"Ask the Trainer Online"
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June 30, 2008

She still Needs Rescuing
(Could this be Cushing's disease?)

I really enjoy reading the questions and answers on your site. I check it daily for updates. I have been watching to see if anyone might have the same issue that my SBR mare is having but after several months no luck so that is why I am finally submitting my question. I think mine just might be a special case.

Here is the story and it is a long one so I will try to keep it as short as I can. In July of 2006, I purchased a SBR mare, When I first got her, she was missing a large chunk of her front right hoof and was really under weight. We didn't do much with her the rest of that year, mostly worked on getting her weight up and had our farrier work on her to correct the hole. As spring rolled around, it was time to start getting ready for our 2007 show season. Things were going good until we went to our first show. Once we got there, she seemed to be off. We thought maybe she needed reset. She wasn't bad if I sat the trot. We never made it to the show ring that day. We had an accident, she got spooked and one thing led to another and I was thrown. I tore my ACL and doctor said no riding horses for 2 months. In the mean time, we had the mare reset and we continued to do ground work with her. She seemed fine until we went to our next show in July. I rode her that morning and she was fine. I put her in the liberty class and she was lame. Took her home and had the farrier out the next day. He couldn't find anything wrong with her so he reset her. We watched her for the next couple of weeks and she continued to show soreness. The farrier came back out. This time he brought some help. They pulled my mares shoe and started digging out the hoof and found a blood blister. We worked on that for several months. Finally in January when the farrier was out, the blister was finally completely grown out. Here is where the story changes a little. In April, we began getting ready for this years show season. Farrier out, everything good. We decided to take her to a boarding stable so that I could work her inside. Well when the vet was out to do the coggins test, he suggested that we may want to have a metabolic test done on her. He noticed she had a very cresty neck, fatty deposits on her rump, and pot belly. Said it could be something called Equine Cushing's. We didn't have the test run that day. We started long lining her and I was noticing she was off again. It was only the one direction from what I was seeing. We called the farrier back out right away. He watched her and determined what needed corrected. He made the changes.In the mean time, I did start reading up on Cushings online and did read that horses with Cushings are prone to hoof problems. After mare was reset, we decided it was just time to ride her. She was fine at first. Then she started up again. An old trainer friend of my moms thought maybe she was just doing this because she had just been sore for so long that she is just expecting it or that she was playing me. I rode her again. I worked her right through it. She was fine if I sat the trot the first direction and okay if I posted second direction. She cantered fine. Came back out the next day and no matter what we did, she was lame. As I was getting ready to put her away, noticed she was bleeding from up in the coronary band area. Thought she might have caught herself in the canter. But I just knew it was time to have the vet out.

The vet checked her out completely. He then had me lunge her both directions to see what she was doing. He then put in a blocker below her fetlock and had me lunge her again. She still showed signs of soreness. He then blocked her from fetlock down. We then worked her again. I saw her trot that day like I had never seen her trot before. She really had motion but because she has been sore since I first started working her, we had no idea. Well the vet did XRays. He also found she had a quarter crack. The vet diagnosed the following: quarter crack, thin hoof wall, and very slight case of laminitis. He also said he wanted us to go ahead and start treating the mare as though she has been diagnosed with a metabolic issue. We had the farrier back out and he has done everything the vet asked to be done. The vet had the blacksmith do the following: She does not grow toe or heel. He had him trim her toe so that she would be at a sharper angle. Her sole is showing around the bottom of her foot now. We do have a gel pad and plate on her. The blacksmith did bevel her toe. The quarter crack has grown out about 1/4 - 1/2 an inch since middle of may. We were wondering if we should put a plate on this.

Here is where I am looking for answers. We had her reset around May 21st and we were supposed to give her a week off before any exercise. Vet said to walk her daily starting with 10 minutes per day and work our way up to 30 minutes. We have been doing this but she still seems to be sore. What are your suggestions on this?

What do you know about Equines Cushings? I have been reading so much on line and so many with different opinions. We have changed her whole diet. We now have her on oats, have her on a supplement called Smart Control IR (2 oz per day), and her hay. I have cut the treats out completely. I do notice that the crestiness is starting to go down.

I am including a few pictures. 2 are of her hooves since the farrier made the corrections. I also added a picture of her outside taken before we got her and one taken after having her about a year.

If I can supply you with anymore information, let me know. I really appreciate your time.

Tip of the day : Getting your money’s worth can sometimes be difficult…. especially when what ever it is has been given to you for free. But... at least you will get what you paid for!

Wow!!! Thanks for your letter. (I think) It sounds like you have really been through this. Two years is a heck of a long time to be dealing with a lame horse. I can't tell everyone, often enough, how wonderful I think the American Saddlebred Rescue program is and how much respect I have for you who take these otherwise "lost" equines in. Unfortunately, by the description in your letter, I feel we can assume why your mare ended up in the program. Chronic lameness is a very trying, painful, costly, non productive condition for all concerned. It ultimately wears on the owner as it wears on the horse. Although I doubt I can add much that has not already been covered by your "support team", let's give it a try.

I would put as much stock in your diagnosis as anyone's. When lining and lunging in a circle, the horse, if lame, will always display his lameness. Depending on the direction, it will almost always manifest itself with the inside foot. This is an excellent test for lameness but much work in a tight circle is one of the worst things to do for correcting it. Thank you for the pictures. (not available here) She really is left with an extremely short foot. I assume the raising of the angle is your vet's way of treating the laminitis. ( by the way, I feel that having "a little" founder is like being a little pregnant ) I would be somewhat concerned with the sole showing around the bottom of her foot coupled with the length I find it hard to believe she could be comfortable. Discomfort and stress are two of your worst enemies right now. Please let her grow some foot unless they are concerned about a "Sinker."

It sounds like the quarter crack is under control if it has grown down that much. With a thin wall horse a plastic patch might be of help to insure it grows out. If the abscess is drained, that should improve her comfort factor.

The periodic lameness, fat "pones", crestiness etc are all possible symptoms of Cushing's Disease. Additionally, excessive thirst and urination, excessive appetite with no weight gain, shaggy, rough coat and chronic laminitis, appearance much older than actual age, can also show up. Insulin insensitivity usually develops as well.

Cushing's is actually a benign tumor on the pituitary gland . The above symptoms are a direct result of the changes in the horse's metabolism caused by the syndrome. Treating it is no easy task but diet is one of the keys as you have discovered. Lush pasture and high carb grains work against you here. ( Atkins diet candidate for sure)

Peroglyde is the accepted medicine for treatment of this condition but until actually diagnosed there is no point in using it as it is very expensive. I have had an old campaigner on Peroglyde for 5 years now and it is miraculous. It has retarded the founder issue, the fat pones and shaggy hair etc. We still can have a few soundness issues but he is a very comfortable happy horse for the most part. He is 27. There is a new NASAID out, name escapes me, that causes no adverse effects to the horse's liver, stomach or kidneys as with Bute and Banamine. It may be given every day, but we only use it when needed which is occasionally. It gives him great comfort on a bad day.

If we are correct about this diagnosis, it is my feeling that you are in for an all out war with this disease. Bringing her back to "Show Ring" ready may just be the stuff dreams are made of. Making her comfortable is within your grasp. Sorry I can't be of more help but feel free to write again if needed. I wish you Good Luck and hope to hear good news in the Guest Book.

LF Lavery

June 27, 2008

We think she has Whiplash
(Dealing with an old Injury)

I wanted to start with how much I enjoy reading your site! I'm usually good at figuring out most horses, but I have one who has a problem I have no experience with. The mare has been here for 4 months. Her owners hate her. For the last 2 years, she's balked before cantering the first way of the ring at shows. (They just had a aisle way at home) She would sometimes balk going into the first turn at the trot. The first thing we did was have her teeth floated. She had a cap wedged between 2 other teeth, it was pulled and she was given time to get comfortable with her mouth. I hoped this was her problem, but I was wrong. Every time this mare thinks you are going to guide her to the right, she either freezes up, or goes very fast to the left. After working her for a period of time, getting her to bend to the right, her neck started getting quite a crest. We had a thyroid test done, and it was fine. A few weeks ago, we went to a horse show and she was left home and hand walked daily. After a week of not turning to the right, the crest was gone. I questioned her previous trainer about a possible neck injury. I was informed she did get in a bind a few years ago where she was turned out and rolled under the gate with her body on one side and her head on the other. At the time, they didn't think anything of it, but did say the problems started soon after that. The owners don't want to spend any money on having her checked, or treated. I understand, from my vet, there is a ligament running down the top of the neck that could have been damaged. He didn't think there would be much to be done for her since the owners don't want to spend any money on vet work. I'm pretty stumped on what to do with her. Any suggestions?

Tip of the day: When training a horse, there is really only one thing that can cause you more problems than not trying hard enough…. Trying too hard!

Thank you so much for your question. From your excellent description of the situation, it seems as you are very much on top of things as one would expect from a professional trainer. You have closely observed and lived with an unacceptable behavior. You have attempted to find and treat the possible causes. You have kept your client's best interest in mind and I am certain you have passed the Veterinary's recommendation along to them. They have paid for your advice, you have given it but it is entirely up to them whether they wish to follow it or not. This kind of a situation always frustrated me, as well. The good news is.....my advice is real cheap! (But remember, you get what you pay for!)

As you have pretty much narrowed it down to an old injury, let's approach it with that in mind. Your Vet was, of course, correct. The ligaments are called the Nuchal and supraspinous ligaments and between the two of them they run the entire length of the body. The one that may be affecting your issue is the Nuchal. It's course takes it from the "Poll" of the head to the wither and it's main job is the support of the neck. An accident such as you describe could easily have damaged this ligament and nerves. In fact, that type of accident is very common and is responsible for a staggering number of "mysterious" deaths each year. As we seem to be on a "Budget" and without the advantage of modern medicine, will have to be content trying to treat the symptoms rather than the problem.

Why don't we:

Keep her supple. Long line and stall bridle to the right. Riding, always turn to the right when reversing. Even tying rope to halter with head to right several times a day will help keep her supple.

Reduce any pain or swelling. Hot soak swollen areas. Massage to move fluids. Glycerin, alcohol, furicin, carbolic acid neck sweat with hood.

Training. Remember your job the next month or so is more a rehab than a training one. She really has a reason for what she is doing although down the road habit might get in your way. Try to build some confidence with her now as it will make your training much easier later on.

I wish I could be of more help but we are really limited in what we can do the situation being what it is. It would be my hope that your hard work will show so much improvement in her that maybe the clients will decide to treat the condition. Then it would be a perfect world! Thanks again for your question. I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck, (Good Turning) and Good Riding,

LF Lavery

June 25, 2008

He is just Swishing all Over
(His tail, at flies that is)

I have a question concerning my country pleasure horse. He is showing great. But, in the summer he becomes very sensitive to insect bites, therefore he is constantly swishing his tail. Some say that horses do it because they are doing something that is difficult for them. I think he does it because the bugs are "bugging" him, and he's annoyed. I keep his stall as clean as possible. (If you ask my husband he'd say it's cleaner than our house!), and I feed him garlic and keep a fly sheet on him 24/7. When showing he swishes-so judges see that and don't think that looks desireable. Is there anything I can do?

Thanks LF!

Tip of The Day - You can assume you are doing very well when your trainer encourages you to get out by yourself and really show your horse..... On the other hand, if he suggests you "Get in the pack and hide".....Well..

Thank you for your question. Leave it to a gelding to Swish around! Actually, this is common problem. If it is indeed insects, you know the drill, I am sure. "Baste" him with Repel-X, Skin so Soft, Cowboy Cow Chips, or any product guaranteed to keep them away. Don't forget under the dock of the tail and for that matter, the tail itself should be sprayed. I think I have tried just about all the products there are and have come to the conclusion that the expense of the product has little to do with it's effectiveness. Just find one that seems to work for you. There is a patent supplement expressly for flies that is fed on a daily basis. It's name escapes me. Perhaps one of our readers knows and will post it in the Guest Book.

You have been correctly informed about the swishing tail as a possible sign of stress from work. It also can be a ticklish reaction from legs or spurs or whip. Some horses will react to the tails of a riding coat. If he is a "free sweater", it is possible moisture between his hind legs bothers him and chafes. (Use corn starch there instead of baby powder.) The dock of the tale can build up some aggravating crud very quickly so keeping the dock extremely clean can sometimes be of help.

Short of only showing in Freedom Hall, that is about all I know to tell you except please buy him some "horsey" breath mints to cover that Garlic smell. I hope this helps, Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

June 24, 2008

The Old Hat Trick (Attire for the show ring)

This one is on for Lonnie as a Judge. To Hat or Not to Hat in Hackney Pleasure Driving?

A good friend of mine has listened to my passion for American Saddlebreds and Hackneys for years. She went to a horse show and took a few riding lessons, decided driving was for her in the show ring and bought a nice Harness Pony with the temperament for Pleasure Driving. After finding several good outfits and not showing with a hat, we need to ask a professional should a hat be worn. She has attractive short hair that stays in place. We'll have to jet glue and pin the hat to her head as her hair is fine. In the area she shows in the majority were a hat.

The hat finishes the picture in a saddle suit. So, is a hat preferable to the naked head?

Tip of the day : The Harness can be made at Gucci, the outfit from Dior but if your horse doesn't show correctly, your just another lovely loser…. nothing more.

Thank you for your question. I suppose keeping the hat on could be problem and since the Horseman's favorite (a staple gun) is out of the question I will give you my feelings on the hat situation.

Historically, I am certain that from the first time a lady stepped up and took the lines from her driver, she was wearing a hat. As a small child driving her Welsh pony to a governess cart, she was wearing a hat. It was customary then it might be called tradition today. I for one, truly appreciate a lady wearing a tasteful hat in the show ring. Several years ago a client of Donna Moore's showed a spectacular Fine Harness Mare while outfitted in beautiful gowns and elegant Hats. She started somewhat of a trend but as with most things today the Millinery biz has taken a down turn in class.

However, to answer your question, unless you are showing in a attire conforming and restricted discipline as in Carriages etc. you are under no obligation to wear a hat while showing your Pleasure pony. Additionally, as a judge, while your attire could play a very small part to enhance the overall "picture" it is not a criteria we use in the final adjudication unless it is completely unacceptable and disrespectful attire. In essence, I believe the "Tip of the Day" covers it all!

So feel the wind in your hair and use that sun screen and most importantly, enjoy your pony. Look forward to reading of your latest wins in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Driving.

LF Lavery

June 22, 2008

But You got to Love 'Em?

Okay....... here is the story. I have a 3 year old hackney that was broke to the cart last fall. Wonderful, no problems. Tried to buck a few times. Spring up to this spring. I have been hooking him by myself since April. I take him all over the place. Through the field, through the woods, around the track and even broke him to ride. Wonderful, no problems. Just an easy going little guy. Hooked him to the show cart with the show harness 4 times. Perfect. This past weekend it was his first show. First time at a show pulling the cart, new sounds, hearing other ponies pass him. He was fine in the makeup ring (just a little squirmy) and he went in the ring fine (4 other ponies out there) and acted like a pro. I was thrilled. We reversed, did the jog, and half a lap at the road gait and then out of no where he started bucking. Got his back leg over the shaft and I knew I was screwed. Now he is scared, took a nose dive into the fence, came up and turned around. I lost my balance and fell out of the back of the cart and the lines slipped from my hands. Now he is running across the middle of the ring, buggy in shambles, harness broke, but my husband ran out and caught him. I am fine, the pony is fine....... as soon as we got home from the show I hooked him to the work cart and he acted fine. Hooked him the next day and I could tell he felt a little tense and thought about acting up, but didn't.

I am going to be scared to show him again, but he has to have the experience. Do I buy a kicking strap to use at home now? I am just freaked out a little and I sure don't want the pony to do that again. I have been driving ponies for 30 years. What do I do if he starts bucking in the cart at home? How do you discipline for that while you are in the cart? What would cause him to do that all of the sudden?

Tip of the day : It has been my experience that when a Hackney Pony takes a notion and that “Good Blood” goes to the wrong places… they can shed a harness in about one tenth the time it took to put it on! I also believe they work on some kind of commission from the Viceroy store.

Thanks so much for your question. From your great analysis, I can tell you are no beginner at this and did all the right things. I must say, I feel like I should be thanking you as your vivid description of the "crime" set up a "mental movie" for me that had me in stitches even though I am sure that is not the reaction you had at the time. Having trained many of "the little brown rats" over the years, I am no stranger to crime scenes as you describe. But you got to love 'em!

I am not at all certain if it is in the distance genetics, early imprinting, the formal level of training, some shift in a DNA pattern, an askew chromosome or for that matter, something in the damn water... Some of these little "shits" do this often and seldom predictably. I am not sure one can ever "train" this issue completely out of them, but I think we can come up with some ways to lessen the odds of it happening again. Even though I have just stated many Hackneys come with an inclination for this behavior, there are, indeed, some triggers (weak excuses) for it that can bring it on as well.

Classic triggers:

  • Crupper that is or becomes too tight during work. (Near guaranteed to work!)
  • Cinch bound. (do not tighten bellyband all at once, walk and tighten a little at a time)
  • Checked too low. (They find it harder to kick when they are checked properly)
  • Shaft bearers too low.
  • Loose hitch, tugs mobile and slapping sides.
  • Hitched too tight (I know, I know but you got to love 'em)
  • Different footings hitting boot of the basket while working. (gravel)
  • New surroundings such as a horse show
  • Crowding by ponies from the side and behind.
  • Sloppy lines especially getting under tail.
  • Loud unaccustomed noise.
  • Because you've let them.
  • I do feel reasonably certain that Sunshine is not a trigger! (You got to love 'em!)

For some time, lunge this pony before you work him and each time you hitch your pony, run down this check list making what corrections you can and paying particular attention to the first three listed. Line him a little before hitching. If you feel more comfortable use a correctly adjusted kicking strap but remember that is not an option at the show. Keep searching for other triggers for your pony each time you work him.

At the next show, do the same and try to get this pony in the ring at least twice before he shows. Walk around both ways in long lines, and then drive around as if in a class. If you both feel comfortable and you have the time, take your husband for a ride and drive all around the show grounds walking, stopping, meeting new people and seeing new things etc. Any time you see a sign or feel this issue about to happen, use your lines for very firm and immediate correction. Jerk him back to attention! Your a long time away from the pony carrying you home by himself after a night of revelry.

Thank you once again for your question. If you will follow these suggestions, I predict you will have very little trouble coping with this problem. It is important that you give it no chance to happen again or it will become more difficult to address. I hope I may have been of some help and I look forward to reading of your training progress in our guest book. Good Luck and Good Driving.

LF Lavery

FOLLOW-UP: Thank you for your suggestions. Since the show I have hooked him 3 times (without a kicking strap) and he hasn't kicked, but I can tell he just feels different. A little tense and not quite as comfortable. (It was a scary experience for both of us.) Should I keep hooking him almost daily or take a break from the cart and long line or ride him? Thank you for your help.

I have since composed myself and no longer have that mental picture. I am certain it was a very scary experience. I am also certain you will persevere. As with all training programs, a little variance is always conducive to keeping things fresh and tedium to a minimum thus keeping the student's mind on ready to learn.. Certainly, vary your program. But continue the check list and to lunge as described. Thanks again,

June 21, 2008

Not Hoof in Mouth... but Hands to Mouth

Hi Lonnie,

First let me say hello and tell you that I am happy to be back. My first show horse was Richlon's Delight, a gorgeous 3 gaited mare that my Mom bought for me. I met you when we made this purchase. I was 8, its okay if you don't remember! We loved her and even when we retired her at 14 she strutted around the paddock every inch a show horse. After we retired "Richie" I ventured into the world of dressage and warmbloods and stayed there until this past year. My best friend has always stayed in the Saddlebred world and I ventured back to join her.

In April I purchased a lovely 3 (now 4) year old gelding He is big (17 hh) and long bodied. Although he has baby moments where he seems to look for ways to spook himself he is a really good boy and is extremely honest. No bucks, no rears, just a jaunt sideways or canter scramble now and again.

We have worked him for two months in a twisted copper snaffle with his tongue tied (to the best of my knowledge his tongue has always been tied). He has worked well in this, although as I write this I do note that he has a tendency to stretch his head down and sideways to the inside when we take a walk break. He is more whoa than go, and we are working on strengthening his gas pedal.

However this week in preparation for our upcoming shows, we moved him to the double bridle. It is a nice copper mouthed curb and twisted bradoon. We tie his tongue and the cavesson is done up very tight.

It has been a shift for me to get back to Saddleseat insofar as I never realized how much work my dressage saddle does for my position. So I am constantly reminded to find my balance, roll my shoulders back and keep my hands consistent (I would love to drop them to the withers).

I was horrified given all our progress to date to get on my horse on Tuesday night in the double bridle and find him going around barely moving forward (several times I was left posting the walk) with his head up in the air. He felt "inside out" and resistant to moving forward.

I tried to experiment with hand positions: pushed up to his neck, wider, up, down. We would have moments that it would come (mainly when he was distracted) but then it would fall apart and he would be inside out again. If anything my reins were too loose, and he typically requires more curb rein.

I shall send you a video of my very first ride on him...he did this to me then (and I rode him terribly terribly terribly) and his trainer got me through it, but I don't know how really. He doesn't really do this to other more accomplished saddleseat riders although he doesn't step right up to the bridle with them either.

Can you offer me some guidance? I am certain it is me!!

Tip of the day : When communicating to your horse through the reins ... it is much more effective to keep it at a "whisper" than to shout.... "Can you hear me now, Can you hear me now?"

Thank you so very much for your question and the wonderful video, I am glad I was finally able to open.(not available here). As I watched it, I was very taken with Speedy. He is extremely attractive, in tip-top condition, he moves very well and appears to have manners, a wonderful mouth and a great attitude. The stable is very nice and you seem to be very fortunate to have a extremely talented and patient horseman as your trainer. Congratulations, you have put yourself in a win, win situation. Fortunately, the video spoke volumes about your question, as well.

From your letter, I truly believe you already know how I am going to respond and I also congratulate you on that deduction as self- analyzation is never fun and is often not easy. Of course, you and I both know what needs to be addressed. Equitation!

Form to function covers a much wider area than just the impact of the horse's conformation. The various forms of the equitation disciplines, although sharing many of the same points and a balanced seat, are indeed different depending on the "job" the horse is to do. i.e. Your "hunt" seat would be of little help cutting a calf on a Poco Bueno quarter horse. It appears as if you are making excellent progress returning to "Saddle Seat" but, make no mistake, there is still some distance to go. Nearly every unwanted movement of the head, undesirable position or change in momentum, correlates with an erratic movement of your hands. You are finding these more dramatic at this time because the double bridle is a much more delicate instrument than a single snaffle. Where three pounds of pull and a heavy "jerk" can easily be tolerated on a snaffle bit, much less pull and a slight jerk can bring a horse to a complete halt in the double bridle. While you are " finding your balance and rolling your shoulders" and lifting your hands high to where you feel they ought to be for Saddle Seat, these movements are being immediately telegraphed to your horse's mouth and amplified by the curb bit. This is not your fault but simply a part of the difficult transition you are making back to Saddle Seat. You are trying way too hard! Until such time as you feel comfortable enough in the correct position where hands, seat, legs and posture are all working independently for the common cause without your making a conscious physical effort to "assume that position", I would suggest:

Watch the video and have another made, compare. See "cause and Effect".

Stretch, bend and loosen up with some exercises before your ride and even after being mounted.

Explain to your trainer you would feel more comfortable lowering your hands a little and that you would like to take a bit more hold so that you and Speedy may both feel some security. He can easily make some bridle adjustments to accommodate this.

Forget about "vogue-ing" and holding an artificial S/S posture with your hands above your chest. Drop your irons one hole. Find a S/S position that feels comfortable to you not how you think you are supposed to look. (In the day, even short trainers tried to look like Tom Moore in the saddle. It actually made us look ridiculous and very easy to beat!)

Practice in the snaffle as you concentrate on steadying your hands and your overall form. You will not be confusing Speedy as easily nor have a negative impact on his mouth.

Take some lessons on a school horse whose gaits will be easier to ride and on whom you might ride without stirrups to strengthen your legs and seat. Take a lunge line lesson.

Know this, you are a good rider and once this new position feels as comfortable and as second nature to you as Hunt Seat, you and Speedy are going to be very highly competitive. It will take a little work for you now but the payoff will be extremely rewarding. Please remember, you are fortunate to have a wonderful horse. You are also fortunate to have an excellent trainer, communicate any concerns you have with him. He must read Speedy's mind but he shouldn't have to read yours.

I hope I may have been of some help to you and we look forward to reading of your Blue Ribbons in the Guest Book. Thank you again, Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

June 19, 2008

Is there a School Horse School for Schooling the School Horse?

Dear Mr. Lavery,

I so enjoy reading your website! I have learned so much! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

I own a small riding academy and work my own show horses and lesson horses. I would consider myself an amateur owner trainer as far as the show horses go. I can ride, line, and jog a horse but do not consider myself a professional horse trainer.

I am writing to seek help with a lesson horse. I have only had him about 6 months. He is a beautiful 10 y/o that is amazing with the my students at the walk and trot. However, when we go to canter he returns to his show days getting big and anxious. Unfortunately, more times than not he balks at the request or balks anticipating the request. By balking I mean, he stops dead in his tracks or backs to middle of the ring. He arrived at my farm doing this behavior. I though perhaps it was because he had been turned out for a couple of years. However, over the last six months he has continued to repeat this behavior. I have tried to understand his issue and work through it with him. The horse understands his leads and canters slow as an equitation horse when not balking. I do not feel pain is an issue as he is sound with no apparent distress but at this point who knows. He does give a little buck when asked but it is not frightening more playful than anything. He will canter on cue if he is not expecting the ask. He is regularly vet checked, shod, teeth floated etc. I am a little stumped as to how to help him. I know go forward is always better than go backward! Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

P.S. None of my students are attempting to canter the horse at this time for obvious reasons.

Tip of the Day- It is a sure sign your horse is getting somewhat ahead of you when someone calls your barn and your horse is answering the phone!

Thank you so much for your question. Allow me to say that from reading your letter, the insight concerning his issues, the details you have made yourself aware of and the steps you have taken to deal with him so far, are exactly the things a concerned professional trainer would do. Don't sell yourself short. Additionally, you must be a very dedicated instructor as well since you even insist upon teaching your students to canter! In all seriousness, if you don't mind a bit of homework, two previous posts will give you a great deal of insight about these issues and their possible "treatment". You will find these in the archives:

As I am certain you are aware, any undesirable behavior that is not immediately corrected becomes more enabled. ("given an inch they take a mile") A lesson program environment is an especially difficult one in which to address training issues such as this as many inexperienced riders on a "spoiled" horse only increase the chances of further undesirable behaviors manifesting themselves. Additionally, firm correction really is not meant to be shared with impressionable spectators. Oh, for a perfect world. At this juncture, it seems you do have common ground and a productive individual so long as we walk and trot only. If we have to have the canter option, let's see what we can do about it.

If you have done your "homework assignment" you already know how I feel about the key to canter issues being a relaxed horse and some ways to allow this to happen. The problem here are the addition of the other inexcusable behavioral issues such as backing and balking which require immediate and firm correction making it difficult to accomplish this relaxation at the same time. Here is what I suggest:

Use the various techniques from the two posts to relax your horse and let him build some confidence in you. If you can keep him out of the program for a week or two or at least be very careful to allow only a top level students to take lessons on him. Incorporate those techniques into their lesson.

Lunging and Long Lining, even jogging at the canter before your ride and in between rides can sometimes be mentally helpful so long as it is a quiet procedure rather than "YA-Hoo". This will also help remind him that creeping or backing off the rail is unacceptable unless you desire it.

Although you must be ready to firmly correct any behavior issue, try not to set up a situation for the issue to present itself. Never try to canter from the same place, never do the same things, vary what you do so he must pay attention to you for his direction. Back him in corners only and make certain if he backs 3 steps he then walks forward 4.

As important as it is to correct don't forget to reward any step he makes in the right direction. A kind word, a pat on the neck, quitting while ahead, any positive reinforcement for a positive step on his part. Always remember, a tired horse learns negative things better than positive ones.

I feel quite confident you will be able to make some good progress using your talents, patience and these tools. Thank you for your question, I hope I have been of some help. We look forward to reading of your progress in the guest book. Good Luck and Good Riding,


June 18, 2008

Slow and Steady is not Winning the Race!

Hey Lonnie,

I'm a trail rider with a Quarter Horse named Huck and we like to mosey along around Griffith Park. Huck is about 12 or so and a very personable fellow most of the time. Like his famous namesake, Huckleberry, he's a very mellow guy. Sometimes a bit too mellow, I'm finding. When we are out with other riders, I have to contantly nudge him to keep up. I can multi-task, but it can be trying to manage a conversation while keeping Huck at a nice pace. When we're going downhill, he is especially slow and I'm not sure if it's because he's sore or just worried about losing his step. What ends up happening is that my elegant riding partners on their noble Saddlebreds end up waiting for us at the bottom of the hill.

Given all the problems one could have with their horse, I feel a little silly for asking about something so...bland!

Thanks for taking the time.

Tip of the Day - Before you decide what your horse is going to be ....be very aware of what his conformation will allow him to do!

Thanks so much for your letter. "Mellow" is not a usual problem for me to address. Like Martha Stewart I like to think,"It's a good thing!" I can, however, somewhat understand your disenchantment in Huck's trail performance. The way you describe his "downhill" prowess, you could spend three days getting to the bottom of infamous "suicide hill". Let's take a moment and see if we can figure some things out.

You mentioned noble American Saddlebreds as Huck's riding partners so we will start there. In my minds eye, I see Huck as about a 15 hand chestnut Quarter horse. He is very well bodied being wide chested, and extremely "J-LO" in the rear. His front legs toe in slightly, he has a very kind eye that if you look hard might have a twinkle in it. He is short coupled meaning his back is not long so the distance between his front legs and hind is not very great. The next time you ride with his noble 16 hand friends stand one right next to him and take a good look. Pick one his color and note that the noble one's chest is narrower, his hind end much slighter, he is several inches taller but his legs seem even longer. Speaking of longer, the distance between his front legs and hind is at least a foot longer. Huck might weigh a little more though. It's like there are two different patents from two different inventors. After you have compared them together, lead one of them 20 steps at the walk. Lead the other, starting at the same point, 20 steps at the walk. It is hard to believe the difference there can be in the distance of twenty steps. Imagine how much difference when they walk a mile or two. Why? Form to function!

These horses were each bred to have the conformation to do completely different jobs. The American Saddlebred to cover plantation ground as a comfortable riding horse and Huck's kin meant to work rough stock for short distances on rough ground. This is a reality and you cannot change the conformation, but all is not lost.

Try leading the parade rather than following. Many horses see little point in trying to catch up when they feel they can't win.

A pair of spurs, used correctly, can cut down the effort it takes to urge him forward. Be certain to always coordinate a "cluck" every time you use the spur so he associates them together.

At some points in your rides, try pushing him to near the point of jogging for a hundred yards or so. Then relax. Then repeat several times during your ride.. Let's call them Huck's wind sprints. Lope now and then. Vary his speed and perhaps he'll be more willing to get out of his rut.

Above all, remember he can only do what he is built to do and he really isn't cheating you just maybe not giving 110%. Appreciate the fact that he is mellow and enjoy the ride, after all, you are not paying by the hour. I hope sometime to tell of when I was judging there and of my exciting trail ride in Griffith Park when a good friend informed the rental agent, "He is a trainer and can ride anything with legs." That is when I first realized that "Mellow and "Mosey" can be very good things!"

Thanks again, I hope you have a new perspective and I may have been of some help. I hope to read about you and Speedy's improved trail rides, in the guest book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

June 17, 2008

He likes Her way Better than Me!

I love this site and go here often. I’ll try to be quick. I have 3 SBR horses, 2 geldings, 1 mare. I gelding has been here over a year and doing magnificent. The other gelding and mare rode down here, an eighteen hour ride together. I could immediately tell the gelding was strongly attached to the mare, so I kept them in separated paddocks. Time goes by and the gelding is fine, rides fine, behaves well as long as he sees the mare. Then at about 3 months into him being here, he decides he is going to do anything to get out of any sort of activity, lunging, riding, even being led to the paddock. He misbehaves in such ways as cowkicking while I’m putting on the saddle, striking out while leading, will not move on a lunge line, and simply will not move under saddle. So he goes from fine to terrible after he gains weight, gets teeth done, feet get regular work. He is showing no sign of pain, to the contrary I think he is the healthiest rescue I have. I think it all boils down to he has more respect for the mare than for me. I am nothing more than an annoying fly in the way. I am committed to making a pleasurable ride out of him. Do you think sending him to a trainer for a month would help or would he return to his attachment as soon as he was reunited with the mare? Also, would an ASB trainer even take my rescue? I can not keep him out of sight from the mare here. I have 5 stalls and 2 paddocks, he can see or smell her just about any where.

Thank you very much for what you do!

Tip of the Day - One bad horse can teach you many good lessons... but usually the hard way!

Thank you so very much for your question, all the way from Georgia. I feel your analysis of the situation is pretty much right on leaving us but a few avenues to follow. You have, of course, gained some great insight in how males act when they are hopelessly in Love! And to think you have fed him all that grain improved his smile and gotten him pedicures and this is how he shows his gratitude. Seriously, you have unwittingly allowed this behavior to be reinforced by not giving needed correction earlier and unfortunately it could progress from being an inconvenience to a much more serious problem if not addressed. By not wanting to be the "bad guy", you have allowed him to assume the role. I speak from experience as I have fallen in that trap once or twice myself by forgetting I really do not want a horse as my best friend but rather somewhere between partner and servant. Without guidance, respect and some discipline, they can take an awfully lot of pleasure out of the relationship. But let's see what we need do now.

First, and I apologize, I wish to assign you a little homework as I have addressed these issues in depth in the past. A May 11th posting titled "Never too old to Wean" addresses a portion of your problem and will give you some insight as to it's root.

Frankly, I am more concerned by other behaviors you describe. Striking, cow kicking, sulking, balking etc are inexcusable and will escalate if allowed. These actions must be punished immediately on occurrence! You must take firm command. You can not allow this to continue. He weighs 1000 lbs, you do not. He will need more than a tap from a crop as punishment. The "petting zoo" will have to be closed for a while until he earns that type of treatment.

If you wish to try to address these issues yourself instead of sending him to a trainer, I would suggest:

Take him off grain for a while.

If you ride at night, turn him out all day (better yet 24 hours a day.)

Keep the two separated never again in the same place. If he is out, she is in visa-versa. In the barn their stalls should be the farthest apart. When he is in the barn and she is not, sprinkle her stall with hot water and Pine Sol.

If possible, have someone with you when you are working around him.

When working around him in crossties, Please be careful! Have a lead shank chain on his nose and jerk it hard when he does anything wrong.

Be the bad guy and dole out swift and firm justice when needed. You have no other choice at this juncture.

Many years ago I had the privilege to train a absolutely wonderful World's Champion Harness Pony named Pride's Starmaster. His whole life he been with wonderful trainers, starting with the Tom Lowery, Gib Marccuci, Donna Moore. I had much success with him for several years but serious health problems with his 84 year old driver necessitated his early retirement from the show ring. (He was 17 but could have shown many more years) His owners were wonderful people and asked if we would keep him in retirement at our farm. Being he was a very small and very sweet pony gelding and had been such a pleasure to train I just offered to keep him for the rest of his days. We turned him out with a small band of antique but very nice barren broodmares that fall. I had trained him to come when I whistled and the mares would follow him making catching them much easier. I noted day by day he seemed to be becoming the leader of this small herd of horses. It was a very cute sight watching the little guy "order" his herd around.

One day, several months into his retirement, the farrier was there and I sent a boy up to bring him in so his feet could be trimmed. It was about an hour before I noticed none of my help was in the barn and neither was Starmaster. I walked up to the Pasture where he reigned supreme over his little band of mares and noted: They were bandaging one Mexican's arm, one was limping badly, one was being chased around the pasture by this little pony. The fifth boy was no where in sight.

I had the "big" one and used language that they could certainly hear but now I am glad they could not understand at how they could let one little sweet pony run them around like that. Immediately I opened the gate, walked into the pasture, and whistled for the sweet little pony. I would show them how it was done. I was so proud, he quit chasing Juan, stopped in his tracks turned and started trotting towards me. "When I train them, they stay trained", I thought to myself. He was so willing to please he started to canter to me. Now, he was at a dead run and he seemed to have no ears. I could, however, see just about all his teeth.

I didn't use the gate when leaving the pasture, I threw myself under the fence at the last moment. No one said anything as I walked back to the barn. Starmaster put his tail up over his back and trotted as high as in the show ring around his pasture.

When all the dust settled, I found out that this had all started a month or so ago when a newer worker had not held his ground and ran scared from him, which the boys thought was humorous, at first. It just escalated from there.

I hope I didn't bore you with the story but I wanted you to know things like this can happen. I feel confident you will be able to handle his "rehab". If you decide you want to try a trainer, I will be happy to suggest one. Thanks again for your questions, I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

June 16, 2008

So now you want to be Dale Evans?


It's me again with a new question concerning my 12 yo SBR mare, Shannon. I am dealing with the hot and humid weather by riding bareback (with a bridle) and mostly inside. I want to teach Shannon to neck rein. What process should I use? How much time do I allow per session? Estimate how many lessons before she either learns or I give up.

Tip of the Day - Quitting on a good note will make tomorrow's training session go a lot better.

In answer to your question let me begin by saying that spending the time is very important in the training of any athlete . However, correct repetition, is the most important facet in the training of horses, who truly are, beasts of habit.

Your current program, quietly riding bareback, inside, is an ideal venue for teaching a horse to neck rein. It is not necessary for you to "cowboy-up" and quickly put a good "handle" on your mare nor do I think that process is something you would want to do. Even in your "advanced" years, I think there will be enough time for you to teach her a level of reining you both can enjoy. (Barrel racing isn't on your wish list, is it?) Here is what I would suggest:

In a snaffle bit bridle, each time you ride allow plenty of time for your mare to relax. When she feels relaxed, working on one rail and using two corners, walk up and down that rail. In your two hands, one rein becomes the "bearing" rein the other the "indirect" rein. These change roles as the direction of the turn changes. Walking with the rail to your right, don't pull but open, palm up, your left (bearing) hand and the same time lean the right (indirect) rein on the right side of the horse's neck. Your left calf squeezes and bends horse's body to the right. This should turn your horse towards the center of the arena. When you have moved 5-10 feet off the rail turn your right (now the bearing) hand palm up and apply the left ( now indirect ) rein to left side of the neck. Squeeze with the right leg bending the body to the left. When back to the rail, repeat the first step and so on. Done correctly, with finesse, you should be creating a serpentine down the rail. Upon reaching the corner. Stop. Back a step or two. (Backing is not simply moving backwards but also a yielding of the mouth and lowering of the head.) Move forward to the wall. Using the right hand as the bearing hand reverse using the left rein and right leg. Repeat the above steps going down the rail. It is important that you always reverse the opposite direction when you reach the other end. The "key" to correct repetition is to use all the aids in unison each time. Do this 5-6 trips the first time and then quit. This will not be taught in a day! Each day there after, spend a little more time and as you progress, use the indirect rein a little stronger and the direct a bit easier....legs remain strong! In 2-3 weeks of steady work making this a part of each workout you may find that not only can affect a turn with the indirect rein but possibly with only your leg as well. At this point, you may start affecting circles and can continue to refine these turns until you are truly neck reining. As I mentioned, this is not exactly the "cowboy way" but I feel you will be fully capable and most comfortable with this program.

This is a difficult but certainly not a impossible project so long as your execution is always correct and you are very patient. If you are successful, you may take a great deal of satisfaction in a job well done.

I hope this is of some help and I look forward to reading of your progress in our Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

June 12, 2008

He's Not AS Loud But...

I have been lining the Grey in a fat rubber Pelham as suggested. I have progressed from lining on the snaffle ring to lining on the curb ring and he is doing great, quiet mouth, setting his head nicely…no complaints. So, Sunday I tried going back to the double bridle which is a mullen mouth curb wrapped, wrapped chain, and smooth snaffle with a draw caveson snug not tight. He started out great the first way, very light and setting his head nice walk, trot, canter. Then we reversed and he started up. First just a little pushing and a little dive, then straight neck and cold jaw. We reversed back and he wasn’t too bad, so we did some walking and figure work and ended on a good note. He still wants to fight the mouthful.

What do you think of those training curb bits that have the snaffle mouth floating through a ring on the curb shank making them sort of like a Pelham? In the mean time we’re back to lines and the Pelham or riding in four reins on a snaffle neither of which cause any trouble. He’s still cutting wolf teeth, and the dentist is scheduled for next month.

Tip of The Day - You may be quite certain that you need to make an adjustment of your reins when your trainer says to you...."Use the other snaffle.

Good to hear from you again. I am glad some suggestions are being of help. I have used the bit you described and it worked well for me as does the pelham on which it is based. However, as I alluded to in January, there is no point of high expectations concerning the curb until all dental issues are addressed. Caps, wolf teeth, etc. can be torture for a five year old especially when the mouth is loaded with bits. To continue to try to introduce them at this time will be extremely counter productive. It sounds as if you have found a sort of program that you both can get along with. I would recommend staying on that program until the teeth are done. At that time you will find your task with the double bridle so much easier, for the both of you. I must say, I was surprised to hear you are working the Gray, I thought it would be at least till July before New York thawed!

Seriously, thanks for the follow up question. I look forward to reading of your further progress in the guest book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

June 9, 2008

No Foot No Rack

I adopted Fire and Embers aka Cupid Periaptor x Commander's Spitfire by The Commander's Contender 15 year old mare. She was on the road for about 10 years. Has been gaited in the past. I adopted her because I have RA and cannot post any longer. I only trail ride now so I wanted a smooth gaited horse. My Paso Fino gelding has Cushings and foundered.

She is fat and sassy now but her feet are horrible. I just purchased Cavallo boots so I can begin riding her, long time before she can be shod. I paid a trainer for 3 1/2 months of training to smooth out her gaits before I brought her to the West Coast; but unfortunately no services rendered. I now have to start from scratch and no trainers in my area; unless I drive for four hours to a trainer.

I haven't ridden a gaited horse in years. My question is how can I do the training myself? Cupid is very quiet and sweet but forgets her old training days. If she has a "rocking horse" canter I can sit it, if not it will only be walk, slow gait and rack for me. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Tip of the day : I have always found it extremely difficult to train a horse to perfection... when I started with an imprefect foundation.

Thank you so very much for your question and for yet another American Saddlebred's rescue. I think I can be of some help to you but I doubt it will be a quick fix but let me explain.

Unlike Paso Finos, Walkers, Missouri Fox trotters, etc. most of whom are born with the propensity to do their specific non-trotting gait, American Saddlebreds are, for the most part, born trotters with the ability to learn to slow gait and the rack. A group of Walking Horse weanlings in a field will amble away when motivated. A like group of American Saddlebred weanlings will trot. Knowing this going in, I think you will better understand my answer.

Because we must "show them the way" while they are learning to rack, and at the same time make it a comfortable experience for them, we adjust their shoeing accordingly. We balance them with shoeing to make it easier for them. Usually, a gaited is horse is a little longer or heavier behind than in his front shoeing. Often we will place a round leather strap on the hind ankles to accomplish balance when we are not certain how best to change the shoes. The very act of racking requires the horse to shift his weight to his haunches for push and elevation in front. This is accomplished by raising their heads. If your mare knows how to rack, it should be fairly easy for you. Before you do anything, I would call the trainer and ask him for advise. Hell, I am giving you mine for free, you have already paid for his. Seriously, his input might be as critical to what you want to do as the shoeing is. Remember, he knows more about your mare than you do, at this time.

I would suggest, just go to your yellow pages and have any farrier come out and trim her front feet to a natural angle and fairly short 3 3/4- 4 1/2 inches. Trim her hind feet to a natural angle but leave her at least 1/4 inch longer behind. Lunge or long line her for a few days. Unless you are working on asphalt, leave your Cavallo's off of her. After a couple of days, get her ready to ride... put nothing on her front legs and feet. Put the Cavallo's on her hind feet. I would suggest getting another rider at this time as there could be some trotting. Wherever you work her, walk up and back several times. Lift her head and with each pass encourage her to walk more briskly. (the walk is a 4 beat gait as is the rack) Continue for 5-10 minutes. If she indeed knows how to rack you will know it very quickly as she will readily pick up some speed. You may want to try putting the leather straps on her hind ankles to make it even easier. If this is successful, just keep it up and then when you can get her to a Saddlebred shoer, he can further balance her to do the job you want done. If this does not work for you, I am afraid it would be time for that 4 hour drive. If you would like, I would be happy to recommend a trainer near you.

Once again thank you and I truly hope I have been of some help to you. I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book, which I might add, will take complaints too. Wishing you Good Luck and Good Racking,

LF Lavery

June 7, 2008

My Running Martingale ain't Running Fast Enough

I have a 3 year old thoroughbred in training. Her delay in racing was due to injuries. Capped her left hock -healed beautifully , and we waited again when she had a sand gravel abscess on her I think right inside fore but that was nearly growing out-before sending her to the training farm. None of her old injuries seems to be bothering her. The trainer feels she is just not giving her all and has more in the tank. She seems to have a problem with her foot fall. She is being trained in a running martingale because (looking around) she was not paying attention to her job. two months in training. Now she is restricted from holding her head normally , which is somewhat high and slightly tucked.. The problem is she is not showing any improving speed. when I videoed her at a breeze she was switching her tail (maybe due to the encouraging whip) (not improving on speed) and her front limbs where so high in the air - the diagonal pair sequence of the stride at a fast gallop was, the hind leg and opposite front leg where out of sink. This pair normally falls together (which is the 2nd phase of the gallop) but the forearm was still in the air when the hind was already on the ground. I think its the running martingale to low or tight. She is in the air to high on the front end , how can she have speed if her front end looks like she's swimming. Do you have any ideas what this could be Other then taking off the running martingale. I think the running martingale is causing the problem but what if it isn't ? Did you ever experience this? maybe a seedy toe ? Thank you for reading this.

Tip of the day : As the famous Jockey once said, "I saw the hole and I was trying to go through it but...The hole was going faster than I was!"

Thank you for your question. Although I don't often deal with questions concerning Race Horses on this site I am quite familiar with them having trained many for the track over the years. As you can well imagine, Thoroughbreds sent to me for training were sent for a reason so I also know a good deal about their training issues and problems.

From what you say, she sounds like a horse that can't stand prosperity. In other words she can get herself in trouble when no one is asking her to do anything. That is kind of a "filly" thing but it is also a sign she has some spunk. She seems to have healed remarkably from some threatening injuries so you obviously have done a great job as caregiver.

I thank you for including the video, that certainly makes our job a lot easier. ( Not available on this site)

I can understand your concern over the lack of speed. Race Horses do have to be fast don't they? However, I must remind you, there are two-year-olds with nearly twice as much training as she has had. I really feel we can rule out seedy toe as a cause for this concern. I do note that she appears to toe out in the right front which makes her a candidate for interference down the road if not addressed. At this time I feel it is part of the cause of her sloppy lead changing and the cross cantering (where the lateral and diagonal legs are out of sinc) Training, shoeing, and maturity will also help sort this out. Although she appears to be somewhat over at the knees and this can cause her to go a little higher than others, I truly feel this extra motion, which I do not feel is that excessive, is coming from her bridle. She appears to be using it for the leverage to lift and not allowing it to back her up to where she is pushing off her rear. When she finally learns to push, that front motion should turn to stride. I would not be as concerned about the length of her martingale as I would be about having her teeth checked. So far as her attention, I always had very good success with blinkers on one at this stage. I also feel you will see a marked difference in her once they start training her in "sets".

I must say she is a very attractive and mature looking filly, looks in high order and a very likely looking candidate. But please remember, she could in no way be as fit as she looks with the limited amount of training she has had.

Also, always keep in mind that your trainer knows her better than anyone, at this time. If you trust your trainer, he does know best. I wish you very much luck and look forward to reading in the Guest Book when to bet on her. Thanks again. I remain,


LF Lavery

June 3, 2008

Fillies do the "Darnedest" Things

Hi Lonnie.

I have a 22 month old, registered Spotted Saddle Horse Filly. She is also registered with the National Racking Horse Assoc. She has been rode twice in an indoor arena at our stable.

The first time wasn't all that bad. She calmed down a bit about 10 min into the ride and then started her rearing up again but at least she walked a little bit.

The second time she was rode, she just reared up constantly at the sliding door that led to her stall. She would NOT walk or rack or leave that area. She was trained with a surcingle and long reins for about a month. My rider couldn't get her to turn either direction. All she wanted to do was rear up and then back up.

What can we do to make her more comfortable learning to carry a rider?

Tip of the day: I have always found it interesting that teaching a horse a good habit can take months, while sometimes they can learn a bad habit, on their own......... in seconds.

Thank you for your question. I can appreciate you're taking "about a month" to teach this filly to Long Line etc. A proper foundation is the key to a successfully trained horse. Although I have mentioned, in these very pages ( see Mar 22 ), my feelings about a horse that rears, I feel we may be able to help with this one. Let's talk about it.

When we are on a quest to understand and then correct poor behavior, we must begin in the three basic areas: 1. Is the problem physical? 2. Is the problem a mental issue? 3. Is there or was there a flaw in the training process? I feel, with the information you have given me, she is guilty on all counts but not completely responsible for her actions. ( fortunately you have good riders and she is not up on murder charges yet!)

Is the problem physical? Conformation, soundness, pain, discomfort or anything that is in the way of her performing correctly. Everything you have said she has done could readily correspond to her teeth. A 'long" yearling can have a lot of issues going on in her mouth causing much pain and discomfort when the bit is added. If she is shod comfortably and she is sound and has good conformation, we can move on.

Is there a mental issue. Would the horse rather revolt than train? Does it defy authority? Does the horse seem capable of processing what you are trying to teach it? Your filly certainly revolted and sure seemed to quit processing. Young horses are much like young children, they are not strong and tire quickly and they do not have a very long attention span. I think you will agree that ten minutes of a successful training session is far better than a thirty minute disaster. She was obviously tired and confused. By rearing and backing up, the question is was she revolting out of self defense or was she defying you. That is hard for me to tell but given her age, I doubt she is an "outlaw"...yet.

Is there or was there a flaw in the training process? We have identified one in the previous paragraph and I believe I can name another. For years, I was the first rider on my young horses. Ninety-five percent walked off without a buck, guided, turned and did all I asked of them I even trotted some the first time. When one acted another way, I knew enough ground work had not been put in. I went back to long lines and the basics. Walking around with long lines is much less wear and tear on one's body than bouncing off the clay in the arena.

I recommend:

Get her teeth checked and floated.

Go back to the lines for several weeks so she may forget about the bad riding experience and gain more basic training. Spend much time lining in a circle at the opposite end of where the door to her stall is. When walking around your arena, make certain that door is shut or you have an assistant leading her with a long rope when you near the door. You cannot afford any more mistakes at this juncture or you will be reinforcing a bad behavior. When the time comes to try the riding again, lunge her at the opposite end for a minute or two, then put your rider up and lunge, at the walk in that circle. Stay there for several rides as your rider takes more control and maybe trots a time or two. Then, when you think it is the time, lead her around the arena and past that door. Do this for a day or two and she should tell you when to turn her loose. Above all remember, they don't get better the longer you work them and keeping them relaxed is the key to success at this stage. I note the letters s..l..o..w.. in your Email address. That should be your key word over the next 3-4 weeks.

Thanks so much for your letter I would love to hear of your progress in the "guest book". Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

May 27, 2008

They Call Her Lefty

Mr. Lavery,

I am sorry for this novel with random bits and pieces. I am a young professional and have purchased (nov./dec. - we've been taking our time with this) a wonderful (then 3) now junior gaited filly. She is very well rounded for a four year old. Very square trot, easily canters, and slow gaits/racks smoothly......as long as you don't touch the left side of her mouth....hehe

At the trot, canter, and walk, she is fine. Beautiful flexion, serpentines and circles well. She jogs with her head straight, rounds her turns properly, etc. Both sides of the mouth soft and supple, no trouble. Backs readily.

And then there's the slow gait and rack...ahh yes that lovely smooth gait she excels at - sort of. She stays square and under herself, but if you try to help balance her when needed- just light touches here and there - her left side is T-O-U-G-H. Not unbearable but heavy quick jerks are involved. I like them soft and supple ( I rode with Smith Lilly, Lewis Eckard and Claude Shiflet as a child/young adult - light hands...) where the wiggle of the pinky is all I need. My left arm has gained 2" of muscle from this lovely little stinker. Her right side is wonderful. It is much more noticeable first way, when trying to keep her head straight in turns (steadying with the right, gently playing with the left to get her over with her head straight, with left leg back behind to push, right leg slightly forward to brace)and keeping her on the rail.

I have had her in a full cheek - smooth, slow twist, thick fast twist, waterford ball bit (a few rides or so a piece of every combination so I can notice a difference), Half cheek -smooth, slow, twist, backwards mule, 3 piece, and a smooth, fishback, and thick twisted bar bit (i was trying for lateral flexion). Bit burr, tongue tied/not tied nothing. Draw rein, running martingale, , no martingale , nightingale - just kidding. Every bit was tried with every bridle setup. Glycerine/bit juice - no softer. I've took her out on trails (relaxing), to a show to practice, sweet talked, yelled at her so loud she cowered - no change.We serpentine at the slow gait, we circle to the left - to no avail. I have very light hands, no tugging and the KICKER - She RACKS FINE IN A JOG CART!!! She will serpentine, let you help her, everything you'd like..

Can you tell it's driving me nuts?

She's vetted clean, had the vet out repeatedly to check for caps, sharp spots.

Shoes are nice and light, even weight all around, with 4oz. of lead in the toe behind. Toes are 4 1/2" in front, 5" behind. 50 degrees up front, 48 behind (not sure if it matters, but there you go).

She was gaited by a very respectable barn in IN familiar with her bloodlines.

Could the person who gaited her just toughened up that side that bad - only for the rack and not the trot? It's like a darn light switch it happens so fast! But only at a rack? She's pretty slick, but this is a new one! It makes sense, but now what?!?

Tip of The Day - We are living in the age of specialization. You don't ask an equine dentist to collect your stallion's sperm, so don't ask the vet to float his teeth.

Thank you for your very detailed yet very puzzling letter. She sounds like a wonderful filly. With a foundation from the great trainers you mentioned it is easy to see what a good horseman you should be and by your in depth analysis of your mare's behavior, it is easy to see that you are. You answered the additional questions I asked you (they do not appear here) with the same detail thus ruling out what I believed to be a soundness problem with her left side. Until then, I was certain a lateral, mechanical problem was the culprit. You have done everything I would have suggested or done myself with a few exceptions.

I would call the previous trainer and compare notes. Two heads can be better than one and you each know the filly well. Trainers want horses they sell to be as successful, as does the new trainer. Together you might discover something.

The issue you describe cannot be a behavioral problem. The reaction has to be due to discomfort. In spite of what the vet said, I would check her tongue and cheeks and teeth as I described in a January letter titled "She keeps saying no". I feel it has to be there. She is at the age for caps which can change daily. I had a horse do something very similar 30 years ago and finally found a broken off and hidden Wolf tooth to be the problem.

I'm sorry I can't think of anything else to suggest to you. Because of your great detailed description, I don't even feel seeing the behavior would be of help to me.

I would very much appreciate hearing the "Rest of the Story" as time goes on as you really have me stumped. Thanks again, Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

May 26, 2008

One in the Hand

Dear Lonnie: Two weeks ago my newly purchased liver chestnut Arabian gelding (9 years, 15.2hh) arrived and my trainer has been doing a great job bringing him along the gelding had a 9 months of no exercise at his prior home. He's registered, mostly Crabbet lines with a Spanish [Goes to: Abu Farwa, Rabiyas, Nasik , Gulastra (2 times), * Nasik (4 times), has 4 lines to the Davenport Hamrah, the Spanish mare *Sacudida, Spanish sires Gandhy, Van-Dick – 2 times(actually Polish) and Sceanderich. Her dam’s granddam was Ghazel, a desertbred mare imported to Spain; the sire goes 5 times to the stallion Congo , at least 3 times to Gandhy, 3 times to Malvito. He goes to desert bred mare Farja I in tail female; the dam's tail line: 3 lines to *Fadl, 3 to *Raseyn. 1 to *Witez II, *Nasr (2 lines)].

So if you don't mind, I have 2 questions, -- 1) what's the difference (from a judging perspective) as to "arabian sport horse gelding in hand" and just plain "arabian gelding in hand" and could a 9 year old compete in the 2 and over class -- is age a disadvantage in the judge's eye? Since our new guys is just getting his memory back that he's a working horse, I thought perhaps a little try at this category might be fun. My second question is about Arabian costume: What advice do you have for me and how important is it to learn side saddle for this class (is it a big advantage to ride side saddle in terms of what the judge values?) Thank you so much for any advice.

Tip of The Day - They say that Heaven has all of the greatest American Saddlebreds that have passed on. They say most of the great American Saddlebred Trainers made it there as well... But God holds no horse show because... There are no Judges up there.

Thank you so much for your question. I see by the breeding on your horse that he should be quite handsome and may have relatives that knew Osama. He is bred to be of good size but a crooked front leg is sometimes an issue coming from his "tail" line. If he is straight legged, he should be an excellent candidate for in hand classes.

Starting with the costume class, I do believe that many Judges give more weight to a lady who is not riding astride than to one who is, however, the emphasis in this class is on the horse's performance and conformation and the authenticity and detail of the horse and rider's costume. A lady riding astride is not penalized, simply not given extra credit. The side saddle discipline is very beautiful when done correctly but it is also extremely difficult to master. (Many years ago, Bob Mannix had a rider who won the Saddle Seat "Good Hands" class at the "Garden" riding side saddle with a posting trot)

As far as a nine year old gelding being at a disadvantage, there is a difference between an old horse and a mature one. If he is in show condition and does not show his age, I think he would be at no disadvantage.

The main differences between an Arabian in hand and an Arabian Sport horse in hand are the criteria they are judged on and the way they are shown.

The Arabian is presented to the judge at a walk and then a trot and is judged upon type, conformation, suitability, quality, movement, substance, manners and presence. (in order of importance)

The Arabian Sport horse is shown in a pattern called the Triangle. Here the criteria deal with the possible discipline the horse might perform, Dressage, Hunter or Jumper and how it's conformation and movement would apply. Movement at the walk and trot counting 40% Conformation 40%, 10% for Expression and manners and 10% for Balance and suitability as a Sport Horse. This is all scored with a scribe and with a point system.

I hope this has answered some of your questions and I look forward to reading of your show ring success in my Guest Book. Thank you again for your questions. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

May 25, 2008


Dear Mr. Lavery,

Thank you for answering my "Grazing Rights" question. I have another question about my 12 yo SBR mare. Saturday the trainer asked an experienced rider to work on her canter. It didn't go that well so an even more experienced rider gave it a try, still not so good. They took her outside to a bigger arena. Shannon starts her canter ok but falls out or switches leads. The riders kept trying until she refused to go forward and kept backing up and trying to turn toward the gate. They worked more and more trying to get her to go forward which she did for a few yards and then started backing and turning toward the gate again. When the more experienced rider got back on she started to kick up. Shannon won that round and the rider dismounted. I'm not sure what happened after that as I had to go into the barn and when I returned she was being ridden at a walk by yet another experienced rider. How should that have been handled? Shannon was not a happy camper but I don't think she was physically hurting. How should that have been handled? Did they work her too long? Did they ask too much?

Yesterday I rode her around the grounds for a while and then in the outdoor arena. She tried that backing up turning back toward the gate with me. We struggled a few minutes and I just sat there and let her look at the gate. Husband came inside and walked in front of horse and horse followed. We did that a couple of times and then I rode away from husband and he returned to out side of fence. He says I baby that horse. Every day there is a new experience for me.

Tip of The Day - They say the outside of the horse is good for the inside of man... It can also kick the hell out of you!

Thank you for your question. Well, we've certainly come a long way from the romantic interludes with you and your husband as he led you around on Shannon. Unfortunately, no matter how well you have described this incident, I was not there in your trainer's boots watching exactly what was transpiring, so it would be impossible for me to make a judgement call on this specific situation or how it should have been handled. I will, however, speak to what usually is "S.O.P."

At this point, the canter is secondary. The "backing up and refusing to go forward" is the important issue. As with nearly all improper equine behaviors, we can look to three conditions: 1. Soundness or conformation, 2. A "flawed" training foundation, 3. A behavioral issue.

My guess would be number 3 in this situation. A good trainer always wants to end a training session on a positive note. Many times there isn't one and we go longer and farther hoping to find one. Sometimes too long and too far as it seems in this situation. Your mare obviously was as frustrated as the many riders and was probably tired as well. Your mare "balked" and backed up because she could. This was her form of defense and revolt. While I can understand why she did it, this behavior is unacceptable and if not corrected will cause much trouble in the future. I can not stress enough how important it is for a horse to be relaxed about the canter and have addressed this in several previous letters that I suggest you read. This will be doubly important for her now. She will need to regain confidence in the rider. Along with this she must gain respect as well. I must agree with your husband here, you can baby a horse too much. Firm "love" is needed with firm correction, not abuse, when necessary. Forget about the canter for a while until she is doing all the other gaits willingly and well and then carefully re introduce her to it. Excellent balance, willingness to give firm correction, excellent timing and much patience will be needed to correct this behavior. There is no room for mistakes on the rider's part at this juncture. This is a critical time.

I hope this may help you, I wish there was a "quick fix" but there is not. I look forward to reading of your successful progress in my Guest Book. Thanks again for your letter, Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

May 24, 2008

He Was a Crabtree Student, Once!

Hello and thank you so much for this forum. A wonderful way for an aot to get some much needed advice from a well respected trainer. Here is my situation:

I have an 11 year SBR gelding that is a former five gaited horse that was once shown by Redd Crabtree and Dave Becker. He spent a few years on the show circuit and then went through Tattersalls and on to the Amish for a couple of years. I fostered him last August and then fell in love with him and adopted him in December of last year. When he first came to me, he was thin and had little muscle mass and tone. The first order of the day was to get him fattened up, teeth fixed and sound (he broke out with a lot of abscesses during this time). He was not ridden obviously during the first few months and this ended up being a good time to get to know him. When I first got him, he had zero personality and just stood stock still the minute a human touched him, fed him or came into his space. It was very very sad. As I spent several hours a day with him over the next few months, he blossomed and now actually "talks" to me when I come up and discovered that treats are the best ever.

When I was able to ride him, I discovered that he was extremely willing, kind and pretty talented. I worked him up from trotting and walking nicely to trying the canter as he muscled up. Right lead was never an issue, but for the longest time this horse wouldn't/couldn't pick up the left lead, but he'd just trot like a bat out of hell. The more I asked, the more anxious he became. He did this in the round pen as well. I also discovered that "something was still a bit off" and he was stiff behind, but nothing was discernible to my eye. I had him checked by the vet and an issue was actually discovered up on the right front pastern and that was blocked, checked and injected. Still, something was off. I loaded him up to go see a well respected lameness standard-bred racetrack vet that is very well known in that industry and he now does strictly chiropractic work on horses. He looked at him and immediately said, "this horse has fractured his left hip at some point when he was very young". It was obviously (once pointed out to me) that the left hip was "pushed" farther back a few inched than the right and there was a hard bony callus. This was why he was so stiff and tight on the left hind end. I told the vet that I had finally gotten the horse to canter on the left lead, but it usually takes several tries before he does it. The horse was adjusted and I'm given exercises to strengthen him and supple up his back end.

My horse will pick up the left lead and more often than not, he's getting it by at least the second attempt. He's sound and not in pain, teeth are not an issue. What is concerning me at the moment with this left lead is that when he gets it wrong, I very calmly try to stop him and try again, but he is extremely anxious about this and gets very uptight and anticipatory. He'll sort of leap into it. I've been told that I should just counter-canter him to the left when he is on the right lead every time he picks up the right lead instead of the left and that he'd eventually figure out that it is more uncomfortable to counter canter than to just pick up the left lead on the straight away. I just want to make sure that I make this endeavor as comfortable and nice as possible. While this horse is an absolute dream to ride and be around (super star on trails with deer, dogs, quail under the legs, ect...), he is anxious as all get out if he "thinks" he's going to get into trouble by doing something wrong. I've had to make sure that my corrections are very slow and calm or he just worries and frets to death. I don't even ride with a crop or spurs with this guy. He is going to be a country pleasure horse (will flat walk fine except when he gets upset about the left lead). What would you suggest I do with this horse? He has his own private paddock and run-in shed so he stays out 24/7. This is a lovely horse and the most incredible horse I've ever owned. Once we can get him back to the show ring, he'll be great in country pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to read my novel and I look forward to your response. Thank you.

Tip of The Day - When the horse you are riding gets on the bit and really starts pulling you, it's a good bet there is probably someone on the other end of the reins really pulling him!

Thank you for your nice E-mail. It did read a little like a novel so I read it cover to cover and I couldn't put it down. Your horse has quite a history and it seems he has landed in a very wonderful place. I can't say enough good about people who rescue American Saddlebreds. Not only have you gotten him off the road, fattened him up, "fixed "his teeth gotten him sound, you have done something I've never been able to do...You taught him to talk. Have you ever asked him why he is having trouble with the canter? Let's talk about your canter issue.

It was very wise of to seek out help from veterinaries and a chiropractor as ninety percent of the time we should look to soundness or a mechanical problem for the type of canter issue you describe. Usually, if you are having trouble with starting the left lead, you would look to the bearing leg, the right hind, for unsoundness. However, if you have a "knocked down" or fractured left hip that has calcified, it can easily interfere with the lateral mechanics of the left lead thus causing this behavior.

If we can assume that your veterinary and the "man with the X-ray eyes" are correct that it is no longer a soundness problem and you have since cantered on the left lead, we may now be dealing with a habit. In that case, stopping him is rewarding an incorrect behavior. As you have deftly discerned, asking him to canter again aggravates him. I think you have gotten good advice, given the situation, and so long as he is not running and you have a proper place to do it, I would encourage you to continue on the wrong lead around and around in a circle until he realizes it is much more comfortable on the correct lead. Do not do this in a punishing or "YA...HOO" way but quietly and relaxed as possible. When he does pick up the left lead from the start reward him by cantering a shorter distance, stopping easily, and having him stand and relax as you pet him or the two of you have a nice conversation.

Thanks again for you question. I hope this will be of some help to you.

Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

May 19, 2008

I Have an Empty Mare

Dear Lonnie,

I have a maiden mare I have been trying to get in foal. Her registered name is Callaway's California Dreamer. She foundered last year and she is still popping absesses and occassionally I have to put her on bute to help her around. I have had her in twice to be bred and she still has not taken. I purchased a breeding to a Kentucky Stallion through the Texas Futurity. I'm wondering if it would be better to try and breed her to a stallion here so I would not have to worry about "frozen" semen. I am friends with a local breeder and I am wondering if for the first year out it might be better to try it without "freezing". They do not breed their stalion live cover because he is older and they do not want to take a chance. From your experience should I wait? Should I maybe try this stallion here? Or just go for the Kentucky stud again? Thanks! this is a great website.

Tip of The Day - "An old horsemen never dies in the Springtime as long as he has got a mare in foal."

Thank you so much for your question. Ever since the advent of Frozen Semen, the questions, misconceptions, facts and fantasies about the process have become a muddled mess. Many breeder's are still somewhat hostile about it, but I feel the most distressed for the mares and stallions. Look at the fun they are missing as the stallions have to date a "dummy" while the mares must turn to the vet for intimacy! Seriously, I am afraid I have the answer to your question but before that let's talk about breeding methods.

Ninety Nine percent of the time the best "cover" for a mare hard to get in foal is a "live, natural, pasture cover". Here humans are taken out of the loop. Nature takes it's course and the stallion and the mare determine exactly when the best time to breed is. The good points: no shipping bills, no vet expense, no temperature taking, no teasing pony, no bandages, no buckets of water, no trips to the airport. The downside, injury very possible.

Live cover. This is second best. The semen is fresh and the mare is either covered or not..no conjecture. Downside, need three men and a boy, most of the stuff that I included on the "good" list. Injury is not ruled out. If your mare is not in season or ovulating, everybody is wasting their time!

A. I. The stallion is onsite, may have even been introduced to your mare. Semen is fresh but you need most of things I mentioned above.

If your mare is not in season or ovulating, everybody is wasting their time!

Frozen semen (and straws) Studs either ship well or they do not. Contrary to popular thinking, the motility of properly shipped semen from a stud that ships well is virtually no different than any of the methods mentioned above. The key is good packaging, timely shipment and delivery to the mare. You are responsible to insure that your mare is ready to ovulate before the semen is shipped. Because of many "snafus" on the mare owners end concerning timing, breeding stallions are being wasted every breeding season as too many shipments are shipped to mares not ready to breed. Most times the stallion is blamed, accused of not shipping well etc. when the mare that is not ovulating does not get in foal. Oh well, that downside goes to the stud owner.

Frankly, any of these processes should be adequate to get a mare in foal. So I would think with the two options you have, either choice would fine as they are both wonderful horses.

However, it is exceedingly difficult to impregnate a mare that is in the kind of pain and distress that laminitis can cause. This, again, is Nature. In the wild, a mare prevented from running and defending herself by unsoundness and pain, would seldom be considered to carry the herd sire's foal. There are some wonderful Farriers in Texas that specialize in foundered horses. The all time best is Burney Chapman. If you can get your mare distress free, without drugs, you will increase your chances of getting her in foal "100 fold"

I wish I could paint a rosier picture but that is the way I see it. The good points are you have a close friend who is a wonderful trainer and a good veterinarian to help with your "project". I hope you write me next spring so we will know if it is a filly or a colt! Thanks again and Good Luck!

LF Lavery

May 16, 2008


Mr. Lavery, how awesome to be able to finally find something useful to do with my computer! *smile*. Your website, question/answer forum are the greatest and I thank you for your time and expertise.

I have a rescue saddlebred, approximately 20 years of age, a perfect gentleman in the manners dept, and an all around "people horse".

Somewhere in his past, it is my feeling that he has had some training as he does all three gaits, wears his head well, knows cues etc. He is sound, has good farrier work, up to date with dental exams. The problem I am having is that he will not stand to mount. He simply moves on forward, it's not bad, jiggy, dancing, just a need to move forward, but I do feel it's safer for me if I could do something to encourage him to stand. When my opposite stirrup is held, or someone stands next to his head on the right, he stands perfectly still, so I feel like I'm doing something wrong. I do tell him 'whoa', 'stand', etc. When working with him on the ground, he does stand when asked. When I first rode him, it was apparent that the mounting block was a scary thing, so we went slow. I sat on the block, let him have 'treats' from the block, left him turned out with the block in the arena where he picked it up, moved it around and generally became more comfortable around the scary plastic box. I realize he is older and most likely set in 'his ways', but this can be problematic to an older rider such as myself. I am quiet and gentle with him, take my time tacking him up, tightening up the girth a little at a time, easy with the bridle (gentle bit) and cavesson, no sudden movements all those type things, just generally trying to make for a good experience for him and for me. Do you have any suggestions as to how I might be able to teach him to stand better while mounting? I do ride alone most of the time. Thank you in advance for any help you may be able to offer. If you have addressed this issue in your past responses, my apologies. Oh,I should add this......he is 17+ hh.

Tip of The Day - "Falling off a 17 hand horse is exactly the same as falling off a Shetland pony....only it is a much longer trip!"

Thank you for your question. I usually don't recommend starting with a 20 year old to change a behavior, especially one 17 plus hands, but I guess that is what we are stuck with. It's a TALL order!

Let's begin. You've done a wonderful job of identifying things that might encourage or discourage this behavior. Scared of the mounting block, someone holding the stirrup, and the number one cause of mounting problems......Girth too tight too fast!!!

To be honest, the biggest obstacle we have as far as modifying this behavior is the mounting block. I can well understand the need for it with a horse 17 hands plus. ( even Tom Moore might have needed a "leg up") The problem is the mechanics of mounting with the block. We can't mount in the stall (he would step on it for sure and we don't even want to think what might happen after that!) We can't mount in a corner for the same reason. We can't turn him to the left in a tiny circle, for the same reason. Since you never ridden for the Pony Express we will have to figure something else out.

When you are ready to mount, face him towards a wall about 4 feet away. Holding the bridle in your left hand, lift his head and tap him firmly on his front legs ( not a light tap but not a hard hit) asking him to stretch out while saying "Get Out" in a stern voice. Move to the block and should he move, get down, shake his bits and repeat. Each time he moves repeat the entire process. It is not important that you complete the mounting procedure each time, just that he remains "planted" when you are on the block or when your foot moves towards the stirrup. Eventually he will assume the "stretched out" attitude every time you say "get out". From this position, legs very far in front, he cannot move forward without backing up slightly first and this will work in your favor. Two or three sessions should produce the desired effect but remember to always mount in exactly the same place until waiting for you becomes his new habit.

It would be better if you had a helper at this time, not to hold the horse or your stirrup but to make certain the mounting block is well out of your horse's way after you mount. I cannot stress what a disaster it might be should he step on this block!

I hope I have been of some help. I would recommend wearing oxygen at that height. I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Thanks again, Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

May 13, 2008

Here a Wick There a Wick, Everywhere a Wick ,Wick

What is your opinon of kimberwick bits? I grew up riding Thoroughbred hunters and along with snaffles, kimberwicks were very commonly used when I was a kid. I've owned a Saddlebred for 13 years now and I use an Uxeter Kimberwick (with the rein slots) on him (he's retired and a pleasure hack-around horse now). I ride on the trails alot and a regular snaffle is just not enough bit for him out there, and the kimberwick (with the reins on the bottom slot) has been working well up to now. He can get pretty wound up and super high headed on the trails and sometimes he will just run through the bit like it's not there. This is a very recent development, and I'm wondering if I should consider switching to a different type of bit. Any thoughts?

Tip of The Day - Most trainers never met a bit they didn't like.... Some bits are just a little better than others.

Thank you for your question. Although the Kimberwick gets a bad "rap" because of the leverage it can produce, most people refuse to understand that a bit is only as severe as the hands operating it. At thirteen, your guy is probably pretty set in his ways. I'm sure you've had his teeth done recently (every 6 months). I therefore feel you are on the right track using a little "artillery" for control. After all, you are only asking him to enjoy a trail ride with you.

When you speak of "super high headed" and "run through the bridle" however, behaviors like this can take all the pleasure out of a trail ride and frankly, put your safety in jeopardy. Losing your power steering and brakes can make for disaster on the trail. A head too high or "buried" too low, can set up these conditions as the horse is virtually proceeding "blindly".

It sounds as if you might benefit from a bit change and a running martingale if only for a short time while dealing with his issues. Try a twisted snaffle, a hog back, or a smooth until you find one that you both enjoy. On the trails it is imperative that the martingale be out of the way from branches etc. so make certain a strap is affixed to the rings and around his neck. I would also recommend "ring stops" on your reins so the martingale cannot catch on the bit. DO NOT USE A STANDING MARTINGALE ON TRAILS! If ever off balance, it is necessary for a horse to have freedom to move his head to maintain his balance and stay on his feet. Standing martingales or tie downs do not permit this.

I hope I have been of some help and I thank you again for your question. I look forward to reading of your great trail rides, in my guest book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

May 11, 2008

Never to Old to Wean

First: I love the website! What an amazing idea and you give FABULOUS advice!

Second, I have two young Saddlebreds that I got last year. One is eligible for the 3 year old All American Cup class in September, but I don't think that he's cut out for the saddle seat world. The other has no papers, but is very flashy, snorty, and full of herself (oh, the irony). I'm getting ready to start them both and see what happens from there. I plan on going the AOT route (I just had a baby and money's tight!) so it should be fairly interesting. I started working with them last year shortly after I got them and ended up with a sprained knee because the filly tried to run through the gate to get to my gelding - they've always been together. We have a small arena and two pastures (one large, one small), and the horses can see one another whether they're in the arena or either of the pastures. It makes it difficult to keep them focused. How do I break this habit so I can get them to actually work for me, without being so distracted by the other horses?

Tip of The Day - Sometimes even "Horse Sense" makes No Sense!

Thank you so much for your kind compliment and question and congratulations on the your new rider.

Horses are "herd animals". In the wild they run in groups depending on each other and the herd's Stallion for security, safety and guidance. What you are dealing with in the behavior you describe is nearly the same as weaning a colt from the mare with the exception the colt is pretty much independent except for the "lunch box" so this transition is relatively easy when the food becomes the substitute for Mom's milk. Your two, however, obviously have bonded in such a way as to depend upon each other at all times, as if they were in a herd. This is not a bad behavior but an inherited trait. You need to start treating them as individuals rather than a pair. In this manner each will come to depend on you rather than each other. To change this behavior, they must be separated 24 hours a day. That means, at the minimum, out of sight. (Out of hearing and smell range as well, would be better). I doubt you can accomplish this in paddocks. If you cannot physically accomplish this at your place, perhaps you have a friend or a boarding stable where you could place one horse for 30 days. I wish I could have more ideas or been of more help but I'm afraid there is not much else you can do to deal with this issue. Thanks again for your question and please keep me posted of your progress, in my guest book. Good Luck and Good Riding,

LF Lavery

May 9, 2008

It's a "Bit" of Lip Service

I am retraining a little Morgan who had quite a rap sheet, runaway at the canter balking stubborn little horse. We have gotten him over the past two years time mannerly, good in the snaffle bridle, a wonderful slow little canter and going forward. Now it is D day and time for curb bit as the owner would like to show this horse. He has a poor habit left over from his former education or lack of. He grabs the shank of his curb bit on the left side and pulls it is his mouth. I have raised the curb bit and used shoe string to make a chin chain for better balance. His teeth have been done on a regular basis since I have had him . I am addressing his unstable hind end and lack of flat walk. He jigs behind. He does not relax at the walk , going hand and hand I assume with his lack of education, respect for the curb bit or fear of it. This horse is quite the bully when he asked to do anything new. I am working with the vet to help his back end medically, and I long line on the side of a knoll to help strengthen him and I jog him. I have him so much better in a year that I would dare to pat myself on the back, except for the tale the wearing of the curb bit and the grabbing the shank tells. I was taught you teach them to wear the snaffle and get them sweet and responsive to any request, then the curb should be an easy transition. I feel I need some sage advise. Here is how I am trying to correct the problem presently. I was very 'nice " in my methods over the last two years and that got us a long way. However, I realized to truly get past his worst habit I need to be a bit more aggressive My blacksmith made me a "Christianizer" bridle out of an old gag snaffle we had around here and formed it into a gag curb bit type of thing. He said this came from Ronnie Graham . At any rate, I have been long lining in this and I am amazed how it is helping. At first he was mad as a wet hen but now he is starting to say Uncle. This horse seems like he may find religion after all. My question is what type of curb bit would you use or is there something else I can do to prevent this curb shank grabbing ? I assume the horse was never taught to respect his bridle and from seeing how he was ridden prior, no respect was shown to the horse, no give and take. So I assume he learned to defend in this way? BTW, you are myhero.

Tip of The Day - To make sure that a mare has that beautiful, perfectly marked foal you always wanted? Sell her before she foals.

Thank you for your question, although I am not sure why you are asking me. Wow, I have the feeling I should be asking you. Your grasp of this issue is extraordinary. After reading your description, I believe you truly exemplify the spirit of my ATTO slogan, " A well trained horse is not an accident, rather the product of many thoughtful hours". It is good to see someone covering all the bases when dealing with a problem, identifying and treating unsoundness, changing your training program, using varied tools, not being too proud to ask advice and, of course, knowing you cannot make a 30 day fix. I am certain I could not recommend a more thorough or efficient program for dealing with this horse's issues. Although, many clients sort of take for granted how much time, effort and thought a trainer expends on their horse, I hope your client appreciates what wonderful hands she has placed her horse in.

To the behavior. I a familiar with Ronnie's very clever bit and even remember the horse he originally made it for. (Ronnie showed in it)

Since I can't improve on your program, I will just tell you what I have done in the past.

Depending on the horse's mouth, I would drop the bit rather than raising it.

I have always liked slip shank bits because of the movement. Your horse would be hard pressed to move his lips while his tongue is moving the port. ( I sometimes would tie the tongue to the port to insure this movement )

A curb the width of those now used by Friesian horses, with a lot of "sealtex" filling the gap at the corners, will increase the distance the lip must go.

A large and sharp bit burr can make it uncomfortable for him to be "Lippy"

A cayenne pepper, kerosene and anchovy paste mixture spread on the shanks will sometimes discourage this behavior.

If your stalls are smooth with no tailboards or any place he could get hung up, you might try tying a very short shank Thom Thumb into his halter with no curb chain but much sealtex where the corners of his mouth are so it maintains it's position. (you should remove the water bucket and carry water to him) Let him eat, drink and sleep with it for a few days. When he is eating his grain he will find it more efficient to use his lips for other purposes. This behavior is somewhat a novelty for him as he only does it when you work him. Some of this novelty might wear off after 24 hours a day.

I wish I could be of more help but as I mentioned, you have most of the bases covered. Please send reports of your progress to my Guest book as I really would like to here how you are doing. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

L F Lavery

May 8, 2008


I have had an SBR saddlebred mare for over a year and we have surely bonded. I knew very little about horses before we got her. She is 12 yrs old and came straight from an Amish farm where the children rode her. She is in good shape and is becoming a nice lesson horse. I sometimes ride bareback with a halter and reins. Yesterday I just sat on her while my husband held the leadline she grazed. My question is, will that lead her to stopping to graze when she wants to while she is being ridden out of doors? I don't know that it matters but I am 66 years old.

Tip of The Day - Hone your fibbing skills: "See, moving hay bales is FUN!" and, "No, really, I'm glad YOUR LUCKY PERFORMANCE and multi-million dollar horse won the class. I am just thankful that MY HARD WORK and actual ability won me second place."

Thank you for your letter. I must start by saying how much I feel we in the horse business owe those of you who are involved in American Saddlebred Rescue. I think this is a wonderful, unselfish and very noble organization serving a very real need. I salute you.

Now we will talk about this horrible behavior that might manifest itself. I probably would not recommend your husband leading the mare on a "picnic" while you ride as an every day diversion. Yes, it could very well promote a lack of respect about grazing when you are riding. However, even iwith your advanced years (66 is the new 45) it is something you can easily correct with a bridle. Additionally, the qualitative time you and your husband are spending together far outweighs any bad effects from your behavior. So my recommendation is enjoy your husband and your mare. You really do not need my help.

Good luck and Good Grazing!

LF Lavery

May 4, 2008

My Eight Year Old has Attitude

Hi there,

I just became the proud owner of a seven year old half saddlebred/half lipizzan mare. Angel was used only as a brood mare until one year ago when she was sold to a couple who green broke her. I bought her in January and started her in the basics of training level dressage. The problem I am having is that she has absolutely no respect for the bit. I know it is a cardinal sin to use anything other than a plain snaffle to train in, but I tried her in a pelham the last two days and it seems like she may be getting the idea of what I am trying to convey to her a little better now. (I also have shown my arab saddleseat in the past) Am I really doing her an injustice by using a more severe bit? I feel that I can actually be softer with my hands in this bit because she respects the action of the curb more than that of the plain snaffle. I am really torn as to what the right thing to do is. Please feel free to lend some advice.


Tip of The Day - Borrow the US Army's slogan: Be All That You Can Be - bitten, thrown, kicked, slimed, trampled, frozen...

Thank you for your question. When she was a broodmare, were the offspring called "Saddlelips"? I couldn't resist!

To begin, your concern for your horse's well being and your realization of the damage that can be done by bits is wonderful. I am somewhat surprised but also thrilled that many of my inquiries come from people like you with such a great grasp of all things equine. Let's start with the Lipizzan breed.

These beautiful white chargers with the athletic ability to do the "Airs Above Ground" surprisingly trace their roots to Draft animals. Their mouths have a draft construction, size and ability to lean on a bit. They are of a truly different makeup and mind set than an American Saddlebred or an Arabian horse. In Vienna, during the training program, they actually are "bitted" to the Pillars and driven forward to step to the bridle. They must take this type of hold to have the support to execute maneuvers such as the Capriole where the front feet are folded and the hind feet kick straight out as the horse is nearly four feet off the ground. (to be honest I've had a couple that could do this with no training) So, your mare's heritage makes her no stranger to being on the bit.

As I have mentioned several times here, I feel bits are only as severe as the person using them. Therefore, I must be a "Cardinal Sinner "! From your description, it certainly sounds like a more severe bit is called for to insure you have her respect. Used with discretion, a sharper bit is a useful and often times necessary tool From what you have told me, I would recommend that course of action.

I hope I have helped you to better cope with this issue. Please keep me informed of your progress. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

May 3, 2008

I don't want to win the Derby

I purchased a five year old a few months ago and he has been really great to work with he has tons of motion and will flat walk or the cute little park trot has a great head set until now comes the part that really throws me when he canters he is really fast and when I try to slow him down that nice head set goes away and he begins to over flex . Should we work him in a smaller ring in hopes that this will slow down the canter? His teeth has been checked and this does not only happen in the double bridle but also in the work bridle the cantering issue with the over flex of the head. In his double bridle he is wearing a smooth cooper snaffle and the curb is medium port and I have wrapped the curb and the chin chain. The work bridle is a mule bit reverse. I am opening and willing to try anything you may offer. Thanks for your time and any suggestions you can give.

Tip of The Day - "Never look a gift horse in the mouth...unless you are a Dentist"

Thank you very much for your question. He truly sounds like a wonderful horse walking and trotting etc. Is it imperative that this horse canter? It was just a thought. From your excellent description of your horse's issues, I can tell you are a very good horseperson and you will be capable of following my recommendations.

To begin, as I have said many times before....getting a horse to relax is the key to getting a horse to canter rather than "run slowly". I addressed this at length in an April 30th letter. If you have draw reins or a German martingale...get the Lexol that comes in the yellow bottle and coat all the leather thoroughly. Then very carefully place them in a drawer and shut them in there. Leave them there until this horse meets your expectations. Horses are "flight" animals. Once they are in that mode anything that holds them back, hems them up, or will not yield, becomes the "enemy" and reinforces the flight behavior. Draw reins and German martingales and short running martingales do not yield and they encourage a horse to drop his head, "get the bit in his teeth" and run when he mentally is in the flight mode. Also, until this horse is working perfectly, the double bridle may cleaned and hung up as well.

There is nothing wrong with a mule bit or other sharp bits so long as your hands use them accordingly. A cut tongue, bruised bar, or "burned" corner can truly slow the relaxation process down and set you back a long ways. When using a Mule bit, if the head is set and the reins are nearly loose, you are using it correctly. Once a horse learns to really pull on a mule bit the prognosis isn't pretty. To get your horse to canter more to your liking, I would use less snaffle so he might have a little security and a very long running martingale or no martingale at all so he has nothing to lean on. I would probably not do much trotting but a good deal of walking, bending, twisting and backing. I would ask him to canter as I have previously described. I would not allow him to bury his head nor would I get in a tug of war with him. (always remember when a horse is really pulling on you there must be someone on the other end of the reins pulling on him) This is how I would approach this issue.

There are two other schools of thought to get a horse to canter more slowly and you very astutely picked up on one. Cantering in a small, confined space like a bull ring. This can work with the thought being he doesn't have enough room to get carried away and it is favored by many. Talk about "from the ridiculous to the sublime"! The second is to canter in the largest unconfined area like a large pasture. This can work as well with the logic being to let them run until they start to tire and then start slowing them down. I have used both these methods and have had success with both. Your options are endless.

I hope I have been of some help and please know time and patience will solve your problem. Please keep me posted, I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.


May 1, 2008

Putting a Horse Back to Work

Mr. Lavery:

Thank you so much for this wonderful resource. As a kid growing up and showing in FL you were always one of our favorite judges- fair and one who seemed to acknowledge the need for manners in CP horses. I sold my gaited horse when I went to college and have been out for awhile. We now live in KY, have our own farm and are getting back into it. My kids (7,4 & 1) love the horses too.

Last winter I purchased a mare, Kodiak Jewel who just turned 10. According to her record she did well as a 3 year old. She is beautiful and a doll on the ground. I have heard some tales about her under saddle and she gets very nervous when the tack comes out. She has had 2 foals (I also bought her 2 year old filly by Rubies & Roses who is wonderful to work with) and been out to pasture for several years. She is purported to have had a hard mouth which I hate. I like light horses and have light hands. My friend's trainer said they had tried a twisted wire snaffle and she spun in circles. It was mentioned about standing in the stirrups to stop her. My friend does teeth yearly. She is sired by Family Jewels and aside from liking their looks I am not familiar with his offspring. She is so wonderful on the ground it is in direct contrast to her behavior when she sees tack. I want to bring her back to show her but want her to be safe and sane. I have lunged her some and she is pretty calm. I lined her once and she did fairly well also using a copper twisted wire snaffle with a key. I would like to know how to accomplish my goal. Do I start all over? She is too nice to be a basket case under saddle. I love a game horse, especially one that can rack but not a nutty horse with a tough mouth. I don't like to ride or see horses on the edge of being out of control- they look so inconsistent. I was not previously familiar with her trainer but from what I have seen his horses all show this way. Fast forward, wild, flashes of great talent but no consistency. She is also very nervous and paces in a stall although I know she was shown from the time she was a 2 year old. I have heard she has been in some not so nice situations. She used to get nervous if she thought I was upset with her. She is getting over this. She is easy to catch, trailer, etc. Thank you for any advice

Tip of The Day - "It costs the same money to feed a bad horse as it does to feed a nice one."

Thank you so much for your question and the kind comments about my Judging. I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I am to know that I judged you as a small child in Florida and now you are a mother of three! Time flies when you're having fun.

Family Jewels was, or perhaps still is, a wonderful little horse and an excellent breeding stallion. His "Shamrock" bloodlines produced very game, athletic horses and he was a good cross with the Sultan mares. Many of his offspring sported light chestnut coats and pure white manes and tails. I had one called Jewel in the Wind who was a reserve WC twice and may have been the fastest gaited horse I have ever seen, with the exception of Wing Commander. Horses with that kind of gameness and go forward attitude can often be very strong in their bridles.

Trying to read between the lines, most likely something went amiss seven years ago for someone to turn a successful 3-year-old into a Broodmare. I would imagine that the tales you have heard about her probably have a lot of truth to them as evidenced by "she spun in circles. It was mentioned about standing in the stirrups to stop her."

Those two statements, alone, would slow me down considerably and I would probably be quite content that she is "wonderful on the ground and easy to catch."

If, however, you are looking forward to this kind of challenge, I would most definitely start from the beginning. Proceed slowly as your mission should be to gain this mare's complete confidence. A horse such as you describe must learn to depend on you for her guidance or all will be lost. This is quite a project and I applaud your resolve.

In an April 8th post, found elsewhere on this site, I addressed the "stall pacing" problem.

It sounds like you have a good handle on what you want to do and how to do it. As you proceed, please keep me posted on your progress.

I hope I have been of some help, I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

Links To Questions & Responses
Date Subject Search Criteria
June 30, 2008 She still Needs Rescuing Health: Cushings syndrome, diagnosis, treatment, lameness
June 27, 2008 We think she has Whiplash Dealing with an old Injury
Jun 25, 2008 He is just Swishing all Over (His tail, at flies that is) Grooming: insect repellant
Jun 24, 2008 The Old Hat Trick (Attire for the show ring) Attire: for the show ring
Jun 22, 2008 But You got to Love 'Em? Vices: Driving, kicking
Jun 21, 2008 Not Hoof in Mouth... but Hands to Mouth Equitation: Impact of Equitation on Horse
Jun 19, 2008 Is there a School Horse School for Schooling the School Horse? Canter: issues and coping with them
Jun 18, 2008 Slow and Steady is not Winning the Race! Conformation: how differences affect performance
Jun 17, 2008 He likes Her way Better than Me! Vices: dealing with the unmannered herd bound horse
Jun 16, 2008 So now you want to be Dale Evans? Training: Teaching neck rein
Jun 12, 2008 He's Not AS Loud But... Training: Double Bridle and mouth issues
Jun 9, 2008 No Foot, No Rack Training: Shoeing and balancing a horse for the rack
Jun 7, 2008 My Running Martingale ain't Running Fast Enough Conditioning: Thoroughbred racing issues
Jun 3, 2008 Fillies do the "Darnedest" Things Breaking to Ride: correcting mistakes
May 27, 2008 They Call Her Lefty Training: Dealing with mouth issues in young horses, dental
May 26, 2008 One in the Hand Showing: The Arabian in hand
May 25, 2008 SHE WHIPPED THE "TAG TEAM" Training: Canter issues, vices, gaining confidence
May 24, 2008 He Was a Crabtree Student, Once! Training: Canter issues, soundness
May 19, 2008 I Have an Empty Mare Breeding: Barren mare, Artificial Insemination, Shipping semen
May, 16, 2008 MOUNT"ING" EVEREST Training: Not standing to mount, vices
May 12, 2008 Here a Wick There a Wick, Everywhere a Wick ,Wick Training: Bits and bridling
May 11, 2008 Never to Old to Wean Vices: Dealing with the herd bound horse
May 9, 2008 It's a "Bit" of Lip Service Training: Bits, Bridling, Curb, Morgan
May 8, 2008 Grazing Rights Rescue: Behavior
May 4, 2008 My Eight Year Old has Attitude Training: Dressage, Lippazzan, Biting, Snaffle
May 3, 2008 I don't want to win the Derby Training: Canter, Bridle, Martingale, Relaxation
May 1, 2008 Putting a Horse Back to Work Vices: Retraining, Stall pacing, Running off

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