Starting a colt can be one of the most rewarding experiences for a horseman. It’s truly a magical thing taking a wild herd animal with intense instincts telling it to run or even fight, and within a few short lessons, being able to build its trust and confidence and make it a partner. One moment it’s trying to flee for its life and the next, you’re loping around in the arena and teaching it new things.
Still, we’ve all witnessed disasters when starting a horse. Almost always, these wrecks can be avoided with patience and proper horsemanship. Understanding that we are dealing with a herd animal as opposed to a domesticated dog or cat is key. More than anything, the horse wants to flee.
Another way to consider what a horse is doing when spinning is: The horse is side-passing at the trot with their front legs while rocking back on their hocks. That is to say, the horse should be crossing one front leg over the other with every step while drawing a small triangle with its inside hind foot.
“Practice Makes Perfect” Photo Credit: Mark Blakley
11) LEAD CHANGE FIXES
I approach the lead change in two way depending on my horse. Sometimes I will counter canter both ways to really combat his anticipation. Also, when loping through the center of my circle, I will ask him to get straight and will even set him up for a change but then will continue on my same circle. Secondly, I will sometimes change in the middle then continue in the same direction on the counter lead. I don’t avoid changing as I think the lead change then can become the forbidden fruit and therefore a bigger deal than it has to be. I change often and will do so most of the time in my warmups – it helps the seasoned horse think he might be showing and it help the change become common place for the young horse.
Horses learn through repetition, so the more we show them, the more they begin to anticipate maneuvers. To combat this anticipation, try to stay focused on what your horse is thinking and do the opposite. An easy example is counter cantering through the middle. A lot of show horses can become too “hair trigger” about the lead change in the middle to hold them off with the inside leg and only allow them to change when they’re not anticipating the change. Another example would be asking them to slow down in a fast circle in different spots other then the middle. Keep them thinking about you.
The biggest bang you will ever get for your buck at a horse show is the five minutes alone with your horse in the show arena. Today’s reiner is sophisticated, and, assuming you show reiners, I expect that you’ve probably spent time doing warmups. Let’s make sure you get the most out of your time in the arena.
STRATEGIES FOR YOUR PAID WARMUP
SIMULATE THE SHOW EXPERIENCE
It’s very important that your horse believes that he is showing. Take the time to ready him in more or less the same way you would if you were actually competing. Lope him down; do prep for stops and turns; trot him into his face, etc. Some older horses become so wise to the warm-up plan, I even throw chaps on and have someone groom him at the back gate and remove the nose band so I can fool my steed into thinking he’s actually showing. If possible, I try to get a person to sit in the judge’s chair. Horses learn through repetition and many problems they develop are unique to the show pen and can only be fixed in a show pen environment – it’s your job to accurately recreate that when you pay for a warm up.
Every equestrian is an athlete and we have a four-legged, thinking, emotional, reactive partner who is very much affected by our mental state. While sports psychology is very important to all athletes in every kind of sport, I think that equestrians take it to a whole new level.
We all know that horses can sense our emotional state. When a rider is nervous, their horse is going to react usually for the worse. If a rider is tense, they’re going to reflect that body language in their movement. If the rider is too intense and too wound up with a desire to win, their horse may over perform as well.
Whether you’re preparing for a horse show or just trying to make your horse more handy, there are three cues to keep in mind when working on the back up.These cues will help develop a better trained, more responsive horse.Remember, everything you work on with a horse is connected to another part of that animal’s feel.In other words, when I work on my horse’s backing up, it is also establishing more connection between my seat and the horse’s stride, it is helping him stay light and responsive to the bridle reins, and it aids in his stopping in a more dynamic fashion.