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 always ask clients a question and it is usually the same question.And of course that question leads to a myriad of other questions and usually there is no real clear answers.
Who was the first man/woman to ever throw a leg over a horse?
What made them think that this was a good idea?
Why didn't the ride a elk instead?
Could you imagine hearing the ring announcer say "Lope your Elk please"?
I always picture two stone age cavemen sitting on a hill daring each other...
'Dude. go for it'
'No you go for it, I dare you'
'You go for it, I double dog dare you'
It's funny that there is no real definitive answer as to when horses were first domesticated , thought there are pictures of them appearing in cave art from 30,000 years ago.And they were clearly wild animals, mostly hunted for meat. But the first known use of horses as transportation was for chariots 2000 years BC and there is increasing evidense that horses were domesticated 4000 to 3500 BCE in the Eurasion Steppes. So certainly someone had to be the first to climb on a horses back.
Was he/she liquored up and did they do it on a bet?
I can only imagine theirs spouse out there saying "Go ahead and get on, but if you get hurt don't come crying to me".
What I really wonder about though, is what has become of the horses that we domesticated. Those that used the horses as transportation and as a, for lack of better words 'tool' to get work done really did care for them. They revered the horse in all his/her glory. They treated their horses as my father treats his car.
They knew that if they did not take care of the horse that they would not be able to go anywhere or get their jobs done.
And there are times that I think that the first people that got domesticated the horses truly did them a great injustice. Look what we have done to the horses that we so love.
Did they use things such as Chain Gag bits or Kimberwicks?
But one would think that if they used a harsher bit when the horses were first domesticated that it was out of ignorance and not to get the horses to set his head. As they learned to work with the horse,certainly they figured that you can soften and supple a horse with the use of a lighter bit. However,I tend to think that when man first started to domesticate horses, he used a halter when he started to ride rather than a bit. But I could be wrong, that has happened in the past.
I imagine that as they started to work with the horse that perhaps they looked at the mechanics of the movement of the horses.And as they learned how the horse moved they used that knowledge to make themselves better horsemen. The trainers of today were not the first to discover that of the horse drives from behind, then it makes the work is easier.( On a personal note, I have a profound fascination of the mechanics of horses movement,and it has been a tremendous help throughout my career. Watching the movement of every horse indivually.)
What has changed form the days of old, is the invention of money, the Horse Show and the show mom/ show dad!
Next Friday we discuss who was the lucky bastard that first nailed a shoe to a horse foot and what he was on when he did it........ Poor Bastard!
By the way everyone, there are only 91 shopping days left until Christmas!
Recently as you all know by reading CNJ's blog The Well Groomed Horse, we took little Kit Kat who thinks he's big Kit Kat to a local show. For what it was an for the fact that he had not been to a show in some time I felt he did well. And I was proud of how CNJ handled him.
That being said, this particular post is not really about the show, though I will be referring to something I saw that really made me realize what is wrong with the horse industry.
As we were waiting for CNJ to go into her class, I was was watching a local Arab trainer who we will call Ralph( as much as I want to out the bastard, I feel that it is best that I do not). While he was schooling his western horse, and I wish I had a video of it, the worthless idiot never stopped jerking on the poor horse. He was riding the horse in a set of Romel reins and could not keep his hand still. Personally, I was ready to call 911 because I thought Ralph was having a seizure.HE would jerk the reins up always bumping that curb bit,then he would jerk his hands to the sides. All the while he was berating a client in the warm up ring because she warm up ring. Perhaps SFTS can come on here or other Arab showman can comeon here and explain to us the constant jerking and bumping as I would love to know what that is all about. I have shown many a horse in romel reins and never did that.
Here is my point.
How many of you have gone to a schooling show to use it as just that?
To school your horse.
How many of you have gone to a show knowing that your horse is not really ready, yet you just want to get him/her exposed to the outside world?
We do it all of the time.
We know that if we are taking a horse to show, and they are not ready and they place, sometimes it is a gift. And we graciously accept that gift.
After reading some of the comments on CNJ's blog, I have something that I want to say about how we handle the shows and have handled them for many years. And this is how we do it with the youngsters and mares and stallions alike.
Now it should be obvious that the shows are different from being at home. Though we want our horses to act as they do at home while they are at the show, we prefer not to get after them too much. Especially the stallions as we know that when we take a stallion to a show on Wednesday,their brains wont arrive until Friday.
We also know that when we take a horse to a show and they are not ready, then they are not ready. All the jerking on them and getting after them will not make them ready, in fact, that will only exacerbate any problems that you ma have.
If you take your horse into the warm up, get on him and he is not picking up the lead and you keep getting after him about it, he will not pick it up. But if you just stop the horse and wait a few minutes, then try again, the horse will more than likely pick up the lead. How do I know this?
I do it all of the time. Slow and easy.
If you want the horse to act the same at the show as he does at home, then you need to give him the chance to make a few adjustments on his own. Allow him to settle as there are a lot of distractions.
My favorite thing to do is to take a horse into the warm up and lunge him before I get on him, so he can work out his inner demons on his own.I do not bit them up,I just want them to relax. Then when I get on him, I like to do the same things that we do at home,some softening exercises at the walk and jog. Then I like to lope lazy eights on a loose rein, slow figure eights, sometimes I do flying changes, sometimes I do simple changes. If the horse starts to cut into the circle or speed up, then I will stop wait a few seconds and start all over. This way I am changing the horses habits, and allowing him to be corrected without a lot of fuss. Letting him work with his head down, and relaxed.
The simple truth is, that I will not be able to effectively take horse that is not trained or ready for the show, and get him fully trained for the show the week of.It just wont happen!
So why did I bring Ralph into this?
Because the horse from what I understand is a seasoned show horse, and yet Ralph is still having to "Yank,crank spur and spank" this poor horse into the ring. A seasoned horse should have been relaxed and ready to do his job,without all of the help from the trainer. It's funny, I felt that the trainer was just trying to show off at the horses expense.
If you want your horse to be relaxed and do his job at a show, then let him enjoy it so you can too!
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love to win, but I want my horse to enjoy his job. We will have bad days at the shows, but if I allow my horses to learn to relax at the shows, then my job is a whole lot easier and their minds are clear as they enter the ring to do their jobs.
CNJ here. It is with a heavy heart that I type this. Howie slipped away quietly in the back yard yesterday morning. We have no idea what happened or why, he was just gone. He was a young dog, only about 6 or 7 years old. He too was another rescue, but came to join the pack in an odd way at a time, I wasn't so sure was exactly the right one, but when do rescues ever come at a good time or happen as planned?
Mid December of 2004, JR had just lost his dog Sassie of 15 years. Those two had been everywhere, done everything- together. She went with him on every trip when he was hauling. From here to Washington, several trips to Wisconsin, back to Virginia, she was with us when we went up to Sweetgrass, Montana to pick up a horse from Canada...
Losing her was a tough blow to take. Only a couple days later one of our friends called to ask if we wanted another dog? Yeah, it was kinda sudden. But a couple she knew had found a Husky wandering the streets of their neighborhood and taken him in. They had run ads in the paper, put fliers up all over the place, took him to the vet to have him checked out and scanned for a chip, took him to the pound to see if they had any "Missing Dog" notices, posted on Pet Finder -----> Nothing. Nobody was looking for him. As much as I dislike people like that, I'm glad in this case. Otherwise we never would have gotten to have such a wonderful dog.
This couple would have kept him if they didn't already have 6 dogs of their own and a few of their in-laws dogs as well. So I went to look at him one night after work. Rough guesses- he was around a year old. His paws were HUGE and he was gorgeous! His nails had been done, he had the sweetest temperament and no real manners to speak of. How could I possibly say no? More importantly- How could JR?
Turns out the couple that found him lived on the corner of the next street over and three or four houses down from my sister. We were all supposed to get together at her place for Christmas morning, opening presents and breakfast. So arrangements were made to pick him up Christmas morning around 9am.
JR and I had agreed not to get each other anything. We have this agreement every year, and every year one of us breaks it. Since the giant, goofy puppy was mainly black, I told JR he was getting a lump of coal, about an 80 lb lump, for Christmas. He is Mr. Rotten and he was very likely deserving of such so he didn't really question it much.
Christmas morning we went to my sisters place. Just before 9am I told JR I had to go get his present. I drove around the corner to pick up the puppy who was sporting a giant, sparkly, gold bow around his neck. He jumped in the truck for the short drive back and at one point was in my lap. It's amazing we didn't hit anything on the way! Since the truck is a diesel, we were announced as soon as we pulled in the driveway.
JR came out the front door to get his giant lump of 'coal'... He kept shaking his head at me and hugging the dog. Figures. *grins* About the only question he kept asking me is "What did you do now?"
We tried a few different names before settling on "Howie". Dutch, for Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Dalton- Dalton, Colorado. We already had a Timber and his brother Kodiak. We decided on Howie, because it just seemed to fit. He was just a goofy dog that way and needed a goofy name. He liked to howl too. Howie Wowie fit as well.
Remember the part about him having no manners? Well JR let him in the house one night and he came up to the coffee table. First the front paws were on the table. "Howie Off. Then all four paws were on the table. Howie, OFF. Then his front paws were in my lap on the couch. Howie OFF! Then all four paws were in my lap. HOWIE, OFF! Dammit, you big doof. And there he sat. Pinning me on the couch and licking my face. How can you be mad at a dog like that?
A few strange things happened yesterday morning. JR's watch, the one that needs no winding, has a 48 hour back up if you don't wear it and all that good stuff... It stopped. It was an hour off when he figured it out.
When JR dropped off the girls, my brother & SIL have cd's and bells hanging in their tree over the driveway to keep the birds out and from crapping all over the drive and the cars. No breezes to be felt, yet as he was getting the girls out of the car, the bells directly above him started ringing like crazy. None of the rest of them in the tree made a sound.
My mother was a school teacher. She taught elementary education.
She is honest to a fault, and put up with my crap when I was a teenager. ( that wasn't to difficult as I was a perfect angel). No matter what I did she was always behind me whether or not I made the right decisions or not. Mom always worked hard and made the sacrifices so that we always had what we needed. And she taught me more about being a parent than I realized before our twins were born.
In other words, I have a great mom!
I see those same qualities in CNJ when it comes to the twins, and our teenage daughter. She is a great mom, honest and hard working.
So to CNJ and my mom, from me and the three, we all love you both and are blessed to have you in our lives!
And to all you Mothers out there,( and I mean the real mothers and not the other type of mothers)....,.Happy Mothers Day!
I have been thinking about this post for a long time. I know, I know, thinking and doing are two completely different things. But the reason that I have been thinking about this post for so long is that I really did not want it to sound like the same old drivel that I seem to sometimes say.
The reason that I finally decided to write this today, was, there was a woman that was riding by our place on her horse and she was having a few issues with her gelding. I was in the front pasture fixing some fence, and made a comment about her horses lack of cooperation. Not a Rotten comment, more like a factual comment.
You could visibly see how this horse was leaning on the bit and trying to pull the woman out of the saddle. She did ask me what I would do and yes, I did tell her. So I gave her a little lesson on what I would do.
Like I always say, we worked on softening the horses shoulders, getting the rider to lighten her contact on the horses mouth and start using more leg. When the horse did not respond to her leg,I told her to turn her toe towards the center of the ring and use the widest part of her lower leg. After a few gentle tugs on the reins, and learning to use her legs, the results were almost instantaneous.
So why is this called Fluid in motion, sound in mind you may ask?
Many years ago in 1974, I had just turned 11 and I wanted to learn to start horses under saddle. There was a old man, actually at that time he was not that old, that grew up on a ranch and had been starting horses since he was very young. The old guy knew what he was doing on a horse. I had to beg him to teach me and to let me start a few. For the most part I followed him around all day and asked a lot of questions hoping that he would finally give in. And he did that summer. He put me on a young paint horse and let me start him, and as he saw that I had some talent, he started to put me on a few more.
The thing is, I would always watch him work a horse, I was amazed at how fluid the horses were in their movement. When Arnold asked for the lope, the horses just rolled into the transition, they never had to lift their heads up to move into it. His downward transitions were the same,it was as if the horse fell out of the lope and back into the trot.
The horses minds were also sound. It was like they knew that they would never be forced into anything that they did not want to be forced into. When the horses decided it was ready to learn something new, that is when Arnold taught him something new.
I asked Arnold how he did it, and he said he painted a picture in his mind of what he wanted the horse to do and how he wanted the horse to look and worked to, for lack of better words, paint that picture on the canvas.
It was pure art! There simply is no other way to describe it.
I knew then, that I wanted to be a horse trainer.
I when I am working a horse, I always like to close my eyes and picture what I want that horse to look like when I am working them. I like to picture the horse having a fluid motion, on all fronts, be it in transitions, spinning, working a cow or going over jumps. Then as I work the horse I start to make small adjustments until I can feel that we are making progress towards in my mind, what would be the ideal training session for both myself and the horse.
Since I learned that from Arnold, I have always taught my students to close their eyes for a moment and take pause and picture the ideal work session for them and their horse. A sort of meditation when they first get on their horse.
Today, when I gave our neighbor some help, I told her to close her eyes and picture how she wants her horse to work and then work towards that goal. She did and she told me that it allowed her to relax more and let go and focus more on the positive and less on the negative.
She also told me to write a book, so I referred her to the blog!
So, tonight, in a somewhat party atmosphere, I raise a pint to Arnold, wherever you may be, I am forever in your debt for teaching me the one thing that has always been with me throughout my 30+ year professional career in the horse business.
There is a great divide amongst horse people that rivals the Healtcare Debate in the US. And that is the debate of whether or not Natuaral Horsemanship is better than the common sense horsemanship that is taught by Non-Natural Horsemanship trainers. Does the common sense horsemanship work better?
In this trainers opinion yes it does. At least, common sense trainers do not sell you a bunch of products that will supposedly make your horse listen to you. Take for instance the 'Carrot Stick'. Truth be known, the carrot stick is nothing more than a long bat. Not a whip, a bat, there is a difference!
Yet people buy the Carrot Stick by the dozens and the they wave it at their horses like an orange magic wanded Harry Potter and expect the problems to magically go away.
Here is the link to a video of Linda Parelli that you need to watch if you have not seen it already. I want you to watch before you read on and form your opinion of what is happening, then make your comments from there.
About 10 years ago, I took a horse in training for a woman that was having a hard time with her horse throwing his head up and backing up when she tried to catch him. Then, when she was finally able to catch the horse, and tack him up, he would throw his head when she tried to bridle him. So I went to her place to watch what she was doing.
At that time I was unfamiliar with Parelli and his methods and the woman who owned the horse told me the she has been using the methods that she saw him use at a clinic. I of course, being the forthright honest individual that I am told her that the methods that she had learned were not working obviously.
I watched her catch the horse and sure enough he threw his head and backed up and soon as she approcahed him with the halter. When she finally managed to wrangle her four legged friend and get a halter on him. He started to try to walk all over her,so she started to waggle the lead rope at him to get him to back off of her. When she waggled the lead rope at him, the horse would back up. But me being the astute observationalist, noticed that the snap would rattle every time she would waggle the lead rope at her fine steed.
I told the woman, that the problem is not the horse, but the methods that she employed to train the horse. Every time she approached the horse, the lead rope would rattle and the horse would back up as he was conditioned to do. The head throwing was as a result of the lead rope being waved at the horse. Her bridle, had snaps on the end of the reins and they would rattle,so her horse would throw is head and back when she tried to bridle her horse.
The fix, well that was simple as well, she took the snaps off of her reins, and attached the lead to the halter without using a snap. It took a few sessions, but the horse finally quit his vices. I went out there once and charged her a one hour evaluation fee, figured out the problem, and she was able to fix it on her own. I ended up starting a few horses for her later on and she never went to a Parelli clinic again.
Am I that good? I suppose you would have to ask my clients.
I watched that video, and I have to say, that set the natural horsemanship back to the stone age. Linda Parelli is terrorizing that horse for no reason what so ever. It really is not that difficult to get a horse to respond to you without all of the fanfare. Would I have gotten after that horse?
Absolutely, but I would have only gotten after him once and that would be the end of it. The horse was obviously reacting to Linda Parelli and her jerking him into oblivion more that anything else. So in reality, it was Linda's fault that the horse was reacting the way that he was. The horse is trying to figure out what she wants, and that is quite a feat, as Linda does not know what she wants from this horse. If she had let the horse stand for a minute then start all over she would have had better results.
I have had a lot of horses come into the barn that have been Parellized, and they all act the same way. They have no idea of what you want from them. Once they figure it out, it is pretty easy from there.
I know, but JR, you have not seen the whole video and what was really going on. I saw enough to know who the problem was there. It started when the horses owner was being told to " wiggle, wiggle thump" and continued to go down hill from there.
Linda terrorized this horse and got nowhere with him because it was apparent that she had no clue as to what to do.
Just because a clinician shows up in chaps and is wearing spurs, that does not make them a horseman. I had clients that would wear breeches at a show so people would think they knew what they were doing. There again, it is not your outfit that makes you a horseman.
My personal opinion, is that the majority of these people are frauds. They tell you what you want to hear and promise to fix every bad vice that your horse has permanently. When the truth of the matter is, these old vices will resurface no matter who the trainer is. It is the trainers job to teach the owners how to deal with the problem when it arises in the future and not charge the owner an arm and a leg for cheap products that can sometimes make the problems worse.
I do realize that this topic has already been over done, but I do feel the strong need to discuss it.
As I have said in the past, I started in the Quarter Horses as a kid and for me it was showmanship, reining, cutting and western pleasure. As I graduated High School in 1981, I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a horse trainer. The guy I was starting colts for in Tucson introduced me to the Arabian horse and told me that he could get me a job at Al Marah Arabians in Tucson. I had been to a couple of Arabian Horse shows and was amazed at all of the glitter and glamour and the horses.So I got my job ans worked in the Arabian horse industry for about 10 years, always working with Quarter on the side. Over the years my view of the Arabian horse illusion changed as I saw the ugly side.
Enough about me!
I remember back in the 80's I was schooling a few Halter horses for an Arab trainer that I was working for. When the horse would not 'show' to his satisfaction he told me to take the whip and sting the horses shins. I refused and soon lost my position as halter guru in that barn. I had asked one of the halter trainers why they always put the whip across the horses shins, and she told me that is so there is no welts when the horse goes into the ring. I will always remember seeing the grooms put alcohol on the horses welts to try to get the welts to go down before they go into the ring. That was the last Arab barn I ever worked in.
The cold hard realities of the Arabian Halter horses, is that there is whip abuse that does go on and eventually the horses will let loose. It is hard to feel for the people that perpetuate the abuse, though I hate to see anyone, horse or man, get hurt because of their own stupidity.
A year before that, I was attacked by an Arabian stallion that had been abused as a colt so that he would show better as a halter horse. A few years prior to that same horse attacking me, he bit the owner in the face in the show ring as the owner was standing him up in front of the judge.
So lets move forward about 25 years and nothing has changed. Apparently a trainer was attacked in the show ring and the horse won that one.
When are these idiots going to learn that you can not keep whipping a horse into submission. They will go off and it is only a matter of time before they do.
I have been handling stallions for the better part of my life and with the exception of a few incidents with other peoples stallions, I never had a problem. Our stallions are gentlemen and they are expected to act that way at all times. But we never have to whip them nor do we ever lead them with chains on. Whips and chains are over used and abused as well as the horses that they are used on.
Has the Arabian Horse Industry now taken another negative hit. Yes they have, and that is largely due to the continued methods that they use to train the horses.
The same goes for the way that they train their performance horses. They over use spurs, bats, and continually bump the horses faces to get them to set their heads. I watched an Arab trainer on the RFD channel talking about the horses that he was training and it was all about the horses headset. Never about asking the horses to move laterally and there was never any mention of softening his young horses.
At the Snobsdale show this year, I was watching the reiners warm up, and there again it was all about the horses head. They never left the horses faces alone. Drove me nuts!
It is unfortunate that this is spilling over into all of the breed shows.
I do know that nothing will ever change unless we force change or unless we get these people to use a common sense approach to training, but we have to remember that to them it is all about the glamour, the glitter, a trophy and a ribbon. And it is not just the trainers, the owners share the responsibility as well.
I do know how hard it can be to rehab a horse that has had his mind blown by bad training methods as I had earned a living doing it. I also know that those horses can and will hurt you. And just because we call them domesticated livestock, that does not mean that their survival instinct will not kick in.
If someone here that was new to the horse world were to ask me how I would describe the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, I would have to say that it is totally fake. Full of some of the most shallow people that have ever walked the face of the earth.
Yes I have to admit that I did show the Arabs for several years because I was drawn to the glamour and the glitter. That is natural I suppose, I like shiny things and I always thought that the Arabs were shiny. Our 16 year old daughter calls the attraction to shinny things, ADDOLS, Attention Deficit Disorder "Oh Look, Shiny". And while the horses are really shiny and wreak of show sheen, the people that show them really do lack the same luster as that of their mounts!
I as usual am really disappointed in the amount of over bridled horses as well as all of the jerking and spurring that goes on. About 90% of the horses that are being ridden at the show are behind the vertical, and if that is not bad enough the trainers are all using bats to drive them forward. I hate to be the one to break it to them, but the horses can only go so far forward when their chins are tucked to their chests.
There is one particular trainer that could not get his western horse to pick up the lope and I pointed out to him that his horse was too far behind the vertical and that made the horse too heavy on the forehand. I even videoed it on my iPhone (love that thing) and showed him what his problem was. Needless to say he did not even thank me for the advice. Perhaps he will pay the bill when I send it to him. But I won't hold my breath.
One other thing that struck me as odd, was how many Scottsdale Top Ten Jackets were being worn by the people that were there. It seems as though everyone had a jacket. Am I to assume that is the prerequisite for showing at Scottsdale, that you have a top ten jacket. I can only imagine the participants at the show greeting & introducing themselves to each other. 'Hi my name is Bob and I have a horse that is a Scottsdale top ten, that sure is a lovely jacket you are wearing'.
I wonder, do they have a secret handshake?
But it was soon pointed out to me that you can buy a Top Ten jacket in the vendor tents.
Perhaps it is true, that I am becoming far too cynical as I grow older. I really have seen the changes to the Arabian horse industry that are not good. But the cold hard reality of the horse industry is that the changes have occurred in all breeds. The trainers are younger and have more have access to more and more gimmicks that come on the market.
I was asked by a reader today if I am going to continue this blog. At first I pointed out to her that I am not sure if I am helping anyone or even reaching anyone. She assured me that I am.
This blog was started with the intention of helping people reach their horse training goals and will continue on in that function. All of your input is a big help and appreciated.
So I will continue, though probably not a post a day. Maybe we can start with one topic a week.
But want to ask you all a question..... what changes have you seen in the horse show and horse industries that turn you off?
We have all seen the atrocities in the show ring lately. The blocked tails, over bridled horses, four beating, spur stops, reiners scotching in their rundowns, head sets, non-collection, soreness, defeated looks, the single footed walk and the list goes on.
And on, and on, and on.
We all know too well about all the Bad things happening to Good horses, to get them there. (Sounds like a great title to a tell all book, doesn't it?) The injecting, the whipping, starting them too soon, jerking on the reins, constant jabbing with spurs, gimmicky equipment to push the horses into a false frame, dumping the horse onto their leads and this list goes on just as long as the first one. Maybe this list is longer since there are usually three or four crappy ways to get each result listed above.
But what would happen if the judging took a sudden curve and actually pinned the horses who show natural movement? The horses with balance and collection, free flowing strides, self carriage, willingness and get this, a perky "I LOVE MY JOB!" expression.
Chances are, there may be fewer people in the ring showing their horses! This would likely be because of a huge WTH? moment in barns across the country. We know how to beat them down, but how do you bring them back up? And what is all this talk about collection and impulsion? A few more foreign terms to the crowd may be contact, lightness and forward.
I can hear it now. "Forget suppleness we just got them rigid, abrasive and resistant! I just got my horse to give in and he completely gave up. Why and how do we undo all of that? And what does it feel like to ride them then?"
Just like the way things are going now though, what is seen in the upper levels is mimicked all the way down the line. And this will be no different. People will come up with new ways of trying to do things, cheating their way through instead of learning how to train their horse. There will still be those rushing their way through and expecting immediate results. Instant gratification instead of waiting for the correct responses.
It would be nice to see the change though. I may doubt it will happen, but at least one can always hope.
On the last post about softening, it was mentioned that my wife CnJ took my mare Johnie into the ring under hunter tack. They placed 2nd out of 9that day. I told her not to get anymore hairbrained ideas.
Fast forward a few years...
We took a client horse to another local show, just to give him something else to do. He was a reiner who was working towards being a cutter. Nice horse, great owners and we all thought, "Why not?" He placed 3rd of 12 entries and also 4th of 15. He placed behind 'finished' horses whose riders were dressed to the hilt for the schooling show.
So now's your chance to spill it.
What did you do?
Where did you go?
When did you take a horse to an event, enter them in something they weren't bred for, built for, trained to do or whatever- entered as a joke and placed?
Or maybe you didn't place at all but had a great time anyways. We know that happens too. As long as everyone had fun, who does it hurt?
Starting with the bit, I like to use a simple offset snaffle with copper inlays on a sweet iron mouth. This combination of metals helps promote salivation and wetness in the mouth. I don't use snaps to attach my reins and the bit hobble goes 'under' the reins where it will not interfere with rein pressure.
The bit should be adjusted to where it rests comfortably in the horses mouth. Not too high producing a number of wrinkles, not too low where it bangs into the incisors or the horse spits it out. A wrinkle is just right, just snug enough. Also the buckles should all line up.
The beginning of every ride at our place starts with softening work. From the first few rides to warming up the seasoned horse, after a few minutes on the lunge line we get on and soften the horse at a walk. Changing directions, asking for bending. Gentle tugs on the reins and release to let the horse finish the turn on their own.
Stop, wait, take a step back and walk off, go forward, turn left, bigger circles, smaller circles- changing it up a bit as we go along. Circles to the left with the nose tipped out, tipped in, all at a walk on a semi loose rein. Contact comes in a gentle tug on the rein. If the horse doesn't respond, tug a little bit harder. Tug and release, tug and release. If there's nothing to pull against the horse can't pull on you.
When asking for the bend in the neck and their shoulders to move, bring your hand back to your hip. Light tug and release letting your horse find their 'sweet spot'. If the horses head comes up a bit and they resist, stop and ask again. Give them a chance to figure out what you're asking them to do. They aren't going to learn it all in one day. They learn it faster when they figure it out with less interference from the rider.
Sit up straight, moving their shoulders and hips with your legs. If needed, turn your toe out and use your calf to push them over. Ask them to reach under themselves and stretch a little. Crossing over a little more with each step as they become more flexible. The horses poll should remain for the most part, level with their withers. A little above, a little below, no big deal either way. Relax, keep breathing and enjoy the ride.
If it feels like the horse is beginning to lean on your leg, your using too much. Bump, release, bump, release... get a step or two and be happy with that. Praise them for doing what you asked, then ask for it again. as they figure out just what you want and begin to soften, you will start to feel how you get a bit more each time.
As the title implies this thread is going to discuss rollbacks per request of Rosesr4evr. I will actually be discussing it over a few threads so it can be easier to understand. This weekend when my assistant trainer/photographer is home we will do some instructional photos and put a link to the gallery in the sidebar. I do realize that I am a little slow on getting threads out, but I hope to change that.
So here we go.
I am sure there are a lot of you that in your past have seen the reiners at a horse show do a pattern. The patterns may always be different depending on the judge as to which pattern he wants to use, but the elements are the same. The patterns always include rundowns, sliding stops, spins, figure 8s, lead changes, backing and rollbacks. Not necessarily in that order.
How well that horse preforms these individual feats really depends on one fundamental thing, and that is balance. He hind end has to be engaged and the shoulders have to be light and soft.
Knowing that we have to have a horse that is soft and supple, that is where I like to start. One thing that I feel is very important, is that when I am softening a horses face, shoulders both vertically and laterally, I never like to pull on them at all. I never pull them into a stop, rather I use my seat. When I ask the horse to give me his face, I just gently tug on him and ask for little bits at a time. If I ask the horse to turn into a circle I gently tug on him and lightly bump him with my calf just to get him started and then I like to let him finish on his own. The more that I pull on him, the more likely he will become rubber necked. By using little gentle tugs you accomplish a lot more in a very short time.
It is my personal preference not to bit horses up using side reins, nor do I long line my horses very often. Though there are instances in which I have long lined them if I felt the need to.
As to how this all applies to my method for teaching my horses to do roll backs, It is really quite simple.
Once I have my horse stopping on his hind end and standing quietly, and they have become nice and soft in the face and shoulders, I will start to work them on the rail and use the fence to teach them how to rock back onto their hind end and do a rollback. I like my horses to wrap themselves around my leg if they need to.
First I start on the rail at a strong trot, I do a few laps and let my horse start to rate some at the trot. When I feel that he is ready, I will ask for the stop by sitting down and rolling back on my pockets. As I sit down I exhale and say whoa softly. Remember, my horses is comfortable and relaxed and working so I do not want to startle him by yelling whoa at him. I also want to make sure that I do not lean back in the stop because leaning back will cause him to stop on the front end. I always stay perpendicular to the ground so the horse is able to move freely underneath me.
Now that the horse is stopped on the rail, I ask him to stand for a minute as I do not want him to anticipate the turn. While he his standing next to the rail I will ask him to to tip his nose towards the rail, by giving him a little tug, then I apply a little outside leg (the leg closest to the rail) so that when I ask him to turn towards the rail, he can not drop his shoulder. I will now ask him to turn towards the rail by tugging on the outside rein releasing my outside leg, and bumping with the inside leg (the leg that is closest to the center of the ring) until he starts to turn towards the rail and go the other way. Once he starts the turn I let him finish it on his own. I will do this a few times going both directions and then I go on to something else for a while. Before I finish for the day, however, I will ask for a few more turns on and towards the rail. Sometimes, I will ask him to stand after each turn, sometimes I will ask him to move off immediately. Remember, we do not want the horse to anticipate what is going to happen next.
At this point, I do not apply any neck rein, just direct rein. I want the horse to learn to stay upright and not drop his shoulders in the turns. I also want him to learn to rock back on his hind end so he is able to push off and go the other direction.
What is also important to remember, is that I want my shoulders to stay square with my horses shoulders. If I turn my shoulders in the direction that we are turning, that will cause me to inadvertently move my leg back causing to horse to turn on the forehand.