Horse Training


April 26, 2016

AQHA Professional Horseman and Team Wrangler member Dan Trein lends his wisdom on the moderate extension of the jog.

Brianna Tamulewicz sports a well fitting jacket in the 2011 Built Fors Tough AQHYA World Championship Show western pleasure finals on Dark Jasmine. Journal photo.

Effective and patient communication between you and your horse will result in more seamless gait transitions, like the moderate extension on the jog. Journal photo.

By Dan Trein in The American Quarter Horse Journal

What is the moderate extension of the jog supposed to be?

Simply what it’s called: It’s just a moderate extension of the jog. We put enough extension to it so that there’s a notable difference. However, with this gait in a western pleasure class, you won’t see the level of impulsion as you would if you asked that hunter under saddle horse to trot ahead.

A Little Bit of Flutter

We like to sit back a little more and use a “flutter” or bump with the legs to ask the horse to extend. We might use or add a verbal command.

When we want to back off the extension, instead of fluttering the leg, we take the full leg down around and underneath the rib, so the leg comes up against the body and the horse comes to associate that squeeze with a slowdown.

It helps to see actual examples of proper western pleasure gaits. AQHA’s “Showing to Win: Western Pleasure” defines what judges are looking for in the western pleasure horse by showing correct and incorrect performances side-by-side.

If our horse surges forward at that point, we restrict and restrain his face with our hands. But we’re not going to demand or command so strongly that the horse is intimidated and the face goes behind the vertical. If the horse yields, he gets a reward: We soften that hand control. But we might still keep that wrapped leg so he understands what we’re trying to do.

The Comfort Zone

For me, the comfort zone relates to how knowledgeable a  horse is.

To help a horse gain training stability and confidence, I ride him with a little bit of contact. I hold him in my hand, and he ultimately understands to yield at his face and throatlatch. It doesn’t mean he’s snapped and jerked behind the bridle, but it does mean that as I ask him to go forward, as a training technique, I don’t release his head completely.

When a horse resists, say if he’s going from the jog to the extended jog and he overreacts, to me that means he’s not in a comfort zone. My repetitive response to that would be to accelerate into the extended jog but hold him in my hand and get him to yield into the bridle and stay there.

If the horse resists or shows anxiety, I simply maintain that contact point. I don’t reprimand. We all used to use far too much hand snap and hand pull. I just keep my hand steady, and I ask him to yield. He’ll get it through repetition. When I ask a horse to soften to my hand and he doesn’t overreact to it, he knows from yesterday’s session that when he feels that pressure, he’s not going to have to overreact or be reprimanded; he’ll get to a quiet spot, a comfort zone.

All horsemen and women should strive to create a horse who is comfortable with his job. AQHA’s new “Showing to Win: Western Pleasure” DVD explains the importance of presenting a horse with a pleasant expression and pleasurable gait. AQHA members get a discount!

It’s a basic, fundamental training concept. As I’ve learned to rate these horses better through the years, I realize you can let them get to that comfort zone, and you let them stay there a while. You have to let them stay where they can exist and be happy that they know their job.

My job is to know when they’re happy enough and in their zone enough to be asked to go on and do something new, like change a lead.

When a horse overreacts to that new thing, whether it’s changing a lead or loping over a log or he gets to a horse show and sees something new, if I’ve done my job and he understands his comfort zone between my hand and leg control, then at least he looks to me for stability, for some kind of security. He should let me help him no matter how variable the outside influences are.

Follow His Instincts

April 12, 2016

When training American Quarter Horses, it’s all about the attitude.

Martin Black

Any successes we have with horses come from communicating in their way. – Martin Black. Journal photo

By Martin Black

It is interesting to watch big cats and other predators stroll through herds of prey on the Serengeti Plains in Africa. A zebra may take notice of a lion, but if the lion doesn’t show any aggression, the zebra may continue grazing.

As long as the lion is relaxed and non-threatening, the zebra stays relaxed. But when the zebra gets any hint of suspicious action from the lion, the zebra becomes alert. If there is a sense of danger, the zebras leave for safer ground. If the zebras can’t get away, they turn to fighting. Read the rest of this entry »

Professional’s Choice: A Bit of Advice

March 29, 2016

This compilation of great bitting advice from Professional’s Choice is sure to gear you and your American Quarter Horse up for horse-training success.

 Ed Dufurrena attributes his new found improved communication with his horses to Clear Signal Equine Bits

Ed Dufurrena attributes improved communication with his horses to Clear Signal Equine Bits. Photo courtesy of Professional’s Choice

From AQHA Corporate Partner Professional’s Choice

Clear Signal Equine Bits aim to eliminate common bitting problems by providing innovative solutions and clear communication with our equine partners.

These bits have been designed to keep horses comfortable during work, enabling them to perform at their best. Read the rest of this entry »

Mind Your Manners

March 8, 2016

Your actions may encourage your horse’s food aggressive behavior. Here’s a horse-training tip to help:

horse feeding

A training flag can help you get your horse’s respect at mealtime. Journal photo

By AQHA Professional Horsewoman Julie Goodnight

Is your horse cranky at feed time? Does he pin his ears, bare his teeth and stomp his feet? Or worse, does he grab the hay out of your arms and shove you aside? Read the rest of this entry »

Groundwork: Less Is More

February 23, 2016

We can take a good horse-training technique and run it into the ground.

horse training

Curt Pate works with a young horse on the ground. Journal photo

From America’s Horse

By AQHA Professional Horseman Curt Pate

Keep groundwork to a minimum.

By this, I mean, do what it takes to be safe, but don’t overdo it. Read the rest of this entry »

Horse Training for a Straight Lead Change

February 9, 2016

Changing leads on your horse is not about changing direction.

training figure 8

Photo courtesy of Bob Avila.

By Bob Avila in The American Quarter Horse Journal

For many years, I was no good at lead changes. I can’t tell you how much money I have lost by missing a lead by half a stride or dragging a lead by two strides.

Read the rest of this entry »

Horse Training: No-Go Mounting

January 26, 2016

Tips to keep your horse standing still while you get on.

mounting pic

Become a better horseman. Photo from AQHA’s Fundamentals of Horsemanship.

From AQHA’s Fundamentals of Horsemanship

Can you barely swing your leg over your horse’s side before he starts to walk off?

If you’re envious of those horses who stand still as a statue until their riders are ready, these instructions are for you.


  • To get onto your horse without him moving or becoming disturbed.
  • To have your horse “await further instructions” once you have mounted

Read the rest of this entry »

Halter Horse Training: Your Space, My Space

January 12, 2016

AQHA Professional Horseman Jason Smith offers horse-training tips to teach your horse to respect your personal space.

Remember to stay in your space from the ear back to the wither to get the best out of your horse.

Remember to stay in ‘your space’ from the ear back to the wither to get the best out of your horse.

By Jason Smith with The American Quarter Horse Journal

Whether you call it “shouldering in,” “crowding the handler” or “falling into you,” it’s a habit that needs to be stopped. Listen to what Jason has to say about teaching your horse to respect your personal space.

The Right Place to Learn

When you have a horse that’s shouldering in on you, you can’t correct it at the horse show. It needs to be worked on at home.

Read the rest of this entry »

History and Fitting of Cowboy Boots

December 15, 2015

Horse training starts from the ground up. Make sure your boots fit correctly before training your horses with these tips from Justin Boots.

Training horses requires durable and comfortable boots. Journal photo

Training horses requires durable and comfortable boots. Journal photo

From AQHA Corporate Partner Justin Boots

Cowboy boots have adapted and kept up with ever-changing fads and trends, while continuing to provide the same traditional function they did more than a century ago for cowboys, cowgirls, ranchers and farmers.

Whether you’re wearing your Justin Boots around the ranch, riding, or out for a night on the town, there is a style for everyone. Read the rest of this entry »

Cutting Fundamentals

December 1, 2015

Learn how one horse trainer teaches young horses to react and move with cattle.

Cutting Fundamentals

The rider’s body position is extremely important when it comes to critical timing in cutting. Journal photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

The ideal picture of a cutting horse is one of polished concentration and split-second response to the action of the cow.

The ability to excel in cutting depends on breeding, training and an individual’s desire. Read the rest of this entry »

Changing Habits

November 10, 2015

Sometimes, we have to change ourselves before we can change our horse.

Better the bond between you and your horse.

Better the bond between you and your horse.

From AQHA’s “Fundamentals of Horsemanship”

The amount of enjoyment you can have with your horse increases exponentially when you have an appreciation and understanding of real horsemanship. AQHA’s “Fundamentals of Horsemanship” explains the importance of changing your habits to become a true partner with your horse. Read the rest of this entry »

Feel the Rhythm

October 27, 2015

Maintain consistent cadence for a horse-training advantage.

Illustration by Jean Abernathey

Follow these tips to improve your feel and your horse’s rhythm. Illustration by Jean Abernathy

By AQHA Professional Horsewoman and Certified Horsemanship Association master instructor Carla Wennberg in The American Quarter Horse Journal

If you’re maintaining rhythm, you’re maintaining a consistent cadence and pace in a gait. The cadence of a gait is the number of beats – like the three-beat lope or the two-beat jog. The pace is how fast you hear the beats.

The importance of rhythm and movement plays into a lot of different classes, not just horses that are judged on the rail – it’s important in reining, horsemanship, trail, everything. Read the rest of this entry »