Thursday, November 6, 2008

Channel Matt Dillon

I had this long, detailed explanation of over and under rein use and a neck reining segment. My computer crashed and I lost most of it. I stomped off in a sulk, come back and Laura has beat me to it. Well, your going to get it anyway.....
Kel said- The problem is he is LAZY, LAZY, LAZY. He always has been. Even as a 2 year old, you could put leg on him and he just grunts at you. You put a spur on him, and he grunts at you, you really put a spur on him and he grunts at you. He will move, but there is no "try" there and he just can't wait to stop. And stop he can! He stops nice, his transitions from fast to slow are awesome, but getting to the fast or turnarounds, etc is ugly and lazy. No energy at all. The trainer said that I needed bigger spurs and only use them if I really meant it and then really mean it. I bought a pair of rock grinders and did just that, it gets him going for about 20 seconds. Then you can just feel him deflate and the energy just fades away.

Kel- First off. A good reiner spends his life hoping he can stop. So this is a GOOD thing you have going here. Remember that.

When I start a two year old I don't put spurs on him until I have a calm, happy, walk trot and canter off of a kiss. Not only that but he will stay contentedly loping at the speed I put him in until I say different. The lazier he wants to be the more determined I am to leave the spurs off. That's all my babies, all the time. I never put a spur to them until I have a happy forward horse.

I realize we already have an issue with this horse. So I'm not going to worry about it, I'm just going to set things straight.

I am only going to work on my forward, nothing else, until it's fixed.

I will to get rid of my spurs. Take them off. Be gone. Adios. Arevederci.

This horse is not a plug, he is setting himself against the spurs.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Spurs are not meant to give forward cues. They are meant to give directional cues. Go left, go right, move a rib, etc. Oops, I need to add that spurs will cause a horse to lift his back, which will actually slow his motion. Imagine the difficulty a horse has translating that to a "speed up" cue. My seat and calves give forward cues.

I am going to ride little Dudley with an eight foot pair of split reins.

I am going to get on Dudley cold (no warm-up) and hold my reins in one hand and the ends in another.

I will move my seat bones forward once to send him forward. Then I will roll my calves lightly into Dudley's sides and smooch once to tell him to lope.
Then I will pick up my reins and over and under him until he moves out at a lope.
I will not steer him. I won't encourage him. I will ride quiet until he stops on his own. I will do nothing except sit quiet until he is standing still.
Then I will move my seat bones forward once. I will roll my calves lightly into Dudley's sides and smooch once.
Then we channel Matt Dillon.
I will repeat this until he goes into a lope off my smooch.
When he gives me way more go than I anticipated or wanted(and he will) I will simply ride quiet. He is being good and going that's my point. I don't care how fast he's moving. I'm not going to discuss rate until way down the road.

The key here is to ride quiet, with a loose rein while Dudley is loping. This is about listening to my cues, nothing else. I want Dudley to be seeking the lope, because that's the place where everybody is quiet.
Once I have Dudley willing to lope, he needs to stay there.
So we up the ante.
I ask for the lope, I get it immediately off of the softest cue. As soon as Dudley slows down I over and under him, with no warning what so ever. I get after him until he is going faster than I need. Then I relax and bring him down to the lope again.
We lope a few circles, he tries to slow down and he gets the Mat Dillon treatment again.
I am not particularly coordinated when it comes to this over and under thing. My reins fly wildly around, half the time I end up with a rein wrapped around my neck. I don't care. This isn't about finesse. It's about getting moving. If I have to correct Dudley I'm going to make him give me more than I need. Then I'll be the one who slows him down.
When Dudley is consistently seeking the speed I want him at I'll let him stop. Every time I stop him I'll let him stand for a long time. But he only gets to stop if he is motoring along at the speed I asked for.
I'll keep his work outs short and to the point.
When I transition up from my slow to a fast circle I raise my hand and stand slightly in my stirrups, coming a little out of my seat. I cluck with every stride until they are going the speed I want. My horses are taught from day one that a cluck means faster. They need to increase their speed with every cluck.
I get that without touching them with my spurs.
That's where I would be at with Dudley before I ever put my spurs on again.
The way to get this to work is to have him wanting to lope because that's the happy place. I want to create a desire to move. If I remember to ride soft, quiet and with purpose at the lope Dudley will soon want to be there.
I'll have to rewrite the neck-rein piece tomorrow. I'm fried.


  1. You said:

    This is about listening to my cues, nothing else

    and this is where I think most people go wrong. Choose one task and one alone to work on. Don't worry about leads or steering or stopping or calling to on response to cues. That's it. If the rider is paying attention to that, they will feel or see or hear the horse getting more attentive. Then you add one more thing.

    In this, we are like Mugs. One thing.

    Where I am I would probably install steering before speed simply because I almost never have an arena to myself, so I have to be able to steer around other horses. So I'd install steering, then cruise control.

  2. Holly- you'd get a kick out of a place I used to work at. We had a 200 x 350 ft. outdoor arena. We'd get all of our babies out for their first outside ride at once, and just go. Sometimes there would be three or four of us piling around. Not making them run mind you, just a very gentle variation of what I posted.
    Not much steering, but plenty of was interesting.
    All babies, all day. It kept things simple.

  3. "I am not particularly coordinated when it comes to this over and under thing. My reins fly wildly around, half the time I end up with a rein wrapped around my neck."

    I was so happy to read this. I ride one horse who is LAAAA ZEEE except when he's in a roping arena. Then it's all forward real quick.

    I have over and undered myself in the face more times than I care to admit when riding this particular horse. Grace is not my strong suit.

    I would love to have seen you all working the babies for the first time. That sounds like a sight!

  4. Just wondering.. I'm an English rider. Would using a dressage whip or a crop or a jumping bat be as effective as long reins?

  5. I agree with this post 100% and try and preach it every time I coach someone. In fact when I get a young student that is trying to rely on hands to steer their horse I take their reins away and make them ride with their hands on their hips in the round pen. Once they can handle the speed and random direction changes of a horse that now realizes the kid is off his face I ask them to start steering the horse off their seat. Some of them concentrate real hard but eventually I have them changing directions at a trot and lope at the gate. It's magic to see their smiles when they can do it.

    I <3 the pony beater reins (aka ends of the reins or random piece of rope I happen to bring if I don't have split reins that day)

    And waaa, stupid technology!!

  6. Yes, but Kel's trainer didn't want her to use one. We can't carry crops when we show. But we can lift our reins an inch or two to remind a show ring savvy horse that there are consequences.

  7. Mugs wrote:
    We'd get all of our babies out for their first outside ride at once, and just go.

    did they all go in the same direction?? I could just see a riot in the making with them going every which way. Or maybe not, maybe they would be so worried they'd want to stick to each other.

  8. Holly- No, we just went willy nilly. They were all started. But had been started in our smaller indoor, usually alone. So we weren't just crawling on unbroke horses in the wide open spaces,(that was the next place I worked) just getting them moving outside. It was still fairly wild. Within ten minutes or so they were circlng. Then we'd quit.

  9. "I am not particularly coordinated when it comes to this over and under thing. My reins fly wildly around, half the time I end up with a rein wrapped around my neck. I don't care. "

    Thank you for saying that. I thought I was the world's most uncoordinated idiot because I invariably over and under my own damn leg, if not whap myself in the arm somehow. LOL!

  10. "I've said it before and I'll say it again. Spurs are not meant to give forward cues."

    Amen!! We were talking about this at our last barrel racing jackpot. Finally some people are realizing that spurring their horses is the reason some of them are running SLOWER.

  11. All-canadian, I'm a dressage rider too and have found that whips and bats are much less efficient than over-under-ing, especially in the beginning. Something about using a bat makes my horse suck up and "bunch"--the opposite of going forward. After the initial lessons you can go back to the bat and it's fine.
    A question: Will a very lazy horse ever have enough "juice" to do advanced work? My trainer says we won't have enough engine for upper level dressage. I'm hoping she's wrong. Any opinions?

  12. Mugs,
    Not sure if its a big enough question for a post, lol.

    For some background -
    Promise has been out of consistent work for the last 2 years, due to my lack of time while I finished getting my BFA. I am starting to bring her back slowly - with lots of walking, and about 5 minutes of trot in each direction.

    So, we're both a bit rusty and unfit.

    I ride hunter/jumper. But had some classical dressage training, years and years ago. My last trainer was a WP/Hunter and the woman I bought Promise from taught a lot of things based on Sally Swift's centered riding, she rode with Renate Lansburgh, etc.

    Anyway, I work a lot with feel...particularly where each foot is, and where I want it to be, at any given time. I was taught that the best way to control the legs is to ask them to step where you want them as they're about to lift off the ground - so they will be in the air for the cue, and therefore, it is easier for the horse to instantly respond (if they understand what you want). It's always worked really well.

    She was really bad about throwing her right shoulder out last night.

    What I did was hold my inside rein, and inside leg steady to encourage a soft bend around them. Then I used my outside rein to squeeze/half halt and my outside leg to reinforce the rein, and "hold" the shoulder - I did this for the sitting beat in my posting. So, in theory, it was controlling the outside front as it would leave the ground (for the rising beat).

    Any suggestions for keeping her from throwing her outside shoulder out coming around a corner or while circling?

    It is almost always her right shoulder while going to the left. I have never ridden with spurs, and prefer to not carry a whip unless absolutely necessary - although in the past, tapping her shoulder when she started to throw it would bring it back in line for a few strides, I would like to avoid doing it that way!


  13. I'd want to add: Lean back while you ask for the cue. I've seen a lot of horses struggle with moving forward because their riders are unbalancing them by throwing themselves forward.

  14. I'm assuming you mean Gunsmoke Matt Dillon, not hot actor who was in the Outsiders movie when I was 12 Matt Dillon...

    I'm going to have to read this post over and over! I'm slowly learning my way around this. I'm really unco-ordinated and a very slow learner. It's just what I have to work with.

    Just this week I've been getting a feel for lift. REally understanding what's happening when the horse's head lowers and her body compresses. When to let off the pressure. My timing is so bad. But I hope to improve that.

    Gotta say- hot damn I love those loooong split reins. the heavier the better! I am so clutzy and useless with a crop, I refuse to ride with one, but I can't tell you how useful 7 or 8 ft reins are. Unless of course, they're whacking me in the back of the head...

  15. GREAT POST... Can you address the "bulging shoulder" in one of your posts? I have a three year old that is REALLY REALLY bad for sticking that shoulder out in our circles (either way) and would love to know some tools to help it! thanks Mugs!

  16. Promise- Our riding style might be a little too different for you to want to try to train for circles the way I do.
    I expect my horses to carry themselves through a circle. I only put them on the path, steer for a few strides to show them the size I want, and then it's all them.
    When I first start my youngsters in a circle I steer them. Every time they are in the correct spot I relax my hold, then I pick them up again when they are off, and relax when they're not.At this pont I'm babysitting and pick them up as soon as they lean or drift.
    After they have the idea and start seeking the right place I start letting them make mistakes.
    I'm there for them with my hands and legs but I'm not telling them to do anything but go.
    No collection at this time because we are learning to circle.
    When they drift out of my circle, (I don't care if it's a shoulder, nose or hip, or if they are falling in or out)I pick up my inside rein, drive them hard across the circle, put them back on the circle and relax as we lope on the correct line.I let them make a big mistake,I want them to know that they are being corrected for coming off my circle. I do this again and again until they quit whatever their deal is and just circle. Once I get a few good times around I quit.
    With an older horse that should know better I will do a few different things.
    First I will make my circles in a stop sign shape rather than round. I set them up a straight line, then angle in holding them straight between my hands. I make my slight turn with my outide leg first and then a slight balancing hold with my outside rein. Then a release for the next straight line and so on. I also lope triangles and squares to clarify my cues somewhere other than my circle.My horses are trained from day one to seek the place where I am doing absolutely nothing but riding along, so they hunt for ways to get me to leave them be.
    If I need to get even stronger I'll pull out the big guns, only on a horse that absolutely knows what I want, but isn't planning on playing anyway. If they fall in I'll stand in my inside stirrup and lean way in, basically daring them to fall. When they stand up because I'm trying to tip them over I sit back up, relax, put them back on the circle and throw out my reins again. Or I'll let them fall in a few strides, grab a hold of their face, spin them to the OUTSIDE a few times and then put them back on the circle. If they float out of the circle, I'll grab them, spin to the INSIDE a few times, put them back on the circle and relax.
    All of this ends up creating a horse that will lope the same size circle I put them on while I talk on the phone, brush my teeth, wave to my friends, whatever.

  17. Thanks for your input.
    I can always take things from what you write and work with them, even if it means adapting them first. The principle is always there, even if the method of execution you use, won't work for me or my horse. I feel like I've been out of it just long enough that I have to push myself to remember what I've learned about riding in general and about my horse. Plus, I haven't had the opportunity to work with an instructor in 8 years.

    >>>"If I need to get even stronger I'll pull out the big guns, only on a horse that absolutely knows what I want, but isn't planning on playing anyway."

    That's Promise, lol. She knows what I want, and she knows how to do it.

    >>>"If they float out of the circle, I'll grab them, spin to the INSIDE a few times, put them back on the circle and relax. All of this ends up creating a horse that will lope the same size circle I put them on while I talk on the phone, brush my teeth, wave to my friends, whatever."

    When you say spin, do you mean a literal spin or just a tight circle?

    I don't want to brush my teeth on my horse, but I would like to be able to circle without that shoulder popping out. I'll give it a try - I'm wondering, too, if taking your tight circle and spiraling out to a bigger one, then back in, would help.

    Thanks again -- things to think about!

  18. Promise, I cannot in any way pretend to know as much as Mugwump. All I can do is tell you what my dressage teacher taught me about a shoulder falling out on a circle: Make sure you don't hold your inside rein too tight. Remember your horse's neck must not be bent to the inside. Then if the shoulder starts falling out, take more of a contact on the outside rein. This is counter intuitive but it works because he cannot pop his shoulder in the direction you are pulling his head. Don't pull so long or so hard that his head turns out, just enough to put him back on the circle. Just holding a dressage whip against the shoulder also gives them the right idea. In extreme cases, kick the shoulder.

    Hope that helps!

  19. lol, I've kicked her shoulder quite a few times in our years together. It works, but is hard to do at the trot ;)

  20. promise-I mean a literal spin, but a tight circle will do fine.
    It's just a matter of taking back control of the errant shoulder.

  21. Question: Could Dudley be feeling bad? Have medical issues been considered? Sometimes when horse has ulcers or other internal issues they react by being lazy. Just a thought.

    Thanks for your explanation on spur use. I never use them for speed--they are attention getters (a quick bump when my husband's gelding turns his brain off gets him back right quick) and I use them to teach my horse to move her back end and round herself better. It's nice to know that I'm doing things right.

  22. heila: That's what I've learned about getting them to lift their shoulder as well. :)

  23. Gee, mugwump, I didn't mean to beat you to the punch on this one. (Your opening sentence made me giggle.) Glad I got it right.

    I've ridden horse that you couldn't spur and had to over and under, and I've also ridden horses that absolutely freaked if you hit them (or in some cases even yelled at them), but would sharpen up and do right if you just wore spurs. You didn't have to gig them. Just the knowledge the spurs were there was enough. Its amazing how different they all can't really generalize much when it comes to horse training.

  24. Oh, and I always whack myself in the leg or the arm, too. I thought I was exceptionally uncoordinated when it came to over and undering one. I feel a lot better now(!)

  25. Golly, Mugs, you're helpful.
    I wish I could wave a wand - zimzalabim! - and make you appear in my pasture/pen/trail when I need you!

  26. What's funny is that when I whap myself in the leg with the long ends of the reins, Dude hears the sound and speeds up anyway. Sometimes, you just have to show him the ends of the reins out of the corner of his eye ;). Mugs, a ot of time when I ask Dude to lope, he gives a series of bucks, instead. They're not big bucks or else I would fall off. The, when I pull his head up to get him to stop bucking, he stops going forward, too. Then he has "won" and I'm feeling bitter and spastic. Think I should whap him harder when he bucks? (If I do it in the sand arena wearing a helmet it won't be too big of a risk). He's 18 years old, fat, healthy and spoiled. I'm willing to try it to save the $500 it would cost to send him to the trainer. Your thoughts?

  27. redsmom-don't pull his head up. Pull his nose to your knee with ONE rein.Kick his hip out (same side as your pulling)He will swap ends. Kick him forward. If he bucks again pull him again the opposite way. Kick his hip out with the opposite leg. Send him forward. Don't be nice about any of this.

  28. mugs i love you, i started reading yur blog about a week ago and took two days to read everything, you are a talented writer.

  29. The mare that I used to show in cutting had to be shown in sharp spurs. When I was at home, I would school her on cattle and instead of using the spurs to make her get there with the cow, I would over and under her...and I am glad to know that I am not the only one that would whack myself in the back of the head with the reins!! And we had had so many lessons together that when the trainer would yell"Kick, Whoa, or pull her in the ground!" my mare knew exactly what she was supposed to do. Half the time when he said, "Kick" I didn't even have to move my leg, she would just lunge forward and make apoint to get there faster like she KNEW she was supposed to be doing!
    One time the trainer asked me if his daughter could show my mare in the youth class, I agreed to it...but we had a bunch of people laughing at the show because he told his daughter to trot my mare forward and pull her in the ground a few times before they went in to cut. Well she trotted my mare forward and my trainer said,"WHOA" real loud and my mare parked her butt in the ground and the girl almost fell off because she wasn't ready yet! LOL She looked at her dad and said, "DAD I wasn't ready yet!" LOL..and he said, Well aparently the horse was! " LOL
    I have been with this trainer for 16 years and wouldn't DREAM of going anywhere else! He has always treated my horses right and has always been honest to me. I had a 4 year old that I just sold about a month ago that was supposed to be my next cutter, but he had a meeting with me sometime in July and said, "I don't think he is going to be a cutter...we need to find something else for him to do..." SO I pulled him out of training and I started working with him on the trails and other versatility stuff and he seemed to be alot happier doing that. The versatility sport has become a big deal around here and I had a guy come and look at him and he bought him on the spot. It also helped that this horses full brother is Leading the Non Pro in SHOT(Stock Horse of Texas). SO that was a good selling point for this guy too!
    Well I better stop to you later

  30. I have one question about my horse. When i go to over and under on him, he shies away from the rein. If we are on the left lead and I go to whack him on the right with the reins, left we gooooo. And vice versa. All I want is forward, not a hard left or right. What gives and how should I proceed? I don't have to do this often, just when he's being lazy as I'm trying to ask for a long trot. Thoughts?

  31. Cool post. I think, for the popping right shoulder thing, you need to use what she's giving you, to make her work harder. Make her popping a right shoulder, a shoulder-in left. Then, ask for leg-yield right, bent right. Strong right leg, if she's still trying to bend left. She'll have to lighten her right shoulder. It will annoy her. But the key is to ride forward into what they're giving you, and make how they're moving is a learning and working experience.
    Don't get too bogged down with what the movement is exactly. Don't nag the horse. (I'm not saying you do). Focus on keeping your eyes up, and looking the way you want to go. It's more important to be moving forward. After each "bending movement", including circles, you should go back to forward and straight and forward. Keep changing direction, and keep her guessing. Horses hate too many circles in one direction at once:)
    But they loooove variety, and of course, moving forward.
    Well most of 'em anyway:)
    I love the "make them never ever want you to use the crop again" thing. Brilliant!
    Exactly, keep it simple.

    Good luck!
    Mugwump rules...

  32. Thanks mugs for that one. Thats more or less what I have been doing, just gotta work on it more.

    Would have replied sooner but I was in Totonto for the royal.