Horse Training

Learn the Basics of Colt Starting

February 10, 2015

Get your young horse started right with these horse training tips.

Teaching your horse the basics builds a solid foundation before you move on to advanced maneuvers. Journal photo

Teaching your horse the basics builds a solid foundation before you move on to advanced maneuvers. Journal photo

By AQHA Professional Horseman Dick Pieper in The American Quarter Horse Journal

Whether you want to ride a winning performance horse or train a nice horse that you can enjoy, you’re going to need the basics.

What I’m going to talk about isn’t new. Xenophon talked about the basics of using your body correctly and teaching your horse to use his body correctly when he invented dressage in the 12th century.

I’m going to use his principles and work in order. I won’t move forward until the horse has grasped each basic – lateral softness, collection and hip movement – thoroughly and completely. My goal is to produce a horse that is so conditioned to do what I ask that I could pull him out of the barn in Read the rest of this entry »

Improve Your Horse’s Body Carriage, Part 2

February 3, 2015

Get some horse-training tips to improve your horse’s performance in hunter under saddle class.

Hunters should move with long, low strides reaching forward with ease and smoothness. Journal photo

Hunters should move with long, low strides reaching forward with ease and smoothness. Journal photo

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

After learning about common issues that can affect the body carriage of your hunter under saddle horse in Part 1, here are a few tips to improve your horse’s style and achieve the desired appearance.

The AQHA rulebook outlines qualities that judges look for:

SHW601. HUNTER UNDER SADDLE. The purpose of the hunter under saddle horse is to present or exhibit a horse with a bright, alert Read the rest of this entry »

Improve the Body Carriage of Your Hunter Under Saddle Horse, Part 1

January 27, 2015

Get some horse-training hints to fix common self-carriage problems.

Self-carriage depends on the horse’s training development, as well as his physical fitness. Jean Abernethy illustration

Self-carriage depends on the horse’s training development, as well as his physical fitness. Jean Abernethy illustration

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

In hunter under saddle, a horse is judged for his suitability as a hunter in movement and responsiveness. But that’s influenced by how a rider rides. An unbalanced rider affects a horse’s movement in his gaits and through transitions, and as a result, it affects the horse’s placing.

What we’re striving for is a horse that looks through the bridle with his Read the rest of this entry »

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 »