"Ask the Trainer Online"
Hosted by Lonnie Lavery

"A well trained horse is not an accident but the product of many thoughtful hours!"

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December 30, 2008

Spooking Horse

I have a question on how to handle a horse who spooks and jumps, doesn't run, but jumps enough to make me fall off! I feel like she is doing it more than she used to. Do you have any suggestions.


Tip of the Day - Often mounting takes much more time and effort than being put off.

Thanks so much for your question. There is a strong possibility that you may be mistaking a "Buck" for a "Jump". I know it is hard to tell once you are on the ground and no matter what the semantics, the out come is the same. Since you have apparently become disenchanted sitting on the ground, and this behavior is unacceptable with any breed of saddle horse, let's try to figure this out.

As I recommend when dealing with all training issues, it is far better to try and find the cause than to treat the symptom. Usually we start with possible physical problems. These not only include easy to see unsoundness which I am sure you have ruled out, but there are a myriad of other things that are not so evident. Irregularities of a mare's female equipment, such as cysts on her ovaries, can well cause this behavior. A vet's palpation can speak volumes about this condition. Along this same line a sore back, loins or kidneys can manifest this as well. Again, your vet can diagnose such problems and suggest a treatment that might include an Equine chiropractor, a different saddle, changing your training program.

Ruling unsoundness out, we usually look to a lack of or unacceptable previous training.

It is wise to go back to the basics which might well have been missed. If you feel the proper training is there, then you need to figure ways to set your mare up for a successful ride. There is no substitute for exercise, every day, when dealing with this issue. A "fresh" horse can think of many, many things to do including bucking. Although I do not like to lunge a mature, shod horse because of the damage that can be done to their sesmoids, ankles, cannon bones, knees, hips, stifles and hocks, when going in a small circle with only the lunge line to control, if you cannot long line before you ride you may do this very carefully to settle her before your ride. (Anyone who has watched what the Hunters and Quarter horses now have to go through to prepare them for the show, certainly knows the physical cost) After mounting, make the canter the very last thing you attempt. Take your time and start correctly, position, prepare, execute. There is no place for "yahoo" etc. just an easy start. Here is where your true horsemanship comes into play, if you cannot feel the buck coming, I cannot help you. If you can...lift her head....growl at her...turn to a circle. The idea is to not let her repeat the behavior. If you are successful two or three times..you will have corrected this issue.

I am including some home work assignments that may go into more detail about this subject.

I hope this has been of some help to you and I thank you again for your question. I look forward to hearing of your progress in the Guest Book. Happy Holidays, Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

"We welcome, in our guest book, reader's comments about this or any other topic"

December 24, 2008

We are Having a "Little" Mouth Problem
Open Mouth When Driving)


I recently trained my miniature to drive. We are working on not laying on the bit but she has one habit I am at a loss to fix. She drives with her mouth WIDE open. She has only been driving since about August. I got past the rating issue, balance, she is beginning to push off her back end, but we have a new problem now that we know how to excellerate. I am at the stage where I have started to ask her to raise her head and come off the bit but some days she is very strong and when working her I have noticed she just drives with her mouth wide open. I am going to start working her more in the lines to work with her on raising her head but what do I do about this new habit she has formed. I don't believe tying her tounge would alleviate this open mouth. Please send me your thoughts.


Tip of the Day - Although they cannot talk, a horse's mouth can speak volumes!

Thank you so much for your question. Dealing with this issue can be a tiny problem. By that I mean, the conformation, including the shape and size of the mouth, of the "mini" can present some challenges. As with all mouth problems, it is always best to look first at the dental issues. Young or old it is imperative the horse's teeth be in a condition to comfortably accept the bit. The challenge arises with finding a dentist with instruments small enough to work in those close quarters. Once the teeth are corrected, another challenge is finding a bit of exactly the right size. One that is too short or one that is too long can cause the issue you describe. The juxtaposition of the tongue in relation to the bit, is many times the catalyst for this behavior. Additionally, improper adjustment of where the bit "sits" in the horse's mouth can, also, often be blamed for the "alligator" mouth you describe.

I would assume that the behavior you describe is a defense mechanism and any of these things can put it into play.. After making certain that none of the above are causing problems,your idea about going back to the basics is certainly a positive step. A properly adjusted cavesson would certainly be in order as well. You might try the old stand by of tying a smooth bit in his halter in the stall and let him eat and drink with it. This has a tendency of allowing the horse to learn on his own to be comfortable with closing his mouth when it is "full of bit" while causing no harm whatsoever. As with any size horse, the key to proper performance, is a horse that is comfortable in his mouth.

Thank you once again, I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book.

LF Lavery

"We welcome, in our guest book, reader's comments about this or any other topic"

December 19, 2008

(Starting the Yearling)

Hi Mr. Lavery,

I attend William Woods University and was sent to your wonderful website from Gayle Lampe. I wish to ask you what your first steps would be to go about starting a colt? A yearling fresh from the pasture. What things do you find most important to accomplish with a colt right off the bat? If you email me back before friday I recieve extra credit in Ms. Lampe's class. This means the difference between an "A" and a "B." Thanks for your time and i look forwad to hearing back from you!

Tip of the Day - To end up with a perfect "finished" product..it is imperative the colt have a perfect start!

Thank you so much for your question. I feel as if I am "under the gun" and am too old and lack the proper drugs to pull an "all nighter" and "cram session"! Oh well, even though it's not my "A", I will endeavor to do my best under these circumstances.

I do not feel, "training", is exactly the right word to describe a yearling's program. Think of it more as a Pre-school where you are guiding him through lessons he essentially will learn on his own. The extent of these lessons will be dictated by his physical and mental development. As the tip of the day alludes, the education this yearling absorbs now, will not only facilitate his future training but also dictate the finished horse he will become. This is the time to give the colt a strong foundation of lessons that his future training can build upon. If all has gone well, so far, your "long" yearling should be able to lead well, from either side, although I do not approve of lunging after maturity, the colt should lunge equally well both directions, know how to stand up on his feet when asked, and back readily in a straight line. He should be easy to groom, trim and shoe. He should readily accept a blanket as well as a surcingle. Having met this criteria, he is ready for the next steps.

Before even the thought of putting a bit in his mouth, his teeth should be tended by an Equine dentist. As with most breeds, when his mouth is ready for the bit, turning loose or lunging in a properly applied biting rig is usually the next step as to allow him to explore for himself the in's and out's of the bridle. (This is a critical step and must be done properly as it is your colt's first exposure to the bridle.) At such time as he is comfortably wearing his bridle, surcingle and crupper, application of the long lines is in order. Thick, cotton ropes (never poly) are the best at this juncture. With the help of a leader and with the ropes fairly low between his hock and his gaskin, starting in a straight line and then progressing to serpentines, put a little pressure on the hind quarters with the "bearing" rein. This will teach the colt to have his rear follow his front and is imperative to develop suppleness. This is not the stage where his headset is really important. This is not the stage that his motion should concern you. This is not the stage to snap the whip and trot in a circle yelling, "Hoo-RAh", but rather a quiet and relaxing several weeks or so as these fundamentals are being taught. Also, keep in mind that you are dealing with a juvenile whose attention span and endurance are not yet that of an aged horse. Keep your training sessions short. It is not how long you train the horse it is how often that is important. The colt can well be turned out to be at liberty when not in a training session. When he can walk in the serpentine and the straight line without the "leader", reverse, etc. only then should you go on to the trot and then carefully, to circles. Riding is a possibility when you are into this program for several weeks and his physical development warrants it, jogging after many weeks. Both of these transitions will be virtually "pain free" for all parties. If one is patient and dedicated to the above program, his two year old year will go smoothly as well.

I hope this has given you some insight into the young horse and the time table for training. I look forward to reading of your progress and your Grade in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

"We welcome, in our guest book, reader's comments about this or any other topic"

December 16, 2008

Don't "Curb" the Enthusiasim

What a cool website! I am so glad you are doing this, because it is hard to find saddle horse type training resources online. Thank you!

I have a two year old Saddlebred that is broke to long lining, has jogged a few times in the jog cart pretty well, and just recently has been started under saddle. I was wondering what you thought about how and when to start a horse in a double bridle?

Thank you for your time! Can't wait to hear from you!

Tip of the Day - If the horse's head is perfectly set and the curb is just hanging there.... someone has done something right!

Thank you so much for your question. In an ideal world, I would say that when the colt is mature enough to ride and is riding well and wearing his head perfectly in just a one rein smooth snaffle and a very long running martingale, only then is it time to "apply" the curb bit. But in this day and age when we have all this new equipment people feel compelled to use up, draw reins, German martingales, mule bits, metal cavessons etc. I guess that scenario is no longer a simple answer. Progressing to the curb should commence only when the colt tells you he is ready, mind, maturity and education wise. Watch any good two year old class and though they all will have a curb bit in their mouths, only a few will be truly wearing it. These colts were ready to wear it. Some other breeds allow a colt to show in a bosal or jaquima until they are four (of course, their conformation, form, function and even center of balance are completely different than our horses) A properly applied "stall" bridle with the curb can well come into play with the key word properly. The horse should not be trussed up but allowed to kind of figure out for himself how to become comfortable with the bit and his own natural head carriage. I am going to reprint a past post as I believe it addresses your question perfectly, has merit for all to read again and reflects my philosophy about this transition.. It appeared in January of this year.

Jan 4, 2008

Would like to Progress and Graduate

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

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

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

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

Good Luck and thanks again for your question.

I hope this has been of some help to you and I thank you for this question. I look forward to reading, in the Guest Book, of your progress. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

"We welcome, in our guest book, reader's comments about this or any other topic"

December 14, 2008

He's got the Sack
(Desensitizing the young horse)

To Lonnie,

I have a question for you. I once worked for a trainer, that would often with young horses, stand on a mounting block next to the horses neck. He would put his right hand over the horses neck, while he take his left hand and swing a lead rope back and forth over the horses neck. Then he would switch sides. Why would he repeatedly do this?

Tip of the Day - A horse's vision is quite unique... I don't think they can see dead people but sometimes they can sure see things that aren't there!

Thank you so much for your question. I don't know what the hell the guy was doing..sounds like Black Magic to me!!! Seriously, what you witnessed is a procedure that has been around since before the Plains Indians "conquered" their first horse. Today, the various and very popular, "Horse Whisperers" call the practice by several names but basically, it is what the Indians called "Ewantonka". This very ancient Indian word means to "robe out" or it may mean, " near the mall", I am not quite sure. Nonetheless, it is simply a method to desensitize a horse by repeatedly: swinging the rope, rubbing with a towel, waving a buffalo robe, shooting a pistol, twirling a rope, etc. In other words, repeating what might be a scary act enough times for the horse to become comfortable with the action..desensitized..so that the action is no longer an issue. Cowboys, who might use a flour sack before breaking to ride, referred to it as "sacking the horse out" but no matter what you call it, the principal is the same, getting the horse accustomed to things that might otherwise be strange to him or things that might frighten him. When training a young horse we are doing this type of repetition all the time without realizing or making such an issue out of it. This not only builds the horse's confidence but horses are beasts of habit and a repetitive process is how they learn.

I hope I have been of some help and I again thank you for your question. Please keep in touch if we can be of any further help.

LF Lavery

"We welcome, in our guest book, reader's comments about this or any other topic"

December 11, 2008

Is the Canter a Four Beat Gait?
(Slipping from the canter to the rack)

Hi Lonnie,

I am a freshman at william woods university and Ms. Lampe asked my class to ask you a question about training, and if I could hear back from you before the semester is over on friday it would be wonderful!

My question:

we have a gated horse at school that just recently started having trouble with the canter, he get's quite racky, so i was wondering what you would suggest to help get his canter back.

thank you so much for your time,

Tip of the Day - Seldom can a 5 gaited horse win a class doing 4- 1/2 gaits.

Thank you for your question but I must confess I am starting to feel I am back in college cramming for my finals. I must admit, however, I never waited till the very last minute.

The issue you describe is quite common. Depending upon where his head is located during this behavior, (meaning up or down) it has three possible causes. Soundness. A horse that is in any discomfort will pick a more comfortable gait.. In this case, racking affords less concussion than the canter and less strain on the hind end if he puts his head down. Shoeing. If he raises his head as he slips from the canter, he may be well out of balance in his shoeing, Probably too long or too heavy behind. This happens often when a horse loses some front foot. The Bridle. Again, depending on his head carriage, either too heavy or too light can cause this action.

Soundness...you will have to determine this before going any further. It could not only be in front but could well be behind. There is no correction until he is sound.

Shoeing... once you have decided he is sound, try putting a pair of straps, chains or heavier boots on him in front. (nothing behind) If this improves his canter, your farrier can help you with a correction. You also might watch to see he is not on his knee.

The Bridle... Try a snaffle bridle, a different curb bridle. If this makes a difference it could well be there. If not and you have ruled all else out, go back to the basics of the canter and find a tool that helps. Small circles, cantering in Long Lines or the cart. In general, mouthing the horse usually is what will help.

I know we are on a tight deadline or I could write many more volumes. Should you decide to pull an all nighter, there are many posts in my archives that address the subject that you might find helpful and you may feel free to quote.

I hope this helps you in you quest for a better grade. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

"We welcome, in our guest book, reader's comments about this or any other topic"

December 10, 2008

Follow up to He's Really got a Mouth on Him (Dec 3, 2008)

Thank you for your suggestions. I do scold him, but in the scheme of things...it's really not that bad. He mouths the cooler when cross-tied and the ties themselves, but does not destroy them. He hasn't eaten his blanket. I guess my real question was how active is too active in his mouth as he constantly mouths the bit. At school, there is not a single horse that does this. I know that you want the horse to work the bit in his mouth...I just don't know when it's too much. As I mentioned before, I have to tie his tongue, but that's probably not related to this issue?

This colt is the first that I've trained from the very beginning. I bought his mother in foal with him, showed him in amateur futurity and got reserve and have taught him everything he knows. I started riding him last summer and now we are doing gaited work. I'll never have another that has been so easy...he's been a dream in many ways.

Thanks again...your website is great.

The mouthing issue will escalate. Not being there to see,I would guess that much of the abundant mouth movement you mention is caused by him "fighting" the tongue tie. Because the key to having a horse wearing his bridle properly is to have his mouth relaxed and comfortable, it is always best if you can somehow do away with the tongue tie. Although it is used to protect the very delicate bars of the mouth, sometimes horses have no tolerance for it and it behooves you to teach the horse to perform without it. Raising the bits can sometimes be of help as can a tighter cavesson. Here are a few little tricks that have served me well...
  1. Tie his tongue for the 20- 30 minutes it takes to get him ready then take it off when you bridle. This sometimes makes it easy to do away with the tongue tie when working
  2. Let him virtually live with a thick, smooth bit in his halter, eating, drinking, sleeping etc. for several days. Do not"gag" him with it as to "bark" the corners of his mouth but not too low either. He will become more at home with his tongue in the correct position thus being no need to tie his tongue.
  3. For an hour or so before you work him, put a very thick rubber, straight bar bit in his halter. This should be placed high in the mouth. Again, no tongue tie.This usually has the effect of keeping the horse's mouth closed when you then bridle.

Give each of these a try and hopefully one of them will work for you, as well. Good Luck. I hope to hear from you about your progress.


December 9, 2008

First "trip" to the Dentist

I was wondering what your opinion was on when the first dental check should occur when dealing with a foal? (currently about 9 mos) As I have never raised one and a friend asked me – I thought I’d ask you. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Absolutely LOVE the website !!!

Tip of the Day - Don't be afraid to look a gift horse in the mouth...especially if he is not wearing his bridle!

Thank you so much for your simple but very pertinent question. I am so pleased that you are concerned about this issue. As I have said many times, equine dental care, in general, is grossly overlooked, even more so with very young horses. Oh, people care about their horses and will shoe them regularly, have vet work done like clock work. They will supply their horse with the finest of feed, supplements,vitamins and minerals, buy $180 bits for them etc.,etc. The bottom line is, if the horse's teeth are not in order, all that feed will be wasted and no matter how expensive the bit, he probably won't wear it. In the young horse, teeth that are properly adjusted are crucial to the proper development and growth of the colt and can prevent a myriad of future problems. As I am certain you already know, horses chew, whether stabled or free grazing, 10-14 hours a day. This constant "grinding" wears the teeth in irregular shapes making them non productive in masticating and often causing discomfort to the horse.

Although your question primarily deals with "Baby" teeth, these deciduous teeth still need attention until they are all replaced at around age four and a half. Of course, we are not as concerned about bridling your weanling as we are about making certain he is correctly processing his food, and that there are no abnormal "goings on" within his mouth. Your colt will start loosing these "caps" around age two and a half so from about six months of age until Four years, his mouth will be very busy with these comings and goings. A good rule of thumb is to have your colt's teeth checked at least twice a year starting when he receives his final incisors when he is around 6 months old. I doubt that "floating" will be necessary, but checking for things such as a broken caps that could lodge in the gum or a cap that will not shed thus stopping a permanent tooth from coming in correctly. Loose caps can be uncomfortable and wolf teeth, which serve no purpose but to cause future training problems, usually come in when the colt is a year and a half. They should be removed at that time.

It has always been my feeling that a good equine dentist is as important to a horse's successful training program as a good farrier or a good veterinary. One simply cannot not do without his services.

I hope I have been of some help to you and compliment you for your concern over this issue. I look forward to hearing of your progress in our Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding,

LF Lavery

"We welcome, in our guest book, reader's comments about this or any other topic"

Saddlebred Rescue Needs Our Support

Saddlebred Rescue is reaching out to you as a lover of Saddlebreds concerning financial support for Saddlebred Rescue Inc. a 501c3 nonprofit charity. I would like to share some information with you on how Saddlebred Rescue and those people involved in our organization are giving back to the Saddlebred horse as well as the horse industry.

Initially our mission was to save Saddlebreds from going to slaughter but that quickly grew to helping the industry as a whole. We do this by helping trainers and instructors find lesson, practice and sometimes first show horses. We help individuals find at home pleasure, trail, driving, practice and even companion horses. To date, we have saved over 300 horses from slaughter and placed them in new homes most earning their keep. The vast majority of the horses we have placed were purchased at auctions in the northeast by us out bidding the “kill buyer” or from brokers who will ship to slaughter. We do take a few donated horses but only if we can find a home for them before taking possession of them.

After getting the horses we evaluate them as to suitability and have a trainer who works them according to their needs. We have some vet and farrier work done but as resources are limited we have to leave much of the vet work for the new adoptive owner. We do make them aware of each horse’s needs as we see them. We place horses in a home we feel best suits them.

based on their needs and abilities. If the horses do not work out we work with the adoptive person to change them out with another horse and find them a new home.

Through these efforts Saddlebred Rescue Inc helps all those involved in the industry not just trainers and individuals but shippers, farriers, vets, tack shops etc. In 2006 we were been recognized by USEF with the Heroes for Horses award for our work at the grassroots level to help horses.

Another part of our giving back to the horses we have gotten so much from is spreading the word about this wonderful breed to non-Saddlebred horse lovers be they owners now or may be in the future. Some of our horses have been adopted by first time Saddlebred owners. We get involved in horse fairs, 4-H, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts along with anybody that we can get to listen to us. Information about Saddlebreds and their versatility is available on our website www.saddlebredrescue.com and examples are shown on many of the flyers we distribute at various venues.

We are hoping those who have enjoyed this wonderful breed for years will help us continue our efforts to help those horses who have found themselves in bad situations many after working all their lives pulling carriages on the road in Pennsylvania. We have found well bred mares in foal as well as former show horses that didn’t work out for a new owner and ended up at a sale on their way to slaughter. You never know where a horse you raised or have owned will end up and we want to be there to help those unfortunate horses.

Our funding to date has come from two sources. From those who are able to make large ongoing yearly donations and those who send us $10 monthly. We need your ongoing financial support to be able to continue our efforts to not only save Saddlebreds from going to slaughter but to help the breed and industry.


Pat Johnson
Executive Director

Hi Folks,

I very seldom feel like using this vehicle as a "soap box" but I think the times and the cause make it necessary today. In this, the season of giving, good cheer, reflection and charity, we in the American Saddlebred community are fortunate enough to have an organization that embodies the best of the season, all year long. I, of course, speak of the Saddlebred Rescue program. Pat Johnson, the program's Executive Director will explain much about the organization and their work, in the lines that follow. Here is something additional I wish you to consider however. As many of you may know, after a long and consorted effort by the "Do Gooders" of the planet to stop the humane slaughter of horses in the United States, these people with organization names such as PETA, have won. There are no longer laws to govern the transport or slaughter of horses in the US as they must now be shipped to Mexico or Canada for the deed to be done. The backlash, never considered by these "Do- Gooders" is an estimated increase of unwanted horses of up to 100,000 more a year. "Wild" herds are already on the increase in places such as Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia with domestic horses even joining the ranks of the Mustangs in Nevada as owners who no longer afford to take care of them are simply turning them loose as there are few other options. Can you imagine what kind of strain this will put on Bona Fide organizations that really do.... DO GOOD! Please do all you can to help be of help to these great people at SBR. Thanks,


December 3, 2008

He's Really got a Mouth on Him!
(Correcting a young horse that nips)


I'm a student at William Woods...another other of Gayle Lampe's students with a question.

I have a coming three year old gelding who was gelded at 16 months. He is still very mouthy...chews on cross ties, blackets, grabs the reins and longlines...anything he can get. He doesn't bite, though playfully nips now and again. I have to tie his tongue and sometimes use a caveson when I work him because he is just too active in his mouth. when I take the bridle and tongue tie off, he "yawns" for several mintues.

Is this normal? Is it something he will outgrow?

Thanks for your help.

Tip of the Day - A horse that uses his mouth and chews the bits will win you a lot of money... A horse that uses his mouth and chews his blankets will eat much of your profit!

Thank you so much for your question. As I am certain you are aware, this is not an unusual behavior for a young horse.

At this juncture it is probably just aggravating to you but can also be somewhat expensive as mentioned in the "Tip of the Day."

Were he, the tack and the blankets mine, it would be time for him to start a more formal educational program. Additionally, what now are just "cute," playful nips can quickly become a more serious issue. A little tough love such as a well placed "slap" on his neck (not his mouth!) coupled with a gruff word or sound of discouragement dealt out at the proper time can easily stop this before it becomes a larger issue. I would suggest that training program start immediately. As with all issues dealing with the mouth and bridling, it is imperative that dental work is up to date, especially with a colt this age. Regarding the yawning, I can assure you he is probably not suffering from "Mono" or the like but is simply stretching his jaw muscles and tongue much the way many horses will stretch their hind legs before work.

Concerning the possibility he will grow out of it, I had the privilege of training a most wonderful horse. One that won more World's Championships in a single division than any other American Saddlebred in history. His name was Flash Gordon. He had two endearing behaviors. He loved to carry, by the shoulder, the groom that was walking him and within 5 minutes of wearing a new blanket, he would have it ripped in a spot on his left shoulder. In fact, so precisely that you could stack several together and the tear would be in exactly the same place. Once so torn, he would leave the blanket alone and in pristine condition except for that spot. He was never fooled by Bibs, cradles etc. Although, we had better luck with his taste for caretakers after they got tired of wearing heavy leather and down jackets in July, at age 29, he is still into customizing his new blankets.

I thank you once again for your question and hope I have been of some help to you. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

(Follow-up on this topic)

We welcome reader's comments in the Guest Book, on this or any other topic.

November 2008 POSTS
November 28, 2008

(Too fast at the Canter)

Hello -

I attend William Woods and Ms. Lampe gave us the opportunity to use your webpage for extra credit and as a future resource, pending we get a response from you!

I would really appreciate if you have time answering the following question. .

Thank you so much!

How do you slow a horse with a strong canter? If you believe in using your seat, what are some exercises or the best way to learn to do this?

Thank you again for your time!

Tip of the Day - Why does it always seem pleasure horses are "gamer" than open horses.

Thank you so much for your question. I can't begin to tell you how many times this same question has come up. It seems that there is a "fast cantering" epidemic out there. You are very astute to have discovered that using your "seat" can be one of the aids to slow a horse down. Perhaps, the most sparkling example of this is watching a good reining horse and his rider make speed transitions. At speed, the "W's" on the riders Wranglers are pressed to the cantle and his Bottom is closer than a clean shave to the saddle. His only movement in the saddle is in complete rhythm and harmony with the horse's canter. Without touching the reins, to slow the horse down he simply quits riding with the horse. By that I mean they are no longer in concert and his movement in the saddle is, in fact, counter to the horse's canter. You may have never noticed this very subtle cue so next time you have an opportunity to watch a reiner, you will now be able to pick it up easily.

In my opinion, 99% of the horses that "run off" at the canter were never asked to canter correctly. Yes, I mean they were never taught to take the canter correctly and yes I mean the first step of a lead and the mindset of the horse at that time, can determine what speed the horse will be going.

Although I always preach, "the rail is your friend" in the case of the canter this advice can really work against you. You will note many horses "leap" to the rail for the first step of the canter and it is all downhill from that point. They depend on the rail and the rider is no longer in charge. This behavior usually comes from horses who have been taught to canter by rushing them to the rail to canter. When dealing with a horse anything rushed will never have a good outcome.

If you want a horse to canter slower (relaxed) he must be relaxed when the lead is asked for. For a horse to canter slowly, he must be fairly loose (relaxed) in his bridle. If you ever have watched good race horses I am sure you noted that the harder the Jockeys pull on the reins, the faster the horses go. In fact, they only start to slow down when turned virtually loose after the finish line. Attempting to slow the speedy canter down by pulling on the reins and allowing the horse to have something to lean on will only reinforce this behavior.

Bypassing the basics and simply treating the symptom is what many riders often do. They are not that interested in why the horse is going so fast, only in slowing him down. Rider "A" has had great success cantering in a small confined area such as a Bull Ring. However, Rider "B" is sold on the great outdoors and has had equal success running in the open pasture field. Oddly, these are two popular methods and they can produce the desired effect. Other methods such as cantering in the cart, ponying, cantering in lines, etc., can all be of use but again they do not address the cause of the problem.

Students of the canter were in awe of Mitch Clark and the thrilling Skywatch. After making exciting seemingly "out of control" racking passes, Mitch would merely stop, usually in the middle of the ring and have this great athlete step quietly off on a canter that at times was near a lope. As excited as he was for the other gaits, he was as relaxed as could be at the canter.

To me, that is the key. The horse should have the confidence in the rider to depend on him for guidance and have the education to execute what is asked of him. The slight shifting of the rider's "cheeks" in the saddle the pressure of the calf and the relationship between the direct and indirect reins should all be nearly impreceiveable when cueing the horse to canter. To start the canter in this fashion requires three distinct steps:

  • Position, determining where and in what direction the canter will commence.
  • Preparation Which includes the shifting of weight in the saddle and the slight tightening of the direct rein.
  • Execution- The actual act of using you legs to put the forward impulsion in place.

When all things above are put into play, the horse will step quietly off on the correct lead, relaxed and with his head nearly straight in the bridle. as oppossed to bent over his shoulder. This, of course, is simply basic equitation which is actually not supposed to be described as the art of looking nice on a horse but by definition the art of riding the horse.

I am enclosing some homework for you that will go into further detail about what we have just discussed. These procedures will work if the rider will work at them. They are not overnight miracles but then horses do not learn this behavior overnight either.

As far as the last part of your question, I am not sure what an overweight and out of shape old man could tell you about exercise that would have any credibility! It has, however, always been my experience that lunge line lessons (bareback or saddled) can be instrumental in building a proper, independent seat necessary to become a completely effective horseback rider.

I hope I have been of some help to you. Ms. Lampe, besides being a wonderful horsewoman, is a very tough task master, I know from experience. I hate to think what she may have to say about this. Thanks again for your question. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

We welcome reader's comments in the Guest Book, on this or any other topic.

November 25, 2008

She is Progressing at the Wrong Pace

Hey there Lonnie,

Haven't chatted with you in a couple of months. I have Comanche, the 2 yr old filly that we have been training. Hope you remember my last letter/post.

Anyway, my daughter is riding her and she has accepted a rider with NO problem at all. She listens to you extremely well when asked to perform. I have one problem. I have been doing this for about 20 yrs now like you. I can't, for the life of me, get her from a "pace" to a "rack".

She is a Spotted Saddle Horse, if you remember? Her grandsire was Spotted Allen Again. You'll see what I am dealing with.

She will start off in a walk when asked to on the lungeline. She will slow walk, (natural walk) until you cluck or kiss her and then ask her to "move up". (one step faster) She understands words Lonnie. Not sentences. I trained her like that since she was 3 months old.

Then she will do a "fast walk". NOT like a TWH. Just a faster natural walk. Ask her to "move up" and that is when she goes into, (I believe) a "Pace" gait. (like the Sulkie horses do at the race track) Two left legs together/two right legs together.

NOT that "Singlefoot" that I am looking for. NOW!!! ask her to "move up" from that and she goes into a smooth, beautiful rockingchair cantor. I can't get her into the 1-2-3-4 beat of the "Rack". Her heritage are all gaited racking horses. None of then know how to trot and I can't get her to trot either. (NOT THAT I WANT HER TO) (Just testing her) She is a Racking Horse for sure. She just doesn't know how to get into the "Rack". Which surprises me totally because she has been racking since she was 2 days old. LITERALY....

Now, watch her in the paddock and she will "Rack" over to you when you come to the gate or when I whistle for her she will "Rack" all the way across the half acre paddock over to me. But, put a rider on her, she starts "Pacing". Any suggestions?

Tip of the Day - Gaiting a horse can sometimes make you "Rack" your brain.

So good to hear from you and of course I remember Comanche... Fillies do the "Darnedest" Things

I will be glad to try and help you and she out. If you are riding her successfully, I assume you have had her teeth "floated" and had gone back to the basics and started over. Good for you. Lets talk about the gaits you have mentioned. In the picture above, she is not at a true pace but rather at the single-foot. The timing of the photo is slightly late or you would see only one foot on the ground. (the right hind) This, as you know is the desired gait to go on into the rack. I would hazard a guess that because she is so young and from looking at the picture not very mature and strong yet, she is taking the path of least resistance when being ridden....Pace.

I am very impressed with what you have accomplished on the lunge line. As a young man I worked for a while with Ringling's. Only there, with a Liberty horse trainer, have I seen the type of lunge line discipline you describe. However, I cannot think that going in this circle is at all conducive to gaining speed and affecting a true rack. The faster she goes in a circle, the more the tendency for her to keep her balance by leading with her inside legs. (pacing then cantering) To increase speed with a horse so young, a straight line is the way to go. Here, when ridden or driven in the straight line, all energy is focused forward, not around the "bend." In the straight line you have complete control as you urge her forward to increase speed. You also have the capabilities to correct immediately, with your bridle, any tendency to canter. It is the constant but gentle urging that will speed up a horse such as she.

As stated, I feel much of your problem is coming from her lack of strength. On those lines make racking sessions very short as a tired horse will want to pace. If you are going to keep her barefoot, it might help you to put a pair of leather straps, or dog collars on her behind the next time your daughter rides. This quite often changes the horse's stride and makes racking easier than pacing.

Once again it was good to hear from you and Comanche. I hope I have been of some help or at least given you some food for thought. I look forward to reading of you further progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

L F Lavery

We welcome reader's comments, in the Guest Book, on this or any other topic.

November 23, 2008

Are We on Thin Ice?
(Dealing with old injuries and working out doors)

Hi Lonnie. I just got a SBR mare and she is my first Saddlebred! I live in Ohio and do not have an indoor arena. The mare came to SBR after having bowed her tendons. Is it okay to work her through the winter outside or should I just turn her out? She is sound now and SBR said they had been working her 3-4 times a week. I have had her for one week and I have long lined her twice. She is very sure-footed outside but I don't want to do anything to harm her. Also, she currently has shoes all around and pads up front. Should I have those taken off for winter? I know this is a silly question but I have never had a horse with bowed tendons and I want to be sure I don't do anything to harm her. I have always boarded my horses in the past and had access to an indoor arena. The area I have been using is grass right now. What do you recommend for footing outside? I would appreciate any help!

Tip of the day - Remember, being a little lame is like being a little pregnant.

Thank you so much for your question and my congratulations on getting your Rescue Horse. You are not only doing a wonderful thing for the horse, it will also be extremely rewarding for you.

Bowed tendons can be extremely troublesome and debilitating. It is a form of Tendonitis, where a relocation of the tendon fibers takes place. These tendon fibers, if viewed with Ultrasound, appear to be "stacked" in a very orderly fashion such as the look of a brick wall. When the Bow occurs, the lines of the wall would become extremely erratic showing no straight lines. The classic "bulge" of the tendon would then appear. Most of the time this injury is associated with the SDFT or Superficial Digital Flexor Tendon, the tendon that runs down the back of the leg and is responsible for the folding and unfolding of the leg. If she is now back working, the tendons have healed but you are wise to be conscious of them. Extremely hard exercise would not be wise. Tight circles and questionable footing will not work to your best interest.

As you are working out doors, here are the types of footing not conducive. Deep, heavy footing such as mud or deep sand. Slippery grass or ice is trouble for sound horses. On the other hand, a little snow is not a problem so long as the surface under the snow is firm and not slippery. A perfect footing for your patient is level, surface and below, not too deep, allows traction and provides some cushion. Shavings, a few inches of sand, "pea" gravel, chips or mulch, even manure and straw will work so long as you avoid DEEP!

I would not recommend pulling her shoes for two reasons.

  1. As you will be working outside, the shoe itself offers better traction capabilities than a barefoot hoof.
  2. The Farrier can monitor the hoof so the shoe may provide maximum support for the heel and the tendon while making sure the hoof is level. I doubt that a pad is necessary or a handmade fancy shoe for that matter and I would think she could be left barefoot behind. If you allow her to at be at liberty, a plate or keg shoe is fine. It might behoove you to ask the Farrier to apply some borium to the surface of the shoe. This will dramatically increase traction in the Ohio winter snows.

When working with your mare, a properly applied exercise bandage would not be a bad idea so as to support the tendons.

Before and after working her, feel the tendons for signs of heat and or pain. Look at them for any sign of swelling. If you feel she is not sound or she is acting positive to the palpations, a simple Ultrasound procedure, from the vet, will answer all your questions.

Please do not let me give you the impression that she is as fragile as a piece of China as the chances of you having a tendon problem again are slim. I do want you to understand how to best insure that fact. Enjoy your mare just be prudent.

Once again, thank you so much for your question, I hope I have been of some help. I wish you Good luck and Good riding.

LF Lavery

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November 20, 2008

We got Clipped, Clipping
(Trimming and body clipping)

Dear Mr Lavery,

We really enjoy your web site and go there quite often. Love the stories.

In reading your answer to the question about bridling, I see you mention trimming the horse. I think my daughter has one of those that are sensitive. She says it is because he is young and never had a haircut before. My husband, Bill, helped her the other day and it did not go so good. They were trying to trim his nose and he hit my husband's hand and the clippers with his front foot, broke both. So I am sitting here with the clippers at the repair place and looking at my husband with this grotesque cast on his middle finger and wondering if this is normal behavior for a horse that is only 8 months old? Do you have any advice?


Tip of the Day - When dealing with horses on a daily basis.. it is sometimes hard to tell who is the trainer and who is the trainee!

Thank you for your nice comments and your question. My advice, tell your husband to be very careful who he shows his injury to! Of course this is not normal behavior, it is exceptional behavior as they don't usually learn to "strike" so accurately at such a young age! My first thought would be to recommend not trimming his muzzle anymore. For the safety of your daughter and husband, (does he use his hands at work) don't get the clippers fixed.!! Please forgive me for making lite of a situation that might have been even more disastrous. I will try to give you some of my ideas on trimming and clipping the young horse.

As I have stated before, at least 50% of all horses seem to be hypersensitive about their ears and/or muzzle. This could be part of the cause but more than likely, your daughter is correct about his youth and inexperience about a "haircut." I am reminded of the little boys or girls who are slapped in the chair for the first time to have their locks trimmed. Quite often it is a traumatic experience for all concerned as there is a good deal of screaming, squirming and crying going on. Sometimes even the mothers lose it! Fortunately, these children have the gift of "reason" and it all works out eventually. Your daughter's young man does not have this gift and has just gone through a similar experience. He was defending himself against something very scary. Although, I HATE TO POINT THE FINGER AT ANYONE, (sorry I couldn't help myself) the colt had not been prepared for this process.

The act of trimming a colt for the first time, should not be, "Well, today is Saturday, I think I'll give Tornado his first haircut!" Rather, the culmination of several days or weeks of preparation. At this young age, your daughter has the opportunity to teach this colt to forever be easy to trim and clip.

  1. First, He must be comfortable with the handling of his ears and muzzle. While cleaning him, gently move your hand closer to his ears until he lets you touch them. This could take several days. At the same time feed him a treat of some kind from your hand and gently touch his muzzle when he takes the treat. Slowly push on his poll and encourage him to drop his head. When he allows you to gently rub his ears and muzzle and he drops his head when you push on the poll, you are ready for the next step.
  2. Again, while grooming him, have the clippers turned off in one hand and gently rub them on his neck while brushing him with the other hand. It is important to be doing something else (grooming) while introducing the clippers as horses are the original "one Track mind "animals. They cannot conceptionalize two thoughts at one time so the brushing becomes a diversion. Show him the clippers let him smell them, touch them with his now desensitized muzzle. Touch them to his ears. Drop his head from the poll.
  3. When this has been accomplished, repeat the process with the clippers on. If you are successful with this, you are ready for that first haircut.

When dealing with a young colt and the first trimming, three things are very important, your safety, the colt's safety and trying to make this a positive experience for him. This calls for restraining the colt without scaring or harming him. The first two or three times a colt is trimmed, I always ask for help from modern medicine. A cc of Ace promazine or some Ace granules will make everyone's role much easier from the start. You will require a helper smart enough to know when to be passive and when to be forceful. I seldom twitch a young colt but might put a lip chain on. If you are right handed, start on the near side. Helper on the off side shank in right hand left near the pole ready to push down. With your left hand on the bridge of his nose, slowly, ease the clippers up to the ears with your right hand by rubbing them on the neck as you had done before. When he accepts them near his ears, raise your left hand and gently grasp not crush the ear and begin. If you have done your homework, this should go very smoothly. Remember, this does not have to be a perfect job and should not take a lot of time. Every now and then, feel the blades of the clippers to make certain they are not getting hot. Blades can get hot enough to burn a horse. To prevent this there are a myriad of clipper products on the market or you could just dip them in a little kerosene now and then.

Moving down to the muzzle, do not "attack" it from out of nowhere. Have some contact with your fingers or hand as you bring it down the jaw and cheek. Have firm contact with the blade and muzzle rather than a lite tickling contact. Your helper's right hand should now be on the bridge of the nose, shank in the left and it is imperative that you not strike the chain with the blades. Again, this does not have to be perfect, just successful. Should he strike again and you do not feel you can correct it, as a last resort, stop and get an old heavy winter blanket. Buckle the front at the wither with the rest of the blanket hanging in front of the front legs like a pair of chaps. This will buffer any striking and if you can get him to stand on the blanket, this will stop any striking. I am confident that if the preparation described is completed and not rushed, this will be a very successful experience for all concerned.

I thank you once again for you question and hope I have been of some help to you. I look forward to reading, in the Guest Book, of the first haircut. Give my "thunbs up" to your husband, Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

We welcome your comments, in the Guest Book, on this or any other topic.

November 16, 2008

I am Having a "Bit" of Trouble
(Correct way to bridle a Horse)

Dear Lonnie

I'm a new horse owner of a beautiful American Saddlebred Horse. She is 12 years old. She does not want to take a bit and she spooks very easily. I want to be able to ride her, she is green broke. The person that we got her from said that she rides smoothley but doesn't appear to have been ridden much at all. Do you have any suggestions for me? I've been working with her myself and it's not going too good. Thank you.

Tip of the Day- Although I have always hated cold shoulder and hot "tongue," I always had better luck not putting a cold bit in a warm mouth!

Thank you very much for your questions. Although, the terms green broke and 12 years old don't usually appear in the same description, it happens sometimes. First off, I would never ride her on Halloween if she "Spooks" so easily!

You would be amazed at the number of E mails I receive concerning bridling issues. Even though at least 50% of all horses are hypersensitive about their ears or muzzle, proper procedure in bridling and for that matter trimming, usually alleviates any problems and can make both tasks so much easier. To bridle a horse correctly, you must:

  1. Stand on the near (left) side of the horse's head.
  2. With your left hand cradling the bit between your thumb and first finger and third and fourth finger, your right hand holding the top of the headstall with your arm on or very near the area between the horse's ears. (poll)
  3. The right hand raises the bridle till your left hand comes in contact with the muzzle and then the mouth.
  4. Using your thumb, and/or "pinkie" or your "ring" finger put pressure on the gum of the lower jaw just behind the teeth.
  5. As the horse opens his mouth in response, gently slide the bits into the open mouth while raising the bridle at the same time. (Make certain the bits are not under the tongue.)
  6. This is the critical part and this is where most horses are taught to be hard to bridle. Move your left hand to the top of the headstall and with your right hand very gently fold the right ear down, forward and under the headstall.
  7. Move slowly to the other side and with your right hand now lifting the headstall with your left hand, very gently fold the left ear down, forward and under the head stall.

The Key words here are Gently and Forward! Gently needs no explanation but forward may raise questions. If we assume you want the ears to go under the headstall with little or no contact from the bridle, try gently folding the ear backward and down. Can't do it without bending the sensitive part of the ear. What usually happens to start this defensive behavior, is the person running out of patience with the fidgety horse and rapidly pushing the bridle back and over the ears causing some discomfort. Additionaly, forcing and bending the ears backwards often dislodges dander etc which drops down in the ear canal. If you see a horse shaking his head while working, this is most likely the reason. This type of bridling, done two or three times, easily establishes a behavioral issue. Continueing to bridle in that fashion only strengthens this response. (I have had horses sent to me that had to be twitched to bridle.) To undo this, much time should be spent petting and rubbing around the ears and the poll. Maybe minutes, maybe hours, maybe days. Whenever she becomes comfortable with your hand there, start pressing with you fingers on the poll pushing the head down. A reward in your left hand to encourage this is sometimes helpfull. When you can pet, and rub and bend the ears forward and she responds correctly to your push on her poll by putting her head down, you are ready to introduce the bridle in the manner already described.

As to green broke to ride. This term covers a wide spectrum. If they are telling you she is green broke at 12, I would take it very seriously and treat her as if she were starting from scratch. Spend a lot of time long lining and when you think she as acclamated and gotten over much of her spookiness and it is time to ride, have someone help you! Never do this alone!

I hope I have been of some help and I thank you so much for your questions. I look forward to reading, in the Gueat Book, of your progress. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

We welcome reader's comments in the Guest Book, on this or any other topic.

November 14, 2008


Hi Folks,

I don't often see something that has impressed me as much as what I am featuring here. It seems to address so many of our recent questions and puts them in a perspective for all to enjoy. It is loaded with examples of many past topics: EWE neck, transitions, proper canter cues, pacing, the importance of suppleness, and a myriad of other helpful things. Although his slow gait and rack are a little pacey for me, I have never seen it done with such style. Instead of a Question and Answer today, let's take the day off and enjoy this. Please send your comments about this to the Guest Book.

LF Lavery

November 12, 2008

Should I get Him tickets to Black Beauty?
(Training the young horse without souring him)


I recently purchased a 2-yr-old saddlebred gelding whom I plan to train myself (with some help along the way). He is currently broke to long line and is doing that quite nicely, and I plan to get him going under saddle sometime in the near future. He is very smart and has taken every new challenge I've given him with ease. I've only had him for a couple of weeks, and I try to mix up the short lessons between some lunging, long-lining, free lunging, showmanship/leading, bitting rig, and we go for walks down the road, stop and eat grass, lots of grooming, etc. I would like him to continue to enjoy his job and be excited to learn more, so I am looking for some exercises or activities to mix in that will help to build confidence and bonding, and be fun for him so it's not all "work." Perhaps I'm overly analytical about this because my previous horse was rather sour when I got him, but I really want a happy horse who uses his ears and enjoys his job! thank you very much- I enjoy reading your words of wisdom and look forward to any suggestions you might have!

Tip of the Day - A show horse is much like a rose...not too pretty when the bloom is gone.

Thank you so much for your question. Let me begin by saying being overly analytical is not a bad thing. In fact, if more people would put the kind of thought you have into how to train their horses, I would have little business. The myriad of ways you have come up with to stem off his boredom is truly ingenious. Have you thought about letting him watch "Dancing with the Stars" or "SNL"? I used to go for long walks with my first wife. Seriously, I understand your intent and you are correct, varying the training program is important as it keeps a horse fresh and more receptive to learning. However, you have a horse that will be three years old in two months. Believe me he soon will be past the "play" age and is truly ready for a structured training program. You have already hit upon some of the keys to making it a success: Number one, short lessons. "It is not how long you work a horse that counts..rather, how often" Number two, switching between lunging, long lining and the Biting rig is probably more variety than he would have out on the plains of Nevada and those wild horses look plenty alert to me. Take my advice and get on with the training before you wake up and he is a very big and stout 3 year old you are going to try to break to ride. So long as you keep analyzing your training program as you have, he will remain fresh.

Thanks again for your letter, I hope I have been of some help. Good Luck and Good Riding

LF Lavery

We look forward to reading about your progress on the Guest Book

November 7, 2008

Can "EWE" Help His Neck?
Effects of Training on Conformation

Hello!! my question is I have been told my horse is developing an upside down neck. I can see that he is starting to get more muscle on the underside of his neck rather then having a nice arched neck. He is an 12 yr old Arabian, Saddleseat (English pleasure), the bottom of his neck is very firm and it does not feel like jello! Is that from forcing him into frame and hanging on the bit (so I have been told). And how do you fix this?!?!?!?

Tip of the Day - Always remember...The Rail is your friend!

Thank you so much for your question. An upside down or EWE (coming from the sheep) neck, is not a desirable characteristic, to be sure. It makes proper balance and correct head carriage very difficult. From the description you first gave me of his neck I would have thought you were riding some discipline where you took a very strong hold of his mouth thus making him fight to raise up and therefore develop these muscles. But, that is not part of Saddle Seat Riding and I cannot imagine anyone pulling hard enough on a double bridle to cause such a change. Perhaps it is a physical manifestation and goes with is genetics. If you have noticed this change occurring recently, then we can rule out his natural conformation and we must point the finger at something else. I am sure you seen have pictures of the weight lifters who sculpt their bodies with various exercises to target different parts of their bodies. So too, must this be with your horse's neck. Even though it is hard to believe, if you are really pulling and forcing this horse to give up his face, this could well be the cause.

My advice to you would be to soften your horse's mouth and your hands. You can accomplish this with hours of biting rig, long lines and snaffle bit work. When the mouth is finally soft and supple, you will no longer encouraging those lower muscles to develop and you will be encouraging the crest to become more prominent. A properly trained and properly bridled horse should pretty much carry his own head with only occasional corrections from the rider.You may try sweating the neck but sweating muscle is much harder than sweating fat.

I wish I could be of more help but I believe you will be surprised with the changes if you implement my suggestions. Thanks again for your question. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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November 3, 2008

He is Racking and Trotting Perfectly, but I don't Know about His Rear End?


I have a five gaited show pleasure horse and i have heard friends and trainers talking about their gaited horses having injections into their joints on the hind legs, and I was wondering is that something that is done on most gaited horses, do I need to have it done to my gaited horse or what?

Tip of the Day - As Donna Moore once told me "When they've lost their ass they have lost everything."

Thank you so much for your question. I will now give you the shortest answer in the history of ATTO. If he is racking and trotting perfectly, of course not.

Once again thank you very much, I hope I have been of some help and I hope to read of your progress in the Guest Book. Good luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

Seriously, that is the answer. I have never seen a generation of horse people more ready to inject, cut and medicate at the drop of the hat. Ninety percent of the time there is no need. It is never a substitute for steady work and great care. Although an internal blister is a bona fide and often very successful treatment your horse should be diagnosed with stifle, whirlbone or hock problems for the procedure to really be called for. As I have said many times concerning horses, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

There is no question that the rear end of an American Saddlebred bears most of the stress as we raise their heads, (point of balance) and shift the weight to the rear end.(the engine) There is no question that this stress is even harder on a five gaited horse and that sometimes injecting is called for. The culprit, however, is not usually the work but rather the conformation of the horse. Again, as I have said here so many, times it is form to function. The horse must have the correct type of conformation for the job you are asking him to do or problems will eventually occur. In the case of our breed, many years of the Genius Bourbon King influence, have greatly improved the beauty of our wonderful horses, (Look at pictures of My My and Wing, two of the greatest) additionally, this influence gave us a horse with an attitude that better suited it for Public Stable processing and Amateur Owner involvement. The breed needed to change with the times. However, there is always some price to pay for change. In our case, the length of leg and a straightening of leg in the rear end is now our cross to bear when it comes to a Five Gaited horse, especially. Simply not the right form for this function. There is that other price to pay too, it has, been a boon for the Veterinarians.

Again, I seriously doubt if your pleasure horse, although he might benefit from it, is in need of an injection of this type. So put your mind to rest, get ready for next spring, and enjoy your horse.

Thank you again for your question, it turned out not to be the shortest answer ever but I hope it was of some help in understanding the issue. I hope to read of your victories in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

We welcome your comments, in the Guest Book, on this or any other topic

November 1, 2008

I would Like to get Her "Gate-ed"

Hi can you help me with my filly. Well i bring my filly out to the pasture she will jump through the gate way instead of walking through can you help me to stop her.


Tip of the Day - When turned loose some horses really like to kick up their heels.....make sure you don't hit them with your face!

Thank you so much for your question. What you describe is a very common behavior that is usually caused by inadequate early training. You must have a horse's complete respect in this situation. She is not 20lb puppy! Here is a little homework that I believe will be a good deal of help to you and will explain exactly how to deal with this problem:

I Don't Care if he Drinks the Water or Not.. I just want to Lead Him!

Also, please note that this behavior is more than an inconvenience, but has the potential for some danger for you or your filly. The confined area between the gate posts may sometime not be big enough for the two of you and also, believe me, being run over by a horse leaves a lot to be desired.

Additionally, this behavior can escalate to stall doors which offer an even smaller area and greater chance for injury. Not having your filly's complete attention and respect when turning her loose can also put you in harm's way as mentioned in the tip of the day. Many a "leader" has been kicked by the horse that spins and runs when turned loose. When you have implemented the procedures listed in the "homework," start training her to:

  • Face you
  • Stand still after you turn her loose
  • Remain that way until you back away and give her some signal she is free.

I hope this has been of some help and thank you for your question. I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

We welcome your comments in the Guest Book , on this or any other topic

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Nov 28, 2008 RAPID IN MISSOURI Too fast at the Canter
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So You've Rescued an American Saddlebred. Originally written for Saddlebred Rescue, Inc. (See our Links page for rescue site)

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