Simple Confidence Building Tool For You and Your Horse

July 29, 2014

Confidence Building ClinicHere is a simple and inexpensive training tool to use in building confidence in your horse. A child’s wading pool filled with empty water and soda bottles. The sound when the horse steps into the pool is loud and crackly. The feel is strange to the horse as the bottom of the pool gives from the weight and the bottles slide underneath the hoof.

The pools are cheap to purchase, but you can often find them at the end of the Summer in the trash as you drive down the road. Of course, you want to look both ways before you grab one out of the trash. People may wonder what’s wrong with you; stealing a worn out pool from the neighbor. If you really want to get their attention, sort through their garbage to get the empty bottles as well.

Riding your horse through the pool is one more way to teach confidence and leadership. Many horses prefer to just go around the obstacle rather than cross it. As with any new and strange challenge, it may take a couple of attempts before your horse enters the pool. But, once he does, the exercise can be expanded for him to stand quietly in it. You can add water to make the bottles float and move even more. In short, it is an easy way to artificially create an obstacle in your own backyard.

Pulling Logs Makes A Great Training Exercise

July 1, 2014

Pulling logs is a great way to build your horse physically, mentally, and emotionally. The geldings at the ranch are taught to pull all sorts of things; logs, tires, metal barrels, sleds, fence posts and whatever else we need done. Not long ago, someone ran across an old metal table in the woods. A lariat was tied to the table and the young gelding dragged it over half a mile back to the trash at the barn.

It isn’t hard to see how pulling some extra weight helps get your horse in shape. No different from you pulling the little red wagon with the kids around the yard or the sled through the snow. It helps a horse mentally because they learn to think. You don’t make really tight turns around a rock or a tree. The horse has to learn to think just a little more. Of course some never get the hang of it. Emotionally the horse develops from learning to accept a lot of noise and commotion behind him. Our ranch geldings quickly figure out that it isn’t going to do any good to get upset. It doesn’t make it stop following them.

If you haven’t ever pulled or tied off to something, you probably should get someone with experience to help you the first few times. It can occasionally get exciting and you don’t want to learn how to do it the hard way. It hurts too much. We used the term “tied off” but strongly suggest it doesn’t mean really tied. We use the term to mean someone took a couple of dallies or loops around the saddle horn. In a bind, you can let go of the rope and it will just unwind. Safety needs to always be a priority when dragging or pulling. You want to always be able to release the pressure in the event of an emergency or unexpected happening.

The “Magic Halter”

June 20, 2014

Once in a while, we give a talk or presentation about horses and horse training. One of our consistent goals is to educate people about horses. The “magic halter” is sometimes part of the discussion. We sometimes bring a “magic halter” with us to demonstrate the magic power contained in the woven strands. The benefit of a “magic halter” is you can use it when you have a horse that won’t lead,  won’t load in the trailer, sets back, and a host of other vices and instantly fix the problem. These halters retail for $79.95, pricey for a halter. But, it’s the magic you pay for.

Of course we are always happy to sell one of these grand devices. We want to help people fix their horse problems. Here’s the way it works, a “magic halter” is placed on the problem horse by one of our expert horse trainers and within 5 – 10 minutes the problem horse is leading, loading in the trailer, and “magically cured”. At least cured until the owner takes hold of the end of the rope. Those doggone batteries in a “magic halter” don’t last as long as they used to. Maybe we should sell some extra batteries to go with the “magic halters”?

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

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.

Barn Sour Blues

March 23, 2014

Barn sour horses can be dangerous, but are downright frustrating at best. Personally, we don’t like them being even a little barn sour. When we point a horse in the direction we intend to go, the horse is expected to go in a straight line until told otherwise. But, it is Springtime and a lot of people start complaining their horse keeps wanting to go back to the barn.

Here’s a tip for you. Make the barn a miserable place, and nothing makes a barn sour (lazy) horse any more unhappy than work.

This past week, we had one of our horses start the annoying habit of turning about one step the direction of the barn about every 30 seconds. He knew better, but it was only slight deviation. After all, it was only one step off a straight line. Of course, it became a second step off course in another 30 seconds. It took no effort to put him back on course, but irritating to have to do it. After being set back on course about 25 times, he was corrected with spurs the next several occasions. But, he just wasn’t quite getting the message.

So what can you do? Well, I gave up and let him win. We made a beeline back to the barn. What he didn’t anticipate is what came next. Once the gate was open and he was comfortably inside, he went to work! He trotted in circles, made short, tight turns, and spent the next 10 minutes with his feet moving fast. Because the area in front of the barn isn’t large, he had to exert some effort. At the end of our little “work out”, we rode directly back out. Just a short way from the barn, it was time to take a short break and pet him. He was told what a fine job his effort had been back at the barn and how nice it was to be able to take a break together out there on the trail.

Some will laugh, others will say we’re crazy that there is no way he could understand. We respectfully beg to differ. He completely understood and recognized the trail was a far better place to spend his time than back at the barn where you do all that training work and exercise. If you have a horse starting to like the barn, make sure the trail is a better place to be.

Gentle Dove Farm Announces A Versatile Horse Obstacle Clinic

February 18, 2014

Joann Long notified us Gentle Dove Farm has scheduled an obstacle clinic to be held Saturday, July 19, 2014, with an emphasis on mounted police training techniques. Designed to teach and instill confidence in both horse and rider, Ms. Long is a certified instructor who believes strongly in the benefits the training provides. Police mounts obviously require calm natures, discipline, and sound physical and mental health. For more information, contact Joann at 585-738-7477.

Polly Hobbled – Good Horses Stand Hobbled

February 8, 2014

DSCF0065The benefits of hobble training escapes attention these days. It’s sad because hobble training:

1.  Teaches patience.

2.  Teaches a horse to remain calm while their feet are caught in something the horse didn’t expect.

3.  Gives the rider the option of overnight restraint without a fence.

4. Let’s you do ranch chores when your horse doesn’t ground tie. (Okay, maybe this isn’t a very good reason when there’s fence work to be done!)

Horse Trainers Teach and Train Horses

February 2, 2014

We keep reading blogs and articles written by “horse trainers” who are clueless about how to train a horse. Recently, we saw a post by a young woman who writes a blog and offers “training advice”. She even requests people to contact her with issues with their horse so she can help solve them (won’t embarrass her by linking to the post).

She relates a story about being pregnant and calling a farrier out to trim her mare’s feet. The mare wouldn’t pick up her feet for the farrier and “didn’t like him”. Bottom line, the woman trims the mare’s feet while someone else holds a feed bucket.  News Alert: Holding a bucket full of feed so you can trim your horse’s feet is a work around solution, not training.

Training is teaching, instructing, correcting, and giving discipline. It is not finding “work around solutions” to the problem. Average everyday riders often find suitable ways to “work around” their specific problem. Nothing wrong with a self-help answer to get the job done, but it just shouldn’t be confused with “training”. The key difference between training and simply getting the job done is “training” teaches the horse a task or activity. Other solutions like using a feed bucket to trim your horses feet are just a crutch. The horse doesn’t learn anything except how to eat!


Horses That Pull Back Are Dangerous To Others

January 30, 2014

Not long ago, we read the post of a “horse trainer” upset over a horse whose neck was broken while the owner was trying to teach it not to pull back. The “horse trainer” was bemoaning the beauty of the little filly just the week before. No doubt a dead horse is unpleasant and possibly could have been avoided. However, the owner of the dead horse was at least attempting to teach it not to pull back. A horse that suddenly sits back and snaps halters and ropes is a danger to anyone in the immediate vicinity. A small child or elderly person could be badly injured or killed as the horse backs over them. A horse that isn’t disciplined and properly trained isn’t “beautiful” no matter how much eye-appeal there may be. It’s a hazard.

Horses are sometimes hurt or even killed in training just like high school football players are sometimes injured and die during practice. It’s a fact of life. Unfortunately, many “horse trainers” aren’t trainers at all. If they won’t teach and discipline their horses, the horse isn’t being trained. In society today, discipline is a “bad” word. It shouldn’t be, the word “dressage” is nothing more than discipline. A horse properly trained and disciplined is much happier than the one who isn’t and much safer to have around. To the extent, injuries can occasionally occur during training isn’t a good reason not to train your horse.

If your horse doesn’t know how to quietly stand while tied, he needs to be taught. If not for your own safety, then for the welfare of everyone else.

Horses Need To Learn How To Be Hobbled

January 27, 2014

PollyThe photograph shows Polly standing hobbled about 10 feet from limbs being cut off the fence with a chain saw. During a recent ice storm, a lot of limbs and small trees found their way to the top of the fence. Polly was used to transport the chain saw and stood hobbled while the limbs were cut away.

Horses need to learn to stand quietly in hobbles. You never know when hobbles might be needed to be used in an emergency situation. Hobbles also teach your horse patience, not to mention how to stand quietly when their feet are caught.

After learning to stand with hobbles, Polly will not have any trouble learning to ground tie. She will be used to standing and waiting until her rider is ready to go. Hobble training has many benefits.

Communication Doesn’t Require Constant Contact On The Reins

January 18, 2014

There’s a fairly large group of riders who have been erroneously taught to keep continuous or constant contact between the reins and the bit. For some reason, they were taught to never let any slack develop in the reins. The misperception is that any lack of rein pressure in the horse’s mouth means no communication is taking place with the horse. In reality, the rider is developing a horse with a tough mouth that requires a considerable amount of attention to perform simple tasks. The rider can never leave a horse ridden in this manner to perform even the most simplistic task on command. Every minor action taken by the horse must be under the direction and guidance of the rider.

Although the belief spans all disciplines to some degree, interestingly dressage riders appear to be the most prone. We find this especially peculiar in a discipline that emphasises training of the horse to perform beautiful movements almost to the point of a dance. In our opinion, your horse should follow instructions without the need to micro-manage every little detail. As you know, we often use analogies with people to illustrate our thoughts. Let’s say you ask your 10-year-old to please bring you a glass of milk. Do you manage every minor segment of the activities to complete the task. Do you orchestrate each step to the refrigerator, opening of the door, getting a glass from the cabinet, and replacing the milk jug back in the refrigerator. We certainly hope not. It would take a lot of work and effort. In fact, we would suggest it might be easier to get your own milk.

A properly trained horse can perform without constant rein pressure and should.When asked to engage, the horse should do so and without being told where each foot needs to be.  If you want to work hard while you ride, it’s your choice. For us, we prefer to keep it easy and simple.