Whenever we actually practice a pattern, we try to identify holes in our training program and let that define what we continue to work on.
In this week’s video, we continue to work on our horse in showmanship and build on the fundamentals we’ve established so far. These Tuesday clinics are always challenging as our horse has gotten Sunday and Monday off, so we have to keep that in mind when we’re working with him to get him to understand the basics, that there will be a lot of problems that exist solely because he’s just a little fresh. We’ve always got to evaluate the horse’s level of freshness, which to me exists both in physical freshness and mental freshness.
When we start training our 2 year olds, we always longe them down for about 10 minutes, simply for our own safety as well as because we put the rubber tie on them to build flexibility and balance on the circle. After about 60/90 days, we try to just ride them without longing, or maybe just longe once in the beginning of the week and work them down the rest… my goal is to create a horse that’s mentally tired and focused, and physically fresh. A lot of the time, that involves training on a horse that’s both physically and mentally fresh, and just trying to get them to focus up. The fresher the horse is physically, the better their legs will look in the show pen, so we try to get a horse to understand that it has to come out and work and pay attention no matter what it’s freshness level is. Then, when we get to the horse show, it’s simply a matter of trying to get our tiredness level figured out.
One of the biggest problems I see is that people longe their horse and let it rip and tear on the line, and horses will just build themselves up more and more until you’re basically just flying a kite — it is huge to me that my horses do lots of transitions on the longe line to get ahold of their mind… I don’t longe for physical tiredness, instead choosing to longe to get their mind focused on the task at hand. When you let horses tear around on the line, the exact opposite happens: they’ll be physically exhausted and their mind will be going 100 miles a minute. The other piece of that is horses that get longed excessively will build themselves up more and more, to the point where they’re almost like greyhounds and they can just longe forever and never get tired… it is not a lie that I’ve seen and heard of horses having to be longed for 3 hours at a horse show, and in one extreme case, a paint horse stallion that was on the line for 7 hours overnight to get tired enough to show. At that point, when you’re having to go to such desperate measures to get your horse in the pen, it’s time to re-evaluate your training program or to chalk the horse up as not having the mind for a show prospect, let alone a breeding stallion (certainly not the genes I want to pass down).
Getting your horse’s head in the game is probably the number one most important thing that you can do as a horse trainer, and likely the most difficult as well. Each time you put a spur into your horse or take ahold of their face, your horse has a decision to make — they can feel a fly land on their back so they definitely can feel your spur in their belly… it’s about teaching them to make good choices when you’re training and riding. The entirety of my training program, for all of the rolling and rubbing and mashing their body and parts and pieces around, revolves around trying to find spots where the horse will tell me “no” and working through them. Get the willingness to give up their parts and pieces and simply not tell you no, and I can teach you the proper position to put them in to achieve any given maneuver.
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