Seven Elements of Herdwork

Seven Elements of Herdwork

Not too long ago I did an in-depth 5 hours and 20 minutes total time, webinar series on cutting. I thought it would be fun this week to share 8 minutes of one of the sessions. It’s all about breaking making the cut down into individual pieces.

I identify seven in all. There’s nothing ‘official’ about this number. However, I’m a big believer in ‘chunking’ – that is knowing the different skills and behaviors that comprise a beautiful flowing whole when it’s put together.

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Reading Cattle as They’re Brushed Off

Reading Cattle as They’re Brushed Off

All who show in cow classes (no matter how much experience we have) want to get better at reading cattle.

One way is to watch cattle being settled for fresh cattle herd classes. You watch as they’re settled, and then predict how they will act when they’re cut during the class.

At the end of the settling time, the settler “brushes them off”. It’s not like getting brushed off by a friend (ha!). The rider goes back and forth in front of the cattle to make sure they are as comfortable as possible against the back fence before that set of horses begins to show.

There’s a lot of information about individual cattle that can be learned during this time.

That’s what this video is all about – showing you how to watch this process.

You will learn:

    • To observe the behaviors of cattle at the front of the herd and near the settler’s horse
    • “Good” cow characteristics
    • “Bad” cow characteristics
    • “To be determined” cow desirability observed as the class unfolds

The eyes have it

The eyes have it

A while back, I did a personal performance clinic in Florida at an English barn. They invited me to ride one of their jumpers over some low jumps at the end of the day. FUN!

In the clinic, I discussed the importance of keeping our eyes up. I coached the riders to do the same.

This is a critical technical skill for all disciplines, and from my perspective as a Performance Coach, keeping our eyes up builds confidence and helps maintain it throughout our ride.

So now I’m on a jumping horse. I started down the line to go over a set of crossbars and – whoa! – I went right around the outside of them! My eyes weren’t up and looking where I needed to go. Obviously, I didn’t feel confident. I didn’t look past the jump or go down the middle of it!

We had a good chuckle out of that one.

We all KNOW we need to keep our eyes up when we ride. Our horses follow our eyes, and we stay focused – but – we tend to drop our eyes constantly.

We can help ourselves keep our eyes up by consistently coaching ourselves to keep looking where we want to go. And then we do!

This works because when we continually look where we’re going, our body moves in specific ways. The horse feels these subtle changes through our seat and legs and responds accordingly.

The other reason is a little less tangible – it’s as if our horse gets an invisible message like a laser beam from our eyes to their brain!

From a personal performance point of view, keeping your eyes up calls up and sustains a feeling of calm and focus.

What huge multiple wins when you keep your eyes looking in the direction you intend to go. You direct your horse’s movement almost effortlessly – and – you feel confident and focused on the inside.

But as I said before, we ALL tend to look down. It feels more ‘natural. However, if you commit to coaching yourself to keep your eyes up and focus ahead to where you’re going, you will have a powerful impact on your confidence, and your horse will be more responsive.

Have fun and feel good communicating with your horses with your eyes.

Podcast: Nerves in Horses and People

Podcast: Nerves in Horses and People

Hi, it’s Barb.

I was thinking about this challenge of ‘nerves’ that’s a tough one.

And if you think you’re the only one, believe me, you’re not. It’s a challenge most of us have.

And I was thinking about it in the context of our horses. They get nervous, too.

I thought it would be fun to see the similarities… and the differences… between our horse’s nerves and ours, one solution that works for both, and who’s ultimately in charge of getting the situation back in the calmness column.

So, imagine you’re at a show or a clinic, or someplace away from home.

You pull up to feed, and your horse is pacing about in the stall. He’s worked up. He nickers with his head up.

But when he sees you, he feels comforted… and the hay and grain take his mind off of whatever was bugging him, too.

Fast forward to saddling time. He’s still fidgety and super distracted. He’s kind of a pain to saddle, really.

Now you’re in the warm-up arena. He is looking around like crazy. It feels like his feet are three feet off the ground.

You get the picture.

And on top of that, you were nervous and excited to begin with… just being there.

So now both of you are in the same boat. Somehow that doesn’t feel like the ideal situation!

Now, I want to step back for a moment and talk about the reasons why horses get nervous, and the reasons why people get nervous.

Horses typically fret about something that scared them in the recent past, like a loud bang that came from nowhere. Or, they fret about the present. Examples of that would be separation from their buddy or blowing flags in an arena or the wind. Obviously, those are just a few possible reasons.

So, their anxiety is about a not too distant past or the present.

By contrast, we humans get nervous because of our thoughts about the future. Will I ride well? Is my horse good enough to be here? Am I a good enough rider to be here? What if I make a fool of myself? I don’t feel ready… and on. What if I forget the pattern? What does so and so think of me?

So the horse’s anxiety is typically about something in the present. The rider is in the future and a projection of a poor outcome.

I have a solution for both you and your horse.

Bring your attention and your horse’s attention back to the present moment in ways that consciously relax both of you.

And here’s the key. It begins with us, the rider because we have to be in a calm state to bring our horse back to that place.

We are the leader. Without our calm and clear guidance, the horse has no way to bring his focus back. Plus, if we don’t get grounded, we will only escalate our horse’s anxiety. That’s no good.

How do you bring your attention and your horse’s attention back to the moment in ways that relax you?

First of all, that’s planned and practiced at home before you get to your event, so you have a game plan for how to handle it.

It’s not that you’re sure you’ll be nervous or your horse will lose it, but just in case you’ve got it covered.

Some ideas for you would be rhythmic breathing and a planned repetitive script spoken as a mantra, like, “Stay cool, Barb. Stay cool.” Notice that both the breathing and speaking to yourself are in a rhythm.

What would a plan for your horse look like?

Well, of course, that depends but walking in small circles with flexing, or some rhythmic exercise, like alternating changes in the speed of gaits are a couple of ideas.

Of course, in this podcast, I’m just brushing over the top of the surface of ideas.

But a key takeaway is for you to practice relaxation exercises for both you and your horse at home so you can use them in situations away from home.

And the most important idea of all is for you to practice ways to calm yourself, that really works because your horse needs you.

That’s what I have for you today.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Know you’re the best. Leave a comment—Bye-bye for now.