and feet are in space and time.

Start with this process in a round pen or small enclosed environment. You may need to start with a lunge or dressage whip or a wand in addition to the line to give the horse a sense of direction and speed. The whip and line are simply an extension of your arms and your body. When you point your hips in a direction they get it, when you move your shoulders they pick up on your body language.

The horse needs to learn to go around you in all gaits, staying out on the circle, going up and down through the transitions of all gaits, halting on command, changing directions smoothly, backing and waiting for you when you drop the line. At first, I move my feet and knees according to the gait I want. So when I say TROT, I also move my feet and knees in a trot or march and go with them a little bit until they get it. Same with the walk, canter, halt and turn. The horse begins to watch your every move and mirror your body. This may take some time but it is so worth it.

Once you feel as though you have a good communication system developed take it out into arenas and paddocks and continue having fun with it. Take your horse for a long walk and do a few exercises along the way. Jog with them as you would a dog, they love it and it keeps you in good shape.

The ultimate is when you can take your horse anywhere and face them with just about anything and they will figure it out on their own with your guidance at the end of the line. I have been taking my horse out into the fields, over big ditch jumps (trakehners), combination jumps, water obstacles, banks, oxers, hay bails, creeks and fallen trees and practiced all of our techniques. It is so much fun to have him happily jumping over all of these obstacles without worrying about my weight and having to balance me. If he doesn't quite do it right I send him around again or go the other direction and try it again. He has fun and so do I.

Now I feel we are both ready to tackle all of it with me on his back.

I have also used this technique to teach my horse dressage through working, medium, extended and collected gaits and beautiful halts all on the line. I can see it being used to help barrel racers gain confidence in their balance without the rider; in reining to get the horse responsive and working off of his hocks in his deep drive slides; in gaited horses to improve their focus and on and on. It is a great tool with all horses and all disciplines.

Having your horse be in complete harmony with you on the line gives you many options when you are not able to ride, the weather is bad, or you just want to put variety into their training. It also works beautifully for trailering issues. I mix it up all the time with my horse who can get bored easily.

A lot of these techniques come from "natural horsemanship" and ranching backgrounds, and Pat Parelli is a master in this approach. I utilize everything I can from their knowledge and continue to add to it and work it into my own program. I do not follow one system I simply gather golden acorns and put them into what works for me and my horse or the horse I am training.


Another word on Pro-Bi from Advanced Biological Concepts (www.a-b-c-plus.com). I continue to see this product help horses. Since my last newsletter I have seen two more amazing results. My horse was getting hollow looking in his body and his back. I couldn't quite figure it out because he was getting plenty of good feed, supplements, hay, grass, checked for worms and in good condition. I work him 4-5 days per week and he is fit and healthy.

I called a great horse chiropractor/applied kinesiologist/horse nutritionist/acupuncturist, Dr. Bruce Jackson, to come up and look at him. Dr. Jackson said that his stomach and small intestine needed support and were irritable and that he was not using his diaphragm muscle to breathe deeply, therefore, his lower back muscles were not supporting his spine and pelvis. He also said until we get those internal organs calm and healthy again and get him breathing deeply using his diaphragm and abdominal muscles he was going to look hollow and sunken.

We put him on Pro-Bi that day, Dr. Jackson showed me the acupuncture points to tap for stomach and intestinal health on his coronary band, and a couple of days later I galloped him getting him to breath deep and hard. Within 2 days my horse was a new guy. His back has come way up, he looks muscular, healthy, strong and shiny again and all of the hollow areas have filled in. This just showed me how important it is to keep the internal systems and organs fully functioning and healthy in order to support muscle use and strength. It is all tied together.

The other horse I do not know, but recommended it to a family that came to me for help. They sought me out at Equine Affaire and said they hoped I could help with one of their horse family members. They said he was a good boy until recently he started getting aggressive toward other horses and toward them and they had to isolate him in a small paddock. It got so bad that in order not to be attacked they had to rush in and out of his paddock just to feed and water him. They did not know what to do.

I suggested Epsom salts in his water every day, Rescue Remedy in his water every day and to put Pro-Bi in his feed. I also recommended an animal communicator to help them sort this out. Here is there response:.

Hello Mary,

My name is Lisa Pastorek. My husband and I spoke to you at the Equine Affaire in Columbus regarding our 4 year old Pinto-Morgan, Chief, and the problems that we were having with him pinning his ears back and charging us. You suggested us trying the Epsom salt and the Pro BI. YOU ARE AMAZING! We no longer have to worry about him when we are out in the pasture with him. At some point, we would still like to connect with Cali as you suggested also, but for now he is much better to handle and we are more at ease when we are around him. Do you suggest any maintenance with the Pro BI? We are still giving the Epsom salt daily. I want to thank you again for your help, you are incredible, we look forward to seeing you again at the next show.

Ed and Lisa Pastorek
Swanton, Ohio

I recommend that they continue with this program until he becomes completely reliable again and slowly wean him off of it and see how it goes. It is obvious that his stomach and small intestine were really bothering him to the point of anger with the world. If he starts getting irritable again he may have to stay on the Epsom Salts or Pro-Bi or both to give him comfort.

I do not have any business relationship with these products, in case you were wondering. I am simply sharing what I find that works and pass them along to you.

Email me anytime with your concerns. I hope you and your horse have fun and play together as often as possible.


Mary D. Midkiff

New Phone Numbers: Office 502-552-1195

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