Ask Our Expert - Zane Davis
This Month's Expert
Montana horseman Zane Davis trains reining and reined cow horses. He rode the gelding Reymanator to the 2009 open championship at the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s Snaffle Bit Futurity. In the September 2010 issue of Western Horseman, he explains how riders can make training sessions more effective by basing their regimens on their horses’ personalities. Here, he answers three reader questions about horsemanship.
Q: My 5-year-old gelding will not stand still when I try to get up into the saddle. He runs or shies away from me when I put my foot in the stirrup. What do I need to do to fix this?
Ryan Bean, Beaumont, Texas
A: I use a "come-along" halter, sometimes referred to as a "war bridle," on horses that don't stand to be mounted. If you are not familiar with the come-along, it is usually tied with a nylon rope and applies pressure across the bridge of the nose and the top of the poll. If the horse goes forward or jumps away when I put my foot in the stirrup, I just pull the "come-along" halter. It only takes a couple of tugs and a horse stands perfectly. However, if you are not experienced with this piece of equipment, it is best to consult someone who can show you how to tie and use it properly.
Q: I ride up some fairly steep hills with my 10-year-old Quarter Horse. I have to really get after him at times to get him up a hill. My biggest fear is that he’ll sidestep to avoid going uphill. If he sidesteps too much, he could easily stumble going sideways on the hill. Should I begin using spurs to keep him traveling straight?
Brad Tjossem, Vail, Colorado
A: I am assuming your horse has no physical problems and is in good health. I am also assuming your saddle fits properly. Problems in either of these areas can result in a horse with a less-than-enthusiastic hill-climbing attitude. If it's just a laziness issue, then I would absolutely recommend using spurs. Remember, a spur is not a weapon. It's just a tool to reinforce a cue. Strong reinforcement may be necessary at first, but will lessen once the horse better understands the cue. Ultimately, most horses will learn to respond when you just squeeze your legs.
Q: When trailering horses, is it best to tie the horses’ heads, or leave them untied in the trailer? I use a non-stock-type gooseneck, with dividers.
Rick Parker, Omaha, Nebraska
A: I got in the habit of tying my horses because I once had a trailer with dividers that allowed them to get their heads over into the next stall. This was a real problem when I hauled studs. Most trailers, however, are made with dividers that don't allow a horse to turn its head around. If your trailer has good dividers, then whether you tie your horse or not is totally up to you and your horse. I will caution you that if you don't tie, some horses are in a big hurry to leave their stalls once dividers are opened.
Next month’s ASK OUR EXPERT features Montana horseman Greg Eliel. (Learn more about Greg here.)
View more horsemanship articles here.
If you’d like to submit a question, please email Western Horseman editor-at-large AJ Mangum at