I have been training horses as a professional for 30+ years, and have been involved in all facets of the industry including: breeding, training, showing and teaching amateurs. I have shown reiners, cutters and pleasure horses including english. Myself and my amateur riders have had sucess in the show ring.
My specialty now is cutting, cowhorses and starting young horses.
I have been training my own horse for over 3 years now. I show him as a reined cow horse and I have had some success at this in the AQHA breed shows. But there are days that we are working on something be it spinning, stopping or whatever, and we will end up fixing one problem that may come up only to have another problem pop up that is totally different from the problem that we just fixed.
I am not a trainer and have no desire to become a pro trainer. I learned how to train my horse my own by watching other trainers and asking them a lot of questions. And I did take some riding lessons when I was younger.
My question to you and your readers is....... when you are working a horse and you fix one problem, is it normal for another problem to arise from fixing the other problem?
Thanks for your time
Learning to train a horse on your own is a good thing. It is always nice to hear that people take that much of an interest in their own horses. Not to mention that you have accomplished a lot training a reined cow horse.
To answer your question, yes it is normal to have one problem arise out of fixing another problem. Whether it is with the rider or the horse, so do not worry when this happens. We see it all of the time!
When I used to work with behavior problems, this was one of the biggest things that happened because no one realized that a this type of thing could happen. So learning to recognize when it happens is very important and you are lucky that you can.
That is why we always tell our clients that even when we send your horse home, you are going to still have to train him there. Horses get bored very easily, the average attention span for a horse is about 10 minutes. So we get done working on one thing after about 15 minutes, and them find something else to work on or take them on the trail.
You have to remember, horses are creatures of habit, when a problem arises, it means that there is a change in that normal behavior/habit and then when we go fix the problem we are asking the horse/rider to change there behavior/habit yet again. That being said, sometimes you are better off just riding through the problem, depending on what it is, and the problem will work itself out as the horse exercises his own inner demons.
If the problem is sever enough, and you have to deal with it,then do so and move on to your normal training session.
The reason for this email is to ask you a question about my gelding who crossfires badly. When I ask for the lope he starts off cross firing, but after I bring him down to a trot and ask for the lope again from the trot then he picks it up fine. But after a while he will drop the lead behind while he is loping and it just aggravates me. It is only when we ask for the lope from the stop. We have had the vet out to check him out to see if he is having any problems with his back since this is a new problem that we have been having with him. His saddle does fit him properly and that is not an issue either and the vet has found nothing wrong with him.
We have tried everything, bitting up, long lining, asking him to start in small circles and none of that works. He is my western riding horse and my western pleasure horse and this has cost me a few ribbons. All this does is frustrate my trainer and I both.
Do you have any suggestions?
Yes Julie, there are a few things that you can do.
First of all for those of you that do not know what cross firing means, it is when a horse picks up the correct lead in the front and the wrong lead in the rear. It can be the most Gawd awful thing to ride. But it is fixable!
I want to talk about the mechanics of picking up the lead first.
First of all stay out of your horses face when you work on this.
When I am going to ask a horse to lope, I usually like to ask them to lope from the stop, until they learn how to position themselves for the lead. So normally I do a lot of walking and stopping and asking the horse to keep his shoulders straight and I like to leave his head alone. Then when I feel the horse is ready, I will ask him to lope, normally they pick up the correct lead without any help from me. (I know we have gone over this before, but there are a few differences in fixing this problem.) It is important that we remember that the leads start on the outside hind leg. If the outside hind is underneath the horse the next step for the horse to take is to lift his inside shoulder and drive off of his inside hind allowing him to lope.
Horses that crossfire from the departure, usually are just out of position and need to learn to reposition the hind legs. Horse that crossfire while they are loping have usually fallen out behind.
When I have a horse that crossfires, instead of asking him to pick up the lope from the stop, what I will ask him to do, is stop, push his shoulders to the outside of the circle, that will make his outside hind take step back. After, he takes a step back with the outside hind, I will ask him to take one step forward before asking him to lope. By taking that first step forward at the walk, that teaches the horse to put his outside underneath himself before the departure. I could actually just ask the horse to rock back on his hind end, however, I am more interested in having the horse fix the basic mechanics so it becomes a habit. Besides, you are better off taking the few extra steps and a little extra time to fix this.
When he is loping and you feel him start to slow down, when you feel that he is going to drop the lead, just put your inside leg on him and speed him up. A little bit of speed can be corrected later on. What the focus is on at the moment is getting the hind end under them and getting the horse to use it correctly.
I was asked via email recently to talk about circles. I would have posted the email, however the great computer genius that I am, I deleted it.
But I will continue on with today’s topic on circles anyway.
The big question that was asked in the email was….when I am loping circles at home, my horse usually will either drift to the outside or cut to the inside. And to top it off he will not stay at a consistent speed. What can I do to fix the problem?
To answer that, I am going to break down how I like to approach a circle, and what I expect from my students as well as from my horses.
The reason that doing a nice clean circle is important is that it shows that that the horse and rider are balanced. And by working horses in circles we are able soften and supple our horses.
1) Starting to work horses in the circle.
When I start to work a horse in a circle there are a two factors that are important, and those factors are quite simply, the horse and the rider. Let’s start with the rider, the rider should be balanced and centered on the horse. If the horses shoulders are facing forward, then so should the riders.
The horse should be in line with the rider, and the horse’s shoulders should be upright and s/he should be perpendicular to the ground. (Obviously a horizontal horse would not be able to do a nice circle or any circle for that matter). The horse also, like the rider needs to be balanced. That means that all four feet need to be on the ground.
2) When we start the circle, it is important to remember that there are two ends to the horse. I find that too many people seem to focus on the horse’s front end and forget that though the hind end follows the front end it also works opposite. What I mean by that is, when we do circles the horses outside front leg crosses over the inside front leg. And the horse’s inside hind crosses over and in front of the horses outside hind leg. The more the horses outside front crosses over the inside, the more the hind end will slow down and the horse will start to drop his shoulder and cut the turns. The more the horse’s inside hind crosses over, the slower the front end will work. In other words the horse becomes heavy on the forehand.
3) The fix.
What is important to remember, is that we want the horse to be able to give laterally. The softer the horse becomes the easier it is to create that balance that we are looking for when we start to do our circles or teach the horse new things. Of course, teaching a horse to give laterally means that our horse is learning to do circles.
Once I feel that the horse is soft and supple enough then I will start to work on the circles. I am not going to worry about the horses head position, but I am going to ask the horse to tip his nose ever so slightly to the inside of the circle so that he follows his nose.
I am going to start at the trot and with my inside leg. I will turn my toe towards the inside of the circle to apply light leg pressure with my calf so the horse has to stay upright and engage his hind end.
My outside leg will stay at the cinch so I can get the horse to move his shoulders away from my leg pressure. I apply equal pressure on the outside leg as I do on the inside leg when I start out.
*Remember I want both ends to be crossing over equally.
If the horse starts to speed up, then I apply a little more pressure with my inside leg so that the horse has to cross over on the inside with the hind end thus slowing him down.
If the horse slows down, then I apply a little more pressure with my outside leg so that the horse has to cross over a little more in the front end.
When the horse starts to drift to the center, or cut his corners, then I lift my inside rein slightly and apply light pressure with my inside leg. If the horse drifts to the outside, I lift my outside rein slightly and apply light leg pressure with the outside leg.
When the horse is comfortable doing the circles at the trot, then I move onto the lope and repeat the process.
As far as taking hold of the horses and doing half halts to try to slow a horse down, that can have the opposite effect of what I am trying to accomplish. If I let the horse lope on a looser rein, and apply light pressure as needed there is less confusion and the horse will be easier for me to work with. I want the horse to always stay relaxed and comfortable. If I am always pulling in his face that will never happen and it will take a lot longer for the horse to catch on.
I have been reading your blog since you started it and I do love your blog.
I have a question for you.
I sent my 5 year old mare out for training last year, she is my reining horse, and even though I have had her for a few years, I am relatively new to this.
The problem that I am having, is that when she stops, she dives on the bit and damn near yanks the reins out of my hands. She is being shown in a shanked snaffle this year and my trainer says she will probably stay in that bit for a while..
We have had the vet out and have checked the mare's teeth and everything else that the vet could think of that may cause this problem.
My trainer has bitted my mare up in the shanked snaffle to try to get her to give a little more but that has not helped. And since my trainer has been bitting my horse up in the shanked bit, she has also started to brace on the bit when we go through our transitions.
I have read your blog where you say that you like your horse to be supple and soft when you get on them. Do you do that on the ground or do you do that on their backs?
Is id a good idea to bit a horse up in a shanked bit?
And one other question, I have heard some of these cow horse people use the terms cow leg and herd leg, what does that mean?
Let me start with your last question about cow leg versus herd leg.
When we ride pleasure horses we refer to the outside leg which is the leg that is the closest to the rail, and the inside leg which is the leg that is on the inside of the circle. The same goes for the cow leg, when we cut a cow out of the herd, the leg that is the closest to the cow is the cow leg and the herd leg is the leg that is closest to the herd.
Diving on the bit can be indicative of other problems such as lameness, soreness in the mouth or back etc. So it was a good thing that you had the vet check your mare for any health problems that may have caused this problem.
But as a training problem, we usually see this when the horse is continuously pulled into the stop instead of the rider letting the horses face go when he stops. The reason that the horses dive on the bit when we pull them into the stop, is that they are simply looking for a release so they are more comfortable in the stop. Another thing that will cause this, is if the horse is stopping on the front end first.
There are a few things that you can do to fix the problem.......
1) Work on softening the horse laterally. I know that I repeat myself a lot when I say this, but it definitely helps. Get the horse to relax and lift the shoulders by lateral flexion, do plenty of that as well as counter flexing. In other words get the horse to bend to the inside of the circle and to the outside of the circle. Lots of circles doing this. Once again, do not pull on the horse, but rather, gentle tugs, just enough to get the horse to bend.
2) After you have softened your horse. then start working on the stops, asking the horse to shut his hind end down first. If he stops on the front end, then back him a step or two and ask for the stop again. Do this at the trot first and then, ask for the lope and work on the stop.
3) When you stop, sit down and ask for the stop without pulling on him, if he does not want to stop, then you can pull on him a little until he does stop. If you have to pull him into the stop, then keep the pressure on him until he backs a step or two rocking him back onto his hind end.
All of these exercises can be done in a regular snaffle so there really is no need to work your mare in a shanked bit at this time until the problem is fixed.
As far as suppling my horses, I do none of it in the ground. Though we may say a horse looks soft and supple, that really refers more to a feel than a look. So keeping that in mind, I would rather feel whether or not the horse is soft and supple while I am on his back rather than see it while I am watching him run around me in circles.
One other thing that I need to mention because I am asked this all of the time, and that is,"Do you back your horses to soften them"
The rule out here is that you back a soft horse but do not back a horse to make him soft.
Bitting a horse up in a shanked bit is a no no! I do not care how loose the reins are, this can lead to the horse tossing his head and then on to other problems. Especially if you have snaps on you reins. The horses hear those snaps and start to try to figure out what is going on, next thing you know, the horse is trying to flip over. We never use snaps!
I have seen several bad accidents when the horses are bitted up in shanked bits, primarily because the person working the horse did not know what they were doing. Unlike when you are on the horse, you are unable to feel what the horse is doing or how he is reacting to the bit so you are unable to help him through any problems he may be having. And if the horses is having issues, then you can let him go rather than there being no release.
Many of us have a favorite song, that when it comes on the radio we can't help but crank it up and maybe sing along to it. Sometimes we play it over and over to the point where anyone else within range, is quickly sick of hearing it, let alone at full volume.
Then there comes a song which carries with it an image in our mind of our horse.
What? How did they know about my horse? How did they know what was going on that day? Who told the songwriters about my horse? I want to know NOW!
We all know they don't usually write songs about horses. Those probably wouldn't sell and money drives the market. Songs are usually about people. Jilted ex-lovers plotting revenge, the one perfect love, cars, personal heroes, gunfighters, bar brawls, drinking and all sorts of stuff. Just not horses, let alone any particular horse, and not likely mine.
For the red mare Johnie, that song is K.D. Lang's "Big Boned Gal" off the cd/album Ultimate Torch & Twang. It just fits her. The tune and melody would be perfectly suitable for cutting too.
So what song do you associate with your horse and why?
Ok, Here is the thing.. I received this email a few weeks ago and some how deleted it, then I was able to retrieve it, and then, well lets just say I am not a computer genius. The reader that had sent me the email is looking for any help that we may all be able to give her.
Okay, here is a question for you and your readers: what can I do about a totally buddy sour jerk? I did not realize just how bad the situation was until the other day we had to put the four horses in the ring because a boundary fence was being redone. We took the two mares out first and came back for the two geldings. the fjord was just standing in his stall waiting his turn. The QH was going absolutely bonzo! My daughter put him in the freestanding heavy-duty stall where he could not go over the gate, etc. It was rodeo time at the ok corral, I can tell you!! Since we mess with the horses in the ring or outside the barn; this has never been an issue before. Quite frankly, his idiocy scared me--more that he would hurt himself and we would have to bury him(not an easy job since he is 15.1 and about 1,000 lbs). I am so open to any ideas to deal with him. On the down side, financially sending him out to a trainer is not an option or believe me, he would so be there!!!! We simply left him there in the stall with hay and water and walked away. Not too much else we could do. We kept an eye on him(which was not hard as he spent so much time screaming--Funny, none of the others even bothered to answer him. All day, like they knew he was being an idiiiiot. Have not had this go on with any of the others at all. HELP!!!! Thank you in advance. . A ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Well reader A
Usually we try to wean them away from the herd, and sometimes we are successful and sometimes we are not so successful in doing so. I have had horses in the past that we were never able to get them over the problem, they would just attach themselves to any horse that they were next to in the barn and they remained herd bound.
When I say that we wean them away from the herd we usually turn them out alone, in the biggest pen we have and feed them out there. When we want to work them and they act like a herd sour beast, then we make them work a little harder. I have always found that work is the best thing for a horse.
To prevent them from becoming herd bound, we try to rotate the horses throughout the barn so they are next to different horses and are not able to become attached to any one horse. I do at times like to turn my horses out with others horses as long as there is sufficient room in the pasture for them. But I also like to turn them out alone for the most part so we do not have these problems.
As far as sending him out to a trainer to have the trainer fix the problem, that may not be the answer either. Remember what he does at the trainers is different than what he will do at home, so it would be my concern that you would be wasting money sending him out. You really need to address the problem at home.
But I have found over the years that this does not always work. Sometimes they get over it and sometimes they do not. Hopefully the readers of this blog will also be able to help offer you suggestions that may help as well.