Tag Archives: training

Getting Your Horse Ready for Competition

horse trainingThe Western Pleasure competition is one of many Western competitions.  This particular challenge entails many horses and riders competing simultaneously in one arena.  The contestants stay along the edge of the arena.  The judges will pay close attention to the horse’s pace – which is either a walk, jog, or lope – depending on the pace that the announcer has called out at the time.  The judges will also determine whether the horse changes from one pace to the next smoothly and judge the horse’s attention and focus on the challenge.

A professional trainer can best help you and your horse prepare for a Western Pleasure competition.  You want to make sure you are training your horse properly for when he gets into the arena so that he is well prepared.  One of the most important factors the judges will notice is whether your horse is comfortable, relaxed and void of any nervousness or spookiness during the competition.

There is no particular breed that is more highly recommended than another for Western Pleasure.  All breeds can be trained to do participate excellently in the competition.

To get ready for the Western Pleasure, your horse needs to be able to keep the same gait for a while and heed your commands immediately.  Also, you need to prepare your horse to switch from one gait to another without getting confused.  Most horses lose points in Western Pleasure competitions because they cannot transition from one pace to another smoothly.

Again, the three paces/gaits needed for this competition are as follows:

  • Walk.  When your horse is asked to “walk,” he should do so energetically and not lazily.  Each step should have a rhythm and be the same distance apart.

  • Jog.  Again, the jog needs to be energetic but not overly so.  There should be no jerky movements.  The whole jog needs to flow.

  • Lope.  This is a quicker gait that should have the rhythm of three beats.  The horse should show purposeful movement while loping.

Remember that there will be plenty of other horses and riders in the arena and your horse can get lost in the crowd.  Do not let that happen because the judges will not notice you.  You and your horse both have to appear that you are enthusiastic and having a great time.

Stay away from other horses that look like they could be problematic.  When you first get in the arena, avoid those horses when choosing your spot.  Also, find a location where it appears you and your horse will have the most room away from all other competitors.

If the other horses get too close during the competition, ride close to the edge along the entire corner of the arena.  The other riders will tend to cut the corner.  This gives you the opportunity to create more space between you and the others.

Western competitions can be a lot of fun and a great way to bond with your horse.  If you are interested in training for a Western Pleasure challenge, contact a trainer today to get started.

How to Get Your Horse to Work with Cattle

cattle workHorses do not naturally work with cattle. Some horses may even shy away from cattle on their own. You may need to get some training for your horse if you want it to work well with cattle. The trainer will begin a few simple exercises with your horse to train it to be good with cattle.

Before even introducing your horse to cattle, he needs to be broken in a bit, but not necessarily completely. You want him to focus on the cattle, not his training, so you need him just broken in enough to obey your commands.

Begin your horse’s initial experience with cattle by introducing him to some slow, amiable cows. If you begin by introducing your horse to a violent bull, he is not going to have good responses to any cattle.

Introduce the horse to one cow, then when he gets more comfortable, ride along with some other horses in a field of cows. The calmer your horse becomes in the field of cattle, the closer to the cattle you can take him.

Next, in an arena, teach your horse to follow a single cow around. This is called “tracking.” You will need to show your horse how to stand at certain distances and directions from the cow to put pressure on it to move in the direction you want.

After that, teach the horse to “hold” the cow. This means the horse will stop at a comfortable distance from the cow, lessening the anxiety on her, and letting her know it is alright to stop.

Lastly, your horse will learn to “work” a herd of cows. Take your horse back to the cattle pasture. Slowly, get him used to the herd by making him walk circles around it. Then, as he gets more comfortable, get him to circle the cattle closer and closer. At some point, make him cut through the center of the herd. This is how he will learn to divide the herd in half.

Have the horse circle the herd again to draw the herd back together into one unit. Then, have him cut it in half again. Have your horse practice this repeatedly.

Next, you will want to teach your horse to use his tracking and holding skills to cut a single cow out of the herd.

During the time the horse works the herd, make sure he stays focused on the cattle. If he is cutting a single cow from the herd, keep him focused on that single cow. A horse that remains focused on the cattle, and not you or its training, will be great at cattle work.

How to Load Your Horse into a Trailer

trailer loadingOne common difficulty most horse owners face is getting a horse to walk in and out of his trailer. A good horse trainer can teach your horse to effectively enter and exit the trailer safely and calmly in response to a verbal “cue.”

Many horses have a bad initial experience with trailers, and that feeds the horse’s nervousness in subsequent attempts to load and unload the horse. A trainer will work on the horse’s trust issues and focus his attention on obedience to the verbal cue, rather than allowing the horse to focus his attention on the trailer itself.

Another reason that a horse may have problems loading and unloading from a trailer is because the trailer feels rickety to the horse, and he is afraid it may collapse if he walks into it. Test the trailer yourself and see if poor workmanship or deterioration of the trailer is contributing to your horse’s fears. Your horse may have a legitimate reason to be afraid of his trailer.

Of course, a horse that refuses to enter or exit a trailer could just simply be a disobedient horse. A good trainer can work on the horse’s obedience skills and teach him to be more compliant with his owner’s commands.

One such method used in horse training is to first drill the horse to obey the verbal cue without using a trailer. The trainer puts a piece of plywood on the ground and teaches the horse to step forward and backwards over the plywood, in response to the verbal cue. Once the horse has been thoroughly trained to recognize and obey the verbal cue with the plywood, then the trainer can move on to introducing the trailer into the scenario.

More than anything, training a horse to step into his trailer requires getting the horse to trust you. You can only to do this remaining consistent with your behavior towards the horse. Reward the horse each time he complies with your commands. Make the horse feel confident in your authority.

Never be hesitant to calm a frightened horse by stroking him or by offering some soft words of encouragement.

How to Be Good at Ranch Roping

ranch ropingEveryone who has ever seen a rodeo is familiar with calf roping, also known as “tie-down roping.” It is a popular, timed rodeo competition where a mounted rider chases, lassos, and then ties down a calf, trying to do it in the shortest amount of time as possible.

The horses used in roping competitions must be specifically trained to aid the rider in roping and tying the calf. Most calf roping horses are American Quarter Horses. This breed is chosen because of its strength.

During a calf-roping competition, the following takes place. The calf is released from a chute, given a head start, and then the rider on the horse takes off after it. When the lasso touches the calf, the horse stops, and the rider dismounts. After the rider dismounts, the horse begins moving backwards, to put some tautness in the lasso rope that is around the calf. Meanwhile, the rider holds the calf down and quickly ties three of its legs together with a short rope that he most likely has been holding in his teeth the entire time (this rope is known as a “tie-down rope” or “piggin’ string”). After that, the rider gets back on the horse and loosens the lasso rope. If the rope on the calf’s legs holds the calf for at least six seconds, then the rider is still in the competition.

Calf roping cannot be done without the horse. He is the major actor. As stated before, it is necessary that the horse is strong, but the horse also needs to be calm, responsive, and gentle. A calf-roping horse will obey commands to move, stop, and back up quickly. He will be trained to respond to pressure cues on his legs and neck.

Teaching a horse to calf rope may take years. You or a professional at the stables should spend at least 30 minutes a day training the horse.

The first step in training a calf-roping horse is to get him jaded to having ropes flying all around him. A good way to do this is to trail a rope after him while he walks or gallops around a round pen. Then, practice throwing a rope out in front of the horse while riding him around the pen.

The second step is training the horse to stop and back up. You can either use a dummy cow or a log to do this. Lasso the dummy or the log and teach the horse to stop when the lasso hits the target and then to start backing up to make the rope taut as soon as you dismount. Teach him to back up slowly, so as not to pull the calf off its feet when you begin roping real calves.

After he gets good at stopping and backing up, put a few old, slow cows in the pen to get the horse used to following them. Use just your hands and legs to direct the horse as he follows the cows. After the horse is following your hand and leg cues correctly, start lassoing the cows and teach the horse to react the same as he did with the dummy or the log.

Once the horse is doing well with the old, slow cows, do the same exercises using younger, faster cows. Your horse should now be ready to help you rope some calves.

In any kind of training or work involving cattle, such as ranch roping, always remember to refrain from training your horse to be aggressive in any way to the cattle. A horse that can get along well with cattle will serve you better in competitions and in handling livestock.

How to Build a Stronger Relationship with Your Horse

trail challengeA good way to train your horse to be less clumsy and more agile and confident is to compete in trail challenges. Not only do trail challenges promote skills that will make your horse a better riding horse, but it also will develop a stronger relationship between you and your horse.

Some trail challenges take place on a six to eight-mile trail, utilizing both natural and man-made obstacles. Other trail challenges take place in an arena, with only man-made obstacles.

If the challenge takes place in an arena, some examples of the types of obstacles offered will be crossing a pile of poles without knocking a pole down, walking over a tilting bridge, or having the horse turn itself around on a small pedestal.

If the challenge takes place on a long trail, the obstacles will include streams, bridges, walking up and down hills, dragging a log, opening and closing gates.

To equip your horse properly for trail challenge training, you need a comfortable saddle that fits your horse well, a saddle pad, bridle, and bit.

The first important step in training is to teach your horse to walk slowly. He will not be able to move quickly when he needs to go through a trail obstacle. Therefore, his first lesson must be to slow down and move carefully.

Next, you will teach your horse how to use a neck rein instead of a direct rein. In other words, you will teach your horse to respond to your body cues rather than the actual reins. This keeps your hands free to do other things when you are on the trail or in the challenge arena.

Next, put some poles on the ground and teach the horse to step carefully over the poles. This is an important lesson as the horse learns to think about where he steps.

A lot of ranches offer trail trials to get you and your horse ready for a real trail challenge. All sorts of practice obstacles are offered at a trail trial – bridges, gates, water, terrain, slides, step-overs, ditches, jumps and side passes.

The Difference Between Colt Sorting and Colt Starting

colt startingColt sorting and colt starting are two completely different areas of horse training and ownership. Colt sorting refers to the process of taking a herd of wild horses and separating the colts from the mares. Colt starting refers to the initial training of a colt to make it into a competent, well-behaved animal.

Some people think the term “colt” means any juvenile horse. However, a colt is actually a male horse under four years old. These young males are the target of colt sorting.

To begin this process, wild herds are corralled using helicopters and a “pilot horse.” The helicopters will round the horses up and herd them towards the desired area. Mothers and their offspring are protected from being trampled by the rest of the herd. If the horses start to run, they are turned around to slow them down. That way, no young foals are hurt in the process.

The pilot horse has already been trained to run ahead of the herd of wild horses and lead them into the corral. The point of a corral is to make it easier to sort the colts from the rest of the horses. When the horses are segregated into groups from within the one big corral, mares and their young ones are kept together.

Some people may think it is cruel to take young colts from their mothers, but in the wild, the stallion of the herd will eventually force out the male colts anyway. The colts that are taken from their mothers as a result of human colt sorting have usually been weaned from their mothers already.

The best way to separate a colt from the mare is to send the mares and colts in small groups through narrower passageways connected to their corral. Step between the mare and the colt after the colt runs down the passageway. Do not let the mare follow the colt but make her go back to the main corral.

Starting colts, also known as “breaking colts,” is the term used to describe the procedure used to teach a colt to carry a rider and use necessary equipment.

The most important trick to starting a colt is to gain the colt’s confidence. If the colt cannot trust you, you will not be able to train him successfully.

Part of the process in gaining trust is “sacking out.” This means teaching the colt not to be afraid of or “spooked” by your movements.

You can start this process when the colt is one year old. The colt will simply be tied and groomed at regular intervals to get him used to human touch and movement around him.

Colt training moves slowly. Again, the reason for this is to establish the colt’s trust. So by the time the colt is approximately two years old, most trainers will actually begin the more hard-core training.

You can start this more in-depth training with your colt by leading and running him around a round pen. The next step is called “driving.” You walk behind the colt in the round pen, and teach him to respond to your commands and tugs on the rein. Important verbal commands to be taught at this time are “whoa,” “stand,” and “back.” You will teach him to go to the right or to the left just by using the reins.

If you feel the colt is ready, get him ready to carry weight on his back. Have him regularly wear a blanket until he loses all his nervousness about it. Some folks will tie a rope around the colt and have him wear that to prepare him for the feel of a saddle. After he is used to the blanket and/or the rope, put the saddle on him. You can tie the two stirrups together on the saddle to get him used to some weight and force coming from the stirrups.

Eventually, you will want to start putting some weight in the saddle. Begin by putting your foot into just one stirrup; when the colt gets used to it, put both feet in both stirrups. Ride the colt for a few minutes around a small pen. After that short ride, just lead the colt around the pen for a while. Eventually, you can progress to rides for a quarter of an hour in duration.

Never introduce pain when you are starting a colt. The colt will then just associate pain with what you are trying to teach him. If he is afraid, he will be nervous, and he will not trust you.

My advice is to get a trainer with special experience in colt starting if you have an untrained colt. Even a really good horse trainer will not be able to break a colt properly if he is not specifically experienced in this area. You do not want your colt taught bad habits that are hard or impossible to correct later on.