Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cross Training vs. Genetics

SlowPassinTime said...
Cross training is something that should be done more often... My pleasure horse does the usual pleasure horse events - showmanship, pleasure, horsemanship and we're working on trail. We also do English Pleasure and English Equitation at local shows. When we feel like a break, he also (surprisingly) trail rides, can dabble in games like barrel racing, and even plays polo. He does it all quite well, really - his only problem ever is not being able to relax enough to really perform.

SlowPassinTime had other questions about self-carriage, but that subject is HUGE , will take lots of thought on my part and could go on for days, so I'm ducking it at the moment. But the subject above caught my eye and my A.D.D. brain. So I've been chewing on that one for several days.

I'm thinking about the muscle development we achieve in our horse through training for a specific discipline and how it affects performance elsewhere.

I know that a well-bred pleasure bred horse will hit the ground carrying his head level and stepping deep with a flat kneed swing. His muscles are longer and flatter than other horses.

A cowhorse is compact and agile. She's born with a lightening fast response to outside stimulus. As a weanling she will put her head down and cut back and forth with her siblings, sit in the dirt and slide or roll-back like a champ, just for fun. Her muscles are bunched and strong, developed for explosive forward movement and sudden stops.

My daughter has a cutting bred foundation colt. His parents are cutters and so is every generation behind him for about ever. He naturally travels with his neck extending dead level from his short back. His hind legs step way underneath himself and he'll track anything she puts him on with his nose in the dirt and his eyes straight in the eyes of whatever he's after (Yes, he's totally cool). His lumbar muscles are heavily developed and his semitendinosis is extremely long and developed, reaching well-down into the back of his leg.

All of these horses are developed further by the type of training done on them for the sport they were bred for.

The cowhorse will travel uphill from tail to poll and her back, belly, hindquarters and neck will develop accordingly to make this easier.
The pleasure horse will develop strong abdominal obliques to help him carry his long low frame while maintaining correct drive from the back and lift through the shoulders.
I'm certainly not saying cross training won't work. I am saying that if I develop my cowhorse's muscles to work like a cowhorse, she will be extremely uncomfortable trying to frame up like a pleasure horse. Not to mention she'll look like crap.
If I try to take a seasoned pleasure horse to a cutting I will lose my entry fee.
They are not bred or conditioned to cross over.
So I guess my thoughts are along the lines of, what is fair to expect of our horses? Is SlowPassinTime nervous and high headed because he isn't physically capable of everything being asked of him?
Could the arena anxiety and spooking come from not knowing what's expected? Could he have actual discomfort from being asked to perform in ways he just isn't meant to?
I'm not picking on you, Slow Passin Time. I don't know your horse well enough to really form an opinion, I'm just thinking out loud.
I do know Pleasure is incredibly demanding, both physically and mentally.
So now I'm throwing open the discussion. Let me go get my popcorn.


Jennifer said...

I wonder this myself. How much "all purpose" should we as riders push our horses? If we stick with only one activity, like trail & pleasure, is it unreasonable to stick an english saddle on the pony & hop over low rails?

Is there anything to the "variety training"? How much variety does a horse need to avoid being bored? How much is too much, creating a nervous wreck?

mlks said...

Maybe part of the question is what we mean to get out of "cross-training" our horses. I think we might need to differentiate between mental and physical benefits; while it wouldn't be fair to ask an upper-level (non-eventing), discipline-specific dressage horse to do a full hunter/jumper 3' course, the same dressage horse might get a much needed change of mental scenery by getting the chance to hop over a small log or two in the pasture.

Just thinking.

SquirrelGurl said...

I think it depends on the level at which you are expecting your horse to perform.

If you are performing at the uppermost levels of your chosen discipline I can see where extensive cross training can be hard for a horse. But casual cross training could be a good thing.

Most of the horses I ride cross disciplines. We all have shown at one time or another. My mare has done cross country courses, team penned, played polo, western pleasure, show jumping and halter classes in addition to being my main trail mount. She's even been used to sort cattle. Her brother, sister and father all do the same.

Now thats all on a local level- could she (they) compete in the highest levels of any of those sports? Probably not, but I do know that by using her in all those different cases it keeps her fresh. I know when I go out she'll be ready for most anything I throw at her.

Candy'sGirl said...

I think it largely depends on the horse. If the horse is bred to be, say, a cutting horse and has cutting horses all through his pedigree since the beginning of time, is built like a cutting horse and acts like a cutting horse, then maybe it is unfair to him to expect him to be terribly versatile if he does what he's bred for very well. I think cross training can be a good thing for any horse, but with a horse that is *that* specialized you're going to have to have lower expectations for something that requires completely different muscling than the sport he was bred for. I can't see how it would hurt to pop him over a cross rail or two occasionally. He could also probably do something like a casual chukka of polo or trail ride or something like that. His training wouldn't have to be ALL cutting all the time. A cutter could probably also do barrels or poles with reasonable ease on occasion even if that isn't what he's specifically bred for.

I think there are some breeds that can do just about anything reasonably well at lower levels. I think I could ask my Arab to do just about anything and he'd be able to get the job done with relative ease. Obviously its not possible to take him to the highest levels of *everything*, but I'm training him with the aim that I can hop on and do whatever I want on a given day. His breeding/conformation is such that he's physically and mentally capable of switching gears all the time and being a horse suited to having an admittedly ADD rider. Some days we work on laying the foundation for jumping (he's 4 so actual jumping is still a couple years off). Some days we work on basic dressage. Some days we work on just going where the heck he's pointed at the speed he's asked to go. As soon as we get barrels and poles out at the barn, we're going to start learning those patterns. As soon as I get a suitable mallet, we're going to start learning polo. I don't expect him to be *perfect* at every single thing we try. What I DO expect is that he at least attempt to do it.

I think the key for cross training is having reasonable expectations. You're not going to get to the Olympics in 87 different sports with a single horse, but I don't see a reason that the Olympic dressage horse or a very specialized cutter can't go on a trail ride or jump a cross rail occasionally to give him some variety.

Mel said...

Very interesting discussion (I love popcorn BTW).

I consider my endurance horses to be "elite". I chose them because they have a HUGE trot, are alert and looking at all times down the trail, and can think for themselves. This doesn't necessarily translate into a good "arena" horse. LOL. As I do A LOT of moving in the saddle (taking off a sweat shirt, tying one around my waist, rooting around in cantle packs, looking down at GPS) I don't necessarily want a horse that responds to my seat in an extremely sensitive way. My cousin has a horse (well trained pony club horse) that will stop unless you are looking where you are going, approaching the jump right etc. That's great, except that isn't what I want while I do endurance.

That being said, I try to take the occasional dressage lesson and work on circles, flexing, yeilding in the arena so that they don't always jump into the "go, go, go" mode down the trail. I do a lot of poles and grounddriving in the arena

BUT because of the type of horse (confirmation/temperment) I chose, I'll never get a great canter out of the arab and may NEVER with the Standardbred. Since they have been taught to take care of themselves on the trail, they may decide that THAT was the LAST circle for today. My instructors will forever be saying "slower trot!".

But I do think some lower level cross training is important. Most endurance horses will benefit from basic dressage. On yesterday's training ride we practice halting, backing using only the seat, and then starting again. It was fun and broke up the ride.

Redsmom said...

I agree with Squirrel, it is mostly what you are looking to get out of your horse. For someone like me, who wants a horse because of the pleasure of its company, the exercise and the mental diversion from a sedentary career, its fun to do different things with my horses. I want them to be nice, well-rounded horses that can ride around the neighborhood or take to a local show. But, I'm not looking to get serious.

I don't know whether cross training, say jumping a barrel horse, will help with barrels, but seems like it would help prevent burnout.

I know from my human exercising days that one idea with training is to make sure you strengthen opposing muscle groups equally. If one opposing muscle group gets too strong it can cause injury. Cross training might help with this by using varying the use of muscle groups. /end: no scientific basis speculation.

Anonymous said...

All horses can (and should) be able to go on trail rides. Some will be better at it than others (more agile and sure-footed), but any sound, healthy horse can cruise along an easy trail. Its good for all of them. Even if some are anxious initially, they learn positive things by working through this. It keeps arena horses of all disciplines from getting bored and sour. So there's one form of cross training everyone can employ to good effect.

I taught the team roping horses to jump little obstacles when I was young. I don't know if it helped them, but it didn't seem to hurt them. Its my opinion that (as others have said) something like that, done at a low level, is kind of fun for the horse. Bear in mind, I wasn't critical or picky, I just loped em up to the jump and let em pop over (or not). I think if I had, say, drilled them to teach them to spin, or spurred them to move with a cow like a cutter, or run them hard attempting to play backyard polo, it would have been detrimmental to their confidence. So I guess I believe that its fine to try new things on a horse that is accomplished in a certain discipline, as long as there's no pressure. The horse himself needs to feel that its "for fun".

Justaplainsam said...

I think cross training is more of a mental break, or a specific exercise to fix a specific (or more than one) problem.

Ok I ride pleasure horses. I like my pleasure horses to do trail for many reasons:

*gives them a mental break from the 'perfection' of every gait
*gets them thinking about the 'tools' they already have in a different way. Alot of horses can turn on the haunch, but in a tight back up L? I just dont want a turn I want your feet in a perfect place to do this right. (maybe this is more for me?)
*adds another class. Not everyone will be happy doing pleasure. Adds resale, and more prospects of homes for this horse.
*all of the obsticals are relivent, open a gate, walk over a bridge ect.

I also think its relevent to what level the horse is at. While I think its good for all horses to have some varity I wouldnt thow my jumping saddle on a horse I was getting ready for congress!!! (but this might be where he needs it the most....hummmm...) Would I in the winter during his off time? sure. At a lower jump hight level, were we can both have fun.

My friend has a great pleasure horse that does SMS, HUS, Trail, WP and the equations... but she cannnot handle going for a trail ride. She(the horse) loves perfection. Its like there are too many variables on the trail that she just cant handle it. She was an absolute horrible jumper (well she still is!) but introduced slowly with freejumping she atleast jumped it. (she actuall got down on her knees and knocked the first jump over untill it was all flat, with her owner on her back!) Will she ever be a jumper? Oh no!! but to add a diferent flair to there everyday training, it was intresting!

Now it can back fire.... I knew of a great youth HUS horse who one day, when they needed extra numbers in a barrel class got volenteered to do a 'run'. The horse loved fact loved it so much that now every time you try to do a pattern, he thinks he should run barrels. Hes still a good HUS horse but sucks at equation patterns!!

Anonymous said...

This is a subject I have often wondered about myself. What do the elite athletes of the equine persuasion need in terms of variety and cross-training. It seems logical that they would benefit from some type of cross-training even if it is a trail ride once a week. Do we know how they cope when all they are allowed to do is what they are good at? At my last boarding barn there was a highly competitive Western pleasure horse. Her young owner only took her out to work her and then she was back in her 12 x 12 stall. This horse was never turned out never saw the light of day unless she was at a show or out for her daily lesson. That said she still was one of the sweetest mares I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. But still, isn't that mentally tough on them?

So I guess I've opened another door, what about these elite equines that do absolutely nothing but train for their discipline, could that explain why some of these horses seem so hot?

Just some ramblings.....

crochetyolelady said...

I also think it depends on the LEVEL of training and competing you do. I like my horse to be an all arounder.

I like a good reining basic to start with, then move on to penning and gymkanna - also, want my horse to be able to go into a LOCAL SCHOOLING type show and be able to do pleasure.

Sorting and penning maybe what my horse will do the most of, but I expect him/her to be able to compete at anything - NOT necessarily WIN, and certainly not at WORLD SHOW level, just local putzing around.

I think when you get to a higher level then what I show at and specialize in something - e.g. reining, then no, it probably isnt a good idea to try cross training. That being said, I knew a girl who did reining and would bring her young horses to the pennings. She would put them in a snaffle and just go in the "beginner groups". Even though she was at a penning, she would "school" her horse in reining.. does that make sense?

It got the horse exposed in a different environment, but she still concentrated on her reining basics while she was "playing".

mugwump said...

mommyrides- You've opened the door to one of my favorite subjects.
I know many trainers who only ride for a specific discipline.
Do I think it's a good thing?
Does it always ruin the horse?
Pleasure horses tend to be sweet, gentle things. I have met many who don't seem to mind their stalls at all.
I have also seen horses spend their lives as show horses in show barns and completely melt down when they go on to a new life.

I guess what I'm wondering is if a horse is a retired show horse, are his muscles shaped in a way to make it physically uncomfortable to move in a different way? Maybe so uncomfortable that behaviors like nerves or spookiness appear?

mugwump said...

Boots and Saddles 4 Mel - Oooh, oooh, ooh! I so have a question for you! I have asked this before and nobody will answer me.Sorry, I'm sa little OT here, or not. If I was wanting a good endurance saddle what kind should I look at?
My cutter is not cutting it (sorry)as a trail saddle and I was thinking of doing a NATRC ride here and there.
Stop laughing Laura Crum!
I like nice saddles. Help?

Heather A. said...

I saw a picture recently of Grand Prix dressage rider Ingrid Klemke taking her horse over a jump in the warmup ring... in full dressage attire... right before competing. Now that's cross training! If I remember correctly, Ingrid loves to jump her dressage horses because it teaches them to sit back on their haunches and really use their butts/hocks.

I work with drafts. Those big boys were bred to pull and that's all they know. However, I know several drafts that have gone on to live happy successful lives as dressage horses or fox hunters.

Maybe this discussion is more a western thing. When I think of versatility and cross-training I think of Morgans, Arabs, and QH types. You can make a pleasure horse or a cutter into a dressage horse or even a small jumper with enough training and conditioning. He may not be that great at it, but you could do it. But... could you ask a draft or a warmblood to cut or do western pleasure? Maybe, but I think there is a greater percentage of versatility in QH's than in other breeds (except Morgans and Arabs). Could you imagine an 18h percheron trying to cut a cow!? That would be a sight to see!

mugwump said...

Heater- He wouldn't have to cut it. He could just stand there and block it. Cow blocking anyone?

AareneX said...

I agree w/Boots and Saddles 4 Mel: I'm also an endurance rider. My arab mare and my standardbred mare each have a huge amazing smooth ground-covering trot, and not much canter. We cross-train in dressage, but I also want them to be able to do a little everythig because I, too, am ADD. (laughing--I think a lot of endurance riders are ADD!).

Would either of the mares ever make competitive jumpers or cutting horses? Probably not. The arab is terrified of cows. Does that mean I avoid cows and jumps? No way. Those things and many others can occur routinely on an endurance ride. Cross-training of all types is good practice, as long as the horse enjoys the play.

I think that's my bottom line for any kind of training: the human can't have all the fun. If my horse isn't having fun (or is hurting), some day she'll tell me where I can take myself, and that's not a good message to hear if you're 30 miles from camp!

p.s. Mugwump: any saddle will do for endurance events AS LONG AS IT FITS THE HORSE AND THE RIDER. I personally love the Specialized saddle, because it can be changed to fit different horses OR a horse who changes weight and fitness over a season. But I've ridden distance in an ancient Steubben, a Wintec dressage, and an old barrel racing saddle. Whatever works for you is good. I use my endurance saddle for dressage lessons--it fits, so I use it!

mlks said...

Here's another thought:

After a high-level show horse retires from major competition, what kind of workout routine would best support that horse as it moves into middle/older age?

Is there a particular type of musculature that will allow a horse to move freely and comfortably around a pasture?

Is gentle/non-extreme cross training necessary to keep horses fit after retiring from the show circuit?

We've used relatively brief low-to-upper-level dressage workouts to help keep our older horses more pasture-sound.

Also...cow blocking? Hee!

Joy said...

"cow blocking" what a mental picture! made me snort right out loud.

I loved Laura's response here. I probably have no business even commenting because I do not compete, have never shown and never will. Not interested, plus now my horse really can't.

The reason I've always wanted horses was to trail ride. And that's mostly what I've done. But when I ended up with my little athlete I learned to do arena workouts for him. He enjoys it it seems. Like he wants to have a "job". And on trail, we find "jobs" too, like get the ducks or track a rabbit. That was one reason I had him in roping training before he got hurt. (he loved that. except for the trying to bite the cows he was pretty good at it too)

My horse is cutting bred. Short back, short neck, short legs, huge butt and shoulders. Even if he'd never been injured, he would not have made a good jumper. Yeah, he would pop over logs and things if I asked him, but his short and stocky build would look ridiculous on a jumping course (or whatever the proper name for those is).

So I guess my own version of cross training ended up having him in roping lessons and taking him in the arena a couple of times a week as opposed to all trail all the time. I don't know if it makes a difference to him, but I feel good, like I'm keeping him from getting bored maybe?

I agree with you mugwump about the different types of breeding making it difficult for some breeds to do other disciplines. I think there are probably exceptions to the rules, but body type really seems to matter in relation to the job the horse is being asked to do.

But like I said, I'm just a trail person, so I could be completely off base.

manymisadventures said...

When I think of cross-training, I think of having fun.

McKinna's main 'thing' is jumping. So, when I take her out to do gaming, I don't expect her to win - mainly because I haven't patterned her and given her the tons of practice needed to develop the right muscles. When I take her team penning, same deal. But, I expect her to try for me and have fun.

So I guess that's my definition of cross-training. Try something new - practice it so you don't look like a total fool - but unless it's complimentary to your other discipline (ie dressage and jumping, though at the very highest levels too much cross training can be detrimental), don't expect your horse to be top of the pack. Ask them to do it in a way that is comfortable and natural for them - to me, the whole point of cross-training is a mental and/or physical break in the first place.

Anonymous said...

This isn't exactly on topic, but for all you US trail riders out there be warned. NAIS will make it a requirement for you to notify the "powers that be" any time you take your horse off you property. This could greatly effect your trail experience.

Look up what NAIS will do to you and contact your representatives about your opposition to NAIS now before it's too late.

Anonymous said...

I think no matter what, cross training or no, the horse has to be interested.
I've seen horses just loose it at schooling barns and one day deciding that this was it, no kid was ever going to be able to stay on them again.

The two horses I remember distinctly, a qh/percheron gelding and a shetlandx gelding, both were fine once they were sold.
the qhx is now a trail horse for an 8 year old, who goes on roads, over bridges and through water. Before, most girls couldn't get him to go in a straight line.

I think it is boredom. Horses that compete at a high level are challenged, and often do different things each day to keep them fit and at the top of their game.
With more pleasure or low level mounts, they can end up going around and around an arena for all eternity.
(especially in more urbanized/suburban areas. there just aren't places to go.)

just a thought...

mugwump said...

I have a secret. All of you who have heard me give the NH'ers a hard time are going to love this. I have been a fan of Jessica Jahiel for several years. She makes a lot of sense, loves her horse to death and I've learned tons by reading her. She has an interesting article on rehabilitating a show horse to change disciplines
Take the time to look at this, I read it several years ago and it really got me thinking. It was pivotal in my pull away from the world I was training for.

Jess said...

A couple of thoughts here:

Mugwump asked: "I guess what I'm wondering is if a horse is a retired show horse, are his muscles shaped in a way to make it physically uncomfortable to move in a different way? Maybe so uncomfortable that behaviors like nerves or spookiness appear?"

There are basically two types of muscle fiber, fast twitch and slow twitch. Fast twitch is like your cowhorses, bunchy stocky muscle for short bursts of speed. Slow twitch is long, lean muscle for endurance. All mammals have some of both, and all can develop more of both, but some individuals just naturally have more of one or the other. When's the last time anybody saw an Arab with the stocky muscles of a Quarter horse?

I imagine that a horse can be muscle bound, with over developed muscles that can easily cause soreness/uncomfortableness that could lead into spookiness. I'd wonder though about how much of that would just be general overworked soreness, or spookiness at a new routine.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't laugh at you, mugwump, you competitive thing. I know perfectly well you don't want to cruise down the trail on a loose rein like me. You want to get something done... I know, I know, you already called me a "hippie chick". I do think the response you got is funny. "Why, any saddle you like" (and that fits the horse)...

I don't think my roping saddle would strike most competive trail rides as ideal, because it is heavy, but it is really comfortable (for me, anyway, and the horse seems fine with it--no sore spots, no indications of pain or resistance, it seems to fit him well). I've done a few multi-day pack trips in it and its kept me in one piece (not too sore). So, here's a plug for riding the trails (maybe not competitively) in a roping saddle. And yeah, I already know you don't like roping saddles. Just wanted to tease you a little.

Anonymous said...

I have a question that is both related to this and then shoots off in another direction.

Casey is having issues. Let me give the quick back story before we get to the meat and potatoes of my question.

8 yr old qh, has gone through 9 owners in the last 5 years. I'm owner number 9 and I've had him for 5 months. WP and halter bred on top, performance bred on bottom. Was bred by a rodeo stock breeder. Has had a bit of halter, wp and reining training. None of the training finished. No idea if this is important, but he moves like an HUS horse, however he has the look of a WP horse, big butt and all.

Casey is sweet and gentle, a little shy and has some trust issues that continue to disappear with consistency and time. He is working with a trainer I like and trust. I check up on him randomly and frequently.

A couple weeks ago, Casey was a pill. He's been pill-ish for me for the last couple weeks. With my trainer, he became explosive for about 3 days last week. Then, back to his sweet, gentle self. I blogged about it here:

Any ideas? Are we trying to shape him into something that he's not? Genetics say he should be WP or performance, but are we working him (in WP training) in a style that maybe he's not physically capable of or is uncomfortable for him? Could that explain his explosions? Thoughts? Suggestions?


Anonymous said...

You do have a good point, Mugwump - I never thought of his muscle development like that. Although I think his spooking issues stem from being kept in a stall most of his life, and never allowed to just be a horse, therefore never giving him a chance to learn to be brave, it could be that the wrong muscles are getting developed when we take breaks from our nose-to-the-grindstone training. It's not very often that we do things like barrels or polo, maybe once every couple of months for a break, and we definitely don't do it at shows. More often than not we're doing pleasure or performance stuff like trail or horsemanship. I suppose my reason for doing anything and everything I can with him is to try not to fry him - I want him to know we can have fun too. Maybe I am overdoing it. It's definitely food for thought.

I do think that ALL performance horses should learn to bat a polo ball around, or go on a trail ride. I believe it gives their minds a break and gives them a chance to get out and see the world. So many pleasure horses are amazing in the arena, but the moment you take them out on the trail they lose their minds.

Thanks for replying, Mugs. I really appreciate it, and you certainly gave me something to think about =)

Jess said...

I think about cross training is kinda like subjects in school. Some of us are just not going to grow up to be mathematicians. None of us will grow up to be mathematician-journalist-horse training-physicist-lawyer-doctors either.

However, should we teach the kids that aren't naturally talented at math math? Of course, because it provides a basis for understanding other things. However somewhere in highschool, we'll allow them to stop taking it. We'll also let the mathy ones out of honors english.

I think the same is true with horses. I want my hunter/equitation mare to be able to pass at least a training level dressage test. I want to be able to haul her down to the cross country course on weekends and pop over the smaller jumps. I want her to trail ride past GASP! cows.

When we were drilling on our flying lead changes, and she was getting bored, my trainer set up the poles for pole bending. And my 17 hand, 84-inch blanket wearing mare and I, did them. It forced her to think about where she was putting her feet, and distracted her from the horrors of having to swap her back end too. When she's slow and lazy off my leg, sometimes it means that I need to get after her, and sometimes it's because she's bored. So sometimes, we'll go out in the field and gallop. You should see her buck and prick her ears when I let her run.

I don't expect her to become the next state champion pole bender or even to ever compete in it. I don't expect her to become a high or even mid level eventer or dressage horse.

I expect her to remain calm and listening to me when I ask her to do weird things (like wear a tutu for the halloween party). I expect her to think about where she puts her feet. I think that cross training helps with this.

If I were to push her hard at an activity we hadn't trained in, I'd expect her to be sore. I ride as much as I can, but when I go ice skating, muscles I didn't know I had are sore the next day. So I don't push hard when we're cross training.

But in the end I find that she's more calm and responsive when we've had a break from normal schooling.

Anonymous said...

OTOH, a buddy of mine from rec.equestrian took a WP-bred and shown mare and turned her into a low-level eventer--I think the thought of both owner and trainers was that the mare had the potential to maybe even go up to Preliminary, or maybe they even went that far--but life kinda got in the way.

I'm a cross-training person. I want to be able to jump and do western work. Now that I've put away thoughts of reining on my girl (not to be done with hock injections, IMO), I figure that still leaves us a lot to do. And yeah--she's getting bored with rehab work and is telling me so, so we're getting back into real work, which for her means patterns. And ground rails and crosspoles will be coming up soon....

Wayfarer said...

Sure, barring super-equine abilities, the jack of all trades will be the master of none.

That doesn't negate cross-training for both interest and for development. But it does force you, the rider/trainer, to consider where your priorities are. If you want a competitive cutting horse, then no, don't spend hours and hours developing a competitive pleasure horse.

And, if you're right sure that any extra muscle on the haunch is going to detract from your pleasure horse, maybe you'll have to pick activities that won't build it. Since muscles aren't mutually exclusive things, I would hope that you are never at risk of developing the "wrong" muscles so long as you're always training correctly and still developing the "right" muscles, but in the subjective show ring I know that's not always the case. When pencil-necks win, collected performance horses lose.

Thing about cross training is nowhere does it say you actually have to spend equal amounts of time at those "other" activities, nor even be any good at it.

For those of us discipline-less non-competitive-but-still-damn-serious riders for whom "cross-training" is a way of life, this is obvious. If I want a quiet horse to stay quiet (pleasure style), I won't start him jumping triple bounces or chasing cows. If I want to rev up a horse, I will. If I need the strong-willed PSG dressage horse to stay focused on the boring flat schooling, he needs a couple rounds at 3'6" at least. It has to be understood that every new thing you do with the horse changes that horse's experience of the world... and sometimes for the better. Sometimes not.

(The mantra in our circle is that winning western pleasure horses can make excellent competitive dressage prospects, but there's no going back, because of the way WP is scored.)

You have to know what you want to get out of the "cross-training". If you've got competitive goals, then there may be things you had better not spend a lot of time at! Maybe things are too risky to critical tendons or show-condition coats; or too much time on the cross-training is stealing time that should be spent on the primary discipline's condition and training; or maybe they'll just warp Mr. Ed's little brain.

Vaquerogirl said...

This is a question I ask every day. It is an elusive kind of thing, changing from horse to horse. But incredibly I have found that not many riders even have heard the words "self carriage'.

My little horse is bred to rein. He's built like a reiner too,but one problem. He dosen't like that work. He's lazy- so I have used his cow/reining work training to do something he likes- Western Trail. Will he ever be world class- prolly not. Todays Western Trail horse is really just a handy pleasure horse. Can he do the work- you bet. He never touches a pole, he stops on a dime and can spin in a box like mad. I am having trouble slowing him down, and flattening him out when he lopes. He's having to lift his back and drive forward and truely, he's not that pretty doing it. We're getting better at it though. And when we've got that mastered, I am going to do some slow rope work from him ( versitility class here we come!)
But I digress.
I heard Bobby Ingersoll say once that you have to do what your horse is good at. Just like you can play basket ball, but you will never be Wilt Chaimberlain, it is the same with our horses. But do you enjoy playing- you bet! Should you play? Absolutly, just know your limits. Boredom is a turrible thing -even for horses.

Unknown said...

You really got me thinking about exercise physiology again Mugs. Since I wrote that post in my blog about muscle fiber types (did you read it at all?) I have been looking at every horse I work and the ones I handle every day.
The ones that are happily doing their jobs were bred for it. They have the conformation, muscle groups for their sport and conditioning for their sport that helps them maximize their type of muscling to help them achieve a good performance.

However cross training can be done to a degree especially with certain breeds. Some horses and certain breeds that have a high percentage of fast oxidative/glycotic fibers or FOG fibers can be conditioned so the FOG muscle fibers will either become more oxidative (say events that endurance was required rather than quick movements that required great strength for short periods of time) or glycotic (strong movements for short bursts like cow horses, cutters, jumpers etc) depending on the type of exercise being done. This is why some horses will excel at cross training in different sports but not all.

Anonymous said...

Normally, I do not reply to blogs, though I very much enjoy reading them. I currently ride reiners at a regional level in the state of California.

While I understand that the majority of horses cannot cross-train in other events successfully, I do think there comes along once in a lifetime the occasional horse that can "do it all" (within reason). I grew up riding cutting horses, but when I entered graduate school in the early 90's I was given a double bred son of Doc O Lena on top with Whammy Cat on the bottom. This horse was a gorgeous bay that we gelded so we could handle him. His sire was a known rogue (love those Doc O Lenas), but I had ridden his dam and she was a sweetheart.

Because I was a poor graduate student I took weekly lessons from a local trainer in New Mexico. She was a maneater (the trainer)! Under her guidance this horse started in AQHA western horsemanship, western pleasure and trail classes his 3 year old and 4 year old year, we added reining (NRHA and AQHA) as a 5-year old and western riding as a 6-y-old. We earned Open and Amateur ROMs in every event and by his 7-y-old year I was no longer eligible for the NRHA Limited Non Pro class.

All of this, on a horse trained exclusively by me with lots of yelling from my maneating trainer. I was an accomplished rider, but had never ridden or trained for these events.

However, there were a lot of things about this horse that made him a standout. He was stunning, and frankly, he was stallion material (yes, even with the attitude). However, he could be difficult to handle and we kept him penned outdoors where he was happier. I even showed successfully in the NRHA ancillary Non Pro class at the NRHA Futurity in Oklahoma City with a full-winter coat. After only a day or two stalled, you did not enter his stall empty handed and this was a horse that had never been abused!

His weakest class was western pleasure, because his lope did not quite resemble that shambling, head bobbing canted gait most pleasure horses are forced into (no flames, jmo). It was beautiful and flat with no head bobbing, but with a little too much forward motion. However, some judges would use him. The only thing that held him back was I was a poor grad student and could not campaign him at the level required.

Also, had he been professionally trained, no trainer could have put the hours into him at home and at a horseshow that it took to get this extremely talented, but highly irrational horse ready to show. They just would never have the time.

I wonder how many horses fall by the wayside because of this? After nearly 10 years trying to replace this horse, I recently came across a beautiful 5 year old Peppy San Badger mare with the same movement, brains and completely irrational disposition. I wonder what I can make of her given the time...and with the monetary resources I currently possess.

Vaquerogirl said...

Oh one other thing. I have seen plenty of show horses go on to other kinds of lives. A trail horse, a therapy horse, a Jr Rodeo Barrel racer,and a movie stunt horse!

Anonymous said...

To the last Anon--I apologize in advance for this remark, but I can't help but say, did you ever consider how negative a path this showing is for such a horse? Did you also never consider that a good minded horse is a better bet to work with. I know you "succeeded" with your first "irrational" horse, but this isn't a sort of success that would have been satisfying to me. How about looking for a horse that you could walk in his stall without a weapon. Lest you think I'm ignorant, I have known and dealt with both sorts. Anyway, just something to think about.

Candy'sGirl said...

My friend has a *very expensive* 19hh Perch she does upper level dressage on. She pops him over low poles because he thinks its the greatest thing in the world and gets all fired up. He loves to go on trail rides and is about the most fearless horse I've ever met. Deer? He'll try to chase 'em. Cows? Sheep? He'll chase them too. Its absolutely hysterical to see this horse that is so big that all his tack has to be custom made attempt to chase something.

My favorite western trail saddle I've ever ridden in was a Tucker. Right now I just ride in my comfy old Stubben for trails/endurance since my only western saddle fits a QH, but not my tiny Arab.

Unknown said...

Tuckers or textans for trail saddles. Personally I wouldn't trade my old beaten up tex tan reining saddle for anything. It's so comfy and light weight for a well made tex tan. I absolutely love it. Fits my long legs and all.

want a cheap "saddle" I absolutely love the natural ride bareback pad/saddle. It's got stirrups and a fork so it doesn't slide like most bareback pads. And a great price. I think their website has the best price right now

Anonymous said...

I ride the trail (not endurance though)in my ML Leddy's cutting saddle and I like it alot. But I also work in a large tack store and we sell a TON of saddles! The biggest sellers that I have seen for endurace is the Tucker saddles and the other saddle that is getting requested alot for trail riding is the Billy Cook Treeless saddle. My friend has one and she absolutly LOVES it. She says that she can feel the horse underneith her and she loves how comfortable it is. I know nothing about endurance riding other than what my friend tells me how she does with hers. I am a cutter that goes on occasional trail rides to get my horse thinking of something else. I think it is relaxing for both me and the horse and it gets him a littl more tired.

Char said...

I'm going to jump on the "moderation is key" bandwagon. A phrase that comes to my mind regarding this topic is,

"The Jack of all trades, is the master of none."

I think this has to be taken into consideration if you're competing. I think it's great to piddle in many different disciplines because it's great for introducing new stimulus and getting them used to processing new information, which leads to a well-rounded horse.

But it's just not practical to expect a pleasure horse to blow the stickers off barrels, or be able to win a 4' jump-off.

horsegenes said...

When I think about cross training I really don't think about in terms of a specific discipline. If I decided to go trail riding and do alot of long trotting... am I just increasing my horses cardio or am I cross training for endurance? I never leave to go trail riding without an idea of what I am going to do. More for my own piece of mind than the horse. Sometimes it is wander down the trail like Laura, sometimes it is loping hills or long trotting. To me that is cross training, but not so over the top that it becomes training for a new discipline. In the arena I have been know to take my reiner and ask him to go over little 18 inch jumps, back through barrels, sidepass L's, etc - I don't consider those cross training. But they are all things he can do well and gives him something new to think about.

Redsmom said...

Mugs, regarding saddles, I've been looking at this site because I read some people on blogs praising their work. They send you out trees to try on your horse and take pictures, then they make a saddle to your specs. I'm hoping to order one for old Matty before long. You can get it custom made for under $1,000.00 (I have no monetary or other connection with these folks other than coveting one of their saddles).

mugwump said...

Like Laura I'm a fan of a good minded horse who likes her job.An angry, pacing, crazed horse who looks good in an arena is not for me. And I think those of you who regularly read this blog know I'm not talking out the sides of my mouth.I've learned through experience what I'm willing to compete on.
I used to compete at a pretty high level and still do at the lower, regional levels. I don't know of any horsemen, from trainers to non-pros who appreciate a dangerous horse, even if they can be "made" into winners.99% of the horses I have known are happy to try to please. If they're not, they have either been mishandled, or are the 1% who are truly bad-minded. To my mind, those horse shouldn't represent the breed anywhere, especially in the show pen. If they're happy elsewhere then that's where they should be.
I think it's time for a Sonita story.
Thanks for the saddle info. I'll be researching.
Sydney, I've scanned it, stored it, skimmed it, but I haven't had time to really read. Thanks though.

HorseOfCourse said...

Interesting link there, Mugs, about retraining the saddlebred.
It’s not only muscles, it is mind and habits too.
Jessica Jahiel had some interesting reading in general on her site, I believe.

oregonsunshine, have you ruled out health problems? I always get suspicious when a sweet and gentle horse starts to act out…

And yes please, to a Sonita story!

crochetyolelady said...

I have a question that will require busting out the popcorn:

What are you views on the use of draw reins?

***runs and hides..***

Anonymous said...

I was a trainer at one time, but got burned out and tired of what I had to ask the horses to put up with in order to be competitieve. The title of this blog page is Cross training vs. Genetics....does just playing at something for fun and diversion qualify as cross training? To me, cross training implies an active schooling in a second event. I have no problem encouraging anyone to take their horse to play at jumping, or trail obstacles, or chasing a cow for fun, diversion and to give the horse a reason for using training excersizes like moving off of the leg etc. It helps them keep their outlook on their career event fresh - doesn't your workplace seem a little better after a day off at Disney World?

Something sort of related that has begun to bother me is the specialization of the horses that we are showing. It used to be that a quarter horse competing in halter looked somewhat like another quarter horse competing in western pleasure, who looked somewhat like a quarter horse competing under english tack, etc...I am really bothered by the fact that we have specialized so much that the different classes almost resemble different breeds.

Esquared said...

I have a pleasure bred gelding (breeding is zpb, sonny dee bar, and r big time zippo) and I've found that his conformation makes him happiest doing what he's bred for-pleasure. He's great on trails too, I'd say he could maybe make a decent low level reiner, but it's obvious that he is uncomfortable when asked to work in english gaits (think dressage or hunter (not the AQHA version)) and jumping is very difficult for him. Prior to owning him I'd say that I think there is no issue with asking a horse to do everything, but some horses are just not built/bred for it and at that point I'd stick with what my horse seemed comfortable physically doing.

mugwump said...

I'm completely for adding something fun and new. But I am wondering if taking a horse beyond his breeding will make him uncomfortable. If I'm just playing at barrels with my WP horse, will this create anxiety (training issues?) in the show pen?
I'll periodically ride my horses in a rail class for something new. But I ride them as they are, cowhorses. So they don't place much.
Now that Western Versatility is happening I actually can place my bridled, head up, moving out horses, so it's even more fun.
But if I'm showing them, or they are in training, I approach each new thing with the orse being ridden the same. Pole bending becomes a lead change drill, with the horse framed up and soft, trail becomes a lesson on staying supple and correct through new tasks, that kind of thing.
I do try to let them hang out and relax on the trail, at least part of the time.
And yes, QH's used to be able to show in halter, pleasure, cutting, whatever. That's why there are still so many Foundation breeders.
But while a Foundation horse may be a pretty good competitor in everything, it's the horse bred for specific tasks that win. Which they should, because they're better at whatever it is the judges are looking for.I don't know the answer on that one.

mugwump said...

Blues-I have used draw reins. Can't say I won't use them again, although I don't think so, because I have only one more horse to start and his build won't call for them.
To me draw reins are a tool. I have used them to show persistantly high headed, hollowed out horses where I want their heads when I push them forward into the bridle.
I have used them for horses who are structurally built to hollow out and raise their head and for horses who have been trained to do the same.
Please note: I have never had to use them on any of my personal horses.
I will ride with the draw reins and my split reins at the same time. I will cue my horse forward into my hands and place them with the reins. I'll do this over and over until the horse comes into the bridle the way I want.
Then I ask for him to come forward into my hands using my split reins. If he goes soft the way I want, I'll continue on. If he doesn't I go back to the draw reins.
I do my draw rein work with lots of transitions and lots of time. I don't think I've ever had to use them for more than ten-minutes in a single session, or for more than a week of riding.
With horses with behavior issues I rarely have to go back to them after the first training period. Those with conformation problems I may have to tune on once in a while.
That's my take on draw reins.

Albigears said...

I think it's already been said here, but I absolutely believe in cross training my horse in disciplines that she fits into for mental and emotional prosperity. Although training my TB mare for eventing, I take her on trail rides, poker rides, to little english pleasure schooling shows, in trail classes, we do barrels slowly for fun, she goes overnight camping... I ride bareback with a halter in the round pen and play "horse tag" with the kids. I would consider showing her cows. I think exposure to all of these things has turned a hot, spooky, 'dangerous' horse into a pretty laid-back well adjusted horse. However even though I may plop a western saddle on her every now and then I would NEVER ask her to get into a western pleasure frame, or to travel in that way. I would love for her to respond to cues as well as a reiner, but would never ask her to gallop down the long side and come to a sliding stop.

HorseOfCourse said...

I find the exceptions to the rule interesting, when it comes to breeding.
Sometimes also an illogical cross or breed performs well.
In France , they had some trotter(standardbred?) blood in the show jumpers in the 70s and 80s.
A prime example is Jappeloup, the remarkable horse that won so much in the 80ies together with his rider Pierre Durand. His father, Tyrol II, was a French trotter and he had a TB mother. In Seoul 1988 they won individual gold.
And we have the Russian Orlov trotter Balagur, who competes in GP dressage at international level.

A discussion is going on in Germany about crossing some jumping blood back into the dressage blood lines.
We also see that TB-blood does good in the dressage horse breeding, even if their movements as duch differs from the ideal in dressage.
And what about success (and not) as stallions?.
A number of the most successful TB stallions that have made huge amounts on the race track disappoints as breeding stallions.
Some WB stallions that were almost turned down as breeding stallions at a young age get very talented offspring.

I love to hear about horses doing well in training or shows where they actually don’t have the best starting point. Underdog syndrome, I suppose.
Like your story of the Fjord the other day, Mugs. Draft breeds, OTTB or standardbreds doing show jumping or dressage.
As long as the horse and the rider are enjoying themselves, you don’t have to win.
Vaquerogirl had a nice quote, “I heard Bobby Ingersoll say once that you have to do what your horse is good at”.
Well spoken.
And if the rider’s ambitions differs from the horse’s ability, I believe she/he has to make a decision whether it is the right horse for her.
You had a very nice post about that a while ago, Mugs.

And blues, I have been coughing pop corns since I read your question…
In essentials the same as Mugs I believe.
To help the horse understand and show the way for a short period, reschooling purposes. And I would focus on keeping those hindlegs working while using it!

HorseOfCourse said...


xmuskateerx said...

WARNING: long, rambling post!

I think whatever discipline you do, you should also be training your horse to be comfortable going down a trail. If that horse gets sold (for whatever reason) to the wrong person, and that person decides to go for a ride, and your horse has a nasty bolt on it, someone will get hurt and your horse likely shot.

However, I also think that you shouldn't expect a horse to cross train to a high level. Putting up a 1foot cross pole and trotting your pleasure horse over it for variety won't kill it, and doing some slow barrel racing with your jumper might even be a positive for practising those tight turns.

Your horse will, in my opinion, become stale if asked to do the same thing over and over. It's why so many low end lesson horses don't move beyong a jog, and why you see top dressage horses spazzing out at a bouquet of flowers.

Personally, I am working towards eventing my horse. I also trail, hunt, show and gymkhana with him. I'm starting side saddle lessons, and may try a little polo soon. I do demos of bombproofing with him, and I have small children lifted up to sit with me on him.

Yes, my horse is a versatile type. But he is the only horse on my yard that sticks his head into the bridle and calls as soon as he sees me with my riding boots on.

If your horse is physically uncomfortable doing something, don't do it. If he's a cutting horse that happens to enjoy a little dressage, then go for it!

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>I think it depends on the level at which you are expecting your horse to perform.<<

I agree with SquirrelGurl. You can cross-train like crazy, but you can't make a horse do every event on earth exceptionally well (there are those rare individuals, but they don't come along often)

For example, the VLC is a born pleasure horse. He likes to hang his head level, he likes to go slow. Would I run barrels on him at some schooling show for fun? Sure. But I would do it FOR FUN. I wouldn't be up there beating his ass and trying to get into the placings. We'd just lope the pattern and maybe we'd get something approximating a hand gallop on the way home...if he felt particularly motivated...or someone was shaking a can of oats at the finish line. :-)

I absolutely think "fun rides" are important to keep a horse fresh. That can be trail riding or it can be in the arena, but the main point is that you are NOT SCHOOLING...maybe you're chasing a cow or you're playing a game on horseback or you're bareback in a halter and two lead ropes, but you're not asking for headset/advanced stuff/hard work. You're just riding and having fun. The horse can put his head wherever he wants.

>>“I heard Bobby Ingersoll say once that you have to do what your horse is good at”. <<

Absolutely. So much misery is caused by trying to stuff a square peg into a round hole. I read these stories of people trying to trail ride with a super-sensitive, herd bound, spooky nut and I just think...for god's sake, sell it to an arena person and buy yourself a horse who loves the trails. There are plenty of them out there! Why do you want every ride to be a battle? What are you trying to prove, and who are you trying to prove it to?

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>And yes, QH's used to be able to show in halter, pleasure, cutting, whatever. That's why there are still so many Foundation breeders.<<

If you look at horses who have done well in vastly different events in AQHA, I do not see a pattern of foundation breeding. I see plenty of "modern bred" horses who have shown amazing versatility in a wide variety of events.

I.E. Sonny's Hot Jazz. I've seen him show and he is an amazing animal. Looks great hunt or western, drives and jumps. And he's, gasp, half TB. I could name many more.

crochetyolelady said...

sorry offtopic: Just wanted to clarify WHY I asked the question:

My trainer had me put Jazz in draw reins last time I rode for two reasons. #1, to help ME with my hands (to slow them down)and #2. She was breaking at the poll and locking her bottom jaw.

I was amazed at the difference. In both MY hands and her response. Probably the first time she ever truly got to being "soft". My plan is to do like you say and have them on for a few more rides as "back up" to my other reins.

mugwump said...

>>And yes, QH's used to be able to show in halter, pleasure, cutting, whatever. That's why there are still so many Foundation breeders.
But while a Foundation horse may be a pretty good competitor in everything, it's the horse bred for specific tasks that win. Which they should, because they're better at whatever it is the judges are looking for<<

I'm not sure what your point is. Unless you didn't read the last half of my comment.
Part of the argument is if you need to breed TB into the horse in order to win a class then why is it considered a QH event?
The other part is, where did those cool all arounders go and how do we get them back?
I see the point behind both of the arguments.
The foundation breeders are trying to keep a horse that is based on the QH who can do it all. In the manner of a QH, not a TB.
And no foundation blood in current winning horses? Maybe in your world, not in mine.Black Pearl, the 2008 NRCHA snaffle bit winner is three generations off Peppy San Badger....oops! Foundation.
I own both types of QH. Two are as fancy and current as I could possibly get. They have some TB in there, but it's so far back it would probably be considered part of their "foundation breeding". Three are strictly old school breeding. Gay Bar King, Doc Bar and (gasp) Poco Bueno. I like my horses for who they are and how they compete.
There are many responsible breeders raising high quality Foundation QH's. There are many irresponsible idiots breeding poorly conformed nothing grandchildren of a flash in the pan trendy horse.
It goes both ways.

Unknown said...

Just in case you wondered Mugs I am going to be writing a second part to that post about muscle types. There is an answer to what you are looking for.

Anonymous said...

Sonnys Hot Jazz has a lot foundation breeding on top going back numerous times to King, Plaudit, Leo and Silvertone, there's even some Bert.

But Mugs is right if you have to add TB to get those results, then it isn't a quarter horse anymore.

I think the point is we don't see QH types to winning in several disciplines, it's a different look that wins. The old style QH who can and does do everything just can't develop all the correct muscles to be at the top of the winnings in everything. And isn't that the detriment of the breed?

Anonymous said...

So, I ride drill. My drill horse is a big semi-gaited mutt, but he excels at drill - he's very flexible and he's very smart. He learns a drill quickly and has bailed my butt out more than once because I couldn't remember what was coming next. This horse loves drill - he comes alive when the music starts. But, towards the end of the season, he tends to get burned out. To keep his brain from turning to mush, I take him trail riding and team penning.

Is he really suited for penning? Oh, heck no! He's a big horse and he's got such big leg action that the calves see him coming and head for the hills. But he loves chasing the cows and gives it his all. I wouldn't spend a bunch of money to put him in a big penning event, but I definitely think that taking him out now and again to a penning practice is good for his brain.

Same with trail riding - since he's gaited, he's a blast to trail ride, and he's got a good brain for it - he rarely spooks. And the trail riding gives him a chance to relax and just hang out - no pressure, no loud music, just hanging out and being a horse.

So, to agree with a lot of what others have said, if you're looking for something to keep your horse from burning out on their primary sport, I think cross training helps a LOT.

If, on the other hand, you're looking to win big shows in, say, pleasure and cutting, I think you're going to be dissappointed.

Justaplainsam said...

HorseofCourse: "A discussion is going on in Germany about crossing some jumping blood back into the dressage blood lines."

I worked for a breeder in Ont. Canada, who's father was a well known dressage rider in germany. Anyways its funny that you're saying there putting jumping blood into dressage horses. This breeder was using his fathers primarily dressage stock to produce great jumpers (atleast they were in Canada anyways!) Everything in that barn over the age of 7 could have competed PSG at any time, but could then go and jump a 5 foot course without any effort. He really changed my mind about what a 'trained' horse should be expected to do.

mugwump said...

drifter- you're close to what I'm saying. I don't think it's a detriment to the breed though. It's just what the breed is.
If it takes a TB cross to make a horse succeed in a certain event, then why don't we just use TB's?
That's all I'm getting at.
And the fact that I see no need to knock people who like foundation QH's, Morgan's Appies, whatever.
Why is this a problem?

Anonymous said...

I am the previous "Anonymous" who posted about having the "irrational" horse. Perhaps I should have explained myself better and said he was a "hot horse". It was not the training or even showing that made him difficult to handle. It really was the stalling at horseshows. He did not tolerate stalling well (claustrophobic?), so we did not stall at home. The horse was stalled for shows and I would never have cut short his show career because of that. No apologies, I work for a living and so do my horses. And he was no neurotic terror, but you had to be situationally aware when he was in the stall.

He was *never* abused, though he was pushed to succeed, but he did have years to learn every event. This was no futurity colt pushed beyond his limits at a young age and he never burned out in the show ring. In fact, he was relaxed and happy in the pen, but I tired him out with lots of loping at every show. I did not take shortcuts with this horses training. He was not dull-eyed and dead-minded.

I believe he did not burn out, because of all the different events and the cross-training.

I also should have been more specific that I did not enter the stall with a "weapon". I entered the stall with a halter in my hand to catch him up. After that, there were no problems. He did not pace, weave, crib, etc. and he had excellent ground manners. You just had to actively manage the stalling situation at horseshows. Additionally, the rule of thumb I grew up on was you never hit or got into a fight with a Doc o Lena, therefore, I was careful to never escalate fights. If we had a bad day training, I tended to just get off him and put him away for the day and come back to it another time.

As for my new "irrational" horse, she is again another "hot" and very sensitive horse who has been abused by a previous trainer. Hence, I picked her up cheap because I know how to handle hot horses. I took her on because I can see the potential in this horse. And I started her again by removing the spurs and constant pressure. We even switched to a hackamore when bit issues arose. She is now trusting, accepting of the bit (though we still intend to use the hackamore for her to train and show in until next year) and going to be a fabulous Derby horse. But she is hot and sensitive and pushed too far will clearly fight back.

I guess the point I was trying to make is that the really good horses that can cross over from reining (my event) into the other events are "hot", "sensitive" and can have their difficult moments. I would never describe my previous horse or this new mare as "bad minded", but they were not and were never going to be rides for just anyone. I like my horses hot, they are more fun but must be actively managed.

BTW, I still have that previous "irrational" gelding, he is fat, sassy, 19 years old and living on pasture in NM with his horse buddy. I wish I had that life.

Anonymous said...

Its true that we all like something different. No problem there. I do see a slight problem with breeding trends in the different areas of the QH business becoming so "specialized" that the horses bear no resemblance to each other. We have the great big pleasure types like Fugly's VLC who look nothing like the tiny catty cutter types. No one on earth would guess these horses were the same breed if they didn't know it in advance. Maybe that's not the end of the world, but I, like Mugwump, would prefer to see a resurgence of foundation bred horses that fit the essential picture of a QH. Which is, in my opinion, a medium sized (14.3-15.3--and yes, of course there will always be exceptions) horse that is sturdy and a bit "soggy", has enough cow to work cattle, good enough gaits and a quiet enough disposition to be a pleasure to ride along the trail and fast enough to win a short race against great big TBs. If the AQHA is consistently placing a completely different type of horse (which they are), then they bear the responsibilty for basically destroying the point of their own breed.

Anonymous said...

Anon--that is why I apologized in advance for my comment. I don't know your horses....however the way you put the first comment it sounded as if you were defending taking an "irrational" horse who hated showing and forcing him the whole way. I have seen plenty of that, including studs where one did need a "weapon" to enter the stall, and I think it sucks. So, that is why I said what I did. I am no big fan of reining, since I worked for several reined cowhorse trainers in my youth, so perhaps I am predjudiced. It sounds as if you gave your "hot" gelding a good life.

Anonymous said...

Laura, no problem about the "irrational" comment. One reason why I rarely post to blogs is I do not always explain myself well and I do not want a flame war. But I do not want anyone thinking this horse lived an abused, horrid life.

Have no doubt, the horse was difficult, which is why he was gelded. I would not have gelded him today, but I am in a different position than I was almost 20 years ago.

I do love reining and will never stop doing it. However, I train my own horse and have not left a trail of burned-out, lame horses behind me. By training my own horses, I have the time to bring horses along more slowly than most trainers could and do it successfully.

The one thing both these two horses have in common is they are naturally low-headed, very elegant movers. But they would not fit into your ideal of a quarter horse. Not soggy enough. To each his own?

Anonymous said...

Mugs, I think we are in agreement. I don't necessarily think the TB blood is bad for the QH (I wouldn't mind see Arab blood allowed in for a bit - that's an entirely different topic though), but I do think the TB is bad in the way we see. TB to enhance the breed fine, but TB blood to turn our QHs into TB is silly. Like you said, if that's what you want, then just go get a TB.

Anonymous said...

Laura said...

"but I, like Mugwump, would prefer to see a resurgence of foundation bred horses that fit the essential picture of a QH. Which is, in my opinion, a medium sized (14.3-15.3--and yes, of course there will always be exceptions) horse that is sturdy and a bit "soggy", has enough cow to work cattle, good enough gaits and a quiet enough disposition to be a pleasure to ride along the trail and fast enough to win a short race against great big TBs"

And yet my first reaction to this (I posted previously as anonymous) was "how boring". But as a lover of hot, but talented horses, I wonder if that wasn't because the description sounded dull with "a bit", "has enough cow", "good enough gaits". I am not overjoyed by the specialization in our (AQHA, NRHA) industry, either.

But how do you satisfy those of us who are very experienced riders who are looking for that "explosive" horse that can do it all, yet still maintain a breed of horse that the majority of the quarter horse-riding public will be happy and safe using?

Anonymous said...

mariah480-I am sticking my neck out here--and there is no percentage in it. Somebody (or everybody) will hate me. But the truth is that the answer lies in individuals. As it does now, and will always do. Think about it. All winners are that special individual who transcends the type. No, my idea of the QH breed type isn't boring. Those horses would be a lot more fun for most people (and stay sounder--which is more fun, de facto). There would still be outstanding individuals who would win in competition.. The diference? The run of the mill would be way more fun to own. Think about it.

Wayfarer said...

A random question now -- and its nominally related to the post.

My husband is considering putting sliding plates on the not-so-wild-auction-horse, at the suggestion of his trainer/instructor. I'm a bit leery. The trainer (and much internets) says it will help "preserve" the little mare's deep stops. I'm worried that it's too much like closing the door -- she's still only 3, and we wanted her out in the pasture this summer with the others, and going on trails and casual team penning, just some world experience stuff.

She's not built to be a reining winner. But she seems to enjoy the work, and in particular seems to like doing it for my husband who is learning the discipline. So yes, if she showed at all in the local circuit, it would be in reining.

Trainer says we should get something called baby sliders, or 3/4 plates, or something like that. Said its what the reined cow horse people use, because it lets the horse slide a bit but still grip the dirt to turn and work. So I thought of mugwump and... well? Will putting sliding plates of this type onto my little mare make it harder to do other things with her, ie, cross training? I'm not concerned about jumping, but just the rest of the things people do with horses.

I've very little experience with not just sliding plates, but any shoeing... other than trying complicated therapeutics with one of the horses, all 5 (6?) of my equine charges are barefoot.

ZTIG said...

"But how do you satisfy those of us who are very experienced riders who are looking for that "explosive" horse that can do it all, yet still maintain a breed of horse that the majority of the quarter horse-riding public will be happy and safe using?"

You buy my mare lol. Foundation type QH, a little bit of a bull dog style, she can take down a cow, run a barrel pattern at mind blowing speed (IMO :)), slam the brakes on a dime and roll back to the other side. Then you put a kid on her and she is an entirely different mare. Her head drops low, she has her slow trot (she won't canter with a kid at all). Her eyes are on me for her cues, until the kid develops a solid seat. She slows into her stops, and takes it easy, with the little ones.

We were playing capture the flag one night, and we were both hyped up from it. One of the parents wanted a picture of their baby on a horse, a little 8 month old. They handed me the baby and immediately you could feel the complete change in attitude. It was like the pilot light being turned down (the best way I can describe it). Her head went down and she was a completely calm angel. Even with the hollering and excitement in the arena. Baby went back to the parents and once they were a safe distance away the pilot light went to full blast, she couldn't wait to get back in the game.

She is a pleasure to ride with enough spice to make it fun when you want it. But when you ask for it to be off, it usually is. I got lucky and couldn't ask for a better horse.

Would we ever be highly competitive in today's show world? No, it has become to specialized, AQHA breeders are developing different 'breeds' of QH's that have different conformational standards and expectations. But on the local level we can hold our own and she does everything I ask.

At 19 we started training for LD's. That girl can keep up with the 16 hand TB we were training with. Will we be in the top 10? I would be shocked. We have a hell of a lot of fun out there, and I am more concerned with getting A's (I am trying for that 4.0 :) ) and B's on the conditioning card anyway. We do make great time, just won't be in the top 10. She is turning 22 this month but acts like she's 4. And well worth every penny spent.

ZTIG said...

Endurance saddles - Keeping your price reasonable, saddle comfortable for you and the horse, great customer service before and after, I would go with a Tucker.

They run between 1500 and 2000, have a flexible tree, gel cushion on the bars, wool pad, UBER comfortable seat for your but, many rigging options, and many saddle options. Also before you buy, take pictures of your horse and measurements according to their instructions. Send them in and they will tell you what tree they think is best for your horse. If their trees won't work, they will work with you to make one that will. I know of one lady in So Cal and a Tucker rep brought her saddle out and made sure it fit (not the tack store, but from Tucker). She is in the mounted patrol but that is as fancy as she gets, so I don't know if it was special treatment or not.
Add to that, they repair their saddles if it is ever needed.

If you want to spend more money look at a Bob Marshall Sports Saddle. However, if you aren't sure if you really want to stay with it. Grab the Tucker, your resale will be decent and they are quality, with out being god awful expensive.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Mugs-I've been thinking about this since you posted it.

I'm a big proponent of an "all-around" horse. I want all of my horses to have experience in a variety of events, whether they are suited for it or not. To me it is just part of the process of creating a well-broke individual. I sort of consider that cross-training. But as a horse develops it usually becomes apparent which disciplines/events they naturally seem to have a knack for and are good at. Lots of them can go any which way a person desires, but at a certain point you have to pick and stick to similar-type events for them to really excel. That does not mean that they cannot go on later and excel at other events.

Here is the thing that I have noticed about REALLY GOOD, all-around horses. They are trained and "finished" in one event or a couple of very similar events at a time. Once they have achieved a consistency in that area, then training is moved on to another area.
I've found that trying to train for too many different types of events at one time is too confusing for a horse and often makes it difficult to get consistency. That doesn't mean that I give up doing different things with my horse in an attempt to make him a well-broke individual. We ride pastures, work cows and dink around at open horse shows.
I guess-long story short, I believe that lots of different things must be done with a horse to make him a well-broke individual, but when it comes time to compete a person has to focus on finishing them in one area before starting to cross train into another area.

Now when it comes to the genetic aspect of it, I think people limit their horses way too much. Most of the really good bloodlines come from all-around type horses, but they excelled in a certain area and now that is all people expect of them. Incidentally, the specialization really started coming about when the AQHA went from supporting the Supreme Champion program and only naming Hi-Point winners at the end of the year to creating the World Show and naming World Champions. This was done in an effort to stop the loss of competitors from the non-money earning AQHA shows. The NCHA, NRHA and NSBA were all pulling competitors away from the AQHA shows by offering $$ and year-end incentives.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Mugs said...
drifter- you're close to what I'm saying. I don't think it's a detriment to the breed though. It's just what the breed is.
If it takes a TB cross to make a horse succeed in a certain event, then why don't we just use TB's?
That's all I'm getting at.
And the fact that I see no need to knock people who like foundation QH's, Morgan's Appies, whatever.
Why is this a problem?
The people who constantly purport that ANY TB blood crossed onto a QH is going to improve the breed is so sadly lacking in knowledge and understanding of how the breed developed, that I wished these people wouldn't even bother owning a QH.

It doesn't take much research to see that the outcross of TB and QH has always been important in the breed to maintain certain qualities. But it does take a little insight to understand that it is not just any old TB blood that does the trick. The most successful nicks in history came from TB's that either 1)LOOKED more like a racing type QH than a TB, or 2)Lacked the ability to consistantly pass on the long-distance speed that successful TB's need.

There are still people out there that are successfully crossing the right type of TB's onto QH's and getting outcrosses that have always represented what a desirable QH should be-athletic and versatile. Which is where almost all of our AQHA Supreme Champions have come from.

And then we have the other type of people who are simply adding TB blood to attain a not very athletic, super tall, very lean type of horse that is only designed to perform in a very narrow field.

Which one of these types of breeders do you think is destroying the integrity of the QH?

And one tiny point-if crossing a foundation bred QH with a TB creates a fantastic outcross. Doesn't someone need to actually perpetuate the individual lines? In which case you would need three breeders-the one who breeds good TB's, the one who breeds good foundation lines and the one who is willing to cross them.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>But Mugs is right if you have to add TB to get those results, then it isn't a quarter horse anymore.<<


What was Three Bars?

I mean, you have to go back pretty far to find a Quarter Horse that doesn't have TB in it.

I do think it's silly to see a 15/16ths Thoroughbred showing at the AQHA shows - I could see drawing the line at no more than 50% TB (looking at a reasonable amount of generations, like 4 or 5) for registration. But I'll always believe that the good Thoroughbreds massively improved the breed and made the breed more versatile, not to mention fixing the teeny little nasty 00 feet that were all too prevalent for a while there.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

>>There are still people out there that are successfully crossing the right type of TB's onto QH's and getting outcrosses that have always represented what a desirable QH should be-athletic and versatile. Which is where almost all of our AQHA Supreme Champions have come from.<<

Absolutely correct, and you're right. You can't just cross any shitty TB on your QH and think you're improving the breed or going to get a hunt seat horse. I have seen some nasty, hideous OTTB mares at QH breeding farms - no hip, bad shoulder, etc.

I guess what I always come back to is that my favorite QH's, the ones I have always enjoyed riding the most, were partially or all racebred with quite a bit of TB in them. Depth Charge, Haul Charge, Rocket Bar, Truly Truckle, etc. Those horses to me have the athleticism and "heart" of a TB but they have the common sense of the QH. I had a mare that would run barrels and walk out of the arena on a loose rein at a flat-footed walk. To me that is the ultimate horse - that's my dream horse. So it depends on what you like, too. I like light-sided and handy but really, really sensible. I know a lot of people in QH's who want them downright lazy and super beginner-friendly, so that's a whole different type. Then there are the cowhorses, which to me are a fun to ride but a little too snorty/sensitive/alert for my tastes. I usually feel like everybody in QH's wants something totally different and so it's no surprise we have so many different types of QH's out there.

Follow by Email