Ask Our Expert - Joe Wolter
This Month’s Expert
Horseman Joe Wolter runs a variety of clinics across the country and from his ranch in Aspermont, Texas, covering topics such as colt starting, cow work, horsemanship, ranch roping and ranch versatility. In “Hill Drills,” an article that ran in the April 2010 issue of Western Horseman, Joe shared a unique warm-up technique that doubles as a great training tool. Learn more about Joe at JoeWolter.com.
Clarification: On page 19 of the April 2010 story “Hill Drills,” Joe Wolter was incorrectly identified as Joe Walter. Wolter would also like to clarify his quote on page 19 to read as follows: “If you’re on a fresh horse and you run up a hill, you could be in trouble if he’s not out of gas when you get to the top, because you still have to come down.”
Q: Can you tell me what to do with a horse that rears? She is green broke and just barely comes off the ground when she doesn’t want to go where I ask her to go. She has had lots of groundwork, and does great with it.
Susie Johnson, Greer, South Carolina
A: Ask yourself, “How am I presenting my idea?” You might need to change how you ask. I would try to reward the horse when she thinks about going where I want her to go. A reward would be zero pressure. For a horse to rear, it has to have its weight on the hindquarters. So I would practice transferring the weight to the front end by getting the hindquarters to step around the front. When the horse thinks about going where I ask, then I would release pressure. I wouldn’t try to make the horse do anything—I would allow her to do something. Allow your horse to work when going where she wants to go, and let her relax with zero pressure when she looks where you want her to go.
Q: My question concerns my 7-year-old BLM mustang, which I adopted off the Internet as a 5-year-old. I wasn’t sure how to train him until I discovered trainers like Chris Cox and Clinton Anderson on TV. I’ve been following their lead, and I’m happy with our progress.
I’ve been riding him bareback ( I can’t find a saddle that won’t slide up his neck) with a rope halter. But, most of my control comes from a 4-foot fiberglass fence post. I put a handle on one end and I hold it up to reinforce cues. If he doesn’t listen to my leg, I touch him on his rump to go forward, or on his side to yield the forehand or hindquarters. If a touch doesn’t work, I move up to a light tap.
With one hand holding the fiberglass rod, I have only one hand on the rein, so I’ve been neck reining him. If he doesn’t turn, I hold the rod up by his eye and he moves away from the pressure. The more I use the rod, the more responsive he is to my leg and rein cues.
In pictures it seems like the rein is putting pressure against the front of his neck rather than on the noseband. Would a bosal be the next step? How would I size it correctly? (He’s 13.2 hands, Spanish type with a straight nose.) How do I use the reins with a bosal?
Kim Hunter, Burlington, Wisconsin
A: It does not matter what you choose to ride your horse with—it matters how you present it to him. If you are polite, effective and reward a try, then he will improve fast.
I like a soft bosal or hackamore. I like it to fit like a soft rope halter, with no daylight around the nose.
I would progress to where I could use one hand or two. The key is figuring out how I can I get my horse to operate, then eventually getting a response using less pressure. First, picture what you want to happen, then adjust with the appropriate aid. But remember, horses learn from the release of pressure. Reward the thought. Also, I would try to wean myself from the using the rod.
Q: My 3-year-old, 15-hand Quarter Horse mare will stand tied. But if I put her in the crossties, she will pull like she’s fighting for her life. Sometimes when she’s done pulling, her head is bleeding from the halter burning her pole, cheeks and chin. She has shredded nylon halters and stretched rope halters until they would fit a draft horse. I use standard ties with breakaway snaps, so I can release her, but how can I train her to stand quietly in the crossties?
Cheryl Kline, Hebron, Indiana
A: The horse probably feels trapped or claustrophobic. Allow her to be at work if she chooses to pull back. This means do not tie her to something solid. Set it up so that when she pulls back, she can move her feet without tripping, but it takes more work going backward than coming forward.
At first you must be sensitive to when the horse thinks forward, then you release the pressure. Pause there and let her think, then start again. Horses learn from the release of pressure, not the application of it.
Next month’s ASK OUR EXPERT features Northern California buckaroo Richard
Caldwell. Don’t miss Richard in the May 2010 issue of Western Horseman, where he is featured in the third article of the three-part series “Jaquima a Freno,” which discusses the vaquero tradition of transitioning a horse from the hackamore to the two-rein and then straight up in the bridle. May’s article, “Into the Bridle,” discusses the final stage of this progressive training approach. To learn more about Richard, visit VaqueroHorseman.com.
If you’d like to submit a question, please email associate editor Melissa Cassutt at firstname.lastname@example.org, April 21. Please include your full name, city and state in your inquiry. Depending on the volume of questions received, some questions may not be answered. Western Horseman retains the right to edit submissions for clarity.