In the December issue, cow horse trainer Jake Telford breaks down his circle strategy for a successful pattern. Telford has won more than $1 million in reined cow horse competition, and recently showed Nabsico Roan to the 2012 National Reined Cow Horse Association’s Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Bridle Reserve Championship. Telford and his wife, Jessie, share their Idaho home with daughters Shawny and Sierra, who both ride. Look for Telford at the 2012 American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show in the working cow horse classes held November 2-17.
Learn how to lope circles that attract higher scores in “Circle Strategy” on page 62, and watch “Slow It Down,” where Telford shares his training process for teaching a horse a dramatic, show-winning slowdown.
Q: I have a 4-year-old mare that has started to push her nose out when I ask her to stop. When I say, “Whoa,” she has her nose tucked but as she completes the stop, she pushes her nose out and it tugs on my hands. She is not jerking the reins loose, but it is bothering me that she started this. What is the best way to correct it but not frustrate her to where she doesn’t want to stop?
This is a common problem with a pretty easy fix. We need to get your horse to stop, while being soft in the mouth, without ever saying the word "whoa.” You can achieve this by starting at a trot and gently taking the slack out of your reins until your horse stops and takes a step back. If she pushes on your hands, begin "see-sawing,” or alternating pulling one rein then the other, until she releases pressure. Once you achieve this at a trot, follow the same steps at a lope. As your horse progresses, begin to incorporate the word "whoa" back into your stop. Ultimately, she will realize that she needs to keep her frame during the entire stop and not pull on your hands.
Q: Last year I had a trainer spend 90 days starting my 2-year-old. He came back great and has continued to improve except for his turnarounds one direction. My gelding turns around great to the left and horribly to the right. His mouth is not tough on that side and I have not been able to find anywhere he is showing signs of soreness. How can I get him to improve on that side to be consistent like the other side if I can’t figure out the problem?
This is not really a matter of being soft or stiff from left to right, but a matter of gaining control of your horse’s vertical flexion. Getting vertical flexion will gain control of his shoulders and back. In turn, this will allow you to control your horse’s forward motion while redirecting the motion to the right with your left leg. The first exercise you will need to master is walking a very tight forward circle with his head collected and his back round. In the circle, make sure the horse is crossing his front leg over not under. As you both progress continue this exercise at a trot.
The second drill gains control of his ribs using your leg pressure. Start by side passing your horse to the right, making sure his left front foot is crossing over his right front with every step. These two exercises should help improve your right turn around. If all else fails, go back to your trainer.
Q: My horse is very tall, but very gentle. Lately, my son has taken a greater interest in riding and wants to do everything himself. I am proud of him, but am having a problem with my horse not lowering his head when my son tries to bridle him. How can I teach this old horse a new trick and keep his head down where my son can reach?
I was asked a question about how to bridle a horse that raises its head and doesn’t want to accept the bridle very well. One trick I have learned over the years that helps me teach a horse to put that head down is [to use] this eye socket hole right here. It is a sensitive area on a horse, and without torturing a horse or punishing them, you can teach a horse to put it’s head down. Once they get comfortable with having that head down, you can pat them all over, rub them, and it becomes easy to bridle that horse from this position rather than raising up and looking away. Once I have got that where I can put a little pressure there and they keep their head tipped toward me, put a my hand on top of their head, and they are comfortable with that, then we will add the bridle to that equation. I usually put the reins [over their head] first. As they get used to [the cue] they will get more and more sensitive. Just that pressure on top of their head will keep their head in that position if you work at it enough. It takes practice, but they will get to where they accept that bridle pretty easy. If they want to look away, I just gently put a little pressure in that spot there, a sensitive area for them, and it will teach them to accept that bridle.