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Dear Dana: How can I get my horse to transition nicely into the lope?

By DANA HOKANA / Horsetrader columnist - December 3rd, 2009

DEAR DANA: How can I get my horse to lift the shoulder and transition into the lope without getting cranky and over bridled?
—Caroline Campbell, San Miguel, Calif.

DEAR CAROLINE: It sounds to me that your horse has resistance to your leg. I cannot be positive without seeing your horse, but usually if the horse is cranky, it is because of an anger toward your leg. When a horse shows an attitude or has resistance, there is usually a root problem behind it that needs to be dealt with.

There are several components involved in the lope off transition in order to make a smooth, pretty transition. The most common area of resistance is to our leg cue. In a correct lope off, we are asking our horse to move his hindquarters over off of our leg into position to be on the correct arc of the lead that we are loping off into. Our horse also has to have his weight distributed onto his hindquarters and reach up with his inside hind leg and balance on the outside hind leg. It takes strength and collection to perform this without any movement in the head and neck.

I layer a foundation with my horse and practice the individual maneuvers until it becomes easy and effortless. Teaching my horse the correct way to perform this transition is two-fold. He has to position his body correctly and perform the maneuver, but he also has to accept my cues. It sounds like he has an issue with the acceptance part of the cue. In order to develop acceptance, I will pay a lot of attention to my horses reaction to my cues. When I see signs of resistance — such as crankiness, excessively using his tail, or jumping off of my leg — I will stop and repeat the cue until I feel that he is accepting of my cues.

This is very important in order to accomplish smooth, effortless transitions. I recommend that you pay attention to the details, and when you see a bad reaction, stop and repeat it until you build acceptance. I also recommend that you do a lot of exercises asking your horse to move over off of your leg – such as pushing the hindquarters around the front end, two-tracking or leg yielding, and side passing.

Work on these until he seems to accept being moved and pushed around off your leg. Good luck to you!


P.S. – In my DVD video series, “Maximizing Your Western Pleasure Horse Vol. 1 and Vol. 3 — Secrets to a Truly Willing Horse”, there’s more!

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Understand traits before you sell short

Azteca owner unsure whether her gelding's 'paddling' is an asset

By RAY ARISS / Horsetrader columnist - December 3rd, 2009

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?
— Heidi Mahler

HEY HEIDI: First, there is no such thing as a perfect horse. In my 30 years of training horses, I have worked with hot bloods, warm bloods, cold bloods, exotics and domestic horses as well as miniatures, drafts and gaited horses. At one time or another, I remember recognizing the winging that you refer to in all of these breeds — sometimes on the left or right leg, and sometimes on both. I guess we should label it for what it is: a crooked leg.

What’s more important than that is this: Why would horses evolve into having crooked front legs? Because the Andalusian is a very old breed and a foundation to many of the breeds that exist today, a lot of characteristics of the breed have been passed on, including the “paddling.” Because these horses lived in marshes, when threatened and attacked by predators, the only horses that contributed to the gene pool were either those who paddled — skimming their hooves over the water more quickly — or the straight legged horses that had enough knee action and speed to move just as fast as the horses that had Termino. It should be easy for us to relate to the value of this movement by simply remembering what it felt like to run in water knee deep at the beach when trying to go fast. We too paddled our feet over the water because it was easier, regardless of how silly it may have looked.

A benefit of paddling recognized by many Peruvian Paso breeders was the fact that it made the horses back smoother to ride. By the way it’s the Peruvian Paso horse that wings, not the Paso Fino horse you mentioned above. Paso Fino horses are very straight moving, and move nowhere in a hurry, which if you have ever experienced this ride, it‘s a kick in the pants. Secondly, I am happy to hear that you are excited about your horse, and you see values and characteristics that you feel would make this horse an awesome dressage horse. That’s the most important aspect. If you were to keep this horse, I’d say focus on his strengths to keep you motivated in his training, and then expose all weak links in order to compensate and keep your horse healthy.

I’ve known many successful performance horses of different breeds that wing. The reason they have had long and successful careers was because of the attention to detail when trimming their feet. Like any good shoeing, having the hoof make contact with the ground perfectly flat when moving is key.
So Heidi — to finish answering your question – yes, it is acceptable but not necessarily desirable. Remember any extreme fault or quality should be carefully weighed and prioritized in order to achieve a well-balanced horse, partner and friend. Before you could sell this horse successfully, you have to remember what motivated you to buy or breed this horse initially.

This information should make the selling process valuable for both sides. “You have to be sold on your horse before you can sell him well.”

As always, Trust your instincts and be safe.


Horsetrader columnist Ray Ariss, husband to Pippa Ariss and father of six, shares his insight into the relationship of horseand human twice each month, in print and on www.horsetrader.com. He lives and trains in “Horsetown USA”, Norco, Calif., at his bustling Starbrite Riding Academy, where he currently has 50 horses in various stages of training, including Andalusians, Friesians, Quarter Horses, Paints, Thoroughbreds, Arabs, Mustangs and more. Ray attributes his training success to the support of his wife and partner, Pippa, and a system he calls S.W.A.P., to which he credits his multiple championships in several disciplines. His passionate understanding of the “human-horse” relationship was evident when he took on the challenge of training a wild Mustang and — in just 100 days — produced the highest-priced adopted Mustang ever — $50,000. Does your “horse-human relationship” leave you with a question for Ray? Click here to submit one!

Extreme Cowboy competition has inaugural World Championships

Robin Bond shines as California's top finisher

From Horsetrader staff reports - December 3rd, 2009

TOPEKA, Kan. — Before last February’s Equine Affaire in Pomona, trainer Robin Bond of Rancho Dos Palmas ranch in Vista heeded encouragement of her clients: enter the Extreme Cowboy event.

She did, and nine months after being bitten by the Extreme Cowboy bug, she found herself Nov. 15 just a point shy of being World Champion in the Professional Division of the first Extreme Cowboy Race World Championships.

“I thought I was going to win it, but I didn’t count my chickens,” said Bond, whose 389.25 final total on Jose’s Perfection trailed Lee Hart of Kansas (390.25) and Kelly LeBlanc of Illinois (389.5). “I was going up against the group of guys who I’d never seen ride before.”

Rich Fellers continues win streak at Sacramento International

Northern California show draws crowds and high-caliber riders

Special to the Horsetrader - December 3rd, 2009
Rich Fellers and Flexible win the $75,000 Grand Prix of Sacramento at the Sacramento International Horse Show on Nov. 7.

Todd Sutherland / Flying Horse Photography

Rich Fellers and Flexible win the $75,000 Grand Prix of Sacramento at the Sacramento International Horse Show on Nov. 7.

RANCHO MURIETA — World class show jumpers vying for $75,000 in prize money, thousands of fans packed into the stands, flags from many countries hanging overhead, and a JumboTron showing highlights and tracking the results were the scene at Murieta Equestrian Complex in Rancho Murieta, Calif., for the second annual Sacramento International Horse Show. The show was split between a welcome week Oct. 27-Nov. 1 and main week Nov. 4-8.

Hunter/Jumper trainer Rudy Leone, who was the show’s technical coordinator, and show manager Dale Harvey started the Sacramento International Horse Shows in 2008, wanting to bring international level riders to Northern California as part of the West Coast’s World Cup Qualifying circuit.

Triple Crown Classic format supports non-pro riders in Paso Robles

From Horsetrader staff reports - December 3rd, 2009
Shannon McCarty and Putting on the Bling win Snaffle Bit classes in both the Non Pro and Intermediate Non Pro at Triple Crown Classic.

Kat Rodgers photo

Shannon McCarty and Putting on the Bling win Snaffle Bit classes in both the Non Pro and Intermediate Non Pro at Triple Crown Classic.

PASO ROBLES — The Triple Crown Classic, which goes by the mantra “A Working Cowhorse Triathlon,” continued to stand out as a show which was particularly rider friendly to amateurs and non-pros, in giving them a place to start out or continue working on their skills.

While the American Quarter Horse Association World Championship was held Nov. 6-21, some California riders who were not competing at the AQHA year-end show in Oklahoma City chose to show in Paso Robles. The Nov. 13-15 Triple Crown Classic at Paso Robles Event Center had a total of 71 horses showing, three off from last year. The Bridle, Limited and Greener Than Grass divisions were the largest classes.

The Triple Crown Classic, an event sanctioned by National Stock Horse Association, was one of the only ones like it in the country. All of the divisions, including the Limited and Greener than Grass, show out of the herd.

Kristi Nunnink corners Galway Downs International Three-Day Event

Special to the Horsetrader - December 3rd, 2009
Kristi Nunnink and Corner Street win the CCI2* division at the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event Oct. 30-Nov. 1.

Amy McCool photo

Kristi Nunnink and Corner Street win the CCI2* division at the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event Oct. 30-Nov. 1.

TEMECULA — Kristi Nunnink and Corner Street were always leading in the Galway Downs International Three-Day Event in the CCI2* division held Oct. 30-Nov. 1 at Southern California Equestrian Center.

Nunnink riding Corner Street topped the 23-horse field in the Day 1 dressage phase with a score of 46.9, Day 2 cross-country phase, and stayed on top through the Day 3 climactic, show-jumping phase.

With her three closest competitors less than 2 points behind her as show jumping got underway, it looked as if Nunnink and the bay gelding would have to be absolutely perfect. But third-placed Tamra Smith dislodged two rails on Bubbles At Bricky before second-placed David Koss lowered three rails with Look Sweet. Those miscues gave Nunnink of Auburn, Calif., all the room she needed.

The Five Easy Pieces: Exercises to take control of your horse’s body zones

By LES VOGT / Horsetrader columnist - December 3rd, 2009

Continuing in a Series
This time, we continue discussing the topic of Exercise No. 4: Hip Control relating to “backing.” In the next few installments, Les Vogt takes you through exercises of his Five Easy Pieces. When you’ve mastered them, you should be able to put any part of your horse’s body where you want it, without resistance.