Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tracking cattle and Restless Feet

Cdncowgirl has been patiently waiting for me to give her some help on practicing for cattle events when she doesn't have cattle. So I'll start with her.

I want my cowhorses to rock back on their hocks every time they stop. They need to be kind of perched back there waiting to turn, back, or go again, whatever I want, but they need to be ready. They need to turn through and go off in a straight line no matter where I send them. They need to accept me taking hold of them any time I need to.
I have sold more than one of my cowhorse prospects into the dressage world. There is a point in my training, usually the end of the first year I'm on them, when they pass a level II dressage test without batting an eye.
If I take them a few months past that point they're on the bit in a way that doesn't translate so easily anymore and it's more work for them to be a dressage prospect.
The only negative feed back I've had on those first year horses (from the dressage folk) is that my horses rock back off their hands when they halt. I guess it's a bitch to teach them to stop square and solid in the bridle after I've had them, because they want to rock back. Oh well, it can't be that bad because many of my horses that needed a different career path ended up as dressage horses.
Anyway, in order for Ol' Appy to have an easy time on the cows, he has to rock back on his hocks every single time he stops, forever and ever amen. I start this by backing my horse until he is backing free and easy with my rein hand raised, and very light contact with his mouth. I bump with my calves in rhythm with his backing steps. When I take my legs off and lower my hand he can stop. I do this every single time I stop. I do it every time I feel them pull on the bit. Every time.
After a while, when I sit back on my pockets and raise my rein hand my horse will rock back and prepare to back up. When he does that I'll relax my rein hand, sit back up, and not make him back. I do this every time he stops. If Ol' Appy leans on the bit at all, or tries to step forward before I tell him, I'll back him again until he's soft.
Once I have that down, I'll start walking down a fence line. I stop, rock back, roll back into the
fence and walk out the other way. I stop, rock back, roll back and go. Ol' Appy needs to be clean and comfortable doing this.
Then I move up to a trot, and then a lope.
Don't forget to rock back after you stop.
I have been forced to come up with creative ways to practice without cattle more than once. Any type of cow work involves the horse being able to select and track a cow. You need to teach yourself and your horse to do this. Lucky for us a horse will learn to track anything, dogs, chickens, goats, kids. Yes, I mean your children, although any family member will work. On foot works the best although I’ve had some fun with a mountain bike a time or two. The key is to give your horse plenty of rein and get him to follow your selected victim, don’t listen to all that whining and sniveling, just tell those kids to get trotting.
Step 1. Have the victim trot along a wall or fence, and get your horse to go along side. OlAppy can’t go past, if he does, then pull him in a circle, and point him back at Little Timmy. Hustle up when you do this, it isn't about pretty, it's a discipline. Get him immediately tracking Timmy again. Pretty soon he’ll go alongside on a loose rein. Don’t have Timmy turn until your horse has the idea.
Step 2. Have Little Timmy make a quick turn along the wall, and run the other way. If OlAppy is paying attention, he’ll turn with the child, and go along the new direction. If he doesn’t, make him. Immediately release the reins after the turn. Don’t turn him until he has trotted at least a horse length past Timmy. Then make that turn happen. This will help OlAppy understand that he’s got to stay with Timmy. Eventually, your horse will be turning on his own and Timmy will get himself a good nights sleep. This alone should get you started.

Debbie says- ...Any other time, he prefers NOT to move his feet. He's usually very laid back and his favorite gait is standing. In an arena he's calm regardless of what other horses are doing. He's calm on trails and will go anywhere. I'm not worried about the "can't keep the feet still" but what he does when he can't. This may sound silly, but it almost feels like he doesn't really want to pop up, he just figure out what to do instead.

First off, I think your doing a wonderful job with your horse. He is going to be a dream. If I had the light feet syndrome going on I would be engaging his hindquarters more. A horse rears when it ceases motion. I usually find that engaging the hind end will do the trick. When he tenses and locks up that front end, but before he rears, do a few turns on the forehand (or a lot) until he loosens up. Then relax. Then turn his hind end again. That way you are putting his weight on the front end, and giving him movement at the same time. Try to have contact with just the inside rein while you're doing this if you can.
Other than that you're doing exactly what I would do, and I think your young horse is going to continue to bloom under your patient guidance. Good luck.

Char said-...She wants to go fast, Mom takes up the slack in the reins to slow her down, she shakes her head like a dog with a toy. To me, she just looks pissed, and throwing a temper-tantrum. Needless to say, Mom's rides are getting less and less fun when she has to deal with her mare being a royal bitch when she doesn't get her way.

If you skipped down to your problem, shame on you. Hustle back up to the top and look at my backing drill that I talked to cdncowgirl about. Because that's what your Mom needs to do with this mare. Make sure your mother practices in an arena, or stable yard, somewhere they both feel secure before you go back on the trail.
You're right, the mare is being a bitch. She might be getting her face held more than she likes. She might just know she's freaking your mom out. But we can get her.
When your mom practices the backing drill make sure her reins are loose before she stops and asks for the back. The sequence will be, walk on a loose rein, sit back on your pockets, pick up your reins and put the amount of pressure you hope she will listen to on the bit (or hack, or bitless wonder bra, whatever) and bump with your calves.
If she stops but won't back, bump harder until she does. If she walks through your hands, haul her back hard with your reins, no mister nice guy. As soon as you've dragged her back three or four steps, release, and relax.
Then try again, starting off by rocking back on your pockets, pick up your reins to the dream pressure and bump.
The mare can't move forward until your mom says so.
When you have a reliable, soft back, head out on the trail. You guys will be training, so no impatient people get to come. If it takes all day to go 100 yards, that's fine.
Anytime this mare puts pressure on the bit, I'm not talking head shaking, just pressure, back her up. Immediately release, hesitate, and go forward again. Don't wait for her to be bad, just wait for pressure on your hands. When she will reliably back and wait for you to signal her forward, then start doing this drill randomly, even when she isn't pulling. Do it because you're the boss, and you feel like it. It's an important message to get across.
This could take days. I'm not kidding. So patience is the key. Don't get mad. Don't beg, plead, yell, nothing. Just be matter of fact. Whatever you do, don't yell Whoa. If that was working we wouldn't be in this bind.
Next play leapfrog on the trail. (See my post about kicking, you'll get the idea)
Keep her feet busy. I'll steer around trees, rocks, wander left, right, just different things to keep a horse's mind occupied.
In between all this steering and backing, make sure you stay off her face. When she's quiet, the reins need to be relaxed. Always offer a loose rein, then get in and fix her, then offer that loose rein again.
If your mom can't do this herself, then you need to do it for her, then let her try. Although I always think it best if the rider resolves these issues themselves.
Stay off her face!
Good Luck


  1. THANKYOU, Mugwump, and bless you.

    And no, I didn't skip down to my problem, I always read your blogs in their entirety, like a starving person that has been offered a dougnut. :)

    This is exactly the brain fodder I was looking for.

  2. Too bad I don't have the urge to train Casey on cows. I'm sure all that running and playing '"cow" would be good for my ADHD son!

    So, I have questions today.

    Casey was given to me after we went and looked at him. Given. I didn't pay a dime and he's a really sweet horse. He is gimpy on his front a little. Not so much in the arena and the farrier will be out in a few days. I'm also planning on getting him adjusted. After about 10 minutes of trotting, Casey is starting to sweat. His trot is nice and light for about 15 minutes or so and then I notice he's getting heavy on his forehand. Why? What is likely to be causing this? Just being out of shape? He's not been worked really for the last couple years as far as I can tell. (Horse trader, horse trader, horse trader, ranch in BFE Idaho where his owner died, herd dispersal at auction, then didn't make a good roping horse -head shy, and now me). I plan on getting him adjusted when he gets his shoes as well. I suspect he's tender-footed, hence the shoes and the original gimp I saw since he was on gravel. Also, how much work would you give him starting, Mugs, knowing that he hasn't been worked in a couple years?

  3. char said:

    "And no, I didn't skip down to my problem, I always read your blogs in their entirety, like a starving person that has been offered a dougnut. :)"

    That's how I feel. Or, maybe more Homer Simpson-esque when it comes to comparing your blog to a doughnut.

  4. (((oregonsunshine said...
    char said:

    "And no, I didn't skip down to my problem, I always read your blogs in their entirety, like a starving person that has been offered a dougnut. :)"

    That's how I feel. Or, maybe more Homer Simpson-esque when it comes to comparing your blog to a doughnut.)))

    HaHa!! I just got a visual...

  5. I love backing. It's such a wonderful tool. The only difference with my horses is to get them to back I take my leg completely off them and shift my weight towards their rear.
    I was so proud of Indigo at the last horse show doing trail. Even the seasoned trail horses didn't back as good, strait and fast as her.

    Friends and I used to take turns being the cow and we would even use each other on our horses for practice. Theres about a million different ways you can practice. I know a farm I visited in Florida a few years ago used chickens :o!

    hey mugs, how about a post on how to teach a horse to neck rein. All mine neck rein but not real good. You have to bring your arm pretty far over and out of the box to get them to do any decent turns. I love riding a good western horse that can neck rein with the tiniest touch.

  6. Casey- I would do nothing until his feet are done.
    Have you ever heard of Fartlek? It's a runner (human) deal from Sweden (?). Anyway, the concept is to warm up at a jog, run like hell for a short while until your really wheezing, slow back down to a jog and air up, run like hell....It improves condition and speed.
    I have always worked under the premise that trotting builds muscle and loping builds wind.
    So I do my version of Fartlek for horses.
    I'll trot for 10-15 minutes with lots of forward, then back down to the walk. Once they air up, I trot again. Back and forth. Then I lope until they are breathing heavy, and then walk until they air up. I stand quiet and let them breathe also, for as long as it takes for repiration to go back to normal.
    I don't do many circles until they are going pretty good.
    I want my cowhorses to be able to easily lope ten, 75 to 100 foot circles each way without getting winded. Their respiration needs to return to normal within 5 minutes for me to be happy.
    I never worry about sweat. On either of us. That's what baths are for.

  7. I have a question about spooking... First of all I'm trying to decide if it's best to let my goofy horse stop and look at something that's bothering him, or ignore him and keep going. My paticular problem is simply leading him through the barn. He still thinks everything in there is going to eat him. He seems to do better if I ignore him and walk him quickly and confidently through, and when I stop to let him bugger.. he seems to see even more scary stuff and gets really concerned. Also do you do anything along the lines of "sacking out"? I've worked with lots of scary objects, and let him approach and retreat, approach and retreat until they are no big deal. I've sort of come to the conclusion though that his confidence and tendancy to spook will depend more on his confidence in me and my alpha-ness, rather than how many times he's stepped on a tarp. He's also only 3 and I wonder how much sillyness he will out grow?

  8. jamiecb1127- I've sort of come to the conclusion though that his confidence and tendancy to spook will depend more on his confidence in me and my alpha-ness, rather than how many times he's stepped on a tarp. He's also only 3 and I wonder how much sillyness he will out grow?

    Yep. I would just lead him through.Trust your instincts. I let them look if they need to see something. If I have time. I don't do the approach retreat thing, (I don't think) it sounds gimmicky to me. Iplay it by ear. And yes, three year olds grow out of their spookiness most of the time, as long as they're exposed to plenty and ridden well.

  9. What a gold mine of training tips you are =) I wish my 2 year old was 2 years older so I could play too. I need to find a horse to ride again. Had lots at the old barn but I am new here as I have recently moved.

    Very inspirational! Thanks for all of the great tips.

    char- I love the donut analogy, I am so there with you!

  10. Mugs - I can handle nearly anything on the ground. I don't always choose to but I usually can. Confidence there isn't ever an issue.

    However, I tend to be a somewhat timid rider (I fear being harsh especially with my hands) and I tend to occasionally have a bit o' trouble suppressing the stomach in throat nervousness when riding on the trail.

    What do you suggest? I keep telling myself just keep riding and you'll get there. Honestly, that has helped some but recently I feel like he's spooked even when I truly *thought* I was relaxed. In the ring nothing he does worries me - at all. I know there's a good chance when he takes off that I'm freaking out and he's reading that - thereby freaking him out further and assuring him the wind up his butt really WAS terrifying.

    This sort of event got me tossed Sunday. I got back on and turned around and for the first time ever didn't finish the ride (only b/c my ankle hurt - caught slightly in my stirrup :/). The canter he broke into didn't mess up my balance/unsettle me really (I did have to gather some reign b/c I had them thrown out). I knew there was a BIG DEEP leg breakign type hole coming up which he steered around during reign gathering. Then, the foot or so drop out of the woods where we simultaneously had to make a sharp left or right - or run straight into a fence. I cued left. For some reason I still thought he was going to go right, but he LISTENED... yeah... I went right and he went left, like I'd asked. I never hauled on his face (doesn't help anyway... have to ask him with my seat if he's scared he'll ignore the reigns then). I know, the terrain and trail screwed me there a bit BUT I was worried about the hole, and then the turn and...

    Today, pondering it, I realized he was listening! To my cues - but probalby mostly simply to the fact I was mentally freaking & he just assumed it was *the-scary-horse-eatin'-beastie* he spooked at.

    HOW do I calm my brain down when in a sticky situation? How do I suppress that pit of stomach unsettled feeling so I don't freak HIM out!? I love that he's tuned into me and hate it all at the same time. Before I get myself killed alone on the trail I've got to figure out how to reign ME in - to trust myself. Any suggestions?

    Oh - and do you punish a horse when you come off in a situation like that? I don't. I figure he didn't leave me there on my ass. He turned back and moped up to me -worried about getting hit (has been before). I don't want to get up and go off on him - next time he may just head home without me. I would if I was punished for that. Thoughts there?

  11. I love your training blogs!

    My trainer has us track each other (& our horse). By now, my horse has worked cows and understands. So he gets to trot or lope and I listen for the direction change from my trainer. My trainer will be riding a colt (usually) and he will heel my mount. Gets the colt used to the rope, and gets him tracking my horse. Makes my horse remember that the rope doesn't hurt him and he doesn't need to freak out when something touches or is around his legs. Great fun!!

    You can also track crows or rabbits. Rabbits are the most fun.

    I love the way you explain things, my brain goes "yes!". It's great. The backing makes a HUGE difference on getting the horse to work off that back end. It's helping mine find his hard brakes again.

    I like your methods. They are great and they are ones that work without gimmicks of any kind.

    I just wanted to add that I've got a spooky horse. I like him because he's got tons of forward motion and is not lazy. When he spooks at something I let him get up close to whatever it is and touch it with his nose. It gets him over it almost right away and we never have a problem w/ that particular horse eating item again. If I don't take the time to stop him and have him "meet" the offending thing, we end up having to deal with it next time. Works with random bicycles, tractor attachments, boards even bags of topsoil (who knew THOSE could kill a horse??)

    Great post as usual. I'm going to work on my backing up your way and see how much my little horse is listening at this point. :)

  12. Autumnblaze-I'm a little confused.I didn't really understand. Your horse went left and you went right? That kind of stuff happens. Horses spook. I have never punished a horse for spooking in my life. Nor have I beaten one up when I fall off. I'm the one that fell after all.
    I have made a horse that is "goof" spooking work harder. That's it.
    I wouldn't trail ride alone until my confidence was higher. I would never be loping a young frightened horse through the woods, especially if I was nervous.
    I wouldn't blame myself for a horse that spooks either. If your tense then you're not reading your horse and that can make everybody nervous.
    This isn't about blame. Don't make yourself go places you're not comfortable. If you get nervous on the trail, go shorter distances. Ride around the outside of your arena. Go for a short cooling out walk on a small trail. Tiny steps.
    The trail is not the time to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
    I hope you're not confusing the ride I went on Sonita with something anybody "should" do. I was very in tune with her. I rode her at high speeds all the time. I was very confident in my ability to stay on her. I would never have tried what I did if I had been concerned for even a second that I might come off.(Of course it still could have happened)
    The way to build up your confidence is to only go as far as you can while still feeling safe and in control. Then your horse will feel the same. I hope that helps.

  13. autumnblaze, I trail ride a lot by myself and I want to second what mugwump said. Try short rides around the property, and pay attention to your gut. The other day the wind was blowing hard and instead of heading out on a several mile ride (which I realized I felt nervous about), I rode around the home place, loped up the hill a few times. We had fun. I wasn't scared. Does this make me a chicken? Maybe, but I knew I didn't want to go out on the trails feeling nervous--and my trail horse is pretty bomb proof. I would give yourself permission to stay in your comfort zone. And I, too, would never go out on the trails alone on any horse that I didn't have complete confidence in. Sounds like your horse spooks and then jumps forward, am I right? That's how you ended up at the canter, if I read you correctly. That's a tough one, and can be really dangerous if the terrain isn't favorable, as you pointed out.

  14. Oh lord no. I generally don't ask him for much more than a walk on trail rides - that day I was cooling him out from our lesson & he spooked rather benignly at that. That was probably a bad example - I just keep going over it in my head.

    We do ride alone because I have no choice. He's the only broke horse on the property of the 17 - most are under 3. Nice breeding farm I'm leasing/exercising the owners daughters ex-show horse. We do a lesson a week with a trainer I trust but she can't exactly follow me around on foot on the trail.

    I know we're both perfectly capable of trailing around the property at a walk - we've done it a hundred times now. Speeding up only when I feel the footing is safe etc. The times he spooks I tend to feel I just make it worse without meaning to by either over or under reacting. That day I did a bit of both. The worst times when he performs a perfect Arab teleport I've never come off - 180, jump sideways 5 foot. I'm not thinking then. I think & I screw it all up, freak myself out, freak him out by beign unclear.

    What do you suggest to turn that off? More rides where I feel most comfortable? If I don't go out of the arena or near/thru woods -there's never a spook/worry so there's never an issue.

    Also, *I* have never, ever punished him for ME falling off. EVER. I should have been more clear there. I've had people tell me to 'punish' him for spooking - causing me to come off. I'm pretty sure the owners daughter used to beat him pretty good if she came off. I didn't think it made sense - as you said, *I* came off. It just seems like a confusing message to me.

  15. laura crum - I should also add he was a real pill in the ring that day for my lesson - it WAS windy but he hadn't cared until the point of 'fast departure'. My trainer and his owner told me to try him on the trail to see if he'd be better because he normally is! (He hates ring work and showing, despite a national title.) I thought I should come back a different day and let him go back to eating grass.

    I DO completely trust him he's not a maniac lose-his head type spook, he does lurch forward but he doesn't forget me. I trust Gator but he's also the quickest, most responsive horse I've had the pleasure to ride. I admit, I need to build my own confidence further and he's helped tremendously with that in normal situations. Now, it's when something goes wrong I can't keep my stomach where it's supposed to be and act appropriately.

  16. Tracking the dog, or the riding lawnmower, or the hubby, or the barn cat can work well, too. You have to be ready and light with those barn cats! And the dog can have a tendency to duck under the horse’s nose if you aren’t careful! ;)

    Great tips and narrative yet again Mugs!!!

  17. autumnblaze-I don't know if this helps or not, but my stomach still flips when I think things will go wrong, and I'm usually calm and cool headed while it's actually happening. Then I freak again when it's over.
    I've learned to live with it. I don't know what else to do. Try not to over think things, it's hard, but that's what I'm most guilty of. It's usually our gut instinct that saves us, not our head.
    A lot of ex-show horses hate the arena. Makes ya think doesn't it?

  18. Hahaha! Poor little Timmy!

    Two weeks and counting here without a buckfest. Yay and thanks again for all the great advice. I took my mare to a lesson with cows and she was not concerned with them whatsoever. It was so easy for her to stay focused and do all the bendy things we had practiced and then all of a sudden, there was a reason for those maneuvers. Kinda like finding real applications for geometry. woohoo!

    Oh and Mugwump, you CAN'T be serious thinking that someone else would actually take their horse somewhere and go for a full blast run over crazy terrain to try and work something out. We're just not that silly or good.

  19. LOVE the blog, especially since I'm now training my second horse. This has become essential fodder for the mind.

    I have a question about "forward" for those first few rides. My old QH filly had a great bond with me and she just went forward when it was time for her under-saddle stuff. No muss, no fuss. My new horse is a 4 yr old Arab gelding and last weekend was the first time he's been fully mounted. He was great, just stood there for the most part, but that was it. He JUST STOOD THERE. I asked him to walk with some tapping of my heels and a verbal cue, but he just hesitantly backed a few steps.

    What should I do, on the ground and in the saddle, to get that "go forward" cue established?


  20. Ground driving works wonders before a first ride in preventing the balker. When they know a verbal cue and respond to it and know about the bit on the ground they are less likely to act silly the first ride. it's also a lot easier to click/kiss and use leg pressure and for them to put two and two together. I don't know why more people don't do it. I wouldn't back a green horse for the first time without ground driving them first.

  21. Oh ack! I didn't mention. He does ground drive, but he's still pretty hesitant when you're directly behind him (i.e. have him between the lines). He prefers if you are somewhat to the side rather than directly behind.

    Perhaps I just need to focus on that more...

  22. Mugs, everyone keeps telling me that my horse "knows stuff". Being that he's a foundation-looking handsome guy, I'd like to think he's smart, too! I normally ride English and trail and generally pleasure (like for my own).

    Do you know of anyone in MN/twin cities area that's not an asshat and could test to see how cowy/reigning etc my horse is? What would that cost? I know it's another style of riding and a style I don't do, so I can't tell if he knows more or not!

  23. Yeah... that's exactly me. My trainer tells me to stop thinking... much easier said than done. Guess I was hoping you had trick for that. Senstive as he is, he's teaching me to at least do my best to exude confidence - when I just don't feel so confident. I just felt like we've had some set backs recently in that area. Guess that's to be expected sometimes though.

    Yeah... I know the trainer that trained him, her methods and she's big time ... so I know exactly why he hates the ring. He has days that he does anything but what I want - he knows better. He's just mentally turned off before we start ; if it's just me and him we trail those days. He's also teaching me when to pick my battles...

  24. Thanks for the advice Mugs :)

    I don't have children so I'll have to ask the sister-in-law about "borrowing" the niece & nephew *evil chuckle*
    But the barn dog IS super annoying and likes to hassle the horses, maybe me and Applejack should just work her? (I know, bad barn dog!)

  25. "He prefers if you are somewhat to the side rather than directly behind."

    When I ground drive with or without blinders I always stand to one side or the other and switch sides depending on what direction I am going. It's dangerous to ground drive right behind a horse because the horse could kick for one, or back up suddenly and step on you. Plus they can't see you if you are walking directly behind them, frighting for a green horse with a predator attached to the reins, stalking them. It's alright in a cart because your in it and if the horse backs up so does the cart. I don't allow my cart horses to kick but *knock on wood* none of them have ever offered to kick or buck in the cart. If they were going to kick the cart would be first in line, not you like you would be on the ground driving.

  26. Cowhorse training sure sounds a lot like polo pony training. What you described about stopping and backing and making sure they stop on their hocks, poised and ready to go somewhere, is EXACTLY what we do with green polo ponies. I love a horse that is trained that way, and hate getting on the typical half-assed-broke horse that props on his front legs to stop unless you prepare and hold him together each and every time.

  27. For Autumblaze,

    I'm dealing with some of the same stuff you're dealing with.

    You asked "HOW do I calm my brain down when in a sticky situation?"
    I've worked on my breathing and changing the tapes and self-talk I replay in my head. I'm sharing strategies that work for me.

    You asked "How do I suppress that pit of stomach unsettled feeling so I don't freak HIM out!?"

    #1 Breathe. That "unsettled pit-of-the-stomach feeling" is telling you you're in low-level panic. We suppress our breathing when we're stressed. Our breaths are more shallow, so we're getting less oxygen to the brain. When we're stressed and getting less oxygen, then the instinct/emotional side of brain kicks in ("knee-jerk" reaction or your hand jerks the reins). This is the fight/flight/ or freeze response. In the arena, try inhaling for 5 steps of the horse and exhaling for six steps. When you're not breathing, your horse isn't breathing either. When you and the horse are breathing, then you can move outside the arena. If you find you're not breathing out on the trail, you can start counting steps per inhale/exale again. Even now I can hear Mugwump telling me to breathe.

    2 Change the tapes/self-talk: The tape you're playing to your subconscious mind is "Before I get myself killed alone on the trail..." You're telling yourself riding the horse is dangerous ("I get killed"). To "rein yourself in," see if you can change your tapes to postive statements "I trust this horse." "We are relaxed and riding safely." Then when you're not riding, you need to think about the best rides you've ever had on him. They teach athletes to visualize their success. For example they don't replay the trips and falls; they visualize what they did well: the wins, smoothly clearing the hurdles, and pulling ahead. With your riding, each time you replay your fall, it's the same as if you came off again to your subconscious mind. Then, when you get on a horse, the subconscious mind says to the body "DANGER, DANGER, PROTECT YOURSELF. LOOK AT HOW MANY TIME THIS HAS HAPPENED. GET READY TO RUN/FIGHT/FREEZE."

    #3 Ride to target objects. You said you were worried about the hole. One of the best tip I ever got from Mugs was to look beyond the object of worry (the hole), pick a target object (such as a tree or sign), look at the target object and ride to it. This is also something you can try anywhere.

    You said,"I DO completely trust him he's not a maniac lose-his head type spook, he does lurch forward but he doesn't forget me."

    You're telling yourself you trust him. This is a good tape to repeat to yourself. You're also telling yourself "he's not a maniac lose-his head type spook." Can you change this to a positive statement? For example: "He is a level-headed, reliable, calm horse." "He takes care of me." "I am relaxed when I ride him."

    A book that I found to be very helpful for developing positive mental images and messages is Every Word Has Power by Yvonne Oswald. She gives examples of how to change the messages we send to our subconscious mind. Some other books are Build Complete Confidence with Horses by Kelly Marks; In the Company of Horses by Kathleen Lindsey; and Horsemanship Through Life by Mark Rashid.

    Mugs: I had a wonderful ride on Murphy yesterday. We're communicating!

  28. Thanks 'anonymous' - I'll call you 'Murphy's Mom'.

    I think my first post was so erratic b/c I was reliving what was bothering me as I wrote. I noticed when I was done, while sitting here in my chair, there was that same ughity feelin' in my gut.

    I often tell him how much I trust him when we're riding. I also sing... it makes me breathe and calms me down. I am focusing on the recent set backs and not the positives. You hit the nail on the head there. I just wish I'd have started riding at 7 ... I never had the fearless stage.

    I think I've wanted to ride (dad wouldn't let me, then no money in college to be consistent etc.), and ride well, for sooo long now that my opportunities are opening up I want it all to go perfect and all to keep coming together and improving exponentially. That's not realistic - with anything, let alone horses.

    Anyways, yesterday at the farm the owner came up and want me to re-start a broodie that's open this year and hasn't been ridden in years. I was shocked and honored she wanted ME to do that; she has hired help. These horses are worth more than me (in my own opinion)... better just suck it all up and get started. That why I might have a trail buddy soon after all!

  29. Good for you, Autumnblaze! It does feel good when you get positive comments about your riding. I had a fearless stage when I rode dudes as a kid and was ignorant (It is bliss!). When I got older and got my first horses, I knew too much, including the fact I don't bounce any more. I do know that I love riding, so I keep working on the managing the fear. Good luck!

    Murphy's Mom

  30. Mugwump, thanks so very much for your comments. Turning on the forehand is the ONE think I didn't do. I did a turn on the haunch once, but he's so darn light we pivoted and did a roll- back. (My foxhunter does pretty good roll-backs.) So that wasn't really the answer. This weekend the forehand turn will be tried. Thanks for the compliments about my horse; I think he might be one of those once in a lifetime ones. My baby-boy is the only one in the hunt field that rocks back and pivots like that! Pretty cool feeling. I would love to do cow work with him since he'll track anything, but I don't need him deciding to herd the hounds. Again, thanks for your help and your willingness to share your knowledge. You may not be a known BIG NAME trainer, but I consider you to be a far better trainer than of the the big names my sister uses. Her kids show AQHA, need I say more?