How A Horse Is Made -
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
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:
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.
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.
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.