DEAR DANA: I have a 2-year-old reining-bred filly that I have started myself. I am an amateur, but I’ve ridden for all my life. This is only the second horse I have started myself. My problem is that every time I stop her, she roots her head and neck out of my hands. I don’t want to be too tough on her mouth by jerking her, but I feel that a bad habit is starting to develop.
DEAR DANA: Do you have any tips to keep in mind for getting the most out of the new show season?
DEAR DANA: Days now are shorter and I can’t ride my horse as much as I could before. It is so much colder, and my horse has a lot more energy. It feels like I need to work my horse twice as long, and I have half the time. Any suggestions?
DEAR DANA: I have a Paint Horse that I really get along with. He is very responsive to most of the things that I ask him to do. He jogs and lopes slowly and with his head down. For the most part , he does what I ask. Recently I have noticed that when I ask him to stop, he does not respond right away. He puts his head up and pulls on my hands. When I do get him to stop, he tries to take a few steps forward. Also, when he has stopped, he doesn’t like to stand still. Please help!
- Andrea, Pasadena
DEAR ANDREA: What you are describing is a very common problem. I am going to teach you to redefine your ‘whoa’ cue!
Dear Dana: Do you have a plan for keeping your focus in place while you’re riding?
–Thomas, Bend, Ore.
DEAR THOMAS: I call it “mindful riding,” and there are powerful benefits to it. To ride mindfully is to pay attention while you are riding, to raise your consciousness to a level that will allow you to notice more and become more “in tune” or sensitive to your horse and your riding.
DEAR DANA: I am having trouble with my horse refusing to walk when I reverse in my Western Pleasure class. She is an older mare who has been shown a lot and wants to jiggy jog when we reverse.
– Lee, Woodland
DEAR LEE:I have some suggestions that I know will help you with your horse.
DEAR DANA: I’ve been told working on backing up our horses can make a difference in overall training. Why?
Rose, Florence, Ariz.
DEAR ROSE: The back-up is more important than many people realize. It reflects how balanced your horse is between your reins and legs, and it shows his lightness, willingness, and flexibility. It is important enough that AQHA requires it in most performance classes as well as in Western Pleasure. AQHA is defining it to the point that they are rating is from “poor” to “good”.
DEAR DANA: I have heard people refer to body language from time to time. What exactly are they talking about?
– LeeAnne, Elk Grove
DEAR LEEANNE: Great question! It doesn’t matter what event you ride in or what you do, knowing how to read your horse’s body language will help you. It can be a key to developing the wonderful relationship with your horse that we all seek.
DEAR DANA: Can you provide me tips for getting my sensitive horse at her best for competing?
- Andrea Mitchell, Arizona
DEAR ANDREA: I have had many sensitive horses throughout my career, and I’ve learned that how you prepare this kind of horse for the show ring is even more important than preparing the average horse. A strategy to prepare your horse for the show ring is critical for any horse, but especially the sensitive or difficult horse.
Most of us have been on a jumpy or spooky horse, one that is ready to jump at anything! In my opinion, it is no fun to ride a horse that is afraid and reactive. Some horses are genuinely more afraid of things than others. They may be more sensitive than others and may notice sights and sounds more acutely than other horses as well, but many horses have learned to be spooky. I feel that often it has become a habit, or a learned behavior. I am going to give you some techniques that will help you to change your horse from a spook into a confident, less reactive horse!