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What is a ‘dropped shoulder’ in a horse and how can I fix it?

horse drop shoulder dropping fixYesterdays blog discussed ‘Confusing terms people use around horses‘ and the following comment showed up on the Facebook post.

 “I’ve been yelled at – and still don’t know what a dropped shoulder is.”-Karen S.

This is a great example of a confusing term. I agree that people over use this term AND I believe it would be possible to sit down with three different professionals and have at least three different definitions of the term.

Dropped shoulder:

  1. the horse leaves the desired path of travel around the arena, cutting to the inside
  2. the horse desires to leave the current path of travel and turn early, the rider uses a cue to keep him from doing so (inside rein, inside leg) resulting in the feeling that if the rider ‘let go’ or stopped ‘holding him up’ the horse would ‘fall in’
  3. a lack of elevation in the front end combined with the desire to turn to soon

In general the term is used when the horse wants to cut to the inside of the path of travel. This happens more often when a horse is ridden in a riding arena. It doesn’t take a horse too long to figure out that if you are traveling counter-clockwise around an arena that the pattern is; go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left, go straight, turn left…..you get the point.

Soon the horse thinks, “A left turn is coming….lets do it now.” and the ‘dropped’ shoulder has begun. Keep in mind that the shoulder can’t be ‘dropped’ unless at some point it is being held. Stop ‘holding the shoulder up’ and what happens?

I would argue that most of the time a ‘dropped shoulder’ is nothing more than cutting a corner. Ever been at a 4 way stop in your car? Ever had someone turn and almost hit the front corner of your car? They were ‘dropping their shoulder’….but clearly the car wasn’t leaning. People tend to mean ‘dropping the shoulder’ when the horse is simply ‘turning too early’.

Is it fixable? Yes, but the rider has to be willing to stop ‘holding him up’ and let him make the mistake. When he leaves the path of travel the rider needs to correct it…and then let him go and probably make the mistake again. Ultimately the horse must become responsible for ‘holding’ his own shoulder up because he knows you will correct him and then let go again. There is a huge difference between correcting the issue vs becoming part of the problem.

This is how I define a dropped shoulder…but is that what your riding instructor means?

P.S.-this post triggered a follow up post ‘3 Things to Remember with Horses that ‘drop their shoulders’

 
11 Comments

Posted by on April 27, 2015 in Members Question, Thought provoking, Training

 

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Name this foal: Newt has a little brother!

IMG_5860Newt has a little brother!

He still needs a name, or two, a barn name and a registered name.

He is by a stallion named Starlights Wrangler and his mom’s name is Whizards Maggie Mae.

Fun fact: Whizards Maggie Mae is a full sister to Whizards Baby Doll (aka Roxy).name that foal, what should my name be?

 
142 Comments

Posted by on April 4, 2015 in Life

 

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What is the horse saying with his ears?

After posting yesterday’s blog, I noticed several people comment negatively about the horses ears during the performance. The common thread seemed to be that the viewers of the video seemed to think that the horse was saying, with its ears, that it was irritated or annoyed.

On the surface I can see how some people would think this. Even looking at the chart below it could appear that the horse was annoyed or worried. The difficulty is that the horse chart below is made for ‘reading’ horses that are in the pasture or generally in hand. Many of the ear positions are the same but some do change.

Many riders have never had the experience of riding a highly trained horse. Many horses that rely strongly on the bridle and less on the riders body/leg cues feel free to be less than fully focused. As a horse training advances to read the riders body more it is common to see the horses ears get more focused on the rider. As this happens the horses tend to hold their ears back, not flattened, but clearly focused on the rider. Not pinned, but intently listening.

The young lady with the mustang only had 130 days of training (see below). Watch her ride and then watch Roxy’s ride with me at the Quarter Horse Congress (also below). Roxy had more times when she looked relaxed because she has had more years to get comfortable with the cues. She doesn’t have to ‘think’ about it as hard because it is second nature. The younger horse is trying hard to focus.

What face do you make when you concentrate?

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 6.12.22 PM

This image and much more are available in the CHA Composite Horsemanship Manual. Click photo for more info.

 

 

Watch Roxy’s ears change between intense and relaxed. When I ask for big moves she is more intense and when we are doing easier things her ears are more relaxed.

Here is the young lady with only 130 days of training on her mustang. This is the video that the ears were questioned. Think about how much this horse has learned in a short time…this explains his focused look.

Here is another bridleless just for more ear watching:

 
22 Comments

Posted by on April 1, 2015 in Thought provoking, Training, Video

 

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It seems there are a variety of opinions as to how soon to ride or work a young horse. Why?

“Hi Stacy. I enjoy following your travels and respect your advice. I have just purchased a 2 year old paint horse that I plan to show. It seems there are a variety of opinions as to how soon to ride or work a young horse. I would greatly appreciate your input.”-Marie B

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that each horse in an individual. If you watch Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac, I started him when he was a two year old. He was a Quarter Horse…but that doesn’t mean that all Quarter Horses could be started at that age. The bone development, family history, bloodlines, and the amount of work that will be required all play a part in making the decision.What is best age to start a horse?

“Hi Stacy! I have a question that has been subject to many arguments between my mom and I. I have a 2.5 yr old QH filly that I recently started under saddle. She had all ground work done when I started her and she is a very mellow minded girl. My mom believes 2 is too early to start them and is concerned about her joints and I was wondering about your opinion on the best age to start a horse since I have never started a horse or raised a young horse? At the moment I am just doing light trail rides, no longer than 15 minutes on flat ground, with her twice a week. And note that she is around 14.3hh and is a brick house, weighing close to 1000#s.  🙂    Thank you so much in advance for an advice you can give.” H. H.

The answer to this question is found in the blog: What is the best age to start a horse?

 “Hi Stacy, just wondering what age you start training horses. I have a foal who will turn 2 in January. I am trying to sort out a training plan and am wondering how many hours a day or week you would spend on training. Also what you would do regards to training a foal. A lot of people have told me to just leave her alone until she is 3 because she will be a dangerous horse if I start to early. She can be quite cheeky while in the paddock tending to the other horses while feeding out hay, but I just ignore that. Maybe I shouldn’t have her running with the other horses??? Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated.” -Brenda W

The answer to this question is found in the blog: What age do you start training?

“I have an 18 mo old colt and hope he’ll make a great kid pony in a few years. He’s currently 12.2 hh and 500lbs, so I don’t expect him to get very big. What can I do with him on the ground over the next few years to get him ready to ride? When the time comes to saddle and ride him, how do I go about that, with him being so small?”-Ariella G.

The answer to this question is found in the blog: Starting a Pony Under Saddle

ttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBiv66nAvj4

 
20 Comments

Posted by on March 2, 2015 in Members Question, Training, Video

 

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How can you prepare a horse for being ridden in a dress?

“Hi Stacy! My sister’s grad is coming up and we were hoping to take pictures of her with/on her horse in her grad dress. I was wondering if you would have any tips on training a horse to accommodate her in her dress. Thanks!”-Fallon S.

I have shown several different horses while wearing a dress, one was even my wedding gown! Two of my freestyles were done while wearing dresses and I have also shown in mounted shooting while wearing a full skirt.

I didn’t have to do any special training with my horses because I had already done so much training prior to mounting up with the dress. The horses had been sacked out with plastic bags, tarps, coats, rain coats and numerous other items. In addition, the horses had all worn sheets, blankets and coolers themselves. I believe that all of these experiences helped to prepare my horses for being ridden in a dress.

Maybe a bigger thing to consider would also be the atmosphere that the horse will be in. I have seen horses that were well behaved in their own barn get spooked by large crowds of people and flashing cameras. On the surface it might look like the horse was spooked by the dress, when in reality it was a large number of new and unusual things that set him off. Again, my horses had been show horse so they had already been previously prepared for this type of pressure.

One last thing to keep in mind is, well, comfort. If your sister is planning to sit ‘astride’…assuming you don’t have a spare side saddle somewhere, she will want to consider wearing something under that dress. When I was mounted shooting I wore breeches under the skirt. When I wore the black dress I had on a pair of heavy leggings and when I wore my wedding dress I had on a pair of jeans. Just a thought.

I would consider all of the things mentioned above and figure out ways to train for them. If the dress is a very unusual material or has some kind of feature that you think could cause a problem then figure out a way to address this ahead of time. Draping material across the rump that can easily be removed if the horse is bothered is always a good step. Another great idea would be to do a mock up photo shoot in advance of the ‘real’ thing. The Salvation Army or Good Will are great places to shop for dresses that may have a similar cut but can be worn in the barn, lol. This will allow you to do two things: confirm that the horse is properly prepared (because of all of your training) and allow you to figure out what angles are flattering to both the horse, rider and dress…which could end up being the biggest challenge you have.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 16, 2015 in Life, Members Question, Video

 

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Looking for great trail riding and horses to rent…where would you recommend?

“Keep your adventures coming. I enjoy watching the videos of places you have been. I would like to go horseback riding SOMEWHERE??? I have not decided which state would be the best place. I would not bring my horses, I would have to use theirs. Do you have or does anyone have any ideas where my husband and I could stay and ride for a few days?”-Martina B.

Looking for great trail riding and horses to rent...where would you recommend?I actually haven’t done this! We are traveling with our own horses so we haven’t needed to look for horse rentals. We are going to need to look for advice from everyone who reads this either here or on Facebook. If you have ever traveled and rented horses, please leave a comment written as a review of your total experience.

Were the horses well trained? Was the equipment safe? Did you go with a guide or self-guided? What were the trails like: beautiful, challenging, boring? Were they as advertised? What state and what time of year? Would you recommend it to a friend? How much did it cost? How many days did you ride? Did you rent a cabin and stay? How was the housing?  Give as much info as you are comfortable with.

Also feel free to post names of the companies that you loved, links to their sites, photos or links to videos!

I did a quick Google search and I found a website called Horse Rentals.com. I’m not in love with the lay out of the site and I suspect that a robot may be populating the pages BUT many of the links do work.

If you have ever rented horses for trail riding please tell us about it!

 

 

 
29 Comments

Posted by on January 14, 2015 in Video

 

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Newt conquers standing on the box…but what motivates my horse?

When I set up the video camera on day seven of teaching Newt to stand on the box I didn’t know exactly what I would do with the footage. I did know that I was spending a lot of time laughing at my horse…and I was really enjoying watching him learn. As I stood there watching Newt, it reminded me of watching my children when they were young and were playing on the playground. What age does a child start climbing to explore their surrounding? How many mistakes do they make while they learn about gravity, their body and their surroundings? And how do we respond as parents?

That last question is a biggie. All parents should protect their children. Some parents protect too much, restricting anything that can be perceived as dangerous…even if the real risk is low. Other parents allow so much freedom that their kids appear to run wild. It is obvious that there is a wide view out there as to what children should be allowed, encouraged or restricted from doing.

I believe that a horse can learn responsibility and that they learn it in a very similar way as children. It is our responsibility to challenge them but to also set them up for success. I show my horse the answer several times and then allow him to find the answer…then repeat. Mistakes are allowed but the risk is reduced because I do the training in small steps. Last year Newt crossed a man-made ‘bridge’ at home similar to one that would be found in a trail class. Now he is learning to carefully place his feet as he stands on this small box. Maybe next week we will be walking the ridge of a canyon…

I didn’t intend to use the audio from this video when I was filming it but many of you asked to see more of Newt and the bridge. This video is from day ten and is the first day that Newt stands on the box. I left the original audio where I am talking to my husband, Jesse, and Newt. Yep, I talk with my horses when no one is watching.

If you watch nothing else, watch from the four minute mark until the end. What was captured on film in that minute and a half was a total accident…but is hysterically funny!

If you would like to see some of day seven: click here. 

If you would like to know WHY I am teaching Newt this: click here.

 
19 Comments

Posted by on January 10, 2015 in Thought provoking, Training, Video

 

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