I know, I'm a nerd (if you want to know how much of a nerd then take a look at the Eat, Ride, Love Course, oh my!) and a few days ago I was singing the praises of heart rate monitors, for our horses and ourselves.
The other bit of nerdy kit that I love is rein-tension monitors. No, I'm serious!
As any good scientist (or person with a modicum of common sense) will tell you, you can't change things you don't measure.
At Kandoo Equine the aim is to always achieve more with less - more engagement, softness, relaxation with less pressure, stress, conflict. But we can't begin to do that without knowing where we start. That's where measuring comes in.
First, define your starting point.
Rein tension monitors have come a long way recently and IPOS have developed a device that can be used with your smartphone - have a look, it's great! I'm a rep for them, because I love the product, so if you would like to chat about it, just...
Yesterday I told you how I left Singapore and moved to the USA in search of a trainer that could help me find a better, kinder, more gentle way of training and achieving the performance I was after.
The US has a TON of trainers! Wow, I had my research cut out for me. So I asked everyone I knew. A few people, including 2 dressage judges, said "anyone but XYZ". Now, I'm not mentioning names here because, this, Kandoo Equine, is a nice place and devoid of that kind of negativity but they were pretty adamant!
John Lyons was the one name that kept coming up with people from all disciplines. One woman, in particular, an ex-Irish Olympic team member who I happened to be riding and teaching with, was particularly keen that I go to him. She actually even offered me her Prix St George gelding to take with me (I cannot begin to tell you how pleased I was that I didn't take her up on that offer!).
John Lyons described himself as...
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I was fortunate enough to find myself living in the USA for a few years from the beginning of 2000. Between you and me, I didn't move there 'with bells on' as they say - more of the kicking and screaming type of relocation. It's hard to convince someone that is riding 6-8 hours a day and playing polo 2-4 times a week, that moving away from Singapore and ponies and mates, is a good idea.
So the compromise ended up being that I would find a trainer to work with and try to sort out this 'better way' I'd been searching for. As far as I could see, I was successful by all extrinsic measures - I was winning tons of ribbons, competing in dressage in Singapore and Malaysia, show jumping and playing polo but intrinsically, I knew something was wrong, or at least could be better.
During my final Rolex International Dressage Competition, having won the Freestyle, I noted on the judge's comments that "horse looks wonderful on the outside but I fear ready to...
The heart rate (together with heart rate variability and eye temperature) data in the noseband experiment that I discussed yesterday, demonstrated that it is often difficult to know when a horse is stressed or anxious.
Have you ever thought that your horse knows what you want him to do but is just being naughty or stubborn?
Honestly, most of us have at some stage.
When this happens to me, I put the heart rate monitor on the horse and continue work (ground or ridden, whatever I was doing). What I find, every time, is that the horse is not naughty, the horse is anxious or stressed, possibly because he/she is confused.
This completely changes the way we look at the situation. It makes us re-think the lesson and break things down for the horse. It makes us find little things that we can reward, such as relaxation. It keeps us in a positive frame of mind - essential for good training!
When do you find that your horse gets anxious or stressed...
When we were carrying out the experiment on tight nosebands (you can download the published article here, over 40,000 people have!) the thing that surprised me the most was the complete lack of obvious signs that the horses were stressed.
I remember saying to the student working with me, "this is going to be very dull, I can't see any changes, other than the horses not chewing and things, except they seem to be standing more still...".
When I analysed the data however I was blown away. The photo above shows why.
The purple line above it the heart rate when the noseband was tight. The first reading is the 10min baseline reading, where the horses were standing in the stall. The treatment session was 10 minutes at varying tightness (UN - unfastened, CAUN - conventionally fastened, 2 fingers on the nasal plane, HCAUN - 1 finger at the nasal plane and NAUN - too tight to get any fingers under the noseband at...
Yesterday I discussed heart rate variability (HRV) as a measure of stress in both horses and their humans.
HRV is a useful measure of stress as it is unaffected by exercise - so, even if the horse is jogging about in front of the trailer, HRV will not be affected.
Heart rate goes up when a horse is stressed, anxious or exercising but HRV goes down. I know, weird, right?
What that means is that the heart rate gets more regular when you are stressed. If you've ever been really scared you'll know that feeling of your heart pounding in your chest - bang-bang-bang. When you're relaxed, so is your heart and there is some variation between the beats, they are not regular (bang - bang-bang - - bang).
Tomorrow I'm going to look at why it's so important that we measure these things and what it means to our training. In the meantime, pop along to the store (above) and sign up for the FREE tips and...
I often get asked out to teach horses to trailer load - you remember from Day 6's email, "my horse is perfect, but .....". What I invariably found was, not only a very fearful horse but often an owner even more overcome with fear and anxiety.
I know this because I make it a habit of putting heart rate monitors on both horse and owner! We can't know what we don't measure, right?
This is how the lesson goes - I put the heart rate monitors on the owner and the horse. I then train the horse to load and unload quietly and calmly (usually about 40mins to 1 hour). The owner then loads and unloads the horse a few times and I go home and analyse the heart rate data.
Initially, the horse's heart rates go up and heart rate variability drops a little (an indicator of stress that I'll discuss tomorrow). The surprising one is the owner's heart rate. The variation shown in these parameters is MUCH greater for the owners than the horses, indicating much more...
Yesterday I talked about simplifying trailer loading but I hear some of you saying, "but my horse had an accident, is terrified, was abused...." or a myriad of other possibilities.
I'm not dismissing the fact that such horses have, often, been through horrific experiences, there is no doubt about that. However, we can only deal with what we have in front of us now and that is a large amount of fear.
We can't change the past. But living with fear is a dreadful thing and we can make things better today. We can teach new patterns and habits.
So, let's do that. Let's remember today is a new day for us as well as our horse and you can teach your horse anything you'd like by breaking it down into manageable chunks.
Who is more afraid of trailer loading, you or your horse? I'm going to discuss that tomorrow and the answer might surprise you. Let me know your...
Something I often hear is "my horse is perfect in every other way, but he won't load onto the trailer". Umm, that's interesting and I'm not sure I believe it...
Trailer loading is simply a matter of walking forwards and backwards on cue, so the horse that won't load is not understanding (or perhaps not obeying) these cues.
Tomorrow I'll talk about horses that have had particularly bad trailering experiences and loading problems but in the meantime, I'd love to hear from you about your horse's experience. Leave a comment here or on the free video link above.
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