How A Horse Is Made -  Part 2

I said in part one of this article: “I am amazed at how many people ride horses that don’t have any idea how a horse is made and how much the way that they are made influences the way they perform.”    I thought later that that was a strange thing to say, coming from a person that had won 3 world championships before realizing how they are made and how it influences the way that they perform.  I had won titles in Ribbon Roping, Flag Racing and Barrel Racing before moving to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1971.   After that move, I met a man named Lowell Boomer.  That meeting forever changed my life.

Lowell was in his 70’s when I had the privilege to meet and take a few lessons from him. I had grown up on a cattle ranch and ridden horses all my life and did not know the first thing about all the wonderful things that Lowell began to teach me. Lowell taught Dressage and Jumping, but the basic things he taught me would work on any horse for any event.   He made me realize that we will never stop learning as long as we open our minds to be a student of the horse.   

The way that his knowledge changed my life was that I knew that I would never again be content to just know the things that had already helped me become successful, but to go on a journey to learn for the rest of my life.  I am still on that journey and know that I will never arrive at the end until my life is over.  So, I wanted to admit that I was among those that I had written about and still don’t know as many concepts as I would hope to learn as each day is spent riding horses, giving lessons and watching people and horses. 

Another common question that I get in lessons and clinics is this:  “My horse will not change leads coming across from the first to the second barrel – what can I do?”    This goes back to last month’s article.  When your horse is moving, he should move in a straight line with his hind feet following into the front tracks.  This is called “true tracking” or “framed up.”   If the horse is running crooked, you can see that he would have a hard time changing hind leads in preparation for the second barrel. 

If your horse is not changing leads coming across to the second barrel, have someone stand at the first barrel lined up with the second and video your horse from the back as he runs to second.   The most common causes of untrue tracking are: 

  1. Coming around the first barrel pulling on the inside rein.  This puts the horse’s nose to the inside of the straight line coming across the arena and his butt to the outside of that straight line.  If you are not releasing his head when leaving the first barrel, he cannot push off straight and be in position to change leads and line up going to the second barrel pocket.

  1. If you slice your pocket coming into first barrel, it puts you in too close and then you will be coming out wide on      the leaving side of the barrel.  This also causes you to try to get back to the straight line coming to the second barrel and usually gives you more of a figure 8 coming across causing your horse to be crooked when trying to change leads in preparation to turn second. 

  1. Riding around barrel one without your saddle horn can also cause you to leave barrel one with both hands on the reins and balancing your weight on the reins instead of the saddle horn.  This causes your horse’s head to come up.  When the head comes up, the balancing tool (neck) of the horse becomes useless and the body of the horse is not in position to change leads. 

All of the above create a problem for the smooth lead change because we have placed the body of the horse out of position to make the easy change.  If a horse gets into a habit of having his head pulled to the inside of that straight line and putting his butt to the outside of that line, it will not change until the rider changes his or her rein handling. 

Ideally, we will come off of first headed straight for the pocket of second with our gravity point over the gravity point of the horse allowing the horse to be framed up and running forward true tracking.  This will allow him to be in position to make the fast change and not try to turn the barrel out of lead behind. 

Any time we see a horse that is not traveling true tracking, we need to examine the front part and see what is going on with the rein handling that effect the head and neck.    

Study this month how the feet fall in a pattern when a horse is running and you will understand fully how important it is for his head and neck to be free and pulling forward as his feet hit the ground in a three beat pattern.  God designed the horse to move in a wonderful way.  For him to move his fastest, we must be in balance with him and put him in position to move freely and smoothly.

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Last modified: January 05, 2014