This Month’s Expert Blue Allen

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Reined cow horse trainer Blue Allen is based out of Alamosa, Colorado, where he lives with his wife, Jeannie and son, Caden. After graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in animal science, Allen went from cowboying to team roping to rodeoing before settling down to work with reined cow horses.

Allen worked with NRCHA Hall of Famer Stan Fonson before starting his own training operation back in his hometown. Since then he has focused on starting colts, riding futurity prospects, and working with youth and amateur riders.

Aboard Whiskey Starlight, Allen was National Reined Cow Horse Association limited open bridle reserve world champion in 2007. He also won the limited open bridle at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity on Chics Peppy Pistol in 2008 and 2009.

Q: My horse has learned that by pushing his shoulder into me on the ground, he has control of the situation. He’s 3 years old, and started under saddle, but I want to work on his ground manners before tackling any other training. Of course he is much stronger than me, and pushing back on his shoulder doesn’t fix the problem. What should I do?
Candice, South Dakota

A: My suggestions would be for you to get a little switch and tap the horse on the shoulder. The trick is to do as little or as much as necessary to get the desired response (your horse moving its shoulder away from you).

On the ground, start by lightly tapping the horse’s shoulder until the horse moves away from you, then stop tapping. If it does not move, you need to be more assertive by tapping harder and/or more frequently. This is fairly straightforward. If the horse moves away, you’ve been assertive enough. If it does not, you need to be firmer.

Once the horse learns to move away from the pressure of the little switch, you can gradually progress to less and less pressure in order to move your horse.

You mentioned working on ground manners before any other training. You also mentioned that he had been started. Ground manners and riding do correlate to one another, but the relationship is not parallel. I have seen horses that have great ground manners but do not ride well, and vice versa.

The best way to get a horse to ride well is to ride it. For this reason, I encourage you to ride or have the horse ridden during the same timeframe that you work on ground manners. Waiting to continue riding the horse is like telling a child they must learn to read before you begin working on math. Similarly, when a child goes to school, they go to work on reading part of the day and math during another part of the day. The same concept can be applied to the horse.

Q: I have a 7-year-old Paint who I’ve been working with for several years, and he’s come a long way since I bought him. He has a great temperament, is soft in the face, and moves off my leg nicely. However, lately he’s been tripping up in the lope. It’s his right hind leg, and I’m not sure if he’s being lazy or if it’s something more. How can I tell?
Tom, Utah

A: First, I would start with the process of elimination to ensure that the health of the horse is not in jeopardy. There is a possibility that the horse is having soundness issues, and perhaps it is something as simple as having long toes that need to be trimmed. I recommend contacting your farrier and veterinarian to make sure everything looks fine.

They may suggest turning to a good lameness vet. Although the horse is lame in the right hind that does not guarantee that’s where the problem is; it could very well be in the horse’s front end. I would make sure to rule these potential problems out before training harder on him.

If the prognosis is good after evaluation, you could very well just have a lazy individual. In that case you might very well have to work through some of the issues he is having picking up his feet. This could be as simple as being more assertive with your feet and needing to kick or even spur him forward, causing him to pick his feet up. You might consider using a dressage whip or spurs to encourage forward momentum.

Remember you have to control the tempo of your horse’s feet with your feet. There are times when you might need to kick a little harder so that over the long run you can kick less. You need to make your point clear and quick in order to speed his feet up, which will reduce tripping.

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