We learned Awareness from the horse. They know how they feel, and they live in the moment. Their very existence has been based on the ability to stay ahead of situation.
“Teaching is demonstrating possibility, learning is taking ownership of the possibility.” Author Unknown
As we mentioned in the previous blog a clinic/workshop experience should leave you feeling empowered and able. Not set expectations for yourself that make you feel like you’ll never get there. We treat our human friends with the same level of respect, thoughtfulness, and acceptance that we would our horses, cows, dogs, and family.
There’s no need for you to have your horse straight up in a bridle, performing all of our aspirational intricate maneuvers, or even accustomed to cattle, to try something new or experiment with the next step in the progression; whether that be roping, moving cows, trying an advanced piece of headgear, or what have you.
There are a few factors that will help you to ensure that these experimental ventures will be fruitful for you and help you take ownership of the possibility.
Awareness, Empathy, and Presentation are foundation of Lifemanship, and you’ll hear them repeated and explained may times in our workshops. Today we’ll breakdown what Awareness means to us here at The DX Ranch and Project H3LP!.
Awareness, like the other concepts, has multiple levels. We constantly try to improve our Awareness. It’s a function of time and circumstance, but really it starts from within. How do you feel? Are you in this series of moments with your horse, or are you thinking about the bills you have to pay, or the rotten day at work, family squabbles, or the million other things that may seek your attention?
We learned Awareness from the horse. They know how they feel, and they live in the moment. Their very existence has been based on the ability to stay ahead of situation. I’ve been a victim of their better Awareness many times. About 5 years ago I was riding a real nice colt, helping a neighbor gather heifer pairs. I rode up to get a baby calf up, but I got too close, and put the baby calf in his blind spot, and got behind the situation when he reacted to the calf bumping him from an unseen position. Now if you listened to the podcast (link); you know I’m not, nor have I never been, a bronc rider. Consequently, a concussion and a broken finger further convinced me that my Awareness can continue to improve.
I was in that moment, my mind was on my horse and how well he was doing, and he was , but my Awareness of external circumstances was a bit lacking; i.e. calf in blind spot.
Awareness of our self, making sure we’re in the moment, giving as much of our attention as the horse is giving to us, can help us get to the next step. Empathy. After we next discuss the difference between aware and alert, we’ll dive into step 2 — Empathy.
Have you ever known someone with a horse that would consistently frustrate them with something they were asking, but someone more experienced might come along and get there with almost no extra effort? For me, it had to do with getting horses to be still, be with me. One time it was the horse that wouldn’t stand still when I had a calf roped.
You can hear a little more about that story on the Let Freedom Rein podcast. If you’ve already listened, you know it was Ol’ Nub Long that helped me through that. Same type of lesson, in totally different circumstances, I learned from his son, Dave “Daviento” Long when I was struggling to get better at saddling a colt. Dave is as good as I’ve seen at saddling a colt. Such a matter of fact presentation.
When I asked him about how he was able to get it done so smooth, he just chuckled (the same chuckle he still does when he repeatedly out ropes us) and said something like “There’s nothing to worry about. Either I’ve done enough to get him ready, or not, and he’ll let me know. If it goes well, we move on, if it doesn’t we start again.” Incidentally, I’ve never seen Dave make it look like anything other than saddling old reliable.
What Dave helped me realize 20 years ago, is that it was a lack of confidence on my part that it’d be alright either way. I had some confidence around horses but not a lot of experience in saddling a horse that wasn’t tied up. It was just a lack of confidence that it’d be alright. Once I understood that the worst thing that happened was that I go back and revisit a few things that would make my entire relationship with the horse better, I brought a lot less uncertainty to the encounter.
So how do we get that confidence? Odds are not everyone gets to be around as many horses as we get do; and that’s the surest way. This lesson helped us realize that by breaking a situation down to its component parts we can make things more achievable. If we can build confidence in performing those smaller, component parts, that confidence we build in ourselves can project through uncertainty.
In this video Jenn’s working on bridling a colt, and she shows some of the component parts for bridling. You’ll notice there’s no bridle in sight. Jenn is able to comfortably handle the equipment, the horse, and the situation.
Now, think about your situation that frustrated you. What could you do, short of handling a few hundred more horses, to get some more experience that you can gain confidence in? Have real world example you’d like some feedback on? Get in touch with us here, or better yet come on out to our inaugural horsemanship workshop at the ranch in May.
“We’ve been preparing for this for over 20 years. When we first got to see Ol’ Nub Long introduce us to his interpretation of what Hunt and Dorrance had been trying to show the world about horses; it seemed impossible that we’d ever have our own program to offer because there was so much to take in.”
We feel like we’re ready, and we’re excited to share the opportunity with you. And do we dare mention the week will end with an acoustic, private concert with Steve Turner Music – a Nashville recording artist?
Jason helped Zach dig into a bit about “the why” of how he became who is is. We hope you enjoy the podcast as much as Zach enjoyed sharing; Jason does a great job, and we look forward to riding with him someday.
Triple Crown Feed is our feed of choice when Mother Nature (ie – the beautiful grass of South Dakota) needs a little help. When it comes to our older horses, foals, or our performance horses, we don’t look any further than Triple Crown products – specifically Triple Crown Senior.
Triple Crown Senior may be our feed of choice, but this company offers many products that may be a better fit for your horse’s specific needs. The 30% Ration Balancer can supply your horse with all their daily vitamin and mineral needs in as little as 1lb/day/1000lb horse. Triple Crown Complete can provide maximum calories in this beet pulp based, 12% fat formula. There is an option for every horse.
Triple Crown feed is a plant based feed consisting of alfalfa and beet pulp, rice bran and other forms of healthy fats. It contains essential amino acids as well as pre-and probiotics which are helpful for all horses, but especially those going down the road who may experience stress.
It’s high in fat, and low in sugars, which is important for all horses. Fat is one of the most important things a performance horse can have in their diet because it aids in quicker recovery times and is an excellent source of energy for anaerobic activities, such as sprinting. And it’s exceptionally helpful (see link above) in the older horse when their teeth begin to fail. Just ask our two senior citizen stallions, WDX Banjobreeze Baby and WDX Nukem, how they like their feed — you’re going to get an overwhelming, YUM!
Proper Nutrition is the key to the health and performance of your horses. Triple Crown Feed is a premium horse feed designed to help your horse get all they need. From fixed formulas, to the addition or organic minerals, prebiotics, probiotics and digestive enzymes, they want to make sure your horse has maximum nutrition.
To kick off the new year here at the ranch, and to celebrate all that’s going to take place here this year, we’d like to give away a Triple Crown goodie package, so you can see the results for yourself!
What are you currently feeding your horse? We’d love to know why you feed what you feed.
We were fortunate enough to have Curt to the ranch in October of 2016, and boy was that a fun experience.
There are three types of pressure:
Driving Pressure, Drawing pressure and Maintaining pressure. Watch the video clip below for more – it works with people, dogs, horses, and of course stock.
This is is a demonstration Ron Gill got me involved with. The Fort Worth Stockyards is my favorite place to visit. There are great ways to entertain yourself in everything western, but the best part for me is the history. “The Herd” is a big part of keeping the stockmanship tradition alive with two cattle […]
Meet our 2016 ranch interns! We have a lot of Animal Science Majors this year, as well as an Equine Management Major (who isn’t in this video). Ranch interns learn halter breaking, riding, low-stress cattle handling, and we get them teaching each other what they’re learning as soon as we possibly can — so stay tuned for more videos!
This week we just took a few minutes to introduce you to them, and let them share a little about themselves. You can keep up with their adventures via our Facebook page, where they don’t post nearly as much as we’d like, but that also means they’re busy putting in 8-10 hour days with the horses, helping neighbors at brandings, and enjoying the scenery here at home.
The program is set up as an 8 week program, but can be as long or short as your university requires. We promise you’ll have fun and learn a lot!
Around here, we are all about becoming partners with our horses. We want our horses to “want” to help us. To “want” to be with us. To “want” to be bridled and go for a ride. So we take great care in helping them stay in that frame of mind. We get them get them good about searching for a release, and good about looking to us for support. Bridling made easy is part of that. We know that often people have trouble with their horses when it comes to getting them ready to ride. We also know how easy it is to get into a habit with your horse of just skating by, because you only have so many hours in your day and only so much time to spend with your horse. But what if, by spending that time, one or maybe two days, and not riding, you can help your horse, and in turn make your time with your horse eve more enjoyable? I’d say, sign me up.
Below, you’ll find a couple of ways we might go about getting them ready to be bridled and one way to bridle them. These are not the only way. These are just a couple ways we choose to do things.
Before you were to start either of the exercises below, you’ll want to make sure your horse is good about having his mouth/face/ears touched.
Today, we have a special guest writer– Emma, one of this summer’s ranch interns. She’s here to share her experience with you and tell you how much she learned and how much she loved it. If you’d like to go back and read her journey in her own words, check out her blog, here.
So without further ado, here’s Emma, to share her summer experience with you. She forgot to mention that she was fortunate enough to tag along to the annual Buck Brannaman Clinic I attend. Happy Trails!
My internship at The DX Ranch was absolutely everything I had hoped for and more.I thought I would just be working with horses, but I learned many valuable lessons with cattle that tied into the concepts that I was learning with the horses.I learned more in those six weeks on the ranch than I had in the last ten years of horseback riding.
The list of activities I engaged in and learned how to do would be far too many to detail.I cannot even start to explain how valuable each one has been to my education, especially those I learned working with the horses.
When it came to the horses, we worked with them almost every day.Most days we got to ride, but some days we just worked with the yearling colts.My first day was a little rough, since I did not know about anything they were teaching me.They use the training and riding methods of Ray Hunt and Buck Branamann, but I had never really studied those before.However it didn’t take much time before I caught on to what they were teaching.
The first thing I learned was how to saddle my horse without hitting them or knocking a stirrup into their side.I also learned a better way to bridle that doesn’t bang them in the teeth.After that we moved to guiding the horse with my feet only and transitions using my seat position.Both concepts were very new to me, and I still need to practice them a lot.Having been riding so differently for the last ten years made it a little bit more difficult to grasp these new techniques.
Ranch interns hang out with Jenn, horsemanship instructor at the ranch.
We then worked on moving the hind end both through groundwork and riding.I learned the four ways of moving the hind end while on horseback and the difference between working with an eight year old and a yearling.Working with a yearling is a lot more difficult because you really have to make your presence known and you need to move your feet fifteen steps for every step they take.Jenn said, “if you’re not breathing hard, you’re not doing it right.”With colts, there is a release for every try they make, whether they did it the way you wanted them to or not.I also got to see a difference in halter breaking a yearling as opposed to a two-month-old colt.With the two-month-old, we released for every try, when he faced you, or when he moved his hind end.
Whether you’re working with a colt or a fifteen year old, you must always “keep a float in the rope.”This means you must keep some slack in the rope so you don’t drag the horse around.This is one of the basics of the feel method of training.It lets your horse feel where you want him to go.
Every bend begins with a reach.That is probably one of the most important concepts I learned on the ranch.Without a reach, the horse simply cannot bend.When you reach for your horse to bend, he should also be reaching for you.That feel of your hand sliding down the rein should be signal enough that you want him to bend.
However, I could not help my horse to reach until I found where my horse’s feet were.I worked on timing when my horse was picking up a certain foot.They also showed me how to pick up a certain foot with the rein and place it somewhere.After all, Buck Branamann said in his clinic, “The reins are hooked to the horse’s feet, not the mouth.”The slightest adjustment in timing can make all the difference, whether I am on the ground or on horseback.
Roping out of the rodear.
To help with reaching, they told me it would help to make a plan for my horse’s feet.Instead of mindlessly going around the arena and changing what I wanted to do every second, I should make a plan, almost like a pattern, so that my horse can stay engaged and it is easier for him to understand what I am asking of him.If he doesn’t respond to Plan A, go to Plan B, but continue to work at it until Plan A prevails.
Toward the end of my internship, we worked a lot on leg yields and haunches in. I had never really been taught how to leg yield properly, so it was definitely nice to see how it should be done.Both of these are great exercises for shaping the horse for changing leads.Without them, you cannot properly set up your horse for a certain lead.
When not working with the horses, I learned a lot about roping and cattle.On the first night I arrived, I learned how to bottle feed calves.Although it was a chore, I was always excited to go see my calves.It was the only consistent thing I got to do on the ranch so it was quite relaxing.I also got to go out with the ranch hand frequently to check the cows and calves in the pasture.He taught me how to tag the newborn calves as well.
A few weeks into the internship I got to attend some brandings.This consisted of gathering the cows, sorting, branding, flanking, fly tagging, and long hours.Although they could be crazy hectic days, they were some of the most fun while at the ranch.
We even worked with the yearling cows on the ranch in the pasture.I learned a way of herding them slowly and smoothly, walking around them in a circle to get them used to riders doing that, and cutting one out of the herd.From there we worked on changing eyes and hooking them on to your horse.On my last day we even got to use some breakaway ropes on them.When I had arrived at the ranch, I had never even picked up a rope.On my last day, I was able to swing some head shots at some yearlings and I was getting better and better at my heel and trap shots with the roping “dummy.”Not many ranchers would let someone so novice even near their cattle to rope them.
My stay at The DX Ranch was phenomenal and has taught me so many valuable lessons with horses and life.I cannot wait to continue to build on everything I’ve learned and to one day train my first horse from the ground up.
By the end of the internship, everything I learned started to come together.It was definitely difficult trying to learn something completely new in regards to horses, when I’ve been riding for ten years already.But it was definitely a wonderful experience that has changed the way I look at horses and myself for the better.I owe Zach and Jenn so much for letting me stay with them and teaching me so much about horses.
The last thing any horse really wants to do is fidget. No, seriously, think about it. If you’ve watched them in the pasture, when they’re not eating, they’re lazing, and if they’re young and full of energy, they’ll play for a bit and go back to eating or lazing. They’d rather be at peace than bothered, and to me, a horse that paws is a horse that’s bothered.
What pawing/fidgeting really comes down to is this: The horse doesn’t know how to be still. And often, instead of allowing stillness to be the easiest thing for the horse, we force them to be still – we go right to tying them up because we are short on time and want to ride. We’ll stick them in cross-ties, snub them up to a post, or tie them to the trailer, instead of allowing them to move. I’m sure that it may sound counter-productive but to get a horse to be still he’s got to be allowed to move his feet, so he’ll learn that the easiest thing to do is be still.
As a result of us going right to tying them up once they’re caught, a few things happen:
The horse learns to be still while he’s tied up.
He’ll paw because he has to have his feet be still and mentally he’s not ready to be still.
When we get on, our ride goes to hell in a hand-basket, because the mentally isn’t with us, and isn’t ready to be still. He just knows if he’s not still while tied, he’s in trouble.
To help the horse learn to be still, instead of forcing the issue, there are a couple things you can do. Brush him, while you hold him. If you see/feel him start to get ready to move, beat him to the punch – and quietly ask him to disengage his hips or lead around you. That way he thinks that you knew what he was thinking. Offer him the chance to be still, and go back to brushing him. If he can’t be still, you might change directions. If you don’t make a plan for your horse’s feet, he will. Repeat the above as needed.
Eventually you’ll have a horse that will stand quietly for you to groom and tack — one that can even be tied up — but first you may need to go back to square one. And remember — never do this in a spiteful, angry way. Your horse will know and you won’t be as effective. Leaders of the herd never do things in an emotional way like a human would — they’re concise and true in their actions.
Make the right thing easy, and the rest will fall into place.
In a newspaper ad, on Craigslist, in Facebook Horse Groups – someone says they have a short shanked snaffle for sale. I’d like very much to explain to everyone that writes that, that they don’t technically have a snaffle bit available. You have a leverage bit, or a curb maybe, but a snaffle bit, notsomuch.
You see, a snaffle is a snaffle because it isn’t a leverage bit. Any bit that has shanks becomes a curb bit (or leverage bit)- whether it has a broken mouthpiece (like a snaffle) or is a ported grazing bit. The reason for this is that a snaffle works on a direct rein and doesn’t utilize leverage.
The pressure from the reins on a snaffle bit is not amplified, unlike with a leverage bit. When you pull on a leverage bit, such as a Tom Thumb or Argentine, the pressure is increased the farther back the shank reaches.
There are several different mouthpieces available in “true” snaffle bits: Jointed -the most common. Mullen – essentially one piece. There is no break in the mouthpiece.
French link or Dogbone- has a smaller “dog bone” shaped piece in the middle, making it a three piece mouthpiece.
Single and Double Twisted wire – two of the most severe mouthpieces.
Mouthpieces typically come in different dimensions – 7/16th of an inch and 3/8ths of an inch are probably the most common – but you can find them in ½ and ¼ in diameters too. The smaller the diameter, the more severe the bit can become. Myself, I like a 7/16th mouthpiece.
As well as the different mouthpieces, there are many different cheek styles too. In western riding the four most common are:
O-ring or loose ring snaffle.
Greg Darnall Off-Set D- Ring Snaffle
Greg Darnall Off-Set D- Ring Snaffle
Egg-butt (because it’s shaped kind of like an egg).
JPW Egg Butt Snaffle
JPW Egg Butt Snaffle
There are basically two different ideas when it comes to where a snaffle bit should hang in the mouth of your horse We prefer to hang the bit a tad below the corner of the horse’s mouth. I know many of us grew up in the train of thought that we needed a wrinkle (or two) in the horse’s mouth. But, what we’ve learned by riding primarily in snaffle bits (they’re the only bit we now own and I run all my barrel horses in them) is that the horse will learn to carry it where he likes it. Further, it gives us a chance to ask with less pressure, and have the horse respond to less because there is a very discernable release for the horse due to the fact that his mouth isn’t already pressured up due to the “wrinkles”.
So, the next time you see a bit labeled snaffle, I’d like for you to think of this little Public Service Announcement and ask yourself, is it really a snaffle?