Flexing is an exercise I really focus on at clinics. I tell folks to flex every time they stop. It teaches the horse to not only stop but to relax and wait for you to tell him what to do. I will do this with any horse I own for the first year of his life with me. It becomes a habit for him and in time he will start to flex on his own. It becomes his way of checking in with you. It’s his way of telling you everything is ok down here.
Most people will never do this exercise enough in the life of their horse. When we get boarded with anything we want to move on to something else. We never give the horse a chance to really understand an exercise and so our horses are never really were we want them to be, a broke horse if you will.
When you start this exercise I start it from the ground. Asking the horse to flex back to his girth area. I don’t ask for all of that at once. I will ask him to just look in my direction at first, and the build on that till I have him reaching all the way back. If you try to get him to give all of that flex the very first try, your probably going to get in a pulling match with your horse, and you will lose.
Take your time, teach this skill well, and it will make all the difference in how your horse behaves down the road.
A really big day for Tucson yesterday. We rode in the arena for just a few minutes, after some ground work, then he felt ready. I opened the gate and outside we went. I think it’s important to get a horse outside the arena or round pen as soon as a person feels confident enough in the horse and what he has accomplished.
As you can see from the picture, it’s pretty mountainous around the barn. We started up the hill that is behind the barn, just at a walk, I asked him to trot as we started the climb and he did ok. It’s when I asked him to canter that he got his shorts in a bit of a wad and wanted to buck. It was no big deal and after just a couple of jumps he was done. If a horse is going to buck with me I would like for it to happen when he is going up hill. Takes all the thunder out of the buck and is pretty easy to ride. Anyway after that little deal we continued on our ride for about an hour and a half. He really seemed to relax and pay attention to me, all the while seeing, smelling and watching new things. When we got back to the arena I started to work on a break, or stop.
When a horse is a little tired is the best time, I’ve found, to start to work on a stop. The horse is already tired and is looking for some rest. So, when I ask for the stop he is way ready. How do I ask or work on a stop? Another good question.
I use the flexing to a stop exercise, that we have been using all along to teach this. I ask for the walk or trot, I sit deep in the saddle, put my feet forward in the strips and wait for a few seconded to see what he will do. Most of the time they don’t know what to do so they keep walking forward. I count to three and then flex his head to a stop. Pretty soon he starts to understand that when my seat changes and then my legs come forward, I’m going to ask him to flex to a stop. It’s not long before he understands what’s about to happen and the min I take that deep seat and put my legs forward he will stop, without me having to flex him.
I got a couple pictures from atop Tucson yesterday. He continues to make really good progress in the saddle. We are doing more riding and less and less ground work. He still needs the work on the ground, but like anything else, once a horse has it figured out, it’s better to review and work on other skills then to keep pounding on something that he already is doing well.
We are working on flexing to a stop, circles at a walk and a trot, following the rail and side passing, really leg yielding, down the rail.
Flexing to a stop is something that I don’t see many people work on and I don’t hear many trainers out there talking much about it either. I think, and of course it’s just me, that flexing to a stop teaches a horse so many things that it is invaluable. What skills does it teach a horse, you ask? Good question, again.
Flexing to a stop teaches a horse to stand still when being mounted. How does that work you ask? When I get on a horses back, that I own or am training, I want the horse to not move till I ask him to. So, when I get mounted I start to flex my horse from side to side. If my horse starts to move off without being asked, I will flex him to a stop. I will hold that flex till the horse stops and softens to my hand. The instant that the horse give to that pressure and looks back at me, I will let go of the reins and tell him what a good boy he is. Then we will flex from side to side, getting him to relax and stand still. Teaching a horse to stand still when being mounted is so important. Most accidents that happen, happen when people are mounting or dismounting their horse.
Let’s talk more about flexing tomorrow.
For those of you that read this blog you know how much I hate to deal with hay for the horses. You would think that it would be no big deal. I mean, if your going to have horses, at least where we live, your going to have to go after hay, right? And you’d be right, but it seems like every time I go after hay something goes wrong. But not this time. The fella I get my hay from, Clint, had it stack on the trailer. He let me use his trailer so I didn’t have to anything other then hook on to it with the truck and bring it home. No flats. The truck didn’t blow up, uneventful. Glad that it's all done. Now I just have to get it in the barn. I’ve had some trouble there at times. Tore the track off the barn for the overhead door once. Almost knocked down a block wall when I hit it with a one-ton bale of hay. So, I’m not finished by any means and, well stuff could still happen.
When I got back in the afternoon I saddled Tucson and rode him in the round pen at a walk and a trot doing circles. He did pretty darn good for a colt. I only did a little ground work to get him thinking and relaxing, not more the a couple minutes, then off we went.
Today I will saddle him and ride him in the arena, teaching him to follow his nose by using the rail. This is a great exercise and anyone can do it, and it produces great result in any horse but especially a young horse.
It’s time to start to concentrate on riding Tucson. His name is really Flint, but I could not remember it when I started to write the blog. I talk to his owner last night on the phone and she filled me in.
We will still work on ground skills, putting more energy in them and pushing him a little harder as we go, but will try to finish up his day with riding. A few days in the arena and then we will see what the world is like out side. Tucson is making great progress. His owner, Jan, has done a great job in preparing him for this start. Because Jan has done such a good job we are able to move forward in his training to riding, perhaps a week or so faster then I normally would. Because Jan really understands what Tucson needs, chances are he will not be here very long. She will be riding a lot when she gets him home and that is what he will really need after he has the basics down.
Zeb is making progress, but slow. Horses do have their own personalities’ and figuring out how to get inside their heads can at time, be a challenge. The great thing about Zeb is, we own him, so there is no hurry. No need to rush his training. We can spend time working on the things he needs help with and not have to put too much pressure on him..
Yesterday was a pretty big day for both Tucson and Zeb.
As you can see in the picture, Zeb is wearing a blue tarp. You could not have done that yesterday with him. He was scared to death of that stick with the white plastic bags you see at his feet, and you just could not have gotten close to him with that blue tarp. This illustrates the power of laying a horse down. We will continue to work on helping him with his courage and learning to trust with the same exercise today and all of next week.
Tucson in his big boy clothes!
Tucson had his first ride yesterday. I started out with his usual ground work and then we tried some long line. Long line is a method of teaching a horse to turn right and left without the human having to be on his back. It’s a lot like what you would do if the horse had a harness on and you were driving a wagon, without the wagon. I had not planned on riding him till the middle of next week but, he was responding well and he was ready.
We rode for about 30 min in the round pen working on turning right and left, moving forward. Moving forward was an issue that he was having at home, but the method I use and teach, teaches the horse to always think about moving forward, so he did not have any issues with that. We will do more of all the things we just talked about, doing less and less ground work and more and more riding.
I don’t have a picture of me riding Tucson, cause I work alone most of the time and just did not have anyone to take the picture. Hopefully there will be someone at the barn that will be able to help me out with that.
I think I’ll have some coffee and enjoy the pictures…
Tucson at the rail.
Was a good day for Tucson. He did much better with his lunging and over all ground work. Will saddle bridle and long line him today, with more ground work. I think that he is starting to understand that he is not on vacation here.
He stood tied to the rail for about 3 hours yesterday. He started out pawing the ground. He is impatient. But, it was not long and he realized it was getting him no where. He then put his head down, like in the picture, and went to sleep.
Was a very big day for Zeb the Black. Zeb is a very dominate horse. He seems sweet, and I think he is, but he does not want to give up his place as leader and submit. So, yesterday I laid him down on the ground. As some of you may know, this can be a very traumatic thing for a horse.
Horses laydown for 2 reasons: 1 is to rest the other, 2 is to die. If he lays down, on his own, he thinks he is going to rest. If he gets laid down, guess what he is thinking? So when this happens to any horse, they are expecting the worse. Well, it was very traumatic for Zeb. He fought it with all his might, which he has plenty of. After he was on the ground I started to expose him to all the things that he had shown me he was afraid of. The plastic bag on the end of the stick. Loud noises like the sound of a stock whip cracking over his head. The big blue tarp that I cover him in. When we were done, I let him up. Horses who have had this happen to them, get up looking at you differently.
When Zeb was up, I asked him to walk over the blue tarp, something he would have never done before, and he did great. Today I will keep building on the experience from yesterday, helping him to over come his fears and submitting to a new leader.
Tucson did pretty good yesterday, his first day loading in the trailer for me. His owner said that he would hesitate at the back of the trailer before he would go in but he always went in. You have heard me relate how folks have had their horses doing the same thing, and then when it came time for them to go some where, where they were in a hurry the horse would refuse to get in the trailer. Remember, just because your horse will get in the trailer, on his own, does not mean that your horse is trailer broke.
I have seen lots of people wrestle with trailer loading and I’m convinced that the problem is they have never really taken the time to teach their horse to get in the trailer on request. Some horses never have much trouble getting in a trailer but most do.
The simplest way to explain how I teach this skill to a horse is, make the inside of the trailer more inviting then the outside of the trailer. I don’t do this by making the inside a kitchen where the horse can eat, either with hay or grain. I make the inside of the trailer more appealing by making the outside of the trailer less appealing. How? Good question. I make the horse work out side the trailer by lunging him in circles. This is a skill that all horses should know, but most don’t. So you can teach the horse how to lunge while working on trailer loading, doing them both at the same time. That’s what I did with Tucson. He does not know how to lunge very good at all. He pulls, refuses to go in a circle so it took me some time to teach him just the basics of the lunging skill. After getting him to half way understand the skill of lunging it was easy to teach him to get in the trailer.
It’s a skill that you should work on with your horse, everyday for a week. That way it will be firmly fixed in the horse’s mind and he will never forget it… Give it a try.
Let's call him Tucson!
Had a good start with the new horse from AZ. I forget his name right now. I will find it so you know who I’m talking about. I feel kind a bad about not knowing it but my guess is he don’t know mine either yet.
Anyway, had a good round pen session with him yesterday afternoon. His owner, Jan, said that she had been working with him, getting him ready for starting under saddle and I was pleasantly surprised at how well he did in the round pen. He moved off slow and quiet and did not get his shorts in a twist when asked to change gaits. So all in all, a very nice start. We will continue to work on the ground the next few days and see what he knows there. Will saddle a bridle him today. I know that he has taken the saddle without much trouble but know he has only packed a snaffle bit once in his life, so we will get him use to that as well.
Spent the morning in Sliver City NM working with a student of mine, Andrea and her mustang Bitsy. Andrea, you may remember was having trouble with her horse not wanting to get in the trailer. Well, we spent the first part of the morning working on getting her to understand, her being Andrea, what it’s going to take to get her horse to WANT to get in the trailer EVERY time. Then we went from there to the round pen to work on Andrea becoming a better leader. Andrea did great and her horses responded just like she should have. After the round pen work we went back to the trailer loading and Andrea was very impressed at how fast her horse WANTED to get in that trailer. Was a good day.
Round pen work. That is something that deserves some time discussing. Tomorrow.
Start of another week. First thing this morning Kathy and I are heading over to Silver City to help one of our clients with a trailer-loading problem that she has been having with her horse. Then we will be back at the barn to get started with a new horse that came to us Saturday.
Zeb will be having a big week learning to submit to the leader of the herd, me.
Zeb has been doing well but there is still a part of him that does not want to give up his place as leader and in order to make any real progress we need to get him past that. Will be a challenge for him and perhaps a little scary but, it has to happen. I will try to get pictures of that process.
Will try and keep you updated with info on what the heck I'm doing with horses and music.