“If a horse has been started properly, all the fundamentals I do in the round pen are already instilled in him,” Anderson said. “I utilize those skills, refine and quicken them up. The skills I like are simple: sidepass each way, give their head to their shoulders each way, break in the ribcage, stop and back up. This seems like no big deal, but horses don’t necessarily know this when they come back from being started.”
Lisa believes the moves a horse must make in a turn depend on softness in the face and ribcage and an understanding of the concept of pressure and release. Practicing this simple, repetitive drill allows the horse to learn the movements required in a turn. The use of a round pen naturally helps, as the curve helps the horse break in the rib cage on its own. She has found a 50-foot round pen and a Dave Elliot snaffle bit to be her most valuable tools in this drill.
“A trot is an easier gait to help keep a horse collected and controlled than at a lope,” Anderson said. “First, I start trotting with equal pressure on each rein. As I am trotting, I reach halfway down my inside rein and ask for the horse’s nose while simultaneously bumping him by the cinch with my inside leg. With these two cues, I am looking for the horse’s nose to come to the point of the shoulder and the ribcage to give and move away from my leg. I want to stress that at first, even the slightest movement is acceptable.”
When Anderson gets the correct response from her horse, she stops him squarely in the middle of the round pen. From there, she sidepasses straight across, asks for his head to the shoulder, and then walks him in a smaller circle, asking for all of the same movements she expected in the larger circle.
“When I go to the small circle, I drop my hand so I don’t have constant pressure on the rein,” Anderson said. “Once again, if constant pressure is applied, I am doing it all for the horse and I believe a trainer must throw the control away in order for a horse to learn.”
In the middle of the round pen, it’s a barrel-sized turn Anderson is looking for, challenging the horse to pick up his feet in a small area.
“If I give a horse too much room, I can’t feel whether or not he is broke enough in the ribcage, keeping the shoulder lifted and his back foot up underneath him,” Anderson said. “Also, if I have a horse that isn’t naturally quick-footed, it helps me get a true read on where his body is at. ”
Maintaining the “less is more” approach, Anderson builds on the slightest response.
“A little bit of a movement is better than no movement. A lot of people expect too much from a horse at once, and that puts them in a bind,” Anderson said. “I believe when I get a little response and I release right away, the horse learns when he is doing the right thing. It’s when we keep asking with no release that the horse doesn’t learn. For every action we make, the horse needs to respond immediately. When we release the pressure, that is his reward. That’s how he learns.”
In teaching these fundamental skills, Anderson can effectively sidestep or correct a variety of common problems on the barrel pattern.
“I’ve used this drill on horses that are having issues at the gate, ducking barrels, not rating or not running, and it has fixed a lot of them,” Anderson said. “Ultimately, this allows me to move my horse where I want and continue forward momentum with the inside rein. This gives the horse a quick snap on the backside of the barrel, keeping his inside hind leg up underneath him and the inside shoulder moving forward to build the momentum. It will make a horse break at the poll naturally while moving forward; it gets them very supple. The key is realizing that having a horse broke at the poll or giving their head isn’t beneficial if the rest of the body isn’t moving with it.”
Meet Lisa Anderson
Lisa Anderson resides in Bozeman, Montana, where she manages and trains out of Copper Spring Ranch. She is a pro rodeo money earner and circuit finals qualifier as well as a Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo finalist and futurity money earner. For more information on Copper Spring Ranch and Lisa’s training program, visit www.copperspringranch.com or email [email protected].