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Managing Your Horse With Some Tough Love


We all want a relationship based on giving, respect and commitment with our horses. We don't suggest you bring them flowers, chocolates or jewelry. We do however, hope that you realize that sometimes it's you and not your horse that's ruining your relationship.

From unbroken ponies to old-timer tune-ups, trainer Scott Purdum really knows how to rein-in problem horses. And sometimes, owners, it's not the horse who experiences an attitude adjustment at the end of the lesson.

"I hear it all the time. People tell me that they have a great horse but every time they ride, it tries to buck them off" says Scott. "All I have to say is, if your horse is trying to kill you, it's not really a nice horse."

Scott's advice makes sense, "if the horse is too dangerous, get help. Don't try to do it yourself." For two years, Scott has been offering that help with clinics, demonstrations and one-on-one lessons through his Advantage Horsemanship training program.

Based at the Purdum family's Fox Quarter Farm in Union Bridge, MD, Advantage Horsemanship teaches willingness, respect and communication between horse and rider. The goal is to teach owners and riders better horsemanship and arm them with knowledge and understanding of their horse's disciplinary and relationship needs.

"Horses aren't like dogs" Scott points out. "You can't give them treats to make them love you. In general, people wouldn't let a 150 lb. person push them around - but they'll let a horse bully them into the next field for treats."

Scott's unique style of training creates a willingness to work with and a respect for the handler. It's not a quick fix, and takes a lot of work. But, Scott says, "it can be fun and easy when you follow a program or routine." Scott's rule of thumb for training and discipline is so simple that it's brilliant. He says, "do it as easy as possible but as firm as necessary." And, above all, "be clear, be concise, be consistent."

That rule of thumb also applies when the rider is the problem rather than the horse. "People come to me with "problem horses" that have no problems once I start working with them myself," says Scott. A well-trained horse is most likely used to a well-disciplined rider. Scott says that one of the problems he frequently encounters - in trail riders especially - is riding posture.

"If you're not in rhythm, you're like a jackhammer on the back of a horse," says Scott. He suggests to practice posting at the trot for improved posture and flexibility. Hold yourself upright and draw an "Invisible Line" from your shoulders, through your seat, to your heels. Your body should move in a sitdown-standup motion to the rhythm of your horse's legs.

Sitting back in the seat can drive your horse forward and you can have problems getting your rhythm in a canter. "If your rhythm is right, it's an elegant motion and you're not driving the horse forward" says Scott. And you should work with your horse often. The more regularly you take your horse out, or just simply work its legs, the safer you are when you ride. Scott equates these practice sessions to playing sports; "no one can just pick up a football and play great. It takes hard work, determination and practice." "If you dedicate yourself to working with your horse, you can have fun with it" Scott explains. "Do it for them because you love them."


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