Ask Our Expert - Bill Riddle

Bill RiddlePrior to becoming a full-time professional cutting horse trainer, Bill Riddle taught history. His classroom experience helps him relate to the amateur and non-professional clients he has helped through the years, resulting in their earning more than $2 million. A 2002 Zane Schulte Award recipient and National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame member, Riddle served two terms as vice president of the association, and in 2007 was elected president. His cutting earnings exceed $4.4 million, and major wins include the NCHA Derby in 1981 and the senior division of the NCHA Futurity in 2010. Riddle trains horses and teaches cutting clinics from his Ringling, Oklahoma, facility.


Bill Riddle

This Month's ExpertBill Riddle

Prior to becoming a full-time professional cutting horse trainer, Bill Riddle taught history. His classroom experience helps him relate to the amateur and non-professional clients he has helped through the years, resulting in their earning more than $2 million. A 2002 Zane Schulte Award recipient and National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame member, Riddle served two terms as vice president of the association, and in 2007 was elected president. His cutting earnings exceed $4.4 million, and major wins include the NCHA Derby in 1981 and the senior division of the NCHA Futurity in 2010. Riddle trains horses and teaches cutting clinics from his Ringling, Oklahoma, facility.

In the July issue’s “Essential Gear,” on page 36, Riddle describes how he uses his spurs when training and why he wears a certain style of spur. For more on Riddle, visit billriddlecuttinghorses.com.

Q: I just bought a new horse that is 12 years old. I found out that she kicks at you when you try to pick up her back feet. What can I do to get her to stop? I have to have the vet come out and give her a shot so I can have her feet trimmed. I have done the groundwork and rubbed her legs up and down, but she still kicks at me.

Makenzie, Minnesota

A: Hi Makenzie,

Let’s take a minute to think about your mare. By age 12, she has lived at least half of her life already. Think about asking a person who is 50 years old to change the type of music they like or to change their driving habits. It is not easy. Your mare should have been corrected or properly trained to pick up her feet when she was young. Now, through no fault of yours, your mare believes she needs to kick to protect herself when you or anybody else picks up her hind leg. I could teach her to lead backwards by a hind leg using a rope while mounted upon my ranch horse, in a safe position, and that might help her. But you would be at risk of injury trying to do that yourself.

Most people and most horses have something about them that I would like to change, but I’ve learned to work around issues that are difficult or impossible to change. If you like your new horse except for the kicking, having your vet out once every six weeks is the best answer and certainly the safest. 

Tip: Prepare a “checklist” that includes picking up feet, response to clippers, loading into the trailer, standing tied, etc., so that you don’t get a surprise the next time you buy a horse.

Q: I’m looking for advice on how best to work on boxing classes with my reining horse. We compete in local stock horse shows and I want move on to [American Quarter Horse Association] level, and I know I need to improve my cow score. Unfortunately, I don’t keep cattle and don’t live in an area where a lot of cow horse trainers live, but there are a lot of cutting trainers. How can I use a lesson on cattle with a cutter for boxing classes? I know a lot of them work in the round and boxing is only one cow in the pen. What should I work on to improve my scores?

Blair, Mississippi

A: Boxing is one of the basic activities I teach a cutting horse. When I start young horses, the first thing they learn is how to box a cow. Find a cutting horse trainer in your area who is willing to help you with the basics of boxing a cow, though that trainer probably will not call it “boxing” but “controlling the cow.” It is the same thing to the horse. If you are really serious, you may want to purchase a mechanical cow that you can work at home. The trainer you choose can teach you how to work it as well. Tip: Most people learning to work cows want to turn too soon. Let the cow’s head get to your knee before you turn your horse back.

Q: How do I know when to move my horse into a [curb] bit? He is 5 years old, and is finally good and responsive, and I do neck rein in the snaffle. I do some trail riding and some open horse shows. I’m thinking about trying new events, and everyone says I need to use a curb bit, especially because he is older. What are some things I should look for as signs to move on? What can I do first to change bits?

Dave, Arizona

A: Dave,

Every horse is an individual, but usually I have my 3-year-old horses into a correction bit by April or May. You can ride your horse in a snaffle so long as it is responsive and flexible, but I like to progress to a curb while the horse’s mouth is still responsive.

I progress from the snaffle bit to, one, a three-ring snaffle without a curb chain; two, a short-shank correction; and three, the solid bit. Remember, a broke horse responds to the coordination of the bridle and your leg cues, not only the bit in its mouth.

Watch a clip from Bill's video, Beyond the Basics with Bill Riddle HERE.

View more horsemanship articles HERE.

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