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March & April 2009's POSTS
April 28, 2009

She Won't Give Me the Nod!
(Setting the Walking Horse's head}

i have just recently broke my 2 year old walking horse mre, and she has acceptaded the bit, knows how to flex off of the bit, ,moe away from pressure, and stop correct, but now i can not get her head set like the real walking horses do. i want her nose tucked in and her neck curved but i just dont know how to get that out of her. and btw she does not do the head nod. can you help me??

Tip of the Day - I think Ron Popeil could instruct someone on riding a horse with a perfect mouth..."Set it and forget it!"

Thank you so much for your question. I must begin by congratulating you on teaching such an astonishing number of basics, in such a short time, to one so young. Talk about a "Horseman's Short Course!" There is a chance, however, that this is one of the causes of the issues you are now experiencing. As I have mentioned many times, "The word "Rush" does not appear in Horsemanship." Not only can rushing through the basics be detrimental to further development, so too attempting to teach behaviors the young horse is not mature enough for, can be futile. You are now asking things that many a four year old may not be mature, strong or fit enough for. Keeping that in mind, let's see if we can come up with some other ideas that may be of help.

Before embarking on any training procedure that includes the introduction of a bit, a horse's dental situation must be addressed. This is doubly important when dealing with a two-year-old, as their mouths are full of possible problems such as shedding "baby" teeth, much molar activity, possible wolf tooth problems, all with the potential to cause many negative bridling issues. When dealing with a curb bit, because of it's position in the mouth, it is even more imperative to address this with an equine dentist.

The universal path to proper head and neck placement, when wearing the curb bit, is nearly always found with countless hours of training in the snaffle bit. The head set, tucked nose, nod and arched neck you refer to come from this snaffle work and the young horse's musuclar maturity . Ground driving, biting rig work, general basic training and several years, are the tools usually used to achieve those goals. Although you may well feel your are much behind your goal,and your expectations. Your training,on the other hand,is probably too far ahead for your filly's maturity level. Were she mine, I would go back to the basics and the snaffle work discussed taking my time and waiting for the filly's strength, growth, coordination and mental maturity to reach a point to allow her to excel at the next level. Sometimes when one gets stuck, you must back up in order to get going forward again!

I hope this has been of some help to you and I thank you once again for your question. Reading of how far you have come already gives me great confidence you will achieve your goals with your filly. I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

We welcome reader comments, on this or any other training topic,in our Guest Book.

April 23, 2009

He Might Have "Motion" Sickness!
(Dealing with a horse lacking talent and drive.)

Hi Lonnie,

I have an American Saddlebred gelding that I'm not quite sure what to do with. He is a wonderful, friendly horse; he's young, so he has his days, but he's not very spooky and is very lazy. He's in the Country Pleasure division, but the problem is, we've been having a hard time getting any action out of him at all, and even at the smaller shows, the competition has more motion than he does. He has the build and the ability to do it--in fact, we've seen him go above level or at least level. But, he rarely ever does that and usually it's only when he's being lunged with stretchies or out in the pasture. At shows, he perks up a little more, but not nearly enough. He even resorts to cantering on the lunge line because it's less work.

I don't know if he should be moved to huntseat or if he should still stay in Country Pleasure; or if you have any training ideas to get him to trot with action consistantly? It's a pain to see a horse that has the ability to make a nice show horse be too lazy to try. Also, is there ANYTHING that can be done with the shoes to help him move a little better? I'd guess his feet are about 5 inches long. Right now, he only has plates on his front feet, he gets his show shoes on the 20th of this month, but I'm not quite sure what to do since he's in country pleasure. Angle:He's due for the farrier but right now he's about 50, maybe 49. He has been jogged in a cart, but not recently. He's worked about 5 days a week, sometimes more. And if he's not being worked, he's spending time bitting. I know there can't be any weight in the shoes for country pleasure but I wasn't sure if there was anything else that could be used to help. Also, would putting show shoes on him make a big difference in his action? I wasn't sure if maybe doing that and putting him in show pleasure would better fit.

I'll provide a video of him on the lunge line. This is all that we can get him to do anymore. As a trainer of some World Champion saddlebreds, do you have any ideas on how to get him to quit being lazy and move to his ability?

Thank you!

Tip of the Day- Much like the fancy options on a car... Motion, long necks, gameness and beauty, can be pretty costly ones on a horse!

Thank you so much for your question. Being I am older fellow, I see no problem with a horse that isn't "spooky". I have, however always hated getting off a horse that is not warm while I am sweating profusely. Lazy, is not a good thing. Even in Country Pleasure, they should display a bit of ambition. Hell, I never even liked to rent one I had to "carry" most of the way! As far as motion goes, as I have stated many times, it is a wonderful option but sometimes very expensive and it usually can't be added "aftermarket" but must be installed at the "factory"! The fact he displays motion with the heartbreakers (stretchies) on is of little consequence and should not give you a lot of hope. Like the "barnyard trot," what you see is probably not what you are going to get. Now that I have you feeling really wonderful about your horse, let's see if we can come up with some things that might be of help.

Although motion is nice it is truly not that important in a Country Pleasure class, if the class is judged correctly. Manners and suitability carry much more emphasis than performance in that division. Your horse is attractive which is a positive as well. If, you feel his motion is a hindrance in Country Pleasure, Show Pleasure would surely magnify all his shortcomings. Often, more weight will improve a horse's motion and you may put as heavy a shoe as you would like on a Country Pleasure horse but without a pad. In your case, I do not think shoeing is the miracle you are looking for at this juncture. I would, however, make certain this horse is not going close in front when circling without stretchies. Interference of this kind can have a great deal of negative results.

In order for a horse to use his legs, he must be sound, conformed properly, well muscled and very fit, bridling well and have the desire to go forward. You eluded to the fact he is built to use his legs so I assume it is unnecessary for me to explain the correct conformation to you. I see in the video he appears to be sound. Only you can tell if he is wearing his bridle perfectly and is fit. Regular jogging is absolutely the best way to get a horse strong and wearing the bridle. Lunging falls far short and can, in fact, be harmful to some horses as can stretchies, that are too short, actually damage a horse's shoulders.

Desire to go forward is another "animal" entirely although a fit horse will usually have some desire. If he is fit, you may look to his breeding, which you cannot change, or perhaps to his inner health. Blood tests are indispensable for determining if there is a physiological problem and for deciding a treatment. There are a myriad of over the counter vitamins and other products on the market to support an energetic horse. Your vet can help you sort through these.

Lastly, lazy is as lazy does. Sometimes it is necessary to "really" ask a horse who is happy doing nothing to do something to get them out of a comfortable habit! Even lazy people sometimes need a kick in the ass!

Thanks 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!

LF Lavery

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

April 20, 2009

I'd Like a Standing Ovation!
(Stand up crupper for a "Green" tail)

Hello Mr. Lavery,

My 3yo's tail was done 2 weeks ago. He wears his set well and has no problem wearing a high tail crupper. Obviously I'm very diligent about tail care and determined that it will be straight and comfortable for him.

My question is about how to tie it in his tail with a show harness so that it stands up straight.

Tip of the Day- Nicking a horse's tail is easy on the horse..taking care of it afterwards is very hard on Man!

Thank you so much for your question. I am so pleased you are aware that the most important time for a perfect tail are the days and weeks of aftercare. When dealing with a "green" tail and the stand up crupper, bandaging the tail in is the usual routine. Whether or not a "break over" was affected, dictates how to apply the bandage. If there is no break over you may only bandage the bone. To help insure it stays straight while working, I often fastened 2 elastics, such as Radon blanket straps, to the crupper where the "turn back" attaches and then to the sides of the surcingle. Additionally, you will want the turn back to be rather snug at this stage of the game. I would fasten another piece of elastic, such as "stretchie" rubber to the surcingle and then hook the turn back to it. This arrangement insures that the crupper is snug but allows for some movement to keep it comfortable as well.

Follow the same routine if your colt has a break over, only bandage from the base to the tip and then gently fold and bandage the end as well for working. You should never attempt to "train" the break over with a bandage, gravity will ultimately do the job. Additionally, an ace bandage should be removed immediately following a workout as it has the capability to cut off circulation thus hampering the healing process aside from being uncomfortable.

Once healed, and straight, one shoe string at the very top of the crupper should do the job. If there is a deviance, another from the tail bone, below the break over and then to the middle of the crupper should solve any problems. As with the ace bandage, shoe strings should be removed immediately after showing!

As you obviously know, keeping the horse comfortable, cleanliness and working with the tail are your keys to success with a "green" tail. It does not take a rocket scientist but does require some dedication to insure perfection.

Thank you again for your question. I hope this has been of some help to you. I hope to read of your perfect tail 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"

April 17, 2009

I want my Saddle to be Full of Sit?

My trainer has recommended I get a 23" Freedman's World Cup saddle or 22" Victory Pass. I'm only 5'5". Does this sound right?

Tip of the Day- When told my legs were too short...I said, "They can't be, they both touch the ground!"

Thank you so much for your question. Please know I do not consider myself an expert on this subject but I will attempt to give you some helpful information. First, both of these saddles are wonderfully made, top of the line, quality, saddles that will easily last you a lifetime. They are as good as they get. I have a favorite but it is of no consequence as they are both great saddles. To begin, the first and most important requirement is that the saddle fit the horse! The conformation of some horses prohibits the use of some saddles. Think of it as buying a pair of shoes off the rack....many times, the same size and style fit completely different depending on the brand. So is that true in saddles. Most reputable tack shops will let you have a limited "test drive" using the saddle on your horse. It is important that you use a saddle blanket and take all precautions to not soil or mar a new saddle being tested. This procedure will allow you to discover if that saddle truly fits the horse and if you find it fits you. With the kind of investment you are about to make, leave as little as possible to chance!

At 5'5", a 22" or 23" saddle, sounds a bit large to me. However, your conformation may dictate this rather large size. Contrary to popular belief, the size of your "sitter" does not mandate the size of your saddle's seat but rather the length of your thigh and leg. When in proper, Saddle Seat position, an imaginary straight line should be drawn through your shoulder, hip and heel. Your knee should be over the stirrup leather not in front of or behind. Sitting in the center of the saddle, a full palm width should be allowed from the back of your "sitter" to the back of the cantle.

You should not be "crowding" pommel but sitting in the "sweet" spot of the saddle. Further adjustments can be made by moving the stirrups forward or backward with the adjustable bars. Although this is a very nice option for getting your leg just right, it will not make up for a saddle that is not the correct size for your particular body structure. You could well fit into a 19" or 20". This can only be determined by trying the saddle out with a "test drive", at best or sitting on several in the store, at least.

I hope this has given you a little insight into saddles. As always, I would defer to your trainers as they are there and they know you and want the best for you. I would add, however, this is an expensive investment so follow my advice as well. Find the saddle you look and feel comfortable in and the one that fits your horse. Some saddles I know have lasted longer than some spouses!!!

Thanks again for your question. Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

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

April 12, 2009

Why Do Horses Seem To Be Getting More Expen$ive?

Mr Lavery.

I had horses years ago and am in the process of moving my daughter up from a lesson program here in the Carolina's to getting her a first show horse. Her instructor and the trainers at the farm are just wonderful and I feel blessed to be at this stable. They show at major shows all over the country. They have been looking for a horse for her and have showed us several very nice first horses. You can imagine my surprise when I was told the cheapest one was $10,000.00. This is for a first show horse! When I rode back in the late 70's, I know you could buy a horse like these for under $5000.00. One horse was a Morgan and even he was $12,500.00! I really want her to ride a Saddlebred like I did. Surely there must be cheaper horses out there. Any ideas? Thanks.

Tip of the Day - Tom Galbreath had a great saying..."Long after the price is forgotten...the quality remains!"

Thank you so very much for your question. It has been on a great many people's minds lately, not to mention mine! This is frankly a pet peeve of mine. In fact, I am mad as hell about it and I do have ideas! Where are those $2500-$3500 first horses of the 70's? What the hell happened to oats at $2.00 a hundred, hay at 75cents a bale, straw at $20.00 a ton, a pickup truck to haul it at $3200. Perhaps the $2000.00 stud fee is a factor or maybe the $75.00 veterinary farm call or the $125.00 reset or the lack of grooms willing to work for $85.00 a week, electric bills that are no longer $30-$40 a month, how about "Blue Chip," Blue Cross? For that matter where is the McDonalds 35 cent burger, the $3.00 haircut, the $7.00 Filet and 25 cent a gallon gasoline? Did you ever wonder how much insurance is today on a 250'x50' arena? I really miss the days of the $1800.00 tractor and $700.00 manure spreader and the $450 an acre land they were used on.

Well, things have changed since the 70's! Oats are no longer $2.00 a hundred but nearing $10.00. Hay, when you can get it, around $4.00 a bale. Try $90.00 a ton for straw to haul in my $26,000.00 pickup! In 1965, my young and willing and plentiful American help were thrilled to be earning $75.00 per week. By 2006 when I closed my doors I was paying my Hispanic (yea, where did the Americans go)? workers nearly $500.00 per week, taxes and a place to live. Do I have to tell you about health insurance? My insurance on my home and stables was nearing $12,000.00 per year and the $300-$400 a month electric bills had me using flashlights and acting as the "kilowatt police"! I could have sold my 20 year old tractor for $7500 and the 16 year old spreader for $3500. Not long ago, allotment land was selling for $40,000.00 per acre. As you can see, nearly everything I have mentioned has increased many 100s of percent over the years. All these things factor in to a horse's cost. Maybe of interest, something that has not rocket so high skyward in price when my Father closed his barn in 1955, he was charging $175 per month board and training. When I closed my barn, 50 years later, my B&T was $750 per month. Do that math and find the bargain!

To answer your question specifically, of course there are cheaper horses out there! But since I assume you lived through your horse show days safely, I also assume your parents sought a suitable and safe horse for you. Since it seems as if you really enjoyed your "Saddlebred" days, you must of had parents who also wanted you on a horse that could be competitive. Options such as these with a horse cost more! I know your trainers and see you appreciate their talent and the success they have had at the National level. That circuit is like Broadway compared to Little Theater and of course the "tickets" always cost a bit more. A few things to remember: Trainers want clients to do well in the show ring, that is there "score card" so to speak. To do well they must find the right horse for the level of rider and the level of competition. Many an amateur has found a "bargain"horse and also found the truth in that old adage, "You get what you pay for!" If you want your daughter's horse experience to be as rewarding as yours, talk it over with your trainers. If money is a big problem they can show you ways to still "play" but with much lower expectations.

I hope I have given you some food for thought and this will help you rectify your concerns. Please know, I wish your daughter a wonderful, Blue Ribbon show career. Good Luck and Good Riding,

LF Lavery

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

April 7, 2009

To Walk Or Trot.. that is the Question
(Differences between Walking Horses and Saddlebreds)

Mr. Levary,

I hope this question dosen't sound too stupid but I am fairly new to the horse show thing. I live in Virginia and am thinking about buying a horse. I had a horse when I was a kid but now that I have been to several shows and seen these English "Show" horses I think I would like to try that. I like the way the people ride, how nice they look in their suits, and the way the horses lift their feet and how the horses put their heads. The also don't look like they are pulling the peoples arms out like those jumping ones. I have seen the Tennessee Walking ones, and the American Saddle Breeds. They look pretty much the same too me, like theatrical stars with the ribbons and their tails up and all. I know one don't trot and I see some one called a DPQ person checks the Walking kind in the backstage area but not the others. My question is are there any real differences between the two breeds and which would you recommend. Thanks.

Tip of the Day - The best test of a horse's soundness.......the trot!

Thank you so much for your question. Not only is it far from stupid, it is one that is asked often. I am glad you find yourself interested in getting back into horses. Yes, they do look pretty spiffy in those riding suits and no they are not getting their arms pulled off. After spending a lifetime around them, I feel there is no better place to spend your time than with horses and you have picked two very popular breeds to choose from. To begin, in answer to your question, a nice horse is a nice horse, no matter what the breed or discipline! That being said let's talk about the generalities of the different breeds.

The Tennessee Walking Horse was originally bred as utility horse to carry Planters and farm owners around their large plantations and farms. The horse had a very comfortable "single foot" type gait that gave a smooth and very comfortable ride with little movement in the saddle. Although the horse has been around a lot longer, ( some Walkers even appearing as foundation stock on American Saddlebred papers) the Breed registry was started in 1935 and is currently in Lewisburg TN. From 1950's through the early 1980's, the thrust of the breed was as an exciting show horse. The Walking Horse Celebration, in Shelbyville TN., is perhaps the greatest and most successful Equine exhibition in the world. It is truly an event not to be missed.

The Utility horse became "Mr. Excitement". The smooth "single foot" now became an extraordinarily high going very speedy and athletic "show" gait with a running walk that could bring crowds to their feet. Although the horse showed with plenty of excitement the now un-natural way of going sent up a red flag. Amid accusations of gadgets, gimmicks, soring and cruelty the Federal Government stepped in and in essence shut the breed down until they could clean up their act. The DQP, not DPQ is a remnant of the government's clean up program. DQP is short for Designated Qualified Person and is the person who checks Walking horses for soundness in the warm up ring before their classes. You are correct, American Saddlebreds are not subject to this examination as they are a breed that shows at the trot and, as eluded to in the tip of the day, they must be sound to trot. Show Walking Horses are certainly not as exciting, fast or high going as 20 years ago but the breed is back on track. On the whole, they are wonderful dispositioned horses and because they do not trot, nearly anyone can ride one. The breed also features the "Plantation" Walking horse. This is a true pleasure horse and one that is reminiscent of the original utility Walking horse. Wearing little shoe or foot and judged with emphasis on manners they are a wonderful alternative to the "Show" walker. The have classes for them almost everywhere.

The origin of the America Saddlebred is much the same, riding horses for the land owner to cover ground with. This breed also made use of the "single foot" gaits to insure the comfort of the landowner as he "admired his possessions". Unlike the Walkers, the trot was a very important option for the guy in the 1800's as the Saddlebred was also used as a driving horse. Not to plow fields but to pull the fancy carriages and buggies of the time. They desired an elegant, good sized, athletic, good dispositioned animal to handle these chores. They truly came to prominence during the Civil War as they moved the South's Cavalry units with un- heard of lightning speed often catching those Yankees with their pants down. In 1891, the American Saddlehorse Breeder's Association was formed. Now, it is the American Saddlebred Horse Association and is headquartered in Lexington, KY. Again, much like the Tennessee Walkers, the emphasis on this breed for nearly 100 years has been the Show ring. Their World Championship is held in Louisville KY. during the State Fair.

The divisions and disciplines these horses can compete in is truly remarkable. If you wish to show 3 or 5 gaited? You can. Wish to show Equitation? You can. Wannabe a Cowboy? You can. Like to drive? You can. Pleasure ride? You can. Hell you can even get one to replicate those Jumping ones you mentioned. There are a lot of options but remember they do trot!

Not really knowing your particular situation, I would be hard pressed to tell you which breed is the one for you. On the whole, both breeds feature wonderful horses. As I am not the real expert on either, may I suggest you visit the Web Sites of both Breed organizations where you can do much more homework to make you an expert about such things.

Thanks again for your great question. I hope to read of your decision in the 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.

April 4, 2009

How can I convince Myself I am Having Fun?
(Dealing with a Frightening horse)

Hi Lonnie,

First let me just say that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the Ask The Trainer questions. What a GREAT site! I found the website via the Signature Sale advertisement.

Anyway, on to the question. First, some background. I own a lovely just turned six Morgan hunter gelding. He was bred to be English royalty. Unfortunately he isn't shaped quite right to pull that off. He makes a beautiful Morgan hunter, however. This may very well attribute to his attitude. On the ground, he is personable and LOVES his 'people' (me and my trainer, for the most part, he hasn't appeared to have bonded all that much with any of the grooms). He always feels the need to be touched, and if you are standing close to him while he is in the crossties he will quietly (never obnoxiously) move himself over and invite you to scratch his withers. He is quite a character and is always busy doing something with his mouth, flapping his lips around or sucking on the crossties or the chain in his stall we use to tie them up when they are finished with work. He doesn't bite or suck on people, or chew wood, or do anything vice-like however. We make sure he always has a toy or two in his stall to keep him occupied. He has a busy mind.

I bought him back in later 2007 as a late four year old. At that point, he had been broke to saddle and harness (though 'broke' is a little debateable) but hadn't had a lot done with him. He was with a family who didn't have much time for him. He was amateur-broke by a woman who intended him on being a good show horse for her daughter. However, the daughter is a timid rider, and that didn't end up working out so well. When I bought him, he was skinny and out of shape, but after bringing him home and getting put into training, pouring buckets of food down him, and with some TLC he really blossomed into a beautiful and talented individual. At that point, I, with the blessing and excellent help of my trainer, was riding and working him (jogging, long lining, or bending) six days a week, as at that time I was apprenticing at my barn.

Fast forward to 2008. I went back to school, so I wasn't out at the barn nearly as often (certainly not daily) and my trainer took over my horse. I broke my arm and neck earlier in the year after being tossed by a wannabe rodeo bronc masquerading as a jumper and wasn't able to ride for about 4 months. When I was able to get back on, about 3 weeks later we took him to our first show together. He was pretty good and won all of his classes with me on board. Then it was like a switch flipped in his brain. He stopped walking and opted to jig instead, and got hot and anxious to the point of running away at all the other gaits. After he ran away with his head upside down on me at a horse show in June (and believe me - there was no stopping him) we decided that my trainer would ride him at least for the time being. During that time, and all the time he has been with us, he has received nothing but the best vet care, dentistry, and hoof care. We were able to rule out the physical in that way. My trainer, who can obviously outride me (as well she should) went on to have huge success with him, in spite of the fact that he hardly ever walked in his classes.

He is hot hot hot at home, and ever anxious (chomp chomp chomp on the bit, and will bite his tongue unless it is tied, and then half the time he bites it anyway) and that multiplies tenfold at a horse show. We use calming supplements to try and combat that but it's hard to control him. I have a really hard time with it, hence writing to you. Since he ran away with me, I have been frightened of riding him, which I'm sure he realizes. I don't know where this fear stems from, but I would rather ride a bronc than him, because at least I can get after a bronc! With him, it's all about being as quiet as you can with your seat, hands, and legs so as not to mess up his equilibrium. My trainer likens him to riding a liquid ball of Kryptonite - don't disturb it or it explodes. (he doesn't really explode, just gets really amped up and there's not much you can do about bringing him back down.) He is also light in the mouth, and so getting after him in the mouth at all invokes a nose-to-chest kind of response where he will happily run through the bridle. And above all, he is ever anxious! We've found that when walking, touching him on the neck, always patting or scratching or whatnot will help, but not totally fix. He is like this in long lines and in the jog cart too, always anxious.

This year, it's supposed to be my turn to show him. I find myself apprehensive. My trainers seems to think it will be just fine, and I think she has an awful lot of confidence in me that is kind of unfounded. He is just so difficult to ride. Getting mad at him doesn't work, and neither does treating him with kid gloves, and anything in between doesn't seem to go so hot either. He is tough enough to ride at home, much less in the show ring, and on top of all that he has a LOT of hock and a LOT of front end (and all he's wearing are plates) that act as catapults. When me or my trainer rides him, we are always talking to him, touching him on the neck, letting him know he's not going to die. He doesn't spook really (though there is one memorable occasion when someone hung over the rail, right above his head, at a horse show and caused him to run terrified in the opposite direction), or buck or rear or do any of the normal 'bad horse' behaviors, he just GOES. As quickly as he can, all the time. My trainer frankly admits he is the most difficult horse she's ever come across. I try telling myself that he's not going to do anything bad, he will just take off, and there could be worse things. But when he does it, it's frightening. I've never had a horse scare me before. (not even aforementioned rodeo bronc/jumper)

I guess this is a horse/rider question all in all, but I just have such trouble working with him and getting us to jell. I try really hard with him and it's frustrating. My trainer is a great help but sometimes I think she gets frustrated with me because I have a difficult time with him. (though, to be fair, everyone else does, too.) I love her and value her opinion hugely, but I thought maybe getting another viewpoint might be helpful. This year of course the pressure is DOUBLE as he did so well at the National level this past year.

I'm sorry this ended up so long. I just wanted to make sure you had a good feel for the horse, his background, and what he is like.

THANK YOU! This is a huge service you are doing to the equine community at large.

Tip of the Day - When dealing with horses, I have always found self- preservation an intelligent choice!

Thank you so much for your E mail. I am not exactly certain where your question lies but I can truly understand your dilemma. Although I am not there to witness this behavior, it would certainly seem you have become somewhat disenchanted with the kind of thrill he now offers while riding. Frankly, I don't blame you. I have always felt the kind of excitement he seems to be generating is best experienced on the thrill rides at a great amusement park where you are strapped in and on track. In his defense, however, he is a royally bred, lovely, personable, beautiful and talented, people loving, bonding kind of horse......until you ride him. (He sounds like he would make a great pet!!) You mention an obvious lack of proper early training.(A sure sign for possible trouble like this in the future) Many changes in his training regime from four years old till now. (Very difficult for a high strung horse to cope with.) I have trained horses bred like him and some can be very difficult. (They can be extremely game which can be great for some disciplines and some riders and disaster for others) Last but not least, I find it very strange how quickly and dramatically the change in his behavior came about. "Then it was like a switch flipped in his brain". You and your trainer should give everything leading up to that moment a good deal of thought.

As I hope you have read in our archives there are many proven ways to deal with most of the issues you describe. From what you have told me, you seem to have a very competent trainer and in spite of the issues affecting you, a horse that is capable of being quite competitive. You should be pleased your trainer has the confidence in you, your horse and the confidence in herself to know she can put the two of you together. There is only one ingredient missing to achieve that successfully, you must have confidence in yourself. Lacking that, all is for nought. Additionally, the horse must have confidence in you. This can only be achieved by the two of you going back to the basics. Walking, bending, twisting for hours on end with you in that saddle. You must learn to know him well enough to be able to feel his next move "through" the part of your body that sits on the saddle not through the reins, when it is too late. You must be able to anticipate his every move and thought. You must make a commitment of time and effort if you wish to reward the confidence your trainer has in you. Here is some "homework" that directly relates to your quandary:

Please consider this however, just as not every trainer gets along with every horse, not all horses are suited for every rider. That does not necessarily mean the rider is bad or the horse is bad, they are simply not a good match. (My first wife was very nice) Additionally, your chosen hobby, though a fabulous one, is not an inexpensive one. Would not your money be better spent on a horse you had confidence in and looked forward to riding? Just a thought.

I thank you again for your E mail and hope this has given you some thoughts. Utilize your trainer to help you achieve your goals, she knows your horse and it is her business to make your hobby a pleasure! Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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

April 1, 2009

Care and building of a Stone Sled

Thanks! We've never had one quite like this one, all of the ones we've started drive great! Since my husband isn't really ready to consider this a failure, (he was the lucky one holding the lines) he wants to know more about the stone sled.


Tip of the Day - Even Noah was given more detailed instruction than you are about to receive.

Thanks so much for your interest in the stone sled mentioned in I Think We Have Gotten the Shaft!. I will attempt to instruct you.

My art work sucks but I think you will get the idea. (Stone Sled Drawing). I usually use treated wood to construct one. You need 1- 8 foot 2"x 6" which you cut in half at a 45 degree angle to form your runners. 1- 6 foot 2"x 4" cut into 2 - 34" lengths for front and back braces between the runners. 3- 6 foot 2"x 6" (could be tongue and groove) for the deck on top of the runners. The front brace and top boards should start about 10" back from the front of the runner. Lag bolts are the best but big deck screws will work for everything except the front 2 x 4 and first 2 x 6 as your single chain to the singletree should attach in the center through both of them. Stout ropes about 2' long come from the ends of your singletree and fastening large "S" hooks bent properly makes it easy to attach sled to traces. If you are using a breast collar it is important it is thickly padded with foam or the like. Use a kicking strap, not for kicking, but to keep the traces just above the hocks. It also helps to if you run the traces through shaft rings.

Use a set of long lines and hitch as you would in a cart (3 people) the first few times. A rope off the back will help your man position the sled to keep the traces off him at first. I have built them with a fancy seat but all you need is an old bucket nailed to the top. Proceed slowly as this is a lot of work for the horse as he will soon find out if he tries his old tricks.

Hope this answers your question. Good Luck and Good Sledding.

LF Lavery

March 28, 2009

I Think We Have Gotten the Shaft!
(Dealing with serious driving issues)

Hey LF,

I thought I'd send you another question to ponder. I will say in advance, I'm not too sure we are going to try hooking this horse again, but I would like to hear your take on the situation.

Here's the horse's history. He's 5 years old and probably was started in an assembly line manner along with 30-40 of his close relatives. His current owner bought him and sent him out for training. unbeknownst to the next trainer, that one believed it was best to teach a horse to drive by putting a kick strap on it and letting it run with the cart until it gets tired. The next trainer was simply told the horse was broke to jog and he "had driven him all over the place". When the horse was hooked in a normal environment, he took off and destroyed quite a bit of stuff. They decided to skip driving and just show him a bit. He came here to be gaited over the winter. He's gaited now, but since we feel the jog cart is an important tool in a show horse's life, we decided to really think about how to go about re-introducing him to it. We aren't really into running in an open field with a kicking strap, so we decided to work the horse in blinkers. He tried to take off a few times . When we thought the time was right, we decided to hook him. He stood perfectly, felt the shafts while hooking, etc. We had a lunge line with a chain on his halter, someone to keep up with the cart, someone holding the rope, and someone holding the lines. All was well....until his first step. His first step wasn't a step at all, it was a leap. He landed and made another leap. After the 3rd leap, it was decided this horse didn't look like he had any self preservation, We got the cart off and everyone came out unscathed. While we don't accept failure well, we do like our health and the health of our equipment, so like I said we probably will not try this again. I would however like to hear your take on it.


Tip of the Day - When you hear the sound of timber breaking..it is a pretty good sign you've got the cart before the horse!

Thank you so much for your question. I can't tell you how much of a thrill it is to read about this instead of living it with you in person!! As we say...been there done that!! The sad thing is, this most likely never had to happen had this guy received the proper education basics years ago. Additionally, in the discipline you have chosen for him, there simply is no better tool and no better training program than jogging. You may well have lost this option. Teaching a colt to drive can be somewhat challenging, mostly due to the variables involved (harness, cart, noise, helpers, work area, preparation) and the lateral restriction of the horse's body by the shaves. With the proper preparation, the right equipment, competent help and a calm head, it usually works out quite well. In the rare case it does not, one can usually point the finger of blame at a bad experience or the trainer doing the hitching for the first time. I feel quite sure this is the case with your charge. Unfortunately, after several unsuccessful tries, he has obviously been scared about half to death and upon scaring those around him, he has learned using his flight response can get him away from the terror. In reading your description of how you are dealing with your "inheritance", you are using just about every process I would recommend. And I would concur that once you have given it the old college try, the better part of valor might be to call it quits.

There are three things that come to mind that you might consider before hanging up your driving glasses, however. In the past, I had a half dozen horses that acted in the manner you describe. Our Golden Duchess was perhaps the most famous. I never did believe that her behavior came from poor early training or a bad experience. This mare was just a very go forward kind of mare and spent most of her working life on the edge of flight. The only way I could jog her was in an open bridle. With blinkers on, she remained focused on the noise behind her and the things she could not see thus pushing her forward at much too high a rate of speed and with too much jumping for anyone to consider safe. I never got used to working her that way and was glad she did not kick often. I was able to jog her regularly.

To once again find the sublime humor in the "rules" of training, a nameless gelding I had could be driven only in blind blinkers. Modern medicine and weeks of slow steady work in the lines with the blinkers made that a success.

Without question, the one tool indispensable to correcting problems such as this is the Stone Sled. Used properly, the horse cannot be hurt, the driver cannot be hurt and it will discourage, in short time, any incorrect behavior as it is simply to much work for a horse to expend energy in another direction. I have never been without one and cannot recommend anything more suited to changing a spoiled horse's mind. I have hitched colts to one for the first time, I have used them to strengthen a weak horse behind, I have even worked Race horses in one. Those concerned about the welfare of your $1500 jog cart...You can build a sled for about $60.00. If you are interested I'll send you the details for building and using one.

I wish I could be of more help but as I said, you have done nearly everything I would have done. I hope one of my suggestions works out for you or at least gives you some food for thought. Thanks again, Good Luck and Careful Driving!!!

LF Lavery

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

March 26, 2009

Well..Shut My Mouth!
(Dealing with the over active mouth)

As you know, I have a Saddlebred gelding that I keep at home as a riding horse. I have shown his once, and intend to show him as a hunt seat pleasure horse. While I work him lightly, and ride mainly for pleasure, I do keep him on a training routine. Today I noticed (in our shadow as we were trotting down the road) that he is keeping his jaw open, but his lips closed. I can see when he chews and closes his jaws, and then rebraces against the caveson. I cannot tell if he is cocking his lower jaw to one side or another. I remember seeing him doing this last fall, but I had forgotten about it.. Over the winter he had his teeth checked as OK by a vet, and the dentist is scheduled for five weeks from now.

Today I was riding in a French link snaffle with a caveson about 3 fingers tight. I long line him regularly, but I have never seen him do this in lines. Lately, I have been lining in a rubber mouthed Pelham with the lines on the snaffle ring and no caveson. About 3 weeks ago, I did line him in the same bit and bridle that I rode in today, with the caveson on the same hole. He did not cock his jaw or keep it slack like I saw today. In fact, I remember being very pleased with how quiet and responsive his mouth was, and making a mental note that I thought the loose ring snaffle was too active with the lines. I was pleased his mouth was right in spite of the bit being so alive in his mouth.

Maybe, with spring in the air, and him trotting strongly down the road, I am giving enough contact on his mouth for him to invent some new avoidance techniques. I do not have heavy hands, and we aren’t having a tug of war. His head set is just how I like it, but that slack jaw has me wondering. I realize that a horse should relax his jaw and accept the bit, but this is a little pronounced! What has been your experience with a horse bracing against the caveson?

Tip of the Day- People who watch their shadow on the ground while riding.....sometimes run into a tree!

Thank you so much for your question. Allow me to compliment you on the thought you have put into this and that unlike most people you are conscious of the holes you use on the equipment, the actions of the different bits, the nuances of different training procedures, etc. When trying to correct an issue, it is imperative to have this knowledge. Let's see if I can't add some input.

An active mouth is usually a welcome thing but can sometimes be distracting to both rider and horse. A sudden switch in performance as you describe usually means a change of equipment or of the training regime or perhaps a physical problem. If he has worn this equipment well before and you have not changed the training program, hurry the Equine dentist up!! In the mean time, some things to consider. Although the foreign counterpart to our own Dr. Bristol, the French Snaffle, is a very useful bit, some horses resent the way it lies on their tongues. Usually these are horses with a tongue that fills their mouth and their reaction can be very similar to that you describe. Varying the position of the, bit up or down, may have a positive impact.

As you know, the great "gapping mouth" debate continues to rage furiously. To tighten or not to tighten..that is the question! Here are my two cents:

  1. A horse wearing no cavesson should soon tire of holding his mouth open.
  2. A tight cavesson, that is comfortable to lean on, does nothing to teach a horse to keep his mouth closed on his own.

There, if you have read between the lines, that should clear that right up!

Also, as you know, a horse that leans on the bit can be susceptible to some of the symptoms you describe. I am certain you have light hands but wonder if you might re-think the Rubber Pelham as this is a bit guaranteed to allow a horse to lean on when driven in the top cheek.

As I have mentioned here on several occasions, for nearly 50 years, I never worked a horse that I did not first put some kind of glycerine mixture in the mouth after bridling. This makes the mouth active but in a positive way. A little "Red Man" tobacco can work magic as well.

Once again, thank you so much for your question. I hope I have given you some food for thought and some helpful ideas. Hope to hear of your progress. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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

March 24, 2009

To Commit or not to Commit
(Lessons Necessary for Creditable Showing)

How many lesson does an average non pro rider need to do to become proficient or "good" to be able to show their horse to the best advantage..In other words what kind of a time & efort commitment should we all aspire to get good ??? Is 1 or 2 lessons a week enough??

Tip of the Day - Riding has a lot in common with pool and golf..anyone should be able to do it but it is damn hard to get good at it!!!

Thank you so much for your question. It will, of course, be quite difficult to answer as there are so many variables that could be addressed. Just for instance: How old a rider? How experienced a rider? What discipline? What competition level? How physically fit is the rider? How much ability does the rider display? How challenging is the horse? Etc,Etc. Depending on these, there are many possible answers. But, let's give it a try.

To begin, the single most important word on this subject is one that you used in your question. Commitment! I will give you a quote from one of my previous responses on April 22nd of last year as an example. "I always remember a wonderful client I had who was so disappointed because he thought he did not ride as well as I and could not make his horse do things I could make him do. Of course the explanation is quite simple...six days a week I worked 32 horses every day, six days a week..he sat at a desk every day. As I assured him, if we switched jobs, in a years' time he would probably be riding better than I with the only problem being he'd have little money to buy horses after I ran his company into bankruptcy. "

To excel in any athletic endeavor, one must train religiously, challenging the mind and body, using a maximum amount of effort, while hanging on every word of the Trainer, Instructor or Coach. As the famous Cher once said, "If a good body came in a bottle, everyone would have one!" In other words, without the kind of commitment necessary to excel, you may still enjoy yourself but you will be in the "Also Ran" ranks.

If a rider is competent, fit and has some ability, one should probably improve with one or two lessons a week depending on how in-depth the lesson curriculum is. To excel to the point of proficiency I think you mean, the more often a lesson the better. When preparing World Class Equitation riders at my stables, they would often have two lessons a day. Perhaps one would be a more aerobic, lunge line, lesson and the second an in-depth Equitation lesson. This would compliment maybe 3 additional lessons during the week. Please know that these girls so wanted to be successful at that level of riding that it was their number one priority. So motivated, there is no better student to have the privilege to instruct!!!

If competitive Equitation is not the discipline you are referring to and it is a class on the flat one could probably get by with a few lessons less per week as the position of the rider's body, though important, is not the criteria being judged, only the horse's performance. The bottom line here, as I eluded to in the quote, the more time on a horse is the best at improving a rider. Please understand, this does not necessarily mean time on their "Show" horse but time in the saddle on some horse. As a trainer, it is sometimes difficult to keep a finely tuned performance horse "sharp" when the owner practices very frequently on the animal. Winter is the time for the rider to get to know his horse. The closer you get to show season, maybe a lesson a week is best for some horses.

I hope this has been of some help to you although it is somewhat vague. But given the question, this is the best I can do. Thanks so much again, Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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

March 22, 2009

Thank you in a "Big" Way From LFL

1.Where do you live?

2.What Breed of horse have you?
Clydesdales and American Saddlebreds

3.What is your discipline of choice?
Saddle seat & Driving

4.Have you sent me a question? If so, was my reply of help to you?
Yes. Yes.

5.Which training subject is of the most interest to you?
Depends on what I need to work on with which horse that day. Everything is very helpful.

6.How often do you visit?
1-2 per week

7.What do you enjoy the most about the site?
It is nice to have a place to ask a question and get a response from a trainer with a lot of experience. Having this setup with a gear towards saddle seat is so helpful. With Harry Binkley closing up last year there is just nothing left in Maryland. Harry still comes over and helps me when the weather is good and he is feeling good. Asking a question on a public forum will get a lot of similar or different ideas but often if the main people do not know who you are they assume you do not know what you are doing and you can get a lot of flames. Your sense of humor is wonderful. My husband enjoys your stories and training answers also.

8.What don't you like about it?
I would have to play with it more to decide. I will need to search for a couple topics so I hope the search function works well. I have not tried it yet.

9.What is the number 1 question you would like to see addressed?
I do not have any questions right now Unless you have a work schedule suggestion for Faith to get back in shape and lose the winter fat.

Here is a couple Photos of my husband showing “Faith”. I thought you might enjoy.

Tip of the day - Hoppy told the old timer he thought the horse was too small....but he bought him anyway cause he couldn't figure out what he was too small for!!!

Thank you so very much for taking the time to reply to the "Quiz". I truly appreciate it. How fabulous Faith and your husband look together and what fun they appear to be having!! To me, that is what this is all about. If you are concerned about her weight, no more corn and wear the wheels off that cart!!!

What a treat for you to be around Harry Binkley. He is not only an old friend but one of the best horsemen it has been my privilege to know. Please give him my best.

Once again thank you, Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery


March 20, 2009

The Infamous Rearing Issue Revisited!!!!

Hey there, my name is Rachel and I have been working with my 10 year old QH appendix for the past year and a half to try and stop him from rearing. He is a defiant rearer, and will do it randomly on the trail when he decides he is done working, in the ring id I let him sit for a moment and then ask him to resume working, or if for any reason he decides he just doesnt want to go forward. I have tried immediately tucking his head to my knee when he begins to go up but he still rears progressively higher and higher even with his head twisted, If i kick him forward he rears and then bucks over and over, and I even tried spinning him to keep his feet busy, and he has realized now that if he does this behavior and goes into spinning by himself I still have no control. I am exasperated. I work him in the roundpen, and he is extremely willing and respectful on the ground and in the roundpen.. I have had him vetted by three vets and seen by a massage therapist to rule out any physical factors. I brought him to a boarding stable, and there he much better. I know that he needs structure, and at the boarding barn he had that. Now for financial reasons he is in a backyard barn with two horses and he is awful. I work him continually, and I am constantly switching up what we do, (ex. one day we jump, another day we do poles, another day we'll go team penning) But still I cannot win. I have been told to push him to his limits but I am afraid that I will have him fall over on me. Any suggestions?


Tip of the Day - If you feel horseback riding is supposed to be fun...never call an ill mannered horse a comedian or he could kill you with laughter!!


I thank you so much for your question. I must assume you are new to this site and therefore not familiar with my thoughts on rearing horses. I have addressed this issue far too many times, both in real life and on this site. I reached the conclusion, long ago, that a rearing horse is not worth putting oneself in jeopardy, attempting to rehabilitate, or feeding, for that matter. Although there are many trainers much smarter (and much more famous than I) who feel they can fix this problem with techniques I am familiar with, I would not even begin to discuss them with you on this site for to do so would put you in danger and give you false hope this is a "curable" issue! It is my opinion that once they have displayed this behavior, it will always be there with the horse and will raise it's ugly head again when you least expect it. If you would care to learn more about my feelings on this, please go to the links I have provided below. I hope they will give you a new perspective on rearing.

Rachel, I am truly sorry I cannot be of more help to you and even sorrier you are faced with this problem. My advice, get a horse you can be safe on and have fun with. After all, a horse is not a necessity anymore but a luxury entertainment item. As you know, it costs no more to feed a nice horse.

Thanks again for your question, Good Luck and SAFE Riding!

LF Lavery

March 10, 2009

This kind of Lockjaw is not Fatal... But!
(Cold jawed, Hard mouth horse)

Hi LF-

I've got a training question for you! I just got in a green broke 4 yr old ASB mare. She is broke to w-t-and some c, snaffle bridle only. She is very hard-mouthed. I mean you put a bit in there and she doesn't move it at all. She gets really stiff with her neck, and does not release her jaw or relax her poll, and she does not foam up at all. She's had her teeth done, so we can rule that out. I have tried many different combos-tongue tied, not tied, no caveson, caveson, straight bar, smooth snaffle, fat rubber snaffle to wear in the stall, 2 snaffles, you name it, I've tried it. My bag of tricks is now empty! How do I get this mare to relax her jaw, chew her bits, and respond. I've got nothing.


Tip of the Day - Communicating with a woman who insists on keeping her mouth shut is difficult..with a horse it is near impossible!

Thanks for your question. Wow, it sounds like you have already tried about everything there is to try. Number one, making certain there were no dental issues. You are, of course, right. Without a supple mouth, there is not much use for a bridle. Ya' know, this is just a computer keyboard, not a magic wand!! Oh Hell, let's give it a try.

99 times out of one hundred, tying the bit into the halter and allowing the horse to wear it in the stall a few days will do the trick and put you on the right road. This time it didn't work. I would maybe try again with a few provisos. If you have any question about what I am going to describe...do not even think of trying this.

Start with a normal smooth snaffle. Wrap it several turns with Seal-Tex. Wrap some pork rind (bacon) around the Seal- Tex. In a plastic bottle, mix some glycerin, apple cider vinegar and a bit of peppermint flavoring. (Incidentally, I drenched every horse I worked, with this mixture every time they were worked.) Get a wide 3-4 inch rubber band. Put the bit in a bridle and have some elastic side straps and a surcingle. Bridle your mare with no cavesson and adjust the bit so it is lower than the corners of her mouth, lower than you would usually like one. Pull the tongue and place the rubber band well back and around it. Place it back in her mouth and under the bit and pull the rubber band over the bit and around the end of the tongue. (essentially, you have very humanely, tied the tongue to the bit in such a way it can move) Pour a generous amount of the glycerin mixture in her mouth squeeze well back in her mouth as well as around the bit. Ideally, you would fasten your side straps loosely, and turn her loose in the arena or large bull pen. You want her moving around at a trot or canter...not running, not just standing there. Every now and then, carry some treat like green grass, sweet feed, chewing tobacco etc to her and push it in her mouth. The idea is to make one hell of a mess with the hopes much of it comes from the slobber she should start to work up.

The principal is you have not bound anything. No cavesson to immobilize the mouth, no tight shoestring to immobilize the tongue, no tight side rein to immobilize the jaw. You have given her nothing to lean on as to cheat you. You have additionally given her an incentive to move her tongue and mouth with the rind, glycerin, treats etc. There is no getting around it, she must learn to use her mouth with a bit in it! If you see this is working do not over do but repeat the next few days. If you see nothing, when you put her away, tie the bit in her halter in the same place as before but without a tongue tie and turn her loose in her stall with another squirt of glycerin. Repeat all of this for several days.

Once you find her using her mouth, there should be little problem getting her to let go of the bridle and we can discuss that issue at such time. Thanks again for your question and I hope these little tips make some sense to you and are of some help. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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


Hi LF--

Thanks for your response. I think you probably ought to come and see her. The more time I am spending with this mare, the more I am thinking she is hurting. She came to me with a large mass above her right knee. She is very tight on her right side and she seems to "favor" it in some ways-for example, when I have her in side reins and she starts to get tired she curves her whole body to the right-like she trying to relieve some pain or pressure. Also when she gets tired she picks up that right leg and either holds it in the air, or stomps it. If she is just in side reins with no over check she puts her head almost between her knees, and if I put her in an overcheck as she gets tired she get really aggrivated and once I release theheck her head goes way down, and stays down for 10-15 minutes. Ihope you can see her soon. I am trying not to push too hard with her because she is young, and I don't want to get her so hateful that all she wants to do is defend herself.


Tip of the Day - Even a Doctor cannot prescribe if he does not know all the symptoms!

Thanks for the follow up. She certainly has all the symptoms of one very lame mare. Had I known any of this before, I certainly would not have recommended the procedure I did, concerning this mare. There is absolutely no question a horse must be sound before one can identify and treat the issue. I apologize to you for not asking about her soundness. Every thing you mention about her mouth could well be directly related and I broke my one stead fast rules!!! You must look in all areas Physical, Mental and Training issues, before deciding a treatment. "A rush to judgement will back fire in any area you use it!!" Of course, the mare needs to be sound before anything can be done!!! I will be in Pennsylvania next week and could visit to look at her then if you would like. Just let me know. I apologize again,

LF Lavery

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

March 7, 2009

Are we Legal?
(Liniment Legalities)

Mr Lavery,

We enjoy your site and your advice very much. We met you at the Grand National several years ago and have showed in front of you many times. I hope this is not a bother because our question is not about training but we hope you can answer it anyway. Recently, we have been hearing something about liniment being illegal at USEF shows. We want to know if this is true? Thank-you.

Tip of the Day - Sometimes figuring out what you can treat a pain with... can be a pain!

So good to hear from you. It is no bother what so ever to answer a question like this that is, indeed, very pertinent. In fact, this question just came up on another forum and as I currently sit on the Drugs & Medications Committee of the USEF as UPHA liaison, I felt it appropriate for me to respond with the following comments: To began, most liniments contain substances that appear on the list of forbidden substances. Two that come to mind with the products in question (Absorbine, Vetrolin and Sore-No-More) are Capsaican and Camphor. Used as directed, topically, one would hope there would be no problem. However, even in the most recent FEI competitions, positive tests for Capsaican have come up. Although it should not enter the bloodstream if used as directed, (Not injected, ingested or applied with the use of an "accelerate" such as DMSO) several horses tested positive. It is therefore the recommendation that products containing Capsaican, not be used in conjunction with a USEF competition. Of the three products mentioned, only Sore-No-More contains this substance.

Although Camphor also is on the forbidden list, the USEF believes there has never been a horse tested positive when it was used in a topical liniment. It is the USEF's position that the prudent use, as directed, of Absorbine and Vetrolin should not present a problem.

. As members of the USEF, you may utilize their Email hot line, MEDEQUESTRIAN@AOL.COM or the telephone hot line (800) 633-2473 at any time you desire answers to questions exactly like this. You may also request the free D&M handbook which goes into great detail on the policies etc. of the USEF concerning medications, testing, forbidden substances, etc.

The following is the most recent press release directly from the head of the USEF program:

Press release issued by USEF on March 2, 2009:

D&M Program Notice Regarding Use of Liniments

By Dr. Stephen Schumacher

Recently, there have been some questions related to the use of liniments. The specific liniments in question are:

Equi-Block® Liniments by Miracle Corp.

Ingredients: Menthol (3%), Purified Water, Isopropyl Alcohol, Chamomile Extract, Polysorbate 80, Olibanum Extract, Rosemary Oil, Capsicum Oleoresin, Carbomer, Trolamine, Methylparaben.

Thermaflex Liniment Gel by VitaFlex®

Ingredients: Menthol 4.0%, Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), Plant Extracts of Calendula and Rosemary, Oil of Cajuput (Melaleuca Leucadendron), Other Ingredients include: Alcohol, Water, Thickeners, Benzyl Nicotinate, FD&C Yellow #5 and FD&C Blue #1.

Vetrolin® Liniment by Farnam

Ingredients: Alcohol, Water, Green Soap, Camphor, Oil of Sassafras, Oil of Spike, Methyl Salicylate, Oil of Cedarwood, Oil of Rosemary and Oil of Thyme.

(Forbidden substances are highlighted)

The classification of these substances as Forbidden is neither a new policy nor a recent development. Some of the ingredients in the above listed liniments have been Forbidden substances for more than 20 years. These substances, and products containing them, are classified as Forbidden because of their potential actions on various body systems when administered intravenously, intramuscularly, subcutaneously or orally. However, when used topically and as recommended by their manufacturers, these products have not been associated with a positive by the Federation.

As a practical matter, provided the products containing these substances are administered only topically and as recommended by the manufacturer, there is no need for restricting their use during competitions under USEF rules. However, if these substances are used inappropriately (e.g., in a manner other than topically), this could result in a positive finding in the blood or urine of the horse, which would be a potential violation of the rules.

One exception is the substance capsaicin and closely related analogues (e.g., Capsicum Oleoresin as found in Equi-Block®.) There were four drug violations associated with the detection of capsaicin in the blood following topical administration at the 2008 Olympic Games. Neither of these substances or other capsaicin derivatives should be used topically in any poultice or liniment within the 7 days preceding competition.

It is important to note that many preparations produced for the equine market routinely have their formulations changed without any published notice. It is for this reason that the USEF Equine Drugs and Medications Program typically does not comment on products by name, but requests lists of ingredients. It would be irresponsible for the USEF to list name brand products as Forbidden or Permitted as there is no control or notification of changes in their ingredients.

Please contact the Equine Drugs and Medications Program office by phone (800) 633-2472 or by e-mail at medequestrian@aol.com if there are any questions regarding additional liniments than those addressed above.

Dr. Stephen Schumacher

I hope this has been of some help in clearing up this issue for you. Thanks again 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"

March 5, 2009

We are getting Nowhere Fast!
(dealing with a balky horse)


I recently found your web site, and have spent hours reading the posts! It is very helpful to read training techniques from a saddle seat trainer. A couple of months ago I purchased a saddlebred mare (Basquiat x Saucy's Hot Tamale) who is now five years old, and has never been shown. She was sold because of the economy, and I did not get very much information from her original owners about her training history. After fixing her weight (she was very skinny) and her teeth (she had a hidden wolf tooth as well as caps and very sharp points), I finally have her looking healthy and using the bit rather than being afraid of it. My main problem is her confidence and desire to go forward. Most of the horses I have worked with go forward with a "cluck", and if not, either a riding whip or leg cue will encourage them forward. My new mare on the other hand is a different story. She will have her moments of brilliance and desire to go forward, but many times she will be lazy and barely trot. The more leg I use on her, the faster she comes to a complete halt, and will plant her feet. Sometimes squeezing with my calves will work, but anything beyond a squeeze causes her to stiffen and refuse to move. Is this just the "mare" in her? She is a perfect angel on the ground, no biting, kicking, ear pinning, or sourness. She does not show any signs of pain or lameness, and as long as it is HER idea to go forward...she is happy. Do you have any suggestions on how to work a horse like this?

Thank you for your time!

Tip of the Day - It is very hard to get from here to there... when your stuck in park!

Thank you so much for your question. This is definitely a question that could be better answered were I to see this in person as there could be many reasons for this behavior, each with it's own "tell". For instance, wringing her tail when squeezed to go forward would point to something completely different than sticking her nose in the air. But let's give it a shot anyway. As always, we would look in several areas to access the probable cause of the issue. Physical, mental, lack of basic or improper training.

From your description, my instincts would think "mare" problem. In essence, a physical reason for her to shun going forward and the urging of her to do this. Female problems in her reproductive system such as cysts etc. can well cause some of the symptoms you have experienced. A palpation by a vet can quickly rule this out. One would wonder about her being afraid of her bridle but you have had her dental issues attended to and say she is bridling properly. Actual lameness although another possible cause, does not sound as if it is at issue in this case. On a rare occasion, a bad fitting saddle or a cinch too tight can cause enough discomfort to cause this but I do not read that into your description.

Mental issues come to mind next. It certainly sounds like she is willfully having her own way. In other words she is doing this because she knows she can and she has now become quite good at it. Although, if this is indeed the case, it probably started out in a different way but it has now become an acquired behavior and will be more difficult to correct.

Poor basic training or lack of it certainly can fit into the scenario as well. Five years old, never been shown, little information from the previous owners, sold because of the economy, poor dental work and poor condition. All of these are ominous signs to look out for when selecting a horse. With just some small semantic changes it kind of describes a used car I once bought. You may well have bought someone else's problem.

Starting where your Veterinary will leave off, let's realize that no matter what the cause is, the longer you let it to continue the more the behavior is being re-enforced.

Since we do not seem to be having any luck in the saddle, it would be best to start on the ground. Go back to square one if you will and get your lunge line out. Starting with a whip with a plastic bag or some kind of noise making flag on the end, safely from the center of the circle, wave this behind her every time you "cluck". If she moves forward each time you do this you are on your way. Cluck only when necessary to gain or to maintain speed. Reinforce it with the bag each time at first. You want to teach her that when you cluck she is to go forward. If she is not sufficiently motivated by the "Flag", you may need a little more artillery such as a lash whip. The ideal purpose is not to inflict pain, but to be motivational but a little tough love may sometimes be necessary. Once the lunging has been successful, lunging with a biting rig using elastic reins would be a good next step while using the same technique. Finally, when she is moving out each time you cluck, long lines will take you the rest of the way. As you know, horses are beasts of habit and what you are trying to do is replace a bad habit with a correct one. Only repetition will accomplish this.

Once she is responding to your cluck in long lines, put the saddle on her. Girth not tight at first and lead her at the walk for a while as you slowly tighten it. Have a helper hold and lead her with a shank and halter slipped over her bridle. It would be great to have another helper or two on the ground to encourage her forward progress as swell. Make certain you have a crop carried descreetly. Mount carefully, while keeping your legs away from her sides and reins fairly loose, have your helper walk forward as you quietly cluck. As you are walking, gently let your legs touch her sides and slightly gather your reins. After a bit, cluck again and at the same time lightly squeeze her forward as your helper jogs with you. Should you feel a reticence on her part cluck again, turn her head slightly and squeeze again then loosen. Timing is everything!! Remember, under no circumstances can you allow her to stop again. Between you and your helper or helpers do anything you can to discourage her from stopping. If you can get around the area you are working in, once, without stopping, quit. You have won that battle. Repeat this each time you ride for several rides at a slightly longer distance each time. Your mission is to go forward at the walk or trot, never allowing her to stop on her own while getting her accustomed to your legs and the signals they send. When you feel this is happening, have your helpers rest.

I know this seem like a long process but trust me, your mare did not learn the bad behavior overnight!! If after 2-3 weeks of this procedure you are still not ahead of the game, please let me know but I feel confident you will make progress if you apply the above suggestions. Thanks once again for your question, Good Luck and Good Riding.


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

March 3, 2009

I've been having my ups and Downs!
(Dealing with the Big Trot)

Hi Lonnie,

Have spent a lot of time cruising your site, hoping to find an answer to my concern so that I wouldn't have to ask you about this.

My trainer has found what looks to be an amazing horse for me and that he is truly working to train "Jackson" so that I can ride and show him myself. We got off to a bit of a bad start as the first time I rode him, I fell off of him. . Shortly after that, I fell (or was thrown) from another horse and bruised and wounded my back, left shoulder and ego. The physical injuries are 99% now but I'm still trying to understand why I came off Jackson.

Right after we got, Our trainer was showing him to all of us (my husband included) and impulsively said I should get on. I think he was in a snaffle bridle. Anyway, I was trotting, Jackson's head up, encouraging him with my legs and posting with way too much air, according to Joe, who was behind me. I was saying "whup" and giving and taking with the bridle to no effect and I came off in the turn. Jackson stopped immediately (yea! He thinks right!), waited for me to pick myself up and I remounted and we walked to the barn.I have come to think Jackson's mouth was unresponsive. I've never heard the expression "dead in the mouth" before. Is it the same as "spitting the bits"?

At Gayle Lampe's camp a few weeks after this incident, I learned that some stallion's progeny can be "dead in the mouth, run backwards or go the center of the ring" When I got home, I asked my trainer if Jackson had ever gone "dead in the mouth" and he said yes, he had. I loved his honesty! I know he can deal with this, but can I? What can I do if it happens to me? Obviously I don't have the skills, strength, balance and experience of a trainer!... My "E & C" (ego and confidence) is almost back but it's been several months now and I'm still a little timid.I haven't ridden Jackson in this time — well, once in the aisle which was fine. We trotted and cantered easily — but he isn't ready for me which I understand and is fine. It may take a year for him to get the strength he needs to properly use his hind legs. He has made incredible progress and it is easy to see the horse he can be. This past weekend, a friend rode him in a double bridle for us and a crowd gathered. The grooms even stopped working and came to the rail to watch him!

So, Lonnie, tell me about this issue, please!

Many thanks for your thoughts and counsel!

Tip of the Day- It isn't how high one posts that counts...It's where you come back down!

Great to hear from you again, I am so pleased you have found such a grand horse. His pictures show a real athlete. Also, thank you for your question. It seems you have spent your share of "ground time" but are now ready to get back in the saddle. You know the old adage "there has never been a cowboy that couldn't be throw'ed"? The second half is what I enjoy the most, "there's never been a horse that couldn't be rode" I would have to agree that you were off to a rocky start, but I feel we can put that behind us. Your are correct that " E & C" are very important at this stage of the game. However, it is always smart to season it with just a bit of caution. The incident, as you have so eloquently described it, sounds like someone who had been riding daily for the past 20 years, hops on a relatively strange horse and then proceeds to urge and teem him with her legs with as much effort as put into it as the many times you have won at Louisville. If I didn't know better I'd say you had thrown caution to the wind and Ego was steering the boat!! There is no way to stress enough the notion that a rider and a horse must form a bond of respect and familiarity for the entire experience of riding to be performed to perfection. To know one another that well takes much time. I often say, "there is no shortcut in horsemanship", this bears that out. Imagine Jackson's surprise having this stranger urging him to perform more while most certainly being popped high out of the saddle by the wonderful pair of hocks that appear in this photo you sent of Jackson. Mastering that stride would take anyone a little time.

From your description I feel I can see the entire scenario in my mind's eye. The trot produced by hocks such as these takes a bit of getting used to. Riding it for the first time and so being slightly off balance and off "time" because of it can be the first step in a chain reaction that leads to getting "behind" the bridle rather than using it, you getting a little off center in the saddle, the horse being put ill at ease, asked to go forward but held back, eventually frightened then manifesting itself in the "flight" response leading to a non responsive bridle and all things put together, an issue such as you experienced. In general, as I am certain you have already figured out, you did not follow the rules necessary for a successful first ride. I applaud your exuberance and desire to get all you could out of the horse, it is that winning spirit I noticed in you long ago. But at this juncture, slow and steady will win the race. Only many hours of time in the saddle on Jackson, getting to know him and he you, will take you to the point where you can successfully accomplish what you attempted the last time. You must walk before you run. Although you have your confidence back, you will need to have confidence in Jackson and he in you for this to be the great partnership it can be. These hours of "bonding" might well involve just walking, maybe trail riding, maybe jogging, etc, all in preparation for horse show. The good news, it appears you have a great horse to invest this time in so the payoff will be you eventually showing the caliber horse you were accustomed to in the past. As we all know those are the kind truly worth the effort.]

I hope I have given you a bit of insight as far as dealing with this issue. I have no question this is but a small hill for a high stepper like you. I await news of your progress 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"

March 1, 2009


Hi Folks,

Every now and then I find something I feel would be more educational and entertaining than anything I could muster and we have a "field trip." Today is your lucky day! With this clip, found on Trot.org, you will see wonderful examples of how to hitch and un-hitch horses.

See how very important having calm headers and other helpers can be for structured conduct of a class. Learn how the harness should be properly fitted to the horse. Spectacular footage of the first pleasure driving "relay" class. Enjoy, with pleasant thoughts of the up coming show season. Your comments welcomed in the Guest Book.


Harness Lesson...

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

Links To Questions & Responses
Date Subject Search Criteria
Apr 28, 2009 She Won't Give Me the Nod! Setting the Walking Horse's head
Apr 23, 2009 He Might Have "Motion" Sickness! Dealing with a horse lacking talent and drive.
Apr 20, 2009 I'd Like a Standing Ovation! Stand up crupper for a "Green" tail
Apr 17, 2009 I want my Saddle to be Full of Sit? saddle size
Apr 12, 2009 Why Do Horses Seem To Be Getting More Expen$ive? cost of horses
Apr 7, 2009 To Walk Or Trot.. that is the Question Differences between Walking Horses and Saddlebreds
Apr 4, 2009 How can I convince Myself I am Having Fun? Dealing with a Frightening horse
Apr 1, 2009 Care and building of a Stone Sled Stone Sled
Mar 28, 2009 I Think We Have Gotten the Shaft! Dealing with serious driving issues
Mar 26, 2009 Well..Shut My Mouth! Dealing with the over active mouth
Mar 24, 2009 To Commit or not to Commit Lessons Necessary for Creditable Showing
Mar 22, 2009 Thank you in a "Big" Way From LFL weight
Mar 20, 2009 The Infamous Rearing Issue Revisited!!!! rearing
Mar 10, 2009 This kind of Lockjaw is not Fatal....But! Cold jawed, Hard mouth horse
Mar 7, 2009 Are we Legal? Liniment Legalities
Mar 5, 2009 We are getting Nowhere Fast! Dealing with a balky horse
Mar 3, 2009 I've been having my ups and Downs! Dealing with the Big Trot
Mar 1, 2009 Harness Lesson FIELD TRIP
So You've Rescued an American Saddlebred. Originally written for Saddlebred Rescue, Inc. (See our Links page for rescue site)

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