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!


kestrel said...

Actually, a really BNT in this area has the theory that horses have little tiny brains, etc. If that's true why do our horses figure us out faster than we figure them out?! ;)

JohnieRotten said...

I always thought horses could figure us out so fast because with them everything is black and white. There is no psycho analyzing anything.

kestrel said...

Actually, my guess is that they just see what is, instead of what they believe they see!

JohnieRotten said...

Unlike us who always try to read between the lines!

CharlesCityCat said...

I had a real problem back in the day with getting my old Pally to switch from right to left, always got the front, but couldn't get the back. We did finally work it out and for the life of me I don't know what I did.

Now my mare (Whinnie), I was able to teach the changes in just a few minutes one afternoon. Go figure!

Cut-N-Jump said...

I can only wonder how long until I am the subject of discussion here...?

Ah, well, if ya can't laugh at yourself... So here, I'll do it for you.

You forgot to mention keeping your inside leg on them when asking for the lead. Stop, move the shoulders over, keep the leg on them and ask for the lope. Something I obviously don't do, or Pal would be nailing that left lead every. single. time.

And the left one was always the one I never had problems with any horse picking up- it was always the right one.

CCC- You can add that to the 'Go Figure' pile.

JediMom said...

That's cool. Years ago I boarded one of my horses at a Youth Ranch/Theraputic Riding program. The owner would watch me ride and finally told my ex-husband to watch the brim of my ball cap and every time it was pointed down at my horse to yell at me to look up. I've had the same problem of looking down since I was a teenager. Everytime I looked down the mare looked down and would slow down and eventually stop or trip. One day I'll have it fixed!

CharlesCityCat said...

I always thought Spunky and I had problems because he is like right-handed and I am left-handed. Does that make sense. I also used to let him be heavy up front because I didn't use my leg well with him. What ended up happening was, he figured out how he needed to land after we schooled, and I am not shitting here. One show season, I had to ask for exactly 2 lead changes and thank goodness they were from left to right. He was a berry smart boy.

Later, I think my leg got better or something.

JohnieRotten said...


I have always noticed that when I get lazy on a horse the horse does to. That is why when I am cuttting, I have to keep my eye on the cow.


We always tell people that horses are either right handed or left handed. You have to adjust for them because they wont always adjust to you.

I am goingto look at Whinnie later even though Thank Gawd she is not for sale!


Quit thinking so much. Just ask the horsie......and you are not getting another ponie until you figure that out!

fernvalley01 said...

JR ,I think you nailed it when you said horses think in black and white . None of the other bs we fill our heads with, what ifs and the anticipating. Body mechanics of the rider play such a huge role in the horses gait and, willingness . Even the difference I see when I ride with a sore back as opposed to feeling well.

CharlesCityCat said...

There is no doubt in my mind that we need to try to see things their way and not expect them to see it our way. They can't, they aren't programmed that way.

JR, will enjoy your comments on Whinnie, she is a character.

cattypex said...

That's an AWESOME story JR!!!

I was having issues on a really nice horse a few months back... he was resisting me like crazy.

The 19 yr old instructor said "are you breathing?"

That's all it took....

Having had umpteem years of voice lessons, I'm pretty good at breathing correctly from my diaprhagm instead of my chest. It really helps in a lot of physical endeavors - when I remember to do it.

Horses are super sensitive when you've gotten their attention. I'm always amazed by the Clever Hans story.

"Body mechanics of the rider" How do you get average teenagers to GET that whole body awareness thing? It will make even a very unathletic rider a whole lot better.

JohnieRotten said...

Hi Cattypex

Welcome to the party. Just intime for coctails. We are drinking Land Shark lager. The island style beer fir the nights when your spuouse Jamaican ya crazy!

There is my plug for the beer>

It is true that horses are very sensitive to what we are doing. I always have to remmind students that the horse does not just have to balance himself. But he has to balance you up there as well.

Every subtle movement is felt. As I said before, I have to focus on the cow so I do no start to over correct myself.

And I feel that it is true that horses see us for what we are and nothing more!

JohnieRotten said...


I looked and Whinnie, and she can come live with us if you need her to. She is a cute little ponie and looks like she wants to be a big jumper. She is definitely CNJs type of ponie.

She almost has the Irish Draught look to her and I have a special place in my heart for the Irish Draughts> I would love to see more pics of her!

kestrel said...

One of the fun things I do to students is to borrow an active toddler and have the student carry the kid around on their shoulders or piggy back for a while. It's pretty easy when the kid is sitting still, but when they lean and twist...bout the same body mass ratio of adult to horse, too. the twins will be great teachers!

JohnieRotten said...


We have been thinking about renting out the twins for just that.

Makes sense though. If people could feel whAt it is like for the horse. Maybe it would help them learn.

kestrel said...

It does help, and you can really have fun, too! I had a couple in for riding lessons. They showed up with big spurs, big bits, big know the type...and both were completely kack handed. Yank and pull hard, with bits with enough leverage to break a jaw...evil idea occurs. I break the bridles down, put human bridle of binder twine on bits, and dare couple to hold bit between chin and neck and ground drive each other. Massive bruising, cussing yelling and hilarity ensue. (Well I thought it was funny!) I did notice that when they got back on they had a healthier respect for the power of that bit.
I'll also put a bit in a student's inner elbow, with chinstrap on back of arm, (arm is bent with fist fingers on shoulder and elbow is pony nose) then pull on reins...Dale Mylar taught me that one. It'll correct human ideas of bit action in a hurry!

CharlesCityCat said...


Thanks for the comments on Whinnie.

We originally got her as a young 4 yo for my hubby's daughter. I was doing the work on her while the daughter was practicing on my old guy. Well, in the way of dysfunctional families, that didn't work out so well. Good thing though, Whinnie is not a child's hony. She takes a lot of patience and care, even now at 13.

Lucky she grew to be right on the mark so that I don't look to stupid on her. She is very balanced and has a nice jump. Did a few 3'6" fences and she did well but would never do it on a regular basis.

I don't have many pics of her since our old computer crashed and we lost alot of our pics. I will get some more soon. She has greyed out from the pics on my blog as they all do, which is a shame.

I told her she could come live with you, but she is very concerned about the temps out your way. The Princess does not like to sweat, she gets irritable.

CharlesCityCat said...


Very inventive training aids. I can see how they would be real useful in getting people to understand the horse's view point.

JohnieRotten said...


We hsvr never used that technique before but have been a few recently that i have wanted to use that on.

We have also had them show up with spurs on. Though we where spurs when we cut, I usually take them off of my students until they learn how to use spure properly.


I meant what I said, she is a gorgeous pony. I understand her reservations about the temps out here, I have a few myself. I saw a few people spontaneously combust last summer. They were walking down the sidewalk, and poof!

It is really time to move!

CharlesCityCat said...

I don't like hot weather anymore either. I know they say the humidity is low out your way, but 110 is still hotter than shit.

Hope those people didn't leave too much of a mess when they combusted, LOL.

Glad you like Whinnie, she is definitely my Girl. She ended up replacing my old Pally who I retired to pretty pasture ornament some years back. Totally different type of horse but being closer to the ground has its advantages and Whinnie is great out on trails. I want to take her foxhunting this coming year, I think she would do great.

JohnieRotten said...

The combustees just blew away in the dust storm that followed.

Keep us informed of how she does fox hunting.

We are going to have to find ponies forthe girls at some point and an irish Draught for CNJ.

Me, I am going to stick to cutting horses!:)

CharlesCityCat said...

Will keep you informed on the foxhunting.

I love the Irish Draughts myself. I have a friend who imports Irish horses and breeds them as well. She does alot of crossing with TB's.

It is good that Mother Nature took care of the mess that she created with those combustees!

kestrel said...

So where ya at in AZ? Hubby and I are looking at a place by Pierce, tired of snow and gray skies! We've got friends there that say it is more temperate than other parts of the state...I did work on the Central AZ Canal project years ago, and lived by Marana. Pretty nice to winter there...but it sure looked like summers would be scorching.

cattypex said...

I love love love that bit trick!!!!!


JohnieRotten said...


We are in far South east Valley of the Oven!

Queen Creek area.

Never rains here and it just gets plain hot here.

I was born and raised in Tucson and that is a lot better than here. We have entertained the thought of moving to Patagonia. Hereford Sierra Vista. Other than that we are done with this area!

Cut-N-Jump said...

Kestrel- Our teen daughter wanted to try barrel racing on her pony when she was still riding and around the ripe age of 6 or 7.

So down to the local arena we went for kids night, to do a few runs in different events for time only. She seen the other kids wearing spurs and going fast.

She was able to lope her pony at that point and decided spurs were the way to go and begged to wear them. I refused to get her any or put them on her boots, as her pony doesn't tolerate rough handling and didn't need spurs for anything. Besides the fact she didn't ride well enough at the time to use them properly.

She wanted to lope the pattern, so I told her to go in the arena, make a circle over here and ask for the lope then proceed to do the pattern- like that kid just did...

Nope! She had her own ideas.

When her turn came, I led them to the gate, reminded them to make a large circle and start to lope, blah, blah, blah- Mom's speaking alien again... tuning out... doing it MY way... I know what to do... I know how to ride... Will she EVER shut up???

She got about 10 feet inside the gate, laid into the pony with a loud YYYAAAAAHHH! and kicked her hard with her spurless boots.

The pony took off like a shot and proceeded to run hitting her stride in a few short jumps when she crowhopped in protest and dumped her self rightous little ass in the dirt where it belonged. Our daughter no longer had that smug look on her face, at least it wasn't visible under the dirt mixed with spit and tears as she bawled, wailed and howled from the arena with all eyes on her.

All I had to ask her was, "Do you still thik you need spurs?"

She didn't want to get back on the pony, but she did, and she was more than content to walk and trot the pattern for the sake of doing it to make Mom happy, if nothing else.

I think she earned a healthy dose of respect that day for any animal that allows you to sit on their back. Because they can easily take that away at any time.

Cut-N-Jump said...

CCC- the beauty in spontanious combustion is that everything pretty much evaporates before it hits the scorching ground.

They are entirely gone in a flash. Now if we could just direct that as to who combusts...

I have the TB mare I seriously considered breeding to an RID. Of course we will most likely be breeding her to the pony stally for the girls Welsh/TB crosses, as they come first you know.

Speaking of the pony stally, he was to be the pony the teen daughter 'grew into'. Only he never grew more than 2 inches taller than her current ride- the mare that dumped her at kids night. He was also never gelded as originally planned either and ended up my pony, not hers.

Strange how things work out sometimes.

kestrel said...

I spend a lot of my training time on the ground...I think people are like horses and can only handle one new thing at a time.
For spurs, I split my groups up in twos and one is horse, bent over, and other is rider. Human and horse ribcages are very similar, and that way each person learns where the sweet spots are for specific moves. Nothing can irritate me more than watching someone poke in the wrong spot, then whack the horse because it didn't understand what the is major incentive for people to respect spurs. The 'horse' can poke the 'rider' back!!!!
I also set up 5 gallon buckets in a midjit barrel pattern, have rider's assume a body shape similar to the horse's, and run it themselves. If the rider learns to balance a pattern on their own two feet, they'll improve their time immediately, because then they know the balance their horse needs out of them to be able to run a pattern under them. The riders seem to have a blast with these, and I know the neighbors do!
Funny story on pony! I love ponies, they can be the best teachers!

CharlesCityCat said...


Yes, spontaneous combustion sounds like it could be very useful if we could only find a way to direct it. MUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAA!

Good lesson your daughter learned, especially since it came directly from the horses mouth in a roundabout kind of way.

I know what you mean about the way things happen. Both Whinnie and my gelding Wizard were to be for my stepdaughter, neither scenario worked out well, so now I have 2 honys. Oh well, I love both of them and they both have talent and are very pretty.

Cut-N-Jump said...

Kestrel- we may learn something new, but then something else seems to go out the window. I think there is only so much room for knowledge in the brain, adding to it means it overflows at some point and things are then either forgotten or tossed into the back 40 of the brain, until it's needed again.

Horses and people alike- you fix one problem and then something else becomes an issue. It never ends...

That pony mare of ours is just golden. In color and character! Of all the times she dumped the kid, it was always justified and not once the pony's fault. Although if you ask our daughter, she will likely tell you differently, of course. The mare has been a part of the family for 14 years.

kestrel said...

CnJ: Snork!!!! I always excuse it because my brain is already full of "where everyone's stuff is!"

Pony sounds fabulous. I lost my little guy last fall and sure miss him. The best thing about him was that he just wouldn't tolerate "extremely not supposed to go there," but also would tolerate, "anh, it's just a kid being a kid." Wise little ponies are truly priceless.

JohnieRotten said...

kestrel said...
I spend a lot of my training time on the ground...I think people are like horses and can only handle one new thing at a time.


Ain't that the truth. I have had several in the past that can't even handle one thing at a time though!

kestrel said...

ReSnork!!! My keyboard hates you...

Cut-N-Jump said...

Just freakin' Lovely!



Reply [Errors when replying to ads?]
Date: 2009-06-02, 2:51PM MST

I was out walking my dogs last Sunday and came across the freshly butchered skulls of two horses. Please screen carefully who you are giving your horse to. Meat is meat and times are tough. Be aware that someone out here is eating these animals. I don't think there is a law against this practice, as the Sheriff office was not particularly interested. Just wanted to let you all know.

Location: Pinal County


Carry on.

kestrel said...

Dear God!!!

JohnieRotten said...

Where the fuck was this?

sierra1a said...


I hope you do not mind if I make a non training comment here, but rather a slaughter comment.

But I have to say that this is a horrid thing to post on craigslist. Someone needs to get the county riled up about this.

JohnieRotten said...


No, I don't mind at all. This is actually an open horsie forum.
Training is what I know best that is what I blog about it and hopefully we can answer peoples questions. But for the most part it us about the horse! Though I am planning on doing Friday night cocktail parties in Rottens Hood! Gawd only knows where that will go!

So feel free to comment on slaughter or whatever else comes to mind.

sierra1a said...

Thank you for your reply.

Can you talk about starting young horses under saddle one of these days?

I have watched a few people do this but would love to here about your methods.

JohnieRotten said...


I think I can handle that!

Dena said...

I don't want to think about the craigslist thing.

JR just because I am not a complete bag I will post a picture of at least one of the future cow hustlers.
Along with a grey for CNJ.
Oh wait, come to think of it, I have an all in one.
Bred like a wowser too.
I can't remember how many crosses to Eclipse for CNJ and Beaver Creek and some other goodies for you.
And of course, she is grey.

Don't wonder how this happens. I will tell you.
I haz a magik wand.

JohnieRotten said...

Yer killin me Dena!

Cut-N-Jump said...

Not sure exactly where, as the ad doesn't really say, but at least the poster is warning people that it is happening and to be proactive about where exactly your horse goes.

I wish I were making it up, but why would anyone want to???

Nice to know our share of Keystone Kops are hard at work, dilligently blowing off crimes... Typical

...and yet another reason to want to move.


toadstoolbob said...


I will gladly stop by for cocktails on Friday evening.

At what time will the Shindig start and is it BYOB?

CharlesCityCat said...

Hey, if there is a Friday Shindig, can I be in charge of the grill? That is my specialty.

The hubby works for AB, so I will bring the beer. JR, I have cases of the Land Shark that you like since AB is the importer.

JohnieRotten said...


Your Hubby is my hero. MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer!

You can be incharge of the grill, I will bake the pies!

cattypex said...

Wow, almost sounds like an Urban Legend in the making....

SFTS said...

Wow, yeah, body language has so much to do with making subtle cues to the horse! It's amazing how many riders do drop their shoulders or worse, their hips while keeping their shoulders square. Some of them just subconsciously do it without even realizing it. Wonders never cease that the horse has a problem!!