Training Slump

I recently bought a beautiful 4 year old Quarter Horse/Paso Fino gelding. He is gentle enough to lead my 3 year old son around on but had only been ridden for about six months before I bought him. The whole family loves to groom and ride him.  I grew up riding but sold my horses when I left for college at 18. I'm 35 now and until I bought this horse I hadn't sat more than four horses in the last 17 years. I want to train him myself. I've done a lot of reading and talking to experienced horse people. But...

Story originally posted by: Maggie FlowersHorseCity.com Training Director

I'm getting frustrated because of the weather. It's been raining several days a week for the last three months. The stable were "Taz" is kept gets pretty muddy when it rains. I'm in Killeen Texas, it's not supposed to rain this much here. What ground work can I do to improve his "giving to the bit." I've ridden Taz with a snaffle bit and a Hackamore, the latter seems to control him better. What I'm trying to say is every time I get to ride him I feel like I'm starting at the beginning again. Help!

Dave Luttrell

Hello Dave,

I'm well familiar with the weather in Killeen, I from San Antonio myself. But we get more rain there than you do. Your Quarter Horse/Paso Fino sounds beautiful and a good combination, in both conformation and disposition. I hope that your horse has inherited the gait the Paso has, for I will tell you the ride will be wonderful. Back in the 1970s my family was into breeding and showing Paso Finos, I still own a National Caribbean Classic Grand Champion Stallion who is now 31 years old and still going strong. His sire was Dulce Sueno and his dam was Lluvia Blanca. Anyway back to your question.

You didn't mention whether or not you have your horse in a facility where the stalls are in a barn or are individual building, but if your experiencing muddy stall conditions, you need to address this with the manager. It sounds like there isn't proper drainage and that water is not being deflected in a way to avoid the stall collecting the moisture. As to what you can do for the comfort of your horse and your peace of mind, you can access the "Barn and Farm" section of Main Arena of the main page of HorseCity. Because soil conditions in Killeen are mostly dry and rough sand, for your horse to stand in mud or water, tends to the destroy the quality of the walls of the hooves. The hoof is naturally moisture absorbing but it is very limited to the amount it can absorb. Too much will cause the laminae of the hoof to separate and breakdown, leaving your horse with it inability too be shod properly and susceptible to thrush and other foot ailments. Too little moisture will render the hooves extra dry, susceptible to chipping, cracking and splitting. Both conditions could render your horse lame or out of commission for a while.

If the stalls are in large enough barn where you can walk or even perform controlled ground work, then take advantage of this space. You don't have to do lunging and round pen work, when basic ground work will not only give you the chance to refresh anything he has already learned, but will give him the chance to start conditioning his muscles and toning up for the work the spring weather will bring. An excellent exercise is the backing up sessions. It will teach him to pay attention to you and give you his obedience. It will also teach him to coordinate his hind limbs, coil his loins, collect himself and balance over its hindquarters.

As to the snaffle, that is the bit of choice by us professional, especially in school the young horse. Next to that would be the Bosal (which is the original hackamore). To improve "giving to the bit" you actually need to ride your horse doing some light squeeze-and-release action or do the same with some long reining. This is the same action you would do with your seat and legs. I then suggest that you try to do some manual flexing and bending exercises (vertical and horizontal) to begin conditioning the neck muscles at the wither, back and croup. Doing back ups will help the flexion of the knees, hocks and stifles. This is essential for impulsion, collection, extension, and animation. The best exercise for this is the arcing of the neck and spine…the simple turn.

HorseCity also has articles in the archives on choosing bits and their use and on the bosal. For any training tips archived article, go to the main page, scroll down half way, find the Power Search box, type in "bits" or "bosal" click to search. A list will come up, click the article you wish to open and read.

I hope that these articles help you and if you need any help in the future please contact me again. We at HorseCity are here to serve you. Good luck!

Maggie Flowers