"Ask the Trainer Online"
Hosted by Lonnie Lavery

"A well trained horse is not an accident but the product of many thoughtful hours!"

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January - June 2011's POSTS

June 27, 2011

Unhappily Hairless
(Growing Tail Feathers)

Hi, Thank you for a great resource for the rider, trainer, and horse.

My five year old Morgan gelding seems to have very little "feathers" at the top of his tail and his tail is not very long or thick. His tail was dry and flakey with a few sores that have since cleared up. Since a Morgan's glory is the full mane and tail I would like to change that. I have only owned him seven months and the trainer has tried MTG, Listerine & water but only slight improvement.

We have been frequently worming him, he gets Nutrena feed, grass hay, and vitamin supplements and does not appear to be deficient although he was a bit rough coated from turnout when purchased. Any suggestions?

Hairless and Hapless

Tip of the Day - Losing Tail Feathers requires very little effort.....Growing them is another story!

Thank you so very much for your question. From show to show and barn to barn, it is quite easy to see who does and does not know the answer to it. First, allow me to applaud your efforts to remedy the situation. The worming, nutrition, quality of hay, vitamins and supplements are all important when dealing with this type of issue. As with all skin and hair problems, it is very smart to first "look" internally for an answer. I often say, it is always best to identify and correct the problem rather than simply treating the symptoms.

In all fairness, there are some horses who seem to naturally be "folicly challenged" (often associated with their color), If that is the case it is very difficult to change genetics. In your case, a Morgan, I would assume we are dealing with a bay (usually known for the thickest hair) horse.

Not being able to observe the problem, I can only guess that the lack of hair is associated with his rubbing his tail. Many things can cause this behavior. You have apparently analyzed the internal and nutritional aspects and found them satisfactory, let's look at some other possible stimuli.

Fly season is notorious for it's negative effect on tails. It is not only the irritation of the flies and other insects but the heat produced by summer that compounds the problem. Who among us is ever comfortable during, "sweat season?"

It is imperative that all tails, and manes be kept extremely clean. In a case as you describe, washed at least once a month. The rinsing of the soap from the tail is the single most important step in this process. Any soap left in the tail will dry the hair and the skin out and promote rubbing. Following the wash, it is fine to use some type of conditioning product, sparingly. In order to save as much tail length as possible, braiding of the tail is recommended. To accomplish what you want and promote growth, the conditioning product must have little or no alcohol which dries the skin and hair making the skin itchy and the hair brittle and little or no "oil" which builds up, becomes greasy and attracts further environmental build up on the hair. Unfortunately, there are only a few such products available among the hundreds of others claiming miracles. If you wish, I am proud of a product I produce for this purpose. You may read about it at: http://www.ehorseequipment.com/product.aspx?return=search&no=171400&sort=&page=&cid=

When using any such products, it is important to remember that any hair growing below the tail bone is, for all intents and purposes, dead hair. Therefore, most of your attention should be focused on the hair on the tailbone if you wish to stimulate new and thicker growth. Massaging product in and keeping this hair soft and pliable should be your mission. The important thing here, is a daily effort. (I have heard some have even had a little success with Minoxidil) Additionally, on a daily basis, something that is more often neglected as not, the cleaning of the "dock" of the horses's tail. Yes, just the simple, daily wiping off, with warm water, of that area below the tail bone that signifies the horse is from O...hio, can work wonders in retarding itching and therefore rubbing.

Although unlikely, if you fail to see any improvement within a month using this method, there is a winter treatment which is quite a bit more involved. I would be happy to share it with you if needed.

To sum up, you know how your hair and scalp feel when over due for a wash and how they feel when over done with an alcohol based hair spray or when you have used way to much conditioner. Keep that in mind when you approach your tail problems. Stop the inclination to itch and you will achieve what you desire.

Thank you once again for your great question. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

L F Lavery

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June 13, 2011

Does it Rub Them the Right way?
(Topical agents, do they really benefit our equines?)

Hi Lonnie,

I have a two part query and has been on my mind for a long time as I tend to be a skeptic. I am this way as I have tested some on myself for chronic joint or muscle soreness and they provide temporary fleeting results.

I am interested in your opinion about treatment options and benefits of topical agents used for soreness, joint pain and soft tissue injury. Do they really do any good versus a systemic agent or localized injection? If you think they are of benefit for conservative care, what in your experience and judgment are the best products to have on hand? I think Epsom salts are a great old time remedy, but not always practical to use on a stifle, high injury or pelvic/shoulder issue.

Can you also speak to supplements that you have used or like for long term maintenance of a horse with musculoskeletal wear and tear? I ask this of you rather than the vets because I know you have used the old timers remedies in "your bag of tricks" or horseman acumen as well as stay current on all of the modern products. It can be mind boggling to decide which are the best products to use and which are a waste of money.

Thanks for your input.

Tip of the Day - To paraphrase that great philosopher, Cher, "If a sound horse came in a bottle.....Everyone would have one!"

Thank you so much for your great question. As you have mentioned, some of your answer you have already figured out from the "scientific" testing you have done on your own body. Your conclusion is quite correct...most of those topical products have a little trouble delivering what they promise. To be sure, they are probably not worthless but they certainly are not miracle preparations either. There are, however, some things that do have a positive impact on soundness issues.

Of course, as we all know, when dealing with a fresh strain, "bump" or injury, cold is the "first aid" treatment. Whether it be in the form of water, ice or "pack". the immediate application of "cold" is indispensable in minimizing the effects of this type of incident. Heating things up is the correct route for issues that are older or more chronic in nature.

For my money, Epson Salts, when used in conjunction with hot water, almost does qualify for miracle drug status. Abscesses, minor muscle strains, some conditions of skin and swelling and bruising of soft tissue, can be greatly improved with its use. It truly does do most of what it says it can.

There can be no conjecture about "Blisters and Leg Paints". Over hundreds of years of use, they do seem to work. From splints, bogs, skeletal issues, bows to stimulating tail growth, when used cautiously, they can have a positive effective. Experience and knowledge are irreplaceable in preventing a negative outcome when using these products.

A good "brace" liniment, can be helpful when topically applied to sore kidney or loin areas. When used under "brace" bandages, it can be effective with conditions of the ankles and cannon bones caused by exertion. Used in warm water, as a bath, it can help to relax sore and strained muscles. Some mentholated "rubs" also can afford a little relief. The key to all I have just mentioned is the "heat" they are used with (water, bandages) or heat they can produce (mentholated rubs) that stimulate blood flow in the affected areas. The heat also opens the pores of the skin for more effect penetration of the agent thus encouraging a loosening and dispersing of the muscle lactose and swelling associated with the strain or injury. In other words, a good hot bath or shower might be nearly as effective in giving comfort.

Topical "freezes" can indeed stop the pain in a specific area when applied locally. Unlike that mentioned above they work alone without heat. Of little therapeutic value other than as a local anesthetic, many "Freezes" do nearly what they say they can.

Dimethylc Sulfoxide, DMSO, the "miracle" drug of the 70's and 80's is not a drug at all. It, in fact, started in its earlier career as a paint remover. It is its penetration ability that got it promoted from the paint brush to the drug store. When rubbed on a mammal's skin, it almost instantly goes through the epidermis, muscle, tissue and into the blood stream. It does produce some heat (along with a horrible taste in one's mouth) but the real beauty of it is its ability to take medications such as cortisone, antibiotics etc, along with it as it penetrates, making pin point accuracy a reality. Caution must be used with DMSO however, as medications such as liniments are not meant to be internally exposed and can cause many problems when used in conjunction with DMSO. Also, many humans and equines seem to have a real sensitivity to the chemical itself and can blister when exposed to it.

As far as supplements, old time remedies must bow to modern medicine. Hyaluronic acid (hands down the most effective) followed by, MSM, Chondroitan, Glycosamine and such all seem to be as effective with equines as they are with humans. Some respond wonderfully, others not at all. Depends on the individual. To be sure, when dealing joint problems, you will probably have more luck with these than a product you rub on.

In general, there is a time, place and a use for all the things mentioned above if you find yourself with some soundness problems. Better than treating them, preventing them is a much smarter thought. A well planned conditioning program that includes: Sensible and most importantly regular, DAILY, exercise, DAILY grooming and care, proper footing, correct nutrition, regularly scheduled shoeing, use of protective boots and bandages and a little luck, will go a long way in helping keep your horse sound. We "Old Timers" can testify to that.

Once again I thank you for your great question and hope these words have been of some help to you. As you can see, when dealing with all the medication options available, common sense is your best form of offense. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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June 6, 2011

"Curb" Appeal
( From the snaffle to the curb)

Hi Mr. Lavery,

My Morgan has been working well for 6 months in a snaffle and in now ready to transition into a curb for western pleasure. He flexes well and breaks at the poll nicely but obviously at five needs to be in a curb to be shown. He has a soft mouth and sets his head well without resistance and I would like to continue that attitude while wearing a curb. Any suggestions on what type of curb to use or the bits used in the transfer from snaffle to curb.


Tip of the Day - Saddle Seat riding when performed on an American Saddlebred, is the only equine discipline where the curb bit is used exclusively to tip the nose and not for control.

Thank you so much for your question. When dealing with the steps involved with the transition to the curb, it is important to remember ( as the "Tip of the Day" points out ) the role of the curb is completely different in the Western discipline as opposed to Saddle Seat. Therefore, the process is also completely different. In Saddle Seat, the curb would "join" the snaffle in the "Full" bridle. All signals, etc. would continue to be given with the snaffle as the horse slowly becomes accustomed to the curb in his mouth. I would offer the following as a little helpful, "homework" for you at this point:

Sept 5, 2008 Caution..."Curbs" Ahead! curb bit, bits, setting head

Because "Neck Reining" is the ultimate goal for your Western horse, it is extremely helpful to start this education with the snaffle. For instance, a left turn would be executed by using the left rein to turn the horse's head to the left ( the Direct or Bearing rein ) and at the same time laying the right rein ( Indirect rein of Opposition ) on the horse's neck while using extremely firm leg aids to control the body. Hours of repetition are necessary for the horse to become adept at this. When the horse is executing turns, circles etc. with just the indirect rein and your legs as the cue, you are ready for the curb.

The bit should be as simple, short shanked, low ported, and easy as possible during this period. You do not want to hurt or scare a horse with an overly severe bit. Start easily and then gradually, over many sessions, work your way up to the reining program you used with the snaffle using just one hand and your legs. When you can circle at all gaits, stop, back easily, rate your horse's speed and do it all with very light contact...you will have a Western horse. If at that time you feel you need a little more bit, carefully try different types keeping in mind that "less is most often better".

Make no mistake, this will not happen overnight but with much time, dedication and patience on your part. From the way you have described his current level of training, I have no doubt that the curb transition will be no problem for you.

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

LF Lavery

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May 30, 2011

I Would like to take Longer Trips
(Suggestions for the Barn Sour Horse)


My parents raised Appy's and I rode a lot through my childhood but I married at age 17 and moved to the city. After 30+ yrs raising children I have returned to the country life and gotten horses again. Last year I was thrown from a horse and injuries kept me in a wheelchair all winter. I'm walking and riding again! My husband sold all the horses but one while I was down. This paint mare is 16 yrs old and well broke. She belonged formerly to a 4Her who went away to college and then she was boarded at a Thoroughbred horse farm and used to pony younger horses. She has not been ridden for a year and has lost her pasture pals. I believe she has become barn sour. "Sky" does great for me in the round pen and when riding in her own pasture. I have taken her outside the fence and ridden her around the fence line, she is a bit apprehensive but responds when asked. I have tried to take her further into the back fields but I get about 1/4 mile away and she begins to whinny and dance around side stepping and trying to return home. Truthfully I'm scared at this point. The life flight helicopter ride to Pittsburgh Hospital is still too fresh in my mind!!! I turn her around and take her sideways a bit before returning towards home. I take her back to the fence line at a controlled walk and then turn around again. I keep hoping that she will see that we come and we go and it's okay. Am I doing the right thing? I have taken her out everyday for the last 10 days but don't seem to be making much progress. Is my fear interfering? She seems very alert and apprehensive. I don't have anyone else to ride with me. Suggestions?

Thank you,

Tip of the Day - While having a partner to dance with may be important, having someone to trail ride with..... is essential!

Thank you so much for your question. So glad to hear you are back in the saddle after your accident. Myself, I would lean towards calling you fearless. However, I certainly cannot say you have benefited from the experience. Fearless is one thing, foolish, another. To be alone on a horse, on a trail ride communing with nature and such may be a great feeling and certainly a popular scene in the movies or passage in a novel. It is also an invitation to disaster! The greatest of riders on the "broke-est" of horses are still vulnerable to the strange things that can occur out in the "big empty". One slip, one low hanging branch, one break of equipment, one unexpected animal, one poor decision can instantly lead to a tragedy. To be lying in the dirt alone, unable to walk, miles from anyone or any help is certainly not a good place and I am truly surprised your accident has not taught you that. Please... DO NOT RIDE ALONE! That being said, let's move on to your question.

The detail in which you describe your mare's issue is indeed excellent as it is very difficult for me to diagnose without actually viewing the behavior. From what you have said, I believe you to be correct in your assessment of barn sour. In reality, it is actually a "security" issue with her. Having been a "pony", been boarded at large facilities with other horses and been in the "Herd" situation in pastures, her life has drastically changed. She no longer has the "security" of other horses to rely upon. It is, therefore, quite obvious why she has become so territorial over "her" pasture. This is quite common and manifests itself in different ways. For instance, aside from pasture or even stall bound, how about two pasture buddies that bond and become inseparable, for Security. It may surprise you to know that in barn fires, many horses who have been saved, ultimately die as they run back into their stalls, for Security. As with those examples, she is comfortable and "secure" in her pasture.

To some extent, you are letting your "concern" interfere with your conquering of the situation for even though you sidetrack etc, when she displays her discomfort by whinnying and dancing around, you ultimately are rewarding that behavior by returning her to the pasture. Now don't get me wrong, I completely understand your consternation after an accident such as you had, however, one can never change a bad behavior by rewarding it. The simplest and most effective course of action would be to take this mare to another location for several weeks and with daily rides in a place that is strange to her, you will become her security. By that I mean she will come to depend on you in those strange surroundings. Once you have gained her confidence, there should be no reason to not return to the original "scene of the crime" and have enjoyable rides.

If moving her is not an option, riding with a friend might well solve your problem as she follows or accompanies another horse giving her a sense of security.

Other things you can try: Lead her well past the "point of no return" then mount and ride. Mount out of sight of "her" pasture. Try never to travel the same route, coming or going. Change her pasture frequently. Put a little Vicks Vapor Rub in her nostrils.

Above all, never do anything to reward this behavior.

I thank you again for you question and am certain you will persevere with this issue. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding,

LF Lavery

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May 23, 2011

My Training Issue is with My Trainer
(Client / Trainer Relations)

Hi Lonnie:

You seem like you are very knowledgable. My trainer is verbally abusive to me and insulting. I pay him a lot of money and have purchased many horses from him. I think he may have taken a cut of the money that I have paid for the horses. Do you think that this is true and an ethical practice in the horse industry or should I get out?

All I want is a World’s Champion but being constantly told that I have no ability is discouraging.

I have considerable resources to be successful with the Saddlebred industry but am finding that my feelings are hurt.


Tip of the Day - Highly competitive show riders know that communicating with your horse is sometimes not as important as communicating with your trainer!

Thank you so much for this interesting "training" question. and the nice compliment. Knowledgeable, I hope you continue to feel that way after you read this. From your description of your situation, may I assume you have become somewhat disenchanted with your trainer? If you have become unhappy, please know that it is not unusual for a client to become unhappy with his trainer. In fact, it is not unusual for trainers to become disenchanted with their clients as well. As in any business relationship, ninety percent of the time, problems such as you describe can be attributed to a lack of, or poor, communication. The statements you have made here and the questions you are asking me would well be better answered by your trainer. Keep in mind, no matter now complicated a trainer's job description is, he is, in actuality, in the Personal Service business. For the forty some years I ran a public stable our catch phrase was,"It is our business to make your hobby a pleasure." To make that happen, the client must be involved as well. You pay your trainer for his skill in training your horse, his talent in teaching you to ride, his expertise in pairing you with the proper mount and his advice as far as the disposition of you and your horse's show career. If you are receiving something else that you do not like or are upset with the way you are being treated, it is your responsibility to bring it to his attention if you expect a rectification of the situation. As I often say, "Your trainer spends an entire day trying to read horses' minds, he shouldn't have to read your's"

As far as some of the particulars of your "letter". Regardless of how much money you pay him, verbal abuse and insults, if that is indeed what they are, are certainly not the norm one should expect from a Professional. (My clients often had to endure some serious "kidding and teasing" from me, usually related to a poor performance on their part. My rapport with them was such, however, that they most always took it in the vein in which it was meant ) Remember, your trainer is human and everyone can have a bad day.

As far as the purchase or sale of horses, a trainer is entitled to a commission. This offsets any expenses he has incurred while putting the deal together, and is payment for his professional experience and knowledge concerning the selecting of the "right" horse for you and his acumen in affecting a profitable sale of your horse when the time comes. Commissioned brokers, agents, reps ,etc are found everywhere in the Business world such as Real Estate, Fine Art and Antiques, the Financial industry, Sales of all kinds, Manufacturing , to name just a few.

You might be surprised to learn that you and I share a common goal.....I'd like to have another World's Champion now, as well. Of course, you are aware that getting out pretty well stops that dream. I read where you "have purchased many horses from him". Obviously, at some point in time, you had a good deal of faith in your trainer so there must be some good history there. If I were you, I would set up a lunch or dinner meeting with your trainer and as I have suggested, discuss your hurt feelings, the insults, financial concerns and your frustration with him. Tell him of your goals, ask him if they are realistic. COMMUNICATE! If after that your situation does not start to rectify then and only then would I start considering your other options. There are many but I certainly hope "getting out" is not one you would still consider.

I am reminded of a pair of clients that I had. Both lovely people. One was a very good rider with a horse that was a contender for a World title. The other was not as good a rider with a nice horse which was fine as neither she nor her horse had the ability or aspirations to compete at the highest level. She simply liked to show. My coaching style on the rail was quite different for each of them. For the rider on the nice horse there was a lot of, "Good for you...Nice pass,...Relax and enjoy the ride" For the rider who wanted to win at the "Big Dance" it was more...."You know better than that....Oh come on..get her head up....We have gone over this a thousand times."

Well, mid way through the season, the Louisville contender and spouse met with me and told me the horse was going to be moved to another trainer. I was shocked as we had won nearly every class we had entered and were sitting on ready for the rider and horse to win at the World Championship so I asked why.

They informed me it was my gruff, overly critical and mean spirited coaching on the rail, while I simply said very nice things to the other rider and was never gruff so I obviously liked that rider better. I thought a second and realized she was correct about the different coaching styles Her assessment of my motivation was completely in error. First I told them I really liked both riders equally but they were very different. I explained that no matter what I said to the other rider there would be no improvement or change in the performance. The rider and horse were working to the best of their ability and simply having fun so direction or instruction would merely make their ride unpleasant. I then told the rider sitting across my desk that I saw the desire, potential greatness and a possible victory in the cards for that team. I explained the strong emotional tie I felt for this rider and horse team that I had put together six months before and was, perhaps more critical as I truly cared deeply, wanted them to attain their goal and knew it was within their grasp. After a few minutes, they said if that is the case, they understood and would like to leave the horse with me. ....I did promise to adopt a slightly calmer "rail side manner". That client was one of several who were with me 20 or more years.

The point of this story is trainers are much like artists and rider and horse like their creation. They get attached, get emotional but above all want the very best of success for those they train. This can sometimes get in their way. Also, without some communication, that client would have spent twenty years someplace else and might not have won at Louisville.

I thank you once again for your question and hope I still have you fooled about my knowledge! With any luck what I have said will serve you well and I will someday see you in that winner's circle. Please keep in touch and let me know how things go. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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May 16, 2011

This Little Guy Worries Me
(Dealing With an Aggressive Foal)

Hello. My name is Caitlin and I live in Pennsylvania. I have owned horses my whole life but recently found myself in a situation I have never been in before. We were given a month old colt about 3 days ago. His mother passed away from natural causes. The colt is taking milk replacer out of a bucket, eating a little foal grain and eating hay and grass. When I go into his paddock to do anything, most of the time he pins his ears and acts agressive. Hes very easy to handle other than this behavior. Hes easy to catch. Once he is out of his paddock, he doesnt act agressive. (Not yet at least.) Any thoughts as to why he has this behavior, and how to correct it? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Tip of the Day- I have always found correcting a horse much easier the younger and the smaller they are.

Thank you so much for your great question. The behavior you describe is, indeed, fascinating and should give you some real insight into the psyche of the horse. Let me assure you your foal is not a one of a kind..... Most horsemen know it to be a fact that orphan, human raised foals, often grow up to display the type of attitude that shouts of their lack of respect for the human race. (certainly brought on by their constant exposure to their well meaning surrogate, human, "mothers", sort of a familiarity breeds contempt syndrome.) These horses are quite likely to be very difficult to handle and it is rare, indeed, that one makes a good show horse. (I , however, had one that became a great horse so, though unlikely, it can happen.)

If we take a moment to think about horses in the wild, their natural state, I think you will more easily understand exactly how circumstance has made your foal so different.

In the "wild", horses are generally herd oriented and nomadic, both ruled and protected by the stallion patriarch of the herd. The mares and juvenile horses depend on the stud while the nursing foals depend on their mothers. For the better part of a colt's first 2 years, he and his mother would be inseparable. Your young man has lost his "protection". No mother, no stallion, no herd. Although you can well satisfy his need for nourishment, you can in no way fill that void and some of what you are experiencing has to do with the vulnerability he certainly would be feeling. Because he is alone, his nomadic instinct has also disappeared and he has replaced that by becoming territorial. (HIS...Paddock) This gives him a sense of security and safety and easily explains why you are being treated like an intruder when you enter his territory. At this stage of the game, is not so much "evil" as it is a manifestation of his nervousness, fear and basic insecurity on being an orphan. Because of his situation, his actions, although not desirable should not be punished as they are completely understandable. If you would like to keep this from escalating, it is imperative you in no way encourage, reward or act afraid of these actions. Stand firm, hold your ground and act as though you are his leader. Horses were never meant to be pets but rather "tools" of the multitude of "trades" they have been bred to do. At best, a horse may become your willing partner but treating one as a pal or a friend will come to no good end. The sooner you can get him weaned from the hand feeding and decrease your contact with him, the better. That is not to say he should not be handled, halter trained, blacksmith ready etc. but keep those sessions to a minimum. He needs to just be a horse at this time.

I hope this has given you some insight and I thank you once again for your question. The job you have chosen with this foal is not an easy one but if you keep what we have talked about always in mind, I am sure you will have no major problems. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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April 18, 2011

The Ride is Very Bumpy
(Dealing with the Pacing Horse)

Hello Mr Lavery

I am in the UK and have just found 'ask the trainer' on the USA-UK website. I hope you can help me!

I have a 5 gaited mare who, when she gaites I find incredibly bouncy and I cant seem to sit still without bouncing in the saddle. I know I must be doing something wrong and hoped you may point me in the right direction to getting a nice smooth gait!

Many thanks in anticipation.

Tip of the Day - Although they still call for the Rack at the shows, in this day and age....it doesn't show up very often.

Thank you so much for your question, all the way from the United Kingdom. Congratulations on your acquisition of a 5 gaited American Saddlebred, the "Rolls Royce" of the horse world. It will be extremely difficult for me to be of help without seeing exactly what you are talking about. I could come to your place for a Farm Call, it would only cost you $85.00........and travel expenses!!! Seriously, let's see if I can be of some assistance.

As a Saddlebred owner and rider, I must assume you are quite familiar with the gaits. (Please bear with me as these "footfalls" are important) The trot, A 2 beat gait producing upward propulsion in the saddle...Da-Da/Da-Da, the canter, A 3 beat gait encouraging almost a sliding action in the saddle ...Da-Da-Da/Da-Da-Da and the rack..a four beat gait developed long ago so there is virtually no motion in the saddle....Da-Da-DaDa/Da-Da-DaDa. As you know you are not trotting but are still "bouncy" in the saddle, I feel you are mistaking a gait called the Pace for the Rack. The pace is a two beat gait though not diagonal as the trot where the left hind and right front etc. move in unison . Rather, the pace's two beats are lateral where the 2 legs on one side move in unison encouraging only a slapping of your "Bum" on the saddle. Many dogs pace all camels pace and the Standardbred race horse paces very speedily while pulling a sulky. With a riding horse, however, because it is so uncomfortable, it is not very desired.

Retraining a horse that has learned to pace can be a difficult proposition. Foremost in the process is that the horse must be very light in the bridle with her head elevated. Pulling or lugging can only encourage the pace. Although the execution of the pace and the rack are miles apart, adjusting the balance between the front and hind legs to discourage the pace and encourage the rack must be done very subtly. Things you can try are, front hooves a bit longer than the hind, Front shoes slightly heavier than the hind, Place a protective rubber bell boot or a leather strap on the front hooves. Find a work surface softer and deeper than where you are currently working. One or more of these options should help you find the "Purloined" rack you are searching for. Once you do, You will immediately recognize it, you will never forget that feeling and the thrill accompanying it, that much I guarantee!

I hope this has given you some food for thought,and I again thank you for your question. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.


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April 11, 2011

Road Trip, Road Trip!
(Shipping the Young Horse)

How old does a colt have to be to take a cross country trailer ride?

I have a yearling and i am thinking of hiring a horse van to bring him to california. He turns one year this month (officially on Jan 1 but in reality April 29).

What do you think?

Tip of the Day - Sometimes, a van ride across the country can be tougher on the horse than if he had done it on his own legs.

Thank you for your question. After noticing you are an Equine Psychologist I must admit I feel quite flattered. I have no such credentials but am a third generation of trainers who have spent their entire lives analyzing horses, in our own way.

A definative answer to your question is a bit difficult as there are so many variables involved. As I am certain you are aware, chronological age sometimes has little to do with a horse's level of maturity. Maturity can mean mental or physical. A colt that might be "up to" a long van ride physically might well not be up to it mentally.

Aside from "Equine Nature", one must also be conscious of the education (training) the colt has had. A wild colt off of the range will most certainly act entirely different from one that has been handled regularly and is broke to tie, lead, back and stand. Human contact makes a great difference as trust is always an issue with the young horse in a situation such as this.

Last but certainly not least is the conveyance for the trip. Van, trailer, straight truck, etc. all have their good points and their bad points with the driver and itinerary perhaps the most important.

Taking everything into consideration, I would think your colt could take this trip if he shows some mature sensibility and has been handled as described above, It would be best if he were shipped in a van, loose in a box stall bedded deep in shavings with a water bucket. Two drivers would be most desirable with stops every 4-6 hours to check colt and water and make certain hay is always available and stall remains clean. There is nothing wrong with driving straight through but over 48 hours on a truck is too long without the colt being unloaded and walked and then allowed to rest for a few hours before loading back up again. As far as the itinerary goes, the time of year dictates the North or South route so the weather is not a negative issue.

I think that pretty much sums it up except pointing out they now fly horses quite regularly from coast to coast...about 6 hours.

Thank you again for asking me to answer your wonderful question.( I am sure you could have asked Ms Lydecker.) I hope I have given you some food for thought and I wish you very Good Luck.

LF Lavery

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March 28, 2011

She is "Whipping" Up on Me
(Dealing with an aggressive Horse)

hello, i have a hunter/jumper mare that is REALLY aggressive to humans. i think at one of her previous homes she was beaten, because if you barely wiggle a wip at her she will go off on you. she charges and bites and bucks if you move a wip towards her. so i have been rubbing my carrot stick all over her body, around her mouth and in between her legs. she doesn't do anything when i rup her with it, and she licks her lips, but if i use it to lunge her or something she goes insane. i have done lessons with her rubbing the wip on her several times. i did that when i first got her, im doing it now, and i have done it several other times. but this is not taking affect, she is still being really aggressive, what do i do about this?

p.s. she is also a one person horse, i am the only one and i mean ONLY person who can ride her. every single person i have put her on, she has gone off on. she ran them under trees, took off bolting with them, and tried to buck them off. but she is perfect for me when im riding her. it's just when im doing ground work she gets really mean.

please help!!!

Tip of the Day -The issue of having an animal's respect can vary greatly depending on if one is dealing with a Guinea Pig or a thousand pound Dutch Warmblood.

Thank you so much for your question. It is wonderful to find someone who is interested in correcting a horse's behavior and also so capable of analyzing the situation. You are not only probably quite correct in your assessment of her previous treatment but your initial effort to change this behavior was certainly a "text book" correct approach. Sometimes, however, the standard procedures leave much to be desired, as with your horse. The issue here is respect. Although it can often be gained with kindness as you have tried, now and then, dealing from a position of strength is necessitated. Strength, in this case, does not mean force or pain causing abuse, simply persistent, unbending dominance of the situation.

To level the playing field between you and your horse and to initiate a position of strength, having control of the horse's head is the most important facet of your attempt to deal with the issues. Whether a lead rope, lead shank, twitch etc., whatever is necessary to control the head is what is called for. When you are able make the horse. turn, stop, step forward and back up with whatever appliance you have selected, you are ready to repeat all the steps you have tried before to desensitize her.

Each time you try something, it is critical that you maintain her focus by keeping her facing you, neither turning, running you over or backing away from you. How much effort you will need to expend to do this is entirely up to her. However and how violently she tries to rebel will dictate your response. By doing this, you are demonstrating your dominance of her and with much repetition, you will gain her respect which is what is necessary to rectify this type of behavior. Never, back down from her reaction as she must know you are committed to her correct behavior but do not hesitate to use calming words such as "easy" and "good girl" whenever possible. Over time, I think you will find less and less "force" will be needed and you will have been successful with that which you wished to accomplish.

As far as the "one person" horse aspect, this might change as she learns respect and at the same time, gains confidence in you and the human race.

I hope this has been of some help or has given you some food for thought. I thank you once again for your great question and wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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March 21, 2011

Am I Rubbing Him the Wrong Way!!!
(Solving interference issues with proper hoof trimming)

We started jogging my 14 year old pleasure gaited horse 3-4 times a week about a month ago in his winter plates... not a real serious workout but enough to start getting him back in shape for the show season. Everything was fine. I had him checked out by our vet and I know he needs his hocks and one stifle injected. I'll get that done in about two weeks. Meanwhile, we had his show shoes put on. He needed new rear shoes because he'd worn the toes out on his last shoes over two show seasons. (His shoe shoes behind have a single leather and are long behind. The vet mentioned a trailer on the outside rear as something that would help stablize him behind. Turned out he'd always had a trailer in his show package but evenly extended on both sides. I can take pictures tonight if that will help.) He jogged about 4 times in his show shoes and started brushing his ankles behind... at first only on corners. The last time we jogged him it was almost every step. There are no marks on the scuff boots but you can hear the brushing sound.

What do you think? Keep jogging lightly until he can be injected? Change back to plates behind? Change to lining rather than jogging? (I'm also riding him very lightly at least once a week to get my legs back in shape. I haven't heard any scuffing sounds when I ride him but it's not much of a workout for him because I'm just checking out my new knee at the moment.)

One further piece of information. He grows foot so slowly, he's only shod 2-3 times a year (March, July, October barring accidents). We don't want any more holes in his feet than absoulutely necessary so changing shoes right now would pretty much require going back through the same nail holes.

Thanks a bunch...

Tip of the Day -When it comes to correcting faulty flight path issues ..... More can be done with a rasp in a good Farrier's hands, than all the wedges, grabs, calks, lead, trick shoes, trailers, and pads one can put on a horse's foot!

Thank you so much for your wonderful question At least 40% of the horses I have been asked to help with over the last 10 years have this type of problem (shoeing) as the "root" of their other issues. Interference can be a nightmare to deal with and can cause problems that might appear to be : Bad Manners, Bad Mouths, Bad Training, Lameness, Lack of ability, etc, etc, etc. To begin, let me assure you I am not a Farrier. It is a profession that earned my respect many years ago. Without a qualified blacksmith, willing to work with the rest of the team in their quest to develop a winning competitor, all is for naught. Secondly, as established long ago, the one iron clad rule for "shoeing" a horse... there are no rules.

That being said, let's address your question and expose you to Lavery's shoeing primer and philosophy. To be sure, many a great Farrier will argue with what I am about to say but it is also sure that this way of thinking has served me well for over 50 years of working horses and along with my willingness to admit being incorrect, to compromise, and to try something new, my rate of success in this department has been very excellent. Certainly, my way is not always right but I think you will find it easy to understand. Here we go.

As mentioned in the Tip of the Day, the trimming of the Horse's hoof is perhaps the most important part of the entire shoeing job. If it is not correct, the severity of it's impact on the horse's way of moving is only magnified as more length, angle and weight are applied. (ie. if an archer's aim is off 1/2 inch at 50 yards from the target, by the time the arrow travels that distance, it is now off almost a foot.) The mechanics of trimming the hoof go sort of like this. Ideally, the hoof is trimmed level with the center of the toe being in a line directly below the Knee (back of hock) and the center of the Pastern. To adjust this......Front feet: Lowering the outside toe turns the toe in (pigeon toe'd) Lowering the inside toe turns the toe out ("coon" heeled). Rear feet: Lower the inside from toe to heel to widen the base, Lower the outside from toe to heel to narrow the base. And...here is one almost "Iron Clad" rule: The hoof will always "break off" (leave the ground from) the highest point. (blame that on Physics).

Where the horse breaks off establishes the flight path of the hoof. Again, ideally, we want the horse to break off the center of his toe in front. We can well assume that a horse that breaks off the outside toe in front will tend to send the hoof towards the opposite leg (ie knee knocking) and one that breaks off the inside toe...will send the hoof far away from both legs (winging) If you have any question about this just stand in front of a horse that knocks his knee. Just standing still, you will more than likely notice he is toeing out. (highest point...outside toe).

Do the same with a horse that wings, he will be toe'd in. (highest point...inside toe)

Simple huh? Well yes, but there are many other variables such as conformation that can have an effect but on the whole, this is a very simple and quite effective way to correct flight path issues. Therefore, use this rule of thumb as your first effort to get a horse off his knee or to stop a horse from winging. Just have your farrier trim the horse accordingly. Certainly, it is a much better way to approach the problem than with the "easy way out" gadgets and gimmicks, mentioned in the Tip of the Day, that only serve to deal with the symptom and are not concerned with the horse's actual problem or his welfare.

As for your particular issue with the brushing behind, simple fix... No side weight shoes, cruel trailers or grabs necessary, Just have your farrier get out the rasp and lower him on the inside. Should he be going wide behind... do the opposite. As an added "perk" once he is comfortable behind, you might find he is not in such serious need of the Vet. However, if the Vet does come by, I would have him check your horse's blood. The rate of hoof growth you mention is not normal and can be a symptom of several more serious conditions. At the very least, a Biotin supplement would seem to me to be in order.

Once again, thanks for your great question and I hope this has given you some food for thought. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery


March 14, 2011

Having a Little Trouble Leading the Way
(Dealing with canter lead issues)

Hi again Mr. Lonnie, I went to your askthetraineronline and found that I should send my question here. Thanks in advance for all of your information, time and your expert advice. Tonight my question concerns "cantering" a mare that is 6 years old, has been in several training hands prior to me getting her, and also has been shown with success. She seems to have a problem taking the first, or the left lead. It is usually hit or miss so to speak. Now the second way, on the right lead...never a problem. When she does take the lead, right of left, it is a very comfortable canter. She does not bolt, toss the head or pull.....and for the most part, I think she canters with her body fairly straight. It is the same whether in a work bridle or the full bridle. I use a German martingaleon her work bridle most often. Her mouth is good but if anything I can pick up on, it would be that she is '"less responsive" on the right side of the bit. Makes me wonder if she has neck issues on that right side, but that is just an uneducated guess. Just wondered if you could advise any particular exercise or a way that I might be able to get her more comfortable taking that left lead. Also, I work her with nothing on her feet and legs. I have used run-downs on her but thought they might be adding to her "quirk" so I quit that. I truly appreciate any suggestion and look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Tip of the Day - Although a class is seldom won on the canter.....thousands....have been lost!!

Thank you so much for your wonderful question. It is one that always seems to be popping up. My nearly standard answer.. for the correct canter to be executed, the horse must be relaxed and set up for success. Several things come to mind in your particular case.."crooked" in the bridle..could come from dental issues or, for that matter, the German Martingale. Horses, being flight animals, do not respond well to anything that is constraining and does not "give" such as draw reins or a German Martingale. Cocking the head and jaw often occurs when these are used.

She could very well have "spine" issues as well. A chiropractor might be an option for a diagnosis.

It is very wise of you,at this stage of the game, to keep leg appliances to a minimum. Also, I applauded your efforts to get to the root of the problem rather than try to simply work on the symptom. Rather than me just retyping answers to left lead problems, Here is a copy of a Oct. 24th 2010 answer, A Leading Question, that I think you may find helpful,

October 24, 2010

A "Leading" Question
Canter Issues

Hi Lonnie. I recently met you at the River Ridge horse show and bought some of your bit stuff. I love it and it is making a difference in my mare's mouth. Thanks for the help!

Now, my biggest problem I am having is my left canter lead. I got my mare from SBR and she was with the amish for 4 years. I am working her back into a riding horse and hoping to show this year. However, even though I have perfected the trot both ways and the canter to the right, I can not get the left canter lead. What is even more bizarre is that she canters to the left in long lines perfectly. Now, I was taught that most problems are rider error and I agree with that, so maybe it is me. However, how could I have the canter perfect to the right and yet can't get it at all to the left? I have on occasion let her continue on the incorrect lead hoping she will switch it and she never does, not even in a circle. It almost feels like she takes it correctly and switches it in the second stride. At first I would really exaggerate the tip to the rail and once I realized it didn't help I decided not to tip her at all and I got it twice but had to run her into it. But now I can't get it again. I guess I am just looking for suggestions. Could this be a physical problem? Shall I have a chiropractor or massage therapist out to look at her? Here is the tricky part, once I ask for the canter a couple of times she gets fried and I lose my horse. I have always ended on a good note by turning around and trotting to keep her mind right but it doesn't help me with the canter. When I got her from SBR they said her left canter needs work. I can't even get the left canter to work on it. I am attaching two videos of her in long lines so you can see how good she is there, sorry I don't have any riding videos.



Any suggestions are greatly appreciated! Thank you so much for this great service you provide.

Tip of the Day - When you really think about it, it is hard to understand why the canter causes so much trouble...It is, after the walk, the first gait most new born foals do.

Nice to hear you have experienced the difference "Bit Sweet" can make in a horse's mouth. Hard to believe just a few drops can make your ride so much better. I wish rubbing some on your mare's left leg would help her canter. Surprisingly, the left lead is the one you will find most horses prefer cantering on in the wild, in the pasture, while at liberty. Much like there are more right handed people than left handed.

Your question is a good one but one that could have many answers. Your videos are excellent but give no real clues to the cause of your issue. In the Long Lines, your mare appears to be completely comfortable on both leads with a canter that is flowing and in control. That being said, we might well remember your statement about rider error. From all you have said and the great detail you have described the problem with, I doubt error has much to do with this but I would not rule out the "rider" part. By that I mean the variable between cantering so successfully in long lines and cantering so unsuccessfully under saddle, is the rider. Weight in the saddle can affect the horse's balance, can aggravate a weakness or injury in the horse's back, put more strain on a suspect hind leg or stifle. In general, a rider's body can very much change the dynamics of the canter for the horse. This is a possibility.

Keep in mind that the horse's mouth is the key to control and if it is uncomfortable, many problems which might seem unrelated can occur. Is her dental work up to date?

Although I truly believe most Amish get a bad rap as to the care of their horses, the "road" can be hard on them even though most American Saddlebreds are "Sunday" horses rather than their utility ones. Soundness problems as mentioned above can be brought on by the miles on asphalt and can manifest themselves with this type of cantering issues you are having. That being the case, seeking consul from a vet or chiropractor would be an excellent idea except for the fact there is no evidence of that type of problem on the video. I would try a few more things before you make the call but do make it if all else fails.

As you describe, cantering in the circle is the time tested way of correcting cantering issues that have to do with leads, form and speed. Again, excellent that you have tried this although it was to no avail.

You have approached this pretty much as I would have so there is little I can add. A couple things you might try:

*Keep your canter work in as small a circle as possible.

*For a while, attempt your canter only on the left lead.

*Canter on the lunge line before you ride.

*Try putting a bell boot or dog collar on the left front leg.

*Try the same on the left rear leg.

*When on the wrong lead going to the left, keep going as you decrease the diameter of the circle in hopes of her switching leads.

*Try riding with just a halter rather than a bridle.

Once again, thank you for your great question. I wish I could have been of more help but hope this has given you some food for thought. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

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These earlier entries might be worth a look as well.

Obtaining the correct canter lead is best accomplished with a relaxed horse..light in the bridle..that is stopped....then positioned...and then subtly cued to execute. The "rail" should never be a part of the equation, the direction should come from your body language, hands, legs and your seat.

Keep in mind horses can also canter in long lines and in the jog cart. Thanks once again for your question. I hope this been of some help or you found some food for thought in the above.. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

Lf Lavery

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March 7, 2011

The Equitation Equation!
(Selecting and Training the "EQ" horse.)

Hello Mr. Lavery. I have been a fan of askthetraineronline.com for a long while and really appreciate you taking your time to share your knowledge and experience. I am a student of Miss Lampe’s at William Woods University. Miss Lampe asked us to email you with a question and to hopefully come to class on Tuesday Feb. 28 with a response from you.

I am also taking an Equine Evaluation class and we have discussed temperaments and coming up with your own ways to test for what you are looking for but I also understand that nothing is foolproof especially with horses. So hopefully that explains the temperament test questions.

I have a few questions about the finding and training of the Saddle Seat Equitation prospect.

· I was wondering what should one look for in a Saddle Seat Equitation prospect (for example – a slightly quick trot cadence)?

· What would be the ideal temperament and how would you test for it?

· How game do you want an equitation prospect to be and how can you test for it?

· What is the best way to test for patience and how much does an equitation horse need?

· How does one start the teaching of pattern work process?

· What would be a good training outline for the equitation prospect?

· How often should the horse be worked on patterns (riding) compared to lining and jogging while in the learning process?

· In your opinion how do you know the horse is thoroughly equitated, at least enough for a rider to show in a pattern class? (for example- You know your horse is equitated when you can do straight line lead changes up to a wall and the horse does not hesitate till his nose gets to the wall)

· A finished equitation horse needs to be supple and responsive off the aids, is this something that only comes with training or will a good prospect already be somewhat responsive to aids and laterally flexible, mentally and physically?

Thank you for your time and look forward to hearing back from you.

Tip of the Day - It is often forgotten that when the Five Gaited Championship is lined up for ribbon presentation after a hard fought class, the Equitation horses are just getting ready for the second half of their's ...the workout!

Thank you so very much for your wonderful questions. With a great horsewoman and taskmaster like Ms. Lampe teaching you, I would expect nothing less!! I will try to make my answer worthy of the "Show Me" state.

To begin, I must confess that I have always been perplexed by the lack of respect the Equitation horse receives in comparison with the performance equines of the various disciplines. Where the Five gaited stake horse, the Gran Prix winner or the Cutting champ receives "star" billing, the Equitation horse of the various disciplines is usually way down the credits in a secondary role. An also ran, if you will. Is it not a very important job to be the "vehicle" for most small children's first exposure to the show ring and the wonderful world of horses? Is it not important that we can trust these wonderful Equitation horses to keep these children safe yet competitive? Is it great that with these horses we can develop a rider's skills over the years to a levels of proficiency equal to those of Olympic athletes. Is it not interesting that these horses are always seeming to recycle with new riders and are often showing at the National level well into their twenties? Second class citizens, I think not. In fact, thinking it over, they might be the most important part of any breed or discipline that is interested in expanding its base and growing more popular. Off the soap box!!


As the "Rule" books suggest, the rider, not the horse is to be judged. Whoa!!!! Although a basic truism, it is the overall picture that first attracts the Judge's eye. In Saddle Seat, head carriage, size, conformation, presence, comfort, style and correctness of gaits, even the color, sometimes all come into play in "highlighting" the rider and completing the all important "overall" picture. These are some of the basic things one should be seeking when looking for a prospect.


You mention gait and of course, the "ride able" trot is most desirable. A true two beat gait that would give comfortable impulsion to both a long legged or short legged rider, a trot that would not cause a major issue when riding without stirrups and one that will allow smooth diagonal changes and rapid transitions . A well balanced, square, crisp at any speed trot that is free of interference, with a flight path that is also free of winging, floating and "box" trotting. ( intricate patterns demand a clean moving horse ) There are horses that can go high and still have a comfortable trot as there are horses that are not very athletic that are very uncomfortable. As is often the case with horses, there is no rule here...each horse is a separate case. Remember, there are two other gaits. Like the trot, the canter must also be rider friendly. Anyone who has ridden a stiff legged Arabian certainly knows of an unfriendly canter. Also, always keep in mind, the Eq. horse often spends more time, in a class that features a workout, at the walk than a pleasure horse might. Unlike the pleasure horse walk, however, the Eq horse must not look as if he is at Lincoln's funeral but rather display some authority at the gait.


As I often say..."attitude is everything when training the horse". When it comes to the Equitation horse..it should be more a Commandant than a cute saying. The S/S Eq horse must appear to be a show horse, strongly on the "offensive" while maintaining an inner calmness thus allowing the rider to always be in control with the subtle use of the various aids at his or her disposal. The horse must be capable of coming down from a highly animated trot to a flat walk or even a halt on command. He must be willing to wait and then execute, immediately, the next command of the rider. Additionally, as eluded to in the Tip of the Day, he must be a horse game enough to go on to the second workout or pattern still displaying the fresh and crisp Show Horse attitude. This blend of patience and enthusiasm, and gameness is not easily found in most horses but is a trait not only treasured but absolutely necessary in a top Eq horse. As a test for patience, the late Helen Crabtree would ride a horse she was looking at to the very brink of an open out gate and stop. She would expect the horse to wait patiently and then back readily. Try it...it will separate the "men from the boys".


In all my years of training horses, I have made little distinction between the performance horse and the Eq horse. Basically, they both must have a responsive and supple mouth and body. They must respond to your legs and weight in the saddle both direct and indirect rein of opposition. They must easily execute the gaits as well as the movements included in most patterns such as circles, serpentines, side passes, correct and counter cantering without a rail, etc, etc. I feel these are the very basics and all horses should be able to perform them easily if one wishes to be competitive in the Show Ring. Of course, a bit more emphasis is placed on these basics when developing an Equitation horse so a bit more time is involved on them each day. I have never been a "let's ride every day" trainer and truly believe in varying the training program feeling it keeps the horse's mind fresher and his body more balanced and well rounded. Just because you are not riding does not mean you cannot continue to improve your workout capabilities in long lines and jog cart. These "tricks" can continue to be taught or practiced in one way or another.


When the rail is not necessary for any facet of your performance. When an imperceivable movement of your fingers replaces a gesture. When a slight squeeze of your calf has a desired effect. When a shifting of your "cheeks" in the saddle produces a change. When a "cluck" sends your horse rapidly forward and a whoa can stop him like a cutting horse.....You have top Equitation Horse.

I hope this has helped answer some of your questions and I thank you once again for them. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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February 28, 2011

Just Busy...No Chill!
Dealing with an extremely Active horse

Dear Mr. Lavery,

I have a very nice 6-year old Saddlebred Pleasure horse that is a joy to ride and very competitive in the show ring. But in the stall or in the wash stand, he tosses his head and paws when tied, both with a single tie and in cross ties. He chews on the tie chains if he can get them in his mouth. This behavior makes grooming him less than pleasant. He is worked daily, and he is better after he is work\ed, but he needs to be groomed before working, too. He does not paw when left alone in the stall, but sometimes paws if someone is standing outside his stall, as though he wants attention. I have seen your tips in "Ask the Trainer" and wonder if you have any suggestions. Thank you for your time and advice.

Tip of the Day - Although the prospect of perpetual motion has been a dream for hundreds of years....a horse in perpetual motion can be a nightmare!!

Thank you so much for your great question. Often, we do forget that manners need to extend before and after the "ride", as well. Your "boy" sounds like a regular Dennis the Menace going through the "terrible two's"!! Like, his picture should be in the dictionary next to the word aggravation! Having seen and been around virtually hundreds of horses like this, I know how trying they can be.

I congratulate you on your assessment of this behavior....he is looking for attention. Also, like Pavlos dogs and the bell, he is in the habit of getting it as he is being prepped for work and he is obviously looking forward to his grooming and exercise with a good deal of anticipation. Sounds like a happy boy to me. Whoa!!!! Am I talking about a horse? Yes. Although we seldom give much credit to a horse's thinking process and we know their intelligence level is far below that of pigs, dogs, cats and birds ...They can associate feeling good and rewards with an environment that has a routine. They are beasts of habit. The good news is you have a very energetic and happy horse..Bad News...he is driving you nuts and there are not too many options for changing this behavior. Here are a few things that come to mind.

As I often say:

"Horses do have a one track mind."
While grooming him, put a Chiffany bit in his halter or perhaps a nose bag with a small amount of hay or grain in it. So occupied, he will leave the crossties alone.

"Horses are beast of habit."
Vary the place you groom him...might he be more comfortable being groomed in his stall? How about turned in a different direction in the "wash rack"?

"A stabled horse has a great deal of pent up energy"
Turn him out in a paddock for 10-20 minutes before you groom him. Let him burn up some of that excess energy'.

"There is no substitute for proper training"
Ideally, having someone hold him with a lead shank while you are grooming him and correcting him each time he displays an unacceptable behavior, would be my first choice. Immediate correction is the only way to get through to a horse. You will be very surprised what a sharp "jerk" and a harsh word..."NO" dispensed at the correct time can do to resolve some of your issues..

"A horse's stall is his sanctuary, his safe place"
In any barn, especially where "treats" are freely given, lurking outside a horse's stall may well cause the behavior you describe.

I wish I had some more suggestions for you but you are dealing with some very hard to correct issues. I believe some of these suggestions will be of help if you implement them on a regular basis. Worst case scenario...you still have a wonderful riding horse. Certainly much better than one who grooms well and rides badly!!!

Thanks again for your question. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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February 21, 2011

We Seem to be Having some Ups and Downs
(Horses that evade the bit and "over" bridle)

I have an 8yr. old mare, by Gypsy's Santana. She was started as a 3 y. old and has had off and on training due to several circumstances. She also took two yrs. off to have a foal. I now have the opportunity to start her again. She has always had a very,very light mouth. The moment you take any contact she dips and over flexes. She can hold her head high,but she tends to want to just carry it overflexed and down. Would working her with a overcheck teach her to stop diving down and how do I get her to carry the bit without diving down. She just keeps evading the bit. I rode her the other day and totally turned the reins loose,asked her to whoa and she still stopped with her head down and overflexed. How can I convince her to carry her head in a higher position,which I know she can do. She is built right for saddleseat division. Any thoughts to help me. I love to drive and really would like her to be a driving horse.

Thank in advance, Mr. Lavery, I forgot to add that I have only ridden or worked this mare in a smooth snaffle, or twisted snaffle.

Thanks again,

Tip of the Day - Although very hard to explain without feeling it...a horse that will not take a little hold of the bridle is not necessarily a horse with a good mouth.

Thank you so much for your great question. Although I totally prefer a light mouthed horse to one who is heavy headed, strong, lugging and pulling, what you describe can certainly cause some problems. No matter what breed or discipline of riding horse you deal with, a rider should expect and appreciate a horse whose mouth allows the horse's head to maintain the proper frame for the individual discipline without being forced by the bridle, a horse that does not hit you in the head when the reins are turned loose and yet will step to the bridle when encouraged, is one with a good mouth because he is comfortable with his bit and bridle. The horse you describe is certainly one not comfortable and is displaying a behavior that is appears to be a defensive one. Why, of course, is the question.

Although sporadic, off and on training can certainly have an impact on a horse's ultimate performance, chances are the lack of a correct training program and the time "off" are not at the root of this behavior. The very fact that you have the same problem with a smooth snaffle or a twisted one does not point to a training issue. Rather, and I hate sounding like a broken record, every word in your description of this behavior, sounds like a classic case of a horse with dental problems. I assure you.....75% of all inquiries I receive concerning mouth troubles with horses could be easily improved or, in fact, solved by an equine dentist floating the horse's teeth. A simple procedure, performed twice a year, can make the difference between a wonderful horse and an absolute disaster. From "Wolf" teeth (blind, broken, un- removed), loose "caps" to the razor sharp edges of and misalignment of the molars, the dentist can virtually work miracles in a matter of minutes. Not only will the horse more readily accept the bit..his entire well being and health can change with the improvement of his mastication process not only making him a healthier horse...but saving you money on the wasted hay and grain. If you truly care about your horse and desire a better ride, there is no way around this important part of your horse's care.

I would suggest contacting a top horseman in your area for a referral to his Equine Dentist as there are, to be sure, some who call themselves dentists who are not at all honest or proficient. Although, in a pinch, a veterinarian would know about the teeth and the procedure, I prefer a dental specialist who does this on a daily basis.

Would you want a Dentist to perform your Colonoscopy???

That is where I would start... I thank you again for your great question and wish you Good Luck and Good Riding!!

LF Lavery

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February 14, 2011

When Using His Ears has Nothing to Do with Hearing
(Getting a pony's ears up)

Do you have any suggestions for getting a harness pony to use it's ears more in the show ring?

Thank you.

Have a sunny day!

Tip of the Day - Attitude IS everything when training horses... More important than Conformation, Athleticism or Beauty.

Thank you for your question. As alluded to in the Tip of the Day, attitude (ears up and happy in this case) is a very important factor when it comes to the showing of horses and ponies. In fact, terms such as brilliance, alertness etc are often referred to in the Judging standards of competition. A horse or pony must appear to be a "show" horse. Ears pricked forward are invaluable to portray that state of mind. How to get them up is an age old question with as many "answers" as minutes in a day. I like to approach it not by treating the symptom (sour ears) but firstly, trying to find the cause. Here are some reasons for sour ears...

Mouth discomfort...Overlooked dental issues, Bad biting, Heavy hands, Poor training

Harness improprieties... Ill fitting, too tight, incorrect hitching, rattling cart

Physical condition....Pony not fit, conformation anomaly, breathing problems, general health, noise

Training issues...Improper shoeing, interference, rough handling, poorly "tailored" program

Even one of the above issues and many others as well, can cause sour ears. As I am not there, it is up to you to systematically rule these things out in hopes you may stumble on a cause and attempt to correct it. The removal of the cause of his discomfort and a kind, intelligent and regular as opposed to hit and miss training program that promotes a feeling of well being in the horse is the best approach. If the pony is fit, the equipment is put on correctly, the pony has been mouthed correctly and shod correctly you will have done all you can and he should start using his ears at home...and then in the ring. Unfortunately, in many cases the damage has already been done and the equine cannot be rehabilitated and will remain "Ring Sour".

I hope this is of some help to you. I thank you again for your question and I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

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February 7, 2011

How Old is Too Old to be Young?
(When is a Colt not a Colt?)

Lonnie, I was speaking of my 5 yr old colt the other day, when someone asked me when a colt stops being a colt. I said, "That is a good question to which I do not have an answer." So I thought I would ask you. When is a colt no longer a colt?

Tip of the Day - Sometimes with a Stallion, for the best results an attitude adjustment must take place on the end that does not contain the brain!

Thank you so much for your great question. I have been known to call my 40-some year old son my little boy, on occasion, so I understand the gist of your question. There are several correct answers that, depending on the situation, can be applied here.

To be sure, the tried and true, old time, stand by has nothing to do with chronological age at all. Like Bull is to Steer, Hog is to Barrow, Ram is to Wether, Stud is to Gelding, once castrated, one no longer referred to a Gelding as a Colt.

More popular and accepted in today's reality driven state of logic is the chronological benchmark. Once the Colt reaches the age of five years, he is no longer considered a Colt.

On the other hand, I have seen a 28 year old Flash Gordon act as a Colt and have often commented on someone's "nice colt" without interest of his age and even once or twice without noticing "he" really fell into the filly department. I have heard someone referred to as a great "Colt" man yet he was in his late 50's, far told old for that term. How about Colt "45" .....drink enough and you don't even need one of Samuel S's single action pistols to shoot off your mouth!

I could go on and on but hope I have gone far enough to answer your question.

I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

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January 31, 2011

Could it be Stage Fright?
(Difficulty Mounting)

Hi Mr. Lavery! What about a mare who throws herself violently backward and then paws frantically when you try to get on? Doesn't do it every time either! Just when she is nervous, especially at a show! You can see her wind up when you put the bridle on and it just keeps building! Sometimes sweet as pie, climb aboard ~ other times, hold the gate, don't even know if we can get her in the ring! Once your on, ears are up and off she goes~ thanks!

Tip of the Day - If you think it is hard hitting a moving target with a bullet...Try hitting a moving saddle with your butt.

Thank you so much for your question. If you are not interested in learning the famous "Pony Express Exchange" mount...I assume you want some ideas on how to make her stand still. I think you will be quite surprised at the number of things that might be causing this behavior. The good news is...you are obviously dealing with a "Show" horse!

Although I have no concrete proof, like the actress ready for her close up, the singer waiting in the wings to go on, the dancer about to audition, I would have to believe that an intelligent and intuitive horse could sense the excitement in the air and could truly display this type of behavior solely because of that. Likely, there are also some other possible influences.

If it were possible to correlate the behavior into some kind of regular time frame or cycle, we could well be looking at a symptom of some female "in season" problem. Often mares experience a good deal of discomfort at that time and can well act the way you describe. A vet's palpation, ultra sound etc could well determine if this is a possibility. Ovaries can cause as much trouble as they can good, sometimes. Treatments such as Regumate have proven to be very effective in dealing with such circumstances.

Other physical conditions such as back, leg, loin or kidney soreness also may manifest themselves in the way you describe. Not likely though because of the sporadic instances.

Do not tighten the girth all at once and walk the horse between tightening's. Ill fitting or overly tight equipment can also sometimes be a culprit but having talked with you before, I sincerely doubt that is a cause.

Ruling out discomfort, we would look lastly at previous training, the lack or the inadequacy of it. Along those lines perhaps a specific incident that has impacted her in the past, negatively. All of this is within the realm of possibility and I feel where we should start to correct the issue.

Standing a horse properly on its feet is more than just a little task to make a horse look pretty in the line up at a show....It is a basic training exercise that should be repeated every time you deal with a horse. It teaches the horse patience displays your control, lowers the horses back several inches for ease of mounting and will eventually become a good habit for your horse. Additionally, with the hind feet correctly placed squarely and out and to the rear and the front, squarely and perpendicular to the ground, the horse is virtually "planted" and can neither walk off or back up without first coming out of that position thus giving you the opportunity to correct something BEFORE it happens. So practice putting her on her feet and reinforce it with a voice command of some kind..."Get Out", "On your feet" etc. until she volunteers this every time she stops. This would be my step number one.

Other things you can try:

Although I am far from a fan of it, in cases such as this, quietly lunging the horse immediately before riding can often help take the edge off and make the mounting process easier.

A bad "holder" is much worse than no helper at all. That being the case and as she usually backs up, stand her on her feet to where her rear end is close to a wall or fence thus limiting the distance she can back up.

Mount in a stall and neither point towards or away from the door but rather parallel to it.

You can try Blinkers half or full.

As a last resort due to some danger of slipping:

Many horses are very suspect of their footing...I once had a horse almost dangerous to mount. She would, however, stand perfectly still on asphalt or concrete as she was frightened to dance and prance on those surfaces.

Guess that is about all I can suggest without truly seeing the behavior. Just take your time, be patient as this is not an issue correctable with force. Your mare needs discipline, to be sure but also confidence at this juncture. Thank you again for your question, I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding!

L. F. Lavery

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January 24, 2011

I Have a "Bit" of Question
(Identifying a Type of Bit)

Hi Lonnie: I was going to post this photo on your website, but couldn't figure out exactly how to get it done. Enjoy reading all your posts on facebook too. Can you tell me what you would call this bit? It seems to "currently" be my horse's favorite snaffle bit for his work bridle. (I usually snap it in backwards so the mule bit points don't press on his tongue.) Wish I could purchase another just like it. Thanks,

Tip of the Day - A trainer with a collection of 100 bits...can sometimes find it very difficult to beat a horseman who only owns 2.

It is a half cheek driving mule bit that has been customized with a chain link to assure the sharp teeth of the mule bit do not cut the tongue. Like a Dr Bristol which has a solid square metal block or a western bit that would have a movable "cricket" in the center, it also promotes correct placement of the tongue. I currently manufacture a bit of the same design called the Lavery Convertible. It has large round cheek rings however. It comes in several styles and I have found it to be a wonderful bit for many horses over the years. As I am certain you are aware, in the wrong hands. a mule bit can be a very bad device and not at all one for the inexperienced rider or driver's use. I have always felt that if the head is set and the reins are nearly loose...a mule bit is being used correctly. I am reminded of a man who, although usually not noted for it, had as good a pair of hands on a horse as I have ever seen. His curb chains were usually tightened with a pair of pliers and a screwdriver so that the shanks of the curb pointed well forward of the horse's nose. The snaffles were some of the sharpest I had ever seen. The Gentleman could not have weighed 135 lbs soaking wet but bitted that way his horses could stop from a dead rack to a sliding halt like a quarter horse with only a minimal effort from this artist's hands. His horses never resented the very subtle commands from those hands. I asked him one day about his philosophy concerning this severe biting. His answer, "I would damn sure rather ride one loose with a razor blade than get in their way and hang on them with a "kind" snaffle!" I concur with the great Earl Teater!! Bit em sharp and ride em light. Hope that helps.

Thanks for your question. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding!

L. F. Lavery

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January 20, 2011

Who Knows About the Clothes?
(Dealing with a "formal" dilemma)

Question about proper attire:

I know that you do not wear formal attire before 6:00 p.m. What classes are proper to wear formal attire (after 6:00 p.m.)?

  • Equitation?
  • Country Pleasure?
  • Show Pleasure?
  • Walk/Trot Pleasure?

When do you wear a bow tie/cumberbund vs. bow tie/vest? Or is this personal preference? I can’t seem to find the answer to these questions in the USEF Rule Book.

Thank you very much in advance!

Tip of the day - Although Judges, Stewards, technical delegates etc. are pretty much responsible to know nearly all the information contained in the nearly 1000 page USEF rule book, the exhibitor should at least know where to find and what is contained on the few pages that pertain to his or her discipline.

Thank you so much for your question. I get these often and as my Tip of The Day alludes, you should learn to "let your fingers do the walking" through the USEF Rule book as most all questions of this nature can be answered there if you just become familiar with where to look. Your questions are no exception. As a member of the USEF, you do have another option if you are not willing to make a commitment to look up and learn your discipline's rules. There is always a steward at every USEF competition and he is obligated to interpret, explain and answer question of this type from USEF member, exhibitors. Keep in mind they are often not available at your beck and call as they have many other duties but they can answer your question.

Along those lines, Here are the answers to your questions, directly from the USEF online Rule Book in the Saddle Seat section: Equitation 116

EQ116 Appointments.

1. PERSONAL. Exhibitors and judges should bear in mind that at all times entries are being judged on ability. However, neatness is the first requisite regarding a rider’s attire and the following requirements are based on tradition and general present-day customs. Judges must penalize and may eliminate those competitors who do not conform. Adjustments to tack and attire for valid medical reasons is permitted provided a dispensation certificate has been granted per GR1311.

a. INFORMAL: Riding habit will consist of jacket with collars and lapels of the same conservative color with matching jodhpurs, a collared shirt, tie, vest, and complimentary gloves, jodhpur boots, and derby or soft hat (protective headgear may be worn without penalty per GR801.4). Conservative colors for informal riding habits include black, blue, gray, burgundy, green, beige, or brown and may contain herringbone, pin stripes, and other combinations of colors that appear solid. Colors not included in this list are not acceptable and must be penalized and may be cause for elimination. Only informal dress is permitted in Saddlebred Pleasure Equitation classes and Morgan Classic Saddle Seat Equitation classes, day or night.

b. FORMAL: Even more conservative attire is required for evening classes. Riding habit will consist of tuxedo-type jacket with collars and lapels of the same color with matching jodhpurs, formal shirt, bow tie, vest or cummerbund, and matching top hat (women), homburg or other soft hat (men). Solid colors for formal riding habits include dark gray, dark brown, dark blue, or black. Formal shirt must be white or off-white with the bow tie and vest or cummerbund to match shirt or riding habit in color. Colors not included in this list are not acceptable and must be penalized and may be cause for elimination. Formal riding habits are not to be worn before 6:00 p.m. and are not mandatory after 6:00 p.m.; exhibitors competing on Pleasure horses have the option to wear formal attire in Open equitation classes as specified by the rule.

c. OPTIONAL: Blunt end (unrowelled only) spurs and/or riding crops.

I have left some of your questions unanswered in hopes you will now understand how to look for them in the rule book for yourself. They are there! To win in any competition, being prepared is a good start. Knowing the rules under which you must compete is inescapable.

I hope this has been of some help and I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding!

L.F. Lavery

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January 18, 2011

Driving "Mr." Daisy
(Starting a Horse to Drive)

Hi, i was wondering if you could help me,i have a cob x welsh,i want to start breaking him in for driving,i have never had a horse before and i dont know where to start,i have been told i neeed to get a bridle with a liverpool driving bit how would i know what size driving bit i would need as i am not sure and i am getting 2 different awnsers 1 is saying they are all the same and 1 is saying they are different sizes,also how do you go about size of the bridle, also i dont know if you would know how would i start breaking him in like where do i start first by trying to break him in,i have never had a horse so i dont know, sorry about all the questions but its goint to be my first time.many thanks

Tip of the Day - To paraphrase that great barrister, Mr Johnny Cochran, "if the bit don't fit... they WILL quit."

Thank you so much for your wonderful question. It is a very easy one to answer. Yes, there are various sized Liverpool driving bits that would correspond with the size and width of your horse's mouth. They make them for the tiny miniature horse up to one that will fit the mouth of a giant Clydesdale of Budweiser Fame. You must only determine the size your horse needs. I think that about covers it.

However............I would be quite remiss not to mention a few other details to you.

As you have mentioned you have NEVER had a horse before, I must inform you that breaking one to drive is a task never to be taken lightly. There are long time horse owners who would never attempt it. Horses are beasts of habit who learn positive behaviors with patiently planned and well thought out structured lessons or can easily and very quickly learn some disastorus negative behaviors through mistakes made by their inexperienced "teachers". Giving you the benefit of the doubt as I know not where you stand on that scale let me point out some things I feel you are doing wrong even before you start.

If this is a young horse or an old one for that matter, any dental issues should be addressed before even thinking of putting a bit in his mouth. Teeth "floated", Wolf teeth extracted.

Starting a horse to drive in a Liverpool bit is not the best decision for horse or driver. This bit should be reserved to put the finishing touches on a horse who has already been well trained and is comfortable, responsive and supple in a Snaffle bit (the one of choice for this type of training). It can be a half cheek, full cheek, D-ring, Circle cheek or even an Egg Butt. As long as the length is correct, a smooth, twisted, wrapped, Dr Bristol, Chain, French Ring or a myriad of other types might work best for your horse. Placed in a well fitting straight or side checked bridle, with or without attached or detached Flat, Round or Cupped Blinkers this is the bit you want to use when beginning the process of Long Lining.

Draw reins are not recommended at this stage but rather straight lines made from cotton rope or leather that are least 18' long. They, of course, should be run through the variously placed rings on a Long Line surcingle at the height your horse's head carriage and level of training demands.. Only after many, many lessons should you then attempt to hitch the horse.

For this you should have a driving harness or acquire additional pieces that can be added to your long line harness to make it suitable such as the Tugs, Fills, Breast Collar, safety or tie down, and often a kicking strap is handy to have.

I assume you have a proper vehicle such as a breaking cart or sled so all you will need for the first few hitches is at least two experienced helpers to assure there are no accidents and to keep you and your horse safe from harm.

I think that about covers it and so long as you understood everything I have just mentioned I think are ready to successfully teach your horse to drive.

If, on the other hand, you are having some confusion with the above, I would highly recommend you do not go any further. A few weeks or a month of training with a Professional Trainer would be a very prudent decision and will assure a successful outcome with, no broken equipment or carts, an unharmed horse you will enjoy driving and no trip to the emergency room for you. Depending on where you live I would be very happy to confidentially recommend a trainer to you for the task. Just let me know.

Thank you again for your great question. Good luck with whatever you decide to do. I wish you Good Luck and Good Driving!

L. F. Lavery

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Hi, thakyou for that, so how would i start off, what would i do first to start breaking him in, like how do i do it, see as i wouldnt know, thankyou very much for helping me with this issue.many thanks

Sir, not being there to observe any skills you might have, I believe I have given you all the answers on this topic that I can give you in good conscience. Once again, I would suggest that if what I have told you, so far, is giving you any confusion I would recommend you seek the help of a Professional Trainer and as I said, I would be more than happy to try to suggest one in your area.

Thanks again...Good Luck and Good Driving!


January 15, 2011

Hard to Teach Old Horse People New Tricks
(Dealing with a Horse who buries his head)


I'm training this horse for a family and I've hit a dead end. I dont want to use a tie down or a martingale on him because its a band aid. He moves great, well, I need motivaters on him, hes dulled. Broke western, 8 yrs old

I was riding him the other day and when i said woah and put slight pressure on the reins, he stopped, threw his head down and fought the bit. I didnt release the pressure until he stopped pulling down. The family said that a tie down stops him. But I want to find an easier way. The family is one of those "old horse people" people, they believe in quick fixes and whipping. The gelding is well broke, but bucks at a gallop or canter. I've broken him out of it by one rein stops, and direct and indirect reining.

Also, I would like some tips on strating a new colt. I recently bought this 2 yr olf APHA colt with a small umbilical hernia and I wanted to know the best way to start groundwork and saddling without his stress on the hernia so it will quickly disapear. He is very quiet, and hopefully my new barrel horse in the future.

Tip of the Day - Contrary to popular belief, rolling peanuts with his nose is not something one wants to teach any horse.

Thank you so much for your question. A head that "disappears" like a submarine's periscope, is never fun most specially when they try to pull you down with it. As the title suggests, old horse people can be hard to train too. From your description of the situation, there is no doubt in my mind that this horse is suffering from some sort of discomfort that a quick fix or whipping might have little effect on. Probably some improper training that has allowed him to form some bad habits is a culprit, as well. Let's address the issues.

Reading of your correcting the bucking with the one rein stop, leads me to believe that any issues that require training should be handled quite well by you. Therefore, I think the discomfort should be our first consideration.

All "symptoms" you describe are classic ones of mouth issues. Wolf teeth come immediately to mind but with an 8 year old horse, they should have been removed years ago. Rough edges on molars etc could also cause these reactions which can be easily remedied by an equine dentist floating his teeth. (twice a year) Also, bit type and placement must be considered. Your task is to discover what is making his mouth so uncomfortable as to explain his inexcusable reactions and then correct them. Until you do, there little chance of helping these issues. In this case....Look the :Gift Horse" in the mouth!

Once again thanks for your question. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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Links To Questions & Responses
Date Subject Search Criteria
June 27, 2011 Unhappily Hairless Growing Tail Feathers
June 13, 2011 Does it Rub Them the Right way? Topical agents, do they really benefit our equines?
June 6, 2011 "Curb" Appeal From the snaffle to the curb
May 30, 2011 I Would like to take Longer Trips Suggestions for the Barn Sour Horse
May 23, 2011 My Training Issue is with My Trainer Client / Trainer Relations
May 16, 2011 This Little Guy Worries Me Dealing With an Aggressive Foal
Apr 18, 2011 The Ride is Very Bumpy Dealing with the Pacing Horse
Apr 11, 2011 Road Trip, Road Trip! Shipping the Young Horse
Mar 28, 2011 She is "Whipping" Up on Me Dealing with an aggressive Horse
Mar 21, 2011 Am I Rubbing Him the Wrong Way!!! Solving interference issues with proper hoof trimming
Mar 14, 2011 Having a Little Trouble Leading the Way Dealing with canter lead issues
Mar 7, 2011 The Equitation Equation! Selecting and Training the "EQ" horse.
Feb 28, 2011 Just Busy...No Chill! Dealing with an extremely Active horse
Feb 28, 2011 Just Busy...No Chill! Dealing with an extremely Active horse
Feb 21, 2011 We Seem to be Having some Ups and Downs Horses that evade the bit and "over" bridle
Feb 14, 2011 When Using His Ears has Nothing to Do with Hearing Getting a pony's ears up
Feb 7, 2011 How Old is Too Old to be Young? When is a Colt not a Colt?
Jan 31, 2011 Could it be Stage Fright? Difficulty Mounting
Jan 24, 2011 I Have a "Bit" of Question Identifying a Type of Bit
Jan 20, 2011 Who Knows About the Clothes? Dealing with a "formal" dilemma
Jan 18, 2011 Driving "Mr." Daisy Starting a Horse to Drive
Jan 15, 2011 Hard to Teach Old Horse People New Tricks Dealing with a Horse who buries his head

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