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Five questions for Ken McNabb, Trainer, Clinician and Host of RFD-TV’s Discovering the Horseman Within.

How do I begin to teach my horse to tuck his chin?

Teach your horse to flex in the poll by picking up on one rein and bending his nose slightly to one side. Maintain the pressure on one rein until the horse relaxes his neck and tips his nose in, toward the point of his shoulder. Then, release the rein and start over. Continue this process until the horse consistently flexes in the poll each time that you touch a rein.

While the horse moves forward, pick up on both reins, slightly offsetting his nose to one side or the other, maintaining pressure until the horse flexes in the poll and drops his nose toward his chest. Then, release the rein. If the release isn’t a big release, your horse will learn to ignore this pressure, and therefore won’t flex. Remember to keep him moving forward so he doesn’t simply elevate his head and hollow out his back. Practice this at all gaits.
Remember, if a horse doesn’t understand flexing, it’s always the rider’s fault.

My horse can’t seem to turn around in anything but a large circle. How can I tighten his turns?

Creating a turn on the hindquarters will result in a tighter, sharper, faster turn. Start by asking your horse to soften his face to the inside and create a bend in his body. Then, ask him to ride in a circle that’s the shape of the horse’s “arc.” Use your outside hip and imagine you’re pushing that hip through the horse’s inside ear.

This creates a cue—pressure on his back—from your seat. To escape this pressure, your horse will step forward and to the inside. It might take a couple of circles before he figures out the timing of the release.

Once he’s stepped to the inside, release the cue and start over. When you get one step consistently, ask for two steps, then three, and so on, until your horse will place his inside rear leg in the ground and pivot around it.

My colt is stuck on a higher speed at the trot and lope. How do I gain more control over a colt’s speed at these two gaits?

When it comes to speed control, the less you hang on your horse’s mouth, the easier it will be to slow him down. When you pull on your horse, he will begin to push on you.

To get a horse to travel at a consistent speed, ride him to that gait, then relax. If your horse speeds up, offer a verbal cue for him to slow down by exhaling all of the air out of your diaphragm in a one-note “hmmm.” This gives the horse a chance to slow down on his own.

If he doesn’t slow down, then stop the horse, back him a few feet, turn 90 degrees and immediately resume the speed you were traveling. Your horse should start to anticipate stops, and should begin to slow down when you hum to him.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a horsehair mecate versus a nylon mecate?

There are two advantages to a horsehair mecate. First, there is absolutely no stretch in horsehair, so a rein cue is firm and clear. Second, the horsehair texture is rough, making for a clearer cue against the horse’s neck. The only advantage I see to a nylon mecate is its durability, washability and softness on the hands.

Even though I ride Western, I find it comfortable to post at the trot. How do I know if I’m posting correctly in relation to my horse’s footfall?

In posting the trot, it’s easiest to practice at a walk until you can tell when the horse’s inside hind leg is coming up under you. Once you learn to feel this, begin practicing rising to the post as the inside hind comes up under you. Then, you can advance to a trot.

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