20 Trainers 20 Horses 4 Days

1 09 2009

Congratulations to Roland Sawatzky. It was a well earned win. Roland never had a bad word to say about his colt… no excuses… he just made progress. Judges Lavern Schmidt and Ken Schmuland watched as 16 trainers did their best with the horse they had to work with.
Runner up Doug Mills, third place… Kayley Mills, and Fourth Place winner Kim Donnely also rose to the occassion to make the judges job difficult.

Quiet Confidence

Quiet Confidence


20 Horses, 20 Trainers–4 Days

5 08 2009

The Canadian Championship Horse Training Competition is now taking trainers on for this competition.  We’ve had a great response so far and only 10 spaces are left.  Entry fee is 180 with prize money going to the final trainer of 1800.  Competition starts with 20 trainers working in four round pens.   1 hour each trainer per day.  Thursday night, the judges will select 10 trainers to move on to Saturday’s training round.  Saturday night… 2 finalists will be selected and moved onto the final round.

This is an incredible opportunity for trainers to compete and to challenge themselves.  There is considerable latitude as to how you may start your colt, each trainer is encouraged to use the same techniques as they would use at home.  You will be allowed to work off of another horse or to work with an assistant if that is how you typically work.

This event runs in conjunction with the Ivan Daines Country Music Pick-nic.

Daines Comp Poster

Flexion Correction–Beating the Bit Grab

26 05 2009

Problem: Don’t you just hate it when… your horse grabs the bit and dives down with it. How about that annoying, face to chest stuff. Over-collection or whatever you want to call it… it’s not fun and potentially dangerous.

2 Step Process:

1. Block the action. The second you see it coming, block the action… do not wait. With both reins in one hand, move your hand forward and create a barrier with the bit that your horse will feel. Anything other than where you want the mouth to be should feel pressure on the mouth. Not increased pressure, just pressure.

2. Create a Distraction:
Distractions have been used for centuries on kids and are equally effective on horses. In this case the distraction is your fingers pressing into the neck on either side of the mane. If your horse is diving slightly left… press on the right, if your horse is diving slightly right… press on the left.


This works… and it beats the alternative of fighting and using intense bit pressure.

Test it and let me know your results! Love to hear em.

Are Spurs Natural?

18 05 2009
Are Spurs "Natural?"

Are Spurs "Natural?"

The phone rings, I answer, the training inquiries start and I respond, trying to answer questions about my “training program” the topic turns to natural horsemanship.  “Are my techniques natural?”  I fumble with my words, trying to convince the person that my techniques are natural and yet I still need to teach your horse things.  It’s awkward, eventually the horse shows up and the training begins.

Webster to the rescue “Natural–Free from affectation; at ease”.

I like the thought of a loin cloth and a horse being natural, however, being a middle aged white guy, those around me do not necessarily share my vision.

Using Websters definition to ask additional questions.  Is your horse at ease with you?  Are you able to use the spurs effectively without creating anxiety?  Most high speed disciplines require instant reaction at precise timing.  Pressuring up to accomplish more-faster and with more precision.  Lower speed disciplines on the other hand, allow for more of a “natural” response.  Discussion responses pointed out the spur is to be used as an extension of the leg… relied on for back up.  I like that.

I believe there are still a few purists out there.  These individuals completely connect with their horses, they never feel a need to dominate but completely connect and are not afraid of potential risk.  Can these purists achieve the high speed reactions required in cutting without aids?  I believe they can.  I believe there is tremendous potential for this venue as a competition.  I also believe there are very few willing to put in the time required to get to this level without the use of training aids.

For the rest of us, their are aids that can help.  These aids can be used and abused.  The onus is on each one of us to ensure we are coming as close to natural horsemanship as possible within our physical and mental capability.

Finally–I have yet to meet a single individual who professes to use “un-natural” techniques for training.  The reasonable question that each one of us has to ask is this… Am I putting MY HORSE at ease?

Cheers… Joel

Storm Warnin

12 05 2009

The clouds swirl, thunder rumbles and my horse and I carry on. A summer night with a chill in the air, a sure warning their will be pieces of ice in those deep blue clouds. The chocolate bay mount beneath me freshens as the cool air hits her face. She’s alive and I am too and we are one beneath the storm clouds. The leather between us seems to disappear as we ride. The grass beneath her hooves flatten while the rest of it whispers and twists in the sharpening breeze. The low evening sun seems sandwiched between the dark clouds of heaven and the harsh reality of the earth and in between she shines her rays of heavenly rich egg-yolk yellow. And here we are, between, wedged into this glorious spot, moving gracefully through time and space. Running, hanging and I… laughing beneath my breath and into the breeze. Perfection.

Managing the Runaway–5 Step plan

9 05 2009

The stage is set, a bright cold winter morning, a young bay 3 year old Quarter Horse filly, sparkling snow, peace and quiet… enter snow plow on a back country road from behind.  Sheer panic ensues and I feel an unholy terror in the horse I’ve never felt before.   The filly is running scared.  Ahead?  A snow covered, icy swamp full of swamp moguls for the next two hundred feet followed by another two hundred feet of snow-covered gopher mounds and then… a four or five wire fence.

Step 1

Stay calm, take a breath, if you try too hard now, you may lose your advantage and possibly throw your horse off balance.  Your horse needs you to be calm.  Don’t be afraid of the fear, be afraid of the freeze up in yourself that goes with the fear-the panic.  

Step 2

Quick check.  Any responses from any of your aids- left rein, right rein, any give under the left leg, right leg.  You may not get a complete response but you may get some indication of which side your horse is most likely to accept.

Step 3

Give him his head as long as you feel you can, testing continually for controls.  He will need his balance as he travels over the rough terrain.  Most horses tend to slow slightly if given their head. 

Step 4

Make your decision… which way are you going to redirect your horse.  You probably won’t stop him so you’d better decide which direction you are going to head.

Step 5

Execute your decision with total confidence, intent and clarity.  By exagerating your cues, you give your horse confidence.  Your horse may not know anything else at that point so when you apply cues that you have been using before, he suddenly becomes aware that someone else does.  Confidence, Clarity and Intent.

How this Story Ends?

Well, the truck kept coming, the horse kept scrambling and the fence kept approaching.  I was struck by how hard the horse continued to run in spite of the ground that we covered.  The cues for a left turn were applied at the last second.  Resistance continued briefly and we turned a hard left.  There was a brief slowing pause, and she bolted again.  Repeat.

You should know, this was a horse that had been worked out, loped, trotted and had been in a full-on gallop before.  Her over reaction was unusual compared to any other horse I had ridden and I have been on numerous other horses that ran off.  This was a completely unexpected reaction and a reminder to all, always have a plan for the unexpected.


22 04 2009

Winds of Change—What To Do When They Do Buck

The wind howled, tarps flapped and I suddenly remembered I had broken a buckle on my chaps… too late now. The big, beefy 5 year old Quarter Horse shuddered under me. Instantly I remembered a tip I’d received from a saddle bronc rider, “push your hips in front of your shoulders.” The Quarter Horse glanced right and punched forward hard and slightly to the left, he hit hard, gathered himself beneath him and launched another. My left hand instinctively curled up on the left rein, breaking his concentration and breaking through his fear before it could turn to rage. Saved for the moment.

That scenario is the ideal. It does not always end this way. There are some basic bucking patterns that are helpful to be aware of.

1.Nose down hard between the knees- This is can be one of the hardest bucks on the body. Typically, this horse will plunge forward hard. This may continue until the horse tires or needs to turn to avoid an obstacle. Pushing the hips in front of the shoulders is helpful for this ride, driving down the heals comes natural as you curl your hips forward and you lower your center.
2.Flank Protection Buck—This horse scoots forward hard, draws the hind quarters forward and takes short, hoppy steps with both hind legs. The head is typically high and the tail is clamped hard. Creating a distraction for your horse with one rein or the other will eventually break through. Taking control of the horse can give him the security he’s looking for. Something does not feel right to him, if he trusts you, he will look to you for direction. Try and get his attention on one rein or the other… not both.
3.Dead run, breaking into a Bull Buck—This is a tough one and rare. Most horses going into a scared run will carry on until tired or until he meets a barrier. I have encountered one horse over 800+ horses with this “bull bucking” ability. The high speed ends with a head down, hind end twist and I’ve got nothing for this one. I can only tell you what did not work. Fortunately it’s rare.

Top Tips for Riding it Out?

1.Drive the horse forward—hands and legs. This is your first line of defense. Pushing him forward makes it awkward for him to buck hard.
2.If the horse breaks into a plunging buck, push hips in front of shoulders.
3.Hand on pommel with open fingers can give some stability. Personally, I tend to keep both hands on the reins and try to stay in control.
4.Eyes up—look down and that’s where you are going, eyes on the horizon.

Free Falling—Tips for Landing

It amazes me that instructors rarely spend time teaching students how to fall. In martial arts, it’s one of the first things taught. In riding… it’s a relatively untouched topic.

1.The drunk usually survives the crash. Totally opposed to riding drunk but the soft body concept applies. Landing with a soft body will allow your body to absorb the shock, bracing will break something.
2.Break the fall by slapping the ground. As you roll with the fall, if you’ve got a free limb, slap the ground with it, it will help to take the extra shock out.
3.If you have to come off, follow a rein down and come off of the front. Falling backwards may land you on your back. If you fall forward, your horse will see you come off and duck away to avoid stepping on you. They really have no intentions of stepping on you, they would do anything to avoid it if for no other reason than for their own protection.

Hope you’ve found this helpful and not frightening… It is pleasing to think bucking will never happen, ignoring the possibility however does not tend to make a person safer… Fear is not the enemy, freezing up-panic is.

I’d appreciate your insights from your experiences.