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Category Archives: Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac

What is ‘feel’ and can you teach it? Jac Review Week

Here are three questions I received about the Jac series; Can you see how they are related?

“On episode 6 you talk about when he let you know you were “boring” and it was time to step up the training… What are some signs they give us to let us know they are ready for more?- Stephanie D

“How do you know how much pressure to apply and when to back off “on a good note”?”-Ellen M

“Hi Stacy! Love the video diaries! I had a quick question regarding episode 10. I was working with my colt tonight, and we never quite made it to the point where he was trotting forward. He got to point where he would speed up a bit, but not fully into a trot. Overall, he can be a little lazy. So my question to you…with this lesson, are you supposed to go until he understands he needs to go into a full trot? At what point would you quit? Or move on to something else. I think I was losing his interest.”-Morgan

The thing that these questions all have in common are that these people are all asking about how to ‘read a horse’ or, if phrased another way, ‘how to have Can you teach a horse rider to have feel or do they have to be born with it?better ‘feel’.

“Feel” is that almost mythical word that is frequently used to describe people who are great with horses. Have you heard that word used before?

Many people say that feel is something people either have or don’t have but I don’t agree.  I do agree that ‘feel’ comes more naturally to some and that others may achieve a higher degree but largely I believe that feel can be improved. If feel can be improved, then it can be taught and if it can be taught than it can be learned. This is true in other areas of life as well. Michael Jordan made it clear that when he was young he practiced the fundamentals of basketball over and over, but it didn’t end there. He was well known for practicing the fundamentals his entire career. Was he born with a ‘feel’ for basketball? Without a doubt. Did he learn even more ‘feel’ over the years? For sure. How? Check out Michael’s following quotes:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

“I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.”

“I’m not out there sweating for three hours every day just to find out what it feels like to sweat.”

Now go back and read those quotes again and apply the principals to teaching yourself to read your horse better and to increase your level of ‘feel’. Will you make mistakes? Yes. Will it be hard work? Yes. Will you look back 2 years, 5 years and 10 years later and say, “If I had that horse to train again…I could do it so much better.” Yes. I know because I have done all of these things. Is it worth it? For me the answer is yes…what is it for you?

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Now I am going to give the physical answer for each of these questions.

“On episode 6 you talk about when he let you know you were “boring” and it was time to step up the training… What are some signs they give us to let us know they are ready for more?- Stephanie D

Jac was a great example of a horse that was ready for challenges. Early episodes show him displaying tons of ‘attitude’, head swirling, pushy, and trying to take control. The biggest thing missing from Jac was fear. I am not saying that Jac should have been fearful but I am saying his body language displayed anything but fear. Even when Jac appeared to be running away from me in episode 3…dragging me out of the screen, he never had an attitude of fear. He was simply leaving the classroom! He wanted to call the shots.

The most general way to answer this is, when they horse is trying to take control of the situation or is ignoring you then they are telling you they could move faster. You will notice them looking away from you, finding other things more interesting, missing your subtle cues, offended by your corrections, etc.

Notice the subtle difference between ’taking control of the situation’ though. When a horse lacks training they will likely make mistakes. When they make mistakes and are corrected or redirected they tell on themselves by the way they respond…much like children. If the horse is corrected or redirected and they have an attitude…then you can be pretty sure they are ready for harder lessons. If the horse responds in fear then most of the time it is a sign that the lesson is either moving too fast or the horse hasn’t made the connection yet.

“How do you know how much pressure to apply and when to back off “on a good note”?”-Ellen M

As this question doesn’t apply directly to one of the episodes I am going to give a general idea. I often describe horse training as playing the game of ‘hotter-colder’…did you ever play that game as a kid? If not, here is how it goes; The leader picks an object in the room and as the other person, the player, moves around the room the leader says ‘hotter’ if the player gets closer to the correct object or ‘colder’ if the player heads away. The player will experiment by moving a few directions and then quickly figures out the direction that is correct.

Training a horse is similar. If the rider has clear goals then they ‘release’ or back off when the horse is headed in the correct direction. The difficulty for many people who are first training horses is that  the horse often ‘thinks’ or has a very subtle  thought in the ‘right’ direction…and new learners miss this opportunity to reward. It is lack of experience that causes this mistake. Riding with someone who has experience can greatly improve your timing for reward.

“Hi Stacy! Love the video diaries! I had a quick question regarding episode 10. I was working with my colt tonight, and we never quite made it to the point where he was trotting forward. He got to point where he would speed up a bit, but not fully into a trot. Overall, he can be a little lazy. So my question to you…with this lesson, are you supposed to go until he understands he needs to go into a full trot? At what point would you quit? Or move on to something else. I think I was losing his interest.”-Morgan

This exercise is a great example of rewarding a horse who is ‘headed’ in the right direction but isn’t quite there yet. Yes, rewarding if your horse ‘speeds up a bit’ was the correct thing to do. His slight speed up was a physical sign that mentally he was thinking in the correct direction. If your horse had been experimenting with stopping or slowing down then that would have been a bad time to stop the exercise.

Many exercises, this one included, work well if the slightest try is rewarded because the horse will actually think about the lesson over night. I often refer to the lesson as ‘planting a seed’ because it paints a better picture of the idea that time will also help things grow. I have done this lesson with horses and rewarded them for only walking faster for two or three days in a row, then on day four I asked more and they were ready to trot.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many times doing lessons with similar answers will help the horse improve quicker. For example, if I tell you to trot the horse forward and then back the horse up it is easier for the horse to become confused. Forward and backward are two different answers. However, if you work on trot forward leading lesson, lunge lessons with inside turns, and kiss means lope lessons all week long the message is consistent; forward, forward, forward.

 
 

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What steps do you take to get horses to accept their ears being touched? Jac Review Week

“How did you get Jac to accept the bridle when most colts hate their ears messed with? What kind of steps did you take to make it easier for him?”-Kathy H…Stacy’s Video Diary Jac: Episode 13

In episode 13 I talk about physical and mental training cycles, including bridling Jac for the first time. In that episode I show steps such as running the rope over Jac’s ears and using my fingers in his mouth to prepare him for bridling. Ideally this type of handling has been happening consistently during routine handling which makes the transition easy for the horse.

I find that most colts don’t have issues with their ears unless they have been taught to by people. I do find that people often expect ears to be a problem and then they become a problem. One example of this would be when I visited Jesse (my husband) at a ranch where he was working in Oklahoma back when we were dating. None of the horses, about 20 of them, had ever had their ears clipped. They were handled just enough to get the tack on for riding and a few were only halter broke. The horses had received no special time spent on groundwork but along with a lack of handling came a lack of issues caused by poor handling.

While I was visiting I decided to clip the horses. I clipped every single one of them in the same day by myself. I rubbed them all over, introduced clippers and shut them off when the horse stood still (before they even moved) and repeated. I might have shut the clippers off 20 or more times on each horse to ‘remove pressure’ and reward. Using this technique, shown on the Jac DVD, I was able to clip all of the horses, including their ears.  I didn’t expect a problem and no one had created one before me…so there was no problem.Technique is huge...but mental preparation is key. Stacy Westfall

There is a difference between preventing problems and retraining horses that already have issues but mostly the difference it the amount of time. The technique is the same but often horses who have issues with their ears have learned evasive ways of avoiding what they consider to be an unpleasant experience. That is when it is important to remember that it takes more than technique.

In the Jac episode below, Episode 11, you can see the technique I use of rubbing Jac’s body with the stick and string. I continue this same method up the horse’s neck, poll and around the ears. The biggest thing to remember though is that technique alone is NOT the key. Technique is huge…but mental preparation is key.

Keep the following things in mind:

  • Episode 11 is also the sixth day in a row that I have worked Jac
  • The training Jac has received in the prior five days has changed him mentally
  • Mentally changing a horse will lead to physical changes

Go back and look at Jac in earlier episodes and you will begin to understand that all of that training is also critical to getting Jac to accept his body and his ears being touched. I knew the technique for rubbing on day 1-5…but Jac wasn’t mentally ready. Look at how Jac is behaving in Episode 2 where he is pawing and ignoring me, or Episode 3 where he is dragging me. Each day Jac is trying new things but he is also improving with the training. Mentally, Jac is having little break throughs and each one of these is leading him closer to trusting me and looking at me as a leader. All of this also plays a part in Jac accepting me handling his ears.

The video of Jac being bridled for the first time (six minutes into video)

Here is the episode where I am rubbing his body and he is standing well after five previous days of preparation:

Here is a video where it is possible to see one of Jac’s mental break through moments…at about 6:45 into the video:

 

 

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How often do horses surprise you with how intelligent they are?

“After watching you work with Jac my question is; How often do horses surprise you with how intelligent they are?”-Holli H.The longer I am around horses and the more I learn about them...the more they fascinate me. Stacy Westfall quote

The answer is one of these three:

  1. Almost daily
  2. daily
  3. every day that I allow myself to recognize and enjoy it
  4. all of the above

You have discovered the key reason I love training horses!

The longer I am around horses and the more I learn about them…the more they fascinate me. The better I can read their body language, the more I understand them, which leads to more fascination, more study, more understanding and the cycle continues.

There are spots in the Jac episodes that capture perfectly how intelligent horses are. Some are easy for me to feel with the horse but are more difficult to appreciate on video. Others are even easy to see on video, for example Episode 26. The following two episodes contain moments where you can really see how intelligent horses are. The two videos after that are just plain funny!

Episode 26

My favorite three minutes that illustrate this perfectly are found in the beginning of Episode 26. It is easy to see how Jac’s choices and actions here are both wrong as well as a fascinating glimpse into how his mind is working.

Episode 14

At 7:45 in this video you can again see Jac making a ‘mistake’ which is really Jac trying very hard to go to the pool…something he has been rewarded for and is trying to repeat. On the surface it looks like he is being bad, when really, he is trying very hard to be good!

Other horses

If those videos don’t convince you of how intelligent horses are then check out the following two videos. While they are not my horses they also perfectly illustrate just how wonderfully intelligent these horses are. Enjoy!

This is the best video of a horse escape…maybe ever!

 

 

 

 

 
 

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Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac…New Beginnings

Life has many twists and turns and I am constantly intrigued by the directions it takes. When I started my journey with Jac it was a personal milestone for me. It was accepting what had happened with Roxy and seeing that I had something to offer Jac.Jac’s progress was shared with the world.

I tried to imagine what it would be like to video Jac’s progress and share it with the world. I knew it would be an interesting journey…because every horse I have trained has been an interesting journey. There are always questions that come up during the process, some have clear answers; correct Jac when he bites, others are not as easy; do I show him now or wait another month?

What I love about training horses is that there are always breakthroughs. Many of these moments happen in the barn and are never seen by anyone but the horse and rider. Following Jac allowed many of these moments to be caught on film. Most of these breakthroughs are small, incremental steps. These steps lead the horses forward, sometime that is a path to greatness in the show pen and other times it is to a life of bringing joy to someone in their backyard. The point isn’t to make horses that are great in the show pen…it is to make horses that are great individuals no matter where they are.

And as predicted, horses have setbacks, that was illustrated by Jac along the way. Simple things like when I went out of town and Jac didn’t get trained to bigger things like dental trips, vets and chiropractic adjustments. Many of you identified with the sometimes difficult decisions that surround owning horses.

I am very satisfied with everything that I accomplished with Jac. I believe that the foundation he has will be with him for a lifetime. I am also glad that I chose to be a part of Jac’s journey. You may remember that I struggled at first with the idea that he would look like Roxy and the relief that I found in the simple fact that he was a different color. The more I got to know Jac the more I was able to see him as a unique individual, which was a good thing. It was a good thing for me because it helped to move me away from directly comparing him to Roxy. It was a good thing for Jac because he has his own uniqueness and shouldn’t have to spend his life trying to be someone else.

As of Monday, Jac was sold.

As of Monday, Jac was sold.

When the video project started we committed to bringing you the ups, the downs “and everything in between” during Jac’s journey and this week Jac has moved into another phase of his life.

It was fitting that I received this question after last weeks episode of Jac;

“Laughing, really, at my self for thinking this but: What does Greg do? Haha. I mean what does he do to earn enough money to invest in horses, their care and training with you? You are all truly blessed.” -Natalie

Greg really is a regular guy who decided to try reining. He works in a small family business in the office where he manages the accounting. He cleans stalls, saves his money and goes to horse shows when he can. Like many other people across the country he keeps horses in training with professionals because horses are the hobby he has chosen instead of golf or fishing or any other sport. Greg just happened to call the Westfall’s who just happened to know of a horse for sale…who just happened to turn out to be Roxy. Life takes interesting turns. Coincidence or Godincidence? I know what I believe.

Greg bred Roxy because she was an amazing horse and he looked for professional guidance to ensure that his decision would also help to improve the breed. I believe that he accomplished that goal with the four foals that she had before she died.

Like most horse owners Greg also knew that he probably wouldn’t keep them all. He struggled with the decision to sell Roxy’s first foal, Roxter, but eventually chose to keep the filly and sell the stallion. The money from Roxter’s sale helped to fund the breeding and eventual training of Jac. Watching Roxter succeed was a blessing because, although a small part of Greg knew he once owned that horse, another part of Greg knew that Roxter may never have reached that same potential while he owned him.

Roxter also played a part in the decision to collect Jac’s semen. Jac has played a different role than Roxter because Roxter was the first of Roxy’s foals, but Jac was the last. Rationally this shouldn’t change things much, but emotionally it changed things a lot. As Jac’s owner Greg has wrestled with the idea of selling Jac. He sold Roxter because he knew he didn’t have the facility to keep a stallion long term but he was still tempted to keep Jac. Greg is a friend as well as a client and throughout this journey we have been trying to help him with the decision. If you listen during episode (12) you can hear me say that Greg is there watching. He also drove down numerous times to watch Jac while we lived in Ohio and flew down to Texas when we were there. It was easy to see that Jac was a nice horse, it was easy to see that he could be successful…but one thing kept nagging Greg. He had made the decision to sell Roxter because he was a stud, why was Jac different? Long term what was best for Jac?Hindsight may be clear but foresight isn’t quite as easy.

Don’t we all wish we knew what was best long term? Hindsight may be clear but foresight isn’t quite as easy. Jesse and I had decided to sell our house in 2012 and when it sold in 2013 things got more complicated. We want to live nomadically, roaming around the country with our kids and horses for a year or two…but that decision effects other things. Did Jac’s plan fit with ours?

Jac is clearly bred well and he is talented. The reality of being a successful stallion is earning the right to breed, proving that the horse carries the potential to improve the equine world. Am I the right person to give Jac that opportunity? I have confidence in my ability to train a horse but I am also realistic about having the facility and the time.. I have chosen over the last few years to spend less time showing and more time traveling and teaching.

As you all know, I dropped Jac off at Select Breeders to be collected at the end of June. At that time they told us that they would likely need him for a 4-6 weeks. Our son needed to show his horse the second weekend in August in Ohio to finish his green reiner belt buckle points and I told Greg we would plan on picking Jac up after that show. It ended up that Jac completed his ‘job’ at Select Breeders before our son showed and Greg needed to decide what to do with Jac. Greg was still considering selling and we suggested that if he was serious we could suggest a trainer nearby Select Breeders that could evaluate Jac. We knew we liked Jac but there was always the chance that we were biased.

Greg chose to have Jac evaluated and we suggested a trainer that we thought might fit Jac’s style. It turns out that we were not biased, other people agreed Jac was a very nice horse and someone made an offer to buy Jac. Greg accepted the offer and as of Monday, Jac was sold.

It is interesting how life works. The money that Greg received from selling Roxter was used to create and train Jac. Jac was a blessing to Greg, myself and the many viewers of the Jac series and he still has more potential. Will he be a great show horse? A great sire? Only time will tell.

Greg enrolled Jac in the AQHA Full Circle Program

Greg enrolled Jac in the AQHA Full Circle Program

I do know that Greg will use the money to continue the bloodlines. He has kept two fillies out of Roxy and I am looking forward to riding not only Roxy’s sons and daughters, but her granddaughters and more. Greg also signed Jac up for the AQHA Full Circle Program which helps ensure that Greg will always be notified should Jac ever become unwanted or ready for retirement.

Even though I will no longer be training Jac, I still hope to do some follow up blogs and videos. I will aim to attend some of the shows that Jac goes to and I will continue to be his fan. Jesse and I will also be keeping our eyes open for the perfect mare to use some of Jac’s frozen semen with. Riding one of Jac’s foals would be the fourth generation of the bloodline that I have ridden…I would enjoy that.

It is tempting to look at Jac’s sale as an ending but I am choosing to look at it as a new beginning. I expect that Jac will receive exceptional care and planning very similar to what Roxter has. I am also looking forward to the next chapter in my life. I am a trainer at heart and I am seriously considering the suggestion of training a rescue horse as my next project.

I still love the following paragraphs that have been at the end of each Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac, Youtube video. I was tempted to change the first line to “This was the story…” but I am unable to because I believe the story will go on. This is just another twist in the road, and I am excited to see what is around the next bend.

*        *         *

This is the story of Jacs Electric Whiz (Jac), the last baby out of Whizards Baby Doll, better known as “Roxy”. Roxy touched the hearts of horse lovers around the world when she and Stacy Westfall made history with their bareback and bridleless freestyle reining ride. The loss of Roxy in 2012 has left a void in the equine community. Although nobody can replace her, Roxy’s spirit lives on, not only in our hearts, but in Jac as well.

Join us as we follow Jac through weekly videos documenting his training journey from his first session to his first show and more. It is a journey filled with questions, breakthroughs, setbacks and accomplishments… and everything in between.

Below is the video that most of you thought was the end of the season:

Below is the video of our interview with Greg:

 

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Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac- Episode 41-Why didn’t Stacy own Roxy? Or Jac?

Ever wondered why Stacy didn’t own Roxy? Or Jac?

Meet Greg, the man who took a risk and bought Roxy for the Westfall’s to train. Greg went from trail riding and camping to owning one of the most famous horses in the world. What was that like and how did it happen?

Listen for

  • The reason why Stacy & Jesse didn’t buy Roxy.
  • Why Stacy doesn’t have regrets
  • Why Greg kept buying Roxy a secret…(I love Jesse’s response to that one, “Well, it turned out OK.”)
  • The fact that Greg owns Roxy’s mother and full sister, two of Roxy’s daughters and Roxy’s granddaughter
  • How many foals did Roxy have?
  • Funny stories about owning Roxy….
  • What was it like owning a famous horse?
 
9 Comments

Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Stacy's Video Diary: Jac, Video

 

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Stages of training: How fast or slow should I go when teaching a horse? Jac Review week

“Stacy, my name is Keith I have been starting young horses for 25 years most of them have been cutting horses getting them ready for trainers this is the third time that I try to teach spinning on a young horse and it is beginning to happen I am very excited . So excited that I need someone to tell me how fast or slow should I go. I know that I should wait on the horse and let the horse tell me but I am too excited I need someone to talk to. Please help. I only take in two horses per month I am a truck driver during the day and I ride horses at night that’s why I am so excited about this. Cutting hasn’t been very big in south Louisiana so I have been studying your episodes with Jac for the last six months. I am always willing to learn more about horses so thank you for the episodes of Jac. It has given me something else to learn about and I surely enjoy reining.”

Keith- I am very glad that you have enjoyed the Jac series and that you have found it helpful. The shortest answer is; If you want the horse to be solid then allow the horse time to practice the footwork before you speed things up. Now for the long answer:)

Spinning is an advanced form of steering. Keep that in mind. Even if you don’t need your horse to be a ‘reiner’ you could still work on this foundation to improve the steering on any horse.stages of training a horse

When I am training a horse there are stages of training. In the first stage of training I am often trying to physically show the horse what I want. For steering this starts all the way back during groundwork when I am first picking up on the rein and releasing when the horse turns his head in that direction. The physical pressure is causing the horse to search for the release. I explain and demonstrate this in Episode 24 at minute 2:38.

A little later in episode 24, at minute 5:50,  you can see the first time that I physically show Jac how to start the spin. It takes me physically shaping Jac from around 5:50 to about 7:19 before his body finds the shape I want to fully reward for. I consider this to still be part of the first stage.

  1. Physically showing the horse
  2. allowing the horse to make mistakes and find rewards
  3. Horse mentally chooses

The second stage of training is shown in Episode 25 at minute 1:30. In this video you can clearly see that Jac is no longer in stage 1, instead you can see that Jac is physically and mentally engaging in this. Can you see the difference? From minute 4 to 6:20 is a great example of what this middle stage looks like. I spend most of my time in this stage. I will also return to this stage when I am progressing the horse. Jac is a great example of a horse that is allowing me to physically handle him while he is mentally trying to figure out what is wanted.

The most common mistake in this stage is that people rush the horse. People feel the potential but they incorrectly assume that kicking or pulling harder will make things happen faster. Physically the horse will throw itself around faster…but mentally the horse needs time to choose. Also, physically the horse is better off in the long run if they can practice the steps slow before adding speed.

A great place to see horses that have been rushed in this stage is often at an auction. It is common to see a horse that doesn’t have a solid foundation in the spin being asked to go fast and look flashy as they ride the horse through the pen. Not all auctions are like this but because the ring sizes are often small and the spin is an impressive move I have seen many horses demonstrating poor training in that situation.

A horse that is rushed in the first two stages will have difficulty reaching the third stage which is where the horse mentally chooses to perform the maneuver. How can you tell if you are rushing or if you are moving at a comfortable pace for the horse?

One good indicator is when you can add speed by bumping your leg but using LESS rein. If you have to use more rein then the horse isn’t staying in the spin on his own. They are ready to add speed when they stay in it on their own. Go back and watch the different clips of Jac between episode 24 and episode 31 and look specifically for how much, or how little, I am helping him with my hand vs my leg. Also pay attention to the total training hours. Jac had around 40 hours of training at Episode 24 and was over 120 hours by Episode 31.

In Episode 31 at 6 minutes you can see Jac has reached the third stage of training in the spin. Jac is mentally choosing the spin. I may still use my leg or some rein but it is clear that Jac is not being held in the spin by me…he is choosing it.

Keep in mind that these stages of training exist in all areas with your horse. It is the difference between having a horse that drags you around on a lunge line or one that lunges around you with no line at all. It is also the difference between a horse that rides around with a bridle or without. All of the stages are important.

 

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Bridling questions: accepting the bit, head tossing while bridling, ignoring the handler; Jac review week brought to you by Weaver Leather

I have received many questions involving bridling a horse. I could answer each one of these questions individually, and I still may at some point, but I have chosen to present them all here in an attempt to illustrate the power of having an entire program.

Horses put things in their mouths all the time...but sometimes not when we ask.

Horses put things in their mouths all the time…but sometimes not when we ask.

Each of these questions has an unique answer such as; drop the head, wiggle your fingers in the horses mouth, or earn the horses respect in other areas. But each one of these problems must also be viewed as part of a ‘whole picture’. For example, several people referred to how ‘easy it looked bridling Jac in Episode 13. If you go back and watch Episode 13, at six minutes in you will see the very first time that I ever stuck my fingers into Jac’s mouth. If you continue watching you will also see the first time that I put the bit in his mouth. And it goes well…but…

Would it have gone as well if I had tried to stick my fingers into Jac’s mouth back in Episode 2, at one minute in? I don’t think so. I predict that he would have hit me in the head with his head as he was trying to move me around AND I would have been at risk of him pushing over the top of me with his shoulder. The pawing would have been a problem also as attempting to bridle him would have put me in his range.Keep in mind when I say this that Jac was not specifically being aggressive but he was ignorant and pushy. Unfortunately if his head hits my head out of ignorance or aggression… it still would have hurt.

Watch just the first two minutes to get an idea;

As you rewatch episode 2, keep in mind that Episode 1 and 2 were both filmed the same day. That means that Jac had already been out and running around for 20 minutes…and yet you can see him tossing his head and pawing the ground after over 20 minutes. Yet in Episode 13, Jac has only been out for six minutes and look at how well he is standing. Why?

Because….MENTALLY Jac is not the same horse he was in the earlier episodes. I can give you physical exercises to do with your horse, but if you don’t view the training process as a whole picture experience then each individual technique will be limited in its effectiveness.

Now watch at least the first ten minutes of Episode 13. If you are crunched for time you can even start by watching from minute 6-10 to get an idea of what I am discussing.

Now for the questions and answers…and I’m going to be asking questions also!

  • “Stacy, Thanks , like the idea of using the soft rope for teaching to except the bit, think this was episode 13. Silly me never thought about the bit bumping the teeth . Cause I wouldn’t like that if I was a horse. lol Do you know anymore ways to help with bridles. Please let us know.  Thanks love all your videos they help me tremendous.- Pam M”

Tip: keep trying to improve your ability to see things from the horses point of view. One thing that works well for me is to try to think of at least three ways to do the same thing. For example; using my fingers in the mouth, using a rope in the mouth, using a bit in the mouth. Are there any other things you have ever taught a horse to put in their mouth? I have also taught several to enjoy having a water hose, with gently running water, put in their mouth. It could be used for flushing their mouths out…but I was just being silly. The more I try to open my thinking the easier it becomes for me to think like a horse. My question for you would be, “What other bridling issues do you see and what are three ways of solving each of these issues?”

  • ‘Hi Stacy, you made it look so easy bridling Jac. I have a 6 yr. old Rocky I’m restarting who’s never had a bit before (bitless). I am thinking of using a comfort snaffle instead of a traditional snaffle on him. What are your thoughts and is there any tips you can give me on easing this transition.  He also has forgotten how to gait.  Help!- Lindy B’

Tip: Keep in mind that all horses will be trying to spit the bit out. Give a child gum and they swallow it until they learn otherwise:) The horse will get ‘quiet’ in his mouth faster if you give him another job to do, as I demonstrated in Episode 13 right after bridling. Also, if you think the bit should be a problem…it will be. Horses can read YOUR body and emotions better than most people think. If you are tense and worried about the bit causing issues your horse will tend to react more. To relieve this tension try having the horse carry the bit while you do your normal routine. Try doing your groundwork while he wears it (without reins) and you can even possibly ride him in your ‘bitless’ set up while he carries the bit, unused, in his mouth. This prolonged step of doing nothing but carrying the bit may allow you to relax about it also. Gaiting is often ‘lost’ when collection is ‘lost’…which is also why naturally ‘collected’ horses gait…naturally. If your horse is being lazy, try the collection exercises found here.

  • “Hi Stacy, I basically have the same question as Lindy, you did make it look really easy to bridle Jac, I might be buying a horse that is un mouthed & i could really use some tips ? :) Thanks!-Mikayla G”

Tip: I have trained ALL the horses I have ever ridden to carry a bit. I even trained a horse that had no tongue to be ridden in a bit (he had run head-on into a barn and bitten his own tongue off) without issue. Start by following the Jac series and continue learning! Head tossing during bridling:

  • “Stacy, I learned a lot from the episode on keeping your colt soft and willing to work . Since I have two youngsters that will be starting on saddle it will be helpful to teach them to use the bit.  I especially like the idea about working them from both sides…. There is one question I have though when I go to put on a halter or bridle my horse keep tossing his head when I get close to his ears…. what would you recommend to do for that?-Marilyn S”

Tip: Go back and do all the groundwork you have seen in the Jac series. During this time also spend time using the stick and string to rub up and down the neck, eventually touching the ears. I sometimes use the string part to go around their ears. Most horses will shake their heads at first but will also realize that the string is still there or comes right back. I also attach plastic bags to the stick and rub them all over their body including over their ears. Also watch Episode 14 and how I was rubbing Jac from above while mounted on Popcorn. Make rubbing enjoyable by scratching also. Make it a new part of normal, everyday life.

  • “How did you get Jac to accept the bridle when most colts hate their ears messed with? What kind of steps did you take to make it easier for him?-Kathy H”

Tip: I find that most colts don’t have issues with their ears unless they have been taught to by people. I do find that people often expect ears to be a problem and then they become a problem. One example of this would be when I visited Jesse (my husband) at a ranch where he was working in Oklahoma. None of the horses, about 20 of them, had ever had their ears clipped. They were handled just enough to get the tack on for riding, no special time spent on groundwork but no issues caused either. I clipped every single one of them in the same day by myself. I rubbed them all over, introduced clippers and shut them off when the horse stood still (before they even moved) and repeated. I might have shut the clippers off 20 or more times on each horse to ‘remove pressure’ and reward…and I was able to clip all ears. I didn’t expect a problem and no one had created one before me…so there was no problem.

  • “Stacy. I have bridling issues.  He hates having it put over his ears.  Constantly touch his ears with no problem.  Just hates the bridle Darlene  J”.

Tip: Ah! Perfect example of both questions above. This horse has come to the conclusion, somehow, that the bridle is a part of the ear problem. You need some creative thinking; what is different? Some possible answers are; the bridle is tight and the amount of pressure applied during bridling is different than during haltering or normal handling, the bit or some other part of the bridle is poking him at the same time that you are trying to go over the ear (touch his ear and poke him in the eye enough times and he will stop letting you touch his ear, lol) or…someone backed off and allowed him to say ‘no’ but only during bridling. There are more possibilities. Repeat the exercises in Episode 13. If he is fine with the pretend ‘rope bridle’ then, for fun, put the actual bridle on and then pretend to ‘bridle’ with the rope after the horse is already wearing the bit…does he respond differently to the ‘rope bridle’ going over his ears when an actual bit is in his mouth? Keep exploring from different angles. Horse ignoring rider during bridling:

  • “Stacy, In episode 13 Jac accepts the bit quietly. As a teacher I have some very small riders with bigger horses. Even though for me I can reach and get the horses to quietly accept the bit and even with teaching the horse to lower their head for bridling, the young riders are having a difficult time quietly bridling. We practice and practice, but I would love some advice on making a consistent change for them!  The horses tend to elevate in to giraffe mode and clench their jaw unless I am present.-Heidi H”

Tip: Get dummer horses. LOL. Just kidding! Your horses have gotten smart to who can hold them accountable and who cannot. Now the kids have to become smarter than the horses. Generally at this point, if the horses are truly good for you 100% of the time, then the kids need to learn how to make the same thing happen. Have you pretended to be the same height as the kids? Have you taught the horses to be bridled by you…while you sit in a chair? Try leaving a rope halter on under the bridle for awhile if they kids need a predictable way to be able to drop the horses heads down. Outsmart the horses!

  • “Stacy, When I’m bridling my horse he won’t open his mouth to take the bit. It’s not like he is refusing by throwing his head in the air or backing away. His head is low, eyes half shut and I can press on his mouth, tongue and gums but he doesn’t budge for a few minutes. Then once it’s in, he’s fine. Doesn’t act like it bothers him. Any suggestions on getting him to open up?-Renae P”

Tip: this is similar to the horses above…only the lazy version! Now you get to become more creative. You have tried pressing on his tongue…now maybe you need to try scratching it, or rolling it, or pretending it is a new toy. Can you stick your fingers in from both sides and touch them in the middle where the bit would go? How many fingers can you fit (no getting bit here) three? Four? Three from each side? Remember the point…which is to remove your fingers when he opens his mouth. If you get three or more fingers in each side and he is still asleep…you could pretend you were playing the piano…pick your favorite song! I hope you found these tips and the over all theories helpful. Remember that they all need to fit into the overall plan. A horse that is sleeping while being bridled often has this ‘issue’ in other areas. Make a change there and see if it helps to carry over. A horse that is reactive about his ears is usually reactive in other places…whole horse, whole program.

 

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