Ask Our Expert - Russell Dilday
This Month's Expert Russell Dilday
Russell Dilday was raised in the San Joaquin Valley of California and worked on ranches throughout Arizona, California, Nevada and Australia. Before transitioning to training full time, he cowboyed and started colts under legendary cow horse trainer Greg Ward. The Wynnewood, Oklahoma, trainer was named World’s Greatest Horseman in 2008, 2009 and 2011, making him the only trainer to have earned the title three times. Carrying him to all of those titles was Topsails Rien Maker, the first cow horse to become a Breyer model. Dilday also won the 2008 National Reined Cow Horse Association Bridle Spectacular, in addition to being a finalist at many other major National Reined Cow Horse Association events.
Q: My 4-year-old half-Morgan, half-Quarter Horse has started to nicker extremely loud when she’s away from other horses. This isn’t too much of a problem when we’re exploring the backcountry, but I’d like to start showing her and I’m nervous she’ll act up and start calling out while we’re in the show pen. What’s the best way to keep her quiet?
A: The big thing about that horse is when she goes to whinnying or nickering, whether you’re inside or outside, give her a job. Ride her into some circles, maybe some spins, but don’t punish her for nickering. Because if you do, what will happen is when you get in the show pen and she nickers, she’s going to think the next thing coming is that you’re going to discipline her, and that could be a disaster.
The biggest thing is to get that horse where you can bridle her up while you’re going forward, so if she does do that to you in the show pen, you can continue your pattern.
You cannot be hard on her. You can make her do work by asking her to spin, lope circles, turn on the fence, or go follow a cow outside. And when you’re in the show pen, you can make her turn around or lope smaller circles. You need to do something to put a form of control on her without punishing her. If you just go jerking and spurring [on her], it will only be worse when she gets in the show pen and whinnies.
What you should do a lot of is have some other horses around the barn, and go ride in [a separate] arena and do a pattern by yourself. When the horse acts badly, just keep going and working until she settles down. You need to do a lot of working in the pen at home, alone. If you don’t have a pen, just work in an area such as a large pasture. Ride away from the other horses, and do a pattern in that area.
Q: I’d like to hobble my colt, and was wondering what method you use that is safe for both my horse and myself?
Brian, North Dakota
A: Personally, I start almost all my colts in hobbles. I build a set of sack hobbles, which is a burlap sack with the stitching cut out and rolled diagonally so it’s pointed on each end. Put a slit somewhere in the middle the sack and run the tail of the burlap roll back through [the slit] to create a loop, and that keeps it from unrolling. [The burlap] makes it soft. Wrap the loop around the offside leg (the right leg) and twist it until you have the front feet pretty close together. It only takes about two twists of the burlap to fill the space between the two feet, and if your hobble is long enough, you can go around the left front leg twice, and tie a square knot. If you don’t have burlap, you can use a bed sheet. Roll it diagonally from one corner to the other, cut a slit in the middle, run the tail of the sheet through it, and you get the same thing.
For safety, hobble the horse in a round pen or a square pen, and in a place with soft ground. Ideally it would be a small round pen with good ground. If you have solid walls and soft ground, it helps.
Get the horse hobbled and move away from him. If you’re worried about him taking off or running into the fence—because horses will get to lunging with both feet at once—you can stand there with a long lead rope attached. If he gets to lunging too hard, you can pull him away from the fence, especially if you have a square pen and you’re worried about him hitting the corner.
But if you do attach a lead rope, you have to be handy enough to get out of the way when he lunges, because you can jerk him toward you with that halter and he will come at you with both feet because he is off balance.
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