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RMM Newslettre - Month of December

The close of another busy year promoting the Revolution in Horsemanship. In August, I spoke at the Hawaii Horse Expo. In October, we were in Monterrey, Mexico, to conduct a three-day seminar at Hipico La Silla Olympic Training Center, one of the most impressive equestrian facilities we’ve ever seen. It’s home to 500 exquisite Warmbloods, and the ranch is beautifully managed and maintained, with two full-time veterinarians on staff. There’s also an equine hospital with four full-time vets.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and when we were asked if we'd be willing to return to do more seminars. Our answer? A resounding, “Yes.” Look for updates on my speaking engagement calendar here, and online.


Dr. Miller mid-seminar, Monterrey, Mexico

Wishing you and your horses a safe, happy holiday season, and best wishes for 2013.

Please send any comments or suggestions to newsletter@robertmmiller.com .  Have an idea for a cartoon? Send it to cartoons@robertmmiller.com , or visit our site and store, www.rmmcartoons.com .

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Looking for other holiday gift ideas for the horse lover in your life? You can never go wrong with a well-constructed, stylish cowboy hat. Dr. Miller’s daughter, journalist/American Cowboy contributor Laurel Miller, has written the guide on the best for every season and situation.


Photo credit: Flickr user Stephen Fischer

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Desensitization: explaining a much-misunderstood term, and its role in better horsemanship

The word “desensitize” is frequently misused, misunderstood, and improperly practiced in horsemanship. The term means to make an animal less reactive to stimuli like frightening sights, sounds, or smells, or touching.

“Habituation” is a technical term, but it’s an important part of horse training. The horse is exposed to repeated stimuli, without any reinforcement (reward) until there is no longer any response. The traditional, cowboy “sacking out” of a colt is an example of habituation.

Horses can be habituated to any stimulus (sound, sight, smell, or touch), if it’s not painful, and if it’s repeated repetitively for as long as necessary. If you’re going to habituate a horse by such a method, known as “flooding,” you must ensure that it’s safe for both you and the animal, and that you’re willing to persist until the horse is indifferent to the stimulus.

If you stop while the horse is still fearful and flight, you’re actually rewarding that behavior. If you stop the instant the horse quiets, you’re delaying the final goal of habituation. Desensitization can be done gradually and in increments, and it will eventually work, but that method (called progressive desensitization) is time-consuming. But, it’s important to note, it’s safe in many cases.

Both methods are shown and discussed in the first video I ever made, “Influencing the Horse’s Mind.” Getting horses used to frightening stimuli takes patience and persistence on the human’s part, as well as understanding and sympathy.

In the wild, horses assume that any unfamiliar stimulus, whether stationary or moving (especially towards them) may be a predator. The equine response is to run away from that stimulus. As humans, it’s critical that we comprehend the horse’s innate flight response if we’re to effectively train and ultimately, understand the equine mind.


Photo credit: Flickr user Highway of Life

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The gift that keeps on giving

I’m often asked which of my videos on horsemanship I recommend. It all depends upon your needs. If the goal is a better understanding of the horse and its behavior, “Understanding Horses” will be invaluable. If you’re a breeder, “Early Learning,” and “Foaling Fundamentals” are essentials for your equine video library.

If the welfare of the animal is the main concern, then “Lameness- Its Causes and Prevention”, will help keep your mount sound. On the other hand, if the welfare of the rider is of primary concern, then I suggest “Safer Horsemanship.”

I’ve made other videos over the years. The format is a wonderfully effective teaching tool, particularly for professionals such as veterinarians, trainers, and farriers. My personal library features DVD’s by many different clinicians and other industry professionals, and I’ve learned a lot from them. Owning a diverse array of books and videos is the best way to become a well-rounded, knowledgeable equestrian.

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question of the month
question of the month

Have a question for Dr. Miller?
Send it to questions@robertmmiller.com.

We apologize that due to volume, we can’t guarantee Dr. Miller can respond to all emails, but we are building a more comprehensive FAQ page on our website to address your needs. All questions may be edited for clarity and space.


Q. I use treats to train my horse as part of clicker training. What kinds of treats are most effective?

A. Offer your horse, simultaneously with the click, a slice of carrot or apple, a mint, or a bit of grain. Observe which treat your animal prefers. Space them out, and repeat several times. Is there a preference? If so, use it.

Clicker training is a very effective method for all animals, and is now even being used to improve the performance of high school athletes. Food rewards are often misused by horse owners, creating behavioral problems. But, used correctly, they’re powerful reinforcers.

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Mark Your Calendars!

Interested in catching one of Dr. Miller’s summer or fall lectures?

Robert M. Miller, D.V.M.
  • Dec.7-19, 2013 AAEP Convention,Nashville, TN: Visit Dr. Miller at the Spalding Labs booth, and have him sign your book or video purchase.

  • May 29-June 1, 2014 Light Hands Horsemanship, Santa Ynez, CA: Check website in early December for clinician line-up and workshops.


For contact details and other dates and locations in 2014, go to www.robertmmiller.com/appearances.html.


Coming in our March newsletter:

Get ready for foaling season.


Interested in booking Dr. Miller for a lecture, demonstration, or book signing?
Contact info@robertmmiller.com.


Please send any comments or suggestions to newsletter@robertmmiller.com

Have an idea for a cartoon?  Send it to cartoons@robertmmiller.com , or visit our site and store, www.rmmcartoons.com