Horse Whispering 101 with Certified ROTH Instructor, Braxton Dolce and Reach Out to Horses

Horse Whispering 101

This year Reach Out to Horses launched Horse Whispering 101, which I had the pleasure of instructing.  It is designed for people who have just begun to awaken their inner horse whisperer, or people coming back to horses after a break.   The students came from all over the United States, Canada, and from all walks of life.  Each class I teach seems to evolve with a theme; the commonality in this group was a desire to become comfortable working with horses in a safe and confident manner, which I felt was accomplished.

The most rewarding piece of being a Reach Out to Horses Certified Instructor is helping students work through their fears, insecurities and preconceived notions about working with and around horses.  I really enjoy watching as the “pennies drop” and the “light bulbs turn on.”  This wonderful group of ladies worked through understanding working with horses in the mindset of a horse whisperer.  They learned how to stay in the “present and not so distant future,” and how to juggle between being in your head and being in your heart or feeling space.  As they began to learn the equipment they found confidence in entering a paddock with multiple horses and were able to catch them using visualization, appropriate body language, controlled energy, and correct use of the tools in their hands.  The exercises that followed built on the foundation that was set in the first couple of days.

Braxton Dolce

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I wanted you to know that I worked with a Fjord mare this week who had been yanking everyone around so that she could grass-dive…so I combined my TTouch leading techniques with some ROTH intentionality asking her to “stay with me” and keeping watch (out of the side of my eye) to be sure she kept her head up…it allowed me to stay one step ahead of her and I only needed some upward pulsing on the halter occasionally for reinforcement so that she never got completely into eating…I felt I maintained my leadership and stayed focused…I was very pleased…

— Elizabeth V., NY

Thank you for the excellent hands-on work with the horses this past week.  You are a fabulous instructor, especially when demonstrating how to work with the horses and working with students right as they are working with the horses.  You have a real talent connecting with the human and knowing precisely what is needed at just that immediate time-nothing less, nothing more- to get to the next step!  Awesome instruction!  Most likable person because you connect with your students!  Thanks!

— Connie C., CO

Just wanted to say hello and thanks.  As I watch and re-watch the video clip of me and the Vanner- Embar- I want to give working with the horses more time.  I’ve lots to learn from them.  (really,really missing them too)  Thought you would like to know… I hope I will be in a class of yours again.  Thanks again,


— Sharon SD,CA


ROTH Texas Comes to the Department of Equine Sciences at Colorado State University with Braxton Dolce

Hello everyone,

I have to tell y’all about my recent get away to Colorado.

It all started when Jordyn DeCarlo, who was my intern a couple of years ago, asked me to be a guest speaker for the equine behavior class at the Department of Equine Sciences at Colorado State University. She knew it was my dream, bucket list stuff, to teach at the collegiate level. Never graduating from undergrad much less with a graduate or doctorate degree limits me to be able to teach in this arena.

I chose to lecture on, “What is Holistic Horsemanship.” This is a huge topic and I was grateful for the three hours of class time. I broke it down by suggesting that there is no such thing as Natural Horsemanship. Most of what we do with horses goes against their very nature and design. I asked the class to consider instead a truly “balanced horsemanship” upon which to build relationships with horses.

Begin by balancing Nutrition, Hoof care, Chiropractic issues, Dental, your tack most importantly the saddle, and then the handler/rider. The suggestion is that if we achieve total balance in everything involved with our horses, and our interactions with them, that we will begin to think holistically.

A big part of this can be achieved by learning and practicing the tenets set out by the Reach Out to Horses Methodologies. Lead from finessed subtleties that are passive in nature, build a trust based relationship and not a dominant one, abandon fear and pain in everything that we do, and last but not least, give each and every individual a voice so that the communication is balanced.

I asked the students to drop common words like break, broken, make, made, tell and told, and to replace them with trained, started, asked, and suggested as the very intention that goes along with the word has the potential to bring in the wrong kind of feelings and actions.

I talked to them about the language of the horse and how we all feel better when we are able to understand what someone is saying to us. I touched on positive reinforcement and suggested that rewarding the try can help you gain ground exponentially.

I did touch on the into pressure phenomenon as most people have never heard of it. And when I asked what optimal timing for reward was the whole class said three to five seconds. This is still being taught incorrectly. I shared that I had learned the same thing but that in reality you have to be spot on in less than a second, 3-8 10ths of a second to be exact, and this made sense to everyone.

I demonstrated shaping and giving the horse a voice, Jordyn displayed lots of equine behavior as I picked up her feet and lead her around the class room in different ways.

I administered the VAK test so that they could understand that we all learn differently and they were excited to see what their strengths were as well.

Then we all went downstairs into the indoor arena where I was able to demonstrate the Reach Out process and TLC. At one point I looked up to see if I still had a class because they were so quiet. What I saw were forty sets of eye balls intently watching everything presented to them. I really enjoyed this opportunity and hope to be able to do this again in the near future.

But I must back up here a bit because when Anna found out that I was coming to CO she invited me to come Instruct with her the weekend before my lecture at CSU.

We had the best time teaching a newly formatted clinic “Spook-busting into the Saddle” This was an amazing two day adventure where everyone had breakthroughs and nothing was lost except for Anna’s Truck keys. We did TLC and Spook-busting the first day and then obstacles the next day; first in hand and then ridden. It was challenging, but so much fun and extremely rewarding for all involved.

Thank you Anna, Vin, and Joseph for letting me come hang out and play with y’all for a few days; such a treat to visit friends and catch up at the Reach Out ranch.


p.s. Anna and Vin…your arena looks amazing!!! ;

Find out more about Brack and Dolce Horsemanship!

ROTH Instructor, Brack, brings up an uncomfortable subject.

Braxton brings to light something many of us like to over look or don’t know we should be paying attention.

Brack and the Bean Talk

I am a holistic horse trainer and horseback riding instructor by trade. Over the years I have noticed male horses with behavioral issues that have caused them to be labeled as barn sour, herd bound, and in some cases dangerous. These behaviors are including but not limited to bucking, refusal of the saddle, refusal to pick up hind feet, inability to stride out, or balking all together. I am frequently asked to evaluate these horses to determine the underlying cause. What I have found in many instances is that the horse is in pain. I use the motto, “No training in pain.” So, this led me to pin point the cause of the behavioral issues. I have found a remedy by checking stallions and geldings for a dirty sheaths and the development of beans. Yep you got it I’m talking about good penile hygiene exams.

So, what is a bean and what constitutes a smegma filled or dirty sheath??? Let me break it down for you.

Smegma is a substance made up of dead skin cells and sebum. Sebum is an oily substance that is secreted by the horse. The skin cells mix with the sebum to form smegma. Some horses secrete more sebum than others so their smegma can be very grease like. Others can merely show dry flaky skin. This substance is natural and normally won’t cause issues. However if allowed to build up I have found will cause discomfort, irritation, and swelling of the sheath, also known as the prepuce.

A bean is a localized depositing of the secreted oil and dead skin that fills the sinus or cavity on the dorsal side of the urethra on the penis. This cavity is also called the urethral fossa. The bean can grow in size from a small pea to the size of a walnut. The smaller beans are usually gray in color and soft like clay. The bigger beans grow hard and darken to black in color. If the bean is big enough it can put pressure on the underlying urethra causing the urine stream to fan out and splatter like a crimped hose.

As a man it is hard not being anthropomorphic here, so I will say this. If the horse is uncomfortable it is not about you. Some horses do fine with some build up where some are more sensitive and experience discomfort with only a small amount. The same is true for the bean.

The rule of thumb for me is if the horse is cranky and he needs to be cleaned then I recommend doing so. I also, as a preventative measure, recommend checking your stallions and geldings at least once a year. If you have your horses’ teeth checked/floated once a year by your veterinarian this is also a good time to check for a bean.

As I mentioned above you can have your veterinarian help you with this as he/she can give the sedative which causes the horse to drop its penis all the way out which aids in the cleaning process.

However, if you are an experienced horseperson you can attempt this yourself if you feel that you can keep yourself safe. If you have any question at all, call your vet because you can do more harm than good to you and your horse. I will speak more about that later on here. But first let me tell you how it is done without sedation.

The first thing you want to find out is if your horses will allow you to touch his sheath without kicking your head in. I should say here that I always recommend wearing a helmet but it is insane not to wear one during this exercise.

I like to check to see if I’m safe by using an extension of my arm. You can get really fancy and build one of these with very little effort. Basically I have a stick with a glove attached to the end. I use this to “feel” if you will the reaction that the horse will make when I touch his sheath. I would rather have the fake arm kicked to bits than my real arm. If the horse is touchy I spend time desensitizing him to the touch. When he shows me that it is ok to feel around down there, I move on to the next step.

The next step is to make sure he is ok with water touching his sensitive areas. You can do this in one of two ways. The first way is to take a bucket of warm water and a very soft towel. Soak the towel and gently apply to the sheath while squeezing out the warm water. The second way, if you feel that he will not like the water, is to use a hose with a gentle stream of warm water so that you don’t have to be underneath him.

Once you know that he is ok with the water you can either use one of the sheath cleaning formulas available on the market, ojor mild liquid dishwashing soap. I like to lather the outer and inner sheath and let it soak for a few minutes to help break up the oily build up. Then I begin to gently remove the smegma either with my hand or the soft towel. It is ok to rinse and repeat if necessary. However, especially if this is your first time, I recommend you do this in stages so that your horse doesn’t get upset and behavioral issues present themselves. It is imperative that when you are finished that you completely rinse the sheath free from cleanser as it can cause irritation if left too long.

If you think you are done you aren’t. We haven’t talked about how to check for a bean, and if you find one how to remove it. So here begins the tricky part. If you are lucky during the sheath cleaning and your horse relaxes and drops out his penis you have won the equivalent to the lotto. I know it doesn’t sound like a million bucks, but it makes things so much easier. If in fact he does drop or extend his penis outside of the sheath you can gently grasp the end of it with one hand and examine with the other.

With the penis extended you can easily look and feel for a bean. Again, it will be located above the urethra, the tube that he urinates from. Once you have located the tube look above it and you will find a little pocket. In this pocket you will most likely find a bean. I like to use the end of my finger to coax the bean out. Sometimes it is necessary to take the bean out in pieces.

If he doesn’t drop out his penis and you feel adventurous you can stick your hand gently up inside the sheath into the little pocket that houses the penis and feel for the end. This is hard to do for the first time blind so I recommend you see what you are feeling for beforehand with a horse that has fully extended himself.

So, how do you know if this has alleviated your problems? Well, wait a couple days after cleaning him and see if the grouchy behavior comes to an end. I personally just finished cleaning one such individual who had been struck of the vet and the farrier list because of violent behavior. In fact the last time he had his feet and teeth done he had to be completely anesthetized. After cleaning his really dirty sheath he stands for the farrier like a lamb and the dentist floated his teeth with gentle sedation.

Some people will tell you that regularly cleaning sheaths is a bad practice and I tend to agree; accepting when the horse is in pain. When it comes to working with horses I prefer to be proactive instead of reactive. As always if you are unsure consult your equine veterinary practitioner.