We have arrived in Oklahoma City! It is hard to believe it is that time of year again! It is like a time warp coming here each year. The horses change, but the people stay the same! Todd and One Night Whiz show on Saturday in their first go. We are excited to get to run this horse and are doubly thrilled that we own this wonderful horse. It is so neat to get to see one of your own go do the dance! Dwaine will show on Monday on Playboys Last Fling. She is a gem of a mare and we have high hopes for this pair. If you are in Oklahoma City, stop by, we would love to see you and meet you! We are in the Super Barn. We will post pictures and keep you up to date!
The year is quickly coming to an end! Which is really, really hard to believe. This week we head out to Katy to our last weekend show of the year! Then a few short weeks later we are off to the NRHA Futurity. Todd is completely thrilled about this year’s futurity, as he gets to show Brick aka One Night Whiz. He truly loves his horse and looks forward to getting to the big pen with him. We are also going to the Appaloosa World show at the end of this month to show VKS Thundermoon. Look for Todd in the show pen on him!
Also, we are going to do a clinic here at the house in December. Watch the website and facebook for more details!
Waco Warm Up is in full swing! Dwaine Rivers showed on Playboys Last Fling in his first futurity and was 4th! Well done Dwaine! Julie Crosby placed 2nd in her youth class on Mistress Gotta Gun. They looked fantastic together. Todd was 4th on Down By the Seaside in the Open. Mike Seay won the year end custom hat award on his horse Diamond! He was so thrilled, and it was a joy to watch him mark a 72.5! We have a few more showing today! Will keep you posted!
We are back from the Derby, and it was a great show! It was incredibly HOT, but in the end Todd made the Level 2 and Level 3 Open Finals on Wimpys Lil Hollywood. He placed 5th in the Level 2 finals and 11th in the Level 3. Congratulations to him and to all of the finalists. Tell Edgmon showed Black Magic Starlet in the solid paint class and won. So congrats to him too.
I also want to welcome Candy James to the barn with her horse Hobbs. We picked Hobbs up at the Derby and he is settling in nicely. Last, but not least I want to congratulate Sergio Elizondo on his purchase of Show Your Guns. He is a very nice horse and an excellent addition to the barn. We look forward to seeing you guys show and grow!
It has been a wild three weeks, but we are officially working out of our new facility. There is still some construction happening, but that should be finished by the end of the month, which means life will be back to normal. Well the new normal. We are so thankful for how hard everyone has worked over the past few weeks. We have started our days at 5:30 a.m and some ended at 10:00 p.m. Our help has been phenomenal! Good attitude and hard working! We look forward to creating new memories here at the 4R Facility.
If you are interested in seeing the new facility or learning more about our training program give us call! We would love to visit with you and show you the new diggs!
We are excited to announce the launch of our new site! Same great information with a new look created by Jeremy Olsen at Equine Promotion. He did an outstanding job and we are thrilled to have partnered with him on this site. We hope that you like the new look and encourage you take “her for a spin”! Watch for show updates, news and training tips.
If launching a new website was not enough, we have moved! The place on Toepperwein is sold and we are relocating our training business to 4R Performance Horses. They have constructed a beautiful state of the art facility right here in Boerne, so we did not have to move far! This is a new chapter for Todd Martin Performance Horses, and we are looking forward to the new adventure!
The new facility is located at 133 Scheele, Boerne, TX, so if your in the neighborhood, stop by! We will conduct an open house, so watch for details to come!
I left you last month talking about the neck and throat latch. This month I figured that we would just continue on down the body and talk about the withers and chest to include the front legs.
First, let’s start with the withers and what their roll is in performance. I want to see a horse have some withers. Yes, all horses have withers, but I am referring to being able to see the withers. Take into consideration that much like the crest of the neck some horses, if they are on the obese side, will carry some fat in the wither area like the crest of the neck. This is not what I am referring to. What I am referring to is the horse that has its withers buried in between its shoulder blades. One reason that I do not like this is because I will have a hard time getting my saddle to not slip or roll on the horses back. This is not a deal killer but it is definitely something to take into consideration. But, I do feel that it is very important that the horse should definitely be taller at the wither than at the croup or tall point of the hip. At the very least be level or the same height . Why? Good question, if the withers are higher it is going to be easier for the horse to be lighter on his front end, plus making it easier to stop and work off of his rear end. The key thing to look for is that the horse is taller at its withers than at the butt or hip.
Moving on to the chest, shoulders and front legs. When looking at the chest I like to see a horse that is broad in the chest. That is just a personal preference. But, I do not want to see a horse that has both of his front legs coming out of the same hole. Meaning that I do not like a horse that stands with his front legs real close together. This will result in interference later when asked to perform difficult maneuvers. I also like for the chest, or chest muscles to be out in front of the legs. Mostly because I will be asking for this horse later in training to spin which requires them to step over or cross their front legs a lot. If the chest muscles are directly between the front legs, this becomes difficult.
Now, moving on to front legs. I would have to say that the single most important thing about legs is that they are straight. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is from a breeding stand point. Conformation is hereditary and if the horse is clubby on one foot or toes in, you have a good chance of passing this on to your offspring. The second part to this is that a big flaw in this area of conformation will eventually lead to a breakdown in performance and could eventually lead to injury. But keep in mind that this is not always a kill factor when looking at a horse. Example: You have two horses and one has a lot going for him and performs all of the desired movements for the event you are going for, but is a little crooked on one leg. Horse number two legs are straight as a string and built great, but it does not have the desire to do diddle. Money is better spent on the horse that wants to perform.
Next month we will discuss the back, hip and hocks.
Over the years I have found that some of my lessons help me more than the rider that I am giving the lesson. Because, during lessons I am asked questions about things that I sometimes have not thought about in some time. This causes me to go back and re-live situations and horses from the past. Whether they taught me something that I may want to use again or something that I may not want to repeat.
I was asked the other day during a lesson why I was in the wrong lead. I responded with, “One mans wrong lead is another man’s counter canter” . By this I mean that often times in order for a trainer or rider to take his horse to the next level, you sometimes have to think outside of the box.
Let’s take for example you have a problem with your horse leaning or dropping a shoulder when loping in a circle. Sometimes you will hear someone say that you need to use your inside leg pressure to push the horse’s shoulder up and lift up with the inside rein. This works most of the time but, soon becomes something that you are constantly riding around doing because it seems now that the horse continually does this and the problem is compounded.
Another way to think or work on this problem is rather than work on his shoulder, fix the way the horse lopes. Meaning that he will not lean if he is loping straight with his rear end underneath him. The deeper and stronger you have a horse driving from the rear end the more that he is forced to level his shoulders and lift both to lope collected and straight.
Yet another way to attack this problem is to counter arc and counter lope the horse. If you are having problems with a horse that drops his left shoulder when loping to the left, then try to lope him to the right in a left lead with his head to the left. This will force him to pick up his left shoulder without using as much leg. It also requires him to keep his shoulder elevated continuously, and does not allow him to revert back to dropping it. Something to remember when doing this is that if your horse has not been asked to use his body in this way before, you as a rider need to be a little patient in allowing your horse the chance to get the hang of it. I have also found that doing this will help you with your guide to the approach to a lead change.
The key thing to remember is that in order for your horse to be proficient in a particular maneuver he must be able to effectively do all maneuvers.
Not every run in reining is a perfect run. In order for our horses to run honestly in the show pen you have to make sure that they do not read your pattern. It is one of the biggest reasons why we do not run complete patterns very often at home.
Unlike most other events, in reining the place in the pen that causes the most worry for the reining horse is the center of the show pen. Because it is the place where the most things happen. It is where most spins are, all lead changes, most lead departures, and sometimes stops. Not to mention, that not only are they asked to perform most maneuvers here but, it is commonly rushed in the show pen as opposed to the work done at home.
I try to spend most of my time schooling on my horses at a show that sells paid warm-ups. This is where a show sets aside time for the main show pen to be used by people who have purchase an allotted amount of time in the show pen, usually 5 to 10 minutes. This allows for the trainer or rider to take their horse into a show environment and not let their horse get away with problems. It also allows you time to settle your horse and not feel rushed, which in turn if you are not rushed neither is your horse. It also allows for the trainer to help fix problems with horses without worrying about anything but what is best for this horse.
The concept of schooling or paying for a paid warm-up is much like scoring cattle in roping. Why is it that we do this. Well it is to settle the horse in the box and let them relax in the box. Why? Because the box is where we put the pressure and where everything starts from. The same concept is applied to the schooling run. This is something that we will continue to work on with our horses until they no longer compete. This same concept can be applied to every discipline. Consider barrel racing for a moment. If I were to take the horse I was riding and approach the gate of a pen that I am about to race in, and upon entering the pen, I gig the horse and chase him to the first barrel. I do so until he is out of the pen, and continue this for several shows. What is he going to do? There are a couple of possibilities, one being refuse to enter, two is try to rush the beginning. Another is lean in the direction of the out gate because that is where the pressure stops. If I am to expect this horse to willingly participate in the activity with confidence I have to spend just as much time taking the worry out of the pen.
Here is an example of what I would do with a horse that I have shown several times, and it is starting to rush himself in the show pen. I will enter the pen just as I would if I were being judged. I would stop in the middle and allow the horse to settle, relax, and take a breath. When I feel that he has sat for a while I will sit a little longer. I will then begin a lead departure and make him stay bridled up until he has relaxed at a lope. I will not change leads in the center of the pen. Instead I will make him wait and counter canter at least ¼ of a circle in the opposite direction. In my rundowns I will make him wait on me to say go. If he decides to rush into his speed, I will pull him into the ground, and lope off again continuing this until he relaxes and waits for me. Once he has relaxed and is ready to be stopped, I will send him down the pen and will not stop him until he has utilized the entire length of the pen. This will keep him from judging the distance at which I am stopping him. There are several other things that you can do to fix certain problems. These are just a couple of general things that I will want to have a horse thinking about. Basically I am trying to take the rush and worry out of the show pen and fix problems that are occurring in the show pen.
One last thought, the practice or schooling run is for the benefit and longevity of the horses show career. It is not a place for reprimand but a place to build confidence and undo what you have been doing. Take some of the run out, relieve some pressure, make them like to compete. If you were to show up to work everyday and were rushed and pushed with out relief or reward you will burn out too.
This phrase is repeated at our training facility almost daily. The reason is simple, if you look where it is that you are going, then your body will more than likely be in the correct position.
Lets begin with the rollback. A rollback is the maneuver performed in reining at the completion of a stop. When properly executed, the horse comes to a complete stop and rolls back onto its back hocks. With forward motion, it turns 180 degrees and leaves in the opposite direction on the correct lead. This maneuver is also used in working cowhorse events and cutting. Once you have completed the stop and attempt to ask the horse to rollback, you should put an arc in your body (if rolling back to your right) while sitting on your right hip, open your shoulders to the right moving forward in your seat as you come out of the rollback asking your house to leave at a lope. You can also just look to the right and not at your horse. The simple act of looking toward where you are going next shifts your body weight and opens your shoulders. It will, most often times, keep you from putting to much weight in one direction.
The same principle can be applied to loping circles and straight lines. Riders at times have a tendency to over drive or steer their horse. Which brings the horse to a point of confusion. When starting young horses I spend a considerable amount of time loping circles, which helps put a guide on my horses. Not to mention that a large portion of the reining pattern is spent loping circles. Eventually, I will move to teach them to lope a straight line, where he must be between my legs and reins. This cannot be obtained if I am not straight and looking forward. If I am trying to teach a horse to lope straight, but I am looking down at him or off in another direction, my hands are saying one thing and my body is doing another. Here is a simple exercise to help. When using spit reins be sure to hold them properly. Begin by putting your index finger between the reins, picking your hand up to guide your horse. Use your thumb as a gun sight and look down range through your thumb at the target that you want to reach. Doing this will put your body and hands in the correct position. If at first your horse does not understand, slightly drop the hand down towards the mane then bring the thumb back up to aim again. Through repetition and patience your horse will get the picture much faster. Your horse must be supple and move off the rein pressure before getting to this point.
Body position is important with spins too. In the picture to the left, I am looking slightly ahead of my horse in the direction of the spin. Notice that the horse has matched my body and has arced in the same manner as I am sitting. By just looking in the direction of the spin, I have put the proper amount of body weight into my hips. I have not over-arced my body, and at the same time have allowed my horse to open his body to the inside of the spin. This allows him to step deep into the direction of the spin.
Sometimes we as riders try to overcomplicate our directions, which in turn complicates our horses ability to understand just what the message is. When it can be made simple to understand, the directions become much more clear to both the rider and the horse. The next time you’re riding a bike or driving a car, try to drive on the line with your tire, then read a sign on the side of the road as you pass it. When you look back at the road I can bet that you won’t be on the line anymore. Why? Because you’re not looking where it is that you’re going.