Focus On Your HORSE by Doug Lindgren Projects seem to be the name of the game here at Hay Creek Ranch. In the last month I’ve ridden or worked with twelve different horses. Some of them had been handled and some had not. Some of them had saddle time and some of them were spoiled pasture pets with no concept of manners on the ground or other wise. While spending time with these Projects I’m seeing a common denominator. In every case, these Projects become much better with time. In every case, no matter how good or challenging the horse, it got better with time. The simple fact is that if I put in some time working one of these projects on the ground for an hour I had a better horse than I started out with. It didn’t matter what I did for that hour, what mattered was that I asked the horse to do SOMETHING. I was in charge and was asking for a reaction and response from the horse and I stayed with it until I got the reaction and response I wanted. I became the horses leader once the horse recognized I wasn’t going away. I did ground work with a long lead and a rope halter. Then I continue to work with my student from horseback. From horseback I can ask for all of the same responses that I ask for from the ground. Being on my horse gives me some advantages. One, being up above the horse I’m working and two, I can use my horse to assist in moving my student around. I was visiting with one of our guests on the trail just yesterday. He commented that the horses I was working that day were sure going well. My response to his comment was that I really wasn’t doing anything special or earth shattering. What I do isn’t rocket science. It’s quite simple, I just give my students a JOB. I give them a job and ask them to do that job correctly with passion, not unlike the way I raised my kids. The key to having good horses that pay attention and do what you ask is to keep them busy every day. Your horse won’t get better standing in the pasture or in his stall, you have to RIDE. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the only way you and your horse will become good at whatever you want to do is to DO IT. Watching a video or going to a clinic will NEVER get you where you want to be. THE ONLY WAY TO GET THERE IS TO RIDE. I’ve often thought about writing an article that would be easy, appropriate and effective. In my mind, I thought that this article would be very concise and would get my point across in the simplest of ways. The title of the article would be RIDE. The text would be one word over and over. It would go like this: Ride ride ride ride ride ride... ride ride ride and ride ride ride. DO YOU GET THE POINT? Simple, concise and appropriate. Hours in the saddle and lots of wet saddle blankets do make a good horse and a better rider. Ride, ride, ride that’s what it takes and that’s what I do. Sure, I have to apply good horsemanship skills in the process and use a little good sense along the way but through the act of riding most of the challenges go away. By riding, I’m able to build the horse’s confidence to follow my lead and trust me when I ask for something. By riding, I can get the softness in feel I want because the trail helps me and the horse. When I follow the trail I’m constantly using the rein and my leg to navigate around trees, rocks and downed timber. The need to move from left to right or bend around a tree gives the horse a real reason to accept the cues I give. I’m not asking the horse to bend and flex just because, I’m doing it for a reason and that matters to my horse. Just today I was riding a paint mare for the first time. I started her out like I always do; I ponied her for half of the ride and then I got on her and rode her home. My horse from the first half of the ride was ponied by a guest. I got behind that horse and the paint followed her just like she had been doing all morning. Follow the leader was the game we played and it worked great. During the ride I stopped to give the paint a chance to catch her breath and then I asked her to turn and move her hip. Well, she had other ideas and braced against the hackamore. I asked by holding pressure and waited for her to find the release, except she just got stiff and then she got mad. Rather than get in a fight I went to the trail and began using it to soften her up and that’s exactly what happened. By the time I got to our next stop for a breather she had figured out what I wanted when I picked up on the rein. I had her giving to a light bump on the rein and she tipped her nose with no resistance and no mad face. I start all of my horses in a Hackamore with a soft bosal. As I ride the trail I cue my horses with light bumps by using my little finger in movements that you can barely see. If the trail goes left I move my left little finger and use my right leg to cue the horse to follow the trail to the left. The same cues work for going to the right, too. Bet you’re glad I threw that in. 26 Issue 6 • 2015 www.PerformanceHorseDigest.com