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Is your horse truly broke?

By Sheryl Lynde /Horsetrader columnist - December 17th, 2015 - Trainer Tips

What is your definition of a “broke” horse? You may be able to ride your horse, but this does not necessarily imply that your horse is broke to ride.
For instance, does your horse kick out or buck when you urge him to go forward? Does he spook or bolt frequently, or panic while out on the trail when his companion horse gets out of sight? Does he threaten to rear when asked to leave the barn, or need to be in the lead position when riding in a group?

If you have answered yes to any of these behaviors, although you are able to ride your horse, your horse is not truly broke.

The abovementioned issues are just a few of the more common problems experienced by many riders, yet they still choose to ride, greatly increasing the risk of injury to themselves and fellow riders.

While driving your car, the engine light illuminates. As you continue driving, there is no discernable difference as to how the car handles, but you start to question its reliability. With every noise, you anticipate something going awry. An anxiety builds, and you question your safety. In order to eliminate risk to your welfare, you seek a professional to resolve the issue.

When you choose to ride a horse that exhibits any unwanted behaviors, your horse’s engine light is on. Not only is your safety at risk, but another casualty that gradually erodes with each ride is your confidence. And — as with your car — the problem will not correct itself.

Don’t settle with matters that impact your well-being. Identify the issue and correct it. If you lack the knowledge, find a professional that will help you. To have a safe, broke horse takes time and training. Is your safety worth the effort? Of course it is.

To identify the results you intend to accomplish, you will need to understand your goal is not where your journey begins, just as a race does not start at the finish line. You need to develop a strategy or plan and break it down into steps. Be flexible enough to change your plan and be ready to break the steps down even further if that meets your horse’s needs. It’s called getting back to basics. Don’t settle — build a safe, broke horse by strengthening the foundation. Always be ready to take a step back.

A client of mine once brought a horse that had no stop while out on trail. Their solution was to use a bigger bit. They found this effective for a limited time only, as the horse learned to tolerate the pressure of each bit they graduated to — and the issue remained.

I broke the issue down by replacing the leverage bit with a snaffle and working in the round pen instead of trail. The horse was very inflexible laterally, so I worked on getting softness by the use of one-rein stops. For a week, I initiated a stop at a walk, trot and cantor by using one rein only until there was a noticeable difference in both softness and willingness to stop moving his feet. I stayed with this exercise until I was able to lightly take a pull on either rein, and he would soften his face by bringing his chin to his shoulder and come to a stop.

I also noticed that he was resistant and sluggish when asked to back up. The better a horse backs up, the better they stop. I changed my plan and worked on his back-up. I took the slack out of both reins until I made contact with his mouth, then added leg pressure until he moved backwards with energy. I didn’t pull him back with the reins because pulling increases resistance and causes the head to lift. My hands guide, and my legs are the gas pedal. When he improved in his lateral softness and back-up, he was ready for trail. Working in the snaffle, I continued the one-rein stop and back-up exercises out on trail, at all gaits. By the second week, when I exhaled, lightly pulled on both reins and said “whoa,” he gave me a nice, immediate, soft stop. Success!

We are so fortunate to have the freedom to follow our passion. There are so many resources and people available that are ready to help guide us along our path. Choose to grow, expand your knowledge, and ability. We can strive for our dreams, yet so often we make the choice to settle or just get by — which holds us hostage to fear or ego.

As 2015 comes to a close, commit to breaking out of your comfort zone, that’s where you find talent that you didn’t know you had. Live at your highest level!


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