Horse Training

Introducing Your Young Horse to the Bridge, Part 1

December 16, 2014

Learn how to get your green horse to walk easily over a competition-style bridge.

horse crossing bridge

Thomas Saunders says when getting your young horse to cross a bridge, “the main thing is not to make an issue out of it, not to rush, and not to over-anticipate.” Journal photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

You’ve just bought a ranch-started 2- or 3-year-old, and you’d eventually like to show him in Versatility Ranch Horse competition. But how do you introduce him to things encountered in ranch horse trail, such as a bridge in the middle of the arena, a log or a stock panel gate?

Nice and slow, according to Thomas Saunders V of the Saunders Ranch in Weatherford, Texas, and Terry Crofoot of Crofoot Ranches LLP, near Lubbock, Texas. The two men have raised and started top ranching prospects for years and often guest lecture together in the colt-starting class at Colorado State University. Read the rest of this entry »

Horse Training for the Lead Change, Part 2

December 9, 2014

Learn the value of breaking things down at a trot before teaching your horse to change leads at a lope.

lead change exercise

This trot exercise can also help strengthen horses that have trouble changing leads because of physical limitations. Jean Abernethy illustration

By Chance O’Neal in The American Quarter Horse Journal

In Part 1 of this series, you learned an exercise to ask your horse to perform at a nice working trot to teach your horse the proper way to frame himself up for a lead change before being asked to attempt a lead change at a lope. Now in Part 2, you’ll learn how this helps your horse and how to take the trot exercise a step further:

A lot of variables can affect a horse’s ability to change leads easily, like conditioning or the horse’s conformation. One of the things that we look for when we’re picking out our potential show horses are horses with a lot of natural ability. You can identify it before you ever ride them. Just longeing a colt in the round pen, you can see the way a horse carries himself and how easily he picks up his leads on his own. Read the rest of this entry »

Horse Training for the Lead Change, Part 1

December 3, 2014

Trainer Chance O’Neal shows how to prepare your horse mentally and physically before asking him to perform a lead change.

If a horse learns to soften and shape his body at the trot while doing this exercise, it should help him to eventually change leads very simply. Jean Abernethy illustration

If a horse learns to soften and shape his body at the trot while doing this exercise, it should help him to eventually change leads very simply. Jean Abernethy illustration

By Chance O’Neal in The American Quarter Horse Journal

When I start working on a lead change on a horse, I really want to get control of his shoulder. To do that, I have to be able to pick up on a horse’s face and have him soften and give in the bridle. I want him to move in a circle with a correct arc in his body from his nose, through the ribs and the hip.

To do a correct lead change, a horse needs to change in the rear before he changes in the front. You’ve got to get his shoulders out of the way to create a lane for the hindquarter to pick up the new lead. To get his shoulders out of the way, you change the arc in his body for the new lead. Read the rest of this entry »

Horse Training for Flexibility, Part 2

November 18, 2014

Keeping your horse on a correct arc can work wonders for his flexibility.

horse bending exercise

The key to a perfect circle is maintaining your horse’s bend. Jean Abernethy illustration

By AQHA Professional Horseman Al Dunning in The American Quarter Horse Journal

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the anatomy of getting a correct bend. Now, let’s move on to keeping your horse on a correct arc.

Riding Circles

The real key to a perfect circle is maintaining that bend. You don’t want an egg-shaped circle or a circle like a flat tire, but one that is truly round.

Don’t make your circle so tight that you have a lot of arc on your horse, but just a slight arc. You can accomplish that at the walk and the jog. As your horse becomes more flexible, your circle can become smaller. Read the rest of this entry »

Horse-Training for Flexibility, Part 1

November 11, 2014

A flexible horse can perform at his fullest potential.

bend horse correctly

A correct bend begins with the horse looking slightly to the inside, so you can see the inside edge of the eye and the shoulders turn. Jean Abernethy illustration

By AQHA Professional Horseman Al Dunning in The American Quarter Horse Journal

The Big Picture

Every good trainer wants flexible horses. Flexibility causes versatility, and versatility results in obedience. If you are one-dimensional with a horse and don’t give him fundamental flexibility, you limit what he can learn and is able to do.

We bend our horses for them to be able to give, to flex at the poll and be softer in the mouth. With basic bending and flexibility drills, we are trying to get a horse to become supple. We want all our horses, when we pick up on the reins, to react in a positive manner. You want a horse to “give” to your hands, or have “feel.” When you pick up on the bit, he should react first by not pushing into your hand, but by giving to your hand, breaking at the poll and becoming soft. Read the rest of this entry »

From Racetrack to Roping Box

November 4, 2014

Horse-training hints on how to get your horse transitioned successfully into a new career.

ex racehorse training

When Doug Clark works with ex-racehorses, he spends a lot of time getting them to relax while riding. “I want them to travel flat (in the topline), head down, going somewhere and not worried about anything,” he says. Journal photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

People in roping events often look for ex-racehorses to convert to ride. Successful trainer and exhibitor Doug Clark of Wayne, Oklahoma, sees no problem with that. “It’s the advantage of the breed,” he said.

Any American Quarter Horse will have speed and cow sense somewhere in his pedigree.

“What really matters is the breaking and training and conformation,” Doug says. “If they’re made correctly, I think you can do anything on them.”

He likes to see a lot of power in the hind end, a sloping shoulder and short cannon bones. The real challenge that people face with ex-racehorses is giving them the time they need to learn something new. Here’s how Doug goes about it. Read the rest of this entry »

Perfecting the Sidepass With Your Horse, Part 2

October 28, 2014

AQHA Professional Horseman Bill Bormes finishes up this series by teaching how to position your leg to cue for the sidepass and how to do some more advanced maneuvers.

sidepassing horse

The way a horse correctly sidepasses to the right is with both the left front and the left rear foot crossing toward or over the right front and right rear foot. Jean Abernethy illustration

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Last week we left off where your body is centered in the saddle, hips loose and free, feeling balanced on your horse. Depending on your horse’s balance, you position your left leg to fit it. Here’s how to do that:

If it feels like her hip needs to move first, I slide my left leg a little farther back. If she’s feeling balanced, I keep my left leg in the middle of her ribs. If I need to move the left shoulder to the right first, I move my left leg forward. These moves are usually miniscule, never more than 3 or 4 inches from the center of her ribs.

Here’s how I position my leg to cue her. First, I turn my toe out by releasing my knee from contact with the saddle. This allows the back of my foot, my spur and the back of my lower calf to be the main contact area on my horse’s side to signal her to move laterally or sidepass. Read the rest of this entry »

Perfecting the Sidepass With Your Horse, Part 1

October 21, 2014

Sidepassing is not just asking your horse to move sideways. It requires your horse’s front, middle and back end to engage simultaneously.

When sidepassing, it’s very important to have your horse’s body centered directly over the log so that neither the front nor the back legs bump against it. Jean Abernethy illustration

When sidepassing, it’s very important to have your horse’s body centered directly over the log so that neither the front nor the back legs bump against it. Jean Abernethy illustration

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Can you ride your horse sideways? That’s what you’re being asked to do when you have a sidepass maneuver in trail or ranch horse pleasure. It’s not just going sideways, though. The real question is whether you can engage the front, middle and hind end of your horse, all at the same time.

Here’s how AQHA Professional Horseman Bill Bormes tackles the problem, one step at a time.

Ride to the Pole

My first priority is to determine where the middle of my horse is in relation to where I sit on my horse. Usually, it’s directly below my heel. As the rider, I need to know where this “sweet spot” is when I position my horse so she can best clear the pole with it centered beneath her. Read the rest of this entry »

Maintaining Your Horse’s Topline, Part 2

October 14, 2014

This simple horse-training exercise teaches your horse to balance himself on his own by shifting his weight to his back end.

The spiral exercise works best if you ride with soft hands while keeping a slight bend, but the crucial aids are your seat and your legs, teaching the horse to move laterally. Jean Abernethy illustration

The spiral exercise works best if you ride with soft hands while keeping a slight bend, but the crucial aids are your seat and your legs, teaching the horse to move laterally. Jean Abernethy illustration

By AQHA Professional Horsewoman Carla Wennberg in The American Quarter Horse Journal

In the first part of this series, you learned how to do transition exercises and a rollback into an extended trot exercise to help your horse strengthen and level out his topline. Here are two more exercises that will help your horse learn to balance himself for better self-carriage:

Spiral Circles, In and Out

My favorite exercise is to spiral circles at the jog/trot or lope/canter. Spiral in and spiral out, using all your aids: your seat for impulsion, your active inside leg spirals the horse out on the bend, your active outside leg spirals the horse in. You have to use both leg aids, but one is more active and the other more passive. Read the rest of this entry »

Maintaining Your Horse’s Topline, Part 1

October 7, 2014

AQHA Professional Horsewoman Carla Wennberg shows you horse-training exercises that strengthen and lengthen your horse’s topline to help him achieve self-carriage.

horsemanship trot

Transitions in gait make a horse have to balance himself and spring off his feet, which requires a lot of impulsion from behind. Journal photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

The way you think about topline really is the same whether it’s for English or western riding. A horse’s topline goes from the hip, over the loin, through the back and through the neck. It consists of the muscles the horse uses to carry himself through the gaits, especially in transitions. A strong topline has to be developed for a horse to have self-carriage; it’s how you know whether or not a horse is balanced.

We want the topline level. (“Level” may depend on the horse and where he carries himself.) The horse has to have impulsion through his body up to your hand to stay level. Read the rest of this entry »

Steal Some Horse-Training Moves From Dressage

September 30, 2014

Chances are, you use dressage techniques every time you saddle up. AQHA Judge and Professional Horsewoman Christa Baldwin explains two-tracking and haunches-in.

two-tracking horse

When two-tracking to the left, your horse moves forward and laterally toward the left while maintaining a slight bend to the right. Journal photo.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

While the event itself seems like a completely foreign concept to many who ride in other disciplines, dressage really has more in common with your discipline than you realize. The “two-tracking” and “haunches-in” maneuvers in particular are useful to all horsemen – not just those who participate in dressage. AQHA judge and Professional Horsewoman Christa Baldwin explains why and shows you how to make sure your horse knows these useful maneuvers.

Two-Tracking

For this example, the maneuver is performed to the left. To go to the right, simply reverse your cues. Read the rest of this entry »

Horse Training for Reining

September 23, 2014

In this second installment of a two-part series, learn how to master more elements of a reining pattern.

reining horse rundown

Straight lines force you to learn correct leg cues as you learn to push your horse’s side when he drifts off the straight path. Journal photo.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Part 1 of this series focused on perfecting your circles in a reining pattern. This second half will focus on elements such as straight lines and lead changes, with tips from AQHA Professional Horsemen Butch and Patty Campbell of Whitesboro, Texas.

Straight Line

Reining patterns are packed with circles, but straight lines play an integral part, too – particularly on your way to a sliding stop. Learn to ride straight lines slowly at first, working your way up to the high speed required for those exciting stops. Read the rest of this entry »