Deconstructed Horsemanship

Last summer I listed a horse for sale that I had trained from the ground up. He was one hundred percent a reflection of the training I did with him. I was proud of how broke he was and how well he listened to me. He was fun to ride and I really hoped to find someone who would go on and do big things with him

Well, quite a few people came to look at him and I noticed something…he was super hard for them to ride. He was really touchy and light and would respond off of the slightest pressure. That is when I had a lightbulb moment.

I was making my horses too complicated and too touchy for the average person.

In order to sell horses I have to take into consideration that the average rider probably doesn’t have the same background I do with horses and they probably don’t spend nearly the amount of time that I do in the saddle. So things that feel right and come automatic to me, are not going to come naturally for most riders.

When I am training, I am constantly multitasking. I’m asking for things of my horses with my seat, my hands, my legs, my spurs and my voice. I have to be able to use those things to my advantage to train horses, but when it comes to getting those horses ready for other people, I have learned that I have to refine it to a point where those horses will respond off of more simple, realistic cues.

I had another lightbulb moment this past winter while I was in Oklahoma for an apprenticship with Tana Renick. Her horses were EASY to ride, and it was fun to jump on them because it was simple to figure out their buttons. I think one of the most impressive things about her horses is that with one hand on the rein you could ask for so many different things and those horses are ready and willing to respond.

With her horses, I didn’t have to do one thing with my hand, one thing with my leg, stand on my head and say the abc’s backwards. I just had to have my hand a certain way and I got the response in needed.

To me, that is the epitome of refined horsemanship. Its doing MORE with LESS.

Do you know how stinkin hard it is to get a horse to that level??? While I was there I spent time with my colt almost every day trying to replicate that feel and by the end of the month he was STARTING to get it but still needed some help and reinforcement most of the time.

Another thing I have learned is that simple is FAST. Keeping things clear and simple for you and your horse in a run is the fastest route. If you have to lift your horse up, move them over, shape them before every barrel, sit three strides out, lift your leg or throw your weight around and check them before the turn, you might be wasting precious time or creating bad habits on the pattern. Its hard to ride defensively and keep things smooth.

My goal with my horses by the time I’m ready to pattern them, is to be able to guide them very simply and easily with one hand and have them rate off my seat. If I am not able to do those things, then they probably aren’t ready to see the pattern.

There are a few videos I refer back to a lot when I’m working on getting my body position right, one is of a run that Tana made, and another is one that Ashley Schafer made. They both ride so quiet with their hands and seem to keep things smooth, simple and fast.

Although there is no universal way to ride around a barrel pattern, I do feel like it is to your advantage to simplify things and refine the way your horse responds to a level that most anyone can hop on and learn. The overly complicated horse is tough  to sell and tough to ride through a pattern unless your reaction time is spot on.

Keep in touch with me on Facebook at JE Performance Horses LLC

I’d love to hear about your experience with complicated horses or easy horses that you have rode!


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