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

Is Mounted Unit work for you?

March 14, 2014

Mounted Police Trail ObstacleBy: Joann K. Long of Gentle Dove Farms

Do you want to enjoy your equestrian passion while contributing to your community? That thought was how my husband and I became actively involved in volunteer mounted patrol work. Our local Sheriff’s department had a Mounted Unit and we could proudly serve with our own horses if we met the membership criteria.

There were several criteria to be met, including an initial interview and background check. Of course the horses had their own testing as well. Fortunately, we had quiet, well-behaved horses that would be an asset to the unit. Each unit has their own testing criteria, but most include demonstrating equitation, obstacle maneuvers, public demeanor, and horsemanship skills. If the criterion were met, then a commitment would be made to participate in regular training and support Law enforcement and Search and Rescue activities.

Training consisted of formation riding, sensory and obstacle control, basic search and rescue techniques, crowd control, police equitation, arrest techniques, situation control, vehicle extrication, and fireworks and night maneuvers. Further, scenario training included simulated real life events such as containing protesters, search and rescue situations, and VIP escorts. Each member puts in numerous hours of individual training on their horse to prepare them for patrol.

Service and duties vary from patrol to patrol, but typically the Mounted Unit devotes many hours to traffic and crowd control, patrolling parks, concerts, fairs, festivals, and other public relation events, as well as participation in parades and park & pets (where the horse needs to stand calmly as children run around and sometimes crowd the horse to get their pets in).

In addition to the regular duties and community service, some mounted unit members participate in mounted police competitions held throughout each state and internationally. Competitions act as a form of training, networking with other Mounted Police Units, and a means of sharing strategies, methods and skills in the challenges of mounted work.

The general equestrian public typically take trail rides through a park, but one of my favorite ‘trail’ rides was riding down the center of my town on my horse, looking for new experiences and stopping to let the kids pet my horse. If you have a sense of ‘oh that would be fun’ then you’d be a great candidate for your local mounted patrol!

My husband and I were proud to serve our community. Most people were excited to pet our horses and talk to the mounted police – in contrast you don’t normally see kids excited to walk up to a patrol car and try to pet it! Mounted units provide a great way to make a positive connection within the community. Personally, I’m privileged to have belonged to a Mounted Unit and enjoyed my passion for horseback riding while giving back to my community. You may still see me riding down the city streets of my town!

Joann Long Mounted Patrol Officer

Joann Long Mounted Patrol Officer

The mounted unit provides training from which every horseman could benefit. Their training was the framework towards developing our equine partnership. We had great success in police horse competitions and were frequently asked how we trained our horses. From those inquiries, Gentle Dove Farm was born – to teach the general equestrian public mounted police style training. We encourage partnership, communication, and exceptional trust mounted police style! If you’d like to know more, please visit!

Happy and safe riding!

Joann K. Long

©Gentle Dove Farm

Kids Make A Great Test

February 5, 2014

As we keep saying, there are lots of “experts” out there when it comes to horse training.  If you aren’t a horse trainer, it can be a little hard to distinguish a real expert from a vocal, big talking amateur. If you aren’t familiar with horses, then how can you know?

Here’s a really simple, easy way to see whether a “horse trainer” knows their stuff. Take a good look at their children. Kids don’t lie. Well-behaved kids are the product of love, respect, and discipline. Not present-day society’s gooey love, but genuine concern over the welfare of a child by a parent who demands respect and obedience.

Does the expert have the kind of children that none of us care to be around? You know the ones! If so, we’ll bet all the big talk is just hot air. We have never seen a reputable horseman whose children (and dogs) didn’t mind. A genuine horseman understands respect is essential and demands it. This shouldn’t suggest they are mean-spirited, but they also don’t put up with nonsense. You may not be able to accurately evaluate and judge horses, but all of us recognize poorly behaving children.

You don’t have to know anything about horses to distinguish a real life, honest to goodness horse trainer from a “blow hard”!

Foal Imprinting; A Different Perspective

October 3, 2013

Foal imprinting is a popular concept frequently discussed in books, magazines, and equine literature. There are variations of imprinting, but all lead back to human contact with a foal as soon as possible once born. Some believe you need to be there when the foal is born so you can put your hands all over it to begin the bonding process. Frankly, that’s the mother’s job to bond with the baby. The foal needs uninterrupted time with the mother just like any other mammal for proper social development. You can probably tell imprinting at birth is not something I find to be that beneficial.

The objective behind imprinting is to desensitize the foal and make it easier to handle. Some breeders feel early contact makes the foal easier to train and more accepting of humans. While there may be some slight benefit to early contact including light haltering and leading from about two months of age, the over use of imprinting actually makes a horse harder to train, not easier.  If there is too much contact, petting, brushing, and desensitization, then as a grown horse, the natural tools given to us have been removed. You end up with a giant pet dog instead of a horse to ride.

From a trainer’s perspective, the natural instincts are the basic and primary tools to teach the fundamentals of riding, cues, and ground manners. Think about it, a horse learns to move forward by pressure from the rear or the sides. A horse that is content with pressure from over-stimulation is much harder to train. It requires more pressure to encourage the desired action. Instead of a slight nudge with the heel, you may have to use more pressure to cue or direct the horse.

The horse that has been touched too much will often resent training. Having grown accustom to being petted, caressed, and essentially spoiled, the horse dislikes the idea of having to work.  Instead, the horse expects and associates touch with doing nothing other than standing. Like most things in life, balance is important and too much of even something good sours the experience. Personally, I prefer to train a horse never worked before two years old than one that has been imprinted and handled extensively. The untouched horse will learn faster and do better with less handling than the one that was imprinted.

If you want a responsive, respectful horse, don’t spoil it as a baby. Just like people, once spoiled, it is far more difficult to teach the lessons that will be needed to produce a horse ready and willing to do a job. Just the thoughts of a trainer to think over.

Respect Is Essential To Properly Train A Horse

June 28, 2012

According to Mike Kevil, who has more than 30 years experience training horses and starting colts, there are five common mistakes most folks make when training a horse.  Not demanding  respect from the horse is one of the mistakes. Kivel says, ” Gaining respect from their horse can be really hard for some people. It’s really not that difficult, but some people have a hard time making themselves do what’s required to get the necessary level of respect. ”

First time horse buyers or inexperienced riders commonly have this problem. It is hard for them to understand that horses must respect you or they will walk all over you.  As Kivel points out, if you don’t have respect of the ground, you aren’t going to acquire it  riding and your training is going to fail.

We see the danger in the horse lacking of respect for you just like Kivel, “A lot of problems happen because a horse is allowed to do something wrong that the owner doesn’t perceive as a potential problem. Then the owner will say something like, “’All of a sudden, one day he bit me.’ It didn’t happen ‘all of a sudden.’ Over a period of time, the horse went from friendly, to pushy, to bold, and then to biting. When you don’t see it coming, it just seems like it happens all of a sudden.”

If you want to avoid accidents and problems, make sure you learn how to get the horse to respect you. We believe new riders learn this lesson best in working with a well- trained horse who will likely give a certain amount of respect right from the start. An experienced horse allows a beginner to see how a horse should properly behave.  If you’ve never experienced a respectful horse, it is really difficult to know what you should expect. We agree every horse needs to understand the rider deserves to be treated right!