Q My horse will go but will not turn very good.
What can I work on to get her softer?

There is a lot you can do.  It depends on whether you ride with leg pressure, with the reins or both.  If you have the time to work with your horse, I would suggest sharpening all three.  

Start with a halter and lead rope. Ask for the nose to flex left or right and releasing the pressure as soon as you get the desired response.  You can do this while on or off the horse. You’re looking for her to respond softly and immediately with the slightest of pressure.  

While on the ground, give pressure with your hand where your leg would go starting with the very smallest amount of pressure first.  When you get the response you want immediately take away the pressure.  You can also do this on the shoulder and neck to get a quicker response when neck reining.  I would then work on these exercises while riding.  

The more you practice, the softer she should get until one day you barely move and she is exactly where you want. This is somewhat a difficult lesson to teach without physical example, but the main idea is to go back to the beginning when you find any resistance.  

Ask with the slightest pressure possible and reward immediately when they respond.  An example would be to place my hand near the girth and ask for my horse to step away.  If she doesn’t respond then I would touch her, then tap her and continue to increase the energy level until I get the desired response.  Which, I would then take away the pressure and reward her.

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Q My horse's attitude is continuously getting worse.
Where do I start to find out what's wrong?

Troubleshooting a horse’s attitude can be frustrating.  I start with my tack:

  • does the saddle fit
  • is the bit pinching
  • is hair pinched in the girth
  • are his feet healthy

When there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with the tack I check his health.  Is he feeling ok, have I changed his feed, is the water clean, are there new pasture mates to affect his behavior, what have I asked him to do while riding, how are the teeth, any discharge from the nose, . . . or any other changes having to do with his health. 

If they still act out then I move towards personality and respect level.  Am I not being a good leader.  Sometimes as time goes by we allow our horses to get away with more and more.  This can potentially cause them to take over the alpha position and therefore change in attitude.  After doing some ground work and working on respect levels if your horse continues to act out please contact your veterinarian to make sure there is nothing seriously wrong.  Of course, if at any time things go down hill at all I would immediately call your vet.

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Q Someone told me my horse needs warmer water
in winter.  Does temperature matter?

This is a bit of a tough question.  There are so many variables.  In actuality God made horses to be able to take care of themselves.  Meaning, He never heated the water for them.  

Where do they drink in the wild?  Out of streams, lakes, and rivers.  Sometimes freezing cold.  However, there are horses that have a tougher time than others when the water temperature gets too cold; usually older or competitive horses that tend to be indoors more often.  You can somewhat heat the water (never above ambient temp.) to help them drink more and stay hydrated.  There are also supplements to help with that, but that would be another topic in itself!  Theoretically the warmer water helps them to stay a bit warmer when they have not grown a good winter coat or are blanketed.  

The most important thing to remember is that they need to have clean water always available.

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Q How do you get a problem horse to longe
on a line circling the handler?

I’m assuming your horse can lead and move its front quarters left and right with pressure from the lead line. I use a ladder effect. For example: start with the slightest pressure possible and get bigger and bigger until you get the desired effect. As soon as you get it, stop (take away the pressure.) It is important to get bigger in energy, not in anger or emotion. Each horse is different but here’s an example. After getting your horse to move its front quarters to the left and walking with it in that direction the horse should keep walking around you in a circle. This would be longing.

Many horses stop, turn and look at you, don’t keep walking, etc. When this happens, understand that the energy needs to be coming from behind the cinch in order for the horse to continue forward. Use your left hand to keep pressure on the lead rope and your right hand to create pressure from behind. Use voice commands such as walk, jog, trot, etc and body movements to create pressure at first. Increase your energy to flipping a whip, making it crack and eventually tapping the horse’s hocks to get the desired effect. As soon as your horse even hints at moving in the right direction stop applying the pressure. Verbal rewards are useful.

Do the exercise again and remember to leave on a good note. This leaves the horse with a positive learning experience. Eventually you will be able to take a step toward the left with a little pressure on the lead rope and your horse will begin to walk around you.

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Q How do you know that your saddle fits your horse?

There are a couple of ways to tell if your saddle is the right fit for your horse.

1. You can bend a hanger around your horse’s withers and over his shoulders to make a form. Hold the hanger up to your saddle to see where the pressure points lie.

2. Place the saddle on the horse with no saddle blanket and place your hand underneath. Start at the front, placing weight in the seat and slide your hand towards the back making sure to note if the pressure stays the same the whole way.

3. Put baby powder on your horse’s back and saddle the horse with no blanket. Notice the points where the baby powder is left.

4. Ride like you would any other day. Take the saddle off and note the points where the hair is dry. You want the surface to be equal and evenly wet.

5. Check to see if your horse’s back is sore by pressing near the back bone or running your fingers along his back. Some horses are sensitive, so this isn’t a fool proof method.

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Q Everyone has their own point of view so
how do I know who to listen to?

There are many different ways to do almost everything involved with horses. Aside from safety precautions, I always do what works for me and for the horse. Always listen to what people have to say, but go with your intuition, experience, and horse to make the right decision for your situation.

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