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April - June 2010's POSTS

June 27, 2010

How do I Know "Wither" the Saddle Fits
Find the right Western Saddle


Tip of the Day - Although they can't talk...most horses have a way of letting you know if a saddle does not fit and is pinching them! It is usually not a whisper either!

Thank for your question. You are so very correct in your assessment of the "Saddle" situation. Hard as it may be to believe, it is quite possible to identify, or come very close to identifying, a horse's breed by only looking at his wither. There can be that much variance between the conformation of each breed. As you have pointed out, in the instance of the Western Saddle, one that fits a "mutton withered" American Quarter Horse perfectly would fall very short from ideal on a high withered American Saddlebred. Because most Western Saddle manufacturers, such as the top ones you mentioned, target market is the Quarter horse type, finding the right saddle for "Supreme Sultan" can be a difficult task. Many of the very wonderful hand made custom saddle makers can fix you up and fit the saddle to your horse as if it grew there. The $3500 and up it will cost for such a creation would give pause to many. If your main interest is function rather than a beautiful heirloom for your grandchildren, I would suggest a different "tack". (no pun intended) A cousin to the Saddlebred, the conformation of the Tennessee Walking Horse is quite similar and in recent years, riding and showing them in Western equipment has become popular. The pommel and gullet of these saddles, quite different than normal ones, should provide a great fit for your horse. They are available at many tack shops but it is important to make it clear what you need and that before making a substantial investment ( $450-$1000) you want the opportunity to "try" the saddle for fit. Any reputable retailer should go along with this so long as the saddle is kept "Pristine" through the process. World Champion Horse Equipment of Shelbyville, Tennessee comes to mind as a store that carries a nice selection of these saddles. I would contact Chuck Hutchinson there as he is a horseman and extremely knowledgeable about this subject.

Once again, thank you for your question, I hope I have been of some help. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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June 20, 2010

My Quarter Horse keeps laying down on the Job!
Dealing with a horse that rolls while being ridden

We have a 14 year old quarter horse that over the last year will roll with the saddle (& rider) on. If has been stalled and you take him to ride he will drop and roll.......even when you are trotting. How can I break him of this?

He is very versatile........Here are some examples......

When trail riding and going through a creek, I used to let him walk around in the water he would paw once and I'd keep his head up....spurs in him and keep him moving along. Then the next time we was crossing (walking) through the creek and he just pretty much went down. There was no stopping him. I tried my spurs.......& even swatted my reins on his butt.....he didn't care.

Our teenage daughter uses him for barrels and was getting him warmed up before she ran. She was in an indoor arena and trotting along.....and then with no warning he just kind of slowed down real quick and drops down but not all the way down on his knees and on his side he goes. She tried her spurs.....whip ...nothing helped........so she just hurries to jump off.

She was riding on an outside (sand) track warming him up to jump and he did the same thing........Twice!

If you pulled him out of the pasture and rode....he seems to be fine. But if you get him out of the stall to ride..........he may or may not do it at all.............you just never know. I have noticed that if you canter him around for awhile when you 1st. get on him he hasn't done it. But you can't always just get on your horse and canter around for 15 minutes or so.

Any suggestions would greatly be appreciated! I am very concerned that someone (or he) will get hurt and at the least........... he is going to destroy my tack.

Thank you,

Tip of the Day - People often tell me, riding a horse has its ups and downs...but when they lay down while you are riding...they take that statement to a new level!

Thank you so much for your question. It certainly gives me quite a mental picture of the Internet term...ROTFL!!! In this case, I imagine, there is little laughter and rightly so. You are quite correct about this behavior. It is a potentially dangerous, very destructive and certainly an unacceptable behavior. Unfortunately, from the description you have given me, it will be a difficult issue to remedy. To begin, let's put our "detective hats" on.

As with any unacceptable behavior (symptom) we must identify the reason for it (cause) to affect a treatment (correction). Although he has made the symptoms very easily definable, the actual cause may be difficult if not impossible to discover at this time. By that, I mean his rolling etc., which he has gotten away with so many times, may well be habit with the initial reason for this action no longer in his mind. Possible causes of such reactions are usually broken down this way: Could it have to do with his previous training being substandard or lacking? Is he reacting to some discomfort or unsoundness ? Is it a mental issue, as he is willfully doing it because he knows he can?

Previous training or lack of it...It seems we can rule this out as for the last 12 or so years it appears he has been serviceable.

Soundness...From your description, he sounds way to agile to go through all these gyrations and be lame. At 14, a little arthritis might be in the scenario however.

Discomfort....Definitely a spot to start with. Dental issues? Bridle fit? Saddle fit? Cinchy? Shoeing?

Mental issues...At this juncture, this is definitely a part of the symptom.

As you apparently know, the time honored procedure to affect a change in this behavior is to, by jerking the bridle, not allow him to put his head down, make it additionally uncomfortable for him to try to lay down by applying the whip, the spurs or both with increasing vigor. ( It is perhaps here your idea of increasing vigor and his differed ) Because it is imperative that he not be allowed to do this ever again and because using this technique you were unable to keep him from doing it, we must try a different "tack" as allowing him to continue doing this only reinforces this bad behavior. It is always better to not let an undesirable action start than to try to stop it after it is started. In your wonderful description of your problem, you supplied the key to setting your next ride up for success, and I think you already know the answer. You wrote: "If you pulled him out of the pasture and rode....he seems to be fine" and " I have noticed that if you canter him around for awhile when you 1st. get on him he hasn't done it."

My advice, after you have ruled out all of the possible causes I have mentioned above, put him in the pasture the night before you ride. Saddle him and cinch him lightly. Lunge him and tighten the saddle in stages. Get on and canter. Start your ride. This should become the standard way you prepare him to ride each time you ride for the next month or so. I cannot stress enough how important it is that he not be allowed to do this again! Should you feel him getting ready to try, use everything in your power and then some to not let him do this. If you can stop it...you are on your way to victory over this habit. Allow him to lay down again, I doubt you will ever be able to correct this yourself. A little dedicated inconvenience for a few weeks is much better than the inconvenience of him lying on top of you!

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

LF Lavery

We welcome your comments in the Guest Book

June 16, 2010

She is Giving me the Heads Up!
Tossing head

My 8 yr old Belgian mare tosses her head up and down when she is harness and while working and driving. She will settle down after working but never really quits. While it is annoying, I do not want to cause her any discomfort. Is this a behavioral thing or perhaps a harness bit issue. Any ideas would be helpful.

Tip of the Day - When a Belgian horse starts behaving like it is from France.....It is time to take command!

Thank you so much for your question. Unless the up and down movement of her head is her way of answering affirmative to a question you have asked her, a behavior such as this is not only annoying, it has the potential to really have an impact on her performance, especially if you are using her for work. It is good to hear of your desire not to cause her discomfort, but this issue should be dealt with. Although I am really at a disadvantage, not seeing this in person, using your description, here is my take on the situation

In dealing with all unwanted behaviors, we must first ask ourselves a series of questions in an attempt to determine the cause of the behavior as it is the cause, not the symptom, that needs to be rectified. Questions concerning the horse's soundness, improper or lack of training, the correct fit of equipment and the mental attitude of the horse would all come into play. In this case, dental issues would be a great place to start looking for that cause. I must sound like a broken record and frankly I am growing extremely tired of repeating this, almost on a daily basis, each time someone wonders why their horse is, tossing the head, pulling them out of the buggy, holding the head to one side, putting the tongue over the bit, shaking the head, is hard to bridle, sticking the head upside down, burying the head, pinning it's ears, running off or not going forward. Any of these things could be explained by a horse in need of dental maintenance, so why not start there? Please allow me to quote an answer, dealing with this from 2 years ago as I feel this might be of help.

She Keeps Saying No

Lately my mare has started shaking her head when I ride her in her show bridle. She has never done this before and I notice she is not as easy to put her bridle on either. Should I try a different bit? Any suggestions?

Thank you for your question. I especially like the fact you have identified a problem and you are thinking about solutions. Often times, people just keep riding.

From what you describe, it would seem to me your problem is not in the bit. It sounds like this behavior has come about rather quickly. The shaking of the head and her being harder to bridle are symptoms of discomfort and more than likely the cause lies with her teeth. I would bet she is also pulling on one side and does not display this behavior as badly when wearing just a snaffle.

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 tongue, as well.

If any of these above symptoms are present you need a horse dentist. He will come to you and with files and other tools he will smooth these edges, making the horse comfortable again. This simple and painless procedure is called "floating" the teeth. I always insisted my horses were done twice a year, spring and fall.

Again, I would start there. Only after you rule that out, then previous training or lack of it should be considered. Then, bit type and placement should be considered. Of course there is the off chance this is a willful habit which can not be established until all other possible causes are ruled out.

I hope this has been of some help to you as it is about all I can do by Email. If you can identify the cause, the solution should come quite easily. Good Luck and Good Driving.

LF Lavery

We welcome your comments in the Guest Book

June 13, 2010

Action, Traction & Satisfaction!
Proper arena footing

I have a question for you that I could use some advise on, and please share on your site.

My question is about arena footing. All aspects of it. What is a good base? What is better? Sand? Mulch? Both? Rubber? How deep? Maintenance? We currently have old sand with a decent base but the sand is no longer consistent-ie deep in some spots, nothing in others. And it is very dusty! I have been reading articles on footing, and what is best. But what in your opinion is best for saddlebreds?

Thanks! Hope to have you out to our farm soon!

Tip of the Day - Isn't it amazing that we spend a lot of money for footing and many, many hours maintaining it on a daily basis so we always have it safe and perfect for our horses to work on, yet.....we will happily pay good money to show them in a muddy "cow" pasture, at the drop of the hat!

Thank you so much for your excellent question. From every corner of the Horse Show world, we are constantly hearing references to the "Level Playing Field". Although the footing in your arena is probably not exactly what they mean, it is no less important. To be sure, aside from being an instrumental part of any type of successful training program, the footing in your horse's "workplace" has a huge impact on his, attitude, conditioning, shoeing, type of discipline, soundness and the general health and well being of both you and your horse. For instance, an arena that is too hard can, sour a horse, contribute to (not cause, IMO) quarter cracks, pulverize hoof wall, loosen clinches, keep a horse from trotting boldly, encourages slips and falls, enflame joints and tendons with concussion and conceivably "road" founder a horse. An arena that is too soft can be equally as detrimental. Working in overly deep and heavy footing tears rather than builds muscle and, for that matter, attitude, promotes forging and the pulled shoes and injuries associated with it. Racking becomes extremely difficult, and the mechanics of trotting through the deep stuff make bowed tendons, torn suspensories, and hip, hock and stifle problems, a boon to your local veterinarian's P&L statement. By the way, that dust swirling around behind your horse will eventually form nature's finest fire accelerant, cob webs, while really working it's magic on you and your horse's lungs and all the conditions associated with them, heaves, emphysema, COPD, not to mention good old fashioned pneumonia and the other neat stuff. All of this makes it pretty easy to see why most top training stable's S.O.P. is to "sprinkle" their arenas daily and "drag" them after every 8th or 9th horse. I gather from your letter you are obviously aware that well managed stables try to leave little to chance. I wish there were more people like you who understood this.

Now that we have discussed "Good Footing Gone Bad", let's talk about the kind of footing we ought to have.

As you noted in your letter, consistency is perhaps the single most important element of good footing. Consistently hard or consistently soft although not ideal, is much better than footing that varies from deep to shallow thus effecting each of the horse's footfalls in a different way. Inconsistent footing is tantamount to disaster. The first step to consistency is a level, solid, non-slip base. A limestone gravel that will pack, blue clay or any material that will pack hard, can be made level, stand up to "traffic" and maintain its integrity when being assaulted by the various conditioning implements used on a daily basis, will do nicely. Usually a base is 3-6 inches depending on the installation and material. With a packed level base put down, we must next decide on the footing. (read: cushion) This material must, cushion the horse's hoof from the hard base, be able to "hold" moisture to keep dust down, be of a uniform size, "drag" easily, not "cup" and should stay put, not slide from where it is placed. The choices are endless and here, much is left to availability, cost and personal preference. Saw dust, Shavings, Tanbark, Mulch, Tobacco Stems, Rice Hulls, etc, all have their good points as they each have a down side. Perfect cushion, using any of these materials, can be tested by watching to see if the imprint your foot makes rises somewhat back up when your foot is moved. Personally, I really loved the rubber footing I had in Colorado but it also had a downside. Aside from cost, dust had to be seriously dealt with, There is no question in my mind that sand should never be used as footing for an American Saddlebred horse although nearly all of the footings mentioned above work best when a small percentage of sand is mixed with them. Again, depending upon the material used, the footing should be 2-6 inches.

Once your footing is in, the last thing you must decide upon is a way of maintaining it. From spring tooth harrows, Spiked drags, chain link fence, metal gates, York rakes, 3 pt hitch implements etc,etc, you simply need to find one that works best with "your" footing and does the least damage to your base. As important as the right piece of dragging equipment, have a method of watering the arena in place from day one and remember, flooding it once a month is not the desired effect. Keeping it moist on a daily basis is what you are looking for.

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

LF Lavery

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May 20, 2010

How do I get Tied up?
( How to work a horse with a tight tail)

Hello Mr. Lavery,

I don't dare ask this on trot.org...:-)

I'm wondering if you could describe how you would pull a horses tail over his back while riding him. I've seen it done...wrapped with a tail wrap like for longlining or driving, but then there's another leg wrap that pulls the tail up...goes under the saddle and attachs somehow...I'm guessing that you could hook a knot in the stirrup bar? But if you don't know where to tie the knot in the wrap to get the tail just right...??

Anyway, I'm hoping you could send a quick note.

Tip of the Day - Working with a Saddlebred's tail should always be an up-lifting experience.

Thank you so much for your question. The procedure you describe is often used with horses whose tails do not come up out of the "butt" properly and therefore are tight which contributes to a poor riding experience for both horse and rider. For instance, watch any horse bucking (even at the rodeo) Where is his tail? Clamped to his butt. The main concern is to correct it while still keeping the horse comfortable. To do this one does not start with this procedure but must invest a good deal of time in preparation. Whether the horse has a nicked tail or not. whether it is an American Saddlebred or not, any horse will well benefit from a "looser" tail.

To begin, the tail must be supple. In an instance where it does not come up out of the butt, a lot of physical labor is called for. Working the tail by hand for some time is a first step. One hand on the horse's back (over the kidneys) one hand on the underside of the tail bone. Starting slowly and not forcing it, lift the tail while the other hand scratches the skin over the kidneys. As you feel the horse start to relax it's tail will become looser and you will be able to push it higher and higher. Slightly more pressure with your fingers on the horse's back should result in the back lowering it's attitude thus allowing you to lift the tail higher yet. It is at this point that most people make their biggest mistake with a nicked tail. Pushing it forward over the horse's back will not help at all even though you might feel you are making progress. You must lift it so that the base of tail bone comes up out of the butt. You may need two hands to accomplish this. Only when the base is well up do you start to push,(the whole tail bone) forward. Remember, this should not be any kind of rushed, wrestling match, rather a very relaxed and quiet procedure. Once your horse understands what you are doing you will find he rather enjoys this much as you would enjoy a massage. If your are keeping your horse "setted", 3-4 minutes of this procedure before placing the tail in the crupper is invaluable to proper tail carriage. It should also be common practice before each ride or drive. If you are diligent, you will be amazed at the results in a very short time.

Once that tail is loose, a stand up harness crupper is often used with long lines to re-enforce this exercise. When the horse is comfortable with this crupper, only then should you attempt to bandage it to the saddle.

Using an "Ace" bandage, start at the base of the now loosened tail and snuggly, not tightly, continue wrapping to the tip of the tail bone, ( the first two wraps should be at the very base, sort of pulling up) If the horse has a break over, fold it down and continue wrapping around the tail bone and the break over. When you have a tail that is now up and the break over is secure, I like to use Polo bandages which I wrap, depending on each tail, around the tail bone below the break over or through the hole created by the elastic bandage making the break over near the top of the tail. If you have a straight tail, the bandages may be run, under the stirrups or under the saddle skirts etc. and then tied off at the pommel. If the tail is not straight, this is where the stirrup bar comes into play. Tie each side with different tensions to insure the tail is straight. Although some people tie to the girth buckles, I feel the higher you can keep the bandages, the better it is for the tail.

Worlds Champion tack has a new product that is ingenious for working a horse riding with a tight tail. It is a stand up harness crupper that attaches very simply to the saddle. Although you could not show in it, I feel it would be of great help with the situation you describe.

I thank you again for your great question and I hope this has been of some help to you. Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

Any comments or suggestions on this or other topics are welcomed in the Guest Book!

April 7, 2010

My Gentle Giant,,, Ain't!
Dealing with an unruly Draft Horse

Hi there,

I have a problem horse in for training (she came to us as a rescued client horse) this month that has us mind boggled she is a 3y/o draft x mare purchased out of a meat pen. From the outside looking in a person might say she has a split personality; we say she has a history.

At first we thought she would be a piece of cake (easy to saddle and handle) and she has dramatically changed to the point where she would rather bash your noodle in rather than look at you and then changed again so I was the only one that could handle her; I would have to take her behind the barn to get a saddle on her because my boyfriend was in sight anyother place. We have never raised a hand to her and always handled her in baby gloves because we didn't know her history, and she seemed to respond best to gentle handling. It got to the point that the only way that she could have been soothed was me singing to her (I don't exactly soulnd like Patsy Clien either, lol). When it came tome to ground drive she had a pretty good idea on how to take it and did good, I have alot of faith in her and know that with time she can do it, she just has a chip on her shoulder. We have also attempted to put weight in the saddle and she would be violently bolt and throw her self on the ground. We think she may have been tested as a bronc and when they noticed that she had more violent behavior and bolt and less buck they canned her?! She shows may charastics of a bronc (from build to human response, etc.). What would you recomend to get this girl's training on the right track. I don't want to have to cowboy (girl) up on her, I think it would scare her out of wanting to be handled! Any advice you can give us would be great!

Thank You

Tip of the Day - Like used cars on the lot....every horse has a story at the horse auction. Many of them are Horror stories!!!

Wow....You seem to have gotten more than you bargained for! Goes to show, you get what you pay for. Seriously, thank you for your question. Your detailed description of her issues makes one want to put on the "detective hat" as..could there be some reason she was in the meat pen? Duh! A few gaps I might be able to fill in for you. Horses destined for travel by "can" are often not kept in peak condition as in, no nice stall, no worming, dental work, hoof trimming, great rations of grain and hay with supplements etc. After receiving the fortification these things can provide from the kind new owner, many often go from weak and docile and get extremely strong and high on themselves and very much "on the muscle" thus explaining the "split personality" you mentioned. Unlike most breeds of horses, Draft animals are treated more like "tools" than pets and some of the people responsible for their training can be very rough in teaching them that work, not attitude is most important. Although, if just because of their size, they respond fairly well to harsh treatment, I can imagine she could develop an aversion to men who might train like that and pass it along to your boyfriend.

So far as the saddle and bucking goes..you assumption could be on target but depending on what part of the country this mare came from, I would lean towards ineffective or non existent training in the riding department.

It sounds to me like you already have a very good idea how to "re-hab" this horse. Trust is everything, but tough love has a place with a horse that could well be dangerous to your health. Take your time, be as kind and easy as she allows you to be but never lose sight of the fact she must recognize you as her leader!

Thanks again for your great question, I look forward to reading of your progress in my Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

Any comments or suggestions on this or other topics are welcomed in the Guest Book!

April 4, 2010

To Bounce or Not to Bounce?
(Naturally Gaited vs Trot)

Hi Lonnie, Emailing you from Sharon Center and am very new to the horse environment. My questions are fundamental in nature and so hope you don't mind answering them. I'm comforted by the fact you are located here and have so much knowledge. Your web site is a pleasure to read.

I started taking some riding lessons and am happy with my instructor. I found her because she advertised a Tennessee Walker for lease and my research led me to appreciate gaited horses for their smooth ride. I tend to research my interests quite a bit and would like to know if my focus on wanting to ride and maybe own a gaited horse for trail rides and possible western in Masters division is smart? I don't understand why so many folks own quarter horses. My research tells me they are a bouncing back breaker of a ride. I guess I need some comments relative to my decision to focus on Walkers or other gaited breeds, my age, I will be 50 in May but am in good shape, better than most 30 yr olds, western style competition.

Want to enjoy riding and the relationship between a horse and my family. All comments are welcomed. I read where you have a reputation for fitting the right horse for the rider. Maybe in April we could arrange a meeting.

Tip of the Day - When sitting on a horse, the smoothness of his gaits may have an effect on your sitter!

Thank you so much for your question. It is always good to hear from fellow Sharon "Center-ites". Your quandary is not that unusual, especially given your very advanced age! I hope you have done enough research to find you might still be able to ride at age 51! Seriously, there are people in their late 80's still SHOWING horses that trot, so I would not be too concerned about your age factoring into this.

As I am certain your research has shown, the Tennessee Walking horse was bred to have a gait causing little or no movement of the rider in the saddle. It afforded the plantation owners of old a means to stay in the saddle with no effort, for hours on end as they perused their farms, checked on their crops and in general, admired their possessions. Except for about a forty year period when these horses were abused into becoming thrilling "show" equines, the Plantation Walking horse of today still lives up to it's original purpose. They make wonderful trail horses and require very little talent or ability for the rider to successfully put them through their paces. They and other naturally gaited horses (Pasos, Rocky Mtn, Foxtrotters etc.) are the "tricycles" of the horse breeds as far as the gaits are concerned. Other factors do apply, however. Attitude, disposition, degree of training, sex, age, personality, experience,soundness and a myriad of other things all must come in line to have a perfect riding horse. These options are applicable to any breed of horse to be used as you wish.

Being the proud owner, for many years, of a Quarter Horse mare as my personal trail horse, I have never found her to be a "bouncy back breaker" of a ride. Quarter Horses are most often chosen not for their gaits but for the wonderful disposition that so lends itself to the trail.

In summary, after nearly 50 years as a Professional horse trainer, I still find a trail ride on a nice horse both relaxing and thrilling at the same time. I see no why you would not be able to live your dream as well. Just remember, no matter what gait, a walk, an amble, a trot or a canter, if you cannot go where you want to go, cannot slow down or stop, cannot turn or control your horse, are growing tired from being pulled ...you are on the wrong horse. Put you destiny in your trainer's hands. If she is a professional, she will know your abilities and needs and mount you accordingly.

Thanks again for your question, I hope I have given you some food for thought. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding and hope to hear how things are going.

LF Lavery

Any comments or suggestions on this or other topics are welcomed in the Guest Book!

Links To Questions & Responses
Date Subject Search Criteria
Jun 27, 2010 How do I Know "Wither" the Saddle Fits Find the right Western Saddle
June 20, 2010 My Quarter Horse keeps laying down on the Job! Dealing with a horse that rolls while being ridden
June 16, 2010 She is Giving me the Heads Up! Tossing head
June 13, 2010 Action, Traction & Satisfaction! Proper arena footing
May 20, 2010 How do I get Tied up? How to work a horse with a tight tail
Apr 7, 2010 My Gentle Giant,,, Ain't! Dealing with an unruly Draft Horse
Apr 4, 2010 To Bounce or Not to Bounce? Naturally Gaited vs Trot

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