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Dear Dana: Can my cutter shift to western pleasure?

By DANA HOKANA - September 16th, 2010 - Q&A Dear Dana

DEAR DANA: I purchased a 10-year-old cutting horse. How can I teach him to set his head for western pleasure classes?
–Susan Meade, Placerville, Calif.

DEAR SUSAN: It’s complicated, but not impossible! Training for cutting is very different than western pleasure, and he will need a lot of new training. First, in order for a horse to set his head he has to use flexion in his head and neck — he must must flex in the jaw, pole and neck to set or bridle his head. When you touch his face with the reins, he must soften in the jaw, give or break at the poll and flex in his neck. Here you will need to retrain his response to his rein cue.

Start with a lot of lateral flexion exercises, such as bringing your hand out to the side asking him to bend through the neck, and bend his head around toward your toe. Ask him to walk forward as you take a hold of him. Start on one side or the other, and if he starts out stiff, keep gently pushing and asking until he gives.

He may be real stiff at first, and it may take you weeks to get through – but stay patient! As soon as he will bend his head to the side either way and will walk forward, ask with both hands at once for him to set his head.

If he gives even a little bit, release him for a reward. Horses learn by reward, so make him want to please you by giving when he tries. Good luck with him!
P.S. – My take control Volume 5 and 6 are in depth DVD’s teaching you how to do exactly what you are asking.

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