"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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October 2008's POSTS
October 29, 2008

He's Sitting Down on the Job!

Hi, I've been rescuing horses for years. Arabians, Tennessee Walkers, Fjords, Quarters.....you name it and I've probably had one. I just got my first Saddlebred though. He is a thirteen year old gelding that had been competed in Dressage and Hunter Seat. He was injured on his right rear hock and left in a pasture to starve. When we got the call, he was starving to death and on three legs. It has taken nearly a year to bring him back to full health. Six weeks ago, I got the okay from our vet to start riding again. The gelding is completely sound and should remain that way as long as there is no jumping and undue strain put on the leg. He flew through the groundwork, taking everything with an easy eagerness. He was excited to be back to work, arching his neck and tail beautifully. When it came time to ride him, he took four steps forward, then backed up rapidly and sat down. I was concerned about the leg but didn't want to incourage bad behavior, so I put my son on and led him around for five minutes before he was unsaddled. It didn't seem to affect the leg badly, there was no swelling, heat, or limping. We waited another three daays and attempted again. This time he sat down immediately. We had the vet back out and he said that he couldn't find anything physically wrong with the horse. My question: Is this a behavior issue? Is it a psychological issue, because he thinks he can't do it -he sits? Is it time to give him up as lame? I don't want to reinjure the leg. Any advice you could give me would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Tip of the Day - Some horses, like some people, will expend more effort getting out of work then they would doing the work!

Thank you for your question and for your selfless efforts on behalf of these "unwanted" horses. As you know, with the new changes in the laws, in the near future, it is going to take tens of thousands instead of thousands of people to accommodate the "homeless" horses in the United States. I salute those who are helping now and those who will help in the future.

After reading your Email, I immediately came to two conclusions, 1. You must certainly be the Angelina Jolie of the horse world. 2. Your horse has won the Strangest Behavior Contest, for fun! (no prizes however) To be honest, I rather think this behavior is so novel I might not want to discourage it, were he mine. But I suppose you would rather ride him than just "hang" with him at a poker table. To be serious, let's see if we can figure something out.

As with all unacceptable behaviors it is important to attempt to find the cause rather than to just treat the symptom. By the description in your letter, I can tell that you are an excellent horse person and have taken the steps to pretty much rule out a soundness problem. Could it be another kind of physical problem? Yes and I would suggest that a horse that runs backwards as you describe can often be caused by the horse being afraid of his mouth and not wanting to step forward to the bridle. This could be caused by over biting or, most often than not, dental issues. A horse's teeth, not regularly cared for, can cause excruciating pain and make a horse behave as you describe. (assuming he is either just weak behind or stringhalt and when backing loses the mobility in the hind legs.) If he gets up, with some trouble, immediately, this could be the case.

We then like to think of possible training deficiencies, poor treatment or abuse, that could effect his ability to understand what is being asked. Dressage is probably the most demanding and un-natural discipline we can ask a horse to do. If he was trained in this discipline, there is no problems with his earlier training. The starvation etc., in the past, would probably have little impact on his performance now.

Could it be a mental problem? Is it a willful act he does because he can? If we rule out all the above conditions, it could very well be this. To check, when he sits down does he stay there like a mule very comfortably and have to coaxed to his feet? If this is the case I would lean in this direction. He does it because he can.

I would recommend you try the following.

A. Have his teeth checked and floated. (until this is done, you're just wasting time)

  • Work him in long lines
  • Try riding him in a halter.
  • Make certain the girth or cinch is not too tight at first.
  • Try Riding him bareback

B. After he is lunged and is ready to mount, have someone continue to hold the lunge line and lead you off as you give very little bridle or leg contact. Have them keep leading you in ever increasing circles until they are lunging him with you aboard. If this is successful, do not push the issue by working too long but quit and do it for a few days in succession.

  • When you mount, have some people standing behind him but in his view
  • Back him up to a wall or fence and very carefully mount him

C. If all else fails, to deal with the "willful" horse, tough love is called for. With others there to help you and being very careful of your safety, strongly discourage this behavior. Sometimes just the sight of a broom can discourage without pain. And I am sure you know the other tools.

Of course, 30 days with a trainer might save all a little wear and tear, and would make certain this issue is correctable. I would be happy to recommend someone in your area, if you so desire. This is not an easy issue to correct and must be done properly or things could get worse.

Thank you so much for your question. I hope I have been of some help to you. I look forward to hearing of your progress in the Guest Book.

LF Lavery

October 27, 2008

He's Steeling some Speed
(controlling speed)

Hello Mr. Lavery! I enjoy reading your advice and find your site to be helpful (and humorous!).

I recently purchased a wonderful 10 year old Saddlebred gelding with a very nice show history. He had some time off from the ring and was being returned to work when I bought him. I put him in training for a few months after I got him, and in July I brought him home and started working him myself.

He was VERY tough in the bridle when he first arrived, and I'm happy to say he's so much better now, after months and months of bitting work. He's also in much better shape. He gets jogged 4-5x a week and ridden 1-2x a week, with one day off, and is turned out daily in a 20 x 20 dry lot. He gets as much grass hay as he wants to eat, and is fed Ultium and oats. He's also on MSM to help with the aches and inflammation of returning to daily work at his (slightly advanced) age.

It seems, however, the better shape he's getting in, the faster his canter is getting! When I first got him, he had a comfortable, teacup canter. Now his canter is stronger, with a stiff, almost "pogo stick" movement and an occassional buck thrown in for fun. (He has no physical issues, enjoys a massage every 2 weeks, his x-rays are clean, and his teeth are good). I'm attributing his newfound exuberance to his return to show shape. The former trainer has seen this new behavior at the last few shows, and has told me to relax my seat and keep his head up, which does help, but it takes almost a full round at the canter for it to take effect - and usually by then the judge is asking for the walk again.

He's also quick to "take the reins" the second way, and come to the center after the last canter, which makes getting one last trotting pass in a competitive class a bit difficult.

I've been doing some exercises to try to relax his back and stride, and get him to stop anticipating things, and he's had a whack or two on the butt when he tries to take over (he's very quick to apologize and return the reins to me, sheepishly). He's a very good natured boy with no maliciousness, and I believe there is a fix in here somewhere, I just don't know about it.

Some of the things I'm doing: I mix up the gaits, never working him in the order we show in; we canter for varying, short lengths and do patterns (and some days we don't canter); we do a lot of serpentining and bending in the cart and under saddle; I cue him for transitions in weird places, I canter him in the cart, and I NEVER trot him into the middle and line up... and he's a fast learner and hasn't done anything untoward at home in a long long time. However, a 10-year veteran is a bit wily, and he knows the drill in the show ring.

Do you have any advice to keeping him from anticipating, and "taking charge", at a SHOW? I've considered finding an open show to use as a "training" session, so he thinks twice about taking advantage of knowing the routine, and that I WILL discipline him at a show, but am hesitant to show any disrespect to other exhibitors and the judge.

Should I ride him a bit more often to work on this, and make sure he HAS it? I don't know if riding him more will help or not. I'm not a big fan of riding a show horse more than necessary, but to fix a problem, more MIGHT be necessary, at least for awhile... Your advice is most appreciated. Thank you for your time... Here is a picture of him:

Tip of the Day - How long a horse is worked is not nearly as important as how often!

Thank you for your question. To begin, let me say how attractive your horse looks and what a great picture you two make both in harness and under saddle. The care you have given him as eluded to in your question is obvious by his superior condition in the photos. From the food menu to the massages, if reincarnation is possible, I think I might like to come back as one of your horses. Let's get to your questions.

Although the sire of your horse is generally known to produce very "strong" horses, the speed at the canter might well be explained by your assumption, "the better shape he's getting in, the faster his canter is getting". Often this type of behavior occurs as the horse feels healthier but while that might be the reason, it does not excuse the issue. You seem to have been approaching the correction of this behavior in the right way. I especially like the serpentineing and the cart work. This a relatively easy behavior to correct, the key being to let him find out slower is better rather than you're trying to slow him down. Here is some homework that will help explain the procedures.

As always, it is my belief that relaxation is they key to the correction of most behaviors. So the cantering in small circles, etc, allows him to decide the best speed as all you are doing is steering. I feel your trainer was quite right in his suggestions especially if he canters slowly in the cart.

On the other hand, there is no excuse for premature lining up. Relaxation does not need to enter into this. He is obviously sound, very fit and in excellent condition. This issue is a willful one. He does it because he can. I truly liked your idea of the non-rated show! But I don't think it sounds like your are there quite yet. Any time you feel him trying to pull this on you, go ahead and ride him to and through the middle and keep on going around the ring. Once he realizes the center is not a place you are going to let him "take a vacation" from work, it will no longer hold such an attraction for him. I, as you know, abhor brutal treatment but in this case there is nothing wrong with a little tough love, when needed.

Thank you once again for your questions, I hope I have been of some help. I look forward to reading of you future victories in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

October 24, 2008

Two in the Hand

Good afternoon, I was wondering if you could give me a quick rundown about showing my 2 year old Saddlebred in hand. He is a yearling to date and I plan on taking him to a couple shows (in Canada) next spring/summer. I have quite a bit of knowledge when it comes to showing Arabians in hand, but really don't know the details for showing a Saddlebred. I have already taught him how to park and he leads well. Just a few questions that I am very curious about.....what kind of shoeing am I looking at? Is it true that you have a "runner" in the ring with you? In general what will the judge(s) be looking for in a horse? What kind of halter/headstall is the Saddlebred shown in? Is there a "standard" when it comes to clipping their face/ears/legs? What about their mane and forelock? Any tips would be awesome and thank you in advance for your advice.

Tip of the Day - Why do they call them futurities...when they have ruined the futures of so many babies'?

Thank you so much for your question. Having judged both breeds and NSH in hand, there is a real difference in how each breed is shown. As you are familiar with Arabian in hand, let's get right to showing the American Saddlebred Two Year Old.

The entries come in the ring one at a time at a trot. They then lineup. they are judged individually for conformation and finish (50%) then as asked to walk and then trot to be judged on natural action, clean movement. (50%) When led, it is best to show some collection with the two year old rather than having the neck stretched forward with nose up showing at great speed, as usual with Arabians. Although you may show in a halter, you have the option of using a curb bit bridle to help with the desired head carriage. Yes, you also have a "Tailer" who encourages from behind. Both the "Header" and "Tailer" may carry a whip, no more than 6 ft. that may have ribbons or a small plastic bag on the end. Both attendants must be "neatly and appropriately dressed in clean and well-fitted clothes"

When standing, judged for conformation, the horse should be squarely parked out with front feet perpendicular to the ground and hind legs slightly back.

Two year olds may be shown with or without shoes and may have a cut or set tail. They are customarily shown with a braided mane and foretop. Clipping should include muzzle hairs, fetlocks and ears. (a "tip" is usually left on the top of the ear.)

The ASB in hand division also offers a model class which is simply a beauty contest. Here they are just judges on finish, conformation, type and conforming to the ideal standards of the American Saddlebred. They only walk into the ring and then park.

Thank you once again for your letter, I hope I have been of some help. I look forward to reading of your victories in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

(We invite your comments, in our Guest Book, on this or any other topic )

October 22, 2008

Dealing With the Casanova Complex

Hi Lonnie:

I've been an avid reader of your site for a few months now since I discoverd it via Google. You are awesome! Anyway, I wanted to ask you your thoughts on male trainers who "prey" on people, mostly women of course. By "prey" I mean these trainers are often decent-looking and unattached (or act like they're unattached) and they literally try to "charm the pants off" their women clients. They use inappropriate verbal and physical body language (hugging, making sexual inuendos during the riding lesson, calling the women "honey" "sweetheart" or "baby"). I've had two personal experiences with these kind of trainers and I can't begin to tell you how uncomfortable it is. Unfortunately these trainers are usually very good instructors and so people are eager to take lessons with them, but on the other hand, they are definitely predators who are using their status as a riding instructor/trainer to try to get women to date them, and also to turn the women in the barn against each other in jealousy (which I have seen happen!). There is one guy who is currently teaching at a barn in California who has also been known to hit on his teenage (underage) students and makes jokes about it with the grooms! I have a friend who rode for a time with a trainer like this, and he so had her under his spell that she bought a totally inappropriate and wildly expensive horse, tack, show clothes - the works! Simply because she was guillable enough to believe the trainer she rode with had her best interests at heart. He of couse was making major commissions off the purchase of the horse as well as her saddle (he knew someone who crafted custom saddles that cost a fortune and of course he persuaded her to buy one!). She eventually was hurt in a fall from the horse (that was way above her level) and ended up with such a bad experience that she left the horse business for good. And this was a woman who would have been worth her weight in gold to the right trainer had she not fallen into a predator's hands.

I have met many trainers who have a very kind and familiar way about them and are respectfully affectionate with their clients and these are not the kind of trainers I'm referring to, but since you've been in the business so long I'm sure you've seen the other kind of guys "in action". No matter how good they are as trainers, it is always overshadowed by the rather "sleazy" behavior they feel is ok to exhibit in a barn full of women. What are your thoughts on this? Sexual harassment lawsuits are rampant everywhere these days and I'm thinking it might not be too long until we see these kinds of harassment lawsuits against trainers.

Anyway, I think your website is great and I am making sure everyone I ride with is aware of it.

Tip of the Day -Never be very proud of a Blue Ribbon... if you won it in Canada! (Sometimes things are not what you think they are)

Thank you for your "Letter" and the nice compliment. I am glad you enjoy the site. I was a little perplexed at how to answer your question at first. Then, fate stepped in, and I happened to witness first hand the kind of behavior you described. This guy was using those "honey" and "sweetheart" words. He was complimenting this woman with things like she had beautiful feet. Believe me, the rest of her was sure not very attractive. As far as him, I don't know if he was decent looking or not...but then I am not sure what a shoe salesman is supposed to look like. I've also heard of this type of thing with waiters in restaurants, co-workers at the water cooler, at the fitness center, teachers at the Ballet school, gymnastic coaches, swimming team etc. Frankly, my dear it is just about everywhere the sexes interact and I truly feel that most of this flirting is not only quite natural but also harmless. Horse trainers do not have a patent on this type of behavior.

When flirting and compliments go beyond good taste for the situation, it certainly would be smart for the offended to draw the line. Many times I feel that the object of the compliment takes it so serious that they feel there is much more to it than there really is. Why else would an intelligent person cast logic aside and want to haul off and purchase things she did not want simply to please a trainer. If it was bad advice concerning the horse and saddle from the trainer, I would question his professional ethics to say the least.Was he a predator? Maybe we could get Bill Clinton to define it. Turning a group of women in a barn against each other with jealously takes a man with great bravery but again proves my point. I would think that most "bad Experiences" come when the complimented fails to draw the line and then also assumes flirting means relationship. This is probably how most of those lawsuits start.

I in no way wish to trivialize this issue or your personal experiences but I know of very few trainers who have not learned the word that rhymes with whoa....NO! I do not doubt there are many silvered tongued instructors and trainers out there. I do doubt they would have much business if they told clients how bad they looked or how poorly they rode. Bottom line, when offended by words or actions....draw the line. The other option....move to someone else. I would have to think that any "sleazy' instructors such as you mention, would not be long in the business with no clientele.

Thank you once again for your very provocative question. I hope I have been of some help. I, of course, am not Dr. Phil but then he can't train horses. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

(As with all Questions and Answers on this site,we welcome your comments about them in the Guestbook )

October 20, 2008

He is Really Fast.... with the One Leg
(Dealing with an un square Road Horse)


Thanks for the willingness to share info about horses. Your add didn't mention Road Horses, but I thought i would ask anyway. I have an eight year old horse. He is sound and in very good order. The only slight issue i have is that he doesn't grow a heel in one front foot. This is my concern _ _ going the first way of the ring he his off (the inside leg goes way higher than the outside) turns and straight-a-ways. When i reverse him he is level. Any suggestion is appreciated.


Tip of the Day - Trotting... on the correct lead.... is not usually acceptable at the show.

Thank you for your question. Although I deal mostly with American Saddlebred Questioners, I have been fortunate enough to have been associated with several World Champion road horses and road ponies. . Please know, the issue you are dealing with is not limited to Standardbreds but manifests itself in all breeds that trot. "Throwing" a leg is a common issue that can be caused by many factors. Being you are an owner of a breed that trots.. unlike other gaited breeds, your horse must be "sound" to compete. Growing one heel more than another could be a factor in both front feet not having the same flight path. (As could a lameness in front or behind)

Please read this "homework": Is It My Fault He's Out of Step?

Being a Standardbred, I assume off the track, there is a much simpler explanation to the issue you so eloquently described. Trotters and pacers travel only one way of the track at speed. Additionally, to travel straight and be square, a horse must be in a straight line. The problems you describe seem only to come the "first" way of the ring. I would venture to say his head is turned to the rail to keep him on the rail when you go in that direction. (the opposite direction of when they race) He, therefore, would not be traveling in a straight line, thus setting up the conditions to "throw" that leg. Believe me when I tell you this is not a rare problem. One of the best Worlds Champions I was fortunate enough to train, the Standardbred named Happy Landings had a similar problem. I purchased him from a great horseman. Happy arrived with a 12 oz rolled toe shoe on one front foot and an 8 oz flat keg shoe on the other foot. That is something or something similar, that might work for you if getting him straight in the bridle doesn't help.

I hope I have been of some help or at least have given you a different prospective of your situation. I would really appreciate reading how this has turned out in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Driving.

LF Lavery

October 18. 2008

He does not Work and Play Well with Others!
(Bad Behavior in the Pasture)


I have owned a rescue horse for the last 2 years. He is approx. 14 years old and is a Saddlebred gelding. He has come along way with improved behaviors that include: ease in bridling, no pawing while in cross ties and less spinning in his stall. His behavior to other horses is my concern. I moved my horse to a new barn last year because they had trails. (At the former barn he was a part of a herd. He had no issues there except he would kick the stall walls and the barn owners put kicking cahins on him which made him go crazy.) At the new place he was turned out every day with 2 other geldings. He was/is very , very aggressive. He bits, kicks and ran down the other 2 horses. I moved him to another new barn 3 months ago. Again, he was placed with 2 other geldings in the pasture. He started out being very cooperative the first 2 months and then all of a sudden he attacked the horse he was out with and even got him on the ground. The owners of the barn will not put him outside with other horses. They tried to put him out in a separate pasture with a muzzle, for only 20 min. They brought him in because he was pacing the fence. They said they didn't want him to get sick. They are encouraging me to give him up to a rescue. What should I do? Does he need to be with a herd versus just a couple of horses.

Tip of the Day - Like the fellow said " This horse doesn't need a horse trainer ...he needs Guenther Gebel Williams!)

Thank you for your question. It seems your horse has gotten a "U" in Citizenship at the pasture "school". I would very much like to tell you of a quick fix for this behavior but unfortunately I cannot think of one. I have seen many people try many things that usually failed when trying to "train" this behavior out of the horse. The logistics of the horse running free make hands on training nearly impossible. Although horses have been herd animals since their creation, the establishment of a pecking order is not at all unusual and sometimes can be brutal. This "fight" for superiority seldom lasts over a few seconds, unless two stallions are vying for a herd of breeding females. On the other hand, geldings usually surrender to the mares, A herd of mares, can teach manners to any male, a fact I found out during my dating years! The brutality you describe, however, goes far beyond the usual social behavior. Let's see if we can figure this out.

As with all unacceptable behaviors, it is important to try to find the cause as it is not normal behavior. The fact he conducted himself as a gentleman when with the herd would lead me to believe he found the pecking order already established and a try for superiority quite futile. (I would bet there were some tough mares in that herd!) Being more territorial and aggressive with just two geldings does not surprise me but the continued aggression certainly does. One would almost wonder if your gelding may not be a true gelding? Occasionally, during the gelding process, one testicle is missed. This horse becomes a "ridgeling", with the same hormones as a stallion having retained this testicle. Your vet could examine him or a hormone test could be run to see if this is indeed an explanation. Short of that..I can think of none.

In your letter you mention "he attacked the horse he was out with and even got him on the ground." Was he out with only one horse? It is obvious that a larger group is needed to keep him in line but I doubt your fellow boarders are ready to donate their steeds to science just yet. You also mention he was upset when turned out alone with the muzzle. Why the muzzle if he was alone.

If he were mine.....I would have him "sexed" first. He would be turned out 24/7 and like the mailman "rain, sleet or snow". He could pace the fence until he got tired of doing it. I would take him off grain and supplement the grass in the pasture with a little hay. A little "tough love" is called for if you wish to try to rehabilitate him. Hopefully, he could be in a place where he was close to and could see the other horses. Eventually, you would find him paying attention and "bonding" with one of the other horses. That horse could be introduced to his pasture. (perhaps with a lunge line on your horse to protect his new "friend" and to have an influence on the outcome.) You must know that some fighting among all herd and pack animals is inevitable and is best ignored by humans and allowed to run it's course but certainly not at the cost of serious injury.

Once again thank you for your question I only wish I could have been of more help. Would love to read how things are going in the Guest book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

October 15, 2008

We Made a Sawdust Pile out of a Mole Hill!
(relaxing the horse)


I just had to share with you that I feel as if I am making some progress with the “lifetime project” Yeah! I am so excited! The same horse that was running off over a month ago was ridden by me bareback with a halter and a lead shank all over the barn last night. This is amazing because I did this while lessons were going on and there were young children and horses all over the place. Trust me, I am shocked. Currently, the so called “training program” consists of turning him out, hours of trail riding, and riding him with lots of horses in group riding lessons. I took your advice and have worked diligently to try to get him to relax and wear less and less bridle. Like you said this will hopefully allow him to listen to his rider with a degree of confidence and make it enjoyable for both of us. I finally feel like I am moving in the right direction. So far, we have taught him how to climb sawdust piles, go over fences and cover rough trails at a flat foot walk, and enjoy the fellowship of other horses!!! I don’t know if we if he will be able to continue to hold it all together when he is asked to be a “show horse” but what the heck.

Tip of the Day - The fastest rack once began, one step at a time, from the slowest walk!

Thank you so much for your E-mail. I cannot begin to tell you how pleased I am at the progress you are making with Mr. Excitement!

No where is there a finer example of putting my favorite quote,"A well trained horse is not an accident but the product of many thoughtful hours!", into play than what you have described in your letter. You have also learned another horse trainer secret that we never tell anyone. The bigger the challenge, the more thought and time given, the more thrilling it is when you start to make things turn around with a horse. You didn't think trainers where in this for the money did you!

Let's recap exactly what you have done. You have taken on the training of a horse that had become very set and adept in many unacceptable behaviors. You realized that many of the "triggers" of these behaviors came from the very work he had been doing, on a daily basis, for years. You knew he had little reason to depend on you. Gaining his confidence was out of the question. You felt the "flight" instinct when he took hold of the bridle therefore making usual bridling for correction impossible. You seized on the most important thought...relax.

Then......you proceeded to completely change all he has known for several years, perhaps his whole life. You put him completely off balance and set up the situation for him to now depend on and become confident with you. You have given him no bit to pull on and no set daily program to get used to. You have shown him the wonders of relaxation. I feel you have won the battle and are not far from winning the war.

I would keep your program up for another month or two and then slowly start to integrate smooth bits and long running martingales back in the program. Certainly not asking for much but again finding out what works for the both of you. Above all, know you will never have to ask him to be a show horse...you know he will rise to that occasion on his own.

Again, thanks for your E-mail and please know how proud I am of your efforts with MR Excitement. You are an inspiration to all of us who attempt to train these wonderful equines. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

October 11, 2008

When is it Time to Serve the Wine?

Mr Lavery-

Hi, I am 16 years old and I have been riding and showing Saddlebreds since I was four years old, and hope to be involved with Saddlebreds as a career in some way.

In my Honors English II class, I have been assigned to write a paper on a certain opinion I have, and to support it with factual information from credible resources. Of course I chose a topic relating to Saddlebreds--the showing two-year-olds debate. My stand point is that since the rate of physical and mental development varies from horse to horse and some two year olds are just ready for the show ring sooner than others, showing two year olds shouldn't be completely out of the question, but the show schedules of two year olds should be less intense than that of a mature show horse.

It is a five paragraph essay, and I need three internal paragraphs with one point to expound on in each. I plan on these paragraphs pinpointing the mental, physical, and safety reasons that two year olds should be shown on a less intense show schedule.

Have you ever known of anyone to be seriously hurt by a two year old? Are there any health issues that can show up later in horses that were shown consistently as two year olds? Can it be harmful to expose two year olds to the stress of a horse show, and more specifically, the show ring?

Any input would be greatly appreciated for use in my paper. I am on a bit of a time constraint, so I ask that you email me back as soon as possible, preferably before Saturday, the 11th. Thank you so much for your time, I look forward to hearing from you!!! :)

Tip of the Day - When asked if the horse kicked, the old timer answered, "He's got legs, don't he!"

Thank you for your questions. They certainly "cut to the chase". To begin, let me say that I pretty much agree with your theory, every colt is different in maturity both mental and physical. I have been to farms and seen some great trainers teach yearlings, that were big enough and strong enough, to ride in the late fall. This of course was not a "grueling" training job, just for a few weeks before being turned back out, enough to ride some of the rough off of them and to get a little edge and head start on the spring of their two year old year. Remember these were only the really stout colts. Many colts are still not candidates for riding let alone showing even at two years old.

Having said that and knowing there are exceptions to every rule, I see nothing at all wrong with the prudent showing of two year olds strong and mature enough to handle it. Strong and mature should not be confused with tall. Height, at this age has nothing to do with strength and maturity much like the 6 foot tall 5th grader. He should be able to play basketball someday in the future but he sure can't play well now.

As for your questions,:

I have seen people hurt by horses many times but I can certainly assign no particular age to the horses. Horses are large animals with teeth and hooves and we ask them to do things they would not normally do in the wild. People can be hurt.

In my opinion, the hard campaigning of a two year old from spring to fall is certainly not in most colts best interests and can have a profound negative effect on future soundness and attitude. You might let an 8 year old little boy play at being a Fireman but you certainly wouldn't expect him to hold the fire hose, put out the fire and rescue your mother-in-law from a burning building.

Years ago I can remember showing in a class of 31 two-year-olds and I certainly felt the stress. Now a days, with all the "split" rules (which I do not agree with - will explain if someone is interested ) that possible stress has been tamed. Again, as you pointed out, mental maturity comes in to play at this juncture. I feel if a 2-year-old is mature enough to ride and mentally mature enough to have been trained to wear a curb bit and perform the correct gaits, he is ready to accept the challenges of the show ring none the worse for wear.

I hope I have been of some help to you and I wish you great success on your project.

Please let me know, in the Guest Book, how you did. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

Oct 9, 2008

Houston, we have Lift-off

Hi Lonnie,

I'm wondering if you have any advice for me. I am breaking a rescue horse that I have had for 6 months. I'm finishing up working with the bit and stopping at a fast trot. He is almost ready for a canter with him finally becomming balanced. The problem I am having is that when I try to get him into a canter, which he does fine on a lead rope, he starts to buck. Do you have any advice you can offer.

Thank you so much.

Tip of the Day - The World's Championship is not meant to be a Dress Rehearsal !

Thank you so much for your question. Stopping at a fast trot is quite an accomplishment but being "ejected" at the canter takes some of the pride away, I am sure. I wish I had a little more information to go on. If I had the opportunity, I would ask you several questions:

How old is he? - It would make a big difference if he were three rather than ten.

How often do you ride him?- If you are a "Week-end Warrior" and not working him every day, that could explain a lot.

Please describe how you ask him to canter?- Are you to the point where you ask him subtlety or are you trying to kick, gouge and run him into it. How you ask makes a big difference.

At what point during your "workout" do you ask him to canter?- If asked before he is warmed up, tight muscles etc. can cause him discomfort.

What type of equipment (Bridle, etc.) do you wear on him when you ride?- The type of bit, martingale and even the saddle can have an effect on this issue.

Are you working inside or outside?- Where you are cantering including the footing can have an effect as well.

Since I have none of these answers, let's just wing it. When dealing with a behavioral problem as you describe, we should eliminate several probable causes, i.e., Soundness. If he canters fine on a lunge line and shows no lameness he could be sore in his back. If he drops down when you mount..he is sore. Short of palpating his vertebrae, it would be difficult to tell for sure.

A flawed or incorrect training program in his earlier years is often the culprit. Going back to the basics is the remedy in that case.

Is the behavior a willful action done because he can do it? Like used cars, horses and very often rescue horses come with a bit of "baggage". It is very possible that this issue is why he ended up in the rescue program. If he is practiced at this, he will need a serious rehabilitation program, usually conducted by a professional trainer.

I would suggest these things to you.

  1. If he is not being worked every day, make sure he is turned out every day.
  2. Cut back or stop feeding any grains for a while and give him more hay.
  3. Lunge him 5-10 min. with tack on before you start each riding session.
  4. Long lining, with a crupper can be useful.
  5. When asking for the canter, be as subtle as possible. Trotting him into it will only cause problems.
  6. Remember, it is very difficult for a horse to buck unless his head is down.

As you certainly do not hold the patent on this behavior and I have dealt with it many times here, I have included some homework that may help you better understand how to accomplish your training task.

Thank you once again for your question I hope I have been of some help. I look forward to hearing of your progress in the Guest Book.

Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

Oct 3, 2008

It's Almost a Tie..Horse 3 Trainers 2

the first trainer i had for my 3year old qtr horse broke him with no issues, but proceeded into reining, a tie down, and a wire bit, my horse started to show resistence i.e. kbacking into a wall, running thru the bit etc.

and i told her to use just a plain snaffle, as in John Lyons training. she was resentfull and told me that i was telling her how to train my horse, we parted ways and i found another trainer and thought that pulling a cart would be good work for a young horse to desensitise him to road etc. The trainer called me and told me my horse had reared and gone over backward in the harness, and has a double halter on him because he had reared and resisted solid tieing by going thru the safety halter i had for him, when i suggested the saffety tie blocker the trainer seemed very resistent to the idea and said my horse had to unlearn that training and to be solid tied until he learned not to pull. should i pick my horse up tomorrow? i feel that this trainer has not used in Parelli's words "proper and prior preparation" what do you think i should do?

Tip of the Day - Baking a cake by committee and training a horse by one... usually produces the same result

Thank you so much for your question. The three behaviors you describe are, of course, all unacceptable. With the exception of the rearing in the cart, they were all "taught" to him. Resentment to new things at that stage of training, is quite common but obviously your trainer did not have a chance to work through it as you moved the horse. Your horse has learned how to not wear his bridle.

A horse that is to be tied but pulls and then is rewarded for pulling by the a safety halter is indeed a problem. Your horse has learned to have this problem.

Although certainly not acceptable, the rearing issue would worry me the least as there are a myriad of things that could scare a young horse into doing this. If we put together the resistance you mentioned in reining training and the problem driving, however, I could easily think these problems have a connection with the 3 yr old's teeth. Wolf teeth, loose caps, sharp molars often are the culprits that cause this kind of behavior.

While I am an admirer of the two gentlemen you mention and their teachings, I think even they would want to see the horse before passing judgement on a training program because of the number of issues. I feel likewise. I will, however, tell you some things I would do.

Have his teeth checked by an Equine Dentist. 3 yr olds should be done twice a year because of the rapid changes in their mouths.

Decide exactly what you wish this horse to do, Reining? Driving on a road? Trail horse? Show horse? When you figure it out discuss your desire with your trainer and see if he or she thinks this is a reasonable request for your horse's ability.

Of course, you need to go back to square one as far as riding. (after his teeth have been floated) And realize there is no "express lane" for training a young horse. Rushing can cause serious problems that may even materialize years later.

Driving should be started over as well, but back to ground driving, rather than the cart, until he is perfect at it.

As far as changing trainers, if you feel it is an untenable situation, it is entirely up to you if you wish to move. I would be more than happy to recommend someone in your area if you decide to move. Personally, I think your horse has had enough changes already here in his formative years. Usually, every trainer has his own way of doing things. If it has worked for them they are reluctant to change, but then they are not giving clinics or hosting TV shows, they are just trying to be successful in the show ring and in running a public stable.

Once again thank you for your great questions, I hope I have been of some help to you. I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

Oct 1, 2008

She Just Hates the Beauty Shop


I have a 5 year old TB mare I purchased one year ago. She did not have a lot of ground handling and, consequently, has some grooming issues. She is a passive aggressive mare. She HATES her mane pulled. I have been diligent to desensitize her spending a little time each day for many months brushing it, grabbing and squeezing her crest, even using Vetrolin on her crest. Even sedated she is a real pill about it. If I pull one hair she becomes suspicious and keeps her head up and will set back. The other area she is difficult in is when I want to clean her teats. Again I have taken time, patience and small steps to desensitize her to the process. She picks up a leg to kick, but I use a strong short vocal to stop her. Even with experienced help, a twitch and sedation, she can be a real pill. I am beginning to get discouraged. She is a pretty mare a really good about most other thin gs. Any suggestions?

Discouraged in Tucson

P.S. She is training for a career as a hunter and needs to be able to be braided, so roaching or cutting the mane is out. Unfortunately, she has enough mane for 2

Tip of the Day - Often, what we think makes a horse beautiful.....does not agree with the horse's thinking

Thank you for your question. I can imagine how frustrating this behavior must be for you. Not to mention how difficult it is to hit a moving target. It is hard for me to even think of a place to suggest you start short of pulling her teats, cleaning her mane, picking up the twitch and drinking the Vetrolin! Seriously, you have tried most all I could suggest and if you cannot achieve success with the miracle of modern medicine (ie Rompun or Ace ) it is going to be a difficult fix. Let's take a stab at it.

First, understand this issue started initially as a reaction. The act of pulling a horse's mane can be uncomfortable and even painful. I would imagine this mare is very sensitive to the point she could probably shake you off her back should a fly lands on her. Thoroughbreds, in general, have very sensitive skin. (in fact, finding a currycomb in a TB stable can sometimes be impossible) This does not make her behavior right but as you can see it does explain a good deal about it.

Here are some suggestions that might help you:


Knowing that a horse cannot do two things at once,

  1. Put a bit in her halter so she can chew while you work
  2. Let her wear a feed bag with feed while you work
  3. Have a helper "tap" gently on her forehead while you work

Knowing that restraining a 1000 lb horse takes cunning

  1. Have your helper put a lip chain on her and keep it gently moving while you work. (it commands more respect than a twitch and is less painful when used properly)
  2. Have your helper hold one ear while you work
  3. Try doing it by yourself with no restraints just a shank
  4. Put a pair of "blind" blinkers on her

Knowing that it helps to be smarter than the horse

  1. Don't try to restrain or fool her. Just get along. Stand on a stool if she raises her head. You will never win a fight with her!
  2. Ignore movement and just be patient no matter how long it takes.
  3. Reward, by stopping, any suspension of the wrong behavior no matter how brief a period of time. If it takes three days to pull the main..then it takes 3 days.

Creative thinking

  1. Probably 2/3 of the Hackney ponies showing today have roached manes and glued on braids. Done right, it is very difficult to tell the difference.

Dealing with Teats

  1. Have your helper hold up a front leg while you clean them

I hope I have been of some help to you concerning these issues. I look forward to hearing of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck And Good Riding,

LF Lavery

September 2008's POSTS
Sept 26, 2008

A Boy And His Pony

Mr Lavery

Before I state my problem, I want to commend you on a very necessary project you are doing!

Years ago I had some horses and ponies....now I have a Hackney mare I would like to show at Louisville next year. She is only 27 yr. old but I have her leading good and eating sugar out of my hand!

My two questions to you are....Can I wait to cut her tail until a couple days before the show? I hate to change sets!

The most important question......When should I start hooking her to drive?

Waiting for your reply.

Dudley Abbott

Tip of the Day - Waiting 27 years to wean a pony...is very hard on it's mother.

Thank you so much for your question. It seems you have made great progress with your pony over the last 27 years. I assume you took to heart my advice about not rushing the training program, . I am truly amazed to hear she still has enough teeth to eat sugar from your hand.

As you know, teaching them to lead correctly is an invaluable part of training and after all those years, I am certain she leads the best. I would not rush into cutting the tail. The way I see it, by the time you get her broke to drive, she'll be in her early 50's and by then maybe they will have outlawed tail cutting and Louisville might be called The PETA International. One good thing, by that time I am certain, Rich, Jimmy, Rodney, Larry and Darrel will be retired leaving only Gib as the one to beat. I would love to see a picture of your wonderful filly. Do you have any Tin Types?

Thanks once again for your question, Good Luck and Good Napping!

LF Lavery.

Readers....This of course was not serious. This "Question" came from an old friend of mine, very old! Beside being one of the founding members of the United Professional Horseman's Association, Dudley trained some of greatest horses and ponies of the 60's and 70's. The great World's Champions Bellisima and Ambition being only two of many. Additionally, and now it is confession time, I am not a genius who came up with the ASK THE TRAINER concept. It was in fact, Mr Abbott who first suggested it many years ago. So long ago, in fact, it was decided it would not work well on the telegraph. So it had been on the shelf until Mr Gore invented the Internet and now the rest is history. I feel proud to tell you about Dudley and to give you this sample of his humor. He is truly one of a kind and a great friend of the horse industry.

Thanks for everything Dudley.

Sept 23, 2008

"Wild" Bill or "Sweet" William

Hello and thanks for your time............ We have a small farm in Eastern Ct. Recently we purchased yearling colt by a Five Minutes 'Til Midnight............ could you please give me the pro's and con's to gelding him. We have an Arab Stallion that we show for a friend who has perfect manners. Is that the primary reason to geld, or does it have also impact growth, resale value, manners etc...... We hope he will be a Fine Harness prospect next year........... Thanks very much for your time.

Tip of the Day - Like the old timer said, " I never met a stud that wouldn't make a better gelding"

Thank you so much for your question. To geld or not to geld has been an agonizing question for countless owners for ages. It is a tough nut to crack to make the best decision for your situation. It might be an easier one if the procedure was reversible but unfortunately, it remains about as permanent as you can get and even in the Thoroughbred business, not many geldings get syndicated.

To begin, the procedure itself is a relatively simple one (at least from our point of view) It takes only a few minutes and after care includes cold water, cleanliness and exercise.

Secondly, the word "YES" will pretty much answer your question,

  • Yes, it can have an impact on growth.
  • Yes, resale of a stallion who is not an exceptional individual for breeding has a much more limited market.
  • Yes, it is a given that a gelding should have better manners. Although a stallion, handled correctly, can be just as mannered.

Unlike many other breeds that leave most any horse "whole", the American Saddlebred breeders have always reserved the position of stallion for superior individuals who posses exceptional qualities such as outstanding conformation, extreme athleticism, show horse attitude and impeccable bloodlines. As "keepers" of the breed, they realized long ago that the act of using an inferior stallion had a huge negative impact on the breed. Even though these breeders tried to be so very careful, of the thousands of breeding stallions since the beginning of the breed, only about 100 had a significant enough impact to be well remembered today as great breeding stallions.

This decision is, of course, entirely up to you. My advice, do all you can do to make the circumstances conducive to him being a two year old Fine Harness champ. Gelding is not a mandatory step but it is a very positive step in that direction.

Thank you once again for your question. I hope I have given you some insight and been of some help. I look forward to reading "the rest of the story" in the Guest Book. Good Luck,

LF Lavery

Sept 19, 2008

He's Just Strutting His Stuff
(Flight Path, Toe Flipping, Shoeing)

Hello, I have a 9 year old morgan gelding, he is the most willing, wonderful horse. I show him AM HUS and Road Hack and Ladies, so as you can see he rev up and quite down nicely. He does quite well. However he has an issue that I can't seem to correct, and would love some advice. When he gets nervous, at home, on trails, or at the shows, he straightens his knees, for a more dressage look and flips his toes up. This is in the walk and some times in the trot. He's in top physical condition. Could use a little more lift in the frount. We show in a pelham, train in a slow twist full cheek snaffle. My trainer and farrier have played with different things, heel weights, helps some, but not if he's really hot; have him stop drop his head and relax(this can't be done in the show ring). I've tried shortening his stride at the walk, almost to a hesitating crawl,(works but not so good in show ring), he goes great when relaxed, but here's the ? I need him a little hot in the ring to get the lift that seems to be required in the Morgan Breed shows lately, he stays light in the bridle, folds over nicely, never pulls, does tend to have a higher headset then some Morgan HUS, but as I said does quite well. How do I correct the walk? This where I seem to be losing a lot of placings, because althou many have said they love his regal walk, it doesn't blend well in the ring. Any suggestions, shoeing to try? different bit?


Tip of the Day- It's a trainer's business is to make your "hobby" a pleasure.

Thank you very much for your question. I happened to be thumbing through the dictionary the other day and found a picture of your horse next to the word versatile. He sounds like quite a horse to be competitive in those varied divisions. You are very lucky to have him. From your E-mail it seems you already know the solution, just get him to relax. But then you have tried that. I was surprised to hear he was a Morgan as the only breed I know of that does a German "Goose" step are the Dutch Warmbloods. Not having the advantage of seeing him perform his "strut" ,I will say that aside from shoeing, the usual cause for this type of gate is when the horse is leaning, heavily in the bridle thus giving him balance to do this. You have said, however, he is light in the bridle. If this is not something new, that he has just started to do, thus pretty much ruling out soundness, the next place we should look is shoeing. Below please find some homework that may help you better understand what you are dealing with.

Ordinarily, most horses cannot do this if they are flexed and supple in the bridle thus assuring the head is not too high. You, apparently have a horse that can. If his head is set and he is light in the bridle he then has to be too slow coming off the ground in front thus making him reach farther to support his front end. From your excellent description I assume that when his foot returns to the ground he is clearly landing on his heels. Usually, I would suggest raising his angle and rolling the toe of his shoe to speed him up and shorten his stride. Generally most horses respond to the basic shoeing rules but then again some horses enjoy the complete opposite. (As I have said many times, the Iron Clad rule about shoeing is there is no Iron Clad rule.). Changes, such as angles, should not be drastic but rather in stages. If you have tried the lead in the heel, why not try it in the toe. This is the time to utilize an important member of your support team. Have your farrier analyze the horse's gait and call on him to use his experience to remedy the situation. I have met very few farriers who do not enjoy such a challenge.

As a personal aside, I do not think the walk you describe would in any way offend me as a judge. Additionally, if this is the only issue you have with this wonderful horse, I would not worry myself to death with it. Hell, you might even add another division for Mr. Versatile, Dressage.

I hope I have been of some help or at least given you a new prospective for dealing with this issue. I hope to read of your progress in the Guest Book. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

Sept 14, 2008

At a Crossroad

(The following has been heavily edited by LFL but is an honest representation of the original E-Mail)

Dear askthetraineronline.com,

I'm writing not because I have a training question but more of a career question. I'm at a point in my life I need to decide whether i need to continue working horses or I need to do something different. I have a barn in the central KY area that I work horses at. I also work for another horse trainer in the area. I'm going broke running my own barn through lack of horses and customers that don't want to pay their bills. My other job has consisted of keeping a recovering friend of bill in business and making sure he had horse to show when he got out of rehab. I love him like a brother but this job hasn't been very beneficial for me. I have consistently turned out horses that he is winning with as well as other trainers. I've done this my entire adult life. I've worked as assistant for several of the country’s top trainers. I love the smell of fresh sawdust the dew on the grass and the times a young horse really turns loose of a bridle and truely understands what your asking of them. It seems I'm having to completley reindroduce myself to this industry.

As to my skills and education i have a bs degree from the university of missouri in animal science. also attended stephens college and got college credit thru the equestrian science department.I've done all my learner judging for my little "r" My life background is in agriculture, particularily horses and cattle.. After a couple of years I went to work for a top trainer in Florida she said I was going to do something that i probably wouldnt like but would be good for me and that was teach riding lessons. She was right but it was good experience. After a couple of years there I had a job lined up with art simmons but wasn't really pschyed about going back to missouri. I stopped in kentucky and went to work Mr Bradshaw . One of the things that he impressed upon me was that if you can start colts get them gaited you'll always have a job it might not be the job you want but you'll have a job. I've always had a job. After Mr Bradshaw passed away, I worked for several top Ky trainers. .In the early 90's I packed up and moved to Virginia to train at leatherwood. I had horse like leatherwood starlight leather encore leatherwood starman I sold smith lilly his 1st good walk trot horse starmonius I had a very nice juvenile gaited horse bueno day who was like 2nd at louisville in the youngest division with an extremely bad rider. Not to sound pretensious but in the time I was there I had more successfull horses than any since. After leatherwood came to an end I went to another sttable and had several very successfull show horse tyhere in a very tough situation. . in 2000 i had an opportunity to go on my own and i went. the initial stock i had really wasn't the quality to show on the ky circuit so i ended up finding out of state buyers for them I think in the winter of 2000 a big Ky trainer called and asked if i'd come give him a hand I was short on horses so I said yes not to mention that it was only 5 minutes away. That kind of brings us up to date. I've helped this trainer off on on for the last 7 years. I've been laid off a time or too because of them being short on horses. Recently he tells me that he can't afford to keep me since he's got another assistant working their now. I swore i would never go back. Over the years I have developed many grand winning horses and have received no credit for them. I used to think that getting credit for these things wasn't a big deal because I was more interested in going to the bank but when your not doing either it really makes you wonder what the whole purpose was Staying in kentucky isn't crucial but is desired. No trainer has ever hindered me but they’ve never really helped me either which is fine its not their job to promote their assistants As of right now i'm fishing for a decent client.

you are more than welcome to use all or part of this email on your web site. i would only ask that names not be used. I would also like to thank you lonnie for taking the time to listen please advise do I need to remain an anoymous behind the scene player like I have been which my other job has forced me to take. Do i venture out on a private job again or do i struggle month to month with silly people with bad horse.

Breathlessly waiting for your answer.

Tip of the day - Although Frank Perdue may have made a great fortune in a "chicken or feathers" business..... it is extremely difficult for a trainer to make a decent living in one!

Thank you so much for your question and allowing me to post it. As you see most of the "names have been changed or omitted to protect the innocent". Although I am much more at home advising about horse training..I'll take a stab at advising a horse trainer. After 48 years as a professional trainer, nearly 40 running a public stable, I am no stranger to many of the "issues" you mention. As the tip of the day eludes, I, too, had a few clients that felt no need to pay their bill "regularly" so I understand the concept of "chicken or feathers". Unlike most jobs, where you go to work each day, put in your 8 hours, (need an hour for lunch) check on your health insurance policy to see if you have to pay more than $1.00 for your new medication, have the opportunity to bitch about having to work 3 hours on Saturday morning even though it is time and a half for overtime, can enjoy the two week paid vacation, check on your pension and IRA and stock options, may have a company car and an expense account and expect a raise or a bonus every year.... these "civilians" will never have the opportunity to "smell the fresh sawdust the dew on the grass and the times a young horse really turns loose of a bridle and truly understands what your asking of them." So what if they are making a good living!!!!! You went to college, I went to college, we must have spent much more time in philosophy than psychology or business administration as we both ended up smelling manure.

Seriously, your letter hits where I have lived. I know exactly how you feel as I have been there and done that. In this business, you are only as good as the horses you have to train and only as good as your last good horse. That is sad but true. The key to getting these nicer horses is to gain the respect of good clients who are willing to trust you to select the right horse for them and guide them to fun and success in the show ring. The truth is.. without a good client, getting a good horse is pure luck. Note I did not mention that a good client has to be Bill Gates rich! It would be nice, of course, but one willing to trust you as above will do very nicely!

How do you get a good client? I never tried "fishing" for one and somehow was lucky enough to have some of the finest clients and friends one could dream of. You're judged by the "public" by your demeanor and professionalism, how your horses are turned out at the show, how you relate to your clients, how your stable area is kept, how you work your horses and how they look when working, how much success you and your clients have in the ring, how "user" friendly you appear. I have always felt that good horsemanship and hard work will get you a long way in this business. If you are short in the horsemanship department, hard work, managerial skills, and a personality for great client relations will also take you far. Putting all of these together was the recipe for the 10-15 most successful public stables in the history of this business.

As far as your education and experience go, you are certainly equipped to do other things. However, your experiences and the great people you have been fortunate enough to have been associated with ( names have been edited ) not to mention the time you have invested make me think it would be a shame to switch careers now. The timing right now is difficult with winter coming on and the economy in such a state. But you mention some options.

First, let me assure you that you are not anonymous! Even though it is sometimes hard to receive no credit for things you have done, your fellow horse trainers know and they are keeping a kind of score of you. They know exactly where you stand, can appreciate things like loyalty, how hard you work, what your accomplishments are as well as where your weaknesses may lie. Although they may be your competitors, if you have earned their respect, they can also be your lifeline. After all, they have been there and done that too!

We have been through the downside of operating a public stable... but be honest, there are many good things as well. A lot can be said about being your own boss. As far as the "credit" goes, you get every bit of it.... good and bad!

Private jobs are wonderful but few and far between. Finding one where the "fit" is perfect and the relationship is satisfying for both parties as well as long lasting is even harder. I know of only one trainer who has been able to find them consistently over the last 30 years, he is the King of private jobs!

The right assistant trainer position can be very good job. Not to mention the usual good points, I always enjoyed calling someone to tell them "they" were out of hay, or "they" needed to pay the help, or "their" pump was broken.

Let's face it, nothing I say will be of any real help to you. The decision falls on your shoulders. Several things are obvious to me. You love the horse business and want to stay in it and you have hit a very low point in your career. If attitude is everything in a horse it is doubly true in a horse trainer. Right now you need to find a positive one. Things can only get better.

Once again, thanks for your letter. I wish I could have been of more help. I wish you Good Luck.

LF Lavery

P. S. I encourage any readers who have some advice for this gentleman to post it in the Guest Book.

Sept 13, 2008

They seem to be Stuck in "Park"
Dealing with Balking, Propping, Barn Sour, Barn Bound

Good morning Mr. Lavery -

Just wanted to touch base with you and let you know that I am very interested in having you do a farm call to check out my mare and my new gelding that my bleeding heart "just had to save" from an amish broker lot through AC4H.

Until you are able to come out though, I do have a question that hopefully you can help me with. This gelding is a peach to work with on the ground - you really couldn't ask for a better ground-mannered horse. But, when it comes to lining, lunging, riding it's a different story. His issue, no matter which we're doing - if he thinks he should be done for the day, he will stop and REFUSE to move. It used to be a "visual" thing if he could see me, he'd stop, so I put him in a half-blinker hood in the lines, slowly weaned him out of it, and now we can line "happily" about 95% of the time...no freezing, responds to cluck = forward, etc. Lunging he just doesn't understand - it's like he comes to the end of the line, forgets to turn his head and body and runs through the rail of the ring...seriously. I'm taking him over to my friend's who has a solid-wall roundpen to see if that might help him catch on. Undersaddle, he'll be fine for a few minutes -

we'll walk a few laps, start trotting a little, change direction and then he locks up. I've tried clucking incessantly, kicking as hard as I can (no spurs), having someone lead him to help him walk out of his "stuck" and as soon as they drop back he won't move anymore, had a groundperson try and whip him forward, carried a whip myself and tapped him on the butt and shoulder, all to no avail. He won't move forward - he will fly backwards. Never up (thank goodness) but back as hard and as fast as he can go. The only thing I know of left to try is to ride with spurs, but I don't really see it helping. Neither my barn manager, who used to ride/train saddlebreds, nor I have ever had a horse lock up this badly - normally a crack on the @$$ and they're scooting forward. Not this guy, he could care less. I'm too optimistic a person to believe he's just a "bad horse."

Any suggestions would be great.


These two questions, coincidentally, arrived on the same day and are virtually the same issue....

Hello There!

Ok, first thing i found you on google and after reading darn near every Q & A on your site, i think i have found every answer to every question i might ever have had or will have in the future.... except for one. Here it goes.

I have a beautiful 2 year old huntseat filly, APHA, PtHA and soon to be JC. She is half thoroughbred and is 15.2 and strings to 16.2. I purchased her 2 years ago when she was 5 months old, for the past 2 years she has been an absolute doll. Quick learner, never really a pissy horse and alwasy tried and tried until she understood. {she's a farily consistant showmanship horse already} Last summer I started longing her lightly about once a week and a few months later she all of a sudden firmly told me NO, and put her nose out and took off ripping the longeline out of my hands. I grabbed her back afer she quit running around like a crazy person. She continued to do this behavior all winter thru this past spring. I was not strong enough to hold on to her to at least keep her in my hands so my finance' had to quickly learn to longe a horse {he's into horse power but its in a car haha}. He learned, he held on and she respected him enough to not pull him too bad. I had a wild hair and put a chain on her over he nose, and BAM she instantly respected it and I have had no problems ever since...couldnt believe it!

Anyways, My current problem. I started lightly riding her about 4 weeks ago. I have done all the ground work, longing, driving, tying her head and softening her mouth. she took it all like a champ. Her first 2 weeks under saddle went terriffic! Than last week I was working her and asked her to trot, she went about 1 lap fine than slammed on her breaks so fast and pinned her ears back. She was pissed and that was that. yup she's a balker..if I have a pet peve when it comes to horses its Balkers and biters. She is now a balker. I can deal with the pullers, runners, kickers and pushovers. I only ride her every other day for no more than 10 mins and that is more than she feels is nessecary. I rode her this morning {attemped to} she started off fine than put on those breaks again. No matter what i do I cannot even get her to take one step forward, sideways or even backwards. Im at the end of my rope, out of ideas and confused! When I ask her to move forward she pins her ears, kicks out, stomps her feet, spins her head around trying to bite my leg. She even backed herself to the fence today, kicked out and scared herself to death. I bought this filly for my next huntseat show prospect...so far not so good. Any thoughts? =)


Tip of the Day - Very few people win the World's Championship "clucking" to their horse..... most are saying things like "easy" and "whup"!

Thank you, both for your questions. Although you are dealing with two different disciplines, the effects of balking or propping are the same no matter where you go, that is, if you could get your horse to go somewhere! Actually we are technically dealing with two behaviors. Balking, where your horse can't get started on the journey and propping, where he just makes a very abrupt end to the journey. ( the latter can be really exciting when they do this while running ) For the sake of clarity I will refer to the first horse as Mr. Rescue and the second as Kitty.

As with all contrary issues, we must go down the list. Could this issue be associated with a Physical problem? 99% of the time, this behavior is caused by some discomfort the horse is experiencing. Dental problems, ill fitting equipment, soreness of the back or limbs, soreness in the feet etc. all can cause this behavior. You must rule out these and any other conditions before you can correct. Both of you, who know your horses much better than I, must analyze your horses concerning this. As in the case of Mr. Rescue, crashing through the fence and working better with blinkers on would certainly lead me to believe there might be a vision problem. I would love to hear how he handled the solid wall Bull pen.

Secondly, could this be a behavioral problem (They are doing this because they want to and can get away with it) I think to some extent this is evident in both cases with Kitty especially. Your fiancee's firm correction changed a bad behavior that you ( only because of your stature ) had allowed her to get away with and become good at. Firm correction worked on Kitty but did not seem to have any effect on Mr. Rescue.

Lastly, could this behavior be associated with a lack of or improper training. Because of her young age we will give Kitty a pass but we certainly can pin some of the blame on Mr. Rescue. By your description, this horse is practiced at this behavior and although many of the conditions above may still apply as an excuse, it would seem to me he has been pulling these tricks long before you got him. As I have said many times, "Horses are beasts of habit" and they can learn bad habits sometimes much quicker than good ones. Who ever's hands he has been in, in the past, the proper training foundation has either been lost or was never taught. For intents and purposes he is a spoiled horse and will be difficult to rehabilitate.

Both of you have been doing most of the correct things to improve your problems. Once you have ruled out the things mentioned in the "soundness" paragraph, there is nothing wrong with a little physical encouragement, spurs, crops etc. Since you have tried most everything I would recommend, I can offer only this tip. Once you are stalled... when there is no forward movement available....just turn their head as far to the left or right as physically possible....they will move , if only a step or two....relax...repeat and build on these steps with little fanfare or correction. This will work if you are patient.

I also am enclosing a bit of homework for you that will explain some other psychology of dealing with this behavior.

We have a lot of Whoa..but no Go

I hope I may have been of some help to you and I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

Sept 9, 2008

He's a Four Gaited Mr. Excitement!
(relaxing the "tight" horse)

Hi there,

Understand from your web site that you are on the road and I thought I might see you during the fair. Did you make Louisville this year?

Hope all is going well on your end. I just wanted you to know that thanks to your helpful suggestions and words of wisdom I have made progress with my project horse. I showed him at Burlington, Ky. in a sixteen horse country pleasure class which he won and just returned from Indianapolis where he was first and third. I must say that I am quite proud of the fellow considering he did not know how to canter or wear a full bridle in May. I know he will never be a great one but how can you not just love a horse that thinks he is wonderful?

Okay. I have a new project. This is one is a five gaited model who is very, very GAME. The problem is he knows how to do all the tricks – trot, canter, slow gait and rack but he can not transition from one to another without a major production. He never walks or even considers walking. I know he comes by this naturally from his parents (Top Spool x Swept Away). He is a replica of Swept Away in a pony version that no child would want to ever ride! The longer you go the gamer he gets. He thinks it his job to grab hold of the bridle and get to one end of the barn to the other end just as fast as he can and whoa is just out of the question. If you try to ask him to slow down he is very insulted. Any suggestions on getting his thought pattern organized and channeling all this ambition? I have been turning him out by night and trail riding him in a German Martingale and just trying to get him to relax but I don’t feel like I am making any progress. He can cover the trails in record time. HELP! He has a cheerful disposition and as happy as a clam in Sea World but he just gets so overwhelmed and can not seem to transition without getting all nervous and anticipating what is going to happen next. When he does have it all together he is as cute as he can be. Most would say that he is fine to show and think I should show off his exciting out of control ways but quite frankly I don’t want him to be known as the little renegade running around the show ring with a rider that has little or no control over her steed. He is now five years old and I have had him exactly one year and he may be the project that last a lifetime. Suggestions?

Tip of the Day - It is not very rewarding, when riding a five gaited horse.... when they try to do all five gaits at the same time!

Thank you for your E-mail. I hope you are as proud of yourself as I am of you. It is great when your hard work and dedication pays off as it has with your Country Pleasure horse. I say Bravo, it was no easy task as I recall (A DIY Fixer Upper) Now, your newest DYI project sounds like it could be very nice. I love the way he is bred and he sure sounds exciting! As these are extremely difficult issues to deal with, not only may he be the project of a lifetime, he might well be a lifetime project! I was wondering, do you pick your horses by the number of problems they have? It is a novel approach! Let's talk about it.

Knowing what kind of a horseman you are, I am sure you have searched for anything that could possibly contribute to his excitement by making him uncomfortable, such as teeth, soundness, sore back etc. Ruling those things out, we are left with a deficit somewhere in his previous training. As you have already and so astutely identified, to correct this behavior you need to get this horse to relax. As you have already found out, much easier said than done.

Not surprisingly to me, you have already tried techniques that usually are the prescribed procedures for correcting this issue. Turning out at night, trail riding are usual recommendations along with suspending grain, riding in a halter and backing to supple and correct. Full blinkers, shackles, walking in the cart /stone sled, round out the "mechanical" options. No horse that is tight in his bridle can relax and it is imperative the horse learns to walk on a loose rein if you wish to accomplish what you wish. I can see no "one" way to deal with this issue but it may take a mixture of the tools mentioned above and anything you can think of to achieve this first but most important step. Below is some "Home Work" that, even though it deals mostly with canter issues, it should help you in your quest.

I wish I could be of more help but I will keep thinking about it. Thanks once again and congratulations on your CP success. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

Sept 7, 2008

She's real Swell
(first aid, treating injuries, establishing severity)

Dear Lonnie,

Here 's the background: My rescue mare got loose a few weeks ago, and ran like a crazy horse because the lunge rope was trailing behind her and scaring her to death. She had the sense to come back to the me at the front of the barn, and thankfully did not get hit in the road, which of course she took a few strides in on the hard pavement. This was totally my fault as I was paying attention to a cat that was getting near my work area and somehow just let the lunge rope slip through my hand. She did not run at first, but got scared by the lunge rope that was trailing behind her.

Anyway, after calming her down and giving her a Vetrolin warm bath, wrapping her and hand walking her until she was dry and cooled out, she came up very lame on the right hind leg about 40 mins after her excessively speedy romp. The only thing that I found was a slight swelling at the end of the cannon bone, just above the fetlock joint, mostly on the sides and to the rear. She is not tender to touch but could not weight bear that evening initially.

I ran to the house and called my vet and began an ice pack and track wrap immediately. My vet gave her IV bute and dexamethasone, and said to ice for the next 48 hours and keep her wrapped. We were to keep her on bute until the paste syringe was done twice daily and then assess. By the next day she was fine, but swelling remained. My farrier came out and reset her as she had a front shoe off and she was breaking up her front foot badly due to the dry ground. He thought that she would be fine as well. She went off her grain for a week and half, and then came up sore as soon as I stopped her bute due to the no eating. I called the vet and he took two films. They were, "absolutely normal". He concluded that she was just bruised or sprained and this was all soft tissue, which I am inclined to agree, but there a lot of important structures at this part of the leg. We had to stop the bute, as she stopped eating her grain totally for several days, and was only eating a little hay and dry pasture grass. We got her back on her grain slowly by adding a tad bit of applesauce and she is now eating fine again off bute

Since the first 48 hours of icing, I have kept her wrapped and have cold hosed her once a day and used more of warm poultice once a day with Epsom salts in a menthol salve and track wraps with a thin quilt on daily until I went to Louisville on Thursday to Sunday. While I was gone we left her on pasture/stall rest and no wrap, as I was afraid to leave it on that long and my sister did not feel comfortable placing it, even though she is an absolute angel for all of her care. On my return Sunday morning, she is walking well, wants to trot out of the barn at time of turnout and only slightly short striding. She has however, a non-tender swelling. When comparing legs, the right one feels mushy compared to her tight left fetlock.

Here's the questions: How worried should I be, what would you do next, ultrasound? Wrap? Cold or Heat? Poultice? Second opinion? I have suspended all circle work, no lining or lunging and of course no riding. I had just gotten back on her and did some walking under saddle, for the first time a few days before this whole incident, since she had taken so long to build up her hind end from her starvation and other leg issues which now seem totally fine. My farrier and I believe that she previously had sore suspensories from being on the road. These were treated conservatively with rest, liniment and slow, progressive hand walking and light exercise over two years. I also have a recipe from Karen Medicus (DeLovely) who got it from Tom Moore to use as a poultice with no wraps. ( if you ever want it, I will send it) It has DMSO, mineral ice, potter's clay and Epsom salts basically in it. I have never used DMSO and am not sure I would without careful instructions.

I know you are on a cross country trip right now and will reply when you have time. We can wait. I do not have the money until the 30th anyway to go to a different vet and get additional testing or treatment.

Tip of the Day - When someone talks of killing a horse with kindness... it usually means worrying them to death!

Thanks for your question. I feel compelled to also thank you for the incredible detail of the situation that you have supplied and, as always, a tip of the hat to you and those like you who are involved with the American Saddlebred Rescue program, one of the finest organizations going. It seems, however, you feel your mare needs to be rescued again, this time from you or the cat! Seriously, accidents can and will happen to anyone dealing with horses. It simply goes with the territory. That said, let's see how much trouble you are really in.

Your initial or "first aid"response was absolutely on target and I feel responsible for keeping the effects of this injury to a minimum. Cold is exactly the way to go at that time. I cannot stress enough how important the first hour is with an injury such as this. Determining the extent of the injury by palpating the site, which you did, is the next step. From your description, that should have been the time for you to breath the big sigh of relief and mull over the need for the vet as either a precaution or a necessity. It sounds to me like you needed him more than your mare! Nonetheless, Bute , or another NSAID, is the drug of choice to deal with swelling and to curb any pain. Incidentally, as far as digestion and appetite go, there are new NSAID'S without the side effects of Bute now available.

Also,as you have already discovered, heat is now your new best friend when dealing with the swelling. Epsom Salts has near "miracle drug" status with me and anyone who has a horse will learn to "worship" it as I do. Although I do not think it necessary, Tom Moore's "poltice" would be wonderful at this juncture as, although it seems odd, the bandage on that leg is actually cause of the "mushiness" you describe.

Not seeing the mare in person, but taking into account your vet's explanation of the X-rays, your farrier's thoughts (you are very lucky to have him as I feel he is one of the best) and, of course, giving much credence to your assessment of the situation, I think you have very little to worry about. The fact is, swellings such as this can materialize very rapidly yet take months to disappear. Prudent but regular exercise is the next step. Making the blood move will decrease the swelling. Working in a circle, never the best thing for a horse is, as you knew, not even an option at this time. Get back in the saddle and help her walk her way to excellence.

Because you have, as a true horseman, done all the correct things it is my opinion your vet can take care of other people's more pressing problems. With the money you save, perhaps you can buy a longer lunge line or maybe a dog to chase that damn cat away. I hope I have been of some help to you thanks again for our question. I look forward to reading of her healing progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

Sept 5, 2008

Caution..."Curbs" Ahead!

Hi Lonnie!

Back a couple of months ago, I sent you an e-mail with a couple of questions about my new 3 year old American Saddlebred that liked to play chicken with other horses and kept spooking (I think that was the other one! He has so many problems!). I recently went to the World's Championships to visit (my horse isn't ready for that, might never be!) but I was supposed to ask someone about a bit and completely forgot. I decided I'd ask you, I know you're good, you gave me a lesson a couple times when I was like fifteen! My horse is no longer spooking as much, but now we have a new task to take on. For the last couple of months, we have been working him in a full bridle since we started showing in the Country Pleasure division. He has not taken a liking to it at all. I will supply a picture of his headset in the last small show he was ridden in, so you can see what I mean. But the picture isn't even the worst he was. We began to tie his tounge after discovering that he was playing with his bit, but he still doesn't want to tuck his head in. He will bring it up but he won't set it properly, even with my trainer on him. He has glorious moments, but he won't stay consistent. We recently switched to a different type of curb bit that is jointed in the middle, kind of like a snaffle. He has started to set his head a little more and he doesn't fuss with his head and throw it, but he still doesn't react to it the way we want him to. My trainer wants to put him back in a normal curb with a port, but she doesn't know what to use. She said she's out of ideas. So my question is, what would you do? What type of curb would you use? Hopefully you can answer soon, we have two shows coming up in the middle of September!

P.S. In the picture, please excuse my awful straight arms and the fact he would not pick up his feet. And that is another quick question. My horse has great motion at the barn (if you push him), but even with all the pushing in the world at shows, he won't move forward and get the action we prefer. Any ideas for me as a rider? THANKS!

Tip of the Day - To achieve a perfect headset in a Double bridle....one must start with a perfect headset in a Snaffle bridle.

Thank you so much for your question. Of course I remember your previous one. (But I Want to Go Round in Circles!)

It is not unusual for new issues to pop up as older ones are corrected. The pictures you have sent (not available here) pretty much tell the story. Your horse would definitely be in danger of drowning if you rode him in a rain storm! But seriously, I am certain you will be able to deal with this issue as you learned from one of the most talented and wonderful riding instructors, Ms Spoonster. As I also note in the pictures, your equitation form is still perfect and this will help you immensely. Here are some "Homework" assignments that will explain much about the curb bit:

The photos definitely show a horse that is afraid of the curb bit. Your written description of his behavior confirms this. The fact he is somewhat better in the "broken" (less severe) bit attests as well. I am certain you would not even think of asking me this question if his dental work was not up to date so let's go on from there.

As you read in the homework, he must wear the snaffle bridle perfectly before one should even consider the curb. As for the "first" curb, I am partial to an Army port short shank, slip shank but it is truly up to the individual.

The most important factor is to make certain the bit in no way hurts or "scares" the horse. This is where the Seal-Tex comes in. Additionally, much thought should be given to position of the bit in the mouth. He must feel comfortable enough to go to the bit (without lugging or pulling) and feel secure with it. This accomplished, with the help of a running martingale on the snaffle rein and a good seat that allows for very quiet and gentle hands, the rest of the process should be quite easy. Until this stage is reached, however, do not expect extravagant motion etc. A horse must bridle comfortably to display that.

Thanks for your question, it was good to hear from you again. I hope this is of some help to you. I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

Sept 3, 2008

This question is "Driving" me Crazy!

i have a three year old saddlebred that i have owned since she was 2. i have showed her three times under saddle and she has done quite well. i would like to teach her to drive but i was wondering, if i teach her to drive will it affect the way she rides?? i like trying new things and i think driving would be a good change but i dont want to harm my horse in any way by starting her to drive. Also she is currently in training so i would not be doing this alone.

What do you reccomend?

Tip of the Day - A good horseman knows...It is best to ride your harness horses and drive your riding horses.

Thanks so much for your question. As with human athletes in training, a varied program is accepted as the benchmark for success with equines as well. The act of jogging in the cart is excellent for developing different muscle groups than can be developed with just riding, great for a horse's complete conditioning including wind, is a great tool for freshening a horse's mouth and acts to divert the boredom of riding every day thus freshening the horse. Properly executed, training a horse to cart is a relatively easy procedure. (My personal preference is to use a collar and sled to start.) It is good that you have a trainer, however, as this is no time for mistakes. Have plenty of qualified help the first few times. Soon, it will become second nature for her. When I had 40 horses in training, we seldom rode many over twice a week and jogged most all the time so I firmly believe this a excellent step for your filly.

Thank you again for your question I hope to hear of your success in the Guest Book.

LF Lavery

Sept 1, 2008

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

Mr. Lavery,

Hello. Sorry to bother you. but I have a question. When you are leading a horse, it should stay behind you and when you stop it should stop instead of walking on top of you. What is the appropriate way to train your horse and letting them know they are not suppose to do that. The horse a 3 year old buckskin and it is my 9 year old daughters. Thank you

Tip of the Day - You will certainly Discover your horse's significant weight advantage when you try to muscle him around.

Thank you for your question. You are absolutely correct about the horse not running you over. It is a behavior that needs to be corrected immediately. Depending on the particular discipline, the horse should either follow behind or stay in line with you on your right side. The quickest and easiest way to accomplish this is with the use of a lead shank. The shank is composed of a 4-6 foot leather strap attached to a 12-20 inch chain with snap. This devise was created for just such problems. The chain should run through the left side of the halter, over the nose and through the right side and then "snapped." When the horse moves "through" the space you feel is his and into yours, a sharp jerk and then release on the shank will encourage him to return to his space. You are not punishing, you are correcting but you must be firm and make him respect your wishes. An extremely short time of this correction will solve your problem. Be firm, diligent, and remember to reward him when he performs correctly.

Thank you again. I hope to read of your progress in the Guest Book.

LF Lavery

Links To Questions & Responses
Date Subject Search Criteria
Oct 29, 2008 He's Sitting Down on the Job! sitting down, mounting
Oct 27, 2008 He's Steeling some Speed controlling speed
Oct 24, 2008 Two in the Hand Showing In Hand
Oct 22, 2008 Dealing With the Casanova Complex
Oct 20, 2008 He is Really Fast.... with the One Leg Dealing with an un square Road Horse
Oct 18, 2008 He does not Work and Play Well with Others! Bad Behavior in the Pasture
Oct 15, 2008 We Made a Sawdust Pile out of a Mole Hill! relaxing the horse
Oct 11, 2008 When is it Time to Serve the Wine? two year olds, starting, showing
Oct 9, 2008 Houston, we have Lift-off canter issues, bucking
Oct 3, 2008 It's Almost a Tie..Horse 3 Trainers 2 early training, changing trainers
Oct 1, 2008 She Just Hates the Beauty Shop trimming, washing issues
Sept 26, 2008 A Boy and His Pony light hearted Q&A between friends!
Sept 23, 2008 "Wild" Bill or "Sweet" William gelding
Sept 19, 2008 He's Just Strutting His Stuff Flight Path, Toe Flipping, Shoeing
Sept 14, 2008 At A Crossroad being a trainer
Sept 13, 2008 They seem to be Stuck in "Park" Dealing with Balking, Propping, Barn Sour, Barn Bound
Sept 9, 2008 He's a Four Gaited Mr. Excitement! relaxing the "tight" horse
Sept 7, 2008 She's real Swell first aid, treating injuries, establishing severity
Sept 5, 2008 Caution..."Curbs" Ahead! curb bit, bits, setting head
Sept 3, 2008 This question is "Driving" me Crazy! driving, conditioning, boredom
Sept 1, 2008 I Don't Care if he Drinks the Water or Not.. I just want to Lead Him! leading, behavior
So You've Rescued an American Saddlebred. Written for Saddlebred Rescue, Inc.

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