Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Does My Horse Need a Tune Up?

Do you sometimes feel that your horse is getting harder and harder to do what you ask them to?

The horse has done it before but now - they seem - well - different. They're just not the same nice horse you once knew.

You're puzzled & frustrated. Not having a good ride. In fact, it's been a while since you had a good ride or great ride. You're getting a nagging feeling that you should address this.

You're having to ask the horse over and over and over before the horse gives a half-hearted attempt to respond. It's getting to be a lot of work to have a good ride.

What gives? They are regressing but you don't know why. Other people's horses get like this too, you noticed. So, you let it go for a long while. You just don't know what to do about it. You were never taught what to do.

But the problem is still there. Slowly getting worse & worse. Darn. You really do need to address it now...

Are they getting amnesia? Sick? Tired? Sore? Bo Bo?
No. All physical problems ruled out - so? What's next?

You're mentally going through the list of things to check that could possibly not be working right.

Does your horse need a tune up? Could be. But how do I know? And trainers can be expensive for what they do. Can I afford to send my horse away to be 'fixed'? And is that permanent? What if it just happens all over again?

You might also entertain the idea that your horse is all used up. Past their prime. No hope to turn them around now...

Still more questions..... humm.... Time to sit & really think this one over....

Or could it be you? Are you asking right? Do you have all your body parts in the right place? Is all your equipment working properly? Are you inadvertently hurting them?

On and on and on the list of questions go around in your head... The list seems endless when you're stuck - your horse isn't responding well - and you're starting to loose interest in riding your horse because of it. And you're not quite ready to get rid of them - yet.

No use.

You throw your hands up in the air, totally frustrated. You're not going to ride cause it ain't fun any more.
What to do?

I'll discuss a few options in the next few articles to help you through this.

Questions? - please feel free to contact me by emailing or commenting to this article. I'm here to help.
©Copyright KISS Reiners


  1. we have to make the horse understand our feelings,as well wwe should also make an equal understanding,

  2. Horse training,
    so true. Thanks for commenting. I believe horses are very good at picking up on our feelings.
    I also believe that riding, horsemanship is all about feel.


  3. Hi Sue,
    I am in a delima. I have been an english rider for years and done a lot of riding just for pleasure. Although I haven't competed a lot I have ridden a large variety of horses well and taken a number of lessons. I am interested in reining and would like to compete But I can't seem to get the 'feel'. My trainer says I am ruining a good horse with too short a rein but honestly you could hang a wash on those reins...they flop and I feel I have no control...Help!

  4. Hi Anonymous with Feeling!
    It's good to read that you are interested in reining and want to excel or do well at it to the point of wanting to compete.
    There is a lot to learn in reining. It's very rewarding.
    And you have a long way to go if you are starting from english.
    And former dressage training would greatly benefit.

    If you keep at it, you will get there.
    Perserverance is great!

    I, too rode a lot (western) when I was young (age 6). I only started taking lessons when I was 23. So I had a LOT to UNLEARN - bad habits from riding without instruction as a kid. And I thought I knew how to ride!

    And then when I took up reining almost 18 years ago.... I again had to UNLEARN a LOT in order to learn how to train and rein properly. And I thought I really knew how to ride! lol

    Perhaps you are going through the same thing. Reining is a highly trained skill even riding the most push button horse.

    I took a few months of engligh lessons (a couple of years before I got into reining) just so that I could tack up and hack an english trained horse. (I can relate better to english riding students because of it.)

    Then when I started into reining, I had to learn to sit back. And because I rode western for pleasure just before taking up reining, I had to take up more contact with the reins rather than letting them go.
    I had to learn that in reining, we have close contact when we need it for training or fixing or learning to rein and a loose rein when the horse knows what to do and the rider knows what to do such as when we are competing.
    It's not the droopy reins of western pleasure and not the mostly constant contact of english riding.

    I know my students who used to ride english, do comment that it feels awkward as they are so used to having contact on the reins all the time.
    They express the feeling of a lack of control. Or a lack of steering.

    'they flop and I feel I have no control'. I teach my students the Cruise Control exercise for this reason. Most of my (former) english students need this exercise and they practise it a lot.
    It's about trust. Trusting the horse to stay where you put them without having to be within a 1/2" of taking up contact on the reins thinking the horse will vere off too much. Or take off.
    You need to be aware of when you have too much contact, like when you rode english, and then not enough when you rode western for pleasure.
    Good luck. A good trainer can help you with this.
    It will take some time to get there but you will!

    If you want more specific help, please contact me.

    Happy New Year!

  5. Also,
    'my trainer says i'm ruining a good horse.', you say.

    interesting..... I am assuming that your trainer is saying this because you have too much close contact on the reins more so than not enough and the horse is showing signs of it.

    Constant close contact is not good for a horse. It dulls their mouth and teaches horses bad habits like chomping, gaging, head up in the air, rearing, teeth grinding etc.. and they are no longer soft in the face. (This can be fixed on a well trained horse.)

    On the other hand, constant droopy reins are a safety hazard as it takes too long for a rider to get contact should an emergency happen.

    You are a beginner in reining so hanging on a horse's mouth too long is going to happen until you learn how to use the reins properly for reining.
    We all go through that as a beginner.
    It's to be expected. Please don't be too hard on yourself.

    We also have a tendency to swing too far the other way and have too loose of reins for fear we create bad habits in our horse. Not good either.

    So it just sounds like, as you say, you don't have the 'feel' yet. You will get there.

    Generally, to learn how to rein for you (and/or the horse), you will need to use 2 hands and use more close contact until you learn how to rein.
    Once you learn how to rein (and your horse knows how to rein), then you will have little to no contact on the reins. It will only then be used to 'fix' or correct the horse.

    Oh! Oh! As I recommend to all students just learning.... make sure you ride a well trained horse. That way you can ride with little to no contact. (And only when you need it.)
    You can learn how to rein one handed 'from the get go!'
    Are you trying that?

    Reining one handed will certainly help you.

    I also try this for my former english students are they are used to riding 2 handed. It's so totally different that it makes them pay more attention to the hand/rein use.

    Good luck! Happy New Year!

    A greener or less trained horse will need more reinforcement or corrections and therefore the rider will have to use 1 or 2 hands and more frequent contact.

    You especially, having ridden a lot of english, would be more confortable riding with more contact. And you need to relearn when to use it in reining.

  6. Sorry for the screwy post above. It got switched around.