Ask Our Expert – Richard Caldwell

Richard Caldwell

Richard CaldwellThis Month’s Expert
Richard Caldwell

Vaquero-style horseman Richard Caldwell was featured in the May 2010 issue of Western Horseman, in the final article of the three-part series “Jaquima a Freno,” which discusses the vaquero tradition of transitioning a horse from the hackamore to the two-rein and then straight up in the bridle. May’s article, “Into the Bridle,” discusses the final stage of this progressive training approach. To learn more about Richard, visit

Q: My horse, Trigger, is a 17-hand, 6-year-old palomino that appears to be very competitive. When he sees horses in front of him gallop across a field, he bucks and takes off in attempt to race the other horse. Is there something I can do to stop or reduce this action? I have been bucked off twice, and at 57, I don’t bounce as well as I used to.

Mark Gadebusch, Lawrenceville, New Jersey

A: Sounds like your horse might be more herd-bound than competitive. It seems that there might be more to this story than what is presented. I’m thinking that this horse also may have behavioral problems in other situations where there are other horses being ridden around him.
But in dealing with this particular problem, and assuming that there are no other behavioral problems, there are different theories on how to handle this. When I have a horse that exhibits this behavior, I do some “trial training episodes” on the trail, such as I allow my horse to catch up with the other horses and I make him very uncomfortable when he meets up with them. You should probably start this at a walk or a trot, and not have another horse gallop past you. Your “set up” horse and rider should both be well trained and unreactive to whatever you and your horse might do. This is not a quick fix. It might take many lessons of consistent reprimand before you start seeing results.

Richard Caldwell

Q: How can I train my 10-month-old foal to accept me as the leader?

Anni Andersen, Denmark

A: I turn all my horses out together in a large pasture—they will teach leadership and respect much better than any human can. When you’re working alone with this foal, you have to create boundaries that are very clear and consistent. Small things, such as allowing them to rub on you, or nipping at your clothing, should never be tolerated. Horses react to and respect authority that is given firmly and fairly.

Richard Caldwell

Q: I’ve been around horses all my life, and now have a 3-year-old solid paint gelding that is having difficulty with his leads, more so the right. I hate to admit it, but I’ve tried everything I can think of, from free lunging in a large round pen to lunging with a saddle on and tying his head inward. Nothing works. I don’t think it’s a balance issue (but I could be wrong), as he’s in shape and very fit and athletic. I’ve asked my farrier, vet and other horse people but I’ve gotten a lot of different answers. What would you suggest?

Kerri Werab, Atwater, Ohio

A: I’m assuming that your horse is having difficulty taking the lead even without you riding. Does this horse willingly pick up either lead when he is out in pasture running freely? I’m thinking that there is some physical problem preventing him from using both leads, in which case I’d try a good chiropractor. Another thing I’d suggest—just to see if you can get him to pick up that lead on his own—would be to allow him to lope freely in the round pen and place a log such that he has to lope over it. Sometimes this will encourage a horse to pick up the correct lead.

Richard Caldwell

Next month’s ASK OUR EXPERT features Texas horseman Craig Cameron, 2010 Road to the Horse Champion. Craig is featured in “Dare to Explore,” an article in the June issue of Western Horseman discussing how to train your horse using trail obstacles. To learn more about Craig visit

If you’d like to submit a question, please email Western Horseman editor in chief AJ Mangum at [email protected] by May 21. Please include your full name, city and state in your inquiry. Depending on the volume of questions received, some questions may not be answered. Western Horseman retains the right to edit submissions for clarity.

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