Friday, March 27, 2009

More On Crossing Water

There are a lot of different methods to teach a horse to cross water. If you are riding with other horses let a horse that is not afraid of water go in front, most of the time your horse will follow. If he still does not want to cross then I will try to get him to the edge without getting him hyped up, let his head down to check it out and then lightly encourage him. If he wheels and turns, make him turn all the way around so he will be facing the water again. Repeat the process over and over. It is similar to the method you use when getting your horse to load in a trailer. Another way is to get someone with a well broke horse to pony your horse. When you get to the water, stop make your horse circle the other rider while he is holding the lead. He will turn his horse as you circle him. He will gradually move his horse to the waters edge so when your horse circles him he will be in the water. This may sound difficult but it works for me. Be patient keeping your horse calm. Sometimes if you let all the other horses cross ahead of you and ride on down the trail it will make your horse want to cross to catch up with the rest of the herd. Once you get your horse in the water try not to let him rush through. Try to get him to stay calm, and if possible ask him to stop. This will show him that there is nothing to be afraid of. Go back and forth several times across the water. This will help to desensitize him. Hopefully, the next water he sees he will not fear it as much. If this ride is a training time for your horse make sure you have the time to teach. Before you go on a ride with other riders (that will not want to waste their time waiting while you teach your horse to cross water) have your horse (as much as you can) used to the normal obstacles on the trail. This is one of the obstacles you are most always going to face, so work with your horse at home or on a ride with a friend that understands this is a training session so you and your horse will be ready for the time you can go riding in a group and not be faced with these issues.

Crossing Water

I have been ask how I would teach a reluctant horse to cross water. I have never found this to be a problem. I suppose if you live in an arid region that it might be. We get a lot of rain here and there are always puddles and ditches with water. We also live on the river and there is a riffle or shoal that you can cross. Running water is more of a problem than still water. The most trouble I have had with water is when we ride on the ocean. When waves are coming at your horse it is frightening. We never had any trouble getting our horses into the ocean, but when the waves came at them they would want to retreat to the shore. With patience and coxing we were able to get them to accept it. I remember one woman that wanted to get her horse in the ocean so bad that she ask if I could help her. I told her to ride her horse between my horse and my son's. We formed a wedge with our horses on each side. We let our horses heads almost touch, keeping her horse's head slightly to the front of our saddles. Then we rode to the edge of the water, when the wave came the water came up on our horses feet and because horses are herd animals her horse felt secure. As the wave retreated we followed a little and as with most things repeating it several times prevailed the fear. She was very happy. However, I do not recommend this for everyone. All the riders in this scenario were experienced riders. The proper way would be to pony the horse without a rider until the horse got used to the waves and the water, keeping the rider safe.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spurs or Whips?

We all hope we have a willing horse, but we have to play with what we are delt. If you have a lazy horse, you will find they are quick to learn that they would rather be poked in the side with a tennis shoe than to speed up. You will also find it is hard to set a lazy horses head, because you are releasing the pressure on his mouth hoping to try to get him to move forward. The first thing I suggest is, do not ride in tennis shoes. It is not only dangerous, but they are not at all affective in stimulating the horse to move forward. If you are a novice, I suggest you use a riding crop instead of spurs. Spurs are not bad if you learn to use them correctly, but you should never use them if you are trying to hold yourself on the horse with your legs. Wait until you have learned your balance. When riding with a whip or spurs never use them on the same side all the time as this will get your horse going sideways and not tracking straight. When I am riding in the ring, I will put my whip toward the center of the ring or use my spur on that side. Most horses have a tendency to want to go toward the center of the ring for several reasons. Most of the time that is where we stop and talk with our friends or where we stopt to rest. When a horse wants to shy away from the rail, most riders will try to pull the head back toward the rail. This will cause the hind quarters to swing toward the center of the ring. If you use your whip or your spurs on the side next to the center of the ring it will encourage him to keep his hind quarters on the rail along with his head. Therefore keeping him tracking straight. If a horse is not tracking straight it will make him take a longer stride with one side. Therefore, he will not be level in his gait.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


All the things I have been telling you to do up to this point are with a snaffle bit. I do not recommend that you change to another bit unless you are not getting the horse to respond the way you want him to. If he is progressing then you should give him more time. If you need a curb bit in order for him to gait properly or set his head then you could change. You should select a bit for what it is intended to do. There are thousands of different bits and one size or shape does not fit all. I will attempt to explain different bits and what they are used for in another post. I will be glad to explain to individuals what I would recommend for them to use on their horse for certain situations. Just send an email and explain what you would like to have help with. We might have to try different things but most of the time we can come up with a solution. Sometimes we will ask our horse to do things that they are not capable to do. Then on the other hand we are not asking in the right way. All horses are different and they can not be treated alike. Lazy horses and hyper horses are the hardest but they certainly cannot be treated the same. A smart horse can also be a problem as he will try to figure out things on his own. A dumb horse of course is bad to try to teach anything. If we can all have a willing horse...of course that is the easiest.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

According To H.T. Part 14

If you are only using lite pressure in your reins, it should never cause your horse to toss his head or throw it sideways. If your horse does this it is because he is hurting somewhere. It is up to us to figure out where. It could be in his mouth especially horses under the age of six years. Young horses are constantly shedding and growing new teeth. Always look in the corner of his mouth for a rub place or a sore. Most of the time it will be caused by a ill fitting bit. You should check the width of your horses mouth and the bit should be about 1/2 wider, giving a little room on each side when you pull the bit up in his mouth. If you have a wider mouth piece the post will not be in the center and it will aggravate him. If you have a snaffle bit it will pull back and forth and where it breaks in the middle will be rubbing across the roof of his mouth. I do not like to ride a horse with a chain curb. Often this will cause irritation which will also cause head tossing. If your horse is in pain he will be thinking more about that than what you are trying to teach him. The less pain you cause the faster your horse will learn.

Monday, March 16, 2009

According To H.T. Part 13

Several years ago, I taught riding at the University Of Morehead. I found one of the first things that I had to relate to my students was my every move. Sometimes, I would forget the student may not understand certain things I was trying to teach simply because I had forgotten to go over the basic things, thinking these things should already be understood. I want to at this time, go back just a little. I think I touched on developing a pattern before I ride my horse. After I get my horse turning left and right, I will pick out objects and ride toward that object trying to stay in as straight line as much as possible. Then I will start turning around objects/cones and do figure eights. These exercises will help my horse to guide and will also make him more supple. After I have gotten him to do this at a walk, I will then ask him to step up in gait doing the same thing. Always remember to make your horse stay on the rail unless you are practicing turns. If you are riding in the hallway of the barn do not let your horse turn short of the end. Do not stop in the same place each time that you mount and dismount. Try to keep your horse moving at a consistent speed. Never let a horse turn the direction he wants to go even if it is the direction you want. In other words we want to be the one doing all the thinking, we want the horse to only think about the things we are asking him to do, when we ask it. Your horse will learn the pattern very quickly so you will want to mix that up a little each day.

Friday, March 13, 2009

According To H.T. part 12

I am going to continue talking about the proper way to ask our horse to make turns, without getting into a tug-of-war.

Once my horse responds to the pressure I put on his face, then I will start putting pressure on his side with my leg. This will be on the same side that I am asking him to turn toward. I am wanting him to bend around my leg. This is also enforcing my command to also move forward rather than just turning his head. If you ever watch western movies note how they jerk their horses in the mouth, they will be throwing their heads up and their mouths open. This is not what I want to happen. I will be very easy but firm in my actions, giving my horse time to think and respond to my hands and legs. After starting my horse in the turn I will start releasing some of the pressure, rewarding him for his response to my hands. Sometimes you my have to encourage your horse to continue forward as most horses will slow down or stop when you start the turn. Practice this at a walk (most everything needs to be taught from a walk).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

According To H.T. Part 11

Directing Your Path

When You are riding your horse the two most important factors are getting your horse to go in the direction you are asking and the other is STOP. I once heard John Lyons say that he thought his horse Zip, could sense what he was thinking and would respond. I also know that Stacy Westfall rides her horse without a bridle or saddle and her horse responds to her ques. These are exceptionally well trained horses, but all of our horses have the potential to give us the same thing, if we are able to communicate with them. At the beginning we use all the aids we can to get our horse to respond. After he is doing what we want we should be able to drop off some of our aids and be more suttle with our request. Our horse will be more relaxed and less resistant when we are able to do this. With a good rider and a well trained horse your should not be able to detect hardly any movement from the rider. At one point in my life I was part of a very good group of riders that made up a drill team. We had some very successful performances with our Mountain Horses, but the best compliment we had was a lady that said she worked very hard to see the ques we were giving our horses to perform the different patterns and she could never see us do anything. She could not believe we could get the horses to perform the patterns without movement from our hands. Of course we were using our legs, which is not as easily detected by the audience. This is what we all strive for.

Now, how do we do teach this? We start by using direct reining and using a snaffle bit. In the picture you will note the direct reining, even though we have graduated to a different bit. We will actually be putting pressure on the horses face by pulling the reins in the direction we want him to go. Our horse should respond by turning his head in that direction because we taught him to respond to pressure from the ground lessons we did in the beginning of our horse's training. Later in the horses training, you should be able to lay the rein against the horse's neck and get the same response as shown in the next picture.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

According To H.T. part 10

OK, you thought I wouldn't make it didn't you? :o) Please enjoy part 10 and remember to sign up to our blog. We encourage your comments and if you have any questions or topics that you would like for us to cover, please feel free to post them.

I know you are tired of hearing me say this over and over, but don't forget to do your basic ground exercises before you start riding your horse. You will find your horse will pay more attention to you and will not be near as spooky when you ride him. I will assume our horse is gaiting at a certain speed. I will now start asking him to increase or decrease this speed gradually, but never to the point where he will break out of gait, or loose his rhythm. I like to guide my horse as much as possible with my legs. I have found that a pacy horse (a horse that has a tendacy to want to pace) will fall out of gait and into a pace if you let his head move from side to side instead of keeping it straight. If I have been doing my flexing exercises then I will be able to control his face/head/eyes by supporting his head with the opposite rein in pointing it one way or the other. I recently read a article that said if you over do your flexing exercises, and let your horse flex all the way back to your stirrup then you will have a problem of the horse going straight to the stirrup everytime you ask for him to flex. Like I said, you are in control, so only ask your horse to flex as far as you are asking for by using the other rein for support. Pacy horses are better riden in a straight line as much as possible. Keep a pacy horse away from small circles and figure eights until he is locked into gait better. I have also found that soft ground will encourage a horse to pace. What is a pace compared to the Mountain Horse gait? A pace is a 2 beat gait with both feet moving at the same time on the same side. This is not a smooth gait and is not desirable in the breed. I have put a picture of my horse pacing on this blog and notice the rein. See what happens when I am not supporting his head. I am riding him with a loose rein and allowing him to flex in his neck back and forth. Then note the picture of him in a 4 beat lateral gait, with the reins in contact with the mouth. We want to keep a soft, responsive mouth on our horse, so again, don't pull, but have enough contact that you support him and don't leave him hanging out there alone.:o)

What The Blog?

I have a friend that emails me when I am negligent in writing on here and she will say, "What the blog?" I had the opportunity to make my annual trip to Mexico (after I didn't think I was going to get there) for the past 3 weeks. My duties were suppose to be picked up by other family members, but as you can see that didn't get done. I apoligize and will try to post longer entries to make it up to you. My brain seems to still be in Mexico, and with the weather change I wish my body was to, but I will take a reality check and post part 10 of According To H.T. this afternoon, so check back.

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