Ask Our Expert - Chance O'Neal (2012)

Chance O'Neal

This Month's ExpertChance O'Neal

As head trainer for the Four Sixes Ranch in Guthrie, Texas, Chance O’Neal starts colts and trains the ranch’s top prospects for competition. He also shows Four Sixes horses in cow horse and ranch versatility events, and in 2008 he rode Sixes Pick to the first AQHA World Championship in versatility ranch horse.In the December issue of Western Horseman, O’Neal shares tips on training a 2-year-old prospect to stop naturally. Beginning on page 29, the article describes how he uses patience, pressure release and a young horse’s natural tendencies to teach it to sink its hocks in the ground and remain light and elevated on the forehand.

Q: I have a 4-year-old barrel horse who continually spooks at one end of our home arena. It is the end that faces out into an open area where people park trailers during races. She spooks when there are trailers there and when it is empty.

I have tried tying her at that end for extended periods and she stands nicely. I usually work her easy at that end and hard at the other to make that end more welcoming. When she spooks, I work her in closer and closer circles to the end of the arena or whatever seems to be the boogie man that day, but nothing seems to work.

She will spook at things such as a person walking or sunlight reflecting on a puddle. Sometimes I can’t figure out what she is upset by.

I take her to other arenas, and while she will always be a spooky mare, she doesn't spook nearly as badly as she does at home. She crosses most anything on the trails and has even done all the obstacles on a cowboy challenge, except go near the pigs.

I know at this point I am probably tenser when we go to the end of the arena and am making it worse. I try singing to her and that helps us some. Any suggestions?

Alice, Iowa

Alice,I believe that you are on the right track with your approach. Looking at yourself and your anxiety of that end of the arena is a step in the right direction. I have actually had a similar problem with a show mare I had in dragging a log. I did some of the same things you are doing with your mare, such as working harder at one end and slower at the “scary” end. One of the things that helped my mare was allowing her to rest while I was still on her as opposed to tying her at that end. Since you said that you may be tense also, your mare needs to feel you relax. Mares are smart; therefore, it may take longer and require much-needed patience to get the result you are looking for.Chance

Q: I bought an older gelding that won’t stand still while I get on. He’s a quiet, well-trained horse that is great for trail riding. But once I try to put my foot in the stirrup, he starts walking in circles and squirming. Even though I’m holding the reins, he won’t be still and wants to take off. How can I get him to stop?

Laura, Georgia

Laura,Let’s start with your approach to mounting. If you are holding your reins with your left hand and grabbing the cantle with your right, you can’t stop your horse from moving. If this is the problem, you may want to try a different approach. Try holding your reins with your left hand and grabbing the saddle horn with your right. This will allow you to prevent your horse from moving. If he moves, you are able to pick up and stop him. Another thing that you may want to look at is how far are you putting your foot in the stirrup. I always put my toe in the stirrup to prevent me from poking the horse in the side. Chance

Q: I own a 4-year-old gelding that in the last year has become a bully. He picks on two horses mercilessly—a 2-year-old stud colt and my 7-year-old mare, who was higher than him in pecking order until earlier this year. When he is turned out with my dad’s older mares or 3-year-old mares, he is in charge but treats them okay. With my mare or the stud colt, he chases them all over the pasture, pins them in corners and kicks, and nips the hide off of them. I am able to keep them separated for now, but is there anything else I can do to stop his behavior?

Jason, Texas


My main concern lies with your 2-year old stud colt. As he has matured, your 4-year-old is starting to feel threatened. Since your gelding is older, he is trying to show his dominance. While not having the 2-year-old to compete with, this may be the reason he gets along with your dad’s mares. If you are planning to keep the 2-year-old as a stud prospect, then separating him would be a solution; otherwise, gelding your colt may be your best option.Chance

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