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Smokey: A study of heart

By Sheryl Lynde / Horsetrader columnist - February 1st, 2018

Trainer TipsSmokey is a 3-year-old Quarter Horse gelding. The owner needed my help with some fear-related issues that Smokey had. Although he had been started, the owner had some concerns and didn’t feel comfortable riding him.

He had quality breeding that showed in his natural athleticism, but his moves were bigger than necessary and unpredictable. When he first arrived, I put him in the round pen just to let him get acclimated to his new surroundings. I stood in the distance and watched as he spooked at something, lost his footing and actually fell over — all by himself! The owner’s concerns were well-founded, and I had to get Smokey’s behavior corrected not only for the owner’s safety, but for Smokey’s well-being, too. Horses don’t want to live in fear any more than we do. They are looking for someone whom they can draw confidence from, someone to show them a better way to handle their emotions. If he didn’t get help with his fear at this juncture, then his reactions would have continued to escalate. He couldn’t resolve this on his own.

Seven Steps To Big Stops

Les Vogt for the Horsetrader - February 1st, 2018

More With Les graphicNow, I’m going to introduce you to the whole stopping program so you’ll know where we’re going with this. Although we’ll only cover the basics – the collected stop – in this level, this will give you an idea of where we’ll be headed as you advance in this program. We’ll call the stopping program the “Seven Steps to Big Stops.” The seven steps are sequential, and you have to pass each step, and get a good grade in each phase, or you can’t go on. I guess you could but you’re going to get an “F” in the next one. It will take time, but you will get it, and like everything else, you have to work at achieving perfect form at each step so that you can get perfect performance.

We might say that a horse stops well, but there is really so much more to it. Stopping means to cease forward motion, but the stop itself is really the least of my worries. First, the approach has to be good, the form has to be perfect, and there can be absolutely no resistance – if any of these elements aren’t great, the stop won’t be great either.

Removing trailer-loading anxiety

By Sheryl Lynde Horsetrader columnist - January 1st, 2018

Trainer TipsA client once brought a horse to me that had developed trailer-loading issues. It had endured an accident while being tied inside a trailer, and she had pulled back, resulting in minor injuries both physically and mentally. Subsequently, the owner had difficulty getting her into the trailer, and even once in, she would want out — and fast. She could fly backward.

If you break it down, there are a couple of issues here. In addition to her anxiety while in the trailer, she also had an issue with pulling back. I’ll tackle Issue No. 1 first, which is her overall anxiety while inside the trailer. If I were able to eliminate her anxiety and help her to feel more at ease in the trailer, she would be less likely to pull back.

To start, I removed a panel from my round pen and then backed my trailer up to the opening until it was flush with the other panels. While standing inside the round pen facing the trailer door, I opened the door of the trailer to my right until it swung flush to a panel, where I secured it. To the left of the trailer opening, I pulled that round-pen panel, so it was even with the trailer and secured it there, leaving no spaces or unsafe edges between the panels and the opening of the trailer. I left the truck hitched to the trailer to make sure it remained stable while the horse loads and unloads.

The Sequence Stop

More with Les - Foundation Training for the Performance Horse with Les Vogt

Les Vogt for the Horsetrader - January 1st, 2018

More With Les graphicSequence stop means a three stepper basically. You’ll have three or four steps from the beginning to the end for the stop. If you’re having problems keeping your hands moving, try the sequence stop. Remember, if you like the neck, you’re going to back him out of the stop. If you don’t like the neck, you’re going to drive him forward again, so why would you stop moving your hands? And don’t worry about timing here; you’re just searching for flaws throughout those beats.

To judge, or NOT to judge

By Sheryl Lynde / Horsetrader columnist - December 1st, 2017

Trainer TipsWe are confronted with a multitude of distractions every day. It takes an ongoing awareness and effort to leave the world outside the arena in order to learn to focus on ourselves and our horse. Quieting your mind and letting go of distractions allows you to concentrate on your body and your horse’s movements.  Attainment of any goal you set, whether it is mastering a specific maneuver or overcoming a habit you have judged as a bad one, depends on your mental game.

This takes an understanding of the “inner game” of your mind. It’s the first step that moves aside confusion and fear, replacing them with confidence regardless of the circumstances or surroundings. Being focused on each maneuver is just as instrumental to your training regime as the reins are to the bridle.

In the book “The Inner Game of Tennis,” author W. Timothy Gallway defines judging our efforts as a culprit that leads to trying too hard. For instance, when riders continually judge or place a negative value to a habit as “bad,” such as always leaning in turns, they will begin to identify themselves with the habit itself. They bring this identification to their riding lesson and their focus changes from being aware of what their body is doing to the mindset of what NOT to do.

Polishing collected stops

Les Vogt for the Horsetrader - November 1st, 2017

More with LesAs we discussed in my last column, your goal in a collected stop is to make going forward a lot of work for your horse. Make him really step up and put some effort into it.

To let him stop, we’re going to keep our hands moving while we stop driving him with our legs. The result you’re looking for is that he will stop with his back legs underneath him since his back is so round and his poll is soft. You’re not looking for a hard stop here, but for perfect form—neck soft, back round, hind end underneath.

Clinic case: break progress into steps

By Sheryl Lynde / Horsetrader columnist - November 1st, 2017

Trainer TipsDuring the three-day Norco Horse Affair last month, I gave a demonstration on Dude, a 9-year old Mustang that lacked confidence. His current owner has owned him for two years, and prior to that he had been owned by four others.

Because of an injury to the current owner (unrelated to Dude), the horse had not been ridden, saddled, or even removed from the property for a year. Just entering his pen, he was apprehensive and reactive. Prior to her injury, the owner had been riding Dude with no issues under saddle other than the occasional crow-hopping. The biggest issue was saddling – she had never really been able to saddle him while quietly standing tied. She would lunge him, and if she managed to land the saddle on his back without him making a dash, that would be a successful session.

Making of a ‘Keeper’ takes time

By Sheryl Lynde - October 1st, 2017

Trainer TipsIn preparation for my upcoming demonstrations at the Norco Horse Affair Oct. 6-8, I sent out a request for a fearful horse to use. Immediately, I received responses and videos. I selected the first one I received, but another horse that came in later reminded me of an 18-month-old colt that once was sent to me to start.

Starlight Sam I Am was his name, and he had a common link to the horse recently offered to me for my demo – they had a level of fear that would not be fixed in an hour’s time.

Sam’s fear was unpredictable and explosive. He was a danger to himself and anyone handling him. He lacked self-preservation, meaning if he put himself through a fence during one of his episodes — so be it. This wasn’t due to anything the owner had caused. Sam arrived with his baggage. An attempt to touch his hind legs would elicit a rapid-fire kick. One day he would accept the saddle, but the very next day while repeating the identical steps, he would flip over backward multiple times. As soon as he got to his feet, he would launch into a 20-minute bucking spree with me on the other end of the lead rope, trying to keep him contained in the round pen.

Steps to great stops

Foundation Training for the Performance Horse with Les Vogt

Les Vogt for the Horsetrader - October 1st, 2017

More With Les graphicJust like with everything else, there is a program for developing great stops on your horse, and the exercise we call the collected stop is the first phase. This stop exercise is critically important because it is where you begin to teach your horse to stop with the correct form.

I think it works so well because when you do it, you’ll be pushing your horse into the stop mode rather than pulling on him. We push the horse by clucking, riding him up with our legs and softening his neck. When he assumes perfect posture, then we can let him stop. He develops great form, and the stop becomes the big reward instead of a punishment or something he starts to dread.

Looking for the perfect horse

By Sheryl Lynde / Horsetrader columnist - September 1st, 2017

Trainer TipsWhen looking to purchase a horse, an important point to remember is that someone in the relationship needs to have more experience than the other.

If the rider is green, or a beginner, the horse selected needs to have more experience than the rider. If the horse is green, or young, the rider needs to have more experience than the horse. There is an old equation that has proven itself timeless and is spot-on: Green + Green = Black and Blue.

In addition to taking an accurate inventory of the rider’s skills and ability, another essential component to a successful pairing is to establish the desired use of the horse. Whatever discipline the rider will be pursuing, whether it be a specific competitive sport or trail riding, the chosen horse needs to have had that experience in his riding career.