Thursday, June 4, 2009

Keep it Simple

OK folks, I’m going to work through this recent set of questions today. I’m amazed how different the situations are yet how similar the fixes. The theme I see repeating itself over and over again is the rider getting ahead of herself in what she is expecting from her horse. This kind of situation is easy to create because we doubt ourselves and our abilities so much.

We (I say we because I was guilty of it myself for years) will jump to the next step, or get confused as to what our next step should be, or get rushed because of peer pressure.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve also been guilty of accepting a “try” from my horse and then continuing on to the next step, hoping I’ll get the “try” to be a “gotterdone” through osmosis, or fate, or just because I want it. It doesn’t work.

So here we go. Some of this is repetitive but so be it. I believe in getting a walk, trot and canter before I get anything else. It doesn’t mean I have to get it in the first ride, or the twentieth, it just means I want it before I teach my horse anything else.

I strongly feel my horse needs to feel comfortable packing my big butt around before I can start interfering by pulling them around.

I teach Whoa by saying it when my horse stops, not when I pull on them. So Whoa becomes a desired place for my horse. He connects the word Whoa with stopping because he chose it. It makes it really easy to put a whoa on them.

So when I’m starting a young horse or retraining an older one I get in an arena, just sit on them and work on my WTC. I try to stay balanced and just work on go.
If it’s a young horse I will hold the horn or a hunk of mane and force myself not to pull them around much.

If it’s an older, broke horse who has a lot of go I do the turn into the fence thing ( see “slowing down the hot horse” in my labels)

In both cases I may use other elements, but the goal is WTC.

Then I go on to steering.

>>Emily M. says - I am on ride 14 or so. I am just walking and working on stopping and steering so far and probably will stick with that for a while. The issue is that the steering is not coming along as fast as I thought it would. My greenie still steers like a freight train. What are some exercises that I can do to get him to "get it"?<<>> If he gears up to the canter he still steers but the whoa um, seems to be ignored/misunderstood. He steers just fine and doesn't remotely offer to unseat me. In fact we were flat out running through some very muddy sharp turns (against my will) a few weeks ago (first major spook in a loooong time). The path isn't very wide and circles weren't possible - so at times I actually was better off just going with his speedy departure from the area to avoid a major slide in the mud. I think I may not give as much (as in squeeze release squeeze release - though usually a single squeeze, if that, is all that necessary) on the reins. I'm sure when he's running like hell, and not stopping when I request it, I'm not relaxing my body/legs as I should.<< class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_3">doesn’t get to do this to you.
When you need him to stop he needs to stop.

I don’t know if you guys have picked up on this, but circles aren’t my idea of discipline. I teach my horses to seek the circle as a place to relax. I don’t use them as punishment. Plus, like you said, there aren’t always places to circle when you need to.

Your horse needs to whoa.


First thing.

Can you possibly grab mane and hang on when he spooks and wait for the feet to actually be leaving the premises before you act?

I know it’s hard, believe me, but if you can he may not take off. He might just spook and not bolt. I’ve had lots of success with this.

Before we get to the “Whoa Dammit!” phase we’re heading back to the arena. We’re going to teach the horse the one, two, three stop. Ala Monte Foreman.

Get your horse trotting on a loose rein, go ahead and post. When you are in the air touch your hand on his neck, right at the withers and push. As you sit, pick up those reins and haul him into the ground.

Nothing subtle here. Just pull until he stops. Don’t say Whoa. Then pat him and rest.

Then go again. Push on the neck when your in the air, sit and haul him down. Be prepared, people will mock. So what, this is serious.

Pretty soon, (you’ll be surprised at how quick) when you push on his neck he will stop. Right now.

Then practice at a canter. As your seat raises in the air push his neck and pull as you sit.

When he stops every single time you touch his neck start to add the Whoa. Say Whoa the same time you push. Do this a few times, then substitute the whoa for the push.

Make sure that anytime he doesn’t listen 100% you will pull him down. Every time.

Now head for the trail. Practice this same thing over and over, before you have trouble.

Transition up and down through your gaits, always ready to give the whoa cue the second he doesn’t listen. Pretty good doesn’t count. He has to listen!

This is how I got a handle on Mort and many horses after.

I have to quit guys. For some reason the boss wants some work out of me today….I’ll get to the Morgan tomorrow….but I’m ready to wager Laura will see where I’m headed by reading this post and I know Redsmom will.


  1. You are so so so so right. Moving on before the current lesson is perfected is what I have done. Now I have to go back and fill the holes.

    p.s. Thanks to Laura Crum for some previous suggestions, having a buddy horse in the arena around the round pen is just what the doctor (of psychiatry) order.

  2. Thank you so much for this posthopefully now I can get a nice whoa on my arabian.

  3. I like this. It's just so simple and clear for the horse: one cue, one correct response, one consequence for not responding. Every time.

  4. If i have a question do I post it here? or email it?

    Thank you.

  5. So, in what order do you normally teach your horses things? Is this basically it?:
    Turn on forehand?
    making 'c's as they turn?
    more refined tranistions?
    By now they should be taking the correct leads right?
    then more advanced stuf....
    Or do you have less of a plan and work on stuff as it goes?

  6. This stuff is, as ever, absolutely spot on. The only thing I would add to talk about steering is that often people expect a young horse to steer off a similar cue to what they would use with a more trained one and it seems like the horse can understand it a lot better if you take your hand out wide when you're asking them to turn and then refine it when they are ready. I'm sure you either work that way or have a good reason not to, but I've found it useful and I figured it was worth mentioning as the questioner might find it handy.

  7. Thanks, Mugs. You always give me news I can use.

  8. Greetings from gloomy, wet Cape Town!

    What is the difference between trot/jog and canter/lope?

  9. I will absolutely try this... you have mentioned the neck touch/pressure before. I didn't think to apply it. It'll be the first time I actually teach him something. Even if it's just an additional way to cue for something he *should/does* already know. I'll let you know how it goes.

  10. My stopping cues are almost the same: Sit deep, say WHOA, and if they dont stop at that, haul back on the reins.

    How do you feel about backing a few steps at every whoa? I generally do that, but not 100% of the time, but when training I do it 100% of the time.

  11. Thanks, Mugwump, I got a LOT out of what you wrote today and a lot of things I can work on the mare with. (Its a good time to work with the mare as its getting pretty hot to work Matty). I worked with the mare yesterday and she gave me a tiny protest buck a couple of times when I got in her mouth, so I got in her mouth MORE. I hauled her around pretty firmly a couple of times and she started listening much better after that. I managed to get her to lope some huge circles. She's so fun to ride. She's like a sports car compared to Matty the land yacht.

    I'm seriously taking Matty to team sorting tonight. I feel chicken, but do I want to chase cows or bake brownies? Chase cows. I have to drive across a huge bridge and all other manner of reasons to make excuses not to go, but I'm committing here so I will do it. Argh. Tomorrow is another club show, but I think it will be just too hot in the middle of the day to enter Matty in reining. I got a second opinion on his breathing and the vet said not to work him too hard. I think I might exhibition him and do a miniature version of the pattern, cut down the number of circles and distances of the run-downs to spare him, but continue to support our club offering a reining class.
    Good luck to all on training this weekend!

  12. I may not be as clever as mugwump thinks I am. I don't actually know exactly where she's going with this. But everything she's said makes perfect sense to me. I haven't actually used the touch the neck method--I first heard about it right here from Janet, and I don't at the moment have any horses with that problem, so haven't tried it. However, it sounds like a great idea.

    I'll throw in some thoughts, just for the fun of it. First off, the one thing that resonated the most for me was not to pull on the reins when a horse spooks. I've had quite a few spooky horses and virtually all horses will spook at times. I ride western, and I am totally "trained" (I mean me, my body), to leave the reins almost completely alone, and grab the horn. My body stays pretty relaxed (cutting helped a lot with this). Thus when the horse is done with a pretty big jump, I'm on him, hanging on, and I pick up lightly and say whoa. I have virtually never had one bolt when I do this, except those who start out by bolting rather than spooking.

    I really only had one "bolter". I don't like a horse that does this. Instead of spooking, this horse ran off. I re-trained him in the arena, just as Janet says. I didn't know the touch the neck trick. But if that horse didn't stop when I said whoa, I backed him up and beat him up hard enough he got the point. It wasn't pretty. But bolting can get you killed. BAD HORSE!! As Janet says. That horse would still start to bolt, but eventually I could stop him in a stride (or two).

    In my opinion, a horse who is spooking rather than bolting, even if his spook is a jump forward, can be trained to just make the one jump and the key is not grabbing his mouth. But if for some reason my horse does try a little run off on the trail, I jerk hard on one rein, yelling whoa you son of a bitch (or the eqivalent) in a very harsh tone (this can help--it gets them thinking about you) and I make him stop. Depending on circumstances I might double him or back him up. If things are too tight for that I might just jerk him hard in the face (with one rein), if he's an old horse and knows better. And when I say hard, I mean hard. I expect him to throw his head. I expect it to hurt. I'm simply punishing him for doing something he knows he shouldn't do. I want him to think about me, his rider, and how I'm in charge. I wouldn't do this to a terrified horse or a young horse. I would do it to an older horse who knows better. I'm guessing autumnblaze's horse is in that category.

    mugwump will have better insights--I just wanted to further the discussion while she's stuck at work.

  13. Anon.-Either way. You can post it and get a bigger picture from the other bloggers or send it to me at
    manymis - that's it exactly.
    random-after they have the turn on the forehand I start working on shoulders and ribs, then I shape the C.
    I get their leads when I'm teaching WTC...
    Glenatron - excellent point, thanks. I go really wide with my hands, almost as if I'm leading them.
    Heila - for me, a jog is a slow collected trot. A trot is the speed of a working trot. A lope and a canter are the same thing, different parts of the horse world.
    badges - I back them a few steps when they know how to back.After they are really back I only need to feel they are ready to back.
    Redsmom - Sortiung is the perfect place to learn about working cattle, good for you.
    Laura Crum - I'm glad you brought up the point about discipline with one rein. I always pop them with one rein or the other, never both. It's harder for a horse to set against you that way. Good point.

  14. badges - I meant after they are really broke.

  15. mugs - i have a quick question about one of your older posts. How to speed up a pluggy horse (differant horse from the one i wanted to slow down a couple weeks ago) This is my son's horse, he is playdaying and in the middle of the pattern the horse will stop and neigh at other horses or whatever outside of the arena! To do this exercise with the reins to speed them up - what do you do if he goes to the gate and just stands there. I'm afrad if I hit him there he will just try to go through the gate or scramble around the gate and never actually move FORWARD away from it? Last time I took the kiddo there to work with him, he would came straight to the gate and kiddo had a hard time getting him to leave it. So I got on him, with spurs and made his work REAL HARD at the gate and let him relax away from the gate. This worked great. I got the kid some bumper spurs - what do you think about those? i use them on my barrel horse to make him move off my leg. i don't like other spurs - especially for barrels.

  16. t_orchosky- Your horse isn't a plug, he's a brat. You need to school him for your son. Kids shouldn't have to train through these things (I mean little kids or newbies).
    When he's clear on what's expected your son can work him through it.

    What you're doing is fine. I also will get after them about two or three strides before they start trouble. Get him loping and make him hustle past the gate. The rest on the other side of the arena.

    I prefer to use my reins or a bat to get forward from a horse over spurs. I save my spurs for turning cues and moving the ribs.

    A bat is easier for a child to use also. Short legs = spurs in the sides all the time = dull or bucking horses

  17. t-orchoskey--My kid did really well with a similar problem using a bat. His horse, Henry, knows better, but started stopping at the gate and refusing to go when the kid was on him (not with me). I told my kid to shorten his reins so he had control and could stop the horse, but don't worry about steering him, just whack him with the bat as hard as you can until he moves away from that gate. It didn't take long. Now my kid can ride Henry right by the gate. If Henry shows any tendency to slow there, one tap of the bat cures it.

  18. OK, here I go. I'm going home and hitch the trailer and load Matty and just keep doing the next thing until I get to the arena where the sorting is. AHHH!

    Oh and I find slapping the f___ out of Matty on the neck with a rein or my hand lets him know he's being bad and needs to pay attention. I've found slapping him on the rear takes him back to his barrel running days and makes him want to run off! One day I got off and slapped him about 5 times on the neck with the reins and that "come to Jesus meeting" lasted him for weeks! But, he's one of those older horses like Laura said, who knows better. The mare, I wouldn't take that tack with.

  19. Laura Crum says>>My kid did really well with a similar problem using a bat. His horse, Henry, knows better, but started stopping at the gate and refusing to go when the kid was on him (not with me). <<,

    The only problem here is T-Orch is talking about behavior at a play day. Laura rides with her son in a quiet arena at home.
    If the horse is screaming at other horses and staying stuck to the gate things could escalate quickly.
    I reiterate- Mom needs to teach the horse to behave and then help the son do the same. It needs to be somewhere other than at a competition to start.
    I have seen this scenario many times and I have seen it go south very quickly.

  20. sorry i need to clarify. the only problem he has at the playday is the stopping and not paying attention to his rider. he doesn't have a gate problem at the playday. but my son has problems getting him to go forward he just stops (and he IS being a brat I know) When I talk about the gate problem, I'm talking about working at a freind's house in an arena - not a show. I read your pluggy horse thread thinking that would be a good way for ME to get on him and school him on Go means GO - not stop and chit chat. But the problem i have at freinds arena is horse wants to hang at the gate. In your pluggy horse thread you say not to steer to work on getting forward at a smooch and then move up to keeping it. My question is - What do i do, if I'm working on this exercise and he gets stuck pointing at the gate. i'm afraid when i allow him to stop (to then restart at the lope with a smooch) he'll end up at the gate every time? so should i steer away from gate? or just smack him when he gets near it? and get those feet moving? - Again this is not something I want Kiddo to do, I just need ideas on getting Horse to listen to GO NOW.
    Kiddo hates the bat. i even tried tying a cotton lead on his saddle horn for him to use when he needed it and drop it when he don't, but he would take it off his saddle as he was going into the arena. We may try that one again.
    And you did say to over and under on the shoulder? just curious? why the shoulder and not the butt?

  21. T_orch - Because the reins reach the shoulders easier than the butt. Let's not get too complicated here. I'm not sure the pluggy horse thing is the answer here.
    The gate is the problem, correct?
    Then, like I said, your doing fine. Hustle the horse past the gate and let him relax somewhere else.
    Always dismount on the other side of the arena from the gate.
    If you want to use spurs than go ahead. I was simply telling you why I wouldn't.

  22. Good point mugwump. Actually the place where Henry had this problem was not in my home arena but in a round pen next to our local practice arena and Henry wanted to go to the other horses in the roping arena, he didn't want to lope around the round pen with my son. So, in that way the problem was similar. But it was a practice situation, not a competition, and the people there were all friends and I could be totally in charge of what my son did. I would not do this in a public arena at a playday if there was any question in my mind that the horse might not respond well. But here's a question for you mugwump. How about the old show day syndrome? I know you know this one. Mom gets horse tuned up at home. Kid can ride horse at home and do just fine. But as soon as horse gets to playday with kid on him he immediately reverts to crappy behavior. Wouldn't you say that eventually, after mom has schooled horse and kid can deal with said behavior at home, kid will eventually have to deal with it at playday or horse will bluff him forever? I know my cutting horse did this to me. Cut a cow perfectly in practice when he knew I would park his butt as needed. Get to the competition where he knew I wouldn't park him and he would creep out towards the cow like crazy. I had to waste quite a few shows proving to him that I could darn well park his butt there, too, before he got over it.

  23. Laura Crum- I think I covered this when I said, "You need to school him for your son. Kids shouldn't have to train through these things (I mean little kids or newbies).
    When he's clear on what's expected your son can work him through it."

  24. Okay! Duh - Keep it simple! completely FIX the gate problem and then move on to teaching him to lope from the smooch. I was trying to fix 2 things at once and didn't even realize it! sorry! I'm slow today....
    Well I'll report back and let ya know how it goes!

  25. t_orch - I'm telling you, breaking it down to simple steps is the hardest part of this horse training thing.
    You just explained it better than I did BTW.

  26. I guess I should say that the approach I used with my son and his horse is not a good idea if you don't have perfect confidence in the horse. If I had not known that Henry was a well-broke trustworthy horse who would not crash the gate or do any other violent thing, I would not have had my son whack him hard with a bat when Henry refused to leave the gate. But Henry is a well-broke, bomb-proof horse who I trust not to behave--ever--in a stupid or violent way. I have known this horse since he was six, and he's twenty one. I really know this horse. In my opinion, this is the only kind of horse a little kid should ever be on. Henry was just being lazy, and when my son let him know he could not get away with that, the horse gave a sigh and went back to loping along the rail where he belonged. If there is ever the slightest doubt how the horse will behave, then don't use this approach. Its great merit is that if you trust the horse, once the kid has established dominance this way, then you don't have to constantly readjust the horse yourself. The horse now respects the kid. But again, it only works on a well-broke, solid, trustworthy horse. I wouldn't want anyone to get a kid hurt having them whack a horse who was not 100% trustworthy.

  27. "The theme I see repeating itself over and over again is the rider getting ahead of herself in what she is expecting from her horse."

    One trainer told me that if you're an inexperienced trainer working mostly on your own, you can use this to help you figure out when you've got the previous step wrong. That is, if your foundation is truly correct, then the successive step is straightforward. If it isn't, then you know you made a mistake in your foundation and must fix that first, before going back to the step you were having problems with.
    It makes sense in a weird backwards kinda way - if you've not done it before, then you don't know if it's right or not.

    "I strongly feel my horse needs to feel comfortable packing my big butt around before I can start interfering by pulling them around."

    Absolutely - the number of people I see wanting to canter circles before the horse is balanced in trot. And also people with new-broke horses fussing because they don't go in an outline. Drives me crazy.

    "I teach Whoa by saying it when my horse stops, not when I pull on them."

    Yes! The natural response of a greenie is to pull back if you pull on its face. Not to mention the fact that when they are unbalanced as they generally are early on, they tend to stick their noses out as a counter-balance. If you're already pulling back then that creates additional pressure, and in effect punishes for doing exactly what you want them to do. Talk about your conflicting signals.
    You want to make doing what you want them to do the easiest option, not more difficult.

    t_orch, can I ask why your kid hates the bat? Empathy / feels unbalanced using it / doesn't like having stuff in his hands / feels silly / it's a girly colour / doesn't connect with the point of using it / thinks horse might act up / doesn't want to hurt horse / worried what people think?
    (You may laugh, but these are all real reasons real kids have given me for not wanting to discipline a horse)

  28. Anonymouse from above here...

    Okay, so this is my problem, and sorry for being anonymous, but I am at work. (midnights stink)


    I have a very big, 4 year old, QH gelding. He has a very solid start on him about 120 rides from a professional. I am not currently taking lessons, but I will be again soon. I ride him in a D ring snaffle.
    My biggest problem is turning at the lope. he is fine at the walk and the trot. but at the canter, everything falls apart. He comes very close to running into walls.
    He is either swerving off the rail, or refusing to turn when we get to the corner. Is this a balance thing? or is he ignoring the bit? I haven't started any collection work yet. I want to get his turning down pat first. (trying to work on one thing at a time). But would collection help?

    Another trick he does, is he has started diving into the inside of the areana and cutting off one corners. To correct this I have been doing circles (about 15 strides big) in the corner that he likes to try to avoid, but only if he does this, I circle at the lope until he is going into the corner without giving me a problem and then I stop and let him rest to reward him.
    Then I try it again to see if it worked (it usually dosn't and I end up having to circle some more).
    Should I be stopping and getting off when he relaxes the first time to show him that is what i wanted?

    He really is still growing. He is HUGE. As in I am 5'2" and I cannot see over his butt. So it could be is balance, or my balance.

    Lessons are soon. I really just want him to be a nice SAFE trail horse. Right now I am terrified to even take him out on the trails at anything faster than a trot though.

    Sorry the post is so long. Hope all is clear.
    Thank you in advance.


  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. I read this post, nodding along in agreement, especially... "I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve also been guilty of accepting a “try” from my horse and then continuing on to the next step, hoping I’ll get the “try” to be a “gotterdone” through osmosis, or fate, or just because I want it. It doesn’t work." Yep. Total agreement.

    Off to the barn, eager to work on more leg-yielding with my youngster, since he's just starting to grasp lateral movements and had given me a great "try" the day before. And then I ASKED FOR WAY TOO MANY STEPS and overwhelmed him. Damn.

    This particular horse has trouble with his balance (grew too much and still growing) and gets really worried if asked to change balance too quickly. I know this. Sigh. Luckily, I caught it quickly and went back to simple requests and ended with 100% success and a happy horse. Without today's blog I probably would have been more inclined to push him out of his comfort zone and ended up with a problem to fix later. So thanks.

    Jess: I own a 6yo Appendix, he's been growing non-stop for the past 3 years, and almost every issue stems from losing his balance or worrying that he'll lose it. I'd try loping on the straights and asking for a trot before the corner on your guy for awhile to let him rebalance and regain his confidence on the turns. It probably won't take long (maybe only one session, like with my guy) to get over the corner worries and evasions. I'd also drop down to a trot before he swerves, instead of circling, and follow your planned track at the slower gait. You can ride further into the corner/turn/swerve spot before asking for the downward transition each time, putting him in front of your aids and reacting to you, instead of you reacting to him. The downward transition should help him rock his weight back and rebalance, too. IMO, anyhow.

  31. Jess, I don't know what Mugs would say, so if you're already getting specific advice from her, please ignore me as I don't want to confuse you.

    I'm pretty confident that we agree on this point though - if your horse isn't pretty solid in w/t/c, he's really not ready to collect yet.

    Particularly given that you think he's still growing, his centre of gravity will be shifting and he may well not be able to balance himself and you through corners and circles at speed. The wall of death canter and the diving are likely his uneducated ways of coping.

    Correct me if I'm wrong; you're riding him in an arena, and he's fine to steer and do circles and corners with in trot.

    Do you sometimes have steering issues in trot?
    Does he dive in / lose his balance in trot at all?
    If the answer to these is yes, then I'd hold off on the canter till the diving is fixed and his balance and strength improves.

    You say you're going to have lessons soon yes? And he's going to be your riding horse? Then what's the hurry? Keep going in trot until you and he are happy. It's generally a bad idea to ask a youngster to do something that you aren't comfortable about - they can tell, and it only makes them more nervous. Wait till either you're more comfortable or you have the instructor there to help you ride him from the ground.

    Do you ride him outside the arena at all?
    If there are no steering or brakes issues, you're completely happy in trot, and you can ride him outside, I would work on his canter, but in a larger area, such as a paddock or small field where he can learn to carry you in straight lines before handling tricky corners and circles.

    Unless I'm expecting explosions I like all my young horses to do some canter work going down the trail, because they learn to go forward and enjoy it, not get stressed about balance. Ideally, you'd have a companion on an older quiet horse that you can trust to be the pacemaker.
    N.B. Please nobody misunderstand me, I don't advocate that the first time you canter your horse be on the trail - that's likely asking for trouble.

    Alternatively, if you've experience with lunging, you can do some work with him in canter on the lunge. If he's really struggling with balance it gives him a chance to learn without your weight. Personally, I wouldn't do much if he's still growing, and never on a circle smaller than 20m.

  32. I went out shopping a sidepull today. It worked super, the difference from riding on a snaffle was very small.
    Thanks Mugs!
    Now I can resume the training again, I am very happy.

    And Jess, I agree with stillearning and FD.
    It is the same issue as Mugs is writing about in the post; keep it simple - and don't advance until your horse is ready.

  33. I dont see an e-mail address anywhere, so I am posting this here. If you are interested in a blog link exchange, for blog, send an email to

    Sorry to spam your comments section.

  34. do you ever know what to post :)

    Keep it simple is also for us humans.

    Last Saturday I had a freak accident with Starlette. I was not feeling up-to-par, but decided to ride anyway. I set up some low jumps (I use those plastic cat litter containers with a post across the top), decided I'd just have a quick ride as we were going to the track after.

    Started warming up at a walk, and as we were passing the jump, she spooked sideways a little. I lost my balance, but not by much. She then took a step right onto the plastic bucket. She leaped forward, and I didn't. I don't remember much after that except slowly falling (and I do relax into the fall), gently tapping my head on the ground (lucky I had a helmet) and then it going black (like when you are put under anesthesia).

    Next thing I know my husband (who saw the whole thing) is standing next to me asking if I am okay. I slowly get up and nothing hurt except my head a little..and all I could think of is that I had to get back on and ride. I do remember my neighbor's (bling-bling) husband asking if I was okay somewhere in the fog. My husband is still surprised I blacked out..he said the fall was real slow and he thought I was just going to land on my feet and stand - I had even grabbed Starlette's mane to hold on to.

    I only remember bits...telling my husband that I am having a hard time remembering things (he said I told him that several times while I was riding), leading her to mount again but do not remember doing it. My husband said I was riding at a walk in circles for an hour before he came in the pasture and got me. And all day long I kept repeating myself and asking him questions over and over until I finally did start to remember.

    Later I did find the bucket halfway across the pasture (I am so glad I had boots on Starlette or her leg would have been all torn up), and my girth had broken a strap..which didn't help me stay on at all. The one thing I wish I had seen...when my husband realized something was wrong, he came right through the charged electric fence to get to me ;)

    Fast forward to today (sorry for being so wordy and it not being Wednesday!!!). I obviously had a concussion, and didn't dare ride until today when I could finally move around and not be dizzy. I set up my usual low jumps and climbed aboard...only to tense up (and Starlette, too) when I got to the fence to simply walk over it. I remembered this post, and just set up trotting/canter poles and, as Janet said, kept it simple. I didn't remember falling, didn't get hurt much, but it shook my confidence just enough that I decided to backtrack and rebuild again.

    Oh, it does take a week for the fog to clear in the old noggin!


  35. Mugs, I use what you say SO OFTEN and I rarely comment here. That's not fair to you; you deserve to hear all the "hey that's a great idea" comments from your readers!

    Anyway, your how to teach the halt instructions made perfect sense to me. My mare has a very iffy halt, so I started trying it your way yesterday. I think I laid a good foundation with it. If I ride tomorrow, I need to remember to add in the "body cues" for halt, but I think tomorrow it'll click for her. (We got derailed with some gaping holes in groundwork today.) I'll comment again when we get it!

  36. Ok I'm confused so if someone could set me straight or give me a past post to read I'd sure appreciate it. What exactly do you mean Mugs when you say, for example, if the horse invades your space you go after him and mean it, and whats meant by having a horse load by taking whip to his pasterns. I guess I'm wondering what your degrees of encouragement and correction are for your horses? What equipment do you use and how do you know when it's quitting time with that discipline/correction? Hope that's not as cloudy as the mud I'm thinking it seems like? Thanks for your help.

  37. Mommyrides, I can give you my interpretation about going after a horse and meaning it, which is this: My aim if I need to move a horse out of my space, or do pretty much anything else with one, is that I will do whatever it takes to get the response I want. I don't want to do any more, but when it is close to the boundary I would rather do more and get an overreaction than do to little and get no reaction. With most corrections I see it as being quitting time pretty much instantly. Then you can take some thinking time ( I'd tend to wait until the horse was working their mouth ) set things up and try again. The horse learns from your timing, so the more accurate you are, particularly in when you release, the better.

    When I was learning about this idea a little while back I was tending to do too little so that I was inneffectual and I was nagging my horse with my inneffectual requests, which was teaching him to be less responsive than he was before. The consequence was that I was always working harder and my horse was working less hard. One of my teachers got me to change my ideas so that I approached with the concept that the horse would move when I asked them to and that I would do whatever was necessary to get that movement. The moment I had that mindset my horse reacted much more quickly and lightly so that I was doing less and getting more - I didn't actually have to back up what I was asking with, but I had to know that I would and that there was no boundary in my mind where I was thinking "I would do X but I wouldn't do Y."

    For me, so much of learning about horses has been learning how to be as firm as they need, and how to do it in a way they understand so that I'm not ambushing them or treating them in a way that they consider unfair.

    These days if I'm asking the horse to move by, for example, spinning the tail of the rope, he'll get one or two spins and if he hasn't responded I'll touch him with it next time around. I'm pretty consistent and he understands the pattern and gets along with it well enough.

  38. LC - Thanks for the tips. Gator is in the 'old enough and trained well enough to know better'. I am still working on staying out of his mouth when he spooks hard - except he will just go. Again, though usually not at hyper speed. I hadn't thought about just one rein... that will be very helpful.

    I, unfortunately, did not get to try and of this this weekend. :/ I have a really bad skin infection on my lower leg from deer fly bites. It hurt to zip up my paddock boots - heaven forbid I even consider my half chaps. I considered riding with the bareback pad but decided it might be best I rest. So he just got lounged and a bath on Sunday... I'll let you know how things go when I get on again.

    Also, I think he'll be better with a hosre trail buddy too. We'll be moving to the boarding barn soon and I'll have someone else to ride with finally.

  39. FD - I'm not sure why he hates it exactly, he won't tell me no, he'll just wait till he's out of my sight and put it down. I've asked him but don't get a clear answer. From knowing my kid I can tell you it's not - afraid to hurt the horse, or afraid of what the horse will do. I think it has to do with his "image". ALOT of kids around here use spurs, and I know he wants to have them too. I don't think kids should have spurs at all, as far as I have went was the bumper spurs and I wasn't thrilled about that, but I know the horse is bluffing him, cuz he does just fine with me. I actually moved him up to this horse because this horse was a bit faster and liked to go.

  40. I didn't get to work with my sons's horse yesterday - unfortunately a good friend of mine was bucked off her horse and is now in the hospital, she broke her wrist and hip.
    I did get to work with the horse that I was trying to slow down, I did what Mugs told me, or atleast what I interpreted and it WORKED. He was walking with his head down within an hour. I'm sure I will have to start all over when I get back on him this week, but it is soo rewarding to make progress! Thanks!

  41. Mugs - have another question!! =) How do you fix a horse that sits back? It's not a spook, not fearful at all. He spooked once and broke a ring off my trailer, so now, every time I tie him to that trailer, he very calmly, tests the rope and then sits on it until something breaks. I tried a blocker tie ring, but he figured out real quick, he sits back and then backs up a few steps until it comes undone and he can eat grass. He KNOWS better, he's been a rodeo horse all his life and has stood at the trailer countless times!

  42. Those were some good ideas. I worked him on Saturday trying to keep to the fence and using someone else's suggestion of overexaggerating by really taking my arm out really wide and tug-tug-tugging to let him know where I wanted to go. It went really well and I even tried some trot steps, but after a few steps he gets confused and stops, but it was coming.

    Then on Sunday I came out to feed to an injured tendon on my boy. I have to wait for the vet to call me back to see if he even has an ultrasound to see how bad it is, but my guess is that my boy Freddie is looking at a vacation from training for a while.

  43. You guys rock. Every answer and idea was good, thinking horsemanship, the questions are too.
    Stilllearning - You are spot on withyour advice to Jess, I'm a big fan of transitions up and down. My gelding Pete and I are working on them oput in the field right now. If I can ride him like a show horse on a dirt road in the mountains I think he'll show anywhere.
    FD - I've got nothing to add. Exactly what I would reccomend.
    Jess - What they said.
    Horses and Turbos - I'm so glad you're OK. You've got a great husband!This brings up Laura Crum's point again, make sure you know your horse inside and out, because stuff happens no matter how on top of things you are.
    Funder- Glad to finally hear from you. Jump in more often, the water's warm and we don't bite.
    mommyrides - Glenatron and I approach things the same. When I decide to ask a horse something I make it happen. I try to be clean and precise with what I ask, but I am very to the point. I will thump on a rude horse in a minute. I have ways to deal with a dangerous horse which isn't pretty, but still works.
    I (honest and true) have had training failures, but I have NEVER had a horse become afraid of me.
    The best way to sort out how I train is to read through the previous posts.Beware though, I am very long winded.
    t_orch - Some of you who are nicer than me might want to chime in on the suck back question. I tie the problem child in a rope halter with a lead made out of climbing rope that is permanently tied onto the halter. Then I tie him to the trailer. Then I snap on a second lead and tie him with that one.
    Then I ignore him. I always tie with a quick release knot, but I don't untie him unless he's going to die. Reread my Captain story, you'll see what I mean.
    Emily M.- I hope it's not terrible news. Please let us know....

  44. What usually breaks is the hook that is screwed into the trailer. I have bought 6 replacements so far. I will try tying with the 2nd lead rope to make it stronger and see if it works. I've already tied him to several "thinking" trees, but he only does it at the trailer, where he knows it will break. Yes I know, he's a BRAT. Thanks for the input!

  45. Man, I've been in this exact situation.
    We had a horse come in that sucked back calculatedly. The owner told me she just didn't bother to tie him because he 'always' broke loose and he'd apparently been like this for YEARS. Honestly don't know what goes through some people's heads, but I digress.

    I did what mugs suggests, which was just never, ever tie him to something that will break. It didn't stop him trying periodically, but at least he wasn't running around loose. It's hard though to find something on a trailer that won't break off.
    One interim solution that worked was packing a length of tough rope, parking by a solid tree and tying him to that, but that has obvious drawbacks. Not least getting funny looks from DQ's.
    Eventually in frustration after he'd yanked the ring off the trailer at a show once, I took him home and hobble broke the ratbag. After that if I had to leave him I just put the (diagonal) hobbles on. Not elegant, but it worked.

    What sort of halter are you using btw? A knotted rope, 'come-along' style halter works wonders for some of the less committed pull-backers.

  46. I'm using the knotted rope halter. At the last 2 shows, I have put him in the trailer and made him sit in there with all windows open for air. otherwise if I stay right there at the trailer he usually won't try anything.
    A trainer friend has a suggestion, I'm about ready to try it, he says to put a soft cotton rope under his tail, crisscross it at the shoulders and run both ends back through the halter and tie back to the trailer. tie a piece of haystring with a quick release from the halter to the trailer, when the haystring breaks, the soft lead will be put into action under the tail.
    I'm not as good with words as you so I hope this makes sense. Does this sound like a good solution to the problem?

  47. Wow! Ya'll have all been working hard on training. I have been rodeoing instead. LOL. I made it to team sorting Friday night and it was a blast. It was a practice so they don't care (much) if you mess up. It is a great opportunity to just get in there. Everyone there is so nice and helpful. Matty went right into the calves with no fear and he steered eagerly at whichever calf I went after. He liked herding them back together at the end of the runs, too. He didn't get stubborn until going in for the 5th and last run. 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. went by in a flash. We also went to the show the next day. I only did 3 timed events with him since it was hot and we were both tired. Got 2 4ths and a 5th place!

  48. Redsmom- You are having waaaay too much fun.

  49. t-o--My boarder horse has this bad habit of breaking the rings off the trailer, too. On our trailer, we have upright posts that we can tie to; I have to climb up on the trailer fenders to reach them; I'm short. The horse can't break them. It ain't pretty, as mugwump says. And I have known two horses in my life that permanently crippled themselves from pulling back. But they wewre pulling in panic, not calculated. Anyway, if your trailer has an upright post that you can tie to, that works on the breaking loose problem.

  50. Way to go, Redsmom!

    t_orchosky: I owned one confirmed tie-breaker and cured him of it by using a neck rope. Rope goes around the poll, looping under the throatlatch with the attaached lead dropped thru the halter and tied in the normal fashion. When they try to pull back, the pressure is on the poll, and that in itself is enough to discourage them and break the habit. Of course, he'd still "sit" and try to break loose if I used a regular halter.

    I tied to a very sturdy post for the first "lessons" and stood by with a sharp knife in case he got really stupid, and kept pulling until the noose tightened too much...which of course he didn't, because he was a smart horse. I wasn't crazy about having to use the neckrope, but he was getting good at breaking things and I really needed to be able to tie him.

    With my other, less determined horse, using 2 separate halters worked well, and using a non-breakable halter worked best.

    I always worry when I tie with things that won't break for safety, but with these confirmed pullers every time they successfully break loose the worse they get.

  51. The rope halter with tied on lead rope plus nylon boat rope around large tree all worked well for Dude, my confirmed puller. I watched him out the window. He carefully calculated whether he could pull loose and gave up when he discovered he couldn't. but he is old and very spoiled. He knew it was a rope halter and would not break as soon as he felt it out and knew the gig was up.

    Mugs, I am having fun, thanks to you bolstering me up with courage to try! Question: if the calf you want is WEDGED in between two others all headed in the same direction, how do you get him out? Keep boxing the bunch of 3 until one breaks loose? It all happens so fast! I need to not lean forward like a buzzard when I spy the one I want. LOL!

  52. Who was it trained their horses to high lines? Does that help at all with pullers? I've never used one.

  53. How do you handle a head tosser? His teeth/mouth have been looked at and are not hurting him. Most of the problem is at the trot trying to slow him into a jog - just wants to go. I've tried just holdong on till he gives in which he does eventually and also letting him go and slowing him w/o reins just weight and seat which just isn't going to work all the time...

  54. Sue, this is what Mugwump said about my head tosser a couple of posts back.:
    Redsmom - Practce your walk and trot AND get in her mouth. If you ask her to do something she has to do it. So if you ask her to slow down and she tosses her head you have to stop her and back her. Add one more maneuver for every one she doesn't perform.
    As you walk and trot ask her to give to one rein then the other, left, right, left right. Don't back off if she tosses her head, but on't get stronger, just make her do it.
    You only want a little give, then release and ask again the other way.
    Check in Thurs. [Keep it Simple}] think the exercises will benefit your mare too.

    Good luck.

  55. I finally got some pics from the barrels and poles put up on my blog. If anyone wants to see my large behind and my kidlet having a blast go here.

  56. The rope over the pole sounds good!! i will try that, thanks!! On the big trailer there are no posts to tie to. and I NEED to tie him. When hubby and i rodeo together I'm stuck there all night cuz he is the bullfighter and has to work the whole rodeo. I hate leaving him in the trailer. Thanks for all the input!

  57. I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your explanation and writing style. I quit showing AQHA (insert snort here) and only rode pleasure trails and such for years. I simply couldn't handle what breed WP, reining and even western riding and trail classes had become.
    Mugs' you have inspired me to be ever more diligent in my horsemanship and persevere in being my best with my horses and pushing them to be their best.

    I have always tried to keep things simple and I thank you for your blog and willingness to share and exchange ideas. You and I are very like-minded, although you are better at writing it out.

    Keep on.

  58. Well, I had the vet out to check out the tendon issue yesterday. On Sunday a few times and Monday morning I had iced it and put on a standing wrap. After talking with the vet on Monday I did a DMSO/furazone covered with saran wrap with a standing wrap on Monday night and then redid it Tuesday morning. Tuesday morning all the swelling was gone and he wasn't lame, but I had the vet out anyway. The vet came in the afternoon and looked at the leg and there was no swelling and couldn't palpate any sensitive areas so we just decided to rewrap if the swelling comes back and give him time off since he was so painful on Sunday.

    I left the wrap off for a few hours until dinner time and when I went back out the swelling was back and Freddie seemed a bit sore again - right after the vet had looked at him and he seemed fine... So apparently the DMSO/furazone and my wrapping skills work miracles.

    I'm thinking maybe he didn't do any permanent damage since he seems so much better so fast. I'll just have to keep it wrapped until the swelling stops and just give him some time to completely recover. Luckily he is an only horse so he doesn't have to go on stall rest or be moved from his normal turnout. Unfortunately we won't be working on his steering skills for a while yet.