Saturday, April 4, 2009

Time to Open Up a Discussion

I was out walking my dogs after work the day before yesterday. I follow a 2 mile loop through the park around the back of my house. As I was walking I kept an eye on a single horse and rider who was traversing the same loop in the opposite direction. We were going to meet at roughly the halfway point of my walk.

The rider, even from a distance, rode easily and well and his bay roan horse strode out with a confident even stride.

I thought it was my neighbor Andy, the caretaker of the Rock Ledge Ranch. He keeps a mustang, Caballo, in with his draft horses as a riding horse. Andy is a competent horseman and also, as a park employee, has the authority to tell me to leash my dogs. So I kept an eye on his progress, figuring I'd gather up my dogs in the trees right before he came over the top of the next ridge.

The horse was remarkable only in his assured, smooth way of going. He maintained his steady, ground covering walk up and down the trail, through the rocks and along the ridge.

I called in my dogs and stood with them at a sit, stay, off the trail by a few feet. I do this every time I see a runner, other dogs, bicycles or horses on the trails. It's good for them to sit quietly while a distracting presence goes by and solves a lot of potential problems from happening.

As the horse and rider topped the ridge I saw it wasn't Andy, so I didn't bother with my leashes. We just sat and waited while a man in probably his mid-sixties rode toward us on a young, long legged gelding.

"How are you today!" He greeted me as they rode towards us.

"Just fine thanks, and you?" I answered.

All the while I was checking out his gear, his horse and him.

The horse was a standard ranch type gelding, clean-legged and bright eyed, three, maybe four-years-old. He showed no sign of sweating or heavy breathing and I had watched him travel steadily for at least a couple of miles.
The tack was old, well-worn, western and basic ranch.

The old man was small, strong and comfortable looking. He wore jeans, a Carhart and a sweat stained ball cap. He looked pretty much like a Colorado cowboy.

I mean an actual, working cowboy. There was no mecate, just well used split reins, he didn't ride in a Wade, a cutter, or a "ranch" anything. It was just an old hard seat saddle.
He looked assured, happy and totally out of place in my suburban park.

"Let me get out of your way," he said and started to cut down into the basin below us.

"Don't mind us, my dogs are horse -broke," I answered.

"I can tell," he replied and I swear to God, he tipped his hat, "Good well trained dogs, the both of them."

He continued on his chosen path and I went on mine.

As I reached the ridge on the back side of my walk I looked down into the grassy basin below. The cowboy had just put his colt into a lope. He started to lope his colt in circles. The circles were big and perfect. I mean reining perfect. Each circle was the exact same size as the circle before. The bay roan colt travelled on a loose rein, his head a little high, his lope as rock solid, steady and relaxed as his walk had been.

I stood riveted, watching the calm, smooth work out going on below me. The cowboy stopped his colt, trotted him a bit, turned the other way and began his circles on the other lead. Again, they were perfect and smooth.

This was not reining training. The colt carried his head high and his nose out. He broke gait a couple of times.

He also stayed in beautiful, easy, free-flowing rhythm. He carried his rider on the uneven ground with strength and confidence. He rode on a relaxed rein. He didn't spook. Not even a little.
When he broke gait the cowboy simply put him back into the lope. No fussing, he just kicked him up.

I had a bit of an epiphany. This is what I want. This is how my horse need to start. They need to be ridden. The first couple years of their training has to be about going where they're pointed. Learning to travel in a confident manner. Learning to carry me. Simple, simple simple. The arena needs to mean no more to them or me than an open field.

This is where the solid showmanship will come from. This is where the winning attitude will begin to develop. All the tricks, bells and whistles can come later.

Needless to say I'm excited. I have got to track down this man. I want to know who he is, why he is riding in my neighborhood park, where he keeps his horse and when can I ride with him. I'm absolutely entranced.

So, lets start discussing this. What is the best way to build a solid riding horse?


Esquared said...

I'm first! hehe I totally agree with what you said. I just ride them, I don't do anything fancy, and then when my horses are unflappable at 3-4 and just do what I want, even if it's nothing fancy, people still think they're just amazing-ish, if only because they're safe and willing. I'd love a fancy dressage/eventing/reining horse but I know that I can always get where I want to go on my horses that I've trained by just riding them to where I want to go.

mugwump said...

esquared - I still want a fancy reined cow-horse. I just want my base to be what we're talking about here. Then how do you pave the way to create the higher levels of training as you go? That's what I want....

Jillian Demerse said...

I started taking my weanling out by himself to the fairgrounds. He learn to stand tied nicely around tons of activity (horses in the ring, chuckwagons, llamas, llamas with carts, getting spat on my llamas, etc). Then did in-hand classes (halter, in-hand trail) as a weanling/yearling. We also did extensive trail walks by ourselves and experienced things that most trail riders encounter like strollers, dogs, runners, kids with umbrellas. Started lunging him in semi-busy arenas to get his mind on working around other working horses. He's become the most well-adjusted little guy I've owned and I think it has a lot to do with the amount of him that I invested in him as a weanling, yearling, two-year-old. He's coming three and just went off for his first 30 days yesterday... I'm a proud mama. I'm sure that's not exactly what you're looking for, Mugs, but that's all I've got.

Albigears said...

Heart&Hoof- Me too. I got my first horse when I was 13 and she was a yearling. We did everything together- went for walks down the roads and through the woods, went to little schooling shows where she never won a ribbon in halter classes, I even taught her to pull small downed trees with a lunge line knotted into a harness. (Yeah- I was a kid...). We played hide and seek. She was totally sacked out and had had saddles and bridles on way before I ever got on her when she was 3. By the time I did, it was no big deal. She was started on trails in the woods because that's all I had. We trail rode, sometimes rode down the road to take a lesson at a local barn, and started showing in english pleasure classes. She is turning 25 this year, and has been the kindest, most giving, and most forgiving horse I have ever met. She won boxes of ribbons and trophies, jumped cross country, gamed, swam, and trusted her rider completely. She would go anywhere you pointed her with confidence and ease.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I cannot articulately tell you how I do what I do but I start like that man....I don't use a round pen, a fence or an arena, I just point and go, I don't mess with their natural way of going and I rarely touch their headset unless I am in danger of getting a broken nose and if that is the case I make an independent rig out of surgical tubing run through a running martingale that has lots of give so that it serves as a gentle reminder of where that head and nose are supposed to be...I have found that as they get comfortable carrying me, their head almost always drops on it's own but until then I let them learn their balance on their own on all kinds of footing. I ride almost entirely with my seat, rarely touching their mouth. Before I get on they already know how to stop, bend, turn and back quietly, they also know that I expect all four feet to remain on the ground (i.e. no bucking, spooking or rearing) and I generally teach that in the open, fences are false security. I guess what I am saying is I don't fiddle with them much in the beginning. If they make a mistake I simply redirect them back to the correct thing. I just let them grow up, get confident and steady. When they are point and shoot and confident then I start thinking about what job they want to do and move into that direction with them. I don't rush, I refuse to promise anything by a time frame, no 90 day wonders come from here. I am considered unorthodox because I don't use fences or round pens. I think once they are solid their brain is ready to move to the next step without getting worried and they accept the next step as simply the next step in their job whatever that step is.

Deered said...

I guess I have a different view point. We didn't have an arean - we had 3 paddocks - in the flatest one with the least rocks/stones we put up a 20mx40m dressage arena - we rode with the rope up for long enough that we removed the grass, then we took down the rope. The "youngesters" - normally OTTBs were worked sometimes on huge circles and yeah - I mean 3 loop seprntines that were 30m "circles" to be able to get the horse to bend in a manner that was appropriate for the stiff OTTB.
We did make sure we could stop, start and turn before we left the home paddocks!
We didn't have a park to ride in, but the river was a stort ride down the road, and when out road riding we worked on fitness, and also on straight lines, lengthening and shortening of stride, and on things like moving past that flapping silage cover with out a fuss.

The horses were working, however it wasn't "go do this movement/pattern here" you just work on parts of it as you can. Oh yeah - and we jumped anything that was on the side of the road and had decent footing on both sides :)

The key for us was to have the horses going forward and letting them see a number of different things, while being able to work on the basics in a way that wasn't "we are in the arena we must do xyz".

You do need an enclosed area to work on some elements (for us it was often a 10 acre paddock... hey, we're still alive!) however once you have them establised often you can make it more fun for the horse and yourself if you can take them out and work on them outside of the arena.

I'm sorry I'm not very eloquent... I don't even know if that makes any sense.

Pipkin said...

THis is how I started my horse, more from a lack of knowledge than from a plan. Now I'm at a place where we can go out in the mountains, trot for miles, (we're working on the easy canter, but it's coming) and now I'm not really sure what to do next. I think I probably should start the arena work in ernest, beginning the polish. But I will say that my horse is very forward (we got through the balkiness) and very keen to just go do something. He's not arena sour, he's learning well, and seems keen to learn.

He is stubborn, and will pick a fight but that's because he likes to gogogogo, and in the arena, we don't seem to work enough for his taste. So I have learn more exercises we can use to put the polish on him.

Sorry, I don't think this actually helped...

mugwump said...

This is all good guys. I don't think I'm looking for specific answers, just a free fall of ideas.
Now keep in mind, I have no idea if this guy even started this horse.I haven't ever talked to him other than hello. Nor do I think one glimpse of a horseman I liked became the end all.
What I saw was a young horse at ease with himself and his surroundings. I also saw a horse with enough self carriage to lope perfect circles in an uneven grassy field. There was some solid training there.
So what am I looking for? I guess I'm working on prioritie.
What doI want to see in my horses,first step to finished?
What will work the best for each step, so that each step leads to the next, which eventually takes me where I want with my horse?
So I see the value in what all of you are doing.
I may not want to lead my weanlings and yearlings with me for two years, but I see the value of it. So I want to hear it and think about it.
I may want my horse to know what to do when I take hold of them but I like to hear of people with success with other approaches. See what I mean?
This is where the dressage stuff comes in for me. The idea of going one step at a time, with each step building a platform for the next.
So let's keep talking about first steps. What's important, what we wish we had skipped, all of it. Wanna?

LuvMyTBs said...

We start with them seriously as weanlings.They lead,tie,clip,load and go to weanling and yearling futurities/inspections.By the time they are 2-3 yr.olds they have been there,done that as far as traveling,going to shows and being used to lots of different stuff going on all around them.At 2 they get saddled,bridled and have lots of ground work,manners and long lining/driving.They are ponied in tack out with steady Eddie horses and go out on the trails and through brush,water past dogs,bikes,over bridges calmly quietly like it's no big deal.By late 3 yr.olds they are mostly ready to just go and adding the rider is relatively easy.Then we start the fine tuning but mostly by just continuing to add to what they already know.We then give them the winter off and start for the competitve stuff as 4 yr.olds.

Probably alot longer time frame then what reiners and cow horses take to finish but in H/J and Eventing 4-5 yr.olds are considered green youngsters and are judged/shown accordingly.They then go on to be competitive well into their teens and some into their 20's.

Unknown said...

A broke or a finished saddle horse?

Broke, lots of miles and a wet saddle pad.
Oh wait, I guess I use the same for both lol!

I do like a happy medium of both of these though. If the horse is broke he's not gonna wig out over dumb shit. If hes finished you have the tools to help him understand the stuff he wants to wig out over.

Albigears said...

Yeah, I wouldn't necessarily want to lead a yearling around for 2 years again either. I was a kid, and instead of continuing my riding lessons I got a horse. My parents didn't know you don't buy a kid a yearling. So I just went out there 4-5 times a week an messed around with her. The end result was this amazing bond of trust. She allowed a green kid to train her and turned out to be an exceptional horse. We tuned into each other so strongly in those first 2 years, that 22 years later the bond is still there.
I just brought home a coming 4-year-old OTTB on Thursday. I plan on "messing" with him quite a bit, and ponying him off my gelding for a while before I attempt to ride him. He needs to remember how to be a horse.
Although having said that, I do think you can create bonds while riding. I think being out on trails, on a loose rein, especially alone, is a great way to do it. Sometimes I let my gelding pick the trail, and if he wants to wander off in the woods and work his way around fallen trees and bushes more power to him. It's helped him realize where his feet are. I am confident I can "make" him go where I want, he is not barn sour, and when he asks and I allow it's a little bit of respect between us. He loves trail riding!

Wayfarer said...


One of the dichotomies that (from my p.o.v) seems to hurt the overall horse industry is this obsession with what wins in the ring. It seems to be this obsession that leads to shortcuts in training, rushing horses before they're physically or mentally ready and able to fairly take the challenges before them.

But. Why not just ride them? Thats not to say it isn't training! Did you teach your dogs to sit & stay because you saw yourself in the obedience ring someday?

I don't know. Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe I haven't seen enough yet. But I see a lot of horses come through where I board. All disciplines. All breeds. All backgrounds. The ones with the good minds, the proper musculature, the sense of partnership with their rider, and the versatility and willingness to try just about anything that's asked... they're always the ones that weren't cranked into a frame, who never heard the word collection for the first year under saddle at least, who spent a year riding ditches and pastures or even open German fields under someone competent enough to be clear, maybe showed a bit here or there in the local circuit just to say they did and just because the fair was in town.

Some of those horses went on to Spruce Meadows, to FEI dressage, to Scottsdale reining. And then came back and went down the ditch for a picnic.

I really believe in this, but I know my arguments are weak. Too new to riding, too new to horses; so its just my observations and gut feeling at play. And those can be skewed. I'm also probably picking up on my own coach's opinions, but couldn't tell you what he really thinks. I just know he's a zero-gimmick, max-riding guy -- and I like how my big mare is turning out with his guidance.

I do also think there is some genetics and "early childhood education" at play that can't be forgotten. The best seem to be the ones who have a genetic predisposition to "confident and respectful", and were left alone, other than some basic halter breaking, until they were 2 at least -- left alone, with other horses, just learning to be a horse. And then, a no-pressure no-fear start, which is sometimes also luck.

BTW, followup on my husband's little auction filly. We decided to not shoe her this year, since we'd really like to pasture her with our other horses, and there's a lot to be done without sliding. She pleasantly surprised us all when he hauled her to a casual team penning event. First trip "off-campus", first ride outside the indoor arena (Sask winter's a b* and she was started when the snow fell), first cows. No problems.

(Caveat caveat caveat. Limited experience, limited exposure, etc. etc. But here's my mileage at least.)

Joy said...

Reading this, my friend (aka trainer/brother/itancan) leapted to mind. E is like this man you saw. Sounds exactly like some things I've seen him do.

He has a gift I can see, comprehend and appreciate but I can't do. I think you can. You'd love E. He makes perfect horses. Really, I'm not exaggerating.

Anonymous said...

Wayfarer said...
Yes? etc...
You are quite modest! I have a good 40 years of miles on me and I agree with everything you just said! After you "just ride them", then they are solid, their brains are solid so that when you go to the "fine tuning" you have a horse with a work ethic and happy who simply continues forward and accepts the next step....genetics sure don't hurt! If you do it this way, your fancy reined cow horse is mentally and physcially ready for the work and the challange.

RuckusButt said...

First I feel I need to say that I am no expert and don’t pretend to be.

From what I’ve seen/heard, I doubt whether the approaches mentioned would really lead to the “fancy reined cow horse” that mugs is talking about. Depends a bit on the specifics of what mugwump wants, I think. For example, where does age come into play in this? There is such a focus on having horses out there performing early, I wonder if there is truly room for this approach in a competitive sense. Produces a damn good riding horse, to be sure, but a competitive one? I’m not sure. There are just such vast differences between a horse that you can go out and have a good time on and one that is capable at a competitive level. Usually.

The problem, as I see it, is that the whole “industry” of showing in this area is not rewarding well-rounded horses that can do many things with a sane mind. To get the level of specificity needed, it seems to me that those horses wouldn’t have time to do much else but school patterns. I dunno. Maybe they just need to be "out riding" with a highly skilled trainer to get the best of both worlds.

Mugs, regarding those “top” pretty reined cow horses, what are they like outside of competition?

joycemocha said...

I don't think that putting in a couple of years of just plain riding a young horse hurts them one bit. Get the leads on them, get them out and get them learning about carrying a rider in balance, stay out of their face, and start putting some touches on them outside before going into an arena.

That's what I'd do if I had the making of a greenie.

The person who started me went on the philosophy of lunging at one year, driving at two years, saddle at three. I can see the merits of training a young horse to drive, because you can put a lot on it. But most people aren't set up for it.

I think the early years are for putting on conditioning and muscling up. Then you can add the refined training.

Deered said...

For me - the green broke that i had was back in 88, a 14.1 QHx - and I was 12, so that was a fair while ago - the 2 OTTB's were later and I can remember what I did with them better.

I'm sorry this is long, but here is a little back ground on the 2 and why I did what I did.

Star 17.1 hh, spoky as all hell - but only ever went forward, head shy, didn't like men, softest mouth ever, scared of whips, scarred up legs, scar on face and hip, cloustaphobic (sp).

Jan 15hh, less easy to sppok, but when she got a fright he wanted to get the hell out if you were on her, if on the ground, she just wanted to hide behind you, or put her head under your arm. Very low head carrige (nose at knee level) would put tounge over bit, or ignore you and pull/lean, very stiff, especially on right side, beaks not always working.

First thing - Star I worked on trying to get her not to slam on the breaks with ANY contact, and not to think that any seat or leg movement meant RUN FAST. A lot of time was spent on a light contact, sitting very still until she stopped over reacting to the slightest movement. Luckily she was more than happy to go where pointed - even when going at 100kph!
The biggest problem with her was getting her to slow, and not rush at jumps, so did a lot of flat work in amongst jumps, and very so often jumping a small cross bar (which only needed to be trotted over) so that she got to learn that ther was nothing to rush for.
Unfortunately for me she broke down just when my 18months of blood sweat and tears were really starating to pay off - never was able to find out what it was - something went in her back/neck, then she fell again in the padock and probably popped her stifle and put it back in when standing up. I had her on a free lease, and she was returned to her owners, and was euthed a year later. Best moving and one of the nicest horses I have I been lucky to ride.

Jan was totally different. Her first trick was to put her tongue over the bit, so I got one of those old fashioned spilt racing nosebands and started longing - without side reins for a start - she quickly realised that putting her tongue over couldn't happen any more, so I put sidereins on loosely so that she could get over the ideas of having contact and not being able to put her tongue over the bit (which caused a couple of red headed female hissy fits) - without me being on her back!
I then had to fix the hard mouth and head at the knees issues. Borrowed a bunch of bits to test out and found that an elevator (3 ring gag - ridden with 2 reins) gave me both brakes and got her head off the ground. Yeah - I used hard bits, however they allowed me to use light contact, not fight her.

With both horses, once i had found a way to have stop, go and turn happening without a fight and with light contact, I then worked gettig the straight lines straight, bend happening correctly, transitins getting lighter and lighter. Once transitions were established started on lengthening - shortening stride, which is crucical in jumping too.

Jan never had "dressage quality" bend on the right, there was nothing the vet or chiro could find that could be fixed, she was just tight on that side, even after a few years of work - however although her bend wasn't "correct" to look at, she kept her back end under her and could jump off crazy tight corners and insane angles.

After working through a bunch of bits Jan was able to be schooled over fences in a loose ring snaffle with a caveson nose band, but wore a drop in competition, as sometimes she though she knew best.
I sold her to my sister when i went to uni, we ride along the same lines, both having been taught by our Mum. Sis could do figure 8's compete with transitions or flying changes on jan with her hands behind her back and the reins loose - not normal for a "flighty OTTB showjumper". She was the "desiel horse" for my sister - she may not win, but she made $ in 95% of her classes.

Is that what you wanted to know? If you want clarification on anything please say so, it seems clear to me, but I did it/was there, so I may be missing things out.

mugwump said...

Wayfarer- I train my dogs to sit and stay because that's what I need them to do. But I do train my horses with an eye to a world championship. Have to admit. I'd like one.

Ruckus Butt and the other guys on this track - One of the good sides to reined cowhorse competition and cutting (my interests) is they do have classes available beyond the futurity and derby years. So my focus is on having a derby horse ready at five and a bridle horse ready by 7.

Since I have given myself permission to skip the three and four year old competition I can start to think about the best way to develop them mentally.BUT I have to create a competitor at the same time.

So, how am I going to develop the mind of my horse to be open to competing against horses who have been in serious training to show for 2 or 3 years before me?

This is my personal thing.

Competetive Reined cowhorses are nervy, hot and reactive. So they tend to be that way on the trail or anywhere you put them. Everything means something, they react to everything. I used to volunteer to help drive cattle as often as possible, because it got them out and still was training.

Since I have quit training and am just riding (for now) they have begun to calm down. Which I like.

Don't mistake my having trained show horse for not creating a bond with them. I have deep relationships with not just my own, but many I've trained for others.
I guess I'm wanting to change where I train, how I train and be able to take 4-5 years to develop my horses instead of 1-2.
But I still have to train. So I keep listening to you guys and thinking hard. Believe me, I listen.
So far today I've been thinking about the exposure of just hauling and riding youngsters. The wisdom of just spending time with them. The fact that Albigears taught her horse to try for her and trust her leadership even if it was "dumb kid" stuff like pulling over trees with a hand tied harness, or drift diving for that matter.
Good stuff huh?
So, what do the dressage guys do to develop muscle, strength and balance in their young horses? How to incorporate their arena work into outdoor riding and exposure?

mugwump said...

Deered - I've used a tough bit so I could keep my hands light on problem horse too.It has also made it possible for me to back off gradually to a softer bit. I've noticed I only have to use them on horsess who have people created problems though.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Hey...Just turned on Dog Whisperer, and Cesar is on got it, Pat Parelli. I'll give you a review ;)...Oh, Nat. Geo is the station!

(Oh, I know they are both "showmen" but I really think Cesar has helped dog owners all over! And he has also helped me with my horse by reminding me to stay a Mugwumps sort of way!)


Anonymous said...

I think the old saying of "Wet saddle pads make good horses" is how you make a great saddle horse.

When I first got my mare, she was god awful. Wouldn't respond to any sorts of aids, except leg pressure. Even the slightest bit meant GO FAST NOW. She was an ex-saddle seat horse and was trained not to use her brain very well.

Most of the work I've put on her in the first year was ground work, just to get her to calm down. But ground work did not make her the riding horse she is today. I can ride her bridleless and bareback. She can turn and stop on a dime. She's even at a point where my 15 year old sister, who is a novice at riding, can get on her.

It's taken a LOT of riding though. The first rides weren't great. They were frustrating. But now she's very light and responsive. And not crazy. That's a bonus.

slippin said...

I am not a trainer and have very limited experience in starting young horses, so my imput might not be as solid as others. But I agree with others that say that wet blankets are good for a young horse. What I have seen done for many years at my trainers place was that they start them as 2 year olds in the round pen with lots of ground work. They REALLY demand the respect part from the horse because that just makes them honor you more. Once they have mastered the drive lines and are really respecting cue for stop and turn, they ride for a few days(depends on the horse of course). They get them used to the rider being on them and how to balance and all that, then they work on getting them to guide. Once they get that down they take them straight out to pasture. Ride them in the pasture for quite awhile(several weeks)and then work on getting them started. When I lived in California, my trainer was on a 2000 acre ranch and he would saddle up like 4 or 5 two year olds and tie each horse to a saddle like a packer going on a trip in the mountains and go for a good 2 or 3 hour hike. These hills were steep and the horses really had to watch where they were going. I do know alot of people that have gotten horses from my trainer and they have ALL said that those are the most broke, sound, level headed horses they have ever had. Their brains aren't fried and they don't act stupid or fidget at a show. And they are good show horses. My mare was a green broke 4 year old when we got her and she was almost out of her mind. She weaved in her stall, kicked at the walls and would dance around when I was trying to walk her around, so guess what happend to her? She got tied to the "pack" line and went on several hikes several times a week...It took a few months, but she started to settle down and that mare was extreemly broke. Didn't spook at anything would fall asleep at the shows. I did take her about twice a year to a friends house that had over 6,000 acres and we would gather cattle ALL DAY. She was so wiped out at the end of the day she would sleep on her side for the entire next day! I think that a good hike on the trail not only keeps their mind moving on something fun, it also builds their muscles and relaxes their thats my 2 cents for what its worth! LOL

Shanster said...

I dunno if I have anything of value to add here. I have my 9yr old mare - an OTTB - and I will be showing her 2nd level Dressage this year.

I brought her home when she was 3 from the track and I'm the one that has ridden her and worked her to the point she is now. I go to weekly lessons and always have - those have been invaluable. She was my first "project" horse - never had to re-train a young horse before...

I had my now 31 yr old gelding when I was 16 and I suppose technically, I probably did train him... but I was a kid and it wasn't a concious thought? He was already a nice all around saddle horse - I took lessons when I could and I just got on and rode.

I lived in NE then and when I moved to CO, I had to board him and I took advantage of the fields and trails in the boarding facility.

I also rode by myself a lot as a kid and I won't do that now if I go out and about - I wouldn't go on a trail ride by myself now where as back then I wouldn't give a second thought about it. I want at least one other person around in case something goes wrong.

I don't really have places to ride on a trail around here... when I was a kid I'd ride on the rural NE dirt roads and in the corn fields but it's not safe where I live now. Cars go screamin past and don't slow for riders.

I guess now, I take advantage of clinics and shows - horse friendly environments. I take her and walk her all around, let her graze, lunge her... get on and ride around the grounds exploring.

I ride her outdoors at home but it's in a homemade RR tie sand dressage arena in our front pasture.

I think the dressage isn't much different in the beginning as your philosophy Mugs... you want them straight and forward and to go where you point them.

As you begin to work on training level and up to other levels, the movements and exercises all build on the previous work.

If I'm out and about at show or something and riding the grounds, I will ask for different Dressage movements to keep her attention if she begins to feel tense or is "looking" at stuff... I use the Dressage to keep her mind busy and focused on me vs. whatever else might be out there for her to think about.

Otherwise I leave her alone and we just go on loose contact... forward and pointed where I want her to go...

Now that young gelding I have.... HA!

Getting them out and about helps thier spookiness factor... they don't spook as much at flower boxes and judges stands - that type of thing. I've read and heard that hills can really help them with their forward push, using their hind end more - I don't have hills here - it's FLAT.

It'd be fun to do more trails with her - I need to find experienced, friendly people to go with.

I went on a trail ride with some neighbors once but they chose difficult trails with a lot of steep up and down and very narrow paths flanked by barb wire on both sides... I was NOT at all comfortable on my mare who at that point had never been on a trail ride... I think it overfaced her. We went - but neither of us had fun - I would have liked to introduce things to her a little more gradually than that...

Let her gain some confidence... let me gain some confidence in her reactions...

My neighbors kept telling me the trail wasn't hard ... but they take their horses camping and up and down mountains all the time. So maybe not for them, but for me and my mare it was...

I do need to get her out and about more - just on more gradual trails.

Shrug. See? Dunno that I said anything that was worth saying really...

Good discussion! Cheers - Shan

Laura Crum said...

My trail horse, Sunny, has taught me a lot about what I want in a horse. I did not train Sunny. I bought him as a mature, made horse. He is not well broke by reined cowhorse standards. He does not have partiularly pretty gaits. But he can do much of what you describe the roan horse as doing, move confidently and sure-footedly across any kind of country at any gait, and never turn a hair at anything. He was trained in Mexico, and I have no idea what they did, but I have to guess that he covered a lot of miles outside. I would say that if I were starting a colt for myself and I wanted the horse to have this ability, I would, as soon as I felt safe, just ride him outside, ride him down the trail. I wouldn't take him to the arena until he was completely solid and bomb proof outside--sort of the opposite of the usual progression. Maybe keep him at a place, like you've mentioned, that has only a bull pen and trails--that way you wouldn't be tempted to cheat. I think it would be a fascinating project. When you took your colt to the arena--say a year or so later--would he be a more confident, strong, balanced mover, ready to handle the inherent stress of the training and thrive? I bet he would.

HorseOfCourse said...

The two main targets for me with the young horse are
1) I want the horse to trust me
2) I want the horse to enjoy the work
The “trust me” part is very much through getting out on trails early, and alone with me as soon as it is safe enough. And I don’t sit in the saddle all of the time.

You asked, Mugs:
”So, what do the dressage guys do to develop muscle, strength and balance in their young horses? How to incorporate their arena work into outdoor riding and exposure?”

As you point out, the development of muscle, strength and balance, together with straightness, is the basic work and is ongoing in the dressage horse’s lifetime.
It is in many ways strenuous, hard work where the horse has to concentrate.
I want my horse to enjoy the dressage work. My aim is have her willingly work together with me, even to the extent that she is anticipating what I want and tries to do it before I ask for it.
I believe that if I was working in the arena all of the time, I would have problems in the long run to keep her motivation.
To me therefore, the work out on trail is a combination of building muscle strength (through hill work and interval work) but also a mental time-out from the work in the arena.
My horse is to go where I choose (we have all kinds of terrain) and she is to work in an outline when I pick up my reins to trot or canter, in the tempo I choose. But some days she is fresh and she is very good at entertaining herself by going left/right, jumping left/right, pretending to get scared (she isn’t) and suddenly stop.
And I just kind of ignore it. In the arena, when we are to work, she is to concentrate. Out on trail we loosen up, and I let her have her fun.
She has a limited area where she is outside each day, and during the winter it is so much snow that she has problems to move around. I believe the trail riding is necessary for her to let off some excess steam, and just be horse for a while.
So I don’t really incorporate the arena work when we are out on trail. The only demands I have is that she obeys me in keeping the tempo I choose. She also has to deal with splitting with other horses, other horses passing her etc.
Right now, I am actually working her some also on trail, but that is because our outdoor arenas can’t be used at the moment; the surface is not good enough. Then I work with some leg yields, shoulder in, transitions etc. Things that you can work with on a gravel road. The fields are full of snow…

FD said...

I start by teaching them to long rein & lunge in tack, in the arena and out in the field. (I loathe fence bound horses) This is only till they are calm, and understand what's required and I am in control - differing periods for each horse. I'm not a fan of long periods of lunging for young horses. Long reins and lunging are generally required skills for dressage horses, which is why this period is necessary. During this time I also pony them around fields and local hacking areas. They MUST (be it stallion/mare/gelding) have manners around other horses.

Then, I back them, either in an arena / round pen and start the basics of walk / halt / steer / trot. And I mean basics.
Once they're comfortable with that, I like them to go hacking out in the fields / trails again until they've learned to accept the bit, go forward on a comfortable consistent contact, have the basic aids for forward, sideways, more/less, learned to w/t/c calmly in company and alone, to deal with traffic, water, spooky things, to go uphill and down hill in balance, and maybe learnt the basics of jumping over little logs.
During this time I might ride them in an arena occasionally, take them out to a local show to ride them around, will teach them to negotiate gates properly, to clip, to be blanketed and booted, to load, and to have teeth, feet & vet done in a mannerly fashion (if the last four haven't been done already).

In an ideal world, that would be their 4th spring / summer. As I mostly deal with warmbloods who mature very slowly, I like to turn them away then for the winter and then restart in their fifth spring with a recap of the above and then start more serious work. I still like to get them out in the open as often as possible (see above re fencebound horses, which dressage horses suffer from a LOT) and make sure that I incorporate hacking into their schedule at least weekly.
I think one of the reasons dressage people spend so much time in the arena is concerns about footing and soundness for their overpriced darlings, and also because they have confused riding in the arena for their tests with what they are actually training their horses to DO.

Justaplainsam said...

Wow how do you manage to do this? We had some issues this morning me and my friend and we were talking about this exact issue. I want her horse to be acting like a grown up. She knows the horse has holes but just wants to keep going in hopes that he will be good enough to show.

I should clarify, when I say grown up I kind mean conecting the blocks. He can move off her leg at the jog he should move off her leg at the lope (although not as well! but should still move away). She says hes still too unbalanced (and he is unbalanced!) But at some point you cannont keep riding the horse like he knows nothing.

My foundation (If I have somthing from a yearling age assuming its halter broke.) starts off with lunging, the horse learning all voice comands, learning balance, and control of his body. I like to show them at this age, as they lean that shows can be fun, and nothing to get upset about, usually halter/lungline and yearling trail. I also start basics of showmanship, set up back up, and turns (helps with the trail)

The 2yo get started going forword balanced, with a saddle then being driven, most know there voice comands and walk/jog/lope first ride on a 20m circle.

My friends horse didnt learn balance, his previous owners lunged him tied under in a shank but so he leans onto the bit to blaance himself, I would like the rest of his body to work better so that he didnt need to balance on the bit.

Anyways I'll think this out a bit more....

FD said...

I just reread my comment and realised that that's not what the majority of dressage people do - you remember I got out of competition partly due to philosophical issues.)

Mostly dressage horses get broken at 3/4. They will normally do a fair bit of arena work, not as intensely as older horses, but still 4/5 times a week, if not every day. The better trainers make sure they get turn out, but not all do. And it just rolls from there on. Most will start competing at 4ish, as soon as they have a basic understanding of w/t/c and the school figures, and can maintain a contact / reasonable approximation of an outline. Remember, in the UK, this is predicated by the fact that they need to be approaching GP level work by 7 /8 ish so as to be eligible for team selection. I don't know what US selection criteria are.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

I've not read the comments, just going off your post because this is something that is near and dear to my heart. Broke horses!

I grew up with broke, broke horses. Training? Ummm...No! They carried their heads where it was comfortable for them, their gaits were what they were. The men who rode them wanted a horse that had a business-like walk, a comfortable jog, a ground covering long-trot and a free swinging lope. They wanted these horses to pick up and hold that gait until they asked them to change it and to go any direction they were pointed, in the straightest line possible. They did not pick on these horses. They were just persistant and also usually had a lot of ground to let the horse work things out.
Alright? So I grew up in love with the "show" world. I wanted to train fancy show horses. It didn't take long to figure out the difference between a horse broke for showing and one broke for work. Some of the places I worked kind of freaked when I wanted to just head out on their fancy show horses. I also found out most of these horses weren't really broke.

It has taken me a long time to really find a happy medium between all of the things I know my show horses need to know(softness, suppleness, headsets, etc) and the pleasure of having a horse that just rides out. I spend most of my riding time out in the open. I try to find that happy medium for each horse, working on softening and suppling and a relaxed head position without picking on the horse. Ride, fix, ride, fix. I let the horse figure out cadence on his own. Long trotting is my friend whether the horse is pokey or wants to race off. Cadence comes as horses tire and muscles strengthen. I strive to teach my horses "work ethic". Then when I do go to the arena to work on specific things, it's almost relaxing to them. It becomes a place to be very focused.
I used to differentiate what I practiced between riding in the open vs riding in an arena. But I don't anymore. If I want to lope a circle in the pasture, I do. We two-track, practice transitions up and down, rollbacks, stops, learn neck reining, pretty much everything. The thing I have really noticed is that when I am in the pasture, time is irrelevant. We just keep riding and working on things. Eventually every horse gets tired and relaxes and figures out the path of least resistance. An hour's worth of training in an arena can become agonizing to horses and riders alike. In the open you can ride for several hours and neither you or the horse is bored or stressed.

Anonymous said...

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

AMEN! Nicely put!

jill said...

To me, the picture you painted about the man riding is:
a horse that has confidence in his rider,
is not afraid,
has been dealt with fairly,
is not being rushed past his ability,
Therefore, the horse is comfortable.
That will take you where you want to get eith a horse. People are always in such a hurry, horses live the moment. Enjoy each ride, instead of worrying about the next one.
This will bring about a solid horse that will be easier to train for the bigger stuff later on.

Anonymous said...

jmk, I agree completely, nicely written! I don't show anymore but that is how I have trained all my own personal horses [for too many years now] and all of them won wherever I chose to take them. IF they have that solid foundation they accept the next step without stress or question. Back in the day people had one horse, maybe two and those horses were expected to be competitive in whatever event was asked of them....and it is possible for them to BE competitive. People are in much too much of a hurry today, it takes time to make a true competitor and make no mistake, a horse started this way is a TRUE competitor without mental issues and solid confidence.

Vaquerogirl said...

Think you just said it! They need to go where you tell 'em and when!

Remember that old song, where a lonesome man is hitchhiking down a dark road, and a long dark cadillac pulls up and gives mim a ride and at the end of the story you realize that the man in the car is really Hank Williams ghost? Maybe the man you 'saw' was really Ray Hunts ghost!

horsegenes said...

Talking about broke horses.. If you read Jack Brainard's Book "If I were to train a horse" the last chapter talks about what he thinks is a broke horse. It is what we all want. He really puts in into words.

Esquared said...

First Steps:
With my 3 y/o, who I raised from a foal, I did all the groundwork all the time, probably because I didn't have any horses to ride during the week so that was all I could do. The result was that by the time I got on him I didn't need a saddle or bit, he just didn't much care... it also meant that he was just a smidge less sensitive at the start, so I would have done a bit less groundwork.
My 4 y/o, he started out the opposite, as a 3 y/o he was for the most part unhandled. I didn't know a whole lot of sacking out stuff so I essentially just did a poorish job of sacking him out and an okayish job of getting him used to a saddle. Right now I wish I had done more, it would have made things more comfortable for him as we had a lot of explosions during that period (rarely with me in the saddle, he seemed to NOT want to pull those while I was on him). The result was that eventually I gave up on the saddle and started riding him bareback, right now I feel like that was cheating, but it worked and the result was that when I went back to the saddle it wasn't an issue.
As for finishing, I'm not really sure where I'm going with that. The 3 y/o is just hanging out while I try to decide whether or not I'm buying a bosal and doing that sort of training with him. The 4 y/o is getting an odd mix of western pleasure (b/c that's what he's bred and built for), jumping (b/c that's what I like), and dressage/eventing (b/c that's what I'm taking lessons in). So I guess my best way of finishing a horse is to take lessons in it and then work my horses towards what I'm doing in the lessons.

crochetyolelady said...

this is interesting. I am struggling with HOW to ride jazz. I rode her loose reined and let her stick her nose out etc and was having problems with her sticking her shoulders out and going where she wanted etc: BUT, she was getting more and more relaxed, and less "pissy". her tail wringing had slowed right down:
Then, tried the draw reins and had control of her shoulders, because the draw reins helped ME with my hands and keeping her head straight between the reins. BUT, she gets more and more pissy when I try working on "collected" work.
I have been not worrying about her head and just riding her the last couple of times but I dont know what to do?
Also, hauled out to a HUGE arena this weekend, and she just wanted to RUN RUN RUN. What do you do in that situation. I kept bringing her back to whatever gait I had asked for (walk or trot), but it was a CONSTANT battle with her just wanting to RUN. Plus, she is quite capable of just putting her chin to her chest and running, so in order to slow her, I need to circle her until she quiets, then ask again. The joys....

crochetyolelady said...

Oh, I wanted to add: I have had her since she was a yearling. Between a year old and now (4 year old) she has been hauled LOTS to different places, I ponied her on the trails as a yearling, drove her, hand walked her by herself down the roads, exposed her to everything I could think of.
It didnt make a whit of difference. She is still spooky, flighty and herdbound. LOL. (Oh, but she LOVES to chase cows, thank GOD she isnt afraid of them!)

gtyyup said...

One of the most important things I want my horses to have as they grow up from weanling to when I start them is to "get to be a horse." I want them socially well adjusted with other horses in a herd, and to keep human handling to a minimum; keep them wormed, vaccinated, trimmed...that's about it.

I've never trained a horse for a specific discipline until two years ago when I bought Colt for our local reined cow horse futurity. I've mainly started colts and never finished a horse in the sense that Mugs is talking about here. All of my personal riding horses have been started the same way: a lil' bit of round pen 101, sacking out with blankets and ropes, saddling, bridling, driving (so they know left, right, stop), and how to bend and kick their rear end out of gear, pony them from a steady horse all over the place...then we're ready to ride.

As soon as they've got the basics in the pen, I get them out and about...continually increasing the distance and difficulty as they can handle it.

As we progress, warm ups can be a long trot out the two track or around one of the fields. Then we do some work in the arena (at this time my arena only has one fence), but I like to finish off the work with another walk...just to relax and cool out. I think it keeps their minds fresher.

I'll take any opportunity I can get to move cattle or go on a trail ride with someone. I don't think that there is a substitute to learn "real life" than by doing "real life."

One of the things that I like about my set up is that my only round pen is walls. So, when I take the horse outside of the pen, there isn't any "OMG" happening with the horse.

So, what I guess I'm trying to say is that getting the horse out of the arena and balance their work with some play can be beneficial (physically and mentally). I do practice arena stuff out on the trails or out in a field.

Little Bird Lucy said...

Hi Mugs,

I just wanted to give you an update on Tucker's progress so far. Due to weather I've been out 4 times to ride and his reaction so far has been the following:

After ignoring the walk cue twice and getting smacked he now walks off consistently when asked with a light squeeze. He walks slowly. Not always, but sometimes, he does what I call his "creep walk" where you can almost feel him stop between each step- but because he was moving I sat back and allowed him to mosey along. We didn't always have the ring to ourself, and being a avid follower, his pace would increase when following other horses.

When asking for the trot I had a hard time stopping myself from clucking! It's totally ingrained. I have finally gotten to the point where I can cue him and stay quiet. On the first few requests, he definitely ignored my first two cues for the trot and got smacked. Once he moved forward I stopped swatting. He was moving along in a medium speed trot that quickly got slower when I quit smacking. He will slowly trot anywhere from say 5 steps to maybe up to halfway around the ring before deciding to walk. At that point I let him walk along. ( That makes me feel funny as I have always corrected him for this in the past.) He has gotten over stopping at the gate everytime we pass it and will often creep walk past it. He will actually walk a fair number of laps around the ring before stopping now. Whoa has never been an issue for him, he's more than happy to comply, so working on the exhale- stop has not been hard.

A third of the time when asking for the trot, I give the light squeeze and he shuffles into his trot. The rest of the time I give the squeeze, then a light kick and he steps into a trot or sees me go to raise my crop and "scoots" into it. He trots along a bit then slows. As he slows it reminds me of Annie and her "pretend head bobbing trot" she did with the kids. He wants to make it look like he's going but I'm not buying it! :)

Saturday was a beautiful day and we all decided to go ride some trails out back. Halfway to the gate I remembered I had left the gate key at the barn and trotted him back to get it. On the road back up to the gate I asked him to trot (away from the barn) to catch up with everyone and he did it! I have NEVER in the year that I have had him been able to get him to trot away from the barn down that road. Heck, a year ago I couldn't get him to even walk away from the barn down that road. So I counted that as some sort of victory. Given, I was in a hurry and I'm sure my body language made that clear. But he did it!

So, what are your thoughts? What should I try next?


Anonymous said...

Cool post - he sounds like a ghost ;)

An epiphany inspired by an old ghost cowboy!

S. Maine

horsegenes said...


Also, hauled out to a HUGE arena this weekend, and she just wanted to RUN RUN RUN. What do you do in that situation. I kept bringing her back to whatever gait I had asked for (walk or trot), but it was a CONSTANT battle with her just wanting to RUN.

I have this problem sometimes with my horse just wanting to go and the thing my trainer had me try is to just turn them. When they start picking up speed - sharp turn (and I do mean "turn right now") they will slow to make the turn and then they will start to pick up speed - sharp turn - and just keep doing it till they decide that is it easy to go straight slowly than it is to have to be turned repeatedly. I don't worry about how pretty the turns are, where his head is or whether he is collected, I don't worry about how I look or how I am riding - in fact I think it works better when you are kind of bouncing around and off center. When he goes slower and behaves, I go back to riding right and making it easier on him.

crochetyolelady said...

KEL, thats what I did.. well, not change direction, but TURN SHARP TINY CIRCLE, the try again. It took FOREVER for her to wind down, she was lathered and puffing pretty good....I plan on hauling out there again possibly tomorrow night and trying again, as well as take her for a trail ride afterwards...

horsegenes said...

I tried working circles getting smaller and smaller but it took to longer and it was way more work from me. The turn almost shuts them down and they have to push off to restart and they have to think about where to put there feet. Sometimes you might be making almost a square. I can hear my trainer in my head saying.."turn, turn, turn" with only a couple of seconds between each turn in the beginning. The first few turns they think "turn and go" but after a few more they are thinking "why go, she is just going to turn me again". When you feel that then you can let them go back out straight and easy, if they get pushy - turn them again.

Redsmom said...

Hi all. Looks like fascinating reading, above. I'm getting a cup of coffee to read.

Meanwhile, DQ'd in reining again! It was Pattern 2, again! I went 4 circles instead of 3 this time. My mind just blinks off for a moment or two and then I think, "What number am I on? 2 or 3?" The rollbacks are getting better, getting crossing of the front legs. Whee! The funniest part was the first lead change, cause I oh, so subtly, gave the cue and it seemed to me that Matty leaped about 4 feet in the air when he did the change. It made me smile, he tried so hard!

slippin said...

sorry about the DQ'd on the reining pattern...but, you have to start somewhere! When I showed my gelding in the cow horse event, I was so scared and nervous about going off pattern! But what I have noticed at alot to the reining stuff and I also do it when I watch a friend or my trainer show, is that they whistle or yell on the last half of the circle before a lead change or a change in speed. The times that I showed, my trainer whistled when I was half way around the second circle before a lead change. That also works when you are spinning and you lose count...alot of times my friends will hollar or whistle when you are FINISHING your third turn around...only draw back about that they better know how to count! LOL, I never paid a whole lot of attention to it when I showed, but I did notice it, so if I ever got lost on the pattern, I would know what to listen for! So if you have a cheering section at the show, have them hollar at certain times in the run before a change in speed/direction. I don't say anything other than, "YEAH!!" or a long whistle.
Just a thought!

Francis said...

Sorry for some reason I keep thinking this poor guy is going to think hes got a stalker before its over with. If only he knew how many women all over the world were thinking about him on that colt....

It just makes me laugh a little!(This is not to say that I don't do the *exact* same thing Mugs when I see someone that I don't know, on my home turf, riding like I like!!)

Liz said...

I ride and show hunters and jumpers, and school a lot of dressage. I have a 10 year old Warmblood/TB gelding who I bought as a 4 (almost 5) year old with about 5-6 w/t rides in the tiniest paddock you can imagine. I also have a 5 year old BWP mare who I bought as a 3 (almost 4) year old who was already fairly well-started, w/t/c and jumping 2'6 courses.

Zeus, my gelding, I essentially started undersaddle. He had no brakes, he did not steer, he had legs going in every direction, and he resembled a giraffe crossed with an arab. However, he was very willing to accept my guidance, even if the responses I was getting weren't the ones I wanted.

Priority number 1 (at least for me) is simple: Move forward. This was easy for Zeus, he had a LOT of go, and still does today - though we've learned to channel our energies these days. This includes spooking. Horses are flight animals, they are GOING to look, and spook at things, and nobody can change that. My philosophy is still 'move forward.' My horse can look, he can tense up, he can perhaps move over a bit, but when I add voice and leg, it means 'move forward.' My horse can lose his frame, and raise his head, but he still has to move forward.

Later in his career, he'll learn that this applies to jumping too and will result in a horse (who competed up to 4'3") with less than 10 life-time refusals to date.

For my mare, Elantra, this is STILL our number 1 priority. She was bought as a jumper prospect, but has become SO mellow and relaxed that she's now my hunter prospect. She's bred very correctly and naturally carries herself very horizontal. She has beautiful self-carriage already, but the bane of my existance is kicking her butt forward. All I have to do is keep her moving forward, and all on her own, she pushes from behind, rounds her back, and holds her head very steady in a lovely hunter-type frame.

Why is 'move forward' so important? Here's where the dressage comes in. For a horse to be engaged, on the bit, and carrying himself he has to be moving forward. Later in the training process, things like lead changes are easy and no big deal.

I do almost all of my riding in an open field. Part of it is a (fence-less) jump field where I do most of my jumping. My favorite part is that it has hills and the footing ISN'T perfectly even. My horses learn to carry themselves and not rely on the fence of the ring/arena or consistent footing. Then when they go to horse show, they're almost more at ease than they are at home because everything is so simple.

I can't stress enough how important I think it is to ride OUTSIDE of the ring/arena. I keep my horses constantly turning and bending, going up and down hills. They never get bored, and they learn to be very attentive because they DON'T simply circle around the same ring again and again and again.

I find that WAY too many horses simply don't bend. I could be wrong, but I really think a lot of it has to do with people doing too little riding off the rail. Horses become reliant upon it, and riders often don't even realize there's an issue.

I want my horse to move like a noodle. I should be able to bend and turn left, then bend and turn right within 6 strides and not have a break in carriage or change in pace.

Bending and forward movement are the two most important building blocks to any riding horse. With those two principles installed, you can go to any discipline.

Sorry for my rambling, I hope there's some order, sense and logic in there somewhere.

Redsmom said...

Slippin, Thanks. My daughter offered to help. I liked your ideas. Just until I settle down and stop being mind-blowing nervous when I go in. I've decided to start doing horsemanship and/or western riding just to get into the arena before reining so I can get my arena jitters out of the way. I'm sure to be laughed out of town on my high headed, speed demon, but you have to start somewhere!

Unknown said...

Well I believe it is lots and lots of riding. I spent the past two years riding my now 5 year old every where. Trails, forest, roads, rivers, you name it. Now he is in the arena starting his barrels. By the third day he was working the pattern at a good working gallop nailing his lead changes calm and confident. I watched a lady with a 3 year old who was working faster but missing her lead changes and not staying straight in her pattern. Her rider asked what I had done to make Ed so consistent. I said ride him for two years everywhere and make sure he can do two tempe lead changes. That lost her but I explained. Ed still has other issues, but we will work them on the trails.
Happy Trails

Redsmom said...

Biomechanical Riding and Dressage

Has anyone seen this site? Is anyone familiar with this writer? It looks very interesting and thorough.

runninghorse said...

"And then we worked cows. I am so out of shape. I just about freaked. I was OK for about two turns and then I would have to quit. I knew I wouldn't keep my seat. I was embarrassed and horrified. "

This made me feel better - even the pros feel this way sometimes so its not just me. And I have never been fit, yet, to work cows daily.

I love this blog Mugwump. I really want to do cowhorse - Ive always wanted to do cowhorse - only we dont have it much in Australia. First time ever in an arena down the fence I got the AQHA Nationals Champion cowhorse - there was only four of us ( I was very pleased with myself because I managed the complete pattern with the cow, not that I won). My horse is a good reiner who really wanted to be a cowhorse. But that is the end of my career because there is almost no competitions.

So I am going cutting instead. I dont like it so much but am finding it a real challenge. I have to ride different - better. My confidence is shot and I feel that what I know about how to sit a horse is all wrong, that whatever I do is wrong and Im wrecking the horse. So I havent actually worked my cattle in an arena much.

I have concentrated on getting a farm. So I have the farm, 140 cows and their calves, 1800 sheep, an arena, and a mostly trained cutting horse. Nearest trainer is 400 km away. Now I am not sure where to go and how not to do it wrong and how to train myself, by myself, without messing to horse up so much I cant use him.

But I know what you mean about "Fire in the belly". I still really want to do cowhorse, even if it means doing it for real at home by myself. And competing at cutting instead.

I learn a lot from your blog, things like its not just my cowhorse bred horse that is spooky, its his breeding.

Anyone got any beginner cutter/cowhorse confidence tips?
How much and often do I need a trainer?
What size/shape is best for working alone?
Can I learn on cows or is it better if I buy a mechanical one?

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