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Last Saturday night I went to our local arena located in a town close to where I live as I have done for the last 30 years. Families gather here to run barrels, poles, steer roping and other events. When I first started attending these competitions there would be perhaps fifty to a hundred horses competing and the other night there was no more than ten.
Times have changed and the kids have more to do with the computer age, video games, and school activities which I know that accounts for the decline in attendance. But I noticed something that has not changed and that is the adults coaching and yelling at their kids for what they are doing wrong. In my opinion, this does more harm than good. The kids are under enough pressure from the bright lights, being at different arenas and spectators watching them. I feel that criticizing them in front of all these people is discouraging them from wanting to compete. I know how it would make me feel to have someone yelling at me. I have competed for over 45 years and have been in arenas and know the pressure that comes with competing. The competition arena is not the place to train your horse, all of that must be done at home. And if yelling is to be done it should be words of encouragement. Come on folks, you know how you would feel if they were yelling at you.
Sometimes I feel that these adults do this to draw attention to how much they know about what they’re coaching. Of course the problem with this is, when the adult’s ride the folks in the stands know just exactly how much they do know. I have learned a lot by watching these kids ride and it has helped me understand more about the horse and how to communicate with him. There is not a time that goes by that I don’t learn something and the other night was no exception. I watch one young lady run the pole’s, she came flying to the first pole and turned her horse too soon. The horse in order to compensate for this had to throw his rear end out too far. The young lady was not instructing the horse fast enough, in other words her cues were too slow for the speed of the horse. She knocked down the second pole knowing that she was out of control and slowed the horse down to a trot and finished the pattern at a trot. She was jerking on the horse’s mouth as though to take her frustration out on the horse, which by the way the horse had done nothing wrong. This happens so much, and that is one of the reasons that the horse gets so confused. In one hand he is trying so hard to please and he was only going the speed that he was asked to. It was not his fault that the rider was taking them at a speed that was too fast for her to cue him.
Now let’s go back to that first pole. Had she slightly past the pole and let him turn on his hind legs, then as he went around the pole his front legs would have been in a position so that his back legs could have changed to the opposite lead in order for him to take the second pole in the correct position. From that point on he could change leads at every pole and run the pattern correctly. If the young lady were to ask me I would instructor her to start the pattern slowly, and then increase your speed as you adjust to the higher rate of speed. Of course practice at home then go to the competition and if you feel that you’re losing control just slow down.
I also noticed a man that was riding a beautiful paint practicing his turns. Every time he would pull on the horses reins the horse would throw his head in pain and as his head went up he would bump into the tiedown, that by the way was adjusted to high. First of all I do not like tiedowns because they hamper the horse’s performance. There was something else that was bothering the horse besides the jerks on the reins. I would’ve liked to have seen what type of bit he was using and find one that he would be more comfortable with. In this case I think a D-Ring would work nicely and of course a set of double reins. This would have taken the pressure off of the direct pull from the man’s hands to the horse’s mouth. In turns never pull his head around that his back legs would have to swing around in order to catch his balance. Instead trot him along a fence line and turn them back into the fence, that way the horse would have to take a step back and would put his back legs underneath him and create a pivot on his back legs. This would make him swing around in balance. Keep doing this until you see him working smoothly then do it at a lope. If it is a collected lope the smoother the ride. If this gentleman would practice this he would have such a smoother riding horse.
I often wonder why these questions are not asked my guess is that one, he doesn’t know that he is doing it wrong, or doesn’t know how to ask and two, he is satisfied with the way he is doing it or perhaps this is the only way he knows. In any event, this small correction would take less than an hour to show him and he would have both a beautiful horse and a very good rein. I hope you folks understand that I give this constructive criticism in order to help the rider and make it more comfortable for the horse in the process. I think we would all take our car to a mechanic in order to have it adjusted. So why not take or ask a trainer to help you adjust your horse. What bothers me in this situation is not that the rider doesn’t know; it bothers me to see the horse throw his head in pain. The horse will get to a point that the only thing on his mind is just exactly when are you going to pull the reins and he will stop paying attention to anything else. I ask you, wouldn’t you if you were the horse?
In the month of October and November 2007, I will be performing and giving a clinic at some of the Tractor Supply stores in South Texas. These clinics and shows will be free of charge brought to you by your local Tractor Supply. I encourage some of you that may have some of the problems that I just mentioned to bring your horse because I will be there all day if necessary to try to help you. It will cost you nothing but your time. The Down Under Saddle Supply is also helping sponsor these clinics. Be sure to check each month’s issue of the Texas Horse News for details and which area we are going to be in and the dates. Remember that I will be at the Bluebonnet Horse Expo on October 20 near Austin, Texas. I do my show at these clinics to show you how far you can take my technique. From trail riding to dancing horses you can do it all with the same technique and you will find that you will get out as much as you put in using this method.
So until next month folks, see ya.