Performance, halter or breeding career?

Well in a perfect world we’d love all horses to be built perfectly correct and ride smooth also be top breeding quality but that’s not real life. I know you’re thinking right now “you’re so wrong my horse is perfect and does it all!”… well Karen I’m happy you’re so in love with your horse as you should be! A good horse is hard to find but most have one thing about them that makes them one career or the other. I’m going to cover those traits, the benefits of an imperfect horse and why we shouldn’t be so hard on judging them. There’s always a career that best suits every horse. It’s usually us, as riders who don’t listen to what they would be best suited for and put them in a job they can only do 80% the best of their ability because their heart just isn’t in it. Horses will tell you what they would excel in just be patient.

The flawed horse is my utmost favorite! These horses are “rejects” from big halter and show barns. They are discarded and undervalued in general because they aren’t perfect. I own two youngsters that a a result of this and they are the best youngsters I’ve ever had! They are easy to train, love to work, bred well, out of and by multiple world champion parents, pretty and the smoothest rides ever! The only thing wrong is they don’t have perfect legs. Both are cow hocked and my gelding “paddles” with one front leg. So what? Yes they won’t win anything in halter but they are pleasure show horse’s. Conformation doesn’t matter in riding careers! Moral of this story is too many people put too much weight in horse’s builds when purchasing anymore. If it’s perfectly built, that horse isn’t going to be the best athlete or the smoothest ride. Sometimes confirmation flaws make the horse smoother and much more enjoyable to ride. The correct horse’s are best suited for breeding and halter. The slightly imperfect horse’s are best suited for riding careers.

When looking at a horse don’t judge it on the stigma “if it’s not confotamionally correct it’s not a good horse”… how many of us are not perfect? Yes I went there! Look at yourself, be as critical on yourself as you are on these horses you criticize. Now after you’ve realized you’re out of shape, eat too much fast food, stressed, tired, have a pin in your ankle from an old sports injury, a ruptured disc in your back and can’t walk far due to bad knees… lets take another look at this horse that just has a slightly turned out front foot.

It’s all in perspective! The horse with a slightly turned out foot may not be great for high impact sports like jumping 5ft fences but he would rock it as a trail horse or open show horse right? Just like saying I’m not going to put you in a race and make a lot of money if I bet on you with all your issues but it doesn’t mean you’re not successful and a great mom. This horse may not be the horse you would breed because of the funky foot but he could be your best friend if you let him.

The pros of conformity faults are always a fun one for me to explain to folks. They come into this conversation thinking only horse’s with straight, correct legs are worth buying. Any horse with a fault is trash. That’s what close minded does to a person. They think that way but never realize the beauties of these faults and how they actually make the horse more enjoyable to ride!

Short backs v.s long backed horse’s- short backs are correct and strong. But nothing about that is smooth unless you like jack hammers… long backs make for a smooth ride and your horse won’t pull their shoes off by over reaching with the hind legs. It’s also easier to fit a saddle to a long backed horse in my opinion.

Straight legs v.s cow hocked horse’s- straight is visually appealing and considered correct but you go into a big reining barn you’ll see nothing but cow hocked horse’s because they absorb the shock better and stop harder than straight legged horses.

Correct hock angle v.s slightly sickle hocked- sickle hocks are more angled than usual but they are very smooth and they absorb more concussion of the gaits making for a smooth ride you can go all day!

So take in consideration your flaws and how you’ve adapted and overcame them you’re doing just fine. Stop being so critical on these slightly imperfect horse’s. They aren’t useless you just need to help them find what they are made for. I love my “rejects” I wouldn’t trade them for a correct horse ever!

Don’t be a clock watcher

When riding just focus on relaxing and the clarity of your communication with your horse. Take the time to enjoy your horse, don’t get too carried away with goals and improvements.

Have a shorter ride, scratch them more and give them cuddles after your ride and appreciate the time together.

This will help you and your training goals will come in time but your horse will try harder for you because you took the time to listen, enjoy, love and not be so bossy to them.

Greedy riders make anxious horses.

Think about it this way, if you have a friend who only wants the most from you every time you see them aren’t you going to wonder what the catch is every time you see their call? You grow to expect to be treated one way after it happens so many times and creates a pattern. Break that pattern and remember to be compassionate and slowing things down is always a good break from schooling and training.

Let there be air!

It’s summertime, we’ve got our horses wearing their fly masks and smelling constantly of fly spray with in turn, makes us smell like “pledge” to the non-horse person lol!

You’re doing your best and that’s great but don’t forget that those masks can breed bacteria on the horses face. Wearing a fly mask everyday leads to dirty, smelly masks and sometimes har loss on the horse’s face due to lack of air and natural shedding of skin and hair. The masks are great but here’s some tips to keep your horse as healthy and happy as possible!

Wash your fly masks weekly and let dry in the sun, this helps keep the horses face free from bacteria and dirt that can irritate their eyes.

Wash your horses face once every two weeks with a medicated shampoo, sponge and warm water to free their skin from any fungus that may be breeding under the mask.

Let the horse take a couple days off from the mask a week in order to get natural airflow and sunlight that helps clear up fungus as well.

And lastly, rotate your mask with another type of fly mask so the horse doesn’t get rub spots on their face from prolonged wear. This and taking the masks off at night will help your horse stay healthy and happy this summer!

Don’t be so demanding and remember to be an understanding friend.

This post is about taking a step back from your daily routine and stopping to smell the roses.

We all strive for progress and success but this approach will open your eyes to a new angle of training. Being a passenger isn’t always a bad thing!

Being a passenger at the right times is actually very productive! What I mean is this, jut spending time with your horse is bonding you two stronger but sitting on your horse while they graze does more than that! While you’re just relaxing and watching them graze from their back you may braid their mane or find a good itchy spot or tell them about your day. To you it’s just you sitting on your horse enjoying the soothing sounds of them chewing. To them they are reading your body language, you’re relaxed, happy and trusting them. You’re not telling them what to do, you’re not working them hard, you’re just enjoying each other. They are bonding more because you’re not asking much of them at all and they can cruise around as they please and you’re just a passenger. This is a huge break from the normal where they are expected to obey your every whim.

This helps youngsters learn to carry a rider on uneven ground in a relaxing environment with minimal pressure. The youngster will also respect you more for being a friend and not a bossy “herd leader” per-say.

So next time it’s too hot to ride you can always do this, hop on, enjoy each other and your partnership will be healthier for it!

The benefits of the “low n slow” naturally while lunging

A common question I get is “how do you teach your horses to drop their head on their own? How do you release pressure without having control over the horse?”

The answer is simply this, I do have full control of the horse’s even though you see no ropes or contact they get their release the way I’ve taught them from the beginning. Having them move like this takes many stages not just one technique other than consistency and method change when they are ready to progress.

There are many steps the horse’s learn before being under saddle. This foundation also sets them up to move correctly under saddle. Their bodies are well conditioned and prepared before their first saddling and first ride.

The benefits of the “low and slow” at liberty like this teaches them control without restraints, respect and I use body language with them so they feel comfortable communicating in their “own language” per say. This adds comfort and understanding-which is the foundation of bonding and partnership. The low head set lifts their back and strengthens their back or “top-line” this helps them build proper muscling to carry a rider. The slow is good to teach for them to realize they have a few speeds instead of just go and stop. Controlling the horse speeds, having them transition into other speeds as you cue it. This helps when they are under saddle with a rider so there’s no confusion of what the rider is asking. Most of my youngsters jog naturally right away under saddle I rarely have to school them to have a nice slow trot just because we work on it from the ground first.

Ground work, patience and praise! A well prepared horse is a willing partner!

The simple way to help your horse grow a long, beautiful tail!

I get asked a lot how I achieve such full and long tails on my horses. We’ve all felt the struggle of growing tails right? We’ve all tried tail bags. They fall off, the tail dries out, we lose rubber bands it seems into thin air and the tail doesn’t seem to grow. The horse chews the bag off or rubs it off etc. Well here’s what I do to achieve a beautiful, thick tail that drags the ground. it’s simple! I wash it, braid it and wrap it with vet wrap. The tail stays clean, doesn’t dry out and when I take the wrap off the tail is at least 4-5 inches longer! I leave the wrap on for three months at a time. Every time I rewrap it I cut two inches off the ends to keep it healthy. Here’s how I wrap my tails to keep the wrap in place. I hope you enjoy my video 🙂

Not a lot, just a little bit…

Topic today is BITS! Small bits, big bits, long bits, short bits, just the bit!

This is a very common issue that makes me cringe daily as I scroll through social media. Mostly it’s common human error due to lack of knowing Amy better and I totally understand that. Most that use bits incorrectly have the best of intentions but are unknowingly hurting their horse or back tracking and creating more to the issue instead of fixing the issue. So, here I am to help clear the air and create some sort of understanding when it comes to bits.

In my personal opinion a snaffle bit is all you’ll ever need. Paired with softening ground work you should never need more than a simple snaffle. Horses have two most sensitive places on their body, their anus and their mouth. Keep that mental picture as you now add the person that comes to mind who yanks on their horses face. What if you yanked like that on the other end of the horse? Not a pleasant thought huh? That being said, take the time to promote softness in the horse but also in your hands. If your hands are bouncing off the horse’s face because your flopping in the saddle, take some time to calm down your seat and relax. Learn to read your horses rhythm and match it. Riding is a far cry from just sitting in the saddle you’ve got to work hard too in order to create the pretty picture of unity.

Two common causes of people “needing bigger bits” are simply rider errors. “You made your bed and you are lying in it” as the term goes. Horses don’t start out with hard mouths it come from hard hands of the rider, too much contact and not enough release. The horse then learns to pull against the pressure to find its release instead because they no longer can rely on the rider to give it. The horse starts to not respond to the bit and the rider gets a bigger bit to “fix” the situation. This is only a bandaid, the horse will be soft with the new harsher bit for a while then it too will get used to this new bit and the cycle continues. This is when I hear “my horse doesn’t like any but I use”… no, the horse is not at fault. You just have the heavy hands of a construction worker and the sensitivity of a drill sergeant. SOFTNESS BEGINS WITH YOU!

Ok so we’ve addressed the common issue of why horse’s get transitioned into bigger bits here’s the life hack tip! STOP USING BOTH REINS AT THE SAME TIME! <<< Read that again. Softness is achieved when one rein is used at a time. I know you’re sitting there reading this saying “well my horse neck reins I ride with one hand I have to use both reins at once”, well my young grasshoppers, if you’re in constant contact with your horses face and you’re neck reining your horse needs to go back to the schooling pen and learn to neck rein with ONTLY PRESSURE ON THE NECK WITH THE REIN. This is the intended way of neck reining. Despite what people see on TV of old westerns and horse’s faces being yanked around that’s a perfect example of what NOT to do. Again, SOFTNESS STARTS WITH YOU!

Now let’s talk about bits! “The narrower the mouth, the harsher the bit” also “the longer the shank, the harsher the bit”. For example, let’s talk snaffles. A twisted wire mouth is much harsher than an eggbutt snaffle (Photo’s shown below). The eggbutt snaffle is one of the thickest you can find and I start my colts in this bit. The twisted wire is meant to catch the horse’s attention and is not meant to be used harshly or it will cause damage to the horse’s mouth. Still on the subject of snaffles there’s different side pieces that are meant for certain purposes. The “full-cheek” snaffle is great for teaching colts to turn and listen to the bit. The unique sides help push the horse’s face over when adding pressure also it’s nearly impossible for this bit to slip through the horse’s mouth. Then there’s the common “O- ring” snaffle that is the softest side you can find because it moves and has zero direct pressure. I personally love my “O-ring” snaffles I use them everyday on all levels of horses. Then the “D-ring” snaffle the D-ring is shaped like a D and is direct contact unlike the O-ring. It’s a step up from the O-ring. This bit is another I use frequently. There are thousands of bits but this is to help educate on the uses of the primary bits.

Before we finish up I’m going to add, if you are riding your horse in a shank bit weather the mouth is broken or solid with a port (port is a curb bit used on finished horses who can neck rein properly and softly) if you’re riding with a shank bit use ONE hand. If you’re “schooling” then go back to a simple snaffle not a shank. The shank is intended to direct pressure for riding with one hand. It’s not designed for two handed riding. If used with two hands it’s very harsh even tho you think it’s not because of the broken mouth. The longer the shank the harsher the bit. Snaffles are for two hands and schooling, shank bits are for one hand and neck reining.

Next time you ride just imagine having the bit under the horse’s tail instead of its mouth. Would you treat that area as harshly as you do their mouth?

Softness starts with you! If you want a soft horse, you need to become a soft rider!

Below are photos of bits I’ve mentioned.

The twisted wire bit
The eggbutt snaffle which is one of the softest bits you can find. Note the thick mouth piece.
The O-ring snaffle
The traditional curb bit. The curve in the middle is called the port. The higher the port, the harsher the bit. Also this has mild shanks. The longer the shank the harsher the bit.
Here is the long shank snaffle bit. Never to be confused with a regular snaffle because of the mouth piece. Not intended for use with two hands.
Another favorite of mine, the Tom Thumb bit. This is the only shank bit I use on my finished horses after they graduate from the snaffle bits. Short shank, thick mouth, snaffle style bit. Not harsh at all and only intended for use with on hand once the horse is finished.
Horses don’t need bits. Riders need bits.