Friday, January 16, 2009

More Collection

 A western horse is expected to carry himself in an effective manner which gets the job done. The job definition describes the level of collection and how we get it. I'm starting to see a light go on regarding some differences, don't you?
My horse's job is to do a decent reining pattern and work a cow. He can't be a completely fabulous reiner, because reining horses make every move according to the riders commands. Cowhorses are expected to be independent thinkers. A good cowhorse reads a cow much better and quicker than it's rider. So I have to trust my horse to make a split second decision and not wait for my thoughts on the matter. This gives the horse an opinion. Which hurts the dry work (reining) portion of our run. Because my horse is usually thinking ahead to the cow work and feels not a lot of obligation to think about me.
Which takes me to my version of self carriage and collection.
Remember. I am not saying I'm right, just what we work towards.
From the first day I want my youngster to be able to balance himself with me on his back. So I just sit there. I'm just a sack of potatoes. The first communication is forward. Walk, trot, canter without my involvement other than trying to stay out of his way. I ride with a halter or side pull, depending on the temperament of the colt and how brave I'm feeling on any given day.
This is also why I'm not a huge round pen or one rein stop fan. I feel like the round pen encourages my horse from the get go to fall into the center of his circles. A one rein stop teaches my colt to flop his head to my knee, dump his front end into the ground and hang on my hands. These two things create problems I have to train out of my horse before I can train the right things in. Which is confusing to me and goes against my basic premise. Self carriage.
When my colt can comfortably motor around with me I introduce my hands. Once we have right and left I'll begin to add my legs.
During this time I have been encouraging him to stop off my seat and an exhale, so I come in with hands on the Whoa to create a sharper stop and begin the back.
Here is where things will begin to go different directions.
Now is when a rope horse starts tracking cattle and a cutter starts single cow work.
Because the job of a western horse dictates the level of collection and how they use it.
To my mind, my responsibility to my horse is to teach them how to carry themselves in a way to keep us both safe and healthy.
Because we are working outside of our relationship (on cows) my goal isn't necessarily to reach great heights of communication, except in our work. We just need to get the job done and my horse will be judged on how much he does by himself.
So back to my colt. I need to take him further before he starts to work because of the reining aspect.
My goal is to have a horse who drives from the rear. I need intense bursts of speed and the ability to stop, turn and continue with fluidity and the same speed. He needs to carry me through this and to position me where I need to be at all times.
So my horse will travel with his back rounded, his hind legs driving forward, his neck level and his face soft, supple and carried on the vertical. His shoulders need to stay loose and upright. He needs to carry this with little to no contact on the reins. It's as if he is travelling along pushing an invisible elephant in front of him with his forehead.
If I rock back and push him with my right calf he should stop and roll back to the left. I should be able to remind him to collect by simply raising my hand so my reins make slight contact and by maintaining contact with my right calf through the turn and keeping my left leg open he should take his left lead.
My weight stays back with my ears, shoulders, hips and heels aligned.
We should start slow and have one to this level by the time they are six.
So let's chew on this awhile and I'll try to find some good youtube stuff.

Here's Shawn Flarida, I consider him the best at what he does. (reining)

Here's a friend and former peer of mine, Blue Allen, winning reserve champion at the 2008 NRCHA worlds. I have to admit, I struggle with this, there was a time I ran neck and neck with this guy, and now he's winning in the big time. While I sit here, fat and out of shape, spouting my theories. Sigh. Pity party at 6:00.

Check out the differences in the horses. Notice the formal wear of a cowhorse exhibitor (snort, we're all like that). I think you will see what I mean about independent thought.


  1. That sounds very cool! Different than I know, but very, very cool just the same....

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  3. Thanks for the video examples!

    I was starting to get choked up just like I do watching an amazing upper level dressage test. I think the crowd cheers really get me to. I swear, the older I get, the easier I get all teary and emotional.


    P.S. I have been checking out some local trainers. Turns out I do have a few to choose from.

    One trainer doesn't want the owner out for the first month of training. His reason... I might see the horse buck with a rider on and then be afraid to ride him later myself. I figure If it is my horse, and I am paying for training, I have the right to monitor, learn, and observe as I have the time.

    I thought about giving some constructive feedback, but he has plenty of business and probably prefers to call the shots and not bother with those that don't want to play by his rules. His horses were Very Quiet, and slow.

  4. Whywud- That line? B.S. Pure and simple. The first month is when we trainer types explain the facts of life to new horses. Get rid of old behaviors, get them used to the new routine etc. It can be hard on the horse, especially if they're rotten. BUT the day a trainer tells me not to come out for the first month is the day I keep looking. It means he doesn't think you'll be happy with how he explains things to the horse, and he plans on having them explained before you see him again.

  5. Mugs,

    Agreed, 100%

    I have no issue with explaining and dishing out discipline, but as a former professional animal trainer (guide dogs) I want to have the opportunity to learn from the process.

  6. Wow - the first vid is pretty, but as an english rider who has done a bit of everything english - I much prefer the second one - Blue Allen.

    The trot at teh start of the video would have scored quite nicely in a lot of dressage tests here as a working trot, the horse really had the hindquarters engaged and the thing that I think is weird about the NRHA video is that the horses head is sooo low where as when the horse in the second vid is actually working the cow the head is higher for the most part than the reining horses is. Is that just the particular horse, or they way that most horses work cows when in close?
    (My main experience with working QH's has been chasing sheep with my QH x - it's not a good thing to do bareback on a really clean shiny horse- and watching a few back in the 80's and early 90's that some of the farm workers had and showed in the small western/cutting shows here.

  7. I prefer the second one too for similar reasons. I just can't get used to a horse's head being that low! I'd be afraid I would go ass over teakettle :) I also like Blue's horse's conformation, it's super pretty. I'm bummed I have to miss out on more of these discussions over the weekend (no internet at home, we really do live in the sticks). At least it will be warmer though, it was -30 F when I fed the horses this morning, I've never seen such icicles hanging off horse eyelashes and noses! Have a great weekend everyone!

  8. The reiners teach their horse to drop the head when they relax. Nose to the ground. So they go around seeking it. Then they drive the hindquarters to the low head. See the logic?
    In cowhorse we tend to work with the head and neck set we're given. If they carry low we ride low, if they carry high that's what we work with.
    I prefer the look of a cowhorse too. It seems much freer and natural to me. It's why I was drawn to the sport.

  9. "Cowhorses are expected to be independent thinkers. A good cowhorse reads a cow much better and quicker than it's rider. So I have to trust my horse to make a split second decision and not wait for my thoughts on the matter. "

    I like this. I want to trust that my horse can think through problems.

    I'll see the vids when I get home, they are blocked at work.

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  12. Didn't like Flarida at all. My reining friends probably would love t, though.

    I LOVED the Blue Allen video. The horse was content and not pissed off looking and had a much better way of going.

  13. I like the first video... no suprise there. I like the lower head (although it dips too low somtimes) But I want a horse to wait for me to ask for each step.

    By the way my dad thinks the second video is bette so vote is split in my house :)

  14. Hey Mugs. Not on topic, but had to show you some pics of my helmet, after a serious fall off my greenie. Or rather, a fall that could have been serious; thanks to my helmet, I have no concussion. No broken head.

    My helmet, on the other hand... :-/ May it RIP.

    I was just thinking, maybe you should wear a helmet. Just consider it. I know it's not cool, but when your head could end up looking like my helmet...

    P.S. The fall was because said greenie spooks, and my saddle (though the girth was tight when I triple-checked, and throughout the ride) pulled a quick arab spook, saddle slid way up his neck (READ: PRACTICALLY HIS EARS), he bolted, bucking. The helmet got smushed by his hooves, not the ground - and it got smushed while it was on my head (it fell off after.)

  15. well, if you were off winning reserve world champion, then you wouldn't have as much time to write stories and muse theories on here. Selfish of me, I know ;)
    I love Blue's mare's jog in: so swinging and free.
    Also, I WISH we did cows in the U.K. The horses look so happy working them.

  16. Thanks Mugs for the explaination. It still looks weird to me, and I'd be worried that the horse (and I) would be face planting with its head so low - I guess it's just what I'm used to. The reiner still didn't look like he was on the forehand and was probably a lovely ride.

    And Londongril - Find a QH and some sheep - honestly my QH pony never had any formal training, but he used to cut others out of the group if they didn't want to be caught and would bring in the sheep just fine all by himself. Thats where I learnt that bareback and a halter dosent cut it when riding a well groomed horse in summer - he was way too slippery!

    He probably would have been a better cow pony ( he was 14.1hh) than the general purpose pony clubber, eventer, farm hack, trail rider, riding for the disabled pony that he was turned into!

  17. Great post... This applies to barrel horses as well. We need them always ready to turn and push off. Collected and paying attention for the slightest cue, even a shift in weight to cue rate. Like in a cowhorse, they must always be ready, only a barrel horse can learn and memorize a pattern, and get dull on it, wheras a cowhorse will nenver know what a cow is goign to do until right before it does it.


    Everyone check out my blog, if you want. I just started it;

  18. Okay, I am not very familiar with these sports, but I love reading your posts for the learning aspect (I'm a trail rider, but I like my trail horses well trained). But I have a question about the first video with Shawn Flarida on the palomino. As I was watching, I kept feeling like something looked "fake" or just not he way I'm use to seeing horses move, then I realized that the horse's tail was plastered to his butt, and seemed sort of limp. Is that something they train them to do? Or is it a result of training? Or do you think this is a candidate for having something injected into it to deaden it? Something just looks wrong about it. Notice in the second video with the sorrel, his tail extends out behind him and moves as he moves, as though it is an extension of his body (which it is). Why the "dead" tail on the palomino? I don't think it's very attractive at all.

  19. The Blue Allen horse would be great in any discipline - soft, focused, responsive and obedient.

    Impressive job, and btw, what a nice horse!

  20. This totally makes me want to leave my dressage behind and pick up a western saddle. I think my palomino would be good at it. She's got the collection, just not the extension of a good dressage horse. But I think that would work in her favor for something like this.
    Mugs, come to Florida and help me train my prissy QH to be a cowhorse.

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  22. I, too, do not like the overly low headset that is taught to reiners. Its looks unatural to me. And, like mugwump, I am fine with horses who have a naturally high headset and horses with a naturally low headset. I have ridden both and both have their strengths and weaknesses. I will say that a high headset can be helpful in a head horse.

  23. Yes, I can see the quality difference from the European video.
    The second horse was really a nice one, would have done well in the dressage arena.
    I agree with Kara re. the tail comment on the first. Doesn’t look good to me.
    If I understand this correctly, you guys need a horse that is fast and with a good acceleration, but also very agile, with a good balance on both horse and rider, and with the ability to shift weight and get the hocks under, also very fast. The horse needs to be both obedient and to be able to take independent decisions.
    That’s a tall order.
    And also some opposites which are fascinating.
    You guys must have a LOT of fun.
    I also guess there is a lot of time of two beings thinking as one in there?
    I could easily get hooked on this :-)
    I understand that the definition of collection is different in western and dressage, and that is good to have cleared in further discussions, so we don’t misunderstand each other.
    In my next life, I’ll be a cow girl.
    I would also be very interested to have some explanations/discussion about the head set.

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  25. "Is there a divide in the western idea of "ideal"?"

    You have no idea! There are even debates within each 'division' I guess you could call it.

  26. Holly Go Lightly--I am not bashing a low head set. I am not bashing anything. I said I didn't care for the unaturally low head set that is taught to reiners. This is not the horse's natural headset. It is the headset that wins in the reining world. For a worse example of the same problem, look at western pleasure horses. What I said was that both a naturally high headset and a naturally low headset can work well (meaning in the overall cowhorse world-- ie horses that work cows) and that a horse with a naturally high headset has some advantages when it comes to teaching him to be a head horse. I said this partly because people of other disciplines often think that all western riders want that very low head carriage. With all due respect, I think that if you are talking about something of which you have very little knowledge, its best to frame your comments/questions respectfully. Perhaps your more appropriate response would have been "Laura (or Mugs if you want to ask her), why does the horse with the naturally high headset have some advantages as a head horse, when the reiners want the horse's head so low?" See what I mean?

  27. Blair - funny all this talk about dressage/collection has me itching to get some dressage lessons in one of those tiny saddles. :) I love all this talk!

    Mugs - I am definitely an instinct rider and your blog has helped me analysis my riding and really focus on what I am doing and the result. My horses are loving your exercises.

  28. Laura, though, I've got to say that some of that low reiner headset is breeding. My mare is royally bred for cutting and reining (Chocolate Chic Olena's her sire, she's linebred to Doc O'Lena top and bottom) and she picks up that headset at liberty. Or on the lunge. She doesn't do it in the round pen--interestingly enough--but I have seen her practically dragging her nose on the ground at a lope on the lunge line.

    I've known her from a foal, and know how she was trained (and put most of her higher level training on), and I can assure you it's what she does naturally. She simply wants to drop her head when her back gets tight.

    Let's just say that when I do long and low stuff with her she has no problem in running out the rein as far as she can. One reason I ride with longer reins in English is that the normal reins are too short for her liking when we go on the buckle. Same for her romal in Western--I have a long Dale Chavez kangaroo leather one. She also does not like stiff reins AT ALL--soft reins are what she prefers.

    My joke is that she likes to drag her nose on the ground to scarf up bits and pieces of hay on the arena surface! I will say it took some getting used to--I had a horse as a kid who only dropped her head that low to start bucking. But when I saw how she moved on the lunge line (no side reins, either), I realized that it was something she did naturally, and I don't worry about it.

  29. joycemocha--My trail horse carries his head in a very similar way to your mare. No problem there. I keep repeating that I have no trouble with a naturally low headset. I have ridden lots of horses like this and liked them. Because I have worked in some training barns I have seen what is done to some horses to get a low headset when it is not the natural headset for that particular horse and it ain't pretty. The reiners I've seen all seem to have a very, very low headset, unlike reined cowhorses, whose heads are not all uniformly low. I showed cutters for years, and there are cutters who naturally carry their heads pretty high. And with rope horses, as I pointed out, particularly head horses, it can be an advantage if the horse wants to carry his head a little high. The point I'm trying to make is that not all of us western types (particularly the cowhorse types) are striving for that low, low head carriage. Nor do we train our horses to carry their heads any lower than the horse naturally wants to carry his head.

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  31. "For a worse example of the same problem, look at western pleasure horses."

    yep, and even tho WP is what I want and like in my riding horses, I .hate. the go-nowhere mindset and movement in the ring. They look re-duck-uloss. It (like many things in many disciplines) has been taken to *very*...very low, very slow, very round....

    my mare has a naturally level headset and is naturally slow, but still moves forward. It really shows when I'm with my friend who has an Arab, Miss the Arab has to circle back multiple times so we don't get left behind on trails. Her mare strides out, head up, my mare ambles along, head about with her withers or a little up.

  32. Ginger-here's my barrel racer question. It seems barrel horses are getting longer, leaner, leggier. More TB. How does the racier build influence the push, run, turn pattern you do?
    Londongirl-horses are happy working cows and it's infectious, I like the idea of working sheep....
    Kara-good eye on the tail. I can't tell you about the palomino's tail. My daughter has a cutting bred colt who naturally carries his head like the reiner and has a totally flat tail carriage.
    I also know that many horses regularly have their tail "doctored" to stay flat. It's illegal, but it's done. Some use weights to hold them down. APHA does it,(the weights) I don't know who else.
    I don't know for sure about Shawn Flarida's ride. But she is sporting the look.
    The tail doctoring is not as traumatic as what can be done to teach the low headset.
    About headsets- I want my horse to develop from the feet up. As I gain control of the legs the head settles into the headset he should have. Then I start collecting. As my horse rounds, his head will drop to where it works best.
    Unfortunately fashion dictates wierd stuff, from head to tail.
    I like cowhorse because although we have the fads, the unrealistic training demands and fake headsets and tails like everybody else, you can still win without them. Other disciplines not so much.
    Hey, I finally posted on Check it out. I'm a big fat whiney crybaby.

  33. Holly-Did you get a chance to see the videos?

  34. "Holly-Did you get a chance to see the videos?"

    yes I did. Shawn's run was spectacular, he's quite the showman and the horse was pretty. For my own personal tastes tho...I like the second one better. That from someone who knows exactly squat about cow horse disciplines. I just like the way the second horse moved more. Is one preferred over the other?

    OFF TOPIC: has anyone else ridden in these cold temps? I rode 1X this week before they dropped and will begin my 2X a week as soon as it gets about 20 degrees again.

  35. Ginger, I too have wondered about the huge horses I see barrel racing; it seems like smaller/shorter would be better for the turns.

    Holly, at 20 I say forget riding, I wait for 40s unless it's really windy, then that's still too cold, but I'm in Texas and am a complete cold weather wuss.

  36. Loved Shawn's ride. Mare looked feisty and just ready to eat the ground up. Tail COULD be doctored... dunno. A little TOO sensitive on the rollbacks (which Shawn mentioned later--'I didn't expect her to be so sensitive!'). I personally like the low headsets. Most horses are bred for it; the ones that aren't usually don't do well. To me it shows a sign of training--they're quick, good, and still keep their head where it belongs for that discipline. WP can get a little crazy with it, but they're slowly working at getting rid of the excessively low heads. (I've even seen judges disqualify for it). I'm sure for cows, it's a little different. Gotta SEE the cow to chase it. ;)

    The cow horse one... did not like so much. Horse's large fast circles looked sluggish at BEST. Slow circles looked labored. He ran his horse and cow into the wall because the cow got ahead of him SEVERAL times, MAINLY because the horse slid into the stop and slid a couple feet whilst the cow was running away. The horse quit on him EVERY time he did a run down, and he urged it forward midway and then stopped almost ten feet off the wall. The horse quit on him several times when he was trying to run down the cow too, and he had to urge it forward to get it to get in FRONT to stop it. Actually, to me, it looked like he did a LOT of work with hand and legs to keep that horse looking 'cowy'. Maybe it was the 105 fever, but I wasn't impressed. I also think you should dress up a LITTLE more at that big of a show.. it's a sign of respect.
    Mugs, come on we know you can do better. ;)
    I know reining, but not so much cow--but that's what I saw, and correct me if I'm wrong. I've had a class in cow work at Findlay (gag me), but have not the privilege to do it myself.

  37. fake tail in the second video for sure. Cant comment for sure on if it was 'done' or not.

  38. Dressage in jeans-no, I can't do better. I did see Blues horse go past the cow, but only in the box work, when you are gaining control of the cow, and getting a feel of how things are going to go. I wondered if he had more shoe on the horse than I would use.During the box work the horse is not supposed to be cutting the cow on a loose rein. The horse is supposed to drive the cow and then stop it, drive the cow then stop it. Side to side.
    The fence work was exquisite. It was classic.
    When the cow fell during the circle work, Blue was maybe a half stride behind and the cow bolted into the fence. The horsemanship came in with the smooth way horse and rider backed off to allow the cow to get back up without injury. Blue got behind because he made an extremely bold strategic move going in to circle the cow immediately after his second turn instead of going for three turns. It made for a higher degree of difficulty. I don't know if he lost his advantage by that move, but it was still a gorgeous run.
    As far as quitting...not once. We drive the cow as far between the markers as possible and then turn, right before the penalty marker, they are taught to drive until we cue to go by. Then we push every stride, once we set for the turn we sit back and they turn. A good cowhorse is ready to stop and turn at every stride down the fence.He was in perfect position during his fence run. The judges would have completely forgotten any problems in the box.
    I saw a horse correctly building speed stride for stride for each stop during the dry work.I did see a skip in one stop.It looked to me like he caught a toe in the dirt. This would not cause a penalty. We don't use the wide sliding plates the reiners do and our dirt is not prepared like a reiners. Our dirt is deep to protect the legs of the cattle and horses during the run.I only run in a half-inch plate that projects maybe 1/2 inch past the heel bulb.Our horses are not supposed to stop like a reiner.
    I can tell you appreciate reining. But like I said, we're not going for that look in cowhorse. Our horse's movement is much less constructed.Much less controlled.
    And no, we don't dress up more than that. We leave the bling to the reiners and pleasure folk.It has nothing to do with respect. I have scribed for plenty of the big name cowhorse judges. If your horse moves like a reiner and the rider dresses like a reiner than they pretty much quit watching. They know it's only a "wannabe".
    That was the point of the videos, so you could see the difference.

  39. Mugwump, I can't resist. Thank you for that last comment. It was priceless.

  40. justaplainsam-Do you mean the cowhorse video? We don't do fake tails.....they get pulled out during the cow work and then everybody laughs, except the dumb bunny who put in the fake tail. I have only seen one fake tail in cowhorse competition. That is a horse who had an injury to her tail. She just has a little stub, like a dock. She functions better mentally if she wears her fake tail. So she does.
    For the most part we don't do the super long manes and tails, just natural length. Same reason, it just all gets pulled out or in the way.
    We do have people who doctor their tails though.

  41. Mugs, when you say doctor the tail, do you mean to get it to just hang limp? Do you know how they do that? Just kinda curious...

  42. I know they're not supposed to move/work like a reiner, and I didn't me 'quitting his stops' that he didn't slide far.
    However, If you watch midway down the run, the horse stops accelerating--as he sets up for a stop. It's not a stop or a pop, just a horse knowing that the stop is coming so he stops reaching. But the stop is no good if he stops reaching and accelerating, so he pushed him forward (the only thing he COULD do) and then stopped when he was, in my opinion, much too close to the wall. (not on top of it, just close enough that it's an influence.) Kind of like running a bit off the wall shows you have control of your horse without using the wall as a crutch.

    The cow work, you did clear a few things up for me which I admit. I still saw the horse hit the wall as much as the cow did, but yes, letting the cow get up without injury was nice. Also, I was unaware that the horse is suppose to run the full length of the arena (I was very confused as to why he was running the horse right next to the cow without passing!) so thank you for clearing that up. Question, though--is the horse supposed to slide when he stops and turns the cow? Then again, they DO have sliders on... i guess the horse has no choice huh?

    Very amusing to me that what is proper attire for reining makes judges think they are wannabes! I suppose I am just trained that looking picture perfect is my respect for the judge. English does that to you, I suppose.

  43. whywud-I'm not sure exactly how it is done. The nerves are blocked so the horse can't swat it's tail up and down. They can still swing side to side. Sometimes this gets screwed up and looks horrible.

  44. Mugwump asked;
    Ginger-here's my barrel racer question. It seems barrel horses are getting longer, leaner, leggier. More TB. How does the racier build influence the push, run, turn pattern you do?
    Well, as far as what types of horses we run, it is a ride preference. I know many people who prefer the longer, leggier types that you are talking about, people who like to stick to the "barrel bred" horse, and I even know some people who prefer to train cow/reining bred horses and run them.

    On the longer, leggier horses, in my opinion, it is harder to get a big horse to collect up for that sharp turn, but alot of them make up for it with their long stride in between the barrels. I've also seen some of them make that turn like a 14hh horse. So, I really think it just depends on the horse, his athletic ability, and his turning style.

    Also, the pen you are running in would make a difference. A larger horse usually does better on a larger pattern, but struggles on a smaller pattern where they don't have alot of time or room between turns.

    A big trend in the barrel horse world, currently, is breeding QH race stallions to cow bred horses, or cow X barrel bred horses. Trying to get the speed into a smaller compact body that is built for better turning.

    Sorry for writing a book, and feel free to ask me any questions, through comments on here or comments on my own blog.

    Kasey @

  45. "Ginger, I too have wondered about the huge horses I see barrel racing; it seems like smaller/shorter would be better for the turns."

    See my reply above to Mugs

  46. Mugwump - You asked me a question, and now I have one for you, if you can answer it. ;) My question may be kind of silly, but I've always wandered;

    How in the world do you get the manes on those reining horses!!
    LOL, like I said, silly question, but I'm envious!

    Kasey @

  47. Greetings from Scandinavia, Holly. Low temperatures should not be a problem!
    I don't know what temperatures you have, but here in January it sometimes go down to -20 centigrades (around 0-5 F?)
    The horses have long way from the nostrils down to the lungs, so they are less affected to work in the cold weather than we are.
    I ride at all temperatures, but when it's freezing, you don't stay on the horse that long. Largest problem is to keep your hands and feet warm. We use an exercise rug/quarter sheet in fleece/wool over the back of the horse. Pack yourself in, and work away!
    I feel sometimes like a Michelin-woman up there :-)
    And I love these discussions, it's such fun.
    Thanks all.

  48. Thanks Deered and mugs - Im not sure if our sheep arent a little too friendly to do this to, but I definitely have QHs! One day Im going to put up pictures of all our appy's, QHs, paints, and everything else that the little ones use for competitions (donkeys,exmoors) and just let the American contingent GO. We have a prized QH who my boss says is of 'impeccable breeding' - I'm pretty sure you guys would be a little more critical ;)
    oh, and -20? Jesus! Do you do roadwork and hacking in thosekind of temperatures?

  49. Oh yes, Londongirl. Roadwork, hacking and dressage :-)
    The horse get icesickles in the nozzlehair, your snot freezes and you get frost on your have to be kind of a nerd to keep riding, huh?
    But that is the easy part, being on the horse. The hard part is to teach and stand still on the ground. Then it really gets cold.

    But those -20 days are not so many, have many with -10 to -15 though, cold enough.
    Still, some of my most beatiful riding experiences are in the winter time.
    If I am fortunate to to have a combination of new snow and a starry night with a full moon - that is really, really beautiful. The trees are heavy with snow and the moon shines so bright that you almost have to wear shades. The shadow from the trees are sharp in the snow, and it glitters like dimonds in the moonlight. It's quite still, the only thing you can hear is the leather in the saddle and the crunch under the hooves.
    Aaah, bliss.
    No problem to ride in the dark when there's snow.
    We have a lot of moose here as well. Being in a mountainous area, the snow gets too deep in the higher areas so they gather down in the valley, where we ride.
    Can create some fun moments with the horses sometimes. I rode into three yesterday, one of them a great male that wasn't all that interested to move away from the path. After thinking a bit bot of us, he moved slightly to one side, and we rode a bit around to the other, and got home.

  50. I am actually going to try to ride today...after a month of bad weather, it's finally going to be 20 or so in MI...I don't mind riding in the cold, it's the wind chills (below zero) that get me! I was going to ride yesterday afternoon, but both horses were acting so stupid that I decided to wait. They were both galloping around, snorting, bucking, rearing! It was so funny to see the difference in appendix QH mare was "turning on a dime" while my step-horse Dutch Warmblood gelding could barely keep up with her!


  51. Today it was not cold, but heavy snowfall and a strong wind. After 10 min my horse and I was covered in snow, and it was difficult to see. After half an hour I just gave up. So now I have returned inside, changed my wet and cold clothes, mixed myself an irish coffee (I deserved that, didn't I?) and am eagerly waiting for you guys on the other side of the world to wake up, and give me something interesting to ponder.
    And yes, the horses are like kids, they just love the snow. They show a very interesting scope of tricks which I am very thankful that they don't display with me on top...

  52. I will say up front that I'm not a Western fan, but I respect the folks who do it well and do it with true horsemanship, which I seem to see less and less of. Everywhere around me all I see are horses who are not using their backs, running around on their forehand, nose on the ground, not going anywhere, spurred and yanked and forced into some kind of false picture. And I'll never get the fascination with the sliding stop -- I cringe every time I see it wondering what it does to hocks and fetlocks. But to each their own as long as they keep the welfare of the horse first.

    BUT I watched your Blue Allen video. And THAT is a well-trained, lovely moving, focused and well-ridden horse that I would consider it a privilege to sit on. His entering trot is just gorgeous -- that horse is engaged, listening, and moving beautifully. Throughout the whole routine, rider and horse are in sync, the horse knows his job and does it with pleasure and attention while keeping his body balanced and using himself perfectly. And the rider -- well, I don't even have to notice him. His cues are subtle, there's no yanking or spurring and he lets the horse shine while staying out of the way.

    Thank you -- it was a pleasure to watch and restored my faith in the fact that there ARE Western folks doing it right!! (and I always LOVE to see a nice cowhorse work, just fantastic!!)

  53. Mugwump - Today I blogged a little about training, and I would love your opinion on the issue I had, and how I dealt with it, if you could check it out, that would be great, thanks!

    Kasey @

  54. Mugwump- oopps :P ment the fist video you can see it in the spins

  55. Since I am really still learning, and have an idea of a "uncollected" "not under themselves" horse, but would like to be sure of what I am seeing...could you post videos of bad movers for comparison?

    Reason I am saying this...I was told by "bling bling" that my mare was only good as a trail horse, yet I don't think her movement is bad at all. I am realizing I was told this because she doesn't move like a WP/HUS nose-down horse...and after reading and seeing these videos, I think "bling bling" only likes that style horse and all rest are useless :)

    Here is a video from the first snow we had in December of my mare trying to get my "step" horse to play ;) Of course, my foster mini just looking cute and wondering where all the grass went! I don't know if you can tell much, but let me know what you see/suggestions. Remember, she is out of shape (we all are) and still green.

    No, that is not my arena, sigh. Bling blings. I just get to ride in my pasture.



  56. Oh, yes...that is her famous buck!
    She dumped me with it right before I bought her...I'm such a glutton for punishment!


  57. Good morning all! I'm going riding today, so I'll be brief...
    Ginger- Thanks, it makes sense. Cutters and cowhorse breeders are FINALLY looking for a little size, foot and bone, same idea...
    HorseOfCourse-I want to come ride with you. Your description was beautiful.I want to see moose. I also have some questions. How do you keep warm enough? I have a terrible time with my fingers,the front of my thighs and my face. I have my feet figured out, (Montana boots by Schnee) but I end up with too much bulk to be mobile on my horse if I wear enough clothes to stay warm. We have biting wind most of the time...
    Ginger-I don't do the extra long manes and tails. Although I have a lot of natural length on my horses. I get it by NEVER touching the manes or tails until I show. A few days before I drench them in the gloppiest, cheapest human hair conditioner I can find. I leave it in over night. Then the next day I pick them apart and untangle them with my fingers.
    Then I wash and recondition the entire horse and finally comb out the manes and tails. With my palomino I use whitening shampoo.
    The reiners on the other hand keep their horses in braids. The mane is kept in well-conditioned loose braids. The tails the same, there are lots of variations on how to braid them.
    The best I've seen is to clean and condition the tail, (don't put conditioner on the tail bone, it will make your horse itchy!) loosly braid it with three strips of old bed sheet braided in with, then either roll it ip and vet-wrap it in a bundle or stuff it in a tail bag.
    Too much work for me. But it works.
    justplainsam-I thought so....

  58. I think your horse looks lovely, Jackie.
    She reminds me of my 5-year-old mare, and she also likes to buck.
    Have a look at
    It's all in Norwegian, but just scroll down to Dec. 15th and look at the photo. Not so bad, huh?

  59. Thanks Mugwump. I don't want the extra, extra long, I just want it to look that good lol. So, I'll leave it alone, and then conditiona nd untangle when I have a show or something. Thanks for taking the time to answer me. Hope you had fun on your ride.

  60. Ginger--What I do is I use conditioner regularly on my horse's tail and mane--Cowboy Magic--and sometimes I'll put it on after I comb it out and let it sit. I put it on nice and thick when I do (my mare is such a Princess Girl, she likes it when I play with her mane and tail!). It's time-consuming when I get really into it, but using a lot of conditioner really helps.

    Also, use a wide-toothed (with space between the teeth), long comb with a handle on it. Something that looks like a hair pick for human Afro-type styling, only with a regular comb handle. The wider the teeth on the comb, the easier it is to comb out mane and tail (ironically).

    I don't braid my mare's tail because the stall cleaner gets annoyed with me when I do. My mare doesn't tend to carry the tailbone very high when she works (she looks flat-tailed), but man, can she ever whip it around when she gets in a mood--and, like her mama, she can aim that tail but good--she's very precise with her aim.

  61. You’re welcome anytime, Mugs!
    Why not start a new equestrian action sport: Moose-reining.
    You go first :-)
    Wool underwear. Always. By the end of the winter my underwear pants have a lot of holes in the butt :-)
    And I dress in layers, but I agree that you get bulky and it affects your riding. But what’s the option?
    Actually I believe that your wind is just as bad, or even worse, than our cold.
    On my legs I wear wool underwear, riding breeches and chaps. I also have thermo pants but that’s too bulky. It has to be very cold before I use them.
    I have a fake sheepskin fitted over the saddle.
    On the body I just take as many layers as needed. Hands are a problem because you need to have them nimble. I wear Mountain Horse gloves, they keep the warmth rather well. And Mountain Horse Rimfrost Paddock boots on trails. When I ride dressage I have my riding boots but with wool socks in them, it usually works as you are working harder than on trail, it’s easier to keep warm.
    I don’t know if you can get the Mountain Horse products in the US, but they are made for riding in a cold climate, and stand for extensive wear.
    I believe the horses are more affected by wind and rain than cold. When visiting Ireland I noticed that the horses there get more winter coat than ours do.
    I had a good laugh a fortnight ago when I had my dressage lesson, and it was -15 centigrades (5 F).
    The only thing I could see of Kristin, my instructor was the eyes- the rest was just one big bulky dark mass. And it was not all that easy for her to see what I was doing up in the saddle either, lol.

  62. mugwump asked - I also have some questions. How do you keep warm enough? I have a terrible time with my fingers,the front of my thighs and my face.

    For fingers I wear silk or polypropelyne liners under my fleece lined leather gloves and keep a Hot Hands warmer in my pocket. I wear poly or silk thermals under jeans and leather chaps over. I have had the same problem with the fronts of my thighs and knees getting cold when I was snow machining and realized that it was the tightness of my snow bibs across my knees that allowed the cold to go right through the fabric. I don't seem to have that problem with the chaps. (Don't go racing across the snow at 50 mph either) For the face I wear a balaclava or pull a scarf over my nose.

    Have you looked at the Mountain Horse Winter Breeches? I finally purchased a pair and absolutely love them.

  63. HorseOfCourse...

    Your mare looks like my mare! Mine is only 9.

    Rode both today...must be my karma right now to get horses that buck...both did...Toby surprized me...I must be doing something right by him and he's feeling really good! These were not full out bucks, just rounded backs and big kickouts when we cantered. Of course, when I got inside, I found out it was only 18 outside ;)


  64. ahhh... always the student here since my dh does a little reining and i do western pleasure showing (along with endurance riding on an arab.. but that's a different story)... i've found in WP .... we're after the same low headset.. now how do i get that "automatic " response on an energetic arab??

    good food for thought
    trotting on
    gp in mt.

  65. I totaly missed the original topic!!

    Well farmgirl defended the WP people very well on the last post. So I'll add my 2cents.

    As much as I am a WP junkie I have riden with several german dressage/jumping instructors so I see both sides of the fence but I like the grass over here better :)

    I ask for strightness, forword first no matter what horse I am on. My friend just bought a 3yo that cant go straight."left, right which way?!?" He has never been taught. I've always spent alot of time long troting everything. Granted the WP horses move slower than the warmbloods. When I start asking for 'collection' or responsiveness I ask them to lift there bellys (using my leg/spur) shift there weight back and lower there head. Rollbacks (into and away from the wall) changes in direction, gait keeping him from getting board and keep having him listening to me. Think of it as asking with your legs for his belly to come into your butt.

    The WP horse will have less contact than the english horse as eventuly we want no contact. (self carrage to the extream) Contact should almost be his punishment (legs, spur then hands in that order for almost all requirments)

    Idealy the WP horse will have the rail as a safe zone he's allowed to do his best and mosey along as long as he is good. His reward is less attention. With a dressage/jumper I want them waiting for me a bit more. But I like having an cruse controle on all my horses. I want the horse no matter what his disipline to be great no matter who is on his back.

    As far as breeding goes, The guy Im riding with now has breed some great ones (OHK anyone?) and its all in the breeding these WP horses now are so balanced and correct (or we think they are) that in his words "they are born broke" and with a level topline

  66. I love this comparative discussion of different disciplines and training philosophies.
    Mug I don't know if it is too late for more info on tripping question(went to Atlanta for weekend, and their grass is still green!!) but my horse was not tripping at the time of chastisement. My trainer was correcting my tendency to have loopy reins, and I got a lecture on tripping and loose reins. And thank you Laura for addressing the question. You and my trainer are in agreement.
    Justaplainsam, ''born broke is how my trainer describes the mind of a good bred-to-do-it reiner!

  67. As there has been some discussion about WP, would someone be so kind as to post a Youtube-link on this as well? Would be nice to know what you guys are speaking of...


    good stuff starts at 5:30 but the discriptions are good

    also look on youtube for the AQHA western pleasure judging videos


    Invest in Vital signs good video of the hip in ... (I personly dont like this horse much...)

  70. Thanks a lot justaplainsam!
    I bit wiser now...Nice with the comments on the first video too.

  71. Nagonmom-I'm going to be in trouble for the loose rein comments for the rest of my life.
    Listen to your trainer.
    1.I never have reins out of my control, even if I've tossed them way out.
    2. I am still completely capable of catching a horse if I choose.
    3.If I have a horse I feel is using me to keep himself upright I will keep my reins loose, let them stumble around and kick them through it.
    4. I am now giving Laura Crum a heart attack.
    5.This is one of my solutions which I have success with.
    6. Once again, I always have control of my reins.I was many years past having loopy reins before I started doing this. It is a judgement call.
    7. I deeply regret sharing this information. Pretend I didn't, PLEASE!
    8. Listen to your trainer.

  72. That Cow horse video. That's the first time I've watched that. That looks like a heck of alot of fun!!!

  73. All this talk of collection! I finally get it! So here's my question - I have a barrel horse, I've been told he did alot of roping also. I've learning to work him on cows and do some basic stuff. But I always have this problem, any leg cue I try to give him, he just goes faster. And he loves to run so I bump him to change leads and he goes from slow lope to full blast. How can I teach my horse to slow down? And listen to my cues without running full out?

  74. Thanks Mugwump!! Good advice and a good chuckle as well!!

  75. Holly:
    Yep, I still ride when it's cold. Didn't last week because it was -28 and they cancelled school, but as long as the wind isn't killer (I ride out in the open, no arenas etc in winter) I still ride.

  76. silly question time - if you ride WP do you only ever ride inside an arena? I couldn't imagine being on a horse that goes so slow if I was out for a road ride/trail ride! Or is it hat I am just too used to ex-racehorses and eventing/anything english?

  77. no we ride outside too... you just go slower. Belive me I miss fitting up the jumpers on grass :)

  78. -28 Esquared?
    Now, that's a wee bit chilly. I would consider dropping the riding then as well *chuckles*.
    Been thinking.
    It seems as if you have a greater diversity to choose between over there. You have got all that we have, and the western disciplines in addition. So finding something that suits the horse and rider should be easier, I suppose? There is quite a difference between cow reining and WP from what I see.
    Another question to you WP-people, why do you go so slow?
    And when you're out on trail, your horse doesn't speed up even if you have company with other type of horses?

  79. Can you please put spaces between paragraphs? I enjoy your site but I am poor sighted and these long posts make it very difficult to read without some separations. Thank you.

  80. anon-I'm usually pretty good about spacing my posts,I'll make sure I pay more attention. Thanks for reading!
    I've got some good questions here. I'm storing them for later though....

  81. Mugwump, you've really encouraged me to focus on the feel of my horse and I've got a question for you. I rode a friend's show trained 18 yr old APHA mare bareback the other day and when we trotted it felt like her back was springy. Kinda like her back was bouncing extra just in front of her croup. I wondered if this was because she was collecting, wasn't collecting or was totally unrelated (she is starting to become a bit sway backed?

    I ask because when I ride my boy bareback his back feels solid and not disjointed feeling. Does this make any sense? Thanks

  82. Thanks for the videos! Was very instructive on why you look for different temperments in the two sports.

    Are there any videos floating out there of you??? We would all love to see them, I'm sure!!!

  83. Wow, so much to catch up on. I am digesting.

    I much prefer the second vid to the first - the horse to my (completely uneducated in either of those disciplines) eye, looks freer and more impulsive.
    I'm still bemused by the extremely low headsets as shown in the first - but then, that's possibly just me, because I expect all my horses to jump, and I just can't visualise that horse getting over a fence!

    I love that you don't have to gussy up for them, dear lord, I would LOVE to not have to plait, and wear white breeches to compete in dressage, and when you get to the highest levels and have to wear a tail coat and topper - argh.
    People get so ridiculously pissy about presentation in the dressage world and it's always been a big wtf to me - it's not like we're showing for crying out load. Anyway.

    mugs - I have worked sheep from horseback in NZ. (I have moved cattle from horseback, which I am well aware is not the same as working them.)
    Sheep are a freaking PIA in my limited experience. From what I have gleaned, compared to cattle, they have a much further out "scatter distance" and they are very reactive. You mostly move 'em from a walk or a trot, because they spaz out at higher speeds. Also, they get stressed very easily, I can't quite imagine working them as cattle are because if they get separated, they frequently just lie down and pretend to be dead.
    Again, just my exp, I am admittedly no expert.

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