It is a very 21st-Century development for the most traditional of activities.
Scientists have designed a new set of high-tech headphones – that allow horses to listen to music as they trot.
But the development does have a serious purpose, as the headphones both improve the animal’s focus and block out external noises that could spook more nervous mounts.
Hidden within a bonnet that slips over the horse’s head, the headphones come with Bluetooth technology to pick up songs played on the rider’s mobile phone.
A headset that clips to the helmet also allows the rider to talk to their mount through the headphones.
Vets and horse behaviour experts have even come up with dedicated playlists of different tempos to suit various gaits: walking, trotting or galloping.
British showjumper Yazmin Pinchen, 23, has tested the technology with her 14-year-old horse, Vinny.
She warms up with Irish rock band Kodaline’s High Hopes before galloping along to Up & Up by Coldplay, then relaxing with the same group’s Fix You
‘When I originally put the music on, Vinny was a little bit shocked but after a few minutes he was more settled.
'When you’re just walking and warming up you want something that’s quite relaxing and soothing.
You don’t want to wind your horse up immediately and get him running away.’
Makers HorseCom say the technology, which costs £799, helps improve horses’ performance.
It was devised by 27-year-old Hugo Kajdas, who came up with the idea to help his sister’s horse, which was very nervous.
Professor Mark Bowen, of the British Equine Veterinary Association, said:
‘Music is most likely to benefit horses with a nervous disposition since it will remove external stimulation; they may be able to focus on something familiar and be less nervous.
‘Although some evidence supports the impact of music, demonstrating an actual benefit to the horse and its wellbeing is incredibly difficult.’
It always saddens me that even though there are a couple of busy livery yards very close to where I live, I hardly ever see any of the horses being hacked out. If the owners ride their horses at all, even if they are surrounded by beautiful countryside, they would rather do it in what they regard as the safer environment of the school. Unfortunately the area outside of the yard has become a forbidden zone of spooks and trolls where no rider fears to tread astride a horse!
But this is such a shame, as going out for a hack can be so beneficial to both horses and riders. So, if you're someone who is nervous about hacking out, then I'm not proposing the following is a solution to all problems, but simply suggest you give it a try….. ride out as if your horse isn't there and you're just going for a walk, on your own two legs! I know, it sounds stupid doesn't it, but actually I propose you choose the route you're thinking of riding, and actually walk it first, either on your own or with the dog.
The problem is that as humans we often anticipate problems. For instance, when riding we think, 'there's a tractor ahead, or there's a plastic bag flapping in the hedge, my horse won't like that', and guess what, because we communicate this thought to the horse through our breath and tension in our bodies, when he gets to that tractor, no he damn well doesn't like it! Our fear then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. I'm not saying of course that some horses aren't scared of tractors or flapping bags, but I can tell you one thing for certain, if you weren't on a horse you certainly wouldn't be scared of them. So, when you go for that walk notice everything about you; the pile of logs, that pheasant that suddenly gets up out of the grass, or the squirrel running up a tree. And notice how you react. The thing is, you don't, in fact your thoughts are more likely to be, 'ooh, aren't pheasants beautiful', or 'look at that cheeky little fella!.' So pay attention to how relaxed you feel out walking and then keep hold of that feeling. Then, when you go for your hack, try and ride like you're just going for that nice relaxing walk where you don't overreact to the merest rustle or look at things as potential problems. And, if your horse does react to something he sees, then recall that feeling of how you felt as a human walking on two legs and you'll find it much easier to convince your horse that it's ok. In fact when riding past a tractor on the road, if I know the farmer I will often stop to thank him and have a chat. Just being normal, and talking to someone in a friendly manner who has a vehicle that is unsettling your horse, makes you breathe, smiling makes you relax, and then the horse thinks, oh well, it's not quite so scary after all!
Anyway, give it a go and happy hacking!!
We may not like to think of it this way but most of us are taught to deal with horses through force- the application and release of pressure to achieve the desired result. For example, if a horse is jump shy and keeps running out to the left, we are advised to carry a whip on the left side and dole out a little tap to deter further avoidance. The idea being that the fear he has of doing something, like going past a scary object or going over a scary jump is outweighed by the fear/pressure from us. However in many cases this can have the effect of reinforcing the horse's fear, of the jump or scary object as this activity then equals pressure or pain. This is a classic example of how we are punishing undesired behaviours through the threat of and the application of pain, and how this method can fix a problem temporarily, but it will never really overcome that horse's fear of jumping or going past scary objects.
Many equine behaviourist’s believe that ‘naughty’ behaviours like; running-out, bolting, barging, biting or kicking boil down to three very simple things - present or past fear, pain or miscommunication. When your horse is being asked to perform an action and he is punished if it is not performed, whether by using a loud, harsh tone, a quick smack on the withers or a smack with the whip, your horse is effectively being assaulted for being in pain, feeling fear or misunderstanding what you want. Either you, the handler are not giving clear correct signals or past experience has led your horse to react in a certain way.
We have come to believe that horses need to be led with a ‘firm hand’ or ‘they’ll walk all over you’. Now, I believe, that we approach horses in this way because we are the ones who are intimidated either by fear of being hurt or fear of failure and fear of what others think of us. But, if we can only realise that empathy goes a lot further than force in the equine world both horses and their owners will be a lot happier. Horses are naturally skittish prey animals and we need to gain their trust to give them confidence. So, the next time your horse doesn’t react how you’d like, think about WHERE this behaviour may have come from and try and think how you can change your approach, asking in a calm and clear way. We must remember to separate ourselves from our horse’s behaviour because it is never about us, it is a combination of instinct and past experience that have influenced the way they act.
Do you think pressure and release is a force for good or evil?!! Should pressure have no place in horse training or is it just a case of when you apply it, and how much?
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Ashleigh Harris was 14 when she broke her back after falling from Polly Perks, owned by Rachel Miller. She now has no function in her legs.
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In about three weeks time it will be time for this years Suffolk horse spectacular which this year takes place from 10 am on Sunday 13th September at Elveden Estate, London Road, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 3TJ Having attended this show for three years we can say with certainly that this is a GREAT day out and a fabulous way of seeing this rare and very beautiful heavy breed UP FRONT and CLOSE
Without wishing to put pressure on anybody the Suffolk Horse Society who run the event have much to live up to after their brilliant and very moving pageant they put on last year paying tribute to the many horses, mules and dogs who took part in WW1. Along with the men and women involved, the horses endured terrible hardship and many lost their lives. Here are some of our favourite photos from this memorable day. We look forward with anticipation to attending this years show - WE KNOW it will not disappoint!
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