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Leaving Without Us, A Lesson on Charging, by Monty Bruce

BruceWhen we are training performance horses, we  are asking a lot out of them, and pushing them  to get performance. We must spend a great  deal of time working and training our horse  slowly and quietly to give them a solid  foundation to work from. It is very difficult for a  horse to learn maneuvers, collection or  balance at fast speeds, so we again must  spend lots of time keeping them relaxed and  slow. However, there comes a time when we  have to increase speed, whether it’s a rope  horse, gamer, barrel, reiner, or cowhorse. We  have to teach our horses to handle speed and  still give us maximum performance.

One  of the most common problems we can  have is our horse getting chargey;  pushing on our hands and trying to go  faster with out us asking them to. We call  that “leaving without us”, and it is a  common problem with about every  Performance Horse at some point. One of the biggest problems I see with  people when they have a chargey horse  (a horse that wants to leave without them)  is, they become a crutch for the horse. When a horse wants to speed up and  leave without us asking them to and they hold  back on the reins and make them stay slow. They are not teaching the horse to stay with  you and slow down. They are making him  slow down and become a crutch.

I don’t want  to make my horse do anything. I want to teach  him how to do it, have him think it’s a good  idea, and do it. To teach a horse something we have to let  them make mistakes, then correct them over  and over before they get solid.

Let’s say we  are working on circles or run-downs for sliding  stops and our  horse is getting  too fast  and pushy. First, we need  to make sure  our departures  are quiet and  r e l a x e d  because if the  lope is tense  and pushy  they are likely  to continue in  that mode. So  if my horse  tries to lope off  fast and pushy  I will stop him,  back him up,  then go into a  series of softening  exercises  to loosen  him and soften  him up. Then I  will lope him off  again. If he  gets pushy or  fast again I will  repeat the  process as  many times as  it may take  until he lopes  off soft and  quiet. Once I have him loping off quiet and soft  for a couple of strides, to show him where or  what speed I want him to stay, I will put him on  a looser rein and trust him to stay at that speed  unless I ask him to speed up. I will not hang  on his mouth holding him back with the reins  because if I do I make him stay slow instead of  teaching him to be slow. By holding this  pressure it makes a horse feel trapped and  most of the time a horse feels like he will push  harder, compounding the problem.

So instead of holding him back I will give him  a loose rein even though I know he will  probably speed up. When he speeds up I will  pick up on the reins, taking the slack out and  let him know I’m going to take hold of him.

I  don’t want to jerk on the reins fast. If we jerk on  their mouths it makes the horse scared of your  hands. Once I have the slack taken out of the  reins then I want to draw him in to the ground,  which means I am pulling slowly but very hard,  to get them to stop. Then I will back them up  very rigorously several steps, then let them set  quietly for 5-10 seconds, then lope them off  again.

You may have to do this process 50  times on one training session but it will work if  you stay at it. About every 3rd time I have to  stop and back them off.

I will put them into a  series of softening exercises again, bending,  flexing then I will ride them in a small circle  pulling their head to the inside and pushing  with my outside leg bending the ribcage out  and two tracking them to the out side of the  circle to loosen up their whole body. By doing these bending and softening  exercises (stopping, backing) I am getting two  things accomplished.

1. I am obviously softening and relaxing the  horse’s body and muscles, which is partly why  they are pushy.

2.   I am interrupting his pattern of thinking  immediately to speed up. It ís a lot harder and less fun to back and do  softening exercises than to lope slow.

Until my  horse thinks it ís a good idea to lope slow and  slow down I will always be battling with him. But in all the training we do we need to keep in  mind, I’m not going to fight with my horse, I am  going to teach him, let him make the mistakes  then correct it and as may times as it may take  till he gets solid.

Good luck and God bless,  Monty Bruce  Visit our website at www.montybruce.com

[published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 2, Issue 2.]

 

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