"Ask the Trainer Online"
Hosted by Lonnie Lavery

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Jan-Feb 2009's POSTS
Feb 26, 2009

He Rears but he is Low to the Ground
(No explanation Necessary)

Hello, I have a shetland that has a bad habit of trying to rear when he is aked to do something that he does not want to do. This in turn scares my six year old son that rides him and he does not want to continue to ride when this happens. We are borrowing this horse from a friend that advised me that he has done this for along time. This tells me that he has been allowed to get away with it for far too long. I intend to use this horse for my son to do goat ribbon pulling off of because he is fast and low to the ground. He has a great handle but has been turned out for a while and needs a tune up. I refuse to let a 400lb shetland get the best of me or my son, so I need your advice as to what is the best and quickest route to right this wrong!

Thanks bunches for your time.

Groesbeck, TX

Tip of the Day - Bad mannered ponies might be suitable for some children... but I was not aware Tom Mix had any!

Thank you so much for your question. Perhaps some of my posts have not made it all the way to Groesbeck so you must not be aware of how I feel about rearing horses. First, if this pony's rearing up scares your little six year old child, for goodness sakes get the intelligent little cowboy off of the pony. I would suggest you start riding the pony immediately! With you in the saddle you can ask him to rear and really test him and should he fall over backwards on you, chances are your injuries will be minimal. As you said, he is very low to the ground. A broken rib or the like is a small price to pay to make this pony a suitable mount for your small son. When you do get the pony on the ground, keep him there by holding a hind leg, his tail and biting an ear and in general making it truly uncomfortable for him. This will show your little boy that you have the upper hand and there is no need for him to be afraid of the pony. If you can keep him on the ground with you for a half hour or so...that will be a good start. Most likely you will have to repeat this for several weeks but eventually you might get him over this. Should he ride for five days in a row without an issue, then perhaps you can start leading him around with somebody else's child on him. Maybe a child of the friend who so graciously loaned you the pony. Given time, you never know how much you might accomplish.

On the off chance you have taken anything I have said, (except get your child off the pony), seriously. Please go to and read the previous posts I have listed below.

Thank you so much for your question. Lot's of Luck.

LF Lavery

Feb 25, 2009

Clubbed Foot

Hi Lonnie,

I have a question or two. My mare has a clubbed foot on the left hind. She has had regular trims for 2 years and her angles are nearly the same. It no longer seems to make her short strided on that side. I heard that this sometimes can be corrected in a foal. Would it prevent one from breeding? Just curious, not sure that I would breed at this time. Just want to know. The reason I am asking is there is a mare at the AC4H rescue that SBR passed on. It turns out that she is by Catalyst and out of an A Supremacy mare. I was trying to get more info on her for the other rescue, I have been told me that she was not worked but was taken to OSU for a raised heel and it got me to thinking what can be done for this in a foal, and about my mare’s slightly but improved clubbed foot if it would prevent her from being a good producer. That’s all. If you know of anyone looking for a 10ish year old broodmare with that breeding let me know. Here is her info:

I need a home please - fundraising complete

Tip of the Day - A club foot is like a horse wearing a ballet slipper on one foot and a Cowboy boot on the other!

Thank you so much for your question. A club foot can really cause problems for training, performing, breeding and for marketing. The technical definition is "an abnormality of the coffin joint manifesting itself with a raised heel." As alluded to in the tip of the day and seen in the accompanying photo, depending of the severity, training and performance are very much hindered by this issue and soundness is a great concern.

Donna Dixon Woodall

Breeding and marketing are affected as Genetics appear to be the most common cause although OCD lesions, Developmental Orthopedic Disease (DOD), diet and injuries are sometimes a factor. Surgery is a viable option to attempt to correct or lessen the problem. Cutting to loosen the DDFT (Deep Digital Flexor Tendon) which supports the coffin joint has proved to be the gold standard for treating this condition. It is most successful the earlier one starts but should be the last resort. The sad but true case is many of these feet can be corrected simply by trimming and special shoeing when the patient is a colt. Although it usually is not necessary to have your farrier deal with trimming normal babies until they are several months old, an abnormal condition such as this demands immediate and frequent attention if it is to be corrected. The colt should be trimmed in such a way as to place equal weight on the his heel. A month old foal, having this condition, should meet the farrier soon and regularly. Injury can enter into the scenario when it causes a pain that keeps the horse from placing weight on the heel thus allowing the DDFT to tighten. There are many horses whose functions in the different disciplines have not been compromised because of this condition. They, however, are not the norm.

I hope this has been of some help and has given you a little more insight on this issue. As with many horse problems, early management is always a key issue. I thank you so much for your question and wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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

Feb 22, 2009

The Wrong Kind of Heavy Breathing
(Dealing with Wind Problems)

Hi Mr. Lavery

Thanks very much for your great advice. It worked a treat. My pony's stride has improved greatly (he has a nice open trot now and balances better bringing the hocks further underneath) His cadence and tempo has also shown considerable improvement. I'm happy with his progress thus far and I will keep using your guidelines in my training program. thanks very much I really appreciate it.

I have another question for you regarding a hackney horse ( we breed and show : hackneys, hackney ponies and high stepping show welsh harness ponies. ( I hope I am not a nuisance with my questions)

We have a Hackney Horse mare, who as soon as you get her to collect against her neck (which is what's wanted in south African hackneys) and encourage her to really move, she starts breathing heavy and eventually cuts out and we need to stop her to regain her breath. When I work her at a calm pace she sets up easily and has no breathing problems even at extreme collection, its only when she gets going and gets hyped up that she starts with her problem. I think it is nervousness that's getting the better of her. What can I do to solve the problem.

Eagerly Awaiting your comments

Best Regards

Tip of the Day - Having the Organist play louder is not a quick fix for a horse that cannot breath.

Thank you so much for your question. I am very pleased you found my advice of January 26, concerning your pony, so helpful. (Would Like Both Ends to Meet)

I hope we have that same kind of success in dealing with this question although I fear this may be a little more difficult. Heaves (equine emphysema or COPD) can cause similar symptoms but the symptoms you describe are "textbook" for the diagnosis for upper airway obstruction in Equines. This is a mechanical condition usually DDSP or Dorsal Displacement of the Soft Palate. This is a physical condition in which the soft palate moves to an upward location during exercise and then lies on top of the epiglottis instead of below, thus causing a blockage of the airway restricting the wind to the lungs. This can go from a slight discomfort, to loud breathing, to choking and if not stopped to unconsciousness. This condition is amplified by the conformation of the horse, the setting of the head, physical exertion and the state of excitement a horse can get into while performing. To truly identify this as the cause, an Endoscopy should be performed while the horse is at rest and after exercise. There are currently several surgical procedures that are very successful. All of these involve restricting the movement of the "flippers" in the esophageal tubes thus stopping them from impairing the flow of wind to the lungs. Surgery is the only way I am aware of to successfully treat this condition.

There are many ways to attack the symptoms. As stated, working easily on a loose rein, your Hackney has no problems and sounds as if he would be suitable and productive as a pleasure driver. Going to the show ring apparently presents the bulk of the problems. Here, as the horse drives up to the bridle, expends more effort, and is excited by the atmosphere, he tightens at the throttle or throat latch and needs more and more air in accordance with the strenuous exercise. In the USA there are a multitude of patent products used to treat this. Products such as "Wind Aid" are nearly all glycerin based with things such as eucalyptus, peppermint and the like mixed in and are used as a drench before each session. On my last trip to your lovely country, I brought back a wonderful African product for this purpose. I believe I was told it was called "Tiger Juice". It worked as well as anything in lubricating the air passages in hopes the air would pass easier. There are many injectable products over here that can so dramatically lesson the symptoms to where they are almost non-existent, however, we unfortunately exhibit under stringent medication restrictions and are not allowed to use them to help our horses with this discomfort.

Short of keeping your horse out of or very light in the bridle, there is really not a lot you can do. Although I consider it a trick more than a training tool, one thing I have used on several occasions to some success that you might try: Cut a piece of 6" diameter PCV pipe about 9 inches long. Put it on the throat latch of your bridle and tighten it until the pipe is snug behind the jaws. Work as normal and if your pony is breathing poorly because of over flexing, this can discourage it.

I hope this has been of some help and has given you some insight into this condition. I hope to read more of your progress in the Guest Book. Wishing you Good Luck and Good Driving.

LF Lavery

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

February 18, 2009

Do We Have Another Black Stallion?
(Determining Breeding potential)

Hi Lonnie,

How would you suggest we proceed with a two year old stud colt. He is well bred, big, athletic and strikingly black with chrome. Can you tell how you would handle the evaluation process for his remaining a stud.

Tip of the Day - Mares probably like Stallions much better than trainers... some of the time!

Thank you for your question. As gelding is pretty permanent, it is good to give it a great deal of thought. Gelding can be a "win, win" situation, well I guess you would have to say more of a winning one. Your colt sounds wonderful. Great breeding stallions have generated a good deal of income for their owners while improving the breed in general. As I have always felt, there have only been about 20 great breeding stallions in the history of our breed that have had enough impact to be called great. That is not a high percentage. As far as the criteria for deciding which should be left whole, the first two are nearly equal in their importance for a sire to be successful. While on rare occasions there have been studs who did not meet the criteria, nearly every successful one has come very close to meeting both.

1. Does his pedigree pass a litmus test of solid bloodlines. Whether line, cross or inbred, the sire's papers should read like royalty and show a direction for which the individual was bred. By that I mean in what way do the sire and dam and their families compliment each other in the production of this offspring? Although there have been some successful obscurely bred stallions, most feature very popular bloodlines in their pedigree. "Hot" breeding draws mares.

2. If we are fortunate enough to have a stallion with a wonderful pedigree, all is usually lost if we do not have an outstanding individual as well. A breeding stud's conformation should approach perfection. He should have good size. His quality and presence should radiate a superiority to others. He must be an athlete with great use of both his front and rear legs. He should be colored in a way that is not offensive. Although male, he should display much refinement in his eye, head and ear. As a Saddlebred it is imperative that he have the ability to place his head and neck in an unusual but pleasing position.

Other things to take into consideration:

  • Many times breeding studs do not get shown, as stallions sometimes do not process as well as geldings.
  • When shown, the winner's circle is where you want to be to get the best promotion. "Almost rans" never seem to have a line of people wanting to breed mares to them.
  • Manners enter into this as the young stud grows older and when he begins breeding. There is no lion more dangerous than a bad thinking breeding stud.
  • There are many more people in the market for a riding or driving gelding than a breeding stallion.

To sum up, a prospective breeding stallion must be a most outstanding and talented individual and his owners must be willing to make many sacrifices not necessary with a gelding. If your colt displays the above qualities you might well have a breeding horse.

I hope this gives you some insight and has been of some help to you. Good Luck which ever choice you make. Thanks for your question. I look forward to reading of your decision in the Guest Book.


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

February 15, 2009

I Love Him....Butt We Have a Problem!
(Dealing with Skin Abrasions)


I just recently had my 3yr.olds tail cut. All was going well,then ten days into it I noticed his right check butt(where the leather part of the crupper sits) was developing a small quarter size hair loss. A friend told me to use vaseline. I found a very light weight sheet(it is hot here in La.) and made sure it was between the bald spot and the crupper,plus I put more Vaseline on it. This seemed to work ok for about a week,but now it is about to break the skin and looks like it might start bleeding. I was worried it was going to get worse,so I just took the set off. I am still working the tail and the incision is looking very good and healing. What are my options at this point?? I just don't know how to keep it from rubbing him and causing the sore to get worse.

Thank you for any help you can give me.

Tip of the Day - Sometimes no matter how hard you try with a horse..it turns out wrong!

Thank you so much for your question. Please know that this is a very common problem that chooses no one in particular. It happens in large training stables and in the backyard operation as well. No matter how well you take care of them, a skin abrasion is bound to crop up on occasion. Talking about abrasions in general, Vaseline, bag balm, lanolin, furison and the like, are all wonderful for treating abrasions. Antibiotic creams etc. as well. However, when anything is placed over these products that is in anyway mobile,i.e. sheet, the "gel" created by movement is counterproductive to the healing process. In the situation you describe, you would be much better off with a powdered product. There are a myriad of them on the market from cheap to ridiculous. They all do the same thing. Corn starch, talcum powder will even do in a pinch. You do not want "chafing" which can be promoted by covering the Vaseline. Talking of the abrasion you have in particular, a medicated powder would surely be in order. The spot you describe can be caused by a build up of, for lack of a better word "crud" on the leather of the butt plate of the crupper. Take a close look and make certain the leather is perfectly smooth with out any build up. Any piece of leather equipment that is in constant contact with the horse must be treated slightly different than other tack. Neatsfoot oil, some saddle soaps, Lexol and many other products or over use of them, can well cause a negative skin reaction, as you describe, on some horses. The product literally "burns" the skin, Treat all of this equipment with Castele Soap and make certain there is no residue of that left. Of course, if the abrasion gets out of hand, you must remove the set. All is not lost if you continue to work the tail several times a day. Line in a stand- up crupper, tie the tail up for several minutes. Some thin skin horses can truly benefit from tannic acid treatment of a spot. Tannic acid is used to tan leather, it used to be used as treatment for severe burn victims and is now mostly used on working and hunting and racing dog's feet to keep them from becoming tender. It is inexpensive and used for a week or so, can toughen the sore spot.

I hope this may be of some help to you. I thank you again for your question. I look forward to reading about the healing in our Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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

February 13.2009

He wears a size 8 1/2 D
(Shoeing for different disciplines)

I have a shoeing question. I have a little 5 gaited ASB that I usually keep at home. I got the horse last summer. I have had his feet done by a very good farrier in the area that mostly shoes Dressage horses. This farrier does shoe for a top dressage barn. I have the horse in keg shoes up front and barefoot behind. My outdoor ring is frozen right now so I sent the horse up to a trainer. This trainer has ASB, Morgans and Hackneys. The trainer feels his feet are wrong. The shoe is too small and his angles are too low. The trainer feels that working the horse is going to destroy his legs and is actually making his back sore. I will let the trainers farrier shoe him even though he was just done a couple days ago. My question is – is there really that much difference between shoeing for the different styles of riding. I realize my horse is not a long footed show horse at this time but he has enough natural talent for the level of riding and showing that I would be doing in the next year. Do Saddle seat type horses need the higher heals and longer plate to support the more upright frame? My concern is for the long term soundness of the horse. Thank you,

Tip of the Day - The deeper one delves into the different disciplines...the less there is of "one size fits all"

Thank you so much for your question. Without being there, I would have no way of advising you of the fit or length of the shoe nor if the angle of the foot is within the correct parameters. I can, however, give you some information about shoeing. Let's give it a whirl!

To begin, yes. There is often a great deal of difference between the disciplines when it comes to shoeing. Much depends on the specific "job" the horse is to do and even more important the differences in conformation of the particular horse. Although every equine discipline requires a horse, with each discipline, a subtle or even major difference of conformation is necessary to fulfill the various demands of each of them. It is called "form to function." As you would not expect a Hackney to be a great Polo pony, you would not ask an American Saddlebred to compete at the racetrack successfully. Conformation enters into this and we may think of the shod foot as an extension of the leg's conformation. Additionally, the relationship between the front and the rear feet is what establishes balance when executing the various gaits of each discipline. For instance, it is unusual for a 5 gaited horse to be able to perform correctly when barefoot behind and shod in front. Obviously, not impossible, as your boy seems to be able to, but it would make the act of racking much more difficult for him. A shoe that is too short offers no support for a horse carrying a bit of foot. While the same shoe may fit, perfectly a horse carrying 4 and a half inches of foot at a 55 degree angle , when the angle is lowered to 45 degrees it suddenly becomes way to short. It is just geometry. The natural angle of the pastern usually plays a major role on what angle the foot should be on to be comfortable as does the desired flight path. Add how the leg sets on the horse and the length of the pastern and cannon bone and your farrier can come up with a pretty correct "guess" of what should be right.

Short of seeing him in person or by video, my advice, since you have a professional working him. One of his training tools is his farrier. Let him use his tools. I by no means am saying that the dressage farrier is wrong only that your trainer brings a different perspective to the table. I assume that is why your horse is there.

I hope I have given you a little food for thought. Thank you so much for your question. I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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

February 11, 2009

I just can't take Her Anywhere
(Hard to load in the trailer)

Hi, I am wandering if you can help me with my horse going into the trailer? I have a 3 year old buckskin, she will be 4 in March. We have an open and a closed trailer she used to go into them both, but now I have been trying to load her into the open trailer and she does not want to load up anymore, and I can not figure it out. The only thing I can come up with is when my dogs do something wrong they get put in the trailer for a little bit, because they are in trouble, I think it all started when I started doing that with the dogs, but I am not sure. Do you have any suggestions.

Thank you

Tip of the Day - Sometimes loading a horse can produce a lot of sweat...yours!

Thank you so much for your question. If you can't get her on the trailer, it would be very hard to drive her to the park for a walk. Once a horse has successfully refused to load it is a very difficult issue to deal with. Fortunately, you have a few things

working for you. Number one, you are attempting to analyze the situation like a true horseman. Number two, you have the trailer at your place. Let's see what we can do.

To begin, I seriously doubt that the dogs being punished in the trailer is of any consequence unless they have defecated and urinated in it. Then it is possible that the odors are having an adverse effect on your mare. That, of course, is easy to remedy. I doubt we will be that lucky, though. Usual causes for this behavior, a bad experience while driving in the trailer such as a fall or being thrown by a tight turn or quick stop or start. A bad experience loading such as hitting her head or shoulder or hip etc. Anything that makes her associate the trailer with some kind of unpleasant experience. All things, you as the horseman should be aware of and avoid.

To avoid problems, other things one should never do when loading :

  1. Never put a lead chain over a horse's nose and expect them to go forward.
  2. Never attempt to load a horse in a darkened trailer. They like to see where they are going before they move forward.
  3. Never be loud, excited or in a rush.
  4. Never attempt to load with doors half way open or mobile or with ramps askew.
  5. If you have a problem horse, never attempt to load without a plan for success. Every aborted attempt simply reinforces this behavior making it more difficult the next time.

Things to do when loading:

  1. Just a straight shank or rope. Walk forward and try not to look back at the horse.
  2. Take your time and be firm but calm. You will never win a match of strength.
  3. A plan for success includes preparation, position and execution. You want to load on the first try so have the horse paying attention to you before you start. Maybe very firmly turn her left and right in the stall, move her in a circle. When you bring her out to load, plan the path you will take. Once committed and on your way, do not stop. Hesitate long enough to get her feet on the ramp if necessary, but keep your momentum. Have helpers to encourage her to move forward by clucking or raising a broom behind her. It is not productive to be violent but it is necessary to be encouraging forward motion.

One thing you can do that is so easy and will really change this behavior and make the trailer a sanctuary rather than a "haunted house". If you have a small paddock that you can pull your trailer into, put her feed and hay in the trailer and just leave her alone. Eventually, she will happily load herself to get that reward. No muss or fuss and very little effort on your part.

Once again, thank you so much for your question. I hope I have been of some help. I look forward to reading of your progress in the guest book. Good Luck and Good Riding,

LF Lavery

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

February 9, 2009

The Horse doesn't scare me so much as I am Scared of Him
(Overcoming fears)


For the third time, I decided I'd send you another e-mail. This time, it's not about my horse spooking or playing chicken with other horses, nor is it about him not taking to the bit. He has gotten better since the bit problems back in the summer/fall of '08 (I will send you a link to a video from a show in the fall of him, just so you know what horse I've been talking about!), but now I need some advice.

Last winter, my horse was big on spooking at everything and I had some problems controlling him, but during the spring/summer, him and I gained a lot of trust in eachother and starting working very well together. I was rarely timid on him, therefore he didn't try to take advantage of me often. Now, back to this winter, I've been extremely busy and haven't been able to ride him as much. My trainer gets him out or has another experienced rider work him and he is usually fine with them. One day in the beginning of the winter, a friend of mine was riding my horse, fell off underneath him, and broke her leg; and ever since then I've been nervous getting on him. Finally in November, he began to catch on to my nervousness. He is a jerk to me in his stall, occasionally takes off before I even get on him, and then when I do get on him, he takes off, spooks, or bucks constantly. When my trainer gets on him, he might do a few stupid things, but he's usually a lot better with her.

So this time, it's not really a question about the horse, but a question about the rider. He senses my nervousness and I have no idea how to keep myself from being nervous. I've fallen off a ton since I started riding ten years ago, but I think because it's MY horse now, it aggravates me. It's never bothered me when any other horse has given me problems, but now I'm too afraid to even get on him. I make excuses not to work him all the time. I get tense because I expect him to be an idiot and then he feeds off it. I wasn't sure if you had dealt with a really timid rider before, but I was hoping you might have some advice on how to chill out and get him to trust me (and like me!) again.


From his second show ever. He didn't have show shoes on at all, but he looked decent. He was a little irritated by the bit, the paint horse that backed up into him, and the horse that fell on top of a girl in the middle of the class, so everything wasn't great, but I had a good time then!

Tip of the day - Sometimes it is a lot easier talking about getting right back on..than it is to do!

Thank you so much for your question. If we have overcome the other two issues that previously concerned you, Caution..."Curbs" Ahead! and But I Want to Go Round in Circles!, I am sure that this will be a simple problem for us to deal with.

As I am certain you have gathered by now, I am a big believer that a horse must have confidence in his rider and a rider must have confidence in his horse. There is another variable... you must have confidence in yourself! You have been riding this horse for over a year now with no mishaps. You have successfully shown this 4 year old in a "foreign" environment. You have dealt with and corrected the issues you have questioned me about. Issues that would be very difficult for some to sort out. You should have a great deal of confidence in yourself and be very proud of how far you have come instead of second guessing yourself. You have been, I am sure, in a similar situation at some point since you started riding. How did you deal with it then? How would your very wonderful instructor, Vickie Spoonster have suggested you deal with this issue? Fear is not a good thing but it is something you are going to have to deal with. Being prudent, even cautious, around a horse will generally keep you safe...being afraid will usually get you hurt! You need to prepare this horse properly and get back in the saddle as all the blame does not go just to your fear!

From your description, there are several things that put a "red flag" up for me as a horse trainer.

  1. I would question how much experience a rider has that "fell off underneath him".
  2. A horse that takes off before you get on..... is not prepared for anyone to ride.
  3. When you get on and he takes off, spooks and bucks constantly... he is not prepared for anyone to ride.
  4. A horse that is not close to perfect when the trainer rides.. .is not prepared for anyone to ride.
  5. It is no damn fun, dangerous and frankly inexcusable having a horse "bull" you around in a stall.

As I have said many times, training a young or problem horse by "committee" is like baking a cake with one.. it doesn't work.

If I was there at your place for a farm call and could analyze your horse, I feel certain that the following are a few of the things I would recommend:

  • Keeping everyone but you and your trainer off of your horse will go a long way to make certain he is not being confused and knows exactly what he is being asked to do and learns it is you giving the orders.
  • Taking charge before you get on is important. If you wish him to respect you when under saddle, he needs to learn manners and respect in the stall first. This is not accomplished with treats but with tough love
  • Taking off, bucking and spooking are a sure sign of a horse that is too fresh. Take his grain away from him, turn him out, jog, long line or even lunge before your ride.
  • Have someone who knows what they are doing, stand him stretched on his feet and hold him while you mount, this behavior must stop!
  • Have your trainer "top him off" by riding first, before you get up.

It is important that from here on out you set every ride up for success never taking a short cut to failure. Discuss this with your trainer and get his or her advice on other ways to make this happen. At this point in time, and there is no getting around it, if you wish to correct this situation, THIS HORSE MUST BE PREPARED TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL RIDE!!

I know you can do it and note that along with fear, I read the word aggravation in your letter. Did you know that aggravation and determination rhyme? If you follow the above program, I feel confident in your success.

Thank you again for your letter, I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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

February 6, 2009

Dumb Jockey

Hello Lonnie:

It was nice seeing you a few weeks ago at the ASHAO Banquet. I am sure you are well on your way back to FLA by now.

In the past few years I have become “friends” with my dumb jockey. It’s a pleasant relationship (joke). I have, in the last 8+ years, learned to use groundwork extensively on my colts. I find that my horses improve significantly with the use of the dumb jockey and each of them has their “preference” as to how I use it ( ie., where the lines are hooked, etc.) . I think it is a great conditioning tool. I am interested in your view on its use and any special techniques that you may have found useful.

Tip of the Day - When they asked the old trainer if he used dumb jockeys, he replied..."Have you seen some of my riders?"

Thank you so much for your question. It was good to see you as well and no I am still here in the frozen North and have no idea why. I have been doing several barn calls and along with the thrill of frozen water buckets, I had forgotten how much fun it is to spend a day in a cold arena!

I am thrilled to hear that you have such a special relationship with your dumb jockey and I want to wish you both the very best. One thing about the ones I have known, you can count on them. They are very light to leg up, never fall off, you never have to adjust their stirrups... 6 times, their equitation form is always the same, and best of all they don't whine and complain. There should be a class for them! Seriously....

I agree with you as to the true good points of the dumb jockey. It takes the biting rig experience to another level with the many options of height adjustment they offer. Replicating the position of the hands along with the slight movement of the bars of the dumb jock, come as close to having a rider as can be possible and on many horses this is an indispensable tool. Lest we forget, however, it is simply another tool in the horseman's tool box. By that I mean I never used it on every horse nor for that matter on a daily basis. I had two, one was set up to long line with and I think it got the most use. Again, it was the myriad of height adjustment options that I liked when lining and was especially useful with a low carriage horse. As you found the dumb jock invaluable on your colts, I really liked turning a seasoned horse loose with it to freshen them and keep their mouth light. Hackneys benefited greatly from it's use, as well.

Of course, the biggest mistake one can make with a dumb jock, is too much too soon or too tight ... as can be backed up by the thousands of broken dumb jockeys!

I don't think I have told anything you do not already know but it is good to find horsemen who appreciated the different tools and recognize the subtle differences of their use. Thank you so much for your question. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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

February 4, 2009

Walk-less in Seattle

Is there any hope for a horse that will not flat foot walk? She's a gorgeous now 4 yr. old ASB, with natural motion. She's a very excited horse with the "X factor". I don't believe she's Park material, possibly though, I would prefer her be in a pleasure class, but not without a true flat walk. When I ask her to walk(and she's not in the mood) she'll just rare straight up, thank God she has good balance. She's gotten better with the rearing, being we've gotten after her for it, but she still will not walk. How do I go about re-training her to walk? I started lining her again yesterday, after her being off for a couple of months. She would walk away from the barn, but as soon as I turned her around she'd start jigging. So then I would turn her back around and ask her to walk, once she walked I'd turn her back towards the barn, and we did this over and over. We did eventually get back to the barn and before the sun went down.

Thank you for your input.


Tip of the Day - I know of no one who can make a horse walk when they don't wish to...the idea is to figure out how to let them!

Thank you so much for your question. You would be very surprised how many people have trouble with the walk. I don't understand it, it is the first gait they perform as babies! Seriously, most times this behavior has a great deal to do with what the tip of the day infers. When a horse is not wanting to walk trying to make them, by pulling back on the bridle, etc, will only get them more anxious. A tense horse will never flat walk. You must get them to relax and walk on nearly a loose rein to have any success. It seems that you have some other issues, as well. From your description, you are also dealing with a "barn bound" or "bound sour horse". That is, a horse that likes to run back for the security of the barn. Hard as it is to believe, many horses that die in barn fires had been rescued and then ran back in. As far as the rearing goes, sounds like congratulations are in order. I think everyone knows how I feel about a rearing horse. I'm going to refer the rearing horse owners to you in the future. Let's see what we can figure out.

As far as what you did with your horse walking to the barn, your description is absolutely text book on one way to handle this problem. You reinforced a good behavior, turning around when she was walking and corrected the bad behavior, turned the other way when she was jigging. Your instincts were quite correct and that is a time honored way of dealing with this issue. Repeated on a daily basis, I would be surprised if you did not make great progress. Were she not a rearer,stopping,backing and then standing is another well accepted way of slowing the barn bound horse down.

If you can find a place she will walk on a loose rein, you can build on it. Serpentine, walk figure eights, never head back to the barn on the same course. Try to keep her relaxed but with her attention on you. Always think of ways to reward her when she is walking. Speak softly, words like "Easy", "Good Girl" pet on the neck and behind your saddle. Reins working or loose, never tight. Do not tense up as she will sense it and get tense herself. Just allow her to walk when she does. You will teach her that the walk is not a chore and in fact is the easiest gait you'll ask her for. Long lines or a jog cart can be big help as well. I would not began this with a "fresh" horse but rather one that had been turned out or long lined in preparation of the ride. Rome was not built in a day nor will you be walking in the "Egg & Spoon" race tomorrow. You will, however, probably be able to correct this behavior in time.

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

LF Lavery

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

February 2, 2009

How High Is Too High?
( The Rearing Horse )

Mr. Lavery~ An acquaintance of mine wrote me the other day and asked me about a horse she has that rears while being ridden, while in the cross ties and while in the trailer. The horse is 6 years old. She said she had some friends try to make the horse quit by popping her between the ears and trying to get her to flip over. I was appalled, to say the least and told her NEVER to do that again. Then I told her what my dad says, No horse is worth getting hurt over. Well, I wanted to ask you anyway about what to do to get a horse to stop these rearing habits. Obviously, something has happened in this horses past. Thank you for your time.

Tip of the Day - Unless you're the Lone Ranger..a rearing horse is not a good thing!

Thank you for your question. I have addressed this several times and still feel rearing is the worst behavioral issue a horse can have. Although I made light of it in the true story of Magic Colonel, on this web site, it is a serious issue. By the frequency of the occurrences, there is no question this horse has a problem. On a rearing horse, a rider is indeed on a precarious perch that is only a few inches from disaster. Without question, rearing horses have caused the deaths or permanent injury of more people than any other behavior. When the horse's head (center of balance) gets behind the wither and past the vertical, there is no where to go but down... and hard! The lucky riders are clear of the thousand pounds of "dead" weight crashing to the ground. The unlucky ones very seldom walk away. At best, they have a broken pelvis, at worst.......

To quote from my response to an earlier letter from May of last year, "If I Wanted to do the “Airs Above Ground”I would have bought a Lipizzan:"

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

"She said she had some friends try to make the horse quit by popping her between the ears and trying to get her to flip over." I would hope that these friends have signed up as organ donors for the slightest mistake made with a rearing horse can put them in that situation. A variation of what you describe is, as some will tell you, the "cure" So too is the "Drowning" I wrote of in the Magic Colonel story. Throwing the horse down with the "W's", covering him with a tarp etc., etc., etc... All of these are supposed to be the "cure". If you and the horse are lucky enough survive one of these, do these archaic and dangerous methods sound like they are worth the trouble of going through to have a horse that you still probably cannot depend upon? I, like your Dad, feel there is no horse worth getting hurt over. It is very easy to get hurt with a horse accidentally, why try to do it on purpose!

There are trainers who feel they can work through issue. I say more power to them and would advise her, if she still wants try, to send the horse to one rather than trying to have her "friends" help.

I wish I could be of more help but I know of no other answers. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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

January 26, 2009

Would Like Both Ends to Meet
(Gait Correction and balancing a Hackney Pony)




Tip of the Day - If the head, neck and knee action are the "style" of the Hackney, the hocks are the engine!

Thank you so much for your question. I must also say congratulations! Receiving a tie as high as that at the wonderful but very tough Blomfontain Championship Horse Show is certainly something to be very proud of. Our exhibitors over here have no idea how challenging that show is to do well at!

As far as your question, to begin, let me say I am a firm believer that it is possible to give a horse motion in front but if God has not blessed him behind...there is not much one can do. Let's talk of the issues you describe.

Your pony sounds as if it lacks "drive" behind and as if it may be going to it's elbows in front. The pony's mouth, conformation, conditioning, shoeing, footing and speed can all have an affect on what you describe. Additionally, we must always remember that a horse's center of balance is in his head. For instance..Head down and forward... no knee action but a good deal of "reach", hocks not engaged and "dragging". Why? The center of balance is forward of the shoulder and the front end is bearing the weight. Raise the same horse's head up so the poll is over or behind the shoulder, and you will see an increase in the knee action and engaged hocks now "driving" and well under the horse. Why? The rear end is now bearing the weight.

Since you probably have very little drive time in the snow..think of getting a two wheel drive auto stuck in the sand...you are just spinning your wheels until you put some weight over the drive wheels.

The principal is true with a show horse. The hocks must be engaged for everything to happen correctly. If your pony is "trotting in a box" in front it is usually because the hocks are not pushing the body far enough forward to make it necessary for the pony to take a longer stride. Many types of horseshoes and ways of shoeing and training have been used to keep the front feet on the ground longer so the body can catch up and make the legs take a longer stride. They all treat the symptom..but the fact remains..if the hocks were propelling the body far enough forward...the front end would be catching up naturally.

Conformation of the hind leg can get in the way. A leg that is too straight up and down, will not easily give you the stride you are looking for as would also be a problem with a pair of sickle hocks. As pointed out above, this has a direct effect on the front motion.

Because they are beasts of habit..horses can easily get into a bad habit. Taking the easy way out with their flight path can well become a habit. Eventually as in the case of your pony, the shoulder muscles can be affected from the lack of extension.

Shoeing can often be part of the blame with issues like winging, interfering, and going to the elbows. For the most part a shoe of too much weight can be directly to blame.

Although it is true that weight can favorably affect a Show horse's motion..more is never better. Once a threshold is reached where the shoe is too much for the horse's conditioning, maturity, conformation, strength, discipline...it is counterproductive and can cause problems.

Footing can have either a positive or adverse effect on your pony's way of going. Most ponies show the best on very firm footing. Deeper footing is better to strengthen and condition one. You should see a huge difference in the cadence and stride of your pony on the two surfaces.

Without seeing your pony...were he mine, I would.:

  • Lighten his shoes considerably (even Plate her temporarily) and take a good bit of foot off.
  • Put him on a 45 degree angle in front to keep him on the ground.
  • Drop him in the heels behind to lengthen his stride.
  • Work him as often with his head up as you do with it down.
  • Jogging at this stage will do most for strengthening his rear end.
  • Trot a good deal faster with his head a little too high for several weeks. This will loosen his shoulders and get him out of the habit of being "slow" with his front legs so he must reach out. Put no action devices on him at this stage.
  • After several weeks, go back to long lines and work on a supple mouth with the head well up and over the shoulder thus shifting the weight to the rear. Work deliberately and slowly at a park trot asking him to go faster but not letting him. A pair of dog collars would be in order behind.
  • When you feel there is improvement..get together with your Farrier and analyze where you are and how best to shoe him. His old show shoes and these angles may no longer be what he needs.

I know this must seem a long process but I assure you that if you do all of these things you will have gotten your pony in wonderful condition, changed his timing and way of going, gotten his mouth exactly where you want it and most hopefully ready to win at Blomfontain!

Thank you so much again for your question, I hope I have been of some help. I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding.


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

January 25, 2009

And they Called the thing Rodeo
(Another bucking pony)

`I bought a pony for my 6 year old daughter, he's 4 years old , he is very well behaved I knew he was not broke to ride but having trained my own a few times with very good success . He does everything I ask with no problem he lunges stands for whatever I put a bridle, saddle on he was completely calm , he's 14 hands an I'm 6'3" so I can lean over him work the rains he turns stops and backs without an issue ,I had him tacked an on a long my niece 14 wanted to try to ride him when her seat hit the saddle he broke into a bucking fit like I have never seen outside a rodeo. I almost lost my feet try to turn him ,I then stopped took the stirrups off lunged him walk trout, stop, and come to me he was completely calm. he didn't seem scared or angry` before, after, or during the bucking he just acted like it was the thing to do . Should I try hobbles, rope one foot to get his attention I don't want someone to get hurt . thank you for this web site.

Tip of the Day - More often than not... letting the child and the young pony grow together is not the most ideal of situations!

Thank you for your question. Well it certainly sounds as if you have found yourself in quite a situation!! I would guess you do not have a large supply of nieces so you are hoping for some other solution. The steps you have gone through to the point of riding are all well and good. Especially if you enjoy watching him lunge. Obviously, however, some of the needed steps are missing. By the tone of your letter, I have the feeling that you have used the hobbles and roped a foot or two up before. That will get his attention and in fact they are methods that are still used, somewhere, I assume, today. So if you feel comfortable with those methods..light up a Marlboro and get at it. If it were my daughter's pony, I believe I would try something a little different.

Of the probably 100-200 two and three year olds I have ridden for the first time, about six actually bucked. That is not a brag just a fact! "Ride em Cowboy" and "Let em Buck" have never been in my training dictionary. When it is alright if the horse develops an attitude, when it is not necessary for a horse to maintain a personality, have trust in his riders and he is simply being processed to become a "Tool", "Bucking them out" may work alright if the rider's body can stand it. The preliminary ground work (weeks-months) I always used on young horses, set up the situation for the easy first ride. Of the six, I would judge three of them were bucking because I had not spent enough time on the basics. Your wonderful description of the "crime", is a classic example of a horse that was rushed and was not ready to ride. There are no short cuts in horsemanship. A situation such as you describe can do irreparable harm, both physical and mental to a young horse and is not much fun for a niece either.

Here is how I would prepare a young horse for the first ride.

The colt should lead from either side at a walk and trot, should stop when asked, back up when asked and be calm enough to park out and stand still for a minute or two. He should turn equally to the left and right. He should be comfortable with a crupper and a surcingle.

Long lining in a circle and in a straight line, stopping, backing, reversing, standing are all skills a colt should have before his first ride. He should be quite comfortable with his bridle. He should be familiar with the lines and comfortable with them "flapping" about his legs, flanks and sides. Application of the saddle one or two times before the ride is important. Here it is very important that great care be involved with the slow and quiet application of the saddle and most importantly, the tightening of the girth. Invariably, the colt will "hump up" when first moved off with the saddle on thus tightening the girth which can send him into a panic as horses will not tolerate anything that tries to restrict them at this juncture. He should be lead at first stopping on occasion to tighten the girth slightly as he relaxes. After a day or two, of leading, lunging is in order. Slowly introduce him to the stirrups "flapping" which should pose little problem as you have made him comfortable with the lines flapping. When the colt is relaxed and comfortable, have someone lean on the saddle to let him feel some weight while he stands still. Then lead him off at a walk with your helper still leaning. Have your helper change sides and repeat. Make a small circle each way at the walk keeping him relaxed. When he seems comfortable, stop the colt and park him out. As you hold his head, have your rider step up on him ever so slowly, quietly and gently and gather the reins loosely, your job is to steer and control for the first few minutes. His eyes and body language will often tell you what to expect. Wait as long as the colt waits. Lead him off at the walk being ready for the first few steps to be "strong". Should he start to get ahead of you, turn him in a small circle to keep his attention. As he relaxes as you walk, the rider can carefully gather reins and start to work with you in the turning and guiding department. As he becomes more relaxed, you may move farther from his head giving the rider more and more control. Eventually, if both you and the rider agree the colt is comfortable you may turn him loose at the walk. If your rider can walk him around the area you are in both ways, that should be plenty for the first few rides. Have the rider stop him, put your shank back on and make him park out. Have your rider dismount as carefully as he mounted. Many trainers would remount and dismount a time or two at this time. Introduce the trot only when the colt is completely comfortable walking with the rider on his back. This process from first ride to the trot can be accomplished in relatively short time if the colt is properly prepared. Old timers will tell you that the third ride can get a little dicey and I tend to agree. Some colts know the drill well enough to test you, I think.

This, of course, is a little more time consuming but there is no doubt in my mind that if you follow this advice, the next ride will be virtually uneventful and your daughter will end up with a much better and dependable saddle horse. I have enclosed a little homework that might help as well and would encourage any of our readers to add some advice or other options. Thank you again for your question. I look forward to hearing of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good riding.

I want an ASB not a PBR!

LF Lavery

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

January 24, 2009

Hand to Mouth

Dear Lonnie,

I have a new road horse that I am really excited about. I have wanted him for 2 years and can hardly believe I own him.

My trainer is telling me to ease up on him and when I try to I can't stay in a jog and when we go on he says we are inconsistant. He isn't telling me how to do it - just do it. So far the only thing that looks right is going at speed when it seems to work fine to turn loose of him more. OK - I have only driven her twice but it really bugs me that I am not understanding this.

I have an older horse at home I can practice on if you can point me in the right direction.

How wonderful to have someone to ask! Thank you so much!

Tip of the Day - It makes for a much more pleasant drive when the tugs pull the Surrey rather than the lines!

Thanks so much for your question. I want you to know that you are not alone in your quest to find an answer. The relationship between a rider's hands and a equine's mouth has been in question since the time the first horse was bridled. Adding 8 foot of lines makes it even more important for a driver, particularly as you cannot use the rest of the natural aids to instill propulsion or to slow down. Because the lines are your only connection, it is imperative they are used properly.

A horse can be stepped to the bridle without pulling. As it is difficult to have a tug of war with only one, so too is it impossible for a horse to pull until someone on the other end of the reins joins the game. I feel this is what your trainer is trying to point out. Once that horse is pulling...turning him loose will not produce the desired effect. The object is to stop the pulling before it begins. Next time you drive, keep your hands very still and allow your pony to step to the bridle. As long as you are in control, he is not pulling, and you are going the speed you desire..keep the status quo. The moment you feel him becoming stronger, gently sided your bit left then right reinforce this action with a word like "easy". If you feel him back down, hand him his bridle for a step or two as a reward then slowly regain contact. Repeat this each time he takes too much hold. Remember, the tugs are supposed to pull the buggy not the lines. If the act of sliding the bit doesn't seem to have the desired effect, maybe a slight bump followed by a slight pitch will work for you. You'll have to experiment to see which works the best for you. If you cannot get the desired effect, stop when he takes to much hold and start over. The ideal drive is when you have the horse's mouth where the mere flexing of your wrists or tightening of your fingers produces an effect. This is one way to assure that kind of drive. In the show ring this type of adjustment may be needed several times each direction and it should be executed in a way that is extremely discreet. Additionally, why not tell your trainer of your concerns and perhaps ask him to ride in the cart with you and show you what is needed. Remember, your trainer spends all day trying to read horses' minds...he shouldn't have to read yours.

I hope this will be of some help to you. Two drives is certainly not a fair test. It won't happen overnight but I am certain you will get the hang of it. Good luck and Good Riding.


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

January 15, 2009

His Tongue is not as Busy
Follow-up on tongues and open mouths.

Hi Mr. Lavery,

A follow-up on my 3 yo and his tongue/mouth issue...

I have tried many things, among them the ideas that you suggested. At this point what works best is this...I bridle the horse and tie his tongue in his stall and leave him there until I'm finished with another horse. When it's his turn, I put his halter on over the bridle, complete his grooming and go on to work him and I leave the bridle on until I put him back in his stall. I'm careful not to tie his tongue too tight especially for that duration. I scold him if he's too focused on it by gaping his mouth or struggling with the tie, but only when he's tied. I guess he just needs a little longer warm-up and he's certaily more settled when it comes time to work. G.

Tip of the Day - Some how, some way, sometime...Something will work!

Thanks so much for your follow-up E mail. Your case is a testimonial to my favorite saying: "A well trained horse is not an accident but the product of many thoughtful hours!" Your approach to this particular issue has been, from the start, the correct one. You have been "smarter than the horse" throughout your quest for perfection and it is paying off for you. I am somewhat surprised that another of my suggestions did not do the trick ( ie.turning him loose in his stall, eating grain and hay and drinking water with a bit attached to his halter ) but the important thing is that you processed all the information at hand and put your own twist on it and now have a favorable result. As I never recommend tying a tongue to someone that does not know how, I will suggest a couple of things that may be of further assistance to you. Cloth, i.e.wet bunting strips, panty hose are much more comfortable for the horse. A longer tie i.e.. 20"-24", allows for many loose wraps rather than a few tight ones. The tie should only be applied at the spot just above where the tongue widens. Never tight, and certainly 30 minutes is long enough for him to wear it. Again, I say to you that the object is to someday do away with the tie and I have complete faith that given your mind set, you will be successful in this endeavor.

For our readers, here is a link to the original questions: He's Really got a Mouth on Him!

Thanks again for another follow-up keep up the good work. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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

Januaary 5, 2009

Horse Tossing Head

i have a question about why my horse might be tossing her head when im lounging her. she doesnt toss her head when i ride, only when she is lounged. she just recently had her teeth done, so i dont think it is a dental problem. any ideas on what might be causing this, and what i can do to stop it.


Tip of the Day - Although you should always have a horse's full attention while working,there is nothing wrong with letting them be a horse and play when they are not.

Thank you so much for your question. I see by the question that you are a very concerned horse person and always thinking about your horses's welfare. I commend you and want you to know that this type of thinking will usually keep you many steps ahead of trouble. In this case, however, I feel you might be "borrowing a jack" or finding trouble that doesn't exist.

Assuming you mean lunging with just a halter on, I would have very serious doubts that a dental issue would have anything to do with this behavior. If she rides without issue in a circle of a similar size, we could rule out a soundness issue. You might feel this would rule out an interference issue as well....this is not the case. When lunging with only a halter to control, speed and more importantly, alignment of head and body, often "close made" horses can well brush or hit cornet bands,ankles, cannon bones, knees etc. Of course this might cause such an issue and is one of the reasons I do not favor lunging a mature, shod horse. These animals were not physically designed to go in circles. It works counter productively to their first directive in life....flight from danger. Don't get me wrong, all riding horses should learn how to bend properly, this is very important and circles are fine so long as you have control of the position of the head and the speed. You simply cannot guarantee that type of control with just a halter.

Without actually seeing this behavior, my guess would be your mare is simply playing. As the tip of the day alludes, there is nothing wrong with that. My advice, be pleased with the fact she does not no this when you are riding her.

Thanks again for your question, I hope to read of your progress in the Guest Book. Happy New Year, Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

Links To Questions & Responses
Date Subject Search Criteria
Feb 26, 2009 He Rears but He's Close to the Ground rearing
Feb 25, 2009 Clubbed Foot Clubbed feet
Feb 22, 2009 The Wrong Kind of Heavy Breathing Dealing with Wind Problems
Feb 18, 2009 Do We Have Another Black Stallion? Determining Breeding potential
Feb 15, 2009 I Love Him....Butt We Have a Problem! Dealing with Skin Abrasions
Feb 13, 2009 He wears a size 8 1/2 D Shoeing for different disciplines
Feb 11, 2009 I just can't take Her Anywhere Hard to load in the trailer
Feb 9, 2009 The Horse doesn't scare me so much as I am Scared of Him Overcoming fears
Feb 6, 2009 Dumb Jockey using a dumb jockey
Feb 4, 2009 Walk-less in Seattle Refusing to walk, the Barn-bound horse
Feb 2, 2009 How High Is Too High? The Rearing Horse
Jan 26, 2009 Would Like Both Ends to Meet Gait Correction and balancing a Hackney Pony
Jan 25, 2009 And they Called the thing Rodeo Another bucking pony
Jan 24, 2009 Hand to Mouth Importance of Hands when driving
Jan 15, 2009 His Tongue is not as Busy Follow-up on tongues and open mouths
Jan 6, 2009 Horse Tossing Head head tossing
So You've Rescued an American Saddlebred. Originally written for Saddlebred Rescue, Inc. (See our Links page for rescue site)

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