Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The ad says the horse is bomb proof....now how the hell can we test that?

This will be the first in a series of evaluating the horse, including evaluating conformation.

Over the course of 30 years of training horses, I have been asked on numerous occasions to evaluate horses for potential clients as well as current clients. Most of the time they have found the horse on through an ad online or in the paper. I find that when the seller places those ads they very often use terms that will help sell the horse.

Today, I am going to talk about one term that is used that I absolutely hate, and that term is 'bomb proof'!

So what does that mean?

Well, that means that the horse will not spook at anything or blow up.....EVER!

Let me be the first to break it to you, there is no such thing. Every horse has a point at which they will 'blow up' at something. It may be something as insignificant as a gopher running underneath them (I have had that happen) or something like a truck horn. There is no way to tell what is going to set a horse off. I have had times where I can feel the horse tense up underneath me before they are going to explode and there have been times that there was no warning.

Remember, what the horse is like at his current home before you buy them may be somewhat different than what they are like when you take them home. Just like they may be quiet at home, they can be a different horse at a show or competition.

When I am asked to evaluate the horse for a buyer, the first thing I want to do is call the seller and ask them a lot of questions. Sometimes, I have to ask questions that I know they may not like, but they have to be asked before we go look at the horse. If the ad says the horse is ' bomb proof', then I will ask them flat out what it is they feel is 'bomb proof'.

Once I have established what the seller is trying to say, I will then either tell the buyer that we will go look at the horse or we will look elsewhere.

If we decide that we are going to look at the horse, I am going to want to see the horse ridden and I am going to want to ride him.

When I ask to see the seller ride him, I am going to want to see them walk, trot and lope/canter and back. The reason I am going to want to see the horse back, is so I can see if the horse is willing to give to the bit without going up. I am also going to want to see if that horse knows any lateral aids.

Then when I get on the horse, I am also going to ask for the walk, trot, lope/canter. I am also going to push the horses buttons by pulling on him and bumping them with my legs a little to see how he will react. I am also going to see what kind of 'whoa' the horse has. That is just something that is going to have to be done. If there are cattle, I will ask if I can take the horse on cattle, if the horse is a reiner, I will ask for the elements of a pattern, etc.

After all that is done, I will go stand in the center of the ring to see how and if the horse relaxes after he works or if he acts like he is stressed out.

If at that point, I feel that the horse may have some potential, we will then work on taking the horse on trial, though I realize that is not always an option that the seller will be willing to discuss, the majority of the time most sellers are willing to do so if the buyer is willing to leave a deposit. We will only do so, if we are serious about purchasing the horse. We will also have our vet out to evaluate the horse at the buyers expense.

If the seller is willing to do so, then that will allow me to try the horse in a new and different environment to see how he handles that situation.

It is so important that when buying a new horse, that you know where the horse came from and who trained the horse. Call the person that originally trained the horse and ask them about him, if at all possible, go see that trainer work. Doing the research before you purchase your new horse can prevent headaches later on!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Rotten Neighborhood blog party!..Once upon a time....

As you most of you know, CNJ and I are the oh so very proud parents of twin daughters, Viv and Lil. Along with our teen aged daughter, they are all the absolute joy in our lives.

What I would like to do tonight is somewhat different that we have done in the past. Though there will be the normal comments of course, I would like to write a story for our kids and yours, and have you all contribute.

I will start with the first paragraph and you all can add to the story with your own paragraphs. We will see where it goes over the weekend. In a way it will be like the game telephone only we are allowed to make up the ending. Next weekend I will put it all together and post the finished story along with next Friday nights post.

Now here is the kicker, should some how, by some miracle it gets published, it will be under the name as written by All the Rotten Apples. Should it actually be sold, all proceeds will go to children's charities that will be nominated and voted on by all of you.

Since this is a horse training blog, we will write about something we know best......Chickens!

Actually it will be a horse story.

So here it goes.

The Bay mare grazed quietly in the pasture. She was heavy with foal and was staying in one place occasionally grunting as her foal kicked. It would soon be time and her foal would be here.
Though she was surrounded by a band of mares she stood alone, the rest of the mares keeping a watchful eye on her.........

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"When I sez Whoa, I means Whoa ya !&^#$@%* mangey fleabit varmit!"

So often I hear about the same problems that owners have with their horses. And it is usually the problems that are caused because of the owners not being consistent in their training with their horses and they are not setting up the boundaries that tell the horse that he is not a pocket pony.

The horses are not listening on the ground nor are they listening while they are on the horses back.

One of the most important things we can ever teach a horse is that 'Whoa' is not just another 4 letter word, and that has to be taught form a early age. And no, we do not go shouting 'Whoa' that the mares belly when she is in foal. Though there have been times that I have wished we did!

I like to say 'Whoa' as quietly as possible to get he horse to stop, I never want to shout it at them because I want them to stay soft and relaxed. When I say 'Whoa', I say it the same way every time.

I like to start teaching that foal 'Whoa' as soon as we put a halter on them. I have found that he best way to do that, is to teach the foal that when we stop moving, he is to stop moving. I always lead the foal on a loose lead line so that he has room and when I stop he will not have a reason to fidget and he will relax.

When I stop that foal, and he relaxes, I will brush him and work on picking up his feet. If he moves when I start to brush him and work on him I will stop, say 'Whoa' and continue on as soon as he relaxes again.

After the foal has been brushed and he has picked up his feet and stood quietly for a few minutes, then we will move on.

By working the foal on a loose lead line and asking him to stop when we stop, it will make it easier to teach him to ground tie, lunge and later, when he is 3, it will make it easier to start him under saddle. It will also help in teaching the horse boundaries so we do not have problems with things like biting.

Teaching a horse to stop on a lunge line is much the same, when we stop he stops.

One thing that drives me insane is seeing people put their horses on a lunge line and stand in the same place while the horse runs around in a circle. As the horse goes behind them, they just raise their arms over their heads.

I like to be a little more proactive when I lunge my horse. I will walk a small circle in the center diving the horse forward so he keeps moving. That way, when I stop walking and say 'Whoa' the horse will stop because I stopped.

After the horse stops, I will walk out to him and approach his shoulder, not his head, and pat him on the shoulder.

Teaching the horse to 'Whoa' when I am on their backs is also done by teaching the horse when I quit he quits. I am sure that many of you have heard the phrase 'just quit riding to get the horse to stop'.

What that means, is that, when we want the horse to stop, we cease with our light but steady leg contact and roll back onto our seat and say 'Whoa'. We do not lean back in the saddle to get the horse to stop as that will make the horse stop on his front end. I never want to pull them into a stop, as I prefer that they learn to stop when I sit and quit. When they do stop, I drop my hands on their necks and let them relax and stand.

That way it is all nice and quiet the way I like it!

There really is no great secret to teaching a horse to stop and stand when we say 'Whoa'. It is all in how you approach it. I like my horses to stay as quiet as possible when I handle them, that way, I am not always having to yell at them to get them to do what I want them to do.

Monday, June 22, 2009

It's Not a Good Horse Show, Unless you have been put on probation/suspension!

I received an email last night, that to me shows a disturbing trend in the horse industry today!

Normally, this is not a topic that I would discuss on this blog, but I was asked for my view on the matter and thus I am going to ask for your views on the matter being presented here in this posting. However, as much as I hate to admit this, it has to do with trainers and training.

In our beloved horse show industry, things have changed quite a bit over the past several years. We have younger trainers that have introduced their own creative training techniques, some who have taken the time to learn and perfect their craft and some that have learned that short cuts seem to work the best. Everything in this industry is about the win, not about the horse anymore.

Where am I going with this?

Well, I was always taught that with anything in life and not just in the show ring, people that take the shortcuts are the people that are most likely to bend/break the rules. Those are the people that I want to discuss today.

About 10 years ago, I was at a show. Not a big huge show at which I was not showing but watching an open western pleasure class. There was only one big name in the class, he was a younger guy. The judge, who was also a BNT whom I know, was very competent.

The class of 17 entered the ring traveling down the rail at the jog. When the gate closed, and the class was being judged they made a few laps before they were asked to walk. When asked to walk they made a lap. No big deal so far.

Then they were asked to lope. This is where the shit started to hit the fan for the young trainer. The horse would not pick up the lead to the left, nor the right for that matter, as we would find out. The trainer tried in vain, but there was no way that horse would pick up the lead, so the trainer started to bump the horses face in an attempt to correct the problem, but that was not working. When asked for the stop, the trainer took half a lap before stopping. And the trainer had to yank the horse into a stop!

On the reverse, the same thing happened. There was no way that horse was going to pick up the lead. The horse never in the entire class picked up the lead, much less even made 1 lap at the lope.

The judge watched the whole thing and this trainer pulled a 2nd place on this horse in the open. I am sure that the judge felt the he could not place the horse 1st as that would be obvious.

Turns out the horse was a 4 year old that had only 60 days training on him and was not ready for the class.

The Steward, whom I also know very well told me later that the judge lost his card over this. The trainer was suspended, not for his performance it that class, but for having his youth riders bump into and cut off other riders in their classes. One of his youth riders parents complained!

The way that I see it is that if you are not ready for the show ring, do not go to the show and if you must, be prepared to not place where you want to place.

If you are a professional, be a professional!

Your horses and riders are representative of you work. If you teach them to cheat, then it says nothing good about you.

If you have to use politics to win, then you need to find a new career or learn to do your job!

I have never had a suspension or been put on probation and I will continue to follow the rules. I will never cheat. If I do not win because of it, then at least my integrity is intact.

Back to training tomorrow!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Rotten Neighborhood Friday Night Free for All!!!!!

The other day I received the following email.


I have been following your posts on FHOTD for a while now and now I am also following your blog on a daily basis. I love the way you go about things in a very down to earth common sense approach. Like you, I am a very Old School trainer, and will remain that way.

I have been training horses for a few years longer than you in California. We have always had a full barn and when a stall did come open, we never had a problem filling it.

But lately, we have been our clients have been taking their horses home saying that they can no longer afford to keep their horses in training. Some of them have been long term clients. I know they will come back when the economy gets better and they have more money to spend.

The question I have for you is, are you experiencing the same problems and what are you doing to stay afloat?

Do you think things will get better?



Well Deb

Times are tough of that there is no doubt. Work for me is slow but steady. I know of several trainers in our area that have been sending horses home because the owners are unable to pay the bills. And some of the owners are being forced to sell their horses at give away prices so they can just pay their regular utility bills.

As far as what we are doing, well we are plugging away keeping busy with a few client horses and a few of our own. I am getting our 3 year old's ready for the show ring so I have horses to keep me in the ring. I am starting to get CNJ's horses ready for her to show. And we are still giving lessons as well.

Meanwhile, we have the girls that are keeping us busy!

We do not go out like we used to and are definitely being creative in ways to have fun.

Going to movies are a thing of the past, at least for now, and our weekly jaunt to the Sushi bar is out, at least for now.

And as much as we come across as party animals, we really do not drink like we used to.

Deb, things will get better!

As professional and amateur horsemen we have all had to ride out tough times and have always managed to make it through.

So, I guess my questions are.... What is everyone else doing for fun?

What are you doing with your horses for fun?

If there is one thing that you would like to do with or without your horses, what is it?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

After the first ride, we have the first week!

The first week on a young horse is really the most important in that horses career. I like to make sure that they are comfortable with me and what I am doing on their backs, so that the progression to the next step is easier for both of us.

By the time I am done with the second ride, the horse will already have a Whoa on him and have basic steering skills and will start to learn to move away from my leg. I like to teach the horse to steer by moving his hind end away from my inside leg (turning on the forehand) and letting him point his nose in the direction that I want him to go. I only guide him with my direct rein by tugging lightly on the corners of his mouth. As the horse starts to turn, I will quit bumping with my calf and tugging on him and I will let him finish the turn on his own. By letting the horse finish the turn on his own, he will start to soften for me a lot quicker.

During the rest of the first week under saddle, I will continue to encourage the horse to go forward, asking him to turn both directions and asking for frequent stops. While the horse is stopped we will only move forward again when I feel that horse give me a sigh and he starts to chew and lick, that way he is relaxed as we move off. When I do ask him to move off, I will bump lightly with my calves until he moves. I never smack the horse on the butt to get him to go forward as I have seen other trainers do. There again, I am moving at the horses pace, not mine. While the horse is moving forward, I like to keep light contact with my calves on the horses sides.

When I stop, I never pull the horse into a stop. When I want the horse to stop I say Whoa and gently tug on both reins until the horse stops. I also use my seat to get the horse to stop and take my legs off of the horse.

I like to make the first week under saddle for the horse as simple as possible, we have the time so why not? The rides are short and will steadily get longer as we progress in training. When I am done with that horse for the day, I will check the his back to make sure he is not sore.

After the first 5 or 6 rides, I will give the horse 2 days off so he can be turned out to play and of course, plot against me for the next week!

Monday, June 15, 2009

"AWWWWW, but I don't wanna go back to work!"

I had a client 3 years ago that decided to have their mare sent out to for breeding. They figured that the mare had been shown enough and they wanted her to take some time out of the show ring and have a foal.

Her days as a career western pleasure mare were over, and she was to be a stay at home mom.

That did not last for long. She had 2 years off and they wanted to show her again!

When they called me and asked me if I could take the mare and get her ready for the ring, I was happy to do so, but I told them that she was going to need at least 30 days just to bring her back into condition before being ridden.

So the mare came back.

I spent the next 45 days getting the mare back into condition. Lots of lunging at the strong trot. Her workouts started out short and as her condition and muscle tone improved their length was increased little by little. The mare had obviously become quite lazy over the past 2 years, so I really had to make her work.

When I decided to get that back on the mare, I really did not have a particular plan in mind. It was time to assess the mare- see what she remembered, what she would give, where I needed to start and what we needed to work on first. So I just got on her and started to ride. I pushed the buttons to see what the mare remembered at the walk, trot and lope. There were a few things that had changed, the mare had become a little 'dead sided' and would not move off of my leg. She was really stiff to the right, and refused to give, so that was going to have to be addressed. Her transitions were horrible as she refused to use her hind end.

I decided that I would start with the walk, I felt that it was important at that point to get the mare as flexible as possible and that is always best done at the walk. I was mostly concerned with lateral flexion and was not at all concerned with getting her head set. That would come when the I started to get the rest of the issues dealt with.

Over the next few days I would work the mare at walk working primarily on lateral aids, asking her to bend around my leg, move away from my leg. When I would stop and then ask her to go, I would rock her back on her hind end and then squeeze with my legs and ask her to go forward. This would create impulsion from behind and help us redevelop those smooth upward transitions.

When I finally did ask the mare for the transition into the lope, I just asked her to lope. With all of the lateral work, she had become lighter on her front end and her transitions had change from rough to smooth and easy. Things were coming back for this mare.

As far as her jog was concerned, once this mare had softened laterally, the jog was really easy!

The thing about re-schooling the show horse that has been off for a while, is that you have to remember that the horse, depending on how far they were in their training, for the most part remembers what they have been taught in the past.

The things that do change, for the most part are physical, such as conditioning. But there is one thing that may have changed that I have not mentioned, and that is, what am I doing differently from what I have done in the past.

What have I learned and implemented into my training program while that horse is off?

For those things I am going to have to make adjustments for the horse that I am training.

As far a re-schooling a stallion that has been off for breeding, I like to remind the owner that, even though we have decided to put him back to work in June, his brain will not arrive until July!

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's Party Time!!!!!!!

OK everyone, I am starting early!

I have a question for you, and that is what is the craziest thing you have ever done on horse back?

Was there alcohol involved?

Were you an adult and knew better at the time or are you going to claim the ignorance is bliss defense?

Was it during the day or was it during the night?

If you were under age, did your parents ever find out?

Were your friends with you?

Was it legal?

OK, I know that is more than one question, but enquiring minds want to know!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Who is smarter, the horse or the rider? The inevitable question!

I was going to do a post on re-schooling the old show horse. But this came up last night and I had to post about it.

CNJ and I were at a equine function or rather and equine disfunction last night, and while there, we heard a hell of a lot of commotion and a whole lot of WHOAS coming from the barn. We went to see what it was and there in the barn was a horse that was tied up. That horse started to pull back. As soon as the horse would pull back, the owner would whoop the hell out of the horse with a rope while screaming "Whoa" at the top of her lungs. When the horse would not stop, she would beat the horse some more and yell "Whoa", there again, at the top of her lungs. The mare never did "Whoa", and the idiot owner damn near got her asshat kicked off!

Sad thing is, now when you get near the mare with a rope, she may start kicking. I'm not sure about everyone else, but at this point, I would rather have a horse that pulls back instead of kicking.

I am not an NH trainer, I just use common sense. I can tell you for a fact, there are better ways to handle a horse that pulls back. And beating them with a rope is not one of them.

When the owner finally gave up on the pulling back situation, she decided that it was time to get on the mare. After having her ass kicked, I didn't think the mare was really in the mood to be ridden much less stand still for her rider to get on.

So as soon as the owner realized that the mare was not going to stand still, she shortened her grip on the lead rope and started to beat the horses side with the stirrup. There again, the mare was in no mood to stand still and in reality, could not stand still because the asshat had her head pulled around.

There are ways to sack out/desensitize as horse without all of the drama. I personally use a saddle pad or blanket, start at the horses chest and work my way to the back. As I am sacking the horse out, I start them out softly, progressively sacking them harder and harder and then when end, I finish up light. I never tie the horse up, I just hold them on a loose lead, that way when they stop moving they can relax. It has always worked for me.

I wanted to go say something to this idiot, but I did not want my Trainers Turrets to come out!

Beside, at that point, what do you say?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Starting a Horse Under Saddle: Ride #1

Now that we have tacked the horse, and he has accepted the saddle, I will think about getting on.

First I bridle the horse, leaving the halter on under the bridle, making sure that it is adjusted to fit the horse properly. Like everything else, I make sure that the fit is correct so that the horse is comfortable. Prior to this day, I have let the horse wear the bridle when I have been lunging him for the past week. I let him learn to carry the bit comfortably his mouth.

Next, I will lift the stirrups and let them drop on the horses side and I will pat the saddles' seat, jiggle the flank cinch, grab the horn and wiggle the saddle. I will continue to do this until the horse stands still and lets me do this on both sides.

Now, I will get on.

A lot of people like to have someone on the ground as a header, to hold onto the lead just in case something happens. I personally do not use someone on the ground as I feel that they can get in the way and I will be more worried about them than what I am doing. However, if you haven't started a young horse before, I would recommend having someone help you for the first few rides. A knowledgeable header can be a great help.

Standing by the horses side, I reach forward and grab the cheek piece of the halter with my left hand. That will give me sufficient control over the horses head and keep him quiet. This also prevents me from pulling on the headstall and the bit. (I do not pull the horses head around, I just hold the cheek piece.)

I then grab the saddle horn with my right hand and place my foot in the stirrup, once it is in the stirrup I will 'hop' on my other foot a few times before standing up in the stirrup. When the horse remains quiet, I will stand up placing my full weight in the stirrup. Then I will lay over their back a few times and rub the off side before I throw my leg over. I do not lay there for very long, just long enough to let the horse feel the full weight of a rider and to be comfortable with it. I am still in a position where I can dismount quickly if needed. Once I throw my leg over and I'm seated, I will let go of the horses head and just sit there holding the reins, talking to the horse, telling them how well they are doing. Then I begin gently bumping their sides with my calves, asking them to walk forward. When they are ready, they will walk a few steps and I will praise them with my voice. When I want them to stop, I say "Whoa" without pulling on them, I do not want to interfere with them at all. This is a big enough change for them as it is.

The first day that I am on their backs, I will let the ride last as long as the horse will carry me around the round pen. With some horses, they may carry me 2 or 3 times around, and others may be willing to go longer. As long as they are happy, then I am happy.

When we are done with that first ride I will dismount on the left side and then go to the off side and get on the same way I did on the left. After I dismount on the off side we are done for the day.

I will be posting next about working with retired show horses as I have gotten a few requests about that.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Starting a Young Horse Under Saddle: Day 1

I was asked to talk about my methods for starting a young horse under saddle and what I expect to get from that horse for the first 30 to 60 days. Well that varies from horse to horse as every horse has a different idea of how things will go.

There are a some things that I feel have to be mentioned before we start.

1) I have been starting young horses for 35 years. I am very comfortable doing so and I am a professional trainer. I still get a little bit of a 'rush' every time on every horse. That rush keeps me on my toes and keeps me from becoming complacent. When you start becoming complacent, you start to make mistakes. Those mistakes can get you hurt.

2) The way I have been starting horses has been working for me for 35 years and may not be the best way for you. Always trust your instincts and only do what you are comfortable with. If you aren't comfortable getting on for the first ride or the 10th, don't do it.

3) If you are not comfortable starting young horses, have a professional do it for you.

4) In all my years in the horse industry as a professional, I have learned to read horses. I am able to tell when they are ready for the first ride. If they are not ready, I do not get on.

5) WEAR A HELMET! Personal safety and safety for the horse are to be considered foremost. If you get hurt, you may not be able to ride another day, if the horse gets hurt- their career could be finished before it even starts. Remember, when it goes wrong, it goes wrong quick and big. No time to second guess or try to undo anything.

The most important thing to remember when starting a young horse, everything you do with that horse the first day will set the tone for the rest of that horses career. If you allow that horse to buck, then he has learned to buck with you on him and he will continue to do so. If he bolts, there again he has learned to bolt with you. Now these problems are not hard to deal with, and the horse wont buck or bolt every time, but when the wrong buttons are pushed, the horse will go back to what he knows best and what is easiest.

So lets get down to the nitty gritty and tack this young horse for the first time shall we.........

First of all, the prep work. Before I even get the horse out of his stall, I really like to check my tack. And I mean everything, because when it goes wrong, it can really go wrong. I check the cinch, billet, latigo, fenders, and then I thoroughly check the bridle as well, bit, reins, headstall and everything holding it together.

Now that I am done with my inspection, I will take my saddle, bridle and pad and put them in the round pen so I can tack that horse up the first time where I have a little more room.

Then I go get the horse!

To prep the horse, I take them to the grooming area and groom them like I do every time I am going to work them. I check their backs to make sure they are not sore before the first ride. Now it is time to go to work.

I like to lunge my horses before I tack them for the first time and I prefer to use a lunge line, because when I tack the horse, he is going to be on a lunge line. I will only lunge that horse until he relaxes, not until he is tired. Very important to remember!

Once the horse relaxes, he has his ear on me and stops when I say whoa, I am ready to tack him.

I do not like to take a lot of time tacking the horse, if I am going to tack him, then I am going to tack him. I am not going to make a big deal out of it and sack him out with the pad for two hours. I am not going to take ten minutes and let him sniff the saddle and the pad either. I will not tie the horse the first time I tack either.

When I approach the horse with the pad, I approach from the front where he can see it and then I place it on his back. If he starts to back up, I will stop and say 'whoa' and continue to place the pad on the horse.

Now for the saddle, I will put stirrup over the horn but not the cinch, I will approach the horse from the front and then go to the horses side. I will slowly swing the saddle over the horse back, and let it land gently. Once the saddle is on the horses back, I will wiggle it a few times and then go to the other side to drop the cinch and the stirrup.

When cinching this horse for the first time, there again, I do not make a big deal out of it. I reach under the horses heart girth where the cinch will go and grab the D-Ring of the cinch and pull it up, then like I am going to do every time I cinch the horse up, not too tight at first, just gradually. Once it is snug, I buckle the flank cinch.

Once I have tightened the cinch and checked to make sure it is snug, I will let the horse out on the lunge rope. I will not force him to go forward but rather let him go when he is ready. If the horse wants to buck and run for a little bit, I will let him, that way he gets all of the buck out before I step on. Letting them get it out of their system, really only takes a few minutes, and soon they start to relax and start to work. Better they buck with the saddle and not me!

After they have accepted the saddle, and are relaxed and "whoa" when I ask, only then will I put the bridle (snaffle bit)on and only then will I consider getting on. If I feel the horse needs another day, then I will wait until he is ready. They are young and have their whole life ahead of them. There is no reason to rush anything.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Rotten Neighborhood Blog Party!!!!! IT'S PARTY TIME!

In 2005 my wonderful CNJ and I went to the Scottsdale Arabian show as exhibitors. We were taking 3 client horses and one of our own. I had not shown at the Scottsdale show since 1995 and I soon remembered why I wanted escape the Arabian industry in the first place. There is something about that show that turns somewhat normal people and owners into the biggest pains in the ass.

Please don't get me wrong, I love my job as a trainer and I love to teach people how to ride and the fine art of showing. But just not those particular clients at that particular show!

Lucky for everyone we were stalled across from a good friend of ours who is also a trainer, because she could see that I was getting really frustrated and I looked like I was going to kill somebody. She figured I needed an intervention before one of my clients ended up wearing their horse for a hat!

So we sat down and my dear dear friend offered me some Brandy (it was cold and rainy, and it was for medicinal purposes. At least that is what we tell ourselves). My dear dear friend told me if those were her clients, she would fire every one of them.

So I trotted off to my trainers lair.... and thought long and hard about this! Three or four minutes is long enough isn't it?

We ended up only firing one of them which was for the best since she refused to listen to me and would not let CNJ groom her horse for me before I took him in the ring. All we had left was the Sport Horse Under Saddle classes and 2 crazy old ladies to deal with. That made it a lot better as it freed up more time for us.

So we partied. And when we were done showing sport horse, we partied more. We had coffee with Black Velvet in the morning, and throughout the day. Then we switched to beer, wine and whatever other libations we managed to get our hands on. Since the showgrounds have several 'mobile bars' set up ringside, there were plenty of things to choose from.

No we are not alcoholics, we were just having a really bad show and needed to vent. We were placing well enough, but as soon as the horses went home, we partied. This is not something we always do!

So I guess this brings up the question for all of you competitors that have gone to the show and ended up having more fun at the exhibitors party than you did showing?

How many times have you ever said 'Fuck It!" at the horse show and decided to party?

What did you drink?

And what is your favorite drink when having a bad show or a really shitty day?

Bad Horsie, Won't GO GO GO!

I received an email today from someone that was having a problem with a horse that stopped randomly and refused to go forward.

This is really not a big problem that could at some point become a big problem should the horse continue to refuse the rider.

The last thing you want to do in this situation, is put on a set of spurs and go to town.

I tell every student one thing that they should always remember and Sir Isaac Newton said it best....." For every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction".

This applies to everyday life including training horses. If your horse stops and refuses to go forward and you whack him in the ass, be may buck, bolt or just become a bit of an asshole for a few minutes. If you are uncomfortable with this, it may be a bit of a problem. There are other ways to get a horse to go forward without getting overly aggressive.

What I like to do with my young horses when I start them under saddle or I have a horse that stops and refuses to go forward is gently tug on the reins from side to side progressively tugging harder and harder until the horses front end moves and they take that first step. Then I will quit tugging and let the horse take the second step with me just clucking to them. I also, especially with the young horses, will encourage with adding some excitement in my voice as I praise them. Once they start taking the first few steps, I will then start bumping gently with my inside leg to get them to move around my leg. Before you know that horse will be nice and soft in the front and moving off of your leg and working off of the hind end. It does not take much!

If I have an older horse that stops on the rail, I will ride that horse on the rail as close to rail as possible, when I feel that horse is going to stop, I will turn him towards the rail and make them rock back on their hind end and go the other way. That way we are keeping the shoulders soft and supple.

If the horse refuses to turn towards the rail or stops in the center, I will turn them on the forehand until they are uncomfortable enough in the front end and are willing to go forward. Then I will go back to getting the horse to work off of the hind end.

I am sure by now, you have noticed I like my horses to be very soft in the front end. Well that is absolutely true. The softer in the front end they are, the easier and more willing they become, they do not have to just be soft in the mouth, but they have to be soft in their whole body as well.

Rotten Neighborhood Blog party at 5:45pm!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

It's Not All Sunshine and Lollipops!

First of All............. Happy Birthday CNJ!

When I first decided to get out of the show ring and take on problem horses only, I did not realize what I was getting myself into. On my business card, I put not only the normal performance horse training information, but I added a phrase that will continue to haunt me. Right underneath my specialty information, I put........"Problem Horses not a Problem"

The range of problems that I encountered were extreme, but the problems that bothered me the most were the problems that became so bad because the owner did not understand that something had to be done. And just changing the type of bit to a more severe bit would not fix the problem.

My favorite was a rope horse that had one day decided that enough was enough and he flipped over, breaking the tie down and putting a horn imprint in the riders chest. They tried a different saddle and changing the bit, to keep the horses head down and the horse just kept flipping over. By the time I got him in the barn, as soon as you put your foot in the stirrup, the horse ran backwards and flipped over. He was just programmed that way.

We were able to fix the problem, though we had to use more extreme methods to do so. No, the horse was not hurt, and the only other alternative was putting the horse down. But we did have to let him flip over and then we had to pin him on the ground for a while. We did take the precautions to prevent injury to the horse and it did take a few times, but he finally quit flipping over!

The owner still rides him, but does not rope on him anymore.

The fix is not always pretty, we sometimes have to use extreme methods for extreme cases. It is not that we like to use these methods or that we always do.

I always tell owners, do not wait, if you are having a problem, and you are unable to manage it. Help is but a phone call away.

I just ask, that, before someone gets hurt, be it yourself, your children, or a trainer, make sure you get help. Tell the trainer everything, and be honest, remember, we have a very physical job and if we get hurt, we can not work to support our families.


It is like CNJ always says, we tell people that we train horses and they immediately think all we do all day is ride. Boy are they wrong!

So why did I post this?

Because , the first call right out the gate this morning, was someone that has a horse that is flipping over and has been doing so for a while!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Yesterdays Dream, Todays Tragedy

When I was younger and showing Quarter horses, we never really thought about the horse’s headset, it was not until I got into the industry as a professional that it was even an issue. And then everything was about the headset.

When I graduated High School, I was thrust into the Arabian horse world. Though that was not my first professional training job, it seemed like a logical place to start. After all I was an apprentice trainer for a large Arabian Horse Breeder in Tucson, AZ. That is to say, I was basically very cheap stall cleaning labor at this facility. I had at the time already been starting young horses under saddle since the age of 11 and started getting paid for starting colts at the age of 15. So, I thought I was hot shit, and that I knew everything.

I was wrong!

Apparently, a horse had to have a nice headset to be able to do well in the performance ring, and that I guess was the most important thing that there was, according to the head apprentice, who, by the way, has a small head with a very large nose and no neck. His head set was not that great.

I soon learned how to get a nice headset and was declared a graduate apprentice after 2 years of learning the craft of setting the head properly on a horse. I learned about English headsets, western headsets etc, etc, etc.

I soon forgot that the horse had any form of forward movement even though when I was young, I was taught that forward movement was the most important thing for a horse.

Everything was about the head set!

I stayed with the Arabian horses for years afterwards because I was drawn to the glamour and the glitter that the show ring offered. Then I really began to take notice of what was going on, the horses, were trussed up like Christmas Turkeys, they had martingales, draw reins, and gimmicks that I never thought could be used on the horses. This was also happening in the other breeds as well. The horses were dumped over, heavy on the forehand and unable to move forward. The spurs that the trainers wore were getting bigger and they all had bats in their back pockets. The horses were four beating and looked defeated and crippled. The bits were getting more and more severe and the trainers as well as the amateurs were all becoming heavy handed. In order for these horses to pick up the lead they have to be turned out towards the rail, because they are so heavy on the front end.

It was then that I decided to stick with cutting only!

I have mentioned many times that I am a very old school trainer, and we do not use martingales or draw reins. I feel that the horses have to be able to go forward uninhibited, and that the aforementioned devices inhibit a horses movement. I use only a smooth snaffle and I train my horses to be soft in the face and the shoulders. This allows the horse to use his hind like he should. And don’t worry about the head set, it will come in time, there is no way to force it to happen. I feel strongly that the younger generation needs to learn, that the best way to train a horse is low and slow. The horse will be happy and so will the rider!

By the way, Friday night cocktails begin at precisely 5:45PM. And no Toadstoolbob, we are not having a black tie party in you bomb shelter!

This is strictly casual.

Monday, June 1, 2009

To Lead or Not to Lead

A few years ago, I had a new client that was having trouble with leads on his reiner. When he would do the figure eights the horse would drop the lead whichever direction he was going. The horse had just started having these troubles and since a show was coming up, it has to be fixed.

I watched him do his figure eights and every time the horse would come to the center on the small slow circle he would drop his shoulder and then drop the lead. I watched him do this a few times and told him to stop.

Now I feel it should be mentioned here, that most of the time when we watch the horse work, we can tell what is going wrong with the rider by watching the horse. And, I will be generous here, 98.9% of the time the problem is the rider, not the horse.

I brought my client into the center of the arena and told him I just wanted him to sit there and we started talking. I told him, I wanted him to walk the horse on the rail and forget about the figure eights. Periodically I would have him stop and stand and then walk off, we did this several times. Every time the horse stopped, my client would drop his left shoulder when he went to the left, and he would drop his right shoulder when he stopped going to the right.

Finally, before I had him lope his horse, I told him to stop and stand, when he was going to ask for the lope, I wanted him to take a few really deep breaths and then ask for the lope. He did as I told him to, and the horse picked up the correct lead both directions with no problems.

I had him go back to doing flying lead changes, and every time he before he hit the center of the eight, he took a deep breath and had a beautiful flying lead change.

He finally asked me how we fixed the problem, and I told him. Every time you stopped you dropped your inside shoulder, every time you dropped your inside shoulder, the horse dropped his shoulder. That made it difficult for him to pick up the lead. All I had you do, was take a deep breath, when you did, you straightened up and became more centered and balanced and that made it easy for your horse to pickup the lead.

Of course, I then added 'It's not Rocket Science'.

Turned out, he was a Rocket Scientist that worked in the space program!