Recently I was able to catch up with Kitty’s previous owner. She wanted to know all about our progress – Kitty’s flawless return to work after her six-month break, her venture into becoming an all-around horse. She’s now successfully been started (trotting) on the pattern, tracking calves and having ropes swung and thrown from her back. She’s taken it all in stride, never balked or had a come-apart – to which I happily shared with her previous owner. She was, of course, ecstatic about our progress, but then she asked the next natural question: ‘What’s next?’ and I had to take a minute to think.
What is next for us?
The end goal is still and always will be the same, but what is the next step in that progression? I thought about our progress with a more open mind – instead of being clouded by the “parent’s” eye. I started to think about where our weaknesses are and how to fix them.
Her basics are good, slow work is flawless, but when speed is added we find out where we need work. What I’ve found is that Kitty has phenomenal shoulder control. It just comes easy to her, so easy that it’s natural. I didn’t have to really even train it into her, moving her shoulder is just a natural response for her – and that’s great, but although being able to isolate a body part and move it independently from the others is important ultimately they all need to work together to form a broke horse.
So, with shoulders being her strength, hip control on the other hand is a weakness. Her natural response isn’t to move her hip first, which is a big pet peeve of mine. I want my horses to move first and foremost with their hip – I want a horse to drive with its hip always.
So, that’s where we start next – hip control. But how and when?
First, let me paint the picture. Her lack of hip control shows the worst when loping circles. She’ll bend too much to the inside with her face and shoulders and float to the outside of the circle with her hips.
My fix: In the beginning I admit it was a little sloppy. I tried initially fixing it at a lope, by restricting movement with my outside rein and encouraging forward movement with both of my legs. At the lope however, this just frightened her. She’d start running faster – which at least was a response – but then she couldn’t make the connection of why I was asking her to do so. So, back to the basics I went.
I started with slow circles at the walk, keeping her head and neck straight with just a slight tip of the nose to the inside and driving her hip with my feet into her bridle. When she would start floating out I would keep my hands in the same position and use my outside leg to apply pressure and encourage her to drive her outside back leg up and forward. When we mastered that at the walk then I moved to the trot. When we mastered that at the trot then I moved to the lope.
Casey Deary has a great example of what happens when a horse is bent too far into the circle and working on only its front end on trainingbarrelhorses.com where he talks about why it’s important for a horse to keep their hip up underneath of themselves. You can watch the video here: http://bhnmag.co/2gQT9KY
Don’t get me wrong this didn’t get fixed in one session. In fact the first day I tried it we only accomplished it at a walk and we still don’t have it mastered at the lope, but we are at least seeing progress. Progress is all you can ask for, improvement everyday – no matter how small.
Kailey Sullins is the managing editor of Barrel Horse News. She joined the BHN team in 2014 and has enjoyed being apart of a team dedicated to not only the barrel racing industry, but the equine industry as a whole.
Kailey grew up in rural Oklahoma where her family owns and operates a cow-calf operation in the small town of Red Rock. Rodeo was a family affair around her place and as such her love of horses began at an early age. Growing up Kailey competed in junior, high school, college and amateur rodeo competing in barrel racing, pole bending, team roping and breakaway roping. After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications with a double major in animal science, Kailey began pursuing her career in journalism.
Currently, Kailey lives in Texas with her 14-year-old mare, 2-year-old filly and a 2-year-old black-tri Australian Shepherd named Macy. When Kailey’s not on assignment for BHN or working in the Fort Worth office she can be found training her filly, spending time with Macy or competing in breakaway roping with her mare in professional and amateur rodeos in Texas.
“What Do We Do Now?” is a blog series written by BHN‘s managing editor Kailey Sullins and associate editor Blanche Schaefer, where they discuss the struggles, joys, and rewards of training young barrel prospects as amateurs juggling full-time jobs, all from a real-life perspective. Read more at barrelhorsenews.com under the “Blogs” tab.