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How Do You Spell Love?



Love Birds

Circle S’s

The following exercise is simple,  yet if you follow the steps and stay consistent  it will improve your horse whether you  are riding performance or pleasure.

To start, I want you to use the mildest  bit you can, preferably an Egg butt, Full  cheek, D ““ ring or O ““ ring snaffle.


I want  you to ask your horse to move into an  extended trot, then change directions.  Before the horse changes directions there  are three things you must do.

1. Sit up straight in the middle of the  horse. Do not lean to one side or the other  but stay centered in your saddle.

2. Look where want to go. This creates  a natural cue from your body and removes  the need for you to worry about your leg  placement.

3. Pick up one rein and contact the  horse’s mouth using no more pressure than  necessary to create a turn. Make sure you  pick up the rein slowly, giving the horse plenty  of time to respond before the rein actually  contacts his mouth.

We also want the horse to do three  things before you release the rein.

1. Your horse must bend his head and  neck.

2. Next, he must soften his jaw and  bring his nose towards the point of his shoulder,  “giving to the bit”.

3. Finally, he must change directions.

Be sure to alternate the reins. If you continue  changing directions as you should it will  look like you are riding the shape of S’s and  circles.

It is important to work this exercise at  a trot in twenty-minute segments. Give the  horse a ten-minute break then start again.  After two or three sessions you will begin to  notice your horse starting to follow your  body, as well as becoming much softer in  the face.     This is a great warm up exercise that I  use every day on my cutting horses as well  as my ranch and trail horses. Consistency is  the most important part. If you are consistent,  you will begin to feel like your horse is  reading your mind. Remember, this is not a  pattern exercise, but rather a series of directional  changes.

Recently I found myself standing in  front of a crystal clear pond with my partner,  my paint horse stallion, Beau (Diamond  Breeze). We were involved in an in depth  photo shoot and things were not going the  way I had planned.   I think it is safe to say we  have all had those days. If by chance you  respond as I did, then you probably chose  the path of least resistance. I began blaming  my horse. Immediately I noticed that my  horse’s frustration level was also mounting.  At this level of emotion I found myself  looking into the pond and seeing a perfect  reflection of my horse and me. The  old adage says, “ horse is the mirror  image of you”, came flooding into my mind.  I am the kind of person who spends considerable  time reflecting on my actions.  Suddenly my thoughts were not comforting.  If my horse was a mirror image of myself,  then all the frustration that I was experiencing  was my own fault.  It amazes me sometimes how often I  must learn the same lesson. As riders and  trainers we may get upset if it seems our  horse or our dog or even our child is taking  “too long to learn” something new. During  my lifetime of riding and training horses, perhaps  the most important lesson I have had  to learn is that my horse is not going to be  any more consistent than I am. He won’t  learn through osmosis. I once knew a roper  who told me he let his horses rest without  being ridden for two or three months at a  time because, “they got better that way”. Of  course he was only joking. How many times  have we started out to teach something, perhaps  taking 45 minutes before our horse  finally gets it. We then practice the exercise  for five minutes and put our horse up for the  day. The next time we ride we are surprised  that our horse is not perfect at that particular  lesson. It is imperative that we spend  enough time practicing each lesson that our  horse is both calm and consistent in performing  the lesson.

I am reminded of the story of the little  boy who was given a homework assignment  to draw a picture of his favorite things. That  night he asked his dad to help him spell a  word, but dad was too busy. He tried to ask  his mom, but she was also too busy. Finally  his older sister was able to help him spell  family. Twenty years later his own little boy  asked him, “Daddy, how do you spell love?”  His reply was “T.I.M.E.”. This is a lesson for  all of us. As I looked down into the pond that  day, I realized that what I wanted out of my  horse was love, respect, and obedience,  exactly what God wants from us.   However, I  found that, unlike God, I was not offering the  same level of respect and consistency to my  horse that I was asking of him. Fortunately,  our Master is always consistent, yesterday,  today, and forever.  Until next time, may God bless the  trails you ride.

For more information on Ken McNabb’s  programs call us at 307-645-3149 or go  to

[Written by Ken McNabb with Katherine Lindsey Meehan & published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 1, Issue 6]

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