Monty Bruce talks
Dealing with a chargy horse
When we are training performance horses we are asking a lot out of them, and pushing them to get performance. We must spend a great deal of time working and training our horse slowly and quietly to give them a solid foundation to work from. It is very difficult for a horse to learn maneuvers, collection or balance at fast speeds, so we again must spend lots of time keeping them relaxed and slow. However, there comes a time when we have to increase speed whether it’s a rope horse, gamer, barrel, reiner, or cowhorse. We have to teach our horses to handle speed and still give us maximum performance. One of the most common problems we can have is our horse getting chargey; pushing on our hands and trying to go faster with out us asking them to. We call that “leaving without us”, and it is a common problem with about every Performance Horse at some point.
One of the biggest problems I see with people when they have a chargey horse (a horse that wants to leave without them) is, they become a crutch for the horse. When a horse wants to speed up and leave without us asking them to and they hold back on the reins and make them stay slow. They are not teaching the horse to stay with you and slow down. They are making slow down and become a crutch. I don’t want to make my horse do anything. I want to teach him how to do it, have him think it’s a good idea, and do it.
To teach a horse something we have to let them make mistakes, then correct them over and over before they get solid. Let’s say we are working on circles or run-downs for sliding stops and our horse is getting too fast and pushy. First, we need to make sure our departures are quiet and relaxed because if the lope is tense and pushy they are likely to continue in that mode. So if my horse tries to lope off fast and pushy I will stop him, back him up, then go into a series of softening exercises to loosen him and soften him up. Then I will lope him off again. If he gets pushy or fast again I will repeat the process as many times as it may take until he lopes off soft and quiet. Once I have him loping off quiet and soft for a couple of strides, to show him where or what speed I want him to stay, then I will put him on a looser rein, and trust him to stay at that speed unless I ask him to speed up. I will not hang on his mouth holding him back with the reins because if I do I make him stay show instead of teaching him to be slow. By holding this pressure it makes a horse feel trapped and most of the time a horse feels like he will push harder, compounding the problem.
So instead of holding him back I will give him a loose rein even though I know he will probably speed up. When he speeds up I will pick up on the reins, taking the slack out and let him know I’m going to take hold of him. I don’t want to jerk on the reins fast. If we jerk on their mouths it makes the horse scared of your hands. Once I have the slack taken out of the reins then I want to draw him in to the ground, which means I am pulling slowly but very hard, to get them to stop. Then I will back them up very rigorously several steps then let them set quietly for 5-10 seconds, then lope them off again. You may have to do this process 50 times on one training session but it will work if you stay at it. About every 3rd time I have to stop and back them off. I will put them into a series of softening exercises again, bending, flexing then I will ride them in a small circle pulling their head to the inside and pushing with my outside leg bending the ribcage out and two tracking them to the out side of the circle to loosen up their whole body.
By doing these bending and softening exercises (stopping, backing) I am getting two things accomplished.
1. I am obviously softening and relaxing the horseÃs body and muscles, which is partly why they are pushy.
2. I am interrupting his pattern of thinking immediately to speed up.
ItÃs a lot harder and less fun to back and do softening exercises than to lope slow. Until my horse thinks itÃs a good idea to lope slow and slow down I will always be battling with him. But in all the training we do we need to keep in mind, IÃm not going to fight with my horse, I am going to teach him, let him make the mistakes then correct it and as may times as it may take till he gets solid
Good luck and God bless,