Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Larry Trocha and Keeping It Honest

Anon said : Mugs - speaking of Larry Trocha what's your take on him? I have always wondered. I have been reading his stuff for awhile and mostly dig the guy. Do you have any personal experience with him?


Part of why I did the Larry Trocha spiel was to share these videos.

His colt starting is very similar to mine, except I don't do the longe line part. I'll get somebody to pony me sometimes.

Notice there's none of this lope the first ride stuff? I like that too. I have loped my first ride, but only if that's where the colt chose to go.

I like the way he gains control using turns on the fence. It seems more productive than my way of bending in circles. That little horse is already using his hind end.

-Smoke, 3rd time saddled:

Smoke, being ridden on lunge line:

Smoke, firt ride with NO lunge line:

Smoke, the 7th ride:

I also wrote a "Horse Training Tips Insider" newsletter about the "Time Frame"
of training a colt.

You can read it here:

I have been a supporter and promoter of Larry Trocha for many years.

When I first started training horses "officially" I was in way over my head. I was riding a bad tempered, poorly handled stud and the only thing I knew about the events I was supposed to ride him in, or stallion management, was that I didn't have a clue.

I was working with a competent trainer, but I felt like a complete gunzel and desperately wanted some more input.

I read every book and horse magazine I could find, but it wasn't enough. One day I read an ad in a magazine for a free training video. A cutting trainer in California, Larry Trocha, was offering a free video called "How to Slide, Stop and Spin."

Free was in my budget so I sent away for the video without any high hopes. How good could it be for free?

I was delighted. I completely understood his approach and was able to apply a lot of what he said to what I was learning with the trainer.

When tax return time came around I looked at his video packages and couldn't quite find what I needed, so I called Trocha training stables to see what it would take to get what I needed.

Larry answered the phone, which kind of threw me. "It's a slow day and the gal who takes care of the business side of things is off today. How can I help you?"

I told him the situation I was in and he helped me put together a great video package. Before we finalized the deal he asked me what my background was. I told him I had studied Monte Foreman's training methods under Mike Craig and had spent one long summer cleaning stalls for Monte in exchange for one, 8 hour day riding with him.

He laughed and said, "That sounds like Monte."

I asked if he knew him and it turns out he was a student of his.

No wonder I got all his concepts about rhythm and timing! We got to talking some more and it turns out we were both there the same summer. I was shoveling and he was riding. He was one of those kids who kept his horse there and rode with Monte daily. One of the kids I was so jealous of I would have spit if I hadn't been choking on my own bile.

The tapes helped me immensely and as the years passed and I finally became competent, I still bought his videos. I've used Larry's tapes for cow work and hackamore training. We have emailed back and forth occasionally and although I don't know him, he's always come across as a friendly, accessible guy.

I would kill to actually ride with him someday.

Larry and I don't train the same, but he's as close as I get to somebody you can buy a video from. I think he's easy to understand and honest in his opinions. I also get the impression he doesn't give a rat's ass about public opinion, he just wants the horse to get trained and for everybody to stay safe.

So here's where I make a slick segue into my next subject - keeping it honest.

One of the biggest traps we trainers fall into is trying to keep everybody happy and to act like we know all the answers for every situation.

Just because I know how to start a colt and train a cowhorse does not mean I can watch a rope horse go and understand why the horse had a slower time than the one before it. Beyond, 'it runs out of the box and the rider catches the cow,' I'm ignorant. I could no more help that rider improve his score by watching his run than I could teach a Mahout how to cheer up a grumpy elephant.

If I keep it honest I could help a roper with horsemanship skills, trouble shooting and behavior issues. I could help limber the horse up and teach him to take both flipping leads, if that's what was wanted.

If I was smart I would get the roper to help me build a loop, explain the difference between a good run and a bad one, why they ride long in the stirrup and what's different between their roping saddle and my cutter.

This still wouldn't make me an expert, but I would have an idea of what was involved in the sport and could provide better training if I got a rope horse in to work.

The next side of keeping it honest is to find my "holes." I just love finding holes. I found a great one this past summer while I was out riding with the Big K.

I have been having a heck of a time with the right side of my horses. From the nose, to the  rib, to the haunch, Madonna and Odin have been slow, stiff and sticky. Fence turns were slow and awkward to the right and smooth to the left. When I was cutting, Madonna was stopping short on her cow to the right and kind of slinging herself through the turn.

I knew it was me, but I couldn't figure out where it was. I had friends and family watch me ride and nobody could see anything. My hips were straight and my legs were even. I rode looking through her ears like I was supposed to.

I emailed and called the Big K but he couldn't figure it out either. It was really frustrating.

Then I went to visit K at his ranch.

Five minutes into our first ride he said, "Why Janet, you're crooked."


"Yes you are."


Turns out my hips and legs, head and neck are even. But my right shoulder has begun to curl in and has also dropped a couple of inches. Kind of like I'm looking to the left, but I'm not. This was causing me to very effectively block my horses right shoulder.

"I wonder what caused that?" I said.

"I don't care, just quit doing it," Mr. Communication replied.

If I had fallen into the easy trap of hiding my weakness it would have caused me all kinds of problems down the road. Hiding a problem I'm having from my clients (back in the day when I still had clients) and especially from myself, can only hurt my horse's performance, physical ability and mind.

I'll use my weird twist as an example. If I had been dishonest with myself I would have blamed my horses. I would have rammed and jammed on them and forced them to work their way through my weakness. They would have eventually done what I said, but it would teach them to tune or what I was saying to them with my body.

Why listen to any of my cues when they only meant something one way? I would have ended up relying on hands and spurs more and communication less. This creates resentment on both our sides and eventually is how horses are labeled untalented, difficult or sometimes, dangerous.

You also can't get in the money riding that way.

Over the years I have learned the hard way to keep it honest with my horses. I've paid my price for thinking I had the answers when I didn't, and by learning to ask for help, I've started to get the answers to quite a few of my questions.

I just love finding holes.


nagonmom said...

I was riding my filly after a training session. She would NOT walk or trot in a straight line. Kept drifting to the right. I thought I was seated symmetrically. And then while trying to squirm around to fix the horse, I felt that little back twinge. Yeah, a tiny muscle pull, not really significant to me. But it threw my balance off enough that she felt it. I got off, and called it a day. Horses are amazingly sensitive creatures.

RHF said...

I love finding holes too!Speaking of holes that affect how our horses go- I have a major struggle with my canter departs that I can't seem to figure out, but it causes my horses to hollow and rush rather than pushing off round. I have worked on sitting centered (or slightly to the outside depending on how the horse was trained), hands neutral (or supporting with gentle contact), outside leg back for the bend and inside leg on at the cinch. I have the same problem on most horses regardless of age/fitness/training level. Could you do a blog entry on how you ride and train canter departs beyond the beginner stage?

FD said...

Glad to have you back. ;)

What side do you answer your phone mugs? I had to buy a headset because it was crocking up my (already bad) right shoulder so much. I look like a pretentious idiot but I don't care all that much.

The longer I ride the more I know what I don't know - one of the few gifts of age that I care to keep!

Anonymous said...

I have a frozen shoulder that I've been battling for over a year. I had that dropped shoulder thing going. One thing that helped me tremendously is sitting on an exercise ball instead of an office chair while at my computer. It has strengthened my core and along with PT exercises my shoulder is not as dropped and I don't hunch forward. I also changed to a cervical traction pillow for sleeping. As we get older and spend more time at the computer, we deprive ourselves and our horses of much needed balance....

I really enjoyed your description of your honesty :-)

Barefooter (who cannot get an identity to publish LOL)

glenatron said...

When you're typing up the blogs you write and doing everything else online, do you use a mouse? If so do you use it right handed?

Nothing like regular right-handed mouse use to encourage you to bring that right shoulder forward and down a little. It also tends to cause the muscle in the shoulder to over-develop in order to suppress the nerve signals that typically cause slight tremors in the hand- the consequence of that is often having a shoulder that locks up from time to time.

If that is a likely cause you can try swapping mouse hands, shrug your shoulders often while you work and get a decent chiro to unstick that corner if you can find one...

HorsesAndTurbos said...

This is, as usual, so appropriate! I've been really focusing on getting Starlette trail-wise these last two years (I even did a 15 mile endurance ride this October). I decided to do some arena work, and I could not get her right lead correct. Left lead no problem. Now..this is a horse that is so smooth that her counter-canter is hard to tell from her normal lead. So, I got very lucky as my winter (retired) boarder was also a big time trainer in her day...and she was delighted to help me with Starlette. She's much like you in going back to basics and filling holes...which is what I did. I had no clue about shifting the horses hip before asking for a lead, which is what my problem was. Starlette and I practiced that at a walk, trot and on trails for a few days...and then, after 20 minutes of ring work, she gave me her right lead! Now I just have to give the correct cues again. I am sure most of it is because my right hip is my weaker, so I am not giving as strong a cue, but I feel happy we made progress.

It's good to have you back!


FD said...

I had to come back because I thought of something else.
This is why I advocate riding a variety of horses if you can (if they all do the same thing you KNOW it's you) - or at least regularly riding with someone who can evaluate you, doesn't have to be something so formal as lessons, just mutually keeping an eye on each other, because none of us are so aware that we can keep ourselves bodily honest - our muscles lie to us all.
I suppose it's not quite so important if you're riding a made horse, and not trying to train at all - if you ride the same horse all the time and you aren't pushing on boundaries, most horses will adapt to our crookednesses fairly well. But I still think we should make an effort not to be crooked and not to be idiosyncratic, both from the principle of fairness and soundness, and because we never know exactly what will happen in the future - a horse which has learned idiosyncratic ways will likely find the market place harder than one who rides as standard.
And it's important not to underestimate how much influence a crooked rider can have on a horse's soundness and mental fitness - I know someone whose crookedness has ruined several horses, and yet she won't have it that it's her problem - according to her she's just been 'unlucky' that all her horses start going the same way, with varying degrees of resentment within a very short space of time after she buys them.

Jill said...

I ride and train for my boss who has a variety of horses in terms of age, breed and discipline. From 3 to 12, gaited horse to draft (Canadian) to Paint, dressage, trail and reining.

I find most, if not all, are stiffer on their left rein. My trainer, a reining person, tells me horses are usually left sided. So what's my problem?! I do a lot of flexion work with all of them, all disciplines, but it's still noticeable. I of course now think it's me!

Anonymous said...

Kind of a random question: body clipping your horse. He comes in at night and im planning to ride 5-6 days a week during winter. Im doing alot more dressage and intense riding which makes him sweat alot. is it worth it to full body clip him or just do a tracer clip?

Whywudyabreedit said...

Anon, I live along the California coast and when I am riding a lot during the winter I will do a modified trace clip. Basically I'll take the hair off of the underside of the horse including the chest and neck and leave the hair on the back and legs. This has worked well enough to keep the my from sweating during work so that I can ride in the evenings and not be putting up a wet horse. Sounds like if you are riding that often then blanketing and un-blanketing should not be too big of a deal.

RuckusButt said...

I love this! Most of us are crooked in some way, aren't we? I have a slouching shoulder from disk issues in my neck but have managed to mostly eliminate the problem through exercise and massage. Still, I know I'm a touch crooked a lot of the time.

Do you have any suggestions for how to allow the horse to move appropriately based on the riders shortcomings, yet still acheive proper movements themselves? Straightness would be a good example since it is so influenced by rider straightness.

Anonymous said...

Love it! You pointed out a flaw or "hole" of yours and no one slammed you!

I have lots of "holes". I've been riding for 10yrs, some recent lessons mostly self taught. 2 that I know of is leaning into my turns ( my mare leans too imagine that lol) and shoulders forward. Hopefully I will send my girl for a refresher ( is 16 too old?) and some lessons this spring.

Francis said...

ARg.. crookedness is my issue right now.. cannot figure it out totally and have noone riding with me who can see it.. I trail ride so most folks could give less than a flip.. BUT over the past few years I have noticed my entire right side has collapsed! I have always battled leading with the right shoulder, but now my right hip and even my right flippin FOOT leads.. I happen to see a picture of me riding and just about freak out.. talked to my physical therapist (after wrenching, yes, my right knee) last year.. since she isn't horsaii she has no clue how to help. Damn this getting old.. :)

Anonymous said...

I am nothing but a giant hole. I'm a block of impatient Swiss cheese in the saddle. It's much harder to find the "solid" in my communication then the holes. I need balance consistency and timing so desperately. It seems so close yet so far that "connection" where my body shifts move him. It's like he is there for me waiting for me to get my body in sync and for those brief moments I can get it together its magic that feel of oneness, communication and most important control.

Anonymous said...

Swiss Cheese here again - can somebody tell me why as a kid/teen none of this off balance, breath, relax, death griped reins, and hurry up defense never happened? Was it the young flexible body, the lack of self preservation or simply the fact that you just got on and rode and didn't think about it?

Kel said...

@Anon: the crookedness thing really doesn't hinder kids unless they were born that way (scoliosis or the like). As we age, our injuries, routines and just general wear and tear put us out of balance and out of whack. We don't really notice since out of alignment becomes the new normal.

I've got weird things going on that I try to be conscious of when riding and I do know it causes my horse to drift certain ways. I dislocated my left knee as a kid and I can't wrap that leg as effective as I can my right (in fact I think my left is now a little shorter than my right). Although its improved since I've been riding, I've got crap posture from 15 years of being a desk jockey (I kind of like that exercise ball idea instead of a chair -- certainly would help for core strength).

It's kind of interesting that the topic of Larry Trocha and how our bodies can prevent a horse from going straight came up here on the same day he released a horse training tips email about balanced riding and finding a proper saddle that helps to promote a good seat.

Kel said...

Also @Anon: Most kids seldom have fear due to the self preservation portion of the frontal lobe not quite being formed (if I remember right, it doesn't quite solidify until you're in your early 20s). Kids don't have the cognitive maturity to put "if I do X, a very painful Y could happen" together in the same way adults do. They also don't have the pesky things like providing for a family or a funding a 401(k) to worry about. :)

Denisarita said...

I have taken lessons from Larry years ago. He is lots of fun to ride with. He explains things in a way that is easily understood. Has a great sense of humor and is just an all round nice guy.

Anonymous said...

Saddles UGH I have a wonky horse not to mention my saddle is too small for my bootie. Have to check out that video.

mugwump said...

Kel - Don't be so suspicous....although if Larry wanted to fly me out for some free lessons because of all my sucking up I wouldn't mind...

I didn't know about the new video, just the ones I remembered to post today and the coinciding question about him.

Kel said...

@Mugs: It wasn't was more like serendipity. In fact, if anything he copied you since your post was first in the stream. :)

Anonymous said...

See a good chiropractor - seriously! Bumps and falls from the horses, not to mention that we always seem hold the pitchfork the same way, etc., really can cause some serious imbalances. The body can only compensate for just so long and then it starts showing up in weird ways. Muscles that are stronger on one side will actually pull the body out of alignment in us and, eventually, in our horses. Our chiro issues show up in the horses we ride a lot. We can actually damage their bodies while they try to make up for our imbalances.

Bif said...

I didn't watch the whole series, but on the lunge line video, I wanted to ask why the rider is so abrupt with asking for the turns? Larry was saying "good", but it seemed a little sharp to my mind. Is this to keep quicker reflexes on the horse, or...?

redhorse said...

Hey Anon (Barefooter), I have the frozen shoulder thing too. Thanks for the tips.

mugwump said...

Bif - Larry trains cutters, their life is rock back turn, rock back turn.

mugwump said...

Bif - I rewatched the tape - I didn't have any troble with the turn for any discipline. I liked the relaxed turn the colt had, the calm response and the fact the feet turned with the head. I REALLY liked the way the horse maintained forward and cadence. The hands didn't seem too quick for me, just to the point.

mugwump said...

RHF - I was having trouble with lope departs too. I fixed them by letting my horse trot into her lope, no depart, all winter.

I worked on staying off her face, picking up her back and getting the lead I wanted on a straight line. I was causing tension on my departs. Once I made it all about forward instead of containment I got what I wanted.

mugwump said...

Jill - Good for you Jill. Now you have to find the glitch.

Fyyahchild said...

Larry's within an hour of me. I think I'm going to go to one of his clinics next year just for fun since I don't have cow horses. I love his honesty and now that I've seen him work a horse I'm sold. Why hadn't I ever thought of searching Youtube for a trainer to see them work? Geeze... Thanks Mugs!

Anonymous said...

another computer user tip - i switched to using a wireless magic touch pad so i could use my left hand instead of my right and in a variety of positions (no, there is not a new kama sutra book in the making). this has helped tremendously with my chronic tendonitis problems. i found my frozen shoulder comes from very tight neck muscles and trigger point massage is helping better than chiropractic care (tried that for 6 months). my horse has told me in no uncertain terms that i am in better balance now than i was a year ago.

mugwump said...

Fyyahchild - if you go do some kissing up for me will you?

Anonymous said...

I wish my horse would lunge like that - what do you do with big bucking farting fits at the canter.

Bif said...

I realized I was thinking bit, rather than what is actually on the horse (sidepull?).

RHF said...

Thanks Mugs! I'll give that approach a try :) I also like the way he uses turns to the fence to keep that little colt under control. I use this when I ride my greenies and it's a great way to get them working off their hind end with minimal fuss.

hmmIseeohreally said...

I have never posted here before but this column on Larry Trocha gave me the oomph I needed towards making a big decision about my coming 6 year old, not yet trained to ride, QH. I contacted Larry and asked him for advice. I told him that I've been on the fence about finding a great home for my foundation bred QH as I have accepted that I probably will never ride him the way I planned to back when I got him as a weanling. My question to him was, should I sell him now (all ground work is done, he's kind, smart, athletic, gets along with everyone, healthy, trailers beautifully, great for vet and farrier, no vices, blah, blah, blah)----OR----should I put him in training for 90 days with you? I also said that my main goal is to find him the perfect home and I'm in no rush.
So Larry says, "Who wants a coming 6 year old gelding that isn't broke to ride? My guess is.... hardly anybody."

He then asked me if my horse is good looking. I told him that to my eye he is and that he is a red dun with a thick dorsal stripe. I also said that I think he has a thick neck that will probably look better when he gets fit, that he has a nice throatlatch and a nice short back while his shoulder is on the straighter side. I also told him I could send pictures as my description is surely subjective.

He invited me to send pictures. So I did.

Within a few hours he emailed me back. He first thanked me for my phone call and then wrote, "I took a look at Red's photos and he looks fine to me and I' m happy to take him in training."

Wow. Cool. At least I think it's a wow-cool.... Do trainers accept just about any horse in training?

Larry asked me how I knew about him and I told him that I first learned about him through a blog called "Fugly Horse of the Day" and that another blog called the "Mugwump Chronicles" WRITTEN BY AN ACCOMPLISHED HORSE TRAINER WHOSE NAME IS JANET HUNTINGTON
wrote a very flattering column about him and that she is a big fan.... To which he replied, "Oh that's nice. I don't have time to read anything on the web."

Anyway, short story long is I am excited that Larry will be training my beloved Red. His training will start in two weeks. Larry's barn is not quite 2 hours from me so I plan to visit often.

I am grateful for the timing of this column. I will talk you up at every chance Mugly (although I'll be sure to use your real name....) Would you be willing to come to the central valley area of CA (north of San Fran) for a clinic if I can arrange it with Larry? If I can pull it off, the deal would be that you'd have to ride Red......

mugwump said...

hmmIseeohreally- if you're serious emil me at - please remember I am NOT an accomplished trainer(earnings wise) - at best I was very middle of the road, I consider myself competent - and in a field completely different from his. The key here is..I'm trying to "suck it up" not "talk it up."
Nothing annoys a trainer more than having to listen about stuff another trainer says.

Slippin said...

I used to show cutting in Northern California a long time ago. I don't know Larry Trocha personally, but I am sure that I have met him or seen him at the shows. Especially since he has shown in VCHA(Vintage Cutting Horse Association) NCCHA, Northern Counties Cutting Horse Association, and RECHA, Redwood Empire Cutting Horse Association. I saw in one of his videos on a horse for sale that the horse had won a year end award in VCHA. I am sure that he has helped me at one time or another.
I really liked his way of riding. Made lots of sense. I have seen a few others post about turning into the fence. I have always turned into the fence weather it be on my seasoned horse, or a young horse, thats just how I taught by my trainer. It really makes them stay on their rear and they can't go "Forward" in the middle of the turn.
About Honesty, I think that there are not as many trainers that are completly honest. My trainer is one of the most honest guys around...he will tell you exactly what he thinks and if he thinks the horse isn't going to be worth working with, or showing, he will tell you up front...not take your money for a year or so and then say, oh, hes not gonna work out. But, he will work with a horse if the owner wants him to and will put alot of time and effert into the horse, not just half ass it because the horse isn't a high dollar performance horse. And when taking a lesson, he will work with you on a problem until you get it, not just tell you, "yeah, it looks good" and then take your money for something you never learned. I wouldn't have won 4 belt buckles without him!

mugwump said...

slippin - Fence turns are pretty standard for all cow horse work.
I was interested in his timing on when to introduce them. Always being on the look out to clean up and stream line my methods, this caught my eye.
I'm thinking this trn will get the horse of my leg sooner and have him making clean turns without trying to translate my hands.
I liked that a bunch.

mugwump said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hmmIseeohreally said...

Yes jhuntington/Mugwump, I am serious! I will email you.

No more "talking you up" with Larry.... I'll follow your lead about how best to move towards getting the two of you at a clinic together. (I will be keeping me fingers secretly crossed for you...)

Fyyahchild said...

hmmlseeohreally - If you do organize a clinic in North CA and you have room for a beginner to all things cow horse, I'd be VERY interested. Just sayin...

Mugs - When I meet him you absolutely got it. I'm like a Hoover! ;) I've learned enough from you here I totally owe you one. All my horses are happy, solid citizens these days and I feel like you should get some credit for that even if you've never even seen them.

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