Tenth in a series
Now that Les has covered the importance of our hands in the last two issues, let’s learn another communication device.
Clucking is a conditioned response. I read somewhere that clucking goes back to Xenophon*, who lived in something like 400 B.C. Anyway, horsemen have been doing it a long time. And it is interesting how clucking makes a difference, as far as bringing up the adrenaline in a horse.
Another thing you’ll need to work on is to develop your hands’ “neutral” position, which needs to become one where there is no contact with the bit. Our goal is to have a horse that yields quickly and smoothly to any pressure—ideally to just the feel of you taking the slack out of the reins—and if you’re used to having contact with the bit all the time, you’ll never get there.
Eighth in a series
After reviewing reins last issue, we’ll look at how we use our hands in this column and next.
A key component of this program is that you learn to ride with “life” in your hands. What we mean by this is that you never want to just hang on the bit with steady pressure. Any time you pick up (that is, start to take the slack out of the reins) and feel resistance, you’ll want to immediately start working your hands back and forth on the snaffle, or go to soft bumps if you’re using a direct rein, until the horse stops resisting and yields to your hand. If you try to just pull on the horse, you’re really only training the horse to pull back, and in the long run he’s a lot stronger than you are!
Seventh in a series
After reviewing equipment last issue, Les breaks down one of the foundational communication devices.
Fifth in a series
Les takes a look at why a martingale serves a purpose in early stages of training.
I will use a running martingale occasionally, and I recommend them for many riders. I like a heavy leather one, and I want it adjusted so that the rings of the martingale can go all the way to the horse’s throatlatch when he’s standing relaxed. That means his head, or your hands, would have to really get up there before the rings actually pulled on the reins. The martingale is not there to pull your horse’s head down; its main function is to add weight and balance to the reins during the learning process.
Fourth in a series
Before entering the arena, we take a closer look at the details of our snaffle bit.
I tend to ride with the snaffle fairly low in the horse’s mouth. Often I’ll have it a half-inch or more off (below) the corners. I find that the lower I have the snaffle the lower a horse’s head will tend to go.
Normally we want their heads low since our ultimate goal is to get the horse’s back rounded and his weight distributed to the hindquarters so we can maximize his performance. The one time I might be careful here is if I’m on a horse that has heavy shoulders, because if he carries his head too low it will be hard to keep his weight off of his front end.
Third in a series
Before entering the arena, we take a closer look at an important piece: snaffle bits.
Now let’s talk about snaffle bits. Snaffles come in an enormous variety of shapes and forms—fat or skinny, smooth or twisted, straight or curved, heavy rings or light rings, D-rings or O-rings, even inlaid and wrapped! And once you’ve decided on a particular bit, you can still change the response you get from it according to how high or low you place it in your horse’s mouth! So where do you start?
Choosing a Bit
On baby colts or fussy mouthed horses I always start with a medium-sized curved bar snaffle. As the horse progresses, you might find you’ll need to move to a straight bar snaffle to keep the horse’s respect and his attention on you.
Second in a series
Here are the ‘Five Easy Pieces’, and Les urges you to commit these five to memory as his column in each Horsetrader will refer to them.
First in a series
In the next few installments, Les Vogt takes you through exercises of his Five Easy Pieces. When you’ve mastered them, you should be able to put any part of your horse’s body where you want it, without resistance.
Doesn’t it take your breath away to watch a sensational reining or cow horse perform? It does to me, just like it did back when I was a kid and I saw my first stock horse in action. But the best thing about it is that these horses just keep getting better and better. First, because we’re breeding them better, and second, because we’re riding them better. And the biggest key I have found in developing that brilliant performance is the time that I spend getting complete body control during the foundation stage of my training on a young horse.