Training Articles

Articles by Al Ragusin

Horse Exhibitor, Horse Trainer, Horseman… Is there a difference?


TRAINING RESOURCES
This question has been asked by several of my readers and I have received e-mails as well as telephone calls regarding this. The Horse Exhibitor, Horse Trainer, and The Horseman have a place or a function in informing the horse enthusiasts in there education or curiosity of understanding and communicating with there horses. Let me take them one by one and in my humble opinion this is how they fall in each category.

The Horse Exhibitor
This is a person that rides horses and explains to you how the horse that he or she is riding was trained, such as in a clinic or by competing in a horse discipline. Rarely are you going to know if they themselves trained or took part in the training of that horse. In most cases only a trained eye can observe and tell you the truth. If it’s a horse clinic most all clinicians want you to believe that they train that horse without admitting that they did not. Some will tell you that they have learned all that they know from other trainers. But as going as far as saying that someone else trained that horse that they are showing you, they won’t say because in this way they lead you to believe that they are the actually trainers and they can sell you on their videos and equipment. Allow me to give you an example. One popular trainer was riding a horse on RFD TV, that horse was fully collected (collection is when the horses head is in a vertical position) when he first started the video yet this rider was riding him with split reins and he held each rein in each hand. There was a lot of slack in both reins. Towards the end of the video the horse knowing that he was not being held in collection started to pick up his nose. The video had a lot of cuts (this is when you edit out the mistakes and show only the good parts) this convinced me that he could not do it all in one take. In this video he was showing you how to properly rein a horse. But when you see him live at a clinic he is showing you how to start a colt. He never has a clinic live that shows you how to train a reining horse as he did in the video because he does not have the real trainer off camera to correct his mistakes. So live he has to go back to the only thing is does know and that is starting colts. It’s up to you, the viewer, to determine if he is good at it or not. This I call is impersonating a horse trainer. But if a horse trainer did train a horse for someone that is showing it, it’s not necessary to know who actually trained the horse or had part in the horse training they are simply showing their horse in competition.

The Horse Trainer
This is a person that through his or her past experience working with other horses over weeks, months, or years has the knowledge to communicate with this horse in order to get the results that they want. Using the example above lets say a reining horse when trained is a horse that will walk, trot, and lope on cue. If he is a seasoned trainer he will also have their leads, stop, spins, and etc. Horse trainers come in many forms most of the time but not always they usually stay in one discipline such as reining. Rarely do they do more than one or two disciplines. Regardless if they are a reining trainer, barrel, team penning, calf roper and etc. they will try to hone their skills in that discipline that they like and enjoy or make money doing it. Like I mentioned before horse trainers come in many forms. A horse trainer that can make a horse walk or trot only is considered a horse trainer because the horse did not know how to do this on cue. So the trainer did show these two steps to his horse. From this type of trainer to a world champion there are hundreds or maybe even thousands in between that can be called horse trainers.

The Horseman
This is a person that dedicates their lives to learning all about the horse, his instincts, the breeds, conformations and the limitations or the advantages of the different types. He studies all aspects of the horse and his behavior under different circumstances. The horseman generally tries to train horses in as many disciplines that our short lives allows us to. He competes against others in all of these disciplines in order to perfect each discipline while keeping an open mind and absorbing all that is shown to him or her. In this category very few fit in, it is a thankless job, no incentives such as money or fame and in my fifty years career I have only known one. I have tried to pattern myself after him because all I ever wanted in life was to be a complete Horseman. It is disappointing to me to find out that I will never be a complete Horseman. One cannot learn all there is to learn in one lifetime. I can only try to get as much knowledge as I can and pass it on to others in any form that I can. I have convinced myself that I am an apprentice Horseman. I may become close to being a Horseman in my lifetime if God continues to give me life and the energy and the good health to go on. What good would it be to dedicate your life to becoming a Horseman and not being able to share it with others, otherwise my work would die with me. But I know now that I don’t think it is possible, but it has given me enough knowledge to try to help others. This is one of the reasons why I try to show others that it is not as difficult as some may say. The horse is a very simple animal and he lives in a world that is unlike ours and he reacts to his herd instincts. If you study him long enough you will understand this.

See you next month.
Al

When is being humanly kind cruel to your horse?


TRAINING RESOURCES
I have written repeatedly and consistently about understanding your horse and how to communicate with him or her through the only language they understand “herd instincts”. It is not important to them whether or not you understand it but it is their world and it is the only one they know. So if you want to communicate with them you will have to do it in their language.
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How is Finding a Horse Similar to Looking for a Breakfast Cereal?


TRAINING RESOURCES

Well in my day I would go to the grocery store to look for a breakfast cereal. We had a choice of Brand, Oats, Corn Flakes, and Wheat.

The same thing would happen when I needed a horse trainer. There was old Joe if you needed a horse broken to ride. That is all he did, and he did it well. He did it the old way of getting on him until he quit bucking and accepted the rider and he broke hundreds of horses this way.
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Are You Right for Your Horse?

TRAINING RESOURCES

Or should I say, is your horse right for you?

Before I explain what I am going to say I have to clarify something to you. Since May of this year when I went on national television I really was apprehensive about doing so. I spoke to my sponsor and asked him, are you sure you want me to do this? He asked me why are you asking. I replied because in order to help people and their horses I am going to have to tell the truth.
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When is a Horse Right for You?

TRAINING RESOURCES

I have been asked that question so many times. I’ve also been asked when are you going to have a seminar? It is hard for me to generalize but I’ll answer this way. When is a horse right for you? When I see the both of you together and I want you to ride him as you would normally. I will be able to tell a lot by simply watching you ride. That is the only way I may be able to help you.
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Your Riding Posture: Why is it so Important?

TRAINING RESOURCES

A lot of folks that have purchased my 2006 training videos have asked why posture in the saddle is so important. It is awkward to remember where your feet need to be, your elbows at your side, saddle stirrups adjusted a little longer than what I was use to and at the same time having both hands on the reins. It is hard to concentrate on all of these things while thinking about the horse and his movements at the same time.
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Extending Cues and Misunderstandings

TRAINING RESOURCES

I get a lot of comments from folks that go to my dancing horse show that are horseman’s themselves and most comments are that I have the horses dancing without any movement from me. They want to know how I accomplish this. I get asked that question almost on a daily basis.

Before I answer I would like to say that anyone could do what I do if they want to put in the time that it takes. Sometimes it takes me years to train a horse to do these precision movements. I have developed a technique on how to extend my cues. It may give the appearance that the horse is actually dancing on his own, but as most horsemen know the horse will not do it on his own.
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Precision Riding

TRAINING RESOURCES

You know folks I get letters and phone calls asking for different types of riding instruction. From proper posture of your horse as he approaches the barrel to how much, if any should his body turn or arch as he goes around the barrel. As he leaves the barrel what and how to change leads before he approaches the next barrel. I will cover this topic in up coming articles. You must know the limitations of your horses ability, where his power is, and how best to use it. Add his discipline and how it is approached kind of like it was in your school class room. You first had to learn to read then you were taught to put words in sentences and so on. But by far the most common asked question how do I train my horse to make precision movements. I may not necessarily want him to dance but I may want to teach him the Spanish march for example.
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The Spanish March

TRAINING RESOURCES

The Spanish March is the first part of a three part series featuring high school movements. The method that I use derives from the teachings of Haute de Colte as taught in Austria and other countries for the Lippason Stallions and other breeds. I have added my experiences as well as my methods that I have learned in my 48 years of training horses. I have trained horses in nine different disciplines. I have used other trainer’s advice as well as their training methods. I took my professors advice when he told me, “Go through life seeking your goal taking advice and instructions from others using only what you need and this will develop your own style. Dedicate your life to one thing and strive for perfection. Do it to the best of your ability and never stop learning and above all share your experience with others.” Those words still to this day rings clearly in my mind. So this method that I have developed I call my technique.
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Training Your Horse to do the Passage

TRAINING RESOURCES

I get this movement in different ways, let me explain. The fastest way to get a Passage is from the Spanish March which I covered in last month’s article. Keep doing the movement and do it faster and faster until he no longer walks, he will have to go to a trot, which will be an extended trot with high elevation in his front legs and to a degree with his back legs. After all the Passage is an extended trot in a collected position. Another way that I get this movement is first collect my horse which you can do with my techniques and double reins, then I extend his trot from a collected trot and then accelerate the speed remembering always to stay collected and don’t ever post (for those of you that don’t know what posting is), it is when you stand in the stirrups in an interval during a trot for most people it keeps them from bouncing in the saddle during an extended trot. Some like to think that it keeps them in rhythm with their horse; it is a method that I never use. I don’t recommend it because you lose contact with your horse when you are posting and you don’t want to do that.
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