Horse Training

Extend-O-Matic

May 26, 2009

AQHA Professional Horseman and Team Wrangler member Dan Trein lends his wisdom on the western pleasure extended jog.

Dan Trein and That Would Be Me

By Dan Trein with The American Quarter Horse Journal Editor Christine Hamilton

What is the extended western pleasure 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. But in a western pleasure extended jog, 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. The NEW Western Pleasure DVD from AQHA, “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.

Whether you are a recreational rider or involved in English riding, cutting, reining, roping or racing, AQHA is here to help with your American Quarter Horse – the world’s most versatile breed. AQHA memberships have numerous benefits for both you and your horse.