Sunday, April 27, 2014


     Movement is such an important quality in a horse so I'd like to briefly address this subject.  In short and in fact, the horses with the better conformation generally move much better.  That said, keep in mind though that halter horses are bred for the breed ideal and are not bred for performance so rarely are they the best movers, often they do move nicely but not greatly.
     We evaluate a horse's movement depending on the standards of the breed and the type of work the horse will be doing.  Horses that are good movers within their breed and discipline standard make the job look easy and effortless.  Often, these horses find their respective jobs less demanding than their less talented stablemates.
     A good moving horse is not only a joy to watch, he is also easy to ride and nice to train.  If (for instance) you have found that the jog is difficult to sit, you most certainly have not ridden a horse that has a natural easy jog.  If you are having trouble teaching a horse to lope, it is probably due in part to the horse's lack of natural ability and comfort at the lope, and so on....
     Now yes, we can improve a horse's gate through training.  Supplying excercise also helps all horses.  Teaching horses good collection always improves a horse.  The work of a good shoer is also a "must" in my opinion.  But, you cannot make a bad mover into a good mover with shoes, nor can you make a mediocre mover into a very good mover with shoes.  The horse either has it or he doesn't.  Now, I certainly believe you can enhance a good horse through good training and shoeing - just as you want the proper running shoes on an Olympic miler.
     So, when you're evaluating your next horse, be sure to look for good movement!  Talk to you next week, JD.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


     Unique = of which there is only one; unequaled; having no like, equal or parallel. 

     I've been training horses for a very long time.  I've thrown my leg across many, many horses and,  I've found that each and every one is a unique individual.
     In general, people like to categorize things and trainers like to categorize horses.  I do it as well.  It helps clients understand their horses in a broad sense and it also helps them realize their problems are shared by other horse people.  But, every time I use categorization as an aid to teaching or in a discussion, I'm aware that there is more left unsaid than said.  Sometimes its so hard to really express or describe what I want to say so I fall into broad categories.
     But, every horse is unique, like no other horse has been and like no other horse will be.  They are individuals and when we forget this we never do the horse justice.  Sure, there are lazy horses and overachievers.  There are worriers and fuss-budgets.  There are stubborn horses, sullen horses, fearful horses, confident horses and horses with no confidence whatsoever.  But, each one has his own personality and deserves to be treated as a unique individual.
     When we remember to do this, we give the horse the respect it deserves and a greater chance to succeed at whatever task we are teaching it and, we are no longer just mass producing horsees for the show ring or cow pen or whatever.  We become better horsemen and our horses are just so much more fun and interesting to be around.  The whole process of training and developing a horse to it's full - and unique - potential is so rewarding!  Talk to you next week, JD.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


     Over coffee recently, with a long-time friend who's also a professional horseman, we got to discussing why some people seem to always be having trouble with their horses being resistant or "heavy".  It was an interesting conversation that could have gone on all day but I want to relate one small but useful gem from what we talked about, or - truth be told - what I was thinking while we talked.
     I think most people understand the concept that you can't make a heavy mouthed horse (or heavy sided horse for that matter) soft by just being soft.  The opposite is quite true.  If you meet resistance in the mouth, you must create what I call a soft wall with your hands, then bump your horse forward into that wall until the horse softens and gives to the bit.  (For more tips on how to create that soft wall, see my January 27, 2014 blog.)
     So far so good - right?  But here's where the problems start......  You must release (or "soften") just as soon as the horse gives and yields to your hands.  If you do not soften your aids - in this case, your hands - then the resistance comes.  If the rider fails repeatedly to soften or "give back" when the horse gives, you often see horses just "give up" and then they can get really heavy, really quickly.
     My good friend agreed with me that there is so much more to this subject and we could have talked all day.  Instead, we mutually agreed to leave some of the topic for a later conversation but I hope this thought helps during your next ride!  Talk to you next week, JD.