605.222.5088 | HC 3 Box 121B | 16684 BIA RT 8 | Gettysburg, SD 57442 info@thedxranch.com
Proper Saddling Technique

Proper Saddling Technique

We’ve probably all seen it happen: a wreck where the saddle ends up under the horse. It can happen for any number of reasons – a latigo could break, or you could be in the process of saddling your horse when he spooks, and under him the saddle goes.

One of the ways to prevent that from happening is to utilize the “correct” order for saddling, if you will.

  1.  Always pull your front cinch first.
  2.  The back cinch goes second.
  3.  Finally, the breast collar (if you use one).

By securing your main cinch first, you’re ensuring that the saddle shouldn’t roll under your horse if something were to happen while you’re in the process of saddling. We like to take it a step further, and on our saddles with a double rigging, we like to lead the horse forward a few steps once he’s saddled and take the front cinch up some more.

Rarely do we tie our horses up when we saddle them. They’re always being held in hand. That way they don’t get in the habit of sitting back or wiggling around, because we have control over his feet from the get-go, and because we know what’s on his mind when we’re saddling him, we can help him stay with us, and that inevitably makes our rides go better.

properly saddled horse, how to saddle a horse

We never cinch a horse up as tight as possible on the first try. EVER. We may take several steps forward with the horse, several times. We figure we don’t like to put on jeans that are tight, so we don’t really want to do that to my horse!

Do the same for the back cinch. If you ride with your back cinch loose, instead of snug up against your horse’s belly, you run the risk for a couple bad things to happen:

  1.  You could catch a spur in it.
  2. Your horse could catch a hind foot in it. THIS is never good, and the ending won’t be happy for your saddle. Trust me.

If you remember the order for saddling your horse, the order for unsaddling your horse goes like this:

  1.  Breast collar.
  2.  Back cinch.
  3.  And finally, the front cinch.

The front cinch always goes last in the unsaddling process, just like it’s first when you saddle.

By getting in the habit of utilizing this process, you can keep yourself and more importantly your horse out of a bind.

Happy Trails and Happy Riding!

Good Horsemanship Principles

Good Horsemanship Principles

Essentially, the teaching philosophy we strive to employ is based largely on our study of Ray Hunt’s horse training and philosophies. At no point in time have we sought, or received any endorsement from Mr. Hunt or any of his family, however we make a concerted effort to share insight gained from our study of and application, and in some cases misapplication of these techniques in our experiences. We try our best to employ this way of going each and every day, through every circumstance, and attribute any success we’ve had, to it (and dumb luck).

These are things that interns here at the ranch can expect to learn, and those who come for clinics or horsemanship vacations may well find themselves “immersed” in these principles as well.

1. It’s not just about horses.
While many folks can and will find fulfillment simply enjoying their horses, the reality is that very few will find themselves in a circumstance that allows them to have interactions with horses be their sole or even primary occupation in life. As such, we use the thoughtful interactions with horses as the the subject matter for teaching what we call “lifemanship” or this “way”. Application of these principles in everyday activities, be they school, the workplace, familial relationships, or even in interaction with strangers can reap benefits far beyond the saddle.

2. The horse is never wrong.
Never, not even then. The question that comes after this statement is usually “yeah but what if…” and the answer, in this “way” is “Nope, never, not even then.” Horses, unlike humans, do not seek drama, or fame, or glory or fast times. The reason? Horses have no ego. When the ego of a human gets in the way of a horse/human relationship, or a human/human relationship for that matter, motives become clouded and results are often less than favorable, and rarely enjoyed by the horse. When you are working without an ego in the way, you are able to stay in a helping mode, help the horse find the answer, encourage it to try. When your ego becomes involved, it’s almost invariably bruised, and therefore you feel the need to defend your actions, or increase your intensity (bigger bits, tie downs, spurs, etc.) to prevent further bruising. Egos are too fragile as a rule, and are one of mankind’s greatest encumbrances to existing in harmony with anything, let alone horses.

3. Make the right thing easy, the wrong thing difficult.
While this would seem to be a “no-brainer” humanity seems to be ingrained in a train of thought wherein “hard work will prevail”. Hard work is often a critical component to success, but it is not the be all and end all. We’ve found that in teaching horses, and teaching and interacting with people, that “this way” has a multiplier effect on that hard work. It is the job of the teacher to set the environment to stimulate learning and be patient through the learning process of the student, not try to force it on them. The teacher must improve overall situational awareness, and develop a high level of empathy for the perspective of the student because regardless of the presentation, the student’s perception of the lesson presented is the reality; and that ultimately will dictate the pace of the learning. Given humanity’s propensity to do more, it’s critical to note that in the beginning of employing this particular technique, that for the sake of the student, more emphasis should be placed on making the right thing easy, rather than creating the difficulty. The more practice one has at making the right thing easy, the more effective one can become at the proper use of difficulty as a teaching tool.

4. Perception is reality.
When trying to create an outcome in a relationship with another being, their perception is the reality you must deal with. Horses are more pure and untainted than most of humanity in this respect, and are consequently an ideal medium for demonstrating the efficacy of this way. In any human-horse interaction, a horse can only do one of two things.

  • A. What he thinks you want him to do, because it will lead to comfort and release (and/or relief), or
  • B. what he feels he must do simply to survive at that moment in time.

The horse is entitled to the latter, and we’re not entitled to the former. It is incumbent upon us, since we desire an outcome, to improve our presentation in hopes of causing our outcome.

5. Teaching does not equal learning.
This ties directly to the perception listed above. Teaching can be done at any pace, but learning will only happen at the pace of the student. We make every effort to be cognizant of this perception because if the efforts of the student (hereinafter “try”) are not rewarded, the student is likely to shut down. If we are aware of, and reward the try, the student or horse is more likely to look see the positive effort as a solution to come back to next time.

6. Reward the slightest try.
See above. Try is a proactive thing, not a reactive thing. You’ll see the difference in attitude and expression that clearly indicates which is happening. In horses the eyes are soft and the ears are flicking or focused forward, the tail is relaxed and flowing, trying. When a horse is complying, you’ll see the ears back, eyes are hard, lips are tight and the tail is likely swishing. By rewarding our horses or our students when they try, we’re teaching them to be proactive and thoughtful in any given situation.

7. Do as little as possible but as much as necessary.
Again, in the beginning you’ll do a little and wait for a result. The horse can feel a fly land on him, so to think that we have to inflict a great deal of discomfort on them to convey our message is wrong. What makes a fly successful in his relationship with the horse is that he is consistent. We can learn from that. Flies can control the horse’s feet, and that is basically the essence of horsemanship; if we can’t move or direct the feet, we are not getting through. Flies do this because they are 100% consistent.

8. Be Consistent.
Become a fixture in the world of your horses (or students). If you show up in one frame of mind one day, and in a totally different frame of mind the next, you’re giving your horse nothing to believe in, nothing he can count on. Endeavor to be the same (ideally optimistic and happy) in every situation; it can become habit-forming for you, and it will lead to more trust being put in you by your horse or student. As an example, I ALWAYS have my horse arrange itself around me when changing sides. To my horse, I want to be as permanent and consistent as the post in the corral. You very rarely see a horse in a panic run into a post, or kick at a post, or run from a post. A post has a few innate qualities: it is going to be solid, it is going to be neutral, and it is always going to be that way. In the rarest of circumstance you may see a horse go over or through or into a post or a fence or some other thing that has these qualities. I’d like my horse to see me in the same way. He should become accustomed at an early age to arranging his life around me, knowing that there will be no discomfort offered if he does so. This will keep your horse from running you over at feeding time, or using you as the path of least resistance when it deems an escape is necessary, and will translate into respect for you. And how did you build it? Simply by being consistent.


We know this got long but we sure hope you hung on to the end. What are some principles you’ve learned from your horses?

Smile and Ride!

A breakfast of champions!

Those of you who’ve been to the ranch and had the pleasure of eating here know, when it comes to meals, we don’t skimp. Whether it is blueberry bacon stuffed waffles, homemade noodles in beef broth, or a home-raised ribeye, we are sure to have something on the menu to satisfy the appetite you’ll work up while you are here!

Here’s a little sample!

Omelette from the DX Ranch Kitchen, ranch food, ranch life, ranching, south dakota ranching

A breakfast omelette with eggs from the chickens that run around this place.

I’m glad you’re hungry now! And I’m getting full on this omelette! I need the energy to handle horses all day!

Smile and ride!

The Over the Horn Exercise

The Over the Horn Exercise

We have a pretty extensive collection of horsemanship DVDs here at the ranch, and every three months we look forward to getting our Horseman’s Gazette, a quarterly DVD journal, published by Eclectic Horseman Communications.

In a recent volume they shared a bit of goodness from Bryan Neubert.

We like this little tip, because it’s something else you can do to teach the horse to think and feel their way through a situation.

Smile and Ride!

Balancing the Out-Of-Balance Horse

Balancing the Out-Of-Balance Horse

Since the sound is hard to hear (for some reason) on this video,  you can watch it, and below the video we’ll tell you what Zach was saying.

95% of the horses in the world are out of balance. They go faster than the people riding them want them to go.  So everybody is always pulling on their face to get them to stop.

Now, if we make ourselves an expert on riding that horse slower without pulling on his face , work on our ability to rebalance them slower, every horse is going to be better.

That rearing up business, that’s feet that are too active.   We can give them something to do with their feet in lieu of that.

If Chachi wanted to rear up, I’d just bring his big ol’ head over here, and say hey, how about you just move your feet. That’s cool. move your feet. If he’s doing this he cannot rear up. It’s not physically possible.   Eventually the horse will be happy to park somewhere for you.

The Feet, Mind, and Seat Connection

The Feet, Mind, and Seat Connection

Having a good seat on your horse not only helps your horse, but it helps you stay balanced. We can ask our horse to do more advanced maneuvers if we can sit in the middle of them and stay out of their way.

We can start developing a good connection with our horse before we get on them, however. If we get that good, we can expect our ride to go better.

What are your goals to develop your feet, mind, seat connection?

Smile and ride!

Help your horse get caught

Help your horse get caught

Often we get asked, “how do I catch a hard to catch horse?”

When horses are in a herd setting the game they play is, “can I move your feet, or can you move mine?”

Upon entering the pasture, or stall, with the horse, ideally, we become one of the “herd”. To be effective we have to be willing to move our feet in order to help the horse understand that we can move his. We captured a short video this week showing how we’d work to help the horse understand what we’re after.

Here’s how we’d handle that situation.

We sure hope you find this helpful, and look forward to answering any questions you may have.

Smile and Ride!

Here’s What’s Happening at the Ranch

Here’s What’s Happening at the Ranch

We mentioned, in June, the start of our project. Now you can hear Zach talk about it first-hand. He starts the video and is the last person to be featured.

We are gearing up to start accepting vacationers and interns for the 2014 season and we hope you’ll come to the ranch to visit, work, get to know us, and have a vacation!

Smile and Ride!

The Good We Can Do

The Good We Can Do

It’s time to give back.”  This is what Zach Ducheneaux said when asked to speak at the South Dakota Indian Business Alliance about the latest endeavor of the Ducheneaux Ranch Partnership (the family of the late Wayne Ducheneaux I). He was referring to “The DX Ranch” and its mission to help improve personal well-being by making an example of thoughtful interactions between humans and horses.

We realize that we’ve been exceptionally fortunate to be where we are today. We want to take advantage of the fact that we now have the ability to begin to repay a society that has contributed greatly to that good fortune.   This sentiment, coupled with the call to public service, instilled by Wayne, led to the creation of The DX Ranch, our chosen way to begin to give back.

Phase One, an all weather equestrian facility, was just completed. Phase Two is underway – we’re building configurable bunkhouses/barracks in which to house our prospective clientele.  Made possible with the help of the State Bank of Eagle Butte, Four Bands Community Fund, and by the life’s work of the family of the late Wayne Ducheneaux, the facility will enable the expansion of a fledgling horsemanship and internship program in order to target local children and young adults.

Over the last 4 years, children and young adults from Texas to Michigan and New York to Idaho have spent time acquiring life skills through hands-on experience with Ducheneaux Quarter Horses.  Recognizing that the benefits realized by the interns could be even more meaningful for reservation youth, we have sought a business model that will help ensure that we can provide those services locally at no cost.

Prior to the creation of The DX Ranch, and the construction of the all-weather equine facility, internships were only available to those who could afford to pay to spend some time on the ranch during the summer. Additionally, since the interns simply stayed with the family, the slots available were limited. The new facility will allow for the expansion of paid internships, the proceeds dedicated to providing the same opportunities to local youth and young adults at no cost.

In addition to interns, The DX Ranch will host individuals, families or businesses who have a similar commitment to society, for paid ranch “vacations” and horsemanship clinics, or retreats, to experience a cultural exchange not offered in many other locations.

The DX Ranch has already reached out to the CRST and SRST Horsemanship programs to discuss the possibility of devoting some facility time to their respective programs. Reservation wide play days and youth activities will also be hosted in The DX Ranch facility, in addition to horsemanship demonstrations and camps. Friends and neighbors who share in this commitment are lending their support and will be assisting The DX Ranch with establishing other income streams for the facility, to increase the opportunity serve our local community.

Our long-term goal is the establishment of a non-profit to carry on the mission of The DX Ranch.

For more information, please contact us using  the contact form, or via email:  zach@thedxranch.com.

Smile and Ride!

PS. To see photos of the project, check out our Flickr Stream.


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