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April 30, 2008

Country Pleasure Mare That Leaps into Her Canter

Hi Lonnie,

I am so glad to see your forum. What a great service you are offering! I bought a beautiful King Of Highpoint mare. She has the best manners of any horse I have ever owned. She's alittle insecure but with a confident rider, it's a good match. Here's my only issue with her, when she is in the full bridle, she wants to leap into her canter lead. I lined her in the curb and she canters fine but with someone on her back , she gets nervous and leaps into her lead. She doesn't do this in the snaffle. The curb I am using is a copper mullen mouth. She only does this at shows, at home she is good as gold. Any ideas?

Tip of the Day - No one ever won a class on the canter...but thousands have been lost!

Thank you so much for your letter. Your mare is indeed beautiful. I also wish to thank you for such a good description of this behavior, this will make our job easier.

From what you have said, I do not believe there is a physical or "respect" problem with your mare. The fact that: A. She doesn't do this in the snaffle. B. She only does this at shows, at home she is good as gold, leads me to believe we should be looking somewhere else for the cause.

Physically, if you are starting the transition to the canter correctly (from a complete, relaxed stop) a horse would almost require something to lean on to "leap". I would bet she drops her head and pulls when you ask her to canter and you pull back. If this is true, you have set up the ideal circumstance for this behavior. You are holding her head, so she has the security to lean on you and therefore can get the reach with her front legs to leap. I would bet that you use the rail and turn her head towards it when asking her to canter. I have told my riders, for years, "The rail is your friend!" In this instance, both you and your mare are depending on "your friend" way too much.

As far as "she only does this at the show", I am reminded of a wonderful mare and her very good rider (they eventually won at "the Big Dance") that for two years just seemed to self destruct at the major shows while winning, outstandingly, at the little ones. Fortunately, the lady figured it out for me... Her mare knew she was at a Major show and just rode differently, probably because she was nervous. Now this mare was pretty smart, but...........

The canter should be the easiest gait. From the time they are little babies they have cantered at their mother's sides.

The key word to dealing with this issue, is relax. The training problem here is "she only does it at the horse shows". Therefore, we must overcompensate to get both of you to relax at home and then in the ring. After you are done trotting your mare both ways and you have worked as much as you need to in the snaffle bit and a slightly long martingale, walk on loose rein until you feel her really let down and relax. At a point at least 15 feet from the rail but parallel, stop. Stand there quietly, petting her, loose in the bridle until you recognize that she has relaxed. (minutes are better than seconds), then ask her to walk forward a step or two, stop, turn her head slightly to the outside, say "canter" as you drop your outside leg back and give her forward impulsion (forward as opposed to towards the rail). The correct lead is not an issue at this juncture, what you want is a smooth, unhurried and relaxed transition off the rail.

By teaching a horse to canter from off the rail you take it away from them as something they can depend on and run to. She must now depend on you for guidance. You are now in a position to ask her to go forward not in the position of having to ask her to come back. This process will take time and tax your patience but the payoff will be many fold. Although this might sound like an equitation "workout" being able to canter, calmly, from anywhere in the ring has served many great horses well, Skywatch for one.

It is my belief that once you are confident of her cantering from anywhere you ask her, on a realistically loose rein, with her head slightly up rather than dumped over, the double bridle and the horse show issues will all fall into place.

Once again thank you, I hope this is of some help to you and please keep me informed of your progress. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

April 25, 2008

I want an ASB not a PBR!

Hi Lonnie--

You wanted to know how we did at the show on Saturday. Well, she was a bit of an ass that day. It was cool and there were lots of horses, so she "showed her heels" a bit at the canter. The judge understandably marked her down for it.

This bucking is a recurring problem. We've had her almost 2 years and she's done it periodically all that time. I've tried using a crop when she bucks, and ended up on the ground. It is not a hard buck, but it is more than a playful one. It used to be the first time you cantered her, but presumably in the show ring it was not the first time.

Is there something the rider can do to stop her from doing it? We are trying to sell her as a kids' horse, and she can't buck when she's being ridden by a kid. I haven't ridden her in months,but it doesn't seem to matter who is on her, she does it anyway.

Different saddles are used all the time. She was looked at by a chiro last summer with only minor adjustments. She is 6 and is fairly laid back personality-wise. She is a largish mare in both height and build. We bought her at age 4. We have put her on thyroid meds to help her have a bit more pep and keep some extra weight off. She is ridden mostly in a twisted-wire snaffle, or a gentle port curb on her full bridle. Her teeth were done this spring.

I have given you all the information I have, I think. Is there anything else we can check?

Thanks in advance.

Tip of the day- Easy Rider: Rides good in a trailer; not to be confused with "ride-able"

Thank you so much for your question and for the update. It seems manners get in your way at the show all the time..whether it is a competitor's horse like last time or your horse this time. As far as marketing her to kids I wasn't aware Tom Mix had any children! Seriously, the bucking in the ring ,or anywhere else for that matter, is not an acceptable behavior for any breed of saddle horse.

It was very wise of you to engage a chiropractor as often their results can be remarkable. Trying different saddles is also an excellent and wise idea. No matter how much it costs, how comfortable it feels or how good it looks, if it doesn't fit the horse... it's not the right saddle.

I must, however, question the wisdom of the Thyrol-L to give her more "PEP". It sounds to me like that is one thing she already has plenty of. In fact, any old cowboy worth his salt knows a tired horse is a mannered horse.

Well, since our last correspondence, some things are better. Your gelding is now a mare (much more valuable), you've found an honest judge, and we are no longer worried about her motion. So let's try to solve the bucking problem.

As I applauded your efforts to find the catalyst for the behavior, saddle search, chiropractor etc, a mare of this age could be the victim of problems with her female parts that can be extremely uncomfortable and could cause this issue i.e. cysts on her ovaries etc. A vet can check this very easily. Other symptoms include wringing or much swishing of her tail, pinning of the ears when working on her back or mounting and most important, irregular heat cycles. (it is useful to keep a cycle calendar for every mare).

If you feel this is a mental problem, "I can get away with it so I will just keep doing it," a "TAP" from a crop will do nothing but aggravate the situation, as I think you found out. If she needs hit it must be at the exact right time, and the exact right way and she must be "HIT"! Always remember, as well, a horse has a very difficult time bucking if his head is up or if he is turning.

As far as that Thyrol-L, I would put it in a cupboard for the time being.

It might help you to lunge this mare at the canter for 10-20 minutes before you ride.

If this behaviour manifests itself only at the canter, check her rear ankles for cuts, scars or old abrasions. Often a horse can canter very close behind and bump or brush his ankles causing discomfort.

Short of seeing this behavior, that is about all I can think to tell you. I will keep thinking and I thank you again for your question. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

April 24, 2008

I’ve Lost my Rear End

Mr. Lavery-

I was wondering if you had any suggestions as to how to strengthen a horse's hindquarters so as to improve their motion to the fullest extent. I have a 10 year old gelding by Supremacy's High Time who just doesn't have great hocks but is definitely capable of more than I'm getting out of him at the moment....

- When he was in professional training (several years ago, this was when he was a junior horse), he was jogged at least five days a week, often with an arena drag hooked to the back of the cart for added resistance and was a LOT sharper with his hocks.

-He was also being worked 5-gaited, but I stopped racking him when I brought him home because he had a tendency to mix his gaits and I just didn't have enough experience with anything but a completely finished gaited horse to try to fix him so he's now an Adult Show Pleasure horse...

- He also was kept in some extremely long and heavy kick chains, but he doesn't kick in the stall anymore so we don't use them...

- I don't have a cart so can't jog him, but I have seen some improvement working him in long lines at a jog, really pushing him forward to his bridle.

- I've tried heavier chains and those leather action boots with the drop chains, but he doesn't pay any more attention to them than a regular set of action chains....

His hind shoes get reset monthly because he grows toe a lot faster than heel, so he pretty much never grows any foot at all.

Any suggestions you can give me regarding working or shoeing would be very much appreciated

Tip of the day- -To cure equine insomnia? Take them in a halter class.

Thank you so much for your question. You must truly be a very good Horsewoman to pay so much attention to details about your horse. I must say though, I feel you have pretty much answered your own question. I have grown up being told by the finest horsemen that improving a horse's front end is not much of a problem but creating Hocks when God didn't give him any is endless project. I believe this is true. The jogging five days a week, pulling the drag, racking, wearing kick chains, etc, are all things that one can do to improve a horse's hocks. He has not been doing these things.

I see by the pictures you sent that Andy is a very attractive horse. He favors his illustrious father beauty wise but obviously did not get his hocks. You make a very nice looking team as your form is so good. I also note from the pictures that when showing he appears to be somewhat forward headed. In other words his nose is more in line with his wither than above it. As I have mentioned before, the horse's center of balance is in his head. When the head is forward and down the weight shifts to the forehand and the front end pulls the hind end along as they go forward. When the neck and head are up, the weight shifts to the hind end and creates the impulsion to push the horse forward. Simply put, head forward, no hock. Head up and get more hock and front motion. There is a chapter in my book that sums it up..."Form to Function".

The chains Andy wore in the stall not only stopped him from kicking they provided constant exercise for his hocks, as people work out with weights on their ankles.

I am certain that when he was gaited, they were able to grow plenty of foot on him behind and they carried a heavier shoe which also would help his hocks.

In 40 years of training horses, most horses jogged more often than they rode (some rode maybe once every month). Jogging is the finest exercise you can give a horse and is the ticket to improve hocks.

I hope some of what I have said may be a help to you and Andy. Please keep me informed of your progress. Once again, thank you so much. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

April 24, 2008

What Goes Up Will Stay Up and Other Tails

Hi Lonnie:

Thank you for your suggestions. I like your idea of working in trotting boots before shoeing. One more question: What is your recommended protocol for caring for the freshly cut tail? I have been told by the “old timers” to work the tail, work the tail, work the tail. I have heard others say to leave it alone until it is healed or it will become sore. Suggestions?

Tip of the day- -To induce a cold snap in the weather? Clip a horse.

Thank you for your question but I wish you wouldn't throw around that "Old timers" term quite so freely as I resemble that.

There are so many "schools" about taking care of the "green" tail we would need one of Hillary's speech writers to put them to paper. But then, how could we find the truth? Seriously, all I can do is tell you how I have done it for years.

To begin, the most important time that will "make or break" a fresh cut tail, is the first 5 days. Mistakes made here will follow the horse to retirement or his next tail cutting, to try to straighten it.

I will not name names, but most good tail cutters are horsemen rather than vets. They don't make this simple process a major surgery. Gray Barham, who is deceased, was arguably one of the greatest that ever lived. He could cut a tail with only one hole, and could straighten any tail no matter how impossible it seemed. He might dip his "pocket knife" in a little alcohol and if you could "twitch" them he could cut them. Seldom were they sore and he felt if the tail was straight in the set, leave it alone for a day or two. I added daily antibiotic injected in the rump, and 2 grams of Bute paste daily for a week. Working the tail addresses two things, it keeps the "leaders" from heeling too soon and expels any backup of puss or old blood that might encourage an infection. As I am sure you are aware pulling the tail up is much more important at this time than simply rocking it forward. Cleanliness and not making things too tight will serve you well at this stage. For my money there are also two vets that can cut tails as well as the horsemen, Scott Bennett and Alan Raun.

I hope I was of some help. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

April 23, 2008

A Split Decision / The Trouble with Shoeing

Hi Lonnie

Thank you so much for taking questions. I think this is a great service you are doing and I very much appreceiciate the time you are taking to do this.

I have so many questions to ask and plan to soon , if that is ok.

My first questions are on shoeing.

We have a lot of trouble with shoeing. We feed all the right things, I grease their feet with peanut oil and reducine mixed. Limited water on the feet. etc. Can you tell me why feet would break and split at the nail clinches? Could the nails be to big? Could the clinches be bad? We also have a lot of slipped shoes often.

My second question is about movement. We have a few horses including 2 ponies that when they land up front their foot sort of flips just before they land and they seem to land on their heels. One is a 3yr who tends to forge also. She has only been working about 3 months. The other 2 are ponies. One I have had about a year, he is a 5yr old and has done this periodically. but then the 3rd one I had let down this winter. we just put his show shoes back on, same ones from last year and he starts the flipping to, so this is why I really believe that is something with the shoeing.We live in New Hampshire. We bed on Shavings.It is more like spiltting from the nails, starting at the clinches then going down, this is why I keep thinking it is something with the shoeing. The footing in our arena is cedar mulch. We have loosening up alot. I have been at wits end not knowing what to do about this.

thank you again for your time and help

Can you make any suggestions about what might cause this?

Tip of the day- To cure equine constipation? Load them in a clean trailer.

Thank you so much for your question. You are so very astute to determine you have a real problem with the "shelly" feet. What might seem to many just a minor inconvenience can truly become serious. " NO FOOT NO HORSE"

I would be interested in knowing how your Farrier has assessed the situation. Nails too large can cause problems in some feet but as your situation seems to be "across the board" so to speak, I feel we can rule that out.

The usual causes could be bedding such as shavings that can dry the foot out...mud allowed to dry on the hoof, feet with too much flair at the bottom, loose shoes that "work" the clinches, not resetting shoes often enough, working on ground that is too hard, horses standing in manure or wet places and a myriad of other logical explanations. By your description, I think we can rule most of these out. You "grease" the feet on a regular basis, you limit the water on the feet, you have a regular Farrier, even a horse, that I presume was let down and barefoot has the same problem and your work area is soft mulch.

Unless your "Herd" are all related to one another, we can rule out the second usual cause.. Genetics.

Nutrition might be the culprit. You can feed what you believe is the finest feed there is but it still may be lacking in (or sometimes containing too much) of the vitamins and minerals needed to produce good feet.

The possible fixes:

I believe my Grandfather came from Ireland with a can of Reducine in each pocket..We have always sworn by it and I really think your hoof dressing is great. I think you could use many things that would work just as well as peanut oil and would be much cheaper but don't try to replace the Reducine...you can't. As I am certain you know, there is no need at all to put it any lower than one inch below the coronet band as the hoof below that is ,for all intents and purposes, dead. It is important that the mixture is rubbed into the coronet band however.

Additionally, packing the feet with Reducine when resetting can be a great help as well as "seating" the foot with a hot shoe. This seals the bottom of the hoof keeping the oils in.

As the problem is with all your horses it might behoove you to draw blood on 2 of the most affected horses. Lack of Zinc, Magnesium, or Copper could be a cause as well as a lack of or too much Selenium.

If anything turns up you could have your hay, water and grain analyzed by your extension agent. A good Biotin supplement such as Farrier's Formula can produce great success.

As far as the "flight path" problems you describe, without actually seeing them my guess would be they need more Natural heel. As I have said here many times though, " The one steadfast Rule in Shoeing is..............."

I hope I have been of some help or at least have given you some new resources to work with. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

April 22, 2008

Shoes Off The Rack

I just wanted to know of a good place to find shoes? I want some english pleasure shoes. Do I just buy walking horse shoes?

Thank you so much for your very succinct question, I will try to help you.

To be honest with you I wouldn't know exactly where to tell you to buy shoes, although I know they are available. Keg shoes are very useful for young horses and trail horses and even for a few horses that show. For show horses I trained I've always had a blacksmith make them for each horse as each horse has a different way of going and may require a different type of shoe to be comfortable. If you have an American Saddlebred you can be certain that Walking Horse shoes would probably not be what you need. On the whole, Show Walking Horses wear very heavy shoes, much too heavy for an American Saddlebred. (Plantation Walking Horses are a different division and wear shoes that could be suited to an American Saddlebred) An American Saddlebred might wear a shoe that weighs 18-20 ounces. (A little less than a pair of steel toed work boots worn by people in the construction business.)

So now that we understand the weight, let me point out the importance of the type of shoe and the fit. Considering that this shoe will be on the horse for 4-6 weeks before it is reset, it must be fitted perfectly to allow for the changes in the hoof over that time. (Try wearing a pair of tight "pumps" for 8 hours.)There are so many different types of shoes I could not begin to name them..But they all have something in common, each design and the very talented farrriers who put these shoes on strive to keep the horse's welfare and comfort in mind while therapeutically correcting faults of conformation and enhancing the horses natural ability. And that, young lady, is not something you can get with an "off the rack" horse shoe. I truly hope I have shed some light on your question and also that whether you opt for the show ring or the back yard you enjoy Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

April 22, 2008

Where did the Trot Go and How Do I Get it Back

I do a lot of training of young gaited horses. I spend a lot of time getting the slow gait and rack just right. I don't trot a lot for a while. When I have a colt light in the bridle and moving off at the slow gait readily, I will start asking for trot once again. I notice when my colts are put back to the trot, they seem very "airy" in the front end. I usually have a half-round (light as possible) in the front and a flat shoe with a trailer behind. I use leather straps if I can get away from using chains. I don’t usually use boots. They sometimes look like they are batting at the air for a while. It looks like they need some shoe weight, actually. But, adding weight makes a beginning horse struggle at the slow gait/rack. How can I help my colts find a more solid "ground striking" trot earlier in their training?

Tip of the day- The best way to get a horse to rack really well is to shave off his mane!

Thank you so much for your question. How right you are, the transition back to the trot can be a difficult time and there truly is no one answer as it depends on each individual. The cause is simple, it all stems from balance, the horses center of balance is in his head, and he has had his head upside down for several weeks and now we want to change his program. I will tell you what I did.

Getting back to the trot for me would start with a day or two of Long Lining. Then a day or two of jogging. Never concentrating on speed form, headset etc but just getting the trot. Since they have been so light while racking I would use a smooth Dr. Bristol and no check.

The first few rides would be only walk and trot and not too much as they are now working muscles that have been only worked laterally for the last few weeks. Riding is where the balance aspect really shows itself. With an easy bit for them to get a bit of security from, I used boots, chains and dog collars as the tools to balance these students. To put a chain on in front to help the flight path, would usually mean adding the strap behind to keep the rack. Sometimes the opposite would apply. Each colt was different and experimentation would always be the word of the day. Ideally I felt ready to decide on how best to shoe the colt when he could perform the four gaits with consistency wearing trotting boots in front and nothing behind.

I hope this is of some help to you, please apprise me of your progress. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

April 22, 2008

But I Want to Go Round in Circles!

Hi Lonnie!

I used to ride with Vicki Spoonster and I was recently on the ASHAO web site and saw that you were accepting training questions. About 6 months ago, I bought a 3-year-old (now 4 year old) saddlebred gelding. He is a great horse, extremely friendly and works well under the saddle. For a while during the winter, he was a little flighty-- he kept spooking at random things and trying to take advantage of me. We've worked through that and he's gotten much better, but now him and I have been having a new problem. My trainer has helped me out with it but I've still had problems so I was hoping you'd have more advice.

My horse isn't very good at bending at all but he does usually make circles. But, when we are going the first direction of the ring cantering, at one end of the arena he will make circles and the other he refuses. I've heard the term "limber-necked" horse and it pretty much describes him. When we try to canter a circle at the one end of the arena, I give him leg aid and turn him left, but only bends his neck (the rest of his body stays straight) and I cannot get him to turn. Instead, he just gains speed at the canter and proceeds to the other end of the arena. I have tried what my trainer tells me and sometimes it works and other times I can't get him to do it.

Also, there is one other problem. He has a little problem with playing chicken with other horses. When we try to pass them, occasionally he will side step at the passing horse even with the use of leg aids. If we are traveling in opposite directions, he will occasionally proceed towards the horse and it is very difficult to get him away from them. I see this as a potential problem for this show season, as I will be starting him in the Junior Country Pleasure division. Do you have any training methods?

Thank you very much

Tip of the Day--To get a show horse to set up perfect and really stretch? Get him out late at night or anytime no one is around to see him.

Thank you so much for your question. It sounds as if you have had some pretty interesting rides. You are, of course, doing all the right things. Bending from your leg, responding to the indirect rein of opposition, having the rear follow the forehand, these are things you should expect from your horse. The fact he is volunteering these extra "tricks" certainly cannot be pleasant for you. What we need to decide is what is the cause of this behavior. Fortunately, being as observant as you are, we have some clues.

It seems he only does his routine one way of the ring as I understand it. The not willing to go one direction, seemingly trying to run into other horses purposefully, and even "playing Chicken" would lead one to believe a vision problem might be the culprit. Ruling that out there is really no reason to suspect other physical unsoundness from your excellent description of the circumstances. Being with a trainer who would have easy access to an equine dentist, I am certain his teeth are in order. We are then left with the finger pointed at your horse's lack of basic training or his lack of respect.

Basic training for this behavior would include Long Lines to supple the body and get the rear to follow the head. At "the scene of the Crime", (the end and direction where you are having trouble) try cantering all the way around when riding and with each pass, cut ten feet off of the opposite turn making the ring smaller and smaller until you finally are cantering a circle the size you wanted. If this goes well, quit! If he continues his to refuse the smaller circle, at this juncture, since your trainer can tell you how to correct him it might be prudent for your trainer to ride and show you how to correct him. If we are dealing with lack of respect, he will need to be handled very firmly and as a professional trainer, knowing how firm and when to be firm is in their job description. That is one of the things that makes them a professional. I always remember a wonderful client I had who was so disappointed because he thought he did not ride as well as I and could not make his horse do things I could make him do. Of course the explanation is quite simple...six days a week I worked 32 horses every day, six days a week..he sat at a desk every day. As I assured him, if we switched jobs, in a years' time he would probably be riding better than I with the only problem being he'd have little money to buy horses after I ran his company into bankruptcy.

I hope I have helped you in some way and look forward to hearing of your progress. Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

April 19, 2008

I’ve got the Sales slip but They Won’t Take Returns

Thank you for your answer to the owner of a horse bought at auction.

I have a good young trainer, and a Fall '08 auction "special". A really talented guy, well bred, but has, for no reason, just turned around to go the other way when ridden 4 or 5 times. To me, the front end lifts up a bit. I have ridden him only 3 times, as he has me spooked, and with no confidence. The trainer can just turn him around & go on.

With great sadness (& loss of the price for him & all the vet, farrier and trainer fees, etc.), we will get him a place where the owner or rider is not bothered by that behavior. One trainer has already been contacted, honestly telling him of this behavior.

Your reply to the owner of the Auction Special which reared quite badly helped to convince me that I need to get a horse that does not make me lose confidence in myself. I doubt that anyone would want such a horse, so I will be out of the ASB showing arena for quite some time. I had such high hopes and am now discouraged. (There are other details to my story; for instance, I did see him worked a couple of years before, though did not ride him then. I loved the way he moved, and he was so attractive then. To save money, my trainer was only told what I had in mind, and shown an earlier film of the horse.) It is a little comfort that even trainers can get a wrong one.

What a wonderful service you do for those of us who want to continue in the quest to be better horsemen & women.

Tip of the day- To make a small fortune in the horse business? Start with a large one.

Thank you so much for your E-mail. I am pleased you have found some solace in my replies and I feel for you with your current situation. But please take heart. The problem you describe is truly not major enough to completely give up on your horse. Although you are, of course, quite right, you do deserve to ride a horse that can give you some confidence etc. This horse's value may not have dropped as significantly as the value of our dollar. This mannerism is usually "man made" stemming from very enthusiastic and improper scaring or "grounding" of the horse. Given time, a good trainer can usually completely correct this behavior. Perhaps where you can comfortably ride him or at least where his value can be realized. So please, discuss this with your trainer and give him some time to work through this. You might well be very pleasantly surprised.

I hope I have been of some help, Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

April 17, 2008

A DIY Fixer Upper

Lucky for me I just found your training tips online and want you to know I have been stuck reading your advice for the past forty minutes Wonderful. I recently started a new home training project. This masterpiece is eight years old, never shown, never in a full bridle, barely canters, sired by King of Highpoint, drop dead beautiful, and looks like he has the possibility of being a dandy country pleasure horse. I have been working him for a week now and as you can imagine this is a project! My current issue is that I ride him in a mule bit with a running martingale and he trots along PERFECT and then all of a sudden he turns his head upside down and you loose all your power steering. It is not like he tries to act ugly, rear or quit because I can eventually regain his bridle and start over. I hate to lower the boom on him and am trying to give the horse the benefit of the doubt. I have called the tooth fairy (Buddy Waggoner) and the farrier to pull his back shoes because he travels so close behind. I think he may be cross firing going around the turns which in turn freaks the fellow out. All I really know about the horse is that he was broke to harness (does that great) and he was broke to ride last year by some backyard people whom I never heard of. I As you are well aware there is not a huge market for eight year old, never shown pleasure horses no matter what the circumstances. However, this horse has my name written all over him and I love him. If he does not work out to be enough horse for to show I hope he could be incorporated into the advanced lesson program. Once again, horses turning the ol’ head upside down can’t find a home in the lesson programs! I use to consult with my good friend Ellis Waggoner on a daily basis for help and I miss him terribly now that he is gone. Looks like I have found a new consultant. Have any suggestions?

Tip of the day- -To get a horse to wash their own feet? Clean the water trough and fill it with fresh water.

Thank you so much for your letter. I feel very honored you thought to ask these questions knowing you had one of the very best as your "mentor". Ellis was not only one of the finest horsemen I ever knew, he was a wonderful man. But as I can imagine him saying, "Well let's just give it a try Sweetie".

When you take on a project, you don't fool around do you? "This masterpiece is eight years old, never shown, never in a full bridle, barely canters." At least we've got King of High Point and drop dead beautiful to work with.... He's not entered at River Ridge is he?

Seriously, you have already surmised (and I would bet correctly) that much of your problem stems from his teeth. You are fortunate to have one of the best Equine Dentists in the country to work on your horse.

I am certain when Mr. Waggoner is finished most of your problems will be too. You might want to check his teeth before and after to see what a difference there is. (The way to do this is described in a January 1st letter on the web site.)

While you are waiting on the dentist, you'll want to be careful not to aggravate the situation. Use "easy" bits. Try not to "vice" him down with the martingale. Long line or jog a lot. In other words just try to get along at this time.

It seems you have also identified a problem behind. This also could cause some of the behavior you describe. Please know, while pulling the hind shoe will lessen the impact it will not solve the problem. Usually it is best corrected with a light shoe, slightly rolled, and by lowering the inside of each hind foot, from toe to heel. This, of course, widens the base of the hind legs allowing them to move unobstructed.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, "There is only one steadfast rule in shoeing...There are no rules." Your farrier will work with you to fix it.

You talk of poor marketability but you are starting with something you or I can not train into him, something that a large percentage of horses today do not have, something that is the very last thing a judge looks at in the show ring.......Quality! Couple that with all the things you are going to teach him and improve over next few months and then call me I may want to buy him.

I would look forward to hearing from you after his teeth are done as we can re access the next steps. I hope I have been of some help and once again thank you for your question. Good Luck and Good Riding,

LF Lavery

April 17,.2008

The Jaws of Life are Crooked

Could you please speak on the topic of a horse who crosses or cocks his jaw in the bridle? I have an 8 year old show horse that I purchased 3 years ago who came with this habit. The previous trainer worked him with no cavesson and a tongue tie, then in the full bridle would use a very tight cavesson with the tongue tied. This resulted in a horse who had a very stiff and resistant neck and not soft and flexible and yielding like I like a horse to wear the bridle. He and I have come to an agreement of sorts after much biting and flexing work. I tie his tongue and use the same caveson with the work bridle that I use with the full bridle--snug, but not overly tight. He still wants to cross his jaws ( his neck is more resistant to the right than the left), but now will yield and soften 75% of the time.

Any suggestions to get that last 25%? He is sound, takes a good square cadenced trotting step, has the best of vet and mouth care. His mouth appears normal with no obvious abnormalities. He is built to do the job I am asking him to do--Show Pleasure and has been quite sucessful doing it. He absoultely will not tolerate a caveson with the plate under the chin--one common fix I know of for jaw crossers.

As an aside, thanks for writing the article many years ago for the ASHA "Horse Show" magazine. I have kept it, and read it every spring before setting out for my first show. I think it has helped this AOT be competitive in a ring full of pleasure horses!

Thanks in advance for your help and perspective.

Thank you so much for your letter. I am glad to see others think the way I do. In the over 45 years I have been working horses I have always been more interested in finding and treating the condition not just "fixing" the symptom. Anyone who has read over 299 words I have written, well knows how I feel about a horse's dental care and how it influences his performance. And it does not take a genius to realize that a horse must be healthy on the inside to perform like a champion. You were ahead of me and already have a great Equine dentist and a great Veterinarian. I therefore do not feel treating a condition is an option at this time. It sure doesn't sound like we can blame the Farrier either!! Let's give it some thought. The trainer probably worked him from his 2 yr old year and you for 3 years. We can assume he has been displaying this behavior for at least six of his eight years. I guess we will have to treat the symptom this time.

I have a collection of six different metal chin pieces for cavessons that my grandfather brought with him from Ireland in1894. They served him, my father, my uncle and myself well over the years. I would have suggested one for your horse in a heartbeat. I daresay your horse would wear one of them. Truthfully, they are not for everyone and can get some in trouble if not used correctly. But, fortunately you have other options.

To begin, you are a good enough horse person to have figured out how to make an agreement, that appears to work, with your horse. Good for you, how wise. Don't lose this "I'll just get along" option, we might need it if all else fails.

Although I am certain that pain will never improve any horse let alone an eight year old gelding, a little discomfort may be called for here.

We could try some of these suggestions.

For "hardware" or "artillery":
A flat western curb chain with the buckles on each side could replace the "metal plate".
A piece of flattened corn cob placed under the cavesson between the two mandular bones sometimes works.
My favorite, a rawhide braided and rolled western "bosal" cavesson if used properly will make you wonder why you didn't think of it long ago.

Any horse that "alligator's" his mouth or lolls his tongue, will benefit from my favorite "stall bridle" I will try to quote a previous letter. " Get a very thick straight bar Dee ringed rubber snaffle. Tie it to the horse's halter with shoe string. use enough string to hold it securely but not so much it cannot break if hung up on something. Adjust it so it is just below the corners of the mouth and be certain to pet him as you bid him goodnight. Let him wear this for a few days when he is in his stall. Let him drink, eat grain, eat hay, sleep etc with this bit in his mouth for a few days.

As far as suppleing the neck:
In the stall, tie a piece of baleing twine to the side of the halter he is stiff on. Starting with it not very tight, and tied high to a surcingle, gradually lower the string and increase the tension until he is turning that direction when you cluck to him. Leave this on him for 20-30 minutes before your ride.

Long lining with straight lines is the most effective way to supple a horse. Running the lines in such a way that the forehand is dependant on the rear end, will help any horse.

Very carefully riding a horse into the flat side of a corner, carefully pushing until his chin drops and then he is dependent on you for guidance and then turning and bending to the stiff side while still urging him forward and not letting him back up, will have the desired effect as well. This is a difficult maneuver and I stress CAREFULLY.

I hope I have been of some help and you are able to make him sign a new agreement! I look forward to hearing of your progress. Good Luck and Good Riding,


April 15, 2008

I want to Take It Higher!

Hello. My horse is a pleasure horse. He is with a trainer. He was show pleasure when we bought him and has now been moved to CP. We are instructed not to put any action devices on him (chains, stretchies, etc) during our rides. He does increase motion when these aids are on, but he does not really use his legs better when they are off. Is that why we have given up using these devices?

Could they hurt if they are used? I think perhaps they could help if used all the time, but I am just wondering. This horse is not blessed with lots of motion so even in CP he is not out of place. Thanks so much for your help.

Thank you so much for your question. It is a pleasure to try to help someone who recognizes his horse's shortcomings and whose major concern is for his horse's welfare.

To begin, I must bow to your trainer as he or she is the one dedicating many hours every week to your horse and therefore is the most familiar with him. Your trainer would know if there is a physical weakness that might preclude action devices. Your trainer would know if the extra exertion caused by these devices is worth the result.

Your trainer is charged with having your and your horse's best interests in mind at all times and that responsibility will weigh in every decision he makes.

Exceptional motion or action is, nine times out of ten, a gift from God. I am certain you are aware it is also one of the more expensive " options" when purchasing a show horse. Although, as a judge, I am very partial to this option there are many other criteria just as important in winning a class, especially Country Pleasure! The way you describe your horse, without seeing him, I think it is probably wise not to try and "make" his motion. Concentrate more on the things he does the best. A well mannered horse with a balanced trot, light mouth and a good head set will more often emerge the victor in Country Pleasure.

As far as action devices, if used properly they are wonderful tools. (I now see "Human Stretchies" being sold on TV) They are, however, just tools and only a small part of what it takes to make a good horse.

Once again, thank you so much for your inquiry. I hope I have been of some help. Good Luck and Good Riding,


Thanks so much. I have been told the this horse has the manners and headset to win in CP. However I have also seen classes judged purely on motion, as the manners were just not there. Think, the rider falling off! I have also seen pictures of larger shows and notice that the CP horses break level.

I left a trainer that was not the most diligent, so I'm still having trouble trusting another trainer until I get some evidence, if you follow me. But hearing the same thing from you also helps to build that trust. Thanks again

You are, of course, quite welcome. Seldom do I receive thank you's. I am certain all will work out well for you. Don't hesitate to contact me in the future as I would look forward to hearing of your progress.

A case as you mentioned about a winner with no manners winning, is cause to fill out a Judge's Evaluation form. Unless people do this, Judges with questionable skills will continue to make these kinds of errors. These forms are available in the Horse Show office and I encourage all to use them so long as your complaint is not personal but truly legitimate as in the case you mention. Even Judges must follow the rules. Once again, thank you for your inquiry. Good Luck and Good Riding!


April 14, 2008

I Tried Writing to Joan Rivers

I have a two year old that has a flat sarcoid on his upper lip in the corner of his mouth. I don't want to cut it out in that area, as It would probably leave a scar and any prospective buyers might think it’s an old war injury or something. Any suggestions?

Thank you so much for your question. You are correct, Sarcoid tumors In this spot are very tricky. Although most prevalent in Appaloosa, Arabian and of course (the walking tumor) the Gray horse, they are found in all horses and bovines. Not only is scaring a cosmetic concern but the corners of the horse's mouth, the "keys" to control, could be in danger of being damaged with a surgical process. Additionally, there is no guarantee the tumor won't grow back, it is possible the growth will be accelerated, and the surgery might cause "seeding" of the area. Fortunately, there are many other treatments, some cutting edge and others just plain old, at your disposal.

Years ago, on one of my trail riding trips out west, I was introduced to a product made in Wyoming called "DERMEX" ointment. It could remove sarcoids at least 75% of the time. I don't know if it is still available but I highly recommend it.

Old timers used Tea Tree Oil. Some mixed it with Castor oil.

Depending on the size of the tumor, you can tie a string or place a tight rubber band on it and often it will just fall off.

I have had them injected with BCG ( Bacille Calmette-Guérin ) vaccine. They usually are gone after the second injection.

I understand they're having good success with laser surgery.

Of course, the best source for an answer is your Veterinary. They are up on the new stuff and they know your horse.

I hope you find these suggestions useful, and a remedy for your problem. Thank you again for your question, good luck and good riding,

LF Lavery

April 13, 2008

Talk about the Bronx Cheer!

I have a junior horse that just loves to hang his tongue outside the right side of his mouth. It's not just the tip, but the whole thing. He doesn't fuss with it, just hangs it out. Very unattractive and makes him look.. not so smart. :) He does this both in his full bridle and his snaffle. I have tried tying it, which lets him still hang it out to the side. I have tried the knot on the top of his tongue, the bottom, close to the end - if it gets too close to the end he scraps the tye off with his teeth. His dentistry is up to date, his cavasen has been tightened.. extra tightened, and he still manages to let it flop around. We even gave him pepperments to suck on before going into his classes last year. ANY NEW SUGGESTIONS??? I would definitely appriciate them!

Thank you so much for your question. It sounds as though you have tried the most obvious solutions to no avail. (Take heart, as after more than 45 years as a horse trainer, I am much more familiar with the words "no avail" than "avail") Often the "Lolling Tongue Syndrome", you have so astutely identified, which manifests itself in all breeds and disciplines, can be attributed to dental issues, poor bit adjustment, partial paralysis of the tongue, a tongue that is too long for the mouth, and sometimes it is just a habit.

You mentioned you've had his teeth recently floated. Great, because sharp teeth, caps, or "wolf" teeth in a horse his age should be your first thought.

I feel certain you would have the bits placed neither too high or too low in his mouth. Bits too low put pressure on the tongue, too high have a gagging effect making it uncomfortable for the tongue to remain in the center of the mouth.

The partial paralysis issue can be checked by your vet. This is the most common cause of this behavior in Quarter Horses and is caused by the pressure exerted by the curb bit.

The tongue that is too long must find an exit when the mouth is closed by the cavesson and it extends to the front teeth and cannot flatten. Shortening the tongue is a relatively simple procedure that can be performed by many vets after it is established the tongue is, indeed, too long.

If none of the above seem to be the cause, then our old enemy habit may be the culprit. Other suggestions you might try:

1. This is something I use for many bridling issues and it has served me well. Obtain a straight bar, D-ring, thick rubber bit. Tie it in his halter with shoe string. Use enough to hold it securely but not so much it could not break if hung up on something. Position the bit just below the corners of the mouth. Pet the horse as you bid him good night. Let him live in this drinking water, eating grain and hay, sleeping. At all times he is in his stall for a few days.

2. Using a thin cloth tie ( I use bunting) about 2 foot long, start to wrap the tongue where the thin "back" part of the tongue meets the fatter "front" part of the tongue. No higher, no lower. Because of the length, you will make many wraps and it is important that no wrap is tight. Often tying a tongue this way will help as it asserts more control with very little uncomfortable pressure.

3. I have had some success with the Cash Lovell "tongue" bit. Keep in mind it can be a very severe bit but it does have a tendency to keep a tongue in place. I always filed the bottom of the port as I felt the points too sharp.

4. A metal bit burr placed at the "scene of the crime" can make it uncomfortable for the lazy tongue and might induce it to stay in the mouth.

5. Although most of the "fancy" bits made today no longer have the small metal loops on the shanks, those loops were made to hold a chin strap (still available at better tack shops) which can make it extremely difficult for the horse to "air" his tongue out. (May 14, 2011 addition)

I am sorry I could not be more specific, but this behavior is a difficult one to correct even with "hands on" treatment. I wish you the very best of luck and thank again for your question.

LF Lavery

April 8, 2008

Could She be Anorexic?

I have a 3 year old that has had 3 months of training now since coming out of the field with no training prior to this. She has lost weight since being in training although she is fed appropriate hay and a gallon of feed in am and pm. She is game and high strung and has started pacing in the stall. She has been ridden twice so far. She has been getting corn oil to help put on weight. I have considered having her put in a stall away from all the interior barn action and giving her weight builder and giving her more frequent feedings. What do you suggest? Is there a preparation for anxiety that you would suggest that she could have in order to build up her weight and that she could stop taking before she shows late in the summer.

Thanks for your question. Please give me a bit more information.. Is she constantly pacing or "weaving" in her stall? Is she out of her stall to work every day? Is she a good eater i.e.. does she clean up her feed and hay? How many buckets of water is she drinking per day?

I await your reply.


She is worked daily, is being lined, paces in her stall constantly, is cleaning up her feed. I presume that she is getting at least 2 buckets of water per day. She is fed the same feed as the other training horses (not sure if that is 12 or 14 percent feed). She has no training other than being led when I bought her late in the past year. She had been in the pasture. All the other barn horses are in good shape. She is a very sensitive, sweet, and game mare.

Thanks for your reply. One more question. Can she see outside, other horses or what from her stall? Thanks

She sees the center aisle and I do not think she sees her neighbor. She does not have an outside window

Once again thank you so much for your question. There is no " stock" or easy answer. I congratulate you as it seems you have identified the cause of your problems and being as observant as you are will not only make our job much easier, it is an important part of being a good horseman or horsewoman.

I see this as an individual with several issues going on. As you pointed out, she is nervous and high strung. She is not keeping weight on which can cause some physical problems with any horse let alone one that is still growing. (Not to mention aesthetic ones, as in "fat" is my favorite color) Additionally, she paces or walks or weaves in her stall which can have adverse effects on her feet, ankles and legs. These symptoms led to the various questions I asked as all things mentioned can have an effect on these issues.

Assuming she is on a good worming program, has had her teeth floated to remove caps and wolf teeth, the hay and grain are of the quality you mentioned, she has unlimited free choice water, we can pretty much attribute the poor weight to the pacing in the stall stemming from her nervousness.

Here are a few suggestions:

Cut out the high protein feed and the corn oil. The high protein creates extra energy in what is already a high energy horse and it needs to be burned off. At this time, I would suggest trying rolled or crimped oats, as much as she will eat 2-3 times a day. (rolled or crimped are larger and digest 75% more efficiently than regular local oats)

Keep good hay in front of her all the time as if she is not eating hay, " grazing" she will find something else to occupy her time like weaving or cribbing. You may want to try tying her to her hay rack for several hours in the morning and again in the afternoon in hopes of keeping her from the constant weaving and maybe changing that behavior.

Remember, horses are grazing animals.

Make certain she has a salt block in her stall or place a handful of table salt in her mouth every day. It helps to clean water buckets with Clorox bleach at least once a week. Hydration is just as important for horses as it is for us.

Now that we have taken the high test fuel away:

I know of no miracle drug to calm her down. There are many over the counter herbal "tranquilizers" at the tack shop. Can't hurt to try. Run the ingredients past your vet or have him suggest some to look for.

Try changing stalls to one with a window or where she can see another horse. Many great horses needed a "mascot" to live in the stall with them to keep them company. Chickens or goats accompanied many World's Champions.

Try taking 2-4 old tires (without the wheels) and place them on the floor of the stall to disrupt the "pacing" pattern. You will know in a day whether this will help.

Although I am not a great fan of pawing chains, I have used them and sometimes they have worked well with this behavior.

I hope I have been of some help to you and I thank you again for your letter. I look forward to hearing from you again. Good luck and good riding. I remain,



April 8, 2008

Too Tall Paul

I have a two year old gelding that is pretty growthy. I would guess he’s about 16hh right now. He’s broke to ride and very easy to work. But, he is very “trippy” and seems to lack coordination. Although I want to move forward with him, it is a little scary to be on his back. Have you ever seen a colt that might lack coordination at a young age due to extreme height? Can a colt outgrow this?

Thanks for your question. Yes I have seen colts and horses that have a problem such as you describe. A two year old of this size can very well present some problems. Think of the 6 foot seventh grader. He ought to be good at Basketball but, because of his size and immaturity, he has trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time. As he matures and his muscles etc catch up with his height, he will play ball well. Best case scenarios for your situation, the colt's knees have not "closed" yet. (Your vet can easily check this for you without an x-ray and he will grow out of it) Too much toe for him to handle. (The farrier will know and can adjust it) Footing too deep for him. (think of that seventh grader vs LeBron) Regardless, it would be prudent to back off of this colt a bit. Long line, easy jog, turn him loose now and again. Of course, continue to give him exercise every day, just remember he is not an aged horse. He obviously is not mature enough to try to seriously condition at this time. He will tell you when to "tighten the screws". Overworking can break one down at this age.

Your colt's symptoms could possibly have more sinister explanations but I doubt it. A condition known as "wobbles" usually manifests itself in horses of this age and effects a colt's coordination. Wobbler disease is a condition of the cervical vertebrae that causes an unsteady (wobbly) gait and weakness in dogs and horses. It can be either inherited of congenital. It is usually treated with diet and medical therapy.

Possible, but probably not, Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis, or EPM, is a disease that is carried in wild animal feces that affects the central nervous system and the coordination of the horse. Treatment is available but is costly.

I hope I have been of some help to you and look forward to hearing from you in the future. Best of luck with your colt. I remain,



March 22, 2008

I’m a Little “Spotty” on the Rules

I show the Pinto curcuit and there are very few rules on shoeing a "saddle type" Pinto. I have a 4 year old Saddlebred that I wish to get the most out of the show shoes, but if I got a chance I thought I may go to the ASHAO Annual show because it is close to my house. My gelding doesn't have a huge trot, so I would think country pleasure would be his division. Can you give me some info on shoeing regulations for country pleasure? I will also try to e-mail the most recent photo of my horse with out shoes.

Thank you so much for your E-mail. I congratulate you on the wisdom to seek out the rules before changing the divisions. Many people would just jump in ultimately causing many problems. Here are the exact specs for American Saddlebred Country Pleasure which can be accessed at the USEF web site;

2. English Country Pleasure horses must be plain shod. Permissible as plain shod shall be a shoe (inclusive of caulks), which may be thicker at the heel and may include toe clips and side clips. Also permissible is an eggbar shoe. Not permissible as plain shod: bands, bars, pads of any kind, wedges, lead, springs, any attachment that extends below the bottom of the shoe, and any foreign substance not specified as permissible. The sole and entire frog of the foot must be visible. Any animal with prohibited shoeing must be disqualified from further competition at that competition and forfeit all entry fees and winnings

Your photo shows your very attractive horse has a very balanced trot although the short forearm would make it difficult for him to go "huge". If you are wishing for a little more trot and your horse is legged up, you could try a toe weight shoe weighing between 12 and 18 ounces. I stress "legged up" because that is quite a change from barefoot.

I also notice in the photo, very little flexion in his neck or poll. Often the setting of the head is the key to achieving more front animation and more rear end propulsion. The horse's center of balance is in his head so depending on the head's carriage, his way of going will change.

I hope I have been of some help. I wish you the best of luck and good riding!

LF Lavery

March 22, 2008

If I Wanted to do the “Airs Above Ground”I would have bought a Lipizzan
(Let the Buyer Beware)

Dear Mr. Lavery,

I purchased a six year old pleasure mare at the last sale. I rode her some in a snaffle last fall and she was a little scared and fussy but for the most part okay. I had her wormed and had her teeth filed, trimmed her feet and have been turning her out most of the fall. She has picked up weight and the good hay,sweet feed, and vitamins have her coat just sparkling. Everyone who has seen her says she just looks wonderful.

My question is that the last couple of weeks I have been riding her she still seems scared even though she has been here many months. I put the curb bit on and she reared straight up several times. She did this with just the snaffle too. Each time I ride she seems to go higher, now, you won't believe this, she kind of claps her front feet together and walks on her hind legs.

I checked her record and she has never been shown so I guess she is not far enough along in her training process. I have tried to call the people who put her through the sale they are not to be found.

Do you think it is something I am doing wrong? Do I need to use a different bit? Is there some trick you Professionals use for horses like this? Please help..I am lost.

Thank you for your question. Your description of your problem was so perfect that, for me, as Yogi Berra once said, "it was like deja vu all over again". Over my many years in the horse business I have found myself in this scenario on several occasions. More than one "Tattersall's Special" ended up paying me back for the wonderful care I had given it by sharing with me the real reason it had been consigned to the "used car lot" of the horse business. The thrill of the purchase, the feeling of great superiority at having virtually "stolen" a wonderful "diamond in the rough" from the consignor who had no idea what he had, and the satisfaction that one has greatly improved the sad condition the horse was in when purchased, are quickly forgotten when problems such as soundness, health, manners almost invariably start to appear.

To begin, from what you have said, I do not believe you are doing anything wrong, (I am especially pleased to hear you "had her teeth filed"!)

As for her show record and training process: I believe she was much farther along than you think. Probably far enough along to be proven not a candidate for the show ring because of her manners.

Let's take a moment and talk about sales and things you might have done better.

*An un-shown six year old, should be a red flag that would call for some serious explanation no matter what "job" it was being considered for.

*The time to talk to the people who consigned her should be before you ever bid. This is the time to ask them all the questions about the horse. Even try out the horse. It is also the time to ask people you know about the consignors. There is an old saying in the "fur" business "If you don't know your furs, be sure you know your furrier."

*If you are not completely familiar with the auction process or analyzing and selecting a candidate for purchase you would be money ahead to ask a trainer you know to help you even though it might involve some small payment as that is how they make their living. Because they are professionals and do this on a daily basis,they can probably find out in minutes if the consignors are reputable and if the horse is worthy of your consideration. Or, perhaps, you have a friend who is an expert in these areas who would be willing to help you as well. The point being, even with this type of guidance, there is no guarantee but without it you may as well just toss the dice at a public sale. As I stated above, even trainers end up with "ringers" at a sale.

Now let's talk about the rearing issue: Yes, I do believe she can clap her front feet and walk on her hind legs. I have been there and I have done that. Yes, there are a few rather dangerous training strategies for this behavior although much less than 50% effective and I feel there is never a complete cure. No, I do not believe a change of bit will make any difference.And no, I can be of no help to you because rearing is the most dangerous behavior of all and it seems your mare is really good at it and I could not in good conscious try to advise you by E-Mail. You would be wise never to put a leg over her again. Carts are nice. Broodmares are fun. For me, your only other option would be to find a trainer who would be willing to take her and try for a month or so as long as he understands she has this problem.

I feel so sorry I cannot be of more help but do thank you for your inquiry. I wish the very best of luck for you. I remain.

Sincerely LF Lavery

Jan 25, 2008

To Ride Or Not To Ride?

I have a 10 year old ASB that has been shown in country pleasure, show pleasure and now 3 gaited. This will be his first year in this division. My question.....he looks like a fine harness horse when I am long lining him. Trots over level, headset looks like a chess piece, he moves off his hocks and looks like a freight train. I tend to lose that when I ride. I have been riding for over 30 years and every spring take lessons from a very respectable equitation instructor and trainer. I know he can set up because I have seen him do it hundreds of times in the lines. In the double bridle I cannot find a happy medium for his head and I lose a little trot. Either he is a little over flexed or his nose is out. I have tried riding him with a snaffle, 2 reins and a martingale and he dislikes that very much. It gets frustrating to see the horse I have in the lines and see him lose it when I ride. Any advice on how I can pass that energy and brilliance onto him while I am in the saddle? Anything that would be good to work on over the winter? Thank you so much.

Thank you so much for your question. As a professional horse trainer for over 40 years, my first response would, of course, be let's make him a harness horse as that is what he is telling us he really wants to be and that he would be the happiest doing this. But you want to ride. Many times a horse's head set is directly related to the balance and hands of the rider. The description of a "walk-trot horse", includes the peacock like head carriage. I am therefore surprised that you would consider trimming a horse with a less than perfect head carriage. Would it be possible for you to be a little more descriptive or could you send some pictures? I really do not have enough information to be of any service. Thank you, I remain,



Dear Lonnie~ I actually just trimmed him for my last show this past fall for the fun of it. So, now that he has no mane, I am really going to work hard to get him where I think he can be. I would be more then happy to attach some pictures for you!

This picture is his first time as a trimmed horse. Then a Show pleasure and the last picture is being worked to home. Thank you.

Thanks for the pictures...they are helpful. I see by the pictures that your seat and hands are impeccable so we can rule that out as "pilot" error. To me, the only "bad " picture is the River Ridge pleasure picture. Could he look like the other two under saddle pictures, all the time, I think he could be very competitive on the Ohio circuit. However, the long line picture does show, as you described, a different horse... Pushing from his hocks, reaching in front and head in a different place because of the check. Maybe I was "jokingly" correct about making him a harness horse!! Seriously, I wish I could be of more help but with the information you have given me to work with, I don't think you have a huge problem just a big decision. I will keep my "thinking cap" on and maybe come up with something else.

Good luck and Good Riding
LF Lavery

Jan 11, 2008

Left and Right not the Same Flight

My country pleasure horse pitches his right front foot BAD. He boxes his left, which is the dished foot, beautifully. I know that pitching has some to do with his bridle, and his bridle is good, but, I still need some "tweeking" on his shoeing to get him more even. Is there anything I can do as far as a rolled show on one foot, or a custom heel weighted shoe, angles,(and these are all guesses!) anything that can help me even him up-because when he's right-he's a sight!!

Thanks for your question. Often times the flight path of a horse's front end can be effected by the bridle. In this case, however, you have given us other clues to pursue. To begin, it is rare that the bridle has an effect on only one leg. The fact that one foot is dished and one is not tells us the horse's feet are on two different angles from the start. From toe to coronet band on the dished foot is actually a different distance than the same measurement on the good foot simply because of the dish. The heel of the dished foot will be more straight up and down than the heel of the good foot. Thus, the angles etc are very different even though one thinks they are perfectly matched.

I would think shoeing would be a good place to start. There is only one absolute rule about shoeing, there is no absolute rule. What works for most horses may not work at all for others. If you are pleased with the flight path of the dish foot I wouldn't change it. My guess would be to raise the heel of the good foot making it break quicker. A rolled toe will also help. Heel and toe weights should be a last resort and although heel weight is usually recommended, I have had many horses that responded more to a toe weight. Remember, the only absolute rule? When resetting a dished foot horse, I always have the farrier cut that heel down a little lower than the normal foot as it will grow very rapidly. I hope I have been of some help. Good luck and good riding.

Jan 8, 2008

He’s a Loudmouth

I have a five year old who has had some time in the double bridle. He is a very sensitive horse and tends to over flex and dump over. He is primarily a hunt seat horse, but as part of his training I want to help him be comfortable in a double bridle so down the road no one else gets into trouble with him. After about 6 months of adjustments he has finally stopped messing with the curb shanks and fighting the “mouthful”. He does mouth the bit (almost too much) but his mouth is getting quieter. He will accept curb pressure without any fear, but he is always behind the bit. What can I do to help him accept more pressure? He is wearing a plain snaffle and a mullen mouth curb with the curb and the curb chain wrapped. I have used a false gag from time to time to help raise him up.

Thank you for your question, all the way from NY. As you are obviously aware, even in the Hunt Seat discipline, it is no longer "fashionable" for a horse to carry his pole lower than his wither or to be over flexed and behind the bit as to be "out of the bridle". Usually, when the horse is driven by the rider's legs to the forehand, there is some lifting of the head if a good deal of finesse is used. When this does not happen because of a mouth that is too soft, the opposite action invariably occurs. I am certain you know that my first thought when it comes to curb bit problems is with the horse's teeth. If they have been floated recently etc. I will say that the slobbering, reluctance to take any hold and "busy" mouth you describe are often symptomatic of a tongue over the bit or of broken Wolf teeth. Assuming you have the dentistry covered, let us consider the curb bit itself.

When the Romans invented it was such a perfect tool that I venture to say it has had less changes than any other invention in history. It remains today basically unchanged, in principal. It would seem that you have already correctly identified that you need to find a way to make it less severe for your horse. The Seal-Tex wrap is a good start. Other options: The shorter the shank, the less leverage, the higher the bit in the horse's mouth the less leverage, the lower the port the less pressure, the thicker the port, the less pressure, the looser the chain, the less leverage.

From just your description, I would think, raising the curb up a hole, determining the tongue is in the proper position, using a the very short shank "Tom Thumb" or a rubber Pelham with a rubber or thick leather curb "chain" might give you the desired effect. Additionally, there might be a good deal of benefit in long lining your horse using an over check bridle with a separate check bit to raise his head and to discourage over flexing.

I hope I have been of some help. Good luck and good riding.

Jan 4, 2008

Would like to Progress and Graduate

I have a coming three year old who I would like to move into a full bridle. What are the progression of steps that you take? How will I know when she is ready? Currently I alternate between a full check snaffle and a slow twist Dr Bristol with one rein through a running martingale, and she is giving nicely to the bit.

Thank you for your question. Ideally dentistry, which is so important to the curb, is current. God has given you a two-year-old (make that three now, Happy birthday} with a nice shape to her neck (natural hook). She has never learned to lean to lug or pull on the snaffle. She has a go forward happy attitude and is wearing her snaffle perfectly, thus allowing the curb bit to just "hang there". If all these criteria are true... Good for you! You do not need my help! Put the curb bit on! You are way ahead of the game!! If you are in question on any of the above, (as I have been many times in the past myself) I would suggest to you: Always remember the curb bit, in our discipline, has but one function, to "tuck" the nose. Because you have asked this question, I am confident that you are aware the curb is not an emergency brake, a bit to balance on nor a power steering bit as we have seen it often and sadly used. Many people do not have your insight.

In this stage of transition with the snaffle or bridoon and the addition of the curb, have a fairly loose cavesson and continue to use the martingale on your snaffle rein Not so much to hold the head down, but rather to steady the bit in her mouth. At first, you may use the martingale fairly short but let it be longer with each application. Use plenty of cushion ie. Sealtex, on the curb and the "loose" curb chain so that she will be exposed to nothing severe. Some apple cider vinegar and glycerine will often times help them "mouth" the bit. I would usually use a #2 "Army" bit or a low port short slip shank curb placed neither too high or too low in the horse's mouth. Walking, bending and twisting and eventually backing are wonderful tools at this stage as they keep the horse relaxed yet keeping her mind on you for direction rather than thinking about the "new" bit. Additionally, the walking gait keeps bit "bouncing" to a minimum. After two or three sessions, when you feel she is allowing you some contact with the curb, you may integrate the trot into it but don't be in a hurry and continue to control off the snaffle. There is no way for me to truly convey this next thought with words but please understand the intent. If the curb has no contact, it will it will "waller" around and bump the horse's bars causing the horse to resent it.. If you have too much contact, the horse will resent it or learn to pull and have no respect for it. This is simply feel and I can explain it on paper no further. Also, keep in mind that you are dealing with a "juvenile" who's attention span is rather short. Make your sessions short and always quit on a good note. As your sessions continue, if you feel you have had a bad session, go back to just a snaffle for the next session or two. ( I seldom used a curb on a "made" horse more than once a month in the off season} Your mission at this time is to simply make your horse comfortable with the curb and to not make any mistakes that would cause her to resent this bit. In the long run, time spent at this stage will pay off during show season. There is a big difference between trying to make a horse wear a curb and allowing your horse to learn to wear one.

I hope I may have in some way been of some help. A well trained horse is not an accident but the product of many thoughtful hours.

Good Luck and thanks again for your question.

Jan 1, 2008

She Keeps Saying No

Lately my mare has started shaking her head when I ride her in her show bridle. She has never done this before and I notice she is not as easy to put her bridle on either. Should I try a different bit? Any suggestions?

Thank you for your question. I especially like the fact you have identified a problem and you are thinking about soulutions. Often times, people just keep riding.

From what you describe, it would seem to me your problem is not in the bit. It sounds like this behavior has come about rather quickly. The shaking of the head and her being harder to bridle are symptoms of discomfort and more than likely the cause lies with her teeth. I would bet she is also pulling on one side and does not display this behavior as badly when wearing just a snaffle.

Horses, being grazing animals, inflict much wear on the molars or back teeth with the constant side to side chewing of hay, grass and grain. This wear manifests itself with very sharp corners on these teeth. These sharp edges can dig into the cheeks,the tounge, and can sometimes even make it difficult for the horse to close his jaw, thus making the horse very uncomfortable. You can imagine how this discomfort can be magnified by the addition of the double bridle and the tightened cavesson.

It is very simple to check this out and to see if I am right. Standing in front of your horse, with a good bit of gentle petting, slowly reach into her mouth when she is relaxed, and gently pull her tounge out one side of her mouth. Pull it up to the corner of her mouth so she cannot close her mouth and the insert the thumb of your other hand gently along the cheek. Carefully, as these edges can be sharp as razors, feel he ouside edges of the back molars. If they are extremely uneven or sharp, you need go no farther. To be certain, repeat this with the other side. Also, you may visually check the inside of the cheek looking for sores etc. and you may visually check the tounge, as well.

If any of these above symptoms are present you need a horse dentist. He will come to you and with files and other tools he will smooth these edges, making the horse comfortable again. This simple and painless procedure is called "floating" the teeth. I always insisted my horses were done twice a year, spring and fall.

I hope I have been of some help to you and again thank you for your question. I wish you a Happy New Year and good riding.

Links To Questions & Responses
Date Subject Search Criteria
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Mar 22, 2008 I’m a Little “Spotty” on the Rules Shoeing: Regulations for Country Pleasure
Mar 22, 2008 If I Wanted to do the “Airs Above Ground”I would have bought a Lipizzan Vices, Rearing, Buying at Auction
Jan 25, 2008 To Ride Or Not To Ride? Conformation: Training, Showing, Harness vs Saddle
Jan 11, 2008 Left and Right not the Same Flight Shoeing: Dished foot, Balance, Flight Path
Jan 8, 2008 He’s a Loudmouth Training: Curb bit, dentistry, severity, leverage, history
Jan 4, 2008 Would like to Progress and Graduate Training: Progressing to Curb Bit
Jan 1, 2008 She Keeps Saying No Training: Bits, Dentistry, Diagnosis of Dental issues

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