Monday, August 3, 2009

Time to Train Those Boogerheads!

Redsmom told about trying to get her horse to sidepass and somebody else talked about horses flying backwards out of trailers.
Those are the two subjects for today.

I'm going to start with the trailering.

My good friend Kathy had a mare, Brandy, who blew backwards out of the trailer. At one point she flew out so fast she flipped end-over-end, summersaulted through a hot wire fence, got the still snapping hot-wire wrapped around her body and legs, freaked, tore herself to shreds, ran off into the pen, which happened to be full of several brood mares with very new babies.
The mares attacked her and kicked her to bits before we got to her.


She was worse. So pain and punishment was clearly not the answer.

Brandy had string-halt. It made it difficult for her to step down while backing out. So we found why she originally panicked. By the time Kathy asked for my help it was a terrible vice. If you know me at all, you know I didn't really care why she did it. She was capable of stepping out, so she was going to.

This is what we did. It worked so well I have used it on every other speedo backer since. I have not been let down.

We began with a fifty foot cotton rope. As a matter of fact, this was the horse who helped me learn to love my fifty foot cotton rope.

I would tie the 50 foot rope on her halter and run it through the front window while she was still tied to the trailer by her other lead rope.

Then we would untie her from the trailer before letting her out. The 50 foot rope would still be attached to the halter, but not tied to anything.

I always untie a horse in the trailer before unloading. I've seen a horse caught under the trailer with it's head still tied. The horse died. So I will always untie before I unload. Every horse, every time.

We didn't open the door until she was standing up, off the butt bar and quiet.

This took hours and hours by the way. Kathy and I cleared the week-end, it was a damn good thing.

Kathy stood holding the 50 foot rope at the front of the trailer and I would begin to open the trailer.

If, I mean when, Brandy slammed into the butt bar, we closed the trailer up and waited for her to be quiet.

Probably 20 or 30 times here, so don't get impatient.

Finally she stood quiet in the trailer and we dropped the butt bar.

Kathy was at the front holding the rope. I was at the back with a longe whip.

When Brandy flew back, and fly she did, we let her rip. Kathy held the rope, but didn't pull, just let it run through her heavily gloved hands.

I just got out of the way.

The second she stood up I began to whip her pasterns (no blood, but I made my point) and Kathy started to tow her back in.

No kind words, or mean ones for that matter, we just towed and whacked her back into the trailer.

Then we started over.

Same drill, over and over.

Eventually, like five or six hours later, Brandy stood at the open trailer and waited.

So did we.

She cautiously took one step back.

She stumbled on her bad leg and scurried the rest of the way.

We said, good girl, dried her off and put her to bed.

We hauled and unloaded this way probably ten times before she got better. I never repeated the exercise if she was quiet. She was loaded when we went somewhere and unloaded when we got there. I'm a big believer in a process making sense to a horse. If we loaded her over and over it would only frustrate her and us.

Brandy got over it.

This method has never let me down. I have noticed that 95% of the horses who do this have a stiffness or pain somewhere.

I am never discussing this again.

Now on to redsmom and Queenie, and their battle of the sidepass.
I had a few thoughts when it came to Queenie. I have a very clear picture in my mind. I see Redsmom pushing and shoving on Queenie as she leeaannnns into Redsmom, all four dainty little feet firmly planted into the ground.

My guess is Redsmom feels vaguely homicidal at the end of these sessions.

One of the most important things I ever learned as a young trainer was this.
If you push your horse she will push back.
If you pull your horse she will pull back.
If you drag on your horse the horse will drag back.

I know I said one thing, but these are all connected.

Steady pressure = steady pressure back.

Guess what? Our horses are bigger than we are. They win.

If a horse can't set herself against the pressure she will move away. Period.

You guys have heard me say, bump, bump, bump.
Pull and release, pull and release.
Things like that, right?

So here's a ground exercise for everybody with a dull, pluggy, slow or contrary animal.

Stand with your horse in a halter.

Stand facing the side of your horse as if you are going to mount.

Tip your horse's nose slightly towards you, put the flat of your other hand where your heel would go if you're asking for a turn on the forehand, (about 12 inches behind the cinch) and puuuuuussssshhh.

If you get movement, it will be slow and muddy feeling. If you keep pushing the horse will eventually stop and lean on you. Or if you have a stinker like Queenie she will start out by leaning on you.

Now try this. Instead of pushing her, poke her with your thumb.

Start with a soft poke, then a medium poke, then poke hard enough to make your thumb sore.

One, two, three.

If you don't get any response at first just keep repeating the set of three pokes. 1, soft, 2, medium, 3, OW!

You can substitute the handle of a crop if you want, but no whacking! Just poke! With energy!

Just repeat and repeat.

It won't take long before your horse steps away when you get to poke # 2 or #3.

Stop when it only takes #1, the softest touch.

Don't let the head leave you, keep about 2 feet of leadrope in your hand while resting said hand on the bridge of your horse's nose. This will stabilize the front end.

Before long your horse should be turning on the forehand quite nicely.

Do this both ways.

I'm happy when I can raise my hand and my horse moves away from the invisible pressure I have created. I'm happy when I create movement with movement, not contact.

Decide where you're happy, practice, eat two apples (no, one isn't for Queenie, I don't give treats!) and call me in the morning.

We'll actually sidepass when you can move your horse with some lightness. Trust me, you'll be much happier.


gillian said...

Ha! I knew the cotton rope was coming for the trailering one. Is there any tool more versatile or more valuable than a good rope?

gillian said...

Oh also, unrelated question. I want to know if I'm taking you too literally when you say you get your horse comfortable with w/t/c before you introduce steering. I know you're very consistent in your philosophy of doing one thing at a time. So are you in an arena and literally not steering while your horse lopes around finding her balance? (I have to admit imagining this makes me giggle a little bit. I picture a horse just bumping around all over the place, rider just waiting to see what happens next.) Or are you using one opening rein at a time but not being concerned about how good the steering is until you get the w/t/c sufficiently solid?

Lulu said...

Your solution to blowing out of the trailer makes sense to me....but what do you suggest to prevent one from even learning to blow out? Do you practice two feet in and out before all four?

I ask because I have a yearling that is making the transition from turning around to backing out of a slat load trailer. She's catching on quickly, but I REALLY don't want her to be in a dadgum hurry, as I typically haul alone.

Char said...

Just wanted to drop in and say,
#1: Thank you for the tid-bit on backing out of the trailer.

#2: You have infinitely more patience for explaining things than I do. My hat is off to you.

Jocelyn said...

Went on our first trail ride alone. She did the same hell no and spin for the goats this time. We had a pick up on one side of the road and the goats on the other.

She was a gem when there were two other horses, but going alone she was like a Dolphin on a rope, I ended up walking Most of the way there and Back. ugh...

Rerider said...

Thank you so very much! I really appreciate you taking the time to set it out step by step.

Miss A said...

Great advice, my instructor teaches that exact same thing you described for Queenie and it works like a charm as long as you're consistent.

BritnieAnn said...

As the owner of a dull pluggy animal, I say THANK you for the excersise and cant wait to hear the rest!

badges blues N jazz said...

i have a question: How about cribbing? is there any way to deal with it besides a collar??? Or is it just a permanent vice we have to live with?

We are getting a mare back that we had a couple of years ago. She is to perfect in every way to NOT buy back - except for the cribbing. sigh. I was hoping somebody, somewhere, might have a "cure".

kel said...

mugs... I always make sure all my horses can back out of the trailer slowly - they seem to want to go slow and I really don't care how fast it happens. I have a 4 horse slant and more often than not I let them turn around and walk out front wards. Not to long ago an old cowboy just lit me up for not making them back out. I told him that they can all back out, but he ranted and raved how silly it was that I let them turn around in the trailer and walk out. They walk out with manners, I make them pause at the door and then they come out when asked. They all load easily and come out quietly. I don't see what the big deal was, do you? Am I missing something?

Redsmom said...

Thanks and will do. I will report back. You nailed the mental picture, by the way! She can be a Stinker! So can old Matt. Think I'll do them both if I have the energy.

Redsmom said...

Oh, and Matty pushes on the butt bar, like that's going to help him get out. Sotoopid. I have to slap him off it and then take it off. Somebody taught him to "go" once he's untied. Der.

mugwump said...

Gillian - I am being literal, if I can. If I can't stand it or if the colt cuts all over or wants to buck I come in with one rein.
The big K used to drive us on a loose colt until it was comfortable...that's where I picked up the habit.

mugwump said...

Lulu - I take my time, don't make my young ones hurry, at all, if a yearling wants to back out like Grandma she can....I only repeat the exercise if they do blow out.
I don't practice at all, I just load and go. The only time practice comes in is if there is a problem to fix.
Jocelyn- My thought would be too much input too soon. She doesn't have her "herd" of older horses to tell her how to respond. There's nothing wrong with leading in and out. Horse of Course does that a lot with a young horse on the trail...If she's alone I would start small and work up.
Badges - I have no cure but the coller. I'm intersted to see if anybody else has a solution.
kel- I do the same thing.As long as I know they can back out I don't care much how they get out. Ask the old cowboy if he's choking on his chew and ignore him.

mugwump said...

Badges-That would be collar.

badges blues N jazz said...

HAHA.. no need to correct yourself.. I got it!

gtyyup said...

Excellent tip on the bolting backward horse.

If no one has mentioned it yet, you can NEVER close this blog account...I always come back to look stuff up.

It's become an excellent reference...thank you!

My trusty old QH Toby cribs and I've never found a solution. The collar worked the best for a stalled horse. Best is that they have plenty of pasture time...27/7 if possible. That's helped Toby most...but I know that is not alway possible for many folks.

mugwump said...

gttyup- Thank you. I look at your blog when my ADD mind is desperate for the outdoors, or at least a window. I can smell the dust and the cattle when you cut or gather, the fresh cut alfalfa, even hear the squeaks when Cindi Sue nails another rat.....Ahhhhhh.

Redsmom said...

Oh, and I usually feel more than vaguely homicial. Its sheerly murderous at times!

nineisenuff said...

This is perfect timing for the sidepass help! I have a 4yr old gelding with a total of 90 days professional training on him - 60 days as a 2yr old, turned out as a 3yr old (not his fault), and 30 days this summer. I absolutely love our trainer. He probably doesn't get all the 'buttons' that another trainer could, but when they come home, they are quiet and safe. I'll put the buttons on myself, because I know I don't have to be scared to crawl on them. The worst thing I can say about him is that he might make them a little dull - but that's not really a problem in my situation!

We've been working on the turn on the forehand just this week, and he wasn't moving away from the pressure. I was using solid pressure, and not a poke. I'm changing my approach tonight! Thanks!

As GTYYUP said - please don't ever close this blog! I've gone back to re-read something more than once!

Lucky SC said...

Great tips, as usual.

Gtyyup, did you find a way to squeak a few more hours into a day? If so, please share with us!!

nineisenough... don't forget, when you're under saddle practicing it, (the turn on the forehand) don't forget to tip their nose a little inward, and go ahead and let them start off with their nose on the fence or a wall... it makes it easier to get the answer right.

gtyyup said...

Mugwump~I must be sensitive today. You're reply to my comment brought tears to my eyes. But, friendships built here in blog land are very real to me (considering where I live), so thank you again.

Lucky SC~oops...that dang 7 key is just above the dang 4 key...I sure wish I could figure out how to get 3 extra hours into a day...I know I can sure use them!! ;~)

HorsesAndTurbos said...

So much food for thought.

Trailer question...two horse you load them into the (facing the rear of the trailer) left side or the right side? I wonder if some of my issues are because I am trying to get her into the right side (so I can just walk into the left side). Not that she shouldn't load either, but since she already has issues, I wonder if that doesn't help. Hmmm.

Also, do your horses play games with you when you first start riding, then start to behave better when warmed up? Starlette does until 10 mins into the ride when she does everything I ask of her first request. I wonder if this is left over from when they used her to school kids.

Endearing things your horse does:
I was watching my farrier trim Cooper, and had my arm resting on the edge of the Starlette's stall. I was aware she was nuzzling my arm, but was talking and didn't pay attention. After a few moments, I noticed this slight weight on my arm...and she had rested her muzzle on my arm and fell asleep!

Horse Love!


mugwump said...

HorsesandTurbos - I think I load right first.
I had to think about it, because I don't have an official side, but I work my horses on the left and want the horse to pass by me and step in the trailer.
So it would be right. Maybe.
Sorry I'm not more helpful.
If we're supposed to, hopefully somebody else will have the answer.
AND - Yes, my horses play games (I call it screwing around). To be honest, they shouldn't. We should be able to hop on and work, but mine all dink around at least until they are warmed up.
It doesn't bother me as long as the horse eventually settles and doesn't try to throw me while he's playing.

Jasmine said...

If I'm hauling only one horse I put it on the driver's side but if there are 2? I don't know. LOL I usually load the "easier" horse first because the "harder" one is more ready to get on if his buddy is already in there.

Char said...

I always load on the right side, if I'm only hauling one horse. It's because that's the side that the crown of the road is on.

If I'm hauling two, then the heaviest horse goes on the right side, lighter one on the left.

Half Dozen Farm said...

I think it would be useful to add a note in here about the possibility that some horses who have issues with trailer loading - have issues because the driver doesn't haul the trailer very well. If you slam your horse around in the trailer, it sure doesn't take very long for them not to want to go in!

Always pretend you're hauling a bucket full of water and you don't want to spill a drop.

Also, sometimes a horse who has always trailered well, will start to have more balance/strength issues as they get older (late teens/twenties) - so may start to resist going in the trailer if the driver isn't taking it easier on them...

Just my two cents worth. :)

mugwump said...

Good points everybody...I'm all over slowing down to resolve trailering issues.

t_orchosky said...

I was taught that if only hauling one horse, put him on the driver's side and if hauling more than one put the heaviest on the driver's side. and if hauling wtih a 4 horse trailer but only one horse put them in the front. I had no clue why, but it's what I've always done.

Fyyahchild said...

This is good stuff as usual. :)

I took my first h/j lesson in probably 8 years last weekend. It would have been better had Tax been cooperative enough to get some real work done but he did improve from beginning to end. It's hard to focus on yourself with a baby who's being silly. My sister rode December, the evil mare, and she was very good. I changed her food again and she seems much calmer. If things continue to go well I think I'm going to put Tax in with this trainer for 90 days and take lessons on December.

So, my homework is to work on pushing Tax into the outside rein so that he can't push through his inside shoulder and take off with me. When he gets excited that's his new trick. He's also tensing up his jaw and setting it so he doesn't have to listen to me. I watched the trainer ride him and work on it but I'm still not sure if I've got it. How do you know if the horse connects with the outside rein? I think I need a description of what it feels like. Any suggestions?

quietann said...

Char, are you in the UK? Where I live (USA) the crown of the road is on the left, and it's standard safe practice to load a single horse on the left. You don't want the extra weight of a horse on the shoulder side of the road because it makes it easier for the trailer to roll over.

I've mentioned my difficult to trailer mare. We are now at the point where she's an angel, as long as there is another horse on the trailer. Loads right up, no fuss about the butt bar, travels better than her buddy usually, stands there happily socializing until I remind her that she needs to back out! I am still working on trailering her alone.

She has flown out of the trailer a few times; in fact the very first time I loaded her into the new trailer, she panicked and flew out and fell to her knees. Ouch. I was lucky enough to be able to talk to her breeders about how she was trailer trained, and they confirmed some of my suspicions. She was taught to self-load and self-unload, and hates having someone lead her in. When it's time to unload, if there is someone at her head, they MUST not hang onto her halter or leadrope. Very hard for some people, but maresy will fly back if someone's hanging onto her. Her breeders use the verbal command "back" followed by "careful careful" to remind her to go slowly. And a tug on the tail if she doesn't come out immediately after one says "back". If she's at all nervous or starting to speed down the ramp, saying "careful careful" calms her down.

I am very lucky to be in touch with her breeders, who have a specific, calm, punishment-free way of working with horses. In fact, it would have done us well for me to have had a week with them after I bought her, because she's much happier when things are done the way she was taught as a baby. Ah well.

mugwump said...

Fyyah-Help me a little. If you are trotting a circle to the left, then your horse will dive into the circle or outside?
Also, how did your instructor loosen his jaw?
Can you describe this for me?
We're hitting the difference in contact between our disciplines here.

HorseOfCourse said...

Fyyah - may I help? I think I know what you are asking about as this is very much our daily work. Is that OK, Mugs?

Think and compare about how much weight you have in the inside rein, compared to the outside.
If you have more contact on the inside rein, you need to add inside leg to get the inside hind leg activated and to get your horse to step up and take contact to that outside rein.

If you are riding on a circle, you would be looking for the feeling that the horse from your inside leg is slightly moving outwards. When he is, you meet with your outside leg and softly squeeze the outside rein to tell him that "this is the outer frame, stay here". And then you relax again.
Now you should feel that your horse is taking contact on the outer rein. It should be a steady feel, without actually being heavy.
If you lose that contact, add more inside leg again.

If he is setting his jaw or poll, I would combine that inside leg with the inside rein, and open it towards the middle of the circle to make him flex in the poll. Remember always to combine it with the inside leg!
At the moment your horse softens, you soften on the rein too. It is very important that you give that release without delay. Again, your receipt of doing it correctly is that you feel contact in the outer rein.

If your horse is not quite balanced on the circle, a good visual help might be to imagine that your circle lays in the bottom of a ditch.
Your legs are the wall of that ditch. If your horse is leaning towards the inside, you have to say "get off that wall" with your inside leg. If he is trying to make the circle larger, you have to add outside leg.

Is that what you were looking for?

mugwump said...


Half Dozen Farm said...

I just re-read the how to "speed up a pluggy horse" posts, which is what I'm working on now with my 5 year old OTTB mare.

I knew that what I needed to do with my mare is get on and just lope. No steering, stay quiet, just lope. I knew that. You confirmed this with your posts (dang it! I was hoping for a different answer!). But, can you please tell me how I can do this and not DIE!?!?

My mare can canter in a 70' roundpen, but she's too fast and falls in. She has a big, long stride and is unbalanced and on her forehand. However, I feel safest in the roundpen. In an arena, she's flat scary to canter. She switches leads willy nilly, breaks to a bone jarring trot, drops her shoulder, staggers around and just basically tries to jolt me out of the saddle any way she can. I was thinking that maybe cantering in a larger pasture might be better as she wouldn't feel the pressure of having to turn corners, but I'm afraid that would give her TOO much room and she would build up too much steam.

She's terribly lazy in the roundpen, a bit better in the arena, and really nice out in an open area.

I was badly injured on a horse that bolted with me, so I know that I tense up no matter how much I try to make myself relax. I really have to psych myself up to work with her on her canter.

Any suggestions for me? Should I just seatbelt myself to the saddle and tough it out? I am arguing with myself over whether to hire this little project out, but I know I would feel so much better if I did it myself!


Half Dozen Farm said...

Dang it! I also meant to say "Thank You!" to HorseOfCourse. That was a great description! Sitting here at my desk I can exactly picture what you mean. I've been working on a similar exercise, only my horse is ridden in a bosal, so no outside rein per se. But the goal is the same, I think. Inside rein says turn into circle, but inside leg says stay on rail and yield shoulders. You can really feel the shoulders flowing smoothly forward and toward the outside when the horse "gets" it.

mugwump said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy C said...

Great stuff! I third (or is that fourth?) keeping the account open!!

Here is my problem....

My mare had becomed accustomed to being ridden in a saddle that didn't fit quite well enough. When I say accustomed I mean she knew that cantering = pain. Her response was to buck a little. She does not buck hard, really just a couple of bounces. I started anticipating this (before realising her saddle waas starting to cause pain) and would pull up on the rein as she started into a canter to try to stop the buck.... so she begain throwing her head up just before her token bucks. She also would not hold that canter more than a few strides. This all begain around the same time my back started to go bad.

Now to the present, I have had surgery, am released to ride, have a saddle that fits her (treeless) that I feel safe in, and I need to let her find out that it is safe to canter with me on her, and I need to learn not to snatch on her when she does.

In my mind I am thinking I need to just cue her into it while MAKING myself leave thae reins alone, let her canter a bit then bring her down and do it again. My fear is that she bucks, but somehow has learned ho to really buck.... so I would have to really work on letting her have her head. A kinda grab the horn and let her go sort of thing? Or do you have a better idea?

HorsesAndTurbos said... mare was like that, too...I found if I relaxed into the canter, the bucks were easy to ride through. I also started jumping her over little (8") jumps...and my seat got better because I had to ride the up/down motion.

Do you walk/trot loose-reined? I made myself actually drop the reins and ride with my hands out at my sides. Improved my balance a lot. I even got brave enough to canter without reins (this is in a small area I divided off in my pasture to ride in).

Biggest thing I needed to do was to break down how I was asking to canter, and catch myself before I jerked on the reins. I wasn't doing it hard...didn't even know I was doing it until someone pointed it out...but once I was aware, then I focused on not doing it.


HorsesAndTurbos said...

I tried the inside rein/inside leg/outside rein tonight and I got a much better circle. It was funny...when I applied these aides, my mare gave me that backwards look they give - you know, when they are looking at you while you are riding, using their "rear-view vision" - kinda like she was saying "Oh, that's want you mean!"

One thing I am finding have to really be able to control you legs separately from your seat. All these exercises are also helping me!

We also started counter-cantering..this is the third get ready for flying changes. Mugs...question...when you finally ask for the change by pushing out their hind legs, do they have to make the change because they become unbalanced and physically have to change? I can't see them at first thinking "Oh, so she wants me to change me lead now, she's pushing my hind end over."

Thanks! Jackie

Anonymous said...

Horses that were good travellers then change - also check the suspension of your trailer, if that isn't working properly it can be very uncomfortable for the horse, especiallyt when cornering or on un even country. (yes that was learnt from experience, and we never went back to the mechanic that said the trailer was fine either.) Luckily it did go on for very long and once fixed horses were fine again.

HorseOfCourse said...

Half Dozen Farm - how long time is it since your mare came off the race track?

LuckysLady113 said...

You put the horse in the front to prevent fishtailing. If all of the weight was in the back of the trailer the trailer would dangerously weave all over the road.

I always load the driver side first; a single horse brcause I can see the horse better in the mirrors and 2 horses because my escape door is on the passenger side.

Half Dozen Farm said...

She's been off for about 18 months now. She had knee surgery coming off the track, so was on stall rest/rehab for several months. I started her back slowly, hacking out on trails and just flexing exercises - giving to rein and leg both in walk and trot. She's really stiff on one side, I think the side she had the surgery. She's protective of that side and I know this is one reason she's all over the place at the canter. The funny thing is that she happily canters out on the trails and is really fun to ride, just not in an arena...

I'm working with a trainer twice a week and she is improving slowly. It's hard to notice week by week, but when I do think back to how she was a few months ago, there's a definite improvement. Maybe I just need to be more patient... :)

Char said...


THANK YOU! Yes, I'm in the USA and you said exactly what I meant. Heaviest horse/only horse on the left - same side as the crown of the road.

Apparently I was ate up with dumb-ass when I was typing that and got turned around and left-right dyslexic.

Sheesh. Now that I've removed ALL DOUBT....carry on. :|

t_orchosky said...

Lucky's Lady - well that makes sense! I've always done it because that was the way I was taught, so I assumed there was a reason for it. Thanks!

Scamp said...

Half Dozen Farm - your comment about the bad trailering is so true! I can't believe how some people pull a trailer as if they're in a motocross race.

I was sitting at a light about to turn green once, a truck pulling a trailer zoomed through coming from my left to beat the light, taking a left. I swear the trailer was up on two wheels. All I could do was gasp - I thought it was going to tip and it probably would have if it weren't for the one horse in it being on the left too.

Something tells me that horse was a bit less amenable to climbing in after that.

Mugs, again - great and informative posts. Some days I'm so busy I can't check in, but I always get here eventually to catch up. I agree with everyone else who's said it: never delete this blog, it's a wealth of helpful tips. Or if you must - put them all together in a book!

zebradreams07 said...

Hi Mugs - I know you probably won't see a comment on this old post, but maybe someone else will if they're looking for trailering help. I have a 30ish year old mare who's going blind, and also has an issue about rushing out of the trailer. I don't know if it's because her vision or not but it's definitely anxiety related. When she backs out she does it at Mach 10 and God help anyone in her way. If she's able to turn around and walk out she's fine so I do that whenever possible even if it's a squeeze. If she has to back out (i.e. straight load) I make sure the space behind her is clear and just let her go. As soon as all four feet are on the ground she settles and is fine. This is assuming she waits for me to untie her and cue her to back. If she backs into me or fights the rope then I'll get into her until she waits quietly, but it's rare and I'm fine with letting her back at her chosen speed rather than making an issue out of it.

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