Lost In Transition: Filmed near Phoenix AZ in January, this horse and rider were hands-down one of my most favorite to work with in the 50 episodes we have filmed. I loved the horse from first site, even though he had a big problem with exploding into the canter and running off bucking with his rider. An Arab/warmblood cross, he was athletic, a big mover and very, very sensitive. Even though I couldn’t see the very talented rider making an obvious over-cueing mistake, he was. Before we could even decide on what training topic the show would feature, I had to get on myself and see what it would take to fix this horse. Turned out that the horse was so ultra-sensitive that just changing the angle of your pelvis was all it took to cue him for the canter—forget using your legs. I also had to school him a little to get rid of the brace in his neck and teach him to come off the bit a little to soften and round his frame. The young male competitive rider was an exceptional student and natural born TV star; he figured it out right away and rode the horse beautifully. I loved working with two excellent athletes.
Loaded Up, an episode about a TB gelding who will not under any circumstances step foot in a trailer. Turned out he had a complicating vice—one of the worst vices to deal with. He had learned that one thing we hope horses never figure out– that they outweigh us by ten times and can use that force against us. He learned how to rip his head up and around when being led, turn dead away from you (so you are looking at his hind feet), and run away hell-bent-for-leather, taking you dirt skiing. At best, you might keep up with him for a few strides but with his whole body pointing straight away from you, you’d never get him stopped, even if you were Johnny Atlas. I had to fix that little problem before we could really do much to work on the trailer loading, since he did it every time you walked him up to the trailer. After running off from the owner, then my assistant and then me, I put a chain on his nose, in addition to the rope halter; this is an extreme measure. Only then I was able to exert enough pressure to keep his nose bent toward me so that he couldn’t run off. Once we came to an agreement on that matter, it didn’t take long for this horse was walking calmly without hesitation in the trailer and backing out slowly on command. Once we eliminated right-left-back as options with the use of the training flag, the horse totally changed course.
A Bit Too Much, filmed in the South Carolina Low Country. When we filmed the opening footage for this episode (the ‘before’ shots), this horse was totally out of control—no speed control at all, little directional control, some bucking, very inverted. She was inappropriately bitted, with the dreaded Tom Thumb bit (there are few, if any horses I would subject to this bit) and so she was just running through the bridle like crazy—the more she ran, the more the rider pulled, the more pain and fear she had, so, guess what, the more she threw her head up and ran—a sad but common bitting problem. We put her in a Myler 3-ring Combo bit, I schooled her briefly, and she worked beautifully—head down, collected slow gaits. A big, quick turnaround (the kind we are hoping for in a half hour TV show!). It would be a while before the owner had the skill to ride her in a proper frame at the trot and canter, but she instantly showed success at the walk.