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When your horse refuses to lead do you switch to driving him forward?

does your horse truly lead?

If your horse is willing to say ‘NO’ somewhere it should be a red flag.

You can’t out pull a horse. This seems like an obvious statement but there is a good chance, if you stop and think about it, you have probably tried to at some point during your interaction with horses.

Ponies are practically famous for having moments when they say ‘no’ and refuse to go forward. Is this a coincidence or is this because their ‘trainers’ tend to be small children who don’t fully understand the ideas of pressure and release?

Can you picture a time where you have seen a human trying to out pull a horse? Maybe the person was trying to lead the horse from one surface to another, for example from gravel to black top. Or maybe they were trying to lead the horse from outdoors into a building. When I was a kid I had a mare that refused to walk into a big old barn with a wooden floor that housed cattle beneath it. Or maybe you have seen someone trying to out pull a horse when loading into a trailer.

One popular answer to this issue is to stop trying to lead the horse forward and ‘drive’ the horse forward instead. It is a popular choice for good reason. It is a great training tool and should be used by everyone. But does this mean we must give up on leading also?

Leading is closely related to tying. If you find your horse having moments where he says ‘No’ during leading and you must switch to driving you should be a little concerned that this refusal will eventually pop up in the area of tying.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Thought provoking, Training

 

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Picking and using a pony horse as a training tool: Stacy’s Video Diary Review

Here are four questions I received about Episode 14.

  • “What traits do you look for in the horse you are going to use for a “pony horse” in the round pen?”-Shawn J
  • “What traits do you look for in the horse you are going to use for a pony horse and do you pony them on trails to expose them to more things?”-Melissa P
  • “What should you look for in a pony horse?”- Rindy A
  • “What if you don’t have a pony horse to use?”-Tammy C

In this episode I use Popcorn to pony Jac.  To ‘pony’ a horse means to lead that horse while riding another horse. A pony horse can be a valuable tool. Ponying a horse has many benefits. During colt starting some of the advantages are that I can get a horse, like Jac, comfortable with movements above his head and gain further control of his body. There have also been times where I have ponied a rider during the first ride. Jac was a bit jumpy and unsure and I was able to work through it before mounting up.  Ponying is also useful in many other situations. If a horse has been taught to pony then it can be used for rehab after an injury, increasing fitness, exercising two horses at a time, exposing to new situations,  preparing the horse for the rider being above and more.

Teaching a horse to pony involves getting the horse to listen and respect both you and the horse you are riding. When first leading a horse from another horse, it is common for the horse being lead to be unsure of the situation. The horse being lead often has one of two reactions; timid, concerned about being kicked by the pony horse or pushy, challenging the pony horse. It is the riders job to teach the horse to lead respectfully.

I will only pony from horses that are well trained, that I can ride one handed and maneuver easily. It is important that the horse being ridden will listen to me especially if the other horse gets worked up. The ability to control the pony horses’ hips and shoulders determines the safety of all involved. It is extremely important that I am able to control the horse I am riding so I can prevent him from kicking or biting the horse I am leading.  Popcorn is an excellent pony horse because he will allow me to control his body and he is not intimidated by other horses.

Popcorn also has experience and he understands his job. For example, Popcorn knows how to angle his body so that when a horse shoulders into him it doesn’t throw him off balance. In the beginning I had tho help him find this position but now I don’t have to tell him to be prepared, he knows.

Newt is and example of a horse who is still learning to pony. Newt is already trained well enough, I can completely control his body. I am teaching him how to pony by leading horses that have already been ponied by Popcorn. This means that Newt is gaining experience but he hasn’t encountered a really tough case. A tough case would be a horse that was pushing into Newt or a horse that was refusing to come forward. By ponying horses that are easy Newt has gained an understanding and then I begin to pony horses that are a greener or are pushy. I can help Newt because I can control his body but it is nice when they have lots of experience like Popcorn. I will gradually lead more challenging horses and Newt will learn how to be prepared.

If you have watched the whole Jac series you should notice that I like to use lots of steps in my training process. Having said all of this, it is possible to train without a pony horse. There have been times where I didn’t have a good pony horse available. During those times I try to figure out how I can achieve the same end result. For example, if I sit high on a fence I can get above the horses head. Or I can spend more time swinging something that would go higher than his head like the stick n string with bags on it. Having a pony horse isn’t required but it often makes my job easier.

Below are several episodes where I used ponying as a tool.

This video shows ponying a colt and it’s the first time I pony Jac from Popcorn.

This video shows using a quiet horse in a situation where the other horse is likely to react. This video shows Newt ponying Jac.

This video shows Popcorn ponying Al, an of the track Thoroughbred, on the trail for the first time.

 

 
 

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Jac Review Week: Teaching a horse to give to pressure on a halter for leading and tying

A comment came through on my blog this week in reference to Episode 3.

“While I‘m far behind in the series (trying to catch up as I can!) I’m actually re-watching these beginning episodes. I recently got a new horse and while he’s 9 years old and has TONS of trail riding time, I’ve noticed that if something startles him, he whips backward and pulls — regardless of being tied/being held, etc. Not very respectful of pressure. Interestingly enough, you say at ~4:39 on the video that “that’s why I can’t tie him, because when he feels pressure on the halter he pulls back.” I’m wondering just how many horses ACTUALLY learn to give to the pressure on a halter?     Also, how often do people like me buy an older horse that’s “been there done that” but have to go back to baby-beginner-basics and teach things like giving to pressure?-Sarah B.”

It is my opinion that everyone should go back…but few do.The basics are where most problems stem from.

Have you ever tried to lead a puppy on a leash for the first time? Have you noticed that the first reaction to pressure on the leash is rarely to give to the pressure? Sometimes the puppy may coincidentally follow you but for the most part he must be taught how to respond correctly. Some dogs are thoroughly trained and others have spotty training and the same is true for horses.

Horses must be taught to give to pressure. This is usually done when they are young but just like dogs, they will likely need refresher courses throughout their lifetime. Much like a dog, the stronger the training has been at one point, the better the training will stick with the horse.

If the horse has a strong foundation, if he really knows the correct answers…then the refresher goes fast. If you find a weakness, then you are improving the horse. I go back over the basics every winter…even with my top horses.

This question came after Episode 10.

“Hi Stacy, the last pull when Jac response to your pull (6:50), do you redo this again or do you just do it one time before you tie him up? -Melanie C.”

I repeat the lesson over and over again before tying him for the first time. In episode 10 the pull and release shown at 6:50 was the end of that lesson for that day. I like to give horses time to absorb the lesson before I repeat it. Although it was the end of the lesson for that day, I did not tie Jac after it.

If you watch Episode 13 at 13:35 I am repeating the leading lesson again. I explain during this time that the distraction of the bit has caused Jac to regress in this lesson. You can see here that Jac still has not mastered this leading lesson.

It is also important to notice the theory here; that repeating previous concepts while introducing new concepts can make the training stronger. The example here is that the previous concept of leading was repeated as the horse was learning a new lesson, wearing the bit. Can you think of other examples in training where repeating a previous concept while introducing a new one can be beneficial?

 

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Jac Review Week: Why are inside turns important during groundwork with a horse?

 “Stacy, I’ve been following Jac’s video series and am loving it. Thank you so much for sharing it!I have a question about the inside turns: why is it so important to you that he turn to the inside instead of the outside? I have learned to turn to the outside and have trained my horses accordingly and am wondering whether I should retrain myself and them. In order to do that, I figure I need to understand the reasoning better.

Thank you for being such an inspiration!”

Best regards from Portugal,
Sandra

Inside turns and outside turns have a subtly different effect on horses. It isn’t that one turn is ‘correct’ and the other is ‘incorrect’ but instead they both have different side effects.

Both outside turns and inside turns will help the horse learn to read your body language and will promote respect. The outside turn is often more important for teaching respect. If you have a horse that is pushy and in your space the act of cutting the horse off and driving him into an outside turn is an act of dominance by the handler.

The inside turn is better for teaching the horse to draw to the handler. Inside turns are very useful with horses that have trust issues because they subtly suggest submission. Taking a step back or away from the horse is used to draw him in towards you.

Maybe the strongest argument for teaching both the handler and the horse to do both inside turns and outside turns is that both will learn to read each others subtle cues.

If you go back and watch Episode 3 with Jac you can easily see that Jac does not respect me. When Jac is leaving, or dragging me, it is clear to see that it is not out of fear. He looks annoyed and testy but not frightened yet he still pulls to the outside or away from me as a form of defiance.

 

In Episode 4 watch Jac’s body language, he is arched away from me. Specifically watch his right eye at 8:20 and again at 8:30. You can see that his eye is looking away from me so much that you can see the white. He is physically near me because the rope is holding him…but if there were no rope he would be gone.

Episode 13 talks the most directly about this subject. Jac has been a more dominant kind of a horse. He respects my space enough that I don’t feel the need to turn him to the outside but the way that I am driving him forward with the whip is accomplishing the same thing; establishing myself as the dominant one.

Two things that make inside turns happen for me are:

  1. Jac’s personality
  2. I have been working him on a line, practicing inside turns
  3. I ask for the inside turn when Jac is on the far side of the pen- away from the barn-which increases the odds of him turning in

Around 12 minutes in Episode 13 Jac starts making the mistake of turning outside. I call it a mistake because I was asking for the inside turn but Jac was distracted by the tarp so he didn’t focus on my body language. You can see how I correct him by quickly turning him back to his original direction and then asking for the turn again.

In Episode 14 you can see how the ability to ask for an inside turn makes it possible to focus a horses attention on an object. This is not possible with an outside turn unless the object is directly on the fence.

The most important thing to remember is that inside turns and outside turns accomplish different things one of the biggest being the ability of the horse to read the humans body language and the human to read the horses body language…and that is a pretty big thing.

 

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Stacy’s Video Diary Jac-Episode 34-How a horse responds to a new rider.

Total training time: 143 hours

At some point in their lifetime most horses are ridden by more than one rider. Up to this point I am the only one who has ridden Jac. In today’s episode my husband, Jesse, will ride Jac for the first time.

I explain that I am planning on taking a trip and if Jac goes with me- he won’t be ridden consistently.  I am considering leaving Jac for Jesse to ride while I am gone to allow Jac’s training to continue without the interruption of the trip.

Jac’s mother, Roxy a.k.a. Whizards Baby Doll, was trained by Stacy as a two year old and then Jesse trained and showed her as a three year old. Stacy then trained and showed Roxy as a four and five year old.

Jesse states in the video, “Everyone rides a little different…we’re built different, we feel different to the horse…maybe one uses their legs a little stronger, we sit maybe a little different, so it feels different to the horse so they are going to respond different…”

My favorite line is when Jesse says, “Jac might get a little confused…and that’s ok, he won’t get in trouble for that…”

At 6:00 you can hear the dialog between Stacy and Jesse as Jesse is riding Jac. The ‘break of gait’ is in reference to Stacy showing Jac in Episode 32.

These differences between rider cues are often more evident in a horse that has only been ridden by one rider. As horses get accustom to having multiple riders they can learn to adjust quickly and the transition can become seamless.

At 7:40 I make a reference to seeing negative consequences to switching trainers frequently. This isn’t to be confused with switching riders; one person trail riding one day and a different person trail riding the next day. It refers to very active teaching and training. This ‘transition’ is also less exaggerated as the horse becomes more seasoned; older or more experienced horses handle the transitions between trainers better than younger/greener horses.

Watch as Jac performs flying lead changes, stops, circles and spins with a different rider. Pay attention to the fact that the ‘problems’ Jesse has are Jac’s normal response-just more frequent; Jac broke gait with me in the show…Jac tries breaking gait frequently with Jesse. This is an indicator that Jac tends to be on the lazier side and tends to default to stoping. This is interesting to keep in mind and compare to the other information we have gathered about Jac over the series.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2014 in Jesse, Stacy's Video Diary: Jac, Training, Video

 

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Stacy’s Video Diary Jac-Episode 33- Behind the scenes look at horse training at an expo

Stacy’s Video Diary Jac-Episode 33- Behind the scenes look at horse training at an expo

Total training time-139 hours 30 minutes

When traveling with horses to shows, trail rides, clinics or expos it is often the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff that seasons them more that the event itself.

Before the event even began I was riding in the arena where I would be speaking. This is also the same arena that the freestyle reining is held in during the Quarter Horse Congress which is why I said, “Jac’s pretending we’re getting ready to go in the freestyle.”

There is a quote that says, “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.”-Robert H. Schuller

I explain that there are often times when riding horses that the horse will anticipate things; for example a reining horse anticipating the lead change when coming through the middle of the show pen….because a lead change always happens in the middle during a show.

Many people think that avoiding the problem area is a solution. The problem with this thinking is that the lead changes cannot be avoided during showing…so by ‘avoiding’ the problem area during training you are actually highlighting the fact that the ONLY time you deal with that area is when showing.

I explain that I do patterns like the 4 leaf clover pattern (shown on the DVD Basic Body Control and Bridleless Riding: How Does She Do That?) at home so that I can ‘open the can of worms’ and work on the issue at home. By using a repetitive pattern, such as the 4 leaf clover, the opportunity to train through the anticipation phase become possible. When the horse knows that a left turn is coming and the rider corrects the problems such as ducking and diving, the horse become aware that although there are repetitive things coming-they should still wait for and respect the rider.

The video also shows a ‘behind the scenes’ of Jac’s celebrity life including getting into Jac’s ‘celebrity’ stall, lunch on the go (PB &J) with Stacy and Jac, saddling up, and warming up for a demo.

The chaos of traveling with horses is what gets them ‘seasoned’; trucks, people, other horses, flags, carts, etc.

Jac encountered his first ‘scared’ moment of the expo when a small driving team entered the warm up pen. Listen as I explain how I used the distraction as a ‘test’ for Jac.

Jac handled this whole experience quite well. I show a closing video of Jac in his ‘celebrity’ stall as the expo is closing (I try sneaking up on him) and we see that Jac is relaxed and confident…exactly what we want to see in our horses.

My favorite part is when I ‘sneak’ up on Jac and he stops chewing…I don’t know why but I always laugh when horses stop chewing to focus…it makes me think of a human freezing ‘mid-chew’ and I can’t help but laugh!

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Stacy's Video Diary: Jac, Training, Video

 

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Stacy’s Video Diary Jac-Episode 32-Using horse shows and trail rides as training.

The goal for Jac’s first horse show wasn’t to win a prize, the goal was to use the whole experience as a learning and training session.

The atmosphere is a lot of the training; many horses around, warm up pen, bathing, riding, preparing, walking into the pen alone, odd hours, etc.

Gathering information is key to predicting how a horse will handle future experiences. By making the first several trips to shows very low pressure the horse is more likely to have a positive experience.

Jac’s first class was a green horse class and the goal was to do the maneuvers correct with little or no degree of difficulty. Unfortunately, Jac broke gait (went from a lope to a trot) when slowing down from the large fast circle to the small slow circle. In the video I explain, “I’m going to blame that on me…I wasn’t helping him or guarding him…I was using the class to gather information. Had this been a show I was concerned about I would have helped him. Instead I learned Jac was very relaxed.”

The learning that takes place at a show is not only the horse. The rider also learns how to better prepare and show the horse.

I answer a question about my goals when taking a horse to a show or a trail ride for the first time; what types of things do you do to ensure a good experience for the horse.

I explain that many people ride their horses harder at a show or when they haul them somewhere than they do at home. When this happens the horse learns to expect hard work when they are hauled.

I ride my horses harder at home than I do at the shows so that the horse learns that traveling doesn’t require more work.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Stacy's Video Diary: Jac, Training, Video

 

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