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Category Archives: Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac

What was your favorite episode from Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac?

This question was posted to me on Facebook:

“Whats ur fave episode?”-Chelsey B.Remain calm and see the problem as an opportunity. Stacy Westfall quote

My favorite is probably Episode 26…the first three minutes. I love it because Jac is asking questions. That means that he is comfortable asking questions while at the same time he is still being respectful. To me this is a beautiful illustration of how the conversation between a horse and human can be.

The interesting thing is that in this episode many people would have said that Jac was being ‘bad’. I knew the history and I knew what I had been rewarding Jac for doing in previous lessons. I was also willing to see the situation from Jac’s perspective.

It is ok that Jac was making mistakes. Mistakes are part of the learning process. How people react to your mistakes says more about them than it says about the one who made the mistake.

 

 

 

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Could you have used a bosal instead of a bit for some of his training? Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac Review

“Thanks so much Stacy for your honesty about what really happens! I really enjoy reading your blogs:) Back when Jac’s mouth was irritated, could you have used a bosal instead of a bit for some of his training? Happily following you from Williams Lake, BC, Canada” -Jen

A bosal is not the same as a mechanical hackmore. Click photo to see more bosals.

A bosal is not the same as a mechanical hackmore. Click photo to see more bosals.

I had the same thought myself. If you watch the video below, Episode 39, at the 2 minute mark, you will see that I did ride Jac a few times in a bosal. A bosal  has nothing in the mouth and is something that I am even allowed to show in, so I gave it a try.  But it didn’t work.

There were two issues here; physical and mental.

Physically, at least early on, there was still evidence that Jac’s mouth was irritated, even without a bit. When ridden his saliva was occasionally tinged with blood. I don’t know for sure if the riding irritated his mouth; breaking at the poll requires the lower jaw to slide forward. Maybe his mouth was irritated in the stall or in the run too…I don’t know for sure. I stopped poking around all the time because it bothered him and I wanted to let it heal.

Mentally, because I didn’t know if riding was irritating him…but it become a mental problem for me.

Sigmund Freud once stated, “A man with a toothache cannot be in love.”

Oddly enough, maybe the best way to say it is, I felt guilty riding him. Guilty because I could be causing him discomfort. The idea that I might be unfair in still riding him changed the way I felt about riding him. The problem with feeling guilty is that you ride like you are guilty.

When I ride I know that there is a mental connection. I am always training the mental as well as the physical horse. If I made Jac ‘push through the pain’ would he respect me for it? Would I respect me for it?  If I disrespect the horses feelings here, can I expect him to give me his ‘extra’ when it really matters?

If another similar situation were to occur I would use a bosal again. Just because it didn’t work well in this situation doesn’t mean I don’t like the tool. I like a bosal on some horses. Much like different bits have different ‘side effects’, so does a bosal. I think that riding in a bosal encourages the rider to have more ‘feel’. Some horses respond well to a hackmore but other horses find them easy to ignore. I still keep one around to use at times and the best part is they look AMAZING!

 

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Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac- Episode 42 NRHA Futurity

I visited the NRHA Futurity to do some follow up videos with Jac. The National Reining Horse Association Futurity is one of the premier events the association hosts with a total purse and prizes totaling nearly $2.3 Million to exhibitors. The horses have to be nominated when they are born and then additional payments are made during the horses two and three year old years. I knew the payments had been made for Jac and that there was a chance he would be showing here.

I was initially a little disappointed when I talked with Jac’s new owner, Patrice St-Onge, and learned that Jac didn’t come to the show but that quickly changed. I respect Patrice for the decisions he has been making with Jac.

The first big decision he made was to geld Jac. We always knew that this was a possibility which is why we collected semen from Jac as shown in Episode 40. Pat felt that it was in Jac’s best interest to be be gelded. Sometimes a stallion will lack focus and the rider will need to repeat the lesson over and over because the horse is distracted. When I was going to college one of the main vets would say over and over, “A good stud makes a great gelding.” One of the points he was trying to make was that the horses often improve when gelded.

The other decision was to not bring Jac to the futurity. We all knew that Jac had missed training time and Patrice decided that rather that push Jac hard to get ready for this show he would save him for the future. I am very excited that Jac is with someone who is making decisions with Jac’s best interest in mind.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2014 in Life, Stacy's Video Diary: Jac

 

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How can I get my horse to stand still while mounting? Stacy’s Video Diary Review

“Hello, I was just wondering, how can I get a horse to stand while I’m trying to mount? There’s this horse who is being newly trained and he hates to stand still for you while you’re trying to mount, although once you’re on he’s fine. Help?! Thanks.”-Ann M.

When I was growing up, if a horse didn’t stand still for mounting there was very little that I could do about it. Someone might offer to stand at the horses head and hold him still…but otherwise, I had no cue for the horse to stand still.

The last ten words of the sentence above is both the problem and the solution. The problem is that people often have no effective ‘cue’ for telling the horse to stand still. Hoping they stand is not a cue. The solution is to train the horse to stand still using a cue that you can also reinforce.

I teach my horse that when I bend his head around toward the stirrup, I will keep holding his head bent until he stops moving his feet. When his feet stop moving, l release his head. The release is the reward and horses figure out that if they want to have their head released their feet should stop moving. They figure this out quickly which means that it is an easy concept for them and it is very effective.

Check out the following episodes from the Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac series. They show and explain how I teach the ‘stand still’ cue.

This first short video explains the concept and shows both examples of what I expect in the beginning of training as well as in the end. The full video showing how I train horses to have a ‘parking brake’ is below this video, Episode 16.

In the video below I demonstrate and explain the bending to stand still exercise at about one minute into the video and again just before seven minutes in the video. This way you can see Jac, the horse, bending when he is ‘fresh’ and again after he has been worked.

 

 
 

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Jac Review: My horse walks circles around me while I am saddling, what should I do?

“Hi Stacy! I have a 17 year old mare that we bought last year. She is the sweetest mare I have ever known, however, she is a pain in the rear to saddle.
When we first bought her, her owners told us she was cinchy and showed us how they saddled her. They explained that after she had two foals, they tried to saddle her tied up and she flipped and went over backwards.
Her problem is that she can’t/won’t hold still. I have just been letting her walk around in circles around me. She used to seem a little tense, but I have done it enough times to notice that she isn’t scared or nervous at all, but it does seem unwise to me to tie her up and have the same thing happen again (I didn’t actually witness that).
So now I have a horse that takes forever to saddle because she can’ hold still. And I know I have reinforced this habit, I just don’t know how to break it. Help!”
Thanks,
Michaela

There are several things that could be going on here. My best guess is that prior to having her two foals, your mares saddle training probably had ‘holes’ in it. I have had broodmares that were unridden for two or three years that were fine when they were saddled up again. I did lunge them and review groundwork for 20-30 minutes before throwing the saddle on, but flipping over backward should be considered an extreme reaction.

If the mare had any spots that had been skipped or things that had been overlooked, then time off, plus quick saddling, it could have resulted in the huge reaction. I would also guess that someone was ignoring the mares body language during this disastrous saddling as there were likely signs that were either missed or ignored. I agree with you that you should not tie her up. I am going to guess that she was tied during the flipping over which is also an indication that she was likely lacking in that area of training also.

With your description it seems like moving around is a habit. I have seen horses that were not taught to stand still…so they move. Until the mare is trained to stand she is likely to wander especially as she has been allowed to in the past.

If you go back and watch the Jac series you will find places that this mare is lacking. If you only watch the video where I am saddling Jac you will not see all of the parts that went into teaching him to stand still. Go back and watch the prior episodes and look specifically for places where I have him standing still. I don’t always point this out but you can see it if you are looking. For example, when I am teaching him to stand facing me while I whip around him with the stick and string…I am teaching him to stand still under pressure. When I am bouncing the ball around him and off his sides, I am also teaching him to stand still.

Go back and watch the first time that I bridle Jac in Episode 13. That episode talks about emotional and physical cycles which is also key in getting a horse to stand still. Even the later exercise of teaching a horse a ‘parking brake’ to stand still for mounting is still reinforcing the idea of a horse being trained to stand still.

I would suggest restarting this mare. Go back through all of the steps that were shown in the Jac series. If the mare is solid in her training then this shouldn’t take long but as you find the ‘holes’ in her training, celebrate that you are on your way to having a solid broke horse that stands still for saddling.

P.S.- I have a long standing disclaimer that you should always evaluate and look for physical symptoms of pain. You indicated that it appears to be more of a habit and I answered the question from that angle. I always recommend consulting vets, chiropractors, dentists, etc as horses often display pain or discomfort by showing signs ‘resistance’ in training. Always keep looking for pain as a possible source of the problem even while you are working on the training aspect.

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The episode below is where I explain how to use physical and emotional cycles. They could also be considered physical work and physical rest cycles. This cycle is important because the hard work makes the standing still seem easy and desirable in comparison…which is why the horses begin to choose to stand still.

This episode is where I saddle Jac for the first time. Look closely at my body language, his body language and the use of work/rest cycles.

 

 

 
 

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“How do you decide how long a training session with your horse should be?” -brought to you by Weaver Leather

“How do you decide how long a  training session with your horse should be?”-Cindy M

There are many factors that go into deciding how long a training session should be. Often people decide how much training time by how long they have but it is generally better if we can set the goal to be primarily physical or emotional.

In a training session we are either trying to change something physically or mentally with the horse. Knowing what your focus is will help you determine how long the session will be. For example, in this video I am riding Al, an off the track Thoroughbred that is being retrained as a riding horse. This video is one entire training session and yes, it is only about three minutes long. During this session I was mostly focused on the mental training. Al anticipated hard work so I purposely chose to do some very short rides, even if I rode him once in the morning and once in the evening. My purpose was to change the way he thought about a typical ride.

Al also preferred going to the right instead of the left so I purposely only rode him to the left. I was again trying to plant a mental seed of ‘left’ being the answer.

Also, notice that I didn’t try to accomplish a lot of different things in this time period. I stayed smooth and steady which will help Al have a positive experience.

There have been other horses, on other days where I was trying to accomplish other goals so my rides were drastically different. For example, I have ridden horses with ‘relax’ as the goal, so I spent 2-3 hours riding them but not working them hard. This was planting the seed that neither one of us was going to rush through the process so we should both relax.

Other times I have been working on more physical goals such as improving the spin or the slide. Physical training often requires repetition much like learning to dance and it would be common for me to reward the physical improvement.

We are always training both the physical and the emotional but I have a plan before I head out to ride as to which will be my focus for that day. I am free to end the session if I see any improvement or if I am ‘planting’ a seed. Remember, any improvement should be considered a success.

 
 

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Picking and using a pony horse as a training tool: Stacy’s Video Diary Review

Here are four questions I received about Episode 14.

  • “What traits do you look for in the horse you are going to use for a “pony horse” in the round pen?”-Shawn J
  • “What traits do you look for in the horse you are going to use for a pony horse and do you pony them on trails to expose them to more things?”-Melissa P
  • “What should you look for in a pony horse?”- Rindy A
  • “What if you don’t have a pony horse to use?”-Tammy C

In this episode I use Popcorn to pony Jac.  To ‘pony’ a horse means to lead that horse while riding another horse. A pony horse can be a valuable tool. Ponying a horse has many benefits. During colt starting some of the advantages are that I can get a horse, like Jac, comfortable with movements above his head and gain further control of his body. There have also been times where I have ponied a rider during the first ride. Jac was a bit jumpy and unsure and I was able to work through it before mounting up.  Ponying is also useful in many other situations. If a horse has been taught to pony then it can be used for rehab after an injury, increasing fitness, exercising two horses at a time, exposing to new situations,  preparing the horse for the rider being above and more.

Teaching a horse to pony involves getting the horse to listen and respect both you and the horse you are riding. When first leading a horse from another horse, it is common for the horse being lead to be unsure of the situation. The horse being lead often has one of two reactions; timid, concerned about being kicked by the pony horse or pushy, challenging the pony horse. It is the riders job to teach the horse to lead respectfully.

I will only pony from horses that are well trained, that I can ride one handed and maneuver easily. It is important that the horse being ridden will listen to me especially if the other horse gets worked up. The ability to control the pony horses’ hips and shoulders determines the safety of all involved. It is extremely important that I am able to control the horse I am riding so I can prevent him from kicking or biting the horse I am leading.  Popcorn is an excellent pony horse because he will allow me to control his body and he is not intimidated by other horses.

Popcorn also has experience and he understands his job. For example, Popcorn knows how to angle his body so that when a horse shoulders into him it doesn’t throw him off balance. In the beginning I had tho help him find this position but now I don’t have to tell him to be prepared, he knows.

Newt is and example of a horse who is still learning to pony. Newt is already trained well enough, I can completely control his body. I am teaching him how to pony by leading horses that have already been ponied by Popcorn. This means that Newt is gaining experience but he hasn’t encountered a really tough case. A tough case would be a horse that was pushing into Newt or a horse that was refusing to come forward. By ponying horses that are easy Newt has gained an understanding and then I begin to pony horses that are a greener or are pushy. I can help Newt because I can control his body but it is nice when they have lots of experience like Popcorn. I will gradually lead more challenging horses and Newt will learn how to be prepared.

If you have watched the whole Jac series you should notice that I like to use lots of steps in my training process. Having said all of this, it is possible to train without a pony horse. There have been times where I didn’t have a good pony horse available. During those times I try to figure out how I can achieve the same end result. For example, if I sit high on a fence I can get above the horses head. Or I can spend more time swinging something that would go higher than his head like the stick n string with bags on it. Having a pony horse isn’t required but it often makes my job easier.

Below are several episodes where I used ponying as a tool.

This video shows ponying a colt and it’s the first time I pony Jac from Popcorn.

This video shows using a quiet horse in a situation where the other horse is likely to react. This video shows Newt ponying Jac.

This video shows Popcorn ponying Al, an of the track Thoroughbred, on the trail for the first time.

 

 
 

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