Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hunkering Down

     There are many advantages to riding your green, problem or western horses with the concept of "hunkering down" in mind.  For many talented riders, this comes naturally and easily.  But, for others, it is definitely not natural - but it can be learned!
     Many riders, even advanced riders, can tense up thus lightening their seats and going slightly forward in the saddle.  This sends the message to the horse that you are no longer in control and that you are unsure of yourself (or, let's be honest: that you're nervous).
     Hunkering down has many advantages.  It's a safe position to be in if a horse does blow up because you're behind it's motion.  It also places your weight over a horse's loin, a weaker part of their back, which can make it hard for them to balance but much more willing to move forward - away from the displaced weight.  Many horses that have been ridden this way will quit being naughty and bad the moment you hunker down and lean back on them.  They accept whatever you are asking of them more readily. 
     Just plain hunkering down on a horse can really help to drive them forward because now you're pushing with your seat as well as driving with your legs.  I hope this concept helps in your next ride!  See you next week, JD  (And congratulations to all my riders who "hunkered down" to achieve some great Trail scores this weekend at the Rally in The Valley show in Eugene, OR!) 

Sunday, March 24, 2013


     I never ride a green horse then just turn him out.  Conversely, I never bring a green or problem horse straight in from turn-out then immediately work him.  I believe many horses, especially the more-difficult horses and young horses should stand tied before you work them and after you work them.  This can be in cross-ties or in their stall and, the better their work the less time they're tied, the more difficult they are or were, the longer they stand tied.  I've found there are horses that actually do much better with a steady routine of work and a steady handling before and after their work.
     I also don't believe that just turning-out a problem horse is the solution to anything.  Many horses seem to go wild very quickly - losing respect and any desire to work - making solving the problem sometimes more difficult.  That said though, I must stress that I turn-out all my horses, regardless of age or training level, on a regular basis.  I also am a strong believer in turning out horses before a long trailer ride and after a show. 
    Every horse needs to feel the sun and fresh air and get the break that turn-out can bring.  I just believe that structuring turn-out around a horse's work schedule, age, issues, etc. can bring many added dividends to you both.  See you next week, JD!  (Blessed are the brood mares - best wishes to all of you with new foals on the way this Spring!)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Riding the Whole Horse

     I see people - trainers and amateurs alike - who are good at teaching a horse to move individual parts.  That is, they move a hip or they move a shoulder or the rib cage and, of course, this is a necessary part of good training. 
     But, here's what I don't always see: putting these disparate pieces together.  In other words - riding the whole horse, the horse as an entire unit. 
     The other problem I frequently see is that, in moving one part the rider then loses another part.  This is especially true of pushing up into the bridle.  I see riders let energy just escape so the horse learns to evade and not move up properly into the bridle when asked to. 
     When the horse evades, he can't do any maneuver properly - not even a side pass or a cross-over in front and so on.  Your horse can't be truly collected unless you're riding the whole horse.  See you next week! JD

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Over the Years

     Over the years I have developed some strong ideas about how I like to train.  Of couse, this has been influenced by the horses I have trained and the events I have trained them to compete in.
     I really dislike interfering with a horse's natural way of doing things.  By that, I mean I let the horse perform a manuever in the way his confirmation and movement dictates.  Now, this necessitates that you realistically evaluate your horse.  It also helps you to be fair to both you and your horse.  Unrealistic expectations don't help anyone or any horse.
     I always let the horse find his balance and make sure that he is responsive to the bridle.  This is important because we want to make training as easy for the horse as possible.  Remember, there is a difference between training and getting in the way.  Horses that are brought along this way often go on to be higher achievers.  They are the horses that are capable and willing to go on to higher and higher levels. 
     After a horse really understands what I'm asking, and has confidence in himself, I start putting the "finishing touches" on.  So, in short - I don't start with things such as draw reins or advanced manuevers before the horse has conquered the basic equipment and moves.
     I also work through the beginning and intermediate stuff first.  By training "in order" you have many more possibilities to work with and you will not have limited your horse's development.  Many horses that are hurried and trained for a "flashy" beginning never develop into their true and full potential and I think that's a real shame!  See you next week, JD.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


     Here's the question - can you take an average horse and win against very good horses, horses that are better bred perhaps and certainly have more natural talent?  Now this is an interesting qutesion and one on which I have a definite opinion.
     The short answer is yes.  There are many ifs, ands, and buts that go with that positive answer though.  The most important part is finding a job the horse really likes and I mean really likes.  Remember that some horses will never have a discipline that they really and truly like to perform.  To beat more talented horses, this horse also has to have a great work ethic as well.
     You must work with the horse in a manner that encourages him and allows him to be "proud" of himself rather than frustrated.  A real sense of accomplishment rather than (just) labor and lather.  This is very important.
     The training must be slow and methodical.  Always looking for and finding the weak areas then looking for ways to help the horse succeed.  These horses really need focus.  You just keep showing them and helping them along the way and the results can be stunning.
     Some of the best human athletes are not the most talented ones but instead, the ones that wanted it the most.  Horses can truly want to perform too.  We just have to allow and help them to develop properly.  This takes time and thought and focus on your part too but it is the mark of a good horseman, one who can achieve a goal with his horse.
     Some of my favorite horses have been these types, they're worth the effort and the results can be wonderful!  See you next week, JD.