How does “energy work” apply when riding horses?

Question: I was watching your lesson last Saturday (I was the one wearing the yellow jacket) and was fascinated by your explanation of energy work. Thank you for letting me watch! My question is, when the lady couldn’t get her horse to move out, can you explain again why that was happening? I missed it, and I’m sure that was the most important part! When are you back at Bowden again? So glad you moved here!

Answer from April Reeves: Hi yellow jacket: yes, I remember you (hard to miss actually!). Feel free to audit any lesson (unless my client asks otherwise).

Energy surrounds all living things every second of our lives. Even rocks have energy levels. Horses are highly tuned to energy. We all know this by the reaction our horses have to our emotions each time we approach them, yet we routinely disregard this and blame our horse for the reactions he/she has to us.

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My horse jumps into the trot: How can I prevent this?

Question: I have a horse that jumps forward into the trot when asked to move from a walk to a trot. Any suggestions on how to make the transition smooth? Thanks

April Reeves:  Hi Kristi! First off, the response from your horse to be “quick” into the up transition is actually a response I ask for, at the beginning. You do want a horse that responds to your cues immediately. I consider that obedience, and once that’s established, you can move on to refine the process.

Next step is to soften how you ask for the up transition. All your methods have to become lighter and softer if you expect the same from the horse, from the use of hands, legs, voice and seat. Get very familiar with what that feels like, because this is how you bring a horse into refinement and a finished bridle horse.

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What Does “Winning” Mean To You?

April and 'Rainy Buck Paige', 1975

Answer from April Reeves: I have always viewed “winning” as a competitive attachment. I realized, after years of showing horses, that winning was a crap shoot that depended on judge’s opinions and politics. I now walk into “competition” as a way to simply see how my horse and I can handle stress. I have found that stress only exists as a function of fear, and so now, showing and winning and competition no longer is a necessity for me, but a chance to go out and have a different kind of “fun” with the horses. What I have found is a whole new world where life is lighter, the word “win” doesn’t need to exist, and the end result is that, oddly enough, my blue ribbon count has soared….
My true “wins” are inside of me, not external of me.

Changes to April Reeves and Horseman’s U.com

Heads up everyone! Horseman’s U.com is coming down for around 3-4 months to be completely rebuilt! New video sections and articles are being developed over the winter, including:

  • Marketing Your Stable and Equine Business
  • Equine locomotion
  • Video and instruction on developing and building an equestrian center: how Horseman’s U, the facility, will be created.

Plus, April Reeves is moving to a new farm: details to come early next year on the location. The property will boast Eventing/cross country courses, including water obstacles, banks, ditches and permanent/non-permanent fences, permanent agility course, 2 roundpens (for ponies and warmbloods), jumping arena (so you don’t have to put the jumps away all the time), large all purpose sand arena (reining/sliding), pathway around perimeter of property, other open sand/grass/mixed rings and practice areas, and the ability to ride all around the entire property in the day! We’ll host week/days/day long intensive workshops and clinics for Western and English/Jumping riders, events, free riding days for trailer-ins,  and much more!

This site will remain the same, as it serves as a valuable resource for those seeking answers. Please continue to send in your questions and April will try to answer them.

If you have any suggestions for what you would like to see/read/watch on Horseman’s U.com please let us know! Hope to see some of you at the new facility next year!

We’re keeping the location a secret for now (simply because we haven’t quite bought it yet), but once we’re in, we’ll have a contest for the ones that can guess the location. Stay tuned for details!

Green Colt, Green Owner: How To Make The Best Of It

Question: I am a 53-year-old woman. I’ve had a love of horses all my life. I had a horse for 5 months when I was 15 but that doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing, in fact just the opposite – I don’t. I recently found an abandoned year-old colt. Every day, twice a day, I go out to his very large pasture and call him by the name he’s used to. He usually always comes running to see me. I’ve only been doing this for 6 days now and I have to admit I’m nervous because he’s never been handled by anyone before and I’m new at all this and he’s new at all this too. I take out apples, carrots, bread and sugar cubes. He wants to eat and eat and I’m not sure but I think he just looks at me like the one that brings him good food but it’s working, I think. If I run along the fence he runs next to me, if I stop he stops, if I turn back he turns back with me. Once he ran ahead and couldn’t see me and came to find me. I’ve been getting into the pasture with him but again I’m really nervous but determined to make friends. He’s nervous too because he throws his head up a lot and makes this sound with his mouth like he’s tired. Today he paws the ground once and I got back in the pasture with him. He puts his ears back some times but then brings them forward too. Yesterday I was able to get a halter on him and I was so excited. It took three tries but I stood to his one side and I got it on. I went out and it’s still on. I don’t know what I’m doing to be honest but I’m hoping what I’m doing is the right things. I can’t walk through the pasture because I live in South Florida and we have a LOT of poisonous snakes and his pasture is really over grown with high grass and shrubs and it’s not safe for me to walk through that. I stand inside the gate how ever and in that very small space is where we have bonded or I hope we’ve bonded somewhat. I spend 2 hours talking to him and getting in and out of the pasture by climbing over the gate. It used to spook him but because I’m doing it so much he’s getting used to it. He’s trying to bully me for food though and maybe this is why I feel uneasy. He knows when I come I have food and he likes that. What can I do that can stop him from raising his head way over mine when I don’t give him the food and what does this mean when he’s doing this? He backs away from me too and I walk after him facing his face. If I turn around and walk away he’ll follow me though. I have gotten to pet him a lot and he almost fell asleep on me today scratching his ears. I don’t want to make mistakes that will get me kicked, or him not trusting me any more. Any suggestions would be appreciated. It has to be me doing some thing to make him raise his head way over mine and I’m short. If I bend down to pull grass, he’ll lower his head like he’s helping me. I don’t know if I’m reading this right either but he stretches out his neck as far as he can get it some times for food like he doesn’t want to come in close but I won’t give him a treat like that I make him come to me. He also wants to bite at my hand like he’s associating my hand for food. Am I making a mistake?

Answer from April Reeves: Rescuing a horse is never a mistake, but he is a colt, he is young and you are green. That is the only mistake. Unfortunately, it’s a big one, if you cannot find someone with really great credentials to help you. They need to be there physically to show you how to work with him. I can help from this end but this type of situation needs a hand that’s not afraid or lacking confidence.

Let’s go over some of the issues you have at the immediate moment.

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Horses and Headshaking: Symptoms and Remedies

Marijke van de Water

A SPECIAL POST BY MARIJKE VAN DE WATER, B.SC., DHMS

Question: I have an 18 year old horse who has been head shaking for several months. He only used to do it when we rode but it is now almost constant. I’ve tried everything from diet changes to medications but have had no success. I am at a loss as to how I can help him.

Answer from Marijke van de Water: Head-shaking syndrome symptoms include flinging and jerking the head – sometimes violently – sneezing, scratching, nose-rubbing and any other activities that seem to give them relief, including blowing the nose, holding the nose under water or sticking their heads into trees or corners. They often become lethargic and/or depressed as the constant discomfort “gets them down”. Many of these horses have been tested with blood work, X-rays, scopes and/or scans but unfortunately most times there are no positive results.
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Can You Lessen The Anxiety Of A Single Horse?

Question: Hey April, question for you, my horse is apparently not so good on his own, without other horses around. Unfortunately I do not have any other horses, so he is going to have to get used to being on his own for now. Do you have suggestions to help make him more comfortable and less agitated if he is going to be so?

Answer from April Reeves: Only thing that will help keep him somewhat sane will be for him to have access to hay 24/7. Horses that are comfortable in knowing their food source never dries up are also content in many other areas of their lives. There is no fix for herd instinct though: you may find he chews up the fields and paddock for some time until he gets use to the idea, at which point he goes crazy (anxiety) again the second he sees or smells another horse. Best thing for you to consider is how to keep him from wanting to get through fences, if he goes to that length to get back to a herd or a buddy.

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