“The journey from being an unknown horse trainer in Australia to one of the most renowned clinicians in the world was not easy. But Clinton’s dedication to becoming the best horseman he can be and his desire to help people have better relationships with their horses has never wavered. Today, Clinton and the Downunder Horsemanship Method have helped thousands of horses and riders, and Clinton is committed more than ever to inspiring the dreams of horsemen.”
Clinton Anderson is a horse trainer, clinician and competitor. He’s dedicated his life to helping others realize their horsemanship dreams and keeping them inspired to achieve their goals.
In this column, Clinton Anderson answers COWGIRL readers’ horse training and behavior questions.
Slowing Down a Speed Demon
CG: How can I slow down a horse that lopes too fast? When I lope my horse, I hang on the saddle horn for dear life! – Emily L.
CA: Practicing One Rein Stops at the lope will boost your confidence and help your horse learn to rate your seat and slow down. First find a safe environment to practice in like an arena. Even though your end goal is to get your horse to slow down at the lope, you need to practice this exercise at the walk and trot first so that both of you are comfortable with the cues and understand what to do before moving on to a faster gait.
Walk your horse forward on a loose rein, holding the reins in one hand, and don’t steer him. To do a One Rein Stop, first cue the horse with your body language by sitting down deep in the saddle and taking your legs off his sides. Then lift the middle of the reins up off the horse’s neck with one hand, slide your other hand down the rein and pull it up to your hip. Hold the rein at your hip until the horse stops moving his feet and he touches his nose to your boot, jeans or stirrup before releasing the rein. The instant the horse stops moving his feet and softens, immediately drop the rein out of your hand. Then flex his head to the other side.Practice the steps until you are both comfortable with them at the walk, and then do the same thing at the trot and then the lope. When you move on to the lope, only let your horse lope four or five strides before asking him for a One Rein Stop. Since you know your horse likes to run and build speed, this is especially important. If you only let him go a short distance before shutting him down, it won’t take long for him to realize that he might as well slow down and relax because he’s not going very far before you ask him to stop. Don’t let him build his speed up to 90 mph and then worry about how you’re going to stop him. Shut him down before he gets too fast.
The more you practice the exercise and the more comfortable the horse gets, the longer you can let him lope before asking him to stop until eventually you can lope him for twenty minutes straight in the arena or on the trail on a loose rein.
CG: My daughter’s pony won’t go in the trailer unless one of her buddies is in it. When we try to load her by herself, she rears and refuses to go in. What can we do? – Fran S.
CA: Trailers are scary for horses; they’re a small enclosed area and make noise when a horse steps onto them – those are both things that really frighten horses. Since horses feel the safest when they’re with their buddies, it’s very natural for your pony to not want to load onto the trailer by herself. Rather than trying to force her on the trailer, give her a reason to want to get on. You’ll do that by moving her feet around the trailer and letting her rest inside of it. The first step to getting your pony to load on the trailer is to make sure she’s comfortable around it. Start by getting her to move her feet with energy around all three sides of the trailer.
I use the Sending Exercise (making the horse move from one side of my body to the other), but as long as you make your pony hustle her feet, you’ll be in good shape. When your pony is comfortable moving around the trailer (she’s not spooking at it), lower the trailer’s ramp and send her back and forth across it. Sending her across the ramp will help her get used to the noise the trailer will make when she steps up onto it. Anytime she wants to stop and smell the trailer or paw at the ramp, let her. That’s her way of doing her own safety inspection and proving to herself that the trailer isn’t going to harm her.
When she’s calmly walking back and forth across the ramp of the trailer, ask her to take one step inside the trailer. And just before she gets nervous, back her out. Anytime she gets scared, back her out of the trailer. Don’t force her to stay in the trailer because that will just frighten her more. Then ask her to take two steps inside the trailer and back her out again. Keep working on that until her whole body is in the trailer. Let her rest in the trailer a few minutes as a reward before backing her out and putting her feet to work again. Keep repeating those steps until eventually she loads in the trailer as soon as you ask.
Once your pony realizes that the trailer won’t harm her, she’ll look forward to stepping onto it whether her buddies are already in it or not.
Making Time For Horses
CG: How do I fit my horse into my busy schedule? I work 10-hour shifts, often doing additional work after hours. On my days off, I often find myself catching up things I could not do during the work week such as basic house/yard work. I board my horse as well, making it all the more difficult. What are my options? – Shannon W.
CA: Finding time for horses can be difficult especially when you have family and work commitments. Horses are just like kids, they learn best with consistency and repetition. The more often you can work with your horse, the quicker he’ll learn and remember lessons. You have to set priorities. There are only so many hours in a day and only so many things you can do, so you have to prioritize what you really want to do and what you have to do. I’m no different.
For example, when I teach a clinic, I instruct 30 participants from 9 AM to 5 PM and I also have to ride my reining and cow horses as well. To accomplish all that, I get up at 3 AM and ride before the clinic starts and ride again during the clinic’s lunch break. I don’t, however, have time to work out for 45 minutes like I usually do. I really enjoy working out and it’s important to me, but I have to give something up. Plain and simple, I can’t do it all. Sometimes, during clinics, I only get two of my four horses worked a day, but I still made the eff ort to get what I could done.
My mentor Ian Francis often said to me, “If you want something bad enough you will fi nd a way, if you don’t you will fi nd an excuse.” Honestly, that’s what it comes down to when deciding where horses fi t in your life. If your horses and developing your skills as a horseman are important to you, you’ll fi nd a way to enjoy them, spend time training them and bettering yourself. If they’re not important, then you’ll think of a million excuses to not be out at the barn. That’s the simple truth. Ultimately, fi nding time to work with your horses and becoming a knowledgeable horseman is up to you.
Have a horse question for Clinton Anderson?
For more information on Clinton Anderson and Downunder Horsemanship visit: downunderhorsemanship.com