From hunters in L.A. to cow horses in Red Bluff, California associations innovate like no where else
Economic forecasts may call for slow, slight improvement this year, but show organizations in California aren’t waiting around. As they have the past three years, groups that create horse events in our state are innovating more than ever — not just to keep activity levels steady, but to grow them.
As Melissa Braunstein, Marketing Director for Blenheim EquiSports, puts it, the tougher times are the times that make you better.
“It’s definitely been a couple of years of having to get extremely creative to stay strong through a tough economy,” she says. “When you have to train for the really hard marathon — that’s when you get serious. And at the end of it, you are better than when you started. It’s in the lean times that you say ‘OK, we don’t want to cut back and lower our quality’, and then you find a way to do that.”
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Five horses at an undisclosed facility in Orange County were reported by the California Department of Food and Agriculture last week as confirmed cases of the neuropathic strain of the Equine Herpes Virus-1, the same virus that eight months earlier was responsible for horse deaths and a widespread quarantine after a Utah cutting horse event.
No euthanizations of horses have been announced in last week’s cases by the CDFA, which reported the first case on Wednesday, Jan. 11, of a gelding that had been isolated, quarantined and placed under veterinary care. The location was not specified, other than describing it as a “large multi-discipline facility” that had been quarantined with no movement of horses on or off the property.
RIVERSIDE — For almost two decades, the California Reining Horse Association has been the premier organization promoting reining in the Southern California region. Traditionally, they have closed out one season and ushered in the new one with the annual General Membership meeting and Awards Banquet. This year was no different. The Riverside Rancheros hosted the event Jan. 8 that not only presented the beautiful, coveted year end buckles, but heard plans for an amazing new season filled with dynamic programs and fun-filled events.
Tom Foran, the current president, guided the meeting which had close to 80 members in attendance. The goals he laid out for this year included expanding programs that promote new membership recruitment and reining at the grass roots with events like the March 17 Green As Grass clinic in Temecula at Green Oaks Ranch.
CINCINNATI, Ohio — To cap off a record-setting year, dressage superstar Steffen Peters added one more record to his résumé on Jan. 14 at the United States Equestrian Federation’s Pegasus Awards dinner. He became the first person to score the United States Equestrian Federation’s Equestrian of the Year title three times.
Peters, of San Diego, won the top honor in 2008 and 2009 based largely on his accomplishments with Akiko Yamazaki’s phenom Ravel – but in 2011, Ravel had some help. Peters capitalized on his first trip to the Pan American Games and scored Team and Individual Gold in a tremendous effort with Jen and Bruce Hlavacek’s Weltino’s Magic. From California to Aachen, Germany Peters was undefeated in 2011 with the now 9-year-old Westphalian gelding.
CINCINNATI, Ohio — For the first time, the United States Equestrian Federation crowned two horses with its highest honor, one from an International Discipline and one from a National Discipline. Neville Bardos and Sjoerd were named 2011 Horses of the Year at the Jan. 13 USEF annual Horse of the Year celebration. Honored for their accomplishments in 2011 their roads through the last 12 months, while both exceptional, have been very different.
Dear Dana: I have a 4-year-old Quarter Horse gelding that constantly over-bridles and seems very afraid in the face. I’ve tried different bits, and they haven’t changed anything. Often, he will also thrust his head forward and up, pulling the reins from my hands forcefully. I’ve recently started asking him to bring his head around to follow his nose, and it’s helped some — but now he’s becoming heavier in the face. How do I get him to relax in the face?
–Calli Wilson, Temecula
DEAR CALLI: I think it’s possible that much of the problem could be because your horse has developed fear and resistance in the face – most likely from the way a rider used their hands when he was being started, or possibly by the way you use your hands now. This has developed into a very bad habit, and no matter what caused it, you can still benefit and improve by what I’m about to teach you!
By developing better feel in your hands you can help your horse to get over this. A horse that reacts by being afraid in the face has not yet learned to have confidence in the rider’s hands. Sometimes this starts by a rider putting too much bit or bridle in a green horse’s mouth. It also may be that the rider may not be sensitive enough in their hands to deal with it. The behaviors of over-bridling or “hiding in the face”, pulling reins out of your hands, and getting “heavy in the face” are all ways that horses use to resist pressure — they show an unhappy and unwilling attitude to pressure in the face or mouth. I would put your horse back into a snaffle or a mild short shank correction-type bit, then and let’s work on rebuilding his confidence.
First of all, establish in your mind that it’s OK to take hold of your horse’s face, but also realize that how you approach him with your hands is reminiscent to how you would speak to a person. If your approach is sharp, jerky or rough, then you have “yelled” at him with your hands, and he may be on the defensive. The behaviors you mentioned are defensive behaviors. The biggest thing you can do to change his response is to change your approach to him.
Here are some secrets to good hands:
1. Your Approach- This is such an important part, as it is the start the communication with your horse using your hands. Do your best to make sure initial contact is smooth and fair. Don’t come in with a rough or rigid jerk. I teach my riders that it is OK to bump or correct your horse in the face as long as you are in contact. If you jerk or bump with no warning — “out of mid-air,” so to speak — you will scare your horse and teach him to brace against your hands. When you pick up on the reins, just draw up smooth and slow until you are in contact with his mouth and then make any corrections, as needed.
2. Your bump, pull or correction and the follow-through- Once you’ve made contact with your horse’s mouth, you now have to make the decisionas to whether you need to pull or bump your horse in the face or simply just hold him. This is where feel comes into play. Do your best to “feel” with your hands what your horse is doing at the end of the bridle reins – which leads to a point: If your horse is ever pulling the reins out of your hands, he is basically controlling your pull or pick-up. This can reinforce the very bad habit of a horse throwing his head. By allowing him to pull the reins out of your hands, you are giving him a positive reward for his negative behavior, and that will make him do it even more and more! Make sure you are mindful about your hold on the reins, and don’t let those reins slide through your hands! Also, don’t give your horse any stronger correction than is needed to get the desired response.
Remember, the pounds of pressure that you use to pull or bump on your horse is intensified or magnified when you use a shank bridle to the degree of severity of the bit. If you are in a snaffle, it is close to the same pounds of pressure as you actually apply with your hands. So ride very mindful of this, and don’t add any more pressure than you need — that will develop trust in your horse. Also, make sure you give a clear message. Riding this way will take a lot of focus, and, for myself, I have found that if I am really working on a horse I must limit my outside distractions or I may get heavy-handed and lose the feel I am trying to develop. You are building a relationship with your horse, so be a fair partner.
Follow-through is another important component of this phase of the pick-up. Follow-through is nothing more than asking until you get a response.
This also requires feel and awareness. It means to stay in or follow through until you are satisfied with the amount your horse gives. Be clear and give a clear message, and your horse will learn faster. I look for my horse to give in the face but also to soften or lighten in my hands. Then I know I’m ready to release.
3. The release- Once you are satisfied with your horse and the amount that he gave, then you want to release or give back to him with your hands. I like to release in a smooth, slow motion. I also want to recommend that when you release, you are truly released. Make sure you give enough rein so that the pressure(or contact) changed enough so that he truly felt the release. The release is his reward. Horses learn by that reward. They also look for the reward, so make your message clear and make sure he realizes that he is being rewarded.
I’ve just given you a lesson on how to use your hands more effectively. If you study that and put it to practice, you will start seeing some good results with all the horses that you ride.
Also, a word of warning – as with all horses that you ride, if you are in contact with a horse and their face shows any signs of wanting to rear or becoming dangerous, then stop what you are doing and get the help of a professional.
Thanks for your question and happy riding!
Do you have a question for Dana? Simply go to www.horsetrader.com and click on the “Dear Dana” section, then submit it! If your question is selected, you will be entered into a monthly drawing for a FREE “Winning Strides” DVD from Dana’s training video series.
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Blair Willette of Prescott, Ariz., was recognized for her accomplishments ourside the reining arena by the National Reining Horse Youth Association.
The NRHyA offers members an online program that rewards youth for leadership and community service. In its sixth year, the Varsity Reining Club (VRC) provides scholarships totaling $5,000 to the most active participants in two age groups.
Thirteenth in a series
After refining cuing zones with our legs last issue, Les helps us toward a lighter touch.
Here’s a good exercise to remind you of how little rein pressure it takes to send a signal to your horse.
To try it, just hang your bridle on a doorknob, like it would hang from a horse’s head. Now stand about five feet away, take one rein in your hand and just lift it until you make contact with the bit and it starts to move. You’ll see that it doesn’t really take a lot of pressure or movement on your part to get movement out of the bit. Our goal is not to force the horse’s movement through the bridle, but to teach him to respond in a certain way when he feels contact, not necessarily pressure, from the bit. The faster you can train yourself to cue him with a lighter touch, the faster you will get the light response we all want to achieve.
Of course your horse is not going to know that he’s supposed to respond to the light cues right away, but it’s important that you always start there, to give him a chance to be a hero and do it right, before you get stronger and more insistent with your cues. One of these times he’s going to surprise the heck out of you!
Throughout this program I’ll be laying out exercises for you to do with your horse. It’s really important that you stay with each one until your horse has reached the point where he’s conditioned to perform the movement perfectly, with just a light cue. If you can do that, over the long run, I know you’ll really be satisfied with your results!
EDITOR’S NOTE: More with Les is a regular California Horsetrader column. Les Vogt has won more than 15 World Championships, including two wins at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. Although Les still rides and occasionally shows, his focus is giving clinics around the world and developing products for the performance horseman. To learn more about Les and to see his clinic schedule, visit: www.lesvogt.com
Big Horse Feed in Temecula will be having its big January Clearance Sale on Saturday, Jan. 28. From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., you’ll find unbeatable bargains on merchandise than is downright irresistible. Come early and save big! Big Horse is more than just a feed store –- it offers women’s and men’s apparel, home furnishings and decor, saddles and tack, boots and…well, you get the picture. Now get on over to Big Horse in Temecula and get the savings on things for horse, hound and more. For more info, see the ad on page 14, or call (951) 676-2544.