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Question From Maria...

I've been working with my yearling trying to square her up for months now, but for some reason, she always has one back leg cocked.  I fix that leg, then she cocks the other.  Help... How can this be remedied?
Maria Faria ~ California


Resting a back foot is pretty common for young horses and sometimes becomes a bad habit.  They shift their weight to the front end and relax. The best fix I've found is to use a lead chain under their jaw (like you would use when showing halter or showmanship) and when they rest a foot, pop their head up enough they have to put weight on their hindquarters.  They soon learn there's an unpleasant consequence for resting a leg and think twice before doing it again.  It may take two times or two hundred times but eventually they get it. 

Question From Melissa...

Hi,  I have a coming yearling that I'm looking to start longing. I was wondering if you had any tips on starting them on the longe line?
Thank - you -- Melissa.


Longe line isn't as easy a thing to teach as people sometimes think so it's not something that I can easily tell you in an email or two.  But if I had to I'd say the single most important thing to do is not push them beyond what they're ready for.  We teach ours to stand still first, then start at the walk before adding the trot, etc.  We teach the cues using our body language right from the beginning giving them confidence by helping them understand what we're asking for. 
I've had customers say they had previously been told (by someone else) to start by getting them as tired as you can so they want to go slow....chasing them in the roundpen with a whip to make them lope.  Well, we believe they can't go slow until they gain strength and get their balance and we don't want to scare them to death in the process.  In the beginning we let them lope if they want to play but don't make an issue out of it.  Later as they get more finished the lope will develop when they're ready. 

Question From Emily...

I am in the process of buying a yearling, i am new to the whole Yearling Lunge Line thing, i have always shown broke horses and finally decided it was time to take the step and start a new one from the ground up.
I am not sure where to start? Do you have any good advice? I wish I could attend one of your clinics but I live in Roseau, MN a long ways from you.
Any good tips would be great
Thanks,  Emily


If you are in the process of buying a coming yearling that you want to show in longe line next year, you want to be sure the horse will fit the requirements to do well as a yearling.  Not all yearlings will make longe liners but that doesn't mean they won't be good under saddle.
There are three requirements...conformation, mind and movement.  They have to have the right looks standing still to score high in the conformation portion of the class.  Then they have to have the right attitude...they have to want to do it so they don't display negative behavior with their ears or tail.  And of course they have to be a good mover...they have to have the talent to move slowly and be good legged.  It's important to have all three things if you want to be competitive.
When the training begins it should start with manners and trust.  You have to help them get comfortable with you at their side so they don't want to turn and face you.  You can begin that at any age without risking injury to young legs.  We teach our horses to 'whoa' before they go.  It's much easier to demonstrate in person but the best advise I could give you is to teach them to stand still before you teach them to go.  Then introduce something new one step at a time always incorporating what you have already taught them. 


Question From Missy...

I have a LL filly and she has been doing everything very well until this last week.  She started pulling out in her circles.  I always turn her out in a big pen to play and I also drive her.  I put a lariat on her to get her to stop pulling and now her head is straight up in the air.  HELP!  Missy


It's not uncommon for yearlings to do well for a while and then start to rebel in one way or another.  If your filly is pulling on the line it's best to drop back down a step or two to make your training positive rather than negative and then rebuild from there.  To do this work her in a more enclosed area such as a round pen or small arena so there are set boundaries.  Use something around her nose to 'capture' her face.  We attach our longe line to a stud chain that goes all the way around the nose through the rings of the halter so there's no pressure unless the line is pulled.  Begin at the walk and work in a give and take action so she can't lay on the line.  Reward her by releasing your pressure when she gives to you.  Gradually make the circle smaller than the outer boundaries so she's giving to you and not just using the outer rail to stay in her circle.  When she gets it at the walk go on to the jog.  Then when she gets it at the jog go to the lope.  Once she's doing well in the enclosed area take her out into a big pen where she has to respect the line to stay in her circle.  Again...start slow and work your way up to the lope.  If she gives you trouble at any point along the way go back to a positive point...then rebuild again. 
We never use a lariat so I can't say if that's putting her head in the air or not.  It may be putting most of the pressure under her jaw which would cause her to put her head up to get away from it.  We never drive them either so can't say how that might be effecting her.  It might be too much for her right now.  It's very good that you let her out to play. 


Series of 3 Questions From Lisa...
Question #1:

My filly will occasionally ignore my whoa...not all the time, usually in competition, but she works fine in the warm-up.  It's hard to get her to walk or to quit loping.  What should I do?


There could be a couple things going on here.  When you go out to warm-up with other horses your filly will hear other people telling their horses what to do which will dull her to your cues.  For example, if she hears someone else say 'whoa' but you tell her to keep going, she is learning to ignore whoa.  So when you ask her to stop while you're showing, she doesn't listen because you just told her not to.  If you don't think that's the problem, then her response to 'whoa' isn't sharp enough to begin with.  When she gets distracted she acts like she doesn't hear you because she doesn't.  In the training process you have to gradually make things more and more difficult, like working in very distracting surroundings, so you can teach her she has to respect your cues every time. 

Question #2:

She  is not making a good circle even though she knows better.  She mainly does it when I'm competing and will 'scoop' in on me.  Is it because she's nervous?


It's really common for yearlings not to stay on the perimeter of the circle.  It could be because she's nervous or she's uncomfortable with one side of the ring, or she could be leery of the judges, etc.  The first thing you should do is help her get comfortable anywhere in the ring by letting her see everything ahead of time.  Be sure she gets to spend enough time where she'll show so the new wears off.  Then develop your body language so if necessary you can give her a subtle reminder that she needs to stay out on the line.  Sometimes it just takes time and experience for them to stay out there. 

Question #3:

The last thing she wants to do is go too fast!  She will work fine in the warm-up even if it's busy with horses, but get her in the arena and she will run off and will then counter canter one direction.  I figured maybe she was sore from the trailer ride on the counter cantering.  She sort of does a bunny hop type thing with both back legs moving together...weirdest thing I've ever seen!  To work on this at home the few times she's done it, I break her back into a relaxed jog and keep starting over until she catches the lead.


Every yearling is different but if your filly is trying to run off when you show her she's telling you she needs more warm-up.  It's difficult to practice being out there by yourself because usually there are plenty of other horses in the pen with you so when she gets by herself she is more insecure and runs off.  The faster she goes the more likely she is to counter canter.  The centrifugal force of the circle causes her to lose her balance and she has to switch leads behind to compensate.  You have to work her enough that she doesn't want to do that anymore.  Once she learns not to you won't have to prepare her as long. 
As far as the bunny hopping goes...yearlings need special nutrition as they're growing.  Without the proper balance of minerals they get sore ankles and no longer lope with a split behind.  Instead they protect themselves by putting both feet on the ground together in a hopping fashion.  We've had a difficult time helping people find the right nutrition, but we have been testing a product that we have been delighted with.  In fact we tested it on a yearling with exactly the problem you're talking about and within a week she was moving normal again.  We're hoping to have it available to our customers soon.   

Question from Kelly...

I've recently been asking for the lope finally in the last two training sessions.  My yearling is finding her balance.  I know you had discussed that that is important.  At what point do you stop and correct an incorrect lead?  My yearling is not picking up the correct one and in fact, in our only two sessions where I added a lope request, she only got the correct lead one time out of about five or six requests.  Should I wait a week or two while she's still trying to relax, or is this something I should be concerned about now and try to fix?


When we first start loping our yearlings we don't care what lead they're in, as long as they lope.  Then as they get a little better at it they'll start taking the right lead automatically.  At first they may only lope a few strides at a time until finally they can lope all the way around once.  Eventually they gain enough balance that they can not only make it all the way around, but they can do it in the correct lead both in front and behind.  Just muttle through it for a little while and it will get better!  Remember to lower your expectations when teaching them something new and gradually require more of them as they improve...but make it easy for them in the beginning.  Just let her find her loping legs by practicing.  She won't learn it by not doing it.  Let her make as many mistakes as it takes in the beginning.   
If balance isn't the issue your filly may be thinking about not turning in a circle and will want to lean outward thus taking the wrong lead.  If that's the case double check that at the jog and 'read' her mind a little.  Decide if she's thinking away from you or not.  There are training things you can do to persuade her to do it right.  Let me know if you think it's more because she hasn't done it enough yet or if you think she's trying to move away.  Either work in a round pen so the rail will help as a barrier.   


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