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May-June 2009's POSTS
June 27, 2009

I Have the Horse but I Need a Partner!
(The ins and outs of Consignment)

Mr. Lavery,

Hi, how are you? I know you have been in the Saddlebred Industry for a lifetime, so I was hoping to pick your brain a little.

I have a 5 year old filly with fantastic breeding. She is very gifted with her legs and her neck goes on forever. She was a little tough when she was young but has matured out of that. I took her out of training in November of last year and turned her out. She needs about 30 days to be finished. She will make a top notch park or 3-gaited 15.2 and under horse for either and adult or jr. exhibitor. She may even go pleasure. She has great quality and could go to Louisville.

So here's the problem....I can't afford to put her back in training and I need to get her sold.

What are my options? I was wondering what your thoughts were on partnerships between owners and trainers on sale horses and if you know of any trainers off the top of your head that may be willing to do a partnership on this filly. She really has a great attitude and is always a show horse.

Any suggestions???

I look forward to hearing back from you.


Tip of the Day - When you start to feel like money is a little tight on your end... Just imagine how tight it is on your trainer's end!!

Thank you so much for your excellent question. Consignment can work very well when it is a "win,win" situation for both parties. Back in the day, when oats were 95 cents a bushel, hay $1.50 a bale, straw even less. When you paid the help $135.00 a week, the electric bill was never over $55,00 and gas was 65 cents a gallon, When horses sold briskly and by the hundreds for $8500.00, blacksmith bills, $75.00 and a good Pick-em-up truck was $5800.00.....it was a very common and rewarding marketing tool. I am not talking about the 50's here..try the 70's, 80's and 90's! Recently, because of the costs involved, consignment is not so popular any more. Not to say it isn't done, just not as often and now, usually, with some provisos. For instance, trainers now often charge a monthly consignment fee, though it does not represent any profit, it helps to defray their staggering costs. It is a fraction what they charge for board and training but it is a monthly charge. Additionally, trainers are not usually responsible for shoeing or vet. A sales price and duration of time must be agreed upon and usually it is in the form of a contract along with what percentage the vested interest of each party is. Your trainer actually becomes the "General Partner" making most decisions concerning readying your horse for sale. You, personally, probably should not expect to ride or show your horse, as clients paying full B&T do, as it is being prepared to sell and that is what you are paying for.

In this economic environment, I would doubt many trainers would be interested in this type of relationship unless they felt your horse was superior and could be readied quickly. From your description, I seriously doubt a horse that has been turned out for 6 months could be prepared to sell in 30 days. Also, this is show season with most trainers constantly on the road and most buyers happily showing the horses they purchased in the fall and spring. Again, I am not saying it cannot be done, but you are not really in the best situation to find a "partner."

If you are interested, I would be happy to send you a sample consignment contract that pretty much covers what we have discussed. Also, depending on where you are located, I would be happy to recommend some trainers you might approach concerning this proposition. Just let me know, phone, E or snail mail.

At this stage of the game...Your first mission would be to "sell" your filly to the trainer. Make he or she believe in her as much as you. If a trainer believes in a horse, it is half sold!!! Have photos, videos, papers, show records on ready and anything else that might make the trainer a believer.

Once again thank you for your question. I hope this has been of some help to you. Don't hesitate to call on me if I can be of more help I look forward to reading of how this worked out 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"

June 25, 2009

We are Having Some "Costume" Issues!
(Selecting the proper harness for the division)

What is the difference between a fine harness and a pleasure harness? We have a pleasure harness, We use the harness for the show pleaseure / country pleasure driving classes. Now we are think about showing in the fine harness class. We have the fine harness cart, (4 wheels) but not the harness. Can we use the pleasure harness on the fine harness cart? Or at least part of it. I know that the trail crupper is different, since in Fine Harness they where a tail brace. Please let me know.


Tip of the Day - In showing horses, often it is tradition, not common sense, that dictates the rules we must live by!

Thank you so much for your question. Before we get the cart before the horse, let me say it can indeed be somewhat confusing as there are various little nuances, combinations and possibilities with each of the three harnesses you mention and a rather vague description with confusing language of what is proper. In fact, it is possible for the three of them can to have very little in common. As the rules read:

Country Pleasure Driving - Entries to be shown in a light show harness, blinkers,overcheck with separate overcheck bit or sidecheck (separate sidecheck bit is optional) and snaffle bit ( straight or jointed)

Show Pleasure Driving - Entries to be shown in a light harness with blinkers, snaffle and separate overcheck bit is required.

Fine Harness - Entries to be shown in light harness with blinkers, snaffle bit and overcheck are required.

There....I am certain that clears it up for you!!!! If not, please join the club. According to these rules, the only division that requires a patent leather "show" harness is Country Pleasure while Show Pleasure and Fine Harness must simply be shown in a light harness. This, of course, is completely incorrect. To address your first question...A Fine Harness is accepted to be a black harness made of fine bridle leather and accented with black patent leather trimmed with a colored bead ( almost always red or maroon) and fitted with brass turrets, buckles, rings and other fittings. It further consists of a square blinkered, overcheck bridle, with cavesoon, running martingale, turn back, crupper (Does not have to be a stand up crupper) breast collar (in lieu of collar and hames), saddle, surcingle, belly band, safetys, fills, traces and lines, russet in color. The horse is hitched to a Buggy. As stated above the snaffle bit and overcheck are required. In order to see some of the finest examples of a fine harness please visit this web site: http://www.freedmanharness.com/. To be sure, there are more economical harnesses available but these are recognized as some of the best money can buy as this photo shows.

Although this same harness may be used on a Show Pleasure horse, I have, on occasion, seen Brown Leather harnesses used instead of the Black. The leather is again fine bridle leather and the Patent Leather accents appear pretty much as on the Show Harness. Brass is heavily used. They are usually used in conjunction with light colored high wheeled carts. The bit rules include the separate overcheck bit which precludes using a 4 ring bit to satisfy the requirement.

As with Fine Harness and Show Pleasure, a fine harness may be used on a Country Pleasure Horse. As with the Show Pleasure, Brown harnesses turn up quite often, and I have seen them in this division looking more functional than really fancy with little or no patent leather. Along with the option of using a sidecheck, round blinkers are accepted and the bit rules allow for a four ring straight bar bit to be used to satisfy the "check" requirement.

It is not necessary to have a $$$$ fine harness to compete in any of theses divisions but it certainly can show your horse off to his best advantage if you do. No matter what harness you use, it must gleam with cleanliness, be in excellent repair and be correctly applied for you to be in consideration for high placement on a judge's card.

I hope this has in some way been of some help to you. If it has I only ask that you inform our readers of your progress, etc. in the Guest Book. Thank you again for your wonderful question. Good Luck and Good Driving!!

LF Lavery

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

June 23, 2009

After Conferring with Dr Bristol, I need a Second Opinion!
(Moving to the curb)

Hello Mr. Lavery,

I thoroughly enjoy your site and have learned so much. Thank you for such a valuable resource! I am an AOT and have a 5-year-old Saddlebred. I've had him at home about a year and we get along great in a snaffle and martingale. I work him in a copper Dr. Bristol driving bit. I was told he was green broke to the double when I bought him, but when I first put the double on him, he flipped his nose up repeatedly in protest of the bits, basically going upside down. My curb bit is a 5-inch shank aluminum low-port, what I thought was a "baby bit." I wrapped the curb in latex -- no change. I wrapped the curb chain in latex -- no change. And then I switched bradoons from a thinner straight snaffle to a thicker copper Dr. Bristol, and the flipping stopped instantly.

Now instead of flipping, he has started to evade both bits by opening his jaw and either grabbing them or leaning into them (something he does not do in the snaffle bridle). When I ask for him to give his nose, he does the complete opposite. If I tie up my snaffle rein and ride with just the curb, the neck does drop, but he gives beautifully to the bit with a relaxed mouth -- no bracing, no grabbing, no evading.

So my question is -- is this a bitting problem (e.g., I need a new bit), a training problem (he was never introduced to the double properly and doesn't know how to use the curb) or something else altogether?

He is a little horse, barely 15 hands and has a tiny head. He wears cob/Arab bridles adjusted to the last hole to get them to fit, so I'm also wondering if he just doesn't like having so many bits in his mouth.

You'll see from the photo he is not hingey, and it is hard to get neck up and nose in. I would love for him to raise up more and put more weight on his back end. I started jogging him a few months ago, but it is hard to get him very motivated to use himself. He is quite the laid-back horse.

Thank you so much for any insight you can provide! Please let me know if you have any questions.

Tip of the Day - How well a horse wears the bridle is sometimes prefaced by how God put him together...Unfortunately!

Thank you so much for your question. Sounds like AOT could, in this case stand for very Annoyed Over This! Your assessment of your situation is right on with one exception. As I have said, maybe a million times, any problem associated with biting a horse must first be addressed by a capable Equine dentist. Not seeing the actual behavior, I would assume many of these issues come from dental irregularities. He is at a critical age, 5 years, to need dental attention. Having said that let's move along.

Although he may well be on your "bad" list, as I look at the photo I find him to be attractive though I would concur he will have a bit of difficulty setting his head any better than he is. It is not because he isn't "hingey" rather he is extremely thick in his throttle and jaw. He simply cannot bend much more than that. The good news, he is not bending, (dropping) at his withers. This being the case, I believe, that once you get him comfortable with his mouth, he will be able to find a pleasing place for his head. Again, by only seeing the photo, I would recommend dropping the bit a hole or two in his mouth and lengthening the martingale a hole or two, as well. Remember, much like the curb it replicates when two reins are used, the running martingale was never meant to pull the horse's head down, only to tuck the nose.

In reading your excellent description of your biting practices, it sounds as if you have learned more than you know about your horse. For instance, he is certainly more comfortable in a thicker bit. The fact that he does not fight when only the curb is used should tell you he does not like a bit high in his mouth as with the bridoon. The symptoms you describe usually manifest themselves when a horse is "afraid" of his mouth being hurt. The Dr. Bristol, though no longer as popular as it once was, is a wonderful bit and can sometimes have the miraculous results you mention. Much like the "Cricket" in a western bit, the little square of metal in the Bristol not only occupies the tongue but protects it as well thus giving the horse a sense of security. I do not feel you need new bits, however, it is very important to have the right size bits when dealing with a small, "pony mouthed" horse. Because of the reduced area for proper bit placement, too long a bit will be sloppy in the mouth causing discomfort to short will pinch. Aside from any dental issues, which I am sure you will get resolved, I would suggest it is a matter of placement in his mouth. Find where he is most comfortable. I would also suggest using a running martingale on the snaffle rein when using the double bridle, if you are not already doing so.

It is also quite possible that the formative training needed to accustom him to the double bridle, was not there for him. If so, starting back with the basics will be of great help.

I am including a little "Homework" from a past question that might be beneficial for you to read. She Keeps Saying No. I will quote one part of it that addresses the dental issue.

"Horses, being grazing animals, inflict much wear on the molars or back teeth with the constant side to side chewing of hay, grass and grain. This wear manifests itself with very sharp corners on these teeth. These sharp edges can dig into the cheeks,the tongue and can sometimes even make it difficult for the horse to close his jaw, thus making the horse very uncomfortable. You can imagine how this discomfort can be magnified by the addition of the double bridle and the tightened cavesson.

It is very simple to check this out and to see if I am right. Standing in front of your horse, with a good bit of gentle petting, slowly reach into her mouth when she is relaxed, and gently pull her tongue out one side of her mouth. Pull it up to the corner of her mouth so she cannot close her mouth and the insert the thumb of your other hand gently along the cheek. Carefully, as these edges can be sharp as razors, feel he outside edges of the back molars. If they are extremely uneven or sharp, you need go no farther. To be certain, repeat this with the other side. Also, you may visually check the inside of the cheek looking for sores etc. and you may visually check the lounge, as well."

I hope this is of some help to you and if it has been, I only ask that you inform us of your progress in the Guest Book. Once again, thanks for your question. Good Luck and Good Riding.


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

Thank you so much, Mr. Lavery! On my last ride, I dropped the curb one hole, and the bridoon 2 holes, and had none of the issues. Granted, it was HOT outside and neither he nor I had much energy, but he felt like a happier horse.

I had his teeth checked in March, but will definitely have my vet take another look soon as things could have changed.

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you. The help you provide is invaluable!

June 21, 2009

Is there Some Reason He is Going a "Bit" Fast?
(Dealing with a horse that grabs the bit with his teeth)

Mr. Lavery,

I have a 5 year old Morgan gelding who has a habit of grabbing the bit with his right side and running away with it. I have not owned this horse for very long, so had the dentist out today to look at his teeth. He found that he still had his wolf teeth, so went ahead and pulled them and floated his teeth. The dentist said that he could tell that he had been grabbing the bit on the right and he had a groove in his teeth where he had held the bit. He said he should be much more comfortable now that the wolf teeth have been pulled. I am concerned, however, that grabbing the bit may be a well established habit that will be difficult to break. What is the likelihood of this behavior continuing even though he should be much more comfortable in his mouth now? If it is likely to continue, what suggestions do you have for addressing this behavior? At home, I ride with a skinny snaffle bit most of the time. For showing, I use a full bridle. We just went to our first show and he did get strong in the ring. Once he grabs the bit, it is very difficult to get him back. Any help would be appreciated.


Tip of the Day - There is quite a pronounced difference between a horse stepping to the bridle and one stepping through the bridle.

Thank you so much for your question. A horse grabbing the bit in his teeth, as you so wonderfully described, is not a common behavior, but one that happens now and again. Because the horse's teeth have no pain conducting nerves on the surface, quite often a horse will do this to protect another part of his mouth that is in discomfort. As with all mouth issues, there is no point in even discussing them until an Equine dentist checks the horse's mouth. You, astutely, gathered this and I believe have found the original cause of the problem. Your dentist has addressed it. Make no mistake, no matter what type of bit one plans to place in a horse's mouth, Wolf teeth will cause you nothing but problems, especially with a curb bit. Because of their position in the jaw, they simply cannot coincide with bits in a horse's mouth. Much like a bad marriage, there simply ain't room enough for both of them!

I am quite pleased to see you "thinking out of the box" by realizing that although you have found and corrected the root of the problem, habits associated with it might well remain. You are quite right to be thinking this way. I am certain that after the removal of the Wolf teeth, there was marked improvement but some of his issues may linger. Be sure, he will continue to improve greatly over time when he finds he no longer has to defend his mouth. To deal with the habit, here are a few things you might try.

When working with the snaffle, try to acquire a pair of rubber bit rings. They are, perhaps 4 inches in diameter and placed just inside the rings of the snaffle so they nearly touch the corners of the horse's mouth. They will discourage or stop him from grabbing the bit. A snug cavesson can also be of some help.

When working in a curb bit, if you can still find a curb with the small apertures on both shanks between the port and the rein ring, fasten a lip strap or lip chain to them. Again, this will discourage or stop his ability to grab the bit. Additionally, you may also use the rubber bit rings.

I hope you find some advise that you can use, here. I thank you once again for your question and 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"

June 17, 2009

(Corrective Shoeing Tips)

Hello Lonnie:

I have a few shoeing/training questions for you. I am working a three year old that is very large and heavy boned. He is leaving his hocks behind and, although he is built in such a way to promote that, I am hoping you can help me with some shoeing ideas to improve him. He’s at a natural angle, carries about 18 oz shoe with a leather pad, the toe is scooped with a mild heel grab.

Another three year old filly is having a “good problem”….she’s very gifted with her legs and occasionally hits her elbows. I think she is learning to be conservative because of it. I am thinking of putting a flat shoe (non-rolled toe) on her and lengthening the shoe, also. She’s already at a very low angle. Ideas?

Tip of the Day - Many times fixing one end of the horse with shoeing, also requires giving some attention to the other end.

Thank you so much for your questions. You, as usual, have certainly described your situation wonderfully. It is good to know that you also realize that conformation is very heavily involved with the horse's ultimate way of going. Shoeing can merely enhance, improve or sometimes ruin the natural going God gave the horse. As I am certain you know, with good conformation, the first prerequisites for great motion are a sound horse, a horse that is healthy from the inside out, a supple mouth (able to place the horse's head, center of balance, where it belongs) and great conditioning (working the right muscles in the right way to promote motion and fitness) Only when these are achieved and a well shod horse is lacking that motion, do we consider corrective shoeing.

As I have said many, many times...The one steadfast rule about shoeing is there is no one stead fast rule about shoeing. 100 horses may be shod by a rule that the next 20 may not. Keeping that in mind and not seeing the issues or the feet, I will give you my take on the conditions you describe. Keep in mind these are my opinions.

Although it is a common practice to make a horse reach with his front feet by keeping them on the ground longer, i.e. Flat shoe, grabs, scoop toe, low angle, scotch bottom etc., it absolutely the opposite for getting a horse to reach behind. If you have any question about that assessment...see which direction his knees point and then look to see which direction his hocks point. Keeping him on the ground back there allows the horse's body to get way ahead of the rear end so as to be impossible for the hocks to catch up and get under him. If he were mine, only from what you have told me, I would first try a rolled toe shoe with no calks to try to quicken him up. A toe weight is in order and stay with the natural angle unless the shoe does not work. The most recent post, The Front Room Looks Terrific but the Kitchen is a Mess!, might be of some interest to you concerning this.

A horse that is "trotting in a box" does not have good motion. I believe you to be on the correct path with the filly. Because of the mechanics, you do want to keep her on the ground longer because the front leg will reach out to be ahead of the horse's body. A shoe of too much weight can promote an elbow knocker and a winger for that matter. Keep the shoe light. The "heartbreakers", rubber bands, can teach one to do this as well. Sounds like you could put the gelding's hind shoe on her in front if it wasn't so heavy! I like a 45 degree angle a flat shoe perhaps set a bit forward with enough length for support and no wedges. As I am sure you know there are several different ways of working horses with these issues that can be of great benefit but I think we have pretty much covered it as far as shoeing goes.

I hope I may have been of some help or least given you some ideas. Once again, thank you so much for you email. 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"

June 15, 2009

The Front Room Looks Terrific but the Kitchen is a Mess!
(Ways to improve hocks)

Hi Mr. Lavery

I was wondering if I could once again ask you for your help. I know that in a previous e-mail you said that there is not much one can do to improve a horse's back motion if he is not naturally endowed with it, but is there nothing that can be done?

I have recently started training a pony for a very good friend of mine and unfortunately he is not very gifted behind. He is like two horses, one up front with extreme motion and one behind scuffing the ground (he does however work with good balance and brings his hocks well enough under the body but he just lacks height).

Is there not a sort of action device that can be used behind or is there a certain way of training that one could implement? I know and effectively use most of the front action devices such as elastics,shackles,rattlers etc. but I have not yet come across a device that can be used behind.

I really want to get this pony working behind because if he does then he will be well on his way to becoming a champion as he is brilliant in front and has a stunning head setting and carriage.

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Tip of the Day- As far as passengers go...Hocks are never welcome in the buggy!

Thank you for your question. It is good to hear from South Africa again. The way you describe the pony being like two horses (front vs. hind) reminds of several animals I saw over in your country. They certainly looked like they were put together by a committee! Those Giraffes and those Wart Hogs are just plain wrong!! We won't even talk Ostrich. As usual, you have assessed your situation superbly and I quite understand your chagrin with this issue. You are quite right, it is my feeling that it is far easier to help a horse in front than it is behind. I did not say it is impossible. May I remind you of the January 26th, correspondence:

Would Like Both Ends to Meet

And I quote:"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."

"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."

Other things you can do that might improve your lot:

As I always suggest in matters dealing with mechanical issues before anything else, have a vet examine the pony checking for stifle, hock, ankle. hip, back and whirl bone problems. When identified, injections of counter irritant, HUA, cortisone etc. can be miraculous when dealing with the rear end.

Conditioning is of course invaluable in strengthening the rear end. Jog, Jog, Jog! There is no substitute! When he is strong behind, then you can line him and by checking him up and slowing him down, move the center of balance and therefore the weight to his hind quarters.

Surprisingly, I have seen all of the action devices you mentioned (and I mean all!) used on a horse or pony's rear feet to improve motion. Ponies, especially, seem to benefit from the wearing of leather straps etc. behind, 24/7. They seem to get in a habit of stepping higher.

Each time you prepare to work your pony, with you at his head, back him in a straight line 50- 60 feet and repeat this when you are done working.

If you have plenty of reach, consider raising his heels or a rolled toe shoe. It can be a little heavier than the front. Small pieces of lead screwed to the pad can be an economical and easy way to determine how much shoe to make and what kind, toe weight, even weight.

Short of asking for God's help, I think that pretty much covers the options I can tell you about on this venue. I hope you will find some help here or at least a little food for thought. Thank you once again for your question, As always, I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Driving,

LF Lavery

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

June 10, 2009

He Just Wants to Pace Himself
(Dealing with the "Double Gaited" horse)

Hello Mr. Lavery,

First off, I want to say how thankful I am for your website! I can't tell you how much I've learned and I always enjoy reading through your posts. I have a 14-year-old Saddlebred gelding who has recently given me trouble with his gaits. He was sold to me as a 3-gaited horse, but I quickly discovered that he knew the cue for a rack. As time goes on, it seems that he becomes more and more "pacey" and now it's extremely difficult for him to maintain a true trot. I've tried the method of turning him in small circles, getting progressively bigger until he is able to trot down the straighaway, but it seems whenever we ride a straight line, he breaks into the weird trot-rack-pace gait. I keep my hands low, sit deeply in the saddle, and clearly ask him to "trot". I've also tried riding him with bell boots on his front hooves, which worked for a while but now it seems the effects have worn off! He is kept barefoot and I ride him in a jointed pelham bit with double reins. Any suggestions to get a "pacey" horse to maintain a true trot?

Thanks for your help!

Tip of the Day - Posting while a horse is not trotting is soooo difficult....only a very few great showmen were able to pull it off!

Thank you so much for your E-mail. I am surprised you are disenchanted with the extra options you unknowingly received on your 3 gaited horse! Usually a rack is a expensive option! Although... a pace is not exactly a welcome gait. The tendency towards a lateral gait, as you describe, can have many causes and just as many "remedies". Let's talk causes.

Soundness. A horse that is unsound will often prefer a lateral gait as opposed to the trot as it puts less concussion and stress on the feet, legs and the horse's joints and body. As we all know, when a vet checks a horse for soundness, it is at the jog or the trot. In your case, I would lean towards foot soreness. If it is the trot you desire, it would be to your advantage to shoe this horse in front. A plate or anything to protect his front feet will be of great benefit.

Mouth. Because the horse's center of balance is in his head, the ability to raise or lower it easily by way of a good mouth is very important in helping the horse pick up and maintain the trot. He should neither pull nor be totally loose in the bridle. A single, Pelham bit makes this procedure very difficult. Riding in a snaffle with two reins and a martingale or a double bridle will make it much easier for you to make the necessary adjustments in his head set that can make it easier for him to trot.

Training. If this horse is truly a trained gaited horse, he should respond to the "universal" signals for the rack and the trot. On the other hand, should he be a double gaited horse (which I suspect) the lateral gait is his natural gait. The signal for the trot is to slightly, lower his head, sit down, close and lower your hands and touch him on the wither. Remain seated with very quiet hands until he is trotting. Hands must remain extremely steady and quiet while trotting!

The Double Gaited horse.
Shoeing the front feet will not only protect them but also help overcome this tendency. Aside from helping his trot, this will also discourage the pace if you wish to try the rack option. The use of a boot or strap, etc in front, will be of great help to that end, as well.

Footing. Where you work and the footing you work on can have a tremendous influence on the gaits your horse is doing. Footing that is hard favors a lateral gaited horse. Footing that is soft and deeper, will actually encourage a horse to trot.

Conditioning. As gaits go, the trot requires the most physical effort, therefore we often find horses who are tired, slipping into a lateral gait. Traditionally, the jog cart is the true trot builder. It gets the horse fit and improves timing more efficiently than any other method.. Going over cavallettis, poles etc. can also be of some timing help and will "break up" the Pace.

Although I am not able to see this behavior first hand, I feel your excellent description has given me enough to recommend these procedures. I hope this may be of some help or enlightenment. Thank you so much, again, for your great question. I hope to read 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"

June 7, 2009

I Find No Pleasure in this Tale
Dealing with crooked tails


I have a saddlebred who was shown in classes where a brace could be used. I am a beginner and am showing him in show pleasure classes where his tail cannot be put in a brace. My dilemma: he has a "noodle" tail which flops over to the right side. He holds it up nicely, but it flops over. Are there any suggestions you have that I can use to support his tail more to the left side? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Tip of the Day - A "West bound" tail on a "South bound" horse...is not a very pretty sight.

Thank you so much for your question. This, of course, is not an uncommon dilemma and although it is more prevalent with breeds that have "set" tails, it is one that can be found in most any breed of horse. Depending on the severity and the location of the "lean", there are some things that can be of help. A chiropractor can sometimes be miraculous in dealing with this issue if the tail is simply crooked or leans. If it is what is sometimes described as a "corkscrew", usually the only hope comes from a simple surgical adjustment. Should this be the case, I would be happy to recommend someone to you. If, on the other hand, we are dealing with a side leaning tail, a little hard work, time and patience on your part, can make a good deal of difference. Here are some suggestions.

Before and after working your horse and every day, for that matter, "work" the tail for 5-10 minutes in the opposite direction than it is leaning. Start slowly and gently and as you feel it loosen, continue to lift and push farther and farther in that direction. When you finish, it should be in a different attitude than when you started. This can be reinforced by tying the tail over to the opposite side as well. Tying the tail over is not a procedure that should be taken lightly. If not carefully done, it cannot only cost you tail hair but could be somewhat uncomfortable for the horse which will be counter productive. The usual procedure is to start several hours before the horse shows. Braid an ace or cotton bandage into the hair of the tail (not close to the tail bone) Gently, pull the tail to the opposite side than it is leaning. It should not be extremely tight but enough to make the tail go past straight. You may fasten the bandage to the horse's blanket, a surcingle, or run the bandage between the front legs and fasten around the neck. You must keep an eye on this and readjust it when necessary. Depending on how your horse deals with this, this procedure can be used on a daily basis as well. Unfortunately, these are pretty much the only procedures available to you but I have seen some excellent results from them. I would certainly encourage readers with some other ideas to help out and post them in the Guest Book.

Thanks again for your question, I hope to read of the improvement 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.

November 20, 2008 (republished due to popular demand)

We got Clipped, Clipping
(Trimming and body clipping)

Dear Mr Lavery,

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LF Lavery

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

May 26, 2009

Slashing Teeth, Lightning Hooves and Raging Hormones!
(Dealing with a dangerous breeding stallion)

Hello Mr. Lavery. I don't really know how to start this letter...but I will just go ahead and spill it. I was brutally attacked by one of my stallions . To the point that I ended up in the ER. He struck me in the head knocking me down. then laid on me with both knees cracking my scapula and slipped off with one leg cracking my wrist..while holding my right shoulder in his teeth..savageing me. Then when I managed to get face up he grabbed my left shoulder savaging that arm. I am undergoing phy therapy. I don't know why he didnt go for my face. While he had me on the ground I managed to grab a handful of sand and whipped it in his face. He stopped immediately.

I have had this stud his whole life. I sent him with a "trainer" for the yearling Futurity..he came back so mean that I had to pull him from future showing. Well, as the years went by I put him on mares ..taught him to saddle bridle and even have sat him...But this was right after he had bred a mare and I had all his equipment on him. all but the bridle...took it off and was putting him away..when this happened i was going to unlatch the gate and I must have taken my eyes off for a split second. I know this horse and you cannot do that. I know I am probably at fault for messing with him. Anyway I got back hold of him and punished him by jerking him to stand on 4 legs..and removed his saddle and put him away. I then felt the blood running down my head and came in..looked and drove to ER. My question is..will this happen again..I mean in your experience..is it true that once they do this they will always try?

I have been in to groom him and we look at each other very differently now. He is standoffish and so am I. I am not fearful of him ..I do not want him to get that signal..so far i have been bucking up to the challenge..But with hesitation.

This is one beautiful animal and I have been told perhaps he should be destroyed...so I really would hate to put him down..was thinking of selling him but would rather "deal" with this issue head on.

Please ...won't you give some thought to my quandry!?

hell uva situation. AND i have to use him again in a week or so.

Thanks so much for your time and consideration in this matter.

Tip of the Day – Like the old timer once said…”I never met a stallion that wouldn't make a better gelding.”

Thank you so much for you question. Let me assure you, you are one very lucky person! An encounter such as you describe, is many, many times permanently crippling and often fatal! A stallion confrontation is every bit as dangerous as one with a Grizzly, a lion or whatever is your worst nightmare. As you may have noticed, this month seems to have brought out the bad in more than one horse here on this site! When a normally well trained horse has issues in the spring, it usually has to do with the nice weather and the owner wanting to make up for all the time lost with the horse he has ignored and left to his own devices over the winter. Spending more time with a horse in a week than one has spent in months will certainly bring a horse's shortcomings and newly acquired, over the winter, issues to the front.

As with the previous case of the Quarter horse, ( I'd Like to see some "Change" from my Quarter Horse!) respect or rather the lack of it is usually responsible for most of these unacceptable behaviors. While that gelding was flexing his muscle and running on instincts with no logic behind it, because he could, your stallion is a bit of a different story. He has the added motivation of his hormones. Many a stallion can seem to be a solid, well mannered horse for most of the year but revert to the "Wild Side" during the spring and breeding season by displaying the "leader of the pack" herd tendencies inherent with horses in the wild. It is their destiny, it's in their genes, it's in their ancestry. A mean stud that is that way year round is a dangerous animal. One that can be fine most of the year and then suddenly turn vicious, is more dangerous. With the mean stud, one knows to always keep their guard up. The other kind gives you a false sense of security that let's you let that guard down, as apparently happened to you. Further, I cannot stress strongly enough, my opinion gained over many years, that a completely trustworthy stud does not exist. There can be a trigger to disaster with any of them. Knowing this, let's see if we can come up with some things that may be of help.

It must be obvious to you that you can never again let your guard down when working around him. It is not, once he has done it, that he has tasted blood or gotten away with the behavior etc but simply the fact he is a stallion, this could happen again at any time, make no mistake.

Never, even on the finest most professional breeding farms, does one person, alone, do the breeding. Common sense should dictate handling a 1000 lb stallion is not a job for the Lone Ranger! Make certain you have a Tonto with you. For that matter, it would be very wise to have someone with you anytime you are working around this horse. (many the lonely victim has been found hurt or dead in the stall the next day!)

If he is normally not a mannerly horse, you can take a shot at instilling some respect using the lead shank to control his head as described in the Quarter horse letter. Keep in mind, any progress made in that department might well negate during another hormone inspired breeding incident when that which is his heritage takes control. Please be careful!

I personally feel it is good that you show him no fear. Although I have never seen the definitive study proving they can sense that fear, I believe they can. But please, always maintain a very healthy respect for what he is capable of!

As far as putting him down, I am never a proponent for that. Perhaps the tip of the day at the beginning of this should be given some thought but that is entirely up to you.

In my opinion, the very wisest thing you could do is make arrangements to stand him on a breeding farm. (usually for a percentage of the stud fee) There, he would be handled by professionals who are not emotionally involved, would cut him no slack and insist he breed mannerly. They are equipped to do just that. Second recommendation, have a professional "breeder" help you with him the next few times you breed him. (probably he would ask for a small fee). You might find some advice or a tip from him to be priceless.

I thank you once again for your question and am very sorry I did not have more encouraging advice. As I have often said, owning a horse is a very expensive proposition, having some fun with the horse should be the very least you get out of your investment. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding and hope to read of your safe progress in the Guest Book.

LF Lavery

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

May 22, 2009

I'd Like to see some "Change" from my Quarter Horse!

I currently own an eight year old quarter horse gelding, and I've been having some issues with him. He has almost no respect for people, and its not just me. In fact, he's even worse with other people than with me. He invades personal space, threatens to kick, and bites. He usually listens better when I'm riding him, but his ground manners are terrible. He's also not afraid of whips at all, so I have absolutely no way to make him listen. Often times I don't feel safe going into the field with him because he'll walk right up to you and start being violent and assertive. If I try to stand up to him and make him stop, he turns his hindquarters towards me and threatens to kick. This forces me to back down, because I have no doubt that he actually would kick me. And, like I said, even using a whip to try and make him back down is not effective. I'm not sure what I can do to help this.

The stables I got him from trained him, but not very well. They let him get away with too much, and I think this is the root of the problem.

How can I establish some respect from this horse?

Tip of the Day- Sometimes it is best to accept the fact... there is no point in beating a dead horse.

Thank you so much for your E-mail. I'm afraid answering your question might pose some problems. You are in a very precarious position that could be tantamount to disaster. When a 1000 lb animal has no respect for human beings, it is like an accident looking for a place to happen. He is in command at the whim of his instincts with no logic involved. Man has learned to control elephants with a hooked stick, lions and tigers with a whip and a chair, bears, with a chain collar, monkeys with a stick and food. All of this training involves logic overcoming brute force by instilling respect. When this relationship breaks down there is usually no question who holds the upper hand! You, unfortunately, find yourself in that position at this time. You must gain respect before his threats become realities and someone gets hurt. Backing down is the worst thing you can do as it actually empowers and rewards his bad behavior. Let's see if we can come up with some ideas.

To begin, I am sorry to say, this is not a job for peppermints but rather a time for some tough love. It is obvious his formal education,when he perhaps was at a manageable size and age, was lacking. The key to correcting just about every issue you mention is keeping control of his head and keeping his attention. You must earn his respect before you can earn his trust and to do this is going to take a bit of tough leverage on your part. Like a dog trainer uses a "choke" collar, your tool should be a chain lead shank. By putting the chain through the halter and over his nose, you have that leverage to control. A more level playing field, if you will. You want him facing you and paying attention to you. Walk towards him, should he attempt to swing his butt to you..jerk that lead shank hard until he faces you. Repeat. Cluck to him and encourage him to come to you..if he does not, pull him forward. Ask him gently to back...if he does not, jerk that chain until he backs. You must be very quick to "punish" resistance and quick to reward progress. He will resent all of this at first but he will respond and when he does, be softer with the shank and reward him with a kind word or a pet. Do not try to do all of this in one day as this may take several weeks. You want to work towards a horse that will face you and walk to you when you cluck. Will back up when pressure is put on his shank and a horse that knows better than to turn his butt to you. Again, firm is the word of the day and kindness and reward only come when he has done something to be rewarded for. I would recommend that you get some professional help for the first few training sessions as timing is very important at this stage of the game and a professional might show you how to use a whip to get his attention.

I am confident that if you use these techniques and some common sense, you will perceiver. Be very careful. 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.

May 17, 2009

At Last..the Secret is Finally Revealed!
(My Grooming procedure for the Horse Show)

Dear Mr Lavery,

We are AOTs and have just found you. We read a lot of your letters and now feel ok about asking you a question as you seem to treat everyone the same. We have Morgans. We are in Colorado and seen you show when you were out here. No matter how hard my sister and me try, our horses never seem to look as good as yours did or as good as most of the pro trained horses of any of the breeds. They just look different, especially yours. I don't mean how they show, I mean how the look: the hair, the feet, the tails and all. Is there some secret you people have that we don't know bout. Is it like a special feed or medicine? I know it is probably a real secret but we really would like to know and would be in your debt. If this is to dum, you don't have to post it.


Tip of the Day - Nothing in a bag, can , or bottle is a substitute for elbow grease... when it comes to a horse's coat of hair!

Thank you so much for your question. It is certainly not Dumb! (Particularly the very nice compliment about my horses) Although high quality feeds, hay and supplements can be of some help with the horse's appearance, you are so very astute to figure out we professionals do have something going for us that most AOTs don't have. Some trainers might consider it a secret but like the Unknown Magician, I am willing to reveal it and suffer their wrath! So Ladies, be ready to take notes, here goes! The Deep Dark Secret!

After the horse is cross tied:

  • Pick his stall, again, of manure and wet spots. Remove the bedding from immediately under his feet, pile it to the side walls.
  • Brush off his blanket and any harness he should be wearing. Wipe and oil any harness. Remove them and hang them.
  • Spend several minutes with a rubber or plastic curry comb getting hair and dander off his body, starting from behind his throttle to his tail, pay special attention under his belly.
  • Using a stiff brush start at his head and go over where you just curried and also add the legs.
  • Repeat this with your soft brush starting with his face and then wipe everything with a towel or rub rag.
  • Using a dampened sponge, clean the dock of the tail and with another cloth or sponge, wipe the inside of the ears and nostrils.
  • If necessary, trim the ears, with 40 blades, leaving but a small sharp point on each tip. Trim any thing else including nose, bridle path, use 10 or 15 blades on the back of jaw, cheeks, coronet bands, pasterns, etc.
  • Wipe the hooves clean of manure, dirt or hoof grease and then pick each out. A damp but not wet rag or sponge is fine for this as well.
  • Pick out and dampen the feathers of the tail and dampen the mane over.
  • You are ready to apply cleaned tack. and wipe all with a towel one more time.

That is pretty much the secret. It may surprise you to know that this description is one I had in written Spanish, for my caretakers, for over 20 years as part of my "S.O.P." Additionally, this is simply how my horses were readied to work every day. When they were done working, it was pretty much a repeat of the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th steps with the additions of cleaning the horse's halter, greasing of the horse's coronet bands and the application of my special, Old Fashioned tail and feather balm . The secret is, these horses got this treatment 6 days a week. This type of care not only leaves the horse clean, comfortable and un-itching, but the currying, brushing etc. brings the oil and the "life" to the coat of hair. The only things done differently for a horse show were:

  • All trimming and wiping of the ears would be finished by the night before the class . (Trimming and wiping ears the morning of the class can be a disaster if some hair or dander goes down in the ear, also if the horse is the slightest bit difficult to trim, why fight with him a few hours before he shows?)
  • Early in the morning of the class, hopefully while it is cool, have the farrier make sure his shoes are tight and then wash his tail, legs and hooves. Light sanding of the hooves can be done as well and the tail can be picked out when semi-dry.
  • An hour or so before the class, final "painting" of the hooves and any braiding should be done.
  • A little baby oil could be applied to eyes, muzzle and face right before leaving the stall and running slightly"oiled" fingers through the tail can also be done.

There you have it Ladies! This time spent with the daily grooming (nearly an hour) is the deep, dark secret. It is part of the professional service we are paid to supply to our clients. We have no other job except to see that our horses are cared for to the best of our abilities. I have seen many AOT horses that looked very well turned out to me and feel yours would probably impress me too. This is simply how I have always done it and I believe it to be the "edge" you feel we professionals have. I hope you have found something here that will be of use to you and I once again thank you for your great question. Maybe some of our readers have some more tips for you they could post 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.

May 11, 2009

The Really Big Question!
(What is the correct Draft Harness?)

The real question:

This past weekend Faith started her show season at Keystone Classic horse show sponsored by Pennsylvania Saddlebred Horse Association. We had a great time even in the rain. We always have a good time with our Saddlebred friends. Showing at the Saddlebred shows really helps to put the polish on for showing at the Draft shows. Due to the weather we agonized for hours over putting her in the ring in her practice harness instead of the big show harness. Now that we did I think I might like the practice harness better. As a licensed judge for Saddlebred shows I would really appreciate your opinion on the harness.

I would like the web pieces to be made of leather but overall I like the look. I think the collar fits better, the small black hames on the collar are less distracting, overall the whole harness is less distracting. I think the bridle is smaller and nicer. I know at the draft shows I will have to use the big harness. The back pad and britchen on the show harness do not really bother me the collar and bridle are my biggest sticky points. The nose band on the show bridle is a little too low on her head but since that is connected to the bit I am a little stuck. I also think the check lines on the practice harness look better from a distance. They are just a nylon rope from a hay bag (had to improvise at the last minute). The nice rolled check on the show harness is just too thick. I know I can get rolled leather from a light horse supply in a nicer thickness – I have that on my light horse harness.

Thank you,

Show Harness

Practice Harness
Tip of the Day - When you are absolutely certain you know the answer..it is a good idea to check in the Rule Book before you tell anyone else how smart you are!

Thank you so much for your question. The pictures of you mare look great and I can certainly see what you mean about the weather. I can also see what you are pointing out about the differences in the Harnesses. I must concur, I like the fit and the look of your practice harness the best. I can see that the Show Harness is exquisitely made and of the highest quality, something that not all people would notice from a distance. The biggest difference I see is that the Show collar and hamess kind of dwarf your mare. Other things you have mentioned and are obvious in the photos are the show cavesson needs to be trimmed to be not as wide also the leather check rein be replaced. I would recommend trace extensions as the points of the shafts should not be quite that far in front of the point of the shoulder. I would additionally encourage you to put some French Tug stops on the shafts as this makes the hitching much easier and efficient. For the weather conditions, I believe you made the correct choice of Harness and as a Judge, depending on the class specs, would view the harness as most correct. However, class specs should ultimately make that decision for you in the future, Depending on the governing body of the particular competition, and the type of class you are entering, you could be penalized for an incorrect harness. It is essential that you have a mastery of the rules of the various organizations so this never causes you an embarrassing problem.

I feel I pretty much agree with you great assessment of the situation. Both harnesses are a very nice compliment to your lovely mare and cart and you can be proud of each. I hope this has been of some help or given you some food for thought. Please give my best to Harry. Good Luck and Good Driving.


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May 8, 2009

My Reining Horse Thinks He's A Race Horse
(Developing the Lope)


I have an 8 year old Arabian reining stallion who has been in training with several different trainers including a Quarter Horse trainer. He was Top Ten National Champion at US Nationals in 2006 but even then he only seems to have one speed when it come to the lope (or should I say gallop). He is not out of control I can control him with leg pressure or by placing the inside or outside rein on his neck but it feels like he is constantly going 100 MPH. I just want to be able to slow him down without having to continually hold him back with the reins. If I let him run circles like a race horse, I ride him with an extremely loose rein and he stays collected. As far as his whoa, the minute you say the word you'd better not be standing up in the stirrups. I would love to be able to show him western pleasure but he is just too fast he'd be running laps around all the other horses in the ring. Do you have any tips on getting a nice western pleasure lope?

Tip of the Day - In all my years, I have never been to a horse show that held a "Pony Express" class where the fastest horse wins!

Thank you so much for your question. I am impressed to hear he is sooo light in the bridle, yields to your leg and to the inside or outside rein. That is all good....Although it is not my discipline of choice..I have ridden and Judged reining...Unless I am mistaken..part of any reining pattern includes a slow lope and changes of speed. Was 2006 an especially light year? You sound very much like a knowledgeable horse person..How then can you say the horse is in control when he is at the gallop all the time? It is one thing to kid me but why kid yourself? If you are sincerely interested in correcting this please feel free to start with this bit of homework:

Moving along from there, the absolute necessity required for a horse to canter or lope slowly is a RELAXED horse OUT OF THE BRIDLE. The looser you can get them, the slower they will go. Attempting to pull or hold a horse back to a lope simply will not work! As you astutely realized, circles are a great place to start as it allows you to maintain control with a minimum amount of effort. Letting the horse run..in the circle, defeats the entire purpose and principal. The faster the horse goes, the smaller the circle should be until he is cantering slowly on a loose rein because there is no where else to go. Once at this point, then increase the size in increments while maintaining the slow speed. This procedure, if used religiously, will change your gallop to a lope. No matter what division the true Western Horse is in...the lope is perhaps his most important gait and a slow controlled lope should be pursued at all costs.

Simply by your description I can tell that you are a true horse person and have the talent and dedication to make this work. 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"

May 5, 2009

There is Some Interference Here!
(Shoeing a horse that goes close behind)

I'm bewildered. I have a nice, big customer horse that has started hitting his ankles when he trots..which of course causes him to break into a rack or canter. I've had him in training 2 yrs, never had this problem. He walks wide enough but swings in a bit trotting, which is causing the interference. He goes light behind with a leather pad and handmade shoe with a very slight trailer. My farrier travels down only every 4 weeks so I had my local farrier(does my school horses) pull back shoes and just trim so I could keep him in work...been just jogging him with chains behind and it seems to have helped. Would a shorter foot help? Could it be in leg not his foot? Any input is great!


Tip of the Day - When it comes to shoeing the horse, there is only one iron clad rule...there ain't no rules!

Thank you so much for your question. I have decided to include it on the site as questions about shoeing turn up nearly every day. "Bewilderment" is but one of the many words I find people use to describe shoeing issues. I must admit, I have been bewildered or worse over shoeing many times in the past. One of the problems is what the "Tip of the Day" eludes to, which is a very true statement. What works for 100 horses might not work on the next 10! Keeping this in mind, let's see if we can come up with some answers for you.

We may need to do a bit of detective work first. The fact that this seems to have started suddenly after two years of no problems is very odd. It could point to an injury or soundness issue. It might be as simple as a shoe that has become askew. You need to search for or rule out a cause for such an "overnight" change!

A horse that is not straight in his bridle can well start to interfere behind. Much like an arrow shot at a target that is but a 1/8 of an inch misaimed at the bow, by the time it reaches the target it might be a foot off! A horse leaning on one side of the bridle may be ok in front but because he is not traveling in a straight line, can hit himself behind. The reason I dislike lunging a shod horse is because horses traveling in a circle are always at risk of interference and, in turn, possible injury. They were meant to travel in a straight line, they are flight animals.... not merry-go-round horses.

Ruling all of the above out, let's turn last but not least to actual shoeing. The description you give of his shoes sounds just fine. Not being there to see the length of foot and his angles, makes it difficult for me to assess. You are correct, too long a foot can have consequences as you describe but I would look toward the angles and the levelness of the hoof itself for the possible answer. If he has grown much toe and is low in his heels, the effort it takes to break over the toe at that angle can cause a sloppy flight path and the issue you describe. The one "iron clad" rule to widen the horse behind..lower him from level on the inside. By taking a very small portion of foot from the first inside toe nails to the heel of the shoes on both rear feet, you will be widening the horse's base thus spreading him behind. Just remember the one rule of shoeing! It is always a great idea to have your farrier watch your horse work as his expertise and his eye will be superior when dealing with shoeing issues.

I hope this may be of some help to you. I look forward to hearing how this comes out. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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

May 1, 2009

I Don't Know What "Tail" to Tell
(American Saddlebreds and Tail "Nicking")

Hey Mr. Lonnie:

I have a question that I am sure you can help me with.

Being around a lot of non-saddlebred horse people these days, it often comes up, the comments on a saddlebred horses' cut tail. I hear comments like: Oooh, his tail is broken, or ooh, look at that horse; he has a broken tail, did you do that to your horse? I have even been told by someone that she used to own a saddlebred years ago and he had a broken tail and that it was broken before they made it against the law.. lol. Well, I can certainly say, sometimes my reactions are not quite what they should be. I mostly just look at them and smile but underneath, I am thinking what a bunch of ignoramous people, uneducated people, etc. It just makes me want to slap them, you know!! You and I both know as well as many educated saddlebred people that this is not so.

My question is this: What is the best way to tell these stupid people (in a nice, educated way) what the deal is on a cut tail and maybe how I should handle my comments when I hear them speaking of broken tails?

Tip of the Day - In the quest for perfection some people turn to Plastic Surgeons..Some horses turn to Veterinarians!

Thank you so much for your question....I think! You are quite right that this topic receives a great deal of "Air Play" with today's Politically Correct, PETA fired , Kinder Gentler, "Do Gooder" attitude towards animals that we find ourselves living with today. I take exception to the thought that all these people are "ignoramuses" nor do I think they are all uneducated. I will admit that those that border on the fanatical might, indeed, qualify though. "Paint my mink red, give me some plastic sandals, I like my seaweed medium rare, get those lions, tigers and elephants out of the Circus and put them in a Zoo and don't slaughter any horses here in the USA, (where we had rules and regulations for their humane treatment) but let's send those suckers to Mexico to be bled to death!" On the other hand, rational people who pose the "Tail" question, are quite right to pursue an answer and deserve one so that they may become "informed" citizens.

Much like the docking of the Clydesdale, Percheron, Hackney,etc. tails, the shortening of the Jack Russell, Poodle, Doberman, etc. tails the "shaping" of the Boxer, German Shepard, Great Dane,etc., ears, the human Rhinoplasty or for that matter, circumcision, all these procedures have a reason of some kind behind them. So too, does the "nicking" of a horse's tail. Unlike the above mentioned "procedures" Tail setting is not a major surgery.

I cannot explain this any better than it has been explained in the United Professional Horseman's Association publication, "A Guide to Training Techniques, Care and Conditioning" , UPHA Founding Father, Tom Moore was responsible for this book's creation and I feel proud to quote from it.

"A discussion on Show horses and ponies wouldn't be complete without a word on tails. Professional horsemen and their caretakers alike take great pride in the high order of their show horses., embellished by their lush and immaculate tails. Such high regard has been placed on turn-out, that care of the show horse's tail has become a special art of its own. For instance, one NEVER brushes or combs a horse's tail, for that breaks and pulls out hairs. Rather, the tail is picked out very carefully, by hand, hair by hair. Takes a lot of time? You bet it does, but the result is a dramatic growth of naturally long and full tail. To keep these tails clean and tidy, they are braided or looped up into themselves so as not to drag or get caught, and are generally let down periodically for a shampooing and picking out. This saves every bit of the full tail for the show arena performance. While tails can be looped up and covered, they are not needed by the horse in their training barn environment; Heaven help a fly that looses his way into a show stable! He would be immediately zapped by an extensive fly control system.

Although the "setting" of tails is not found in Morgan Horses, it is part of the classic line of the American Saddlebred. Tail setting was originally introduced to free up the muscles of the hindquarters on European carriage horses. It serves a very similar purpose with today's Saddlebreds and ponies, and makes the young horse more comfortable, freeing up his hindquarters to allow for freedom of motion. To initially set a horse's tail, a local anesthetic is given to the horse, and the lateral ventral sacrocaudal muscle is cut on each side of the tail. Tail setting does NOT involve any "breaking" of bone, nor is any ligament cut, as is erroneously assumed. Rather this small lateral muscle is cut, making an incision so small that it looks like a pin hole. While a half-hour is commonly allowed for local anesthesia to take effect, the process of "tail cutting" only takes a few moments. The result is a freed-up tail, which can still move in any and all directions, but is no longer pinned down to the buttocks. Retired horses and broodmares in pasture that have had their tails cut still have full use of their tails and are able to swish a fly away at their choosing. While this process of cutting is extremely minimal, its misconceptions are dramatized by the aesthetic effect that a long, well cared-for tail has in the show ring. Many show horses wear a "tail set", a loose and relaxed fitting light harness which lays on the horse without any pressure put on him anywhere. While the set looks complicated to the newcomer, it is designed not to put pressure on any part of the horse, but merely to keep the crupper in place. The crupper, made of light aluminum, literally sets under the horse's tail, perpendicularly out from the hindquarters, and never straight up. Well padded, the set is removed every day along with the horse's sheet, the horse himself thinking no more of his set than he does of his favorite blanket. It's all just his nightgown to him. And, as we stated before, he's completely capable of telling us when he doesn't like something, and he hasn't expressed anything but contentment yet."

I can say it no better, but will point out that our rules allow any American Saddlebred to show without a set tail. Those of us that have actually trained these horses, however, are well aware of the advantages a set tail offers a horse as far as mobility, comfort and, of course, aesthetics. I thank you for your question and hope this has been of some help to you. This booklet is available from the UPHA. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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

Links To Questions & Responses
Date Subject Search Criteria
Jun 27, 2009 I Have the Horse but I Need a Partner! The ins and outs of Consignment
Jun 25, 2009 We are Having Some "Costume" Issues! Selecting the proper harness for the division
Jun 23, 2009 After Conferring with Dr Bristol, I need a Second Opinion! Moving to the curb
Jun 21, 2008 Is there Some Reason He is Going a "Bit" Fast? Dealing with a horse that grabs the bit with his teeth
Jun 17, 2009 DO WE NEED NIKES OR LEBRON'S Corrective Shoeing Tips
Jun 15, 2009 The Front Room Looks Terrific but the Kitchen is a Mess! Ways to improve hocks
Jun 10, 2009 He Just Wants to Pace Himself Dealing with the "Double Gaited" horse
Jun 7, 2009 I Find No Pleasure in this Tale Dealing with crooked tails
Nov 20, 2009 We got Clipped, Clipping Trimming and body clipping
May 26, 2009 Slashing Teeth, Lightning Hooves and Raging Hormones! Dealing with a dangerous breeding stallion
May 22, 2009 I'd Like to see some "Change" from my Quarter Horse! Dealing with lack of respect, ill-mannered, belligerent, mean
May 17, 2009 At Last..the Secret is Finally Revealed! My Grooming procedure for the Horse Show
May 11, 2009 The Really Big Question! What is the correct Draft Harness?
May 8, 2009 My Reining Horse Thinks He's A Race Horse Developing the Lope
May 5, 2009 There is Some Interference Here! Shoeing a horse that goes close behind
May 1, 2009 I Don't Know What "Tail" to Tell American Saddlebreds and Tail "Nicking"

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