Old habits die hard!

How to quick-fix a horse’s bad habits in the show pen

Anticipation

I am always on about repetition when training your horses. This is the quickest way to instill into your horse something you want to teach them – repetition! Until repetition of a certain kind backfires on you.

Nothing worse is there, you’re in the class, the announcer calls for a jog, however, it’s out of sequence to what your horse is used to, he hears the mic “assumes” it’s time to lope, suddenly your whole world collapses at your feet, your pulling the reins, he’s lifting his head and trying to lope off, did the judge see it? Most likely, yes.

This is only one scenario that could lose you a place in the lineup.

Horses are incredibly smart animals. They learn to listen to the announcer for transitions instead of to their rider’s cues. They can become anxious and want to move up into what they think is coming next!

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Draw Reins – Part Two

Last time, I spoke about the usefulness of draw reins and the problems that can occur when you overuse them. I love to use them, as I mentioned in my blog “Draw Reins part one” when I am going to train the lope transition.

Why?

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How to manoeuvre the gate with your yearling/2 year old trail horse…

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Using a snaffle on a Senior Horse

Senior horse snaffle bit training…

Or any other bit for that matter!

I think the worst thing you can do once you hunt down that curb/shank bit that your horse loves and works well in is to use it on him day in, day out. When you do find that “favourite” bit the best thing you can do is to keep it for those special occasions like showday.

Lot’s of riders’ do this and it is “common sense” to them to say “Beauty! My horse loves this new bit, I can relax now and stop worrying!” Down the track though, I get calls and questions all the time wondering why their favourite bit is not working anymore. You can liken it to using the same spurs day in day out, after a time the horse starts to become dull to the feel of the spurs you use every day.

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Why do horses shake their heads?

What triggers a horse to flip his head uncontrollably, sometimes to the point of endangering him and his rider?

The amazing thing about horses is how such large, powerful animals can be so sensitive and aware of the slightest sensation, such as a fly on its back or face. Rippling of skin or an occasional head shake is a normal response to the tickling trigger of nerve endings. But, there are times when a horse can’t stop shaking or tossing its head to a seemingly in-apparent sensation; such incessant behaviour is known as head shaking.

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Is your horse leaning or pulling the reins out of your hands?

The main reasons that I have found for a horse to lean or pull on the reins is:-

  1. Teeth
  2. Pain
  3. No release from your hold on the reins

Question: My horse has started leaning on the bit. She was fine before she had her accident and hurt her back leg, I gave her three months off and now she has started leaning on the bit. I don’t know what to do to fix this. What do I do?

 Answer: This is a good question and thanks for asking. If you are 100% sure your horse has no teeth issues and is not suffering any pain, I would hazard to guess your horse is pulling the reins out of your hands because the is no release from your hold on the reins.

So, we are constantly told to be light on our horses mouth. This can be part of the problem sometimes (but not always). When a horse pulls on us, the tendency is to allow the reins to be pulled through our hands because you are striving to do the right thing and be “light” on your horses mouth.

I actually use a similar method when I am training the horse for Hunter Under Saddle, the only difference is, I am holding a firm grip to encourage the horse to “nose out” and get low… read my book From Go To Whoa – Section on Teaching your Hunter Under Saddle Horse. You can also refer to the blog 3 tips to help you win in Hunter Under Saddle. When a horse pulls on the reins, gets release and is not corrected, this actually teaches the horse that pulling is acceptable behaviour. Having been successful, the horse will do it again.

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When Your Horse Won’t Go Forward.

The most natural thing for a horse to do is to go forward. The most frustrating issue for many riders is having a horse who is not willing to go forward. So what prevents a horse from doing what comes so naturally to him? Some might blame it on a bad attitude, laziness or stubbornness. But, the most common reason is that something is getting in the horse’s way – something that makes him feel uncomfortable or disturbs his natural balance and rhythm.

On occasion a horse has some kind of physical problem that causes pain or discomfort when saddled and ridden. The horse may not be lame, per se: He may move out freely without a saddle or any weight on his back, yet be reluctant to move when someone is riding him. If the horse is balky and stubborn when first starting a ride and then seems to “warm out of it,” you should suspect a physical problem as the cause, such as a sore back or arthritic joints. It might pay to investigate this, contact your dentist, farrier, chiropractor or vet to discuss the possible causes of pain or discomfort.

When the horse refuses to move because he doesn’t want to do something—such as go through a gate—the easiest way to get him moving is to convince him that he’s not being made to do the thing he doesn’t want to do—in other words, change his focus.

For example, you can turn the horse in another direction and re-approach the gate, or back him up through it. This solves the immediate problem, and then you can work on the larger issue with progressive training to teach him to go through gates over many training sessions.

The horse that stops for no apparent reason (there isn’t an object or obstacle that seems to be the cause) and refuses to move in spite of coercion is harder to deal with. It’s often as if he suddenly decides he’s had enough (of whatever you’ve been asking him to do while being ridden) and his mind shuts down. Kicking him or using spurs or a whip is not the answer here as he will likely still refuse to budge. Punishment is usually counterproductive in this scenario and makes the horse’s mind shut down even more. The best way to get him to move is to make him take a step to the side by getting him a little off balance.

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How to get the “Kodak” look with your horse.

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What’s your pet hate?

Dribbling!

I don’t mean the kind that falls out of someone’s mouth lol,

I don’t know about you but if there was one thing that really stands out to me like a sore thumb in a class is when the judge asks for an upward gait, say from a walk to a jog for instance. Instead of the horse stepping into the jog when cued to do so, the horse builds up speed in the walk until it’s legs are going so fast that it has to start jogging! – dribbling into the jog!

If you are transitioning from a walk into say the jog for example, the horse should not change the speed of the walk when you depart into the jog, the walk should neither quicken nor slow down before taking off.

What causes this?

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Three tips to help you win in Hunter Under Saddle

Hunter Under Saddle horses should move with long, low strides reaching forward with ease and smoothness, be able to lengthen stride and cover ground with relaxed, free-flowing movement, while exhibiting correct gaits that are of the proper cadence. The quality of the movement and the consistency of the gaits is a major consideration. The head position should be slightly in front of, or on the vertical.

Three tips you might use to help you win in hunter under saddle

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