By Western Horseman Magazine
This Month's Expert
Mozaun McKibben has made an art out of winning ranch horse championships. The Whitesboro, Texas, horseman has racked up several American Quarter Horse Association titles, including 2011 and 2013 Versatility Ranch Horse World Champion, and 2012 Ranch Pleasure World Champion. In addition, he has champion titles in Stock Horse of Texas and Ranch Horse Association of America competition. McKibben also adopts and trains Mustangs for the Mustang Heritage Foundation’s Extreme Mustang Makeover.
In the August issue, McKibben lends his expertise to “Total Trust,” a training how-to directed at helping riders confidently ask for a horse to extend its gaits. The article begins on page 25.
Q: I have a yearling that is resistant to having his feet picked up. I’ve tried everything I can think of, but even if I get a foot up he pulls it away from me really fast. How can I get him comfortable with having his feet handled? He’s only had them trimmed once and it was a battle.
A: First, I would put a lead rope around the horse’s foot, pick it up with the rope and hold it, and when the horse quits resisting the pull, let his foot down and pet him. Start by pulling the foot forward at first, then lift it up like you would to clean the hoof. Stand a little to the side of the horse, not directly in front in case the horse resists. This way, you can get the horse to give to the pressure but not be down in a dangerous area if he decides to resist. Just get to where you can pick up a foot with the lead rope and the horse doesn’t resist. Hold it until the horse quits fighting it, then release and pet him. I would work on the front legs first. The back legs could be tougher, so do the front legs first and get that trust. Remember to pet the horse when it quits resisting and does the right thing. When you can pick up all four feet with the rope and the horse isn’t resisting, then you can lean down and start picking the foot up with your hand.
Q: My horse has a smooth trot and lope, but when she walks it’s like she’s in a race. Head up and walking as fast as possible—everywhere, trails or arena! How come she is so relaxed trotting or loping but so fast at the walk? I’ve tried to pull and release on her to slow her down, but she just takes hold of the bit. She doesn’t run off, just goes too fast. Any ideas on slowing her down?
Ann, New Mexico
A: There are a couple things I’d do with this horse. I’d start by stopping and backing the horse several steps every time she walked faster than I wanted to walk. Then, I’d sit for a second before I walked off. If that didn’t work, I’d stop and disengage the hindquarters. To do that, pick up your inside rein high, tip the horse’s nose in, then take your foot and slide it back toward the hip and push the horse’s hip the opposite way of her nose. You want to push the hip around the front end, not walk the horse around in a circle; the front end is stationary and the hind end is moving. Release and ask the horse to walk again, and if the horse walks slow, pet her neck. If the horse speeds up, stop and disengage the hindquarters again. You are making more work for the horse when she walks fast. Make it easier to go slow and harder on the horse when she goes fast so she understands the difference.
Q: My gelding doesn’t lead right, in my opinion. He will follow behind me several feet, but if I try to get him to walk up next to me, he lifts his head high and slows down. I’ve had him awhile and I’ve never gotten after him for leading. How can I get him to walk next to me and trust me?
A: What I would do to help this horse is to put the lead rope around the horse’s throatlatch. Take the end of the lead rope and drape it right behind the horse’s ears. By doing this, you are not pulling on the horse’s head, but pulling the lead rope from the throatlatch. Have someone a few feet behind the horse, and when you start walking, smooch at the horse and have the person behind smooch the horse forward. Hold your hands toward the bottom of the lead rope and not up by the horse’s nose. When the horse starts to slow down or lift his head up when he gets closer to you, have the person behind the horse smooch him forward. You are telling the horse to go forward when he is pulled on instead of pulling against the pressure, and you are teaching him that walking by you is okay and easier than pulling against you. It sounds like this horse gets scared when he is pulled on when he is close to you, and by putting the lead rope around the horse’s throatlatch, then you aren’t going to pull on his head. When the horse walks or trots up by you a few strides, stop and pet him. Soon, he will get comfortable up next to you.