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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Do a High Caliber Barrel Horse and Champion Western Pleasure Mount Have in Common???

Two different events- completely different, in fact, exact opposites.  How could these horses be anything alike? 

They both have excellent foundation and body control.  Their foundation, is most likely identical. 

No matter what a horse does, if they are good, they know how to control their body and perform certain maneuvers.  Rope horse, jumper, mounted shooting horse, barrel horse, hunter jumper, dressage horse, it doesn't matter. 

When you watch a barrel horse sit down and rate to turn a barrel, there nose will be tipped in and their hip in as well.  This is a similar position to a lead departure in western pleasure class. This is an unnatural movement for a horse, but when those muscles are built up and they are trained to be in that "C" position, it will make a very powerful and fast turn around a barrel.  It also encourages the proper lead on a circle. 

Today I watched my boss ride two horses that I struggled getting in this position.  To get the head position, flexed and tipped in, you must make it uncomfortable for them to get out of position.  They will seek the spot you want because it is more comfortable than the place they are getting pressure.  So I jiggle the reins when they get out of position and release when they are where I want them to be.  To move their hip to the inside, a horse needs to understand that leg pressure means move away.  You always start with a calf, then a touch of the spur, then a deep roll until they move their hip in.  When they make the slightest movement in, you release.  It's all about feel and timing.  If you are terrible at releasing, your horse won't know what you want him to do.  All they want is a release of pressure.  It is their greatest reward.  Nothing pisses me off more than watching someone never release.  That makes a horse confused and scared. 

A neat drill that helps build those muscles is using the fence and having a horse keep their "C" position sidepassing along the fence...both ways.  Just a training tidbit I learned today.

Every day I value cadence more.  Cadence in horsemanship is having a rythym to movement that is continuous.  For example, if I am doing ground work and sending a horse around me in a circle, I want them to walk in a constant rythym and not stop until I disengage their hindquarters.  I listen to their hoofbeats and can tell if they have it.  You don't want a horse to stop, then walk, then bolt off, then trot, then back up, when all you asked them to do was walk calmly in a circle.  I get my horses to stay moving in rythym until I say stop.  This helps so much when you get in the saddle.  The first three rides on our colts is all about cadence.  We give absolutely no direction.  All I do is set my stopwatch for five minutes, cluck to them, and over under them if they don't move.  I use no legs because legs are to teach side to side movement.  All I want is the colt to walk for five minutes.  If they break into a trot I either one rein stop or bring them into a small circle then start again.  Next, I ask for ten minutes of consistent trotting.  And I am not afraid to pop them on the rear in this process.  If I cluck, bring my end of my lead rope across to spank without touching them and they haven't trotted off yet, I spank them.  Its good to have movement above them like that in the first few rides especially.  Sitting up there like dead weight will get you bucked off when you wave to your friend or pet their neck. 

I have learned that my previous method of ground desensitization did not work at all.  It is what I was taught in school but I found that my horses were still spooky. You would introduce a flag or tarp or the boogeyman and then the moment they stopped running from it, take the scary thing away.  Well, now I have learned that you keep it moving even after the horse has stopped for about 5 seconds.  Then you take it away.  It seems like it takes a few seconds for the horse to catch up with whats going on.  You let them know that you are rewarding the correct behavior of standing still. I am seeing great results with this.  They lick their lips a lot and get desensitized fast. 

Sorry this is a smorgasborg of different thoughts about my job the last two weeks, so lets just call it a training tip buffet.  Very random, but some good stuff.

Cantaloping.  Nope not a fruit.  Its my boss's nickname for counter cantering as the English folks call it.  Since western people say lope instead of canter- we cantalope.  Haha.  Cantaloping or counter cantering is loping on the opposite lead that you are supposed to be on.  So if you are going in a circle to the right, you would be in the left lead.  If you are on a horse that can't control their body and is muscularly imbalanced, you will feel an extremely rough gait.  Males may no longer be able to have children it can be that bad.  I cantalope all of the horses.  If they have a rough time staying in the wrong lead, use more inside leg to drive their hip out.  The more cantaloping you do, the better your horse will become. They will be less stiff and more athletic.  But here's the catch... you have to do it both ways.  Otherwise you will just be building up the imbalance in muscles.  It's great to do also in a small barn where you would normally be constantly picking up their shoulder.  If you are cantaloping their shoulder is already picked up!  Oh and for all you rope horse people-  Lope both directions when you warm up.  If your horse can't even take their right lead you have some major problems!!  Shoulders will be dropping and you will be ducking.  They need to be strong in both sides to perform the tasks asked for in a run.  If you going around in a circle to the left for the entire warm up, I'm just going to assume you have no horsemanship skills:):):)

Okay I've got to hit the hay....  I will be journaling more of what I learn at work soon.  Wishing you the best from Red Lodge, MT..........

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