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Horsemanship Fundamentals



Pay Attention or Pay Consequences

By Craig Cameron

Horses will always tell you the truth – they are not deceptive and they won’t lie to you.   On the other hand, how many times have you seen someone quietly approach their horse with a treat, with the true purpose of the treat being to catch the horse and put him to work?   It doesn’t take too many times before the horse figures out the deception and won’t come to the treat.   The horse owner then gets frustrated because he can’t catch his horse and blames the horse rather than taking responsibility for using deception with his horse.

Horses always give us clear, precise messages.   It is up to us to understand and respect the messages being given to us.   When horses are  relaxed and happy, they will keep their heads low, their ears wiggle and they will lick their lips.   When they are nervous, unhappy or scared, they will keep their heads high, ears stiff and usually pinned.   They are telling us how the really feel ““ no deceit ““ just the truth.  The good horseman always pays attention to his horses’ body language to recognize how his horse is feeling at any given moment.   When we fail to pay attention, that is when problems start and we get hurt.   It is our decision to make; pay attention or pay the consequences.

The One Rein Method to Straightness and Softness

In horsemanship you hear a lot about the one rein technique, the one rein bend, the one rein flex and the one rein stop.

The reason to use the one rein method is that you do not give the horse as much to brace or pull against.   The natural instinct of the horse is to go against pressure.   The bit of course creates and works off pressure as do our hands, legs, lead rope, halter and spurs.   As a rider, our job is to teach and allow our horse to yield to pressure; however, it is our responsibility to release the pressure as our horse gives to the pressure.   When we ask our horse to perform any maneuver, he is responding to the release of the pressure we apply with our ques.

In the earliest phases of horsemanship many riders use one rein techniques.   The trouble starts when riders begin pulling on two reins for maneuvers.   A rider should guide, que or hold instead of so much pulling.   When a rider pulls on two reins, it is natural for the horse to brace and pull against the pressure.   When a rider pulls hard with two reins, the horse is going to have the natural reaction of trying to protect himself from the pressure.   This is often exhibited by raising his head and /or gaping his mouth as he searches for relief from the pressure.

When a rider learns the one rein technique, many of the bad habits that are created by pulling on two reins can be avoided.   For example, instead of pulling on two reins for a stop, the rider can simply bend the horse to a stop by using one rein.   This works because the more you bend the horse the more you control the hindquarters which is the horse’s engine.   Practice stopping your horse by using the left rein to bend your horse.   In this case, the left rein is the direct rein and the right rein is the indirect rein.   Slowly begin to increase your use of the right rein (for support) with the left rein to find the stop and keep the horse straight.

The one rein technique is an extremely effective method for any rider to use in developing and maintaining appropriate and effective touch, feel and timing.   I recommend that you give it a try and I think you will agree that using the one rein method is truly a common sense approach.

HIGH QUALITY TACK – THE BASICS ~ Rope Halter vs. Nylon Halter

It is my opinion that a high quality rope halter is a necessary piece of working equipment for communication with your horse.   Effective communication is more easily attained with a proper fitting rope halter than with the typical nylon web or leather halter.   Here’s why; the rope halter has a thinner dimension than a nylon web or leather halter, consequently, it applies pressure more effectively to the poll and nose, teaching your horse to be light and responsive.   A nylon web or leather halter is made of flat material and has less effectiveness at the pressure points for effective communication.   If your horse ever pulls back while tied, the rope halter will not break, while the nylon web or leather halter can break the stitching or the hardware that connects the pieces of the halter together.

If you have never tried a rope halter, do yourself a favor and give it a try ““ you will experience the difference.

Ride hard and always Ride Smart.

Craig Cameron

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