From Endurance to Dressage
Do You Want to Lead?
We got the first dog that I remember when I was five or six years old. We named her Boo-boo. She was a rather ugly little mutt, think Toto from the Wizard of Oz, but she was very loyal and never wandered off. She even rode in front of my dad on the motorcycle, sometimes with me perched on the back! I don't think we even had a leash. We had Boo-boo until I was in college.
After graduating, hubby and I bought our own little puppy. I was delighted with Kirby and loved taking her for walks on the leash. Hubby also took her for walks, but early on he complained that she behaved terribly on the leash. I was puzzled because she heeled smartly beside me whenever I took her out. After a short Q & A, it was revealed that I was walking Kirby like a horse, on my right side. Oops!
Apparently, dogs are taught to heel on the person's LEFT side.
Little Tobias, not so little anymore, is also learning to heel and walk on the leash. Thanks to a tip from Hubby's parents, we are teaching him with the Gentle Leader instead of the old choke chain that we used on our other dogs. It might look a little mean, but Dr. Thurman assured me that it does no harm to their face and is actually safer and more humane than a traditional choke chain.
How is this in any way horse related? While teaching Tobias to heel, it occurred to me that it's a like like teaching our horses to walk quietly beside us. Like you, I have numerous halters for different purposes.
While endurance riding, I used rope halters exclusively. We were frequently camped in places where a runaway horse could mean death. On occasion, horses at endurance rides get loose and run away from camp. They occasionally run toward traffic. I would rather my horse bang a leg on the trailer than get loose. That's why I used rope halters; they don't break.
Now that I am just in the barn or on show grounds, Speedy goes in a nearly regular halter. It's configured like a regular halter, but it's made out of Biothane, a synthetic material. Biothane washes very easily and dries almost instantly.
Sydney's old halter.
Sydney, on the hand, doesn't get a regular halter anymore. He has one, but I had to quit using it when he started to try and push me around. Flat, web halters, like the one to the left, don't give you much control. Horses can easily pull or push against the flat webbing with no consequences.
Sydney now gets the rope halter. His behavior improved immediately with its use. Now when he drops his head to graze when I am leading to the arena, a quick tug gets his immediate attention. The thinner strands of the rope halter can be sharp on a thinned-skinned face. Even though there are no side rings, I clip the cross-ties to the single strand of rope that sits behind the cheek knot. It works like a charm.
I know there are many other kinds of halters, but these are the two that work for me. And just like for dogs (harnesses, choke chains, Gentle Leaders), you have to find what works best for your own horse.
7/8/2012 01:37:32 am
That was funny about how you were leading Tobias. I would have done the same thing without a second thought.
7/8/2012 03:59:19 am
Like Harley, Speedy now goes quite nicely in halter. He needed the rope halter for a few years though. If he gets persnickety, I'll pop the rope halter on as a reminder, but he long ago learned how to behave in whatever I choose to lead him.
7/8/2012 09:41:15 pm
Yes, that is the kind of rope I mean!
7/8/2012 03:51:29 am
oh, great post! gentle leaders/haltis for dogs are AWESOME! i recommend them to everyone whose dog pulls. it is not cruel at all, it simply turns the dog's head to the side when he pulls toward something, so he learns very fast if he wants to "see" something, he cannot pull on the lead. ingenious! i have a nice anecdote about these. i was house/dog sitting for a friend and she has an 8 year old daughter and a golden retriever who had no "heel" and i wasn't gonna have time to teach him, but i was expected to walk him. i took dog and girl to petco and tried on a halti in the store. he leaped forward as usual, hit the end of the rope and twisted in midair like a wild horse! then he thought a moment and never pulled on it again. this probably sounds cruel--it could have pulled a muscle on him when he did that, but now that 8 year old can take that dog for walks! and she loves it! and his owner was having actual back issues trying to walk him.
7/8/2012 03:58:13 am
sorry, i think it's "sit back" and not "set back" ? doh.
7/8/2012 04:10:24 am
Hey Lytha! I love your dog anecdotes! I had never heard of the Gentle Leader before it was recommended to us. I do a lot of equine research, but I don't want to spend the time doing it for dogs too. Don't get me wrong. We LOVE our dog(s) and provide the best veterinarian care possible. They have impeccable manners, but I don't keep up on "new" things. We also don't get puppies very often. Our last two dogs lived for 11 and 15 years.
For dogs, I know people who have used the GL very successfully, mostly on larger dogs. For my two dogs, we use a harness like this one:
7/10/2012 10:08:26 am
Halter tag info here: http://www.bakersfielddressage.com/1/post/2011/8/new-cool-gizmo.html
7/16/2012 07:35:17 am
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
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