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What should you look for in your first horse?

“How do you know what a horse is really suited for in the way of a discipline? I am new to riding and looking at a beautiful 8 year old palomino mare… walker…. She has not been worked in awhile but we connected immediately! These are naive questions, but can you train for barrels, reining, or what breeds are more suited for particular disciplines? She is really smart and special!!
Thanks so much” …. Rozanne

What should you look for in your first horse?

Buying a horse is a big deal, especially if you are new to riding. This generally means that you will have less experience and, like any other area of life, less experience means your direction is probably not as clear. It is good that you are asking questions like this one but at the same time it is possible that a year from now you will have a better idea of the direction you are headed.

I am going to answer your question from several different angles. First, many breeds can compete at lower levels in a variety of disciplines. When you look at the high levels in specific disciplines you will tend to see certain breeds that excel. Sometimes breeds are lumped into categories because they have similarities. For example, if someone says that the ‘stock breeds’ tend to excel in reining they are lumping Quarter Horses, Paints and Appaloosas together under one title. If you are looking at a walking horse it would be good to look at what areas they excel in and see if those appeal to you.

When considering what appeals to you think about what the majority of your time will be spent doing with your horse. If you will mostly trail ride but occasionally show then your needs will be different then if you mostly show and occasionally trail ride. If you have been taking lessons from someone then ask them to sit down and evaluate things with you. Get their professional opinion of your strengths and weaknesses as a rider.

Many people also go about this with a completely different approach, especially with their first horse. They often buy a horse while they have little experience and accept the idea that they have no real idea of where they are headed except out for a ride. In this case these people tend to look at the horse for direction; they own a walking horse so they pick events that the horse would excel at.

Even inside specific breeds looking to the horse is important. I own a horse, Popcorn, that I bought at the Road to the Horse. He is a Quarter Horse and they typically do well in reining but he isn’t bred strongly for it.  Although I trained him and showed him successfully in reining, it was not his strength so I changed gears. He is my favorite trail horse, I use him when training my young horses and he has won me several belt buckles in mounted shooting. Popcorn wasn’t bought to excel in one sport, he was bought to be my horse and we do what we like.

When I am competing in reining I select horses that are strongly bred for that discipline but I rode horses for close to fifteen years before I began to focus on reining.

My first horse.

My first horse.

I do remember the excitement of buying my first horse. I also remember thinking about all of the different options out there and I worried that I would choose wrong. Much like you I looked at horses and picked the one that I connected with…strange how that happens. We also had a professional evaluate the horse and we did a vet check. I played with many, many things over the years from trail riding to contesting, parades, swimming and jumping. I never regretted my choice.

Not everyone has that same first horse experience, but many do. One of the advantages that experience gives is that quite often things become more clear, because much learning takes place in our mistakes. I tried many things with my first horse but we didn’t excel at all of them…but we still had fun.

If I had one piece of advice, beyond getting hands on advice from a pro, it would be to remember to buy a horse you will enjoy being with. That includes both the appropriate training level and who the horse is at the core. Are you drawn to horses with a sweet temperament? Goofy? Serious? Many aspects of your horse can be trained and improved but their personality should be one you enjoy.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2014 in Members Question

 

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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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What are the show clothes trends for this season in reining horse classes ?

“What are the show clothes trend for this season for adults and kids in both open show reining classes and reining shows?”-Ingrid S.

Your asking the wrong person! Let me illustrate….

Once for Christmas my husband bought me tickets to a fancy music thing in downtown Columbus. He also told me to go shopping for clothes. This might excite some women…but it struck fear in me. As the day approached I finally headed to the mall. Standing in the sea of clothes I was overwhelmed…so I phoned a friend.

Hobby horse color wheel, what to wear with your horse

Hobby Horse color wheel

I said, “Ann, I’m buying a black turtleneck and heading home.”

She replied, “No! I’m on my way, I’ll be there in 15 minutes!”

Ann successfully dressed me in a skirt and shirt that I never would have picked out…but really liked once they were on.

If in doubt…I call a friend. One of my ‘friends’ in the horse world is Suzi from Hobby Horse Clothing. Even before meeting Suzi, I loved her ‘color chart’ that helps riders match colors with their horses.

I see people wearing a wide variety of things. Some of it depends on the show with weekend shows generally more causal than the big shows. At weekend shows I will often wear a lightweight, feminine button down.

At the bigger shows, or if you just want to have fun, it is possible to see much fancier outfits. I have a couple of special shirts that I will only wear at big events because I would feel too overdressed at a weekend event.

Check out the photo below from the show a week ago. Jesse is talking to me one last time before I go into show….and do you notice I am wearing chinks?

Was it a fashion statement moment? Nope.

Actually, I went to hook my standard black chaps and the Chicago screw fell out, the chinks were in the same bag…I normally wear them for mounted shooting…but why not?

One piece of advice I got from K.C. at Charlie 1 Horse (my fancy hats) was something like….”Most people say you should pick one item to focus on; a fancy hat, a special belt, or a stand out shirt. People will say you should focus on one…but if you want to wear it all and you feel good doing it…then go for it.”

What event do you show in and what do you wear?

Stacy Westfall  wearing chinks at a show

Stacy wearing chinks…because her chaps broke.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on August 16, 2014 in Members Question

 

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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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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?

 
2 Comments

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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