Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Spring

     As I start this blog, I want to say that many of the topics I discuss here often come from conversations with my students and so is the case with this short topic.
     One rarely hears the concept of the horse's body as a spring.  This is a shame because it can be a very helpful training concept.  Think of compressing a spring with both your hands, holding with just enough pressure so that it is contained.  The amount of pressure determines how tight the spring is.  Then release the spring gradually - I teach my students to release this spring slowly and softly, allowing the horse to relax but not to "spring" out of its frame.  A horse with good confirmation will learn to stay collected.  Remember the spring actually over-collects the horse and the release is what allows the horse to go into the desired frame.
     This concenpt of collecting a horse is very useful for riders who struggle with collection.  It can also improve the quality of a horse's gaits.  It can be helpful with spins and flying lead changes and sliding stops.
     I should mention that this would should be done in a snaffle.  A good combination is snaffle, cavesson and martingale.  Draw reins can be used if needed but my advice is to use as little draw rein as is absolutely necessary. 
     As the horse progresses you can put him in a light weight, flexible training curb bit such as a correction bit.  Ideally, a bit with medium shanks that are not straightened and are not solid and have a soft mouthpiece.  I am not fond of mullen mouth pieces because of the pressure on the tongue.  Many people mistakenly think these are soft bits but the softest part of a horse's mouth is his tongue.  So, while mullen mouth bits are easy for a horse to accept initially, they can be very harsh when doing the type of work I have just discussed. 
     See you next week!  JD  (P.S. and to all of you who asked for more:  See! I am talking about bits again and will have more later so keep on reading!)

Sunday, October 21, 2012


     I like team sports.  What interests me most about them is figuring out what allows a group of different people to join their talents and make it all come together to achieve a goal.  So, I try to apply what I've learned to my business - the business of building teams with horses and people.
      I really enjoy helping people learn and understand their horses and learn the skills needed to ride them well.  I like putting horse and rider together and making them a team.  I like to make the whole process make sense.
     My clients have made me the successful trainer I am.  Without them I could not have done it - no trainer does it alone, it's always a team effort.  I believe in confidence but not in overblown egos.  So, when all is said and done, it is about my students and their horses, not about me.
     One of my great joys in life is watching students ride horses I have trained and knowing they have become a team.  That they are now working as one towards their goals.
     To all of you over the years:  thank you!!  See you next week.  JD

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Thoughts on Success

     I've worked with many clients over the years and it has been interesting to observe the ones who are successful in their equine endeavors versus the ones who flounder.
     I think that it is very telling that almost always, the person who is successful in one area becomes successful in whatever else interests them.  These people are not easily defeated, are very adaptable and believe in themselves and their horses.  And, if the partnership with their horse isn't working out, they move onward and learn from their past experience.  In short, they don't get stuck.  Successful people are positive people and that reflects in their horsemanship.
     I have also observed that these people take things in stride.  In other words, they realistically deal with situations, evaluating as they proceed.  They are not afraid to change something, they understand that one must evaluate and re-evaluate as you go forward.
     These people also have a capacity for hard work and are very dedicated to the tasks they have chosen.  They have goals and stay focused.  If necessary, they will make sacrifices to achieve those goals.  I hope you find this subject as interesting as I do.  I truly believe what we do in one part of our lives affects all other parts.  See you next week!  JD

Sunday, October 7, 2012

More About Bits

     A short while back I mentioned in a blog that if a horse was properly broke to the bridle (curb bit) you could easily ride the horse one-handed in a snaffle.  So, I want to talk a bit more about this.
     Many people seem to thing that a curb bit hardens a horse's mouth but that isn't necessarily so.  After a horse has been put through the stages of making him a "bridle horse", they are often much better in the snaffle.  Why is that, you ask?
     When a horse has been properly trained to the curb, his mouth becomes educated.  The horse learns to respond and softly yield.  As this process proceeds the stiffness a horse naturally has to a bit gradually dissipates.  What is really interesting is that when you work with a horse that really accepts and understands the curb bit and is carrying the proper one for him (maybe I should write about that too...), you can do anything with the curb that you would do in the snaffle.  Now this takes some time but it is really worth it.
     If your horse is well broke, you should be able to pick up a bridle rein individually and place his head and neck and shoulder wherever you need to.  The horse should respond by moving in that direction softly and dropping down in the bit (not pulling).  It's good to remember the basics, one of which is that the rein controls everything in front of the withers.  We can reinforce that rein, if needed with our leg because we've taught the horse to move away from pressure.
     Hopefully this helps some of you get a better handle on what we mean by the term "bridle horse".  Talk to you next week!  JD