Ask Our Expert - Al Dunning September 2012
This Month's Expert
Professional horseman Al Dunning lives and trains out of the Almosta Ranch northeast of Scottsdale, Arizona. An avid and successful competitor in reining, cutting and cow horse events, Dunning has won more than $912,000. Though he specializes in Western performance events, this American Quarter Horse Association approved judge of 27 years offers horsemanship advice to all riders through his online mentoring program, Team AD International.
In the October issue of Western Horseman, an excerpt from the newly released book, The Art of Hackamore Training, begins on page 82. Dunning and California horseman Benny Guitron teamed up to share their knowledge of the hackamore, training methods using the gear, and how to use it to the benefit of both horse and rider in this addition to the Western Horseman book line.
For more information on Al Dunning, visit aldunning.com. To order the The Art of Hackamore Training, visit shop.westernhorseman.com.
Q: I have an older mare. When she trots or canters she is so rough it is hard to stay in the saddle. When she runs full out, though, she is okay to sit. When I round-pen her in a canter, she almost has a two-beat gait. What could be wrong, and is there a way of correcting it?
A: Hi Doris,
Depending on the age and previous training of your mare, it may be “it is what it is!” However, I have two suggestions that may help.
1. Have your vet check over your horse for soundness. Sometimes older horses have joint pain or arthritis that can keep them from moving properly.
2. Work on your horse’s collection. When a horse travels uncollected, she will move rougher and not have the proper rhythm to her gaits. Proper use of a martingale or draw reins can assist you to create better collection. When a horse feels collected, the trot will be a distinct two-beat gait, and the lope a three-beat gait. You could use a martingale or draw reins to drop the horse’s face, round her back and drive the hindquarters up under her as she lopes. This should help her quality of movement.
Ride well, Al
Q: I have an 8-year-old mare, and she’s very sensitive about her hindquarters. If she’s doing something bad and I swipe her with my reins, she bucks. If there is a horse anywhere within 10 feet of her rear end, she’ll stop and try to kick them. While getting on I’ve accidently kneed her in the rear and she started bucking. Is there a way to desensitize her hindquarters?
A: Hi Shawnae,
When a horse has an attitude problem, I always start by consulting my veterinarian. Gastric ulcers, sore backs, kidney problems or reproductive system ailments can cause a mare to have a sour temper or to develop undesirable personality traits. No matter the outcome, you should start the redevelopment of good habits in the round pen. Have a halter on your horse and sack her out with a saddle blanket. Rub her all over and if attitude rears its ugly head, pull her toward you and lunge her around. Making her work consistently after wrong behavior will assist her in understanding right from wrong. Continue this thinking under saddle as well.
By redirecting her energy to work when she is wrong, right will become the new habit.
Reward her when she acts correctly and be safe in all your riding and handling.
Think like a horse, Al
Q: My 3-year-old mare knows how to walk, trot and lope, but I can’t get her into the right lead at a lope. Even if I arc her body while trotting in a circle to the right, she still lopes off in the left lead. Could you give me some pointers to get her in the correct lead?
A: Hi Jessica,
First, you must understand that horses are bilateral. When you pull the head left, the rear wants to go right, and visa-versa. So, to get a lead, you must have proper control of the hindquarters.
This can be done by bending the neck to the right and moving the hip away with the right leg, until it moves freely at your request. When both sides yield well to your leg, start two-tracking and side-passing to develop more leg yield. After you accomplish this task, and have your horse collected and rating the forward motion, you are ready to retry asking for your leads.
Walk and two-track on the rail with your horse’s nose to the center slightly, shoulder to the rail, and hip to the center. This proper arc will allow you to ask for the hip to lope off first. When this happens, you will be successful.
Sit back, use only your outside leg and keep your horse collected (not on a loose rein) as you ask for the lope. If you are unsuccessful, go back and work on more of the leg control drills that I outlined.
Be smooth, Al
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