Trainer Ray Ariss shares insight into our “horse-human” relationships
HEY RAY! I was working with my 4-year-old Mustang mare, “Cowgirl,” and tried to get her to go over a “teeter-totter” obstacle. She would walk around it, but as soon as I would try to get her to step onto it, she refused. I tried going over the side of it, and the most she would do is jump it and mess around. I stayed out there for a long time, and it didn’t help. How can I ﬁx this? —Jacky Hare, Silverado, Calif.
HEY RAY! This is about lost trust and resentment. I was training my horse, Connor, for trailering. Whenever he stopped in front of the trailer, I would back him up forcefully—I was trying to make the choice of either going “forward” or being “backed up forcefully.” I had thought of “backing up” as punishment. At that time, I didn’t know about SWAP and didn’t reward him for successfully backing up. Not only that, I backed him up very forcefully. If I caught up to him while I was running forward, he would get a sharp tap in the chest. Now he is resentful. How do I get him back? —Evan Moser, Lancaster, Calif.
HEY RAY! I sent my 5 yr old Thoroughbred gelding to a local trainer for 30 days to put some leg aids on him. Before he left, he didn’t know his leads but I could canter him in both directions with no problems. When I got him back I saw the trainer do leg yields and canter him on the correct leads but he seemed a little on the muscle and worried. I’ve had him at home for a month now and even though he doesn’t ﬁght, he seems to lose his mind anytime I think of using my legs for anything. What happened? Can you help me? —Lisa Martinez, Scottsdale, Ariz
HEY RAY! I’ve ridden over 20 years under several trainers, and they all have used a term that I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t know—a “half-halt”. What is this, and how do we apply it? —Anonymous rider, San Diego, Calif
DEAR A.R.: Your situation is a lot more common than you think. You would be surprised how many riders have conﬁded in me that exact same question over the years. This is a topic that I actually like to explain and talk about. Once you have the right visual, it’s a very helpful and eﬀective tool in helping with balance and self carriage.
When we think of the word halt, the picture we usually see is immobility or “freeze.” The purpose of halting is to bring all movement to a complete stop. A half-halt is exactly the opposite of a halt, but it is not a half-hearted halt or kind of halt. The halfhalt has a very speciﬁc purpose—to possibly stop, if necessary as an adjustment, with the intention of continuing to move forward.
HEY RAY!: I know you are very familiar with the Andalusian. I have an awesome Azteca gelding I am considering selling with incredible movement—great for dressage. When he moves, he has a “paddling” motion with his front feet. I believe the correct term is “Termino”. This is part of the Paso Fino movement, but is it acceptable in the Andalusian breed?
Columnist Ray Ariss has tips.
HEY RAY! I’m an avid dressage rider who has owned many horses, but my Dutch Warmblood is by far the horse of my dreams. He has everything — looks, size, movement and disposition. My only wish is that he would listen to me better.He is totally dull to my aids, and it seems like the more I squeeze the less he goes. Where do I go from here?
—Debra of Arizona
HEY RAY!: I am a professional, training a 10-year-old Arabian gelding that has, with dressage training, turned into quite an impressive athlete. But, I can work him under saddle IF it is a warm day and IF there is absolutely NOTHING in or around the arena that is moving — and even then, we might be working beautifully when out of nowhere he “sees” something (a leaf moving), drops his shoulder, turns and bolts. It finally occurred to me that he’s making the choice to act this way because he “can,” and something in my training has allowed it. As his trainer, the buck has to start and stop with me – HELP!
HEY RAY: I sent my 5 year old Thoroughbred gelding to a local trainer for 30 days to put some leg aids on him. Before he left, he didn’t know his leads but I could canter him in both directions with no problems. When I got him back I saw the trainer do leg yields and canter him on the correct leads but he seemed a little on the muscle and worried. I’ve had him at home for a month now and even though he doesn’t fight, he seems to lose his mind anytime I think of using my legs for anything. What happened? Can you help me?
Lisa Martinez, Scottsdale, Ariz.
HEY RAY: I own a big 3-year-old Friesian colt that will not trot next to me when asked. He either drags behind me at the walk or when pushed will erupt into a dead-run—kicking, rearing and playing while dragging me. I’d like to show him in halter, but I’m afraid he’ll get away and hurt himself or someone.
—Jacquelyn Anderson, Fresno
HEY RAY: I have a beautiful 20-year-old Lusitano stallion that has always done everything I’ve asked of him. Lately though, when I go to pick his feet he seems to be bothered when I reach for his feet. It almost seems like he doesn’t want me to touch them, especially the back ones. Initially, I thought he was being helpful because he would pick up his feet before I asked, but when I went to hold them he would move around or snatch his foot out of my hand. Now he has gotten so bad that I am afraid I might get kicked.
–Kristin Johnson, Corona