Ask Our Expert - Kerry Kuhn
This Month's Expert
Kerry Kuhn's practical horsemanship program, based at the JJ Ranch near Coats, Kansas, provides skills to improve a horse and rider's connection through performance. Kuhn has appeared on RFD-TV's Best of America by Horseback, and presents clinics and demonstrations at horse expos nationwide. The Kansas horseman appears in September's Western Horseman in "Transform Your Transitions" on page 66. For more information on Kerry Kuhn and his horsemanship program, visit kerrykuhn.com.
Q: I have an 11-year-old Quarter Horse gelding and lately he hasn't shown me any respect. Today, he would not load into my trailer; instead, he would only back up fast constantly. He would not listen to my cues or the cues from friends who were trying to get him to load. Normally he loads up easy, but lately it's a fight. I've had a rough winter after breaking both my wrists team penning on him, and this lack of respect from him puts me at my wit's end. Any help would be much appreciated.
Dave, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
A: Hi, Dave. It sounds to me like your horse is having trouble following your leadership in more areas than just loading. Often if we allow disrespect in some places, it will creep into others. Don't get discouraged, though, as you can easily bring him back. The first thing to work on is getting him to move out of your space. Just keep in mind that whoever moves out of the other's space is NOT the leader. You can bring life up through the end of your lead rope, a flag, or whatever else you want to use to motivate him to move away when you ask. As your horse practices and improves with this concept, you can start to show him some specific cues for forward motion, such as driving the shoulder forward and around you. Establishing leadership and demanding respect in this manner should eventually lead him to load into your trailer like he used to.
Q: My question is how to properly teach a young horse lead changes. I have been loping the horse and asking for a lead change. When I get what I want I stop and let the horse rest as a reward for his accomplishment. My problem is this—now the horse changes leads when I don't ask for it in an apparent attempt to stop and rest. When he gets tired of loping he will constantly change back and forth from right lead to left lead.
Troy, Lewis, Kansas
A: Troy, it sounds like you have some good things working for you. Your horse is already changing leads and is even trying to think with you instead of against you. The problem is that it appears he's impatient and is trying to think even a couple of steps ahead of you rather than waiting for you to ask. We don't want to punish the horse for trying to figure out what we're showing him, but let's try to be more specific. Instead of stopping your horse as a reward each time he changes leads when you ask him to, try rewarding him at the lope by leaving him alone for a few minutes before you stop. If he changes leads on his own without you asking him to, simply change him back and keep going. Having to maintain a specific lead for a while before he is rewarded will help him get better at being patient and waiting until you ask.
Q: Lately, some of the people I ride with have made fun of my one rein. They all use split reins, and even though I ride Western and my horse is just a trail horse, I use one rein instead of the two. I do not barrel race and my horse is well-behaved, older gelding, so I am not training on him all the time. Why would I need to ride with split reins? What is the advantage to having two reins instead on one rein?
Lisa, Redmond, Washington
A: The only advantage that I can think of to riding with split reins is that you would have something to spank your horse with if you needed to. One rein is actually easier to handle than split reins. As long as your one rein is long enough and you can pick up one side and leave the other side alone, or can set your hand down and give him some slack, you will be just fine using one rein. There is nothing that I'm aware of that says if you trail ride you must use split reins, so go with what is most comfortable for you and allows you to have the most fun with your horse. And Lisa, I wouldn't worry about folks making fun of your one rein. Perhaps they are just envious of how well behaved your horse is.