Training Tips

( Frequently Asked Questions)

Q:  Why does my horse, especially a younger horse, "spook" and run from things like noises in the woods, wind blown paper, etc.?

A:  The horse is a powerful, yet gentle, animal, who in the wild has been "everyone's favorite meal." They respond with fear to sudden motions and loud noises. Therefore, when working with the horse, it is best to gain a horse's trust. -Move in a steady, relaxed manner. -Let the horse know where you are. Talk to him. -Talk in a normal, calm way. Horses seem to respond to low, soft tones. High pitched tones, or yelling (by you or someone else) startle or excite him. -Don't walk behind the horse, unless you know he won't kick. When moving around a horse, it is best to be close to him...That way, if he should kick, he will "push" you away instead of his hoof connecting with full force and extension.

Q:  Why do riders spend so much time brushing the horse and combing out their manes and tails?

A:  Even a horse in a corral or pasture can get cuts, abrasions, or more serious injuries; from play or "conflicts" with pasture mates. Brushing the horse allows you to inspect the horse to find out if he has a new injury....It also removes dirt , etc that would create an irritation under the saddle or cinch. This time is also a bonding" time between horse and rider, as it "feels good" to the horse . In some geographical areas, or during certain times of the year, there may be problems with ticks. As you groom the horse will find them, and can remove them from their coats or manes/tails.

When riding, check the saddle and bridle to make sure they are in good condition. Clean the horse before saddling up. Curry and brush the coat, checking the horse for wounds or insect bites as you go. Pick out the horses feet. Comb out the mane and tail. This will help to keep the horse comfortable, so he won't fret while being ridden. Position and adjustments of the saddle and bridle are important. Walk the horse a few steps, and maybe even stretch out his front legs (forward and up) before mounting. Check the cinch to be sure it is tight before mounting.

Q:  Why do some riders sit so straight upright in the saddle and some seem to "slouch"?

A:  Basic form while riding is not just a matter of looks. You get the best results if you sit the saddle with the head, spine, and heels in a verticle straight line. Don't lean forward, and don't cling with your legs so your feet dig into his belly. That will make him run, and your balance will be shaky. Do keep your heels down and your head up. Start out slow, avoiding tension. Spine should be supple. Do not yank on the reins. Remember, the bit is in the horse's mouth. Keep a consistent light hand tension on the reins, and don't use them to balance yourself. You should be able to practice rideing the horse with no hands if someone else is leading him. Some horses go with a very loose rein, but make sure it doesn't dangle in a dangerous way.

Many trainers have what is called a "trainers slouch"...This probably is caused by their concentration on the horse and his response to the riders "cues"...and is common in a training situation. However, if you observe closely you will see that the hips and legs are still in the proper position. If they were not, then the horse would "learn" the cues in the wrong place on his side. A few years ago I was attending a riding clinic with my stallion, Primavera Bravado (aka: Hobbit). I don't even remember why, but I decided to shorten my stirrup leathers one notch...He didn't properly respond to my leg cue. I returned the leathers to the regular position, and "bingo" all the response was back! With the shortened stirrup leathers, my "cue" was being given about 1-1 1/2 inches higher on his side and didn't mean anything to him - other than he knew to move.

Q:  What are "horse gaits"?

A:  The ordinary horse has three gaits or speeds; walk, trot, and lope or canter. The walk is a four beat gait - each foot hits the ground separately. The trot can be a slow jog-trot on up to a fast trot. It is a two-beat gait. The diagonal legs move at the same time, hitting the ground in one beat. The lope or canter is a three beat gait. One front foot reaches out as the diagonal back leg pushes off. This is called the lead, left lead or right lead, to match the front foot that reaches out. The horse does best turning to the left with the left lead, and turning to the right with the right lead. It is best to ride some in each lead to even out the exercise for the horse. The lope is the western name for the gait and is slower than the English canter, as a general rule. Speed it up, and it's a gallop.

Q:  What do you think of the "current" frame of QH's in WP or Reining (peanut-pusher's)?

A:  That kind of "presentation" is still practiced by _some_ trainers in the general Northwest; However I believe it is a self-defeating technique as it interferes with the natural way of going of the horse, as well as interfering with "proper " execution of some manuvers..For instance you seem to get horses that are "heavy on the forehand" and/ or forceing the horse to adopt this frame (way of going) could contribute in the future to lameness problems.

I also disaprove strongly with the "gimmicks" used to achieve this "frame"...

Last summer I saw a horse at a open reining show who seemed to have considerable trouble breathing, the drop-nose band was so tight!!

Q:  What is the proper (frame) or way of going for Morgan reiners or cutting horses when entering or leaving the ring, or for that matter, when working?

A:  The horse should move in a relaxed frame, head and neck forward, at or slightly above level. The horse is supposed to work listening to the riders cues and not to any outside stimuli. This holds for cutters, also, as the horse is trained to respond only to the cow's moves or cues (when "released" to cut) and actually should not have to be cued by the rider at all.

Travis Fillipek (of Painters Pine Ridge fame) once said , regarding Morgan reiners and head sets:

I am looking out my window right now and all of my Morgans are enjoying the sun (which hasn't been out much lately). They are all relaxing with their heads slightly above their withers and just enjoying themselves. They are not all asleep because occasionally when something catches their attention, up go the heads and they conform to what was alluded to as the "real" Morgan. This profile during relaxation is the one we are looking for in our reiners. They are to be totally relaxed until asked for something different. There are many Morgan horses that can go out and slide 40 feet, spin like crazy and do flying lead changes. Frankly, the hardest thing to find in the Morgan is a mind that allows you to turn that ability on but then turn it off when not in use.

Being in a relaxed frame means that the horse is listening to you and not being influenced by outside stimuli. When you are running circles and all of a sudden that neck and head comes up you know you are in trouble! It may look pretty and "Morgany" to some folks but to a reiner it means he has just lost that horse's focus and he is in big trouble!

Q:  How long does it take to train a Morgan reiner or cutter?

A:  It sometimes seems to take forever! Seriously, it probably will take at least 12 to 18 months, or more, depending on the physical age and mental maturity of the horse. Our mare, Treasure Mariah, spent 11 months in cutting training before she "won" the 4 and under Snaffle Bit Cutting title in 1993...She was scored a 72 and 74 by an NCHA judge for the two "goes". She will "get down and work a cow"! But, she probably needed another 6 months or so to be a finished cutter.

Q:  In connection with the above question, what kind of trainer should I look for, and at what age can I start my Morgan in training?

A:  In my opinion, you should look for a "quiet" and relaxed trainer that concentrates on showing the horse what is "required" , then asking the horse for a response, then praising the horse for the first, little response (such as by voice or scratching on the neck) ; rather than one who "tells" the horse to do anything and everything. The trainer should be much more interested in what the horse will be doing in 6 months, than in what he get's the horse doing in this particular 30 days, or week, or, even today! Morgan's are a very intelligent horse! Ask anyone who is owned by one! They do very well when shown and then asked ..It seems like they consider "work" then a game..In which they can have fun (they don't even think that they are working) and they will be relaxed. However, when told, or "forced" to do anything, the smart one's will rebel, because they consider the "telling" to be punishment!!

As far as age is concerned, Treasure Mariah was started under saddle in training when she was 2 1/2. She was therefore 3 1/2 when she "won" the cutting title. AND she was sound as a gold dollar all during training and showing has been the same since.

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