Horse Training Tips

Good training should have the same activity level as paint drying. How do you get your horse to respond to slight pressure when he only responds to heavy pressure? By that I mean if you pull the reins to the side, does your horse’s head come around with just a few ounces of pull or does it feel like it takes a crane to move his head?

First, what is the value of your horse responding to light pressure? For one, if you’re on a runaway horse and you can’t pull his head around for a one-rein stop, you’re in trouble. Another is it takes far less energy on your part to ride the horse. A horse that needs lots of pressure to respond is a horse that’s tiresome to ride. That’s no fun. Might as well go to the gym.

So let’s take it from the reins pressure. If your horse’s neck is hard to bend from one side to the other, start from the ground. Stay on the ground and teach him to bend. Put on a rope halter. Hook on your lead rope. Stand next to him around the rib area.

Read More

Positive Horse Training Tips

Would you want to learn in an environment that is confusing and unrewarding? As it is for humans, it is very important to create an environment to teach our horses in which is open, clear and rewarding. Using Positive Horse Training concepts helps to provide this environment.

Food is very meaningful to most horses and one of the best ways to reward good behavior. Many horse owners steer away from using this type of reward as they believe their horses could develop unwanted behaviors such as barging or nipping.

When using food as a reward for teaching horses this does not happen as the horse has to ‘earn’ the reward and if unwanted behaviors are not rewarded they will not develop. As always, the timing of the reward must be very precise to prevent unwanted behaviors. Using a noise, such as a clicker, as a bridging signal to mark the behavior you want is the best way to ensure your timing is right.

Food is not a bribe, I do not feel bribed when I get my pay at the end of a month’s work, I feel like I earned it!

Read More

Saddle Fitting

Frequently, poor saddle fit affects the gait of a Paso (or gaited horse) negatively. And this counts, that goes without saying, for all horses! If the saddle makes the horse uncomfortable the horse will try to compensate by changing its body shape, to alleviate the pressure points that cause the discomfort.

The most common saddle fit problem comes from a saddletree (the frame the saddle is built on) that bridges in the mid-section, and makes excessive contact on the four corners of the bars.

This usually results in the horse lifting its back up into the saddle to get the pressure off its shoulders and/or loins – a problem caused by a saddle tree that has bars that are too straight and/or too long.

With it’s back lifted up into the saddle, the horse can’t get its head up in its natural working position. And, consequently, the gait soon goes away. Saddles with bars that are too long also place the rider too far back on the horse’s back, tipping the rider forward, and thus shifting the rider’s weight forward, too. This makes the horse short step in the front.

Read More

How to Find the Right Saddle

How to Find the Right Saddle

In the former post of some days ago, I elaborately talked about CHOOSING the right saddle. Especially how do you find the right saddle and other stuff for your horse loving daughters? My girls love every horse related gift so I want them to be happy when they finally ride a horse.

So, how do you FIND such a saddle? Well, after buying and trying a dozen other saddles, and asking the same question that you are asking, I decided the only answer was to design my saddle… a long and arduous process that has resulted in today’s Don West “Signature Series” Pleasure-Trail Saddles.

They’re made and sold by Have Saddle-Will Travel, Inc. To accomplish this, I took what I felt was the best of English, Western, Australian, Spanish, and South American Saddles, and incorporated them into one Pleasure-Trail Saddle. But the most important part is still the tree. If the tree doesn’t fit the horse’s back correctly (comfortably), none of the other issues will matter.

To tell if a tree fits properly you need not take measurements, make casts, etc. etc. In today’s saddle world, and I talked about that in my post on CHOOSING the right saddle a couple of days ago, the fact of the matter is that very few custom saddle makers make their trees. If and when they do, they are very, very expensive. Tree makers, who make a living by making trees, won’t build bars to your measurements. They guess what tree they have that comes closest to your gullet measurement.

Read More

How to Choose the Right Saddle

Quite a few folks have problems with fitting a saddle to their horse. That’s in no way unique. Everywhere I travel around the country, doing my Training for Trail Riding and Saddle Fit for Trail Rider Clinics, I am encountering frustrated folks (like you) who love their horses and realize that the saddles they are using are not serving them (or their horses) well.

One thing that you have apparently already learned is that it is much easier to buy a saddle than it is to sell one. Each mistake (learning experience) is expensive…and discouraging.

Before we can look for an answer to the problem, you must know what you are looking for. Let me outline for you what I believe are the priorities, in order of their importance: First and foremost the saddle must be comfortable for your horse. Why? A comfortable horse is a happy horse, and a happy horse makes for a happy rider. By the way, I found a lot of things that can make my horses happy at the Utterly horses gift website.

At the heart of every good saddle is a good fitting tree. The saddle tree is the frame upon which the saddle is built. If it does not fit the horse properly, i.e. is comfortable, all your additional effort is wasted. When we are talking about western type saddle trees, they are usually made out of wood, covered with rawhide, plastic, or some other waterproofing material. If the tree fits properly (mirrors the shape of the horse’s back when it is moving straight ahead in its natural working position) the saddle will be comfortable for the horse, unless stiff leather skirting or incorrectly placed rigging or stirrup leathers causes problems too.This all makes that the horse, and you as well, will not be fit to act when it’s needed.

Each tree has two bars, the long pieces of wood that straddle either side of your horse’s spine, from front to rear. The bars sit on the longissimus dorsi muscles. To fit comfortably these bars must mirror the shape of the horse’s back, from front to rear (pommel to cantle) when the rider’s weight is placed upon the bars through the saddle seat and the horse is standing in its natural working position, with head held straight ahead at its normal working height.

Read More

Disaster Preparedness Guidelines for the Horse Owner

Disaster Preparedness Guidelines for Horse Owners. The information below is drawn from experiences with Hurricanes Andrew (1992), Katrina (2005), Harvey and Irma (2017), the Winnipeg floods, and other major disasters.

The recommendations are intended to help horse owners prepare properly for most disasters.

Long Range Disaster Planning

Make sure your horse will load!
Maintain a stockpile of hay and grain. Keep extra medications and vet supplies on hand. Ask your vet what is available to administer to your horse according to your capabilities.

Survey your property for the best location for your horse.
Photograph the left and right sides of each horse as well as its face, medial and lateral lower legs. Also a picture of you and your horse.
You may be interested in a horse ID tag.
Have all records written down and copied. Put one set in a zip-lock bag. If you have a computer, put all your information on a disk, don’t just leave it on your hard drive.
Keep your horse’s vaccinations up to date. Record the dates.
Make sure your horse trailer is insured. Keep spare gas on hand.

Read More

Ever Have Trouble Catching Your Horse?

There are lots of people with that problem. Why do horses do that? Could be one (or more) of lots of reasons. Fear is one. Anticipating pain is another. Anticipating having to work and work and work is another.

Like I said, there are lots of reasons. If it’s pain, have your horse checked. If you’re a Super Stars of Horse Training member, be sure to watch this month’s video when you get it. It’s all about pain – one of the most overlooked and underestimated pieces of the horse training puzzle.

Read More

Horse Stretching Exercises

A good way to learn how to apply passive stretching exercises is to begin right after riding when you remove the tack. Pick up each leg, one at a time and hold it without trying to stretch it.

Try to maintain the stretch for 10 seconds. Repeat this stretch for 3 – 4 days. By this time the horse should lift his foot as you take up position next to each leg.

Once the horse accepts standing on three legs (especially if he is a young horse), you may start with small rotations of the legs. The rotations are safe and easy to perform.

Once you have mastered the rotations, try a mild forward stretch. Hold the first stretch for 5 seconds. Replace each leg in its original position. (Don’t just drop the leg, place it gently on the ground. Your horse knows about respect so he will trust you if you are careful with him.)

Read More

Steer The Tail, Get Control Of Your Horse

The video below is of Josh Lyons. Now, if this isn’t getting control over your horse, I don’t know what is.

This exercise can be done at a walk or even at a standstill. (Though, to begin, it’s much easier if you have movement.) When you feel comfortable, do it at a trot.

When you steer a boat, you always steer from the back end, don’t you? That’s what you’ll do here. Your horse is driven by its hindquarters; that’s the engine and where the drive comes from. To start getting control of your horse, you’ll first take control of its “engine.”

You’ll drive your horse around the arena like you’re driving a boat or playing violin. You’ll pick up one rein and just drive his tail the direction you don’t want to go. So, if you don’t want to go “over there,” then you push his tail “over there” instead and release the rein.

Read More

Do You Stop A Horse With A Bit?

The simple answer, my friend, is NO. You see, a horse stops because he was trained to it. It’s the training that stops him…not the bit. The bit is merely a signaling device. To get a runaway horse to stop you can employ the One-Rein Stop.

One reason it works so well is because a horse can’t push against the bit when his head is pulled to the side.

Only use the One-Rein Stop when necessary. You teach your horse some bad habits if you overuse the One-Rein Stop. One habit is he’ll start to move his hip out be because pulling his head to one side causes the opposite sided hip to move out. So the trick is to train the horse to stop. A good technique is to use a fence. Start in the walk. Always teach something first from the walk.

Read More