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January - March 2010's POSTS

March 24, 2010

I Don't Think I Am Fully Equipped!
(Essential training equipment for the young horse)

hello i am saddlebred owner and the hard economy has force me to school my own young horses. I need to know what training equipment is needed what books are any other aids that will help me school my new 3 year olds..........thanks...........

Tip of the Day- Some people spend as much on horse equipment and such, as they did on their horse.

Thank you so much for your question. I think a multitude of people can identify with you conundrum. Fortunately, I just heard the President say things are getting better. In the mean time, let's see if I can be of some help.

I am embarrassed to say, I know of no definitive book for teaching someone to train a horse. Not to say one does not exist, simply, in nearly 50 years of training horses, I never met a single trainer who learned their craft from a book. Like driving a car, hitting a golf ball, shooting pool, skiing,swimming,riding a bike, ice skating, flying a plane, walking the "high wire", taming a lion or, for that matter, getting along with your spouse, all the books in the world will not make it happen....It is a "hands on" sort of thing. Reading about how to do it cannot replace the experience of doing it. Asking someone who knows for advice, when you can explain the problem you are having, is always an option, however.

Now, when it comes to the training equipment one would need to train a horse, I'm your man! After 40 years of running my own stable with 40 horses in training I am very familiar with the "tack" needed to train horses. Let me guide you around what was my 24' x 12' "work" tack room at Richlon Farms. Walking through the door, ahead on a half wall, 4 complete sets of jog harness with appropriate stand-up, round and rolled cruppers hung beside them as well as 3 sets of straight lines and 2 sets of draw lines. Also harnesses but for long lining and bitting rig work, 6 surcingles, 4 more cruppers of different styles, 3 sets of straight long lines (1- 23' and 1-32'), 3 sets of draw lines (again different lengths 2 with pulleys one set leather and rope), all hanging on the wall to your right. Also, on that wall were 8 sets of side reins for bitting rigs. They were of varying lengths and one or two were of elastic and leather construction. To your left you would find 17 work bridles. 7 of these would be used for riding and were equipped with snaps for quick bit change. There were 10 different sets of reins for these bridles, including thin, thick, straight, draw, German martingale, round and braided. For the most part, all also equipped with snaps for the quick change. The remaining bridles were for driving and included 5 full {"blinkered"} bridles (3-side checked and 2-over check) and 5 "open" bridles that were a mixture of side, over check and no check.To accompany these bridles were 12 running martingales, 2 German martingales, 1 Polish martingale and 1 standing martingale. Also in this area were about 20 cavessons. Flat, wide, thin, rolled, draw, small, large, beaded, metal. Additionally, the room housed about 100 different snaffle bits, and 8 different blinker hoods, sweat hoods, action and protective devices of every description not to mention a good deal of rope and complete sets of Hackney pony driving harness. There was also a saddle room and a "show" bridle room where each horse's bridle was kept. This room also housed the "show" fine harnesses in a glass fronted case. Of course, you will need a jog cart. I had 4 and I couldn't live without my stone sled. Guess that about sums up what you will need.

Now, if you don't have that many rooms to store you tack and you are only dealing with one horse, you could probably get by with.

  • 1-complete,work jog harness that can double as a long line harness
  • 1-set of long lines (leather or cotton or rope)
  • 1-work bridle that could double as riding or driving
  • 2-sets of reins 1-wide 1-thin
  • 1-running martingale
  • 1-set of 1/2 cup blinkers
  • 1-cavesson
  • 2-bits 1-smooth, 1-twisted
  • Show bridle
  • saddle

Other tack depends on the discipline chosen.

Nearly all of this can be purchased used and if taken care of properly can last a lifetime. I worked with harness and bridles some of which were 60-70 years old.

To be sure, you will want to add to the "short" list but one can truly get by with the tack I have mentioned. I hope this has been of some help to you and I thank you for your question. I look forward to hearing how you and your three year old are doing, so please let me know in the guest book. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

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

March 16, 2010

It Only Works When It is Broke?
Liverpool bit problems

I was hoping I could count on your assistance once again. In South Africa we show our Senior Hackney Ponies with a Liverpool bit. My problem is a young stallion that is just about to go over to the senior division. I started him with a broken smooth halfcheek snaffle and he has never given me problems he is perfect with the snaffle, soft responsive mouth, easy to bend and carries his head very nicely. Unfortunately when I started introducing a straight bar (I always use a thick copper 4 ring straight bar to teach the youngsters the transition from broken to straight to get them ready for the Liverpool) he went from soft and supple to strong and stubborn. He tosses his head, fights against the bit (even though I never force him or put more pressure on the bit), his mouth starts going dry and sometimes he even sticks his tongue out. When I had him go in a standard straight bar Liverpool he got even worse, he hates the curb chain even though I always have it fairly slack (I have his teeth floated regularly so I don't think they are the problem?).

The moment I put back any type of broken snaffle he goes back to his old self and is a pleasure to train. I have tried other types of straight bars but none of them work. I would really appreciate it if you could assist as it would be a shame for this quality pony not to show in the open division because of a bit problem.

Best Regards

Tip of the Day - Good taste must really be important because no matter how expensive, how fancy, how shiney, how detailed.... if the bit doesn't "taste" right........ the pony won't wear it.

Greetings to you in South Africa, my old friend. I hope you are enjoying some great meat at the Brai and downing some great S.A. wine as you read this. Yes, I can see how this might interfere with your showing plans.. As the most common cause of all mouthing problems are dental issues, I am pleased to read you have ruled that out and are on a regular "floating" program. From your excellent description of the behavior, I would tend to think your stud is having trouble finding a way to get his tongue comfortable. With the broken bit...pressure "surrounds" the tongue, where as with the "stiff" bit, the pressure, flattens the tongue. Often, there is an injury, other anomaly, or sometimes the tongue is just a bit to large for the mouth. As the tongue is the "shock absorber" for the tender bars of the mouth, it is imperative it comes into proper play. Therefore, I would recommend the following:

Visually check the tongue, top and bottom, for anything that could be the cause of discomfort. (I once had a horse with a tooth in the center of the jaw directly under the tongue..never saw one before or since...but it certainly caused a lot of problems until it was discovered and removed!)

Experiment with the Placement of the bit...Neither too high or too low, hopefully but wherever it is most comfortable for him. Comfort is the key!

Use a product that is both sweet and syrup like to lubricate the mouth and foster proper tongue movement. A dry, "locked" mouth is not conducive to anything!

A bit like the one pictured below (broken Liverpool), Wrapped in Seal-Tex, might well be the answer to your problems as it is broken in the middle as was the snaffle he wore well.

I hope this has been of some help to you and as always, thank you so much for your great question. I wish you good luck and good Driving.

LF Lavery

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

February 26, 2010

Cutting to the Chase
(The set tail of the American Saddlebred)

Mr Lavery,

We read your site all the time. We don't have a training question but we were wondering if you had any opinion concerning the setting of tails on the ASB's. We are kind of arguing about if it is good or bad for the breed. Hopefully, you can settle the argument. Thanks.

Tip of the Day - In the horse business as with any other, it is very important to well define two things...your product and your market!

Thank you so much for your question. It could not have come at a more opportune time as this debate is "raging" right along as we speak, elsewhere on the inter net. It does not have an easy answer. As with all controversies, this, also, has two very valid sides. My family, or at least 4 generations of it, are quite familiar with times such as this in the horse business. Thoroughbred select sale, down 47%. Quarter Horse, Arabian and National Show horse registrations way down. Morgan sales way down and of course American Saddlebred registrations down.(perhaps in direct relationship to the number of breeding farms we have lost since shipping semen was established) At any rate, this "lull" is pretty much across the board. Do I think set tails are causing all this??? Of course not. It is clear, however, that the perception of the set tail has not had the benefit of any positive spin from the breed association responsible for its promotion. The same association that recently also has seemed bent on finding some other direction for this noble beast to take. Perhaps with the change of "Management" they are experiencing, their agenda will become more beneficial and, of course, more "transparent" for all concerned. Now asking me if I have an opinion is nearly always asking for trouble as I usually do and it is seldom a "mainstream" one. That is the case in this instance. For my answer, I am quoting myself from a previous letter and post I sent a few years ago. Though some things have already changed, the essence of the letter reflects my feelings on the topic. It was originally posted and sent in July of 2008.

For several weeks, now, I have been reading the Internet with my eyebrows down and my blood pressure up. I am not a horse "whisperer", equine psychic, PETA member, or a vet. I am, however, a 45-year veteran of training horses. Although, I have trained many, many breeds, the American Saddlebred Horse is the one closest to my heart. I, for one, do not believe that an un-set tail class for two year olds wearing a snaffle bit at the World's Championship Horse Show is the miraculous answer to increasing the number of horses we are registering. ( this show was never meant to be a dress rehearsal ) We have a wonderful product as it is. We are transferring (selling) more than we register. I remember something from college called "supply and demand". As products go, Toyota and Hyundai are growing leaps and bounds and are this year's "wonder boys”, while poor Mercedes and Rolls Royce just keep plugging away on a steady sales line. I guess that proves that a cheaper product will always sell more "units" and that "long after the price is forgotten, for the expensive product, the quality remains." Perhaps instead of dwelling on the masses, we should start to highlight the options that make our product different from "Hyundai".

From it's very inception, before it was a recognized breed, PERFORMANCE" and "BEAUTY" were the key words for the "Kentucky Saddler" These unusual horses were able to move a cavalry 60 miles in one night and then out pace the enemy on the battlefield and still look extra special trotting in a victory parade.

At the earliest Saddlebred shows, no one was interested in how high a fence they could jump or whether they could complete a trail course without errors, do a Spanish trot and call it Passage, it was how they performed their gaits and how close they came to the standard and beauty and athleticism that sets our breed apart from all others.

Like the docked tails of the Clydesdales, the long hair on the fetlocks of the Friesian, the long manes on the Andalusian, the braided mane of the Hackney, so too, the elevated flowing tail of our American Saddlebred Horse...These are but a few of the cosmetic factors that help maintain the individual identity of each breed and set it apart from another.

Wing Commander's "flying" tail as he trotted faster than a Standard bred.

Lemon Drop Kid's pure White Tail as trotted higher than any Hackney.

Imperator’s 15 ft tail as he “step and paced” like no Walking Horse.

Bellissima, with her roached tail, looking like a Dresden figurine and much finer than any Arabian.

Our breed sets itself apart and the tail is a huge part of it. I guess that is why several breeds are clandestinely cutting their tails to emulate us.

Any one who has ACTUALLY TRAINED A HORSE OF ANY DISCPLINE knows the importance of a supple animal. Often times a tight tail can really get in a horse's way. I am not talking about them clamping a line under their tail {although it often happens} I am talking about ability to bend, balance, and cadence. Cutting, reining, jumping, pulling, running horses all have examples of horses that have benefited from the limbering of their tails. Working, bustleing, even nicking a tail to make it supple would not be a new idea to horsemen the likes of Charlie Whittingham, Bill Shoemaker, Jimmy Williams, Billy Harris, Champ Hough, Billy Houghton and countless other great horsemen from many disciplines. Although I can name many Worlds’ Champions that never had their tails cut, you may be sure their tails were supple.

I do not believe that every Saddlebred is destined for L'ville, and for those that aren’t, there are many other jobs they can do and do very well but to soft sell what makes this breed great and then covet the very features that keep one from being a World's Champion American Saddlebred, just goes against my grain and is a grave disservice to the breeders who have gone before and whose legacy is in the hands of the American Saddlebred Horse Association.

A rush to put this experimental "un-set," snaffle bit class into your World's Championship Horse Show, is completely without merit when one considers the MANY VALID CLASSES that show our breed's versatility and might better suit the exhibitor that are now NOT offered because of "time constraints."

If the ASHA Board wishes to promote, Equine Affair introduces hundreds of thousands to other breeds who are well represented with live demonstrations and the like. Unlike other breeds, this breed will be lucky to have a small booth there unless local volunteers pick up the gauntlet.

If the ASHA feels some dissatisfaction from their membership, perhaps they would respond better to a Board of Directors that was elected and not selected.

Over the last 25 years I have seen the ASHA attempt to promote the Saddlebred Horse as a Dressage horse, Endurance horse, and it seems the next is “Sport” Horse. Nearly any breed can do well in these disciplines, but no breed can do what the American Saddlebred Horse does in the Five Gaited National Championship at the UPHA/American Royal Nationals.

If they wish to promote Dressage, Endurance and Sport Horses, why not place ads in the various magazines dealing with those disciplines and have a presence at their competitions as other “growing” breed associations do.

I urge you to remember and cherish the qualities that separate the Saddlebred horse from the Toyotas and Hyundais and encourage you to suggest the Board of Directors of the ASHA listen to their membership or their confidence quotient from their constituency will greatly resemble that of the old American Horse Shows Association.

I submit this to you with respect and from my heart.

February 7, 2010

I really get a Kick out of Her!
Dealing with the kicking horse


I have a 4 yr old QH mare whose tail I have to tag her because she kicks other horses while we’re trail riding. I’ve had horses all my life but I’ve been fortunate until now to have never had a kicking horse. She has NEVER offered to kick at humans but seems to feel the need to prove her dominance on the trail as well as at home. I also have never had a horse act so aggressive and dominant so young! Among my horses, is my 18 year old gelding whom I’ve had since he was 4 and he has ALWAYS established dominance (in a much more subtle way) everywhere he would go and I figured he would be the alpha horse on my farm until his last breath but my mare has officially taken that title from him. But that’s all fine and good, however, the kicking on the trail is unacceptable. Do I need to further her training in the round pen to establish more respect starting from the ground up? Please help! Thank you.

Tip of the Day - Riding single file Indian style, Head to tail on the rail...can often cause the horse in front's hind feet to flail!

Thank you for your question. It surely take much of the fun out of a great trail ride when you are constantly worried about your mount kicking at your companions. The red ribbon is, of course, the universal sign to designate a kicking horse and is often the best way to deal with this difficult behavior. As with most undesirable behaviors, it is best to try to find the cause. Is it a physical problem, training issue, or a mental problem?

The fact that we are dealing with an adolescent mare gives a great opportunity to think about physical problems. Discomfort with developing female parts often gives way to the type of behavior you describe. It would be money well spent to have her palpated and have her ovaries etc. checked for cysts or other problems. To be realistic however, there may no physical reason as this can be fairly normal behavior for mares. You have seen, I am sure, mares, in general, show their disapproval of many things by kicking out at them. Discouraging an amorous stallion comes to mind, as well as letting an equine friend know sniffing flanks etc. is not appreciated. This is how they often act in the wild as well so rather than a vice or a learned behavior, instinct is the culprit. Stallions more often show their disapproval with front feet and teeth and geldings are usually pretty tractable and more patient with other horses.(certainly one of the reasons for gelding)

The horse's mental state could come into play as well. Pleased to see you are familiar with the "Alpha" syndrome and understand this might have bearing on the kicking. To be sure, a dominating personality can cause this type of issue to manifest itself. Usually, once a "pecking" order is established, the behavior is no longer necessary. If she is kicking at horses she is familiar with, I would question dominance as a trigger.

Training, lack of or poor, does not seem to be an issue at this juncture. I would be certain not to reward this habit by doing nothing but make things uncomfortable for her the moment she kicks. Timing is everything as she must know that a jerk on the reins or a kick from your heel is directly associated with her poor behavior. Additionally, more often than not, she will telegraph to you her intention to kick. Shifting of her ears, movement of her rear end, tossing of her head something that tells you she is about to unload. Much better than punishing her after she kicks..do something to make her pay attention to you before she kicks. Horses have a one track mind and simply cannot do two things at once so you might be amazed how little effort it will take to stop the kick before it happens. Your job is to repeatedly reinforce the prevention and correction process to the end that you might well correct this behavior over a long period of time.

Once again, I thank you for your great question and hope this has given you some food for thought. I look mforward to reading, in the Guest Book, of your progress. Good luck and good riding!

LF Lavery

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

February 3, 2010

Did You Mean Pole Bending or Poll Bending?
Correctly Setting the Horse's Head

Mr. Lavery

Enjoy your comments and suggestions. My question is about setting a horses head. What are some training techniques to get a horse to bend at the pole?


Tip of the Day- Attempting to set the head of a horse whose neck appears to have swallowed a fence post... is a very daunting task!

Thank you so much for your question, I am certain it is a question asked thousands of times a day by horse trainers, riders and drivers of any discipline conscious of the fact that correct placement of the head is the key to maximum

performance. Because the horse's "center of balance" is in the head it's elevation, distance in front of the withers etc is critical to the performance of gaits and maneuvers associated with these various disciplines. Ground covering horses, such as race horses, hunters and the like are better served with a head lowered and well forward of the withers, while horses needing to display vertical animation, find it with elevated head that is collected back over the withers thus distributing the horse's weight back to the haunches thereby allowing the front end to elevate, For horses performing in this manner, it is important the neck bend as close to the poll as possible to achieve the proper attitude.

As mentioned in the Tip of Day, starting with a horse whose conformation lends itself to bending at the poll is starting a much easier job than with one whose conformation does not. Because of the mechanics involved, a horse that is forced into an uncomfortable position will never excel over a horse that is supple and comfortable with it's head set. That being said, it is possible to help even a straighter necked horse develop a spot for his head that is passable and more comfortable.

There are as many approaches to this as there are those thousands of questions about it. Two things stand out as constant in all credible approaches...It cannot be done overnight and it should not be forced on the horse. Hours, days, weeks, months of time spent suppling and stretching the muscles in the neck so that it might accommodate the desired head set are necessary to reach a pleasing outcome. Long lines, intelligently applied biting rigs, hours of harness and riding work will serve one well in this endeavor far surpassing any quick fix or trick bits. Judicial use of both over check and side check bridles ..various martingales and rein configurations can be of help at this juncture but, again, will not take the place of patient and diligent work. The key is to achieve as close to a perfect mouth as possible .. no dental issues.. a mouth of trust and confidence, much quiet time with easy bits,,, patience. Trying to force the horse will serve no purpose. You are changing the horse's physiology so that a more desirable head set can be more comfortably achieved by the horse.

I know this is not really a "How To"or "DIY" answer but this is basically about all I can give you in writing. If you keep the essence of this in mind, your particular approach, the tools you use and the desired end result will all fall into place. Once again, thank you for your question. I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

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

January 29, 2010

I Have "Spotted" a Problem
Having some gaited Concerns

First, if I have missed a thread that may answer this, please direct me.

I have a now 4 yr old Saddlebred gelding(Highpoint Spiked the Punch by Daybreak's Go for Broke out of A Taste of Clyde by CH The King of Highpoint) that walks into a SLOW, slow gait. His walk suffers but never his trot or canter. Some days the only way I can get a good walk is to go SLOW in smallish circles. His trot is always square and although his canter is BIG, it is a nice 3 beat canter. He even slow gaits on the lunge and in lines. He started at 2, after we took his futurity stacks off and has not quit, except for about 2 weeks when our farrier tried to shoe him not to gait for the 3 yr old futurity. The attached picture is at home, practicing for the 3 yr old KS Futurity.

He is currently bare foot. I ride him saddleseat primarily but he was broke with a western saddle and I do ride him in one on occasion. I use a snaffle bridle with martingale, two reins. He might have 100 rides total. I have been riding all my life, low hunter/hunter on the flat and t-breds but ASB's for the last 10 years. I have ridden one 5 gait for numerous lessons and one show. I would love to send him to a trainer, but right now it is not possible. I have broke other horses and finish most of my own.

As he matures and gets stronger will he develop enough speed for the rack? I have taught him the command "gait" along with a light squeeze and seperating the reins for the slow gait. As long as I keep asking him for the trot, canter and slow gait will we be ok and not lose a gait as sometimes happens when trainers only work the rack? From what I saw in another of your questions, I understand a slow, slow gait is ok? I would love any advice you could give. Folks keep referring me to use a trainer or to typical methods(head lift and shake, down hill, unbalancing) but he does it on his own and even with his head low. I have started working him with side checks to lift his head carriage. I typically work collection before flexion so am only just starting his head carriage work. I know I need to work knees too, but really wanted him safe for futurity classes and worked that over neck and knees. Currently I do not have plans to show him at USEF levels, only on our local open circuit in country pleasure.

As I said, ANY advice would be much appreciated.

Tip of the Day - There should be no "separation anxiety" when riding a Five Gaited horse unless there is no separation of those gaits!!

Thank you so much for your question. I can see by your picture, your horse is colored very nicely, you take your riding very seriously, and as you mentioned, he has no trouble finding his trot. The fact his other gaits are not compromised, is a very good thing and a fact that rules out other problems you could be facing. Dealing with a "double gaited" horse is usually not much fun so you can be thankful you are not. As you understand the number of beats (footfalls) in the gaits, I will remind you, the walk and the slow gait are both four beat gaits ( as is the rack, if done correctly). The differentiation is controlled by speed, style, placement of the head and balance along with the hours and hours of training necessary to enhance and develop these gaits. Additionally, as you correctly alluded, the farrier is indispensable when it comes to balancing these gaits to insure equal performance at each. A pass of the rasp, bite of a nipper, an ounce of difference in weight front or behind can make or break a gaited horse. If you plan on doing this yourself....You must have the help of an experienced farrier to realize you ambitions of showing. As it is named, the slow gait should be slow but faster than the walk, to be sure. I would venture to say, if you commit to spend the time, have a good farrier and vet as your support team, as your horse matures and gets stronger, you will be sucessful. There are many previous posts on this topic, here is some "homework" for you.

Thank you once again for your great question. I hope this has been of some help to you. I look forward to reading of your progress in the Guest Book. Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

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

Links To Questions & Responses
Date Subject Search Criteria
Mar 24, 2010 I Don't Think I Am Fully Equipped! Essential training equipment for the young horse
Mar 16, 2010 It Only Works When It is Broke? Liverpool bit problems
Feb 26, 2010 Cutting to the Chase The set tail of the American Saddlebred
Feb 7, 2010 I really get a Kick out of Her! Dealing with the kicking horse
Feb 3, 2010 Did You Mean Pole Bending or Poll Bending? Correctly Setting the Horse's Head
Jan 29, 2010 I Have "Spotted" a Problem Having some gaited Concerns

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