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Category Archives: Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac

Teaching a horse to accept contact with the bit, teaching collection and headset; Jac Review week

The following three questions were posted on Weaver Leather’s Facebook page in response to the Jac videos:

“How do you teach the horse to accept contact with the bit better? “-Julie H

“How should I go about teaching my mare to put her head down and collect?”-Kaitlin F

“How do you teach a horse to accept more contact with the bit? I am transitioning from Western Riding to English and my old guy is telling me to “give me more rein” constantly (PS: he had his teeth check recently)!” Ildiko M

 

Teaching the horse to accept the bit comes with challenges. The rider must look at two issues;exercises that promote acceptance of the bit, collection and headset in the horse

  1. mentally seeing the importance of teaching contact
  2. physically focusing on how you are using your hands

Many riders struggle with the idea of holding steady, light contact with the horses face. I believe this struggle has roots in the idea that we are somehow unfair because we are not releasing quickly. There are two ways that I look at this mental issue. First, in the beginning training of a horse I want to ‘hold the horses hand’ because it keeps us both safer.

Picture a two or three year old child who is constantly pulling their hand away from their parent as they are walking around a busy parking lot. The child is showing resistance to receiving instruction from the parent and they are also endangering themselves as well as others. The child does not view the situation this way but most adults would.

The horse is not a child and you are not riding in a parking lot. The horse is close to 1,000 pounds and you are on top of them. People have died while riding horses. To keep everyone safe there are times that the horse must allow us to ‘hold their hand’ for everyones safety.

Later on in the horses training it is also important that the horse allows us to have light, steady pressure if we choose. This is not a punishment for the horse and a horse that is comfortable with the riders hands will show no resistance with the rider making light contact. This contact allows us to help ‘shape’ the horse and encourage high level performance. Imagine a golf coach instructing a golfers swing, or a football coach instructing a quarterback on his throw or a dancer receiving instruction from a coach. All of these athletes would receive LOTS of advice on the shape of their body. Human-to-human we can speak and explain, or show video to the student and even then the coach will often touch the student and physically show them where their mistake is or where they could improve.

With the horse it is important that they trust the hands and legs of the rider and that they are willing to be shaped and molded by them. This ability of the horse to trust and be shaped is how the training can progress to a high level. A golfer, football player or dancer who isn’t willing to receive instruction will not be very successful and neither will a horse who will not receive gentle guidance.

For the rider it is important to remember that your hands must be steady and reliable if your horse is going to trust you or willingly allow you to ‘hold his hand.’ Most horses lose trust in the riders hands if the rider is either new and lacks coordination to keep their hands steady or if the rider bumps or jerks a lot.

Can you keep your hands smooth and steady? To find out, I recommend that you try either carrying a cup of water or an egg on a spoon as a test. If you want less mess, and an easier tool to practice with, you can check out the Egg and Spoon set I developed with Weaver Leather. I used this tool for years when I was giving lessons.

For physical exercises that will help improve both the horse and the rider, go back and watch the following three episodes of the Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac series. Watch how much I focus on keeping my hand steady from the early rides all the way to episode 29. I actually recommend that you watch episode 29 first and study the ‘bend and counter bend’ exercise and then watch the previous exercises to see how I built to this stage of training. Watch for how steady my hands are and how Jac reflects this steadiness in his face.

Remember also that just like the golfer, football player or dancer it will take repeated practice to build muscle strength and muscle memory. As the horse builds this strength you will also see the horse carrying their body differently including the head being lowered and the body becoming more collected. Can you see how Jac physically got stronger from Episode 18 to Episode 29? Can you see the headset and collection that has been developed?

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Stacy's Video Diary: Jac, Training, Video

 

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Do horses wear different sizes of sliding shoes? Jac review week sponsored by Weaver Leather

“So…. about the sliders….. Do they come in different sizes?? …. cuz you said Jac was was getting “baby sliders” on in episode 26….aren’t they regular shoes hammered smoothly?? ……so my question is.. do the sliding shoes come in small… medium and large??? ..lol…. are there different thicknesses??-Lesia L.”

The difference I was referencing is in the width mostly. The wider the shoe…the more surface area it covers. The more of the foot that is covered in a smooth shoe, the easier it is to slide.

They make a shoe that is 3/4 inch, flat and smooth that some people would consider a small slider. When any of the sliders are put on, the nail heads get filed off. Sometimes we use the 3/4 inch but most of the time we start with 1 inch wide. The last time I used 3/4 inch was when I was mounted shooting with Popcorn because he had been trained to slide and although I wasn’t trying to slide, I didn’t want him to stick.

Reining horses wear special sliding shoes, or sliding plates, also known as 'sliders'

Reining horses wear special sliding shoes, or sliding plates, also known as ‘sliders’

The 1 inch wide shoes are the most common size we start with. They are still smooth with nail heads filed off. When they know what they are doing we can go to 1 1/4 inch. It also matters how big or small their hoof is. If the hoof is very small than a 1 inch shoe is going to cover more of the surface area…making them more ‘slippery’ for that small hoofed horse than a 1 inch wide on a huge hoof.

So why don’t we just use wider and wider sliders? Why not cover the whole bottom of the hoof?

Interesting thought. I actually have seen a photo of a ‘slider’ that was solid across the whole hoof, but I wasn’t tempted to try it.

The other maneuver that the slider will affect is when you are running large fast circles. If the hind shoes are too slippery the horse will be more prone to ‘slipping’ out of lead in the hind end, which is penalized by the judges. So ultimately too much of a good thing, becomes a bad thing.

In this video Jac still has one in sliders on, he has just gotten better at sliding!

 

 

 

 
 

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How do I deal with a horse that has learned to bolt through my hands on the lounge line? Jac Review Week

“Stacy-How do I deal with a horse that has learned to bolt through my hands on the lounge line?”-Stephanie P.

Horses that pull away from the handler generally come in two categories;

  1. They don’t know any better and are impulsively just leaving
  2. They have learned they can get away with it

A horse that doesn’t know any better can quickly become a horse who learns to get away with it –  if they have a chance to practice.

The good news is that the ‘fix’ or answer to the problem is the same in both cases. Lets first look at the horse that doesn’t know any better. Jac in Episodes 2 and Episode 3 was a great example of this.

Jac didn’t know how to properly respond to the pressure on the rope and without the proper handling he could have quickly figured out the big secret; he is bigger and stronger than me. I say this is a ‘secret’ because horses really are bigger, but with proper training the horse doesn’t need to view us this way.

Whether you are training a green horse, like Jac, or working with an older ‘problem’ horse the key is to get the horse to ‘mentally’ connect with you. They are bigger and stronger, that is a fact. Instead of looking at how to physically over come this, it is important to look at how to mentally get the horse on your team.

The beauty of the Jac series is that you can watch multiple episodes to see how I achieved this connection.  There were physical things that I did. For example when Jac applied pressure by trying to leave in Episode 3, even pulling me out of the camera, I didn’t release until he slightly turned back to me. I was beginning to teach Jac the idea of disengaging his hip even if it doesn’t look like the traditional ‘tap on his hip’ method which I did later in Episode 8. I was confident in my ability to correctly time my release of pressure even when Jac was pulling on me. If you are less confident of this then I would recommend being inside a round pen. For a less experienced handler it is often easier to properly time the release of pressure when the horse stops pulling because he has reached the wall.

The key is getting the horse to view turning and facing you as a reward. Re-watch Episode 2-5 and specifically look for how I slightly annoyed Jac with gentle taps and released when he moves the direction I want. If I had applied large amounts of pressure I would have physically caused a bigger reaction and mentally I may have offended Jac.

Mentally they need to see that you are the leader and that you have something to offer. Most of the time, unless the horse is acting from pure fear, horses that will drag people tend have strong personalities. They require strong leaders who have a plan and who also have their interest in mind. A common mistake I see with these horses is a handler who becomes frustrated and then becomes the strong leader the horse needs. On the surface this works fine but often this becomes a game with the horse. Once the handler isn’t frustrated they slip back into being less of a leader and the horse slowly begins to take the role again…until the rider eventually ends up frustrated enough to step up again. These horses are often the toughest to work with not because they have a chronic problem but rather because they have become experts at manipulating people.

You will not be able to out pull a horse but if you can get him to mentally engage with you, you will not have to. Another great example of continuing to build this mental connection can be found in Episode 14 where I show the beginning of what is considered ‘liberty’ work or working without any attachment to the horse. Learning to control a horses movements when you have only body language to communicate is often eye opening for the human. Once you have learned how to read the horses body language and control the horses direction, speed and focus at liberty it will change the way you view your horse…and how your horse views you.

 

 

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Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac- Episode 40- Freezing Jac’s semen for the future

Each horse is an individual and each one, like each person, has their own path. Deciding to collect and freeze semen from Jac is a process I have never been a part of before. When Greg (he owns Jac) and I were discussing the possibility there were many reasons to consider freezing;

  1. something could happen to Jac; unexpected death like Roxy
  2. the decision could be made to sell Jac; Jac’s older brother was sold and is overseas and  showing VERY well
  3. Jac could end up being gelded; then he could be turned out with more horses

Greg checked around and found the experts at Select Breeders Services Southwest Aubrey, Texas.

When we took Jac over to SBS everyone was great. Debbie McPherson and Sharon Miggans gave me a tour and answered all the questions I had for them. I was shown where Jac would stay, was questioned about his feeding and was also able to choose his exercise while he stayed there. They also showed me where the frozen semen is stored and explained the process from collection all the way to shipping to the mare owner.

One of my questions was ‘how long can the semen stay frozen for and still be used?’ The answer is that if it is stored properly…nearly unlimited time. I probably should have spent more time on their FAQ page as the answers to most of my questions can be fount there.

After my tour Debbie and Sharon introduced me to Patrick Rollins and the three surprised me by offering to go ahead and collect Jac!

I had accepted the idea that I was just going to drop Jac off and wouldn’t be able to see any of the process. To say that I was excited would be an understatement! The technology is amazing. The initial numbers with Jac looked good and since the video was made they have continued to collect and test. Select Breeders has now determined the best extender to freeze Jac’s semen in and they have collected enough to breed approximately 18 mares, someday in the future.

Jac stayed in Aubrey, Texas while we returned to Ohio. It was a bit strange leaving Jac but after completing our tour I was completely comfortable knowing he was in great hands.

 

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2014 in Stacy's Video Diary: Jac, Video

 

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Jac review week: Spins-my horse is better one way, when should I move to a shanked bit?

“Stacy-In episodes 24 and 25 you start to teach the spin. I have a horse I rescued in November and I can tell he was started as a reiner. I am kinda stuck because he goes OK to the left and fights the right. I also have had his teeth done twice since they were so horrible. I know I will have to start from the basics, now that I know how to do it, but when should I attempt to place a shank bit in his mouth?  When should I give up the snaffle after he gets better with his spinning.” -Stephanie J.

The key to great training is in a solid foundation. The big question is; When does the training of the spin begin? I would argue that the wandering circles I was doing in episode 18, as well as the spiral in-spiral out exercises and everything I did before episodes 24 & 25 was also key in building a solid foundation.

Most horses have one direction that is better than the other, much like most people are either right or left handed. In some cases this can be a sign of soreness or it can be just as simple as the horse being ‘right’ or ‘left’ handed. If you suspect soreness, watch for signs of soreness across the board; in the pasture when they are turned out, during bending, during groundwork, etc. Also consider having other people evaluate the horse such as a vet or experienced friend.

If you suspect that the cause is more likely from being a natural ‘lefty’ then you can address it through training. I will typically work the horses good direction first and the weaker direction second. With your horse, that would mean working to the left first, then taking a break; after the break, work to the right.  Usually the weaker direction will take longer because there are more issues. As soon as the horse improves either direction, I will give them a break. I also aim to finish my ride with a success in the weak direction. Here is an example of a possible workout illustrating this:

  • 10-15 minutes of warm up reviewing groundwork on lunge line, while saddled with the rope halter on under the bridle, bridle reins tied up. Review walk, trot, inside turns. Lope 4 times each direction. Review turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches. Note: watch for signs of imbalance between the left and right directions during this time.
  • 10 minutes of trotting long straight lines (see example Episode 23 at 4:20) Note: again pay attention to any differences between left and right, for example, does the horse drift to the inside when going left and drift to the outside when going right? If so, then the horse is always pulling to the left.
  • 4-5 minutes working wandering circles to the left; end on improvement
  • 4-5 minutes working wandering circles to the right; end on improvement
  • Note: if improvement comes after 2 minutes, take a break. If improvement comes after 8 minutes take a break. If both horse and rider still feel good you could add repetitions by working 2-3 sessions to the left and then 2-3 sessions to the right.
  • dismount and pick rocks for 4-5 minutes; mental break for the horse
  • after rest, work lope if desired
  • work spins to the left; 2-3 repetitions as shown in episode 29
  • work spins to the right; 2-3 repetitions. End on improvement such as the horse beginning the spin willingly or of his own accord as Jac did in several episodes, notably in episode 26

I will often use a routine similar to this one for 5-7 sessions in a row. By using the same routine the horse begins to ‘see’ or anticipate what we are going to end with. This consistency is what lead to Jac ‘thinking’ like he did at the beginning of episode 26.

Episode 26 also discusses changing the bit. I won’t change to a shanked bit until the horse can 1) bend and counter-bend and 2) do a slow spin willingly. The key here is that the horse is performing theses maneuvers because it understands the concept. This is the foundation that makes any bit, or no bit, possible because we are working with the mental part of the horse. I can also tell you that with all of my horses, I have times where I take them back into the snaffle, even after moving to a shanked bit.

Evaluate why you desire to change bits. I change because different bits have clearer signal to a horse. A snaffle is excellent for side to side, or lateral, flexion. A shanked bit has a clearer signal for breaking at the poll, or vertical, flexion. I state this as an observation that comes from listening to the many horses I have worked with. For the spin I prefer the snaffle. For collection at the lope and moving into lead changes many horses find the signal from a shanked bit a more clear cue to round and collect; providing they have the proper foundation. I have even been known to ride part of my ride in a snaffle to work on the spins and the other part in a shanked bit to work on vertical collection.

It sounds like several of the episodes of the Jac videos touch on your experiences. Thank you for having the horses teeth done (episode 19). It is amazing how much of a difference it can make. Many horses have cuts and ulcers in their mouths because their teeth are so sharp and it has nothing to do with a rider or a bridle. It only makes sense that the horse would be more willing if it were not in pain.

It sounds like you have a wonderful and potentially rewarding project ahead of you. If you keep the goals of learning and listening to your horse, observing and learning more in the forefront,  I believe you will both benefit from the journey.

 

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Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac Episode 39- Horse’s mouth irritated by plant material; foxtail, etc.

Jac ran into another physical issue; he ate some form of plant that caused sores in his mouth. The first suspect was foxtail, which is a grass that can get baled into hay.

The vet biopsied the sores and confirmed that the sores were caused by plant material although they were unable to determine if it was foxtail or one of several other plants that can cause the same issue.

Getting all of the small particles out of a horses mouth is not easy. Some could be removed by the vet but others had embedded like little splinters. The vet removed some of the embedded plant material. He also recommended washing his mouth out daily for awhile and we switched the hay.

The healing had to run its course and I ended up losing about a month of training time while allowing Jac’s mouth to heal. I have been planning on showing Jac at some of the bigger shows at the end of the year but a set back like this could change the plan.

I already know that I am unwilling to add extra pressure to Jac for him to ‘catch up’ in his training. I will still allow Jac to set the pace of the training and things will either come easy for him or they will not and I will scratch from the shows.

Issues and decisions like this one are part of the process I was hoping to show by following Jac. The training, just like life, always has its ups and downs.

 

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Stacy's Video Diary: Jac, Training, Video

 

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Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac Review – Teaching a horse to accept the bit

Stacy's mare, Scrapper's mother

Stacy’s first horse: Bay-Scrapper’s mother

“Hi Stacy, I was so impressed to see Jac accepting the bit within this short time. With my gelding (12 years old) I have big problems riding him in a snaffle bit. Putting the bit in he opens his mouth wide open and I can see his tongue trying to throw the bit out. While wearing the bit we nearly can’t work because he doesn’t listen to me, his mind is at the bit. He nearly can’t walk a straight line. Do you have any suggestions for me? Sorry for possible mistakes, I am German and I passed school long time ago :)” Alex

One of the first horses I trained was Scrapper. When I was a teen I bred my mare once and Scrapper was the resulting foal. As a sophomore in college I took Scrapper with me to start under saddle and to train. I was learning, Scrapper was learning and I made a lot of mistakes. One of those mistakes was being bad with my hands. When I wanted to turn I moved my hands too quickly and didn’t use my legs to help signal.  I failed to plan ahead and tried to maneuver my horse like I would my own body.

My problems transferred to my horse and Scrapper chomped at the bit and was inconsistent with his headset. I was frustrated which made it even harder for me to move my hands slower. I say all of this not because I am proud of it–I am not. I do, however, know what I did wrong and I have built into my program things to fix these common mistakes.

When I demonstrate in Episode 18 that I use only my inside rein while resting my outside rein on the saddle horn -I am breaking a habit. Many people don’t know how to properly use the inside rein only for control.

Stacy Westfall and her mother Sherri riding Scrapper.

Scrapper is now 21 and still happy:)

Don’t believe me? Try the exercise at 6:50 with your broke horse. Pay attention to your outside hand that should be resting on the saddle horn. Can you feel how that hand wants to ‘help’?

That is what breaking an old habit feels like. You should be able to do all of these exercises on any riding horse. Some of the problems will be the horse, some of them will be you.

Go back and watch Episode 2123 and 24 and the rest of the riding episodes – pay attention to my hands and Jac’s mouth. You will be able to see other tips and methods I use to break habits and retrain bodies and minds of both riders and horses.

Alex, the episode you were asking about, Episode 13, shows Jac quickly accepting the bit and achieving a quiet mouth.  Most young horses will accept the bit quietly when using these methods. If they don’t the first thing I look at is physical issues: sharp teeth, need chiropractic, etc.

Many older horses have experienced the mistakes I described with Scrapper. These are training issues and may have also become habit. Check for physical issues by consulting an equine dentist and vet. If the pros find nothing wrong and you believe it could be mistakes like the ones I made with Scrapper, don’t lose hope.

Scrapper’s story did have a happy ending. After two years of improving myself and retraining Scrapper you would never have known he had once been so busy with his mouth. Retraining would involve going through ALL of the steps shown in the Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac episodes, not just the ones you think apply to your problem, all.

Prevention, as I show with Jac, is the best but retraining yourself and your horse will have its own rewards.

As always…when having issues with the bit please check the horses teeth as shown in Episode 19.

P.S.- I once trained a horse that had no tongue… long story but the short version is that it had been bitten off very short. Even that horse was fine in a bridle…remind me to write that blog sometime…

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in Stacy's Video Diary: Jac, Training, Video

 

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Jac Review Week: Teaching a horse to give to pressure on a halter for leading and tying

A comment came through on my blog this week in reference to Episode 3.

“While I‘m far behind in the series (trying to catch up as I can!) I’m actually re-watching these beginning episodes. I recently got a new horse and while he’s 9 years old and has TONS of trail riding time, I’ve noticed that if something startles him, he whips backward and pulls — regardless of being tied/being held, etc. Not very respectful of pressure. Interestingly enough, you say at ~4:39 on the video that “that’s why I can’t tie him, because when he feels pressure on the halter he pulls back.” I’m wondering just how many horses ACTUALLY learn to give to the pressure on a halter?     Also, how often do people like me buy an older horse that’s “been there done that” but have to go back to baby-beginner-basics and teach things like giving to pressure?-Sarah B.”

It is my opinion that everyone should go back…but few do.The basics are where most problems stem from.

Have you ever tried to lead a puppy on a leash for the first time? Have you noticed that the first reaction to pressure on the leash is rarely to give to the pressure? Sometimes the puppy may coincidentally follow you but for the most part he must be taught how to respond correctly. Some dogs are thoroughly trained and others have spotty training and the same is true for horses.

Horses must be taught to give to pressure. This is usually done when they are young but just like dogs, they will likely need refresher courses throughout their lifetime. Much like a dog, the stronger the training has been at one point, the better the training will stick with the horse.

If the horse has a strong foundation, if he really knows the correct answers…then the refresher goes fast. If you find a weakness, then you are improving the horse. I go back over the basics every winter…even with my top horses.

This question came after Episode 10.

“Hi Stacy, the last pull when Jac response to your pull (6:50), do you redo this again or do you just do it one time before you tie him up? -Melanie C.”

I repeat the lesson over and over again before tying him for the first time. In episode 10 the pull and release shown at 6:50 was the end of that lesson for that day. I like to give horses time to absorb the lesson before I repeat it. Although it was the end of the lesson for that day, I did not tie Jac after it.

If you watch Episode 13 at 13:35 I am repeating the leading lesson again. I explain during this time that the distraction of the bit has caused Jac to regress in this lesson. You can see here that Jac still has not mastered this leading lesson.

It is also important to notice the theory here; that repeating previous concepts while introducing new concepts can make the training stronger. The example here is that the previous concept of leading was repeated as the horse was learning a new lesson, wearing the bit. Can you think of other examples in training where repeating a previous concept while introducing a new one can be beneficial?

 

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Jac Review Week: Why are inside turns important during groundwork with a horse?

 “Stacy, I’ve been following Jac’s video series and am loving it. Thank you so much for sharing it!I have a question about the inside turns: why is it so important to you that he turn to the inside instead of the outside? I have learned to turn to the outside and have trained my horses accordingly and am wondering whether I should retrain myself and them. In order to do that, I figure I need to understand the reasoning better.

Thank you for being such an inspiration!”

Best regards from Portugal,
Sandra

Inside turns and outside turns have a subtly different effect on horses. It isn’t that one turn is ‘correct’ and the other is ‘incorrect’ but instead they both have different side effects.

Both outside turns and inside turns will help the horse learn to read your body language and will promote respect. The outside turn is often more important for teaching respect. If you have a horse that is pushy and in your space the act of cutting the horse off and driving him into an outside turn is an act of dominance by the handler.

The inside turn is better for teaching the horse to draw to the handler. Inside turns are very useful with horses that have trust issues because they subtly suggest submission. Taking a step back or away from the horse is used to draw him in towards you.

Maybe the strongest argument for teaching both the handler and the horse to do both inside turns and outside turns is that both will learn to read each others subtle cues.

If you go back and watch Episode 3 with Jac you can easily see that Jac does not respect me. When Jac is leaving, or dragging me, it is clear to see that it is not out of fear. He looks annoyed and testy but not frightened yet he still pulls to the outside or away from me as a form of defiance.

 

In Episode 4 watch Jac’s body language, he is arched away from me. Specifically watch his right eye at 8:20 and again at 8:30. You can see that his eye is looking away from me so much that you can see the white. He is physically near me because the rope is holding him…but if there were no rope he would be gone.

Episode 13 talks the most directly about this subject. Jac has been a more dominant kind of a horse. He respects my space enough that I don’t feel the need to turn him to the outside but the way that I am driving him forward with the whip is accomplishing the same thing; establishing myself as the dominant one.

Two things that make inside turns happen for me are:

  1. Jac’s personality
  2. I have been working him on a line, practicing inside turns
  3. I ask for the inside turn when Jac is on the far side of the pen- away from the barn-which increases the odds of him turning in

Around 12 minutes in Episode 13 Jac starts making the mistake of turning outside. I call it a mistake because I was asking for the inside turn but Jac was distracted by the tarp so he didn’t focus on my body language. You can see how I correct him by quickly turning him back to his original direction and then asking for the turn again.

In Episode 14 you can see how the ability to ask for an inside turn makes it possible to focus a horses attention on an object. This is not possible with an outside turn unless the object is directly on the fence.

The most important thing to remember is that inside turns and outside turns accomplish different things one of the biggest being the ability of the horse to read the humans body language and the human to read the horses body language…and that is a pretty big thing.

 

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Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac Episode 38-Teaching the spin; which foot should a horse spin on and why?

In this video I explain my method of teaching reiners to spin. There were lots of questions about this after Episode 29 of Jac. At the end of the video I also explain when I would modify this training.

3:03- I have three stages of teaching the spin. In the first stage I have the horses pivot on the ‘wrong’ foot because I can teach them to lock in on their hind end and draw their front legs closer to the hind legs, rounding their backs, and allowing them to step very clean with their front legs. I teach this stage to my reiners because I will eventually add speed. With speed many horses tend to flatten out and get their front feet too far out in front of them. By exaggerating the roundness of the back, the stationary hind end and the clean steps in the front end in the beginning I have had great success using this method with horses who will spin very fast later.

3:40-In stage two I add more speed which causes the horses to rock forward and begin shifting the hind legs, alternating between the right and left legs as they learn to balance while gaining speed. My goal here is to still keep the steps with the front feet very clean while allowing the horse to find his balance. Because I taught the horse to ‘lock in’ the hind end in stage one, the horses have less of a tendency to move around in their hind ends.

4:08- In the final stage I add more speed which fully moves most horses over to the ‘correct’ foot while still maintaining good, clean steps in the front end. A common problem when adding speed is the horse getting too stretched out-the front feet very far out in front-which can cause hopping or loss of speed. If this happens I can rock them back because I have taught them how in an earlier stage. Because I taught the spin with many steps I have many steps to go back to if problems occur.

4:40- This is an example of my horse, Vaquero, spinning (and winning) at the 2011 Quarter Horse Congress Freestyle. Here you can see how the horse is holding his own frame without the bridle because of his early training. Vaquero spins much faster because he is a quick footed horse. To see the full ride; click here.

Not everyone teaches the spin the same way. The methods I use fit into my program.

Examples of places where I would not use this technique are;

  1.  when the horse will not be asked for speed; for example a western pleasure/horsemanship horse.
  2. if the horse isn’t going to physically be able to add a lot of speed.

In these examples it would be appropriate to teach the horse from the beginning to pivot on the ‘correct’ foot. The reason is that the horse is never going to add a great deal of speed so the other steps can be skipped.

Wherever you are going to show you should know the rules. In many showmanship or horsemanship classes they will consider the inside hind to be correct; turning to the right they would want he horse pivoting on the right hind. In that case the horse should be trained accordingly.

This is an excerpt from the NRHA rulebook (National Reining Horse Association); “It is helpful for a judge to watch for the horse to remain in the same location, rather than watching for a stationary in- side leg. This allows for easier focus on other elements of the spin (i.e., cadence, attitude, smoothness, finesse, and speed).” 

The horses have some say over how they can most effectively use their bodies at high speed and that is why, in the end, some leeway is allowed. I remember one horse I was training that could spin a strong plus half or plus one spin if you allowed him to shift his hind legs around the way Newt was in the second example. If I focused on making him lock onto the ‘correct’ inside leg he could only go about half the speed which decreased his maneuver score. This particular horse was physically more comfortable in the frame where he could shift between his hind feet. He kept his hind end stationary so I preferred that with speed over ‘correct’ but slow.

 

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