Category Archives: Western training answers

Why do Trainers use harder bits? Light or soft: is there a difference?

Question: I’m going to see a horse for sale tomorrow. The trainer is using a shank bit because it makes the horse soft. I’m not familiar using them: I’ve always used french link snaffles or some equivalent. Why do trainers move into harder bits?

Response from April Reeves: When I hear of anyone using a shank to get softness I get a multitude of red flags.

The use of a shank bit is not for softness. Softness comes from correct training that utilizes the mind to create that softness. It does not start at the physical head or the body.

Shank, or what I call, “finishing bits” are the graduated step of an obedient horse. They are for horses that have a high level of responsiveness and are usually at the end of their training, not the beginning or middle.

Let’s go over the difference between “light” and “soft”.

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The German Martingale Part 1

My horse jumps into the trot: How can I prevent this?

Question: I have a horse that jumps forward into the trot when asked to move from a walk to a trot. Any suggestions on how to make the transition smooth? Thanks

April Reeves:  Hi Kristi! First off, the response from your horse to be “quick” into the up transition is actually a response I ask for, at the beginning. You do want a horse that responds to your cues immediately. I consider that obedience, and once that’s established, you can move on to refine the process.

Next step is to soften how you ask for the up transition. All your methods have to become lighter and softer if you expect the same from the horse, from the use of hands, legs, voice and seat. Get very familiar with what that feels like, because this is how you bring a horse into refinement and a finished bridle horse.

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Equine Agility Horsemanship and the Benefits

By April Reeves, with help from Guliz Unlu (see below: one of Canada’s best Equine Energy & Body Workers)

I work in several high-end barns of various English disciplines. My clients are looking for ways to work with their horses without always riding them. Some of those clients want specific training on the ground that transfers to the saddle and aids in the training of eventing, hunter/jumper, dressage and other specific disciplines.

What is Equine Agility Horsemanship?

Agility Horsemanship is working with your horse to improve his/her ability to become obedient, maneuverable, flexible and multi-tasked. The point of the work is to help keep the horse sound in both mind and body, and to set him up properly for his chosen discipline with select groundwork first. The horse learns to move his body in ways he would not come across naturally, but will have to learn once asked under saddle. Many horses get caught up with not understanding or feeling confident about their footfall patterns and lack grace and fluidity with lateral and backward moves. As the horse builds physical abilities, he builds mental as well, creating a versatile, safe and athletic mount that’s eager and happy to learn. It’s important to note that this work can speed up saddle training, and save hours of frustration. It’s also just plain fun.

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How to handle a horse that won’t accept a bit

Comment from Horse Enthusiast: I knew one trainer (never used him, he was just co-owner of the barn I boarded at) who had a really bitchy paint filly- she was vicious when the owner gave her to him for nothing- and he managed to train her enough that she was handleable which was a big accomplishment considering if you showed up with a halter she would run you down, but she still pulled back when tied and riding she would blow up really badly on occoasion, or at least that was the state she was at when I left…
I don’t know her history or how she’s doing now as I haven’t seen her since spring… Anyway he wasn’t my ideal trainer as  he was the “old” cowboy type and would run the snot out of a bronc horse, no matter what age. (this filly was only three and he was cantering and loping her constantly and working her really hard).

But the trick he used to get this filly to accept the bit, because she was terrible of course, was to turn her out with the bridle. (no reins)

Would you ever even consider this in the most dire situation or would you just give up and go bitless? My big fear at the time was that she would catch the ring of the snaffle on a part of the fence or something and rip her mouth apart in a panic, but luckily she didn’t but she actually became easier to bit and was less resistant to it after a week or so. But still, I think that’s too risky…
Just curious :)

Answer from April Reeves: There are many ways to ask a horse to accept a bit, and although many of those ways end up with a horse that will “take” a bit, the question remains, “Is there a better way?” I have had to work with some of the toughest of bitters, and have barely had as much as a fight or future problem.

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Morgan mare pins ears back and kicks now when being asked to move forward.

Question: I have a four year old Morgan who was doing terrific in her training and then I hurt my back. I couldn’t ride, had her trainer working with her and an experienced rider exercising her. I had just started to get back to walking on her in early August when she started pinning her ears for everyone who got on her back and refusing to move forward. We had her saddles checked by a certified saddle fitter, had the vet come out and check her (she’s also a chiro/accupuncture expert) and we let her rest for over two weeks. I’ve stayed off her; only her trainer works with her but she still will sometimes put her ears back or kick out when she’s asked to move forward into trot. It’s now mid-October–what haven’t we thought of to solve this? She was doing so well all of last year and had moved into learning to canter before this started!

Answer from April Reeves: Hi SallyAnne. This is a common problem but not easily solved at this stage. There may be several things going on here to build this mare up to this point so I will go over them individually.

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My Horse Changes Direction With NO Warning!

Question: Hi April, I have a quarter horse that is 7 years old (gelding) that walks, trots and canters. Turns on the forehand, sidepasses.  For the last 4 weeks he has been doing the strangest direction change at a canter.  He will all of sudden decides he doesn’t want to go that way and will change without any notice.  Only tends to do it in one direction.  He also has started around the same time running into the corners of the arena. We have no idea why he is doing this.  I have started lunging him more then usual since this began and he is fine when I do it. I walk with him up and down the center of the arena when lunging and he doesn’t do the sudden change at all. But as soon as I ride him he does it.  I have tried putting alot of leg on him at the same point in the arena and pulled on the rein but he manages somehow to do it anyway.  There is no other reasons we can think of why he has started this. He does it with our trainer as well.  I was wondering if there is anything else we can do to control this sudden turns and running into the corner. Thank you.

Answer from April Reeves: Hi Cindy, That is one of the strangest things I have ever heard, but I may have an explanation.
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