This Month’s Expert
Earnest Wilson is known for his involvement in the American Paint Horse Association, and has earned multiple world championships and all-around titles throughout his career. He primarily focuses on training all-around and ranch versatility horses at his ranch in Tolar, Texas.
Q: I have a 10-year-old Quarter Horse mare. She gets very aggressive toward my other horses at feeding time and I am afraid she will hurt herself or my other horses. I know the alpha horse will usually keep others away, but sometimes she won’t go into her separate catch pen that I made for her to eat. She will charge at and kick her pasture mates even though they are nowhere near her food. I always try to feed her first in her catch pen, but lately she doesn’t care if there is feed in there. She doesn’t want the others to eat either. I want to keep her, but I don’t want her hurting my other horses. They are never in stalls, and the only time they are separated is during feeding time, if she will go in. Any suggestions on what I should do?
Taryn, Hill, Illinois
A: Here are several options that might work: First, can you rearrange your corrals so that it is easier to get this mare in to feed her? Second, you might try to use a larger area for all of the horses. Giving them a little more room might help.
Do you have another paddock to separate your mare from the other horses? If so, you might just keep her separated all the time. Sometimes you can find another horse that intimidates her as she does the others.
Changing locations and conditions of all horses often helps. If I’ve got a mare that controls things here, I might feed her in the paddock and put the rest of the horses up. Sometimes moving them to a different pasture and a different atmosphere also solves the problem. Finding her a buddy could help; put those two in a separate pen by themselves.
If all else fails, you might consider selling her or maybe you need to find an experienced person to look at your situation and recommend some moderate changes.
This boils down to a lot of trial and error. I hope I’ve been some help.
Q: My daughter has a 6-year-old Paint Horse that we recently purchased. The previous owners had not moved the horse from a snaffle to a shank bit. We want to move him up so my daughter can show him at APHA and open horse shows. What do you suggest for a first-time shank bit, and also, what should we do to prepare him to ride in a new type of bit?
Fred, Rosenberg, Texas
A: First, I would try a medium-shanked snaffle or a small correction bit. Set the curb chain so that you can put three fingers under it at the center of the mouthpiece. Get a running martingale and set it up properly using this method: Set the rings so minimum pressure from the reins attached to the bit gives the neck a look of being level to the withers, or the head almost perpendicular to the ground. Give this about 10 days consistently to get started. This should give you an idea of what your horse is going to accept. If this is still confusing, ask a professional to look at the situation. It might be simple to fix.
Q: I have a 5-year-old horse that I sent off to a trainer and he has about 120 days on him. I am able to trot, canter and lope him in tight and big circles to the right, but cannot get him to do the same to the left. He doesn’t appear to be sore or injured and does not favor either direction while he runs on his own in the pasture. What do you think could be the problem?
Carolyn, Nampa, Idaho
A: First, your trainer should have demonstrated your horse both ways at all necessary gaits. He then should have allowed you to ride with his supervision in both directions at all gaits, and shown you how to execute all maneuvers. Sometimes people forget to slow down and execute properly, and trainers do the same thing with their customers.
Never assume something; create it. Maybe lift your left hand instead of lowering it when going to the left. Use your right leg and your left rein to go to the left. Use your right rein and your left leg to go to the right. Be sure you understand how to use leg and hand pressure in the correct way, then execute.
If this doesn’t work, get your trainer or another professional to oversee what you are doing at least three different times in a row to make sure you understand. One lesson usually doesn’t fix things and sometimes you just need a little supervision.