This Month’s Expert
A successful reining horse trainer from Weatherford, Texas, Casey Deary competes in the National Reining Horse Association, and has accumulated more than $250,000 in winnings. Deary coaches youth and amateur clients to successfully work with their horses, not only in competition, but every time they ride. He and his wife, Nicole, who have two sons, strive to breed, train and show quality horses in the reining industry. Deary offers expert advice on achieving collection in the Hands-On Horseman section article, “Drive from Behind,” in the May issue of Western Horseman. For more information on Casey Deary and his training methods, visit dearyperformance.com.
Q: I have a 9-year-old draft-cross gelding that is very food-aggressive to humans and horses. Last year, while I was carrying hay to his pasture, he busted through the gate, kicked me with both back legs and tore the ligaments from the bone. He will also corner and kick other horses if they come within 15 feet of his hay. Sometimes he will just corner them and kick them for no apparent reason. My concern is that he may hurt someone again; however, when he is under saddle and on the trail or in the show ring, he is awesome and knows he has a job to do. I have been doing a lot of groundwork with him, trying to teach him to be more attentive and respectful to humans. It seems just when I think he is responding, he will act out again. Due to cold and snow, it has been difficult to work with him the last few months. Do you have any suggestions, as I am not really very trusting of him right now?
Phyllis, Cleveland, Ohio
A: From your description it sounds like that horse has no respect, or fear of, people. The first thing I would try is to put a shock-type collar on the horse (sometimes called a vice breaker) and use that to teach him the proper response to other animals near him or his food. You can use this to correct him without being near him and in harm’s way. Clinton Anderson promotes one called The Vice Breaker by Tri-Tronics.
If he pins his ears and makes an aggressive move toward another horse, I would hold the shock until he moved away from the other horse. Make sure to adjust the shock to where he feels it. This horse needs to learn respect. You can regulate or control his reaction with another horse or humans from outside the fence, or from the barn, where you feel safe.
Second, I might try to use sideline hobbles on him. This is a hobble that attaches—using a 3- or 4-foot rope—the front leg to the back leg on the same side. It keeps him from making a hard, fast move. You can put it on a horse where he can move and graze naturally, but if he were to move aggressively to fight—say rear or lunge forward—he would be at the disadvantage. Repetitive use of this should teach him not to act aggressively. If one of these methods doesn’t break him of his action, I would seek help from a professional to solve this problem. A horse of that size, who has injured you before, needs to be corrected for your safety.
Q: Generally, I do not shoe my horses as I ride them on the trail for pleasure and not more than twice a week, but I would like to get into some of the local horse shows. Do I need to shoe my horses if I ride them more often? Also, if I ride them in classes that require stops and turnarounds or trail obstacles, would it be better to shoe him? Thank you!
Karen, Savannah, Georgia
A: In my opinion, a horse doesn’t need to be shod to go to a horse show. I leave the majority of my reining horses barefoot up front, and put sliding plates on the back feet. We need that aid to make large slides in reining. Leaving them barefoot takes all the guesswork out of shoeing because the front feet will wear naturally. In my mind, I think I would be better off going barefooted than trying to run a marathon in my wife’s high heels.
If you have a shoe that is unbalanced or too small, your horse if better off bare. A horse stops better barefooted than with a regular shoe because a regular shoe gets more traction and makes them stop more abruptly. Unless you were showing for reining or a cow horse class, you could leave him barefoot.
An unshod horse’s hooves get better circulation and their hoof can expand and contract like it is supposed to. Generally, if wear causes the hoof wall to break off more often, you need to trim more often. All of this is in general terms, and you should talk to your horseshoer if problems arise.
Q: When I ask my horse to turn around, he tends to spill out with his hind legs, rather than keeping them planted and moving with his front feet. He also usually sticks his nose in the air when I ask for him to turn around. How can I get him to turn correctly?
Judy, Oklahoma City, OK
A: The first thing I would do is check to see if the curb chain is too tight. It sounds like when his hind legs move, his head goes up. This could be a tooth thing, or if the bit is too high in his mouth and putting too much pressure on him. If the curb is too tight, the first thing that will happen when you pull is that the curb chain bites the chin before the bit moves to the proper angle to get the response you are after.
Now, the next step is to move the front feet, not push the hip over. The worst thing you can do now is push the hip when they spill out. When you push the hip over, the horse has to hold its body with the front feet. If he’s holding that weight, his front feet are not moving. Get the horse trotting in a circle, leaving about six feet between it and the fence. Stop the horse parallel to the fence, or with his head slightly tipped away from the fence, and using your outside (fence-side) rein to steer, roll back into the fence. Immediately trot out. By pulling the nose toward the fence to turn and forcing your horse to trot out, it gets their front feet to move. Moving the front feet is essential to getting their weight shifted to the back and engaging the hindquarters. Work this exercise repetitively and keep the feet moving. The key is to not stop the front feet from moving. Eventually, they will learn to plant the hindquarters better.