Ask Our Expert - Tom Neel

Tom Neel trains performance horses at his facility in Millsap, Texas. He has earned more than $244,000 in reined cow horse, reining and cutting competition. He has earned world and reserve world championships in the American Quarter Horse Association and National Reined Cow Horse Association. He was the AQHA reserve world champion in junior working cow horse in 2011 with Zackly Right Time. In 2009, he rode Zezes Pepto Cat to the open hackamore title at the NRCHA World Championship Show. Zezes Pepto Cat also has American Paint Horse Association world titles in junior and senior working cow horse. Neel also is a judge for the National Cutting Horse Association and NRCHA.

Tom Neel

This Month's ExpertTom Neel

Tom Neel trains performance horses at his facility in Millsap, Texas. He has earned more than $244,000 in reined cow horse, reining and cutting competition. He has earned world and reserve world championships in the American Quarter Horse Association and National Reined Cow Horse Association. He was the AQHA reserve world champion in junior working cow horse in 2011 with Zackly Right Time. In 2009, he rode Zezes Pepto Cat to the open hackamore title at the NRCHA World Championship Show. Zezes Pepto Cat also has American Paint Horse Association world titles in junior and senior working cow horse. Neel also is a judge for the National Cutting Horse Association and NRCHA.

Q: I adopted an Appaloosa/Morgan gelding who was very green and skittish when I got him at age 6. For the past two years, I have worked with him doing groundwork exercises, and I ride him in the round pen where he has become much more reliable. He still spooks a bit from time to time, but basically listens to his commands. The problem is that if I take him outside of the round pen (which I think has become a secure place for him), even into his own field with his friends, he regresses back to the hot skittish horse who is ready to rear, bolt or misbehave at any given moment. I must add that, for this horse, his herd is his security. Even though he comes when he sees me and follows me around like a dog, if he thinks they are leaving, as happened once when it started to thunder and they all ran, he panics. What suggestions would you have for helping get him past this?

Jean, Vermont

A: Because your gelding is better in the round pen, it leads me to believe that he has figured out that he is not going anywhere. No matter how fast or long he goes, he is still in the round pen. I feel it is necessary to use the same logic in the pasture. After he is warmed up in the round pen, it would be better to ride him in a safe arena; that way you still have some confinement with him. Whenever he gets hot and wants to go, redirect him into a 10- to 15-foot circle. It is important to not hold him, but direct him into the circle and then release him, and when he tries to leave the circle redirect him back to the circle.

Horses learn from the release, not the pull, of the reins. When he relaxes, allow him to continue on until he speeds up. When he does speed up, redirect back into a circle until he relaxes. This needs to be done consistently every time he acts up!

As far as being worried about the other horses, it sounds like he is very herd-bound. What I would do is separate him from the other horses, and basically he needs to be “weaned” again.

Tom

Q: I want to show my gelding in ranch pleasure, and it’s easy to get him to extend at the trot and lope. I’m having trouble getting him to extend at the walk, and that is included in the class. Instead of walking faster, he wants to go ahead and pick up a trot. How can I teach him to speed up at the walk without breaking gait? And how much difference in speed is required?

Name withheld upon request

A: To get a horse to extend at the walk, I usually will take my legs and squeeze, and then release as soon as I feel the horse take a longer step. If the horse breaks into a trot I just check it and try again with the squeeze and release.

In the ranch pleasure, the horse should walk out with a bit longer stride and with a bit of energy. As a showman, it is necessary to get the most out of the horse without crossing the line and causing a break of gait. All of the maneuvers should be done in a very relaxed and controlled manner.

Tom

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