Horse Training

Bending Your Horse Correctly on Curves and Squares, Part 2

January 20, 2015

You’ve learned the basics of asking your horse for square turns and arcs. Now it’s time to put your horse to work and perfect your technique.

properly turning your horse

For both curves and squares, Charlie says he likes to see riders practice steering the horse through the turns with their leg instead of their reins. Jean Abernethy illustrations

By AQHA Professional Horseman Charlie Cole in The American Quarter Horse Journal

In Part 1 of this series, you learned the basic differences between asking your horse to turn on a curve and asking your horse to perform a square turn. Now, read about some common problems that horses and riders have with these maneuvers and how to fix them.

Common Problems

These are some common problems with riders: Read the rest of this entry »

Bending Your Horse Correctly on Curves and Squares, Part 1

January 13, 2015

Learn the difference between riding your horse through a properly executed corner and a properly executed curve.

properly turning your horse

When you talk about making square corners, your horse has to keep his body straighter and more in alignment. On a curve, you keep a nice arc in the horse’s body and maintain that arc. Jean Abernethy illustrations

By AQHA Professional Horseman Charlie Cole in The American Quarter Horse Journal

There is a difference in the way a horse performs a square turn vs. a curve.

When you talk about making square corners, your horse has to keep his body straighter and more in alignment. You want the horse to keep his head in front of him.

You want your horse to ride to the corner and then simply square up to turn. If he’s making a left turn, he moves the hind end, his hips, to the right and brings the front end, his shoulders, around to the left. You push the hips to the outside and bring the front end around the corner. Read the rest of this entry »

Introducing Your Young Horse to the Bridge, Part 2

January 6, 2015

Once your horse displays confidence in approaching the bridge, he’s ready for you to ask him to walk across it.

horse on bridge

Thomas says once you get all four feet on the bridge, stop your horse on top of it and pet him if he’ll let you. Journal photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

In Part 1 of this series, you learned how to get your horse to willingly approach a competition-style bridge. New, let’s talk about how to get him up and over.

“I try hard to interpret when he gives me a positive response, like smelling the bridge or getting one foot on it or closer to it. Each time he gives me a positive, I’ll pause for a minute and stroke him on the neck. I’ll even release a little pressure by walking him out and going back around, then I’ll offer it to him again. By doing that, he’s going to build confidence. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »