Good Horse Gone Bad

April 25, 2014


Ever wonder why the nice, sweet, gentle, well-trained horse you bought, is all of a sudden acting badly?

You are not alone. Years ago horses had a purpose, we rode them for transportation, and they worked daily and hard. Some also plowed the fields and gave the little ones a thrill on their back. They were bred to do a job, they were not fancy horses, and they were hardy, even-tempered and willing. They were great horses, because they were bred well and they were worked daily.

Nowadays, we do not ride for transportation; we ride for a competitive sport with the horse, or just for fun, with really no purpose at all. We breed for sport but many breed just because their horse is not a good riding horse.

So what horses used to be and what they are today is completely different. We have bred them to have more energy but do not give them things to do with it. We have also bred them poorly to have bad unwilling and ill temperaments and we do not give them structure or rules to improve their attitude.

Each horse needs a purpose and it should not be to take up space, eat and look pretty.

In nature horses can walk up to 30 miles looking for food and water. Nowadays, they just stand there and it is given to them. No wonder they are acting up, they are kept in a box or in a paddock with nothing to do all day long. You feel bad because they are locked up, so you feed them more, which gives them more energy but you do not give them anything to do with it.

So they come up with their own jobs, such as scare my owner, guard my stall, kick at my neighbor, break the halter, break the tie up post, run from the trailer, there are so many jobs they have given themselves, I can’t even name them all.

When your horse was trained, he had a job. He was probably worked in a round pen or turned out daily, or possibly both, he was groomed and tied up until the rider was ready and then worked with a purpose. This could have been a ranch horse where the rider worked cows, fixed fences, rode the perimeter of the land. It could have been worked in an arena on being soft in the bridle, backing, doing rollbacks, canter departures. Each rider gave the horse a job. Even a trail trainer would have picked certain trails with challenges and given the horse jobs as they rode the trail. Maybe go over a log, up and down steep hills, over rocks or logs, circle around a tree and then tied up at lunch and ridden some more.

So now your gentle horse is bucking, bolting, rearing, striking out, pinning its ears, not letting you catch him, biting at the girth. Can you hear what he is saying? GIVE ME A JOB! He is acting up, because he has to do something to get your attention, and walking around the barn or down a flat trail once a week is just not doing anything for him.

I train many horses, and all the bad horses turn good. They are given rules; jobs and they are not rewarded when they are bad. Rides always end on a good note. I round pen them to get rid of extra energy and get them thinking. I ride them with a plan, I pick trails depending on their energy level, if they are spunky I pick the steepest ones I can find, if they are not energetic I pick an easier trail. I ride over logs, move cows, follow squirrels, follow bikers, separate from the other riders, stop and back, even go off trail and ride over rocks, in creeks, whatever I can find. In the arena, I have a plan of what the horse needs to work on. Once the horse is good at his job, I vary what I work on or do it a little differently. The smart horses need challenges, the athletic horses need challenges. If you don’t give them any, this horse will out think you and possible dump you on the ground.

The lazy quiet horse also needs challenges. These horses get stubborn and may refuse to go away from the barn and get quick coming home. They may also turn their back on you or kick out.

The best advice I have is, learn what kind of horse you bought. What was the previous owner doing that made the horse so good? Ask them. If you know his breeding, what was he bred to do? Is he smart? If you know you bought a cutting or reining horse, research what their job was. A horse that previously was quiet but the owner use to canter 30 minutes a day, may not do well with your once a week workout. Too many horses go bad because the owners do not want to put in the work. Your bad horse can be good again, but the real question is, can you change?

Gaye DeRusso -The Majestic Rider is a professional horse trainer in California and guest writer. Ms. DeRusso is an accomplished rider and trainer that spends her time training gaited horses. For more information about her, check out her

Bell Cow Trail Ride Hosted By OETRA

April 18, 2014

Bell Cow Trail RideThe Oklahoma Equestrian Trail Riders Association (“OETRA”) held a trail ride at Bell Cow Lake this past weekend. We were only able to attend Saturday, but met some really nice people. Funny, horse people tend to be great folks. Those attending this ride were certainly pleasant and welcoming. The members of OETRA had spent the weekend before working the trails and clearing brush. The trails were marked very thoroughly and extremely easy to follow.

The weather was somewhat typical for Spring in Oklahoma. Saturday was windy and gusty, but warm. The sunshineIMG_175709484261932 was warm, but not hot.

OETRA has been conducting a membership drive. If you are looking for trail riding buddies, you ought to make contact with the group and attend one of their trail rides. We were told there are several more rides scheduled thru the Spring and Summer. We plan to attend more of them. It’s tough to get enough trail riding in Oklahoma this time of year!!!!!!!!!!!

How Can I Tell If My Horse Is Testing Me or Really Scared?

April 14, 2014

It’s a good question and one we were asked recently. There is no quick, simple test. It’s really knowing the horse and level of training it has received. With a horse new to you, there isn’t enough information to always be able to tell if the reluctance to perform a task is fear or just a test to see who’s in charge. But, here’s a few questions you can ask if you aren’t sure that might give the answer.

1.   If you get off the horse and someone else mounts, does the problem go away?

2.   Has the horse been quietly going past the scary place until now?

3.   Is this a young and inexperienced horse or a seasoned mount with a lot of experience?

4.   If you can see the horse’s face and eyes, do you see fear and concern or do you see a bit of a mean look?

5.   Is the horse afraid of just one object or is he suddenly uncomfortable with everything? One object sounds more like fear while an unwillingness to do anything is most likely a test.

A horse that usually crosses water that develops an unexpected fear of a small creek is most likely not afraid. It’s more likely he decided to see who is in charge. The same for a horse that loads well in a trailer that one morning refuses to load in the very trailer he has ridden in a dozen times before.

A horse that is genuinely scared needs to be handled differently than one that is acting stubborn. Fear needs to be overcome with some patience and hopefully gaining trust in your choices and leadership. A horse that is testing you needs to find out really fast exactly who is in charge. While you want to use the least amount of force necessary, it needs to be addressed promptly and in a way that firmly leaves no doubt.

A quick spur or slap of the reins may be all it takes. We had a gelding many years ago that you only needed to break off a small limb from a tree. Even a small child could take him anywhere just holding a small branch. You never had to touch him with it, he understood. Although spurs or reins could convince him, nothing was as effective as twirling a small limb.

With many horses, making them work is a good reminder. Trotting in a small circle, riding on the slope of a pond, heading into the rocks, or nearly anything that makes the horse focus on the placement of his feet. It gives less time to think over who is the leader and when the work stops, he is ready for a break doing something with you that doesn’t take quite as much effort.

Lastly, if you don’t know the horse, don’t exceed your limitations. Get someone who knows how to handle the horse to help you. Learning how to gain respect with a horse is not the same thing as adjusting the attitude of a rogue or mean-spirited one.

Dannah Westbrook Says AHCA Competition Is A Ball

April 10, 2014

Having A Ball With Your Horse

My name is Dannah Westbrook and I am the 14-year-old daughter of Clay and Stacy Westbrook. I live in Mount Enterprise, Texas where I have been riding since I was 7 years old. My momma and daddy took me to a weeklong Christian riding camp in Van, Texas called Sky Ranch. Momma had ridden all her life so she knew that if I got saddle sores and still wanted to ride that my heart was truly in it. I continued to only dream of my very own horse. I rode that whole week and the director told momma that I never wanted off the horse. So when momma came to watch me ride the last day we went and picked up my first horse.

I began in the horse world competing in ranch rodeos and speed events. In 2010 I became curious about other aspects of riding and more horsemanship. I met Wendy Stephens and I rode with her 2010-2012 where I gained my foundation for horsemanship and competition. I was also introduced to Janice Early in 2010 and she has allowed me to ride numerous amazing ponies that she raised at Lazy J Welsh Pony ranch.

I have been blessed enough to ride under numerous world known clinicians. I have enjoyed and learned from Wendy Stephens -27- Training Center Vivian, La, Mike Bridges a California vaquero style horseman, Jack Brainerd the master of the flying lead change Whitesboro, Texas, and Eitan Beth-Halacamy training in cowboy dressage. These trainers have helped me become the rider I am today. I have won national, state and regional championships, and set arena records on numerous horses and ponies because of these clinicians, lots of saddle soars and dedication. In 2013 God blessed me with the AHCA national youth championship on Lazy J Star Witness “my Super Star.”

I have been acknowledged in 11 publications and believe that my heart starts and stops with a horse. My four-legged friends have gotten me through many uphill challenges in my short life. I will never be able to repay the horses/ponies for the dedication they give me in the arena or at work in the fields.

I have competed in many competitions speed events, equestrian drill team, goat tying, english, showmanship, western pleasure, jumping, dressage, trail, cowboy racing, and AHCA. My favorite of these would have to be AHCA. With this competition comes cow work, shooting guns, bows and arrows, bridges, water crossing, technical elements of horsemanship, jumping, roping, or anything that you could encounter working a big ranch. This sport is truly a family sport. It is very entertaining and children can learn to ride correctly.

In 2014 my plan is to compete in amateur on Lazy J Star Witness a 5 yr. old Welsh pony owned by Janice Early of Lazy J Welsh Pony Ranch in Linden, Texas, Dual Contender “Colt” a 3 yr old AQHA and Blue Cedar Lady “Cedar” a 2006 AQHA both owned by Robert and Cody Taylor of Lazy RC Farms Appleby, Texas, and I may compete some on my 2010 Welsh pony Lazy J The G-Man.

I would like to thank some very special people in my life for getting me to this point Janice Early, Wendy Stephens, Robert, Cody and Lane Taylor, Carol Caldwell, Joni Brown with JoMar Farms, and especially my momma and daddy. I would not have made it this far in the horse world without all of their support.

In the future I hope that I can help people learn to ride with correct horsemanship and accomplish their goals with their horse/pony just as I am learning to do. I love to help kids and see their faces as they are getting to ride that horse/pony for the first time. My prayer for each and every person is that they all get to love a horse or pony as I have.

Thank you,

Dannah WestbrookAmerican Horsemen Challenge Association

Don’t Overlook the Benefits of a Good Spring Soak

April 8, 2014


For years before we opened the training program at the ranch, we used the advantages of a few good Spring Soaks. If you haven’t ridden your horse in the last few months, give some thought to the technique. It’s simple and effective. Catch your horse, saddle and bridle him, then tie him up to stand for a few hours. As he stands, maybe even impatiently for a bit, he starts to “soak”, i.e. to think about his job and accept the idea that it’s time to go back to work again.

Think back to your school days when you had the Summer off. By the end, your mind really wasn’t interested in studying or spending time in a classroom. The first week at many schools started on Wednesday or Thursday to give you the opportunity to get used to the idea again. A “soak” is the same principle. It puts the horse under your control, but without risk while he accepts the idea that Winter is over and it’s time to go back to work.

Most folks work full-time at their job and have a difficult time imagining being off work for a couple of months unless it was due to an injury or a layoff. But, try to envision a situation where your company shut down for two months and you were so valuable that to make sure you were there when it reopened that it paid you for the months you were off. A full paycheck with no responsibilities for several months is exactly what your horse just received. He’s just a little lazy from it and not 100% ready to give up his freedom and doing things his own way. He would just as soon keep getting the paycheck because he’s so valuable to you, but without having to show up for work.

If you haven’t tried a “soak”, you might find it really beneficial before you climb aboard for the first ride of the Spring.

Break Time At The CCC Trail Ride

April 5, 2014

The lunch break at the CCC trail ride in Slick, Oklahoma was filled with laughter, horse talk, and gospel music. The Coalition of Christian Cowboys offered more than just great company and superb food, they pulled out their instruments and played for everyone. The cowboys are the real deal! They can sit a horse and play a tune. Most of all, the make you feel right at home!

Mary Ben Marshall Trail Ride at Bell Cow Lake

April 2, 2014

Julie Cameron reports the Oklahoma Equestrian Trail Riders Association is hosting a weekend of trail riding and camping the weekend of April 11 – 13, 2014. There will be a lot of trails to ride and entertainment in the evenings. Saturday night will have a pot luck dinner to create some new friends and get to know each other. But, the most important and best part of the weekend will be riding the trails in the Oklahoma Springtime. It will be green and alive with all the new growth that always starts this time of year. The cost of attending is very reasonable, $15.00 for non-members and $10.00 for members of OETRA. Children under age 12 may attend free of charge. Julie wants to put the word out that everyone is welcome! If you want more information, send her an e-mail