This Month’s Expert
Dick Pieper and his wife, Brenda, operate Pieper Ranch in Marietta, Oklahoma, where they stand the cutting stallion Playgun*. Pieper trained and showed reining horses for many years, and is a past president of the National Reining Horse Association and a member of the NRHA Hall of Fame. After the Piepers bought Playgun in 1993, he began to concentrate on cutting horses and has amassed earnings of more than $350,000 in the sport. Pieper now focuses on starting 2-year-old performance prospects and giving horsemanship clinics. He will be featured in the March issue of Western Horseman in a feature story entitled “The Evolution of a Horseman.” That issue will be available on newsstands in mid-February.
Q: I have a 6-year-old Quarter Horse gelding who, for the last six months, has been very aggressive to 10-year-old a spotted saddle horse mare. By aggressive I mean biting, kicking, rearing up, and so on. He cuts her just like a cow till he has her penned up and then goes to work on her. The more she tries to get away, it seems, the more determined he gets. I believe it’s more than just a herd leader thing. This horse is the best working horse I have ever had, and there’s nothing that you can’t do with him. The only things I have found that scare him are bears and the Air Force jets that fly over. Sometimes it makes for quite an interesting ride when this happens, but he usually calms down pretty quickly.
This same gelding, when put in a stall to protect him from the weather, kicks the barn walls whether the mare is in the stall next to him or not. He will kick all through the night. I have tried just ignoring his kicking, but he does it off and on the whole time he is in a stall. I don’t want him to hurt himself by kicking, so I leave him out unless it is really bad weather.
Any ideas or remedies would be greatly appreciated.
Eddie, McMinnville, Tennessee
A: Eddie, I think that your gelding has too much energy and not enough exercise. I would put him on good-quality grass hay and a cup full of grain, if any at all. Then I would ride him for at least three hours a day and would make this fairly strenuous riding. In other words, for a couple of months, he needs to get tired and stay tired.
I believe this will also cure the stall kicking, but if it doesn’t work, you might try kick chains. These are simply straps that attach to the rear pasterns with 12 to 14 inches of light chain attached. The act of kicking causes a rap on the shin by the chain.
Q: I just bought a small yearling Paint mare, and she is not halter broken. I have no desire to ride her until next year or when she turns 3 years old, but I’ve been told I should work with her all year to get her ready slowly. I was planning on getting the halter on her and teaching her to lead, then go in the round pen. I am not fond of riding yearlings late in the year, so I won’t be doing that. What else could I do with her to ensure we have an easier time when I do get her started under saddle? There is a lot of different information out there, and honestly, I’d just like someone to point me in the right, logical direction.
Katy, Santa Fe, New Mexico
A: Katy, I think you should halter-break your filly soon so that worming, hoof trimming and immunizations will be less traumatic for her. I would put her in a stall and very quietly slip a halter on her, taking as much time as necessary without scaring her. Then I would take the slack out of the lead rope until there is slight tension on it. The filly’s reaction will be to pull back, and you should go with her until she stops, maintaining slight tension on the lead rope. This may be repeated several times, but when she finally steps forward, reward her by dropping slack in the lead. When she will consistently step toward you from light tension on the lead rope, it is time to go to a small pen. After two or three days of leading in this manner, she should be turned in a safe pasture with others her age, but do not leave the halter on her when she’s turned out. She should be fed grain and hay twice daily until you are ready to ride her.
Q: I have a 4-year-old gray mare that won’t lope slowly. Every time I cue her to lope, she gets all excited and wants to charge fast through the pasture. No matter how much I pull the reins or stop her and start again, she refuses to calm down. One night I decided to lope her until she got tired. But even though she worked up a sweat and was breathing pretty hard, she was still on the muscle. How can I calm her down?
Wilson, Broken Bow, Nebraska
A: Wilson, first you should examine how you are cueing her to lope. You should be pressing with your leg, not kicking her. Secondly, if you are clamping onto her with your legs, this is often the cue to run faster. If your cues are okay, then you were on the right track but just did not carry it far enough. Begin by asking her to lope, and then just allow her to go; don’t try to hold her back. When she is sweating and breathing hard, pull her down to a walk and let her walk until she stops breathing hard, and then go again. You may have to repeat this several times, but when she finally lopes off quietly, stop after a few strides and then put her away. You may have to do this a few days in succession, but she will eventually get the idea.
* Playgun was laid to rest on December 9, 2015 at the age of 23 due to complications with his old age. According to the Quarter Horse News website, Playgun earned more than $185,000 in his career as a cutting horse.