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Hosted by Lonnie Lavery

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Links To Questions & Responses
Date Subject Search Criteria
June 25, 2012 We are having a lot of trouble getting up to speed! Dealing with a very lazy horse
June 22, 2012 Talk About the Fear Factor? Dealing with a lack of confidence
June 12, 2012 Not Showing but need Shoeing! Shoeing and Farrier problems
June 8, 2012 Is There Some Kind of Gag Order? Using the "Gag" Bradoon
June 1, 2012 Things do not seem to be looking up! Horse that buries his head
May 25, 2012 I don't want to Curb his Enthusiasm! Lining in the curb
May 14, 2012 He doesn't Look Where He is Going Not straight in the Bridle
Apr 30, 2012 I am Having a "Bit" of a Problem Biting the fussy horse
Apr 23, 2012 She is Shaking her Tail Feather! Stopping tail rubbing
Apr 16, 2012 He "Kneeds" More Curls! Floating Front Motion
Apr 9, 2012 She said riding Saddle Seat was Ruining my horse! Discipline Dilemmas
Apr 2, 2012 Is there such a thing as "Horse Show Hands?" Dealing with Show Ring Nerves
Mar 26, 2012 Let's Play the Numbers Game Beats in the Gaits
Mar 19, 2012 All I Wanted was a Smooth Ride...Instead, I got Mr. Excitement! Busting the Bronco
Mar 5, 2012 It is Up but it Won’t Go Down High tail to Low tail
Feb 27, 2012 She Just does not Play Nice Dealing with an 11 year old "Alpha" mare
Feb 20, 2012 He Must be an AT&T Horse, He Wants to Reach out and Touch Somebody How to change a horse's "flight path"
Feb 13, 2012 Can She Learn a Second Language? Teaching the Spanish Walk
Feb 6, 2012 I Feel I Am Losing Ground Extending the Trot
Jan 30, 2012 The "Eye" Has it Dealing with the visually impaired horse
Jan 27, 2012 Well, Toto, We’re Just not in Kansas Anymore Discussing the current “health” of the Horse industry
Jan 20, 2012 “He ain’t Acting like My Buddy” Dealing with a “Foot Biter”

January - June 2012's POSTS
June 25, 2012

We are having a lot of trouble getting up to speed!
(Dealing with a very lazy horse)

I ride a 17.1hh, 5 year old, Irish Draught gelding. He has hunted for the past 2 seasons and i have been show jumping him for 1 season, but anytime I get on him he is so hard to move! Its not that he dosnt move at all; its that he is sluggish and dosnt respond to my aids at all. He has been checked by the vet, I have re-thought his feed, I have checked his tack... Nothing! I also use a good quality whip and spurs on him and yet again, nothing!! I am supposed to be showjumping in 2 weeks but am seriously thinking of pulling him out, he is getting so bad! Any ideas on how to make him listen to me??? Thanks! :)

Tip of the Day – One of my idols, the great thoroughbred trainer, Charlie Whittingham, once told me, "I'll start x-raying horses when they figure out a way to x-ray their hearts."

Thank you for your question. I can only imagine how uncomfortable and difficult it must be to try to urge, cajole, squeeze and encourage your big guy to go forward. I would guess that when your ride is done, you are much more exhausted than he. As it appears the situation is escalating, we should probably look to physical issues, mental problems and training procedures for answers.

It is great you had your vet check him out. I trust a complete blood work was performed. A CBC, T-3&4 and other such tests can often pinpoint the cause of problems such as you describe and offer answers for a correct therapeutic recovery program. In these cases, Blood work is always a prudent starting point.

From your description, it seems obvious that this horse is willfully rebelling against your commands. Not acting on your command is not only aggravating it is potentially dangerous for the both of you. Encouragement is not going to be the answer here as he has become very adept at ignoring you. The approach you must instead take is to make his act of not complying with your wishes, an extremely uncomfortable one. Keep in mind that most draft type horses have an extremely high tolerance for discomfort. Any correction you might make needs to be immediate and very, very, firm. The crop or spurs need to be applied, one time, strongly, behind the girth and then the horse left alone. (Timing is critical.) A constant, tap, tap, tap, or cluck, cluck, cluck soon becomes easily ignored while a sharp and immediate correction tends to stay memorable. This also holds true with not carrying on a lengthy conversation with him. He needs to know your requests are serious and when you ask, you expect to receive. When a horse needs correction, CORRECT HIM, strongly, swiftly and then leave him alone. As the horse begins to respond to your cues, don't hesitate to reward any positive behavior.

Having ruled out dental and soundness issues, both capable of slowing a horse down, to make your task even easier, insure your horse is fresh as in do not turn him out before you ride. (A horse in a stall expends far less energy than a horse in pasture.) Endeavour to make him very fit. (A fit horse will not tire quickly) Lessen the severity of your bridle. (A horse will more willingly step forward to a smooth snaffle than a sharp one.) Feed him a very high protein grain.

In reference to the Tip of the Day, unfortunately, some horses simply do not have very large "hearts". Although the term lazy is often used, terms such as "Chicken Hearted Counterfeit" are quite popular for this condition as well. (Hopefully, your big boy will respond to the program and does not suffer from this condition.)

I think that is about all I can suggest and I feel if diligently implemented, you will find improvement very quickly. I thank you for your great question and wish you good luck and good riding.

LF Lavery

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June 22, 2012

Talk About the Fear Factor?
(Dealing with a lack of confidence)

Mr. Lavery,

I desperately need your advice on my seven year old Saddlebred gelding. He was broke to lines and green broke to ride when I sent him for training 2 years ago out of state. I was not able to see him, but I was told that he was broke to ride and drive and he was progressing very nicely. I should tell you that his dam is by of Attache and he was always very game but sensible and willing to learn. After 6 months and I decided to bring him home to a closer trainer. When he got off the trailer, he was VERY thin and afraid of everything, which was not like him, he was the type to investigate and inspect before spooking or over reacting before he left.

Being so thin, I didn't work him or anything. He was turned out daily and given all the groceries he wanted. He had approximately 6 months off. Eventually he gained his weight back and I felt he was ready to go back into training and hopefully would be ready to show this year.

At first, everything seemed fine. We started working him easy, not asking much, just to get him back into the swing of things, and he was great. We hooked him to the cart and he went around fine, but not with the same fire that he used to have. After a few weeks of refresher, we started to ask him to "step up" and really go forward and he shut down. So we went back to the basics of lining and bitting rigs. He is fine until you ask him to be a show horse, then he just stops. If in lines, he backs up or just starts to shake. In the bitting rig, turned out, if you leave him alone, all he does is walk, if you cluck to him or, god forbid, crack the whip, he goes to the nearest corner and hides and shakes. He has been in training for 4 months now and his current trainer is very patient and very kind and taking things slowly, so we don't make a bad situation worse.

He did not have any of these behaviors before he originally went to training out of state. So my best guess is that he was somehow punished/abused for being a Show Horse and is not terrified to step up.

I don't know if you have run into a situation like this in your many years of training but I have no idea how to help him get over this, or if I can help him. I have had people tell me to just really get after him and push him harder, but I'm afraid if we do that it will totally fry his brain. Usually I would just give one some time off but he had 6 months of just playing when he came home.

Any advice on how to help him would be greatly appreciated. I am willing to put in time and be patient with him but I don't know if there is anything more we can do to help him.

Thank you for your time.

Tip of the Day – You should never think of your horse as your best friend but you will need each other's respect and trust to make a great team.

Thank you so very much for your interesting question. It sounds as if you are truly in a dilemma. I have been around several horses that behaved the way you describe over the years. Because of the "job" they had to do as "show" horses, it was extremely difficult and often impossible to rehabilitate them to the level of performance needed to be successful in that discipline. A show horse needs to be very controllable yet very aggressive to be competitive in a show ring full of horses. A timid horse or one lacking spirit is simply not what is needed for that arena. As you knew the horse to be normal at a point in time, you probably are quite correct that there was some sort of "snafu" in the training process. Often, it does fall on the shoulders of an over enthusiastic trainer attempting to instill a little more "show horse" attitude in an equine perhaps not ready or even geared that way resulting in a horse that loses confidence in all around him. Just as often, however, something completely innocent and unexpected and can easily have an effect in impacting a horse in this manner. Knowing the intelligence and dedication of most of today's horse trainers, it is doubtful any would have cruelly pushed this horse to such an extent, so I must assume some kind of incident caused your problem. Although it would be interesting to know the true cause, at this point I doubt it would be that helpful in dealing with the issue.

As already mentioned, respect and trust are perhaps the two most important characteristics in any successful man and horse relationship. (For that matter, man and woman too!!). It is a given that when training, showing, practicing or trail riding, you will be asking your horse to face many uncomfortable "triggers", "ghosts" and other situations capable of disturbing the moment. How much confidence you have instilled in him and how much he has in you, will be very evident is how well he copes with these situations.

If we apply our usual questions to your issues, that is, "Is there a physical reason?", "Poor training or lack of it?", "Mental issue or willful as in he is doing it because he can?" , I find a couple of "flags" in your description.

You mention how thin he was and a seeming lack of drive. Anemia, other blood disorders, thyroid conditions can often be partially responsible for symptoms such as these. A good place to start here is with a CBC test with the T-4 and other appropriate blood tests if nothing more than to rule it out as a possible cause.

After ruling "health" disorders out, soundness , equipment fit, proper shoeing and dental condition should all be "run up the flagpole", as well, before proceeding to the next steps. It is to your advantage to insure there are no variables either causing or adding to your horse's issues.

I feel certain the major problems have come from some sort of training issue so dealing with them will require a great deal of patience on you and your trainer's parts. The "pour it to ‘em" philosophy you have heard from others, will simply not work to instill the confidence we have mentioned and, in fact it might cause more serious damage. Physical encouragement may have a place in his future training but not in his immediate rehabilitation.

At this stage of the game, access to a bull pen would be wonderful. Here, without the lash whip, BIG gyrations and harsh words but perhaps with a 5 foot "flag' and one helper to act as a "tailer", allow the, at liberty, horse to move around you on the rail first at the walk. Your flag establishes direction, helper quiet motivation, your voice confidence and reward. Keep this to 2-5 minute sessions and when he freely moves around you..make a big fuss, reward him profusely, and only then move on to the trot. Again, short sessions more encouragement from the "tailer" who backs off, the INSTANT the trot is performed. When this is performed flawlessly, move to the canter. Upon reaching this point, I am certain you will have found his "bravery" has somewhat returned and if you have been diligent with your rewards he will almost be acting as this is play and his confidence in you has grown. If he walks trots and now canters on your signal without the helper, you are ready to reintroduce the biting rig and then long lines and VERY carefully slightly more aggressive encouragement. This is not a quick process but count on several weeks if the training is daily, several months if you are a "hit and misser."

The key words... You cannot "whip him into shape", it takes intelligent thought to bolster this horse' psyche and bring him back to a productive team member.

Thank you once again for your great question. I have no doubt that if applied carefully and diligently, you will find much success with this program. I wish you good luck and good riding.

LF Lavery

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June 11, 2012

Not Showing but need Shoeing!
(Shoeing and Farrier problems)

Good Morning ~~ having a TERRIBLE time getting retired show hackneys shod... "Show" farriers too busy = have to have regular farrier...certified gentleman who is really trying but not getting the job done...have tried many .... This guy shows the most promise. But since I do not do my own root canals thus I need some help verbal clues for him to get "boys" more comfortable ... leather pads ... yes oakum and pine tar one regular keg shoes one with toe weight but light not packing allot...

Have "recipes" for these boys example : hoof length ( 3") and heel angles (56*) . Both were shown for years ... under various famous hackney trainers ... now retired jogging through the woods ... enjoying life. But farrier has both sore on heel bulbs... reluctant to pare out heel area ... in addition one pony is reaching forward with his hind feet and hitting heel toe = not landing quite flat . NO HEAT NO Hot nails just sensitive on heel bulbs. ??? Pare out that are and leave space between pad and heel bulb ?? Any help would be appreciated ... Thank You

Tip of the Day- Did you ever notice it is pretty easy to get a Blacksmith... until they get good?

Allow me to apologize as for some reason your question was inadvertently purloined by my office computer. Much like some great treasure hunter, I have rediscovered it, also inadvertently, this morning. I am sure by now, if the ponies have not died of old age, you have solved your problem or given up and truly retired them. For the most part, I can think of little to add to your assessment of the situation. Every part of the "recipes" you mention seem exactly correct to me. From the angles, lengths to the type of shoes..It seems very simple and straight forward to me. It can often be so disheartening to not be able to find someone to correctly follow through on such well laid plans. Unfortunately, this happens more often than you might think in this day and age. Although most of the farrier "schools" do a wonderful job of instructing students in the farrier trade, the act of graduating does not necessarily assure they are true craftsmen. As you are finding out, a good working knowledge of shoeing maybe fine for most uncomplicated situations but when out of their comfort zone whether by degree of difficulty, lack of experience or lack of training, the shoer's "certification" is of little help to your pony. It should make us marvel at the level of expertise a top Show farrier rises to. As stated, most learned their craft from a school and how to be a craftsman from other, more established Show farriers. When, then coupled with years of hands on experience, you then have that wonderful farrier that is now too busy to help you!! I don't know the answer here. Perhaps, find a young farrier with little ego, and engage a Show farrier to shoe these ponies, once, while the other watches or helps, hopefully learning from the experience.

As far as the flight path issues and bulbs of the heels. The hitting the front heels with the back feet could certainly bruise the heels. Although many would try correcting it by trying to fix the back end, it is my opinion that the problem is usually that the front feet are remaining on the ground too long. This can be caused by too low an angle and /or too short a shoe, either of which can readily cause sore heels as well. Quick fix: raise front angles, longer shoe to support heels and stop pony from rocking back. Along with assuring there is no thrush involved, a shoe long enough to offer support is invaluable to any pony with sore heels. On the other end of the spectrum, another possible cause is heels too hard. You mention paring out or "floating" the heel. This can be of benefit, if done correctly. Along those lines, it is also my feeling that the most important part in correcting all issues you mention, or for all shoeing in general, starts with the correct usage of the nippers and the rasp, thus insuring a good, level and comfortable "foundation" to start with.

I hope this may be of some help to you and again apologize for it taking so long. Thank you for your great question. I wish you good luck and good driving.

LF Lavery

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June 8, 2012

Is There Some Kind of Gag Order?
(Using the "Gag" Bradoon)

I am just newly getting started into working saddleseat horses. We have primarily morgans. I have worked many hunt and western horses, both green and finished in show bridles. I've noticed quite a few saddleseat horses working in full bridles with a gag-bradoon (or that's what I would describe it as). What kind of horses would work in this tack? What issues would this be used to try to correct? Any insight on this equipment?


Tip of the Day- If one finds it necessary to "hold" the horse's head up while riding…you might want to think about changing horses or changing trainers.

Thank you for your question. I can understand your interest in a bit that has been engineered to, mechanically, raise itself on the bridle's cheek pieces with only a pull on the reins. It is an ingenious invention, to say the least, but I am certain a rider coming, as you are, from basically, simple, "one bit" disciplines would certainly question the logic behind the Gag Snaffle. To be honest, with exception of some very rare cases, I do myself. As I have discussed many, many times, there is nothing wrong with a bit designed for a specific purpose. If it is used as a training tool to correct a an issue, bits such as a "wind sucker", "frog", Bristol, French Ring, double twist, crab, slip shank, Burch, straight bar, 4-6 rings can all be of some benefit. I even have the Lavery Convertible that is a wonderful aid for correction of a side puller. When, however, a bit is reached for to simply treat the "symptom" and not to correct the issue, that kind of logic, I have some problems with. I fear, more often than not, that is the area the Gag usually falls.

Contrary to popular belief, an accomplished and successful trainer of amateur and juvenile horses and riders will usually find him or herself biting the rider's hands and not the horse's mouth. A good trainer will have insured that his horses are well trained and have the type of mouths conducive to his riders' success in the show ring. When the rider has difficulty separating his hands from his seat or the snaffle from the curb, the perfect mouth the trainer has developed, now becomes a liability. In the instance of the rider not being able to let go of the curb and lacking the ability to finesse the snaffle rein, many trainers find themselves turning to the gag snaffle to counteract the rider's lack of ability. Here starts the treating of the symptom instead of the correction of the issue. Equitation is the problem in this scenario, not the horse's mouth. On the occasion of the heavy headed horse, certainly the Gag Snaffle can be applied but so too can good horsemanship and training with the end result a true correction of the problem. Training and the conditioning the horse's mouth is the answer here. This would always be my choice.

So there you have it, at least my take on the "Gag"... As they said so often in the Godfather movies "Fo -get about it!"... Mouth your horse correctly, and instruct your riders correctly and you will probably never have a need for one. For the most part, those thousands upon thousands of different types of bits out there have been the most useful in making rich bit makers.

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

LF Lavery

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June 1, 2012

Things do not seem to be looking up!
(Horse that buries his head)

Mr. Lavery,

Hopefully you can give me some insight. I have an 8 year old pleasure Morgan gelding, he's in training and is ridden or jogged daily. He's willing to work, uses his back end, and has never had any problem in the motion department. However his head has become a problem. When I work him in his full bridle he ducks his head. We never need to use much curb and he tolerates some pressure from it in short doses but when I really start asking for collection he starts throwing his head. I'm only 15 and am not strong enough to bump him back up before we are in a huge fight. When he does it I try and sit heavier on him so I'll have the leverage to stop him but he manages to pull me off balance. My trainer usually says I have too much curb but I never have much pressure on his mouth when he does it. After four or five strides I usually have him set again but as we all know five strides can ruin you in a competitive class. He is ridden in a slip shank port mouth and slow twisted bradoon. His teeth are up to date. Any advice would be great.

Thanks in Advance!!!

Tip of the Day - Although not it's intended use, when hung on, the curb bit can very effectively bury a horse's head.

Thank you for your question. Riding a horse with a "disappearing" head can certainly be a rather unsettling sensation and I understand your concern. Although I am usually able to garner a fairly good idea of the training issues from a description written as well as yours, in this case, actually seeing it as it happens would be more conducive to a good answer for you. But, it is what it is, so here goes.

By reading that his dental work is up to date, I can only assume that you have visited here before and know that I am fanatical about how a horse's teeth are taken care of. As with ALL bridle issues, addressing the teeth is the first place to start. Good for you that it has been done.

That being said, I guess a little detective work may be in order. We appear to have a healthy, well cared for eight year old gelding in training, who seems to have no soundness problems and would obviously be in fit condition. Your description leads me to believe that there are no bridling negatives when jogging or riding in a snaffle bit. The double bridle you describe is an easy one for a horse with a good mouth to "use" and one of my personal favorites. So far so good.

Here is where your description starts to concern me: "his head has become a problem," Why?

"When I work him in his full bridle he ducks his head." Hmm?

"We never need to use much curb and he tolerates some pressure from it in short doses but when I really start asking for collection he starts throwing his head." He "tolerates" pressure?

"I'm only 15 and am not strong enough." Strong enough?

"Sit heavier on him so I'll have the leverage." Leverage?

Okay, now you be Ask the Trainer, training detective… Read those four quotes from your description..Then know these things to be true about a horse's mouth and a curb bit:

A horse that wears a snaffle perfectly should wear the curb bit equally well. (The curb should simply tuck the nose with the very SLIGHTEST pressure from the rider's fingers. The snaffle, ALONE, elevates, collects, turns, stops, backs, controls the speed etc. etc.) The curb is not there to be hung on to or to be used as an emergency brake but rather to be used, give and take style, with gentle finesse. Therefore, the words, tolerates pressure, strong enough, and leverage, should not even be thought of when dealing with the operation of the curb bit.

When we add your trainer's assessment of your use of the curb, I think you have an idea of my thoughts on your horse's issue. In this case, I do not think training the horse is the problem.

From the knowledge of horsemanship I gather you have from reading your description, I am certain you are a nice rider as well. I suggest you devote the next few months of riding to separating your seat from your hands and your curb from your snaffle until you find yourself using the snaffle rein for all the work and the curb for what it is intended. Riding, controlling, and setting a horse's head without pulling or holding him is the ultimate accomplishment and the most satisfying reward in Saddle Seat riding. Once you feel it you will never want to revert back.

Thanks so much for your great question I only hope I have been of some help. Good luck and good riding.

LF Lavery

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May 25, 2012

I don't want to Curb his Enthusiasm!
(Lining in the curb)

Hello Mr. Lavery. I was wondering the theory behind long lining a horse in a double bridle over working the horse in the double while riding? How does it teach the horse to wear the bridle better since there is no separation of the bits as the horse wears a bit converter? What kind of horse would benefit from this technique? Thank you for your time.

Tip of the Day – The curb bit was meant for a surgeon's touch…not a truck driver's hands.

Thank you for your question. Since the inception of classic horse training, long lining has been thought of as the beginning step in most disciplines. For man to control this 1000 pound beast in a manner dissimilar to Guenther Gabel Williams (with a whip and a chair), one must proceed slowly, instill confidence and establish a supple mouth that allows complete control of flexion, speed, turning and stopping. Classic horse training is where the "yahoo", "let ‘em buck" and "lets break him to ride, cowboy" technique is thrown over for a multi step, subtle and deliberately thought out curriculum, carried out over several months and even years. The act of lining, is very non invasive to the horse's space, instills confidence with hands not tied to the rider's balance, allows the trainer to instantly observe the horse's reactions to the bit and the lines and it affords non weight bearing controlled exercise. With this in mind, it is easy to see why long lining is usually one of the first steps in a horse's basic training and why it is usually the first step when introducing a new aspect, such as the curb bit to his more formal training.

(I must give a proviso here and mention that although lining in the curb bit is a wonderful tool in the hands of an experienced person, it can be a complete and un-reversible disaster when attempted by someone without the proper knowledge.)

There are several steps to be taken before lining in the curb, however. The accepted method of introducing the curb starts with leading the horse in a well "padded" and very easy bit usually followed by a very loosely adjusted stall bridle application. When the horse is accepting this well, a bit more flexion can be asked for and the horse might be lunged or allowed at liberty with the rig. When the horse seems completely comfortable with the bit and has, in essence, schooled himself about the curb, then and only then would you consider lining with it.

Wanting the curb to be thought of as completely separate from the snaffle, most horsemen would avoid the bit converter you mention realizing it allows for no separation. An "easy" Weymouth or Liverpool would be in order at this time. It is imperative the bit is adjusted properly in the horse's mouth to insure bit or curb chain cause no discomfort. Like crawling before you can walk, much walking is in order before you do any trotting in order to keep the horse completely comfortable with the lines and their effect on the bit. There should be no vicing nor should the lines be completely slack. You are striving for that gentle pressure that can give your horse the confidence to be supple. Remember, the curb's sole job is to tip the horse's nose and move the point of balance towards his hindquarters. As far as the amount of time this process might take, I can only stress it must not be rushed and each horse is an individual. I, personally, did not use this process on every young horse but rather found it a more valuable tool on "finished" horses as a way to "tune up" their mouths while freshening them with a respite from riding and jogging.

I hope that gives you a bit of insight to your great question. I wish you good luck and good riding,

LF Lavery

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May 14, 2012

He doesn't Look Where He is Going
(Not straight in the Bridle)


First of all, I love your website. Secondly, I'm hoping you can offer some advice.

I have a 16 year old Standardbred, off the track, that was shown as a roadster to bike for several years and as a roadster under saddle for one season. I bought him 5 years ago and have showed him in a couple pleasure walk-trot classes. I like to work him in the jog cart, but he has a nasty habit of keeping his head turned to the outside. He keeps his head straight when under saddle, and having worked racing Standardbreds some, I have a suspicion that his head tilt stems from his racing days. My question to you is do you have suggestions on how to fix this, short of using a head pole?


Tip of the day - It is very difficult to get a horse to go where you want to go when he insists on looking where he has been.

Thank you for your question. You have hit upon what might be my biggest pet peeve. Although a seemingly minor issue, the consequences of a horse that is not straight in the bridle could form an extremely long list that would encompass problems such as soundness, "flight" path interference, muscle atrophy, canter deficiencies, mismatched diagonals and general gait inadequacies, to name but a few. I am perplexed by supposedly educated horsemen who not only ignore the problem but continually and consistently develop a right or left "handed" horse and think nothing of it. Whether they purposely do this for some reason or they are not aware they are doing it, they do not seem to understand that "straight is great" and a "crooked" horse can come with some costs.

I must concur with you on the development of this habit in your horse's racing days. It seems many Standardbred trainers take the easy way out and choose not to correct this issue. For me, getting beat by a nose a time or two would encourage me to keep that head out front! To that end, let's talk some options.

It seems pretty unusual that the horse is straight under saddle and one sided in harness but I trust your assessment. First, as with ANY issue involving the horse's bridle, make certain his dental issues have been addressed. A horse whose teeth are in need of a "float" is simply a horse not prepared to wear the bridle correctly. Time after time, this first step has proven almost miraculous in solving biting problems and has taught many of my clients that there is no substitute for floating the teeth twice a year.

It would help if I knew if he was always one sided to the same direction or was "ambidextrous". I'll just assume he is simply one sided to the left. Going on that assumption, a stall bridle with his head turned comfortably to the right for twenty or thirty minutes before jogging can be very helpful. This not only softens that side of his mouth but will stretch muscles and tendons that have not been used for years thus making the straightening of his head a more comfortable proposition for him. One thing in your favor, the jog cart is the very best place to correct this issue. You can be very subtle with your hands; can see the attitude of the head in relation to the body, and the shafts serve as a guide. You cannot correct this with draw lines so use a rather long running martingale and straight reins. I feel a four ring, straight bar bit is indispensible for this task and by sliding and "bumping" rather than pulling a side, you should notice some correction at the walk. To declare yourself the winner of this "war", slight pressure should turn the horse's head equally over his right or left shoulder both at the halt and at the walk. He should back in a straight line and trot with his head in front of him including around a turn the second direction of the ring.

Some may find a bit burr to be of help in this quest and depending on the particular horse something like my Lavery Convertible Bit, can be a great tool for the one sided steed. In reference to the head pole, I am a fan of it for some horses and have used them with good results for over 40 years. They are fairly non invasive and an old pool cue makes a good pole and a very cheap addition to your training equipment.

To be sure, the best way to approach this problem is to never have it. That can only be accomplished by insuring the horse's head is straight on a daily basis.

I hope this has given you some ideas and feel sure that if you take your time the correction will come very easily. I wish you good luck and good riding.


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April 30, 2012

I am Having a "Bit" of a Problem
(Biting the fussy horse)

Mr. Lavery,

OK, here goes. I got a rescue ASB gelding last year. While he was at the rescue, the trainer there used a smooth snaffle on him all the time. I got one and used it for a while. I switched to a twisted wire because there were times I needed a bit more bit. He is a go-forward type of horse, and sometimes I need him to WHOA on the trail and need to back it up.

I figured out eventually that he hates to have contact, even in a smooth snaffle. Even light contact seems to tie him up and make him fretful. We have sort of figured each other out, and he will let me have contact as long as I let him have his head most of the time. I generally ride him with light contact.

I’m wondering if it’s the joint in the snaffle that he doesn’t like. I’ve tried the Cash Lovell slow twist mullen mouth? (I think-it has no joint and floats in the rings) and while it’s a bit large for his mouth, he seemed to like it better. I’ve tried kimberwicke bits and other bits, but they were a curb effect and he didn’t like them. That Cash bit is a bit pricey for a trail horse, though I’ve thought about showing him.

What bit would be a good work bit to try, that isn’t real expensive? His teeth need done, though they were done last fall and really there’s been no change in his head tossing when the bit is applied.

Thanks for the help.

Tip of the Day – The effect a bit has on a horse’s mouth depends, entirely, upon whose hands the reins are in.

Thank you so much for a great question. I am very impressed with how well you have analyzed the situation and the conclusions you have come to. Although I am certain you are not aware of it, the basic premise of the question has been asked since Roman times and, incidentally, it has made millionaires out of thousands of bit makers! Severe or not severe? Smooth or sharp? Frankly, there is no iron clad answer…it depends on the horse and more importantly, as in the Tip of the Day, on the rider.

To illustrate, I quote from two of the finest and most successful horse trainers it was my privilege to know (ones even novice ASB owners would have heard of) as I was learning my craft. In answer to my question about how a horse’s mouth should be, Trainer #1 said, "I bit ‘em sharp and ride ‘em very light. You can ride with a razor blade if your hands are soft." Now that he cleared that up for me, I asked Trainer #2 the very same question...His response, "I just push them up to that bridle and take my best hold." So there you have it, hope that clears it up for you... Seriously, that should give you an idea on how diverse opinion is on this subject and that there is no definitive answer. (I chose to follow Trainer #1’s biting philosophy throughout my career and although it might vary some on a per horse basis, I always found “pitching” much more rewarding than “pulling”)

Getting back to your question, everything you describe sounds like a red flag for dental issues. At least 75% of all horses I am asked to look at because of biting problems can immediately be improved or completely corrected with the assistance of a professional equine dentist and his “floats”. Teeth that are not attended to at least once a year can easily develop those sharp edges and other problems that can cause enough discomfort as to make some horses not only unridable but dangerous. As in your description, though the head tossing might have other impetus, unwilling to accept even light contact is not normal behavior and raises the question "why", which can be explained by the discomfort already mentioned. Address dental issues first.

Back to the bits. A smooth snaffle, when slid forcefully left and right, can be quite severe. A sharp twisted snaffle, when strongly held with no movement, can be less severe than the smooth snaffle. We go back to the rider's hands. As far as the "4-ring straight bar bit" , broken snaffles work more on the corners of the mouth as straight bar bits distribute pressure, evenly, on the bars of the mouth. (Much like a curb) In my opinion, a straight bar bit is an indispensable training tool especially when working in harness. Going on that “per horse” basis, I have had horses that resent and then get strong and pull on a severe bit whereas they are light in a smooth snaffle. Taking all of this into consideration, I would go with whatever your horse "tells" you he likes so both of you can have a pleasant ride.

I hope this has been of some help to you and I again thank you for your great question. I wish you good luck and good riding.

LF Lavery

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April 23, 2012

She is Shaking her Tail Feather!
(Stopping tail rubbing)

You spoke about how to care for tails and tail feathers. Here's another question: My horse likes to move her tail out of her crupper. She has a large and long tail bone. It fits into the crupper fine. I place cotton in the crupper, wrap the tail carefully, and tie ropes to stabilize the crupper. Once it's in place and wrapped she likes to try to move her tail out of the crupper. Yesterday, she was able to get the crupper off her tail and wrap it around her leg. I may not have had the ropes crossed correctly. Thankfully, no damage. Do you have any ideas or recommendation for a horse that plays with their tail?

Tip of the Day – Taking care of an American Saddlebred's tail properly, is a labor of love... but a good deal of labor, none the less!

Thank you for your fine question. Like the cobbed Clydesdale and Hackney tails, the cropped Doberman ears and tail, the shortened Jack Russell tail, the Poodle, tail and clip, etc, etc, the elevated flowing tail of the American Saddlebred horse is an important and very identifiable characteristic of the breed itself. As a signature of sorts, it helps set the horse apart from pretenders. Further, improvement of the locomotion of the hind quarters and a more pleasant driving horse are often other, non cosmetic, benefits. To be sure, there is nothing more beautiful than a properly turned out and cared for tail and nothing worse looking than one that has not been cared for. Although the surgical procedure for setting the tail is much more “ear piercing” than “appendectomy”, the after and then continuing care makes the difference between perfection and the rest. I must very much doubt that your mare “enjoys” moving her tail out of her crupper but she is expending that energy to be more comfortable. To retard this behavior, your task is to insure she is comfortable. With nearly no exception, horses that rub their sets off are doing it because they itch, the set is too tight, the “binding” has made the tail hot or the stall offers places making the action very easily accomplished.

There is absolutely no substitute for the number one rule in taking care of a tail in a set. Cleanliness! The tail bone, hair and dock (including under the tail… where it signifies the horse is from “O”-hio) must be kept clean at all times. Washing the dock every day, conditioning the hair daily or several times a week and shampooing and moisturizing once a month, is a simple program that will give you remarkable results when religiously followed. There are a myriad of wonderful conditioning products out there, I even manufacture an extremely popular one myself, but steer clear of products containing alcohol as they tend to dry the tail and promote itching. Heavy and oily products should also be avoided as they tend build up a greasy residue on the tail and the pores and follicles. No matter how thorough you shampoo the tail, it is to no avail if you do not rinse the soap out completely. A perfectly clean tail should not itch!

You would be surprised how often I am asked, by those who are tearing their own hair out over the loss of their horse’s tail hair, what they are doing wrong. If the tail is clean, many times, it is not what they are doing wrong but simply trying to do too right. The two most often made mistakes are too much padding in the crupper and a surcingle that is located improperly and too loose. The standard tail set crupper is constructed to hold the tail at the proper attitude. It is a trough designed to contain the tail. Although padding is necessary for comfort, too much padding interferes with the design and function by raising the tail bone too far out of the trough and narrowing the channel thus pinching the tail, a case of trying to be nice ends up being wrong. Whatever padding you use, cotton, diapers, patented products…make certain they breathe, keep them clean and do not over pad.

Although the tail set harness is often described as fitting like a pair of suspenders, the surcingle should not be falling off the horse. Further it should be more towards the wither than the middle of the back to prevent rolling and fastened snug but not tight. The rest of the harness, “Y” straps, crupper turn backs and breast collar should be evenly set and not too tight with at least a two inch gap easily produced by a fairly light pull from your hand. The best way to put the set on is to fasten the belly band only after the crupper has been applied and secured so that all is fitting evenly.

In the stall, watch for tail boards that are too high (should hit the horse in the center of the gaskin), Hay racks that are too low and water buckets and feed tubs that are tail height. All make it way too easy for the horse to get in trouble even when you are doing all else correctly. For a chronic “rubber” in a flat walled stall, several tail “cages” are on the market and although more costly, certainly a better choice than the heat generating but cheap and too often used, plastic bucket.

One further note and a pet peeve of mine, the tie down straps you mention. With a clean tail properly secured in a well fitting and adjusted set and crupper to promote comfort, retard the itching and a stall free of handy, dandy set removers, those ropes should not be necessary. If you watch a horse pass manure, you will note his tail lifts high. When he manures in a set that is tied down by the ropes can you imagine what is happening to that tail in that crupper? Comfort!

I think that about covers most facets of your great question. I hope you have found this to be of help and can assure you, from past experience, that if follow these suggestions, religiously, you will achieve the results you desire. Good luck and good riding,

LF Lavery

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April 16, 2012

He "Kneeds" More Curls!
(Floating Front Motion)


I have a five year old Arab gelding that I am training for hunter. He was started "late". So he has only had about six months on him and is still really a youngster that is still learning.

My question is concerning knee action. He has the action but there is no curl if that makes sense. How can I get him to curl? He is also completely barefoot.

So is the curling action more of a rear end driving function or could it be helped with weight on the front feet? If it is a weight issue would weighted bell boots help him and what would be your thoughts on that.

Thanks for the website...it is great to be able to ask a trainer for advice

Thanks so much

Tip of the Day – With thought, time, and patience, a good trainer can change many things about a horse... But it is extremely difficult to make them do a job they were not bred to do.

Thank you so much for your question. Your excellent description of the way your horse is moving is referred to by trainers of other breeds in terms such as, "shooting beans", "floating", "foundered going", "toe flipping" and many, many more such non-complimentary terms. To an aficionado of the Arabian, however, this action is simply that of the Arabian horse, one of the oldest known breeds. Picture if you will the horse in his native habitat, the deep sands of the desert. Seldom would you find his rider asking for the trot in such footing but to cover the most ground the lateral gallop would appear to make them virtually float across the desert sands. Head and tail raised high, it is the stuff beautiful paintings and sculptures are made of. Extension of the legs rather than elevation insures the most length of stride for this relatively short legged horse thusly making him not only ground covering but light footed. Trotting with such extension also limits the depth to which they might sink in that deep sand. Additionally, being shy one set of ribs, they are more close-coupled than any other breed, helping their weight to be more evenly distributed front to back on footing so soft. You are certainly correct in your assumption that propulsion from the rear can affect the motion in front but unlike most breeds that were actually bred to do some sort of work, the Arabian has never been known as a breed that pushes off the hocks and again this probably has to do with traction issues of their formative environment. As you can see, what you are observing and would like to change is a part of his genetic heritage, going back several hundred years. As in the Tip of the Day, you are asking to change the way this breed of horse has been bred to perform. Not an easy task.

To affect such a change as you wish might be accomplished with some sensible shoeing and even then it will not be miraculous. There are prescribed shoeing regulations for Arabians in competition. Basically, they limit the toe length to 4 3/4 inches and a prescribed width and shape of the shoe. That being said, the usual procedure for changing the "flight path" of the hoof from extension to fold would be to quicken the foot up. This can often be accomplished by raising the heel and rolling the toe. Here, a good farrier and some experimentation will work well in your behalf. Be apprised that even with the very best horses in the nation in the open Park National Championships, more display the motion you describe than that which you desire. It is simply the motion of the Arabian horse.

Thank you once again for your question; I hope I have been of some help. I wish you good luck and good riding.



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April 9, 2012

She said riding Saddle Seat was Ruining my horse!
(Discipline Dilemmas)

I have an acquaintance that has been taking lessons under a classical dressage instructor. The horses work on low head carriage and raising the back. She has expressed to me that My saddle seat riding is doing physical damage to my horse! What? She said a high head carriage hollows the back and weakens their core. Parking out weakens their hindquarters. Please help me explain saddleseat horses intelligently. I’m kinda feeling assaulted.

Tip of the Day – When it comes to differences in the equine disciplines..Often one’s heart gets in the way of logic and common sense.

Thank you so much for your wonderful question. Being a fourth generation horse trainer and having spent my entire life in the horse industry I am quite aware of the plethora of ridiculous statements such as this that abound through all disciplines. A proponent of one style pointing a finger at another is truly a sad thing as the bottom line is, no matter what your style or discipline, the true reward is the interaction with the horse. To “muddy the water” for an equine enthusiast with such an ignorant statement is certainly not in anyone’s best interest but, it does happen. To make a statement such as this the instructor sounds to me like a REAL classic. Promoting one’s style by criticizing another is a technique often used by insecure and uninformed trainers and instructors to try to better their lot when their “talent” is not enough to speak for itself. Is there ANY truth here? Yes.

The dressage horse is worked for lower head carriage and to be heavy on the forehand. He is encouraged to round his back. Classical dressage, when performed by a well trained horse and rider is truly a beautiful thing to behold. A good dressage horse’s conformation lends itself to this type of head carriage. The neck does not come straight up out of the wither as an ASB’s but more straight out. The shoulder is not as laid back as an ASB’s but more straight to accommodate extension rather than elevation. The hind legs are straighter than an ASB’s and drop quicker from the croup as the balance point is more to the front than the rear. The dressage horse’s back might well lean to a shorter “hog” back. These conformation differences although seemingly very subtle, would easily allow you to look at black silhouettes of the two types standing still and easily identify who was who. These conformation differences are what establishes the laws of “Form to Function”. In other words, how the horse is conformed dictates what job he is best suited for and most comfortable doing. ASB’s have been bred to “ride uphill”, they have been bred to distribute the weight to their haunches to allow for the elevation of the front legs and they have been bred to “settle” in their backs to give the most comfortable ride and perform the lateral gaits.. A well conformed, good example of an American Saddlebred would have a great deal of difficulty performing the tasks of a dressage horse as if the tables were turned the dressage horse would be at a loss to perform as an ASB. Form to function.

On another note, the basic training of both is quite similar with correct emphasis on a rider’s legs, hands and seat working in unison to affect the proper response from the horse. Training differences occur with the subtleties of each discipline. A rider of either discipline, however, should be able to make a fairly good accounting of one’s self riding the other.

My advice to you...keep riding "Uphill" and enjoy the ride, your horse will.

I hope this has been of some help to you and I thank you again for you great question. I wish you good luck and good riding.

LF Lavery


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April 2, 2012

Is there such a thing as “Horse Show Hands?”
(Dealing with Show Ring Nerves)


I have a half Arabian mare that has a light mouth. I have been trying to keep light hands and just keep steady/light contact with the bit (s) and bump her to keep her up in the bridle and collected. I am fine at home, my problem is when I get to a show my hands freeze and don't work. Even when I try to "use" my hands at the show it is like I completely can't do it or forgot how. It sounds like a simple problem now that I've typed it out as a question. I just want to make myself a better rider...what can I do to get better with my hands?

Tip of the Day: I once had a client who assured me that her mare knew when she was at a major horse show and rode completely differently than she did at a small local show. Smart mare, huh?

Thank you so much for your question. Light hands are perhaps the single most important skill in training, riding or showing a horse. It pleases me that you are so aware of this. Yes, it does sound very simple but I assure you it is not, as you are not the only camper at this picnic. This happens all the time and occasionally even a professional can have a touch of this “disease”. To be sure, the culprit is most often nerves. Any horse trainer charged with putting horse and rider combinations together for the show ring can go on endlessly with stories about riders’ nerves that are peppered with quaint expressions. Some I like are: “She had that deer in the headlights look”, “I finally said. Use the other snaffle”, “I don’t know how, but when he gets in the saddle, I think he sits on his ears.”, “She looked right at me but I know she wasn’t seeing me”, “She actually said, Did I get a ribbon?”, “He is president of a large company and an extremely intelligent man, but something happens when he puts his foot in that stirrup” . I could go on and on. You are not alone!

Well, congratulations. From what you have described in your letter, you are conscious of this issue and therefore are on your way to correcting it. Being comfortable in the show ring takes a great deal of effort. A rider must be concerned with: Setting the horse’s head, executing the correct gaits, maintaining the proper speed, finding the correct placement on the rail and in traffic, maintaining light contact with the bridle and strong contact with the saddle while looking up where you are going, sitting straight with your heels down shoulders back, on the correct diagonal and lead as you listen for your trainer, smile and have fun! Wow…Makes me a little nervous. Like an actor not knowing his lines, a singer not knowing the words, a dancer not knowing the steps, a rider who is not comfortable with this class “routine”, will invariably display some stage fright. Only when the majority of this becomes second nature to you (practice, practice, and practice) will you begin to feel that comfort in the show ring. It just takes time.

The time tested way to insure light hands is lunge line work. Riding in this fashion, without reins, separates your hands from your seat so that working independently your hands have nothing to do with your balance and are only concerned with the correct cues to the horse’s mouth.

There is also one other variable that might be involved here, akin to the Tip of the Day, your mare might well be getting a touch of nervousness as well and manifest it by “hogging” the bridle. If so, practice and time is my suggestion for her as well until she gets more comfortable in the show ring.

I guess that about wraps this up. I hope I have been of some help to you. I wish you good luck and good riding.

LF Lavery

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March 26, 2012

Let’s Play the Numbers Game
(Beats in the Gaits)

As I understand the slow gate is not like the 4 beat gate as the walk..... it is a two beat gate.... both legs move together on the same side.... the rack is much faster and is a four beat gate.... the canter is a three beat gate. the trot is a two beat gate....... do you not agree?

Tip of the Day - No matter what term you hear, "Pacey", "Like Dan Patch", "Camel Gaited" or "He's pacing his a** off", it should be obvious that the pace is not a desirable gait!

Thank you for your question. My answer, NO, I do not agree. The Slow Gait is NOT a two beat lateral gait. A two beat lateral gait is a PACE. The pace is the most undesirable gait an American Saddlebred Five Gaited Horse can display. I fear you are confused over the term "Step and Pace" which is often used to describe the Slow Gait. The true Slow Gait is a four beat gait like the walk and the rack but with a slightly different emphasis on the beats of the cadence. It might better be described as a horse trotting in front while walking behind. Because the ASB horse was originally bred and developed to be a ground covering and extremely comfortable saddle horse carrying a rider in style for miles and miles, the very thought of the butt slapping, "sea sickening", uncomfortable motion produced by a two beat lateral gait, would make most Five Gaited riders cringe.

I do agree with the rest of your assessment of the gaits. The trot is a two beat, diagonal gait, the canter a three beat one. Until, however, you have an opportunity to sit on a true slow gaiting horse and then one that is pacing, you will just have to take my word that the difference is staggering.

Thanks again for your question, I wish you good luck and good riding.

LF Lavery

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March 19, 2012

All I Wanted was a Smooth Ride...Instead, I got Mr. Excitement!
(Busting the Bronco)

Hello, Maybe you can give me some suggestions on a horse I've got right now. He is a 6 year old Walking horse that I was given because he has a "very good self preservation instinct" and his owner couldn't' afford to try to ride something that wasn't dead broke, bomb proof, and completely safe as she can't afford to fall off, he has had 60 days training with someone that was just trying to make him a safe riding and trail horse, I've been told he was being ridden on trails and roads and doing well until near the end of his training he attempted to buck off the trainer, he didn't succeed but the trainer said he didn't see any reason for him to have done that and so he recommended that the owner not try to ride him. I got him in March, spent a good bit of time with him grooming him, leading him around, getting him used to the new place, there was no rush on keeping him in training as he had been standing in a field for close to a year before I got him. I then started working him in the round pen, longing him, working on desensitization exercises and ground manners as he was a little pushy when being led and VERY spooky (and this is coming from someone that has Arabs!). After that I tried putting a saddle on him and longing him. He was a little spooky about the saddle being placed on his back but I worked with him until he would stand still in the roundpen with no lead rope while I saddled him. I had him doing good and not reacting to the saddle so one day I asked someone to give me a hand with him and I tried getting on him, remember, this is a horse with 60 days training on him already.. I got on him and he tensed up, I talked to him and got him to relax, asked him to walk, he got about 6 steps from the mounting block and turned into a rodeo bronk... He got me off, so I dusted myself off and tried again, longed him for a little while and got him calm, took him back to the mounting block, got on, moved him one step, he tensed up, I got him stopped, rubbed him, got him to relax and tried to dismount. When I was about halfway dismounted he started doing the bronco thing again, so I longed him AGAIN and desensitized him, got him calm, and just layed across his back so he would have a good ending to the day without freaking out... Since then he's cut his leg and I've been having to take care of that and try to keep him from moving too much so I haven't been working on him but I was wondering if you have any suggestions for when I do try to work with him again to try to prevent this from happening again. All I want is for him to be a safe sane trail horse and if possible a local show horse. I have a 4 year old Walking horse stallion that I ride and I would like this one to be something that friends and family can ride with me so we're both on gaited horses for trail riding.

Tip of the Day- The trail ride can lose a great deal of its luster…. when your horse decides the ride is over!

You want suggestions? Find out if Guenther Gabel Williams is still training lions and tigers… Up your hospitalization insurance..Look in the Yellow Pages under “Rodeo Stock Contractor”.. Re-consider “safe and sane trail horse”.. Do not let friends and family ride him… (Maybe your Mother- in- law)…Consider another hobby. Seriously, thanks so much for your question but what you describe, indeed, sounds like a veritable nightmare. I say this for several reasons. First, you appear to have approached the situation in a manner worthy of any professional trainer I know. You have thought it out, taken your time and have done all the right things, to no avail. Second, there seems to be no real rhyme or reason behind this horse’s behavior. Lastly, this type of behavior is not only unacceptable, it is very dangerous. I applaud your efforts to affect some sort of change and want you to know that I am no stranger to the type of consternation you must be feeling. Trust me, dealing with this horse’s issues could be a monumental task. That, having been sad, if you still wish to give it a go, let’s give it some thought.

When dealing with unacceptable behaviors in horses, I generally approach a solution by attempting to find the cause. Usually it is best to look in three areas:

Physical problems, such as soundness, conditions and anything that might be causing discomfort. You sound as if you could easily identify an unsound horse while lunging him so soundness, shoeing, hoof interference, etc. can probably be discounted. It does seem as if he is most volatile when bridled so we could start there with dental issues or poor fitting or uncomfortable bit or bridle. Along those same lines, a poor fitting saddle can cause drastic reactions but as this is probably a different saddle than the former trainer’s we might look into back or spine soreness with a vet or chiropractor. This can be money well spent and miraculous if this is indeed a problem. A “cinch bound” horse can often react this violently when girthed too tightly but then again, usually not after being lunged and then ridden a few steps.

Previous Training or Lack of it. If this six year old has only had a 120 days of concentrated training, though a fair amount for a docile animal, surely not long enough to reform a flighty and headstrong individual into a predictable “baby sitter” that will pack the family around in strange places. Often horses are actually “taught” to misbehave by poor training procedures or lazy lessons. In this case, words and phrases such as “very spooky”, “pushy”, “he didn’t see any reason for him to act up”, all point to a very “green” horse.

Mental issues as is he doing it because he is afraid (reacting) or is he doing because he can, (willfully.) “Green” stops when a horse continues to repeat a behavior he has been corrected on. If it is a trigger that scares him that is one thing but repeating the unacceptable behavior for no reason is quite a different thing. It appears he is in the habit of acting up and having his way and at six years old, a strong, mature horse can be tough to deal with.

If it were me:

After assuring myself there are no soundness problems, dental issues, soreness in his back and that his equipment is fitting him properly, I would first contact the former trainer and pick his brain for any little tip he might be able to pass on about his training and mental history. You never know what might be of help to you. I would take him off all grain, horses do quite nicely on hay and water. I would turn him out 24/7 if possible. I would then go back to “square one” as you attempted to do at first. Then I would also begin long lining him. Then, long lining with the saddle on. When he was walking, trotting, cantering, turning left and right and backing up, only then would I consider attempting to ride. After lunging for several minutes with a halter over the bridle and with a saddle on, have a knowledgeable helper put a lead shank on him, chain over his nose so he can exert control if necessary.. In the same area you have been working him, lean on him, “mock” mount, wiggle the saddle and when he finally stands quietly, slowly and very carefully mount. Stand awhile until you might feel him relax. Only then have your helper ask him to walk off (at this point you are only the passenger, the helper is in charge) at the first sign of possible trouble he should turn him in a small circle both of you reassuring him vocally until he is again relaxed. Keep repeating this until you have walked 20-30 feet. (Don’t be greedy, try to continually win the little battles and you will win the war.) Stop and stand and reassure him a while before attempting to dismount. When you feel him relax, slowly and carefully dismount. Repeat this entire process every day for a week or so asking for a little a bit more distance at the walk each day and becoming less the passenger and more of a rider. The horse will tell you when you know longer need the helper…Do not be in a hurry! One mistake will set you back completely. All of the above, when done on a DAILY basis should make a huge difference in two or three weeks. If you cannot devote that much time, believe me, you would be money ahead and the proper results nearly assured if you sent him to a competent, professional trainer for a few weeks. I would be more than happy to recommend one in your area.

Thanks once again for you great question, I am always glad to hear from dedicated horsepersons like yourself. I hope I have given you some food for thought. Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

March 5, 2012

It is Up but it Won’t Go Down
(High tail to Low tail)


I have a tail that I could use your expert advice on. The horse in question is my former Ladies 5-gaited horse. His Tail is straight as an arrow, and straight up, never needed ginger to brace. He has been OUT of his set for 4 years, ever since I stopped showing him. You're wondering what the problem is with this tail, huh? My problem is that my horse is now being worked as a hunter, and excelling at it! He will be showing only at saddlebred shows, which tend to be forgiving about previously set tails, but this is just out of the question. It looks like he's braced....always!

I have thought about maybe "weighing it down" with a small piece of lead hidden inconspicuously at the tip of the bone. I don't believe he will mind. I have spoke with a tail cutter (also a vet) and they said they could possibly cut the top of the tail to reverse some of the original setting. Do you possibly have any other ideas floating around in that wonderful mind of yours?

Tip of the Day – A well cut tail can disprove the adage, “What goes up must come down!”

Thank you so much for your question. It certainly proves that what is a dream to some can be a nightmare to others. Along those lines, having been dealing with show horses my whole life, I am having a little trouble “feeling your pain.” However, my friends, the”Alphabet” girls, who are die hard Sport Horse people, might well be in tears at this very moment. Seriously, I am sorry to make light of your situation. As you know, your gelding’s tail was not broken, the nerves were not cut in half nor his ligaments removed and he truly had no major surgery. Instead, a small incision was made and two “leader” tendons were “nicked” to allow them to stretch and offer less resistance when pulling down than those pulling up thereby allowing the tail to stand erect. The result your gelding received is far better than most could imagine. That being said, I am certain the question on most ASB owner’s minds ….. Who cut this tail and how do I contact him? Again, I’m sorry but seriously, I feel the answer to your question lies in a tail cutter. You are obviously aware that the rules governing the Judging of American Saddlebreds are very specific when it comes to previously cut tails and Judges may not penalize a horse who has one. If, however, you truly feel you cannot live with this tail, I think that re- cutting is the option that makes the most sense as it will produce the results you are looking for with the least “inconvenience” for your horse. Weights, tie downs, etc, serve only to aggravate the horse and injections to “deaden” the tendons are both painful and illegal. The Quarter Horse community learned this long ago and has been “Nicking” tails to stay down for years. Neither a tail nicked to stand or nicked to be down has any effect of the mobility of the tail when done correctly. Flies can still be swished, manure passes unobstructed, and when braided, a thick tail can still hurt like hell when it hits you in the face.

I wish I could be of more help but hope this has given you some food for thought. Thank you again for your great question. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding!

LF Lavery

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February 27, 2012

She Just does not Play Nice
(Dealing with an 11 year old "Alpha" mare)

Good day Mr. Lavery,

I clicked over from Buckaroo Leather and thought I would ask a quick question although with horses I have found that no horse question is really a quick one. My problem is that when an unfamiliar horse gets near me and my horse outside my horses home pasture my horse goes at the offending horse with her ears back and will even throw a warning kick in the horses direction. Belle is an 11 year old Foxtrotter mare that is well trained and well rode and in most cases well mannered. She does all of the things that you would expect a well-trained horse to do and takes direction well too. She shares a pasture with 7 other non-related mares that borders another pasture with geldings. She gets along with the other mares and I think that she is 1 or 2 in the pecking order. She has a fairly large personal space requirement I have noticed but is not aggressive in pasture even when I have her on a rope. She has been in this pasture about a year and I think moved up in the order quickly in the spring as a number of horses left for the summer. Spring is also when I noticed the 1st signs of this issue also. My theory is that when an unfamiliar horse is near she decides that she is the boss and has to protect me. Theory aside this is something that needs to be corrected for safety issues. Do you have a strategy that you would use to correct this problem?

Tip of the Day – Mares, much like women, do not seem to like being TOLD what to do!

Thank you so much for your great question. I am quite familiar with this type of behavior as my first wife was a little like this. Seriously, from your wonderful description of her issues, I am reasonably certain this truly is a “mare” thing. It is not uncommon for a mare to act aggressively. One major indicator that this is what we are dealing with is the fact you first noticed it in the spring, the classic time for estrous to begin after a dormant winter. Referred to as “in season” or “in heat” this cycle and the intensified hormones it produces can really change a mare’s personality. (Did someone say PMS?) The irritable actions can also become more severe with the presence of infections, lesions, cysts or tumors causing discomfort with the ovaries and other places in a mare’s reproductive “equipment.” A simple palpation by a Vet can quickly confirm or rule this out as a possible cause. Depending on his assessment, he might suggest a product such as Regu-Mate, which has proven to be very successful in the management of this type of behavior by regulating estrous and therefore the moodiness and temperament changes associated with it. In this case, modern medicine will help you much more than any horse whisperer.

To be sure, taking some minor corrective measures when she displays this behavior would certainly be in order but to try to punish her or train out of her something that really has a natural, physical cause and thus is not truly her fault, is not reasonable. Therefore, understand she is entitled to display this type of behavior but using your hands, voice and legs, try to discourage the scope of the behavior when it happens and as it applies to the other horses. Always keep her aware you are in charge and not just sitting there “asleep at the switch”. When trail riding, don’t lead but rather follow so she is not surprised from behind. Warn your fellow riders to give her a wide birth. Always be thinking of how to avoid the confrontation so to keep all concerned safe.

I wish I could offer more options but I feel that is about all I can tell you from the information I have. I thank you again for your great question and the wonderful detail of it. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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February 20, 2012

He Must be an AT&T Horse, He Wants to Reach out and Touch Somebody
(How to change a horse's "flight path")

I have enjoyed reading and learning from you in the past. I now have a question, which may seem very simple to you, but I need help with. I have a Country Pleasure Horse which has done very well this year. He has been with a trainer in the past but I now have him at home and I must say, I have enjoyed him being at home very much. My question is, what is the best way to get this horse to fold up under himself more and not reach out so much? He is a very nice horse but needs a little help with his motion. Could you help me with a little advise? Thanks so much.

Tip of the Day - High motion that is not correct motion...is not desirable motion!

Thank you so much for your question. So very pleased you have found this site to be of interest. This may surprise you but when it comes to questions about horse training…there truly are no simple ones. Each animal offers a different challenge, every trainer does things a bit different and although there are guidelines for training, there are no hard and set fast rules. Nowhere is this more evident than when we discuss corrective shoeing. That being said let me attempt to share with you my philosophy on a horse’s flight path, what is desirable, what is incorrect and how to adjust it.

A ground covering, clean, open, front motion is the most desirable especially if knee elevation is displayed before the reach. It becomes less desirable if the legs reach too far in front as to flip the hooves and land on the heels. This is often referred to as “shooting beans”. An example of this is the type of movement often displayed in the trot of Arabian horses. Conversely, motion that displays no extension and folds tight to the elbows, often called “trotting in a box”, is even less desirable.

Reminding you that the only hard fast rule in shoeing is…there is no hard fast rule; these two types of motion are usually explained thusly:

Shooting beans, the horse is usually too lightly shod and the hoof is staying on the ground too long. In the case of trotting in a box, usually too heavy a shoe and the hoof is breaking off the ground too quickly. Picture, if you will the horse’s body with a front leg hanging straight down. If you imagine the body moving forward and the hoof remaining in place, when the body has moved so far forward that the hoof can no longer remain on the ground, the leg must extend extremely far forward to maintain the horse’s balance at the trot as the other leg leaves the ground. The longer the hoof is on the ground, the more extension.

When a horse goes to his elbows, trotting in the box, just the opposite occurs. If the horse’s hoof leaves before the body moves completely forward, there is no time for extension at the trot before the other leg can rise. The faster the hoof leaves the ground, the less extension.

To correct these situations, I always have felt a farrier’s nippers and rasp are the most important tools of correction and usually start with the trimming of the hoof to change a flight path. With most horses, a lower heel, 43-48 degrees, should promote a greater extension by insuring the hoof remains on the ground longer. A higher heel, 52-58 degrees, should quicken the stride, shorten the flight path and fold the leg more. You can, of course, enhance these angle corrections with horseshoes as well. For extension, a flat toed shoe is usually called for and to close the motion up, one would usually look to a rolled toe shoe.

Keep in mind there other variables that can also have an impact on a horse’s motion. A head carried high will produce a much different motion than one carried low. The same holds true for a horse that is pulling in the bridle as opposed to one completely loose. As with all athletic equine endeavors, the horse’s conformation really comes into play, as well.

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

LF Lavery

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February 13, 2012

Can She Learn a Second Language?
(Teaching the Spanish Walk)

Hi, I have a horse that is a dream to work with, Can't do enough to please me..

I do have a lot of hours in her and she seems to just pick up everything and do it well, and never forgets.. What I would like to do is teach her 'Spanish Walk"

I know she can do it, I just am not sure where to start and exactly how to teach this ... Been reading some on it, but no real actual training information...

Would you be able to help me get started? I would really appreciate any help.

Tip of the Day – “High Schooling” a horse can take as much time as college.

Thank you so much for your great question. You are talking quite a goal, here. As you probably know, the Spanish Walk is not a dressage maneuver like the Passage but is considered more of a trick suitable for the circus. Performed correctly by the Lusitano and Andalusian horses of Spain and Portugal where it is thought to have originated and still is seen in the bull rings today, it is quite a dramatic movement. Although the actual movement itself, which most trainers would call a High Schooled one, is not at all desirable in the show ring, the process of teaching it can be beneficial in the development of a show horse, There has only been a handful of trainers who utilized this on a daily basis, while many others, including myself, have taught this maneuver to the occasional horse, in hopes of improving their motion.

To be sure, this is not some quickly trained gait. It requires a great deal of dedication and repetition. In the early stages of training, done improperly, it can lead to a dangerous behavior, striking. It is difficult to describe a lot of the process as it depends on feeling and perfect timing between heels, hands, seat and whip to deliver a correct cue. I will try to walk you through some of the early steps.

Start with your horse in a halter and a lead shank and have a whip about 4 foot long. Stand facing your horse to the outside of her left shoulder (NOT directly in front of her), shank in your left hand, whip in your right. Tapping, with the whip gently, the top of her left forearm while slightly pushing her head to the right, you are hoping to have her lift and extend her left front foot while not moving her body forward. The minute you receive any forward movement of the leg stop and reward her..Pet her, give her a treat walk her around, calm talking. Let her know you are happy with her performance. Then, repeat. Keep your sessions under 10 minutes but if possible do this two to three times a day. When she is picking up extending and setting down the left leg, reverse the process to the right side. When she is picking up the right leg on cue as well, cue both legs with each session and began, by your walking backwards and she coming forward, to cue her at the walk. Some horses can pick this up in a few days some a few weeks and some a few months. When she is “marching” readily when cued, it is time to continue while mounted. Here is where I do not know the words to describe the feeling necessary to master this next step.

One usually would start with the snaffle bridle two riding whips and I used smooth rowled spurs. While mounted, cue the left leg in the same spot as always with the whip in your left hand as you slightly increase the pressure on the reins in your right hand and squeeze slightly with the right heel. The moment she lifts the left leg, reward her. Then reverse the process. At this juncture it is often helpful to do this in a corner where she cannot move forward. When she responds to the cue from the whip, leg and hand you may continue the process at the walk reinforcing hand, body and leg cues as eventually they will replace the whips.

That, is the general idea of teaching the Spanish Walk. The complete instructions could fill an entire book, which I am sure there must be several available. While I have confidence you can master the ground training, if you find the mounted lessons not going so well, let me know and I will hook you up with someone much more learned than I on teaching someone to do this.

Again, thank you for your question, I hope you have found this of some help. I wish you Good Luck and Good Riding.

LF Lavery

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February 6, 2012

(Extending the Trot)

Dear Mr. Lavery,

I have a 3 year old American Saddlebred that I currently broke this past April...she is becoming very aggressive (which I like) but Im having difficulty getting her to trot and stride out consistently without her striking out and leaping and breaking into the canter. She has great manners, stands when I get on her, wears tack no problem. Her teeth have been checked and she had the last of her caps pulled a couple of weeks ago. Ive been taking my time with her because she is going to be something special and extremely talented...I dont want to rush her but I want to teach her to go forward. I work her in a german martingale and she long lines perfectly. I only have a round pen and a quarter mile groomed track in the woods...so unfortunately I dont have an indoor or riding ring. If you could give me any advice as how to teach her to go forward and stride out without cantering Id reatly appreciate everything!!! Thank you!!

Tip of the Day - Reaching for the top...sometimes means starting at the bottom.

Thank you so much for your great question. From your description, it sounds like congratulations are in order for the wonderful job you have done with your filly up to this point. For a horse to excel and perform to their very best many things must take place. The horse's mouth must be such as to be comfortable and supple enough to accept guidance as well as support. The horse's shoeing must be comfortable, shoes must be fashioned and applied in such a manner as to correct faults of conformation and enhance whatever natural ability is available. The horse must have been in a conditioning program that allows them to be comfortable with the strain of work and strong enough to sustain strenuous exercise for as long as necessary. The horse must be mentality ready to perform the task that is asked and must be properly programmed, through training, to perform the task, on command.

Keeping these things in mind and knowing we can rule out things, such as dental issues, which you have already addressed, we can narrow this down, somewhat. A horse pulling on a bridle, especially pulling down, or a horse too loose in the bridle, can often be the reason for the type of breaking of gait you describe, To teach extension of the trot, just enough contact as to supply some security is necessary for the horse to move out.

Some other often overlooked causes of breaking gait is hoof interference from conformation faults (such as knee knocking), flawed flight path (such as winging), unbalanced front feet (one heel high, one low), unbalanced front to rear (such as much longer or heavier behind than in front).

Although I do not know, I just have the feeling your mare's conditioning is not a concern and she is strong and fit for the exercise and I am sure her mental readiness is also not a concern.

If she were my mare, after ruling out or correcting all the possible causes for this behavior, thus making sure she is comfortable, I would begin by utilizing the absolute best trot building tool available to a horse trainer, the jog cart. I can not stress enough how effective jogging is for conditioning and improving the trot. Next, I would clean that German Martingale with Lexol and place it in a drawer somewhere, for it is a wonderful tool to teach a young horse to how pull...down. At this juncture, when you are trying to teach a horse to trot and extend, setting the head should not be a concern. Her head will need to be up to extend. Worry about the head set after you have taught her how to trot. Never forget that training the horse is not only guiding them in the direction you want, it is also making sure you do not give them an opportunity to go in the wrong direction which can easily happen by pushing to hard. I have no doubt that with dedication, repetition and patience you will overcome the issue you aspire to correct.

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

LF Lavery

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January 30, 2012

The "Eye" Has it
(Dealing with the visually impaired horse)

First off, I've loved reading your posts to your web site for the last few weeks. I have an ex-amateur gaited horse turned dressage and breed hunter who has benefited from packing away the draw reins. He magically no longer runs at the canter, so thanks for that bit of advice! My new question is regarding my country pleasure horse. He's a 15 year old gelding that I've had for 7 years and catch-rode from time to time for 3 years prior to that, so we have some history. He is very competitive on the Texas circuit and generally places first or second... nice motion, nice headset, decent ears, wonderful manners. He has one thing I'd love to fix. He scratched his eye at a show about 4 years ago and got a fungus infection, resulting in the loss of much of his vision in that eye. Our vet says he basically wears blinkers on that side naturally. He does very well with it except for when I ask for the canter the second way. I equitated him when I first bought him, so he has nice, methodical cues regardless of where you are on or off the rail. However, if you canter him on the rail the second way (blind eye on the rail) he jumps to the middle of the ring instead of stepping forward into the canter.

He still always takes the cue and never misses the lead, but it's not very pretty. Also, in a big country pleasure class, I worry he'll step in front of another horse and mess them up. I always carry a whip in my right hand when I show him, and it helps keep him from taking a huge leap, but there's still a big step in the wrong direction. I've often wondered if somehow when you turn his head to the rail, everything out there spooks him? It's the only thing I can come up with... If I canter him down a line off the rail at home, he'll step off straight for both leads, so it seems to be the rail that's an issue. When a class is big, I can simply walk off the rail and take a pretty transition wherever I am, but in smaller classes that looks ridiculous. Any training tips?

January 30, 2012
Tip of the Day - The only horses I can think of that are truly perfect all the way around the "ring"... The ones on a Merry-go-Round!

Thanks for your great question. From looking at the wonderful picture and reading your description, it certainly seems to me you have a very nice horse. I am not sure that what you are talking about is truly a training question though. When an unwanted behavior issue arises, we always like to give it a good deal of analysis to determine the cause so that we may apply a proper correction accordingly. It appears to me you can rule out poor training or attitude problems and, as you have already determined, look to the eye injury as the catalyst for this problem. In other words, he is not doing this because he has been taught to and he is not doing this willfully as a "revolt" or because he can. For my money, he truly has a good excuse to react the way he is and I see little chance of "training" this out of him. As mentioned in the Tip of the Day, hoping for the perfect horse is one thing, expecting or demanding it, quite another. That being said, if it were me I would approach this from another direction and I think you already know what that is.

It is very easy to see, from reading your email, you are not just out of the lesson program and this is certainly not your "first rodeo." I commend you for the canter training you have already given this horse as, today, even many professionals seem to be passing over this extremely important part of a horse's education. Your greatest reward for your efforts, however, is the fact it will allow you to deal with the issue at hand. Anyone that looks as nice on a horse as you do, in the picture above, certainly has the finesse necessary to compensate for the canter problem, gracefully. As a judge for over 40 years, I have never penalized an exhibitor who cantered, from a stop, from the middle of the ring so long as it appeared that was their intent. In fact, I considered it worthy of "extra credit" as I believe all properly trained horses should be able to do just that.

Therefore, my suggestion, live with it. Show your horse smartly enough to be in the correct position in the ring to seamlessly canter off on that right lead and enjoy the fact your horse is like a diamond that sparkles on every other facet. A great "old timer" once told me to always try to sell my horse's good points and really soft sell the bad ones!

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

LF Lavery

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January 27, 2012

Well, Toto, We’re Just not in Kansas Anymore
(Discussing the current “health” of the Horse industry)

My question is what do you think of the current market status of the Saddlebred world? I know many people feel that the market is soft right now and I agree. However, I still think there is a strong market for a “competitive” horse in all divisions. So do you think that the Saddlebred show community is slowly pricing themselves out of business so to speak? It seems that for a competitive horse even on a local level you’re going to need to spend $10,000 plus. And unless you’re a skilled amateur owner trainer you’re going to need to spend anywhere from $600 up to several thousand dollars per month on training. So is it becoming an elite company of people who show in most instances?

As someone who loves Saddlebreds and would love nothing more than to be able show on a local level I just don’t see it happening with my budget. I’ve heard stories from the trainers I’ve worked for in the past that you could pick from several horse shows every weekend within 50 miles of your house and there would be a lot of spectators. Now in Iowa we have a handful of shows per year with little to no attendance if you don’t count people there who are showing.

Will this turn around or will it eventually be truly a “rich man’s sport” and the average Joe will just be sidelined?


Tip of the Day – It is for sure everything in the horse business costs more today… the only bargain I have been able to find is on oats… they are much cheaper if they have already been passed through the horse!

Thank you so much for your great question. It might have been better asked of an economist than this old horse trainer, but I still think it is a good question but you need not limit it to the American Saddlebred. To be sure, this situation has spread across the board, Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, Quarter Horses, Morgans, Hackneys, Arabians, etc etc. The “low end” and just average horse is not a much desired commodity at this time. However, the “top of the line” is very much in demand in all disciplines. Are we pricing ourselves out of competition? Yes and no. Is it something the trainers and breeders are doing wrong? Yes and no.. Is this a symptom of an unhealthy industry? Yes and no. Is it because of the economy? More yes than no. Can we “fix” the problem? I am not sure!

If you would truly like an opinion, explanation and an answer to your question from a man whose only credentials lay in the fact he has spent his life in “Manure Rearrangement”, well …click your heels together, for here it comes.

“Pricing ourselves out of competition?” In 1988, I paid $7200 for a decked out Pick-em-up truck, $1.50 a bale for hay, $3.00 per hundred for oats, bedded horses on 95 cents a bale, straw and paid $120.00 a week for barn help. Land was “high” at $2200.00 per acre and long before they became Farriers, the Blacksmith was high at $65.00 for a reset. The Mc Donald’s burger was 40 cents, Gasoline was 99 cents a gallon. Should the electric bill rise above $60.00, there must be a problem. Etc., Etc. As you know, prices such as these no longer exist and the price of everything simply continues to keep rising. Certainly it is more expensive to own and train a horse today and yes, that does limit your market to people with a higher percentage of discretionary income, however, like any other business, there is no way I could make a living let alone make a profit charging the $475.00 a month board and training I did back in 1988. This, I am afraid, is simply a fact of life. Another fact of life and the one that has made our type of business so very popular for so long is the reward one receives from the ownership of a horse and involvement in this wonderful hobby. How does one put a price on the benefit a family garners as participants in this wholesome avocation?

“Is this something the trainers and breeders are doing wrong?” Since we have already touched upon the high costs of training the horse, coming immediately to mind would be the prices being charged for the purchase of horses and why it seems the very expensive ones are the most in demand. Returning, once again, to 1988, you could find a “B” circuit competitive, entry level, horse for $2500.00 and you might be able to win at Louisville with a horse that cost $35,000. Of course, there is something to be said about inflation but from $35,000 to $350,000 seems quite a jump. Why then? Like any product, horses start as “raw” material (colts) and must be processed into a finished product to be a useful, desirable and saleable commodity. Taking into consideration all the costs involved with raising the foal, (stud fees, mare purchase and care, vet treatment, registration fees etc.) and all those we have already mentioned and what they have risen to today, one could easily have $6500 tied up in a two year old, untrained colt. Add to that approximately $15,000 a year to further process with training and it is easy to see why that $2500 “starter” horse is so difficult to find. Also, consider a breeder of 10 horses each year must be extremely astute or very lucky to have 2 of those ten foals turn out to be top, Show, Race, Jump, Carriage, etc., horses while he still has thousands of dollars in the other eight. It is indeed a breeder’s nightmare to find a horse he has raised and has $27,000 in is not worth $2700. The very few “successful” foals must now sell in such a way as to defray the loss. This is simply a fact of any business and when you add the old adage “it cost the same to feed a good horse as it does a bad one”, one can easily see some of the reasons things are where they now are. For instance, spending $900 a month to train a competitive champion would certainly seem to make more sense than spending a like amount on one that does not have the talent to be a winner.

“Is this symptom of an unhealthy industry?” or “Is it because of the economy?” The horse industry, in general, is off, make no mistake. Registrations are down in nearly every breed. Public sale averages have been down for a few years now. Horse Shows, racing and other types of competitions are somewhat “off” in the number of entries. Private sales are down as are breedings. Unhealthy? I think not but definitely feeling the effects of several factors. Tax laws that have adversely affected the write off as a business or hobby now make investing in horses not quite as attractive as it once was. One of the first rules in business has to do with supply and demand. For several decades now the supply of horses has been growing while the demand has been creeping in the opposite direction with the past few years of a slowed economy, almost at a gallop. Additionally, I truly feel we have just experienced somewhat of a “market” correction concerning the prices of horses. I personally feel that although, as we have mentioned, costs of everything have risen dramaticly, the true value of a horse still starts out at about 19 cents a pound and it is difficult for me to justify three quarters of a million dollar prices for show horses and 3 million dollar thoroughbred yearlings. It seems I am not alone with this quandary.

“ Can we “fix” the problem?” About the only expense I see that could decrease, and that will depend on the election, is gasoline. Cheaper gas means less expense to the farmer harvesting grain, hay and straw thus lower prices to the breeder, owner or trainer who buys the products. Cheaper gas means less cost to the owner of the business that boards or trains and uses farm equipment. Cheaper gas would afford less cost and would promote more traveling and shipping to and from horse shows. I fear all those other expenses will continue to rise, with or without the election so we are kind of stuck there. Dealing with the “supply and demand” issue, exposure and promotion, just like any product, is the first rule of marketing. Although certainly an essential part of doing business, advertising in a breed magazine does absolutely nothing to broaden your market. It is the GENERAL public you need to reach. No business can survive by “feeding” on itself. The Thoroughbred industry is, indeed, praying for a Triple Crown winner, knowing that the drama and publicity it would generate is much more exposure than the advertising dollar can buy. The Quarter Horse breed’s shot in the arm will be the reining which they have worked diligently to finally get included in the Olympics. Bottom line, any exposure to the masses will improve and grow your market. Case in point, the movie “War Horse” will send thousands to stables for riding lessons or trail rides. As we deal with show horses, our first and easiest exposure to those “masses” is the horse show. As you have pointed out., certainly not as many as there used to be. I will bet that anyone who showed horses in the 60’s and 70’s has shown on a small town’s high school football field to an extremely large crowd of people. The death of those weekly, "mixed" breed horse shows was a sad day as we are now finding out. They died for many reasons. People aspired to show at the "better," breed shows and stopped supporting them. Those “extremely” large crowds quit going because shows then (as they still continue yet today) did nothing to keep up with myriad of other entertainment options such as cable TV, the internet, AMC multi screen theaters, PBR “rodeo” (a 92 minute over the top, thrilling extravaganza), the circus (which reinvents itself each year) the Rock concert, I could go on and on. The “time honored” and sacred format of our horse shows is so antiquated as to be one of the most boring fiascos a “new-by” family could possibly be exposed to let alone want to be part of. Without the horses, there is no horse show. Without the crowds, there are no sponsors or ticket sales and without ticket sales and sponsors, the Jaycee’s, Kiwanians, Boy Scouts or whatever, found there were easier ways to raise money than a horse show. A business and its market should appear as a triangle, a broad base (entry level) at the bottom and a fine point at the top (the big bucks) in order to truly be vibrant. Without better promotion to the general public, a complete change in the way we present horse shows, a better availability of entry level horses coupled with some wisdom in the pricing of the top level ones, the aggressive support of breed associations in all these endeavors and a boost in the economy, I fear we might soon have an upside down triangle. That is not a good thing!

Take heart in this. For the nearly 60 years I have been involved in the horse industry, this same or similar question has been asked. For those same years I have heard it answered. I am sure mine is no better nor worse than those who have answered before. I do know that some of the answers to the problems lie above although even I am not certain which they are. One person can not change the horse industry but many, who have given the issues a lot of thought can unite and have an impact. I therefore urge you and anyone who cares….Give it some thought!

Thanks so much for your question. Good Luck and Good Riding,

LF Lavery

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January 20, 2012

“He ain’t Acting like My Buddy”
(Dealing with a “Foot Biter”)

I own a 17 year old quarter horse paint gelding that is very spunky and walks very fast. I got him 2 years ago and was told he was very broke but have been having problems with him. I was a very avid rider in my late teens and twenties...however, I am in my early 50’s now and it has been many years since I have ridden so I am very cautious and careful and somewhat fearful. I am working on getting my balance back and when I ride Buddie and ask him to move into a trot....he swings his head around and appears to want to bite my foot......

This move throws me off balance and I don’t know how to react....what should I do to make him stop this behavior? Any help you can provide will be much appreciated!


Tip of the Day – Rule #1……Without control of a horse’s head, you have very little input into any decisions the horse makes on his own.

Thank you so much for your question. So very glad to hear you have started back riding. I always suggest it is just like riding a bike…you never forget. However, unlike bicycles, which are pretty much all the same, horses can be quite different and can offer some real surprises. It sounds to me like your “Buddie ” is full of them with kind of a new twist on “biting the hand that feeds him”. The answer to your question is quite simple.. As the Tip of the Day suggests, it is imperative you maintain control of the horse’s head at all times. The more difficult answers are to the questions, “Why does Buddie do this? And how do I take control?”

The possible answers for why are many but as with most unwanted behaviors, they should fall in three categories: Physical, mental and training or lack of it.

From soundness, conformation, dental issues, shoeing and the tack you use and how it fits, “Physical” issues can cause all sorts of problems including that which you mention. It could well be that Buddie is not comfortable in one or more of these areas when you ask him to trot and is obviously displaying his displeasure. A good trainer would endeavor to find a possible cause by ruling each item out.

Mental issues do not necessarily mean a “shrink” and a couch but a bit of analysis is in order. You must try to determine if the horse is willfully displaying this behavior because he can or is he “defending” himself. This insight will be most helpful in dealing with and correcting the issue.

Training, or perhaps in this case, poor training or lack of it is often the culprit in these types of scenarios. Horses are beasts of habit and can easily learn a bad habit as quickly as a good one. Although, I prefer to think of proper training as guiding the horse in the right direction, prompt correction when he is wrong, can never be overlooked. A horse allowed to be bad will continue to get worse.

Were Buddie mine, I would start with the ”physical” category with special attention placed on dental issues and soundness. Either of these could easily be a trigger for the behavior you describe. Buddie is obviously showing his displeasure to some type of discomfort. Your task is to discover exactly what it might be and remove that “excuse”. Trial and error is the usual approach.

Mentally, it is obvious that Buddie is displaying a reaction to being asked to do something. Yes, he is doing it because he can but he might get my benefit of the doubt as the original reason the behavior started could fall within the other categories. Not giving him a free pass you understand but doubting he is a willful “outlaw”.

It is obvious that training is certainly a big part of the problem. At this point, it is really not important who, what, where, when or why. His training is unsatisfactory. Taking all of the above into consideration and having removed all possible “Triggers”, it is time for correction. Using your hands, feet, voice etc, it would be your task to not allow Buddie to ever repeat this behavior. Should he try, make it extremely uncomfortable for him. Start on a lunge line. Establish a signal for the trot (i.e. a cluck, a whistle the word "trot" ) Repetition, repetition, repetition. When he trots immediately off at the sound of the command, saddle up. Using the same command ask for the trot and at the first sign of any head tossing, make everything uncomfortable for him then leave him alone as a reward when he responds. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Buddie did not learn this behavior in a day, nor will you correct it in a day but take heart, if you are diligent, it will be corrected rather quickly.

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

LF Lavery

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