OK, after talking to people who are coming to the clinic and working with some folks who are interested in Cowboy Dressage, it is time to come up with a game plan for the clinic. Here is some advanced homework that will make things work smoothly for us:

TROT TROT TROT: I don't care if you believe you are riding a Western horse and you only need to jog, you need to get you horse trotting FORWARD on a fairly loose rein. That is because we want him fitter and with strong topline muscles so he can perform the exercises we want him to do. Trotting helps loosen up your horse's muscles and prepares him to settle down and get some good training done.

PLEASE get your horse out either in a round pen, riding or ponying. A horse needs lots of exercise to give you his best, and riding him or turning him out once a month is just not going to cut it.

YOU DO NOT need to come prepared with a bag of tricks. We will work on bending, suppling, moving the feet and MAYBE backing and some transitions. I will demonstrate what you can teach your horse to do and how to progress in that direction with muscle-building and obedience exercises.

Once again, I can not stress enough the importance of riding in a SNAFFLE BIT if you want to progress. A snaffle is a bit that DOES NOT have shanks, a chin strap or chain, or any other device to create leverage. If you pull sideways on a snaffle bit, it will tip your horse's head in the direction you are pulling. If you pull sideways with a shanked bit, it will crank on the horse's jaw and cause him to drop his outside ear, open his mouth and MAYBE move in the direction of your pull -- chin first. A SHANKED BIT IS NOT MADE TO GIVE A HORSE A DIRECT, sideways PULL (also called a leading rein). Your horse should be neck reining if you have a shanked bit on him. You can stop a horse in a snaffle bit. Saying your horse will not stop is not a reason to use a shanked bit. The worst runaway on Earth is one with his nose on his chest in a shanked bit. Additionally, your horse is not going to be punished as severely if your hands make mistakes in a snaffle bit.

TRY THIS SIMPLE EXERCISE: Pull your horse's head around until you can lean down and feed him a treat while you are sitting in the saddle and holding his head around. Then let go of the reins and pet him. Come to the clinic wiht treats in your pocket. DO NOT argue that it is not correct to "bribe" the horse. When I work, I do not consider my paycheck a bribe; neither should the horse. 

EPILOGUE: What I do with horses isout of respect for the horse and myself. I truly LIKE the horses I work with, and I think they know that. The absolute most import thing for a young, unspoiled horse or one that comes with baggage is to find a way to let him know when he gets it right. Sometimes we have to reward the most inconsequential thing to let him know what a reward IS. Once he really understands that, I like to think the tables have turned, and he changes his behavior so that he can "train" us to reward HIM.




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