Got one response from my last scoop loop on try and one discussion with my friend Bill Dale. It’s interesting what creates discussion. What I feel is very important is not necessarily important to others. That’s the great thing about working with animals, it’s a very personal thing.
Marie’s question was how to put life back in a horse properly. I feel it’s very important how you go about it, and it is really how you keep life in any horse, you just have to really focus on it with one that the life has been taken out of.
You can create life with lots of pressure, but that can create fear or bad habits or make it even harder to get life because they become dull to more pressure.
I really think it comes down to how we ride, and the amount of life and try we have in ourselves. It seems like when you are riding with a crew, the boss is always out in front. He has purpose and focus on where he (or she) is headed and that life comes up through the horse being ridden.
I have noticed when I am riding a horse he has lots of life and I am at the front of the bunch riding out if I’m in charge. Someone else can switch horses with me another day and I’m in the lead again. That suggests to me it’s our riding that creates life.
The first thing is how we set a horse. I ride pretty long stirrups to get more life out of my horse. With my feet under me I feel like I actually draw the horse forward with my seat. When you have short stirrups you sit heavy on a horses hind quarters and he has to pick you and his back up. By getting close to the withers with your saddle fit and rigging position and rolling up on your thighs you are much more athletic and so is your horse.
When you put the first ride on a sensitive colt all you have to do is roll your seat bones forward and many times it will cause them to go upward in a transition and to slow em down just get heavy by rolling your seat bones back. This is how you create life without using your legs to much. Save them for more important things. The life in your body should create the life in there body.
The other thing I think is important is understanding the mind and how it works. It’s easy to create forward movement by alternating sides of the body which alternates sides of brain. When you apply pressure on both sides at once it draws the mind to the pressure to figure out which respond too. With one side then the other the mind goes forward away from the pressure with a better attitude and a quicker decision. The release is more pure as it is the only pressure the mind is dealing with. I really feel this is important to try and understand.
To help understand let’s set this up in our mind. You are riding a horse in a fifty foot round pen. You are trying to go from a trot to a lope. If you are traveling to the right the horses body is shaped to go with the bend of the round pen and his mind is on that which is everything shaping up to go right. If you ask on the left side you are taking the mind off the forward to the right and putting the mind on the left which makes a smooth transition very difficult and requiring more pressure and more decision for the horse, so we create confusion, fear and getting used to and accepting more pressure.
If we simply move our hand on the right hip of the horse or ask with a little tap of something on the right side of the horse when his body is shaped up to make the transition, it usually happens very smoothly. If you ask on the left it often creates a different reaction and the transaction is not as pure and smooth.
Try it out. Understand how to figure out what side of the horse to ask when you are not in the round pen. If you are out in a pasture or pen try asking on the side your horse is thinking on.
The next thing I have learned to be careful with. I have made a lot of people upset and angry with my thoughts on “overbending “ a horse. Like I said In the last scoop loop, lots of people can’t ride a lot of try and life in their horse so they need to take it out, and I feel bending the horse to much or at the wrong time will take the life out quicker than anything. If that’s what you need to survive and get your goals with your horsemanship than you should do it. The thing we are talking about here is putting or keeping life in the horse, and if you bend them at the wrong time or to much you will not get that done.
I have started to find a lot of value in bending my horses with there feet still. You don’t unbalance the horse on his feet or take the life out, but still get the benefit of the softening and responsiveness bending gives you.
So I get a real dull horse that is healthy and sound. When I get on I am not focused on anything else except life in the feet. I move forward in my seat, roll off the “W’s” on my wranglers and sort of bicycle my legs slightly. If the horse goes I’ll try to ride in time and draw those hind feet forward under me. You can lengthen the stride by six inches just by the way you ride. If he doesn’t respond, depending where his mind is(which side he is focusing on) I will take my machate lead on the left or the tail my rope on the right and spank him down the leg with the pressure or just a little more than I think he needs to create life, and when I get it I make sure I am ahead of it so we match up an I get with him to encourage more.
If you are behind the action you will have defeated the purpose and make it even more difficult the next time.
I hope this helps get you to thinking about life. It’s what we admire in a horse, but also fear. You have got to be honest with yourself to know how much life you can handle.
The thing that is so important in all animal handling is controlling and creating the proper amount of life in the animal. My goal is having a horse that responds with the right life when I ask for it, but being able to calm that life down and relax when I want. It is really important for the work I want to do with my horse not to be late with the go, and not to be late with the whoa!
If I’m roping a step forward or a step back can set up a shot that means catching or not, and a half second can make a big difference. If I’m pulling and animal in a feedlot and my horse is late with moving a foot forward or back, it can create a bunch of wight loss in the pen chasing cattle around.
It’s important stuff to understand, and I think that the ranch based horsemanship pioneers (Ray Hunt and the Dorrance’s) were trying to get this across to us.
The farther we get away from real livestock jobs with our horses the less we have focused on it.
This is why I keep studying this type of horsemanship as it fits what I want to do. I can learn lots from watching the competition horse world, and am entertained by the clinicians on RFD tv, but unless I change it to fit me and my job, it might be creating more problems than solutions.
Wife Tammy and I were riding and doing a few jobs the other day. I was riding a young horse that Daughter Mesa gave me. I give Tammy a bad time for always taking pictures and not riding, but I’m sure glad she did as she got some pictures that really help explain what I’m trying to say
This photo shows lots of forward. I’m sitting so I’m not hindering my horses hind legs coming forward and he and I as well as my dog Taco are all focused on forward movement.
Moving a herd of horses is a great way to really get a horse moving forward. I love jingling horses on a young horse. If you want to feel what strait and lively feels like try it!
Here my horses attention (and Taco and Possum) is on something else. I like to draw the attention back to me with my reins, set the body up to ask what ever front foot I want to leave and then ask with my body.
My colt (I call him “Cord” as he came from Cord McCoy) is focused on the draft horse coming up behind him on the left. You can see I am looking at the horses to the right and want to go to them. I need to change my horses mind to where I want to go before I ask.(remember the round pen)
Here we are moving on and everyone is strait with body’s and mind and it’s “on to
the next one”. Pow pow
Here I got lucky. I was petting and praising Silver for not going after a bunch of deer, and Possum came up and licked my horse on the nose. That could have created more life than I was ready to ride in that position.
This is exactly how I want my horse when I quit riding. I sent my dogs to get the cattle and Cord just stood there relaxed, but square on all four feet In case we need to move. The cattle learn that they can relax with me and my relaxed horse and the dogs should take the pressure off the cattle. Should is the key word with dogs that really want to work and have lots of try.
Even on the ground you should be thinking about the life in your horse. Prepare his feet and ask the one you want to move first to go through the open gate.
Here’s a picture of the picture taker. We had a good day. We had gone for doctors appointment and blood work in the morning and her numbers were all back to normal. The doctor declared her in remission! You can’t take the try out of her.
Not a bad place to enjoy an afternoon after a great morning. Good horses, dogs, companions and maybe the prettiest place on earth. A great day to celebrate try!